Five Reasons to Go to Egypt Now

Being here in Egypt is a transforming experience. Here are ten reasons to go to Egypt now:1. It has become very affordable.  
 The images we see in the United States are often related to political events beyond any 
 every-day Egyptian’s control. 

Egyptian man on one horse towing another

2. Putting the politics aside, you’ll find some of the most dedicated people in the world tourism.   industry.
They’ll gladly assist you in visiting of the ancient ruins and other sites that run from Lower to Upper Egypt along the River Nile, one of the most important bodies of water in the world. 

3. Your Egypt Tours is one of those agencies that has made a visit to Egypt the golden opportunity of a lifetime.
They make every accommodation you’ll possibly need for an enjoyable, an informative and a safe trip.

Close-up of one of the pyramids at Giza

4. The tourist infrastructure in Egypt is on par with any other countries. Egypt houses numerous ancient architectural, cultural and historical achievements that have been preserved and/or restored after thousands of years buried under the ground until the twentieth century when some were discovered and excavated.
The stories of history of the Pharaohs, including Ramses, mesmerize you, taking you to another time and place. The stories of excavation show you men performing nearly impossible feats of lifting and moving in some of the greatest restoration efforts ever.

Obelisk  in Luxor

5. You can’t leave out the authentic Egyptian setting among which these monuments lie from men riding camels (also an option for you, the tourist)  to donkeys attached to carts loaded with supplies for maintenance of the infrastructure.
To be sure, you’ll get culture shock. But is that a bad thing?

Nikon’s Full Frame dSLR, the D600 Cheif Complaint is Clipping

Call it what you want–clipping or blown highlights– that white or one-tone color blast that sometimes appear in your images, a color tone that can’t be fixed and that makes a really good photo not-so-good.

Frequent clipping isn’t the only complaint about this camera. Spots also appear in the frame from particles of lubricant that land on the sensor when the mirrors move.

The full-frame (24X36 mm sensor) dSLR camera most likely to cause your image to reveal fewer tones in an object or subject and occasional spots in the frame is the Nikon D600, a seemingly good camera upon first inspection, but one with two fatal flows that similar models such as the new Canon 6D don’t have. That’s according to last October’s CNET review of the Nikon D600.

The 24 MP camera has all of the features any professional or advanced amateur would want–low ISOs for good detail and tonality, fast burst-shooting (5.5 fps) and HD video mode, but the camera’s weaknesses far outweigh its strengths.

Pyramids of Giza–Still a Worthwhile Visit

Egyptian leading camel with Pyramids of Giza in background

Just about everyone around the world has heard about the trouble in Cairo. One of the most important parts of this conflict and so-called Revolution is that the rich historical sites that cover the country be kept open and safe now and in the future.

Keep in mind that despite the news, the Pyramids of Giza and other Egyptian historical sites are safe and are in dire need of tourists.  If the tourists don’t come, the sites might be in jeopardy of staying open and even being available for future generations.

If you decide to go, most Egyptian people will be thrilled to see you and treat you like royalty. When you come as a tourist you are helping to save some of the most beautiful historical sites in the world.

The prices are very reasonable now and the crowds are light, making it a wonderful time to visit. The weather is near-perfect in spring. Before you go, take the precautions you have been hearing about in Cairo, keeping on eye on the news and taking staying away from downtown and surrounding areas on Fridays  when the protests take place and on other days when any significant political news makes the headlines.

Egypt Tourism Suffering from Bad Press

Getting to Cairo is inexpensive these days. If you look at the fares online, an e-ticket to the massive, seemingly out-of-control city is little-more-than-next-to-nothing–$650.

To be sure, you’ll suffer from trepidation before the trip, especially if you watch a lot of CNN, glued to the television screen when Tahir Square breaks out into bedlam. Cairo is undergoing an identity crisis brought on by the mainstream media’s constant barrage of out-of-control protestors screaming out from the TV tube. Cairo and Egypt as a whole are suffering from bad press day in and day out.

Despite all of this if you decide to go it’s the best travel bang-for-your-buck. The ten-hour flight from New York isn’t bad these days. You can sleep in the main cabin because it’s only about half full. In every other row people are sprawled comfortably on three seats, a make-shift bed that is better than the one in business class.

Lest not forget that Cairo is a city on the great River Nile, a broad expanse of water that flows from south to north thousands of miles from deep down in the African savannah to the Mediterranean. The heart of this massive body of moving water is Cairo, and the water is looking good that it’s suffice to say the misnomer of the Nile being smelly and unattractive is far from the truth. It’s beautiful, amazing, calming and sweeps a cool breeze over the city in the spring.

