Gadget Watch: Cameras, colanders, clackety keyboards and cufflinks

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Gadget Watch: Aug. 16, 2014

Cooking, charging, carrying and, uh, cufflinking. Yes, this week’s Gadget Watch is all about the c-word. We even have a cubic camera, a keyboard with a nipple (which doesn’t start with "C" but it’s close -- and clicky).

OXO Goodgrips Silicone Collapsible Colander

Tiny kitchen? Hatred of unitaskers? Try the OXO Goodgrips Silicone Collapsible Colander, a fold-flat colander that can be used to wash and drain food, and also to cook it – heat-resistant to 600˚F, it can be dropped in boiling water to quickly boil veggies, then dish-washed, collapsed and filed back on your shelf. $30

LIFT standing desk

Who needs a standing desk when you can just drop the LIFT on top of the desk you already own? Sure, it might look a little like a crappy TV stand flipped upside-down, but it is in fact a smart desk with cable routing, a drink holder, a mousemat (!), tablet and phone docking slots, and even a dry-erase whiteboard. Plus the height can be configured to suit you. It’s also a lot cheaper than a standing desk, although not cheaper than my repurposed €40 workbench with sawn-off legs. From $248

Waterfield Vertigo bag

Waterfield is on a roll this summer, and the Vertigo is the latest bag I want to sling over my shoulder. It’s a vertical notebook bag that looks and works a lot like Waterfield’s Franklin Tote. Inside the main zip-open chamber are pockets set into a golden lining, with a magazine pocket on the outside for even more gear. Hand and shoulder straps are made from soft-an-strong seat belt webbing, and you can choose from black ballistic nylon or waxed canvas, in two colors and three sizes (from iPad Air to MacBook Pro). From $129.

Bike chain cufflinks

These bike-chain cufflinks are frikkin awesome. They’re also probably a little too heavy for anything other than the most stiffly starched of double-folding shirt cuffs, but who really cares? They’re also pretty easy to make if you have access to an old chain and a chain splitter – and if you’re even reading this it’s pretty certain that you do. Thankfully they’re not too pricey, although the shipping from Australia might be. $50

Endurapro buckling spring keyboard with nipple

It’s hard to express how much I love my clicky Filco Majestouch keyboard, but I’ll give it a go. “Nyyyyhhhhaaah!” That’s the sound of a man’s “exit push,” as it were. But I’m willing to forego my Cherry MX Blue key switches for a while in order to try out the awesome Endurapro, which uses buckling spring switches (like the old IBM Model M keyboard). Not only that, but it even has a red nipple and mouse buttons, so you don’t need to reach out like 5 feet to the right, over the cursor block and number pad, just to reach your mouse. £99

Vier Compact Collapsible Lock

I’m skeptical of buying a bike lock off Kickstarter, but I appreciate clever new design, and the Vier is certainly clever. It’s like two U-locks combined, with twin locking bars and dual side shafts. This lets it collapse down into a small package, but it also means you have to fasten two separate locks, one on each cylinder. $80

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Biolite KettleCharge

The Biolite KettleCharge was invented when somebody put a TV remote on top of a giant pub ashtray and something clicked in their brain. The result is a kettle that boils water and simultaneously charges your USB device (the 10-watt output will even fast-charge iPads). The kettle has a thermoelectric generator in its base, which uses the difference in temperature between the hot fire/stove beneath and the cold water above to create a current. But all you need to know is that you can make you morning coffee and charge your iPhone at the same time. $150

Polaroid Cube camera

This cute cubic camera is a lifelogger with a Polaroid label. The 1080p, 6MP camera shoots wide (124-degree) stills or video and has a built-in mounting magnet in the base. It can also connect to various mounts (tripod, bike) and even slide into an equally cute waterproof case. When I see a lifelogger camera I just quail at the responsibility of organizing all those hours of footage, but a stronger person might enjoy the fact that they can gather hours of boring video for just $100.

Grovemade walnut keyboard tray

Grovemade’s beautiful tray not only holds your Apple aluminum wireless keyboard, it also converts the useless gap underneath into a handy storage space. Better still, that space is sculpted into compartments, with space for spare AA batteries (three of ‘em), paperclips (a piece of stationery that is now only used for ejecting SIM trays and resetting routers) and – LOL – business cards. Price? $59

App Watch Aug 12 2014 — Lists, learning, coffee and spaaaaace

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Dream your way into space with the new IFTTT NASA channel, put notifications and widgets on your desktop with Übersicht and make the perfect cup of coffee with the latest AeroPress timer. This week we even have an app just for processing B&W photos.

