Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Green Corridor

The Green Corridor is the nickname given to the disused railway line in Singapore when the Malaysia-Singapore KTM trains ceased operations on July 1 2011.  In Singapore, there's great potential for this corridor of land which runs from the North of Singapore (Woodlands) to the South (Tanjong Pagar).  


Here's a quick look at The Green Corridor from Holland Road to Bukit Timah Road

In the South of Singapore, this corridor runs through a highly urbanized area. Like other 'Rails to Trails' efforts, I'm hoping that Singapore will retain this corridor of land for 'active transportation' use - an alternative means of transport for commuters to walk or bike.  Ideally (for me anyway), this green corridor would extend from the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve all the way to Tanjong Pagar.  This would give opportunity for people to bike to work downtown, or to the Nature Reserve in Bukit Timah.

The government of Singapore is looking for ideas with what to do with this land.  Support The Nature Society of Singapore's effort to keep The Green Corridor.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Future Camera Now

I had a look at the Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) system a while back. Back then, I wasn't interested in shooting video, and the bodies I looked at required composing using the LCD screen on the back of the camera, which is not ideal outdoors in bright sunlight.
Panasonic GH2

I'm now having a serious look at the Panasonic GH2.  I think that more than any other camera today, the technology and ergonomics of this camera represent the future of digital imaging.  It's small and light, two very important characteristics for travel and adventure (hiking, biking, climbing) photography and videography.  One thing I learned climbing Mt. Everest: it doesn't matter how good a camera you have if you can't take it with you.  My Nikon D7000 is great, but it's bulk and weight meant I couldn't take it with me to the top.  Weight is important for obvious reasons, and bulk affects the view of my feet and body position when climbing as I use a chest pouch to carry the camera.  Less weight and bulk means a slimmer, less intrusive profile with the chest pouch. I probably wouldn't be able to carry the GH2 to the top of Mt. Everest either, but the weight and bulk is significantly less than the D7000. 

Shooting video is something new to me and  After seeing the video that my sherpa, Jamling Bhote, shot of me on Mt. Everest (video at bottom of article), I've become interested in doing more.  There's information on a moving picture that just cannot be conveyed in a still image.  In a still image, you could get a sense of speed, wind or movement, but other things, like how it feels or intensity of the moment are more difficult.

The D7000 does shoot video, but it's not as straightforward as Nikon marketing would like you to believe.  First off, the sound quality sucks, so you'll need to buy an external mic (which I have done).  Secondly, because you are forced to use the LCD on the back of the camera to compose, there are limitations in bright sunlight, and you may need to use an add-on LCD viewfinder (like a Zacuto Z Finder) which adds significant weight and bulk to the DSLR setup.  Ok, you get the idea.  It's doable, but with the added complexity, cost, weight and bulk, the whole setup is too much for travel and adventure.  Sure, you could argue that the image quality I'd get from the D7000 vs. the GH2 would be higher, but since I haven't got the GH2 (yet), I can't counter that argument (yet).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mt. Everest Photography Equipment

Greeting the sunrise just above the First Step (8500m) on the North Ridge of Mt. Everest.  It had been a cold, windy night.  Panasonic LX3.
Expedition photography has to be one of the toughest things to successfully capture on film.  Fatigue, extreme weather and lighting conditions add up to make the task challenging.  Most people have some idea that weight is important, and they try to keep it lightweight.  I have to add that weight is very important, and you shouldn't overestimate your ability to carry something, like a big DSLR, to the summit of Everest unless you have the experience to know you have the strength to do it.  The other important, but often overlooked factor, is the means by which you carry your camera.  I carry my DSLR in a 'Chest Pouch' that is easily and readily accessible.  Camera backpacks are great for hauling your gear from lone location to the next, but if you have your camera in a backpack, you won't have many shots in between locations because it will take too much time and effort to get it out to take a shot.
Bali, our expedition sirdar, walking beneath a serac on the East Rombuk Glacier on the way up to Advance Base Camp.  Nikon D7000, 16-85, 1/640, F/13, ISO 200.
For Everest, I brought my 'newish' Nikon D7000 with a 10.5mm fisheye, 16-85mm, 70-300mm lenses, a small tripod.  I carried this from basecamp up to Camp 1at the North Col (7000m).  Above Camp1, I used my Panasonic Lumix LX-3.  Here's a big tip:  I gave my sherpa (Jamling Bhote) an LX-3 as well, so he could get photos of me.
Everest Basecamp (5150m), China.  My tent is the one closest to camera, the white tent is the dining tent, the green tent is the toilet tent (Oops, too much detail?).  Everest has a shroud of cloud over the top in the back.  Nikon D7000, 16-85mm, 30 secs, F/7.1, ISO 800.
Here's what I learned and what I would do different:

Jamling turned out to not only be an excellent photographer, but a fine videographer as well. The experience has got me interested in shooting more video.  I'd bring a Panasonic GH2 instead of the D7000.  It's probably the best combo video/stills camera on the market today.  As a bonus, it's also smaller and lighter than the D7000, and the Micro Four Thirds lenses that it uses are smaller and lighter too. 

Lenses are a highly personal choice.  If I were bringing the D7000 the next time, I would bring my 12-24mm ultrawide and a 50mm F/1.4 instead of the fisheye and 16-85mm that I brought this trip.  But, as I said, I'd go with the GH2 next time, and I'd go with the 7-14mm and a big-aperture short- telephoto lens.
Jamling finishing breakfast at Camp 2 (7600m) on the North Ridge of Mt. Everest.  Panasonic LX3.
I could possibly carry the GH2 as high as Camp 3 (8300m), but above that, I'd still need something lighter.  Instead of the LX3 that I brought for my summit push, I'd use a GoPro instead.  I did not anticipate temperatures being so cold that I would not be able to unzip my down suit to pull out my camera, remove my goggles so that I could see the LCD, turn into the wind to snap a shot.  With the GoPro, I could set the interval timer to take a picture every 'x' number of seconds, and put the camera on my head, and hope that some of the shots would be useable.  If the weather turned out to be good, I could use the GoPro like a 5MP still camera anyway.
Here I am sitting on the very tippy-top of the world!  Image is a still captured from a video sequence with the Panasonic LX3.  The whole sequence is in the video below.
Probably the only thing I would do the same is to give my sherpa a camera.  I was lucky that my sherpa, Jamling, was so talented.  Here's a short video of the climb.  Most of the video and stills of me on Everest were taken by Jamling: