Monthly Archives: July 2011

Going Digital

I’m old. I grew up with cameras that shot film. I learned how to develop and print my own B/W shots to save money. However, I still had to worry about how much film I had in my camera, or on my person whenever I was out taking photos.

Now, along with just about everybody except some true pros who still think film renders a better image, I am a member of the digital age. I was unhappy with the performance of my first couple of digital cameras. One of them bit the dust (make that humidity and corrosive environ) of my previous home. Consequently when I left I bought a new Nikon digital.

It was an OK unit, but it was slow at capturing an image, and I really missed the abilities I had in my old SLRs, things like aperture and shutter speed. I was using it to take pictures for this blog and in the final analysis,  I was not happy with the results.

So I splurged on a new camera.

In making my decision I had to consider weight and ease of use. I remember well my old Nikon SLR’s with a 50mm lens, a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens.  I also remembered having to carry a camera bag and being in a hurry to switch lenses when I needed to. I did not want to get into that again. Because I carry my HP mini with me, with the power unit, I already feel like a sherpa when I am on the move.

Then I was reading Wired magazine and I saw an ad for a new Nikon. I feel free to digress here, after all this IS MY blog. I have always believed in Nikon over the lesser brands. I think the Nikkor lens is superior to anything short of Hassleblad, which I cannot afford. I also know that a Nikon is much more rugged brand than say a Canon.

This new Nikon is called the P7000.

It is sexy as it is light and easy to use!

The ad listed the features and I was blown away. I googled the P7000 and the list of features in the review were even more impressive. It was compared to a new Sony that had most of these features, and one my camera does not have ( an adjustable viewing screen, very nice) but like I said, I am old, and Sony, as far as I am concerned, makes stereos. Then I read this independent review and user comments and I was sold.

http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P7000/P7000A.HTM

Now the search was on. I live in the UAE. Dubai has a worldwide reputation as a place to go shopping. All you have to do is visit a mall and see the hundreds of sunburned overweight Russians carrying multiple shopping bags full of things they cannot buy back  in the USSR, even under capitalism.  So I looked for a Nikon retailer. There are many of them, but only one carried this new fangled P7000. When I walked in and asked the Indian gentleman (Emiratis NEVER do retail) “Do you have a Nikon P7000”  he knew he had a sale. His was the only store in Dubai that had one, and I obviously wanted one. Because of all my travels lately I have become a true haggler. I tried to get his price down, but by the look in his eyes I could see him say “This aint Bombay Sahib.” All I managed to get was a free case, which it turns out I do not use now.

This camera has an instruction manual longer than the computer I am typing on, or for that matter my last automobile. I have spent hour upon hour trying out features in search of the perfect setting for that Ansel Adams moment.

All I have to do is pop open the manual to any page and I am astounded at what this camera will do. I flip the pages and just stop anywhere and I say to myself “really, I can do THAT?”

The camera goes from lens settings of 28mm to 200mm effortlessly and quickly. I can change any of the settings I used to play with on my old SLR’s as easy as using my Ipod. Or of course I can just set it on auto, and it does everything necessary for a good shot all by itself. But I like playing with the knobs and altering the outcome of my shots.

When I used film, I thought that if I was very careful composing the picture, I might get one good shot out of a roll of 36 exposures, or maybe one great  shot out of 100. Now, I am happy with three or four out of 1000. Yes, I have a big memory card in it, it handles over  10,000 images. I have never come close to running out of space, even when I take videos.

I am about to travel to a very exotic location, New Jersey, to attend a wedding. I am sure I will be the obnoxious person running around taking shots of people I do not know, in hopefully embarrassing situations.

Drink up kid, all the adults are!

 

After that I am on my way to my favorite location on the planet, Big Sur. One cannot take enough photos in Big Sur. I just might fill up that memory card.

I cannot wait to be here again if only for a week. It is, in my opinion, even after all the traveling I have done, simply the most beautiful place on the planet. Just wait until you see my photos!

Stay tuned for pictures of  over-served guests at the wedding, and waves crashing against granite cliffs.

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Abu Dhabi it’s HOT!

A three day holiday was declared in the UAE so people could celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Mary Ann and I decided it was our three day 4th of July holiday, albeit a few days early. Never look a gift holiday in the mouth I always say.

Three days obviously is not a long enough time to take an international trip, and with 3 or 4 of those planned to round out the year, we decided not fly anywhere.

We had never been to Abu Dhabi. It is the capitol of the UAE. AD is the largest Emirate of the 7. It is also the richest, by far.