Listary 2

Listary, my favorite iPhone list app, now syncs with Dropbox instead of Simplenote (which in turn means no easy nvALT syncing), adds smart lists, a URL scheme that lets you ad tasks from apps like Drafts, icon badges and sharing. It’s also free, with an in-app purchase to unlock advanced features. $Free

IFTTT Space Channel

Now you can get an iPhone notification eery time an astronaut enters space. This radness is thanks to the new NASA IFTTT channel, which offers seven triggers that can feed their info into other IFFFT actions. Want to flash the Wi-Fi-controlled lights in your house every time the International Space Station passes overhead? No problem! And best of all it’s free – you just need an IFTTT account. $Free

Vox

Now Vox, the Mac app that streams music from internet radio along with pretty much any music format stored on your Mac (it integrates with your iTunes library too), now works with SoundCloud, which is the place all the cool kids publish their music these days. It supports SoundCloud queues and Collections, and grabs the highest-quality stream available. It’s free, with an in-app purchase to unlock the good stuff. $Free/$3

Übersicht

Übersicht displays javascript widgets on your Mac desktop, kind of like a cross between Dashboard and GeekTool. Widgets are written in JavaScript or CoffeeScript, and because they use CSS you can place them where you like, and make them look as pretty as can be. You can pipe in the weather, show your to-do list, or pretty much anything else in the world, ever. $Free

MediaFire for iOS

MediaFire, the service that forces you to click and load way too many web pages just to get an image from your email, has relaunched its iOS app as a photo-sharing, media-streaming powerhouse. v2.0 now auto-syncs your iPhone and iPad photos to its servers, along with improved streaming of audio and video. The service also adds a new pricing plan, starting at $25 per year for a terabyte of storage. Take that, Dropbox! $Free

JoliDrive

JoliCloud’s Drive is both a front-end for the privacy-focussed Norwegian cloud storage service (which I use and love), as well as a place to combine all your other cloud accounts. You can access Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, MediaFire and more, plus the amazing cloud torrent service Put.io. You can also use it to view and edit photos, watch movies, edit photos, listen to music and even read ebooks. Now the web app is even better thanks to a new large-icon grid view for your files. How much? Amazingly, it’s $Free.

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Tonality

Tonality takes your boring old color photos and turns then into amazing B&W images. It works with most images, RAW and JPG included, and does most of what Adobe’s Lightroom does, only it’s focussed on monochrome images and doesn’t do anything for color. You can tweak the color channels to really play with the B&W result, and there’s even gimmicky a one-touch-HDR feature. But the best part is layers, letting you save yourself to a bigger app like photoshop. I like it quite a lot, but I miss Lightroom’s built-in cataloging features. Regular or Pro for $20/$60

Learnist for iPad

You know how cool the TED talks are, where super-smart folks tell you about awesome things? Well Learnist is kind of like that, only instead of lectures it curates lessons, and now it comes on the iPad too. People like Gus Van Sant add lessons, along with qualified teachers concentrating on specific subjects. It’s also free to download and browse. $Free

AeroPress Timer

If you don’t have an AeroPress then go out and buy one right now. Pick up a burr grinder while you’re at it, and some delicious, freshly-roasted beans. Got it? Good. Now you can enjoy the free AeroPress Timer app, new and improved and at version 2. The app provides a whole slew of recipes, with extra recipe packs for $2, available as in-app purchases. Choose a recipe, get your gear set, your water hot and your coffee ground, and hit Go. The timer will count you down to the perfect cup. $Free.

Gadget Watch Aug 02 2014 — From Super 8 to super fake

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Yet more traveling gear this week with a super-stylish camera bag, fake backgrounds to make your photos look like they came from a better camera, an all-in-one iPhone case and bike toolkit, plus an all-new old-school Super 8 film (yes, film) camera. Delightful.

Bluelounge Kickflip

This might sound like a skateboard trick done in Johnny Rad’s place, but it is in fact a clever little widget that adds a permanent kickstand to your MacBook. The Kickflip sticks to the bottom of the Mac with an adhesive strip and stays out of the way until you need it. Then it flips (folds) open to lift the rear end up a few centimeters. This promotes air flow and raises the screen. Available in two sizes for 13 and 15-inch MacBooks. €18

Logmar Super 8 camera

Ever use a Super 8? It’s simultaneously amazing (great retro-style footage!) and terrifying (only a few minutes per reel!). And it’s also back, in the form of the Logmar, a modern-day take on old-school home video. The film itself is stabilized in the camera, and can be shot at anywhere from 18-54fps. It also has a flip-out LCD viewfinder screen, and records sync sound onto an SD card. How much? $5,000, once the initial run of 20 has been delivered.

Cycling Ride Pouch

This pouch carries everything you need on a ride. It’s a toolkit holder that fits in your jersey pocket, and has its own pockets for cash, cards and your iPhone. The phone is coddled in an ultrasuede-lined slot, and there’s a window on the outside so you can see and view the iPhone without taking it out first. In short, this is the perfect pouch for traveling light. $69

Lastolite Out of Focus Backgrounds

I love this low-tech solution to a high-tech problem. Instead of using a proper camera with a fast lens to achieve out of focus backgrounds, you can just buy a background that’s already out of focus. These folding, portable screens from Lastolite unfurl to give the out-of-focus highlights and blur you’d get if you used a wide aperture over a largish sensor – two things the iPhone doesn’t have.

The price? Well, you might think about buying that camera after all, because they’re $205.59 each.

