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Year End Roadtrip & More

So this year’s been pretty fun with roadtrips. If you have been following our blog, you’ll know we’ve been to Pune & Goa in the last 3 months, and most recently, that is last week, we decided to go to Baroda or Vadodra as people call it. Details of that trip are captured on this post. Do have a read, good people!!!

Brilliant Weather & Highway

Brilliant Weather & Highway

Danger Ha ha ha ha!!!

Danger Ha ha ha ha!!!

So Ekta has been in Baroda for a while. We have a house there & she had been inviting us there for some general chilling. Fortunately, the house was going to be empty, parents were vacationing in Kolkata so this was enough reason to go there & party!!! So last Thursday, Rachita, Vishal & me decided to drive down to Baroda in our trusty ride, the Skoda Laura aka Motilal. Also accompanying us on the journey there was Rachita’s grandmom who needed to be dropped off in Baroda at Rachita’s aunts’ and her daughter’s house. We started the journey from South Bombay in early hours of the morning, at about 4:30 am, & basis the fantastic roads and awesome weather, reached Baroda by in about 6.5 hours which was pretty awesome…

Gooooooooooooo!!!

Gooooooooooooo!!!

Super Awesomeness!!!

Super Awesomeness!!!

Reaching the house, we were greeted by Ekta who we think was in quite a shock as it was taking her a while to digest that we had actually made it there! In the past, there have been instances where in she has invited us there & for some reason or the other we haven’t been able to make it. Anyways, there was some awesome dhokla & khaman awaiting us which we hogged. Also had a few beers to kick start the party, please note Gujarat is a dry state & thus Baroda also is encompassed within that law, though if you have a permit you can legally get Alcohol; the good news is that Ekta’s dad has a permit :-). Post a quick nap, we moved to having Bailey’s Irish Cream on the rocks which was our drink of the trip i.e. Ekta’s & mine. For dinner we went to Yoko’s sizzlers had some good chicken sizzlers & starters & called it a day… Oh! before I forget, on reaching Baroda, Ekta & me went for a bike ride on her Royal Enfield fondly known as Goo after the game World of Goo. People in Baroda do not follow traffic rules & drive pretty crazy is what I learnt on my 1st bike ride in Baroda.

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Heaven with a dash of Butter...

Heaven with a dash of Butter…

Pure Brilliance!!!

Pure Brilliance!!!

Day 2 kicked off in the morning early. The weather was absolutely brilliant so I decided to take Goo out for a ride. In about 10 minutes on the bike, I froze stiff the temperature was about 14 degrees, though on the bike, at about 60 kmph it felt like it had dropped to about 8 degrees & lower – was pretty crazy, but fun. Got back home & played some blues on my blue guitar (that was cheezy, the line, but wanted to use it so what the heck). Playing the guitar in the brilliant Baroda weather felt sensational. Post that, watched some NBA on TV the Clippers take on the Celtics; this game saw Clippers win their 16th game in a row which was totally awesome! Hands down currently the most exciting in the NBA is the Los Angeles Clippers.

Slept again for a bit, woke up to beers & general chilling with Vishal, Ekta & Rachita. For a brunch, we ate some puffs & biscuits from a local bakery called Goodies. For dinner, decided to go have Raju Omelet; this time around, we went to another location which apparently is being run by Rajubhai’s brother who was the original cook for Rajubhai at the original flagship store. Yes, Raju Omelet has now got multiple branches! We ate some awesome egg preparations drowning in butter as you can see in the pictures! This time tried a new dish on the menu the Bhurji Wrap which was unbelievably delicious, diced egg bhurji & shredded boiled egg wrapped in an omelet floating in butter!!! Doesn’t get better than that…

Goodies!!!

Goodies!!!

Day 3 was similar to 2. Started off playing the guitar, though in the chilly weather gave the bike ride a skip, watched TV & passed out while Ekta & Rachita went shopping; slept for a good 4 hours & woke up to the fact that Rachu & Eku had bought out the whole of Baroda! For lunch, Baingan ka Bharta was had (Eggplant Preparation); post that there was like a fashion parade where in the girls were trying out outfits – were generally super excited about the whole experience. I was watching TV, while Vishal had passed out for a bit. In the night, we were going to get a few buckets from KFC, though when we went to pick them up, we found out that the store was still closed and that they were planning on opening come new year. So, next to our residence is this quaint eatery called Midday Munchies, where we went and picked up wraps & pizzas. We went home, ate & passed out.

