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Pictures and Videos from France
Welcome to Aquiceará!

Aquiceara.com has been online since 2001 and now boasts over 25,000 pictures and 300 video clips from France, Brazil, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey, Belgium, Egypt, Mexico...

“Aqui Ceará” is Portuguese for “Here is Ceará”. On returning to France after spending two years in Fortaleza, the capital city of the North-Eastern state of Ceará, Brazil, I had made several hundreds of pictures. And I made more during subsequent stays there after 1997. I also began to shoot some videos after 2004.

Aquiceara.com was my first website. After visiting other countries I created more sites with pictures from China (photochina.org), Mauritania (adrar.net), Malaysia (seemalaysia.eu) and Thailand (seethailand.eu), plus one or two more sites with pictures and videos from France and the world (shootingtolife.com). However, managing all these sites became a nightmare and, since Aquiceara.com was better known, I decided that incorporating all sites under that one name would make things easier for everyone.

The Technical Part...

After considering various options, it turned out building the whole site from scratch was in fact the easiest method. No need to say I spend quite a few evenings and week-ends on that for several months. To date, the site includes some 22,000 pictures and over 320 videos. It is also available in six languages (writing this in all six languages was a rather tedious but rather pleasant experience – no “Google translation”!). Anyway, the number of pages on the site is hence multiplied by six, i.e. some 7 gigabytes of data for approximately 190,000 files from 1 KB to over 100 MB distributed in over 6,000 folders…

You might notice that all pictures don’t have the same size. Pictures from Brazil, for instance, are smaller than pictures from China. As you can imagine, touching up all those pictures and resizing them all is pretty tedious and I didn’t want to waste too much time on that for the moment. Although I do plan to standardize all pictures on the same format as the pictures from China, this will take another few months to complete. Besides, when I first created Aquiceara.com to show pictures from Brazil in 2001, many people still didn’t have access to the Internet and broadband connections only became generally available around 2005. Therefore multimedia files such as pictures had to be kept as light as possible – i.e. under 50 KB – to be viewed properly. Eventually, when broadband connections became mainstream I began to gradually publish larger and larger pictures.  Pictures shown on this new edition of Aquiceara.com are mainly shown in 1000x720 resolution. Considering the current state of technology this seemed to be a reasonable compromise combining fast downloading and a truly immersive experience.

Of course, quality may vary a lot between, say, pictures from the 80’s and current digital pictures made with an upmarket 12-megapixel SLR camera equipped with a stabilized zoom lens. Besides, traditional pictures made on silver film were expensive, and you couldn’t (at least I couldn’t) afford to make too many. Nowadays several hundred pictures a day while traveling is nothing exceptional.

Anyway, building all these sites and some more for friends helped me gather some experience in the field. Basically, it’s a somewhat tedious process. I first copy all original pictures in a folder for sorting and touching up. Many commercial software programmes can touch up whole batches of pictures but results are often disappointing. Therefore I touch up each and every picture manually. In fact, it often boils down to some basic operations such as cropping or correcting levels and contrast. Of course, scanned paper pictures from the 80’s gave some extra work because they were not as sharp as current digital pictures for instance.

With some practice this rather basic editing process usually takes a couple of seconds, up to ten, per picture. When you have to touch up several thousand pictures after returning from a trip abroad, you try to avoid wasting time. Anyway, while editing your mind tends to wander and after a while what seemed at first a daunting task becomes clearer and the puzzle pieces together. Pictures are sorted according to various themes such as a city, an event, and so on. I then copy them to different folders and create the galleries from there. This process is followed by some more tedious and complex batch operations to optimize the website (rename files, redefine links, search and replace for keywords in the different languages, etc.). A gallery showing 50 pictures, for instance, actually includes not only the pictures themselves, but also 50 thumbnails, 50 HTML pages for each picture, one or more HTML pages containing the thumbnails plus a few buttons for navigating.

Video also evolved quite a bit. Aquiceara.com only presents digital videos. Although I have had some old Hi8-format analogue videos from the 90s transferred onto DVDs, I still haven’t had time to edit them. If you think touching up pictures is tedious, it’s nothing compared to video editing. Working a hour and getting only one minute of viewable video is pretty usual. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it’s basically quite tedious. I’ve been shooting in high definition (HD) since 2005. Quality is much higher than with older standard-definition camcorders, but of course that means much bigger files. After some experiments I chose the Flash Video (.FLV) format. In spite of a degraded quality when compared to an .AVI source file, an .FLV file is 100 times smaller. The current state of technology still implies some compromise to find the right balance between connection speed and viewing comfort. The videos shown on Aquiceara.com require a minimum of 700 Kbps. So if your connection is somewhat slower, you may have to wait a bit until the video file is fully downloaded to view it comfortably – just like on, say, YouTube. However, technology doesn’t stand still and I’m confident these technical restrictions will soon belong to the past.

Besides, this new version of the site runs on a faster dedicated server, so I’m considering using a better file format such as MPEG in the near future.

About the Author...

As a Sagittarian born in 1954, I felt attracted by distant places and adventure at an early age. When I was four, I’d already made up my mind: as a grownup, I’d be Davy Crockett! If you read child literature from that period, you’ll probably understand what I mean.

