Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31 Photo of the Day: Thailand

Reclining Buddha – Wat Pho, Bangkok © 2014 Peter Marble
December 8, 2004 – day 5 in Thailand and our first full day in Bangkok (after +24 hours in transit from Toronto and a few days of R&R in Phuket).

The Reclining Buddha, constructed of plaster over brick and covered in gold leaf, represents the passing of the Buddha into Nirvana after death. What we found most remarkable about the statue is its size – 46m long and 15m high. Unfortunately the building in which it is housed isn't much larger than the Reclining Buddha itself, so it is difficult to get a good overall view of this statue.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 30 Photo of the Day: California

Cholla Cactus Garden © 2014 Peter Marble

October 24, 2006 – Joshua Tree National Park, California

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 29 Photo of the Day: Manhattan

Empire State Building © 2014 Peter Marble

April 7, 2011 – The first day of our most recent visit to Manhattan.

Viewed from Rockefeller Center's Top of the Rock, here's a classic shot of the ESB.
I New York City!

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 28 Photo of the Day: South Africa

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa © 2014 Peter Marble

February 9, 2012 – day 18 in Africa and the first full day in Cape Town.

One of our first stops was Bo-Kaap, located at the base of Signal Hill. Many inhabitants of the area are descended from slaves, known as Cape Malays brought to the Cape by the Dutch from Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere. Why the buildings are so colorful is unknown, however some suggest that it is a reflection of the bright personalities of the residents.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27 Photo of the Day: Utah

Bryce Canyon Utah © 2014 Peter Marble

September 20, 2004 – day 3 of our nine-day canyon tour in Utah and Arizona.

It was a lovely morning when we arrived in Bryce Canyon National Park after a short drive from Tropic, Utah where we had spent the night. There weren't many other visitors, as is typical for this park, so we had a peaceful morning wandering among the spectacular hoodos and the park's red rock rich in iron oxide minerals.

The person, barely visible in the bottom-left of the photo, and the butte in the distance provide a sense of the size (35,835 acres) of this gorgeous park.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 26 Photo of the Day: Chile

Laguna Miscanti and Volcan Miniques in Chile's Atacama desert © 2014 Peter Marble

November 21, 2008 – day 24 of our 2008 South America trip and our third day in San Pedro de Atacama. At an elevation of 2407 metres, in the driest desert in the world, San Pedro’s climate was so intense that I lost my voice for a couple of days.

We had already booked a daybreak tour for the following day to the El Tatio geyers (elevation 4,320 metres) – I’ll post photos of this on another day. Because of the potential for altitude sickness above 2,400 metres, guide books advise people visiting El Tatio not to drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal the night before. We like to think of ourselves as cautious people, so we planned to follow that advice.

Today’s plan was to drive to the alpine lake of Laguna Miscanti. After we were well on our way we realized that it is situated at 4,120 metres! (Years ago, friends of ours told us that while driving high in the mountains of Bolivia, Rosemary started to babble incoherently – a sure sign of altitude sickness.) Remembering this, we considered turning back, especially because if I started to babble, Lesa wouldn’t be able to drive the rental car that had a standard transmission. Our solution was that I would and did start verbally teaching Lesa how to drive a stick shift. (That should have been our first clue that it may already have been too late...)

Although we did pass a tour bus that had pulled over to give a passenger oxygen, neither of us started to babble, at least no more than usual, and we ended up getting a spectacular view of Laguna Miscanti and Volcan Miniques.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Six Camera Settings to Check Before You Start Shooting

Performing these checks each time you pick up your DLSR takes less than a minute and can prevent missed shots and unexpected results.

The current setting for some of these controls is shown on the Control Panel on the top of the camera. Even more appear on the monitor on the back. I have a D7000, so will use Nikon terminology and describe the controls for that camera body.

1. Focus Mode Unless you are planning to focus manually, make sure AF (autofocus) is selected on the camera and attached lens (sometimes labeled on the lens as M/A). This is usually set using toggle switches on the front of the camera and the base of the lens.

