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Author Topic: The revenge of the wandering labrat
Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted January 14, 2007 22:52      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Caution: obscenely long post ahead. You have been warned.

So, assuming y'all noticed I was gone, you may have also noticed I'm back.

I was in Africa with my boyfriend and most of my immediate family (Middle Sisthine decided she didn't want to go) for the last couple weeks or so. Tanzania mostly, but I did have to spend a night in Nairobi before crossing overland into Tanzania. I suppose we could have flown into Dar es Salaam but Nairobi is closer to the part of Tanzania we were going to be spending most of our time in. The Kilimanjaro Internation Airport was also an option, but we couldn't get a flight. So I now have visas for both Tanzania and Kenya in my lovely, battered passport (it got wet - the hotel didn't have enough safe-deposit boxes so I had to carry my passport on Kilimanjaro...I'm just gald I didn't drop it on the mountain like I did last time I thought it'd be a good idea to carry a passport on a mountain). I also had to get a whole barrage of shots, including a yellow fever shot, complete with a yellow fever card that no one looked at. Getting to Nairobi involved about 20 hours of flying, ten hours worht of layovers, and another 11 hours of time zone changes (we left from Seattle). Coming back was about the same, except I flew into Denver so I lost 10 hours instead of 11, and I started the journey from Zanzibar, so I had a 8 hour layover in Nairobi (and stayed at the airport because it would cost $50 to get another Kenyan visa)and then another 6 hours in London (shoulda been 8 but we were delayed in Nairobi). British Airways lost my mom's luggage on the journey to Africa and, as of her return to the US last night, still had no idea where it was. This caused Mom problems I shall expand on later, but that was the only snag in the whole journey and she still had fun - it helps that, of the whole crew, she's probably the best at rolling with the punches.

So what did I do there? Well, we kicked off by climbing Kilimanjaro by way of the Machame, aka Whiskey Route. We had three guideas and twelve porters, as well as a cook. The tour company we were with made these arrangements, and, as it turns out, it is forbidden to climb Kilimanjaro unguided (this reeks of profiteering because the route is very well-marked, but, OTOH, the people there need the money). The most minimal way to do it is to hire a guide and a porter for the guide, but no one does it that way. We were limited to 15 kg worth of stuff, which was more than we needed. Some groups apparently weren't so scrupulous about loading up their portes because I saw a fair number of men in shitty clothes and shittier shoes carrying huge bags...on their heads. There's little to be done about this situation, other than hope the economy picks up and these guys can find work that pays better and is easier. Having all that assistance did make the climb a bit nicer - it's always nice not to have to carry 60+ pounds of shit while marching around at altitude - but I still felt sorry for the porters. We tipped them well, of course, and I thought about giving away some of my gear, but my stuff was too small (they were all tall, slender, and had really big feet). Mom had to rent and borrow all the necessary gear, and, miraculously enough, her rental boots fit very well (she has wide feet, high arches, and bony ankles...finding boots that fit is a perennial nightmare for her). It was quite wet, even though it was supposed to be the dry season, and there was snow above 4500m (for the first time in years - I shit you not). It was on the day we first encountered the snow that the sun came out. This took everyone, including the guides, by surprise, especially when the sun came out. I put my glasses on like a good little climber as soon as I started squinting. My brother, father, mother, and boyfriend were not so quick. Two of our guides didn't even bring their glasses. Brothine, kreziserb, and Dadthine all avoided snowblindness by being lucky. Momthine got a mild case. Our guides had to bail and be replaced by two new guides who appeared from somewhere. But we kept right on climbing and hit the summit at sunrise on January 3rd. We woke up at 11 pm on the 2nd and started climbing at midnight. We were on snow the whole time and my leather boots got soaked through - if I'd known that would happen, I would have hit my boots with snow-sealer before the trip. The moon was full, the sky mostly clear, and snow is incredibly reflective, so I got to enjoy the rare and beautiful experience of climbing by moonlight. The moon had just dropped behind the crater rim as we approached, and then when we hit the rim we saw it hanging over the far edge of the crater. It was one of the most fantastic sights I've ever seen, and unfortunately I have no picture of it - my camera can't do that. Few cameras can. It's one of those things you can only draw or paint. And the stars...there were so many, and they were different. I couldn't find Polaris - we were too close to the equator. The crater on Kili is massive, and deep, so we didn't go in. It was also fscking cold up there, so we tagged the sign on the highest point of the rim, took pictures, and then ran down the mountain until we were low enough and the sun was high enough for us to feel our fingers and toes. Then, a couple hours after we came down, it rained. And we descended down to 3100m in that rain, camped, and walked out the following morning.

