Archive for November, 2007

Christmas Spirit in Short Supply? Visit This City for a Fast Fill-Up!

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

NYC Debeers dripping Are You a Baby Boomer Yearning for the Christmas Spirit?  Try the Big Apple!

Are you ready for a different way to spend your Christmas vacation? Perhaps you don’t celebrate Christmas, perhaps you don’t spend time with family during the holidays, or perhaps you are looking for a way to rekindle a remembered spirit of Christmas in your heart.  Then book a December trip to the Big Apple.

Horse and carriage rides in NYC Central Park.

As a Baby Boomer, I love New York City nearly as much as I adore my grandchildren.  Okay, I lied.  Sometimes, I love this quirky bustling city even more.  New York City can become an addiction, a craving so intense, that like some desperate junkie, I search the Internet for cheap airfares just to get back there; three weeks away can cause serious withdrawal. 

Since falling in love with the Big Apple, I determined to re-visit her in every month of the year.  So far, I have been there in October, December, January, March, August and September.  And my conclusion, having seen this wondrous eclectic city under so many seasonal skies, there is no “best” time of year to visit New York City; any time is good.  But Christmastime is not to be missed.  Especially if you are a Baby Boomer. 

Christmas in New York City will touch the child within you, sparking a joy akin to the anticipation of Christmas mornings way back in the 50s, when everything was shiny and new and oh–so exciting.

Macy's crowds on Christmas Eve day.

Treats abound for all the senses:  Giant dancing snowflakes set to classical music displayed on the Saks’ department store wall; jaw-dropping line-ups of jostling Christmas shoppers outside Macy’s store; the huge farmers market in Union Square with its crafts, local wines and fragrant spruce boughs; the tacky tinsel decorations of crowded Little Italy; the sharp scent of roasted chestnuts, sold by street vendors, in little paper cones; the ice skaters and creamy sweet hot chocolate in Bryant Park; the spectacular light display in the Bronx Zoo; the clop-clopping of horses drawing their hansom carriages, bedecked with faded plastic flowers and tinsel garland, around Central Park; the magical display of twinkled trees in the Winter Garden Room near the World Trade Center site (don’t call this place Ground Zero; this is taboo among resident New Yorkers); Grand Central Station’s laser light show; De Beers mantle of dripping diamonds; the peal of church bells on Christmas morning. 


New York City is much more thanTimes Square and Broadway theatres, especially at Christmastime.  Go at other times of the year, certainly, but visit at Christmastime, at least once.  A visit to the Big Apple during the Yuletide season will sate the yearning of the long-forgotten 5-year old in your soul, that secret part of you just aching for one more Christmas morning of innocence and wide-eyed delight.


Travel Tip:  Fly back on Boxing Day — flights are really cheap!


Filing Your Vacation Photos for Easy Recovery

Digital cameras have made the capturing of thousands of vacation images, well, a snap!  The hard part is dealing with those images once we return home. 

Have you found it nearly impossible to locate that special shot, weeks—or even just a few days–after your vacation?  No matter how hard you look, you can’t find that regal shot of Lady Liberty silhouetted against a summer sunset?  That magnificent shot of the Grand Canyon?  That romantic honeymoon beach shot?  Or that picture of Grandma Mary in her rose garden?  If so, you should try using a photo management program like PicaJet.

Misplaced vacation photos can be very annoying, but if you file and categorize your precious photos using Picajet software, you will be able to access your photos via a simple search, right there on your computer.  Then you can easily print your pictures or share them with friends and family members around the globe.



Sheree Zielke

Digital Camera AUTO Settings Versus Scene Modes

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Digital Camera AUTO Setting and Scene Modes:
Aren’t they sort of the same things? 

No, no, and no.

New digital camera users make the very wrong assumption that scene modes like Portrait, Landscape, Macro, or Sports are similar to the AUTO setting on their cameras. 

I’ll explain.

The AUTO setting on your camera means you have turned over ALL decision-making to your camera.  Your camera will then be able to run like a willful teenager, making decisions (some good, some bad) on the following:


  1. Shutter speed
  2. Aperture width (F-stop)
  3. ISO (“film” speed)
  4. WB (white balance)
  5. Intensity of light


Most average point-and-shoot digital camera users don’t know anything about shutter-aperture relationships, F-stops, ISO settings, or white balance color temperatures.  The good news is that you don’t need to know these things so long as you are able to find your camera’s little scene mode icons.  When you select a scene mode, you are exercising more creative control over your photos, without ever knowing anything about an F-stop.


Using your camera’s scene mode options is akin to calling upon a tiny little genius hidden deep within your camera.  Your tiny camera guru, using pre-programmed formulas, will set your shutter speed, your aperture, your ISO, and white balance in accordance with the icon you have selected, resulting in a much better photograph.


For example, in a portrait shot, unless you are an experienced photographer, you won’t know to widen your aperture to obtain a shallow depth of field.  This shallow field makes for flatter, more appealing features on a human face, and it throws distracting backgrounds out of focus.  And because photography is a science, operating on scientific formulas, the camera will also adjust the camera’s shutter speed to account for the wider aperture.


The most popular scene mode icons can usually be found somewhere on your digital camera’s body, on a major dial, or on a rocker switch with arrows.  These tend to be the portrait, landscape, night and sports icons.  Further scene modes can be found deeper in your camera’s files, usually accessed by moving your camera’s main dial to, “Scene” or “SCN,” or by pressing your “Function” button.


If you don’t use your scene modes, or at least experiment with your scene modes, you are wasting your camera’s advanced technology.  Just memorize where the scene modes are situated in or on your camera.  Select the mode pertinent to your picture-taking needs.  Then let the tiny genius inside your digital camera do the rest.  Nothing could be easier.


Sometimes, the scene mode programs don’t always seem to work but that’s usually an issue with camera shake, in low light conditions.  Be sure to “jam” your camera on a bean bag, rest it on a ledge, or screw it to a tripod.

Be sure to discipline yourself right from the beginning and always remove your photos from your camera’s memory card.  Save your photos in a file management system like PicaJet for easy indexing and accessing at a later time.

And remember, to keep your camera’s memory cards in top form, you must “format” your empty cards (inside your camera) when you return them to your camera.  It’s similar to de-fragmenting your computer’s hard drive – it cleans up the bits and bytes, or in this case all the little light-sensitive pixels.


Sheree Zielke