Kelly Moore Kate Shoulder Bag

Kelly Moore’s Kate shoulder bag is a leather and canvas camera bag designed for men or women. The padded satchel has plenty of pockets, and also features a removable padded insert so you can safely stow lenses and cameras, or just use the thing as a big one-chamber sack when you’re not shooting. Yes, this is a camera bag so stylish that you will want to use it all the time. The price isn’t bad either, as these things go – $200

OptiKlip

It’s no Opti-Grab, but then OptiKlip does look pretty useful. It clips to the collar of any shirt, or to the button strip if you like, and gives you somewhere to hang your specs. In the summer I’m forever swapping between my regular glasses and my prescription shades, so I’m totally behind this little widget. If it ever makes it to market that is – currently the OptiKlip is not even a Kickstarter

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Catalyst waterproof case

Catalyst has ditched Griffin and is going it alone with its v2.0 iPhone case. Waterproof down to 5 meters (16.4 feet), dustproof, drop resistant and with a hard plastic lens cover to let the light get through to the camera without too much interference, it sounds like they improved on everything I didn’t like in our review of the original. $65

Drobo mini

All the power of a Drobo, in a little portable package. The new Drobo mini takes 4 2.5-inch drives (SSDs recommended), and connects to your Mac using Thunderbolt. This makes it blistering fast, and also lets you daisy-chain it to other Thunderbolt devices with the second port. Now you can take your redundant backup with your on the road – it even has a carrying case.$650

Tall Boy Pint Cup

Do you love craft beers and home-made cordials, but hate to drink out of anything that isn’t a soft-drinks can? Then you need to Tall Boy Pint Cup, an 18/8 stainless steel vessel in the shape of a can of Coke. It holds a U.S. pint, which is 16 ounces and not the 20 ounces in Great British pint (which is the reason and Englishman can out-drink any U.S person), and costs just $12

Analog photo technique brings Bambi to life

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Look who decided to wake up!

My new pet...

Get down you naughty deer!

Bambi is not so good at fetch!

Bambi is not so good at fetch!

He always makes such funny faces! So cute!

Always up to no good!

Bambi dreams of Tad...

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My little prancing man!

Hide and go seek! LOL!

Bambi spies the blue mouse cat toy!

Bambi and the first hints of spring! Finally warm enough to take him outside.

Splicing a cute little animal into a photograph doesn’t take more than a few seconds for anybody with a copy of Photoshop.

But Colorado artist Janelle Pietrzak spends hours cutting light stencils with a razor blade, then uses a shoebox and long-exposure photography to bring Bambi and other cuddly creatures to life inside her home.

“If you look at my photographs there is fantasy world full of mythical creatures, floating orbs, ghosts and goddesses, all created by manipulating light,” Pietrzak tells Cult of Mac. “The catch is that I hardly use any Adobe Photoshop. What you see in the images is basically what I saw on the back of my camera.”

App Watch: An iTunes substitute, photo tools and other useful upgrades

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App Watch: July 14, 2014

Whether you're watching the weather or making music, clipping notes or snapping photos, this week's selection of new and updated apps should have something for you.

Equilibrium

Hate iTunes? Of course you do – you’re only human. Equilibrium lets you ditch it (or its interface at least) by putting a control and popover window up in your Mac’s menu bar. Control iTunes, Spotify, Rdio and Vox, scrobble to Last.FM and set custom keyboard shortcuts so your can skip and play/pause tracks even without dedicated media keys. $3

Horizon 2

Great self-leveling video app Horizon will take horizontal video however you hold your iPhone. Version 2.0 adds to the non-vertical-video action with still-image support, 2K-resolution video, 60fps (at 720p), plus updated live filters and a revamped UI. It’s my favorite video app for iOS. $2

Take Creative Vocal Recorder

Take Creative Vocal Recorder is like Drafts, only for musicians. Tap the red button and you’re recording, making an audio note. Then, you can loop that sound and add another couple of tracks alongside it, add effects and sketch out a track, right there in the app. It looks way better than the built-in Voice Memo app, and it even has processing to make your iPhone’s mic sound better. Free

Polymo

Polymo for iPhone wants to replace not just your iPhone camera but your iPhone Camera Roll. It lets you pre-tag your pictures before taking them so, say, every snap snapped at a party will be tagged on the go. This makes finding and organizing way easier.

It has a beautiful interface, plus some features that iOS should have as standard, like swiping across multiple photos to select them all. $2

Photo Book Flip

Photo Book Flip builds faux paper books on your iPad. Import pictures from your Camera Roll or Photo Stream and “curate” them into books with a 3-D flipping effect on the pages.

I like the idea of making photo books for sharing pictures with friends. It’s far better than forcing them to see every damn photo you took on your vacation. $1

Lauchbar 6.1

Hit ⌘-space on your Mac and a window pops up asking for instructions. If you don’t hate yourself, the window is from an app like Launchbar or Alfred, and not from OS X's built-in Spotlight. Launchbar does everything Spotlight does, and then some, letting you browse inside text files, mail search results and browse your iTunes.

And now it brings something called Staging Area, which is just like Quicksilver’s old “comma trick.” Search for an item, and instead of telling Launchbar to act on it right there, you hit the comma key and it is added to a buffer. Add more items every time you hit the comma, and then act on them all at once. Currently only available in a nightly build of v6.1, this should be coming soon. €24

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Everclip 2

Everclip 2 is an update to the fantastic iOS Evernote clipping app, and does more of the same, only cleaner. Like the original Everclip, Version 2 runs in the background and watches the system pasteboard. Whenever you copy a link, image, chunk of text or pretty much anything, it clips it to the app. Then, you can gather these snippets into one big document, or send them individually to Evernote. You can pre-specify a notebook and tags, edit snippets before sending and – best of all – the URL of the original webpage (if you clipped from the Web) is preserved. It’s a great research and scrapbooking app, and v2 runs way longer in the background than v1. $7

AlertsPro

My favorite weather app, WeatherPro, has gotten a new companion app that focuses on weather alerts. Appropriately, it’s called AlertsPro, and it sends push alerts for extreme weather conditions, based on location. It monitors your current location by default, and you can add others for anywhere in the world. You can also see the warnings displayed on a map. $2

5 non-superhero comic books that should come to TV screens

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Flipping the Buffy paradigm

Sure, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a movie that became a TV show that ended up as a comic book, but it’s a fine example of the cross-media value of certain nerdy properties. Comic book movies and television shows are all the rage right now, with Marvel and DC superheroes packing the theaters and shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Arrow filling the little screen.

