Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

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Forum Vini 2010

By: David Douglas

For longtime readers, you might remember last year’s Forum Vini article. I went back this year for my fourth Forum Vini dose of fine food, wine, and spirits! This year I experimented with only natural light: no flash, and all photos are using my Nikon 35mm f/2 lens + Nikon D90. I often white-balanced on an index card before each shot.

Delicious Goufrais chocolates… amazingly cool on the tongue. True fine chocolate truffles.

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Once again, Enoteca Palmieri was in full force with some great wines (more photos below in the full album). Check out the shop at Augsburgerstr. 25 in Dachau. Palmieri had the largest bottle of wine that I saw at Forum Vini!

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Palmieri also had something else special: grappa infused with olives! This is a really unique, delicious spirit. And that’s coming from someone with a big (and varied) liquor cabinet.

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Delicious oil, vinegar, and sherries from Aecovi Jerez:

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Once again I stopped by Dr. Schätzl of Moosburg to check out this year’s display. Here’s a stunning array of different exotic oil: pumpkin seed, poppy seed, walnut, and more…

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And a list of other exhibitors who are shown below in the gallery:

Thanks to those at the stands who allowed me permission to photograph them or their products. I had a great time, and (I think) found some great photographic opportunities!

Full album of photos: [salbumphotos=9,144,max,y,n]

Posted 6 years, 4 months ago at 3:47 pm.

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The birds and the… more birds

Jurong Bird Park in Singapore is an entire zoo filled with nothing but birds. That sounded pretty interesting, so on July 14th I decided to try it out. On the way there I stopped for lunch at a Chinese dumpling place. Bad idea! More on that later. For now, let’s see what I could do with the 18-200mm VR and my D90!

The Birds & Buddies show, which I caught just after arriving, was awesome. I could do a whole article about that, but for now I’ll settle for a few photos. First up: did you know that birds can play basketball? First one to sink 4 shots wins!

Bird basketball

The next birds were just too fast. Even with ISO 1600 (above which it gets too grainy for me), they were still a wee bit blurry with wide-open aperture.

Through the hoop!

The birds-of-prey show had a bit more light. This show was also fantastic! They used fake baits (like a mock-rabbit with a piece of meat in it, and this rubber snake) with the trained birds.

Birds of Prey show

Tropical birds ruled the park. There were more brightly-colored fancy-birds than anything else. Lots of fop-and-dandy avians like these preening pretty-boys…

Some kind of brightly-colored birds - lovebirds?

And now one for the ladies among my audience. I waited a long time to get the perfect pose of these two black swans with their white-feathered baby. I didn’t know that was possible!? Maybe the little tyke is adopted.

Aww, look at the cute swans!

This is one bird for the catwalk. Natural sequins, and such stunning eyes! She was so tame, too; I was about four feet away when taking this photo. Make a turn, baby… show us the back of that dress!

The superb starling notices me

These two were getting friendly. And I must admit, there were children watching… two or three others, besides me.

Aahhh... get a room you two!

About this time, I was feeling unusually tired. On the bus ride home, it only got worse. Let’s just say, I don’t recommend the dumpling place I tried near Lorong Stangee and East Coast Road. Something I ate there caused a few hours of serious distress.

Because of the dumplings, I postponed my plans to visit the Night Safari. But rest assured, awesome shots of animals at night will be coming up soon!

Posted 6 years, 8 months ago at 3:12 pm.

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No, DON’T Eat My Shorts!

I toured around Kyoto on June 26th with a new friend from the hostel. It rained the whole day, but I did manage to get a few cool shots of these turtles in the park around Toji temple:

Why are these turtles crowding onto this rock?

This Five-Storied Pagoda is a national treasure. It had a few “bests,” I think including the tallest wooden structure in Japan.

Five-Storied Pagoda at Toji

I love Japanese Maples. The overall family is my favorite kind of tree. I managed to find a bit of contrast despite the rain, and got this nice photo of trees in Maruyama Park, by the Gion district.

