We've received many reader questions about what technology we use, ranging from what I shoot with to what software I use for the blog to what we packed. By popular demand, here is the roundup of answers! (Full disclosure: some of these links are affiliate links, which means if you click them and then buy something, Rob and I get a tiny percentage of your purchase.)
If you have questions on what to pack outside of technology, read Lina's post on the essentials here.
What type of camera do you use?
My main camera is a Canon Rebel Xsi and I primarily shoot with the Canon 18-55mm kit lens as it's the most versatile that I have. I have a Canon 50-250mm lens that is great for nature shots (see our Borneo photo tours) and a Canon 50mm f1.4 lens that has been great for lower light situations and some more creative shots with a narrow depth of field.
For quick wider angle shots when I don't have my 18-55mm lens on my camera or close up stealth shots I've used my iPhone 4S and now my iPhone 5.
Unfortunately, my waterproof LifeProof Fre case leaked when I was snorkeling on the island of Camiguin in the Philippines. Very sad--the case was reliable for almost a year. We sent LifeProof's customer service an email, but never heard back. Ouch.
So what can I use underwater?
We've seen some amazing photos taken with the Nikon AW110, but it only goes to 59 feet (17.9 meters), so if you're diving, that's not very useful. For only a bit more money, you can buy a nice point-and-shoot and an underwater housing together. Most underwater housings are rated for at least 30 meters. If you have endless cash... Well, just buy an underwater housing for your SLR--just don't go too crazy. Or you can always rent a camera or ask your dive buddies for their pics, which works when you get close enough with the people on the boat.
Funny story: when we dove at Sipadan, one of the dive instructors told us about this Chinese guy who arrived with $80,000 in underwater camera equipment even though he'd never dove before. Needless to say, it's hard enough to get neutral buoyancy by yourself, and he sunk every time the dive instructor gave him his equipment.
How do you remember where you took your photos?
This is a question I always ask myself. My camera does not have a GPS (the Canon 6D is on my wishlist for this and many other reasons). But, I do have a Garmin Forerunner 405. When I am taking photos, I have the Garmin Forerunner tracking my location.
When I download the photos to my computer I also download the GPS logs from the Garmin Forerunner where I use HoudahGeo to add GPS coordinates to each photo's metadata. Most of this happens automatically because the program matches the time the photo was taken with a time on the GPS, but you can also make manual adjustments.
Magic! You can then see where the photo was taken on a map in programs like iPhoto or Picasa or when you upload to sites like Flickr.
The biggest downside to using the Garmin Forerunner is battery life. I usually only get 6-8 hours, which isn't enough for some of our longer days, and especially not long enough for multi-day treks.
What technology do you carry?
Lina writes a lot (it was her degree after all) and I code, so that increases our technology footprint, but we still needed to optimize for weight since we knew we'd be carrying this stuff for 6+ months.
- Lina's MacBook Air in a iPearl mCover case for me. I left my MacBook Pro w/ Retina Display at home and had it shipped to New Zealand when we got here. It was just too expensive to merit taking through 3rd world countries and I wasn't planning on doing anything too hardcore while on the road. Although, I did at times crave more raw computing power.
- My iPad 3 in a Moshi case for Lina with a bluetooth keyboard (The keyboard lost several keys and the case is no longer functioning as the iPad falls right out of it!)
- Garmin Forerunner 405 for GPS tracking
- Canon Rebel Xsi (see above for the lens)
- CaseLogic Medium SLR Camera Bag. This case is tiny for how much it holds. It fits the camera, 3 lenses, a wide angle adapter, a macro adapter, a filter box, cleaning kit, and an extra battery with some room to spare.
iPhone 4SRIP June 2012 thanks to my LifeProof Fre leaking. I have since replaced this with an iPhone 5 and for lack-of-better waterproof options, a LifeProof Nuud case. I've been using this combination for a few months now and have had some success with underwater video. iPhone 4RIP April 2012 still works, kind of... just no wi-fi, which makes it mostly useless
- Power adapter (all of our devices work fine with different currents so we didn't need a more expensive power converter).
- Travel surge protector. This is a must-have for anyone who wants to travel with more than one device. It's crazy how many places only have one outlet! Plus, it requires you to have less power adapters. If I had to buy this again, I'd try to find a surge protector that has a built-in universal power adapter. The surge protector + power adapter combo often doesn't stay up on the wall, so I have to come up with creative ways to keep it from crashing down in the middle of the night.
- Insta Mold Custom Molded Headphones. Life saving on night buses and flights for me.
