Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.
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Two important things:
- Here’s the prospective book cover for my upcoming novel, Demon’s Bane!
- You could win a free copy of the book! To enter, just comment on this blog post by Nov. 30th, 2009.
Thanks to the six friends who are in the cover photo. Bob, Nadia, Jim, Chung, Zippy, and Mr. Excitement: I will keep your names a secret for your own protection.
To view in higher resolution, just click on the photo:
This is a battle scene at night, lit up by a globe of magical light above the combatants.
To enter the drawing, which ends on Nov. 30th 2009, just leave a (non-spam) comment on this post to let me know what you think of the cover. I’m still open to minor modifications. Is it awesome? Does it suck? Is the text okay? If you saw this cover in a bookstore, would you pick up the book and take a look inside? The winner will receive an autographed copy of Demon’s Bane once the book is in print, sent free of charge anywhere in the world that has post.
The photo was taken in Munich with a Nikon D90, a Nikon SB-600, and a Vivitar 383. You can see the Vivitar in the back with a red gel (a.k.a. the fireball). One subject in the photo is from the Taipei Zoo, although the wolf’s charred backside was only digitally damaged. No wolves were harmed in the creation of this cover. In addition, Bob was not shot with an arrow (which he then had to rip out from his own arm), and Chung was not mauled in the leg by a wolf.
I sincerely hope Nadia didn’t actually throw any fireballs at anyone after I taught her that spell.
Update: see the revised cover here! It’s an illustration instead of a photo.
Posted 7 years, 4 months ago at 10:00 am. 23 comments
I’ve long wanted to visit Japan, but haven’t made it there yet (unless you could a connection at Narita, where I bought some Suntory Japanese whiskey). So, when a friend needed a place to host a Japanese party to cook traditional okonomiyaki, I happily volunteered.
Wikipedia says okonomiyaki is made of two Japanese words, meaning “what you like” and “grilled.” It’s a bit like a giant pancake, where the batter is mixed with various ingredients: cabbage, pork, bacon, octopus… whatever you like!
Here’s a shot of the batter, just beginning to cook:
Okonomiyaki batter, freshly poured in the pan
That’s a variant with octopus chunks. It was very tasty. Thanks to the German gentlemen who sliced the octopus. This is not easy, as it’s quite slippery. Another tip if you are looking to buy octopus or squid in Germany: they are both often called Tintenfisch (inky fish). So, make sure you know which one you’re getting. Long, tubular body with small tentacles = squid, small body with long tentacles replete with big suckers = octopus.
Slicing the octopus for okonomiyaki
Here’s a shot of the whole process:
All the stages, from batter to finished product
I couldn’t decide if the octopus or bacon okonomiyaki was better. Then I remembered how much I love bacon…
Bacon okonomiyaki, halfway cooked
At last, the finished and garnished okonomiyaki. It’s traditionally doused with barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, and fish flakes, as I understand.
The finished product: okonomiyaki with bbq sauce, seaweed, and fish flakes!
We sliced it into pieces before devouring it with chopsticks. I’m curious how it’s eaten in Japan: with the fingers? Or, is it broken into bits with chopsticks? It doesn’t seem possible to pick up the whole thing at once with the sticks, though I’m only a Western chopstick expert, not a native user.
Here’s the recipe from our Japanese master cook, Nina:
- At first, we need to prepare wheat flour (405), water, egg, cabbage, and oil. In addition, add some favorite cooking ingredients such as cheese, pork, Dashi-no-moto, etc. It may be a good idea to customize your okonomi-yaki with octopus and squid, beef, or garlic.
- Important: have to mix flour and water before adding other ingredients.
- Don’t forget to add some oil in the frying pan!
- Cook with a very low heat. Put sliced meat on top of the okonomiyaki. If you don’t use any sliced meat, it’s a good idea to put a lid over the pan to aid in cooking.
- Flip it over (with 2 spatulas if needed). It’s finished when the second side is cooked through. Try it with your favorite sauce!
