Travel and photography blog

Lucca, Italy

Going wireless in Europe: what you need to know about cell phones and tablets

July 24, 2016 / Mathew Lodge

Advanced mobile phone usage in Lucca, Italy   To many Americans, going wireless with a cell phone or tablet while in Europe can seem difficult and expensive. But savvy travelers know it doesn’t have to be. Having a phone while you’re there can be a major time saver and convenience. This article tells you how to stay in touch and save money. [This is part 1 of 2 articles: the second covers cellular data in Europe] Why don’t US cell phones “just work” in Europe? For various reasons, the Unite …

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The story behind the picture: Villa Vignamaggio

January 1, 2016 / Mathew Lodge

Every great photograph tells a story, but I often find it interesting to read the story behind the photograph — and hence this occasional series of posts. This time it is the turn of an image that has frequently appeared in books and magazines, including the front cover of one property guide, and is also one of the most popular photographs on LodgePhoto.com: Farmhouse at Villa Vignamaggio, Greve in Chianti, Italy First of all, an answer to a frequently asked question: Yes, it’s a true photograp …

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Farmhouse at Vignamaggio

The simple five-step guide to renting a Villa in Italy or France

December 31, 2015 / Mathew Lodge

Renting a villa in Italy, France or Spain isn’t just for millionaires. Perhaps surprisingly, villa rental can be more reasonable than staying in a hotel, especially if you’re a family a larger group (though being a millionaire does help if you want to rent an entire Tuscan village from the Ferragamo family). Early morning sunlight rises over the patio of an Italian villa in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy There are just five simple steps: 1) Decide if a villa vacation is for you. The pros are that you’l …

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How do I take vivid, colorful landscape photographs?

October 30, 2015 / Mathew Lodge

I’ve been asked how to take colorful landscape photographs a couple of different times, and ended up writing an answer on Quora and republishing it here. It’s always best to get the shot right in the camera versus focusing on post-processing. While I always shoot RAW as that gives me the most leeway to fix anything later and add artistic effects, it’s a bad habit to rely on later RAW processing to fix things you can get right in the camera. The good news? There are two common reasons for washed …

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Going mobile in Europe part 2: data services

October 25, 2015 / Mathew Lodge

Updated October 2015 Fashionistas leave an exclusive boutique in Florence, Italy If you read the previous article, you now know the answer to the question “How can I use my cell phone in Europe?” and what to do about it. This article will take a look at the various data services that are on offer for Americans who want to send e-mail, surf the net or transmit digital photographs back to base while traveling in Europe. What’s easiest and best for European data today? WiFi: Wifi is widely availabl …

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Florence river of light

What kind of power adapter do I need in Europe?

September 1, 2015 / Mathew Lodge

Figuring out how to power cameras and other gadgets in Europe can seem tricky, but it’s easy enough once you know how. Florence streets lit by 220 volts The trick is to look for a sticker on the power adapter or plug that tells you the input voltage. The magic words to look for are something like this: “100-240V AC 50/60Hz”. 100-240 tells you the voltage range: Europe standardized on 220 volts for its standard household power supply. So the voltage range on your device needs to cover 220 volts o …

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FR-E-135-hp

Plug converters / adapters for Europe

August 6, 2015 / Mathew Lodge

An extremely common question, especially for those heading to Europe for the first time, is what kind of plug adapter to use for their cameras, laptops, phones, iPads etc. In this video, I take a look at three common adapter types and show you how they work. I also show you what to look for to make sure your particular device will work on European voltages, and what kind of devices won’t work. This really is one of those topics where literally taking a look at the converters is so much better th …

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Italian wine tasting

What is Chianti Classico wine?

September 20, 2014 / Mathew Lodge

Bottles of Chianti and Brunello wine at a Montalcino Enoteca (wine bar) A trip to Tuscany inevitably means a glass of red Chianti Classico for most visitors. But what makes this wine special? Chianti Classico must come from grapes grown in a strictly defined area of the hills between Florence and Siena, centered around Castellina, Gaiole, Radda and Greve: Chianti wine regions The original boundaries were laid down in 1716 by Cosimo III di Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and covered the Tuscan vil …

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Beynac castle France

Bastides: Taxes and Real-Estate Speculation in Medieval France

April 15, 2014 / Mathew Lodge

On American Tax Day, 15 April, it seems fitting to remember a time 800 years ago when tax strategies began to shift towards sales and property taxes. Enjoy! North-by-North-west of Toulouse, the Lot and Dordogne departments are a joy to behold: well-preserved medieval towns called Bastides with their neat churches, gridiron layouts and square covered markets cling to the limestone banks of the rivers for which the regions are named. One of life’s pleasures in this region is to sit comfortably in …

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Paris Notre Dame Cathedral

Is T-Mobile’s new international roaming best for European travel?