One comment people frequently make is that Cairo is a dangerous place with religious undertones that makes it no fun–no drugs, alcohol and debauchery.  This fact can be an amazing asset to the tourist in that the people you see on the street are clear-headed, lively and, yes, even friendly. 

Photographing Flowers Part 2—Cameras and Lenses

Flowers are candy to a photographer. Their beauty in spring gives photographers of all levels a special opportunity to shoot some of the most beautiful objects on earth.

You can shoot flowers with any lens, each giving different results, the best coming from a macro lens. While a macro lens on a dSLR offers the sharpest close-ups of flowers, most point-and-digital cameras and cell phone cameras are also capable of taking some excellent flower photographs.

Both point-and-shoot lenses and phone camera lenses shoot flower images just as well as a dSLR with a kit lens and/or some macro lenses. This fact may surprise you because the point-and-shoots and camera phone cameras are much less expensive than cameras with larger sensors.

There is a simple explanation as to why point-and-shoot cameras are so good at taking close-ups of small subjects and objects. Macro photography is defined to have a 1:1 ratio between the object and sensor. For a dSLR camera with a full size sensor to be 1:1, you need a 35 mm object to fill a frame. Point and shoot and camera phones have much smaller sensors so that a much smaller object will fill the frame, giving more sharp close-up details.

If you have a choice between a dSLR camera and a point-and-shoot for flower photography, go with the later. Since a point-and-shoot cameras (and phone cameras) are  easier to maneuver than a dSLR, put one in your pocket for shooting the spring flowers you will want to stop to shoot when hiking or biking.

Ten Street Photography Tips for the Daring–Part 1

Shoot the freaky
Watch for men dressed as woman

Street photography is a craft of its own, independent of any kind of other photography. It takes a bit of assertiveness, friendliness and, most of all, astuteness. Ten Street Photography Tips for the Daring comes in two parts, this post and the Ten Street Photography Tips for the Daring Part 2. Once you start shooting photography on the street, you won’t want to stop.

They tell you when you go to iffy areas of town to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. This advice applies ten-fold for street photographers. You have to be looking everywhere, creating imaginative juxtapositions of all kinds of characters among their surroundings.

I call the people in my street photographs characters because they are the essence of a story I want to tell through my lens, any kind of story, really–poignant, annoying, exciting and/or depressing. In fact a street photograph can be all of these at once.

Finally, the number one rule about street photography is to always have a camera with you, even if it’s your cell phone. Remember, too, that the only camera you have is the one with you.

Photograph an animal sitting in a chair
Watch for unusual backgrounds
Find a child carrying something

Ten Street Photography Tips for the Daring–Part 2

There’s nothing more satisfying than a good street photograph, one with the look of a Levitt, Evans or Siskind street photography style, whether it be an abstract piece or whether it one that was a perfect coincidence that you caught in the right place at the right time. This is the second of a two-part article about how to be a sharpshooter on the street by taking photographs from the hip and beyond. Ten Street Photography Tips for the Daring Part 1 is the first.

Here are the other five tips. These street photography tips for the daring work best when you apply one or more (as many as you can) at a time.


Photograph someone photographing.


Catch someone with their all limbs extended.


Find frame (wrought iron gate) for pretty object (bow).


Sitting in an unconventional seat.


One person who is real and one who is not in the same frame.


Cloud Engines Pogoplug for Photographers–A Device that Allows Remote External Hard Drive Access

