Category Archives: Travel and Photography

Capturing fireworks

Fire in the sky :.

Fire in the sky :.,
originally uploaded by Anand Balaji.

A lot of people have been asking me questions on how I managed to capture this image. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this subject, but I’ve listed a few things that I feel may help better your chances of not capturing featureless blobs.

a. Use a tripod – Needless to say, you will need a tripod to keep the camera as steady as possible. Superman may have no problems in holding a camera absolutely still for more than a second, but you certainly will!

b. Scout for an area relatively devoid of people – This is not very easy to do especially at crowded venues but it will prevent a perfectly decent shot from getting ruined due by numerous John (and Jane) Does’.

c. Use a wide angle lens – This will allow you to capture a vast area. You can crop the image in your favourite editor at a later stage. I set my lens at 18mm to capture this.

d. Use the lowest ISO speed – Just do it… you won’t regret it.

e. Shoot in RAW mode – If your camera provides you with a RAW capture mode, use it and correct colour casts and other issues in the comfort of your home (or office if you happen to be a “big-shot”). For the record, the image posted here was not captured in RAW mode… I wish I had!

f. Click test shots – You aren’t shooting on film so why act stingy? Use test shots to isolate areas that you want to capture within the final photo.

g. Set the camera to manual focus – Why waste time asking the camera to focus on a subject at a great distance? Set the camera to manual and then use the focus adjustment ring/buttons to pre-focus the lens at infinity.

h. Use the narrowest aperture possible – f13 – f22 work best for me, but you might have luck with other values as well.

i. Don’t lose patience – Remember that photography techniques take time to master. Don’t worry if you don’t capture anything extraordinary… they’ll always be another time and place to repeat the experiment.

j. Use a remote shutter release or timer to click the photograph – This helps prevent camera shake from ruining long exposures. A shutter release works best, but a timer will work wonders as well. This image was captured by setting the timer to fire 2 seconds after the shutter button was depressed (I was too cheap to buy a cable release).

Equipment:
1 x Pentax K100D
1 x Pentax (Kit) 18-55 lens @18mm (lens hood attached)
1 x Hamas tripod (low priced and quite unstable… but hey it did the job!)
1 x Patient wife

Happy capturing…

Anand

Another image I captured

Here's a sample...

Nice pretty fireworks

Another one...

Thats it... I promise!

That's it... I promise!

Delta and the Boeing 767 – 400ER

First Impressions – Delta’s Boeing 767 – 400ER

I recently had the opportunity of flying this type on the LHR-JFK-LHR routes. Mind you that I was flying economy and not business (I’m not “there” yet). Here are a couple of my initial impressions which may prove to be helpful for those who are curious or have already booked their flight and have no choice in the matter whatsoever.

 

 

1. The cabins were well maintained and didn’t show their age.  The overhead bins seem to incorporate the same design concepts used within the 777 which makes the cabin looks larger than it actually is (not that the 777 has a small cabin to begin with!).  The impression of spaciousness is impressive. Full marks over here!

2.The seats (even in economy) are covered in leather, not cloth. I found them to be a bit softer and therefore comfier, but it could just be my imagination.

3.The cabin layout is 2 – 3 – 2 which is great if you’re with your partner. It also isn’t too bad if you’re stuck right in the middle (and need to take frequent loo breaks!).

4.The entertainment system is really pathetic. Delta has a really limited choice of video and audio. Moreover, the system is really unstable with frequent crashes (3 in my case) and random reboots. Before anyone starts bashing Windows, let me quickly point out that the entertainment system is Linux based! For some obscure reason, the reading light and flight attendant call buttons have been incorporated within the entertainment system! That’s right, you WON’T be able to use either if the screen in front of you is on the blink (Not that it matters as I soon found out).

5.The 767 is an incredibly noisy airliner. This might be a bit harsh when compared to the newer generation 777 and 330/340, but I found it much more noisier than a 747-400 which is of the same generation. The flap and slat retraction operations are painfully noisy and the cabin noise during cruise is quite annoying.

Summary
Taking the above points into mind, I would not mind recommending a flight on this aircraft if –

a. The competition involves flights on a 777 with 3 – 5 – 3 abreast (Shock! Horror!) seating configuration. American Airlines offers this on the LHR/JFK route. Needless to say, I would not wish such an experience on my worst enemy.

b. The ticket price is right. When I booked, Delta was the cheapest (and only viable) option.

c. You aren’t expecting great in-flight entertainment. Yes, prepare to carry your own music/video entertainment or (even better) read a book.

d. You aren’t a nervous flyer. The noise can be a bit unnerving to some. If you are nervous, try to sit as close to the business class cabin as possible.

First Impressions: Delta LHR-JFK-LHR service

1. Delta probably is the only airline in the world with cabin crew that simply ignore the flight-attendant call light (the tiny light above your head that lights up when you “request” the services of one of the cabin crew). I noticed this on several occasions. Mind you it just wasn’t me who experienced this.

2. Service was (ahem) curt and professional, but nothing like any of the Asian/Oriental airlines around. For the record, I’ve experienced far better service on Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. However, it seems to be the best amongst US carriers, slightly inferior to that offered by Jet Blue. I’m not sure if I imagined it though, but there seemed to be some sort of internal “animosity” between the Delta and Northwest cabin (Northwest crew are dressed in red) crew on both legs of my journey. I hope that this doesn’t affect service.

3. Food was strictly OK. There was a choice of vegetable pasta and chicken ravioli on both legs. The chicken seemed to be quite chewy and was quite (figuratively speaking) yucky. The Pasta on the other hand was much better, being quite suited for human consumption. You will also need to PAY for alcoholic beverages.

4. The crew were immaculately dressed and groomed and there was no one with the “fresh out of bed” look. The width of the aisles proved not to be a challenge to any of the crew (unlike Air India and American).

Summary
To sum it up, you get what you paid for! However, if you do pay a lot, you will probably be disappointed. Those (ahem) habituated to US cabin service will not find anything amiss as they are quite acquainted with lacklustre service in the first place!

 Links

Choose your best seat… : http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Delta_Airlines/Delta_Airlines_Boeing_767-400_Trans.php

Delta : http://www.delta.com

Delta (PDA/Mobile) : http://mobile.delta.com

Want to read more about the 767?  : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_767

Anand Balaji