And here’s a recipe with proportions (though mine was made by an authentic Japanese expert, so I cannot vouch for this recipe 100%): Okonomiyaki recipe
If you’re a Japanese food & culture lover, you’ve got to try this dish! Even though I’ve never yet been there, I felt as if I were in Hiroshima at a traditional restaurant eating this famous Japanese food. Enjoy!
Posted 7 years, 4 months ago at 11:17 pm. 5 comments
The Bugatti Veyron. The most powerful, fastest, and most expensive production car to date.
It’s made by Volkswagen.
For those who aren’t gearheads, here are a few details of the Veyron 16.4:
- 1001 horsepower (five times as much as Audi’s standard 2.0L turbo engine)
- 8.0L quad-turbo W-16 engine (that’s essentially two V8 engines)
- 0-60mph in two and a half seconds (in first gear!)
- 0-150mph in about eight and a half seconds (so, it gets to 150mph in the time most cars take to get to 60)
- Top speed: 252mph, or 407km/h
Besides these stunning figures, it has a stunning figure:
At top speed the tires will last only 15 minutes. Here’s a look at the hydraulic spoiler that comes up at high speeds to hold the car on the road better:
And of course, the W-16 engine, which at top speed will use up 25gal (100L) of fuel in 12 minutes:
Only one exhaust? Hehe. Rear view:
Looks a wee bit menacing from this angle. And one wonders, how does the driver see the road?
The Wikipedia article had me laughing a few times, for example: first scheduled maintenance costs $22,000 and the tires are over $10,000 a set.
Don’t worry about fuel economy: there isn’t any. City driving will set you back a bit, at 8mpg (29L/100km). At current gas prices, that’s about 31 cents a mile in the States. Just drive it for business, you’ll be reimbursed about that amount, so what’s the worry?
Oh, yeah, the price tag of this Veyron at the Auto-Konig expensive-car-dealer in Munich: EUR 1,374,450.00.
Maybe that’s why Auto-Konig was (sadly) gone when I went by there to look at the fancy cars this week. In this economy, even luxury car buyers can’t afford to shell out almost $2 million for a car. But I’m glad I had the chance to look at it and take photographs!
Posted 7 years, 4 months ago at 1:00 pm. 6 comments
As promised, here’s the second post in the Lenggries series! To read the first in the series with “getting there” info, see my Hiking at Lenggries post.
On the way back to the car, we caught this fantastic moonrise over the mountains:
Moonrise at Lenggries
Moonrise at Lenggries
Along the fields on the way back, we saw this sign, which cracked me up.
Cow says: "And I'm supposed to feed on that?" Underneath: "Unsoiled pasture - everything's in the butter"
After leaving the Jägerstüberl restaurant, we heard heavy-sounding music and saw fire off to the north. This demanded investigation. It turned out to be a free open house evening at the Lenggries Falkenhof – a falconry park! (Tourism site link with a bit of English). Now I want to go back and see the falconry show during the day sometime.
All photos are 1.0s, f/11, ISO 1600 except for the fire breather. That one is 2.0s, f/20, ISO 800 to avoid overexposure while still getting a long shutter speed. These fire spinning and twirling photos are my favorites from about 60 shots.
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Show
Falkenhof Spektaculum Fire Breather
One thing is for sure: I’m going to check out next year’s Falconry Spectacular and evening fire event! This year it was in October (postponed from September), so I’d check for it on the Falknerspektaculum website next summer.
Hope you enjoyed my photos, and that you have the chance to make it to Lenggries for a beautiful summer hike — or snowboarding in the winter.
Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 1:00 pm. 2 comments
Lenggries is a fantastic destination near Munich for hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter, and riding the gondola anytime (if you don’t fancy sports). The main touristic peak is called Brauneck (1556m), although there are many other hikes in the area. Let me just say: the scenery is fantastic at Lenggries. Rarely is there such a great mix of panoramas and paragliders, even in the Alps!
