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Entries in canon EOS 5d mark ii (37)


Bloody eclipse.. 

One minute I am on an international call. Next minute there is a lot of commotion outside the house...

Turns out a large gathering of people in our neighbors driveway decided to watch the eclipse. Given the vantage point was a few steps from our house, decided to capture it right there.

The moon's redness was almost gone by the time I got set up..

Then the clouds moved away and got a series of shots which ended just a few minutes ago..

do click image to see the larger version.. 

It was fun catching this on our neighbors driveway and chatting with folks at the same time!


Nevada - the rest of the trip - aka Casinos

We spent a day and a half in Casinos on the recent Vegas trip. Given we went with kids and one adult who downright refuses to enter places with Cigarette smoke (me), it was a tough call. 

So we played it safe and walked through the main streets within these Casino's.

First we went to the Venetian. San and me are visiting this place after 15 years. Our first observation was that the Gondola ride price went from 5 bucks to 20 which is not proportionate to the 2x every 10 years rule. The Casino's always win, even when it comes to Gondola rides. 

The interior was mind blowing for the kids. They have not seen anything like this in their lives. They were very very impressed. 

Then we went to Paris Paris and did a bunch of things. All those got overshadowed by bumping into (literally for me) actor Prabhu Deva. After that the conversation stayed with the actor for another hour or so!

Lunch was at the Rainforest Cafe in MGM! We had a reservation and we barely made it. The smoke filled air on the way to the restaurant within the Casino made me lose my appetite. Fortunately, I sat next to a blower of some kind which helped recirculate fresh air in the corner of the restaurant.

The food was simple and good! The ambience was great (except for the smell of smoke that would not go away). There were aquariums everywhere and the fish in the tank were gorgeous..

Later that afternoon we spent some time walking in the strip to get sunlight. Then there was the M&M store! It was great fun for the adults and kids! We need a store like this in the bay area. We have 4 regular potential customers lined up in our house already.. They let you make your own mix of M&M's, that too with rare colors. I was a kid again for an hour running around with the kids grabbing select colors. 

We had another 4 hours to spend before catching the Illusions Magic show! Took a tram to the Mandalay bay and saw the Shark Reef. Given that we have been to way too many zoos and aquariums where we go through a tunnel where sharks swim overhead, this one was not the best but they did have a few nice exhibits like the Piranah's and Giant sea turtles.. 

The first few exhibits were "meh".. there were crocs, lizzards, snakes and a Komodo dragon that looked like it needed CPR. We lowered our expecations and that helped for the remaining 30 minutes as we walked through the other exhibits.

Apparently it is not okay to put more than 40 of these toothy fishes in one tank. They were eating live goldfish when we were there.. This is the first time someone actually explained Piranahs to us. Apparently they are exaggerated in the movies.. they are not always that hungry!

The shark tank itself was nice. Not the largest we have seen but they had three large Sawfish and a giant turtle. (could not get pictures of them because they were in the far end of the tank and very shy)..

It was a challenge taking pictures in the dark and the 5D Mark ii still does a great job in low light!

They also had red and green florescent jelly fish and some gorgeous lionfish. 

Then there was the magic show, "The New Illusions"! Jan Rouven was amazing. The escape acts he did really make us sit on the edge of our seats and go "how the hell did he do that!" We did not realize that 90 minutes flew by. It was that entertaining. I wanted to get a picture with him after the show but the kids were hungry and we wanted to get back to the hotel for dinner. So we raced back to the parking lot. 

The next day we spent half a day at Circus Circus at the arcade area. The kids tried their hand at various games and mostly did not win anything. The adults played a game or two and won things for the kids. The circus acts in the center of the arcade were good and entertaining.. but again, the villain.. smoke! There was a gambling area right beneath the arcade. Wish they had put the arcade on a separate air system so the kids could be spared the smoke. . . 

Given the whole Casino trips were unplanned, we still had fun!

Had to come and do Yoga back to back to get the smoke out of my lungs and the smell out of my nostrils. Between Casinos and National Parks, the family now has a clear and unanimous choice!


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...


Living it up - Maharajah style

Previous post on our sighteeing marathon in Jaipur is here.. 

We had already visited 2 forts and it was close to noon when we decided to go visit the Amer (Amber) Fort / Palace.

This palace was something else compared to the previous two. The entrance and courtyards were the size of football fields!

What kind of place, has man hole covers with hand made art work?

Turkish baths with walls that have the equivalent of filigree work on marble?

A temple that is still acccessed only by the royal family to date? A Ganesha idol the size of a basketball made out of a single piece of Coral (no photography allowed.. costs a few million bucks and is in plain sight on the temple roof!) ? and the list goes on and on.. and yes, a separate palace quarters for the queens.. all few hundred of them!

Here are some pictures (mostly HDR)...

you just stand there and go "Wow!" 

Still learning how to adjust barrelling effect on the 17-44mm shots at 17mm. Will figure it out soon.

You go inside and it gets better..

The halls are cool and somehow in 110 F heat, you feel air conditioning thanks to the architecture!

Then there was the highlight, the "Sheesh Mahal" or Glass house. The walls and ceilings had a million glass pieces in them and they lit up the area. 

