Dec 10

Review: Borrow Lenses – Camera lens rental

A few months ago I recommended Borrow Lenses as a good service for trying out new lenses, or renting a lens for a trip.  This past May I finally had a reason to use the service to rent a lens for my south Africa trip.
I rented a Canon 28-300 for almost 3 weeks and paid around $275 for the rental, shipping and insurance.
Once you choose your lens on the Borrow Lenses site and make your reservation you will receive a confirmation.  If you are requesting a high end or specialty lens that they may not have a lot of stock of, I highly recommend reserving the lens in advance. I did not experience any issues, but I have occasionally seen that there would be a waiting period for specific lenses.

On the designated day of delivery the lens should be delivered (it must be signed for). I gave myself a one and a half day buffer for delivery. This gave me extra time to get familiar with the lens and also an extra day in case the lens got delayed in shipping. I am happy to report my lens did arrive on time.

The packaging was very well padded, reusable and included instructions for my lens (it’s a push/pull lens) and rental.  When I returned from my trip I packed up my lens in the same box I had used and dropped it off at a Fed Ex shipping center, got a receipt and a few hours later received confirmation from Borrow Lenses that I had met the requirements of the agreement.

The hardest part was getting myself out of the house to drop the lens off at a Fed Ex center.
As for the lens, I loved it! There were a few times that I wanted more zoom, but there were some times I was glad it went so wide too.  No lens is perfect, but this was a great range for my 2 days of Safari.

Dec 03

Heli Tour of Seattle

On my recent trip to Seattle my friends and I wanted to channel a little bit of Christian Grey, so we did a helicopter tour, not that I need much encouragement since I love helicopter tours. As an extra added bonus it was Fleet Week and we were flying during an opening of the TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction).

The downside of the TFR is that we were held on the tarmac for quite a bit waiting for clearance. The upside is that we got to see tons of different planes (Blue Angels, Harriers) taking off and landing, so at least the sights were good.

The helicopter tours fly out of Boeing Field which is to the South of Downtown Seattle.  Our tour started over East Seattle, moved over the water between Seattle and Bainbridge Island, than returned back over the city.  It’s offered fantastic views of the city, naturally.  It helped that it was a perfect day, blue skies, warm temperatures.

While the views don’t quite compete with locations like Hawaii (not that many places do), the mountains framing the city, and the water ways that surround it do make for great scenery.  And the iconic Space Needle looks great from that close up.

I’m almost always going to tell you that if you have a chance that you should do a helicopter tour, and this is not exception.  One thing I particularly liked was that we took a 4 seater helicopter, and there were 3 of us and the pilot. It was nice to have a private tour and be able to joke around more freely than when you’re on a big helicopter with strangers.

Nov 26

Smoking in Australia

Smoking is banned in pretty much all public places in NY (and many parts of the US) for years, I’ve gotten used to it, I expect it everywhere, but that’s not the case.

So when I was in Australia I was surprised by how much smoking I saw.  I didn’t research the laws, but it seemed to be banned in restaurants, but was not banned in the outdoor areas of restaurants.  Since the weather was nice I ate outside whenever I had the opportunity. But there was always someone smoking! I was not a fan of it.

I’m not sure if it was because of the difference in where you could smoke, or if smoking is more prevalent in Australia, but it felt more widespread in Australia than back home.  Has anyone else noticed this?

Nov 19

I love Brisbane!

Whenever I travel I think about whether I would like living in a city that I’m visiting.  When I was in Brisbane, the answer was a resounding yes! While I liked Sydney and Melbourne, there was something special about Brisbane.

For those of you who don’t know much about Brisbane, it’s located between the Sunshine and Gold Coasts of Australia and from an outsider seems like the northern most “metropolitan” type of city in Australia.  Granted, I only went as far north as Cairns, but it’s my impression, wrong or right.
As my guide (who grew up in Brisbane) explained, Brisbane had pretty much been a small town until the 1982 Commonwealth Games and 1988 World Exposition, since then it has grown into a one of the bigger cities in Australia.

I spent 2 and a half days there, including a walking tour and some advance tips on things to do and places to go.

The feeling I got of the city was that it is was both a city and also a small town, it very much had a community atmosphere that is rare for a city.

Streets Beach, located along the Brisbane River, is on the surface just a manmade beach, but it felt like much more. It felt more like a community pool you would visit in the suburbs, but way cooler since it’s designed like a beach.

There are several shopping districts in Brisbane, and they seemed to cater to both the locals and tourists, perhaps because it’s a smaller a city, but it really seems to work.  It gives both types of shops a more authentic feel. Neither over run by busy locals or relaxed tourists.  I think the pace of this more low key city allows both types to blend together nicely.

Some of the logistics of the city make it a good location too.  Did I mention it’s between the gold and sunshine coasts? There is an international airport (it was actually my gateway to Australia), trains in all directions to a variety of destinations. I took the train from the Gold Coast up to Brisbane on a Sunday and it was an easy trip.

The weather seams ideal to a New Yorker who is sick of cold and snow! In reality the humidity would probably get to me, but the climate is pretty temperate.  I visited in late November, which is late Spring and although it could get hot there, it didn’t seem oppressively hot while I was there.  The winter temperatures also don’t get too cold and there doesn’t seem to be a threat of snow there either.  Checks all my boxes!

Last but not least, it does offer many of the things you want from a city – opportunities for theatrical performances, museums, businesses and industry.  But without the intense pace that sometimes overtakes a city.

So, if anyone wants to offer me a job in Brisbane, I’ll start packing my bags.