Monday, November 5, 2007

Studying Japanese in Tokyo (again!)

I know it has been a long time since I posted. :-( The 6 months in Hawaii were fantastic and I got quite used to walking to the beach every morning for a swim in the ocean and then sitting under the palm trees with a cold diet coke and watching all the people on the beach. I enjoyed it so much I may go there again next year!

I have been in Tokyo since 10/1 and I am, again, studying Japanese full-time at a school here. I'm here for 3 months this time and then in December expect to head down to Thailand for a month. School is tough, but going well and I have met some good friends from various countries at school. On Saturday 11/3 six of went on a daytrip to Nikko and that was a lot of fun! I went there on my own in 1988, with school friends in 1992, and with school friends in 2004.

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Aren't these bodyboarders awesome? They make it look so easy, but I tried it a few days ago and it isn't! I'll try again and be happy to just catch a wave for a short ride. :-)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Living on Hawaii Time

I arrived in Hawaii a couple of months ago and expect to be here until about October. I'm renting a condo in Waikiki and just hanging out, going to the beach everyday, swimming, snorkeling, boogie boarding, and meeting cool people. It seems like it is just fine to take things slow here and be in no hurry. Me too! :-) I'm thinking about taking a Thai language course this summer and may also try to take some other classes too. I should decide today and get registered. Yeah, skip the pool and jacuzzi this morning and go register, that's what I should do. :-)

This is a photo of a beautiful Hawaiian beach babe at Sandy Beach. :-) Boy, you go to the beach the Hawaiians are just amazing! They get out in the pounding surf to body surf and boogie board when most people would just stay on the beach. It is clear they have been doing this since they were just little children.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Antelope Slot Canyon

I'm in Page, Arizona now and yesterday I hired a Navajo guide to go out to the Upper Antelope Slot Canyon on Navajo land a few miles outside of Page. Spectacular! The guide was a wonderful fellow and very friendly. He took his time and allowed me time to set up my tripod and prepare my shots before moving on. I think if I was there alone I might even feel something somewhat spiritual since it is that sort of place, but as it was I was too busy trying to get my tripod set up, getting the shot framed, focusing, exposing, checking the rear LCD and histogram, etc.. :-) Here are a couple of shots from yesterday.

Later in the day I drove a few miles out of Page to the Horseshoe Bend. It is only about 3-4 miles outside Page and I easily found the turnoff. There was a gravel parking lot and then a short hike of 3/4 mile uphill and then downhill to the cliff overlook. I was surrounded by a red rock landscape of strange rock formations and red sand and then the sheer dropoff to the river below. For this photo I was standing right at the edge looking down to the river far below. The wind was very strong on the mesa and it took a bit of guts to get right up to the edge. :-) Here is a photo.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas

I've been here in Las Vegas for over 2 weeks so it is time to move on, I think. Tomorrow I will head to Utah. I want to visit Zion National Park again and maybe get to Bryce Canyon National Park too. After that I'll probably head down to the Grand Canyon. It all depends on the weather though. At high elevations in the winter you just never know.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Las Vegas

I'm sorry to go so long without any updates. For the last few weeks I have been on a road trip through West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. I'm in Las Vegas now and have been here for about 2 weeks. I might head somewhere else next week though. I have had pretty good vibes from the place because I have still not encountered a single rude person. Everyone has been very friendly. I find it amazing that not a single store clerk, hotel employee, waitress, etc. has had the attitude problem that so many tend to have these days.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dead Chickens

Do you like to look at dead animals? Dead chickens for instance? They make good eating. Hmmm! :-) In many countries you will find chickens, pigs, goats, and many other animals in the markets. These dead chickens are in a market in Chiang-Mai, Thailand early in the morning. The markets in most countries are a wonderful place for taking photos. They are often crowded, full of many strange sights and sounds, and you can wander around the large ones for hours.

