Adventure Nomad

Adventure Nomad

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Colors of Rajasthan

Last Light at Manvar, Rajasthan. Nikon D300, 18-200mm, 1/500, f/8, ISO 200.

India is a land of striking contrast where the rich and the poor, the spiritual and the corrupt, and the powerful and the hopeless live side by side. The plight of the poor can be heart wrenching, and it can be difficult to look beyond the poverty and the filth to see the beauty that India has to offer.

Goatherd and Son, Delhi, India. Nikon D300, 50mm f/1.4G, 1/80, F/4, ISO 200.

I’ve just returned from India, where my wife and I managed to organize a two-week ‘custom’ photography tour of Rajasthan. Trinetra Tours India was the company that organized our trip. They asked what we wanted, then arranged our itinerary, accommodation, and a car and driver to accompany my wife and I through Rajasthan. It wasn’t cheap, but for what we were given, I’d say it was fair value and I would recommend Trinetra Tours for anyone looking to do the same.

Woman at Bazaar, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Nikon D300, 18-200mm, 1/160, f/5.6, ISO 200.

We covered some big Rajasthani cities: Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur, but skipped Jaisalmer on the western edge of Rajasthan. We found the most rewarding photography was getting off the main street in the smaller villages like Luni, Manvar, Pushkar, and Deogarh.

Drought. Nikon D300, 12-24mm, 1/640, f/13, ISO 400.

One of the highlights of the trip was the unique accommodation and ‘heritage’ hotels arranged by Trinetra Tours: we spent our nights in restored mansions (called Havelis), palaces, forts and even one night in a luxury tent complete with flush toilet and hot shower.

Deluxe Room at Fort Chanwa, Luni, Rajasthan.

These ‘heritage’ hotels are an initiative of the Tourism Ministry, and in drought stricken Rajasthan, are helping to save the villages by providing jobs and a much needed boost to the economy.

Through the Windscreen, somewhere on the road, Rajasthan.

Car and Driver
Determining right of way in India seems to be a blend of vehicle type, size, speed, and aggressiveness of the driver. Even Indians don’t get it right all the time, and I’ve seen the aftermath of some horrific accidents. I can’t imagine trying to drive in India, and so getting a car and driver for the duration of the tour is a must… or else take the bus.

One of the biggest assets during our trip was the driver. With a good driver who speaks English, you can save some money and do without a guide if you are prepared to do a little homework.

Schoolboy Waving, Luni, Rajasthan. Nikon D300, 18-200mm, 1/80, f/7.1, ISO 200.

Nikon D300 body, 12-24mm, 18-200mm, 50mm f/1.4G, SB 600, tripod.

If I could do it over, I’d bring the Speedlight, my D300 with the 12-24mm, and a second body: most likely a Nikon D700 with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II… and I’d leave the tripod at home :o)

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

The 50mm Conundrum

There are currently 3 different versions of Nikon 50mm lenses that you can buy new: The 50mm f/1.8D, 50mm f/1.4D and 50mm f/1.4G. In addition to these lenses, there are third party lenses, like Sigma’s very capable 50mm 1.4 HSM, and some older Nikon lenses still in circulation.

Shallow depth of field. Nikon D300, 50mm f/1.4D at f/1.4, 1/160, ISO 200.

If you are using a Nikon DX or 1.5 crop body, like my Nikon D300, the 50mm lens acts like a 75mm: in other words, a short telephoto. I bought mine specifically for shots where I need extremely shallow depth of field, and so I intend to use it wide-open or close to it. I can also use it for low light shots, although the short telephoto focal length will make it a bit cumbersome to work with for general low-light shooting.

A low light example: Releasing a lantern during Loy Krathong at Krabi, Thailand. Nikon D300, 50mm f/1.4G at f/1.4, 1/200, ISO3200.

Which one did I get? I bought all three, tested them, and ended up keeping the new 50mm f/1.4G.

