Sunday, June 13, 2010

Who's the Guy with the Butterfly?

Technology is changing the travel industry just like everything else. Remember when National Geographic was your portal to the world? Back then if you wanted to strike out and see the world, you pulled up to the pump and someone actually filled your car with gas for you. Traveling further? Then you would "dial up" a travel agent, who would name off places you'd never heard of, and making all your arrangements via a tedious process.

Now of course we punch a few buttons and dispense our own fuel, consult or a half dozen other travel sites on the Internet for our "discounted" fares. Travel writing itself has come a long way over just the last decade. We used to take copious notes, and go home with 20 pounds of press kits. Now they just hand you a CD with images and info. Not so long ago I wrote for Fodor's using a complicated customized software program. Now I write for an iPhone app via email.

National Geographic is still with us of course, but enter a new technological phenomenon, "Beautiful Planet," an incredible and intuitive app developed for the iPhone and iPad. It is the #1 bestselling travel app, a visual encyclopedia of the planet's stunning diversity, winner of a Northern Lights Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism and Photography and chosen by one of "5 Sweet Apps" for the iPad.

I got my first glimpse of this wonderful app last week, while touring Mackinac Island, Michigan. We were at the famed Grand Hotel for a "Grand" dinner. I was sitting next to a fellow, whom I had photographed previously in a butterfly garden because a colorful butterfly had lit upon his shoulder. Turns out he is Peter Guttman, photographer, lecturer and world traveler extraordinaire. We had tired of discussing politics, and had suffered through a few inappropriate jokes, when he discreetly pulled out his iPad and showed me some of the images on Beautiful Planet. I was transformed to other worlds and a lifetime of dedicated work. There was the world we had all come to know through National Geographic literally in the palm of his hand in full HD glory.

You know how food just seems to taste better when you are hungry? Like biting into a juicy apple, might just be eating an apple, but when you are hungry, you've never tasted anything better in your life. Well, that's kind of how to describe Guttman's work on Beautiful Planet, with its intuitive touch capabilities. It really has a quality to it that exceeds your previous experience. I suggest you check out this amazing travel app by Banzai Labs, and start your journey today!

It also turns out that Peter is one of the leading contributors to Conde Nast Traveler's Room with a View. The next afternoon our group was treated to High Tea at the Grand Hotel, the most elaborate tea I have ever experienced. A group of us sitting at the table with Peter were invited to come see the room he would be photographing. Well, actually we all gave him puppy dog eyes until he offered. The room was the Betty Ford suite, which features presidential correspondence and tiny hand sewn Americana quilts placed on the palest of green walls.

The Grand Hotel has 386 rooms, and the hotel likes to advertise no two rooms are decorated alike. Of course there was an incredible view, and to make things better, a rising storm was starting to whip up lightning that was beginning to strike the Mackinac Bridge. What a treat for us all to get to experience this particular image in the making! Can't wait to see it published, or better yet view it on my iPhone.--Ruth Mitchell

(c) 2009 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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