But there are plenty of comic books that don’t feature superheroes, and we think they’d be a great match for the home television market, as they have less reliance on big-budget special effects and can sustain longer story arcs than a movie can. With that, then, here are our picks for the best non-superhero comics we’d really like to see come to a television screen near you. Or us.

Fables

Forget the insipid Once Upon A Time: We’d love to see Bill Willingham’s opus Fables fill the “fairy tales come to the real world” niche. It’s a highly charged story based on characters from fairy tales come to the real world of New York, hidden in plain sight thanks to some magical glamour.

There are smaller stories to be told about Snow White, Bigby Wolf, Prince Charming and Pinocchio, as well as a larger story arc about the adversary, a great threat from back in the land of fairy tales that's out to conquer our own mundane reality. It’s ripe for a cable outfit that could handle both the larger-than-life characters and sets that such an undertaking would require as well as the smaller, character-driven focus that makes the book such a hit.

Powers

A Powers pilot got shot in 2011 and is currently in development as a streaming show for PlayStation 4, but the potential of this crime drama about a police unit that deals with superhero crime is huge.

There is some superhero meta-fiction at play here, but we're hoping for a truly mainstream Powers television show on the strength of its non-metahuman storylines, with the aging detective and his young, newly assigned partner as the focus of the show. It could be a nice alternative to shows like Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D., which are getting along just fine, thank you, with very little big-budget superhero effects.

Saga

Saga is one of our favorite current comics, and hoping for a television show is pretty far-fetched, especially given the little screen time true sci-fi shows are getting outside of Syfy channel these days.

That said, this is a delightfully funny and poignant story that uses the trappings of sci-fi to tell a truly human tale of love across racial lines, like Romeo and Juliet in space (if Juliet was a badass soldier with angel wings and Romeo sported a set of ram’s horns on his philosophical head). It’s a fun romp with some serious themes, and if it were to show up on television, maybe even as a TV miniseries, we’d be all over it.

The Sandman

We’re certain TV execs are all looking for the next Game of Thrones, and Neil Gaiman’s seminal series The Sandman is the iconic comic book title they should turn to. It’s got a fully realized supernatural world based on all sorts of myths, fairy tales and horror stories from the world’s cultures, all blended together and powered by a masterpiece of a storytelling engine.

The TV show could focus on Morpheus, the emo god of dreams, and spend time fleshing out the memorable stories and characters that made this Vertigo-published book a huge hit in the late '80s and '90s.

Transmetropolitan

Transmetropolitan is a sure bet for any comics nerd’s heart, with its irreverent take on politics and journalism, set in a near-future tech dystopia where privacy is a thing of the past and body modification is rampant.

This one has it all — sex, drugs, violence and a whip-smart take on our own cultural mistakes — making it perfect for one of the cable outfits like HBO or AMC. Spider Jerusalem is one of the most enduring characters in modern comics, like a post-cyberpunk Hunter S. Thompson come to monologue on the evils of society while he gets it on with your hot wife. This is one comic book property that could really take the sci-fi craze to its highest satirical potential.

Gadget Watch: Keyboards, skateboards, duck heads and drones

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Gadget Watch: June 20, 2014

A bamboo bay for your Beats by Dre? A cellphone-charging carabiner? A creepy drone that follows you around? What about an iPhone case that looks like a (tiny) broken skateboard? If you were looking for any of these, you’re in luck.

AirDog Drone

‘sup dawg? No – literally. What’s up? Dog? This is the AirDog, a drone/RC ‘copter that follows you around. Hang a camera from the mount under the hovering doggy and strap the AirLeash to your wrist. Sensors beam info to the drone and it will follow your exact trajectory, only up in the air. Launch and landing are automatic, and an iPhone app can be used to tweak the flight path for, say, a continuous loop. $1,195

Beats by Dre Station

Possibly most notable for introducing the term “DreStation,” this bamboo stand is much more affordable than the headphones it holds. And you don’t even have to use Beats cans – any over-the-ear headphones will hang just as easily from this dumb wooden desk tidy.

It’s not all good though: The lack of a hole on the base means you can’t charge the iPhone or iPod while it stands in there. $40

Nomad Clip

Who doesn’t love a carabiner? And who doesn’t find themself in need of a Lightning cable from time to time? Nobody, that’s who. And that’s who will buy the Nomad Clip, a carabiner that unfurls to become a charger for you iDevice. Made from steel and polycarbonate, and not suitable for climbing, you can also choose a microUSB version. $39

Adonit Jot

If you like the look of Adobe’s new Creative Cloud apps Sketch and Line, but don’t fancy buying the $200 official stylus to use with them, you should pick up Adonit's new Jot Touch instead. It has a tiny “Pixelpoint” tip instead of a disk or fat rubbery point, and it works just like Adobe’s Ink stylus, letting you copy and paste to/from the Creative Cloud as well as access files and Kuler color palettes. Best of all, it’s just $120.

