Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

You are currently browsing the archives for August, 2010.

iPhone HDR

For those who have an iPhone, you can check out the pro-HDR app my friend Joe recommends. I was so impressed by his photo (considering it’s from a mobile phone) that I’ll share it here:

Idaho State Capitol - iPhone HDR

The Idaho State Capitol looks pretty nice in HDR! Notice the great color in the bright puffy-clouds sky, while maintaining good brightness and color on the partly-shaded building and foreground.

I’m just waiting to see what the big camera makers some up with. In my last post I predicted we’d see built in High Dynamic Range on a pro-sumer or pro camera within a few years. Maybe when mobile phones are already producing results like this, Nikon will step up to the plate on the D90 replacement or D700 replacement. Please!

Posted 11 years, 10 months ago at 3:45 pm.


Munich’s Olympiapark in HDR

I’ve prepared some more HDR photos to show you the view from Olympiaberg (made of WWII rubble) around sunset. It’s a bit too far away for a view of Munich’s downtown, but the Olympic buildings themselves are stunning! Here’s the Olympiastadion (where I saw Genesis a few years back):

Olympiastadion HDR

The last few moments of sun before the disc slipped below the horizon:

Olympiastadion HDR Sunset

And a perspective-corrected view of the Olympiaturm, with BMW Vierzylinder (the HQ of BMW, called “four cylinders”) in the background. BMW Welt and BMW Museum are tiny.

Olympiaturm HDR Sunset

High Dynamic Range photography is an interesting way to show detail in areas of shadow, without blowing out the highlights in a photo. It currently requires taking several shots of the scene, then doing lots of PC processing after taking the pictures. Due to this post-processing, I’m anxious to hear if any of you have problems viewing the photos on your monitors (do they look too dark)? If so I might need to calibrate my monitor.

Now I’m just waiting for the first camera to come out with built-in HDR processing. I predict this will be on a pro- or pro-sumer camera in less than five years, more likely 2-3. What do you think?

Posted 11 years, 10 months ago at 1:02 pm.


HDR Photography in Cambodia

So, I’ve finally processed a few of the High Dynamic Range photo sequences that I took on the RTW trip. Here are a few from Cambodia, which you can also see (in higher resolution) on my Flickr page.

This is probably my favorite of the final prints, taken from the third floor of the Angkor Spirit Palace hotel in Siem Reap where I was staying. The benefit of HDR is that you can see detail in both the bright and dark areas of the final “composite” picture.

Cambodia Sunset over Rice Paddies

Here’s an interesting shot of an approaching storm, which killed the sunset I was waiting for at this temple. Unfortunately the software I have isn’t good at aligning images, and has no manual feature. So they didn’t line up perfectly, something you can see in some of the edges where light meets dark (but only in the higher res versions on Flickr). Either way, the scene is great – everything from rain, to black clouds, to blue sky!

Angkor Storm - Badly Aligned

Finally I’ll close up with another photo from the rice paddies sunset over Siem Reap. There was actually someone burning brush over behind the trees, that’s why there’s an area with smoke rising.

Cambodia Sunset 2 over Rice Paddies

There will be a lot more HDR photos coming, as I go through the Camera RAW images that I took all throughout the RTW adventure. Stay tuned!

Posted 11 years, 10 months ago at 2:56 pm.

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Guided Munich

I’ve been home for two weeks, and am finally writing the first post in months that isn’t categorized “around the world.” While on the RTW trip, though, I had the idea to start a guided photography tour of Munich!

View looking past Marienplatz, Munich

What is a guided photo tour, you ask? I will be giving a three hour private photo course, explaining to my customers how to use their cameras (either D-SLR or pocket cameras) to take better pictures. The photo subjects during this walking tour will be all the best sights and monuments in Munich. I know a few secret vantage points, as well. Private tour means just one small group: no strangers arguing about what to see next.

BMW buildings as seen from Olympiaturm

I’ve seen a lot of people taking tourist photos around town. So I tried to duplicate their work! It wasn’t hard. I put my big D-SLR in “Auto” mode, stood directly in front of each monument or building, aimed the camera nearly straight up, and clicked the shutter release as fast as possible. Then I closed the flash unit, set the camera to “Program” mode, and tried again – while using the big computer behind the camera. Here are some examples of the difference:

Sendlinger Tor Comparison

Siegestor Comparison

If you’re interested to improve your photography skills while in Munich, please check out Guided Munich Photo Tours! And if you know anyone traveling here, I’d certainly appreciate the referral as I get started. Hope you enjoy the summer, and take lots of great photographs!

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago at 8:58 am.

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KL’s Petronas Towers

It is with a heavy heart and a great deal of joy that I write this post about July 25th, 2010. It’s now the following day, and I’m in a Thai Airways 747 on the way back to Munich – the end of my around-the-world trip.