My main problems with the older ‘screw-drive’ versions, the 50 f/1.8D and 50 f/1.4D, was that they had a higher tendency to misfocus on my D300, and focusing accuracy is critical when shooting with shallow depth of field. The new 50 f/1.4G, despite being equipped with a supposedly faster AF-S focusing system, actually focuses slower on my D300, but is much more accurate.

Who likes a big wet kiss on the face? Nikon D300, 50mm f/1.8D at f/1.8, 1/2000, ISO 200.

I really wanted to like the cheap and light 50 f/1.8D, but I had some bad front focusing issues with it, and the lens tended to be quite soft wide open closer to the edges.

I’m hesitant to recommend the 50mm f/1.4G outright. Not only is it the heaviest, it is also the most expensive. In fact, for a 50mm prime lens, it is absurdly expensive. Quality control also isn’t that great. All three ‘Made In China’ samples I looked at had dust inside the lens, which means it happened during manufacturing in the factory.

If you can afford to stop the lens down a little, say to f/2 or smaller aperture, and you’re happy with the focusing accuracy, I’d say take a closer look at the older 50’s. If you must have the best, the new Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is the best in terms of overall performance, but you’ll pay through the nose for that performance ;o)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Update: Panasonic LX3 Review

Courage Defined. Taken during The North Face Ultra 100 Singapore with a Panasonic Lumix LX3.

My criteria for choosing a compact ‘adventure’ camera is simple: I’m stretching my limits, both physically and mentally, and the camera has to give me the best quality image in a package that I’d be willing to carry (given the option of carry this or nothing at all).

Think of it like this: What camera would you be willing to carry for that once-in-a lifetime climb up the summit of Mt. Everest? You want a good camera to record your success, but at the same time, carrying too heavy a camera may jeopardize that very success.

Or what camera would bring while running the Marathon des Sable, a 250km foot race in the Sahara Desert where racers need to carry all their food and personal gear while racing for 7 days? Again, carrying too heavy a camera may affect your performance, making you less competitive, or even jeopardize your chances to complete the race.

The answer to both these questions, at least for me, is the Panasonic LX3. Light enough, with excellent and publishable image quality, in a compact, relatively easy-to-use package.

LX3 vs. Panasonic GF1
The GF1 offers more flexibility with its interchangeable lens system and may offer better image quality, but the GF1 will be both larger and heavier.

Choose the GF1: for less extreme adventures where weight and size matter less, and the photographer can benefit from the interchangeable lens system.

LX3 vs. Canon G10 (or G11)

These cameras are going to give me excellent image quality. I prefer the ergonomics and control layout of the Canons, and I think they would be easier to operate with gloves on. But it came down to which lens I preferred, and I preferred the wider, faster lens on the LX3.

Choose the G10 (G11): if you prefer the longer focal length and broader zoom range.

LX3 vs. Leica D-Lux 4
I’ve seen the image comparisons online, and the results are too close to call. It came down to the cost, and the D-Lux 4 will cost a lot more to replace if you break it. Plus the LX3 has the benefit of the tiny molded grip, which does make it a little better to hold… and probably less likely to drop.

Choose the D-Lux 4: if you’re a die-hard Leica fan.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Panasonic Lumix DMC LX3 Review

Everest Summiter, Joanne Soo, descending the Low's Peak Circuit via ferrata, Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo. Panasonic LX3, 1/500, f/4, ISO 80.

There are only 2 serious compact cameras that I considered as a replacement for my compact adventure camera: the Panasonic Lumix DMC LX3 and the Canon G10. While I prefered the control layout and feel of the G10, I chose the LX3 because of its bright f/2.0-2.8, 24-60mm wide-angle to mid-range zoom, similar to what I’d get on a full-frame DSLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

Jack Chen spotting Soo Wan Ming on the 1st ascent(?) of 'Kenneth's Chalk' (V0), Shithouse Boulder, Mt. Kinabalu Summit Plateau. Panasonic LX3, 1/400, f/4, ISO 80.

I’m a little late to the party, but since I’ve put about 3000 frames through this camera, I thought I’d throw in my own totally subjective, non-analytical thoughts into the review mix.