Duck Head Saver

What’s a duck head? It’s the little interchangeable block of power plug prongs that slots onto every Apple power adapter from MacBook Pro to iPad. And the Duck Head Saver from DenVog is a widget that sticks onto the side of your AC adapter and adds a prong onto which the unused duck head can slip whenever you use a foreign duck head or the long adapter cable. $35

Timbrr

The cedar used to make the barrel of the Timbrr stylus contains lots of natural resins. Not only will this make it smell as good as a humidor full of Cuban cigars, but that resin also helps conduct the special human waves that are required by a capacitive screen to detect a touch. Otherwise the Timbrr is a regular ol’ stylus, with a rubber tip and a fat, easy-to-hold barrel. $34

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Belkin wired iPad keyboard

How about a nice safe wired keyboard for your iPad? This Lightning-equipped number from Belkin doesn’t need batteries and doesn’t even require that Bluetooth be switched on on your iPad. It’s also thin, Apple-certified and comes with all the usual media keys for controlling your tablet. And with the wired connection, nobody can snoop on the keystrokes you’re sending over the airwaves. $60

Bowerbag modular bag

Can’t decide what kind of bag to buy? Then buy the Bowerbag, a modular system that takes five (5!) separate sacks and joins them together with a modular system. Each bag, complete with its straps, connects to all the others in a huge compromise of buckles and webbing. Who cares how much it weighs? You have choice! $360

Skate Deck iPhone Case

It’s an iPhone case. It’s fashioned from silicone. It looks like somebody snapped a skateboard in half. What’s not to like? Apart from the fact it won’t ever fit your pocket thanks to those wheels sticking out the back? Or the fact that you can’t reach the iPhone’s power button? Nothing, that’s what. Oh, maybe the price tag: $45

Kites trump drones for aerial-photography bliss

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InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort

A camera strapped to a kite can be the perfect way to capture a stunning view. See more of Pierre Lesage's kite aerial photography photos in this gallery (with notes by Lesage).

KAP over the Colosseum in Rome with a Canon S95

This one is SOOC (straight out of the camera). Thanks to Jim Powers (alias Windwatcher), as well as Fany & Anthony (alias Nonsenz), for their previous Kaptures of the Colosseum in Rome. That really helped us to find out where we could take off for our KAP session this afternoon. (Google Earth was also very useful.) The weather was just beautiful, the light warm as Rome can be, the wind was light and strong enough for the only kite we had with us (Dan Leigh delta R8 Travel version) and for our dual-camera autoKAP rig equipped with a Canon S95 and GoPro HD. No authority to tell us not to fly a kite, KAP at its best. A great session we are happy to share.

KAP over Iguaçu Falls

We stayed in Iguaçu Falls for three days -- one day for a hike on the Brazilian side, one day for a hike on the Argentinean side and one day to hopefully KAP them. For the first two days the weather was just perfect: no clouds, beautiful light, a very pleasant temperature and humidity and ... no wind at all. The last day of our stay saw some clouds, wind and a very dull light, but at least we had some wind and KAPing the falls seemed possible, even if I knew that the results would not be the best. There is a very dense forest by the falls and the closest we could take off (according to Google Earth and scouting the neighborhood) was roughly 800 meters from the 'Garganta del Diablo' on the lawn of the Hotel das Cataratas. A bit far, but not much choice, and I thought that taking some height would be the solution. But of course we had to deal with the helicopters (which are supposed to fly at 500 meters or 1,600 feet) and Heidy was so stressed that the entire session only lasted 15 minutes. The wind was very unstable, the Fled was moving like the wipers on my car, the rig was jumping all over but nevertheless we managed to get half a dozen of almost "keepers." Time for a Caipirinha!

Extreme KAP Session on Faafaite Vaa

Faafaite Vaa is a traditional Polynesian outrigger canoe that can sometimes be chartered for private events. This was one our friend's (who is 99 percent blind) birthday and this charter was just a blast for him. Once out in the open ocean, we had a steady wind of 25 to 30 knots with very limited space to move.The sea conditions were pretty rough. We had to launch the kite from the back of the canoe but had to put a life jacket on (just in case). The PFK Nighthawk Delta was the ideal kite for the job and the dual-camera autokap rig (Ricoh GX 200 + GoProHD) was not that easy to launch as we had to protect it from seawater and while making sure everything was fine.

A kite above cloud Nine

A very warm "mahalo, mauruuru, merci" to Tom Benedict, who guided us through the telescopes of Mauna Kea Observatories and, more specifically, the Canada France Hawaii which hosts a world-class, 3.6-meter optical/infrared telescope. The summit of Mauna Kea is 4,200 meters high (almost as high as Mont Blanc ... .4,852 meters) and the sunset above the clouds is a fantastic show to watch; the moving shadow of the mountain on the clouds is an even more spectacular vision. Just a perfect setting for a crazy KAP session where oxygen is lacking and the least effort is huge but Tom, just in case, had an oxygen tank in the observatory as well as a pulsometer for heart beat and oxygen level in the blood. KAPing at 4,200 meters altitude is a very interesting experience; the air is not as dense as at sea level and despite a good 15-knots wind, the Dan Leigh Delta R8 was just enough to lift the autoKAP rig (RC rigs would not be allowed so as not to interfere with the radio telescopes). This was way too short. I can imagine a time-lapse of the sun going down over the clouds, a time-lapse of the growing shadow of Mauna Kea, another, higher KAP session looking straight down. Some good excuses to come back!