Yayyyyy More Beer!!!

Yayyyyy More Beer!!!

Day 4 started off watching UFC 155….. Junior Dos Santos being walloped by Cane Valesquez; lots of beers were drunk. Lunch was a severely gujju style Bajra ni Khichdi with Lasan Chutney & Buttermilk. After this, we decided to watch some crazy south Indian movies dubbed in hindi on Tata Sky; we watched 2 movies back to back 1 of them was brilliant called Return of Chandramookhi starring Maamooty, also note in the middle of the movie, we kinda got hungry so decided to go grab some food & record the movie. We went to this place called 22nd Parallel which serves awesome South Indian food. We didn’t realise it was a Sunday evening when we left! The eatery was packed & we had to wait for about 20 minutes to get a table. Though, it was totally worth the wait as we ate some awesome Dosas, Wadas, Idlis, Rasam, Rice, etc. etc. Post getting home, we watched the recorded movie which was totally spectacular & went to sleep as Rachita & me had to head back to Bombay the next morning. Woke up again early & left by 4:30 am, I drove after eons for about half the journey & Rachita drove the other half; the roads & weather were super! Also add to that it was the 31st, so there was minimal traffic & we reached home by 11:00 am.

Shopping!!!

Shopping!!!

Woke up again early & left by 4:30 am, I drove after eons for about half the journey & Rachita drove the other half; the roads & weather were super! Also add to that it was the 31st, so there was minimal traffic & we reached home by 11:00 am. Overall, the Baroda trip was super awesome! For any of you planning a trip from Bombay to Baroda, I strongly suggest that you drive down; also the weather will be sensational till mid February so plan something soon. 2 places which are a must visit in case you are in Baroda – Raju Omlet & 22nd Parallel. Trust me, you wont be disappointed. Also here’s wishing all our readers a very happy new year, have a lucky 13!!!

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Trips & Rides

 

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HDR for Beginners

High Dynamic Range Photography – this has been the debate basis the ever growing photographer community for the past few years now. HDR, as it is popularly known, is definitely gaining momentum; pictures taken using this method are regularly displayed in museums (Trey Ratcliff’s famous fireworks picture at the Smithsonian) and considered works of art. Then there are the DSLR snobs, people who believe that manual mode is the only way to go; if you use a photo editing software you are a scar on their perfect portrait, they noise police pictures and so on. My take on this is fairly straightforward I love HDR, I also use a lot of editing tools and 99% of the time I don’t shoot in manual mode. I am what you may term as the rogue community; please note this community is much larger than the DSLR snob community. I thought it would be a good idea to share my experience with HDR on this post; also have added a few tips in there so you can get started with HDR if you are already not an addict.

I happened to stumble on HDR by chance, a couple of years back when I bought my first camera. I was looking at tutorial videos online and just happened to catch a video showcasing HDR images, I was hooked from that point on. Unfortunately, I used a bridge camera then and hence could not really work on the technique. About a year ago, I bought my first DSLR – and that’s Tip 1 also, when buying a new camera, get one with a bracketing option it’s a must for HDR. Moving on, it’s been a year now and I do believe I have the basics down and am moving in the right direction basis the technique. Below are a few standard questions and answers which will get you started on this awesome technique:

1) What is HDR photography?

Putting it simply, HDR is a photography technique where images can represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in real scenes, from direct sunlight to faint starlight. In normal English, it shows you what the eye see but with enhanced colours and lights.

2) Do I need a special camera for shooting HDR?

Not really, any camera will do, but it helps if your camera has a bracketing option.

3) What is Bracketing?

Bracketing is basically when you take pictures at multiple exposures. Most entry level cameras allow you to take 3 such pictures – normal, over and under exposed.

4) Do I need a special software for this?

Unfortunately yes, there are tons of them available in the market; I would recommend Photoshop and Photomatix for the same.

5) How do I get started with HDR?

