Friday, April 30, 2010

You're really flying - 1 cm above the ground

Photo courtesy of Adrenalin Quarry
This week we've been covering various ways for the mortal man to fly. We end the week with the smoothest way to glide across the earth, at all times never more than 1 centimeter above the surface. We're talking hovercrafts.

With a top speed of 30 m.p.h. these single passenger hovercrafts can speed you from land to water and back again without ever slowing down.  Be sure to see the video below. Powered by dual Hovery Bimo engines putting out 8 BHP, you'll be flying before you know it. Sessions start at 10 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm. 

When you first arrive, the instructors will get you started in their grass covered, purpose built training arena. You'll have a safety briefing and get comfortable with basic maneuvers. After you are feeling in control, it's off to the water. With average ability, you should still have 15-20 minutes of your first session available for solo flying on land and water. Full throttle and

Read the rest of the article at

Thursday, April 29, 2010

See the world like never before - from the pilot's seat

Aerial of Chicago | Photo by Doug Bardwell
Sure you've seen New York, or San Francisco, or maybe Cleveland. But have you ever seen it from 1,500 feet up? I'm talking about from the front seat of a small single engine aircraft. It's now easier than you ever dreamed.

With a new promotion released yesterday, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is inviting people to come try piloting a plane themselves for very affordable rates.

Cooped up all winter? No better time than now to get out and experience our beautiful world. “Whether you’ve dreamed of flying an airplane, or just want to view nature from a different perspective, taking an introductory flight is a fun, easy way to say goodbye to cabin fever,” says Craig Fuller, president of the nonprofit AOPA.

Going to a special website set up for this promotion, "Let's Go Flying" will show you a database of over 3,500 flight schools where many will offer introductory flights for about $99. Enter your zipcode and choose from the list.
To read the rest of this article, go to

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Float like a butterfly...flip like a's ZERO-G.

Photo courtesy of Zero Gravity Corporation
"Ladies and gentlemen, this flight is about to begin. Please UN-buckle your seat belts and proceed to float about the cabin."

You've no doubt watched with amusement when astronauts floated across the screen of your TV set. If you've dreamed about what it would be like to float effortlessly in space, now it's time to stop dreaming. This is adventure travel like no other. 

Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) is offering rides in its G-FORCE ONE aircraft, specially designed and outfitted to recreate the actual weightless experience.  Not a ride simulator, this is the actual weightless experience encountered by the astronauts. This plane can duplicate the same levels of weightlessness enjoyed on Mars (1/3-gravity), the moon (1/6-gravity), and zero gravity.

ZERO-G first began offering weightless rides in 2004 and has already flown 6,000 passengers for the thrill of a lifetime. From rock stars to movie stars, people of all ages (from 8 to 93) have declared it the most incredible thing they've ever done. The flight lasts two hours and affords 15 separate weightless sessions, each about 30 seconds in length.  

To read the rest of the article and to watch a great video, please see my column today on

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Las Vegas grabs another Guinness - world record that is

Stratosphere Las Vegas Hotel & Casino just opened what may be the ryear's most exhilarating ride - a 108-story free fall. Sky Jump is most easily imagined as jumping out of plane, with no chute.

Well...not exactly.  There is this cable attached to your harness so you don't splat all over the ground when you arrive back on terra firma. Actually, it's better than bungee jumping because there's no bounce back.

Jumpers are outfitted with a special Stratosphere jump suit, complete with appropriate safety harness. The safety harness is then connected with the patented high-speed descender machine.

Formerly the world's highest commercial decelerator descent was set at Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Centre with a height of 764.4 feet.

To read entire article, go to my site.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Photo-feature: Ohio State Buckeyes Football - Spring Game 2010

Terrell Pryor had an excellent first quarter of football with one touchdown and 8 of 12 passing for 108 yards. Kenny Guiton is now a name to be remembered with his two touchdown performance. He ultimately led his Gray squad to victory in the 2010 Scarlet & Gray Spring Game at Ohio State Stadium. The Buckeye fans seemed pleased with what they saw as they braved threatening weather and some rain – but showed up 65,223 strong in attendance.

Covering a football game isn’t exactly my specialty, but as a traveling photographer who happened to be traveling to Columbus, Ohio yesterday, the allure was too great to pass up. Having attended Ohio State, getting a chance to come back and shoot the game was a great treat.