Sunrise on Raimiti seen from a kite with a Leica M9

This morning, Dec. 27, 2011, sunrise was at 5:12 a.m. and not a single cloud in the sky, Northeast trade winds blowing steadily at 20 knots, the ideal strength to lift the autoKAP rig and the Leica M9 with its 24 mm Elmarit lens. I was not totally satisfied with my previous sunrise with the Sony Nex 5 and thought the Leica M9 would give me the sharpness I was looking for. ISO 200, f4, 1/1500 sec. When looking at the original size, the difference is stunning. This session is one that probably gave me the most satisfaction since I started KAP a few years ago. Satisfaction with the light, the R8 flight, the subject, the ambiance, the pleasure and the results."

KAP in Blue Lagoon for shark and seagull feeding

The Blue Lagoon in the atoll of Rangiroa is about an hour by speedboat from the main village, and is a pristine and virgin spot on the west coast of the atoll. Baby sharks grow up in the shallow waters before joining the hundreds of adult blacktip sharks in deeper waters. Baby blacktip sharks are curious and always hungry; it was just pure magic to feed them and watch the seagulls fight with the sharks for food. It just took us a few minutes and some dead fish to attract both sharks and seagulls, time to position the kite, the camera and to take a few pictures. I was not too sure about having both the seagulls and sharks on the same picture but I suppose it was a good day.

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Easter Island at sunrise

The sun was out by 7:40 a.m. and we only had a window of three minutes of perfect light. The kite was already up in the air and as soon as the sun rose over the ocean the rig was up above the Moais. It was interesting to see that a dozen other visitors had also made it for sunrise, but all of them were facing the sun, we were looking for the shadows!

December in Bora Bora

Kite aerial photography at the InterContinental Bora bora Resort and Thalasso Spa. Great weather and location, the ideal KAP conditions!

Stone fishing in Maupiti

Organized by the population of the island of Maupiti once every 10 years, this traditional fishing technique is a collective effort where the entire population of the island (1,200 people) participates. Over 200 boats and rafts circle the island’s lagoon, each throwing in the water a stone held on a string, to hopefully push the fish inside a 3 kilometer long vegetal net which will be brought back on the beach.This year, this “stone fishing” was the conclusion of a South Pacific UNESCO symposium on sustainable development and the fish were released except for one caught by French Senator Richard Tuheiava, born in Maupiti. Maupiti is an island 20 miles west of Bora Bora, French Polynesia.

AutoKAP in Paris from Le Jardin des Tuileries

View of the hotel Meurice, The RItz, The Opera and Montmartre.A very nice session, the wind was rather strong but unstable and I had more stress flying in Paris than over the lagoons !

KAP over Taro Fields in Areva, Rurutu, French Polynesia

Taro is a tropical plant grown primarily as a vegetable food for its edible corm, and secondarily as a leaf vegetable. It is considered a staple in oceanic cultures. It is believed to be one of the earliest cultivated plants. The name "taro" is from Tahitian or other Polynesian languages; the plant is also called kalo (from Hawaiian), gabi in The Philippines, dalo in Fiji, seppankizhangu in Tamil, Arvee in Hindi and Karkalo in Nepali.This KAP session was probably one of the most challenging we ever had. The taro field is located right behind a 100 meter high cliff protected from dominant winds but creating incredible venturi and vortex between the ground and 150 meters. "Clean air" is about 200 meters high and the whole challenge was to get the R8 delta up to this stable altitude before attaching the camera to the string.

AutoKAP from the SV:Star Flyer

The SV/Star Flyer set sails from the lagoon of Raiatea.A very intense KAP session, at the begining there was not enough wind to lift the camera but quicly the white storm in the background brought rain and Beaufort 5 winds and we only had a very short window of 5 minutes. Considering this is AutoKAP, I guess we were quite lucky !On this picture the storm is almost here !Thanks to the Star Flyer for a wonderful break and a special "merci" "mauruuru" to the Polish Captain who accepted that we launch our kite from his ship!!!

Rising Sun AutoKAP on Dune 45 in Sossusvlei, Namib Desert Namibia_b

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Rising Sun AutoKAP on Dune 45 in Sossusvlei, Namib Desert Namibia

Dune 45 raises roughly 120 meters ( 400 feet) above the ground; It is one of the few dunes where the ascencion is authorized.At sunrise the colors are absolutely exceptional and a few visitors have already climbed the Dune to admire the sunrise from the summit.

InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa

This KAP shot was part of a week's assignment to entirely redesign the hotel's photo library.