What I love about Europe is the amazing things you see by coincidence in just one day. I have to split this day into two posts, because we happened upon so many beautiful sights and awesome events. Paragliders, plane flybys, mountain sunsets, moonrise over the trees, and finally a medieval fire show after dark… how could it get any better! Read on to find out more…
View from the path up Brauneck
The gondola takes you to the Panorama-restaurant near the top of Brauneck, although we hiked there. Service was slow, but the food was fantastic and the views were even better. Here you can see our goal in the distance: Latschenkopf, at 1701m.
View toward Latschenkopf from Brauneck
Here’s a beautiful panorama of paragliders circling on the thermals. I can’t count how many layers of mountains one can see from the Panorama-restaurant!
Paragliders over the Alps
This is one of my favorite fall dishes in Germany: pumpkin cream soup, or Kurbiscremesuppe. They really know how to garnish, too! Lecker… I also recommend Obatzda, a kind of soft cheese you eat with a pretzel.
Kurbiscremesuppe - pumpkin cream soup with tasty pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil!
Just a small hike up from the Panorama-restaurant is the actual peak of Brauneck, where many paragliders launch:
Paraglider takeoff from Brauneck - I walked down the slope a ways to get this shot
Here’s a short YouTube video of a paraglider takeoff:
Leaving Brauneck, we headed toward Latschenkopf, and went on a small side path. (photo with polarizing filter)
We took a short path that involved some scrambling... there were easier ways than this.
After a long ridge hike without so much climb, we reached Latschenkopf. Note, there are also opportunities for Klettersteig (rock climbing) along this ridge. Plus an old Junkers (a German manufactured plane) did a flyby of the ridge.
If I'd only had the tele lens on... haha. Beautiful view of layered Alps behind the plane!
At one point on the way to Latschenkopf, I stopped and took tele photos of all the crosses I could see from where I stood. There were SEVEN. Why this obsession with putting a cross on top of everything? It’s quite opposite from the US. Just watched a funny clip on The Colbert Report about a lawsuit in the States regarding a cross that was erected in a National Park as a war memorial. Well, you won’t have that kind of BS lawsuit over here in Deutschland. Here’s a (rare) self-portrait:
Cross at Latschenkopf - the Germans like to put a cross at the top of everything.
Now, on the way back we took Panoramaweg. Actually, I do not recommend this if you’ve parked at the gondola, as we did. After reaching the bottom, we had to walk another 4km (2.5mi) along fields and roads (in the dark) to get back to the car. I don’t know the total distance, as unfortunately the maps all list walk times in hours instead of distance in km/mi. BUT I suspect it was about 15-20km total for the day. Up Brauneck, across to Latschenkopf, down long and winding trails on the Panoramaweg, and another few miles back to the car.
We took the long Panoramaweg down, passing many huts along the way.
Now, there’s still more: the nighttime photos! That will be a separate blog post up in a few days. I promise you, the medieval fire-twirling photos (taken with a long exposure on the Nikon D90) will blow you away. If you want to be notified when the post is up, sign up via email or RSS with the orange links on the left sidebar.
- Plan your hike here at the Brauneck website (summer hiking list, unfortunately just in German)
- Print a summer hiking map here. We took 9 to Brauneck, 2 and 3 to Latschenkopf, then 3, 4, and 10 down to the bottom. You can see the long, flat path from Draxlstuberl back to Alte Mulistation — I don’t recommend this way! We walked from 11:15am until 7:30pm with maybe 2-3h of breaks for food + photos.
- Park at the Bergbahn lot where the gondola starts: Google maps link
- Stop at huts along the way for tasty food and drinks. I recommend a Radler (half beer, half lemon-lime soda) to keep your hiking strength up without having too much alcohol. It’s not considered wimpy in Germany: Radler is a nice way to get a taste of beer mid-day without too many ill effects.
- Eat at the inexpensive and very tasty restaurant, Jägerstüberl (also Jaegerstueberl, hehe). It’s right near the gondola, you’ll see it from the large parking lot at the base. I had a huge steak (12-16 oz) for about €14.
Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 11:34 am. 4 comments
The helmet camera has been upgraded with insulating Neoprene and a stereo Rode Videomic! The microphone has a “dead kitten” windscreen (no, I’m not making that up) which will hopefully cut out most of the wind noise and give me usable sound while on the slopes.
Yes, I look like a total idiot wearing this thing. It looks like I have a Don King bobble-head stuck on top of the helmet, pointy gray hair aimed forward.
I'm not sure I ever looked more silly. Though hopefully no friends read this and feel the need to comment.
I have to say: Thanks to Mareike for the old wetsuit hoods that I sliced up to get this Neoprene! As she advised, Pattex Classic contact adhesive does an excellent job of bonding Neoprene. I also used it to glue the Velcro to the Neoprene (as the Velcro’s built-in adhesive tape wasn’t strong enough).
Front view of helmet camera setup
I mounted the Videomic (which has a standard flash accessory mount) by chopping up the top of an old camera, which I bought for €2 at Sauter camera shop in Munich. I screwed the flash shoe of the old camera to the helmet, and used Loctite to make sure the screws stay tight. To read more about the camera mounting bracket, please see my previous helmet camera post.
Angled view of helmet camera setup
Now I have to see how the Canon HF200 battery does at low temperatures. Fortunately I did leave room inside the Neoprene sleeve for a hand warmer pack… and I have some! Thanks, Mom… although I doubt this was the use you intended when you gave them to me, hehe.
If all goes well I’ll have a chance to test this at the Hintertuxer Gletscher ski area this weekend. That is, if the snow stops falling for long enough. Stay tuned!
Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 7:09 pm. 3 comments
Yesterday I talked with a friend about some Strobist stuff. I realized that I’ve hardly used my two off-camera flashes: a Vivitar 383 and a Nikon SB-600. Since I wanted some killer pics of my new Virus snowboard before I try some extreme carving with it, I thought this would be a good chance to play! The same techniques could be used for any shots, including travel photos if you choose to bring a bit of flash gear.
The flashes are to the top left and bottom right of the photo, with shoot-through umbrellas for soft light and less distinct shadows.
Santa Cruz 148, F2 Speedster SL 158, Virus X-Treme Carver Premium 162
For the next photo I just added color gels to the flashes:
Red gel camera left, green gel camera right, shoot through umbrellas
Now some solo photos, with no color gels. I also changed to the more focused reflective umbrellas here to get a better visual effect on the Virus’ nice carbon-fiber finish:
Virus X-Treme Carver Premium 162 - beautiful carbon fiber top for extra torsional stiffness, and super-sexiness!
F2 Speedster SL 158 - what a pretty board!
Finally, here’s a setup shot so you can see where I put the umbrellas for the single-snowboard shots. I had to do a lot of adjusting for the Virus board to avoid that anything from the rear wall reflected in the mirror-like finish. I even closed blinds in another room and took some pictures off the wall! Ah, to have a studio…
Snowboard photo setup for single-board shots
Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 12:25 am. Add a comment
Once the world’s tallest building, the Empire State Building is one of the first modern skyscrapers. The last time I visited in 2006, I waited in line for hours. The view was great, but… long queues suck. When I returned in 2009, I decided to give it a go at night, since the upper deck is open very late (2am, although the last elevator up is 1:15). There was almost no line at around midnight. Tickets are expensive at $20 for adults, so be prepared with a fat wallet. Found this on the website: “Military personnel are admitted free when in full uniform.”
View of the Empire State Building from the Flatiron Building:
The square beside the Flatiron Building offers an excellent view
Now, let me say: the nighttime views were not as fantastic as those from the Eiffel Tower. But this is partly because it was quite hazy on this hot summer day in New York City. I believe the view (and the photos) would be better on a crisp, clear day.
