Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Canon Powershot SX30IS - The pre-SLR

I've often been asked 'Which DSLR do I use to capture photos?'. I thank them for the praise even before replying to the specific question as I use Point and Shoot Canon SX30IS which captures equivalent and at times better images compared to SLRs.

Resolution: 14.1 megapixels
Zoom: 35x wide-angle optical zoom (24-840mm)
Stability: Optical Image Stabiliser
Video: 720p HD video with stereo sound and optical zoom
Display: 2.7 inch colour vari-angle LCD
Output: HDMI output
Battery: Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries (have shot 500+ images on high resolution before having to recharge)

Can use: SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards
Dimensions: 4.2 x 4.8 x 3.7 inches
Weight: 1.3 pounds (Heavier however less bulky as compared to SLRs)

Why SX30IS?
- 35X Optical Zoom: This point-and-shoot digital camera comes with a massive 35x Wide-Angle (24-840mm) Optical Zoom lens. With it, the wildlife, beachside or sports arena images are far better captured. Moreover, above 35X it translates in to 140x Digital Zoom. Also available while shooting videos

- Optical Image Stabilizer Technology: This helps translate high zoom-in pics in to better clarity. OIS automatically detects and corrects camera turbulence preventing blurred images due to shaky hand. Even the pictures captured in motion can get you crisp and neat shots and eliminates the need of tripod.

- Large 2.7 inch Vari-angle LCD: Not only this is superior to viewfinder or other static image displays, it benefits while capturing images by rotating at various angles i.e. Road image captured at ground zero, top view of a group pic, etc. It also serves as a mirror image enabling to click self portraits with precision

- Smart Auto Option: For the beginners, this function intelligently analyzes shooting conditions and automatically selects an appropriate setting from 28 specially defined settings. Moreover, it will automatically switch to macro when you close in an object

In addition, this camera uses a VCM (Voice Coil Motor) for high-speed, quiet, energy-efficient lens movement with precise control.

On the flipside if you are either looking for a sleek one-hand shoot camera or a fully-professional SLR, this one's not for you as it falls in between going towards SLRs. Also, it doesn't take photos in RAW format which are better resolution images easy to work with. While this camera works well under dark conditions with a flash, it may generate a bit of noise or blur under yellow lights at night. Having said that the lens reflex (delay in taking 2nd image) is too slow in the dark

All in all a great buy (available $350+ online) with respect to its peers in the same category!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Momos - Feel North Africa with its tagines and delightful birthday celebrations!

MOMO (http://momoresto.com) is a Moroccan restaurant located at 25, Heddon street, London W1B 4BH. Renowned for its North African and Mediterranean cuisine, one can't resist but to fall over its Tagines. The rates on the expensive side; however the place is a must visit for its ambience and feel - a high on recommendation for your london trip
This place is great for its absolute moroccan experience - lights, glasses and tagines! Mojito, or The Momo Special as they call it, served was refreshing; however the taste buds rose upto aromatic CHICKEN TAGINE. Tagine is basically north african dish named after special earthernware pot in which it is cooked. This clay pot has it flat circular base supporting a cone shaped structure on the top.

As a fantasy, I tried WOOD PIGEON PASTILLA (refer picture above left); however felt it on a sweeter side. Vegetarians may have less options and BRIOUATS may end up as being plain Samosas. The desserts are nice as well; although if you are in a group ask for a cake and that too a birthday cake

The highlight of the night was birthday celebration at Momos. Lights go off, music picks up, the crew holds the cake in a tray and dances from the kitchen to your table and makes you and the group dance as well. If the cultural feel wasn't enough, make a visit to the washroom and disc at the cellar. The washroom is along a narrow aisle which gives you a dungeon-like feel (refer picture on right)

P.S.: Seating options may not be comfortable for large groups

Monday, August 22, 2011

Niagara Falls: Things to do in 2 days

Niagara is a complete package and has offerings for all age groups as well as individuals at all frequencies. Although it requires a detailed planning and lot of stamina to move and conquer all the diverse places it has to offer, I would sum up a 2-day itinerary for a first time traveller!