I’ve had an amazing almost-three-months, and learned more in this time than I’d ever dreamed I would. At the same time, I’m looking forward to my couch, a bit more predictability in my life, and being free from my (self-imposed) goal of writing a blog post each day during the trip.

Well, let’s not dally and get all sentimental. I promised you the Petronas Towers – at 452m, the tallest buildings in the world until Taipei 101 took that crown in 2004.

KL's Petronas twin towers

To ascend the towers, you must get a free ticket early in the morning in the base of Tower 1. I was in line at 7:30. Tickets were given out starting from 8:30, although it was 9:45 before I got to the front of the line. Max 5 tickets per person! I have to say, the view from the bridge between the towers (which is as high as you can go) was a bit disappointing. I’ll have a few shots of that later.

First, some amazing graffiti that I saw near a train station.

Cool graffiti in Kuala Lumpur

Petaling Street market is not just a place for hawkers to rip off tourists with a plethora of fake handbags. It’s also a place for locals to socialize.

Locals in Petaling Street market

Back to the towers. My ticket was for the last available time, 6:30pm. While waiting I checked out the displays in the lobby. I love the warning about lightning (when they explain that you are much safer inside a metal tower / Faraday cage).

Never be the tallest, nor the wettest when lightning is about as you will be the path of least resistance for the electricity of lightning current to be discharged over your surface. This will not be good for you.

I also saw someone making a handheld-cam video of the Petronas oil company advertising video that we saw prior to boarding the elevator. That cracked me up. Will this ghetto “Seinfeld style” cap of a 5-minute Petronas commercial be out in the street market DVD shops soon, or what?

Here’s the view from the bridge, which is about 1/3 of the way up the buildings at 170 meters.

View of KLCC  (City Centre) park from the Petronas Towers

Trust me on this one: don’t waste your time standing in line at 7:30am. Even if it hadn’t been raining, the view is not that great, and half of what you could otherwise see is blocked by the buildings themselves.

Spend the money to go up KL tower, which (although not as TALL) is actually higher, because it starts on a hill. Plus the viewing area is near the top, instead of being just 1/3 of the way up. You get a 360° view… which includes the Petronas towers. The beautiful twin towers are much better seen from a distance, rather than seeing the distance from them!

Rain streaking the window of the Petronas Towers viewing bridge

So. Here I am on a plane headed toward Munich. I can’t even begin to explain how much I learned, and what a valuable experience this was for me on about fourteen different levels. I’ve made a few friends that I still keep in touch with months later. And I can’t wait to go back to many of the great places I’ve touched on in my brief around-the-world adventure!

Rest assured, there will be a lot more blog posts about this trip and others. But I’ll probably revert to my normal format of a couple posts a week, instead of one every day. Have you enjoyed the ride? What do you want to see more of? Please let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best!

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago at 3:46 pm.


Kuala Lumpur Streets

I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur (affectionately known as KL) several times before. But I never took any street photos, and never made it up the Petronas twin towers (the tallest buildings in the world, 1998-2004). On July 24th, I took care of the first of those goals. Let’s start with fruit!

Various fruits that Westerners have probably never heard of like rambutan and durian

Here’s the Royal Selangor Club, where the Hash House Harriers were born in 1938 – ushering in a worldwide revolution in drunken running around ever-changing mystery courses. The name refers to the wing where the participating Colonial British bunked, the “Hash House.”

The private Selangor Club where the Hash House Harriers started

Cool buildings around Merdeka Square, with the KL Tower in the background.

Merdeka Square in KL

Everywhere in the world, people are fascinated by Barack Obama!

Barack Obama, Malay graffiti-style

Corn in Cup is awesome. This is definitely a favorite Malaysian snack food! Plus, a good view of what many of the local Muslim women are wearing.

Corn in Cup - YYYESS!

KL is not lacking in beggars with outstretched arms and McDonald’s cups.

Begging the streets of Kuala Lumpur

What was I saying about Barack Obama earlier…?

Barack Obama on a $100 bill

Mmm, chestnuts.

Freshly roasted street chestnuts

Asia is all about shopping. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Malaysia: shopping malls are massive, and double as social centers, packed with restaurants. Tourists and locals alike pack malls, hawker centers, and street markets day in and day out.

Shopping indecision on Petaling Street

Here’s a view down the (food-oriented) side street of the Petaling Street night market in Chinatown.

Petaling Street Night Market

Tomorrow I’ll revisit the second goal: the stunning, steel-clad Petronas twin towers!

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago at 3:33 am.


Straw Hat Woman

I’ve been trying to get a photo of someone working the fields in a straw hat ever since arriving in Cambodia. Finally, on July 23rd as I rode to the airport in a tuk-tuk, I managed it – and even got another motorcycle-family in the foreground. Keep in mind it was cloudy, and I was moving at a good 40 km/h.

