I am a huge fan of Nik Collection professional photographic tools and have only Google to thank for making them really affordable when they bought over the company. It began with the Viveza plug-in that made local adjustments possible (Lightroom offers a similar tool by way of the Local Adjustment Brush but early implementation isn’t nearly as smooth as Nik’s U Point technology). I’m writing this post not to review this tool but to highlight a problem I’ve encountered sometime back (visibility pronounced under the right conditions) with the Viveza tool, and how support staff resolved the (annoying) problem in less than 48 hours, in two emails.
The problem I’m talking about are the spiral artifacts after I’ve applied local brightness and contrast adjustments to the white and red colored part of the helicopter body. You can see the spiral patterns (“banding” being the technical term to describe this occurrence in digital images) radiating from the chopper to the rest of the image.
Because the raw converter (not Lightroom) I used to process this photo doesn’t have local adjustment capability, I exported the image to JPEG before making final adjustments using Viveza 2 as a Paintshop Pro plug-in. There’s no visible banding when I applied the same editing after increasing the image to a 16-bit image even though a JPEG file is inherently 8-bit (easily done via “Increase Color Depth”). <3
A visitor in the US came across my blog while browsing the web for a turtle photo she wanted for her bathroom wall. In her email, she saw this image and asked if I had others similar to that one she could look at. I promptly recommended my favourite piece from this blog post and it didn’t take long for Bernadette to confirm her order and in time made payment via PayPal.
“I am looking for a picture of a turtle with bubbles, or happy in water (esp. getting clean, etc) as I have one amazing one near my kitchen sink and I would love to find one for my bathroom!” — Bernadette, USA.
While having my first shot of espresso of the day and checking my emails, an email from the World Food Programme immediately stood out, requesting donation to help victims of the Nepal earthquake, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of duty to give. Growing up in Kuala Belait and more so in Seria where the Gurkhas serving with the British Garrison have lived among us for decades, I have had the occasional and memorable interaction with the Nepalese community, even sharing lunch with them, during a day-long photoshoot at the Hornbill School. And, who can forget their participation and support during this world record attempt, British Garrison Open Day, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla visit, the list goes on.
Seeing PayPal’s logo on World Food Programme web page I decided there wasn’t a better time than now to put that payment from Bernadette to good use. If you too want to make a donation, click on the image below.
Hiking using smartphone GPS real-time navigation added. See post updates!
In the year and a half that I’ve been hiking the hills, both solo and group, there were three separate occasions involving 6 visitors that had lost their way in the Shahbandar forest. Since then, there have been more reports (along with cases that went unreported) of hikers getting lost within the 10 km trail. Together with my hiking buddy Rizan, founder of the Beach Bunch and Shahbandar Volunteer Group, we took on the task of mapping the established trails that connect the entire Bukit Shahbandar, for the purpose of providing all visitors access to accurate and reliable map. I highly recommend anyone planning a trip for the first time to download this map to their phones either as a JPEG image or a PDF document, or print a copy in colour in A4 size to ensure legibility. We understand that the Ministry looking after Bukit Shahbandar is in the process of updating their map so until the new one is available, this is probably the best one you have immediate access to. Created for hikers by hikers — it’s our way of giving back to the community :)
A second extended trail is indicated by the lighter red line —to the left of the map. This trail runs over 2 kms, connects the Menara (tower) to P8 and P6 huts, and is largely unmarked. Until the trail gets useful directional markings I do not recommend exploring this part of the forest, solo or otherwise.
Here’s an aerial map of the Shahbandar trails to give you a better idea of its vastness and proximity to neighbouring roads and landmarks such as The Empire Hotel & Country Club, Jerudong Beach, etc.
Hiking with GPS aided navigation Here’s something even better than a paper map if you had it printed, or a static map if you downloaded it as an image to your phone. I’ve been tracking my workouts using MapMyHike for Android for nearly two years but it was only yesterday when I discovered and tested the app’s GPS navigation capability — in the context of Bukit Shahbandar, I include two mapped trails below from a previous hike (regular and extended distance) of which anyone can choose to add to their app to enjoy a GPS guided hike without getting lost in unfamiliar territory.
Goes without saying that you need to download and install the MapMyHike app on your GPS capable smartphone before you can enjoy hiking with GPS navigation. Once the app is installed, you have two ways to register: create a new account or sign in using your Facebook credentials. Choose the trail map below (will be adding more) you want and click Send to Phone
If all goes well, you should receive the following email message. Click OPEN ROUTE and within seconds you should see your selected route appear in MapMyHike mobile app (as shown in image immediately above). Also see Facebook post.
Last but not least, SHOES. I have gone through a few pair of shoes to know which ones are most suited for the trail conditions at Shahbandar. I have hiked and I have run the trails on both dry and wet days, regardless of weather, you want to be wearing shoes with good traction.
My current pair is a New Balance MT610v3 — phenomenal traction, long wearing (208 kms in 3 months and counting of punishing terrain abuse, at time of this post) and most surprisingly of all extremely affordable. I think I’ve pretty much covered all bases for a great outdoor adventure. STAY SAFE AND HAPPY HIKING :)