Hello and welcome to my blog space!

In this section, you will see my travel experience along with photographs taken during my trips.

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Hope you enjoy reading these travelogues.

 

Mesmerizing Monsoon - Part II

September 10, 2016  •  3 Comments

If you haven't read part I, it doesn't matter..there is no particular sequence to this travelogue!

You can read this first and catch up with part I later :) 

After spending the first 2 weeks in Hong Kong, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, we headed to Nilgiris.

South India Road Trip Road Trip in Maharastra

Nilgiris

Ooty and Coonoor

Masinagudi route to Coonoor was beautiful, especially with monsoon greenery. The road has about 37 hairpin turns, but much quicker than the Mudumalai/Gudalur route. We saw beautiful sunflower farm near Gundulpete and stopped for a few pictures. After a quick visit to the Chocolate Museum, our next stop was for lunch at A2B (Adayar Ananda Bhavan) in Ooty.

As planned we headed to Fernhills Royale Palace after lunch. Google Maps navigation led us to a dead end at some private property and after losing our way completely, we checked with the local horse carriage man who guided us to the spot like a TomTom! 

Fernhill Palace Drive through Bandipur Forest Fernhill Royale Palace Sunflower Farm near Gundulpete

At the palace gate, we heard about restrictions for visitor access. However, as the saying goes in India, 'Where there's a Bill, there's a Way ;)'

Similar to Lalitha Mahal Palace in Mysore, they do allow people inside the palace for visiting their restaurant!  Feeling sleepy after a heavy lunch at A2B, we didn't mind some hot chai after all. A monsoon weekday was the perfect time for palace visit as we were the only visitors enjoying the great ambiance for more than an hour with hot tea served at our table. Next India trip, I plan on spending a night at this palace. Their nightly rates run ~ $150/- which is not bad for the location and luxury it offers.

Historic Coonoor Railway Station   Green Carpet of Nilgiris

Outside the palace, it was a different story though. We were back to reality driving in rain clogged roads of Ooty as we headed straight to SunValley Homestay in Coonoor, where my brother's family had already checked-in. The homestay is nicely located in the middle of a tea estate with some splendid views of sprawling tea estates from the rooftop.  Food and service was also great at the homestay. Catered menu of our choice included idiappam, idly, vadai, and parotta kurma!

Sunset over Tea Estate Tea Time

The following morning, after breakfast, we drove to Dolphin's nose and lamb's rock. With fog cover in the valley, we couldn't see anything from the vista except for a few cute monkeys, which my kids enjoyed more than the scenery.

Dream Home@Nilgiris Rural road in Karnataka

The drive to Dolphin's nose was great. There were tea estates all around and locals even allowed us to take photographs inside the tea estate with ethnic costumes.

Giant Indian Malabar Squirrel Please forgive me
Mr. Curious Tea Factory - Coonoor

We also spotted a Giant Malabar Indian Squirrel near one of the estates which was a surprise sighting as they are normally shy and hard to spot. Visiting Nilgiris, without a stop at the tea factory was not going to be complete. So we took a tour of the Brooklands Tea Factory; sampled their black tea and picked up some tea leaves at the factory store.

My brother's family returned directly to Mysore while we drove in another car to Coimbatore. With only a stop for tender coconut water by the roadside, we were hungry by the time we hit Coimbatore area and stopped at Hotel Annapoorna in Saibaba Colony for a late lunch. Curd Semiya, Masala Dosa, Poori with Coffee ..nothing beats that for sure.

Trichy and Srirangam

Without much break in between, the same evening, we were busy re-packing for our great temple trip in South India. The very next day, we were on the road again in a roomy tempo traveler van. We took a small break for tea at Karur and reached A2B restaurant near the Rockfort in Trichy for lunch around 1 pm.

North Tower - Srirangam Temple TowersSrirangam

After lunch, we went to Srirangam temple around 2.30 pm and had a great Darshan. With sparse crowd during afternoon hours, it was a great time to do photography of temple interiors. By the time we got out, it was 4 pm, just about the right time for 'fresh filter kaapi' at Murali's Coffee..the best filter coffee I had during my India trip. It kept us awake all the way till we reached the Tanjavur Big Temple. 

Murali Coffee - Srirangam Lunch at A2B Srirangam Rajagopuram

Tanjavur

Big Temple was in my bucket list for a loooong long time. Finally, during this trip, I could check mark the item and made full use of it with my camera and portable tripod. Tripod use is not allowed inside the temple campus, however, I used my portable setup for just one 'Paisa Vasool' shot during the blue hour. By the time I finished the shot, I fully recovered the $225 I had spent on purchasing a travel tripod exclusively for my India trip. 