Niagara falls is located around one and a half hours from Toronto downtown. In case you can't manage a car, various casino buses (like Safeway tours for Fallsview Casino - www.safewaytours.net ) can get you there at $30 and drop back to your location next day.

Day 1:Head straight to Marineland for a 9 to 5 outing (min. 6 hrs are required). Some people may terrify you that it's quite hectic however according to me if you can walk and plan it properly based on show timings than it's quite smooth. Feed Deer, Catch Killer Whale Splash, Feed Beluga whales, Bears, Enjoy rides at Dragon mouth and Sky Screamer and conclude at Waldorf arena to watch seals, dolphins and walrus play. Walk towards Sky screamer is steep but worth every step taken.

Relax at the hotel in the afternoon. We stayed at Niagara Falls Courtside Inn as we wanted to spend minimal on accomodation and maximum on other activities. Have dinner at revolving Skylon restaurant and get a 360 degree view of Niagara! Check the fireworks schedule - usually happens around 10pm on Fridays and Sundays! Don't miss out on glitter and glamor at Niagara downtown - Ripleys museum, Guiness museum, Sky wheel, Fudge factory, etc. Shuttle buses run for pick up and drops at various destinations

Day2: Niagara can be viewed in full bloom and can be tried out with different experiences. Maid of the Mist boat ride, Journey behind the falls through a glass elevator, White Water Walk and movie on Niagara's Fury! The best bet seemed Maid of the Mist and if you can spare time other things can be covered. Spend the afternoon playing Poker and Roulette at Fallsview Casino

Based on your priorities and interests, time can be varied at each destinations! This and similar reviews can be viewed at http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g154998-d186167-r116312032-Niagara_Falls-Niagara_Falls_Ontario.html

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

City of Bath, England

Chances are pretty high that on your short trip to London, you may either do a history tour visiting a million museums or get a few clicks with the Londonesque ‘Eye’ or wax figures. Or a more notorious shopping spree at Harrods or a mere leisure feeding swans on the bank of Thames. However, if one wishes to club culture with architecture along with serious photo shoots then mark City of Bath on your list.

Located on the bank of river Avon, Bath is renowned for its Roman Baths, the only natural hot water springs occurring in United Kingdom. Roman baths is a concept with a historical significance. Lead pipes led water to houses in ancient Rome. These pipes were taxed and so many houses had just the basic water supply and no specific bath rooms. These led people to use public baths which also became a social gathering point. The tickets to Roman Baths (prefer dusks) cost £10 and it includes entry to Bath Complex enroute through museum explaining heat maintaining mechanism, drainage system, roman artefacts’ and also the great temple of Sulis Minerva. Get a view of the various bath accessories and cosmetics the Romans used and add some priced possessions to your collection from the souvenir shop.

This world heritage site is also well known for its stunning Georgian architecture crafted from Bath Stone. Among all, the Royal Crescent is one of the world’s best known landmarks containing some palatial houses and one luxurious hotel. As in rest of Europe, there are art galleries, parks and other attractions as well. A hop on – hop off sightseeing bus is available to get the glimpse of whole city and major attraction. However, I preferred exploring the local market through narrow aisles and feeding the seagulls on bank of Avon.

City of Bath is located at a 2 hr scenic drive from London and can be covered along with Stonehenge. If one wishes to get a feel of the city then there are good accommodation options available. However, for a serious traveller half a day and handful photographs should sum up the trip.

Kovalam - The land of ubiquitous coconut palms

As a travel freak, anything from pictures to promotions draws my attention. With Kerala tourism’s ‘Your moment is waiting’ campaign being the latest to capture my eye-balls, I planned to explore God’s own country, albeit in parts. After making footprints on Nelambur and Wayanad, I sketched the 3-day trip to more acclaimed Kovalam -the land of ubiquitous coconut palms.

