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Entries in Canon EF 24-105m IS L (9)


Even a rainbow might feel under dressed

This weekend we celebrated Holi in Union city with friends. Many years ago, we made this a local event in a park in Cupertino.. but that was just the 15-18 of our close gathering.. last three years we decided to join a much bigger crowd of a few thousand people and it is a lot more fun!

As usual I get to take pictures of the group and send to everyone. I love editing photos of the happy faces after coming home as much as jumping up and down with colors everywhere! 

and then there are the kids.. just amazing.. innocent.. putting colors on themselves and everyone.

I had put some of this on FB already, but given my FB acts up and no one knows what will happen over time, posting some of that in the blog as well. 

One thing that is amazing is that playing Holi with strangers or friends and family works the same. San and jr. went into the crowd to meet our friends. As I walked into the crowd with a heavy camera bag on one shoulder and a camera on my hand ( I had to protect the lens from being powdered!!) a kid came running out of nowhere and hit hit head on my lens.. By the time I checked to make sure he was fine, he ran into the crowd. Now I was lost.. trying to stand on tippy toes to see if there was any chance of locating the tallest person in our group.. while doing that a group of strangers asked me if they could put color on me. I said yes and they promptly colored me! Then they shared their colors with me to put it back on them. 

At this point I would not have recognized myself anyway and when I finally found our group, they were all giving me the look that said "so, you have already been playing Holi with someone else all this time!" . 

Also the group is totally international and inter racial. Probably there were people from every country in the world there.. not to mention pet dogs. Even the dogs were colored and they seemed to be enjoying it! 

Some pictures from the celebration..

A picture of the kids taking a selfie.. it is my favorite shot of the entire album.. I would like to see that actual picture. They never smiled like that when posing for me.. but their smiles on the selfie must be priceless!! 

Also made a composite of all the recent Holi celebrations.. Missed the little one the last few years. She always ends up with a conflict of sorts on these days. Next year I have begged her to come celebrate with us...

Finally, a video with snippets that were recorded partly with iPhone and partly with the 5D Mark ii... that shows how grand this was!

The bay area is truly an amazing place.. We get to celebrate everything in style! 

Happy Holi to everyone! May your life be colorful and bright !!


A Zoo unlike any other 

The previous post in this series of the Belize trip is here..
When we were waiting in line for the Ziplining on day 3, I overheard another family talk excitedly about the Belize Zoo. They had come to the cavetubing / ziplining place from a cruise ship and were complaining about how they didn't get a chance to pet a Jaguar.
Had I heard it right? Did that kid actually say "pet a jaguar?" . On our way back I asked our guide and he said "yes, we have a Belize zoo. In fact we will be crossing it on our way back to the resort. This is not your typical zoo. It has only Belize animals in it which were mostly rescued or abandoned by the parents. I also believe for an extra fee you can pet a Jaguar but you have to book it ahead of time. You can ask the guide who takes folks to the zoo when we get back"
The first thing we did after going back to the resort was to find out if we could squeeze in the Zoo, the next afternoon. Altun Ha was a half day affair so we could technically do both the Zoo and Altun Ha in one day if we left early. Lucky for us, the only other family there with kids who happened to also be from California heard this and said "count us also in" . There was still some juggling to do for the resort manager. 
A couple from Rhode Island who were with us for the Altun Ha visit had to be dropped back before we left for the Zoo. As luck would have it, they also changed their plans and said "we would like to go to the Zoo as well with this group!". So we had a 10 people group going one shot and that meant more time at the Zoo.
The resort packed us lunches as well. We went straight from Altun Ha to the Zoo on day 4. 
On the way we saw prisoners to the Hattieville prison being transported in open lorries. Belize was weird. They call the prison the Ramada Inn. The prison had a gift shop! 
The Zoo had a simple entrance. 
The place was started quite accidentally by this lady who suddenly ended up having to take care of 20 animals! We met the lady and she was walking slowly through the zoo. Her story is truly inspiring! 
The thing that caught my eye near the Zoo entrance was this mural..
We paid the 50$ extra to meet the Jaguar and were told that there is a time window for it. Our guide went with us to the Zoo and he knew the place very well. He knew what we wanted. See every animal in the zoo within the 3 hour window. We also had to wait for the Jaguar encounter. He said "No problem". He also gave us details about the animals that was not there in the exhibit notice and that was interesting.
The highlight of course was the Jaugar. 
Indians : Cows :: Belizians : Jaguars
If there is a term "holy cow!", there is a "holier Jaguar!". They revere this cat! It is a god there. 
This one was a cub raised in the zoo. It was abandoned by its mother. The villagers caught a Jaguar hunting their dogs and brought it to the Zoo and they did not know she was pregnant. The cub was raised in the zoo and kids could hold it, but that was 11 years ago. Now the cub is a fully grown Jaguar and the term "petting" is not fair.. or so we learned. What happens now is that you go into a cage within the Jaguar enclosure and while the rest of the zoo visitors watch, the Jaguar jumps on top of the cage after doing somersaults and you get to touch its feet and tail. 
You also get your forehead licked by the Jaguar through the gap in the cages, should you choose to do it and can also feed it Chicken pieces. Jr and me did get our foreheads licked by the Jaguar. It was like a sandpaper scratch! Did not expect a cat's toungue to be so rough.
When the Jaguar was called back, we got up and I promptly hit my head on the cage. It is still recovering.. 
The video of the Zoo below starts with the Jaguar enounter..
This Zoo also had a baby Tapir which was incredibly cute..
and a few other Tapirs. It is interesting to see that Tapirs are found in Malaysia and Belize.. they look different.. kind of like the Indian vs. African elephants. 
There was a sad story behind every animal. This one's mom was shot.
They had Toucans, which is a bird local to Belize. They were beautiful.
The other thing that was unique to the zoo was an albino Coatimundi.. which was very rare. Coatimundi's are a very local animal.. 
There were many other unique local Belizian animals and birds (vulture, Jabiru stork etc.) and a lot of them were too far away or were sleeping in the afternoon. 
These were not my best animal photographs given they were taking with a zoom on an iPhone X and edited in Photoshop (which did not work at all) or were taking with the 24-105 lens on the Canon at 105mm. Those actually turned out much better! 
Next time, I will haul my 70-200mm and the extender on long trips. My family said "what is the point of having a 2000$ lens and leaving it at home?!".  
The rest of the pictures are in the picture galleries..
We had an amazing time at the Belize zoo and would strongly recommend it as one of the "not to miss" activities in Belize. Go and get the Jaguar encounter booked ahead. They allow a max of  4 people at a time into that enclosure and the wait can be long, but it is worth it!

