Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Olgas

Tracie and I really, really liked the Olgas. We went on two short hikes in them after lunch, but before the sunset at 6:00.
This panorama was Tracie's idea. She makes a great art director because she has a great eye for what would make a beautiful photo, unfortunately she hasn't spent the time to learn the technical aspects of using the camera and is sometime left unsatisfied with the results when she knows how good the photo could or should look.
The first walk was only about a kilometer long through the valley of the winds. One of the first things that I noticed was that unlike Ayer's rock, the Olgas are conglomerate rock, you can see cunks of what looks like field stone scatter throughout the formations.
Some other great bonuses to the Olgas are the fact that you can get much more immersed in them. You can walk on trails through the enormus valley and be completely surrounded by the domes. You can only really ever be on the edge of Ayer's rock, but never surrounded by it.
Lastly many fewer people go out to the Olgas and so you run in to fewer tourists. We did run into two groups being led by guides and one of the guides even took a photo for us. He is a much better guide than photographer.
At the most strenuous part of the walk, the group turned back, they wanted to make it back in time to go to the sunset lookout and take some photos. We asked the guide how long it would take to complete the circuit. He told us 1.5 to 2 hours. We figured that he was giving us the time it would take to take a group around the circuit and that we had plenty of time to walk all the way around.
It tured out that we were right and had the trail all to ourselves. It was really magificent to see the domes and be surrounded them as sunset neared. As far as I'm concerned, the Olgas are a must see if you go to the park to see Uluru because they are even nicer.

Here is an arial view of Ayer's Rock and The Olgas via google maps.

Ayer's Rock Sunrise

After a long scary, not to mention frickin freezing night, we drove back to the park in the morning to get photos of the sunrise.
It was still pitch black when we arrived at the gates of the park at 5:45 am. Unfortunately the gates didn't open until 6:00. I mentioned that the rangers needed to get blinds in their hut because we could see them walking around telling jokes and basically just chatting the entire time we were there waiting. Not that it mattered because the sun doesn't come up until around 6:30 anyway and even then it isn't really bright enough until about 7:00 anyway.
I said that it was a cold night in the tent. It stayed cold until about 8:30 or 9:00, so cold in fact that while I was out taking the photos, Tracie stayed in the truck buring some of that $1.75/L diesel I told you about earlier.
In my opinion the sunrise is a little nicer than the sunset. In this photo you can see the outline of the Olgas on the horizon. Several of the domes at the Olgas are taller than Ayers Rock.
After completing the photos and eating breakfast we did the 9km walk around the base of the rock and then drove the 40km to the Olgas.

-Gary Milner

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ayer's Rock

The first thing you notice, sort of, at the foot of Uluru is the sheer size. You get the idea that it's big, but even standing at the base, you don't know how big it really is. The walk around the base is about 9km long and takes about two hours.
The walls of the rock are very steep. You can see how steep they are in the photo. It is pretty much that steep all the way around. There is one section that you can climb all the way to the top, but the aboriginal community discourages it.
It costs $25 per person aged 16 or older to get into the park and the passes are good for three days. As a cheap skate, it cut me to the heart to have to pay $50 to get into a park that in Canada would cost $12 for the whole car load of people. It's like they are making fun of the people who come to visit. There is no alternative than to pay however.
Up close your impressions of the rock are changed. The photos make it look a lot smoother than it really is. The rock face is very rough, it is pitted and there are lots of groves worn out by the rains that come every couple of years.
We went to the sunset viewing area at around 6:00 and there were alreay heaps of cars waiting for the sunset. One American asked me if I knew what time the sunset was. I told him 6:30, but I wished I had told him that it's right now. It will be too dark for photos by 6:30 because the sun will be down. It will be pitch black by 7:00pm.
When the Earth's shadow reached the bottom of the rock, I told Tracie that I was ready to go. She said, "The sun hasn't set yet." I told her that the shadow had reached the bottom of the rock and that any photo taken in the next few minutes would have a shadow across the bottom. She realized that I was right and we left. I'm pretty sure we were the first people to leave. There must be millions of photos taken of that rock every year.
The thought occured to me as we were leaving that this may very well be the only place in the entire world where millions of people gather to take photos at sunset and then face away from the sunset.
We left the park and found a place to pull off the road and camp. I had a nightmare at about 2am and just wanted to pack up the tent and find a new place to camp, but I decided against it being a premonition of being hacked to death and just went back to sleep.
Tracie's uncle said that going to Australia and not seeing Ayer's Rock would be like going to New York and not seeing the Statue of Liberty. It seems to me that he's only half right. Ayer's Rock is definately the symbol of Australia. You'd be hard pressed to find a travel brochure with out a picture of it on the cover. The thing is that it is in the dead center of nowhere. A more likely comparison would be going to Los Angeles and not going to see the Statue of Liberty.
That being said, we both really enjoyed the trip to the red center of Australia and really recomend traveling to Alice Springs and Ayer's Rock.

