French Riviera Adventure – Lost In Italy

Continuing where D-day left of. πŸ™‚

So what do you do when you’re in Verona and it’s super hot? You eat gelato and touch Giulietta’s boobs. Summer came early πŸ˜€

Guided by smell of pizza and a friendly American, we found Casa di Giulietta, with Giulietta herself standing in the garden! Lucky us!jasmina giulietta

When you’re in a foreign country, you try to act like local people do, and with Italians being all very sexual and easy going, people formed a line, waiting their turn to hold Giulietta’s breast while their friends take pictures.

It’s all good fun and we’re told it sometimes gives you magic powers, woohoo πŸ™‚

Ice-cream fuelled and with a sense of magic at the tip of our fingers, we steered our car towards our next destination: Valbonne, France!

Discovering the magic power

Italian weather was like Italian women, hot. And it got hotter!

There was something intoxicating about Italy that made us take the wrong turn. But not all is lost! We still have plenty of time to get to Valbonne by evening.
Another wrong turn. Doesn’t matter, let’s explore Italy a bit, take some local roads… They have trees, and shade!
smerk* Another couple of wrong turns.

* Dead GPS.

* 2-3 hours of driving in circles.

* Empty gas tank.


That’s what it took for us to realize our newly found magic power: Getting lost in Italy!

What do you do when you find out you have a magic power? You use it! We’ll spend the day in Italy!

Went directly to the closest city on the coast, which happened to be Savone. First place we could find to spare a bed, which happened to be a hotel with a nice view, yay! πŸ™‚
We settled in, went for a short walk, and the lights went out for the day. Tomorrow, France!

Savone Beach Bridge

French Riviera Adventure – D-day

4 AM. Orangey hue appears on the horizon above the buildings in Zagreb. Two zombie-like creatures stroll around the apartment crossing stuff off the check list.

It’s D-day. Beginning of the great adventure. Next four days road will be our home.

People have done it before, sure. But we didn’t. And what’s better time to start something than now? πŸ™‚

Here’s some background you might be lacking.

With everything tightly packed and bearing gifts for our Italian Kiwi living in France, Sun greeted us while we were filling the tank with gas for the trip (Tesla, model whichever, is still on the wish-list).

Sunrise Greeting

With new energy and alertness this gave us, we marked the road trip started. Nothing’s gonna stop us now!

First stop: Verona! Road To France-w

Sceneries changed.
Clouds came in.
We got lost.
We got found.
Got stuck in traffic.
Got unstuck from traffic.
Found Verona!

I haven’t noticed when the clouds first cleared but it seemed like we picked the sunniest and the hottest days of the year. Temperatures in shade went from 30 to 40Β°C. Needless to say, when you drive in a car you’re not in the shade and dark asphalt is your best friend. “Air conditioning”, you say? What kind of adventure would that be, might as well watch a movie about it πŸ˜›

So what do you do in Verona when it’s super hot? Here’s what we did! πŸ˜€

French Riviera Adventure Announcement

Trip Map

In a week’s time, Jasmina and I are leaving for French Riviera! CΓ΄te d’Azur, here we come!

I’m super-excited about this. It’s gonna be the first real trip I’m doing outside of Croatia. Usually when I venture outside of Croatia, it’s either for dance competitions or some other dance related business.

But let me start from beginning.

I’ve been hanging out with some awesome people with all the cooking and Dancing With The Z series. Azlin,Β being one of them, introduced us to Lisa, who was all like “I’ve made some tasty pizza, look, here are photos. Why don’t you and Jasmina pop in, it’s only a ten hour drive”. That repeated over and over with lots of great food, and she knows how to cook.

Finally, with Jasmina’s B-day approaching, I caved in and shot Lisa a private message. Basically, she replied something like “Awesome, here are cool stuff you can do while you’re here. And yeah, bring some swim suits and make some leisure time, there’s a pool too.” πŸ˜€ So, the logical thing happened… I’m planning trip details.

We’re going through Slovenia and Italy to get to France. We won’t be stopping in Slovenia because it’s going to be dark, but we may or may not stop in Italy πŸ˜‰

I heard Cannes, Antibes and Nice are great places to visit, what else would you recommend?

We’re planning some cool stuff on the trip. See what happens πŸ˜‰

Mornings On Top

… lead to days on top.

Mornings On Top

I’ve already written about the magic of mornings before. That’s because there is something magical about starting first and being there first. But that’s not all.

There are two obvious ways you can wake up before the Sun. First is obvious, intentional. Basically, you look up the time Sun is getting up tomorrow, subtract some and put it into your alarm clock.
Second is winning the lottery. Get out and party ’till your body gives up. That lands you in bed in a (hopefully) dark room until you regenerate. I estimate, based on experience, 1 out of 10 times, you’ll wake up not too much before the Sun. That gives you 10 to 15 magical mornings a year tops. (That was a crazy year!)

What’s different between those except amount you can get per year?

Winning a lottery is what most people go for. It feels pretty darn good and you only had to “enjoy life” to get there. (I put this in quotes because driving your body to shutdown can get pretty intense if you repeat it enough, but you can’t win if you don’t play, right?).
After you eventually win the lottery, what you do? Well, party, repeat! Life’s good!

Soon it goes to waste again, magic’s gone, gotta play again! ‘Till your body shuts down enough times to win!

What about that obvious first way to get on top?

You have to put in work to find the right time, put it in alarm clock. Than you have to make a plan to do something that motivates you to actually get up when the clock calls your name. Otherwise it’s pretty easy to shoot that nagging sound down, smash the clock, make mental note to buy a new one, and show it your behind.

What then happens is going to blow you away.

Let’s pause a bit and compare the effort and time you put in for both scenarios. Starting with most common way people do it, lottery. You basically have to drive your body to a shutdown 10 times. Remember that last hangover that made you swear to give up drinking? Times ten.
Obvious way is a decision and 15 minutes away from being in motion. Pick the activity you wish to start, pick the time, set the clock.


You’re up and fresh. Plan set before you. Nobody to stop you, all the naggers are turning pillows to the cold side. By the time they are up and clueless, you’re done. Soon they’ll talk how you got lucky. Let them. They don’t understand.

It’s not about sunrises and mornings, it’s about mindset and what you do with them.
Now you know.

The Walls We Build

… and the road they lead us to.

The Walls We Build

We build walls to keep others out. It started with bears (before Teddy Roosevelt made them cute), dragons, mammoths, witches, and magical creatures. Also weather, cold, burglars, ninjas, and other real threats. From there it continues to every other aspect of life.

We want to feel safe and not get hurt. We want to protect those we love and sometimes things we own.

So we lock ourselves from the world and create our own micro-cosmos between our walls, where we can choose who lives and dies, who’s allowed in and who’s left in the cold. We diligently look for holes in it and plug them with the best material we can find so nothing could slip through. And they get the job done!

Our walls protect our status quo. Well, they try really hard to, after all that’s the reason we nurture them so thoughtfully.

Investing all that energy in them, and time we spend between them, it’s really easy to miss everything that’s wrong with the concept.

They also keep you in.

Even though that’s kinda the point, they represent your comfort-zone. The box you’re thinking in. That place you retreat to when you want to feel safe.

If you don’t have something in it, meh, you’ll get by just fine without it. You managed so far.

That said, world is a wonderful place and even if your walls do have windows, you can only explore so far from within their safety (also, those metal bars are kinda blocking the view). And world is a wonderful (maybe little terrifying) place, that constantly changes. So even if you think you saw everything, there is always that new thing out there that will positively surprise you when you stumble upon it, once you dare to step out of your walls.

They are fragile.

Giving their life for your protection from the outside, they take all the heavy hits from the environment. They break little by little and some rain pushes through from time to time. So you need to mend them all the time from the inside. That makes your personal space smaller.

It all works well until something too big lands on them, tears them apart, and leaves you open and vulnerable.