After the climb we met back up with Baby Sisthine (she's not in shape for climbing) and went on a four day safari. This is, I understand, pretty short for a safari but it was fun. We went to Lake Mynara, the Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro crater. I saw a leopard in the daylight, sleeping in a tree - a very rare sight. I saw a young male lion sleeping in the middle of the road too. His belly was completely distended and he was paying no heed to the land cruisers full of people gawking at him, so my guess is he was in a food coma. I saw lots of gazelles, zebras, giraffes, impalas, and elephants. I saw buffalo. I saw warthogs. I saw wildebeasts. I saw flamingoes. I saw ostriches. I saw cheetahs. I saw rhinos. I saw and heard hippos (those things are both cranky and loud). I'm not sure my pathetic little camera did thses critters any justice, but I saw them. I had to use binoculars in a few cases, but I saw them. And they were all just out there, in the wilderness, doing their thing. I dind't get to get out and wander around much on the safari because that is actually quite dangerous. Aside from big cats, there are big herbivores that might feel threatened or territorial and try and trample you (hippos and buffalo are the most dangerous; rhinos are pretty scary too except they're rare, elephants aren't very nice either when they decided they don't like you). You can take a walking safari, but only if you bring along a Maasai guide armed with a spear or a ranger armed with a gun. This is the land where mankind was born. The animals know how to handle you. They aren't tame, but they aren't exactly afraid either.

After the safari we flew out of the Kilimanjaro airport to Zanzibar. We went SCUBA diving in nice warm water, and saw sea turtles (no pics...my camera can't go underwater). There were two dives, and I sucked down my air so fast on the first dive (nerves?) that I ended up sharing air with one of the divemasters on the ascent. But I got so thoroughly drilled in this when I took my course back in the fall that that went off without incident. On the second dive I was a bit calmer, and, while I still ran out of air before the dive was due to end, I lasted longer and had enough to ascend unaided. I also had no issues at all with bouyancy, but I got drilled pretty hard on that as well. Momthine did not go diving because, first of all, her swiumsuit was lost and we couldn't find a replacement and second of all, she had had a really bad time at her SCUBA refresher course back in November and just didn't feel comfortable with diving on this trip. We toured the old town, where a church was erected over the old slave market. Some of the pillars in the church were installed upside down, but, as they saw all over East Africa, hakuna matata. We also visited a spice farm. Did you know that nutmeg comes from the pit of a fruit that resembles a peach? I got a henna tattoo on my right hand. It's pretty, but I'll probably be tired of it by the time it wears off.

No near-deaths or injuries, but I did get stung by jelly fish twice: once on the foot while beach-combing and once on the lip while diving (fortunately, I was smart enough NOT to try and scream). It hurt, but not that badly so I didn't do anything about it. I also stepped on a sea urchin while wading out to the dive boat. That kinda hurt but hakuna matata. It was kinda windy on diving day so the water was rough and the boat was small. Both Dad and kreziserb got seasick - kreziserb especially so. When he wasn't under the water he was puking his guts out. Fortunately, he loves diving so much that he didn't care about feeding the fish.