Japanese Maple

At the edge of the park I found this beauty parked in a patch of grass. I’m once again impressed by the D90 and Nikon’s VR (Vibration Reduction) system. It was almost dark by the time I got this handheld, no-flash photo. Does anyone know what kind of car this is?

Old car in Japan

I wandered through the Gion district, but didn’t see any Geisha, as it was raining. Neither they nor I had much desire to be out and about. This scene greeted me under one awning:

Don't eat my shorts!

Today I definitely observed a bit of the flavor of Kyoto! Everything from the sublime to the obscene. Tomorrow: I go to a castle in the center of the city, known for its “nightingale floors!?”

Posted 6 years, 8 months ago at 3:23 pm.

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Bats in the Daytime, and Sydney at Night

Strangely enough, the best time to see bats in Sydney is the middle of the day. They all sleep in the park! Apparently it’s a big problem, because they damage the trees they roost in.

Bats on a tree in Sydney Botanical Gardens

I took some photos for a friend in the hostel on June 8th, and thought I’d share them here as well. These are some seriously huge bats!

Sleepy bats in Sydney Botanical Gardens

I didn’t expect too much when a few bats took to the air. But my trusty Nikon D90 and 18-200mm VR did not disappoint. With a fast shutter and a bit of cropping, I managed to get this.

A flying bat in the daylight at Sydney Botanical Gardens

Okay, now that your skin is crawling, I’ll drop it down a notch. (Sorry, Emeril). Here’s what else I’ve got for today. I’m gonna say the bokeh has blurred this kid’s face enough for privacy. “What you doin’ on my walkway, mate?”

Some bird looking at a kid in Sydney Olympic Park

Now for the night shots! I’ll just put a few of the best ones. All are long exposures requiring a tripod, with ISO of 400 or lower to avoid noise. Here’s the Sydney Opera House, lit up on the side facing Circular Quay. The colors are projected in an ever-changing video.

Sydney Opera House lit up at night

Majestic downtown Sydney:

Downtown Sydney as seen from Macquarie's Point

And finally a nice combination of the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.

Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge at night

If you’re interested in how to take nighttime photos, check some other articles on the blog where I explain a bit about it (e.g. Paris at Night). There will also be a post up shortly about night pics taken from Sydney Tower. Or just leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer your question!

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:06 pm.

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Down the Barrel of an Active Volcano

Kilauea is pretty quiet right now. But that didn’t stop me from getting some good shots around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island on May 29th. First, I had to laugh at this sign in the area for viewing steam vents and sulfur deposits.

Beware of earth cracks

Here are some cool sulfur crystals in an area where gases are constantly rising out of the ground. The smell reminded me of riding to altitude in the Otter with a certain skydiving friend of mine. You know who you are.

Sulfur crystals by a gas vent

Next I headed to Kilauea. During the day it’s just a smoking crater in a massive volcanic cone area. While that’s very cool, it doesn’t compare to the nighttime view (long exposure with tripod using the Nikon D90):

Kilauea at night

This is just the glow of the lava (which you can’t see) lighting up the smoke plume and the clouds that are rolling in.

I also drove down to the end of highway 130, where most activity in the last few years has taken place. Ever since the volcano started erupting outside the national park, there have been issues with access. Now they have a security company that corrals tourists to keep them a) safe and b) off private property. On the way to the county’s “viewing area” I passed this sign:

For Sale: 2 lots, oceanview

Take it how you will. As funny as I found it, the guy who’s trying to sell a chunk of land that is solid black lava probably isn’t too amused.

The old viewing area was overrun by lava three weeks ago (if only I’d been here then!). Now you can only go as far as the last point where the lava crossed the road. Unfortunately that’s pretty far from the active flows, which are pretty limited this week anyway. There’s not even much running into the ocean right now.

Most of the lava is pooling up on a hill, on private property, and not really flowing anywhere. If you try to approach it (and do get past security), you risk breaking through into air pockets in recently-cooled (and broken-glass sharp) lava or melting your shoes on still-warm flows. I might have chanced it during the day with some precautions, but my itinerary didn’t allow time for it.