You’re looking for holes and you’re fixing them your whole life, and you always find more just when you thought you’re done. They’ll always be unfinished. There will always be some hole someone can use to dig an opening and slip through. And then, they are in for good.

Once you let someone in, they aren’t getting out.

Take a look at 5 to 10 people you spent most time with, ones you confide in, ones you’re there for when they need you. Those few made it through your wall. Maybe they sneaked in when your wall was weaker and easier to penetrate, and then you built a fortress around them. Maybe you let them in through the front door and now they keep you company and make your days more bearable.

You wanna care for them and won’t let them go to the open where scary stuff happens. Did you know there was a dragon two blocks away that spits fire, eats people alive, and only a strong wall can stop him? Yeah, you better not leave here. He eats babies too, that’s for desert. And he’s always hungry!

You’re also within their walls too. And those are not the same walls as yours!

What happens once either of you wants to get out and be more?
You guessed it! You can’t go out, they’ll tell you it’s scary outside and bring you down with all they have to stop you from penetrating their wall back out. You can’t blame them, you’d do the same for them.

Then what?

Make a tiny hole and sneak out when they aren’t looking, find other explorers like you. Suddenly you’re stronger! You have assistance on breaking out of other people’s walls. Some will come with you, some won’t. These are the wrong people for you, and you are wrong people for them. No hard feelings. Maybe it just wasn’t the right time.

Without knowing it, you start rebuilding your walls slowly. In a better place, why wouldn’t you. The thing is, if it’s a perfect place you wouldn’t need them. But things change. When you repeat this process enough, you realize that happy place is outside those walls, between those builds. Break often.

Yes, you can get hurt outside, you can even die. You can die from a backstabber inside, too, and you won’t see it coming either. And those walls of yours will break at some point from the outside pressure, and you will be left in the open.

Now what?

Venture out of your walls often, get used to the open space, get more nimble, dodge a few, fight a few, get stronger, faster, happier. Maybe you decide you don’t need your walls anymore, maybe you don’t. At least you’ll be ready when someone or something blows them to dust.

In the mean time, look around, get in touch!

Tribute To A Friend

 He was an entrepreneur, and he enjoyed the good life. This goes hand in hand for me. It might have for him too, it didn’t show.

We didn’t go out and chase chicks together, but in some other lifetime we might have. He already had an awesome wife by the time we met, and a daughter roughly my age, and a son roughly my brother’s. That didn’t prevent him for being my wing-man from time to time. Well, he tried. It wasn’t his fault I wasn’t willing to pursue anything but instead talked to him. There was enough time for girls, I thought. I hope he wasn’t too disappointed in me.

We met one spring day on the outskirts of nowhere, where heaven met earth. You can’t get your car there. You can get a boat, but only if you’re willing to swim last couple of meters – no piers. Peaceful and nurturing – heaven.

He just called in some favors, built a house during winter and bought a used sailboat. Did I mention entrepreneur?

I was just coming back home from a walk to the beach with my brother when friendly but unfamiliar face stopped us and asked for help. He offered us money and the deal was done. Misjudgment on his part, I would have done it for free, I see more value in relationships than money and meeting a new family on the block could be priceless. Good relationships can easily lead to good money and great experiences and good money rarely leads to good relationships. Finding good money on your nightstand won’t make a bad relationship any better. I get it, though, he really needed help and he made it so we didn’t get a chance to say ‘no’.

Few cups of sweat and a couple of hours later, we got home. Our parents were less than pleased about the new guy who uses “child-labor”. Reminding them who was the main muscle on the house they were in didn’t really help either. I’ve worked before so I still don’t get what the big deal was.

They met him the next day and concluded he was ‘ok’. One day more and they were friends. How’s that for judge of character?

Remember that used sailboat? It needed to get in shape in order to sail, so a new deal was made. I was gonna sail for the first time!

He was more eager to get the boat out of the harbor than me, so it wasn’t more than a half hour of work before we started the engine tried starting the engine. Another half an hour of tries later, auxiliary engine was out, and half an hour more and the auxiliary engine was running, you’re welcome.

