Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

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

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Santa Missing after Accident

Due to the graphic nature of the following story and photos, it is recommended that children under the age of 12 are shielded from this information.

Reports indicate that Santa fell out of his sleigh during a Nov. 24th practice run for Christmas 2011. Recent photos taken from a passing 747 confirm this tragedy:

Santa in freefall

These are the last known images of Santa.
Last known images of Santa

Note that Santa’s beard appears to be a freefall hazard:
Santa's beard a freefall hazard

A final image (where Santa’s hat appears to be coming off) reveals that old Saint Nick may actually be bald.
News flash: Santa appears to be bald

At this time it is unknown if Santa was equipped with any emergency safety equipment, such as a jet pack or parachute. However, based on a prior skydiving trip in 2010 (file photo below), there is still hope that Santa will be found alive.

Santa in undated skydiving photo

Our thoughts go out to Mrs. Claus. At her request, donations to the Elves’ Fund can be made through Traveldave.com.

Photographs by Eric Babcock.

Posted 10 years, 7 months ago.


Christmas Pet Photos

When traveling in my home country, visiting friends and shopping in strip malls, I don’t have such the incentive for scenic photos. But I do find other subjects at which to point my camera. In the holiday spirit, here are a few random photos of friends’ pets being cute…

This is Diesel, the one-eyed horse:

Diesel the one-eyed horse

“Eat the kitty!”

Eat the Kitty, Salem!

Encyclopedia Brown and the Mystery of the Symmetrical Hounds:

Symmetrical Hounds

“This thing had better not run over my toes.”

Kitty under Christmas Tree with Train

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays!

p.s. for the Encyclopedia Brown fans, the answer is that Bugs Meany has drugged their food and arranged them in this curious pose. This way he could egg(nog) Encyclopedia’s house while the young detective was busy figuring out what happened to the dogs.

Posted 11 years, 6 months ago.


Toytown Photo Walk – October

I met up with the Toytown photo club and walked around Munich in the dark for a few hours. Here are a few shots I managed without any tripod.

f2 Cafe

I was going for a different angle on this red-lit mannequin.


Shooting from the hip in the dark at f/2…

From the hip

Eisbach surfers! I played with the strobe effect of my Nikon D90’s built-in flash. Next time I’ll bring a tripod and my SB600, turn down the ISO, and pump up the flash. That should blow out the orange highlights from the d*mn sodium vapor lights. I am too lazy for flash gels and a white card, heh.

Eisbach Surfing - Strobe Effect

That’s all for today!

Posted 11 years, 9 months ago.


Mainau Butterfly House

On the island of Mainau in Bodensee, one can find a multitude of flowers. It’s known in German as the Blumeninsel, and lies just across from the German town of Meersburg on Bodensee. There are probably millions of flowers scattered around in thousands of gardens on this botanical island. Here’s a favorite shot of mine from the butterfly house:

This was one patient butterfly as I took several pics of him.

This was taken with my Nikon D90 and a 70-300 VR lens, which does a great job of shortening the depth of field.

A few more shots of flowers on Mainau will be coming up eventually! If you want to be notified, just subscribe to the blog with the orange RSS / Email buttons in the left sidebar.

Getting to Mainau:

  • Here’s a Google map of Mainau. I arrived at the ferry terminal on the right side of the island, coming from the nearby town of Meersburg. But you can also arrive there by car and park easily in the large parking area.
  • One tip: if you arrive at Mainau later in the day, you can get the Sunset ticket (1/2 price compared to the normal €15.90 entry fee). It’s good after 17:00, which in the summer is no problem! Winter prices are much cheaper at €7, but then you can’t see many flowers, so I wouldn’t recommend it. If you do the sunset ticket, make sure you still have a way home, as the ferries from Mainau may stop running early (I had to take a bus to another town, then ferry back).

Posted 12 years, 4 months ago.

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Cats in Heat

Haven’t you always wanted to know how hot a cat is? A friend of mine who’s a home inspector has finally answered that question. And the camera he used to do it is such a cool piece of photographic technology that I have to share it!

