Friday, November 9, 2018

White Sands

Susan and I traveled west by car again this year, and once again were thrilled by the beauty of our country. One of our favorite spots was White Sands National Monument, in southern New Mexico about 50 miles north of El Paso. It's an area of 275 square miles of gypsum sand, including extensive dune fields, that defy description. The play of light over the dazzling white sands is serene and almost otherworldly. Even amidst the scenic wonders of New Mexico it is a standout.

Dunes and San Andres Mountains, White Sands National Monument, NM
Sand Strata and Yucca, White Sands National Monument, NM
Dunes, White Sands National Monument, NM

Monday, June 18, 2018

Patagonia Landscapes

The southern reaches of South American are remote and dramatic. Chile and Argentina contain enormous regions of fjords, ice fields, glaciers, mountains and steppe. The weather rapidly changes from sunny to rainy with frequent high winds unobstructed by any other land south of 50 degrees latitude in the southern hemisphere. The Andes run down the western side of the continent and turn east at the southern end. At the southern tip is Cape Horn, a notoriously difficult transit for mariners since the age of sail began. The landscapes reflect the rugged, elemental character of the area.

The sky, rocks, and water in the first image are a case in point. It shows Cerro Paine Grande from the vantage point of Grey Lake below Grey Glacier. It was windy enough to make standing a challenge at times, but our hike across the outwash plane and up and around the hill in the middle ground gave great views of the glacier and of the vegetation that hangs on in that environment.

Cerro Paine Grande, Chile
The breakers and whitecaps in this view of the shore of Grey Lake gives some idea of the wind.

Tree at Lake Grey Shore
Vegetation alternates with bare rock on this nearby hillside.

Hillside near Lake Grey

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Chilean Terra del Fuego, Part 2

More glaciers were in store for us. The Garibaldi Glacier is at the north end of a nearly 2-mile-long fjord. We sailed up the fjord, but steady winds of 35 mph meant no Zodiac excursions that day.
Garibaldi Glacier
Overnight we rounded Tierra del Fuego island and sailed west through Cockburn and Magdalena channels into De Agostini Sound at dawn.

De Agostini National Park from Agostini Sound
Isla Grande Tierra del Fuego from Agostini Sound
The Zodiacs took us to a cobbled beach, where we left our life jackets and hiked to Águila Glacier. It sits above a placid lake surrounded by sub-Antarctic rainforest.
Landing for Águila Glacier
Águila Glacier

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Chilean Tierra del Fuego

After flying into and enjoying a few days in Buenos Aires, we flew south to Ushuaia. It's considered the southernmost city in the world, situated on the north shore of the Beagle Channel at latitude 54°48"S. Across the channel is Chile and the southernmost reaches of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. At Ushuaia we boarded the Ventus Australis, a nearly new expedition ship, and departed at dusk for four days sailing among the fjords and channels.
Ushuaia, Argentina, evening
Early the next morning we donned our rain gear and boarded Zodiacs for a choppy ride to a landing on Cape Horn. We stayed mostly dry until landing, but before stepping ashore a breaker came over the transom and immersed our feet in icy seawater. But with the excitement of hiking up the hills and the wonderful views, we soon forgot our wet feet.
Cape Horn
Later we sailed to Wulaia Bay and climbed through Magellanic forest for an extraordinary view of the bay and our ship at anchor.
Wulaia Bay
Sailing west through the Beagle Channel, we entered the Pia fjord and landed on a cobble beach for a walk to the Pia glacier, one of many that flow from the Darwin mountain range. A hike uphill led to a lovely vantage point.
Pia Glacier and Fjord

Pia Glacier and Darwin Mountains

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sneak Preview: Patagonia

We've returned from a trip to Patagonia, a remote, wild and beautiful region of southern Chile and Argentina. Among the many gorgeous sights are the Andes mountains. We were fortunate to spend time near Torres del Paines national park in Chile; our hotel afforded stunning views of the Cordillera Paine mountain group. The image below was made at sunrise near the hotel.

I typically include several images in a post, but I'm jumping the gun this time because I'm eager to share. I'll post more later.

Kudos to our tour company, Overseas Adventure Travel, and our tour guide Silvana Cohen for running an exceptional trip. And many thanks to our friendly, funny, fascinating fellow travelers for their companionship and insights.

Cordillera Paine and Serrano River, Sunrise

Original contents copyright 2018 by Dean Wight.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Bad lens, no service from Panasonic

I've just been through an extremely frustrating experience with Panasonic. My most recent purchase was a Lumix G Vario 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 zoom. I added it my kit consisting of a Lumix GX7 camera body, a Lumix G 20mm F1.7, and a Lumix G Vario 45-150mm F4.0-5.6 zoom.

I've been pleased with the fixed 20mm and the 45-150mm zoom. All of my wildlife shots from our recent Africa trip (like these) used the long zoom, and they were very sharp.

But after using the 12-32mm zoom for several months, it became clear that it just wasn't sharp. I finally did tripod-mounted comparison shots with the 12-32mm and the 20mm, and the results were clear: the 12-32 is soft, both in the center and in the corners.

The lens was still under warranty, so I sent it off to Panasonic for service in November. After five or six phone calls (and none of the promised call-backs), and after sending in the comparison shot files, I was told that there's nothing wrong with the lens, and that comparing the 20mm with the 12-32mm was an "unfair" comparison. Bottom line: no repair, no replacement. They are sending the same lens back to me. Elapsed time: two months. Thanks for nothing.

I purchased the lens because it's small and wide-angle and had glowing comments on the Online Photographer. I've read that sometimes you just get a bad copy of a lens, and that zooms may be especially prone to variations in quality. I guess my luck wasn't good. But I expected better service from Panasonic. Caveat emptor, y'all.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Welcome Winter

The winter solstice occurred at 11:28 am EST (16:28 UTC) December 21, 2017. The days get longer now, so celebrate with light and love on this shortest day.

Tree at Great Falls, MD