Fast, Sharp, Wide, Optically Image Stabilized Leica Lens
The lens on this baby is amazing, and is what makes using this camera a joy. The maximum aperture is f/2 at 24mm: the fastest and widest in its class.

Excellent Image Quality

I guess it’s the combination of the largish sensor, low noise (although I limit mine to ISO 400) and good dynamic range. DSLR quality? Not quite, but at low ISOs, it’s close.

RAW Burst Mode
Up to 3 RAW frames at 2.5 frames per second.


There are a few criticisms, but I'm nitpicking ;o)
- Poor Pop-Up Flash Performance
- Slow start up time
- Controls feel cramped
- Joystick too easy to accidentally shift
- Mode Dial too easy to accidentally shift
- Grip too small, slick, and does not feel secure for one handed shooting
- Battery door is flimsy
- LCD hard to read in outdoor sunlight

Shadow of me photographing Wilfred Tok, owner and operator of Mountain Torq, on the via ferrata cables. Panasonic LX3, 1/500, f/4.5, ISO 80.

In The Field

I’ve never used this camera in Manual Mode. I just don’t think the controls are set up well for that. I prefer to use one of the Semi-Auto (A or S Modes) or Program (P) Mode and use the joystick to dial in some exposure compensation, and it works very well like this. Sometimes though, the controls (both the mode dial and the joystick) are a little too easy to shift and I do wish they were a bit stiffer to prevent accidental shifting.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 with modified LC-1 lens cap and Lowepro D-Pods 30 case.

Speed of access is important in adventure or travel photography. This is how fast you can get to your camera and take your first shot. I keep my LX3 in a modified Lowepro D-Pods 30 and use a modified Ricoh lens cap. I usually turn on the camera before I take it out of the bag, but because of the extending lens, this is not possible with the LX3, so I lose a little time here, and the camera feels slow when starting up to the time I’m able to take my first shot.

Jispal Singh and Jack Chen on their way back to the hut after a day of climbing, Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo. Panasonic LX3, 1/320, f/2, ISO 80.

In the hand, the camera almost feels ‘too small’ with a miniscule grip, and cramped controls. But if you think about it, that’s what we want, a small compact and lightweight camera. The addition of an optical viewfinder would have been nice, but would have added bulk and weight. Panasonic’s solution is the Auto Power LCD function, which ‘gains up’ the LCD in bright light. It works, but you’ll probably need to remove your sunglasses to see the LCD well.

Useable apertures run from f/2 (f/2.8 at 60mm) to f/8. The sweet spot for maximizing sharpness on this lens is about f/4. Isolating a subject with a nice background blur using a large aperture like f/2.8 is going to be tough - the short focal lengths and small sensor size on small compact cameras combine to give the image a large depth of field. On the flipside, f/8 isn’t really a small enough aperture to give a nice sunstar when shooting into the sun. This is not a criticism, just a limitation of the way these small compact cameras work.

Making our way down the via ferrata cables to the base of the climb. Panasonic LX3, 1/200, f/8, ISO 80.

The Panasonic LX3 is not the camera for everyone. Some users may prefer a zoom with more reach, but for me the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3is a near perfect adventure camera: Excellent image quality with a fast, and useful, wide to midrange zoom lens in a compact and lightweight package.

Other Notes:
Lens Cap Mod

This uses a modified Ricoh LC-1 Lens Cap. This is a great addition for the camera and there are a number of mods out there.

Ian Ho’s method is the easiest, requiring nothing more than forcing the LC1 lens cap through the threads of the LX3, and then using some spacers to hold the flaps out of the way. The method I used was the ‘Chinese’ method, requiring painstaking sanding and cutting away of excess material on the inside of the lens cap. Be careful with this method though, I stabbed myself in the finger doing this, but the final results are the best, with the slimmest profile, does not require any spacers, and does not get in the way of the pop-up flash. If you screw up the ‘Chinese’ method, then you can still do the ‘glue-on’ method, whereby you sand down the LC1 even further, and simply epoxy the LC-1 to the LX3’s screw on mount. This isn’t as slim as the Chinese method, and still requires spacers.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Walking the Torq

Bypassing the anchors on the Low's Peak Circuit via ferrata. Panasonic Lumix LX3, 1/100, f/2.2, ISO 80.