Flirting with the Angel

We studied maps, tides, weather forecasts as we wanted to shoot a vertical wide angle image right above the Angel on top of the Mont St Michel.The Angel (Michel Angel) raises at 157 meters (520 feet), and the idea was to bring the kite and camera right above it. This was my first VHF radio assisted autoKAP session... with Heidy radio-guiding me on the other side of the Mont. (almost as efficient as a video link!)The Ricoh GX 200 was attached 100 meters (300 feet) below the Dan Leigh Delta R8 to get some “clean” air, most of the shots were made from 15 to 50 meters (50 to 150 feet) above the angel and I had close to 400 meters (1300 feet) of line out. Thanks to Emmanuel (alias Maneke) for his assistance!

KAP on Sydney Opera House 2008 – Act III… Oct 25, 2008

A warm THANK YOU to Pat, the security officer on duty this afternoon. Pat already gave me clearance back in February and again was very nice to authorize me another KAP session over the Opera House.I originally wanted to shoot right on top of the buiding but the shape and the architecture created too much turbulence.

ZERO wind AutoKAP in Auyuituiq Park, Bafin Island

A zero wind autoKAP in Coronation Fjord, in Auyuituiq Park, Bafin Island.The only wind available in the Fjord was the relative wind equivalent to the speed of the ship ( 10 knots, ideal for the fled).

KAP at Venus Point - Tahiti July 05, 2008

Traditionnal Polynesian sailing outrigger canoe regatta at Venus Point, Tahiti.

Maitai Dream Fakarava, Tuamotu Archipelago Aug 11, 2007

Fakarava is the second largest Atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago, an hours flight North Est of Tahiti. Population of 473 and only one hotel the Maitai Dream.The french painter Matisse was inspired by Fakarava in 1932 when he discovered the incredible palette of "blues".

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Stone fishing, an Xtreme KAP session…

Stone fishing is a traditional technique in French Polynesia, but traditions are fading away. (We were fortunate enough to participate in 2009 for the last one that was organized on the island of Maupiti).To close the mayor’s congress, the city hall of the island of Taha’a organized a stone fishing ceremony on August 03, 2012. The weather forecast looked good (15-20 knots of south east wind); space was available on Air Tahiti, as well as at the Hawaiki nui, a local hotel. A few phone calls to find a boat to take us to the ceremony and here we are, Heidy & I, for an Xtreme KAP session. Certainly one of the most challenging we ever had.Here is how this special fishing technique works. A fish trap is build on the beach by the lagoon. From this trap a 60ft long and 5ft wide canal which ends in a giant funnel where more than 100 boats will “push” schools of fish that hundreds of fisherman will guide by throwing stones hung on a rope in the water. By the time they get to the funnel, fishermen jump into the water and “push” the fish in the canal towards the beach fish trap where the local authorities will have the opportunity to harpoon the first fish that show up. (The others will be released… the fish not the officials.)

Towed KAP session In Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

No wind for this KAP session, we just had to tow the kite at the desired speed from the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser. Lots of fun, but a bit acrobatic to launch and retrieve the rig and camera without crashing.Altitude of the Salar is 3800 meters above sea level and the air is not as dense. Average speed of the car was 40 Km/h and we had to drive around twice to frame these shots in AutoKAP without video downlink.

KAP Over Laguna Verde, Bolivia

KAP Over Laguna Verde, Bolivia

50 shades of Blue…and Green !

Kite Aerial Photography on a desert atoll somewhere in the South Pacific.

KAP on Tarmac

Short 06-24 private runway on an atoll in the south Pacific.

Go fly a kite. Marketing exec Pierre Lesage finds the practice relaxing after a busy week overseeing operations at eight hotels. It’s also perfect for shooting photos.

“Since the drones came out a few years ago, kite aerial photography lost interest for a few photographers that are just looking for photographic results,” says Lesage. “I am also looking for results but I need that poetic aspect of doing it with a kite, and as long as there is wind I never have problem with batteries.”

Quadcopters are a thrill but flying kites is the zen alternative — and the photographic results are postcard perfect. It’s a way to mix tinkering with fresh air and can be as easy as picking up a prefab rig or as complicated as diving into the world of schematics and solder.

Go for goal with these World Cup essentials

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Caxirola

The official musical instrument of the 2014 World Cup is the Caxirola, but it has already been banned from stadiums. Not because it will drive you out of your mind with irritation like the last World Cup’s vuvuzela, but because the Caxirola is considered a security risk (or more likely, a perfect booze and drug-smuggling device.

The Caxirola looks like a cross between a lemon and a set of knuckledusters. Inside the hollow plastic bubble are hundreds of beads that rattle when you shake it and make a “nice, pleasant” sound. But you don’t have to bother with a real plastic lemon: you can buy the app.

Panini Stickers

As a kid I never really liked football, but I loved Panini football stickers. Now there’s an environmentally friendly way to collect and swap stickers (if you consider making an iPad or iPhone to be less damaging than printing a paper book). The official Panini Online Sticker Album app lets you collect and swap stickers, and stick them into a virtual album. Swapping is done online, and you get three sticker packs with the free download. $free

Authentic World Cup Jersey

I’ll be buying my Spain World Cup shirt down at the local knockoff market, but the real deal has some features that partially justify its $150 price tag. Dri-FIT microfiber, laser-cut mesh and ventilations zones will keep you cooler than if you went topless. And of course you’ll get the shivery chills every time you remember how much you paid for it. $150

Listen to the Radio

Maybe you want to follow the World Cup from the beach, or the park, or just not be stuck indoors. Or maybe you live in a foreign country and you want to listen to an English commentary while you drink Brazilian beer and watch the match in a Brazilian bar.