Note the cat’s very cold nose (of course!) and hot eyes & ears.

thermal cat 2_sm

Eric uses the thermal camera to locate problem areas in a house under contract (or during “energy audits” to help save on energy bills). Some of this stuff is completely intuitive, but I’d still never think of it myself. Here’s an area of missing insulation (summer heat leaking into an air-conditioned house):

missing insulation 16_sm

And there’s obviously some dangerous electrical fault here at the hot breaker:

thermal electric inspections 4_sm

I really want to get one of these cameras. Unfortunately they’re damn expensive: the Fluke Ti10 costs over $4,000! Here it is, in all its glory:


Now a final shot, showing the thermal cam in use. Note the temperature scale on the side.


It’s unlikely that any of my readers will buy a house in Richmond, VA. But if you do, look up Eric Babcock at Home Inspex, and let him know that I sent you his way. He’s an old friend, and a really thorough home inspector.

Wherever you may buy a house, ask about thermal imaging. The extra $ it may cost is nothing compared to the price tag for fixing one of the home problems that it can find in just a few seconds. I love technology!

Here are some more gratuitous thermal pics of random stuff…

Posted 12 years, 5 months ago.


Japanese Okonomiyaki

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

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

Slicing the octopus for okonomiyaki

Here’s a shot of the whole process:

All the stages, from batter to finished product

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

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!

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 12 years, 8 months ago.


Bugatti Veyron

The Bugatti Veyron.  The most powerful, fastest, and most expensive production car to date.

It’s made by Volkswagen.
Bugatti Veyron
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:
Bugatti Veyron

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:

Bugatti Veyron

And of course, the W-16 engine, which at top speed will use up 25gal (100L) of fuel in 12 minutes:
Bugatti Veyron

Only one exhaust?  Hehe.  Rear view:
Bugatti Veyron

Looks a wee bit menacing from this angle.  And one wonders, how does the driver see the road?

Bugatti Veyron

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?

Bugatti Veyron

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 12 years, 8 months ago.


Helmetcam Video: 140mph in a BMW M-Z3 Roadster

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.

YouTube Preview Image

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 12 years, 9 months ago.


Taipei Zoo

I’ve been to a lot of zoos in my time.  Some, like the zoo + croc farm in Melaka, are a little sad… the animals don’t look too happy.  Others, like the San Diego Zoo, do a much better job with habitats, space, and overall quality of life for the animals.  I’m happy to say the Taipei Zoo meets the same standard as the zoo in San Diego, at least from what I could see as a visitor.

Leopard in the sun

Leopard in the sun

There were a lot of primates there as well, and their habitats were quite impressive.  Mostly I was going for zoom shots, trying to avoid too many hints that it’s a zoo instead of the wild:

Climbing a tree

Climbing a tree

You’ll notice I have a lot of shots of the big cats.  They had nice habitats, and all were posing for me, so why not?  I used a Nikon D90 and 70-300VR lens for all these photos.

Squinting tiger

Squinting tiger

Okay, this was Taipei, and it gets hot there in the summer.  I think it was in the mid-30’s Celsius (90’s in F).  I was glad to see the most sensitive animals were not in their “on-show” habitats; probably they were cooler non-visible areas.  But several of the animals were looking toasty, and not too happy about it.  (not the greatest focus, but I had to laugh at/with this poor guy)

Sorry, red panda... I don't control the weather

Sorry, red panda... I don't control the weather

Here’s a bird I don’t think I had ever seen before in person, only in photos and on cereal cartons:

Colorful toucan

Colorful toucan

This is a favorite, the lynx: I used one as a character in my book, Demon’s Bane.  The demon Shyama inhabits a lynx form.

This is a lynx, like the one in DEMON'S BANE

This is a lynx, like the one in DEMON'S BANE

I saved my favorite for last.  To get this shot I had to walk around to the back viewing area of the enclosure, and stand on some rocks by the path to get the right angle for a “natural” look.  Out of a dozen shots, one came out looking like a teenager’s portrait in the evening sun:

Friendly-looking lion

Friendly-looking lion

To sum up, if you enjoy good zoos, I highly recommend the one in Taipei.  The zoo is at the end of an MRT line so it’s easy to find.  There’s lots more to do in Taipei, so if you’re looking for a nice trip idea, go there!  You won’t regret it.

Posted 12 years, 11 months ago.

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