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French Food by teewee

A few photos up from our french food excusion for ms. sadd3j’s birthday..
each person had a prixfix with a different entree and we shared mussles avec frites…because what better compliments mussles than fries with mayo.. good food, good wine (malbec from argentina), good times!

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post-tremblant by teewee

I am no where near as diligent as yfa and his detailed writeup… maybe i’ll add a few more later..

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chillaxing by sadd3j

Last run of the day from the top of Tremblant, teewee spotted this view.

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@pearson by teewee

not really a great photo.. but its what i can post with my ichat camera.. t-minus 25mins to mile high city…see you on the other side of the border! (…yfa) (baring free internet availability)

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YFA’s NV/UT/AZ Trip Day 3: Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon by YFA

I was quite excited about this last day of our trip because the best photo opportunities all land on today. When I wrote this post, I had to pull my hair out choosing what photos to post because there are so many good ones! :D

After grabbing complimentary breakfast (muffins) from the Super 8 Motel just before 9am, we headed out to the local Walmart down the street and grabbed water and Gatorade, and drove 5 minutes down the road to Horseshoe Bend. The parking lot was quite empty and we did a 1 mile hike towards the lookout point for the bend – again, it had a superb view of the river below making a horseshoe bend. I had my 24-105 on my camera and contemplated switching to my 17-50, but figured even at 17mm it wasn’t wide enough to capture the beauty of the entire bend, so I left it up to my friend’s D700 (FF) and 20mm prime to do the wide angle work. The lookout point was really steep into the valley and we did not have much room, so we went out to quite some adventurous spots to get good photos. The problem is the sun was behind us and the photographer’s shadow kept getting into the photo (due to the wide angle). We were already running late for our next appointment so we took whatever photos we could and headed off. In the end, this set of photos didn’t turn out that great so I won’t post them here.

We booked a 10am appointment with Antelope Canyon tours for a photography tour (which costs extra, for a total of $50 per person) and it was well worth the money. Antelope Canyon isn’t part of the national park systems, and while it is open to public, you generally can’t get to it without a tour since to get to the entrance you’ll need to do a 2+ mile (one way) hike in the sand, which is very difficult. Also, there are flash floods that happen through the canyon every year in the fall time (and that’s partly how it gets its beauty) so it is much safer to go with a tour guide as they will receive reports of it in advance and evacuate everyone. Our tour guide and the 5 of us hoped into a van that can switch to AWD so we can get past the sandy part to the mouth of the canyon.

The canyon is much narrower than I expected and it was actually quite crowded. When I did my research beforehand (for photos), I was expecting it to be quite deserted and I can have the canyon to myself :) . There were multiple tours going on (normal and photography tours) and we were all fighting for the best spots (and everyone has their tripods as well!). One of the tricks that I read online was to throw up sand from the canyon floor into the light to accentuate the light in the photo. Apparently this “trick” is very well read and everyone is throwing sand up into the air – some tour guides even brought scoops to throw sand up into the light! At this point I totally regret not bringing a hat – not so much to cover my head but to cover my camera so the sand doesn’t mess up my lens! The sand is quite fine and one of my friends told me that’s how one of her lenses got messed up when she was in Peru. (Granted I had my 24-105 L lens on and I had some faith in its weather seal – and I don’t know what Nikon lens she messed up in Peru – though I don’t exactly want to risk it either). Within our group we have 3 big photographers (I guess just by value of gear) and we agreed to use different ranges to capture what we can and share our photos afterward. We had a wide angle D700 @ 20mm, a D300 @ 17-55mm (x 1.5 crop) and my 40D @ 24-105 (x 1.6 crop). This really worked out in the end ‘cuz we ended up with 3 very different set of photos – mine are more abstract (esp. since I opted for the long captures like 6s), the Nikon’s had the wide angle that captured how the canyon looked like. Also, I’ve became quite thick skinned behind my camera that I was willing to fight my way into the best position to capture the best shot :) (which included going on my knees on the sandy floor for a good 15 minutes, resulting in a few scratches).

There really are too many photos worthy of posting – sorry for the many shots stretching this post (and the blog). Now where do I begin… let’s start with the storytelling ones first.
The canyon is very photogenic because of the way rays of light come down and bounces off the canyon walls, resulting in different colours. Tripod is a must here. Here’s me shooting with my 40D, and a D700 on a tripod to the right. Shot with a D300, 17mm (x1.5).
YFA shooting the canyon

You can see how the light rays just comes from the openings at the top of the canyon behind me in this next one. D700, 20mm, f/4, 1/400s.Light Rays

And here’s the money shot of me! All of us were posing in front of this light ray and there is actually a big crowd of people behind us trying to capture this ray as well, and some tour guide got mad and yelled at us saying “no more posing photos”, haha. D700, 20mm, f/4, 1/125s.