Of course grownups were hopelessly stupid and desperately tried to explain that Davy Crockett was not an occupation until someone was more inspired and suggested I’d embrace a more serious career and became a language teacher.
My grand-parents happened to have an old English lady as a neighbour and she taught me the first words of English. My father had spent a year in the army in Germany and taught me some Teutonic niceties such as “Wieviel Uhr ist es?”, “Auf Wiedersehen!” and things like “bitte schön” or “danke schön”. It sounded all so exotic! Anyway, Davy Crockett or not, language teacher or not, I’d certainly travel to Britain when I were a grownup. Meanwhile, I spent many a rainy afternoon drawing the map of Britain from an old geography book. No wonder the best memory from my childhood is the first English lesson we had at school.

All seemed to be perfect until I received a letter in a brown envelope in June 1974: conscription was still compulsory in those days and I was to join the army on August 1st for a full year. Early July though, an unexpected reversal occurred: the newly elected President Giscard d’Estaing lowered the voting age to eighteen. That implied I could apply for a passport right away and… leave the country! Wasting a year in the army? No way! I’d become a conscientious objector. However that also implied I’d have to remain ten years out of the country. Returning earlier meant spending some time in jail, and subsequently… a year in the army!

So I spend a couple of years doing odd jobs in various North-European countries such as Finland, Denmark, Britain and Benelux: lathe operator, disc-jockey, tyre moulder, cigarette packer, labourer, shepherd, comics translator, milling machine operator, removal man, etc. Being a jack of all trades has since proven quite useful in my current occupation.
In 1977 I managed to return to France and getting declared as unfit for conscription. A few months later I travelled overland to India and Nepal, through Iran during the Islamic revolution and Afghanistan just before the Soviet invasion. Late 1984 I arrived in Fortaleza, capital city of the State of Ceara in North-Eastern Brazil. My wife Marielle joined me there a couple of months later and we struggled for two years against a 500% inflation rate teaching French, translating theses and making horoscopes…

After returning to France in December 86 we worked a few years on a large campsite in Fréjus before settling down in our home area South of Orléans in the early 90’s. In 1988 I also bought my first PC and became hooked to computers. Since then we also travelled to other places, such as Egypt, Australia, China, the United States, Mauritania, Israel, Turkey, Mexico, Malaysia and Thailand. Of course we hope to live long enough to see the rest of the world!

I really became addicted to photography in Brazil. I’d bought a second-hand Rollei camera before traveling there. In 1995 I bought my first digital camera, a Kodak DC50 with a resolution of only 300,000 pixels. It was out of sheer curiosity really and I decided to buy something more decent, a DC120 (1.3 megapixels) in 1996. Finally I made a rather heavy investment in 2,000 when I purchased my first 6 megapixel SLR camera. In 2003 I switched to a better – and meanwhile much cheaper – one with a 12 mexapixel resolution. Of course, I now wish I could afford a 24 mp thing, but I still have to buy a winning Lotto ticket!

After translating a couple of books on personal development and astrology in the early nineties, I ended up settling down as a freelance translator. By then, I’d moved to more technical translations and got involved more heavily into computers and telecommunications. 1994 was the year I discovered the Internet. At the time France hardly totalled a million subscribers. Besides, the World Wide Web wasn’t yet born and the “Internet” really was limited to e-mails. Anyway, that was the perfect tool I’d been longing for: from then on an old dream could become true – working from home as a translator, not becoming Davy Crockett. On returning from a trip to Mauritania in 1996, I designed my first “website”. It really was a single, basic HTML page with some text and a couple of pictures. Although only three people ever saw that “website”, I felt I’d just found something promising.

The Internet is obviously an excellent way to organize permanent photo exhibitions, as shown by the success of sites such as Picasa and the likes. In the old days we used to keep pictures in albums and… shelve them right away. We might have a look at them perhaps once or twice a year at most. Nowadays we can view them in high resolution on a large computer or TV display, and even share them instantaneously with family and friend living on the other site of the world via e-mails, IM or on a smartphone.

In November 2004 we travelled to Brazil again to make pictures of a pilgrimage. However I broke my camera on the very first day when I realized a bit too late the traffic-light had just turned red. Fortunately Marielle had just bought a Nikon and I happened to have brought my camcorder. It was one of the first digital camcorders I’d been shooting with on an off since 1997, but I’d never attempted to edit footage yet. On returning to France, I experimented video editing one evening just before dinner. Hey, that was fun! Perhaps too much as it now poses a new dilemma when we set off to some new destination: still pictures or videos? Or both?

Finally, I wish to make clear that photography and video are merely hobbies of mine. My true passion – and occupation – is foreign languages and translation. And travelling, of course. Therefore Aquiceara.com doesn’t present necessarily breathtakingly beautiful pictures or adrenalin-packed videos. I rather attempt to show everyday life, ordinary people and ordinary scenes. After all, no matter how marvellous the country you’re visiting might be, all is not constantly perfect. You don’t experience thrilling adventures as in some cheap Hollywood action film. You’re rather likely to spend much time waiting in stations or airports, or watching people walking by on the street. Ugly, commonplace, boring situations are most common and they’re the reason why we notice beauty, aren’t they?

Pictures and Videos from Brazil
Pictures and Videos from China
Pictures and Videos from Malaysia
Pictures and Videos from Thailand
Pictures from Mexico
Views from Taiwan
Pictures and Videos from the World
Pictures of Classic Cars
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