Writing the blog

Maintaining our blog was one of the best things we did on our trip.  It took a lot of effort, and there were definitely a number of times when neither of us really wanted to bother with it.  Now that it’s over though we have a wonderful record of our journey.  Just as importantly it forced us to go through the over 10k photos we took bit by bit – a task that would surely have daunted us if we waited till we got home.  And it allowed us to stay connected with our friends and family back home.

Not that such an effort is for everyone.  It’s likely the case that if Robin or I were traveling alone, the burden would have been too great to maintain.  And also likely we would have enjoyed a bit more ‘vacation’ on our trip if we hadn’t had the need to pump out posts hanging over our heads.  But I think it was the right call for us.

It took us a while to refine our process for writing our blog and so I wanted to write down what we did.  It’s obviously not an ideal process but maybe it will help someone start their own blog.  We did almost everything from our small 11” Lenovo thinkpad which we brought on the trip.  I don’t know how we would have possibly pulled this off without it; internet cafés would not have cut it.  The blog got written during downtimes, on trains and planes, or in our room after a day of sight-seeing.  We were probably about 3 posts behind at all times not by choice – that was just the debt required to overcome laziness.  We used the Wifi ubiquitous almost everywhere we stayed to publish posts.

Robin and I took turns writing the blog (as you may have been able to tell) so each of us only had 1 or 2 blogs to write at any point.  On occasion, one of us would really want to (or not want to) write a particular post so we’d swap.  If the post seemed ‘important’ we’d collaborate (especially on photo selection.)  We had many ideas for non-location blog posts (like this one) but really just never had the time.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • We did everything on our 11” Lenovo laptop.
  • We used Lightroom for photo management, and SmugMug to backup photos.
  • We used Word to write the text of our blogs.
  • We used Windows Live Movie Maker to edit videos, and YouTube to upload them.
  • We published on WordPress, and we announced posts on FB.

If you want more details, read on.

Photos

All of our photo work on the trip centered around Lightroom, a fantastic photo management tool by Adobe.  Access to Lightroom was the primary reason we decided to bring a full windows laptop on the trip.  Here was our photo work flow

1)      Import photos into Lightroom in a separate folder by location.  Location mapped generally to a destination on our trip.  We also tagged photos with city/country and renamed them at import.

 2)      If we had photos from both the S95 and the D300, we’d go in and sync the timestamps of both cameras in Lightroom.  This made coordinating and picking a single best set of photos much easier.  This rarely happened though because usually we were just shooting with the S95.

 3)      We did two passes on our photos.  The first pass was to make ‘picks.’  One of us would go through and flag the photos we thought were good enough to be worth looking at again later.  In practice we typically ended up with 1/3 to ½ of our photos being picked.  These were the photos we would upload to SmugMug.

 4)      Once the picks were made, we’d create new SmugMug gallery from within Lightroom, add our photos, and publish.  An hour later, our photos were up.  This was good for posting, but even more so it was our picture backup story for the photos.

 5)      The second pass was to make ‘blues.’  This was where we picked the set of photos that we would use in our blog post.  We called it ‘blues’ because we used the blue label in Lightroom to pick these (on occasion when we were doing two posts for a place, we’d also pick ‘reds’.)  Generally we only reviewed the picks for blues, but not always (sometimes more picks would get added if we really wanted the blog to include a shot we somehow overlooked.)   This step would usually happen after the blog post was written so we could make sure we had photos to coincide with our story.

Video

We didn’t start posting video till S.E. Asia.  Until then we just hadn’t figured out how to best do it.  Eventually, here’s what we came up with

1)      After importing photos to Lightroom, review the videos in the same way (picks and blues.)  Reviewing videos in Lightroom is a bit of a pain, but we didn’t typically have that many.  Picks would stay on the device, and blues would get posted.

 2)      Once we had blue videos selected, we’d open them in Windows Live Movie Maker.  From here, we could convert them to a smaller format that was easier to upload to YouTube (we could also splice and edit vids which we did occasionally.)

 3)      Once the videos were converted and saved out to a smaller format, we’d then go to YouTube and upload them.  Once they were uploaded, we’d create a playlist (again per destination) and add the videos to the playlist.

 This was the slowest part of things because the video files were big, and both our network connections and laptop were generally slow.

Prose

Not as many steps to this part.  We quickly took to writing all of our posts initially in Word.  It was just the best way to bang out a few pages (vs wordpad, notepad, onenote, or wordpress.)  Most blog posts got banged out in one sitting, though not always.  Generally once written, the other person would review it. (More necessary when I wrote it.  Robin is a great copy editor!)

Posting

Ok, at this point we had the following things ready to go:

  • Picked photos selected and uploaded to SmugMug
  • Blue photos picked
  • Videos uploaded to Youtube
  • Blog post written and reviewed.

The final posting happened as follows:

1)      We’d select all the blue photos, and export them to WordPress using the dossier-d-presse plugin for Lightroom.  It would export them at the right size, create a new blog post, and attach all the photos to it.

2)      Next we’d edit the newly created post and paste in the prose we wrote.  We’d then go in and add links for our SmugMug gallery and YouTube playlist if we had them, insert the picture gallery into our post.

3)      Next we had to caption the photos.  This was the most arduous part of this process mostly because WordPress’ UI made it a pain with a lot of clicking.  And if you accidentally clicked outside the editing caption window you would lose all your captions (took us a while to figure that out!)

4)      The next step was to pick the ‘featured image.’  This was the picture that would be the header of our post.  First we’d open a preview of the post.  Then we could quickly try different images and just refresh the preview to see how they looked.  This was the fun part.

5)      Finally, we’d publish the post.  Once published we’d log into Facebook and post links on both our profiles to the new post.  And then we were done.

As you can see, the blog took a lot of work.  I’m sure we could have come up with something simpler but we were excited about it and wanted it to look good (once a Type-A couple, always a Type-A couple.)  In the end, we’re really proud of the results!