Holi hai!

This year we knew that if we did celebrate, we would go to Foster city for a repeat of last years celebration. This event is very well organized with a nice DJ, great music and a lively crowd. We were not sure if the weather would co-operate. Even though it was raining in Cupertino when we left, it was nice and pleasant in Foster City. 

A sea of people celbrating and dancing together to music.. 

and the colors! 

did I say "sea of people" ?

although I pulled off this shot, the idea to make her lie down on the floor full of color was not mine. It was her friend Anika's. Any good photographer should always copy compositional ideas.. with pride! 

I have one child that co-operates for photos and another one that does not even show up to the celebration because she is going through a "photo-aversion" phase of life! It was heart breaking for me to miss the little one this Holi. Will wait for her to turn around.. 

My 5D Mark ii saw its toughest time today in the park, with fine color powder flying everywhere.. some kid threw powder directly into my lens. Still managed a lot of good pictures for the day (some of which will be shared in the events FB page). Spent a good 30 minutes cleaning the camera after coming home. It was a good thing that the 70-200 never even came out of the bag. Took everything with the 24-105mm.

The iPhone never came out, but wanted to try the portrait mode and got this shot in the parking lot.

Not happy with the way it defined the edge to cut portrait. Had a shot with the 5D that Jr. took just before we exit the park..

Used refine edge (to be fair spent 20 minutes on this image) but the end result is way better than the iPhoneX. Apple has to improve on the Refine edge algorithm to get smooth edges for shirts and sharp edges for hair sticking out..

There is no family portrait this year, but there is always next year...

Wishing everyone a happy Holi! May your life be filled with joy and color!


Red Rock Canyon - Nevada

On our recent trip to Las Vegas area, we visited Red Rock Canyon on two separate days. The first time we just drove through the 13 miles of scenic loop to stop at various parking lots and take pictures. We entered the park at 3:30 and had 90 minutes to leave the park. The sun was also setting there quite early. 

The second time we went there at 9 AM and did two hikes with mixed results.

Lightroom is installed and functional now on my Macmini but have not figured out quick ways to do HDR there. Continuing to process HDR photos with Photoshop CS5 (see below). Take 3 bracketed shots with one overexposed and one underexposed shot, then merge all three to pick up details in bright and dark areas of the regular photo from the other two. Takes around 4-5 minutes to process the final photo. 

but you get to see the detail in the clouds, the hills and the ground, the way your eyes see it!

You believe in a higher being when you see creation of this scale. Have said it before and will say it again. National parks are the real temples! Anyone can go there and get a glimpse of how miniscule we are in the scheme of things.

Here are a few pictures from the Calico trail. We got lost in this trail because there are no markers and it says "be prepared to get lost unless you have a good sense of direction". So we spent an hour and a half here wandering in the canyons in a zig zag motion. Our landmark was this small pool of water and we kept coming back to it! 

BB suggested the "high road" where we can always see the rock near the parking lot.. but we decided to take the "adventure route" and ended up where we started! We did get to see some awesome rock formations on the zig zag path.

Some photos are linked to a previous post here..

This is what you see when you are in the canyons.. Red Rocks everywhere. Occasionally you see a person with a blue jacket popping up between those crevices.. Otherwise you are easily lost!

Finally we went on the Lost creek Trail. The temperature was below freezing in that trail and again there were not that many markers, but we had another group ahead of us who knew the path. We followed them and were not disappointed. The trail ends in a closed canyon where water falls from the top. It was more of a trickle than a fall. A tree that had chosen that spot to grow (given it was the only place the water fell) had become frozen with icicles.. the falling water forms icicles everywhere. 

The ground was glistening with perfect ice nodules that looked like diamonds. The path to the falls was slippery as the ground had a sheet of hidden ice below it.

We spent a good 30 minutes there taking pictures and made our way back to the hotel for lunch.

It was a good morning spent hiking. If you are in the Vegas area and want to spend a good half day or day hiking through some amazing scenery, strongly recommend the Red Rock Scenic loop. It is one hour away from Vegas and it offers a perfect contrast to the smoke filled casinos!

Talk of getting your lungs back to normal again!

Something tells me that we might visit this place again in a few years...


More Tulips

More shots from our one hour visit to Roosengarde near Seattle.

We drove an hour, spent less than an hour there and drove back an hour on a drizzly day, but the flowers were spectacular and made it worth the drive and back.

Note to self: Next year we should go before the farm is topped off!

It was fun photographing Tulips when the air is so clear and the colors come out so vivid that you don't have much to do in photoshop!