Some people we saw in Asia, made the new look old and well-used:
What travel apps do you recommend?
We talked about getting local sim cards, but that never happened and then our phones died. Still, here are some apps that helped us on the road, especially without access to TripAdvisor or Google Maps.
- City Maps to Go. An offline maps app. You may even get the blue dot from time to time if you were on wi-fi recently.
- Convertbot. Converts units to units. Did you know people outside the US use different measurements for air temperature and distance?
- Trail Wallet. A budget tracker with multi-currency support.
- Talkatone. If you have had Google Voice, you can call US numbers for free over wi-fi (for some people who joined later it may be 1 cent per minute).
- Offline Pages. One of the most annoying things about using an iPad when there is limited internet, is that the pages refresh when you don't have internet. Save your frustration. Save pages for offline use.
- XE Currency. Keeps rates saved for offline currency conversion.
- Gmail Offline. Ok, this is an app for Google Chrome, but since my phone died, I've really upped the usage. It does what it says, lets you Write, Archive, Delete, etc with no internet. When you reconnect it syncs.
What do you use for the blog?
When doing any project, I like to think about the goals for the project and then figure out the best tools I can use to meet those goals without a major sacrifice in time:
When we started the blog, we didn't know whether anyone except our friends and families would read it, so in the very least, we wanted to be able to easily see our stories and photos. Ten to twenty years from now, who knows what version of wordpress will work if we stop maintaining a site, so I chose Pelican, an open source static blog generator written in Python. If we ever choose to pull the plug on erohisms, we can generate the blog one last time, and zip up all of the html files. Unzip that on any computer and you can view all of erohisms just by opening the index.
Having a static site also means little to low maintenance. I basically rsync (or copy) the files over to AWS S3 and wa-la. No security updates required because there is nothing to expose. I didn't want to have to worry about restarting wordpress, especially when I was in the land of no internet.
I use MailChimp to send emails and manage our mailing list and some combination of BufferApp, HootSuite and Google Sheet (thanks to Google Script!) to schedule social media posts. Google Sheet also has a cron-like function, which I have send me a daily email with aggregated analytics information. That's been a real time saver for me in places with poor internet.
This rules out many wordpress options. My design sense wanted the blog to be beautiful and, being a software engineer, I also wanted to play with things.
For our process, Lina writes blog entries in Markdown format, I add them to a folder, run a program to generate the blog, then upload to AWS. Pretty easy.
I host all of the photos on Flickr to save on bandwidth--hey I'm paying for a Flickr Pro account so why not. Adding a photo to the blog is pretty easy. I just find the id number of the photo on Flickr I want to use (basically the number in the url of the photo on Flickr) and add the following text where we want that photo in the Markdown file:
For photo gallery posts, I add a similar line, but instead of one photo, it adds all of the photos in a Flickr set (album). Cool.
I decided to have erohisms.com point at AWS CloudFront. For those less tech savvy, this (more or less) puts our content on many servers all over the world. So if I'm in Asia, I don't have to wait for content to be delivered from the S3 server in the US.
Ok, ok... a bit over the top, but we had a speed obsession at Milo. The only time cost for me was before we left on the trip, and I've made up that time by having erohisms.com load faster ;-)
Note for our tech readers, erohisms.com could load even faster if I hosted the original content on a webserver that gzipped our content for web browsers, but I wanted to keep it simple and not have to maintain any moving parts. Perhaps some day the CloudFront/S3 combo will support that.
The biggest bug I've encountered was when boto-rsync was publishing files only if the file size changed. This means that if we fixed a typo and it was the same number of letters, new changes to the file didn't publish. Since it's open source, it was easy to go in and change the algorithm to analyze the entire file (for our more technical readers, the AWS S3 API provides an MD5 hash, but you wouldn't know it because it's in the etag field).
My biggest pain-point with maintaining the blog while traveling is lack of bandwidth, mostly when it comes to uploading photos to Flickr, but the blog itself is starting to get big too. Despite using rsync, 3rd world internet can be pretty bad. While I've added features to Pelican, if the blog keeps rolling, I'd love to just be able to add a Markdown file to my git repository, push it, and have a server somewhere publish the blog to AWS S3 or perhaps have that server serve the content to AWS CloudFront. It depends on how zealous I'm feeling and how many readers we have. So it's up to you! Tell your friends and I'll make the blog even faster! :-)
Questions? Comments? Concerns?
Leave us a note and we'll do our best to answer. If you have questions on what to pack outside of technology, read Lina's post on the essentials here.