Monthly Archives: October 2010

10 Reasons to Visit Switzerland

I have written plenty about New Zealand and in no way finish with that topic. I’ll circle to that topic at another time. But let’s focus on another country. After my trip to New Zealand, I immediately wanted to visit this country so much but it took five years later for reality to happen.

So what strong reasons can you give to visit Switzerland?

In no particular order, these are my personal reasons :

1. Mountains, mountain, mountains and more snow-capped mountains! The Swiss Alps are famous but there are also other well known mountains in this country. Winter here will be spectacular.

2. Lakes.  How many lakes are there in Switzerland? According to Wikipedia, there are 16 lakes here with a surface area bigger than 10 km² – Lake Geneva (the largest), Lake Constance, Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Maggiore, Lake Lucerne, Lake Lugano, Lake Thun, Lake Biel, Lake Zug, Lake Brienz, Lake Walen, Lake Murten, Lake Sempach, Sihlsee, Lake Hallwil.

3. United Nations. There is an office here in Geneva. It would be cool to visit a place mention quite a bit in the News. Geneva – here we come.

4. Penknife. Why is the Swiss Penknife so expensive? Let’s find out.

5. Swatch. Ahh….I love those brightly colored watches. I have a few of those over the years. Quite a fashion trend.

6. Red Cross. As a school kid, I joined the Red Cross. The symbol of the Red Cross is the red flag of Switzerland. A little curious about history there.

7. Precise Travel Schedule. I have heard a lot about how the trains are always on time, as listed on time schedule at every train station. How true is that?

8. Charming chalets architecture. Looking at some magazines and movies, the chalets look so inviting and so very rustic. I want to stay in one!

9. Land of cable cars. Where there are mountains, there are cable cars. A good time now to overcome the fear of heights.

10. Topperone chocholat. You like chocholat? Yum, yum, my favourite snack. Always wondered why the chocolate is triangular shape? Check the photo below. That is the Matterhorn. See any similarity?

So, let’s go visit Switzerland!

The Matterhorn


Posted by on October 30, 2010 in Switzerland, Travel


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The Digital Age

Numerical Reflex Digital Camera

Image via Wikipedia

I used to work in advertising, travel and tourism industry and I remember the days of bromide and color separations. Now, I am not even sure if those printing methods are still in practice today. Films have moved to digital cameras. Similarly so does storage and so many other things.

Do you still buy travel magazines and keep those slides from film cameras? Or have you simply rely on the internet for information and have switched to digital cameras? Sony retired the Walkman and so another technological evolution has gone to pasture. What is next?

Now, photographers or a journalists for that matter, have an easier time transferring photos and news to headquarters or their employers. Touch a button and presto! The goods are delivered without them having to leave their location.

In the advertising and marketing world, budgets are planned at least a year ahead and ad space in magazines and other media are booked very early too. Near the holidays seasons, editorial coverage run side by side with ads campaign and I always look forward to these period because magazines are much thicker than usual. I still have my National Geographic and other travel magazines from years ago. Flipping through glossy pages, feeling nostalgic at those days of simply dreaming and wondering if I will ever visit those places mentioned.

What I am trying to convey here is, much as I love the digital age, there are some things still golden to me. E-books and e-magazines may save more trees but I will truly miss them if there are no more magazines or newspapers. On digital cameras, I love you – you give me wings to fly, literally!

Have a fun weekend, peeps! 🙂


Posted by on October 29, 2010 in Lifestyle, photography, Travel


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Photography – Let there be light

The most important thing in photography I think is light. I have many old photos that are simply ruined because the camera setting was not right. As a result the photo was so dark – it was almost a lost case. Or is it?

The past few days, I had been experimenting and digging up pictures that were thought to be a lost case. I am glad I did not throw them away because some of the photos can still be salvaged.

Take a look at this photo. It was bright sunshine when this photo was taken.

too dark

The reflection of light on the bluish-green water was captivating. Well, I read up some advice on the internet that suggested that if the light was shining brightly or there wasn’t much light, then exposure setting should be the opposite of what the manual said. Maybe I didn’t read probably or there was some typo there. In any case, I should had done some bracketing there, +2.0 EV all the way to -2.0 EV.  As a result of that foolhardy moment, the photo was far from pleasing. Looking at the stats, this was recorded at – Shutter : 1/572sec, Exposure : -2.0EV, F8.0, Focal Length : 8.9mm, ISO : 50. Camera : Nikon E8700.

