Photography gears for 2010

It’s only been 10 hours into 2010 and I’m already planning my photography purchases for the year. Here are my list thus far:

  • Kata E-702 Camera Raincover – I wish I had this last couple of weeks during the snow days so I could be out taking photos even in the middle of a snow storm.
  • Pelican Case 1510 & Lid Organizer 1519 – I have accumulated enough photography gears (2 bodies with battery grip, 5 lenses, 2 flash lights, 4 filters, 8 CF cards, etc.) to the point where camera bags are not the best way of storing them. This case will be perfect for storage and the carry-on luggage size means I can take all my gears on vacation if I need to without having to check-in.
  • Pelican Compact Flash memory card case – Having all my CF cards (well 4 of them at least) organized in a single box is infinitely better than trying to find them among all the bag pockets.
  • Brno White Balance lens cap – For the situation where mixed lighting will really play hell with the auto white balance on the camera.
  • Apple Aperture – I feel that finally I’ve grown beyond iPhoto capability, especially with my recent interest in HDR. Right now I’m hoping Apple will update Aperture in 2010, otherwise I’d pick Lightroom instead.

Fun with digital photography

Recently I’ve been diving into High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. Initially I used Bracketeer to combine three photos that had been taken with different exposure (-2, 0, +2 stops). But very quickly I became unsatisfied with the output from Bracketeer. After a little research, it turns out Bracketeer only fuse photos with different exposures. Whereas other HDR software also perform tone mapping. After listening to a TWiP podcast about HDR and read through the HDR tutorial by Trey Ratcliff, I decided to try Photomatix Pro last week to see what different result I would get.

To demostrate the difference between Bracketeer and Photomatix, here are two identical photos processed by each software with the original exposure on the left:

As you can see, the result from Photomatix is so much more natural looking (though it can also produce extremely psychadelic version) than Bracketeer. And more importantly, I get to this very good photo very easily, whereas the options in Bracketeer are extremely technical and confusing.

Both are commercial software with Bracketeer a little bit less expensive than Photomatix. But judging from the output quality, I would thoroughly recommend going straight to Photomatix if you want to experiment with HDR.

The High Line

Having a brand new camera body encourages me to take more photos during the weekend (funny that always works). Today, Leah and I went to the High Line after having brunch with some friends. From the Wikipedia, the High Line is

The High Line is a 1.45-mile (2.33 km) section of the former elevated freight railroad of the West Side Line, along the lower west side of Manhattan, which has been redesigned and planted as a greenway. The High Line runs from the former 34th Street freightyard, near the Javits Convention Center, through the neighborhood of Chelsea to Gansevoort Street in the Meat Packing District of the West Village.

The High Line

Hung Identity

In the pilot episode of Smith, there was a scene where the main character Bobby drove up to an apartment garage in his boring suburban Ford and then walked into an empty apartment. There, he changed out of his boring paper cup salesman suit into an expensive designer one. He replaced his cheap sunglasses with a fashionable designer version. Did the same with his watch. Then he drove away in an Aston-Martin.

I was struck at the similarity when I was packing to come home last Friday in Bangalore. I had this routine on every trip where I would swap out my local identity with the destination one. So last week I was taking out Indian Rupees from my wallet and replaced them with US Dollars. I took out my temporary key card to the ThoughtWorks India office and my local cell phone and replaced them with my New York Metro card and my iPhone. I picked the clothes that were appropriate to the climate in New York when I land, as well as the 'identity' I want to project while I travel. (I picked a TW polo shirt and a khaki chinos)

Am I the only person that do this? Or perhaps I am a 'sleeper' secret agent?

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Homeward bound

Podcasts waiting to be listened: 14 hours
Total flight time from Bangalore to Newark: 24.5 hours
Get home: Priceless

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Two weekends in India

Today is really the first day I have time to catch up with personal stuff since I arrived in Bangalore over a week ago. Last weekend four of us decided to arrange a tour of Bangalore ourselves after the semi-official one was canceled due to not everyone had arrived yet. We rented a mini-van for a whole day and visited the local zoo first. The zoo is about just over an hour drive away from our hotel and we got to take in a lot of local scenery as we drove there.

