Monday, March 31, 2008

For Sale

I drove my Mazda3 up through skyline boulevard yesterday to photograph it before placing the ad in Autotrader. I think I'm going to miss this car; its been a good car and fun to drive. You can see the ad here.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, Sigma 12-24 @ 24mm, f/5.6, 1/30s, ISO 1600.

Update (April 5, 2008): The car was sold today. Not through Autotrader but through craigslist.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A New Car!

Last week (on Monday to be precise), Kim and I did our bit for the economy, we bought a new car. Granted the manufacturer is Japanese but the vehicle itself was manufactured in Indiana, so if the economy crumbles now, its not my fault. :)

This was the second new car I have ever purchased. I actually didn't want to buy vehicle, but a bunch of factors made it the better way to go. Most of the used cars that are 1 to 2 years old are former rentals and I've seen the way people destroy their rental cars and I would definitely not want to own one after that. Also, Toyota vehicles seem to hold their value well for the first few years so the savings on a 1-2 year old vehicle wasn't huge.

Purchasing a new car in California was a little different from Ontario. We decided to buy the car on Monday, and as we were doing the paper work Monday afternoon, the car was being prepped. By the time we had signed all the papers, it was ready for us to take home and the dealer politely insisted that we do so even though we needed to bring it back the next morning to get the security system installed. When I purchased my Mazda3 it took nearly a week for me to get my car from the day I signed the papers.

We also went through the Costco Auto Buying Program which was a fantastic experience. They take your information and then forward it to a dealer participating in the program. The dealer contacts you and sets up an appointment. At your appointment you get a printed package containing all the information you need for your purchase, including details of the specific vehicle you are interested in. The price is also pre-negotiated with Costco and is quite reasonable. For our vehicle the determined price was $500 under invoice (though it varies depending on the model). Granted we could have probably saved ourselves a couple hundred by haggling at another dealership but the ease of the whole process makes it worth it to just to go with the Costco program.

Now, know anyone who wants an Indigo Blue loaded 2004 Mazda3 with low mileage? :)

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 180mm macro, f/13, 1/300s, MT-24ex fired.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Afternoon in the backyard

This afternoon I took a quick stroll through the backyard with my macro lens attached just to see what kinds of interesting things I could photograph. Since spring is here there is a lot of bud/blossom activity and insect activity. Here are just some of the things I saw (correlating to the image strip on the left).

            • Light purple daisies. The first batched have already bloomed and there is a second batch coming now
            • Bird of paradise. The flowers tend to last a very long time. This one has been open for a couple of months now and a new one is about to open.
            • Dark purple daisy, now fully open. They were fully open in December as well but were on hiatus January and February.
            • New Japanese Maple buds. The color of these are quite striking.
            • Peach blossom. They were in full blossom about 2 weeks ago, almost missed them.
            • Lily. This was a cheat, its actually flowers inside the house that were bought a few days ago.
            • Don't know the name of this flower.

I find the colors of the various flowers to be quite striking. The only processing done for these images were minor exposure tweaks. No vibrance or color saturation changes were made.

I didn't know this until after I made this post but it seems that blogger limits the height of your image to 1600 pixels which really sucks if you actually know what you are doing. What sucks even more is that they don't bother to warn or inform you that they are going to downsize your image using a terrible downsampling algorithm (sigh). Fortunately, I have a Zenfolio account with which to host this image.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D3, 180mm Macro, f/11, 1/300s, ISO 800, MT-24 flash.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Canon 1D3 vs. Nikon D3

The Nikon D3 created a lot of waves when it was announced last year and since then there have been numerous reviews and comparisons. I will admit my interest was limited at its announcement but has recently been piqued with all the discussion in online photography forums. I was fortunately enough to borrow a D3 along with Nikon's newly released AFS 24-70 f/2.8G ED lens for several days. I shot the D3 side by side with my Canon 1D Mark III with the EF 24-70 f/2.8L lens. You can read my comparison here:

Friday, March 21, 2008

First Light with BT-100

A few days before leaving for India I managed to score a really good deal on a pair of Oberwerk BT-100 astronomical binoculars with a Universal Astronomics Millennium Mount from a local amateur astronomer. I hadn't planned on upgrading my Celestron astronomical binoculars but it was a good deal and it was local so I couldn't pass it up.

The binoculars are very heavy (~26lb) and millennium mount with the 25lb of counterweight are also heavy. The Oberwerk heavy duty surveyor tripod isn't terribly compact either. I set up the binoculars last night just to familiarize myself with the set up and take down procedure.

Tonight, with the Clear Sky Alarm clock predicting clear skies, I prepared for an observing session. Setting up the mount and binoculars are easy, taking only about 10 minutes. Similarly taking everyone down when done was also easy.

I started observing at 8:25 PM. Unfortunately the neighbors were having a party and so their very bright backyard lights were on, pretty much making about half the sky unobservable.

Fortunately there were still a few things to see in the rest of the sky. The light pollution was fairly bad so the limiting magnitude was low. The binoculars accept standard 1.25" telescope eyepieces and came with two sets of eyepieces. I stuck to the default 24.4mm (25x magnification) eyepiece. I have a couple of Televue Panoptics I got with my telescope which I will try out one day.