I spent a week on Mt. Kinabalu at the invitation of Wilfred Tok, owner and operator of Mountain Torq, the World's highest via ferrata. The original purpose of the trip was to help Wilfred bolt up some new sport climbing routes, and then have some time to ourselves. We managed to try out some of Wilfred's sport routes, explore Alexandra (one of the neighbouring peaks), do some bouldering (including putting up what we think is a new problem) as well as walk up the Low's Peak summit and do the Low's Peak Circuit Via Ferrata.

The Start of the Low's Peak Circuit via ferrata on the summit plateau. Panasonic LX3, 1/800, f/4.5, ISO 80.

Kinabalu National Park is strictly regulated, and while our expedition-climbing permit allowed us a lot of freedom, most people would be required to engage a local “guide” and follow a structured itinerary. Most people plan for just two days on the mountain, spending the first day hiking up to Mountain Torq’s Pendant Hut situated at 3270m (10,728’), then trying to catch a few hours of sleep before having to leave the hut at 2:30am in order to catch sunrise on Low’s Peak (Mt. Kinabalu’s highest point at 4095m).

Soo Wan Ming belaying Joanne Soo up the 2nd pitch of a yet-to-be-named 10 pitch climb(5.10a+/6a+). Panasonic LX3, 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 80.

On the descent from the summit plateau, Mountain Torq offers two via ferrata routes. The descent by the shorter, and easier, via ferrata route called ‘Walk The Torq’ is taken by almost all participants who spend just one night at the Pendant Hut. If you’re more gung ho, are fitter, and can afford the time, I’d suggest spending another night and doing the Low’s Peak Circuit route, touted as the World’s highest via ferrata. It is much more exposed, and takes longer to do, but is much more fun!

Rapping off the central gully of Alexandra after climbing the NE Face. Panasonic LX3, 1/2000. f/2.0, ISO 80.


I’d recommend anyone ascending from sea level to read up on Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and consider speaking to your doctor about taking Diamox as a precaution.

Rain Gear
Besides all your insulating layers, you’re going to need good raingear. Bring the best you can afford. Kinabalu is a big mountain sitting in the tropics: Think ‘Cold’ and ‘Wet’. An umbrella is fine for the lower mountain; a poncho is better; but high on the mountain, nothing beats waterproof/breathable rainwear. My top pick for a rain jacket is The North Face Triumph Anorak; bombproof and lightweight.

Leather Gloves
The via ferrata can rip up tender hands, bring along a pair of leather gloves like belay or biking gloves.

Best Time to Visit
Rain can occur at any time, whatever the season. Mornings are usually clear, but clouds and rain can form by late morning. The dry season, and hence best time to visit is from April to September.

See the Mountain Torq website for a comprehensive equipment list and more information.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Baba Yetu and Mado Kara Mieru

While looking for some tunes to go along with a slideshow I made recently, I came across this track by Christoper Tin. It's actually a remixed version of the opening song from a computer game called 'Civilization IV':

Baba Yetu (feat. Soweto Gospel Choir) - Excerpt by ChristopherTin

He's got an upcoming album called 'Calling All Dawns' set to be released on October 1st. These two songs are samples of the first two tracks of the album. I can't wait for it!

Mado Kara Mieru (feat. Lia, Aoi Tada, Kaori Omura) - Excerpt by ChristopherTin

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Searching for a New Tent

The 'Mid pitched out in Loihuno, 1st night out on the Tour de Timor.

We were in our tent, just about to lie down to sleep when Laura said to me:

“Oh look, a scorpion.”