For these past few days, I remembered that photo and managed to track it. This is the result after some tweaking.

edited photoIn photo imaging software, the lightness and brightness features are photo savers. Changing the color filters also make a difference. Increasing hue and saturation bring out more color and depth to a picture. While I have always thought using the contrast feature is fabulous in adding more vibrancy to a picture, it is not always the best thing to do. This is because doing so result in more noise. Noise is those grainy little things on a photo that may not look obvious on screen unless you zoom further to say 200% or use the highlight or shadow features in your photo editing softwares.

One way to solve this is to use the blur function. Once done, improve the photo further by reducing noise in the picture. Use these two functions sparingly as the end result may ruin some fine details. For this edited picture, I actually max out the noise and blur levels as I wanted the end result to have that romantic atmosphere. This picture may never pass the requirement for print media but I am happy with the result because the original picture can still be salvaged.

Another thing to remember is that Jpeg files lost quality after many viewing. So it is good to shoot pictures using Raw format and covert it later to Jpeg after editing.

Getting back to disastrous photos, have a go at photo imaging or editing softwares. Check your camera box if there is any CD included for photo editing. If not, search the internet for free softwares. I am currently using Olympus Studio 2 which is user friendly but it does not have any erasing or stamping features which comes in handy when you want to remove unwanted signboards.  Many people have recommended using Photoshop but I find it rather hard to learn.

I’m off to do more editing. Have fun!

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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in photography


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Another attempt at photo editing

Here it is a before, after and cropping pictures for today. Click on the icons for a bigger photo. I’m trying to upload  more pictures at flickr.

Final result after croppingafter cropping

I was aiming for an iridescent effect. Though not the very best result yet, I am still learning.

The edited picture before the final result. edited imag

More colors shown compared to the original picture.

The original picture. original picture Can’t capture the full richness of the scene. No sunlight at all on the plants – so image is lacking in light and color.

I am doing this for fun and hopefully will improve my techniques as time goes by.

Till next week, safe journey!

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Posted by on October 24, 2010 in photography, Travel


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Photography – Editing

Such a strange week. I decided to take a break and fully concentrate on photography offline and everyday there is something in my s-p-a-m box. If you are here accidentally even though your google search are into something else, I bid you welcome. Though this blog may not be your cup of tea, just enjoy the pictures while you are here. If you like it here, come back. 🙂

More for the serious stuff. I have another picture of cows backlighted by sunset. However the camera did not capture the correct lighting.

Original picture

You cannot see much details as this is too dark . Technical blah blah : Focal Length – 29.5mm, Shutter – 137.3sec, F5.3, ISO 50.

So, I tried doing some editing from Olympus Studio 2 and this is the result.

1st edit

Much much better I think though there was a lot of noise in the foreground. I was told there was dust on the camera lens. Noise reduction was set at 100% and a touch of the blurring function. A little tweak here and there for brightness and shading and voila. Could be improved further I think. Too much brightness on the right side. The wooden post in the foreground could be a sore eye.

After cropping, this is the final result.

3rs result

Still debating if the tree tops have been cropped too much and the poor black cow is overshadowed. But I will stand by this.

Like riding a bicycle, photography is a little like that. Learning curve is very steep but the more you do it, the better you get. That is what I am aiming for. If you have ideas on how to improve this photo, would love to hear from you. I am all ears. 😉

Have a great weekend, everybody!

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Posted by on October 22, 2010 in photography, Travel


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Things to do and See in Queenstown

Queenstown "Smilie"

It's bird, it's a plane - it's a happy smilie 🙂

Thanks for dropping by. Are you addicted to adrenaline? Rafting, sky diving, skiing all gives you a rush like no other? Then, Queenstown – the adventure capital of South Island, New Zealand – has tons of activities to spike your adrenaline.