If a fairy farted, she would have created more wind than there was that day, so let’s fast-forward to another, windy day. All of our sails started the same, so you’re not missing anything πŸ™‚

Wind in the hair, beer in the hand, salt on the face and warm sun on the skin. Good life.

In the middle of the canal, half-way across the sea, we decided we could go faster if only we tightened the ropes on the main sail. Hop, hop, main sheet in hand, feet to the ground-sill, weight back, pull. Boom went more and more parallel with the boat. Boat went faster. Suddenly. CRACK!

Ground-sill’s gone to wood-chips!

Boom widened, boat slowed down almost to a stop.

Miles from coast, wind in the hair, beer in the hand, salt on the face and warm sun on the skin. What the frack are we going to do now?!

Wind started turning the boat, and the boom was about to go “boom”!

“Sails down!”

By that time we were well-oiled team so there was no additional harm done. Phew!

The repair was gonna be costly, but this wasn’t the last time we hung out. There were other, much more life-threatening situations that we pulled through, but that’s a story for some other time.

He calmed me down and assured me everything is going to be alright. If you’d known him, you’d know it was a tough feat to pull off. We set up the jib and sailed back to harbor in a much slower pace. Wind in the hair, beer in the hand, salt on the face and warm sun on the skin. Life was good!

You’re gonna be remembered, Danijel!

Beyond The Wall

 Beyond The WallWould you rather enjoy the view from the top of the island’s high wall or go explore vastness beyond it?

I suppose there is no right answer here, like in so many other questions, it depends on the mood you’re in.
I was going up there for the view and upon seeing it, wanted to explore all those distant places the Sun shined upon.

Sometimes we can do both, just one at a time.

Werewolf Adventures – SuperMoon Sea

 Werewolf Adventures - SuperMoon Sea

It finally came! The largest moon of the year!

Auuuu! It was big…

Auuuu! It was shiny…

I knew it was coming but it took me by surprise anyhow. Things seemed just as normal as always. Fish were swimming, people fishing, tomorrow’s lunches looked promising… Sun wasn’t even properly down yet when it came. Like a huge fireball behind the hills, up it went. Giant red ball took over everything. Its presence was touchable. Fish stopped biting, wind stopped blowing, I stopped moving…
It was saying “stop everything and listen“. The message was powerful. I felt the hair on my back coming out.

Fishing rod was on the ground. People ran away. Waves started crashing the shore spraying thin layers of salty mist over the orange-lit rocks.


Poof… Pant…

Stairs, door, stairs, door… where was it? There! Backpack with The tool was waiting near the closet door, ready for action.

The calling was strong again, clouds must have cleared, white-yellow light shined the room’s wall through the window again. The majesty was ready!

Now back on the shore again The tool started firing. 28 times 30 second exposures. Majesty will be pleased.

Music started playing across the sea, the giant red feisty fire ball turned very bright white by now and found its place up, near the top of the sky, shining its cold light on the skin-changing wolves who danced in its celebration.

My torso was wet. I was laying down with The tool in front of me, pointing to the moon. Clouds briefly hid it again. Not completely, but just enough to weaken its influence. Time to run again, find a way to the room, close the blinds…

…escape the madness, and live another day…

It’s Not About The Camera – Making Great Photos With Shitty Equipment

Let’s spread some inspiration here and get people out shooting with what they have instead of waiting for the right job to get the right money to buy the right equipment to figure out they should have started earlier, shall we? πŸ˜€

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you buy something using the links on our website, we’ll make a small percentage of your purchase and it will make us very happy.

 Not So Lonely - Revisited
Not So Lonely – Revisited

I had an interesting conversation on my latest Google+ post regarding “Not So Lonely – Revisited” photo the other day. It was the “you’re great but you’ve got a great camera too, I couldn’t possible do anything similar with what I have” type of conversation. Although Nikon D5100 is indeed great and the best camera I’ve ever had, it’s not really that great compared to some other Nikon or Canon or Sony or whatever else cameras.

