Sunday, May 03, 2015

Preparing for Florence

As I have written earlier, I am attending in two weeks time an academic conference which is being held in Florence.  This is a good excuse for a holiday. As we visited Italy last year, I hadn't originally intended to return again this year (I was hoping to attend a conference in Greece) but that's the way the chips fall. 

I have been in Florence before: in 2001, we went on an eight day tour of Italy which included 24 hours in Florence. We arrived in the early afternoon and went straight to the Duomo. The next day, we started off early by visiting a park outside of Florence which has splendid views of the city, then descended into the city to see Michaelangelo's "David" along with other examples of the Medici financed Renaissance. At some stage we also went to the Santa Croce church - I don't remember at what stage this occurred. This is where Galileo is buried, along with a few more dignitaries from earlier days. The facade of the church includes a Star of David, which surprised me. I remember asking the guide as to what this meant, and he replied that the church's architect was Jewish; he was allowed to include the star.

That visit was very brief and didn't allow any time for stretching out. Hopefully, this visit will be different. Apart from the conference, we have a day trip to Siena and an evening tour of Florence on a Segway scooter lined up; I also hope that we will get to Cinqua Terra. 

After nearly a week in Florence, we will then travel by train to Venice where we will stay for a few more days. After having difficulty in finding a suitable hotel (there are so many to pick from but they all seem so expensive), we plumped for a self catering flat on the island of Giudecca. Again, we were in Venice for a day during that 2001 trip and again, we were too rushed to enjoy it to the full. This time will be more relaxed. I have a mental image of us strolling on the Giudecca shore line with the sights of Venice visible across the water - the reality will probably be less picturesque.

Whilst working on the home movies, some ideas presented themselves as necessary preparations for this trip. The first idea was buying a 'head band' camera - a simple movie camera which is worn as a head band. This will be ideal for the Segway trip. The camera is quoted as creating an AVI file; I don't know whether this can be included as is or whether it has to be converted first to WMV.

The second idea is even simpler, and I'm surprised that it took so long for the penny to drop: buy another battery for the video camera. I even remarked here that there was a lack of footage from our 2013 trip (and some surprising omissions from Sorrento 2014) which was probably due to the battery run down; the obvious solution is to pack another charged battery. My wife films a certain amount of video with her smartphone and I intend to take mine as a last resort camera (it won't be receiving calls). I have even started planning (in my head) various shots which will later be incorporated into the movie. I wonder how I will get footage of my talk in the conference.

I ordered the head camera and battery from Deal Extreme and I hope that both items arrive before we depart. One problem with the battery is that it can only be charged whilst in the camera - there doesn't seem to be an external charger.

I also have to dig out the telephones that we bought last year. Obviously we will have to top them up when we get to Florence, but they will be useful there for local calls.

On Independence Day, a documentary channel showed several programmes made about Israeli Nobel Prize winners. The most interesting for me was the one on psychologist Daniel Kahneman; I have read some of his books and am familiar with his theory of loss aversion, which was developed with the late Amos Tversky. The connection with this blog is that he talked a bit about people making memories by photographing.

I am trying to develop a philosophy of photography: not simply "videoing" everything that I see but trying to concentrate on the interesting parts. The resulting movie should work on two levels: on the simple level, one has a visual record of places one has visited (and as it happens, when a neighbour came round, wanting to hear about Amalfi, I could lend her our movie so that she can see for herself what it's like); on a higher level, one has personal memories which get triggered by the visual record. Of course, there are the occasional events which get recorded - like my degree ceremony or my talk - but these are fairly rare and don't happen on a regular holiday.

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