Majestic Temple of Tanjore The Grant and the Majestic Brihadeeswarar Temple at Tanjore    Beautiful sculptures inside the temple     Entry to Big Temple   Calm morning inside the temple

By the time we got done with the Big Temple visit, all of us were ready to check-in at Lakshmi Hotel located about 3 km from the temple. It was one of the top 2 hotels in the area and I would recommend this to anyone visiting Tanjore. We had dinner at Sri Krishna Bhavan right in front of the hotel. After a good night sleep, I woke up for sunrise and visited the temple again to absorb it completely. I enjoyed the quiet atmosphere during morning hours and left before the crowd showed up.

Morning walk around the temple   Sunset at Big Temple

Thiruvaiyaru

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we left for the town of Thiruvaiyaru, the home legendary carnatic composer St Thyagaraja. Our kids had a chance to sing and it was soothing to listen to my sister sing 'Seethamma Maayamma' in front of the Saint.

Inside Thyagarajar Mutt Thiruvaiyaaru Sivan Temple

Kumbakonam 

Soon after, we left for Kumbakonam and surprised my friend Anand and his family at Mangalaambika Vilas, where we stopped for lunch. Lunch at Mangalaambika was fantastic. I wish I stayed till 4 pm to taste their kumbakonam degree filter kaapi in the place of its origin. After spending few hours at their ancestral home, we headed to another heritage temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram (GKC).

Mall of Kumbakonam Temple Praharam

GKC, although not as big as the Brihadeeswarar Temple, was equally beautiful. I was blessed with some good lighting and high clouds at both GKC and Big Temple which allowed me to come back with some solid keepers. By the time I got done with my photographic venture, we were already getting late for our Madurai road trip. We reached Madurai around 11pm. 

Sunset over Gangaikonda Cholapuram Gangaikonda Cholapuram Parrots over Temple Tower Lion at Gangaikonda Cholapuram Gangaikonda Cholapuram

Madurai

We stayed overnight at our aunt's place and were planning to visit the famous Meenakshi Amman temple following morning. As usual, I woke up early and visited the temple during sunrise. Only after I got there I came to know that they don't allow DSLR's inside. I ended up using my high-resolution mobile camera instead to shoot the beautiful temple interiors ;) 

GKC Grant Madurai Temple Art work on roof inside temple   Temple TankThe place where thiruvilayaadal movie was shot Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple

I walked around the hallways and 1000 pillar mandapam for at least 2 hours before breakfast. I went back to the temple again after breakfast with my family and enjoyed the temple in a more leisurely manner. My family members were awestruck by the wonderful architecture and interior beauty. We also visited the Thirmalai Nayakar Mahal Palace, the spot where the famous song 'Kannalanae' from Manirathnam's movie 'Bombay' was filmed. I couldn't do justice to the spot as well as the great cinematographer PC Sriram, but did manage to get a nice action shot of my daughter running inside the palace. South India Thali at Hotel Aarathy was awesome with great service. After lunch, we took a brief nap at my aunt's place before hitting the road again towards Coimbatore.

Thirumalai Nayakar Palace Meenakshi Amman Temple Gopuram@ Madurai

Our driver covered the distance in under 4.5 hours and we reached Coimbatore just in time for dinner at Annapoorna near our home in Nanjundapuram road. We had just a day before embarking on our next leg of the trip to Mumbai and Pune. Flight to Mumbai was a quick one and Jet Privilege, for a change unlike other domestic low cost airlines, provided in-flight meal.

Mumbai

Being monsoon season, we were greeted by rain in Mumbai and our drive to Hotel Trident was a wet one. We took the newly constructed Bandra-Worli sea link and got some great views of the city from seaside.

Carriage ride in Marine Drive Mini Vada Pav at Status Restaurant Queen's Necklace   Marine Drive during Day  
Bandhra Worli Sea Link

We reached Hotel Trident and freshened up before stepping out for a breezy walk along marine drive. We thoroughly enjoyed the location and made full use of our stay by just spending time in marine drive and nothing else! 

After picking up some street food for evening snack (Dabeli, Ragada Patty, and Vada Pav), we spent the whole evening walking along the marine drive and viewing queen's necklace from 32nd floor rooftop access at the hotel. By 8 pm, we were hungry again and had dinner at Status restaurant in Nariman Point, which was a real highlight. 

Due to exertion or some other reason, my son fell sick the same night and his body temperature shot up to 103 F. Luckily, the hotel service was top notch. They had an in-house nurse and doctor on-call at our service and they took excellent care of my son. We couldn't step out of the hotel with my son's illness and spent the whole day inside the hotel. Once his temperature dropped below 100F, doctor advised us to drive and we left for Pune after a brief stop in Chembur at our relatives place. The drive along Mumbai-Pune Expressway was an adventurous one with dense fog cover combined with bad driving by truckers crawling along fast lanes.  

Pune

We reached Pune the same evening and it felt good to be at my sister's home finally after a string of hotel stays. In Pune, we watched the newly released Rajinikanth movie, 'Kabali' at Ammanora Mall.

View from Sinhagad fort Hiking Trail at Sinhagad Sinhagad Hills Kabali da

We visited the Sinhagad Fort the following morning where traditional maharastrian breakfast was truly special. A very cheerful maushi served us mouth watering hot Bajjis, bhakri, and bharit.