We have a BD Megamid, a tarp tent, which means it has no floor, and hence no bug protection. And so at 9 o’clock that night, on the second night of the Tour de Timor, we moved our tent from the edge of the brush out onto the middle of the dirt road, where we felt safe from scorpions and other creepy crawlies.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of ‘Mid tents. They are fast to set up, light, strong, and incredibly spacious for their weight. I’ve pitched them while climbing on the icy slopes of the Tetons and Mt. Rainier, backpacking in Yosemite, and trekking in the sweaty jungles of S.E. Asia.

Their weaknesses are:

1. No bug protection; and
2. Not freestanding.

MSR Hubba Hubba HP without fly.

My first tent was a Chouinard Pyramid, the predecessor to the BD Megamid, so I’m on my second ‘Mid. I seem to go in cycles, and seem to always come back to a ‘Mid for their bombproof simplicity. And so this cycle has me looking for a new ‘scorpion proof’ tent. At the moment, the front-runner is the MSR Hubba Hubba HP, which (as a weight weenie) I’ve worked out to be the same weight as my Megamid plus groundsheet.

Let me know if I’m the right track :o)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tour de Timor: Verdict

My Santa Cruz Superlight against a mural painted on a wall in Baucau, Day 2 Tour de Timor.

With the roads closed off to vehicular traffic, the riding was outstanding. Terrain varied from fast and smooth bitumen to rough and rutted doubletrack, although it was usually a combination of both, sometimes with sudden changes from one extreme to the other.

Nearing the top of the big 1840m hill on Day 4, Tour de Timor.

We started our ride along rugged coastal roads from the capital Dili to Baucau, then turned south through green fields of rice paddies and coffee plantations to Betano Beach, finally traveling west and north deep into the central highlands with wide, sweeping vistas before dropping back into Dili. The scenery was nothing short of spectacular, and my photos from my little Panasonic LX3 don’t do justice to the Timorese landscape.

Laura reaches her limit near the end of Day 1, Tour de Timor.

It was the first time had I raced with my wife, and not knowing her limits, we pushed her a little too hard. When she dragged herself into Baucau at the end of the first day, the Race Doctor immediately rushed her to the Hospital. Needless to say, we ended that first day in last place among the Singapore teams. She recovered well though, we finished the race in good standing. It was a very positive experience for us both, and we are keen to race together again.

Laura handing me a tube in our tent to fix yet another flat tire on Betano Beach, Day3, Tour de Timor.

I do a couple of small criticisms that I hope the race organizers will look into. While the riding and race management was good, I could not help but feel that the infrastructure was a bit stretched. Accommodation, in Dili and for campsite space on the first night in Baucau, appeared insufficient for the 350+ participants, volunteers, media and officials. Meals, though sufficient in quantity, could have been better distributed, perhaps in individual packs, rather than as a buffet. Racers in the front of the buffet queue ended up hoarding food for fear of not getting enough, which is what happened to the racers at the back of the queue. Finally, the number of toilets provided could be improved, either by digging pit toilets, or by transporting portaloos.

A great event that can only get better!

Photos: All photos taken with a Panasonic LX3.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tour de Timor: The Gear

Note about gear: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t second guess yourself and undermine your confidence at this stage of the game. Decisions about what kind of tire to use may seem really important now, but once the race starts, it won’t. It’s more important to bring back-ups: a spare tire in case what you brought doesn’t work, or you shred one; extra water bottles or a hydration bladder in case of loss or failure; more riding clothes in case it is colder than you think or in case they don’t dry in time; extra food; etc.

My ‘best guess’ is to go with semi-slicks. The touring/messenger slicks are a good choice for puncture resistance, but they are heavy and may not necessarily roll faster on poor roads.

We are going with a Kenda Klimax Lite 1.95 (345g) up front and a Panaracer Speedblaster Race Lite 1.75 (360g) on the rear. (For this race, I would have preferred the Kenda Kozmik Lite II 1.75 (390g) for the rear, but those aren’t available here in Singapore). The Klimax Lites have surprisingly traction with low rolling resistance, but are quite puncture prone. We put the Speedblasters on the rear for (hopefully) better puncture resistance. Both tires roll very fast with hard inflation, but the key with the Speedblasters is not to overinflate them, otherwise the big side knobs won’t bite. The Klimax Lites don’t have this problem as they get traction from the ‘V’ shaped knobs down the center. Pump ‘em up hard and enjoy!