Orion was fairly high in the sky and so M42 made for a natural starting point. I hopped along the sky catching a view of M41 and was able to observe about 14 bright stars and several dimmer ones in the open cluster. I also made my way to Mars and Saturn and was able to just barely make out the rings (and possibly one moon). I wrapped things up by taking in a view of the Beehive Cluster (M44) of which I could make out about 20 bright stars and many dimmer ones.

Overall, I'm very happy with the set up and am looking forward to many more observing sessions as summer arrives.

Technical Specs: Nikon D3, 24-70 @ 50mm, f/5, ISO 1250.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sensoji Temple the Tokyo metro

The Tokyo metro is totally awesome, there are trains every few minutes and they always seem to be on time. I only wish we had such effective mass transit in the bay area (though I can somewhat understand why we don't given the relative difference in population densities). In the two days in Tokyo I was able to cover a lot of different sights getting all around downtown Tokyo with relative ease using the metro. Definitely get the day pass, which at 1,000 Yen is a great deal. Pictured above is a commuter waiting for the arriving train. I exposed for 2/3s as the train was going by coming to a stop.

One of the things I managed to see before heading to the airport was the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. It is a Buddhist temple and the oldest such temple in Tokyo. Walking up to the temple is an array of shops filled with interesting craft items which make for great gifts. Sadly I couldn't find any origami paper there, nor anywhere else I looked, guess I'll just have to go back :).

The picture on the left is the 5 story pagoda or Asakusa shrine which was built in 1649 (the main building was built in 628).

Well after 2 1/2 weeks of travel, in about 30 minutes I will get on the plane to return home, definitely looking forward to that.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Love Japan

I love Japan. I first visited Japan (for 2 weeks in Kobe and Osaka) in 2004. This time I stopped in Tokyo for 2 days on my way back from India. I think the stark contrast to India makes me like Tokyo even more. Japan has the things I found lacking in India. The people are not at all pushy and quite polite, the place is very clean and its easy to get around the city. As a bonus I don't have to worry about what is safe to eat and drink :)

I arrived yesterday morning around 7. We went to Harajuku (the guide book said Sunday at Harajuku was a good time to see Cosplay) but it proved to be a waste of time, only a few costumed people were there and they weren't that great. The nearby Meiji-jingu shrine was quite nice and worth the visit. We also walked around an electronics department store and it was quite a sensory overload at first.

This morning we woke up at 5 and went down to the Tokyo fish market which was quite interesting. We didn't see any flying fish but the auction was fun to watch. It proved to also be a great place to get sushi. We'll be heading to the Imperial garden today, then its off to the airport for me in the afternoon to catch my flight home. I've really enjoyed Tokyo, but I'm not sad to go home because I now this is a place I will definitely to return with Kim.

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, 17-55, 6 shot panorama, f/4.5, 1/40s, ISO 800.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Snake Charmer

I photographed this snake charmer at the city fort in Jaipur. I think the wrist watch is a nice touch :)

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, 17-55 @ 55mm, f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 400.

The Blue City

Today we arrived in Jodhpur. I'm told that in times past houses were painted blue depending on the caste of the family living there, though now anyone can paint their house blue. We saw the Merangarh, a fort perched on a cliff edge which was impressive. I'm getting pretty weary of the travel. The noise, pollution and tummy troubles are starting to get to me. I'm supposed to catch a flight to Chennai tomorrow for some family stuff, but am told the airport workers will go on strike at midnight, so I guess we'll see how that goes .

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, 17-55 @ 40mm, f/5.6, 1/60s, ISO 200.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Jal Mahal

Jal Mahal or Water Palace is in Jaipur. The palace is currently being renovated so we didn't get a chance to go inside. In years past the Maharaja would take a boat to the palace and its setting in the water would make the place cool during the summer. We saw the Amber Fort today as well as the Jantar Mantar (observatory) in Jaipur which was more impressive than the one in Delhi. The others in our group have gone back to Delhi to return home. Tomorrow, two of us head off to Udaipur.

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, 17-55 @ 40mm, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 200.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Jantar Mantar

The Jantar Mantar is an observatory built in 1710. The building structures are used to record the positions of celestial objects like the sun and moon. It was built by a maharaja for his own use as he was an avid astronomer.

We spent the day yesterday visiting sites around Delhi. In addition to the Jantar Mantar, we also visited the National Museum, Rajghat Gandhi Samadhi (memorial for Gandhi), and the Akshardham temple. The Akshardham temple was opened in 2005 (after 5 years of construction) and is still being worked on. It was built with a mix of styles around India and build as ancient temples were, with sandstone and marble featuring no concrete or steel. The architecture and hand carved detail is absolutely stunning and the Guinness book of world records recognizes it as the world's largest Hindu temple. Sadly, they do not allow cameras, but I don't think pictures would do it justice anyway.

Today is a work day and then tomorrow its off to Jaipur.

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, 17-55 @ 17mm, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 100.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Taj Mahal


I have been in India for the last few days (since about Saturday) for work. Before starting on work a bunch of us went to Agra and visited the Taj Mahal and the Agra fort. On Sunday, we got the Taj at 5:45am in an attempt to watch the Taj as the sun rose (and to beat the crowds). Our group was the first group to get it. The place filled up rather quickly however. The Taj was quite impressive, however we were even more impressed with the ornamental work at the Agra fort. This picture was taken just as the sun had rose and the Taj had a yellowish/reddish hue to it. The person on the left is a co-worker, also an avid photographer.

Technical Specs: Canon 40D, 17-55 @ 17mm, f/5.6, 1/50s, ISO 100.