A wonderful cook Food court at Sinhagad
Spicy Mangoes! Sinhagad Fort

Lavasa

Besides the fort, we visited Lavasa City, which is 2 hours driving distance from Pune. The route to Lavasa was extremely green and picturesque.

Lavasa City Hillside Temple
On the way to Lavasa Lavasa Reservoir

Inspired by the hindi movie 'Bajirao Mastani', I made a special effort to visit Shaniwar Wada. I thought visiting during a weekday morning would be ideal for photography, however, I noticed a lot of college kids out there. Must be a great place to take a break from their boring coursework I guess ;)  

Shaniwar Wada The Door at Shaniwar Wada

Mysore

After leaving Pune, our family forked at Bangalore with my wife and kids taking a flight to Chennai directly from Bangalore Airport. Coffee at Hatti Kappi along with Madhur Vada inside the airport was great. We had a prepaid cab waiting for us and left for Mysore directly from the airport. On the way to Mysore, we had dinner at the Kamat Lokaruchi restaurant on Mysore-Bangalore highway.

The ill effects of too much outside food had to catch up with me at some point and it promptly did as soon as I hit Mysore. The rest of my stay in Mysore was confined to the bedroom and bathroom! As soon as I got slightly better, I dragged myself to the Venugopalasamy temple located near KRS backwater. Sunset was great at the temple and I got my money shot at the spot.

My son point this at me for some reason ;) Temple sunset Dinner at Kamath Lokaruchi Mysore - Coimbatore Highway
Entry to Venugopalaswamy Temple Sunset at Venugopalaswamy Temple

After a brief stay at Mysore, we left for Coimbatore and spent a few days there before I took a flight to Chennai. 

Chennai

In Chennai, my original plan was to spend just 2 days, but due to flight delays, our trip was extended in Chennai for 2 more days. Thanks to the forced extension, I visited the newly renovated Kapaleeswarar Temple and Marina Beach one of those days. At the beach, I let my kids enjoy marina in a true chennai fashion. Lighthouse was closed at 5 pm..such a bummer..can't they keep it open for sunset?

Another day, we visited the lighthouse during afternoon hour and drove to Besant Nagar beach after that. On the way to the beach, I made a pit stop inside Santhome Church and sneaked a couple of interior pictures despite some resistance from the security boy inside.  

Beacon of Chennai Mylapore Tank and the Temple
Kapaleeswarar Temple Gopuram Santhome Church
Sunset at Besant Nagar Beach Grace Cathedral - ChennaiLocated on Cathedral Road..
View from Chennai Lighthouse Karl Schmidt Memorial@ Besant Nagar Beach
Inside the Kapaleeswarar temple Balloon Shooting at Marina Bermuda TriangleStairs at Lighthouse in Chennai
Catamaran Fishing in Marina Bhaji Stand in Marina Beach

After a full month in India, I should say I enjoyed a lot and covered many different places along with my family members. 

During my days in India, I have always wanted Indian cities to look like the cities in western developed nations as I didn't really like the shabby side of the country. Although my opinion about the shabby part has not changed, I have to admit that I had completely failed to admire and enjoy its beautiful side during my days there. 

Thanks to my photographic interests, I was able to appreciate India's beauty in an completely different manner through my lens. I honestly feel every city or town is uniquely beautiful, maintaining its own charm and character because of the diverse mix of people and cultures.  The same cannot be said of some of the newly formed cities in the western world.

There are plenty other places to cover in India like Leh-Ladakh, Rajasthan, Sikkim and eastern states. I hope to cover them during my future trips there.

If you have read this far..you were probably patient enough to go through my blog and pictures...would really appreciate a comment from you in the comments section!


Mesmerizing Monsoon - Part I

August 20, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

My trip to Asia was a month long, so I am going to publish this post in multiple parts..

Hong Kong

My flight from HK to Chennai was rescheduled by Cathay and they were gracious to provide me an overnight stay in HK.

As soon as I checked in the Hotel, I opened the window shades of 26th floor room and saw towering residential buildings. Even with lack of sleep from my long 14 hour flight, I mustered some energy to use my tripod for a shot of the night skyline from the room.

HongKong SkylineHongKong SkylineView of HK night sky from 26th floor of hotel room   Lugard Road TrailGreenery in Lugard road rail..Hikers in rain..

The next morning, after breakfast, I left for Lugard Road near Victoria peak and hiked the trail even though it was raining. The view from this trail is much better than the one you get from Sky Terrace at the Peak. 

After the tram ride down, I walked along Hollywood blvd to reach Man Mo Temple. I remember visiting this temple in 2012 and it has a magical draw to it. I took a few photos and left back for the hotel to check out for the airport. 