Our transportation for this trip was a 2 hour bus ride. The cost of the ride was under US$10. We were travelling with the workers from Pakistan and India going to visit comrade workers or simply take a little break. The bus was full.

Have I mentioned that it was HOT? Not the bus, the air conditioner worked. The whole country was HOT.  Beyond the heat, a sandstorm started up and lasted all weekend. This was not the type of sandstorm you see in the Hollywood movies like Lawrence of Arabia. It reminded me more of when I experienced a white-out in the arctic, except it was HOT. Everything was grey/white. Visibility was less than a mile, and in case I forgot to tell you, it was HOT!

When we decided to go, Mary Ann did her usual expert travel agent work and found out that many of the hotels had big discounts at this time of year. Why? Because it is HOT.

We arrived, got off the bus and into an air-conditioned taxi and arrived at our hotel. This is the AD branch of world-wide chain which usually gets 4 stars or better. Our cab was not met at the door with helpful doorman to greet you and take the bags, Why? I guess it was too HOT.  After we carried our luckily light bags into the reception area, we took one look at the line at the counter, and said to each other “lunch.”

We ate lunch in a little café with a view of the line at the counter. I began to wonder if maybe it was really a sculpture of a line put there as a gag, because it was not moving.  The published check-in time is 2:30, it was 1:30 when we were done with lunch and the same people were still in line. We figured the hip thing to do was check our bags with the concierge, and hit the mall.

The mall, indeed the entire city lacks the glitz, the pizzazz, and the bling of Dubai. AD has much more oil, hence wealth, than Dubai, but the city does not display it. Neither did this mall. After the malls in Dubia, it was like walking into a mall in Beverly Hills, way below the Dubai level.  The architecture of the city is simply not as amazing as Dubai. It is very functional instead of fun. So was this mall. OK, it had the Rolex outlets, but the place just lacked the magic carpet effect the Dubai malls have. It was equally air conditioned, if not overly air conditioned so we window shopped for a couple of hours, then we walked back to the hotel. Yes, we walked, and yes it was still HOT.

We walked into lobby and the check-in line was only half as long. We went to the little café and ordered some draft beers. Yes, you can drink in the UAE. It is allowed in hotels and restaurants connected to hotels. Drinking is also allowed in airports. This is not some liberalization of the law. This is from the Quran. Travelers have always been exempt from the restriction on alcohol. Invariably you will find an Emirati gentleman in his dish-dash (white robe thingie) having a cold one in the next booth. I always want to take a picture and post it with my blog, but I lack the rudeness needed to do that. And he just may be a traveler also, so what?

OK, so it is now 4:30ish. I go stand in line and watch the slowest desk clerk this side of the invention of electricity try to check people in. Finally it all worked and we finally got into our room at 5:30 after first arriving at noon. Believe me, TripAdvisor heard about it!

We had already planned on visiting the Yas Island Circuit the next day. Yas Island is the island next to AD, which by the way is also an island. Yas Island is building up lately with fancy hotels and attractions. The Circuit is a Formula 1 track. I am not an F1 fan, but we TripAdvisor said the tour was really cool, even when it is HOT, so I called the concierge to have him book it for us. No good. I mean here we are in an expensive hotel and all the concierge can do is hold your luggage and get you a taxi.

So we went out to a “authentic” English pub in the hotel and had fish and chips and real “draught” beer.

This pub had about ten types of beer on draft and a bunch more in the bottle. Yeah for being a traveler!

You could even smoke at the table! I had noticed in the mall that people were smoking! This emirate is behind the curve on the no smoking zealotry. I have a feeling the ruler is a Marlboro man.

Next morning we took off for Yas Island. The circuit tour was awesome.

A three seater dragster! They would take you down their dragster track at full speed, and you would experience a g-force of 2. Sorry, I do not need to be twice my weight even for 1.2 seconds!

They had really hot Camaros you could rent to drive really fast. Mary Ann decided not to because she is a Mustang girl!

Starting line at the F1 Circuit. The surface is unique to the racing world, has great grip, and in the Abu Dhabi summer, it was HOT! You can see the sand storm effects, everything was white.

The only other thing we wanted to see was the grand mosque. This is the 3rd largest mosque in the world. I will never see the first (Mecca) or the second (Medina) for obvious reasons. It has the world’s largest carpet, which is gorgeous.

My wife in an Abaya. Most mosques you can visit only require that you cover. This one requires women to wear the Abaya.

This is the largest carpet in the world. You are looking at a small portion of it.

That was our HOT weekend. How HOT was it? It was like being in the Arabian Desert in the summer. Ahh, come to think of it…

FACTOID: 70% of the electricity generated in the UAE is used for AIR CONDITIONING!

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