For this, you need the radio. Either tune a real radio to the BBC, like the World Band Tecsun radio that people like on Amazon, or grab the excellent (free or paid) TuneIn Radio app, which, as its name suggests, tunes in to any radio station that transmits via the internet. I recommend the BBC.

Street View stadium tour

Stuck in rainy Europe? Don’t own a passport to leave the U.S? No problem. Google has visited the World Cup stadiums so you don’t have to – just head over to this page to virtually tour any of Brazils World Cup stadiums via Street View.

Pick them on a map or just browse the list, and you can even take a look at the streets outside.

A big frikkin' TV

Just before the 2010 World Cup, I remember seeing lots of men dragging huge boxes into their apartment buildings. What better excuse for a new TV than a World Cup? Right now, the Wirecutter says that the best TV you can buy is the Samsung F8500, available in 51, 60 and 64-inch models and ready for 3-D should you happen a cross a game broadcast that way (and sport is probably the only reasons to use a 3-D TV). Best of all, the 51-incher is currently $1,800 on Amazon, which is $900 off list price.

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The supermarkets are already full of Brazil-related plastic junk, and even folks who only watch football once every four years are getting excited. Why? It’s World Cup time, of course!

Here we have a selection of apps and gadgets, clothes and toys to help you follow along and enjoy the show. The only thing we haven’t included is streaming app, because broadcast rights vary from country to country. Our workaround is to watch on TV or listen on the radio. Or do it like the Brazilians and head to your local bar.

Gadget roundup: The week’s best gear for travelers, campers and chefs

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Get your weekend in gear

The week's best gadget announcements, rolled up into a nougaty gallery.

BioLite BaseCamp stove

The BaseCamp is the family-size version of BioLite’s iPhone-charging camping stove. Like its little brother, the BaseCamp burns any fuel you find (wood is good) and uses the heat to power a USB charger and drive a fan. The fan pumps air into the fire and makes it burn hotter and faster. The BaseCamp version adds a grill on top for those off-the-grid BBQs. $300

The Latthammer

Picard’s German-made Latthammer (or carpenter’s roofing hammer) is 600 grams of hot, hot nail-starting action. Slot a nail into the groove up top, whereupon it will be held in place by a magnet. Whack it against your target chunk of wood and the nail is started without ever putting your fleshy fingers in harm’s way. It even comes with a beautiful leather grip. €70

Lifelogger POV camera

The dorkitudinal Lifelogger is an alway-on POV camera that looks like a Bluetooth headset, the large camera unit counterbalanced by a headband that wraps around from ear to ear. The eye-level mount means you always record what you’re looking at, but it also makes you look like you work in a call center. Available December.$249

TYLT Energi Travel Charger 2K

TYLT's Energi Travel Charger 2K is a regular USB wall charger, only it packs a built-in 2,200mAh battery and comes in at the same price as most regular (battery-free) chargers. The fold-out prongs let it sleep safely in your bag until needed, and the colored LED indicators tells you how much is left in the tank. I wonder why all chargers aren't this clever. $30

Range smart thermometer

Supermechanical’s Range thermometer looks as good as the beautiful (universal) app it works with. It’s a food-probe thermometer that comes in two models – one long and rounded, for sticking into cooking pots, and one short and sharp, for jabbing into meat. Both plug into your iPhone’s headphone socket, letting you set temperature alerts, check graphs and look up USDA temperature recommendations. $70

Satechi LightMate

Satechi’s LightMate is what would happen if Jedis carried iPhones. The lightsaber-shaped emergency LED light can work as a lamp or, if you remove the “saber,” as a flashlight. It’s waterproof, is designed to smash car windows (for escape, not for burglary) and the (swappable) lithium-ion battery can be used to juice your iPhone via its USB port. $30

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La Sardina Birds of Paradise DIY bundle

Imagine a sardine can made into a camera. Well done – you just imagined La Sardina, a plastic camera based on the classic sardine tin. Lomography's wide-angle shooter is so DIY it comes with a screwdriver to help customize it. The lo-fi Lomo film camera now comes in pretty versions with decorative skins, like this Bird of Paradise “dress.” Get ready for summer. $109

Power Purse

Photojojo’s Power Purse is a place to protect your phone and also provide portable power. It works like a regular clutch purse, only it has a secret 2,600mAh battery inside to recharge your iPhone on the go. We all have a friend who leaves the house with their iPhone at like 15 percent every frickin’ day. If that friend is into pink or polka dots, you should buy him/her this as a gift, if only for your own peace of mind. $49

The Tower

This Tower of power extends outlets from the floor and puts them up by your desktop. It packs two 2.1A USB ports plus four regular power outlets with circuit breakers, and the base is weighted to stop it from tipping over. There’s even a little plastic mesh pocket to keep your iPad safe while it charges. $99

Cooking, charging, camera-ing and generally staying out-of-doors are the themes this week. But if you are stuck inside out of the sun, don’t worry – we have you covered too.

This week we get cooking with a gadget-charging camping stove and a slick, iPhone-friendly food thermometer. We also do DIY projects (without tenderizing our thumbs) with the German Latthammer, charge our flagging phones with a purse that packs a built-in battery, and record everything using the super-dorky Lifelogger camera. Is the sun shining? Yes it is!