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Big Country

Monday, March 31, 2008

Another windy March day here in Northern Arizona. With bad allergies, I was thinking about just staying around the house, but got a little restless, and decided to take a ride through Sunset Crater National Monument. This is far away from the crater, but cloudy and the sandstorm in the distance looks cool with the yellow grassland. This is an arid region, must've been rough for anyone who tried to live off the land..
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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hibernation period for golfers is officially over now in Flagstaff.
Except for large amount of goose droppings that they have navigate around, :).
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Evening Sky

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cloudy evening, I was hoping there are more colors around sunset, but not too bad.. Most of the snow have pretty much disappeared, and the pond is no longer frozen. I am sure the ducks are happy with that.

Some new mounds have started to appear (prairie dogs), hopefully there's no plague outbreak this year...

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Red Rock Canyon

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This is the second time I have been here, but for some reason, I don't remember much about my first visit.

The color is similar to Sedona, but formation is quite different, plus, you don't have the houses around like Sedona. I wonder if they have vortex here also.

More people were doing the rock climbing here, I guess the rocks here is not as loose as they are in Sedona. Cool place.

It's nice to take a break from the smoke filled casinos.

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Desert Flowers

On the way back from Vegas, we took the long way home. Drove through Mojave National Preserve. The temperature was 66 degrees when we first got there around noon, at I-15 and Cima Road, then it got up to 80 degrees when we reached I-40. Dry heat, though, :)

The flowers didn't cover the ground like carpet (like I have seen in some pictures), but still a nice change, knowing Spring is here.
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All the Glitz

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Night time at the strip is really glitzy. I am sure people get really caught up by all these lights.

Paris Casino at night.

Caesars Palace at night.

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Vegas - Morning After

Monday, March 24, 2008

A sad, sad place to see in the morning. This is off of Las Vegas Blvd. The night of people handing out flyers, cards, etc, are now accumulated all over the side walks and streets....

I still don't understand why parents bring their little kids to the strip.....

There were plenty of poeple, as usual, but the shops inside the casinos were really pretty slow. Restaurants are doing well, I guess. We dined at Mesa Grill, tasty stuff, but is it really worth that much?? Not for me, but my wife liked it, I guess that's good enough, :).
I guess there's no recession when it comes to gambling, though. People are still playing the game like there's no tomorrow, I am just too cheap for that kind of stuff, we set our limit, and luckily, we didn't lose that amount like we did last year, :), we actually broke even on the bet money. Whew... I'd rather spent that money on a new lense (or two, heh heh).
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Tamed Flowers in Belagio

Belagio Casino is in full preparation of welcoming the Spring, I guess I missed the Chinese New Year display, but really enjoyed their Spring collection.

It really smelled nice in there, :). I for one am glad Spring is here.
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News Article

Take a look at this article, following this link:

Is this going to be a common practice? I hope not.

Painted Hillside

On our way to Vegas, saw this West facing hill just past Kingman, AZ.

We didn't stop to see if we can get closer to the hill side, but it looked really cool.
People have reported really nice wild flower activity this year due to Winter moisture, but mostly in Phoenix and Tucson area. We planned to visit Mojave National Preserve, eager to see what awaits us - after Vegas though, :)
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DA 40mm pancake

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cool, it's here! My pancake lens. Well, it is a small lens. I am comparing it with the Canon G2. The G2 is not really a pocket digicam, but pretty nice to carry around. The DL with the 40mm is little bulkier than the G2. The prism/flash and the hand grip makes it much thicker.

Top view. Nope, it will have a hard time fitting in your pocket.

Here you can see the size. One thing I am going to be more cautious is the lens cap/hood. It is a screw on type, so if you are in a hurry, it can be frustrating to unscrew the cap - it is slow. I am using an after market lens cap. The lens will take 49mm filter and cap. I'll keep th original cap in a lens pouch, I feel I can easily lose the cap/hood. Heading out to Vegas this weekend, it will be a perfect walk around setup. Can't wait!

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One tank adventure - GC

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A quick day trip to Grand Canyon, again, :), can't get tired of the place. Our original goal was to hike the Kaibab trail, but it was a little too icy to continue too far, so we walked to the Yaki point, and then walked around the south rim trail a little. Here is a picture of the Kaibab trail, close to the trail head, some crazy switchback. Because it is mostly in the shade, portions of the trail is still iced over. I believe park ranger has put saw dust on the ice, but we'll wait until it has thawed.

This shot is along the rim trail from Kaibab trail to Yaki point. You can not drive to Yaki point, only shuttle or walk.

This shot was taken west of Mather point, on the rim trail. If you are wondering why over 200 + people get hurt each year, here's a good example. She is in blue, sitting on top of the ledge. Last year, a 4 year old fell to her death after her parents wanted her to stand close to the edge to get a good picture. She lost her footing and fell 250 feet. This ledge here has a shear drop off of maybe over a thousand feet, straight down.

Hey! Stay on the trail! South Rim.
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Spotted some horses on our way to Grand Canyon yesterday, just a few miles away from town of Cameron, on State Road 64, part of Navajo Reservation.