So yeah, beleive it or not, that's the quick version of the trip. It was fun, and eye-opening. Tanzania is not the first Third World country I have been to, but it is the poorest - we got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams in Arusha because, even though Arusha is a veritable boom town, they can't afford traffice lights and apparently stop signs are out of reach as well. However, Tanzania has a socialist past. This has resulted in a stunted economy, but also a very strong national identity. Tanzania is home to more than 100 tribes, the African population is a mix of Christian and Muslim, and there're enough Indians floating around that most cities have at least one Hindu temple. However, everyone gets along, and everyone is fed, with the Maasai and other tribes that have held onto their traditional lifestyles being the exceptions (life can really suck during the long dry season). Of course, the richer ytou are the better you eat, but even the poorest Tanzanian gets three meals a day. The government requires everyone, no matter who you are and how you live, to attend primary school, which probably helps keep things so cohesive. However, secondary education is not required and most Tanzanians don't get more than their primary. They're working on this though. They're working on a lot of things. We'll see what happens.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 00:28      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I am green with envy.

Sounds like you had a great trip, and wisely stayed away from the more 'interesting' countries (any trip to Africa where you don't get shot at is a good one !)

Pictures.

PICTURES !

PICTURES !

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 00:52      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I went on safari about 5 years ago. It was a fabulous experience. If Xanthine is anything like me, she has more pictures than you could ever EVER want to see.

I'm jealous about the leopard. We saw the rest of the big 5 though. More elephants than you could shake a stick at, but they are truly awesome beasts. The lions just lay about looking bored - not very impressive.

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Ashitaka

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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 00:52      Profile for Ashitaka     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I agree w TFD, I want scientific evidence. Just question though, did you see the movie "Babel" before making this African journey?

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 05:29      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Yes I did. But I was nowhere near Morocco. [Razz]

Patience guys. I have to get my film up to a developer first.

The only pic I have of the big five that's dodgy is going to be the rhino, I'm afraid. I saw them from a great distance. Like I said, I know it was rhinos because I had binoculars, but my camera does not have the right lens set-up for distance shots. Hopefully my dad got some good shots. The leopard was sleeping in a tree directly over the road, so I'm sure I got good shots of him, the lion was IN the road, the elephants were crossing the road, and the buffalo were close, but not too close.

I imagine that, like most cats, lions only get interesting when they feel like waking up. I did see a lioness keeping a weather eye on a buffalo, but she was mostly hidden by tall grass and brush so I doubt the pic will be convincing. The elephants were amazing creatures.

I also saw vervet monkeys and baboons. They were amusing, when they weren't throwing things at our car.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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Stereo

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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 08:07      Profile for Stereo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
I am green with envy.
b]

So am I. Although, given the chance, I would have chosen the walking safari with a Maasai (Massai? or maybe that's the French spelling.) warrior.

But by the time I get enough vacation days and money (and guts!) to get there, I worry the Kilimandjaro's snow will be gone... [weep]

(Climb the Kilimandjaro, hike through Ireland, have a lovely ocean cruise, go to New Zealand and Australia, see the temples' ruins of the asian peninsula... So much to do, so short a life!)

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Eppur, si muove!

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Callipygous
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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 08:20      Profile for Callipygous     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
What a fabulous holiday Xan! Mag Val etc etc

[Applause] [Applause] [Applause]

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stevenback7
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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 08:30      Profile for stevenback7   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I aswell am green with envy,

Africa looks like such an amazing continent, its high up on the list of places i want to travel to once i make a steady income.

so many years of watching pilot guides has made me want to visit so many countries.

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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 08:39      Profile for SpazGirl   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Wow Xan... I demand pictures [Razz] .... mainly because I've never been outside the US. [ohwell]

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Things, and things.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 08:56      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Stereo:
quote:
Originally posted by The Famous Druid:
I am green with envy.
b]

So am I. Although, given the chance, I would have chosen the walking safari with a Maasai (Massai? or maybe that's the French spelling.) warrior.

But by the time I get enough vacation days and money (and guts!) to get there, I worry the Kilimandjaro's snow will be gone... [weep]

(Climb the Kilimandjaro, hike through Ireland, have a lovely ocean cruise, go to New Zealand and Australia, see the temples' ruins of the asian peninsula... So much to do, so short a life!)

We didn't hear about walking safaris with Maasai guides until it was too late to arrange anything, but I'd consider it if/when I ever get back there. I might prefer the ranger with the gun though. I'm not sure what good a spear will do against an angry buffalo.

Stereo, the vast majority of people who climb Kilimanjaro don't encounter snow. Well, glaciers, but tourists aren't allowed on the glaciers due to the extreme instability of the glaciers. We got lucky(?).

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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Stereo

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Icon 11 posted January 15, 2007 10:02      Profile for Stereo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
[Embarrassed] Note to self: don't use the word "snow" for glacier.

Note to others: in French, the glacier phenomenon is also called more poetically "eternal snows" ("neiges éternelles" - or just "neiges" for short). Although more and more of them aren't eternal any more. [shake head]

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Eppur, si muove!

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 11:54      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
They never were, but on a human timescale they seem that way. It's a pity they're receding so fast. Kilimanjaro will be bare in a couple decades, and so will most of the peaks in the Andes. [Frown]

Weird that you'd call them eternal snow...eternal ice would be closer to the truth.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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Serenak

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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 14:31      Profile for Serenak     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Even stranger if you realise that the phrase Glacier has its roots in the French word glacé for ice IIRC.

But there you are - etymology and linguistics are full of odd twists and turns like that! Many British English speakers think "plow" is a strange corruption/simplification/spelling reform of the British English "plough" but actually that was the accepted spelling when the settlers left for what was to become the US - it was British English that changed with its own "standardisation" after they left. (c.f. Piers Plowman)

[edit: fixed a stupid typo]

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Icon 1 posted January 15, 2007 16:19      Profile for Tominfla     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I would love to go to Africa someday. I feel sorry for the rhinos even if they are dangerous; there are just too few of them out there. I hope the airport stayovers weren't too rough. Those are like the ones on the Amazing Race where they have to sleep in the airport for hours and hours.

I have been to Rome but that was such a short trip and that was before all this airport hassle started.

Like the others I demand pictures! But I know what you mean by having to develop them first. We're so spoiled by instant digital pics. (My digital camera broke and I am using my Advantix camera in the meantime. I get them on CD so I don't have to scan them.)

What a fabulous trip Xanthine. [Applause]

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"Go get that Earth creature and bring back the Uranium Pew36 Space Modulator" -- Marvin Martian

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BooBooKitty

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 09:25      Profile for BooBooKitty     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
Patience guys. I have to get my film up to a developer first.

Film?!?! [Eek!]

I've got to add Africa to my list of places to visit! [Smile]

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 10:37      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by BooBooKitty:
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
Patience guys. I have to get my film up to a developer first.

Film?!?! [Eek!]
As an aside, let me recommend Snapfish to you. [Smile]

These days, I just use them to make prints of digital pictures when I have more than a few to print*...but last millennium, I used to send my film to them inexpensive developing...and the best part is that they're automatically uploaded to Snapfish's site and accessible anywhere. You can't hotlink them, but that's a trivial matter to work around. [Smile] If you're actually interested, drop me an e-mail, as I may have a referral deal for you. [This message isn't meant to be spam - I genuinely like Snapfish! [Smile] ]

Oh, and I'm glad to hear that you had a great time! [Big Grin] (And I'm even more pleased to hear that you didn't decrement your n lives, where n is some number between 5 and 7. [Razz] )

*Consumables aren't cheap, but one-offs on an Epson RX600 I have access to come out great!

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Ugh, MightyClub
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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 10:54      Profile for Ugh, MightyClub     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Wow, Xanth, that sounds amazing! Can't wait to see the pics. But I have to echo BooBoo -- film?! Good grief, girl [Smile]

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Ugh!

