All Panoramas, All The Time

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“But you can just use your phone to make those, right?”

Technically right. But it wouldn’t be possible to take the one above, which is a long exposure, panoramic selfie. Who would hold the camera?

But the panoramas I’m making these days are a tad more involved than ones from the phone. These are all panoramas made with a DSLR camera and a neutral density filter, using the degrees settings on my brand-new tripod. I love panoramas and I only just learned how to do this in February (in beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park).

The main differences between a phone panorama and one done on a DSLR are the precision with which I can focus, and the level of resolution that is possible. In each of these photos, there is more than one frame blended into each other to form a single image. This is the best way that I can capture what the high Alps here in Italy really look like, given that they are so impressive and GIANT in person.

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I don’t have Photoshop at the minute, so it’s difficult to pull off the kinds of Focus Stacking that many landscape photographers use these days. The idea is to have focus all the way through the image, which is something that can only be done with several images blended together. By blending several frames with different focus points together into a panoramic shot, I can achieve a similar look without the use of Photoshop. This is the best example of the technique.

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I love learning new things, and this summer will most likely be full of photographic opportunities. There’s a gallery to view them in more detail below. Keep coming back to see more!

Peak to Peak Highway: A Colorado Mini-Road Trip

Since I’m leaving for Korea on Thursday (tickets bought!), I thought it would be a great idea to spend some time in the mountains of Colorado. I chose to drive the Peak to Peak scenic byway, or at least part of it. I started out in Louisville and drove down to Boulder, where construction is in London-level high grade. I cannot believe how much everything has changed since I graduated in 2010.

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Please note that whenever the pictures were taken from the car, I’m at a stoplight or pulled over. Be safe, folks!

I went up Highway 119 from Boulder (also known as Canyon Blvd.) to Nederland, where I stopped for a bagel with egg at a local cafe.  It was great. Then I headed up the 72 toward Estes Park.

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On the way I decided to stop at Brainard Lake. I walked around the man made lake at 10,000 ft up, with beautiful skies and clear weather. It was low, but that’s normal at this point in the season.

The fall foliage is coming up nicely in the mountains, where it’s been getting down to the 30sF at night (near to 0C). The road was lined with beautiful Aspens and pines, and I wish I could have bottled the scent of the air. It smells so nice, and also familiar.

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I remember doing the Peak to Peak several times as a child with my parents. It’s really accessible and easy driving, so if you didn’t grow up in Colorado, you’ll be just fine. In snow season, just go slowly and make sure you have good tires.

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Soon it was time for Longs Peak to make its appearance.

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The picture doesn’t do it justice at all. Dang. It was breathtaking in person.

I’m really happy that I got to spend so much time this year in beautiful natural places, from Iceland to Colorado. On Thursday, we’ll be leaving for South Korea! It’s another move abroad, and a move back to a very big city. We’ll be living in Busan, in the south of the country. There are mountains and beaches there. Should be good, but it won’t be like our summer in Iceland or this Colorado drive.

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I love this place. I hit a little bit of traffic in road construction zones, but it wasn’t a big delay at all. Once on the main road in Estes Park, there was a ton of traffic. I was lucky enough to find a free parking space in the Spruce lot past the main tourist zone.

I went to the Inkwell cafe, along the river walk. The Prickly Pear soda (made with cactus fruit) was especially good. I got a caramel apple as a treat and went down the road to Longmont.

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The drive takes you through Lyons, CO, which was subject to some of the worst flooding in 2013. That was the night before I left to move to the UK, and my room was flooded a little. Many of my friends in the area lost everything and had to move away, and you can certainly still see damage in Lyons and the whole canyon.

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After meeting up at 300 Suns brewery didn’t quite work out, I drove home on Highway 287 along the plains. It was so beautiful to see the sunset from the road over the mountains I drove through all day!

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Remember to always seek out travel experiences, even in the places you call ‘home!’ I know people who’ve lived in Colorado their whole lives on the Front Range and have never been to this part of the mountains. This is a cheap and gorgeous route that almost anyone could easily do. Get out there!

Boulder Day: A New Holiday

To celebrate being back in Boulder, the land of my birth, I went with my parents to have the most Boulderite day ever on Wednesday! We rolled on our Patchouli oil, put on our Birkenstock sandals, and headed out in the cool rainy May weather.

Our stops for the day:

  • Chautauqua Dining Hall, where I order a brie pizza and 7 Chakra herbal tisane
  • McClintock Trail, to survey the damage from the 2013 thousand-year flood
  • The Trident Cafe on Pearl Street, for Puerh Tea and a look at second hand books
  • Piece, Love, and Chocolate for locally-made truffles
  • Redstone Meadery for free tasters and mead to bring home for our fire ceremony on Saturday
  • Whole Foods’ flagship store on East Pearl Street, for dinner fixings

Boulder really has changed a lot in recent years. Even since I graduated in 2010 from CU-Boulder, buildings are going up all over and places I used to love are no more. I had a sense, walking around in the Trident, that it might not be here when I come back next. It might move on to its next incarnation. Secondhand books might be going away soon, as even a Neo-Luddite like me now has a Kindle.

Boulder changes, and it doesn’t. It’s good to go sample while I’m here!

Mt. Hua (Huashan): One of the Best Days in China

I’ve been off grid in terms of ability to upload photos lately, because our contracts in Shanghai ended and we had two weeks to travel in China. After 36 hours of travel beginning at 7AM on Hainan and :

  • five airports
  • a four-hour delay in Sanya
  • three planes
  • four taxis
  • several buses
  • some the worst air in Shanghai in quite some time
  • bingewatches of both Cosmos and Game of Thrones

I am back in Colorado!

This morning I finally had the opportunity to look at my photos from our hike of Huashan near to Xi’an, which were taken a couple weeks ago. My tiny HD camera makes it like the old days of waiting for film to be developed. It has no sight for looking through, and I couldn’t plug it in to look at them until now, my laptop having been killed outright by the humidity in our apartment.

It was worth the wait.

Huashan (华山) is 75 miles outside Xi’an, but you can just get the 300kph train and then a slightly overpriced taxi. We opted to take the gondola up the North Peak, which is best summed up by the video below.

it was so much cooler than i would have even imagined. A giant adult-sized playground hanging between heaven and Earth. The drops on all sides were very intimidating, and after the gondola up we had both pretty much decided we would not be able to muster the courage (nor the clean underwear) to do the famous ‘Plank Walk’ on the South peak.

As the day wore on, clouds came blowing upwards around the peaks. We had talked beforehand about whether it was scarier to be able to see the 1000-foot drops, or not to have them occluded by the whiteness.

Definitely the latter. Definitely more terrifying. I’ll take the known void over the unknown any day.

Mt. Hua has been a sacred mountain in China since at least the 220s BCE, around the time that the First Emperor united the warring kingdoms. Without the assist from gondolas and carved out stairs (and hotels!), the mountain could be a brutal climb. As it is now, it stands no less impressive, but much more accessible. A 70-year-old grandmother climbed up a rock ‘ladder’ just ahead of us on the West Peak.

That day, we wandered in a loop to all five of the peaks. North Peak, WuYun Peak, East, South, and West. It was so much fun, and worth it. Probably the best day of traveling that we had in China, followed closely (if not tied) with the day we climbed up the Great Wall.

I’m going to get out of the way here and let the pictures speak for themselves.

 

It was one of the best things I’ve done while travelling. So very much fun and a wonderful day that I will never forget.