Hong Kong Storm from Lugard Road TrailHong Kong Storm Man Mo Temple Inside Man Mo Temple

Tamil Nadu

Chennai

Chennai Arrival - I was surprised to see my little one show up at 2.30 am to pick me at the airport...For some reason, I didn't pull my DSLR camera out of the bag during my first leg of the stay in Chennai. I met a few relatives; visited temples in Triplicane and Nanganallur. We met college friends over dinner at New Woodlands and ended my Chennai trip on a high note with Mango Ice Cream topped with Banganapalli Mangoes....yumm... 

Mango Ice Cream in ChennaiBanganapalli toppings ...yumm Chennai Beach RoadVivekananda House on Beach Road

Coimbatore

On July 4, took a flight to Coimbatore, my hometown. I didn't explore many places around Coimbatore during this trip. I just relaxed at home, did my routine morning walk in the race course and enjoyed good food in restaurants including the famous Hotel Annapoorna!  For the Coimbatoreans out there, they have a special 'Breakfast like a King' option which includes  idli, masal dosa, vada, pongal, kesari, and filter coffee for under US$2! 

Annapoorna Breakfast! Like a King ... Marudhamalai Temple Temple at Blue hour Perur TempleHistoric temple in Coimbatore

I did  visit Marudhamalai Temple on one of the evenings and I got lucky as it coincided with the Blue Hour which allowed me to get a nice shot of the newly renovated temple. Coimbatore is also the home for historical Perur Temple 

Karnataka

Bangalore and Mysore

After 5 days in Coimbatore, we took the train to Bangalore. Kids enjoyed the AC sleeper car experience more than the shatabdi chair car rides they did from Bangalore to Chennai earlier. The scenery from Salem to Hosur through the thoppur ghat was photographer friendly! Once we reached Bangalore, all our energy was drained by the traffic enroute home and we didn't feel like going out anywhere after that.

Coimbatore Railway StationStation entrance Scenery along Coimbatore Bangalore Rail RoadPalm trees in Salem area

After 3 days of meet & greet with relatives and some great food at Mayas and MTR House in Bangalore, we proceeded to Mysore. 

Railway StationPlatform inside the station Tuk Tuk from TipuAuto Rickshaw viewed from train

The train ride from Bangalore to Mysore was very scenic. I spent most of time at the doorway instead of sitting inside the Chair Car as the window was not clear enough for photography.

Mysore Bangalore Rail RoadNear Mandya Rail Journey Tobacco Farming in Coorg DistrictFarmlands at Coorg

Once we reached a much more relaxed Mysore, I got back my enthusiasm for photography and with my equally enthusiastic sister with me (who was after my pictures from the trip) I rushed to KR circle to capture the light trails of vehicles in the iconic landmark in the heart of the city.

K R Circle Mysore Mysore Railway StationHeritage tower

Coorg

After a day in Mysore, we took a tempo traveller and headed to Coorg. The route was beautiful with lush green surroundings from the recent monsoon. We saw a lot of Tobacco farms and coffee plantations on the way. Upon reaching our homestay, we had a hearty lunch, rested for a while, and walked around the estate area. It was a very relaxed setting with a view of coffee plantation from the room and occasional rain and mist.

Tree HouseMist over tree house in Coffee Estate Traditional Home Typical karnataka home in Coorg Rain and Fog View from the Resort inside Coffee Estate Abhidama ResortThe kind of Disneyland I like :) Madikeri TownFog over Madikeri Patio area in our roomRoom view

That evening we stopped by Abhi falls, which was a short drive from Madikeri. It rained a lot after we started our hike to the falls. Luckily we were prepared with umbrellas and raincoats. With the help of my sister, who provided cover from rain, I took a few shots of Abhi falls in full flow from the monsoon run off. We tried our luck at Raja Seat but it was completely covered by Mist.

Abhi FallsIn full flow from Monsoon runoff Mandalpatti Hills Old homes in the area

Mandalpatti

The following morning, we took a very adventurous jeep ride to the Mandalpatti Peak. Although the ride was just ~21 kms,  bumpy stretch meant it took more than a hour and half to get there. I was really impressed with the Jeep driver's skills as he drove with ease and style.

Jeep RideAdventurous Ride Road to Mandalpatti18 km road amidst the green hills

Hill was covered with mist but the scenery was just breathtaking. I took shots of the misty scene and a frog that was spotted by my son.

Rolling FogMandalpatti Rain Forest House in Mandalpatti Frog EyedSubmerged Frog in Mandalpatti Family walking to the Mandalpatti Vista

We got back to the homestay for lunch and headed to Iruppu falls that afternoon. This place is so green and moist, I was not surprised when I saw sign boards warning about King Cobra Nest at the location. It was raining once we got to the falls but this time with the help of my brother, who gave me cover from rain, I took a long exposure shot of the waterfall.

Iruppu Falls Trail Iruppu FallsPerennial waterfalls in Coorg

Our drive back to Mysore was through a 40 km stretch of a tiger reserve. Nagarhole national park was beautiful with tons of wildlife. The only thing we didn't spot was tiger..I wish we did..we saw wild boar, spotted deer, elephant, peacock, Indian Gaur on the route through the park. 