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 11:22      Profile for garlicguy   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
<Resist jealous reaction>

It sounds like a wonderful time for your family and friend(s?)... other than the fish chumming episode.

I also look forward to seeing your pictures, Xanth. [thumbsup]
<End futile resistance>

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I don't know what I was thinking... it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 11:41      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
dman, I took my film over to a local drug store that's walking distance from my lab and does a good job (they've got a whole photography section going, I really like them). Recently they've started putting even conventional pics on CD, so I won't even need a scanner! It should all be ready today or tomorrow, and then the sorting process begins. I had about 18 rolls, and not every shot on those rolls is good.

I prefer conventional photography and conventional prints. The resolution is higher, I can stick the prints in an album (believe it or not, I'm actually fairly good about this). Printed digital photos come out looking too pixelated for my tastes. Don't try to argue, I am extremely picky about this. And if you don't understand, that's okay. So far the only sympathetic ear I've found is my boss. [Razz]

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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dragonman97

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 12:09      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, I must beg to differ about the quality, but I guess I won't bother arguing it with you. [Wink]

My prints look great, thank you very much. [Razz]

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There are three things you can be sure of in life: Death, taxes, and reading about fake illnesses online...

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 12:34      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, I did say I was extremely picky...

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
- The Decemberists

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Ashitaka

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 12:43      Profile for Ashitaka     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think it is best to have both a film camera and a digital camera on trips. Both types of cameras have thier strenghts and weaknesses. I carry my digital camera and my wife carries her film camera. We use my 7 megapixel digital camera for snap shot type pictures. i.e. culure, people, fast moving things ,ect. I can quickly select the optimum settings for the given situation. My wife uses her camera for scenic views. I would have to agree that a film camera is superior for scenic views. No matter how nice a digital camera you have.

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"If they're not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and violent extremists, then why should I take the time to distinguish between decent, fearful white people and racists?"

-Assif Mandvi

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 12:43      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Xanthine, if you can see the pixelation on normal sized prints you either have very good eyes, or a crap printer.

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 15:23            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I have the world's shittiest scanner (heck, it can't even scan in artwork), so having a digital camera means that I get to bypass that stage and get decent pics from the start ;)

Cameras are funny. I'm used to film photography looking out of focus, dark, brown and muddy and generally under-saturated and crap, and digital photography looking saturated, sharp and much brighter. But I think it depends a lot on the camera -- my sister's new camera has the most insane depth of field I've ever seen, with pin-sharp focus at both extremes of, say, the width of a good-sized river. Since in reality the human eye can't achieve this, it's not just unnerving but the level of detail overloads my brain and looking at her pictures is quite a strain.

Digital prints are generally 300 dpi, I think, and if Xanthine has good eyes, they will be pixellated. I did a test once: jaggies very much show up at 300 dpi. A computer monitor is ~100 dpi and note that you see jaggies on non-anti-aliased graphics, and an individual pixel is quite clear, as is the thickness of a 1px line, but you can't normally see the pixellation in a photograph?

300 dpi still has the same flaw, and you can see pixels in thing like diagonals. Laser printers have not been 300 dpi for many years, as it really isn't enough: think how long it's been since we changed to not just 600 dpi, but 1200 dpi although I think laser printers still default to 600.

But 600 dpi prints from digital will have to wait until we get much, much higher resolution digital cameras. And I don't suppose we are really that far off ...

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Sxeptomaniac

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Icon 1 posted January 16, 2007 16:38      Profile for Sxeptomaniac   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
I prefer conventional photography and conventional prints. The resolution is higher, I can stick the prints in an album (believe it or not, I'm actually fairly good about this). Printed digital photos come out looking too pixelated for my tastes. Don't try to argue, I am extremely picky about this. And if you don't understand, that's okay. So far the only sympathetic ear I've found is my boss. [Razz]

I prefer film for most purposes as well, so no argument here.

Sounds like you had a great trip. Glad you enjoyed it. [thumbsup]

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Let's pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. - C. S. Lewis

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