How to get there

From Christchurch, South Island’s international airport, it takes about 6 hours journey to reach Queenstown. Major airlines either have direct flight here or land at Auckland, North Island. From there, take a domestic flight to Queenstown. The journey from Christchurch to Queenstown via the Inland Scenic Route is absolutely breathtaking in whatever seasons.  Along the way, you will pass Lake Tekapo and catch a glimpse of Aeroki/Mt Cook at Lake Pukaki.

During winter, there are direct flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melborne, Australia to Queenstown airport. It takes about three and a half hours flight to reach here from Australia. The view from the air as your plane slowly land is simply stunning.

If taking ferry from Wellington to Picton, you will need to go through Nelson, Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier – at least 2 days journey before arriving in Queenstown on the third day.


Things to do and see in Queenstown

For more information, visit the Queenstown Tourism, official website.


The Remarkables, New Zealand

At the Remarkables

Recommended Activities

Skiing and Snowboarding

Officially winter is from June 1  to August 31, however, spring skiing is still possible to early October. There are actually six fields nearby Queenstown : The Remarkables – 45 minutes drive, Caronet Peak – 25 minutes drive, Cadrona – 60 minutes drive, Treble Cone – 1.5 hours drive. There is also night skiing. If visiting Snow Park and Snow Farm, it may be better to have accommodations in Wanaka instead as the ski fields are nearer from there. For the daredevils, try heliskiing. Operator : Nzski

Dart River Safaris

This is a combination of a forest walk, sightsee of locations from The Lord of the Rings and a jetboat into the wilderness of Mt Aspiring National Park. About 6 hours from Queenstown and 3 hours from Glenorchy. For the more adventurous, try the Funyaks canoe. Jetboat up the Dart River and then paddle slowly downstream on the funyaks with lunch provided. About 9 hours  from Queenstown and 7 hours from Glenorchy. Spectacular scenery and lots for fun for the whole family. Operator : Dart River Safaris Ltd

Rafting in New Zealand

Rafting in New Zealand

White water rafting either in the Kawarau River – ideal for first-timers – or the more challenging Shotover River. Paddle your oars as fast as you can and don’t drop into the water! Heli-raft is also possible here but you need to pay more. This is usually a half day activity that can be combined with other activities to save time and money. Check out the various combos available. For more information, check out The Station. For the little kids, you can also join in the fun. Family Adventures invites kids from 3 years old onwards to kayak and raft with their family on gentle grade 1 and 2 rapids.

River Surfing and Canyoning

Having fun in the water? Get closer! Go river surfing and canyoning. It is just you, the board and the river – you are in control. Don’t be scared. Jump in and have fun – surf the rapid, get wet, ride the whirlpools and jump off rocks! Check The Station for combo activities to save time and money.


A.J Hackett made the sport famous. Try it and see what the fuss is all about.  Imagine this : a length of rope tied to your ankle, the guide counting “4, 3, 2, 1! Jump!” Screammmmm!  Touch down – you either reach the water or you don’t. Operator : AJ Hackett


As you can see in the smilie picture above, that is paraflight. Fly solo or tandem above Lake Wakatipu up to 600 metres. Fantastic view. No experience needed. Age limit is 2 years old. Fun for the whole family. Boat adventure last about 1 hour with flight about 10-15 minutes duration, every hour from the pier. Try it! Operator : Paraflights


Paragliding in Queenstown, NZ

Glide free as a bird

From high above, solo or tandem, do a little run and off you go. Look ma, I am flying! You can do this at various locations in Queenstown. For more buzz and thrill, jump off from Coronet Peak – the highest of 3 main paragliding sites. Operator : Extreme Air


Enjoying the fresh air from high above? Step up a notch and skydive! Absolute thrill guranteed. Just don’t eat before you fly, get my meaning? The sky is the limit – 9,000ft, 12,000ft or 15,000ft – your choice. Watch the scenery goes by and the rush as the ground gets closer and closer and closer.. and you land on your feet. Operator : Nzone

Mountain Biking

The Remarkables, New Zealand

The Remarkables through a buoy

Go on a guided tour at Skippers Canyon with no uphill riding. Great views of Shotover River. Combine it with rafting and get your adrenaline buzzing. From beginners to advanced riders. Operator : Gravity Action

If you haven’t heard of the Seven Great Walks in New Zealand, click here for more information. Hiking or tramping – as it is known here –  is a popular reason for visiting New Zealand. Unspoilt forest, snow-capped mountains, solitude – it is a wonderful combination for tramping here. There are many operators in Queentown offering their hiking packages, from budget to the luxurious accommodation. If you are short for time, why not go on a one day hiking trip. Ultimate Hikes offers guided trips to the Milford Track and the Routeburn Track – two of the seven great walks – and guided day trips.


