Thursday, June 11, 2009

Monterey for Memorial Day Weekend

It's been a while since I've posted, but I went to Monterey and the surrounding area with my parents this past Memorial Day. It's been a while since my parents went, and the aquarium has come up with a Secret Life of Seahorses exhibit.

We stayed at the Asilomar Conference Grounds hotel which is really nice. It's a very short walk to the beach from the hotel and there's a bunch of tide pools to explore. I really enjoyed the trip because I got to spend time with my folks.

Growing up, I'm noticing, more and more, how time flies... Gotta live in the moment and make the most of it...

Here are some photographic highlights from the trip :)












Check out http://picasaweb.google.com/mattaphore/MontereyMemorialDay2009# for more shots :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Clouds over Alberta

Quick study break...
I dug up these pictures from the family trip to Calgary to visit Grandma, back in Feb '09.
I took these with my point & shoot camera because I didn't bring along my DSLR.

This was the view from the plane, as we flew over the Canadian Rockies/Banff, headed back to San Francisco. The view was simply stunning. (Click for full size)


Another shot:


Again, with a little more noise reduction in Photoshop.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

California Academy of Sciences part Deux

April 30th, 2009
I planned to have a Pisano Lab outing to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, SF. Sheppy, Fabian, and I bought our tickets in advance, and the rest of our lab mates waited too long, so it sold out.

This was my second time going to the Academy and I enjoyed it a ton. I saw quite a few things I didn't see the first time around, and I'm sure if I go again, I won't be disappointed.

The building itself is really cool, and the next time I go, I'll have to take some nice wide-angle pictures so you get the idea of just how cool it is. Designed by the architect, Renzo Piano, the building aims to be Green and Sustainable. The "living roof" is covered in plants & vegetation that stimulates a micro-ecosystem for little critters. It also has a ton of sun-lights that are used for lighting the inside, to reduce the need for electricity.


I think it's a noble effort and it looks pretty cool.

Anyhow... about the exhibits. Inside the Rain Forest bio-dome, they have a lil reptile exhibit with pit vipers. I think these are the same kind of viper at the Snake Temple in Penang. Man... I'd love to go back to Malaysia now with my camera :)


You go through the Bio-dome and you get to see little exhibits with Geckos and Chameleons and all sorts of little critters:


This is my favorite picture from the event, Click on it for a larger view:

It kinda makes me want to get a Gecko as a pet... but my better judgment is telling me "No."



After you make your way through to the top of the Biodome, you take an elevator which brings you down ~4-5 stories to the aquarium in the basement. There you can see stuff like Piranhas and learn about the Amazon Rain Forest can flood by about ~40 feet, so that just the tops of short rain-forest trees are all that stick out. It's an interesting exhibit and it really gives you some height perspective:


The rest of the Steinhart Aquarium is located down there and you can walk around and see cool fish:


Making your way back to the "surface" you get to pass by cute little frogs and stuch:


... and more interesting fish. This fella is an Angler Fish that camouflages itself and waits for prey.


There's also a bunch of fancy looking shrimp:


One of the more interesting frogs was this little Mossy Frog. The colors are amazing :)

Nature is truly awesome.

One exhibit that I missed the first time I went was this rattlesnake display, next to some climate change exhibit.


I'm really starting to like taking pictures of reptiles... They have such cool textures. I enjoy fish pictures a lot too, but when they're really fast moving, I have a hard time taking good shots of them... It also doesn't help that I get a lot of high ISO noise... one slight drawback of having a small sensor... but then again, I really enjoy the benefits of the four-thirds systems... I really like the crop-factor and the compact lenses. I really love my 50mm macro, and I'm not planning on purchasing anything else for quite some time.

I have a long way to go before I push this camera to it's limit, so in the meantime, I'll keep on practicing with lots more pictures :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Weekend in Yosemite

For Easter weekend, I took a trip to Yosemite with Krissy and friends from my undergraduate years. We left Berkeley on Friday at around noon or 12:30pm and started driving out to the park.

Yosemite is about 3.5 hours away... past Livermore, past Modesto, past Merced... We just made one quick pit-stop on the way down and we didn't get caught in any crazy Easter weekend traffic.

When we got to our campsite at Lower Pines, it was a little chilly, but the sun was still up. We got our tents pitched and I snapped a picture of Half Dome.

It was pretty overcast and it but at least we could see Half Dome :) Last time I was in Yosemite, the weather wasn't so cooperative.

The next morning, the weather cleared up quite a bit and we were able to see Half Dome from our tent:


On Saturday morning, after eating breakfast, we headed up to the Upper Yosemite Falls trailhead and began making our way up to the top:


We had some time to goof off along the way too:

Halfway up the trail you can see the Upper Waterfall pretty clearly:
The mist from the waterfall freezes overnight and deposits on the sides... The bus driver that drove us from our camp to the start of the trail told us that the technical name for it is "Frazil Ice".

A couple hours and a few miles later, we were at the top:


Along the way down, I got some pictures of Half Dome. You couldn't see it from the very top of the falls, but this is what we saw:


At night we had a good meal and we ate lots of marshmallows :) I tried to sit still for 20 seconds at the campfire while everyone else was moving around:


The next day we took a much shorter walk to the Lower Falls view spot before leaving the valley:


The hike from the valley floor to the top of the Upper Yosemite Falls is 3.5 miles long and it has an elevation change of 2500 feet. The hike took us about 6.5 hours round trip with breaks. The Lower Falls trail, in contrast, is only about a 5-10 minute walk.

On our way out, we stopped by the Tunnel View Vista and I snapped this shot of the valley:


Overall the trip was excellent and I'd love to go back and get more shots of Yosemite.
My little Jetta managed to squeeze out 31.6 miles per gallon :) Which was super good considering it was fully loaded and had a full camper shell on top of it.

Over the summer, I'm going to try to build a telescope, and hopefully take it somewhere cool so that I can take some cool astrophotography shots.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Tilden Hike with Pascal (posting a little late)

Pascal and I went on a hike through Tilden Park last weekend to look for critters. We were looking for newts, salamanders and snakes and bugs and whatnot.

The first critter we came across was a banana slug:


We romped around a bunch of poison oak:


Lifting up logs and rocks, we found a couple skinny salamanders:


We also saw some lizards running around:


and some gnarly bark:


And most cute of all, a little turtle!





There was a turkey, some pigs, goats, and other random animals at the Tilden Petting zoo.



It was a great hike/walk and I think I'll have to explore more places for more new critters!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

California Academy of Sciences -- Nightlife

Thursday Night Nightlife at the Academy of Sciences (www.calacademy.org).
It's a wonderful event for the 21 & Over... for $10 you get to run around the academy of sciences while consuming alcohol... and the best part, there aren't any little kids!

I'll be going again for sure... Most important lens to bring = Macro. (Unless you're also interested in taking pics of the architecture...) I was just focusing in on the little guys when I went.

Here's what I got...
A frog hiding from the 21&over crowd:
A pretty pair of butterflies:
A butterfly working off the extra nectar that it ate:
A frog that you shouldn't lick:
A butterfly and its potential meal:
Rockfish!
Lizzard
Cockroaches!
Albino Alligator
And last but not least, and Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

The 'new' California Academy of Sciences is awesome. For only $10 on Thursday nights (and, I believe, $8 if you already have membership), it's definitely worth it.