Thursday, May 26, 2011

Travelogue - May 23, 2011

Dear God (or whoever decides my Taxes),

Please bless me with more wisdom, more money and better Google-abilities. 

For 6 months I browsed through millions of travel websites, thousands of Deals and hundreds of Reviews, only to realize at the Airline check-in desk that one of my bags weighed 36 kgs, and they are not willing to fly any luggage that weighs more than 32 kgs. 

When we finally managed to fly, we did get through Transit on Schedule. Terminal 3 at Dubai was a new experience. The last time I flew through Dubai was in 2008 and Terminal 3 was still a heap of Rubble. 

One notable omission in the new Terminal : No Smoking Room. Earlier, any smoker passing through Terminal 1 used to be spoilt for choice. Smoking Rooms glowed like the Cabaret Billboards every 100 metres ! Alas, in Terminal 3, they've used the space for healthier purposes.

No need to worry though. Terminal 1 is only a 5-20 minutes' walk away (depending on which gate your next flight is leaving from). Both these terminals are seamlessly connected, and you barely even notice that you've walked across Terminals. Luckily, my Gate (Gste 211) was at the extreme end of Terminal 3 and barely a 5 minute walk / scamper from Terminal 1. And so I obliged. Twice in 2 hours.

Zurich : Zurich Airport (Kloten) is a weird mix of very unimpressive architecture blending with very state-of-the-art facilities. The rate of which either of these would face you every other minute is very confusing. If the corridors are narrow and long, the very next minute you pass through a Hall that dazzles with modern interior design, and then another boring room, and then suddenly the escalator drops you deep down on to a railway platform.

Now this was confusing. As per plan, we were to take a train from Zurich Airport Station (Zurich Flughafen) till Zurich Main Station (Zurich HB) and then change trains to board one that goes to Basel SBB where our journey was to end. But I read nothing about a Train station that meets you even before you've been handed back your checked luggage !

Well, as it turned out, this was a 10 minute ride to the Arrival Hall and Baggage Claim.

Changing trains at Zurich HB needed an Adrenaline rush because of the slim transfer time. The elevators on the Platforms made life a bit easier.

And so, the  journey finally ended. I sat on my friend's doorstep and burnt down a couple of cigarettes to call it a day.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Lens is a *Beep*

When I bought my first Digital SLR, it came with a 18-55 Kit Lens. The first few days were very exciting indeed. Every time my eyes were drawn to the two letters "VR" etched on the Lens body, I felt very proud, very powerful. It was like - nothing can stop me from taking great photographs. Incidentally "VR" stands for "Vibration Reduction" - a patented Nikon technology which prevents you from taking bad photographs (apparently). 

Very soon, VR wasn't that important any more. Focal length was. Almost everything that I wanted to photograph seemed to be too far away from me. Hence I dished out some hard-earned money to buy a Nikkor 55-200 (also with VR but it didn't matter much now). The subjects came closer, but then I read Ansel Adams saying once that "If the Photograph isn't good enough, then you are not Close Enough". Maybe these are not the exact words, but he said something similar. 
Therefore, I needed to go close, very close.

I bought a Nikkor 105mm F/2.8 Micro (Nikon, for some important reason, calls their Macro Lenses "Micro"). This Lens, again a VR enabled one, is a masterpiece. It weighs almost as much as your wife's shopping, costs double as much and can scare away the bravest of subjects with its sheer size. But it delivered what I wanted, and even more. The Dust, the Scratches, the Finger prints, they all started showing up in my photographs ! And then, there was this compelling need to break into the neighbor's house to obtain the desired distance from the subject if I wanted to shoot someone's portrait, such was the focal length. The Quality delivered was awesome no doubt, but then nobody appreciated a flawless reproduction of all the pimples that they managed to hide otherwise.
In July 2009, I was all set to go on a trip to Europe. Europe, they said, had magnificent Architecture. With a 105mm Focal Length I would need to stay back in Asia in order to cover entire structures and its surroundings. Thus entered a Sigma 10-20mm Ultrawide Lens. Suddenly, the world was a bigger place. All the Pillars were inclined. Every human being looked like an Alien, and my wife was very upset. But the Lens  served me well on the trip. I managed to take some good photographs which would otherwise have not looked so good at any other focal length.

When I returned home, I read a lot of bad things about this Ultrawide Lens. Flare, Distortion, Lack of Corner Sharpness. The list just went on.
Now, this was confusing. Which focal length should I concentrate on now ? 

My brother-in-Law decided to get married and I decided to carry my camera to the Wedding. He is a Nikon user (All sensible men are). He had a Nikkor AF 50mm F/1.8, and I decided to give it a try. A major chunk of all the photographs I shot during the wedding was in very challenging light conditions, and yet the Lens came out trumps ! I was impressed, for the umpteenth time, and decided to buy a similar one very soon. And I did. 
This is me now. A huge camera bag stares at me. Every time I open it, all the Lenses stare at me. My wife stares at me when I tell her that this is my Cabin Luggage for all flights.

Another Europe Trip is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I'm very scared.