Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One Month China Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2

Well as you all know, my first trip to Beijing was to apply for a business visa. And am pretty sure you already know that my next visit was to get it. Unfortunately, my visa was still not ready so I ended up staying in Beijing for a couple of days. Am sad but happy at the same time. Sad because my entire team is already on their way to our client but happy in a way that I got a few more extra days to tour around Beijing with accommodation and allowances! hahaha...

My first visit was easy because am with my Chinese team mate. The second one was a Charade trip. Language barrier is really a problem although I found out that most university students could speak English. Well not most maybe, but there are a few.

At first I thought am gonna get lost, but I didn't. Taking the subway was actually pretty easy. There are many signs for directions and they also have an English version for the Train Stations Maps. :D

I wasn't able to get to The Great Wall at first because I have no time. So I decided to check it out. There are many ways to go there. By bus and by train. A friend of my officemate told me to take the train since it's faster and not that expensive. During that time, I think we bought the ticket around 12 and 15 Yuan for bus and train respectively. This is a must see in Beijing. One of the best that I've seen. There are also other sections you can visit.

Cloudy but still a beauty

Badaling's Famous View

A rest after reaching the TOP!

Photo Op on the way Down

A note for those who want to go to Badaling section and plans to finish the entire stretch, go there early morning as it took us almost 5 hours to finish it. Well including picture session which is actually the reason why we took that long.. hahahah.. That means you'll be back at the center around 3 or 4pm depending how long it took you. Then you can still take a look at Bird's Nest and Summer Palace. Most tour usually go to Badaling, Summer Palace and Wangfujing on the same day..

On the next day, it was a Sunday so I decided to find a Catholic church and attend a mass. I saw one on the net and it's beside Wangfujing Area, also known as Beijing's Shopping District. Too bad I arrived late. The church was already closed and that English masses were held at 6 in the morning.

Wangfujing is easily accessible that's why its considered as the heart of the city.

View from Beijing Hotel Side(not sure hahaha)

View on the other side (near the church)
Finally, I was able to get my visa and a start of another adventure.. :D
Till next.. :D

One Month China Part 2

Part 1

My one month in China was really a blast. Dalian was already a beautiful city to start exploring the country. But thanks to my work, I was given a few chances to see Beijing.

I was really excited when I heard the news from my boss that I'll be spending 2 days in Beijing to process my visa. The first thing that came to my mind was the Great Wall and of course the well known Forbidden City.

I was really impress with Beijing. I never thought it to be so modern although you can still see some old Chinese from here and there. The very first thing I really really like in Beijing was their Subway system. Most of the tourist spots can be reached through it. The next one, it's cheap! As of this moment, you can travel from one side to the other for just 2 Yuan, roughly around 13.5 Philippine Pesos or  a third of the US dollar.

After doing some work related stuffs, we went directly to Tienanmen Square which was too crowded because it was a holiday in China during that time. And believe me, don't bother visiting China during holidays.    Tienanmen is a famous landmark linked to Mao Zedong and the cultural revolution. It's also the world's largest public square.

One of the reasons why we decided to go to Tienanmen Square first was because it's actually located at the one end, to the south specifically, of the Forbidden city. But too bad, we still don't have enough time so we just have some fun taking some portrait snapshots with the entrance at the background.

Marvelous Architecture, I bet a lot better inside!!!
Another reason is that I already know that going to Bird's Nest during sunset/night would be better. And besides the Forbidden city also closes early and that the Olympic Village is open at night. Check the pictures and see for yourself why you should visit it the same time we did. :D

Woah! This is too long already, I guess I'll just post my next visit to Beijing on my next blog..
Sorry for showing my photos but I use this blog to show it too my family too.. hahahah.. PEACE!

Friday, December 10, 2010

One Month China Part 1

Some of the few photos I've taken during my 1-month stay in China. My camera is one of the few ways to lessen homesick and boredom.

I really enjoy telling stories but this time I'll just show the photos.. Part 1 is all about Dalian, China...

Xinghai Park - Asia's largest Park

Xinghai Park - Offices

Xinghai Residences

When I go back I'll take some winter versions of these photos.. :) That would be FUN! Next one is Dalian Forest Zoo, which is another great place to visit..

Dalian Forest Zoo


Lot's of things to see and there's a playground for kids too..


