Glen Canyon Dam

If you are visiting Page, Arizona, you must be here to see Antelope Canyon. The Horseshoe Bend would be a second choice, and Glen Canyon Dam would be the filler.

The Dam is just minutes away from Page. Just cross the bridge…

and you will find yourself at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center.

The visitor center has a few exhibits.

Like this dinosaur.

Outside, you can get an unobstructed view of the dam.

Free to visit, and much smaller than Hoover Dam. I wanted to attend a dam tour, but the last tour of the day was canceled.


Antelope Canyon

Winter is supposed to be slow season. At the Courtyard Page at Lake Powell, that certainly seemed to be the case. We didn’t see too many other travelers and the hotel parking was pretty empty for the most part.

To get to Antelope Canyon, we signed up for a tour with Antelope Canyon Tours. Their office is located along the main street in Downtown Page, and it was packed with tourists. So much for being the slow season. From their parking lot in Page, we boarded one of many pickups that headed to Antelope Canyon within the Navajo Nation.

During the winter, the sunlight doesn’t directly strike the canyon floor. So, you will not be able to capture the beams of light photos that have made Antelope Canyon famous. Still, I considered the visit to Antelope Canyon to be one of the highlights of the trip because the spectrum of colors visible on the canyon walls from the reflected sunlight was absolutely breathtaking.

Here’s the best photo from the excursion:

ISO 800, 23mm, f/2, 1/6 second

Shot handheld from a Fuji Finepix x100, this photo captured the full range of colors visible from the floor of the slot canyon. The remaining photos were from a Nikon DSLR.

ISO 100, 29mm, f/9, 2.0 seconds

ISO 6400, 46mm, f/4.5, 1/40 second

ISO 100, 24mm, f/10, 3 seconds

Lessons Learned From Antelope Canyon

I departed from the Grand Canyon in the morning and headed to Page, Arizona. Since the turnoff for the Horseshoe Bend appeared before I entered Page, I stopped there first. I had no idea how large Page was, and did not want to back track unnecessarily.

As it turns out, Page is a really small town. I should have saved the Horseshoe Bend excursion for later and proceeded directly to the Lower Antelope Canyon. Instead, the extended hike at the Horseshoe Bend took me outside the limited winter hours at Lower Antelope Canyon and I missed that opportunity!

The entire purpose of visiting the Lower Antelope Canyon was to get some practice time before the camera. With that chance gone, the Upper Antelope Canyon tour became a one-shot deal the next morning.

The biggest problem I had was focusing the camera at a dark canyon wall. In some locations, the camera had difficultly auto-focusing because of the lack of contrast. The tripod was also cumbersome, but essential. With slow shutter speeds, even at ISO 800+, I don’t think I could have shot handheld without encountering problems with camera shake. Framing and focusing is so much slower with a camera mounted on a tripod. I really could have used some practice on refining my work flow. Our tour guide was fairly tolerant, but he definitely wanted to keep the tour group together.

ISO 100, 26mm, f/9, 2.5 seconds

ISO 100, 18mm, f/9, 20.0 seconds

1 comment

Horseshoe Bend, Page, Arizona

The Horseshoe Bend is located just outside Page, Arizona.

As I approached Page (from the south), I saw a sign for the Horseshoe Bend, made a left turn into the parking lot, and started on the trek. Reaching the Horseshoe Bend requires a short march up a hill and then a downward hike to the Horseshoe Bend.

From the descent, the Horseshoe Bend looks like a hole in the ground. The soil is very fine and soft, much like beach sand. So, take that into account.

Here is the view from the Horseshoe Bend back to the direction of the entrance. At the peak, you can see a few people as well as a gazebo. The other side of the hill is the parking lot. So, the trek back is uphill on fine sand. Definitely an easier journey on a cool winter day.

Photography Note: If I had done the research, I would have figured out what time to arrive at the Horseshoe Bend so that the Horseshoe Bend was more evenly lit instead of having to deal with the shadows from the canyon walls.


Grand Canyon Photography

I found it difficult to capture the full beauty of the Grand Canyon. In the morning, when the sun first hits the canyon walls, the colors begin to warm up.

ISO 100, 20 mm, f/5.6, 1/60 seconds

However, as the sun rises, the sunlight totally washes out the colors of the canyons. I didn’t find any midday photos that came out well straight from the camera. Sure, I could tweak the saturation and contrast in Photoshop, but what’s the fun in that?

ISO 100, 28 mm, f/4, 1/30 seconds

Towards sunset, the sky took on a surreal palette with a purple and pink ribbon running along the horizon. This image is straight from the camera. Outside of resizing the photo, I have not touched it otherwise. The tower at Desert View is in the background.

ISO 100, 32 mm, f/8, 20 seconds

30 minutes later, the pink ribbon had vanished from the horizon and it was definitely dark. The purple canyon walls evoke a calmer and cooler mood than the more typical red rocks seen during the day.


Hoover Dam Tours

Located about an hour out of Las Vegas, Hoover Dam is a natural stop when heading out to or back from the Grand Canyon.

Hoover Dam offers several different tours from admission to the visitor center to tours of the dam and powerplant.