Kovalam is outlined by the Arabian Sea near the southern tip of India, and is 15kms from Trivandrum (the capital city of Kerala). Originally, a fishing village of Kerala, it got transformed in to an important tourist destination with the arrival of hippies in early seventies. This tropical beach is located at 720 kms from Bangalore and is accessible by all means of transportation. Frequently running KSRTC and private buses takes you to Trivandrum in little over 11 hours. I managed to bargain and paid Rs. 200 for half an hour auto ride from Trivandrum to Ashoka beach.

My initial research suggested Oct-Mar as the best period to visit the place. However, my probability of visiting a beach is inversely proportional to amount of humidity in the atmosphere and the magnitude of tourists thronging the destination. Considering the above factors and the available deals, beginning of October seemed to be the best time to cherish the crescent shaped beaches and curvy backwaters. On the flip-side adventure sports, water rides and white skin can be enjoyed only from mid November to January. An umbrella for a visit in Nov-Dec and high SPF sunscreen in Feb-Mar may be handy.

Exploring the coast was the first thing on my mind after a tiresome bus journey. Country Club Treasure Cove was my wellness partner for stay -a place strategically located in close proximity to three popular beaches –The Ashoka, the Hawah, and the Lighthouse. Ashokabeach is less commercialized therefore offers more privacy and deemed attractive to many. I spent most of the afternoon in the waters at Ashoka. The Leela Kempinsky Resort separates Ashokabeach and the twins; windy Hawah and the red & white striped tall Lighthouse studded beach. Hawah is a black soiled beach and I could children of all ages making soil carvings from castle to mermaids. However, an adjacent hillock providing 180 degree view of the Arabian Sea from its top was a sight to cherish. Private shacks are also available at the beach at a nominal rate of Rs. 25. I preferred spending the rest of the evening sipping Corona, munching chickpeas and clicking photographs. For dinner, I had options covering various provinces albeit not savory. Wherever I go I prefer local food and stalls at the shore are probably the best bet to have the traditional fish moli, king prawn, kalamari or lobster fry. Ironically, a coconut seemed a luxury at Rs. 25 at its abode. At the crimson dusk; shimmering sea, sandy coves, rocky outcroppings, exuberant surf and brilliant sunset summed up my time at the shore.

If one wishes to discover the true splendor of a place, it’s recommended to explore the unacknowledged than to admire only the proven grace. To support the recommendation, my second day itinerary comprised of Poovar, a dreamy lagoon 20kms away, Vizhinjam fishing harbour and the greener countryside. While 2-hr countryboat-cruise in the backwaters of Poovar took me to a stage of stupor, the crab fishing in a kayak proved to be a moment of eternity. During the cruise, I spotted a fisherman in Kayak and shifted alongside with him and learnt the art of crab fishing and later tying its sharp claws till it transforms from crab to crab masala. The next defining instant was a ‘Troy’ adaptation where thousands of boats were lined up at the Vizhinjam pier. Swaying breeze, colorful boats, fisherman attire and the bugle in the background brought the essence of fishing community in this hamlet. Subsequently, a two wheeler would have been an advantage while cruising through the boulevard studded with all the possible hues of green; less commercialization has surely helped preserve the paradise in its original form.

Other nearby places to consider for the trip are the cave temple & PadmanabhSwamyTemple (PST) in Trivandrum and Kanyakumari, 95 kms from Kovalam renowned for its sunrise and ‘Sangam’ (meeting point of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean). And of course, the best way to prepare for the exasperating journey back for a working Monday is to get the traditional ayurvedic massage. Although every third shop here could be a potential massage parlor, opt for Government approved outlet. Rejuvenated with the invigorating oils at country spa, I headed to pack my bags.

As I pen down my miles traveled, a glimpse out of the bus gives me an artistic vision of Kovalam as a unique aquarelle on a moonlit night. Kovalam indeed was my moment in waiting!