Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hawaii - Day 7

Today is travel day back home. We took our time getting up and packing. We stopped at the Kauai Harley Davidson dealership to pick up shirts for my sister and brother in-law.

We got exit row seats for out flight from Kauai to San Francisco so we didn’t have to pay for Economy Plus. They wanted to charge us $54 each for Economy Plus. What happened to $29?

On the flight from San Francisco to Chicago we were in standard economy which is not good for a 6’ 3“ long legged person like me. I tried to sleep on this flight but it didn’t work. We left Kauai at 1:30pm Hawaii time and arrived home at 5:00am Chicago time with no sleep. So we basically lost an night. Beth and I went to bed when we got home at 6am. I was then awaken at 10 by my kids. My mother-in-law had brought them home and they were excited to see us.

Now it’s time to unpack, clean up the house, edit pictures and video, and get back to a Chicago schedule. Where is that housekeeping service?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hawaii - Day 6

This morning I wanted to head to Waimea canyon and try to get some pictures of the canyon with the sunrise. We didn’t exactly make it there at sunrise but I got some good pictures. I think the canyon walls are illuminated more at sunset but there tends to be clouds around then. We drove up Waimea Canyon Road (550) from 50. Take this road up. Don’t follow the signs that take you down 50 farther and then up 552. This road ultimately intersects with 550 and 550 has much better scenery from what I hear.

We stopped at some road side view points and then at the Kokee Lodge. This lodge is part of the state park and serves breakfast and lunch. This is also one of the best souvenir spots on the island. We also had a light lunch here on the way back down. More on that below.

We took 550 all the way until it ends. There is a lookout here that looks over a spectacular valley that leads into the sea with spire cliffs on each side. There is a hiking trail (Pihea Trail) from the lookout that basically offers different views of the same valley. Be warned though, this trail gets tougher after the half mile mark. I hiked a mile down the trail but Beth stopped about three quarters of the way to wait for me. There is a lot of great scenery but it does get muddy and there are some steep, slippery climbs. We saw some people much older than us along the way so it’s doable by most anyone but be prepared. This hike and the helicopter tour are the highlights of this trip so far.

We headed back down to the lodge for lunch and to clean the red mud off of our shoes. There are public restrooms and washing stations near the lodge. Also be aware that going up 550 past the lodge the road gets a little rough.

We made our way back to the B&B and decided to just hang out at their pool for a while. No sand to clean off and it was close. We then had dinner at Poipu Beach Brolier. This place was excellent for me. A nice casual open air restaurant with great food (fish and steak fare) and right size portions for me. One thing we noticed with most of the restaurants is they are open air (roof with open sides) but yet there are no bugs. No mosquitos and very very few flies if any. There were more birds in the eating areas on Maui than Kauai but even they weren’t bothersome. Kauai has a lot of chickens roaming around but obviously not in the restaurants.

After dinner we went to see Spouting Horn. This is a lava shelf next to the water with a hole in it allowing water to shoot up into the air when the waves come in. There is also a second hole where only air is forced through making a sound like you hear when yo blow across the top of a soda bottle. There was another hole that would spout water much higher than the current one but back in the early 1900’s a land owner blew it up because the salt spray was hurting his crops. Today it is just a big hole where water goes in and out of from the sea. This is a neat thing to see if you are on the south shore of Kauai. It’s better during high tide which is when we were there.

Tomorrow we begin the trip home .

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hawaii - Day 5

We started today off with a helicopter tour with Blue Hawaiian. What a great way to see parts of the island that you can’t get to any other way. Being a pilot I was as much interested in the helicopter as the scenery. This was an hour tour of the entire island. Blue Hawaiian video tapes every flight and has the video of your specific flight available after the flight. They have a camera inside the helicopter as well as outside and the pilot switches between the 2 during flight. All audio conversation and music is also recorded on the DVD. We got a copy for the girls to see. The pilots narrate the flight and show where movies were filmed, the Na Pali coast, Waimea canyon, and we even were able to go into the volcano crater. We had Cliff for a pilot and he was excellent.

After the helicopter tour we drove to one of the easily accessible waterfalls, Wailua Falls. This is a tall waterfall and was used in the opening scene of Fantasy Island. I’ll have some pictures of it posted on Flickr when I get back home. Since we were headed North anyway I continued to drive to the North side of the island. We went past Princeville and stopped at some beaches and shops along the way. Unfortunately since this was an unplanned drive we didn’t have any swim wear with us. The North shore is supposed to be the best place for snorkeling on the island.

