Top: World's first 360-degree Panorama of Ushguli, Svaneti, Georgia, Feb 24/2009, from 12 separate photos...

Monday, 2 February 2009

On the Road, Central-Upper Svaneti

Lots to report today!

This is the first time I've been able seamlessly to make the transition from Tbilisi to Svaneti without missing a day, even, of blog posting. I played it safe by putting yesterday's post up a day in advance in Tbilisi, using Post Options to have it show up on the blog automatically yesterday. I had earlier taken the setup - laptop, cellphone and cable - back to a Magti office in Tbilisi, to complain that their late November '08 setup which worked on the spot didn't work on the field, and could they please redo it? Success this time, great relief. Per-megabyte costs for this kind of internet have gone down significantly in the year since I last had success with this method, with special rates: I chose to buy 5 GB for a month for 60 GE lari (about US$40), which is much cheaper indeed than last winter. This way I can be as free as I need on the internet, not needing to watch the MB go by - 5 GB/month is more than I need for sure.

So 2 days ago I took the night train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi with the fellow pictured here, Mikho, Ushguli's new marshroutka (public minivan) driver; and he then drove me and several others up to Ushguli yesterday, which took a further 8 hours or so. The road was quite wet with snow melt as far as Svaneti's capital, Mestia, but from there to Ushguli it was colder, with a nice ploughed snow surface - almost as good as asphalt, as he'd said earlier, to my mystification. I decided not to waste the journey. My Canon EOS digital camera came into its own yet again as I was able to experiment, see the results instantly in the LCD screen, make corrections, and continue. My approach was mostly to use slow shutter speeds - 1/15 to 1 second or so - and allow the scene to shake around, to give an impression of our bumpy journey. Not everyone's cup of tea, but a fun thing to try out with few other possibilities available to me at the time. The top shot, however, is relatively sharp, to show the rockfalls which can hinder one's way. Most of the frames have window dirt or water drops and reflections in them, as well as a bit of fog softening the scene; no matter. I also tried fill-in flash a bit (3rd shot), to freeze Mikho in action while allowing some motion blur at the same time. Note the typical Georgian driver's ornaments, at the top of the windscreen - icons, in this case of St Nino and the Virgin Mary, and a cigarette ad. The bottom shot shows how the immediate forground, at the bottom of the picture, was racing by horizontally while we were bouncing up and down, which is more evident in the blur of the mid- to background. Quite pleased with the results, and with the freedom to play which the new machine allows. NWB, don't tire of having me say Thank You for this gift - I mean it every time.

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