Here’s the best shot I got from the viewing area at night:

Molten lava at the Highway 130 viewing area

Keep in mind this is a crop of a 200mm zoom photo, long exposure on a tripod. Probably only 2 or 3 people a day bring the right equipment and know-how even to get this distant photo. The flow you can see is probably 1-2 miles away. The glow on the horizon is clouds being lit up by the new area where lava is pooling. It’s not what I’d hoped for, BUT it is a photo of molten lava! Check that off the RTW list – haha.

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:59 pm.

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Kauai by Helicopter

Going to Hawaii? I hope you will visit Kauai, known as “The Garden Island.”

It’s perhaps the most beautiful place on earth.

Great, you’re visiting Kauai? You have to go on a helicopter tour. Seeing the entire island by helicopter is a must, even if it means saving for another month or two before making your trip.

Island Helicopters - maintaining the aircraft between every flight, polishing the HUGE windows

Now… you’ve found out there are a dozen helicopter tour operators. Which one to choose? Take my advice, because as a skydiver, I have a lot of small aircraft experience. I’m very safety-oriented, and you should be, too. So don’t go for the cheapest tour (that often means cutting corners to cut costs!).

After my experience this week, I can recommend 100% that you fly with Island Helicopters. Their prices are very reasonable, considering you are flying with one of the safest operators on the island. You will fly in a well-maintained aircraft piloted by the best, and it’s all organized very professionally.

Island Helicopters - photo of my flight crew :-)

Thanks to the whole staff, especially my pilot Isaac! Even with a bit of turbulence, I felt completely safe with him at the controls.

Now, what will you see? Everything. The tour circles the entire island! Many of the areas are inaccessible by car, and would take days of tough hiking to reach by foot (if possible to reach at all). I did manage to duplicate one of the helicopter views while hiking – it was 11 miles on foot and nearly a whole day. There were dozens of views like this in under an hour on the heli tour!

Here are a few key vistas that really struck me, although you might have a different favorite spot.

The archway that James Bond flew through in “The Man with the Golden Gun,” on the nearly-inaccessible Na Pali coast:

"The Man with the Golden Gun" plane-through-tunnel scene

Manawaiopuna Falls, a private waterfall used in the beginning of “Jurassic Park”:

Manawaiopuna Falls on Kauai, also known as Jurassic Falls

You can also take a helicopter tour that lands at Jurassic Falls, and have your picture taken there. This tour is only available through Island Helicopters, as they have an exclusive deal with the private landowner!

The tour with the landing costs (as of this writing) $299 on Spring Special, as opposed to $178 for the standard 50-60min “Deluxe Tour.” But if you’re a movie buff, waterfall fan, or just want to do something special – this waterfall landing tour is for you!

Here’s another unreal coastline view:

Amazing coastline view on Kauai, Hawaii

And in case you need more convincing, here’s Wailua Falls. I had driven there the day before. The view from the lookout (where you see the road in this photo) was really disappointing, so I was thrilled to have this amazing view from the helicopter!

Wailua Falls on Kauai, Hawaii

Why do I recommend a helicopter tour? Because it’s the most amazing thing I’ve done on the islands so far!

Why fly with Island Helicopters? Their excellent safety record. A fantastic helicopter with the biggest windows. Custom left-side pilot seat so you get a better view (flying clockwise around the island). Their focus on safety throughout the trip. Friendly and professional staff. BOSE noise cancelling headsets with pilot narration. Exclusive Jurassic Falls landing. Did I mention great safety record?

There must be a reason that this company has been hired to fly camera for movies such as Jurassic Park, Tropic Thunder, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Six Days/Seven Nights, and many more. Good enough for feature films = an awesome tour for your digital SLR! Note, all the pictures in this article were taken by me on the tour with my Nikon D90 / 18-200mm VR. So with a bit of care, you can really get some great shots.

