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March 24, 2017

What is your escapist fantasy?



I am always amazed about how different people are when I ask them for their escapist fantasies.
- In the US, I am often shocked by the number of people that tell me "I want to retire next to a golf course", for example. - In much of southern europe and parts of Asia, I get a lot of "I want to spend more time with my grandchildren". - And then, there are all those people whose fantasies relate to shopping: "I want a sports car", "I want to inject silicon to parts of my body", "I want a flat on Trump Tower" etc And yours? What is your escapist fantasy?

March 17, 2017

Gold in the snow: the blooms of Winter Jasmine



Just when you need it the most, in the middle of snowstorms and glacial weather, the slender but tough Winter Jasmine, explodes with a shower of golden blossoms.

Let's take a look at this perennial garden favorite!

March 10, 2017

Frogs & Herons: their viewpoint in 360° video



This time of the year, little Alpine streams get crowded with frogs emerging from hibernation. Herons, hungry from the long winter, are having a feast.

So for my "Lesson #3 in 360° video", I decided to try to film from a frog & heron perspective: the camera would glide along the stream's surface, hop from stone to stone (like a frog) & then take off to a branch (like a heron).

Here are the things I learned:
- to do this, I had to use a selfie stick
- by using a selfie stick on a 360° camera in a gliding motion, I would be, of course, visible during the entire video (but a viewer could, of course, change their perspective to avoid seeing me)
- by distancing myself from the camera, its microphone would be dominated by the sounds of the gargling stream (the Ricoh Theta S does not permit an external mike)
- this means that if I wanted narration, I would have to edit it in later, with a video editor
- when I did, however, it "broke" the 360°-ness of the video, turning it into this weird thing: https://youtu.be/P8dHKr5SRkQ

March 8, 2017

The fight against domestic violence



Four young girls come up with an idea to make a difference. In the middle of the street, armed with bright eyes and wide smiles, they ask the people passing by for their definition of love. One of them is shyer than the rest: she holds the bulletin board from behind, leaving only her eyes visible.
They hand me the pen and I scribble a smiley where her hidden mouth is. They laugh, the ice is broken, the quick intimacy of well-meaning strangers is the oasis where we meet.
They want me to write my definition of love on a Post-It and stick it on the board. I shift to Greek: they are young and I know they will appreciate the exoticism of a foreign tongue. I write: "Ή αγάπη είναι το παν" ("Love is all").

They are here to raise awareness on domestic violence. My admiration for them is bittersweet: at their age, I did not even know such a thing even existed. I wish them the best and walk away, a flash of friendship in a sea of strangers on a rainy afternoon.

March 4, 2017

Abandoned Alpine village in 360°: Lesson #2



As the sun warmed the snowy slopes, I decided to hike to an abandoned Medieval Alpine village to try filming my first 360° video that would feature myself narrating.

There are two ways to do this, if, like me, you do not plan to edit the video afterwards (a future lesson) but you want it to work in one shot:
- either mount the camera on a tripod & then film yourself from a fixed 360° perspective
- or, you put it on a selfie-stick which will allow you to move around the village & change perspectives

I chose the latter. The sole disadvantage here is that the selfie stick will be in the video, no way to avoid this, if I want to be in the shot. On the other hand, since this is a 360° video, you do not have to see the stick (nor myself, for that matter) because you can rotate your perspective away from it.

February 24, 2017

A medieval village in downtown Paris



Cities, like epidemics, once they start growing rapidly, overcome everything in their way. No one person or entity ever decrees definitively the borders of a city; instead, like an ink stain on paper, cities spread chaotically, sometimes outward and sometimes back inward.
When things get ridiculous, authorities intervene to build ring roads, tunnels, green zones, overpasses and other afterthoughts to manage the chaos.
Once in a while, however, a miracle survives in the middle of all this mess: welcome to the medieval village in the heart of Paris!