The canyon itself is actually quite narrow, and with vans and vans of tourists coming in (all holding cameras) it can get quite crowded, especially towards later on in the day. Here’s a photo I took of my friend and her Manfrotto tripod in action. The canyon is actually quite dark (hence the light rays stand out), so this is probably shot at ISO 3200.

Now to the more artistic shots. Here’s what the entryway of the canyon looks like – its nicknamed “candlestick” – hopefully the reasoning for that nickname is obvious from the photo. 40D, 28mm (x1.6), f/4, 1/50s.candlestick

Natural Lighting of the canyon. D300, 20mm (x1.5), f/4, 1/45s.

The light changes colours on the wall, creating a blue hue. D300, 22mm (x1.5), f/4, 1/20s.

Sand actually comes down naturally from the top of the canyon, creating a nice waterfall feel if the light happens to shine on it. 40D, 24mm (x1.6), f/5.6, 1/125s.

More rays lighting up the canyon. The canyon walls have smooth horizontal lines across them because they are created by the flash floods that occur a few times each year, and over time different water levels from the floods leave different markings on the canyon walls. D300, 18mm (x1.5), f/4.8, 1/125s.

Wide angle shot of the canyon. This is taken earlier on in the day when it is less crowded – I think there were at least 7 tours (average of 10 people each) crowding in the canyon by the time we left. D700, 20mm, f/5.6, 1/40s.

I love this wide angle shot towards the light my friend took – very cool in an abstract sense. D700, 20mm, f/4, 1s.

Some parallel rays going through the canyon towards the middle of the day (12:30PM or so). 40D, 24mm (x1.6), f/5, 1/13s.

Smooth curves created by the floods on the canyon walls. 40D, 24mm (x1.6), f/18, 2.5s.

I oddly like this photo with the balance between the positive and negative space, and how the wall’s curves feel very flow-y even though it is just a wall. 40D, 105mm (x1.6), f/22, 1.6s.

My own rendition of the shot towards the skylight. This is shot later (towards noon) and the canyon is lit up a lot more already. 40D, 24mm (x1.6), f/20, 3.2s.

Another shot showing the different colours of the light as well as the smooth contours on the wall that makes it seem so active. 40D, 35mm (x1.6), f/14, 6s.

Last but not least – the best and worst subject you can find for photos – kids! These shots were SO difficult to catch since the kid runs around (not really posing for me) and I had my settings on like f/20,6s,ISO100 to capture the light when the kid ran in – had to jack up the ISO quickly and switch to a faster shutter speed to capture our subject. Thumbs up to his parents for dressing him in red that day :) . 40D, 24mm (x1.6), f/4, 1/100s.

And one more of the kid … praying! I think he was trying to imitate us when we were posing under the light :) . 40D, 28mm (x1.6), f/4, 1/400s.

(sidenote: I was listening to “Only You Remain” by Mercy Me (in their latest Generous Mr. Lovewell album) while choosing photos, and the lyrics just reminded me of how awesome and powerful God is looking at these photos – Every mountain standing tall crash into the sea, You were, You are, You will be, only You remain…)

After going through 2 passes of the canyon to capture the different light spots (which changes as the sun moves), we took the van back out and concluded our $50 photographic tour. It was 1pm and someone suggested we go to Sonic for lunch – Sonic is yet another fastfood joint that is very popular in Texas, and you get to order through a drive through like stand and the waitresses will deliver food to your car on roller blades :) . The Texans in our car guided our order (we 3 Canadians have no idea what was good) – and if you ever order from Sonic, make sure you try their strawberry limeade – specifically the order is “Route 44 (which means XL) Strawberry Limeade with extra strawberries and hold the ice” (after the first Texan made that order, everyone in the car was like… yeah I will have that drink as well”).

After grabbing lunch, our wide angle D700 guy wanted to go back to Horseshoe Bend to capture better photos with better lighting, except nobody would go with him – except for me! I’m always up for getting good photos. So we drove back to Horseshoe Bend (which was only 5 minutes away) and the 3 of them ate their fast food in the car (the same 3 that didn’t go to Angel’s Landing :P ) and my friend and I hiked back up to the Horseshoe Bend to capture better photos. The sun was in a much better position and the river was actually clearer looking. We spent our time trying out different angles and here are some shots (you didn’t think I’d try to describe how beautiful Horseshoe Bend is without showing you photos did you? :P )

It should be obvious from the photo how the place got its name :) . Obviously shot with the D700 – only a FF at 20mm can capture this – none of our crops were wide enough.

The lookout point was quite high up – as you can see. More sitting at the edge of the cliff photos :) .

