San Francisco – Day 2 Itinerary & Travel Photo: Ferry Building Market, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island

This write up is a sequel of San Francisco Day 1.  For just travel photos, feel free to give my Flickr a visit! ;)

We got up quite early the next day.  I think we walked out of the hotel around 7.30am.  First thing we did was getting our Muni tickets at Powell St station.  We decided on Single Rides Muni tickets as it is convenient and that we’re planning in using the public transport for only 2 days.  There are day pass options available, you can see how much they cost here.  A Single Ride costs $2 for an adult which is good to be used on buses, light rails, and transfers between them for 90 minutes from the start of the journey.  Best work out how many trips do you think you would do per day, then you can decide whether a day pass would give you better value for money.  You can check out the fare passes here.

Ferry Building Market Place

We boarded the F-line light rail to get to the Ferry Building Marketplace.  The ride was not very long from Downtown.  We made a mistake of getting off 1 stop too early as I was worried that we were going to miss the stop.  I wondered why not many people were getting off, but as we stepped down we noticed the F-line did another stop right in front of the Ferry Building Market where a lot of them got off!  I think most people that got on the F-line were either heading to the Ferry Building Market or the Fisherman’s Wharf/Alcatraz area.

We walked to the east side of the building where we saw people setting up their stalls including the stall that a couple of my friends have recommended, the Roli Roti.  We headed there however were asked to come back around 8.30 when they’re going to be ready.  So we kept walking towards the back of the building where you get to be right by the bay overlooking the water and the SF-Oakland Bay bridge.

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Travel photo of the day – LA

It’s been a busy couple of weeks at work with the biggest rail shutdown in Perth (yes, that shutdown that just passed that caused traffic jams everywhere during, I was part of it :) ).  Coming back from one month holiday to such intense project was a shock to my system…I think I need another holiday ;) .

In any case, I haven’t got a chance to write about our day 2 in San Francisco but I’ve worked on few photos and would like to share this one photo.

It’s a night shot of Downtown Los Angeles taken from the Griffith Observatory.  There’re quite few spots where people can enjoy bird’s eye view of LA but I think Griffith has one of the best view to offer.


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San Francisco – Day 1 Itinerary & Travel Photo – Downtown

It’s been over a week now since we got back from our 1 month adventure around North America and I still have the post holiday mood going on.  I’m almost there in getting over the jetlag and catching up with the much needed rest.  Yes we had the let’s-go-everywhere-see-everything-who-need-a-rest kind of trip.  Must say we were really pushing ourselves at times nevertheless it was an amazing trip!  PS: for trip photos, stories and tips, carry on reading….for just photos taken during the trip, you can go straight to: my SF flickr sets.  I personally like flickr gallery carousel especially with its fullscreen viewing feature.

In any case, I’d like to use this instance to talk about our first stop, San Francisco!  After over 30 odd hours of gruelling flight (20 hours) and transit (10 hours) from Perth, we landed in San Francisco in the afternoon.  After grabbing our luggages, we simply followed the signs to the AirTrain, you can board either the blue or red line to get to the BART station (BART will take you to downtown), but be careful if you miss the BART station stop on the blue line you’ll need to take a trip to the rental car centre.  For more detail check out BART website.  It costed just over $8 per person to get to our stop Powell St station in downtown.  The journey was quite pleasant. The train was quite clean and we felt safe and not out of place at all as there were many other people dragging their bags and luggages onto the train.  One thing is if you have rather large luggages like we did, you may need to sit in the priority area as you won’t be able to drag them into the normal sitting area.

Accommodations and locations

Once we arrived at Powell St station, we made our way to our hotel Parc 55 which was located on the corner of Eddy st and Cyril Magnin st.  We actually rebooked from another hotel on Sutter st which was going to cost bit less however we switched due to the fact we knew that we would be dragging our luggages and we couldn’t be happier with our decision.  If you choose a hotel around that area, you can’t go wrong location wise, it takes only a minute or two to walk to the Powell St station, Market st where there’re tons of transportation options, Westfield, Bloomingdale’s; few minutes to Union Square, and lots eating places in the surrounding.