-Gary Milner

Rolling To The Rock

We drove the 4x4 to Ayer's Rock that morning. It is about 450km away from Alice Springs. It seems that most of the car rental places in Alice Springs give about 200km per day along with the rental of the car, so if you aren't renting the car for five or more days, be prepared to pay the extra km charge if you go to Uluru, the Olgas and Kings Canyon.
It's a little trick the car rental companies have of getting five or six days worth of rent while only have the car rented out for three or four days.
We had ours for four days, but could have easily found lots to do for an entire week. One bit of advice is to not get the four wheel drive or other diesel vehicle. Australia's Northern Territory is the only place in the world where diesel costs more than regular unleaded. On our way home we paid $1.75/L to fill our tank. I wanted to ask why they weren't just charging and even $2.00, but then I realized that the gas jockies don't set the price and that there is probably a law against jacking up the price of fuel in the middle of nowhere.
In separate instances we saw a total four cars stopped by the side of the road with aborigines trying to hitch a ride to civilization. I felt really guilty not stopping to pick them up, being in the middle of the bush and all. I justified it by thinking about how I have been trained my whole life not to pick up hitch hikers.
Recently a movie called 'wolf creek' has been released on video her in Australia. It's about a group of british backpackers who get murdered in incrasingly violent fashion. The movie has been referred to as "horror porn" because the only feature of the movie is grizzly murders and not much else.
In anycase, we saw this burnt out car and stopped so that I could get my photo taken jumping over it and surfing it etc. I learned to love doing this in Argentina where there are a plethora of stolen, striped and burntout cars to pose with.

-Gary Milner

Ridge South of Alice Springs

The train enters Alice Springs through a gap in this ridge that I'm standing on. The Stuart Highway goes through there as well along with a river. I'm using the desert term here which means there was no water in the river at all. Not even mud where there used to be water a week ago. Just sand.
We parted company with Alex here in the Alice because he had booked a tour from Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayer's Rock was renamed) and we were renting a 4wd from Budget to drive.
It turns out that if you want to spend more than an hour or two actually at Ayer's Rock or The Olgas that you are better off renting a car by far. It seems that most tours cost more than renting a car on a day by day basis. If you're travelling with two or more people it would be significantly cheaper just to rent a car.
We booked a 4x4 online, just for the fun of it really and when we went to pick it up, we found out that we had been upgraded to an even bigger 4wd. Even though you don't really need one because the roads are all paved and you aren't supposed to go off the road anyway.
Alice Springs is a nice little town, but I don't think I would like to live there. It is a mostly tourist town with five or six aboriginal art galleries and a bunch of restaurants.
We had a good time in Alice Springs.

-Gary Milner

Riding The Rails

We left Perth on the train again. Both thinking, "Why are we doing this to ourselves?" The last ride across the Nullarbore Plain was long, boring, and uninteresting. Though somehow we lived and decided to do it again.
Really it isn't as bad as I'm making it sound. You can meet some interesting people on the train, and actually have fun if you can make your own.
This ride didn't seem nearly as long as the last because I was able to sleep both nights and because it was 15 or more degrees cooler outside of the train.
As we're pulling out of Perth, who do we see but Alex, the frenchman we left in Perth running alongside the train the last time. By some sheer galactic coincidence, we book our tickets for the same day and destination as him.
Either we're lucky, or I'm being punished with french. It turned out for the best because it meant that we had a friend for the three day ride to Alice Springs. I imagine it was better for Tracie than for me though, because they spent the entire time speaking french.
The ride from Adelaide to Alice Springs is more interesting than from Perth to Adelaide. It is here where you get to enter the actual outback, where the dirt turns red.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More definitive proof of animal evolution

Included in this post is a never before seen picture of geese who have evolved to the point where they can make little rafts. These geese no longer have to nest on land where they would be far more vulnerable to attack from preditors.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Interesting Photoshop Tutorial: Circle World

I found an interesting set of instructions floating around flickr today. I'm posting them here as a short tutorial.