It is often best to get there early in the morning when most of the activity is going on. Usually a wide to normal focal length lens is most useful and since you normally don't want to use flash you will usually need to use ISO 400 or higher and sometimes a fairly fast lens, at least f4, but f2.8 or faster is often better.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Image Stabilization

On this cold Austin day with a bit of ice and forecasts of more I am mostly staying inside today.

Here are a couple of photos that illustrate the advantages of having image stabilization. The first one is the Marktplatz in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany and I was able to do it handheld at only 1/3 second! I was wondering around the beautiful little medieval town for several hours in the evening after dinner and this photo was made about 11:00 PM. The second one is the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, Morocco and I used 1/8 second. Those speeds are just too slow for handholding unless you have image stabilization. When I travel image stabilization is a great benefit! I highly recommend it as a very worthwhile feature for just about anyone.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Paris in Black & White

It's a beautiful, sunny, fairly warm day so I *must* get outside! I went downtown yesterday and walked around for a couple of hours with my camera. Only took one photo though. :-) This morning I got up and heard that the downtown area was closed off because over night about 60 dead birds had been found. They are still investigating the cause.

This is a photo I made a few years ago in Paris when I was still using film. As you can probably tell, I used a very wide angle lens (20mm lens on a 35mm SLR) and got very close to the sculpture in order to get as much perspective distortion as I could. Looking through my viewfinder I tried several different angles and locations to stand until I found the one I liked the best, this one. I wanted to make sure I got the Eiffel Tower in the background since that is iconic for Paris. Without it in the frame it would not be clear where this photo was taken and I wanted it to say Paris. With it, there is no doubt. I carefully chose the point I focused on and then selected a very small aperture so that I could be sure both the sculpture in the foreground and the Eiffel Tower in the background would be in focus. I then waited several minutes until a boat came by in just the right position with none of its edges overlapping any other edges in the photo. Snap!

Friday, January 5, 2007

After Trip Letdown

I am now in that period after a big trip where I feel a big letdown. The trip was so interesting and, often, exciting, but now I am back to a more normal life -- and it is boring! :-) For awhile I expect to hang around here, but I have to tell you that I am sure feeling restless!

Doesn't she have a friendly face? She is a hilltribe woman in northern Thailand. Although we didn't speak the same language we kidded each other and smiled and bargained while I bought a handmade bag from her. Afterwards I pointed to my camera and indicated that I would like to take her photo. I took a couple and this is one.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Ghost Elephants

Are these elephants real, ghosts, are in a dream? This is a photo I made several years ago in the Serengeti in Tanzania. Africa is a primal place where our imaginations can truly wander afar. At least it is for me. In Sub-Saharan Africa I have travelled in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. And I long to go again.

Everytime I want to travel I face the dilemma of where to go. Of course, I want to go somewhere new, but previous favorite destinations also always call to me. And, of course, there are times when I want to meet some of my old friends in Japan so I regularly go back there. Japan always calls to me. :-)

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Hanoi Hoan Kiem Lake

A few years ago I travelled for almost a month in Vietnam going to Saigon, the Mekong Delta, Chau Doc, Cu Chi Caves, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, Haiphong, Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island, and trekking for several days in the northern hilltribe area. Vietnam was a fascinating country with few, at that time, tourists and I want to go again! Sure, there was some communist propaganda aimed at visitors, but you often had to go out of your way to be exposed to it.

Here's a photo of Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi with a pagoda on a small island. I recall that it was a foggy morning when I was walking along the lake shore. The quiet of early morning, the mirrored surface of the lake, and the reflection of the beautiful tree just captivated me.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope 2007 will be a very happy, prosperous year for all of you!


By the way, I have a trip report for my trek in West Papua New Guinea (also known as Irian Jaya) on my website. West Papua New Guinea is one of the most primitive places left on earth and it was like time travel trekking there among the highlands people and staying in their villages each night. The trek was 2 weeks long and very difficult, but an experience I will never forget. It was the most amazing, spectacular adventure I have ever been on! I was there for almost a month and still have warm memories of some of the Lani people I met like Gupy and Amius. Click on the Trip Reports button:

Here's a photo of me with some Lani people. Penis gourds are all the rage there! :-)