November 28, 2013 / Mathew Lodge

In October 2013, T-Mobile introduced a revolutionary new international cell phone capability — free data and text message roaming in 115 countries, and 20c/min for roaming voice calls. Could this be the best option for travelers looking to save money when in Europe and elsewhere? Roaming in the shadows of Notre Dame for free? International Roaming charges are insanely profitable for Verizon and AT&T. How do we know this? Easy: you can go to France or the UK and buy a pre-paid SIM card to ge …

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Farmhouse at Vignamaggio

Set up your AT&T iPhone for Europe and save money

May 27, 2013 / Mathew Lodge

[Updated May 2013 with new AT&T screen shots and prices] Travelling with your AT&T iPhone to Europe? Here’s how you can make sure it works when you get there and avoid a giant bill when you get back. Who doesn’t like to save money? If you haven’t done so already, register with AT&T’s web site so that you can make changes to your phone plan options online. Log in with your wireless number and password, so that you get to the home screen for your wireless service. Look in the top-left …

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Lytro light field camera

Lytro Light Field Camera Review

September 3, 2012 / Mathew Lodge

Photography began with the concept of capturing light in a single plane — the idea of what’s in and out of focus in an image has been central to photographic composition for more than 100 years. The photographer’s job has been to direct the viewer’s attention by deciding which subjects are in focus, while ensuring that the background (and less frequently, the foreground) are appropriately blurred. The Lytro camera turns that entire concept on its head by delivering a “living image” where the vi …

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Siena Palio practice

Siena Palio horse selection video

July 30, 2011 / Mathew Lodge

We recently got back from a photo trip to Tuscany, where we got to see the July Siena Palio. The Palio is the world’s longest continuously running sporting event and runs twice a year during the summer in Siena, Tuscany. Each district (contrade) of the city has a chance to get a horse into the race, and the horses are assigned by lottery. This short (1 min 30 sec) video gives you a glimpse of the intense emotions of the Sienese around their favorite cultural festival. The video shows the drawing …

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Happy New Year!

January 1, 2011 / Mathew Lodge

Thank you to all our clients for your business in 2010 — we hope you have a prosperous and successful 2011, and look forward to serving you again.

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Buying a digital camera: when megapixels don’t matter

November 24, 2010 / Mathew Lodge

Thinking about buying a new digital camera? The best advice I can give you is to avoid maxing out megapixels and you’ll get sharper photographs with less grain (noise). This seems counter-intuitive, but is the effect of camera technology running into physical limitations of lenses and light itself. David Goldstein has written a full-length paper that explains the physics, but here are the key take-aways on megapixels: For a full-frame (35mm) SLR camera, 25 megapixels is about as good as it gets. …

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Gelato!

How to phone home from Europe

September 8, 2010 / Mathew Lodge

Making a phone call home from Italy, France, the UK or indeed anywhere else in Europe is easy since all countries in the European Union agreed on one standard way of making international calls. You dial two zeros (00), the country code, and then the number. The country code for the US is 1, so a call to the San Francisco number 415-555-1212 is dialed 00-1-415-555-1212. Beautifully arranged mounds of fresh Italian ice cream await at a Gelateria in Siena, Italy. Dialing works the same way on mobil …

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Traveling with photo gear & equipment

September 5, 2010 / Mathew Lodge

Traveling with photo gear is much harder than it used to be. Airport security is becoming more and more restrictive. US airport security now has a ban on carrying rechargeable batteries without a container: they must be in a case and not loose in your bag. Multiply this with airport security staff of little understanding and the full authority of Homeland Security, and life can be difficult. So what can you do to minimize traveling friction and get yourself and your gear to your destination safe …

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Sienese Flag Throwing: Story Behind The Picture

July 31, 2010 / Mathew Lodge

You might be forgiven for wondering what is going on in this photograph. It is a vertical view down onto the heads of a bunch of grown men in medieval yellow silk outfits waving large flags in Siena, Italy. You can only tell they’re men and flags by the shadows, which is part of the appeal in this photograph. But what on earth is going on? Members of Siena’s Eagle contrade throw their flags high into the air during a display in the Campo. Siena, Tuscany, Italy Flag throwing is a very serious bus …

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How to photograph fireworks

July 1, 2010 / Mathew Lodge

Photographing fireworks can be straightforward if you follow a few basic steps: 1) You need a camera where you can control the shutter speed. Digital SLR owners will be fine — use manual or Shutter Priority modes, but also more and more “point and shoot” cameras now offer this kind of control. Very slow shutter speeds work the best because they offer the biggest chance of the shutter being open when the fireworks explode. 2) No flash required! Turn off any automatic flash or select a mode where …

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Story behind the picture: Tuscan Plain from Volterra

June 26, 2010 / Mathew Lodge

This photo recently featured as the travel section lead in Links Best Of Golf magazine, and was taken from a ruined monastery on the edge of Volterra, Tuscany. The town itself is at the top of a rocky outcrop west of San Gimignano, and the north-western side has been eroding for hundreds of years. Many buildings are already at the base of the cliffs, and this Pisan-style monastery was abandoned years ago. It was late in the day, and as the sun set from the West it lit up the rolling Tuscan plain …

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