From Animals

To Botanical Gardens

with souvenir shops..

Wishing Ponds.. (coz' it's not a well.. ? hmmm)

And my favorite part is where you can feed wild animals with live chickens.. You can see them break it.. I actually got scared when a pack of Hyenas are running towards my direction.. Freaky but a good experience..

But don't worry, you're safe with these walls.. and you can see them clearly!

And before you go home... you get to relax in their bird's sanctuary with a great view of this artificial waterfalls..

And finally, time to say goodbye.. The Exit (or could be your entrance and the other one as the exit) :D

Check my Part 2 in my next post which is all about Beijing! :D

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Everyday Camera

I really like the quote

"The best camera is the one with you".

But after a few years of using a digital SLR, I find them too bulky for everyday use. I started looking for a compact camera which could give me a decent image quality with some options of manual adjustments. There are tons of cameras to choose from, but only a few got my attention. So right now am choosing from the following cameras:

1. Panasonic LX5
2. Canon S95
3. Canon G12
4. Samsung EX1

These are very good cameras, good enough for most situations. Choosing the best one depends on your priorities, that is portability, focal length, opening, video and price.. I do think image quality on these cameras are the same unless you pixel peep which I bet most of us don't that's why I didn't put it on the list of priorities.

Am leaning towards LX5 because of its great video features which might be useful. I would have gone over S95 for its portability but the lack of hot shoe is a big deal for me plus the wide lens. I do like to do some landscapes and studio or controlled lighting from time to time..

One thing  I don't like about Lumix cameras is their out of camera(OOC) pictures. I like Canon's color over the Lumix that's why the G12 is still on my list. And I do love those external controls if not only for the 24mm F2 lens of the LX5.

Right on time, my friend just recently published his review of the highly anticipated Panasonic LX5. He was a previous owner of the older model, LX3, which was one of the best point and shoot before.. I think even now.. :)

You can read his entire review here

But the prices of these cameras are too steep right now.. Hopefully I get to have one of these soon! If not I'll settle down with the TZ series which might cost below US$200.. ;D

Maybe I should have bought that US$77 Canon A495 on sale.. hahaha

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Glimpse Of The Chinese Culture

Although I accepted a job in Dalian, my stay there was for a brief period of time only. I stayed there for a couple of weeks and I started to like it. Then I had to move again for a project which for sure is gonna be a new adventure.
Next Destination

A couple of weeks in Dalian was enough for me to see that China have so much to offer. Being in a different culture is indeed interesting and fun at the same time specially when you're staying in a place where spoon and fork is not common and that you don't know how to use chopsticks. Hahaha.. I occasionally spill food during my lunch time specially when I tried to eat noodles.. :))

Language barrier was the hardest thing to overcome.. I do CHARADES, a word guessing game, most of the times. But for those who always play this game, imagine someone who doesn't know English, no sounds like and syllables.. hahahah.. Thanks to Google translate, it made life easier.. to some point that is.. :D

Google Translate FTW!

Medicine Translation

Of course, you need to learn a few Chinese words. I already know "Thank You" - "Xie Xie" so the first thing I learned was "Timpudong" which means "I don't understand what you're saying". The very next word was "Sháozi" which means spoon. The waitresses at the hotel couldn't understand me when I tried to ask for spoon. I even tried to do charades  to no avail. :(

Basically, you can't go on living there without knowing numbers unless you bring a paper and pen with you most of the times. I didn't include zero, Líng, because they don't use it often. Here it goes.. 1 - 10.

1 - Yī 
2 - èr 
3 - sān 
4 - sì 
5 - wǔ 
6 - liù 
7 - qī 
8 - bā 
9 - jiǔ 
10 - shí

The worst part of learning Chinese is their tones, they have four. 

Chinese Four Tones

A single word could have different  meanings depending on how you pronounced it. Once, when I went to a bar, I said something to a girl. I wanted to say YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL but I ended up saying BEAUTIFUL COW. Good thing she knows that I'm just  trying and it turned as a joke.. Hahahah!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dalian - A Century Old City in North East China

I have always wanted to see the world, even just a part of it. So when an opportunity for me to work in China suddenly showed up, I just grabbed it. Well it was not that fast since I have to weigh things out because the offer was not that great. Hahaha..