2. Autofocus Mode Check that the Autofocus mode is set to what you want, i.e.,
AF-S (Single) – locks the focus when you press the shutter half way
AF-C (Continuous) – continues to focus while the shutter is pressed half way
AF-A (Auto) – focus mode is selected automatically based on whether the subject is stationary or moving

3. Release Mode If you use the Self-timer, Remote Control, or Mirror Up mode, be sure to set the release mode to S (Single frame). Otherwise you may miss a shot while you wonder why nothing happens when you press the shutter release. (I’ve done this more times than I care to admit). You can check this on the monitor, but it’s faster to just take a peak at the release mode dial (under the mode dial).

4. Metering Forgetting to check the metering option (either on the monitor or control panel) won’t make you miss a shot, but you may not get the exposure you are looking for.
Matrix – meters most of the frame and determines the exposure based on such factors as the content, tone, and colour
Center-weighted – meters the whole frame but gives more weight to what appears in the centre
Spot – meters a single focus point, which can be off centre, to determine the exposure

5. Exposure Compensation This control adjusts the exposure in increments above or below what the camera believes to be “correct”. Forgetting to check and reset compensation settings (they appear on the monitor but not the control panel) can result in under or overexposed images. I use this a lot, so I find it is important to check this before almost every shot.

6. Vibration Reduction Nikon lenses have a VR “On/Off” toggle switch, plus an “Active/Normal” toggle. In my experience you are unlikely to change one of these accidentally, but you may forget to switch them to the desired setting. Canon calls this “image stabilization”, Tamron calls it “vibration control”, but all flavors of this feature help to minimize blurriness caused by unsteady hands, wind, moving objects and other factors. I’ll leave it to Thom Hogan to explain Nikon’s VR system and advise on when and when not to use it. You might be surprised at what he says.

March 25 Photo of the Day: Newfoundland and Labrador

Northern gannet in flight © 2014 Peter Marble

By late May 2010 Southern Ontario was already sweltering in the low 30s. When we arrived in St. John's, the temperature was hovering below 10 degrees Celsius.

I spent the first day of Lesa's teaching gig on my own enjoying the sights and "dipsy-bobbling" around downtown, as they say in St. John's. That evening it was cold and we'd both had a long day, so didn't want to go far for dinner. As usual, I checked TripAdvisor and found that Get Stuffed was an easy walk. It was excellent — we went back again in 2012.

Saturday was the "Cape Shore run" with my good friend Darlene, who is not only an excellent photographer, but an intrepid walker, hiker and a wonderful tour guide. The ultimate destination was the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve where I got this shot. However we made many more stops along the way down Route 100.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24 Photo of the Day: Cambodia

Afternoon on Tonlé Sap © 2014 Peter Marble

In the middle of our 2004 travels in Thailand we took a quick side trip to Cambodia. This was one of the few occasions we have hired a guide and driver. It was certainly pricier than riding in a tuk tuk but, given the extreme heat in mid-December, we were more than happy to be in an air-conditioned car while visiting the temples of Angkor and learning about the Khmer.

On our final day we spent the afternoon touring one of the floating villages on Tonlé Sap outside of Siem Reap. Unfortunately, according to many TripAdvisor reviews, the floating villages are plagued with scams and no longer recommended.

Even nearly ten years ago, we did get the sense that, although we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, Siem Reap was about to be transformed, and not in a good way...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23 Photo of the Day: Costa Rica

Here is our ride back to San Jose arriving at the airport near Playa Samara on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica in 2007.

© 2014 Peter Marble

Here's how it looked on the approach:
© 2014 Peter Marble

...Oh yeah, and at the "terminal":
© 2014 Peter Marble

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March 22 Photo of the Day: Chile

Motu Nui, Motu Iti and Motu Kao Kao — © 2014 Peter Marble

These islets on the south-west coast of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) can be seen from the ceremonial village of Orongo on the Rano Kau volcano. Once a year members of the Bird Man cult swam to Motu Nui, the largest islet, collected a Sooty Tern egg and raced back to be first up the cliff to Orongo.