Ride through Nagarhole ForestFog and mist in the evening Farming in HunsurSunset time with Cattle in the farm around Hunsur

After crossing national park, we passed through small villages near Hunsur where I stopped for a brief moment to capture sunset shot in the farm lands.

Mysore

We had a pretty light agenda for a few days in Mysore after the Coorg trip. We visited St. Philomena's Church in the city and also visited the Lalitha Mahal Palace restaurant for an afternoon tea. They didn't allow DSLR photography inside the facility. However, I convinced the dining hall manager with my small 20mm prime lens ..to justify it is a small camera ;)  and managed to capture a few pictures.

Royal DiningLalitha Mahal Palace Hallway in Lalitha MahalPalace hallway Lalitha Mahal PalaceMysore Heritage Building St Philomena's ChurchSunburst over the church St Philomena's ChurchTallest spire on a Church in Asia University of MysoreCampus drive inside the university

That concludes the first 2 weeks of my trip.....I will continue this blog covering my last 2 weeks of trip to Coonoor, South India temples, Chennai, & Maharashtra 

 

 


The Great Lakeshore Drive

July 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Travelogue from a scenic trip around Lake Michigan and Chicago. 

Day 1

Landed in Chicago. After dinner (which my kids confused for an evening snack due to time zone difference), we viewed July 4th fireworks over Lake Michigan near Evanston. 

Below is the map of the route we took from Chicago around Lake Michigan. We covered this distance over a period of 5 days.

4th of July FireworksFireworks over Lake Michigan Driving RouteDrive around the Lake

Day 2

Sunrise:

Based on the hat tip provided by my relative, I woke up early morning to shoot the millennium park bean before crowd hit the popular tourist attraction. After filter coffee and a breezy drive along Sheridian Road/Lakeshore drive, I reached Millennium Park to shoot the reflective Bean.

Fresh 'Coffee' followed by a wonderful 'Bean'; a great way to start the trip indeed!

On my drive back, I stopped by Holy Name Cathedral in downtown area and noticed a Prayer Session in progress. I made a note of 'Mass' timings and decided to return the same afternoon. 

Morning Bean!Cloud Gate Beanfie Time!Cloud Gate

Afternoon:

Waking up at 5.30 am in Central Timezone meant I had a 3.30 am start in Pacific!  I took a short power nap; had lunch and went back to downtown area with family to see the interiors of 'Holy Name Cathedral', a beautiful Church. I took some pictures of the church interiors and the shutter noise from my camera made me feel guilty for disturbing the quiet and peaceful ambiance inside the church.  

Holy Name CathedralRustic interiors of the Church Divine AislewayColorful Stained Glass inside the Church

Evening:

From the Church, we walked along Magnificent Mile (Michigan Ave) to Millennium Park. On the way, we stopped at Dunkin Donuts near Tribune Tower for coffee and Donuts. Only after seeing Millennium Park in the evening hours, I realized how good my decision was to wake up early morning to shoot the bean. Morning Bean was like Fresh Coffee...evening Bean was like Burnt Coffee!!...It was crowded with tourists all around the bean taking selfies and beanies!! Later that evening, as per plan we wanted to visit John Hancock Observatory during Blue Hour. We took Uber to John Hancock around 6.30 pm anticipating crowded lines and long waits. However, there was zero wait to get to the top of the tower. The good news was, there was no wait..the bad news was, my family had to stay with me for 2 hours at the observation deck from half an hour before sunset till blue hour, which happens 30 mins after sunset. My kids point of view was completely different from mine..as you can see in the pictures below. My kids were curious to see how a FLY got to the outside window of 94th floor while I was busy scouting for compositions.

  Chicago Blues!Chicago Skyline at Dusk from Hancock Tower High FLY'er!Fly on the window of John Hancock at 94th floor! Lifeline of ChicagoView of Lakeshore Drive from John Hancock

After blue hour, we got down to meet our relatives for dinner. Being in Chicago, we had to eat the famous 'Deep Dish' Pizza and Gino's East Pizza was the recommendation by locals. We didn't expect a 45 minute wait at 10 pm on a Sunday...but it was worth the wait.

Gino's East has some interesting interiors with chalk scribbles all over the walls and chairs. 

On the way back to the Chicago train station, I was drawn by the water tower on Michigan Ave. I asked my family to proceed to the train station and stopped in the middle of Michigan Ave to get a long exposure shot of vehicles and the famous chicago water tower. This is one of the 3 historic buildings that survived the great chicago fire of the late 1800's. After going home, we crashed for the night and I decided to skip sunrise the next day .

  Gino's East Interiors of Gino's East Pizza Last one standingHistoric Water Tower Building on Magnificent Mile     Candy CrushInside Dylan's Candy Store on Magnificent Mile

Day 3

After breakfast, we took the Train to downtown area from Davis Street Station. I realized, again based on tip from the locals, trains are the most convenient mode of transport in Chicago, if you want to avoid the parking hassle in the downtown area. Moreover, trains also run well past midnight, in case you are out in the city for an extended duration.