We went on a safari bus tour through the zoo and got to see closeup bears, deers, lions, and tigers. The bus driver was a bit mad, in my opinion, since at one point he drove the bus to within 6 foot of three lioness. He then proceeded to bang on the door to get their attention so we could take better photos! As if that was not enough, he also opened and slammed shut the door to get the attention of the lioness furthest away from us!

After the safari tour, we drove to the botanical garden. It was fine but nothing special there to report…

By that time we were all very hungry and we told the driver to take us to the M G Road which is the main shopping road in Bangalore. I'm ashame to say but we had KFC for lunch as one of us (not me) had upset stomach and wanted to have American food instead of Indian. While we ate our chicken sandwich, we spotted some very funny signs in the road side. One of them was, "If you cross the road here, you will be surrounded by blood pools." Another one goes, "Cross at pedestrian crossing, give way to vehicle."

I managed to score a good deal on some jewelery for Leah but didn't manage to get any dresses for her since I wasn't sure which style she wants.

Yesterday over 40 of us went to an organized tour of Mysore, which is about 3 hours drive away from Bangalore. We set off pretty early in the morning (around 7:30AM) and drove to a place to have breakfast. Even after spending a week in India, I still haven't gotten over eating more or less the same food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But as Indian food is the only option, we all ate it up quickly.

The first destination was the summer palace for the Sultan. Interesting place, and funny how everything that went bad was blamed on the British…

We then drove up Chamundi Hill where a temple was located. I did not
go inside, partly because the queue was too long but also I had to take
off our shoes. I am lazy, what can I say! The view of Mysore from the
top of the hill is pretty spectacular, the photos from my iPhone really
can't do it justice.

We had lunch at a 5 stars hotel and they had lots of Indian deserts which I consumed with great enthusiasm. After a week of not really having any sweet food, it was haven! After lunch we were entertained by a local magican outside the hotel. Despite he performed all the usual tricks (balls in cups, etc.), he was so slick that all of us were impressed.

The last destination of the tour was the palace in Mysore. The palace is huge and again we were forced to take our shoes off to go inside. This time I joined the group and after walking bare feet for over an hour, I had never appreciate footwear as much as I did when I put my shoes back on!

By then it was pretty late (around 5:30PM) and there wasn't really time for the shopping trip, which originally planned for 2 hours in downtown Mysore. We ended up visiting a Government approved shop (whatever that means) and I managed to find couple of Indian dresses for Leah for relatively inexpensive price.

The trip on the way back was a bit scary, even for me the crazy driver. The bus driver wanted to get back to Bangalore before 10PM so he drove pretty fast all the way, sometimes as fast as 60+ mph which was scary in an Indian bus on Indian road! Thankfully, we got back in one piece but there were couple of times where we almost hit some truck or cut off another car.

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It’s not as fun as it sounds

Even though this week is my week off between jobs, it won’t all be sleeping in late, watching TV, playing Xbox, and generally doing nothing of importance. There are plenty of tasks I need to complete before I start my three weeks of ‘world tour’.

  • Double check AT&T has turned on international dialing for my iPhone. I trust AT&T as far as I can throw them…
  • Get the living room A/C switch fixed so it will turn off when the switch is in ‘Off’.
  • Buy new business casual clothes. The old ones are, well, old.
  • Order replacement ear stem rubber grip thingy for my Oakley glasses.
  • Pack for three weeks of international travel. At least I only need summer clothes so the bag should be lighter than otherwise.
  • Getting my digital life ready for traveling.
  • Try to fix the broken Kitchen-Aid toaster. It refused to turn on one morning and it has been sitting in the kitchen for the last 3 months(?) It’s dead and not really fixable either. So a new one is required…
  • Get a hair cut
  • Pick up my watch which has been in the shop for battery replacement


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