The bike and me. Photo by Laura Liong.

Hydration and Nutrition
I’m bringing 3 bottles on the bike: 1 downtube bottle filled with Hammer Perpetuem/Endurolytes mix, and 2 filled with water in a ‘triathlon’ style bottle holder behind the saddle. I’ll also be bringing an extra water bottle AND a hydration bladder, just in case. I’ve had a few questions about the behind the saddle bottle holder and my suggestion, as usual is, if you haven’t tried it in training, don’t race with it. They do look cool, but the bottle holder introduces some issues you may not have thought of:

1. It may restrict shifting your weight to the rear on downhills;
2. The bottles are prone to popping out on bumps and we’ve had to rig up some shockcord to hold them in.
3. It may require more coordination handling the water bottles than drawing water from the mouthpiece of a bladder.

First Aid Kit
Ours is a patch up and go kit:
1 satchet Antiseptic wipe
1 satchet antibiotic cream
2 small butterfly bandaids
1 paracetemol tablet
1 ibuprofen anti-inflamatory tablet
The first 2 items are good for road rash; add the 3rd item for deep cuts; and the lot for a major wipeout.

Good Luck everyone!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tour de Timor: The Camera

Laura's Olympus 1030 SW. New.

We have a lot of gear to bring and we are trying to keep the load manageable. My wife, Laura, and I will be using compacts during the race and sharing her Canon Rebel XT/350D DSLR for other times. Her aging Canon XT/350D is overdue for replacement and she’s waiting to either switch to the new Nikon D300s or wait for the upcoming Canon 60D or 7D or whatever it’s going to be called.

Laura's Olympus 1030 SW. One year later. Scuffed up, dented, but still ticking!

Laura’s compact is her trusty and well-used (abused?) Olympus 1030 SW. I’ve been lusting after the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 for a while and now have the perfect excuse to get one. In a rugged, compact camera with a minimum wide-angle of 24mm, this is still the best choice for me. I’ll need the widest lens I can get to be able to work the angles I want while shooting from the saddle. The fact that it has a very fast (f/2.0-2.8) and sharp Leica lens is a nice bonus ;o)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3

Shooting from a moving bike is tough. More so during a race. My strategy is to put the naked LX3 in a Bento Boxon the bike, whip it out when the opportunity arises, and shoot a variety of shots, and then replace it.

Update: A reader has informed me of similar product, the Topeak All-Weather Tribag. It is similar to the TNI Bento box but slightly bigger and heavier. It is padded and a has a rainfly cover. All in all, it is superior to the TNI Bento Box for carrying a camera or cell phone on the ride. I've just bought one. Thanks Ben :o)

Update: Sorry folks, this is a bad idea. I've gone to using the standard LX3 strap around my neck which allows me to drop the camera if I need both hands on the handlebar suddenly. The Tribag allows me to store the camera when I no longer require it.

The LX3 is such a popular camera that it is sold out everywhere and it may be a bit of a challenge for me to find one before the race :o(

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tour de Timor: Shout Outs

The race is less than two weeks away. Team Singapore Spirit is done with our hard ‘peak’ training and we are into the ‘tapering’ phase of our training, final gear selection, and packing. We are still short one team member, and although we are hoping the race director can hook us up with a strong female rider, If anyone is going to the race without a team, we are intermediate level racers looking for a 4th team member. Please contact me at

Hammer Nutrition has agreed to sponsor all teams from Singapore going to the race. I completed last weekend’s training riding 250+ km all over Singapore with Hammer Perpetuem and Endurolytes and am impressed. I’m convinced that this stuff is the future of endurance nutrition!

The Chain Reaction Project

One team that deserves mention is Team Chain Reaction Project, an all women’s team that is doing their bit to raise some money to help make a difference in the lives of the people of Timor. Check out their website here.

Update: TCRP will be selling Tiger Beer during the race at $2 per can. Proceeds go to charity. Anyone still working on your hydration strategy take note!

Thanks also OCBC Bank for offering to give all teams from Singapore race jerseys and to Totobobo for antipollution face masks for training and racing. I would also like to thank my personal sponsors, The North Face, for their continued support.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ferguson Hill Transparent Speakers

Ferguson Hill FH007. FH008 Sub not in image.

I bought a set of these last week. It’s one of the bigger purchases I’ve made this year that’s not related to photography or sports. It is a set of transparent speakers for my iPhone/PC. They are expensive, but boy, they sound great and they look awesome!

These speakers look as if they are designed and engineered purely for sound. There’s no exotic wood cabinet, no grilles covering the speaker cones, no frills. Just naked, pure looking speakers.

I did have a little trouble with the speakers when I bought them. I shot off an email to the company and got an almost immediate reply from the founder, Timothy Hill. He solved one problem with ‘crackling’ when I moved the volume switch (turns out to be dust on the volume potentiometer). The second problem was terminal, it turned out that the FH008 Subwoofer was faulty and needed to be replaced.

I found the literature a bit scarce and emailed Timothy Hill for some advice on the initial setup of the FH007/FH008. Here’s what he said:

“Use a small screwdriver to set the ‘bass level adjust’ on the back of the FH007 mini amplifier to about 3/4 of the way round;
Then set the frequency on the back of the sub to about 70Hz or just before half way;
Then set the volume on the sub to also just before half way.
After this, listen to a few different types of music and make small adjustments on the sub to suit.”

I’m no audiophile, and how these speakers sound really depends on what you listen to. To my ears, these speakers excel for anything with strong vocals, acoustic or natural sounds, which is what I bought them for.

Anyway, I like 'em :o)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bad Air Days Are Here Again

Photo by Kevin Lim/The Straits Times, from the story Haze is back in Singapore.

The haze is back in Singapore. Yesterday was the worst day I’ve seen this year in Singapore. The acrid smell of smoke from forests burning in faraway Indonesia was pretty thick in the morning and I actually took wore my Totobobo Anti-Pollution Face Mask, something I haven’t worn since my bicycle tour of Vietnam.

Totobobo in use in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Laura Liong.

The mask came in very handy as I was training on the bike for the upcoming Tour de Timor. Francis, the developer of the Totobobo Mask, met up with me and reminded me to change the filters on the mask as it was getting to be quite a dark grey. He’s since upgraded the filters to N96 to offer more protection from viruses, such as the H1N1 Flu virus. Francis was also kind enough to offer riders going to the race in Timor a free Totobobo Mask.

My filters after a the bike tour of Vietnam, worn approximately 2 hours per day for 14 days.

Way to go, Francis!

For more information or to order the Totobobo mask, please click here. Enter "adventurenomad" into the discount code to receive a special price on the Totobobo anti-pollution face mask and filters!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Magic Pill

For the past year, The Supplement Warehouse, a nutrition supplement store based in Singapore, has been kind enough to assist me with my sports nutrition requirements.

Keep in mind that there is no magic potion or pill that can substitute real training. But when used properly, there is a subtle, but noticeable, difference when using ergogenic aids such as this.

Champion Nutrition Muscle Nitro
Champion Nutrition calls this product a “V02 Maximizer” and “the secret weapon of top professional athletes”. It claims to provide up to 11% more exercise capacity and has studies to back this up.

I’ve used this in racing and hard training and have noticed a difference with and without it. The trick to using this product is with the timing and the amount, so some experimentation prior to an important event is required. Too little won’t give you any ergogenic effect and too much will play havoc with your stomach (and your results!). Unlike some other ergogenic aids, like phosphate loading, this product does not require loading prior to race, so it is relatively simple to use. I’ve had good results taking the low side of the recommended dose with a small meal immediately prior to race start.