We took the architecture tour along Chicago River and experienced the city from riverside. A lot of interesting facts were shared about the new and historic buildings in downtown area. From the river, through the locks, they took us to Lake Michigan from where the view of the skyline was beautiful. It was getting overcast as thunderstorms were in forecast. Luckily it didn't rain during the boat tour. We got off the tour; had lunch at our favorite Naf Naf Grill and stopped by the Tribune Tower on the way to train station. 

Chicago TrainPurple Line from Davis Street to Howard Architecture Tour Chicago River Architecture Tour

By the time we left Tribune Tower, it started raining like crazy. Though it was pleasant change for someone from drought hit California, without umbrellas, we had to take shelter inside Dylan's Candy Store. 

With kids, it is always a challenge taking shelter in a candy store!! Once rain stopped, we rushed to the train station and headed back to Evanston to pick up our rental car for our road trip.

Chicago Skyline from Lake MichiganSeadog Speedboats on Lake Michigan The Famous Tribune TowerTribune Tower Interiors Lollipop TreeInside Dylan's Candy Store

Later that evening, I wanted to shoot Chicago Skyline at Dusk and the area near Adler Planetarium presented the best vantage point for viewing the skyline. Evening hours are also the best to visit this spot as ample parking is available and for a change, driving was an option in Chicago.

As storm started to clear, skies opened up during blue hour for my dream shot!

I also had an opportunity to take a long exposure shot when clouds were rolling over the city moments before blue hour. 

Windy CityFast moving storm Clouds over Chicago Skyline My Favorite Skyline in AmericaChicago Skyline at Blue Hour

Day 4

We had a fantastic brunch and started the road trip portion of our trip. We entered Michigan around 3pm ...but lost an hour due to time zone difference and it was 4pm already. 

We stopped at Dunkin Donuts near Western Michigan University for coffee and donuts; visited the University campus in the evening.

Sprau TowerWestern Michigan University Thomas and Mary Stewart TowerLibrary Building at Western Michigan University

After a whirlwind visit to the University town, we headed to my friend's place in Holland, Michigan. This town is famous for Tulips and beaches along Lake Michigan!

I had no plans to shoot that evening, however, after seeing some promising clouds, I dropped my family for a traditional south indian dinner and headed to beach for sunset with my buddy Swami. We made it just in time to catch a glimpse of sunset colors over the Big Red Lighthouse. It turned out to be an eventful evening, as I forgot to pick up my tripod from the beach on the way out and had to make a return trip that night to retrieve my tripod.

For me, losing a tripod meant, skipping all my dawn and dusk shots during the remainder of the trip!

Luck was on my side though. On my return to the beach, I found my tripod resting on a metal barricade near the beach. 

Sunset over Big Red LighthouseLighthouse at Ottawa Beach Statepark.

Day 5

I celebrated my tripod recovery by waking up to shoot sunrise at the Ottawa Beach State Park. Swami had fresh coffee waiting for me at 5.30 am, soon after we left for the beach and reached in time for dawn colors. After sunrise, we stopped by The Good Earth Cafe light snack and coffee; reached home and had a sumptuous brunch.

Sunrise at Ottawa Beach State ParkDawn at the Big Red Coffee at Good Earth CafeCoffee in Holland Holland DowntownKids in Holland Downtown

After brunch, we stopped in Holland downtown; spent an hour in the main street area and headed to Traverse City via coastal route US 31. 

The drive took us 2.5 hours and by the time we reached Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore it was 4.00 pm. We had immense fun climbing the dunes with kids. No wonder, this place was named the best summer destination in the world by National Geography in 2012. After an hour at the dunes, we took the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. I wish I could go back here during fall as some of the trees would look beautiful during fall color season. We stopped at the dunes slide area. I have descended the 450 ft dune when I visited this beach in 1998..it was a painful way back up and I vividly remembered that. I could have attempted the descent with my daughter, but, would have delayed our arrival at Mackinac City that night. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National LakeshoreTree canopy on the way to the dune slide view area.. Infinity and Beyond!Infinite Horizon view of Lake Michigan as seen on a clear day..this dune slides down to lake michigan ..a steep climb of 450 ft on the way back!! Dune TreesTrees on Sand Dunes.. Sugarkissed!Best Bakery in Traverse City! After a tiring day at the dunes, we stopped in Traverse City downtown for dinner before our drive to Mackinac City. What is the best way to end a fun filled day at desert-like dunes? Have a dessert! A bananasplit cup cake at Traverse City's SugarKissed bakery.

Sugar high driving helped me reach Mackinac City around 11 pm and we crashed for the night after our kids spent sometime in the swimming pool area.