How to Make a Panorama (long version)
- Use a tripod.

- Align tripod and camera with the horizon as much as you can.

- When taking pictures remember that you should leave some over lap between each photo. I find that 1/4-1/3 of the fram e is enough. This will give you a set of pictures that can easily be stitched.

- Use the manual settings of your camera. One side of the sky is *Always* brighter than the other because of the sun. If you let the camera decide the settings, they will change as you rotate towards and away from the sun. The photos won't match. Using the manual settings forces them to stay the same and the change from darker to brighter will match and look natural.

- To stitch the photos together, I can recommend Autostitch, it's easy to use and (still) free of charge.

- If you want to use the panorama for a Planet Shaped Amazing Circle, the panorama must be exactly 360 degrees (fudging 359 or 361 will leave an ugly line). It should also be exactly horizontal.

- Also for making a Planet Shaped Amazing Circle - experiment with adding more photos above or below the panorama. Below seems good to me especially when you are standing in a spot with few interuptions that look weird when the image gets stretched. Adding a second row for the panorama lessens the amount that the photo will need to be stretched to make it square later, less stretching is better.

Create Your Own Planet Shaped Amazing Circle.

- First create a Full 360 Degree Panorama.

- Load the file in Photoshop.

- Change the Image Size. Uncheck 'Constrain Proporties' and set the width to the match the height to create a square. You can experiment with different ratios later.

- Rotate the image 180 degrees. Note: if you skip the rotation of 180 degrees you'll get the Wheel Shaped Amazing Circle, which is also cool. Try making both.

- Use the 'Polar Coordinates' filter (Rectangular to Polar) to create the final product.

These are pretty interesting and really easy to make especially if you already use autostitch. I'll probably be making a few of these over the next while. I hope that you enjoy making these and then looking at them.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Egg Traditions

Dog in a Ute
Originally uploaded by Tracie Milner.
We'll have to tell you about Dogs in Utes when we get back to Canada. Right now, I'm writing about Easter.

Each year my family decorates eggs much like this one. We use wax crayons to make our pictures then we dunk them in food coloring. Part two of the tradition is to roll them down a hill to see whose egg makes it the farthest without breaking apart. Might sound crazy if you've never tried it, but I have done this every easter for as long as I can remember and it's one of my family traditions that I will definitely pass on and do with my own children, if I ever have any.

The thought of not doing it this year made me very sad. So even though it's just Gary and I we will be rolling eggs tomorrow in Mount Lawley.

I have never won. But this year, with a 50/50 chance of winning my luck is looking to improve. Worst case scenario I come in second.

To my family: You might have to mail me the trophy this year. Or at least hold it for me... I'm looking to win and I've been excercising my rolling arm.

Catamaran Rental

Tracie and I rented a catamaran for an hour on the river today. We both had a really good time.

It was a lot easier than I imagined.

We gave the guy 38 bucks, he said, "do you have much experience?" We said, "No" He said, "Head towards the conventions center and then back here. That will give you th e best ride with the least problems."

That's what we did and it was really fun. I took the rudder for the first round trip and then traded with Tracie for the second and then I got to drive again for the third. We were almost out of time by then and so we did a small circle about a third of a trip across the river and then came back to shore.

If you are in Perth, I recommend hiring a surfcat for an hour or two. Your bum gets wet, so wear somthing that doesn't matter if you get it wet.

You do sort of have to watch out for the boom hitting you in the head when you turn. Neither of us got hit, but Tracie friend did when they rented them a couple of months ago. It did swing across pretty hard once and I could see how it would have been a pretty serious thing to be hit in the head by it.


Friday, April 14, 2006

My Sister Jackie

This photo makes me very homesick. I don't know why. I've seen Jackie maybe 10 times in the last 10 years. She called me the other day and we talked for an hour. That's one thing I want to change about myself. I really should call people more often. I guess I just feel like I don't really have anything to say except the same old boring stuff.

When I went to Edmonton to take pictures of my cousin's son's wedding it struck me how different she looks from what I remember.

I guess I'll probably always remember her as a 14 year old. I have to admit that if I saw her walking in a mall in a place where I wasn't already expecting her I probably wouldn't even recognize her and that make me really sad.

We won't be coming home until mid-July. Right now our tickets are set to have us leaving on July 10th, but we will be changing them so that we can leave from the east coast now.