The following is a simple guide to start using HDR in your regular photography. I have tried to keep it simple and easy to understand, but if you do have questions, please add them to the comments below. Start with setting your camera to multiple shots, then go to the bracketing option it will be listed as exposure bracketing in most cameras. Set the value to 2. This will take 3 shots at different exposures once you press the shutter down. If you are like me and your hand is not very steady, use a tripod. Another tip here: shoot in Raw mode, the flexibility raw images give you while editing is amazing. So now that you have your first images, what do you do next? Download the images on your PC and import them into Photoshop or Photomatix, you will have to use the bridge option in Photoshop and then select merge to HDR; in Photomatix, load Bracketed pictures will do the same for you. Now this will open Pandora ’s Box for you, I will briefly touch on Photomatix options here to give you an idea of what each does and how it will shape your pictures; in Photoshop the same happens but for some reason it is not subtle and images tend to look un-natural. This holds true for CS5… I have not yet used CS6. Note: this part of the tutorial only covers the first few options, I will be covering others in a more detailed post. The first options you will see once Photomatix merge options, you can align pictures here, remove ghosts and reduce noise. Once done the following options will show up:

Strength

Controls the strength of the contrast enhancements; a value of 100 gives the maximum increase in both local and global contrast enhancements.  I prefer this to be at around 80 as 100 makes certain colours bleed.

Color Saturation

Controls black and white to colour settings; the greater the saturation, the more intense the colour. A value of 0 produces a gray scale image and 100 pushes colour all the way up.

Luminosity

This controls how light or dark your highlights are in the image. Moving the slider to the right boosts shadow details and brightens the image. Moving it to the left has the opposite effect, and gives a more “natural” look to the resulting image.

Detail and Contrast

This is self explanatory; this will increase detailing and contrast giving your picture a smooth or a hard feel.

Lighting Adjustment

When you’re just starting, I would suggest you click the check box in this option and use the preset tools – natural for a natural look, surreal for a look which is more HDR like with Halos and medium for a combination of both.

Once you are done playing with these settings and happy with the image you have, select process and you will have your first HDR image. I hope to put up a more detailed article on HDR in the future, but the post above will get you started in a short period of time. I have put some HDR images on this post. These were shot during our recent Monsoon Roadtrip. One point of advice: first try HDR in the day time, night has its sets of challenges and you will need a lot more equipment to get it right. Like with everything, the more you practise HDR, the better you get at it. Do share your pictures with us via comments or on twitter. Enjoy shooting! Incase you’re wondering which camera I use?  Nikon D5100.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Helmets & More

 

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My First Road Trip part 2

The next part of our awesome road trip was about 30 Kms from Pune, a small village known as Saswad, which houses an awesome Fort known as Jadhavgadh. We started our journey early, had breakfast at the Machan and got out buy around 9:30 am. The drive back to Lonavala took about half an hour considering the crazy fog, we also got lost in one of the by lanes, anyways we hit the expressway soon enough and made it to the outskirts of Pune in about an hour and a half. Here it gets tricky passing Pune and onto Saswad took a good 2 hours, crazy traffic and bad road. At a time even google Maps failed and we had to ask a cop for directions (surprisingly he looked and behaved like Manoj Bajpai). After a fairly crazy ride up a fairly broad ghat (Mountain) we reached our destination.

The first thing you notice about the fort is the people, they are all dressed in traditional Maratha outfits. Our welcome was accompanied by a blow of trumpets and a crazy beating of drums by a frenzied security guard, we also got the very firangi “tilak on the forehead” treatment. We quickly finished all the formalities and headed towards our room, please to note had booked a suite which was a surprise for the lovely Mrs. I was surprised by the room – it was big and had a large balcony with a crazy view – do check the image below for the view. We settled in and ordered food, some traditional chicken in coconut gravy with bread, the food was finger licking good. I would strongly recommend that you try the local cuisine in the Hotel; it’s absolutely to die for. After a quick siesta we moved towards the pool, the Mrs quickly jumped in, me on the other hand thought the water was a little too cold for my liking and hence went on to check the Fort.

