A New Start: Kakheti


After a year or more of supporting an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for a tiny new weather station, having it delivered to Tbilisi and returned from there twice due to Svaneti addressing uncertainties, the device was finally in my hands. Its titanium case fits on a keyring. I unscrew it from that and plug it into a smartphone’s audio jack, which powers it to read UV, barometric pressure, wind speed and air temperature. From these the $50 wonder produces a weather forecast, anywhere in the world, no internet connection needed. Very useful for a guest house owner wanting precise readings at his exact location!

I tested it first on the only smartphone I had, but there are lists of phones with which the device will and will not work. Not, in this case. So I bought a new Samsung model, a reasonably small and cheap one as I’m not interested in talking through a tablet-sized monstrosity. We tested the weather station on it before I committed myself, of course, because workability was the whole point of getting the thing. This was a go.

Now I find myself visiting my parents-in-law in Kakheti, and also responding to the firm invitation to visit our house’s stucco guys from the same village in the Lagodekhi region. These three men had delivered quality results on the guest house exterior, didn’t drink more than usual in Georgia, and stuck to their word on prices. As a result, the friendship remains, and now I have crossed the country and am about to go fishing with them.

The new phone? I quickly realized that it can do so much more than “read the weather”, of course. It can take 2 sim cards, so both my Magti and Geocell numbers now reside in it. It’s my local wi-fi station. It can read the night sky and tell me what stars and other objects are out there. I can watch films, listen to music, read e-books on it. A separate attachment would let me shoot infrared images for heat sensing.

A caveat: it can’t shoot RAW photographic images, only jpegs, somewhat a disappointment because the former have so much more exposure information in them that’s there’s no comparison. But the images it does offer are quite impressive nonetheless. HDR (high dynamic range, capturing all the shadow and highlight detail I could want)? Yes. Stitched panoramas? Those too.

Phones have become THE portable device, to which other software or hardware peripherals can be added almost ad infinitum to make them into… telescopes, microscopes, video projectors, molecular composition sensors, scanners, translators, flashlights, you name it. I knew all this already, of course, but to have one in my hands is a different matter.

The last phone I had for shooting video I bought before making a walk through much of Svaneti in 2007. It cost 600 GEL, and the video wasn’t even high-definition. The photos and video coming out of this new one are practically miraculous—full HD size, plenty enough for now. It’s about as big a revelation to me as switching from 35mm film to a digital SLR was in 2008; I never went back to film after that. Yes, I bought a dedicated scanner and digitized most of the best of my 11000-odd 35mm frames for posterity, shot from ages 11 to 41, at 20 mega-pixels. But the cleanup of dust and scratches in PhotoShop was such a drag!

I tend to switch to a new technology once it has settled down a bit, some of the bugs have been ironed out, and it doesn’t cost the earth, which I can’t afford. The new phone is another case in point. I won’t be upgrading soon, because my budget and pride don’t need me to. This will do. I have a tendency to push the technology I have to its limits and beyond anyway, so I think that this model will do me fine for some years to come. Will you notice the difference in my photos, dear reader? I doubt it.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011.

He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1900 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:


By Tony Hanmer

18 October 2018 22:26