We made our way back to the B&B and changed into our swimwear. Marjorie’s (the B&B) has beach chairs, coolers, mats and snorkel equipment for use by the guests. We took advantage of this and spent the afternoon at Poipu Beach. This beach is a favorite with locals and has lifeguards. It is supposed to be good for snorkeling but from what I saw it was just rocks. A good spot for the beginner though. We also had some boogie boards from Marjorie’s but I wasn’t sure how to use them so we just floated on them.

After the beach we got cleaned up and had dinner at Duke’s Canoe Club. This restaurant is part of the Kauai Marriott so was very busy. We had about an hour wait and I was unimpressed with the service. It could have just been the amount of people in there. I had the prime rib which was good but a little too much fat. They also have calamari strips here versus the tentacles we have on the mainland. We have had these at 2 places now and they are good. Long meaty strips of calamari.

While we waited for dinner we strolled the grounds of the Marriott. It’s a typical Hawaii resort with many rooms (some with a decent view and some without), a very big pool right next to the beach, and a lot of activities available for guests. It’s located in a secluded bay so offers protected swimming on the beach. There is also the big pool if you like too only look at the ocean versus swim in it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hawaii - Day 4

Today is a travel day for us going from Maui to Kauai. I got up early to do a sunrise stroll on the beach. With camera in hand I got a bunch of beach pictures with foam water and distant scenery. Beth met up with me and we strolled for some time taking in the sights and sounds. We had breakfast at the Kihei Cafe again and it was hoping today which was Saturday. It looked like most people were tourists so I’m not sure if there was just an influx of them on Friday or they just decided to go to the Cafe.

We checked out of the condo and then started the fun of air travel. I stopped to get gas in the rental car before returning it. The gas station just before the airport had a line of cars waiting to fill up. When I got to the pump I found out why. They didn’t have pat-at-the-pump. What gas station, especially near a main airport, doesn’t have a way to pay by credit card at the pump. We returned the car and went to check in with the airline. There was a single line for Mesa Go airlines and it wasn’t moving. Evidently their computers were down. Good thing we were 2 hours early. An hour later we had our boarding passes and made our way through security. Guess what...we got flagged for extra screening. I assume that since United changed our itinerary so many times and ended up give us paper tickets because our itinerary and e-ticket were out of synch this made us security risks. Thanks United, Aloha, and Mesa Go airlines.

We got on a CRJ200 from Maui to Honolulu and then continued to Kauai. Each leg of the flight was like 20 minutes. They actually offer drinks on these flight for a fee. Why bother. Another unpleasant airline experience behind us. Oh, and it took them forever to get our bags to us.

We received another rental car upgrade since they were out of compact cars in Kauai. Rent a compact car from Alamo in Hawaii and you are probably going to get a full size car for the same price.

I brought my own automobile GPS on this trip and it has been flawless so far. Especially locating our lodging in Kauai. I had pre-programmed it before we left home with all our planned destinations. We are staying at Marjorie’s Kauai Inn which is a bed and breakfast in Lawai. It’s perched on a hill overlooking a valley near Poipu. The hardest part is finding the actual house. You have to pull into a driveway, pass a different house, then go down a steep hill and then go up to the top of the driveway. You end up parking on a steep incline so I hope the emergency brake holds. We have our own large lanai and there is a pool and hot tub for guests of the 3 room B&B. It’s nice having local innkeepers that you can ask for advice on things to see and do. They also provide gear for the beach and snorkeling.

We ate dinner at a local pizza place, Pizzetta, while deciding the activities for our stay. We then strolled through the shops near by. The evening was finished off with a soak in the hot tub back at the B&B.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hawaii - Day 3

We started out the day on the Maui Classic Charters Four Winds II boat for a snorkel trip to Molokini crater. The trip started with them serving bagels with cream cheese and fruit spread with coffee and drinks on the boat. We motored out to the crater while the staff explained all the things that will be going on during the trip. The have a photographer on board that creates a video during the trip which is for sale afterward. They also offer Snuba, scuba diving without the tank.

Once at the crater Beth and I went snorkeling. I wasn’t that impressed with the coral or fish here. The only coral was right up against the shore of the crater and there were very few fish. Maybe I was spoiled in Cozumel Mexico but that was 100 times better than this. We got back on the boat after about 45 minutes. The crew had hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken all cooked up on the grill and ready for lunch. It started to get windy and rough at the crater so the captain took us back to the Maui coast to a place call coral garden. This is just West of Maalaea right of the shore. This spot had better coral and more fish but the water visibility wasn’t as good as at the crater. After about another 45 minutes there it was time to head back to the marina. The boat itself was nice. It has an enclosed lower deck so you can get out of the sun and a glass bottom for kids to see the view under the water if they don’t want to get in. I’m not sure how many people were on it but it didn’t feel crowded. The captain is from Chicago and a Bears fan so it has to be good.