If you do go to Kauai and try a helicopter tour, please let me know how you liked it! I hope you’ll have the same amazing experience that I did with Island Helicopters.

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Disclaimer: this article is a promotion for Island Helicopters. However, all my opinions of the flight and the operation are unbiased judgments based on my experience.

Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:48 pm.

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Creepy Crawlies in the Jungle

For the squeamish readers, you may want to stop now. This post is about things that might make your skin crawl, like a big, hairy spider the size of a lumberjack’s hand. Personally, I loved playing hide-and-seek with the jungle insects in the Tambopata Reserve:

Hide-and-Seek with a Rainforest Insect

This guy was really beautiful, especially up close. The short focal distance of the 18-200mm VR lens definitely helped get magnified, sharp shots.

Up Close and Personal with a Rainforest Insect

I caught this stick insect in the middle of a meal, as he was munching on a leaf:

Stick Insect having a Leaf for Dinner

Another stick insect we saw was just hiding in plain sight. If I weren’t an intelligent species I really would have mistaken him for a twig:

Stick Insect Hiding in Plain Sight

Last, but not least – in fact, the largest of the night’s finds – this huge spider, which was (no exaggeration) bigger than my hand:

Giant Rainforest Spider

In case that isn’t enough to give you nightmares, here’s a close-up of the body. Mu-hahaha!

Close-up of a Giant Spider's Body

Sweet dreams! Surprisingly, I slept quite well that night at Explorer’s Inn, even knowing that I might wake up to a tarantula in my shower.

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 3:19 pm.

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Otters, Monkeys, and Spiders

My full day in the Amazon rainforest at Explorer’s Inn started early, with a 5am wakeup (May 15th) just as the howler monkeys started their calls. We wanted to be on the trail by 6am to spot jungle animals on our way to Cocococha, an oxbow lake formed by a cut-off bend of a river in the Tambopata reserve.

Our guide’s strategy worked! Along the way we met a group of Saddleback Tamarin Monkeys (also known as the kissing monkey, because of the noise they make). They were quite curious and posed for us until we headed on our way. Can you see the bug in this picture?

Saddleback Tamarin Monkeys

Apparently in this species the fathers take care of the babies, who often ride on their backs.

Saddleback Tamarin Monkeys - Dad and Baby

Along the trail we spotted a lot more fauna than this, but I just can’t show everything now. There is too much for one post. At Cocococha Lake, we took to the canoes and saw a family of Giant River Otters. One of them caught a tasty meal:

Giant River Otter dining on a meal of fish

Then, we were lucky enough to see a very rare sight: another kind of otter that is almost never spotted in this area. Our guide identified it from my photo as a Neo-Tropical Otter:

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Can I just say that I love my Nikon D90 and 18-200mm VR lens? Okay, an expensive 70-200 f/2.8 would be better for nature photography, but just look at this guy. Beautiful.

Here’s another interesting denizen of the jungle, the Hoatzin. It’s known locally as the “Stinky Bird,” though we weren’t quite close enough to smell it:

Hoatzin, the stinky bird

I’ve got dozens more great pictures of frogs, ants, lizards, and plants. But here’s one more for today: the Pink-Toed Tarantula. What would you do if this were waiting in your shower in the afternoon? That’s exactly what happened to one of our group!

Pink-Toed Tarantula in the shower

I’ll stop here for now, though I might do another post about this day, just to throw in a few of the amazing insects and spiders we saw on our night walk. Thanks again to Noemi for her excellent guiding and fauna spotting!

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 4:17 pm.

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Into the Jungle

On May 14th, I departed by plane from Cusco, Peru to the town of Puerto Maldonado – starting point for Amazon jungle expeditions! Arrive to Puerto Maldonado via Cusco (conveniently, Cusco is the starting point for visiting Machu Picchu, Peru’s main attraction).

I was lucky in this stage of my travels. On the plane I met a nice Dutch woman, and we talked about our jungle plans. My answer: “Uhm, I have no plans. Just a list of good jungle lodges from a guidebook.” Fortunately, she already had plans with the first (and now in my opinion foremost) of the jungle lodges: Explorer’s Inn.