Times Square is a bit disappointing when seen from this angle. (0.8s, f/4.5, ISO 200)
The Flatiron Building is a well-known monument, and here you can see why it provides such a good view of the Empire State Building:
The Flatiron Building -- can you guess where they got the name? (4s, f/7.1, ISO 200)
I guess that just about every bridge in the NYC area is visible from the top of Empire State. Here are the Manhattan Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. One hint: if you want a great geometric picture with suspension lines everywhere, visit the Brooklyn Bridge on a clear, sunny day with your polarizing filter.
Beautiful view of the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. (1.6s, f/6.3, ISO 200)
Given clearer conditions, I could have taken a superior photo of the Manhattan skyline. But I’m pretty pleased with this result. Now I need to return in a few years… perhaps when the Freedom Tower is complete!
On the far right of the Manhattan Skyline, you can just see the Statue of Liberty. (2.5s, f/5.6, ISO 200)
On the way out, I got this shot of the entranceway. That’s a beautiful inlay in the wall behind the desk!
You'll never see the lobby as empty as it is at 1am...
Although not as fantastic as the Eiffel Tower view, I would still recommend the Empire State Building at night — as long as it’s a clear night. If you want photo tips on how to take these great night shots, check out my Eiffel Tower post where I explain details like using a small tripod and a shutter delay. These were taken with a Nikon D90; if you’d like to support an aspiring writer & photographer, purchase with the Amazon link below!
- Address: 350 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10018
- Nearest Metro: 34th St – Herald Square (also not far from 34th St – Penn Station)
- Building security: small bags are allowed but not large luggage. Don’t bring drinks.
- Ticket sales are not on the ground floor, but at an intermediate level after going up some ways in the elevator.
Official website: Empire State Building Website
Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 11:16 am. Add a comment
Here’s the latest test of the Canon HF200 helmet camera! We got almost to the M-Z3’s (electronically limited) top speed before reaching a slowdown area for a construction zone.
Here’s a link to watch the video in HD on YouTube.
By the way, for those who don’t know what “The Autobahn” is… it’s not a special, fancy racetrack in Germany. All highways here are Autobahns, and there are many sections with no speed limit. This video segment is completely legal! Yeah… come visit Germany and rent a car. Mu-hahaha!
The video was produced with Pinnacle Studio 12 (trial version), the only video editor I have yet to crash. I just might have to buy Pinnacle. Music: “Traffic Song” by Electric Bacon.
Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 12:01 pm. 4 comments
Alright folks, the drunken debauchery of Oktoberfest 2009 in München has come to a close… all that remains now are the memories, photos, and videos. So, here they are!
If you’re looking for tips about visiting Munich for Oktoberfest 2010, check my primer for 2009… not much will change, though I may do another post as 2010 gets closer.
This year, I went with a group of friends on the first day and saw the parade of every tent’s beer carts arriving, pulled by BIG horses (and in the case of one tent, by an ox).
Bunky gets up close and personal with the Paulaner horses
Just before the end of the parade, we moved to Poschner’s, one of the smaller tents. You can’t stay there all day and party, but you can eat a nice chicken or duck meal and have a couple Maß Wies’nbier. Look at that crispy chicken skin… mmm! My mouth is watering for Oktoberfest 2010 already.
First beer of Oktoberfest 2009 at Poschner's
Okay, enough of the tame stuff. Here’s what you came to see: the Paulaner Winzerer Fähndl on the last day, rip roaring in the last hours of Oktoberfest 2009! Not everyone here was drunk… I think there was one guy in the back without a beer. First, a typical song from the Cologne region, Viva Colonia. The band’s name, De Höhner, means “The Chickens” in the Kölsch dialect of German.
This song, Marmor, Stein und Eisen Bricht, is by Drafi Deutscher. The chorus, which is repeated a lot, means “Marble, stone, and iron break, but not our love.” This song has been stuck in my head for DAYS. Please help me!!
Finally, a more known standard for the native-English-speaking crowd: Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. You haven’t heard this song until you’ve heard the deep guitar melody sung by several thousand friendly, drunk revelers!
That’s all for 2009! Maybe we’ll meet at Oktoberfest 2010. Buy your tickets and make hotel reservations now! I’m not kidding…
Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 9:04 am. 2 comments