The Fort is not very large, if you have been to Rajasthan it may almost seem like a Haveli what stands out is how well it has been maintained and how the entire Hotel has been built around it. The lawns surrounding the Fort are massive and make for some great bird and flower photography. I ended up spending quite a lot of my time taking pictures. Late evening we decided to head back to the room – post more chilling time we went for dinner – the dining room is pretty standard looks like something out of a clubhouse, but the waiter suggested that we dine at the balcony. This turned out to be a great suggestion as it was only us and the experience of eating there was amazing. The starter we ordered was something called Jadhavgadh ke Sholay (Fires of Jadhavgadh – loosely translated) a tandoori paneer dish; we ordered it basis the interesting name – not bad it was, for main course we ordered mutton for a change, a dish called Mutton Tambya Cha Rassa – hands down the best mutton dish we have eaten, the mutton was softer than the paneer, we finished the meal with an awesome Kulfi (local hand churned ice-cream).

Day 2 was pretty much filled with photography, swimming, dinning had an absolute blast, before I forget the Breakfast – absolutely amazing and they had a decent spread also; to give you an idea, my breakfast included muffins, breads, juice, cereal, poha, parathas, grilled veggies, juice, eggs to order and milk shake – I could not move for a few hours after that but totally loved it. Moving on, day 3 is when we left for Mumbai, again got out by about 10:00 am the drive this time was surprisingly fast, the roads were empty and we reached the expressway in about 40 minutes. From there on it was a 2 hour drive to Mumbai – we stopped at a Khopoli, did not feel like eating so had ice-cream and then drove on. Took about an hour 15 to get to home once we hit Mumbai, the little Ashoooooo as usual welcomed us (he also makes an appearance on our blog 🙂 All in all, our first roadtrip was kick-ass we had a blast stayed amongst trees and in a Fort, drove across some of the best roads in the country, could not have asked for more during our mini vacation.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Trips & Rides

 

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My First Road Trip

Awesome View!!!

My first Road-trip! This was an idea me and Yooti (my wife) had been playing with for a while. This year we finally decided to put it to the test, our poison a short trip through Lonavala and Pune in Maharastra – the Mrs being an expert on off-beat vacations figured destination 1; a PondProperty called The Machan. This is a secluded property about 20kms away from Lonavala. I, to begin With, was very skeptical about going there (the place does not have TV or connectivity!!!); anyways, after much debate and discussion, finally decided to go there and the rest, as they say, is History.

Sensational!!!

The trip began with a few disasters. I was unwell to begin with; next, we drove to an ATM, tried withdrawing money but the transaction failed, Of course the bank conveniently sent us a text saying money deducted – this took an hour to sort. Then mad rains in Mumbai! We got stuck in a jam at Parel which would just not move; anyways, we weaved through that using the back roads of Wadala and got out of the city – took us an hour but better than what most people managed. By now, memories of a certain Goa trip were coming back in my head, but the awesome drive across the Expressway made me forget them.

Yayyyyyyyyyyy Open Roads

Tree House!!!

We finally reached Lonavala, managed to withdraw money and then go searching for booze, don’t get it…. any shit is expensive in Lonavala. Moving on, Yooti, my expert Navigator, guides me towards The Machan. Note here, the drive is awesome, the roads are not, it’s a single lane road and covered in fog during the monsoons, make sure all the lights in your vehicle are working. After passing Bushy Dam and a lot of naked people, we finally turned onto a dirt road and find destination 1 – The Machan.

Like I mentioned, I was skeptical about this, but as soon as I entered the property, I was absolutely blown away…….. the reception is built on a pond which overlooks the 25 acre area. We checked in and walked towards our tree house with some assistance from the very helpful staff, surprisingly we had to walk into the forest to get to our room.

Brilliant Property

Randomness!!!

Finally we climbed a spiral staircase and reached our Machan; the room was like something out of a Jim Corbett Novel – very rustic and absolutely in sync with the surroundings. We settled in and ordered some food. At this point I must mention if you ever visit this place, do order the spicy chicken chilli, it is the craziest dish ever…. full of masala and crazy hot. Anyways, most of my time at the Machan was spent photographing the brilliant landscape and property, and going on nature trails; a suggestion: travel with an extra pair of shoes, I got mine wet in the waterfall and they just don’t dry here!

Dinners are simple but the setting just takes it to another level…… a man made tent, fireplace and candle lights just hits all the right notes. About the TV bit, I thought I would not survive but I did not miss it much! I would highly recommend this place, it amazing, non commercialized and blissful. Do check some pictures we have put up of our stay around this post. If you have any other questions about the place, do write to us via comments below….from here we now move to our next destination Jadhavgard which we will cover in our next post.

Greenary!!!

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Trips & Rides

 

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