It is because of research done at Explorer’s Inn (see the research website at Fauna Forever) that the Tambopata National Reserve near Puerto Maldonado was created. Even now, it is the only jungle lodge in the reserve. I decided to go for it.

Covered and uncovered taxis in Puerto Maldonado

At the airport I asked the tour guide if they had space; he smiled and said “Let’s go to the office.” A short bus ride later, I met lead researcher Chris from Fauna Forever and signed up for a two night stay. We headed off through the backwater town of Puerto Maldonado toward our boat. After 1h on the bus and 1h on the boat, we would arrive at our destination.

Water Taxi taking bananas to market

Here’s where it becomes difficult. Which couple of shots do I show out of (ahem) two gigabytes of amazing photos – all wild animals spotted in their natural rainforest habitat?

I’m just going to show a few of the best photos from each day, for now. Later on (perhaps after the trip) I’ll revisit this topic and put up galleries of each kind of animal: mammals, butterflies, insects, birds, and so forth.

Here’s a spectacled caiman from our night trip up the river:

Spectacled Caiman at Explorers' Inn

And here are two choice shots of the night sky. These were both taken with my Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR lens, and 2s timer (to let the camera stabilize after my finger pressed the shutter). First one is the Milky Way! ISO 6400, f/3.5, 30s:

Milky Way over Explorers' Inn in Puerto Maldonado

Hard to believe we are just short-lived individuals of the dominant species on a single planet orbiting a mid-sized star, just like thousands of other stars in the one arm of our galaxy that you see here.

Anyway, here’s my lucky shot of the night. I was shining my headlamp on the palm to make a pretty scene when a shooting star graced my D90’s sensor with its photons (see upper right corner):

Sky over Explorers' Inn with shooting star

I feel like a big geek after those last two paragraphs, so I’m going to stop here. That’s what I did that evening, as well. I had to get some sleep, because we had an early wake-up for the morning’s jungle trek. Like Machu Picchu, I didn’t need an alarm clock. But instead of the Incas’ Revenge, I had a nice jungle native as my alarm clock at Explorer’s Inn…

Subscribe by RSS or email with the orange buttons in the left sidebar to hear more about my jungle adventures in Peru!

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 4:48 pm.

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Carving Masters 20X!

This winter (or spring, rather?) I went to my first hardboot snowboard carver meetup. Carving Masters in Soelden was fantastic fun! The weather was good for 3 of 4 days. I demoed snowboards from Virus, Apex, F2, Goltes, and Oxess.

Most of the time I talked in German, so I really improved my skillz. We stayed in a great Pension (Bed & Breakfast) that was quite cheap, and right in the town center.

Here are a couple of choice still photos:

Tobi carving on his Coiler raceboard

A nice relaxed toeside raceboard carve

And, a gallery with the best few photos of each person that passed by:

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Action photos were taken with a Nikon D90 and the 18-200mm VR lens. Should anyone want a full-res photo of themselves, just leave a comment here and tell me which rider you are! Videos may have to wait a few months until I’m back from my round-the-world trip.

Thanks to all the organizers at Frozen Backside, and to the vendors who made such a great effort and let us try their boards free of charge!

About Carving Masters

  • See the official Carving Masters website here, though it will be a while before any information about CM 2011 is available.
  • You can also find information about Carving Masters on the Frozen Backside hardboot forum.
  • I can highly recommend staying at Pension Andre Arnold in Soelden. Clean and modern rooms, an excellent location, and a reasonable price. It’s run by a 4-time pro world ski champion! Imagine winning the world championships 4 years in a row from 1978-1981. Impressive.
  • Try “Die Alm” at your own risk – we had the most rude service ever from the bartender there. Literally, I’ve never seen such bad service in my entire life, except perhaps once in Blacksburg, VA when a waitress told us (when our food was VERY slow coming) “It’ll come when it comes. I don’t run the kitchen.”

Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 12:05 pm.

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