Another at the cliff photo. In hindsight I should have sat out further towards the tip of the rock, but this really was quite scary already.

And how can we not conclude with a nice pano. Shot with my 40D obviously – since the sky is insanely blue.

We took our sweet time at Horsehose Bend, which turned out to be slightly problematic as we underestimated the time it took to drive back by at least an hour. We began our drive back to Vegas at around 3pm, and the GPS is telling us that we’ll arrive at 7:09pm, when we all thought it only took 3 hours. We were in a time crunch because we previously found “free” tickets to the show “The Mentalist” which starts at 7:30pm, but the coupon says to show up to claim your tickets at the box office 1 hour before the show starts. (We would have watched another Cirque show if available, but apparently none of them shows on Mondays and Tuesdays – guess that’s the weekend for them). We traveled back to the state of Nevada and arrived at Las Vegas just after 7pm. 3 of us got dropped off at Planet Hollywood (where the show was) while the other two went to park the car. After racing through the Mile Long Mall (or something like that) to find the V Theater, we managed to get 5 “free” tickets to the show at 7:15pm. And I say “free” because the tickets, which apparently costs $55 a person, is “free” with the purchase of a drink that costs $9.95 and service charge of $6 or so, and so in reality it was $15 per person for the show + a drink.

“The Mentalist” is a magic show where the guy (Gerry something) does a bunch of magic tricks that involves the audience. (He apparently has his own show on CBS right now, I think). He was quite entertaining despite all of us feeling somewhat tired from the long day of activities. We originally thought a waitress would come by to take our drink orders during the show, but since nobody showed up we ended up stopping by the bar after the show to get our drinks – and we all ended up ordering shots. With a generous bartender our shots were in huge plastic cups and were at least worth 2 shots. So I had at least a double shot of bourbon and feeling quite warm, we left to get our car.

So the other 2 guys that went to park the car apparently left it for valet at Paris even though we don’t live there :P . We’re getting quite familiar with how the vegas system works – and at around 9pm we are going to execute our ultimate plan of using the vegas hotel systems! After a day of hiking (primarily its the sand from the canyon), we really wanted a shower, but we didn’t book a hotel room for the night since our flight left early in the morning (at 7am). So how do we get a shower in Vegas? We drove back to The Venetian, where we stayed the first night, and we took out our card keys which we did not return (don’t need to for quick checkout). Obviously the card keys are disabled now, but having a physical card key will help us get by the first security checkpoint (where we need to flash our card key to a security guard) to get access to the hotel towers. So we packed our clothes and toiletries into 2 backpacks and nonchalantly went into the hotel elevators. We found our way to the swimming pool and found the changing rooms, which conveniently has 1 shower :) . I grabbed towels for everyone by the poolside and all of us took turns showering before the pool closed at 10pm.

After our sneaky showers, we went to Caesar’s Palace to grab dinner at Serendipity’s, which closes at 11pm. We were definitely the last table to order dinner, and sadly we were a little full (and tired) after dinner to order dessert – I even ordered an espresso shot to help me stay up the entire night. It was just before midnight when we left and decided we wanted to check out some nightclubs at Vegas. The best clubs in the US are apparently at NYC, Vegas and LA, so the nightclubs was definitely something worthwhile to see, even though we suspected on a Monday night, it would be quite empty. One guy wanted to go to the “nicer” nightclubs, but we vetoed the idea because “nicer” clubs have like a minimum spending requirement of $300/person :| . We checked other nightclubs that were open on Mondays and found Jet (at the Mirage) was open and it had a “reasonable” cover of $65 for guys and $35 for girls (I guess “reasonable” for Vegas). To our dismay, there was a super long line that wasn’t really moving at Jet, (who knew so many people would party on a Monday night?!) so we abandoned the nightclub idea and went back to the Venetian casino where we spent more money on our favorite Star Trek slot machine :) .

The rest of the night was a blur after that – partly because I had a few more drinks (combo-ed with the espresso at dinner) at the casino and we were trying to kill time playing the star trek slot machine and some pai gow poker as well. We ended up leaving the Venetian and went to Bellagio’s self-parking garage, and started re-packing our luggage and changing out of our clubbing clothes. At one point we had all our luggage laid out on the floor of the parking lot and the hotel security came by to check if we were OK. We then loitered a bit in Bellagio through their floral exhibit and their casino floor, and found ourselves back at the garage and we decided to head to the airport at around 4am. We had one bag to check-in so we waited at the airport for the airline counter to open, and the rest was rather uneventful as we slept for most of the time until we arrived back at Seattle.

That’s my mid-US trip in April/May. I’ll be making another trip to Yellowstone towards the end of May – I’ll blog about it then!

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