At the hotel, we were given a corner room on the 5th floor.  We were advised that corner rooms are the more spacious ones and must say it was quite large, clean and looks new or recently refurbished.  We’re pretty happy with the room, the only one thing is that as the night comes (or could be because we’re mostly at the hotel room at night time) we could hear lots of sirens, people shoutings, car horns (could it also because it was the weekend?).  I assume other hotels in the area would probably have the same problem, not sure whether this would help or not, but a tip: try getting higher floors if you can!!

Telecommunication – sim cards

As we were going to be in the USA for around 3 weeks (and roaming charges would be rather painful), I’ve planned to get a local prepaid simcard.  My style of traveling, I rely heavily on access to 3G on my phone to find out how to get around using Google map or the local public transportation apps, or even to find out good eating places, chemist, supermarket on Yelp.

So after we rested and freshened up for a bit, we took a walk to Westfield where we found T-Mobile.  I’ve heard that AT&T is the best and T-Mobile is the rather cheaper option.  They had a number of options I think with $50 you get 500MB, $60 – 2Gb, and unlimited for $70.  We picked the unlimited as we thought it’s a good option to be shared between two of us as a number of the hotels (especially the big ones) including Parc 55 do not provide free wifi.  We thought this way we will have internet everywhere we need it, to browse, look for things, facetime our families…anytime..anywhere.  Sounded like a good idea but I have to say it failed miserably lots of times.  We struggled to get signal (especially 3G signal) whenever we’re inside a building: mall, supermarket, restaurants, hotel rooms, you name it!  At one stage I couldn’t even have just a phone conversation while we were inside a restaurant, the signal was that bad!  When you’re out and about, it’s a hit and miss, at times it’s not bad, other times it could be very slow.  When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who lives in San Francisco, he said yes that T-Mobile struggles in downtown likely due to the high rises.  If you live in Australia, you probably have heard how people complain how bad 3 or Vodafone network is.  I’ve used 3 and Voda, and I tell you T-Mobile was even worse!  It performed bit better in other states but I can’t say it was brilliant…so TIP: if you’re after a provider with good/excellent 3G signals everywhere anytime and don’t mind paying more for it, go with AT&T!  Another tip if you’re still going ahead with T-Mobile, when I said ok to the $70 option, the salesperson then added $10 connection fee and $7 tax hence asking for $87.  When he said that, I asked for the $60 (2GB) option instead, and when I said that he then waived the tax and connection fee and I paid $70 for the $70 option!

Activities, things to do and see..

Exploring Downtown

Ok, enough of me whinging :) .  From here on it’s going to be about how brilliant San Francisco is.  We spent our first afternoon walking the downtown.  We thought we were going to just explore around Union Square, however after a short rest, freshening up and a first proper meal after 30 odd hours, we ended up walking all the way to the Financial District through the Chinatown and back.  It was a pleasant walk and at the same time I think it’s the best way to have a good feel of the downtown area.  It’s a nice city – clean, beautiful, and fresh cool air, bit unfortunate though I noticed there’re a large number of homeless people on the street.  We saw them almost everywhere.  Probably best not to venture into a quite street alone at night, nevertheless we still felt safe considering the number of people around.

The Union Square park itself, there’s really nothing much to see or to talk about.  The main attraction would be more of the high end boutique shops surrounding it and this goes few blocks out!  So if shopping is your thing you would want to check this area out.

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The Retrographer is off on a trip!

I must say this ‘travelling’ section has been pretty much neglected since the beginning by me.  I’ve been wanting to write up my past travel experiences however never really get around it!

In any case, I’ll be flying off tonight and will be away for about a month hence will unlikely be able to post anything on this blog while I’m away.  If I’m able to get my hand on a sim card, I’ll try to post things on my Google+ account.  A suggestion have been made to also create an instagram account…hmmm….

Where am I off to?  Around USA and a bit of the Canadian Rockies,  I’ll be starting at San Francisco then driving down the California Pacific Coast Highway 1 all the way down to San Diego, flying over to Tampa to check out USA’s renowned best beaches in Clearwater Beach and St Pete Beach, couple of theme parks in Orlando, appreciating the history in DC, checking out bustling New York, admiring Niagara Falls from Ontario side, driving one of the best drives in the world – the Canadian Rockies’ Icefields Parkway, and finishing in Las Vegas while making a day trip to the Grand Canyon.