The Scenic Tours

While these activities are not necessarily full of adrenaline, the sight to behold are not to be missed.

Skyline Queenstown

If you are short of time, this is the place to get an overview of Queenstown – spectacular at any time,  in all seasons.  Watch the scenery rolls by as the cable car gets higher and higher.  There are a number of hiking trails starting here, so take the free hiking map. Don’t forget to get a panoramic snapshot. There is an excellent restaurant here – get a reservation first. Skyline Queenstown

TSS Earnslaw Boat Cruise and Walter Peak High Country Farm

TSS Earnslaw at night

The TSS Earnslaw was launched in 1912, the same year as The Titanic. The TSS Earnslaw is a coal-fired passenger-carrying vessel taking you on a cruise on Lake Wakatipu. Disembark at Walter Peak High Country Farm for a farm tour, horse ride, bbq lunch or dinner. Operating  year round, this is an educational and fun trip for the whole family. Operator : Real Journeys

Milford Sound Cruise

You must not miss this trip! The Milford Sound cruise was covered in greater detail here. Stunning scenery from start to finish. There are several operators from Queenstown. I highly recommend going with Real Journeys.


Arrowtown is a short drive from Queenstown. Leave your vehicle in Queenstown as there is a regular shuttle service here. Arrowtown is spectacular in autumn. All the gorgeous fall colours – a photographer’s dream. Grab a pan and go to the river – you may just be lucky to strike gold! Information here.


So many things to do and so little time! Above all else, don’t be in a rush to fill up your days and time with as much activities as possible. A holiday is meant for relaxation, so take your time to simply unwind, breathe the fresh air and soothe your soul.

Be safe, be happy!


[Edit : Add Skyline Queenstown because miss it earlier]


Posted by on October 16, 2010 in New Zealand, photography, Travel


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5 Reasons to Visit Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown : Early winter dawn

Queenstown : Early winter dawn

Have you ever visit a  place….and

…your heart rejoice?
…you blink your eyes again and again in astonishment?
…your mouth says “wow”!
…your mind says “I must return here”?
…your soul feels at peace?

People always ask me “why do you return to New Zealand again and again”. My answer “because my heart sings with joy and my weary soul feels at ease”.

Queenstown : Rainbow

Queenstown Rainbow - first winter snow

Basic facts

  • There are more sheep here than people
  • North Island is warmer and has more people compared to South Island
  • The capital is Wellington, even though most major airlines get here via Auckland in North Island
I always end up a night here and there in Queenstown. There is simply no way to avoid Queenstown!

Five Reasons to visit Queenstown, New Zealand

  • skiing – there are three mountains surrounding Queenstown
  • bungyjump – get that adrenaline rush
  • hiking – through unspoilt forest and natural wonders
  • lake and mountain views – a photographer’s dream
  • Lord of the Ring scenes – need I say more?

Why do so many people visit Queenstown every year? Consider this : snow-capped mountains, beautiful lake and Lord of the Ring! Who can resist? People come here because of the breathtaking scenery, ski opportunities and the countless heart-pumping activities in and around Queenstown. It is not only fun for the thrill seekers – families will be happy to know that children will love it here.

You don’t have to spend all your money on one activity after another. Look closer and there are things to do for free here. Feed the ducks at Lake Wakatipu or take a stroll at Queenstown Gardens. There are numerous hiking options for free. Grab a map from the Information Centre, the I-site.

What is a holiday without pictures? A sneak preview of what is in store for the next few days :  in-depth coverage of Queenstown, New Zealand.

Additional : Click here for recommended activities in Queenstown.

Stay tune!

Queenstown Lake Wakatipu

Queenstown Lake Wakatipu Aeriel View


Posted by on October 14, 2010 in New Zealand, photography, Travel


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