Day 6

After Breakfast at 8.00 am, we took the StarLine Ferry to Mackinac Island. Ferry took a slightly longer route via the mackinac bridge and it was 10.30 am by the time we reached the island. We rented bikes and biked along the 8 mile loop. Biking was the highlight of our trip to Mackinac. We stopped at several spots; one such spots was British Landing, where our kids and I took a dip in Lake Michigan. Water was comfortably warm in the upper 60's. After a refreshing dip, we continued our way back to downtown area. The only modes of transport allowed in this island are bikes and horses! We had lunch at Goodfellows Restaurant; their Panini sandwich was delicious, or at least felt delicious after that tiring ride :)

I Biked, I Liked!Bikers on Island Pure Lake Huron Lake Huron from the Island

I had forgotten to take my camera during the first ride and had to extend my bike rental to make another 8 mile trip through the mountainous route cutting across the island. I was able to make some photo stops at Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, and the Mackinac Cemetery on the way back. After lunch, we took the horse drawn carriage tour which allowed us to enjoy the island at a more relaxed pace.

Route to Arch Rock from British LandingBikers on Island   Kayarchers!Kayakers viewed from Arch Rock

The island was dotted with beautiful yellow wildflowers, which I spotted during my bike ride and the horse drawn tour. According to the guide, the yellow flowers are called Hawk's Weed, used by Native Indians to paint their eyes to get a hawk like vision. 

  Horse Drawn ToursHorse Carriage Tours in Mackinac Island Hawk's WeedIndians used this flower to make a paste and coat around their eyes to get a hawk like vision

Our tour ended near Fort Mackinac, from where we hiked downhill to the town for coffee at Starbucks and Fudge at JoAnn's fudge shop. Chocolate fudge was my favorite and there is no better place to eat fudge than Mackinac Island, also called the Fudge Town!! 

Fort MackinacBeautiful Fort Mackinac Fudge City! At JoAnn's Fudge

We took the ferry back to the mainland; had dinner at the popular Mama Mia's Pizza in Mackinac City and drove to Munising for our night stay in Pictured Rocks area.

Fire Ball on US 2Orange Sun over US 2 on the way to Pictured Rocks

Day 7

We had a relaxing breakfast with fantastic lake view from our hotel.

I made reservations for the Pictured Rocks Cruise (it was sold out online, so had to call them in the morning to get a spot). The cruise lasted for an hour and a half. During the tour, I realized it would have looked more beautiful during sunset. However, since we couldn't fit sunset tour in our schedule, we saw the sandstone cliffs at sunset from Miners Castle overlook. We saw a lot of Kayakers from the Cruise, may be next time, we might do a kayak tour at Lake Superior, weather permitting.

Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreFrom Cruise Grand Island East Channel LighthouseFrom the Cruise

During the tour, we saw the some beautiful 200 ft cliff formations along Lake Superior. After the tour, my kids got their National Park Junior Ranger Badge at the Visitor center. We had lunch at Falling Rocks Cafe and Bookstore.  Lunch at this place was memorable for both the food and unique bookstore like ambiance it offers. 

Pictured Rocks at Pictured Rocks!Underwater Pebbles on Lake Superior Colorful Cliffs of Pictured RocksClear waters of Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks

We drove to Hurricane River Campground and ventured out on a mosquito bitten hike to Au Sable Lighthouse. Mosquitos were so bad on this 2 mile trail, kids remembered this hike for only one thing, Big Fat Mosquitoes! 

Mouth of Hurricane River On its way to Lake Superior Sunset Cruise near Miner's CastleView from Miner's Castle Overlook

After dinner, we started our longest stretch of our road trip to Chicago via Green Bay along Lake Michigan. By the time we reached home it was 2 am central time. 

We took some well deserved rest that night and woke up late next morning.

Day 8

We returned the rental car around 2 pm and walked our way back through the beautiful streets of Evanston, which is the home of Northwestern University. This little town has a lot of beautiful churches and big homes (looked big to my eyes having gone from bay area).

Afternoon, we took the train to Grand station and walked to Navy Pier. On the way, I decided to take a short detour and Uber'ed to Union Station to get some interior shots. Union Station was beautiful indeed. I joined my group soon after at Navy Pier.

ChicagoUnion Station   Navy PierNavy Pier, Chicago

Skies turned interesting that evening and I was hoping it cleared a bit for the blue hour and it did! On the way back from Navy Pier, I took few shots from Columbus Drive Bridge overlooking Chicago River around sunset. Our family wanted to have dinner and it coincided with the blue hour too! 

Chicago SunsetColumbus Drive Bridge over Chicago River Unattended Baggage!Union Station Chicago

I knew I had to make a tough choice, have dinner or shoot blue hour from Michigan Ave. As you guessed, I chose the later!

My family was kind enough the take some food to-go as I was hungry by the time I got done with the shoot from Wabash Ave Bridge.

Skyscrapers! All steel and concrete! Chicago's Trump Tower from Wabash Ave Bridge Chicago Blue HourMarina Towers from Wabash Ave

After dinner, we walked along Magnificent Mile area and took the train back home.