Shooting football games requires a number of things besides a press pass. And quite honestly, the same techniques can be used on the sideline of little league or high school games just as well, where press passes aren’t even used.
See the complete article and slideshow at

Friday, April 23, 2010

Turning lava into lemonade

Tours by
Photo by Tom Brackley
Have you been affected by Eyjafjallajökull? Let's just refer to it as "the volcano," shall we?

Countless thousands have had their travel plans turned upside down or worse - cancelled. Countless others never even left home, knowing their reservations needed to be rebooked. But for a small group, this has been manna from heaven.

Tours by is a Vancouver-based website, connecting tour guides with tourists around the world. They have just reported today, that their local guides in Iceland are turning the volcano into proverbial lemonade.

Tony Brackley, an accomplished photographer in Iceland, has combined his photographic talents and love for adventure into the Photographers Volcano Tour. On this 6-hour tour, Tony will take groups up to four in his comfortable 4x4 Jeep to the best vantage points to see and photograph the volcano while it's active.

For tourists stuck in Iceland, Tony has a message. “Get out of the airport, get out of your hotels: this is a chance to see a landscape changing before your eyes," says Tony. The tour is only $390 USD for up to four people and can be booked on-line. As of this morning, he had three open dates for April, with more available in May.

Read the rest of the article at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Turn out the lights and shoot the meteors tonight

Perseid Meteor
Originally uploaded by Jeff Sullivan
With only partly cloudy sky forecast in Cleveland, tonight will be a chance to observe the Lyrids meteor shower. Since it is hard to see all but the brightest meteors when the moon is out, the best time will be after the moon sets at 3:15 a.m. From then until the sun starts to rise, you will have your best chance of seeing the activity.

If you miss them tonight, your next opportunity will be when the Eta Aquarids are scheduled on the night of May 5. For further dates and times, see

Of course, photographers are not simply satisfied with watching the display. They are going to want to grab some photos to prove they were up at that ungodly hour. So, how do you shoot a meteor as it shoots across the night sky?

A quick list of the basics:
  • A dark location with no headlights, street lights, etc. (Think outside city limits.)
  • A tripod or other means of holding your camera perfectly steady (maybe a beanbag)
  • A way of releasing your shutter without touching the camera
  • Manual control of your camera shutter
  • Preferably a wide angle lense - wider than 55 mm if possible.
  • If your camera has a setting for long exposure noise reduction - turn it on.

Affix your camera to a tripod, or securely balance it on a bean bag, aiming high toward the eastern sky. To start, set your camera to EI400. Open your lense as wide as possible. Start with exposure times from 10 to 30 seconds. With a remote release, or your camera's timer, try a couple shots. Taking your camera from the tripod, zoom in all the way to analyze your picture in the LCD.

The ideal shot will have a dark black sky without looking light grey. Adjust your exposure time and/or EI setting to reach the darkest sky possible. You'll want to keep the shutter open as long as possible to increase your chances of catching the meteors, but not so long as to "fog" the background. Experiment changing the EI rating from 100 to 1000, and try f-stops one or two less than wide open.

Framing your photos with some trees, rocks or hills gives it some perspective and makes for a more interesting shot. Otherwise, all you will have will be a black photo with some dots and streaks.

Doug Bardwell, based in Cleveland, OH, writes about interesting new travel and photography topics across the country and around the world. Feel free to drop him a line at with suggestions for future stories. To get his stories delivered to your inbox, click the RSS feed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

5 Quick and dirty travel tips - How to get a better seat or bed, and save money too.

Cheap fare search engine
Looking for a cheap flight?  I mentioned in this article that was my favorite flight search engine. Well, for domestic travel that was correct; unless you wanted Southwest Airlines, who does not publish their fares on Kayak. To solve that problem and also to cover world-wide destinations, I'm now adding another recommended site -  They specialize in web-based special fares and will only work with airlines who will price their flights one-way as well as round-trip.

Best days to fly
Trying to get the most from your long weekend? Want the best prices for your airfare? After looking at a lot of price tables, it seems that your best long, four-day weekend deals can be had if you fly Saturday morning and return Tuesday night. Leaving Friday after work causes you to purchase a hotel night immediately upon arriving. Leaving Saturday morning saves money on both hotels and airfare.

For the other three, see my full article at

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Top 5 reasons to visit Lakeside, OH

There are many hidden gems that sparkle along the north coast of Ohio, but none more delightful than the small town of Lakeside.  Nestled along the northern shore of the Marblehead peninsula, Lakeside is 80 miles west of Cleveland and 60 miles east of Toledo.

Founded over 135 years ago, Lakeside still proudly maintains many of its century-old historic buildings. Established originally as a Chautauqua, it is one of only four that have continuously operated since the 1800's in the United States.