After the snorkel trip we hung out at the beach by the condo. Then after showers Beth did some more shopping. We had dinner at Fred’s Mexican Cafe in Kihei. This was a good open air casual restaurant. I don’t go for the swank places so this was good for me.

Speaking of swank we walked the boardwalk in Wailea after dinner. This runs along the beach past the Grand Wailea Resort, Four Seasons, and others. There were a few Hawaiian weddings going on at these resorts. I took a bunch of pictures of the lava rock shoreline and some of the native plants. I also took some sunset pictures using my new split Neutral Density filter. I’ll probably still have to do some PP on them.

Tomorrow we head to Kauai.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hawaii - Day 2

I woke up around 3 am Hawaii time due to the time difference between here and Chicago. I looked out the lanai window and there was a big full moon illuminating the ocean. It was something you don’t see in Chicago.

We got up around 5 am and got read to tackle the road to Hana. We stopped at the Kihei Cafe for breakfast. It isn’t much to look at but has good breakfast food. We also chatted with one of the locals. Even people that live on Maui say you need to go see Kauai. We will in a couple more days.

We headed out for the Hana Highway. I didn’t expect to make it all the way to Hana since we had to be back for a Luau but I did want to see as much as possible along the way. This road is very curvy. If you are prone to getting car sick then definitely take something before you go on this road. There are a lot of single lane bridges to be aware of and it’s best to pull over and let the locals pass. There are plenty of places to pull off to the side. There is a lot of great scenery too be had on this road. We stopped at the Halfway to Hana road side stand and picked up some Banana bread. This was recommended in the guide book Maui Revealed. I also made the slippery rock climb down to see the Three Bears waterfall. This is three waterfalls that empty into a pool but you have to climb down and over slippery rocks to get to it. I carried my Nikon D50 with me and took a bunch of pictures. We’ll see if any of them are good.

The return trip on the Hana Highway was a little tedious. It didn’t seem like we had driven that far. After all the twisting and turing I (as well as Beth) was ready for some straight pavement. I went there and back without scratching up the rental car though.

We had reservations for the Old Lahaina Luau this evening. This Luau came highly recommended. This was also our actual anniversary day so we wanted to do the Luau this evening. We picked the conventional table and chair seating since we weren’t sure how long we could sit on the ground with the traditional seating. We ended up at a table with a family from Wisconsin so it was interesting talking with them.

They serve food buffet style that includes the traditional pig cooked in an Imu oven. The pork was very juicy and the steak they had was good as well. They served deserts with a Hawaiian flair and all drinks were included. The wait staff was very friendly and was eager to get you more of anything they had.

The performance consisted of story telling of ancient Hawaiian beliefs and traditional hula dancing. Since they strive for traditional there are no fire twirlers here. I would recommend this Luau if you are in Maui. It’s a permanent facility so they don’t setup plastic chairs on a multi use area like the resorts do. They also have native Hawaiian people demonstrating some Hawaiian crafts.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hawaii - Day 1

We left for Hawaii today for our 10 year wedding anniversary. We are going to Maui for 3 days and then Kauai for 3 days. I started scheduling this trip back in February with our airline purchase. With all the flight cancellations by Untied and partner airlines going under our itinerary changed about 5 times. Sometimes without me even knowing it had changed until I reviewed it. We ended up connecting through San Francisco both going there and coming back. I was able to upgrade us for the flights to Maui. We had business class on a 767 from Chicago to San Francisco and first class on a 757 from SF to Maui. Man business class on the 767 is nice. It blows away first class on the 757. We will be sorry back in coach on our return trip. I have long legs and it’s torture in the economy section. Hopefully we can get Economy Plus on the way back.

We rented a car at the airport and drove down to Kihei. We are staying at the Mana Kai condominium complex. This condo building sits right on the beach and every condo has a view of the ocean. We are on the 4th floor so we look out at palm trees and the ocean. I’ll post some pictures on Flickr.

We went to happy hour at the attached Five Palms restaurant for some drinks and appetizers. We were going to stay for dinner which doesn’t start until 5 but it was a little pricey for us. It does have the best views of any restaurant on Maui I hear. We ended up at Cafe O’Lei in Kihei. This was a good place with reasonable prices. It’s located on top of a strip mall so Beth had to go shopping after dinner. After that we went for a post sunset stroll on the beach outside the building. We went to bed shortly after that. It was only 8:30 Hawaii time but it was 1:30 am Chicago time. It was a long day.

This place gets windy in the afternoon. With the wind and the waves it’s a little noisy as well but everything calms down at night. The cool ocean winds blowing into the room means they don’t need air-conditioning.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Flight Log: Trip to Lansing

This trip consisted of taking our kids to KIGQ to drop them off with Beth’s parents for the week while we went to Hawaii. It also was an opportunity to give Beth’s mom a ride in the plane. We left at 2:30 pm for the short 18 minute flight. It was the hight of the afternoon bumps with gusty winds so the ride was a little bumpy.