Straw Hat Woman working in the fields

I also spotted this youth in a field. The contrast of the dilapidated house in the background with his mp3 player and headphones is great, and the dog is the icing on the cake.

Cambodian MP3 youth avec chien

After arriving in KL, I checked out some local (mostly indoor) sights, because I’d left my suntan lotion in a luggage locker. Oh, plus it was about 35C with high humidity.

Here’s a cool sculpture representing space and time in front of the Malaysian space agency, their equivalent of NASA. A Malaysian has made it into space!

Space and Time!

The planetarium was also worth the visit. For 3 RM (about $1 USD) I saw an Omnimax-style movie about the space race that first took Russians into earth orbit, then Americans to the moon. There’s a neat museum attached, with an anti-gravity room. Apparently blue light and a sloping floor are the keys to negating gravitational forces. Grab a blue light and a sledgehammer and try it in your own home!

Kuala Lumpur's mosque-looking planetarium

Only a few days left in my round-the-world trip. I wouldn’t say I’m homesick. However, I am ready to sleep more than two or three nights in the same bed, without having to spend hours a week planning where I’m going next and how to get there. What’s the longest time you’ve traveled?

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago at 3:32 pm.


Top 5 Offbeat Cities

Fellow traveler and blogger Alan Perlman has assembled a collection of photos from five of the world’s most unfrequented cities. Check out his unique look at five cities that are truly off the beaten track for most Western travelers!


I’ve always loved looking at a world map. So many countries, so many borders and rivers and climates. While the world may feel small at times—like when you run into a friend in a city thousands of miles away—it’s quite large and diverse.

Take Africa, for example, a continent with fifty three different countries. That means fifty three different governmental structures, fifty three flag designs and fifty three languages. No, wait, hundreds of languages. Our world is much more complex than the borders we demarcate.

I think about all of these cities in all of these countries. Sure, I can place some of them onto a map. But as a visual-minded person, if I haven’t seen the way these cities look, the way the people look, I have a harder time retaining information about the location. We read about cities like Baghdad and Pyongyang in the news, but very few of us can talk about the way these places actually look and feel.

By visually exposing people to more of the world, I believe we’d increase tolerance and understanding of other cultures. That being said, here are images from five of the more offbeat cities around the world—places that often have a negative connotation to Westerners.

Baghdad, Iraq

Image Source: Flickr user egon voyd

Baghdad Sadr City Market

Notes: Baghdad Sadr City Market

Behind Cairo, Baghdad is the second largest city in the Arab world. It’s also one of the hottest, with average maximum temperatures in the summer as high as 111 °F (44 °C). The war-torn city is experiencing both residential and commercial reconstruction efforts.

Mogadishu, Somalia

Image Source: Flickr user ctsnow

Mogadishu, Somalia

Notes: Pictures from an armed convoy trip.

“The sandy beaches of Mogadishu,” according to Wikipedia, “are reported by the few Western travelers to be among the most beautiful in the world, offering easy access to vibrant coral reefs.”  Despite high crime and the traditional unrest associated with the Somali Civil War, Mogadishu is a commercial and financial center and serves as a major international seaport.

Monrovia, Liberia

Image Source: Flickr user Jason Judy

Monrovia, Liberia

Notes: “The city swelled from 500,000 to 1 million people during the war, and the combined impact of the destruction and population swell is very evident. This street is empty compared to the majority of Monrovia.”

Named in honor of U.S. President James Monroe, Monrovia is similar to Mogadishu in that it’s an important seaport and commercial center. If you want more information on Monrovia—and why it’s one of the most ridiculous cities in the world—check out the work by VBS.TV called The Vice Guide to Liberia.

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Image Source: Flickr user a.phasia

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Notes: Palace of Turkmenbasi on left, Kopet Dag mountains in the background.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to visit Ashgabat in my travels. Notable memories include visiting the annual Oil and Gas exposition (and scoring a free hat!), walking through the large Russian bazaars and learning about Turkmenistan’s megalomaniac dictator, Turkmenbasi, who renamed the days of the week and months of the year at his leisure.

Oh, and the Ashgebat streets are clean enough to eat on. They sparkle at night; the moon bounces off of their shiny stones. It’s really wild, actually.

Pyongyang, North Korea

Image Source: Flickr user Pricey

Pyongyang, North Korea

Notes: Pyongyang – Ryugyong Hotel

The elusive Pyongyang is also featured on VBS.TV. It’s called The Vice Guide to North Korea, and it’s certainly worth checking out. As an American, it’s very difficult to get into North Korea. Have any of you readers out there gotten in?