The male was very protective, and made sure to get in between the mare and I, and I made sure I don't get any closer, :).
The landscape here is very harsh, as you can see. Not much moisture in this area. I was tempted to pull up some grass on this side of the fence to feed him, but it's probably not a good idea.
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Small technical issue

Yellowing issue with the SMC 50mm, pictures come out, well, yellowish. See above.

shot with 50mm - Pentax DL

Same location, shot with Canon G2.
Big difference with the output. I set both cameras to Auto white balance, program mode. Found some instruction on how to address this issue, http://pentax-manuals.com/repairs/yellow.htm, will give it a shot.
Here's a shot of the lens with against the white background. You can see the yellowing. I will put the prime only experiment on-hold for now, until I get my pancake lens in.

On-line War

Friday, March 14, 2008

This might get interesting.
2 prominent on-line photography experts are exchanging words over photo equipment:
Here: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/cameras-matter.shtml
and the article in question:

Who's right? I think they both have merits with their point of view (as if my opinion matters:~). Although I don't have high dollar gears compare to these guys, I have invested a small fortune with what I have, although I constantly look over the fence with equipment envy (damn marketing people!), I know what I have now, I am not even close to surpass what they are designed for, with my current skill.

What's more important for me, is to have a camera with me when I go out. I need something that will suit my needs. I travel a lot for work, but I carry a lot of stuff when I travel: a suit case with my clothing, tool bag (a medium tote that can't be carry-on due to what's inside), and my laptop. Do I want to carry my DSLR on every trip? No way. I prefer my pocket sized SD400. It fits inside my laptop bag without any problem, and doesn't add too much more weight. If I didn't have my camera with me, I could've missed my 2 favorite shots from a recent trip.

For a compact camera, it did a superb job of metering, and capturing enough details for me to print 8x10, and great colors (or B&W)! In this case, the equipment matters! Since this camera was just the right size for me to carry with me on my trips. But at the same time, I have to say that I was at the right place, at the right time, and these pictures could've been taken with any camera. I got there after I finished with my work, so it was not the harsh mid-day sun, but the light was just rightt, about an hour before sunset.

So this was partly luck and timing, with the right equipment. I am not exactly sure if I could've get it any better if I HAD my DSLR - Well, sometimes I get a little too caught up tweaking the camera setting, to get it "just right", and miss the oppurtunity (well, maybe a little exaggerated, but it has happened before).

But this shot, where sun had set, really pushed the point and shoot to the limit. Very noisy shot, slight camera shake (no tripod, remember, I have to travel light :~). If I had better equipment with me, I could've pushed the ISO up, thus possibly eliminate the shake (or built-in shake reduction would be nice). After a little post processing, I didn't hit the delete key on this one, since it has certain aspect I liked.

I think people do get caught up with their gear, and put a little too much emphasis on it sometimes. Brand loyalty sometimes get into a very heated discussion that ended with nothing to do with picture taking. This goes beyond cameras, remember Atari 800 and Commodore 64 battles; Mac vs. PC; original Star Trek vs. The Next Generation. Even users within their own brand rant about the new camera release, case in point:

"New Sony A200 - WHAT, NO SPOT METERING!!!!!!! MY A100 had it!!!!!"

"New Pentax K20D - WHAT, STILL ONLY AT 3 FPS (frames per second)!!!!!! MY K10D HAD THAT, I NEED HIGHER BURST (oooooh, the sound of machine gun firing away with your camera!)"

My advice, keep your working camera, that you have not out grown yet, :) No one is forcing anyone to upgrade, just because new models are out. It's not like a time bomb destroys your existing camera with a new camera release..

I just heard this on a TV show (Behind the Camera - Produced by Bravo, Canada), by a Director of Photography: "Technology will not improve your creativity". So true, but it does help, from time to time.

Oh, I am still a gear head, but I seldom buy first generation toys, and definitely, I don't get religious about it. It's just a hobby for me.

50mm- First day

OK, I made a pact with myself. Shoot prime for awhile, to see what it's like.

I am starting off with 50mm lens on my pentax, and will leave it on, for at least 2 months; well, this might be just a little difficult, since I just ordered a 40mm DA pancake lens, I guess the 2 months ordeal with the 50mm will last until, hmm, when the new lens arrives, :), but it's still a prime, so I guess that's ok.... The objective of this experiment is to see for myself, why all the hooplas about primes, why some people swear by them (or could be just nostalgia).

With temperature in the 60s, but a little windy, I ventured out to a local park with my camera, to see if I can find interesting subject in my view finder. The park was mushy from all the snow melt, and very muddy in some area. After a quick survey, the first thing I thought was that I should've brought a longer lens, hmm, this might be harder than I thought to get used to. Ok, stay focused, look around, walk around some more. Finally, a scraggly tree, all alone, waiting for Spring to arrive.

As soon as I have the tree in view finder, I noticed right away that I am actually taking a little more time studying the subject and its surroundings, OK. I am, in a sense, more aware of what I have to do to take this picture. If the object is too far, I have to move closer to it, which is both mental (am I too far, can I get closer?) and physical (I need to walk in order to get closer to or farther from it). Any distracting objects in the background? What's that sign? I need move to another side so the sign is hidden behind the tree.

This is very interesting, but I am only now putting my thoughts together after I sat down and think about this. I have a tendency to pick up my camera and snap away. From time to time, I will remember to frame the shot, think about composition, check the surroundings for distracting objects, but I really have to force myself to do that. If I can get into a habit, I think I'll benefit a great deal- study, frame, learn to see, don't rush, think about the rules , etc..

Let's see how I'll do, hopefully I won't get a "zoom lens withdraw", :)

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