by Matthew Bamberg
Pogoplug device permits roaming access to external hard drives
A new kid on the block has moved into the storage/back-up business, one that photographers are sure to seriously consider for their image-archiving needs. Pogoplug (produced by Cloud Engines Inc) might not be a household name like Carbonite and Google Cloud Drive, but they’re sure to be a tough competitor for both. Pogoplug’s Family back up and storage options exceed those of its cloud competitors by offering multiple local external hard drive remote access in addition to access to images on mobile devices, access that can have you uploading and downloading images from remote external hard drives wherever you may be.
The concept has evolved since it was first made public in 2009, three years after the company, Cloud Engines, was incorporated.  In 2010, the company received 15 million dollars, which has financed marketing of the product worldwide. With offices in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, the company’s CEO, Daniel Putterman is no stranger to tech devices, nor to launching start-ups in Silicon Valley. The software that linked entertainment devices such as televisions to computers, was Putterman’s prior
When I heard of Pogoplug, I was somewhat hesitant to consider using another cloud service with so many already available, much less one, until recently, that required an external hard drive and Pogoplug device in order to operate. After using it and learning about their new plan, Pogoplug PC, for unlimited storage without any of the external hardware with easy drag-and-drop uploads from your desktop, my thinking did an about-face because of its affordability and convenience for my massive image portfolio.
Pogoplug shows previews of jpeg, but not Raw files, making
The main caveat of the platform, oddly enough, isn’t its functionality, which is excellent, but lies in its seemingly confusing descriptions and names of its products and plans. My challenges with the product began with my first exposure to the services and devices Cloud Engine offers, namely the aforementioned product, Pogoplug PC, a name that could lead potential customers array, leaving them thinking that the platform is only for Windows (which it is not).   This is only one of the ambiguous processes of deciphering Pogoplug’s confusing storage plans and options, which were an off-putting issue for me.
Pogoplug has two different plans. The newest plan, Pogoplug Cloud, is the service’s unlimited cloud storage/back-up that provides easily accessible file access much like plans offered by Google Drive and Amazon Cloud Drive, storing image files and folders on Pogoplug servers or those at Amazon S3 without any of the hardware that’s required for the Pogoplug Family plan. The unlimited back-up/storage plan doesn’t include the unique initial offering with local remote back-up/storage capabilities, which is the option that separates Pogoplug from the rest of the kids on the block. The unlimited back-up plan costs $60/year.
The second plan, Pogoplug Family, offers unlimited backup and remote hard drive access (on-site cloud storage) and 100 GB of offsite cloud storage (stored on the less easily accessible archival storage, Amazon Glacier) for up to 5 family members  $29/year; unlimited backup (on-site cloud storage) and 300 GB of offsite cloud storage for up to 5 family members  $49/year; unlimited backup (on-site cloud storage) and 1 TB of offsite cloud storage for up to 7 family members  $99/year.
The decision you have to make before considering Pogoplug is whether or not you want remote access for up to five hard drives with the Pogoplug device, which is free for a limited time along with limited cloud archival space (often referred to as cold storage) or unlimited cloud space with easy access (often referred to as hot storage) . Personally, I prefer the former because I have many external hard drives with thousands of files on each that are accessible anywhere I go.
If you want 1 TB of storage, storage that is quick to retrieve when needed, yet worry-free in terms of having to deal directly with storage hardware problems, you can make a choice between Pogoplug and Google Drive. The first consideration you’ll probably make is price, which recently for most services has come down into an affordable range for many amateur and professional photographers.
Evaluating price considerations you need to realize that generally the more storage you buy from a service, the less expensive each GB will cost. How much less is dependent on the service. At the time of writing of this article if you want to store larger amounts of data such as 1TB, Pogoplug Cloud (about $60/year for unlimited storage) is a much better deal than Google Drive (about $720/year).
If you compare the storage costs for smaller amounts of data between Pogoplug Family and Google Drive, you’ll discover it challenging because with that small amount of storage, both offer different kinds of service. At Google, storing small/moderate amount of data, say, 100 GB of hot storage is about $60/year with Google, and at Pogoplug it’s $30/year for unlimited remote access of external hard drives with 100 GB of cold storage.
A comparison of the back-up service of Carbonite and Pogoplug is a whole another ball game. You first have to note the distinction between back-up and storage to understand how the two services differ.  A back-up of a computer or external hard drive is an ongoing process of the service providers’ file and folder replication of the content (images) on a device, and storage means just that–server space to store your image folders and files.  The former involves a process whereby the service accesses and deletes files that you have deleted on your computer. In other words, you have given the service the option of deleting your files when you do, a factor when considering the security of your images.
While Carbonite and Pogoplug cost about the same for uploading unlimited data (about $60/year), there is a huge difference in the services they provide. Carbonite Home is online backup for only the data on a one computer. It doesn’t back-up external hard drives. Keeping that and the fact that most computers don’t nearly have the amount of hard drive space as external hard drives, Pogoplug is a much better bang for your buck if you want remote access to external hard drives as part of your data storage plan.
Pogoplug’s advantage over Carbonite, keeping in mind that the later offers only online backup—not online storage, is that the photos you upload to the cloud are not deleted when you delete them on your computer.  Carbonite keeps files that you have placed in the trash or garbage (and emptied) for 30 days. The Backblaze service also has a similar timetable for deleting files that have been placed in the trash and emptied on your computer.
Once your connections are in place, the Pogoplug website, like other similar storage services permits one-click connections to email, Facebook, Google+ and/or Twitter for photo by sharing via a URL given to it when it was uploaded.
Another consideration to keep in mind is the speed at which Pogoplug uploads and downloads files compared to other services. I tested the transfer speed differences for uploads between Pogoplug and Google Drive and found that Pogoplug is a bit slower uploading than Google Drive. Google uploads a 24 MB in 4 minutes using my Internet connection, which isn’t the fastest. For the same file, Pogoplug clocked in at 4 1/2 minutes.  Download speeds for both platforms are significantly faster, making the difference in speeds negligible.
Recall that Pogoplug not only backs-up off-site, but also permits you to back-up images to your external hard drives at home or the office regardless of your location. For instance, you can upload your images while connected to the Internet in Marrakech, Morocco and have them saved in your external hard drive in seconds. In my test, onsite uploads from remote locations for the 24 MB file was only 11 seconds. Knowing that you can backup your images quickly on a hard drive at home or the office when traveling will have you worrying less if your computer ends up missing or if goes on the fritz, loosing all data on its hard drive.
Hardware and Software
Since I have chosen to use Pogoplug’s Family Plan, I needed to have the required external hard drive and a Pogoplug device for this service. There are a number of devices from which to choose. The one the company, Cloud Engines, sent me to use for testing contained two ports: one for the external hard drive connection, another for the Ethernet connection. Devices are available for connecting up to five external hard drives, permitting all of the files on them to be remotely accessed via the Pogoplug Website using an Internet connection.
The Pogoplug device be set up to automatically to back up all of your computers and devices to the external hard drive(s) that you have hooked up to it at your home or office location. That external device doesn’t have to be empty. In other words, all existing files on the drive can also be also accessed remotely with an Internet connection.
Finally, there is one additional item you can use to efficiently use both Pogoplug Family and Pogoplug Cloud– Pogoplug software downloaded and installed to your computer or laptop–that allows you to drag and drop folders of data to upload to the onsite external hard drive and/or the cloud. The drag and drop option on the website only uploads image files so that this software is a must for accessing a large set of images organized in folders.
The Lowdown
After testing backing up folders and files using both Pogoplug Family and Pogoplug Cloud, I discovered a real deal for back-up and storage of my photography portfolio that was worth the money Cloud Engines was charging.  To be sure, there were a few noticeable flaws in the service, the first relating Raw and Tiff image files, which successfully downloaded and uploaded, but couldn’t be previewed online. This glitch I’m sure is being worked on, as all Jpeg files previewed just fine on the website.
Like Google Drive, Pogoplug enables you to choose what you want to backup,  allows access to your image files via mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android) via downloadable apps and creates a URL for each image that you can email or post to a social networking website such as Facebook or Twitter. You can access your backed-up files on these devices either through an app that you download to them or by accessing your files on their website from the browser installed on your device.