Pretty sure this will give me a kick to write more in this ‘travelling’ section when I get back! *hopefully :D

Yes, this is quite a big trip.  Lots of friends reckon that’s too much for just a month…well..wish us luck!…please ;)


Photo of the day – Dawn Silhouette at Matilda Bay

Actually taken this photo in my very first outing with the Fujinon 14mm f2.8 at Matilda Bay in Perth, Western Australia.  I did posted an OOC JPEG version of this shot in the Fujinon 14mm Sample Images post.  Although the OOC JPEG version is not bad however it doesn’t really do justice of how beautiful the dawn to sunrise view was.

In any case, here’s a version of the image taken in RAW.  Yes the boats moved and there’s nothing I could do about it.  Photo taken with long exposure at 180 seconds, enjoy!

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Best (wedding?) photography locations in Perth – Part 2

Took these 2 photos over a month ago however only came across them again when I was going through my folders.  Many would probably argue these may not be the best locations but I don’t think anyone would argue that these are 2 very popular photography locations in Perth and perhaps even more for wedding photography?  At least that’s what I think based on my experience.

No I’m not married and no I haven’t done any wedding photography but…..I was nudged twice by 2 different wedding photographers with 2 different bridal parties when I went out to take photos in these 2 locations in 1 afternoon!

Imagine setting up your gear and started shooting when then all of a sudden a bridal party appeared behind your back, watching and waiting on you and on one of the occasions, in front of the Blue Boat House – my camera battery ran flat.  I had to quickly replace the battery and hastily took the snaps.

The first location is as I mentioned earlier is a Perth icon, the Blue Boat House in Crawley which you’ll definitely see if you drive along Mounts Bay road and you may have already seen so many version of it, in any case, here’s my version! ;)

The second location is also along Mounts Bay road however it is somewhat hidden.  I believe it is still Kings Park however it is on the Mounts Bay road level.  Although if you drive along the road a number of times you may not realise this place exist (well, I didn’t!).  To access it, you’ll need to be driving Mounts Bay road from the West to the East (towards the freeway), once you drive pass the Old Swan Brewery there’ll be a small turn into the left.  There you’ll find some of the biggest trees in Perth CBD area, you have to see it to believe it :) .

If you’re looking for other wedding photography locations in Perth, I’ve seen other popular ones are University of Western Australia, Queens Garden, South Perth foreshore, and Kings Park.  Hope you find this useful, enjoy!

PS: You can support me by using the following links when you need to browse or buy anything off Amazon & Adorama.  Much appreciate it! :)

Fujifilm X-Mount Lens roadmap latest update April 2013

Fujifilm released an update on X-mount lenses roadmap about a month ago.  The new roadmap is quite different compared to the old roadmap however it does look less ambitious and maybe..more achievable (if we’re still on the old roadmap in about a month time they would have missed the deadline for 5 lenses!).

In the new roadmap looks like they’re pacing themselves and hopefully this way allow them to meet what they’re targeting for and more importantly hope this results in even better lenses!  The new roadmap has also included the timeline for the Zeiss lenses.  I don’t think I’ll be looking into the Zeiss Planar 32mm f1.8 as Fujifilm has the 35mm f1.4!  Whereas the Distagon T*2.8/12mm, I would really have looked into it had it come out sooner.  If all goes well I’ll be off on a big trip soon and am happy that I’ll be bringing along the Fujifilm 14mm f2.8.  Perhaps when I come back I’ll look into some results off the Zeiss 12mm and we’ll see what happens ;) .

The other 2 lenses that I’m eyeing for are the Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 and the 56mm f1.2!  This is what I meant earlier with even better lenses, if you have a look at the old roadmap, the 56mm was spec-ed at f1.4…yippie!  I know I said 2 earlier but I’ll also be interested to see sample images off the 10-24mm f4.  Whereas for the Zeiss Makro-Planar T*2.8/50mm, I’m not so sure.  I know Fujifilm makro lens is probably the slowest of Fuji X-Mount at the moment but it is f2.4 60mm.  I would hope Zeiss try to at least match the spec.  In any case that’s all for now, I’ll keep it short this time :) .

Exploring photoart with Nik Collection

Some weeks ago I went on to trial Nik Collection.  The main reason was to try High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.  I’m not going to try to explain what HDR is as there’s a lot of websites that have covered this in detail.

