Zurich through the wide angle lens

One of the most entertaining instruments in the photographer’s toolbox is the wide angle lens, a massive creature full of glass, angles and depth. Contrary to traditional optics, wide angle lenses broaden the field of view available to the camera, resulting in massive, sprawling images from one single shot. It’s also got the effect of stretching anything at the periphery of the image, so often it can be a poor choice for capturing portraits.

I pretend not to be a either a person well-educated in cameras or a good photographer, but as our colleague Jeremy Kressmann puts it, it’s hard to take a bad picture with a nice lens and a huge sensor inside of your camera.

And so taking advantage of some outstanding fares to Zurich this summer, I put my Canon Rebel to work.

Zurich, the financial capital of Switzerland is a city full of depth, with rolling, lush hills, cobble stone streets, volumes of character, a flawless public transportation system and beautiful lake at its foot. Were one to wring out three Genevas into one city, it would be Zurich. In a way, it’s the perfect candidate for a blogger with a wide angle lens. Take a look.


Age old question of chicken or beef ends up in Court of Appeals

Chicken or beef? It’s the question almost everyone on an International flight will end up hearing at one point (unless of course you are flying up front, where you’ll probably get more choices).

Millions of people answer this question every year, and are presented with a meal that is somehow meant to represent their choice.

On an American Airlines flight from Zurich to New York several years ago, passenger Pierre Delis was only offered one choice – beef or beef?

The normal reaction to the lack of chicken would be to roll your eyes, perhaps even mention to the poor flight attendant what a horrible airline she is working for.

Not so with Mr. Delis. His lack of a chicken option escalated into a verbal battle, and ended with the flight attendant getting a punch in her stomach.

Now, punching a flight attendant is never a good idea, but to do so when the plane is airborne is turns the whole thing into a nasty mess. Mr. Delis was arrested and convicted of “simple assault”. He was sentenced to “time served” and was told to pay a $10 court fee (I’d say he got off really easy).

Not content with having a criminal record, Mr. Delis has been battling the ruling for years, and his case finally came to an end this week when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan unanimously ruled that his conviction should stand. His argument that he never intended to injure the flight attendant was not sufficient to change the mind of the Court.

Four masterpieces worth $163 million stolen in Zurich

If you’ve ever been to Zurich, Switzerland you may have made a visit to the Emile Bürhle Foundation, whose collection is considered to be the biggest privately owned collection of French impressionists worldwide. On Sunday three thieves made that same visit and took off with four important paintings by van Gogh, Degas, Monet and Cézanne. Their total value is estimated at $163 million, making it one of the biggest art robberies in Europe.

Entering just before the museum was about to close, one robber held the staff and visitors at gunpoint while the two other men removed the four paintings. The authorities are speculating that the thieves stopped after four paintings because they were covered in glass casings and therefore incredibly heavy. Trying to make your way out of a museum with four very large and heavy paintings seems like an awkward task to me.

Gone are apparently the days of mysterious art heists which entailed detailed planning and spy-like maneuvers; the fact that the robbers held people at gunpoint worries the authorities as it may indicate a new precedent in art robberies. Hopefully the four pieces will be returned, like Edvard Munch’s The Scream in 2006.

Read more about the stolen pieces and other recent art robberies in the New York Times article here.

The World’s Most Expensive Cities

Mercer, a human resource consulting company, has compiled a list of the most expensive cities in the world based on a cost of living survey which “measures the comparative cost of over 200 items” in each city. Two years in a row Moscow has topped the list, followed by London, Seoul, and Tokyo. Here’s the top 10:

  1. Moscow
  2. London
  3. Seoul
  4. Tokyo
  5. Hong Kong
  6. Copenhagen
  7. Geneva
  8. Osaka
  9. Zürich
  10. Oslo

Most of the locations on the list were in Europe, taking thirty of the fifty spots, with six in the top 10. New York and L.A. are the only two from the United States in the top fifty. For the full list, head to Mercerhr.com. [via]


The World’s Longest Tunnels

The Gotthard Base Tunnel (map), a railway tunnel in Switzerland, isn’t complete yet, but in 2015 — after 22 years of construction — it will be the longest transportation tunnel in the world, running 35 miles through the Swiss Alps. It will eventually cut the travel time between Zürich and Milan from 3.5 hours to 2.5. Four tunnel boring machines are working the job: “2 southbound from Amsteg to Sedrun, 2 northbound from Bodio to Faido and Sedrun,” according to Wikipedia. The machines cut away at the rock at a rate of 100 feet per day in optimal conditions. That explains the 22 years of construction!

The Seikan Tunnel in Japan is the current world record holder, clocking in at 33.49 miles. Almost half of the length runs under the Tsugaru Strait, which connects the island of Honshū to Hokkaidō in northern Japan, and bridges the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean. The tunnel opened on March 13, 1988, after 17 years of construction. Two stations are located in the tunnel: Tappi-Kaitei Station and Yoshioka-Kaitei Station, both of which were the first train stations in the world built under the sea. Yoshioka-Kaitei has since been demolished to make way for the Hokkaido Shinkansen project, which will eventually facilitate high-speed trains in the Seikan.

The Channel Tunnel, or Chunnel (map), linking the United Kingdom and France under the English Channel, takes the second (completed) spot at 31 miles long. While it’s a few miles shorter than the Seikan Tunnel, the Chunnel’s underwater segment is longer than that of the Seikan, making it the world’s longest underwater tunnel. The construction took 13 7 years, from 1987 to 1994, with over 13,000 workers involved in construction. Eleven tunnel boring machines were used — 6 on the English side, and 5 on the French side — and the sides met on December 1, 1990. 8.2-million passengers traveled the Chunnel via Eurostar in 2005, and numbers are expected to grow even larger when the Channel Tunnel Rail Link extends to London later this year. When the link is completed, a train trip from London to Paris will take 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The Lötschberg Base Tunnel in Switzerland runs 21.5 miles from Frutigen, Berne to Raron, Valais. When it opens in December of 2007, it will be the longest land tunnel in the world until the Gotthard Base Tunnel opens in 2015. “To dig the Loetschberg, some 16 tons of explosives were used and enough rock was excavated to pack a freight train 2,500 miles long – stretching across Europe from Lisbon, Portugal, to Helsinki, Finland,” according to this report from MSNBC.