From May through September it operates as a gated community and a daily admission fee is charged. The fee, while far less expensive than the more-famous New York Chautauqua, gives the visitor unlimited access to Lakeside’s programs, entertainment and day-long shuffleboard. 

See the complete article on with a 55-image slideshow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting jazzed on jazz in the Rockies

If the grandeur of the Rockies doesn't get you jazzed enough, now there's one more reason to plan a summer trip to Colorado.Winter Park is once again holding their Jazz Festival with a who's who of performers. Ticket sales officially open today.
If you were given a certificate for 10 free, C-jazz CD's, chances are that your shopping cart would include many of the names being featured here this year. I know mine would.
Read the whole story here at

Friday, April 16, 2010

Photo Contest

The Great Outdoors photo contest offers outstanding prizes - and lots of them

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cruise deals found here

Looking for the best cruise deals? These guys seem to do it right, and have a fun time while they're at it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail

Gettysburg - you might come for the battlefields, but you'll stay for the Wine and Fruit trail.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Orbitz travel study just released

How to save 30 percent on travel, plus 3 reasons you might enjoy it even more.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The perfect location for a photo seminar - the island of Maui

If you want to attend a photo seminar, why not pick one located in one of the most beautiful places on earth - the Hawaiian island of Maui. In today's release, the Maui Photo Festival and Workshops reminded everyone of the dates of this year's event, which will be August 25-29. Early registration closes Wednesday and those who register by then will save $100.00.

If you are a traveling photographer and your business is photography, might as well make your tax deduction dollars work overtime and schedule a workshop in Hawaii.

Read my full article at and see a slide show of some of the images from last year's event.

Above photo:  New Maui resident Alexei Merk captured this West Maui sunset during the 2009 Maui Photo Festival & Workshops.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Magnificent collection of B&W animal prints

Absolutely gorgeous collection of black and white images - primarily of wildlife from East Africa.  Nick Brandt presently hails from Topanga, CA. Check them out here. The following is from his site.

"Few photographers have ever considered the photography of wild animals, as distinctly opposed to the genre of Wildlife Photography, as an art form. The emphasis has generally been on capturing the drama of wild animals IN ACTION, on capturing that dramatic single moment, as opposed to simply animals in the state of being.

I’ve always thought this something of a wasted opportunity. The wild animals of Africa lend themselves to photographs that extend aesthetically beyond the norm of 35mm-color telephoto wildlife photography. And so it is, that in my own way, I would like to yank the subject matter of wildlife into the arena of fine art photography. To take photographs that transcend what has been a largely documentative genre.

Aside from using certain impractical photographic techniques, there’s one thing I do whilst shooting that I believe makes a big difference :
I get extremely close to these very wild animals, often within a few feet of them. I don’t use telephoto lenses. This is because I want to see as much of the sky and landscape as possible--to see the animals within the context of their environment. That way, the photos become as much about the atmosphere of the place as the animals. And being that close to the animals, I get a real sense of intimate connection to them, to the specific animal in front of me. Sometimes a deliberate feeling that they’re almost presenting themselves for a studio portrait." 

Forget the staycation - how about a Thrillcation?

If "Danger", "Proceed with Caution", or "Road Closed" are some of your favorite signs; we've got just the vacation list for you. Calling it a "Thrillcation", SmaterTravel has amassed a great list of vacation spots that will get the adrenaline pumping and the heart pounding.

Reading books, sitting in a rocker, and sipping pina coladas isn't for everyone.

"Not everyone's idea of the perfect vacation is lying on a beach and soaking in the sun," explained Anne Banas, executive editor of "Some people want to experience nature in its most raw form and we have pulled together some incredibly enticing vacations for even the most intense thrill seekers."

Their editors have accumulated an impressive list of places to go where mortal men might fear to tread. Photos taken at these locations will be worth framing. See which of the following might push your "thrill" button.

Read the whole story at

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How to get great color in HDR photos - a tutorial

Ken Snyder of Unified Photography has created a very detailed work process for exploiting the benefits of HDR processing. He shares all the steps in this easy to follow tutorial.

The quirkiest hotel in America - rated #1 by TripAdvisor

Photo courtesy of McMenamins

TripAdvisor just released their list of the Quirkiest Hotels in America. Top of the class was McMenamins Kennedy School in Portland, Oregon. Having been there a couple years ago, I can attest to its scholastic achievement.