Winds were forecast for 300 gusting to 19 - 22 depending on the reporting station. Actual winds were anywhere from 290 to 320 with a peak gust reported at 28 knots. Most gusts were 19 knots. Steady wind was around 12 knots. Lansing has both a 27 and a 36 runway so I could pick depending on the winds at the time of arrival. I ended up using 27 for both landings. The first arrival landing was a little squirrelly but we made it.

I took my mother-in-law up for a ride with the warning that it would be bumpy. We headed west and made it out to the intersection of I-80 and I-355 before turning back. I got the ‘I’m ready to go back when you are’ from the passenger. That means go back now. I setup for a landing on 27 again and a King Air was nice enough to wait for me on 36. Not sure why he was launching on 36. The distraction made my pattern a little messy but it ended in a nice landing.

Beth and I then headed back for LL10. Beth was a little queasy from bumps but I was able to take her over our house. Back at LL10 I planned on landing on the grass 27 runway. I had to wait for a helicopter coming in from the west to hover down 27. I was coming from the east and had to maneuver for the 27 downwind so I waited outside the pattern or the helicopters more direct approach. We landed on the grass and taxied back to the fuel pumps.

Putting the plane away is a workout in itself. We have to fuel the plane for the next person. Put the plane back in the hanger which involves moving 3 large sliding doors and hooking an electric winch up to the airplane to pull it in the hanger. Then we wash the bugs off of the leading edges and the windshield. Naper Aero just installed some new fuel hose reels which wasn’t working properly for me. The reel wouldn’t lock into position after pulling the hose out. I eventually got that working. Then one of the wheels on the stairs we use for fueling the plane kept falling off. I fly a high wing Cessna so we need stairs to fuel the plane. I was exhausted after all this. It makes you wonder if short trips like this are worth it. In the end though the plane is ready and clean for the next pilot.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

HD Camcorder

I picked up a Canon VIXIA HF100 HD Camcorder recently. I wanted one for our trip to Hawaii and for doing some video from the PPG. I’m coming from an 8mm Digital camcorder so this thing is way ahead of that in terms of video quality, size, and weight. The HF100 uses SD cards for storage and records at full 1920x1080 resolution using the AVCHD storage format. The small amount of test video I have shot looks great even on the small LCD but looks fantastic connected directly to an HDTV. An 8 GB SD card can hold one hour worth of video at the highest quality. The highest quality (FXP) is the only one that records at 1920x1080. The others record at 1440x1080 which is anamorphic wide screen versus true 16:9 wide.

The confusion starts when you want to take the video from the SD card and publish it someplace like Vimeo or display on an HDTV through AppleTV. With all the various resolutions and frame rates to deal with it takes some time figuring out the right combinations. The HF100 not only records at 1920x1080 resolution but can also record at 60i, 30p, and 24p frame rates. Personally 60i has the smoothest playback but it is Interlaced. Everything computer related likes Progressive video. I did a lot of searching on the Net and there are good pieces of information out there as well as contradicting information. Since I’m using iMovie 08 to import, edit, and export video I found this guide, DVC Guide to iMovie 08 Editing. It explains all the differences between resolutions, frame rates, storage formats and also shows how to edit in iMovie. It gives steps on how to export video for various destinations; Vimeo, AppleTV, YouTube, etc. It also shows you how to save the original AVCHD files off of the SD card for backup.

iMovie can import Full 1920x1080 video but it takes a lot of hard drive space. In the testing I did a 2 minute video at highest quality was 250 MB on the SD card. When imported into iMovie at 1920x1080 it was just under 2 GB on the hard disk. Basically, if you aren’t uploading the video to Vimeo for 720p HD display then use the Large 960x540 import option in iMovie. Even the AppleTV only uses 960x540 when displaying on an HDTV.

Here are some test videos I shot with notes on recording, import, and export settings. I think test video #2 is the best workflow for Vimeo. Although Vimeo converts its videos to 24p and this was shot at 30p. This causes the video to be not as smooth as it would be at 30p. The camera will do 24p but I’m not crazy about the ‘film look’ for all my video.

I have noticed some jitters (jidders) in the video when recording at FXP. I’m not sure if this is due to the speed of the SD card or the OIS system on the camera. It seems to happen when panning and when the camera stops it kind of stutters the image. My testing was done with a 2 GB Class 4 card but I have 8 GB Class 6 cards now. I’ll do some more testing to see if it still happens. It may have just been amplified hand shake. You can see it on test video #3. I’ll post my findings if I figure it out.