The grandeur of the whole place is something we have not seen anywhere before. Even the Taj kind of takes second place to this monstrosity. 

They constructed a floating garden to get special spices and herbs. Apparently they found out the hard way that it is difficult to grow Saffron in Jaipur. Given all the other advancements they had, it was an odd fact that the guide threw at us.

A close up of this garden..

We walked past turkish baths with elaborate hot water piping and decor walls to reach a roof garden.

You get great views of the city and the other forts from here as well.

Then there was the queens quarters!

Every queen had 2 bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. No attached baths apparently. That concept was not there in those days. They all had a common bathroom, which had a nice faucet system for sanitation. It was "interesting" engineering.

Given how the rest of the area was maintined, the queens quarters was definitely not taken care of. The area had an abandoned feel to it, but one can imagine what it would have looked like 400 years ago given their taste in art and marble. The government should restore this area of the palace. 

We finally came out of the palace and took more photographs of the palace from the road. 

and we were tired with a capital T! Our guide told us to check out a restaurant called Zeeman for Vegetarian food and we went there for a late lunch. 

The food was mouth watering. Naan that just melted in your mouth. Every dish was a delight. If you are vegetarian and you want to have a great meal after a long day of roaming around palaces the size of football fields, you cannot go wrong with this place!

We went back to our hotel rooms and came back to pink city to see a few more places and have dinner at Dasaprakash. It was good food but a let down, after that wonderful lunch at Zeeman!

We visited a few more places on the next day and a half. Those posts will have to wait. 


Sightseeing Marathon - The forts of Jaipur

The last post on Jaipur trip is linked here...
Day 3 of our trip was entirely spent close to Jaipur City. We saw so many sights and I took so many photographs for one day that this day's events have to be broken into two parts. 
We started early in the morning and went to see the Jal Mahal (Water palace). It was nice, given we were not allowed to go to it on the boat. We took a few "profile pictures" and moved on to go up the mountain range to see the first of three forts around Jaipur. 
Camels greeted us in the roadsides
The place had hundreds of dressed up camels that were used by the locals as transportation, be it pulling carts or as vehicles themselves. Cows: Banaras :: Camels : Jaipur, when it comes to animals mingling with traffic on roads.
The Jal Mahal was not picture perfect in the morning given the bland background and backlighting. So we planned to get back to it on another day or hope for better shots in the evening.
The views of the city were great as we moved up towards Jaigarh fort.
The fort had an impressive water tank that made it secure with respect to its water needs.  The entire thing had walls with slotted windows where marksmen would line up to shoot intruders, or so we were told by our guide.
The fort also is home to the worlds largest cannon!
Four elephants were requried to manouver the cannon and given that only one test shot was fired and that was enough to scare everyone away, this might have been a precursor to atomic bomb testing when it came to the logic of "lets just show everyone how scary this is and no one will dare attack us".. a logic that goes bad pretty quickly as someone else comes up with a different weapon in a few hundred years!
The walls of this fort run through the perimeter of the hills. Very impressive given it was built almost 400 years ago for a place that did not have any threats at the time it was built.
We wandered around the fort walls and turrets and got to see the valley views.
Right now the fort is home to a few tens of thousands of pidgeons! They were everywhere.
The views from the walls was just amazing!

After seeing this fort we went to see another fort, the Nahargarh fort. Nahar apparently means Tiger, but that had nothing to do with the naming as there was some backstory to this fort. It was pitched to us as a fort which was to keep the queens secure in times of war. 
This one had really impressive views of the entire Jaipur City as well as the valley below. The queens had it made, as long as their king was alive. If he died, they were either burnt alive with his body or had to go queen with the new king. Not so great, as far as options went. It was not like they could get a pension and live their life. 
The entrance was impressive once we got to the top of the mountain. 
The bikes provided a much needed time warp for this picture!
You walk into a courtyard and there are rooms for the queens on either side. There were way too many queens for one king and the kids were like "What the hell? I want to see who this idiot was who thought he could manage that many women!" 
We got to walk through three floors of the palace all the way to the rooftop to get a view of the City! Guess that if you are a king and you can do whatever you want with taxpayer $ or Rupees or whatever the hell currency he had, you get to build things like this! 
Every square inch of the surface was a work of art! This forting business must have been good for the local economy, employment etc. Maybe that was one reason for building these things, much like how we build unncessary Tanks and Military equipment that no one is asking for in places where there are no other jobs.
After catching a view of Jaipur city from every side, we started driving down to the Amer (Amber) Palace or Fort. They mixed it up w.r.t. calling it Amer or Amber and Fort or Palace. Guess it was both.  By the time we reached level ground, we were hungry. Our tour guide suggested we eat first and then see the Amer palace, but we wanted to finish off everything one shot. 
What we saw at the Amer fort was nothing short of spectacular. That will be part 2 of this post..
I really wanted to finish the Jaipur travelog before August and the Golu season, but there are still a few hundred photos to edit. The international travel disrupts posting. Will have to figure out a way to get VPN going so I can edit posts from hotel rooms in Asia. 
Another day, another post. On the plus side, it is good to be back in the US with the wife and kids again!