Day 9

Kids were insisting on visiting the Mammoth Exhibit at the Field Museum. I also wanted to show them the 'Lions of Tsao' from the true story based movie , 'The Ghost and the Darkness'. 

We stopped by Lincoln park area to take a quick shot of skyline and honeycomb. The short detour cost me $25 though. Parking is free for the first 30 minutes and it goes up to $25 for the next half hour!! It was one expensive shot for sure :)

Chicago SkylineDowntown from Lincoln Park Honeycomb YogaSunday morning yoga in Lincoln Park

Once we reached the Museum, I found parking near the Adler planetarium area and avoided another expensive parking in the Field Museum lot. Kids really enjoyed time at the museum. It is highly recommended activity in my opinion, especially if you have school age children.

Field Museum Downtown Chicago, Field Museum Field Museum Chicago's Field Museum

For us, there was no better way to end the trip than visiting the Temple at Aurora.  We had a great darshan at the temple and returned home that evening to prepare for our return flight. We arrived in San Francisco early morning and remained jet lagged for few days after. 

Venkateswara Temple at AuroraBeautiful Garden in Aurora Temple Venkateswara Temple at AuroraAurora Temple

If you found this blog helpful, please feel free to leave your comments on my guestbook. 


Yellow Band on your Images??

January 28, 2013  •  1 Comment

During a routine test (yes testing has become a routine activity these days ;) ) for AF-C subject tracking using my D600, I encountered a weird output on some of the images. It was an inconsistent yellow band appearing randomly across the image. I first thought this has to do with my WB settings and forced it to fluorescent white balance and still saw the same phenomenon occur on some of the images.

Test Case Steps on my D600 with 24-120 F4 combo:

1. Shoot in JPEG or RAW.

2. Manual setting at 1/200 sec, f4, ISO 6400, 44mm 

3. Continuous drive mode (This is the key to replicating this ...details will follow later)

Yellow band from middle to lower part of frame:

Yellow band in the middle to lower part of frame

Yellow Band from Top to middle part of frame:

OK..my immediate reaction? along with a bunch of other disgruntled D600/D800 users, return the camera to Nikon and claim warranty. However, before taking any drastic measures, I wanted to double check if this had been observed by other Nikon D600 users and searched through various photography forums. 

Guess what? This does not only happen with D600, but D800, D700...yes D700! and the discontinued D90 too..So what is causing this and do we have to live with these jaundiced images when shot under such lighting conditions? Good News! No ..Courtesy: few other  photogs with a little more physics and electrical background, the reason is out there along with the fix for it..

Reason for Yellow Banding:

When shooting in continuous drive mode (a.k.a high speed shutter shooting, normally 4-5 frames per second) under fluorescent lights in the US, since the refresh rate for fluorescent lamp is 60 Hz, there is apparently some synchronization issue between the camera frame refresh and the light source refresh rates, in other words, if the shutter speed on your camera is not in the multiple of 1/60 (for example, 1/200 sec like the test case above), you will see yellow banding across the frame in a random fashion!

If not shot with the correct shutter speed, there is no way to fix this, even if you shoot RAW!

WB adjustment in RAW Post processing workflow will not fix this!!

FIX:

When shooting under fluorescent lights, ensure your shutter speed is in synch with your light refresh rate. In the US, it is 60Hz, so shutter speeds like 1/60, 1/125, 1/180 should take care of this banding. 

For countries like India/EU: I believe it is 50Hz (so shutter speeds in multiples of 1/50 should work fine)..similarly the more recent twisted fluorescent bulbs have 80Hz refresh rates..so multiples of 1/80 may be required

Below is a test case to avoid the yellow banding

1. Shot in JPEG setting

2. Manual setting at 1/60 sec, f4, ISO 6400, 44mm 

3. Continuous drive mode (This is the key to replicating this ...details will follow later)

Image without yellow banding

So when next time when you see yellow bands under fluorescent lights, check your Shutter Speed settings..it will save you from heart stopping moments and also some time in not dealing with the camera vendors with return hassles.

I am not sure if this is observed by my Canon buddies, if it is due the light science phenomenon explained above..It is bound to happen on any camera ..unless the camera is smart enough to sense the source and auto adjust the shutter speed ..am I expecting too much from Nikon? I will first let them fix some of the bigger issues in the next firmware update :)

Hope you find this information useful..

Until next time.....


2012 Black Friday Camera Deals

November 23, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

 

Camera and Gear:

Adorama still has D7000 for ~$1000 ..includes 18-105 lens with some more freebies

http://www.adorama.com/INKD7000K1.html

Post Processing Software:

Adobe Lightroom 4: Amazon for $79 (Regular Price: $149)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007BG9VLK/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B007BG9VLK&linkCode=as2&tag=michfryephot-20

Tripod and Other Accessories:

http://www.naturescapes.net/store/current-rebate-offers/

10 off $79 at Naturescapes.net

http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs195/1102218357960/archive/1111631268158.html

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