Thanks, Alan! Very interesting photos, and a thought-provoking look into these offbeat cities. For those who wish to read more by this blogger, you can read Alan Perlman’s blog, or reach Alan on Twitter.

Note: Alan has received special permission to repost these Flickr users’ images. Please do not copy them without similar express consent from the original photographers.

If you’re interested in writing a guest post, feel free to contact me using the link in the left sidebar!

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago at 3:44 pm.


Floating Village

Tonle Sap is a unique lake. Its level rises and falls by several meters based on the season, and the lake’s area increases by 10x in the rainy season! I visited on July 22nd.

In the dry season, the lake drains into the Mekong river via a tributary. But in the rainy season, the level of the Mekong river rises enough that the tributary reverses flow, filling up the lake.

My guide, Saron, advised me NOT to give any handouts to the children begging near the lotus fields. If you do, it teaches them they can earn more by begging than by going to school, perpetuating the problem to future generations.

Do NOT give to, or buy from, the begging children

At the dock, we loaded onto one of many waiting tourist boats. These drivers earn $6-8 of the $15 fare you pay. Only 2 rides a day in high season; 2-3 a week right now. Note the steering wheel. It’s connected to the rear rudder assembly by two ropes.

Boat on Tonle Sap

You might think, “this is the definition of ghetto.” But this boat was actually in the top 10%; a lot of them looked far worse. It did drive pretty well, and the prop/rudder system keeps the propeller out of the mud.

Pretty sweet boat, by Cambodian standards

People living on the lake have floating houses, and there are multiple villages (for example, there are separate Cambodian and Vietnamese clusters). The villages move with the season, to stay relatively close to the shore without being beached. Some even have gardens…

Floating house - with garden!

Villagers raise and catch fish, and (sadly) farm crocodiles. I do not buy any crocodile products.

Crocodile farm - really pitiful looking crocs destined for handbags and barbecues

Here’s a fisherman casting his net in the canal:

Tonle Sap fisherman

Could you imagine living with your whole family in this much space? All your appliances are powered by batteries, charged intermittently by the one family with a generator.

Colorful house on Tonle Sap Lake

Some of these scenes of poverty are just heartbreaking. I’d suggest if you visit and want to help in some small way, take 10kg of rice (worth $5 USD) with you on your boat ride. Give it directly to one of these families. That guarantees no fake charity keeps some or all of your donation.

Cambodia is rife with poverty, but slowly improving since Khmer Rouge times

Just outside the port are some village areas on stilts, where the water should fill in during rainy season. This year the river’s flow is not properly reversing, most likely because of a dam China built. But everyone in ASEAN is scared to say that out loud; they don’t want to piss off China.

Houses on stilts in Cambodia

To end with something more positive, I went to the local market with Saron. He picked out a special kind of local herb that is commonly served with fried beef. It’s a favorite of locals, but is not served much in restaurants (and certainly not tourist restaurants). I’ve lost the name, but will post it here if/when I find out.

My hotel, Angkor Spirit Palace, prepared the dish for me using the greens I bought. Delicious! That nice blur is what you get when you’re up close with an f/2 prime lens.

Delicious Cambodian beef dish

I also bought 10kg of rice at the market, and donated it in person to some poor families living near my hotel. I encourage every visitor to Cambodia to at least make this small effort – it’s $5 for you (2 cocktails at a tourist bar), and equals a month of rice for them. Thanks again to Saron for another amazing and enlightening day!

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago at 3:05 pm.

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Cambodian Sunset

Finally, after a long stretch of nothing, I saw a good sunset in Asia! That’s apparently not so easy during the rainy season. This sunset is actually from yesterday, but I only took a couple photos today (July 21st), so I’ll combine ‘em.

Sunset over Siem Reap, Cambodia

Like I’ve said several times on this trip, I might post an HDR of this sunset eventually – rice paddies in the foreground. But I need to get some software (and get home to my more-powerful PC) first.

Siem Reap sunset

Today’s shot: a White Russian at The Banana Leaf bar & restaurant on Siem Reap’s Pub Street.

Banana Leaf - White Russian

I can’t agree with Tyler Durden’s theory of “single serving friends.” It’s cool to meet other international travelers from all over the world, even if it’s just for one evening of Khmer food and drinks. Cheers, LH… hope you enjoy the rest of your trip!

Mmm... Tequila Sunrise!

I highly recommend Khmer Kitchen, on the corner near Le Grand (which is across from one of the Viva – Mexican locations). My guide Saron’s suggestion of #15 and #42 on the menu was spot on. You can’t beat 42, the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything. And the dishes were cheap (for Pub Street) at just $3!

Tomorrow I’m off with Saron again, this time for a half-day trip to Tonle Sap lake, which changes level drastically during the rainy season. Stay tuned to learn more!

Posted 11 years, 11 months ago at 3:43 pm.

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