The visitor center offers exhibits on the history of the Colorado River, the building of Hoover Dam, and how dams generate electricity.

From the visitor center, the outlook offers a view of the dam below.

Hoover Dam offers an educational experience with a mix of history, science, and geography. There’s a cafe by the parking lot that offers visitors a bite to eat before they head out for the long drive to the Grand Canyon.


Grand Canyon Hotel and Dining

The Grand Canyon provides beautiful vistas throughout the year. If you are willing to endure some cold weather, the winter season offers an opportunity to visit explore the canyon when the crowds are few and far between. To book a Grand Canyon hotel or lodge, visit the Grand Canyon Lodges website. Depending on the time of year and the size of your party, you may have a number of lodging options from which to select.

El Tovar is the main hotel located on the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

TripAdvisor is a bit confusing because it categorizes El Tovar under hotels, Kachina Lodge under specialty lodging and Thunderbird Lodge as a bed and breakfast. In reality, the differences between these options are not significant.

From the outside, Kachina Lodge resembles a college dormitory. No charisma. No architectural details worth observing.

The Kachina Lodge rooms are slightly more attractive inside. But, when you step outside, you are greeted with a view of the Grand Canyon.

In terms of location, I would consider El Tovar, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge and Bright Angel Lodge to be equivalent. There are no advantages to be gained, in terms of geography, to pick one over the other.

For food, the Arizona Room is well within walking distance for all four lodging options above. The food selections are somewhat limited. After one dinner in the Arizona Room, I opted for all remaining meals at the adjoining Bright Angel Restaurant, Fountain & Bar. The portion size is on the generous side, so if you are health conscious, splitting an entree with a friend would be recommended.

1 comment

iTunes Full-Screen Panic

I was trying to look up my iTunes purchase history and even arrived at the correct support page. Unfortunately, I could not find the “Purchase History” link to click on. In a bit of frustration, I turned to the reliable keystroke for looking up all sorts of stuff on the Mac. ⌘+F triggers the find dialog in Safari, Finder, and a bunch of other apps.

But, in iTunes, it triggers the Lion full-screen mode. So, I was left with iTunes in full screen without the horizontal traffic lights–red, yellow and green buttons–to minimize my window. I scanned around the keyboard and was able to escape back to the desktop via the Expose function key.

To revert iTunes back to window mode, I had to move the cursor to the top of the screen to trigger the menu bar. In the upper right-hand corner, there’s a blue icon with arrows pointing inward to switch iTunes back to window mode.


iPhone 4s Impressions

Last Friday, I stopped by the Palo Alto Apple store during my lunch hour for the iPhone 4s launch. I guess everyone else must have ordered the iPhone online because the line out the door was surprisingly short. It reached just barely past the corner.

The drink cart and loaner umbrellas kept everyone cool under the mid-day sun:

Post-it notes with personal messages in memory of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs covering the front window of the store:

So, I’ve been skipping iPhone generations: iPhone to iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4s. The leap from iPhone to iPhone 3GS was tremendous in that I could browse the internet while away from a Wi-Fi connection, provided that AT&T cooperated. The move from iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4s feels more evolutionary than revolutionary.

What I Like

64 GB. I found the 32 GB to be too confining. Glad Apple bumped up the optional storage. Definitely worth paying for.

Retina Display. I’ve already seen the retina display on other people’s iPhone 4. Something nice to have, but not completely essential.

Siri. I can see how some people may find Siri to be conceptually useful. For the first few days, Siri was giving me the cold shoulder. I heard so many excuses–one after another–about Siri not being able to reach the network. I guess that Siri was not prepared to talk to a million people all at once.

Despite the marketing of Siri as an intelligent personal assistant that understands natural language, I haven’t had too much success getting it to do what I want. It takes some effort to get it to follow instructions correctly.

Too quite a few iterations to get the phrasing just right. Also, had to add Costco to my directory in order for Reminders to recognize the name / location. Siri only understands Costco if I enunciate. When I pronounce it as Cosco instead of Costco (with a strong T sound), Siri gets confused.

What I Don’t Like

Network. If your iPhone 3GS has a poor connection to the network, don’t expect the iPhone 4s to perform any miracles. The AT&T dead zones afflict the iPhone 4s just as harshly as the iPhone 3GS.

Settings. Lost all my This American Life settings when I switched to the iPhone 4s. On the 3GS, I had marked all the radio shows I had listened to. Now, I’m back to step 1 again.


Hate the New Facebook?

  1. In Safari, select Safari > Preferences.
  2. Click on the Advanced tab, and check the box labeled Show Develop menu in menu bar.
  3. Select Develop > User Agent > Safari iOS 4.3.3 – iPad
  4. Return to Facebook.
  5. Say goodbye to Top Stories Since Your Last Visit, 100+ More Recent Stories, etc. Sorry, ticker is still there though.

Liang’s Kitchen 梁媽媽家

I’m not sure what the official Chinese or English name is for this dish, but it’s essentially sliced beef wrapped in a green onion pancake with a touch of Hoisin sauce. Absolutely delicious when shared, but the oil from the green onion pancake is a bit much if you overindulge.