I was hired in Dalian, a city I've never heard neither read. I have read a few about it in the net but not as much as Beijing or Shanghai.

Dalian.. A Century Old City, North East of China

Knowing only a few things about the city, expectations are down. I even lowered it more when I arrived in Hongkong, wherein the gate going to Dalian was like a ghost town. You could count the number of people waiting there.

Hongkong Airport - Gate 508 to Dalian

When I arrived in Dalian, it was already half past nine in the evening so I couldn't see anything through the plane's window except for the road lights, the Highway itself. The streets were  almost empty on the way to the hotel. I could only see few people probably waiting for the bus on their way home. Only one thing was clear, this is a very small boring city. Add to that my lonely hotel, homesick is kicking already.. hahah

XinBanDao Hotel - The Room

Easiest way out of boredom.. Self Portrait!

But as days go by, things are changing. Am starting to like the city specially their transportation. I really like their bus and tram system. It's convenient and very cheap. For just one Yuan you can travel the whole stretch of Dalian from North to South. Some of my office mates said that the tram is very crowded, but for me it's normal specially when you're accustomed to our MRT crowd.

My first photo with the Tram at the background

My first weekend was a blast. I get to stay at a very good apartment, a welcome party, a taste of Dalian bars and a good stroll at the Asia's largest Park.

It was thanks to these guys.. although Briggs, the main man is not in the picture.. heheh

Friday, October 29, 2010

What Your Choice of Camera Says About You

This was shared from our group, Pinoy Pentaxian, and it's one crazy read. Funny specially reading the comments!

Here's the link to the blog post.

Enjoy reading it. :D

Monday, October 25, 2010

Coastal Photography III - Lessons Learned

Wow.. that took months before I could post this one here..
You can see part I and part II here.

Our Zambales Coves adventure was awesome. It was not only relaxing and fun but I also learned a lot in just a few days. No, am not just talking about photography but traveling as well.

1. Pack Light. Don't bring so much as it will be a burden to you during your travel specially if you're going to a place where walking is the only option. Best practice to avoid this is to create a list, both for the important and not so important ones.

2. Light Sturdy Tripod. If you're into landscape, then better buy the best one as you will regret it along the way. Add this up with the weight you have in number 1 and things will be a mess. My tripod weighs 2.2kg and I was wishing during the entire trip for a lighter one. The number may look small but when your walking for hours it feels like it's 10kg!

3. Time. As in other aspect of photography, time is essential. Most shots in coastal photography are taken during sunrises and sunsets because these are the times you see those intense red and orange colors. This does not mean though that you should not shoot during those golden hours. You can check the difference in the following pictures..

Before Sunset

After Sunset

4. Filters. One reason why people don't do coastal/seascapes during golden hours is because they can't use longer exposures to make the water look smooth. At this point, Neutral Density(ND) FILTERS are used to have longer exposures. Another very useful filter is the Graduated Neutral Density Filter(GND). For me, this one is more important in seascapes compared to ND because of the uneven lighting with the scene just like when the sky is too bright but the water is too dark.

Cokin Filter

Hitech Filter

In the pictures above, photo taken by the Cokin filter shows strong magenta cast while the photo taken with Hitech .9 GND SL filter . When buying filters, get the best one you can get. :D

5. Settings : The only way to make the sea/water smooth and calm was to use a longer exposure. I usually use manual because my camera always underexpose these kinds of situations. For starters, use the lowest ISO (100/200)) and a small Apertures (F8 - F16). As for the shutter speed, I usually go around 30secs or more. Better use RAW so that there's more room for editing.

People might ask which to filter to get first. I guess if you do a lot of seascapes, you better get the GND first. Just shoot at the right time and at the right place. I was able to get those decent shots using only a GND. Now if you want to get longer exposures during golden hours, get the 9-stop ND filter.

I found Coastal Photography easy, well the settings maybe. For me COMPOSITION with CREATIVITY is still the most important thing. Although the hardest part of the trip was to find the best spot where we can shoot. Back then we didn't look for one until it was time to shoot. We realized we needed to move since our first spot was not that good. We did find one but I think there's a better one. Maybe scouting during daytime is a good idea but you have to know where the sun sets. :D

So far, this is all I can remember about the trip. If things come up, I'll just update this one.

Hope this one will help those who wants to try Coastal/Seascape Photography.