Travel Tips

Know Your Audience
It is important to know your audience when preparing a travelog journal. When addressing one group, try to make the material interesting to other groups as well by reading the material from their perspective. Offer explanations where applicable. Here is what I thought our audience would be.

Elementary schools students 6th and 7th grade
Teachers
Travelers
Vehicle based expedition enthusiasts
Vehicle enthusiasts
Adventurers
Off-road enthusiasts

E-mails weıve received since completing the expedition indicate other groups were following us too. College students writing researching reports found our material beneficial and so did people who formerly lived in the countries we visited. Although this group now lives in the US now they tuned in to see and hear about their homeland. Many people are interested in understanding a travelers perspective about their country of origin.

Taking Pictures
Pictures breathe life and color in to a travelogue. Travelogues without pictures just don't register on the same scale. I started out the trip with a Sony DCR-PC7 video camera and a Snappy to capture pictures. It was horribly cumbersome and extremely inefficient. I quickly gave that method up really fast. Next, I bought a slide scanner and tried using my camera to take pictures, process the slides, and scan them into the computer. That failed as well. It was a lot to carry, but the weight wasn't the problem. The problem was that the images piled up. I couldn't complete pieces for weeks until the film was processed, then I had hundreds of images to view, sort, scan and edit. No way. It violates the time-boundary rule. (Actually, it was that experience that caused me to create the time-boundary rule...)
What does work is a digital camera. I bought a Sony DSC-F55 digital camera from Fryıs. It was the turning point. For the first time I discovered I could put events in a time-box. I could take pictures, write, edit and publish in a short time frame.
That worked. I carry my Sony DSC-F55 with me wherever I go. I carry it in my fanny pack. I removed the hand grip and used the grip mount to attach a regular camera neck strap. Geeky, but it works. You never know when something is going to happen or a picture opportunity will present itself. I also learned to anticipate. Events unfold rapidly, you have to have a sixth sense for when "news" will unfold. I have trained myself to be merciless when capturing images. The Kodak has four picture quality settings (good, better, best and uncompressed) that correspond to the image compression factor. I usually use the "better" setting, it is good enough for small images on the page (for more info, see my page on using the DCS-120 digital camera for web publishing, that allows me 65 images before I fill up my 10 MB Picture Card (flash memory). If I see an image I suspect I will want to display at a larger resolution, I will use the"uncompressed" picture quality setting.
Even with the ability to capture 66 pictures on the Picture Card, I do often come close to filling the camera up. I take pictures of everything. When I have a lull in the action (taking a rest, a bus ride, etc.) I use the LCD and on-camera editing functions to view the images and delete images that don't make the grade. That significantly reduces editing time once I download images to the laptop.
Once the day is done, I pop the flash memory card out of the camera, pop it into a PCMCIA adapter and into my laptop. The memory card appears as a drive on my desktop, I drag the files to a folder. The camera is ready for more pictures.
Note: The biggest problem I have had with the Kodak DCS-120 is battery life. A set of four premium batteries (Duracell or Energizer for example), lasts only for 20-30 images. Not only is it costly, but the batteries inevitably die at the worst possible moment. I recently bought a battery charger and some NiCad rechargeable batteries. That was one more thing to carry, but the NiCads last much longer and the costs dropped tremendously!


Image Processing
Once a picture is taken it is still a long way off from the web site. First they must be processed to a web-friendly format. The Sony DSC-F55 images are 1600X1200 in Sonyıs native .jpg format. For most online images for AroundTheWorld1999, I use 320x240 or 240x180 JPEGs.

I use a program called Thumbs Plus to do the image processing; it's a pretty nifty program and one of the few that will open the files that the Sony generates directly (PhotoShop has to use the Kodak twain module to acquire the images, it's very slow). Thumbs Plus generates a series of thumbnails of the images in a directory. I choose the likely candidates and use Thumbs Plus to batch process them to 320x240 or 240x180 JPEGs at 75% quality for general online images. It seems to be a good tradeoff between quality and file size.

(Again, see my page on using the DCS-120 digital camera for web publishing for some comparisons between compression levels, image quality and file size). ThumbsPlus will also do batch processing of rotations as well if necessary. Occasionally, an images need a little color correction. Thumbs Plus does an excellent job of that. If the image needs retouching or more serious work, I use PhotoShop .

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