We think we want to make a stop over on the way home, but our tickets expire on the 17th so we'll be back in Canada at least by then.

We moved out of the flat and into a backpacker hostel this morning. It is a private room with ensuite toilet and shower. All and all, even though it is only one room and a toilet, it isn't that much smaller than the flat was. It is a lot newer though and way nicer.

I had my last day of work in Perth yesterday. They bought me a box of Lindor chocolates as a going away present. I've eaten most of them already.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ayers Rock at Sunset

Notice has been given at our flat, train tickets have been booked for all legs of our journey, and we will be deparing on Wednesday at 11:55am.

It will take two days to get to Adelaide. Then we will leave Adelaide at 5:00pm and get to Alice springs at noon the next day. We plan to rent a camper van and drive the remaining 500 km to Ayer's Rock aka Uluru.

The few days we spend in the red center will likely be more than enough and we will hop on the train back to Adelaide, then from there on to Sydney which takes another 24 hours.

I will be over my weird love of rail transit after this trip. Including a LRT systems.

It is still up in the air as to wether we will stay in Sydney or goto Brisbane. Most likely we will be going to Brisbane.

My only dilemma is to buy a new lens for my camera or not. I need a wide angle lens pretty bad but I don't feel like spending the money. I wish I wasn't so cheap. I have hardly taken any photos since my wide lens broke four months ago. I guess I should just go for it. It is my main hobby and I really love it.

-Gary Milner

Monday, April 10, 2006

Perth Zoo

Salt Water Crock
Tracie and I went to the Perth Zoo on Friday. I really enjoyed looking at all the animals. My favorite had to be the tiger. It seemed to be the most active of all the animals, pacing back and forth along one of the walls of it's holding area.

The one thing I would have done differently would be to have viewing platforms for visitors to be able to look down into the holding areas along with being able to look through the fence/glass of the various animal's pens.

My second would have to be the crocodile. They had a 700Lbs + crocodile. There was only one though because it was donated to the zoo by a crocodile farm where it had killed two female crocodiles. Previously to that it was captured in a populated area where it was a nusiance. Whoever captured it must have had nerves of steel because that thing was huge! If it got the chance to eat you it wouldn't even need to chomp you once to get you into its somache.

The Perth Zoo is definately worth a visit. I only regret that I never went to the Calgary Zoo while I was living there!

-Gary Milner, the most dangerous animal at the zoo.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Coming Home

It looks like we might be coming home a little sooner than we previously thought. We'll likely be going to the airline office in the morning to find out about changing out tickets.

I really want to see Ayer's Rock before we come home, so it could still be another month or so, but we might be home in time for our birthdays so get your credit cards ready for buying presants.


Monday, April 03, 2006

And The Winners Are.....

Megan and Dann
Originally uploaded by Tracie Milner.
Da da da daaaaa ......

Megan and Dann by a landslide ! Yeah !!

Apparently they had 47 % of the votes out of five finalists. Crazy ! I guess all the campaigning really paid off.

So they get their $50,000 kitchen in the next 2 to 4 weeks. It will supposedly take one week to complete and while the kitchen's being done their family is going to be pampered at the Medicine Hat Lodge. Good on ya, guys !!

I called Megan at 3:00 am my time which was around noon her time onyl a couple of hours after they got the news. She said they signed a release that they can do whatever they want to the house and they have to stay away until it's done. This may sound scary, but their house is very old and they are excited for any updates that can be done. $50,000 is a lot of dollars. Apparently the guys who won last year not only had their kitchen done but also new flooring in the rest of the house.

I can't wait to come see it in July. Amy and I are already planning a cake and cookie making marathon with your new appliances.

Congratulations guys. I'm really happy for you.


What is the Best Candy Bar You Rarely Eat?

For me it would be the Snickers bar. I had one for the first time in a long while the other day and I really enjoyed it.

It seems I have been stuck in the rut of eating only caramilk type bars for several years. The reason I made the change was because the vending machine where I works doesn't stock many of my favorites. I do like the Kit-kat chunky, but they get a bit boring after a while. Twix is good too, but only for a change. I find that Snickers really satisfies me. I like all the peanuts.

I guess that just leaves the question: What is the best candy bar that you rarely ever eat?

-Gary Milner

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Update on Shooting Victim

Have you been wondering about the condition of the guy that vice president Dick Cheney shot while quayel hunting? Well, I heard the other day that his condition has been upgraded from "critial", to "peppered pretty good".