Six days on Easter Island during a month in Chile was perhaps our favourite part of that 2008 trip.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March 21 Photo of the Day

Here's Looking at You Kit © 2014 Peter Marble

I promise not to make this blog about cats, but I couldn't resist snapping a pic of her doing her best wide-eyed look.

Please help offset the vets bills, prescription cat food, cat toys and other ongoing expenses, not to mention the cost of replacing all the furniture. Click an ad on this page to earn me pennies, or better yet go to one of my microstock sites by clicking one of the links in the PAGES section.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20 Photo of the Day: Spring

Happy First Day of Spring 2014 © 2014 Peter Marble

Spring officially arrived at 12:57 P.M. EDT with the vernal equinox. It sure doesn't feel like it here in Toronto, but warmer weather is on its way!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 19 Photo of the Day: Lesotho

Basotho Church Service — Butha-Buthe, Kingdom of Lesotho © 2014 Peter Marble

During our 2012 visit to Lesotho we were invited to attend a church service with others involved with the Canadian non-profit Bracelet of Hope. The service lasted over three hours, partly because it rained so heavily at one point that no one could really leave anyway.

Construction of the church wasn’t quite done, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the hundred or so parishioners, and certainly not the entertainment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 18 Photo of the Day: Slovakia

Bratislava Castle (Bratislavský hrad) - Bratislava, Slovakia © 2014 Peter Marble

On our way from Prague to Budapest by train last September Lesa and I spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening in Bratislava. This shot was taken across the Danube on Most Slovenského národného povstania (Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising) from what is known as the UFO restaurant.

It was a grey day so the original image was rather flat. In an attempt to give it the look of a watercolor, I took more than a few liberties in Lightroom's Develop module.

For details on the castle, see Wikipedia.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Do I need to back up my backups?

The death of my system hard drive last year, a recent power supply failure on my wife's desktop, and the fact that it is no longer feasible to back up my image files to DVDs (the raw NEF files from my Nikon D7000 are typically 18-22 MB) all got me to re-thinking my backup strategy.

Regular backups
I run weekly full backups and nightly differentials of selected data sets from both desktops to a network-attached 2-TB Western Digital (WD) My Book Live. My photos reside on a separate internal drive which is also backed up weekly and nightly to the network drive. So in terms of data file recovery, I think I’m in pretty good shape.

Two big problems remained
• Information Security —  Whenever I need to take a computer in for repair, there is the potential that techies at my local computer shop may be tempted to peek at confidential files. (They seem to know how to get around password-protected accounts.)
• System Rebuilds —  The next time a system drive dies (which I am resigned to accept will inevitably happen again) the operating system, applications, drivers, etc. will have to be re-installed manually – a chore I never want to have to experience again. The last time I had to do this cost me spent several days of dedicated effort and a few years off my life.

To address the first problem, I purchased two WD My Passport USB drives and connected one to each of our two desktops. I moved the most confidential files from the desktops to the USB drives and scheduled jobs to back them up as usual to the network drive. In the event of another hardware failure, I can disconnect the USB drive before taking the desktop to the shop.

A solution to the second problem has eluded me for years. I have tried trial versions of various imaging products, including Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image, but never found one that worked for me.

When my hard disk crashed last year I purchased a new license for NovaBACKUP® Professional. I also bought the “Premium NovaCare” option which included free upgrades for a year. Then last fall I discovered that the newest version of NovaBACKUP® Professional includes image backup functionality. So I downloaded version 15 and found that the interface was very straight forward and I was easily able to create a full image of my system disk and save it on the attached USB drive.

I was so pleased that, for a whopping $29.95, I splurged on a second copy for our other desktop just to be able to create image backups of that machine. The FAQ states that images can even be restored on computers with dissimilar hardware and operating systems.

I admit that I have never tested the image restore, although I came very close last December. Both our desktops started “blue screening” randomly one day. I ran BitDefender scans, uninstalled Windows updates and called a friend who knows way more about this stuff than I do. Finally, in desperation I powered down the router as the first step in shutting everything off and booting each device one at a time. Sure enough, that solved the problem! Who knew?

One of these days I’ll buy a barebones PC and try restoring an image.

Happy backups!