Canon 5D Mark II vs 6D Compared

Canon EOS 6D

The Canon war between D5 and D6 has commenced with two of their cameras being offered with a similar price tag. It’s the Canon 5D Mark II vs the 6D that is seemingly a toss-up as to which is the best buy.

In 2011 I compared the Canon 5D Mark II with the Nikon D700. Now comes along the Canon EOS 6D. Since it’s release the 5D Mark II’s price has fallen about $1000, but it’s no bargain anymore now that the 6D is out.

I choose the 6D ($1,899) vs 5D Mark II ($1,999) because they are in the same price range, the former a new model with all of the hot-shop options and the Mark II an older, but higher end model, which was replaced aby the 5D Mark III last year.

Let’s compare some of the specs.

The 6D is 20 MP while the 5D Mark II is 21 MP.
Both have full frame (24x35mm) sensors.
The 6D can shoot at 4.5 fps while the 5D Mark II at 3.9 fps.
Both have HD Movie modes.
The 6D has an 11-point autofocus while the 5D Mark II has 9-point.
Both have live view mode.
The 6D has built-in WiFi and GPS, the 5D Mark II does not.
Both have sensor-cleaning systems.
The 6D has an in-camera HDR mode the 5D Mark II does not.
The 6D has silent mode, the 5D Mark II does not.

Looks as if the 6D has a sizable edge in being the best bang for a buck because of the HDR capability, built-in WiFi, GPS and silent mode, not to mention that it shoots faster.

A Trip to Uncover the Mystery of the Terracotta Worriors Part 1–Xi’an

Muslim Quarter in Xian, China

Xian, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in China. This city is nothing less than fascinating, filled with sights, smells, tastes (okay, there’s a chance you might gag, but just move on) and sounds (noisy, yes, but it’s peaceful music coinciding with China’s emphasis on “harmony”).

Located in a fertile valley about 600 miles west of Shanghai, the city is often referred to as the Cradle of Civilization is home to numerous Ming-era pagodas with more ubiquitous wood beams spread up and down from the roof’s eves with organic designs in bright primary colors and the Muslim Quarter, miles of venders selling food items, the majority of which most Westerners wouldn’t recognize.

After an sixteen hour train ride from Beijing, which took five days, including stops in the smaller cities of Pingyao and Lalong, the cosmopolitan feel of Xi’an is refreshing, and the streets are humming day and night.

There’s no doubt the the best attraction in the area, the Terracotta Warriors, are a must-see, being that they are less than an hour away once you get out the Xi’an city traffic. The next two articles show you the way.

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