Saturday, July 11, 2009

May 27, lunch stop at Nalati

Driving along the highway and endless of beautiful landscapes, plenty of pictures taken, our appetite is well built. Neo is a great guy and a great guide, he planed the trip knowing exactly what we like and take care our meals masterfully. Masterfully means delicious, not necessary expensive.
Not just that we are hungary, so is our Land Cruiser, time to stop for gas before the official lunch break.
While waiting for the diesel filled, I grabbed the little Canon G10 (not as compact as my Sigma DP-1, but still considered small for every other cameras I use), and took a few picture for a house right next to the gas station. G10 is a powerful compact camera, I am very tempted to comment that if I were allow only a camera for a quick short trip, I would almost without hesitate to recommend a Canon G10. Its low ISO pictures is great (and I mean GREAT), keep the lens wide open if possible, if it is too bright for even the lowest ISO setting, and you need shutter speed you need, use the built-in ND filter to help. This small camera just produce excellent image for what it is. Above ISO 400, nothing special, but still useful when you really need it. Doing it right, it gives the image size, texture, overall quality like a true camera, easily rival the lower end DSLR. Sorry, I am also a DSLR user, but don't look down those tiny compact DC, they often surprise me.
We stopped by a local restaurant, and to eat like local is the best advise I will give, as I learned from experience. While waiting for the food, I took the Canon G10, and take a few shots in the restaurant, the lovely Uyghur waitress and the back kitchen, some short video clip. With our appetite well built, each of us order double portion of the now-our-favorite Xinjiang noodle 拌面, even my wife took as much as everybody else, a true testimony for the great food. During our luch break, Huang Zheng continue to update us the world commodity news, keeping us in the reality that fun is a matter, reality another. World economic continue to develop for better and sometimes for worse, positive for someone negative for others. And he delivered good news! Invested much into gold, Hunag Zheng announce he has made good gain on his investment, and award Neo a Canon 5D2, and we are all happy for Neo. My wife, however, is the only one in our group, perhpas in that partiuclar day in this little yet beautiful town in Xinjiang, know little of what we have in conversation, but when we congratulate Neo for his coming new camera, she felt the cheer, and also happy for him.
The G10 kitchen shot.Time to move on! Our ultimate goal today is to kilo zero, and overcome our worry, and move on to Bayanbulak. Good lunch did little to increase our luck, yet somehow we have more confidence.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

May 27, Beautiful Nalati

Driving towards Nalati 那拉提, Tian Shan continue to be the dominance of the landscape, sitting inside the car, the window is just like a fast changing frames of paintings. Although the worry over whether or not we can successfully pass thru kilo zero 零公里 never receded, we certain would not let the worry to cloud our mind and stop us from continue to take images of the never ending beautiful scenery, while hope for the best for our journey to Bayanbulak, and many more.And my wife, Pook, in the sea of rapeseed flowers.Approaching Nalati city, beautiful farm land continue to amaze us, and we took images for this beautiful, Tuscany-like country landscape. Still taken with Nikon D3X and AF-S VR 70-200/2.8G IF-ED.This one also a Nikon D3X shot, with VR 70-200/2.8, 4-shot stitch panoramic image, original size is staggering 18,685X3,849 pixels Upon entering the Nalati city, I spot this graphical image and snap it, with Tian Shan the distant background.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

May 27 Tekes 特克斯 - Gonliu 鞏留 - Xinyuan 新源

I waked up in the morning, packed, and together with Pook we wen to the restaurant for breakfast and meet up with Wanbing and Huanzheng and Neo. Some discussion made last night over their room which must involved more calls to check, heavy debate or lobby, however, what I heard of the plan going back to Urumqi today is again changed! OK, not to be serious, we are a small group and one Land Cruiser, trip plan is more flexible. And the plan? Take chance! The decision has been made to take change to drive all the way to kilo zero 零公里, to see if the road to Bayanbulak is opened. And so we move on.
Xinjiang is a beautiful place, its landscape is such grand scale, you slowly digest it along with the long drive, but those sceneries that screen through the window is also capable of getting any photographer excited. Som flower images took along the highway, Nikon D3X, with AF-S VR Micro 105/2.8G IF-ED.We stopped here and there, take some pictures along the way, sheep, flowers, endless fields of rape plants. I am still using the Nikon D3X and the AF-S VR Micro 105/2.8. This one for my wife, Pook.Herd of sheep, enjoy their day.And we enjoy them.

