Tag Archives: travel writer

Google Pixel 2 and Clips cameras have special potential for travel photography

2017-10-07

Google has introduced two cameras that will interest travel photographers: the camera in the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL smartphones, and the unique intelligent camera in the Google Clips product. Both cameras make use of artificial intelligence software technology, setting them apart from competition at the moment.

Google Pixel 2 smartphone with 12.2 megapixel camera and AIGoogle Pixel 2 smartphone.

Google Pixel 2

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are high-end smartphones from Google that come with a 12.2 megapixel camera. The special feature in the camera is that it lets you capture images like photos taken on a professional camera where the subject is in the foreground and the background is magically blurred. Usually, that kind of images are taken with SLR cameras that come with changeable lenses and sharp optics, but the Google Pixel 2 can do it with a fixed lens.

The Google Pixel 2 comes with optical image (OIS) stabilization feature, a rare but valuable thing to have on a smartphone camera. The feature automatically reduces shake and movement when taking a photo, resulting in sharper images and better pictures in low light.

The camera on the Pixel 2 smartphone uses artificial intelligence software technology to create the blur effect. The software recognizes the main subject in the frame, and slightly fades the background. In order to recognize what is foreground and background in an image, the Pixel 2 combines two images (the photographer takes only one frame and doesn’t notice anything) allowing the software to conclude the depth. The result looks the same as a portrait photo taken on a dedicated high-end camera.

Google is not the first company to apply this technique to smartphone photographs: the Apple iPhone X has the same feature.
Google Clips camera with intelligent photo capture

Google Clips

The Google Clips is a totally new kind of camera. After you switch it on, the camera takes photographs by itself. It doesn’t snap a continuous stream of images at preset intervals as some life-capture cameras do, but the Clips monitors what is happening around it, who is in the frame, and is the situation worth taking a picture. The magic is achieved by artificial intelligence software that decides when to take a photo. It also decides the settings for the image capture.

For instance, set the Clips on a kitchen table, and it learns the faces of a family. Then, it can take photos when something interesting in the kitchen is happening.

The Clips is a standalone camera, which means that it doesn’t need a connection anywhere to work. All the intelligence is inside the unit, and all the photos are stored in its internal storage.

It is the camera owner’s choice which images he or she decides to share once the photos have been imported to a PC from the Clips. Battery life is only three hours. The price is $250.

What is Artificial Intelligence and what it has to do with a camera?

Google Clips camera with artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a software technology that seems to be able to make conclusions like a human. If ordinary software applications can only respond “yes” or “no” to a question, AI software systems are trained to take into account more variables. Speech recognition and image recognition are the first popular applications for the AI technology. Since AI systems are made of software, humans have coded them, and the quality of the systems depends on the engineering skills of the system designers.

What does this all mean to people who are photographing their travels?

First, it means that photographers who are carrying multiple cameras and/or lenses may consider leaving a camera or a lens home. Since the smartphone, in this case the Pixel 2, can take good enough close-up images of subjects, for non-professional photographers it is an easy decision to drop extra weight from the luggage.

Second, the Google Clips has new kind of potential for the future. At the moment, Google says the camera learns the faces of a family, and the product is focused on delivering photographic moments for the family. That’s fine. The potential is that once the camera and its AI system are developed further, they may be used for other applications as well.

Street photography is an obvious application for the Clips. Capturing images of street life, subjects in animal parks, events in leisure parks, or what happened during a cycling trip or kayak tour are some examples of the other applications.

The Google video for the Clips camera that highlights the family aspect of the product:

Ebook news digest: travel writer or blogger, iPhone photography, European libraries, writing that second book

2017-06-20

News on ebooks, writing and photography

acer tablet with Bluetooth keyboard
3 Big Differences Between Travel Writing and Travel Blogging
Travel Blog Success

There are differences between travel writing and blogging, and in the long term, they are fundamental for a writer to understand. Yet, it is perfectly all right and possible to do both.

7 iPhone photography features you probably don’t know about
Picturecorrect

Useful features once you take the time and learn to use these iPhone camera functions. For instance, burst mode is a vital function for photographing fast moving subjects, and HDR mode can give good results in strong, bright light.

‘The future of their businesses is at stake’: European publishers are exploring alternatives to the duopoly
Digiday

European publishers whose revenue is increasingly depending on online advertising are not happy with Facebook and Google. Not only these companies borrow publishers’ content and make money with it, but they also take a large share of the online advertising revenue. Not anymore. Many big European publishers have switched to alternative ad networks.