I first discovered HDR photography when a friend of mine showed me a very well-known HDR photographer’s website: Trey Ratcliff’s  To be honest when I initially saw Trey’s works, a lot of them felt bit too fake for me and I couldn’t come to like them.  His works actually made me thought HDR = non-natural looking images, until I saw other sites showing some stunning natural looking HDR images.  Then, I said to myself, why not give this a try.

After a lot of research I’ve come to learn there are 2 very popular HDR software: Photomatix and Google’s Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2; and after further reading Google has now combined 6 stunning softwares into 1 package: Nik Collection which includes HDR Efex Pro 2, Color Efex Pro 4, Silver Efex Pro 2, Viveza 2, Sharperner Pro 3, and Dfine 2 (visit for more info on them).  And the best news is the price for this 6 softwares package is just a little bit more than the Photomatix price, especially when you use 15% discount coupon which is available in many sites!  Long story short I decided to give Nik Collection’s 15-day trial a go.

I initially thought that I’d only be using the HDR Efex Pro 2, but then after seeing a number of Nik’s free tutorials and what these softwares can do, I got into playing with all the 6 available softwares.  On the first few days, I can tell you Nik’s trademark “Create stunning images faster” sounded like a big fat lie to me, but I think as I’m becoming more comfortable with the workflow, it does become faster with experience.

Remember I said that I was going for the natural looking HDR images? Nik Collection is evil!  Although I tried to come up with as natural looking images as possible using the HDR Efex Pro 2, as soon as I process my images using Color Efex Pro 4 and playing around with all the filters, my images become…unnatural looking!  I must say though I enjoy the process of trialling the filters and then ended with surreal and artistic images.  Artistic images which usually you see in the movies, animations, or paintings however these origin from photographs, which is why I like to refer these as photoarts.  A few of them actually came up different from how I imagined they would be, but somehow I like them.

My trial period has finished and no I haven’t bought the collection as yet.  I’ve been extremely busy at work and home, which unfortunately have taken my time away from photography for the last few weeks.  But I think I’ll probably buy the collection as soon as I get back from my upcoming USA/Canada trip (3 weeks to go!) to play around with photos taken during the trip.

In the mean time, below are some samples of my ‘photoarts’ :) :

Other images processed using Nik Collection can be found on my post a couple of weeks ago Best Photography Locations in Perth.

Gordon St Garage

Think it’s been quite a while since I posted a restaurant review…yup there you go, the last review was Ootong & Lincoln back in February!

Anyway some weeks ago after a morning jog, my girlfriend J and I met up with a couple of friends for breakfast at this place that I notice was and still is in Urbanspoon’s Talk of the Town list: Gordon St Garage.

It was a Saturday morning we got there around 9.30 and I think we waited around 10 minutes or so to be seated.  Their menus breakfast-lunch-dinner are displayed just outside the door so that you can have a browse while waiting.

As I walked in, I could feel the funky cool vibe and atmosphere through the setup, the music, and the people who work there.  It kinda reminds me of Little Creatures in Fremantle.Gordon St Garage (3 of 12)

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Best Photography Locations in Perth – Part 1

If you reckon the title of this post doesn’t sound right, I would agree with you.  If it’s the best location, there really should be only a location and not more than one.  The thing is it’s quite hard to decide the best and I can’t seem able to do it, however pretty sure it’s safe to say that these locations that I’m listing on this post and the subsequent posts are some of the places that tourists and Perthians alike go to enjoy the view, the places where you would seen the pictures on postcards, the places where the professional and amateur photographers like myself go and try to capture our own version of the shots!  Must say a lot of Perthian might be rather tired of these shots :) .

I was thinking of compiling my portfolio of all the locations before I post however I think it may take quite a while hence I’ll do a part 1 first instead!

So, the first 2 locations which I’m sure is up there on top of the list are:

Kings Park

Situated at the CBD, Kings Park offers beautiful gardens, parks, walking trails, and scenery during the day.  During the day you can see clearly Perth city and the Swan river towards the horizon however to my opinion and I’m sure a lot will agree the view is even more breathtaking at night.  When I was there I was lucky to have the full moon shining brightly complimenting the lights of the city.

The second photo is the photo of the State War Memorial which is also located in Kings Park.  I hope you enjoy them.

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