Monday, July 6, 2009

May 26, Change of plan

While we were busying taking picture, more information about the group that came 3 days earlier still stuck deeper inside the grassland - which now a snow land, as the weather turn good and becomes warmer, more snow to melt, the road will be nastier and less chance to drive thru Kalajun. Our original plan was to visit 3 grand grassland in this trip, with Kalajun the first, now knowing due to colder spring this year and grass is still 1-2 weeks from full length, and now the unexpected snow, the snese and logic to visit all three grassland is a question.
The worry over Bayanbulak is not lessening, so we are plotting possibility to drive all the way back to Urumqi, by way of Yining, so we can take another route to get to Bayanbulak, and lost 2 days of our trip. It it a tough decision, but a decision has to make NOW!
So to avoid driving the mountain road in the night, and by the angle of sunsetting and our location on the grassland, we decided it is time to go, and we packed up the luggage again, load them to the car, and we are on the way heading to Yining, still 3 hours away!
During our descent, we stopped by a little farm house, take some snap shots and continue our drive. Sitting in the car scanning the view outside the window, I saw the last light of setting sun behind the trees forms a nice contrast with the new moon, as well as the river reflect the fading light in the sky, I called another 2 stops to take some quick pictures. All with Nikon D3X and AF-S 24-70/2.8G ED. The shot with the river is a good example of how modern digital camera like D3X capable of, setting at ISO 800 to allow me to hand hold the camera for quick snap shot, with reasonable f stop and shutter speed. I wish: a VS version of this sharp 24-70/2.8G ED lens. Continue to drive, in order to avoid too much driving in the night, also to allow Neo an early rest, we decided to stay for the night in Tekes 特克斯, stop at the Tekes night street for an unforgettable dinner.
Late, it's time to sleep, to get up early for long drive tomorrow back to Urumqi.

May 26 destination: Kalajun 喀拉俊空中大草原, the expected and unexpected

Nearing the end of our slow ascent we started to level with the snow line, muddy road, already we saw some photographers from the car who passed us earlier walking on the slope, a sign that their car is having trouble getting up. To be safe, Neo told us we better get off the car so that he can try to tackle the slippery slope, and went on he did. Neo's skill, and the ability of the Land Cruiser, we finally overcame the section troubled the other car, and we found ourselves in the check point, surrounded by beautiful scenery, here we are, Kalajun 喀拉俊空中大草原.
There are several wood cabins surrounding the check point, so we made our arrangement with the officer, off-load our luggage, taking short rest, while Neo is investigating the road condition further ahead of us, and it did not look to easy.
After the short rest, everyone again in the car, and it took only 50 meters from where we start did we find the reality that we will be walking to the grand grassland by foot, car is of now use on road of such condition, and we off going.
Slowly, we walk on the snow. As expected, Kalajun is beautiful, it's high on the top of the mountain, surrounded by panoramic view of ranges of distant mountains. However, unexpectedly, or we should have guessed it, the expected grassland was entirely carpeted by a beautiful layer of snow. But here we are, and little obstacle can stop the shutter of our cameras from clicking.
My lovely wife cheering up! The grassland or the snowland? No stranger to snow, but it is rare in this early summer day.And these are shots all made with Nikon D3X and the mighty AF-S VR 70-200/2.8G IF-ED.And this one a stitched-panoramic picture using 5 captures, still the D3X with hand-held AF-S VR 70-200/2.8G IF-ED, original picture size 21,616 pixels X 3,939 pixels