Built in 1915, it served the Northeast Portland area as Kennedy Elementary School until falling into disrepair and closing in 1975. Just two years later, Mike and Brian McMenamin completed restorations and reopened the facility. It's now Portland's hippest place to grab a beer, grab a meal, grab a movie or grab a room.

Picture in your mind, any large school building you know built prior to World War II. We're talking wide hallways, plaster walls, impressive doorways and archways, and a large cafeteria. Yep, you've got the picture. Now add big, bright, fanciful artwork to all the walls, some fun signage and you're starting to get the picture of this place.

As a hotel, it's small but wonderful. Still have the urge to draw that silly picture of your teacher on the blackboard? Go ahead, there's a blackboard in each of the 35 guest rooms. But now, each classroom has a comfy queen-size bed, private bath and telephone. Hotel guests also have pool passes to use the salt-water soaking pool in the outdoor courtyard, weather permitting.

For the rest of the story and a slide show of images from Kennedy School, please see my full article at

Monday, April 5, 2010

Four fun events in San Francisco in April

Traveling to San Francisco is always a good time, but in April, there's even more to do.   Fun for the whole family, let's tick them off one at a time.

Get down to the San Francisco Marina to see the Clipper Race ships that recently docked after a hair-razing leg number six of the eight leg race around the world.  Ten identical yachts started from England last year and are sailing 40,000 miles to eventually end up back in England this fall. On their latest leg, two ships were heavily damaged in the Pacific, sailing from Qingdao, China to San Francisco. The 68 foot sailing yachts are on visitor pontoons until they sail off on leg seven of their adventure on April 11th.  Follow the excitement and read the amazing diaries at

For the rest of the list, see my article on at

Friday, April 2, 2010

Experience the best of the Pacific Northwest by rail

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

Enthralled by eagles? Impressed by elk? Itching to get close to a grizzly? All these are signs you need to head to the Pacific Northwest.

Given the scenery, the wildlife and the Canadian hospitality, the Pacific Northwest could be described as abundance overflowing. It certainly was a favorite destination of mine during the two weeks we spent there.

Interestingly enough, some of the best views are available only via rail. This was our experience in Alaska as well. Somehow, years ago, those engineers grabbed some great real estate upon which to build their tracks.

Rocky Mountaineer operates the largest privately owned rail service in all of North America. In November 2009, Rocky Mountaineer was honored with a prestigious World Travel Award as “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” for the fourth time and has been recognized by National Geographic as one of the “World’s Greatest Trips.”

To continue reading, please go to my full article on

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Finally, something to do twixt the cruise and the flight

You know the drill. You've just returned to Miami from a fabulous cruise and you are waiting for your flight back to Cleveland. Spring break was great; but, now you're waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  That cheap evening flight back to Cleveland Hopkins Airport sounded like a good idea originally; but, now the kids are cranky, you've finished your crossword puzzle and you wish you had planned differently.

Jungle Island to the rescue.  Just 8 miles, or a 12 minute cab ride from the airport, Jungle Island will keep your kids busy for the day.  More than a zoo, there are all sorts of hourly shows and interactive attractions. Plus, as a special for cruise passengers, they will hold your luggage. Click here for details.

Animals include a Liger (no spelling error here) which is an accidental breeding of a male lion with a female tiger. Hercules, the largest cat on earth (according to Guinness) stands over 11 feet tall when he's upright.  In addition, there are other big cats like panthers, lynx, leopards, cougars and tigers.

Photographic opportunities abound with over 1,100 tropical birds and 2,000 varieties of plants. The birds put on their own not-to-be-missed show with a giant, six foot tall Cassowary, who swallows apples whole. Watch out for the vultures flying inches above your head.  The bird exhibit started in 1936 and has been amazing visitors ever since.

After, or between the shows, relax at La Playa, a beach front area for swimming and playing on giant inflatables. Relax under table umbrellas or stretch out on a chaise lounge with a Playa Colada.

If you go, you need to know:

Jungle Island, off of I-395 between Downtown Miami and South Beach.
1111 Parrot Jungle Trail
Miami, Florida 33132
Phone (305) 400-7000

Admission Prices
One-Day Admission:
Adults (Ages 11-64) $29.95 plus tax
Seniors (Ages 65+) $27.95 plus tax
Children (Ages 3-10) $23.95 plus tax
Children (Ages 0-2) Free

Stroller and Wheelchair Rentals
Single Stroller - $7.50
Double Stroller - $10.50
Wheelchair - $8.50
Electronic Convenience Vehicle (ECV) - $30.00

Monday - Friday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
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