5 Things All Writers Should Know When Writing a Second Novel
Writer’s Digest

The article talks about fiction books, but it is valid for nonfiction writers as well. Many non-fiction authors have told me that the hardest part is to commit to a new project and start it, because after the first book everyone knows how much hard work it was.

Scandinavia guidebook – free download: travel tips and cultural insights into the Nordic countries
Klaava Travel Guide

Sweden’s West Coast is one of the hidden gems in Europe as far as travel destinations are considered. The large wilderness region of Lapland that covers the northern parts of Norway, Finland and Sweden is an outdoors lovers paradise. And city life in the north? It is covered as well.

Stunning Photographs of European Libraries
Fubiz

In European cities, libraries are often operating in magnificent old buildings. Some have originally been designed as public spaces, some have been converted into libraries, but in any case, these pictures are amazing.

The Ultimate Guide to Remote Work [Infographic]
Toggl, Mart Virkus

The pioneer of remote work IBM famously called its remote workers back to their cubicles, but the trend of remote work continues to strengthen.

Keine Einigung über E-Book-Steuer
Boersenblatt

EU has already agreed to adjust the VAT of ebooks so that member countries could tax digital books in a fair manner, but the news is that the first meeting that was supposed to start implementing the new regulation halted the whole process. Now, we wait.

This is a travel writer’s most important tool on the road

2017-06-13

When any professional, for instance, a digital nomad or a remote worker, who is working while traveling, packs for the next assignment or destination, there is always the question if something could be dropped from the travel kit. The number of electronic devices seems to be gradually growing in my travel bag, at least. Which tools are the essential ones to get the job done, if the assignment is to write on the road?
digital nomad working at a terrace near fruit farms of Murcia

Here is the set of key tools for a travel writer according to my experience.

Maps.

Both digital and paper maps are crucial for planning. For navigation on the road I use offline digital maps, but I have good printed map books as a backup.

Laptop.

Most writers type their manuscripts on laptops, and so do I. Nonetheless, it is quite amazing how little laptops have developed if you compare them to tablets and smartphones that have gone so far in such a short time. Where is the touch screen in laptops? Decent battery life? Protective cases for taking them on the road?

Smartphone.

The ultimate communication tool for keeping in touch with collaborators or calling tourist information offices of the world. The camera on the phone is also a very useful and important tool for a writer.

Tablet.

I use tablet a lot for planning (maps, distances between distances, routing) and researching background information on destinations. On the road, it is the in-car navigation device instead of the dashboard GPS. Tablet is probably the first tool that many other travelers drop from their toolset, but in the future, I may even choose tablet and keyboard instead of a laptop.

prepaid SIM cards for internet access
Local prepaid SIM card.

Some travelers rely on Wi-Fi hotspots to get online, but the best way to have Internet access when you need it is to buy a local prepaid SIM card with data plan. Insert the SIM card to your smartphone, 3G/4G Wi-Fi router, tablet or laptop.

Backup disk.

The next backup disk I am going to get is a portable, wireless SSD disk. In the office, I can continue using USB hard drives that can store terabytes worth of data.

Camera.

I write and take photos for books, but even if you wouldn’t take pictures to be published in an upcoming book, camera is a vital tool for a writer. Photographs have many functions: they show how a place looks like, they help a writer to remember details of a place, and they can document objects.

I just realized that paper and pen are not included in the list of key tools. It is very rare that I use the trusted and reliable note taking technology, but occasionally I do. Pen and paper are usually somewhere near to make notes, for instance, during a phone conversation, but they are not vital tools anymore. Another thing I realized is that occasionally I need help. Hubstaff Talent is a service for finding remote talent.

mirrorless SLR digital camera with zoom lens
If I had to choose only one tool from the list above, which one would be the most important for a travel writer? Camera.

Yes, a camera. I am slightly surprised by my choice, but if I had to select only one thing I can take along for the next trip, it would be a camera. By taking a photo, I can document details of things I would have to write down. Overview photos of landscapes and city streets help me remember how a place really was. I can quickly document information boards that highlight the key points of a sight or a protected park. Video clips of local markets, main squares and pedestrian districts remind me of the buzz and feel of the place. A camera is also a handy note taking aid: I can record a video clip with a note to myself. If it is my job to take the photos for a book or an article, those images have to be taken as well.

Naturally, when the time comes to start actually writing, a camera won’t help anymore. But the photos and videos will.