While you can’t get any shot with any camera (and I believe no-one would argue that), it’s still possible to get really great shots with really shitty equipment (the “Not So Lonely – Revisited” included) and I’m currently in probably the best possible place in the world to show it.

The camera in question was a low-end smart-phone camera with about 2 MP resolution and sensor quality you can probably guess from this info. Since I’ve got a super-duper Samsung S3 phone camera, I tried to borrow an old phone with a shitty camera.

The worst I could find were an old Nokia and a Samsung SGH-M310. Both had the highest resolution of 0.3 MP but the Nokia’s lens was scratched and pierced beyond repair (and that’s, folks, why you don’t keep your keys and phones in the same pocket) so Samsung it was.

The procedure

The desired photo was supposed to be similar to the one in the post, so that meant long exposure, low light and wavy water (boat was optional πŸ˜› ).

Fixing in place

ToolsYou’ll need to fix your camera in place somehow so it wouldn’t move while you’re shooting, just as you would with any long exposure shot. I used a tripod which costed about $15 when I bought it as new, 5 to 10 years ago, and I still use it. That means you could swap a cup of coffee from Starbucks for a tripod like this. Cheap enough?

Samsung SGH M310Since it’s a phone and doesn’t have a tripod mount, it’s easy to use some plastic cooking wrap and some duck-tape to fix it in place. If you don’t have a tripod, use the same ‘tools’ to fix it to a chair or a rock.


Carefully choose where to point your camera. Sometimes it means getting near the smelly stuff (I still can't name the thing behind the tripod)
Sometimes it means getting near the smelly stuff (I still can’t name the thing behind the tripod)

Compose your shot carefully, set the camera to the highest resolution and finest settings (you still want it to do it’s best, right?). I played a little with white-balance but turned out it gave crappy results (what did I expect?) so I left it as ‘auto’.

Remember to enjoy the view while taking photos :)
Remember to enjoy the view while taking photos πŸ™‚

Shoot a few dozen shots with as little movement of the camera as possible. You will need all of them later. I wanted 50-100 but ran out of memory at 30ish. Turns out the phone has only 5MB of internal memory…

Bringing it all together

Your folder content should look something like this
Your folder content should look something like this

You’ll need to transfer it all to a computer after shooting and copy it to the same folder. You can use USB cable, Bluetooth, WiFi or whatever is available. I used Bluetooth to transfer it to a Nexus 7 and then FileExpert to transport it over WiFi using FTP to my computer. There was a malfunctioning in the Bluetooth so I couldn’t make it go directly.

Now is the time for the fun part!

Your shots most likely aren’t perfectly aligned. Hugin to the rescue!
After downloading and installing Hugin, use Command Prompt or Console (if you’re by any luck using Linux) to navigate to the folder where your photos are (use cd command ;)) and fire this command away:

align_image_stack -a out *

This will align all the images in the folder (and you’ve got only photos you want to work with in it) and save them as out#.tif, where # represents a four-digit number starting with 0000. This is only the temporary result so you don’t need to worry about that πŸ˜‰

Next we use ImageMagick to blend them all together by firing this command:

convert *.tif -evaluate-sequence mean -alpha off OUT.tif

This will take all the aligned images and blend them using the mean of the pixels and save it as OUT.tif

This is where the magic happens. That reduces the level of noise in your result photo AND blends the exposures so you get the similar effect to the one you would get if you shot a long-exposure shot. Patrick David explains it very well in his post.

We’re almost there

Open OUT.tif in your favorite image editor, such as GIMP or Photoshop and edit to your liking. I straightened it out a bit, rotated by 90 degrees, played a bit with saturation and curves, reduced some noise and added a signature in the sand. Voila!

This is what you do with a crappy camera!

Take this, try it out, and share your results with me by tagging me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.
If I did this using 0.3 MP phone camera, imagine what you could do with your 10x larger (or more) smart-phone camera πŸ˜‰
Do you have any nice hacks or techniques for improving photography you would like to share?