PC Builds… They Can Be Evolutionary

A common misconception about my current PC is that I spent a lot all at once. This isn’t my first ever build, in fact this is probably my 6th or 7th build now, and when I say build, yes, I meant a PC that I bought the individual parts and had a friend over the years teach me how to build PCs until I can finally build PCs on my own. This doesn’t mean, however, that this is only my 6th or 7th PC I owned, nope, since my family had a PC that isn’t necessarily built by me, nor is it something that I can call my own.

Every time that I build a PC, I always start with the essential parts to get the PC up and running. This means that I may not have had a sound card, a disc drive (back in the day when they were more ubiquitous), or even a video card just yet. I then just add those other parts later down the road when I have saved enough money. Same goes for the peripherals.

This is especially true back then, since in those days, and when I first built my current PC, I was just a student, relying on me saving whatever I can from my allowance that my parents give me, heck, I even have to ask my parents to buy certain parts for me as a reward for my good performance in classes and such. Granted, now that I have a job, I can buy all the parts I want for a new build at once, but I will still most likely do the same thing I have done in the past – that is, build upon my build.

The purpose of this post is to give a bit of hope and inspiration for those who want to build a dream PC with multiple monitors, RGB lighting, a racing simulator, etc., and feel bad that they can’t achieve it overnight, over a month, or heck, over several years. A PC build, in my eyes, is evolutionary. My current rig was first built last 2012, which means I still rock the i7 3770 processor, and it is still a great processor and overall rig.

What I first do in new builds is of course, think of the end goal as to what I want to achieve with this build. Its final version so to speak.

I then start canvassing for parts and see where I can get a great deal. Let’s go back to 2012, I first bought my Intel i7 3770, 8GB (4GB x2) G. Skill Sniper 1600 RAM, a Corsair GS700 PSU, an ASRock Z77 Extreme 4 motherboard, and a Bitfenix Shinobi case. I then just used my 23″ LG IPS monitor, 17″ HP TN panel, and my 500GB Seagate HDD from my previous build and the other peripherals like keyboard, mouse, speakers, etc. Notice, no GPU just yet.

2012
2012

I then added an after market CPU heatsink, the DeepCool Ice Blade Pro, and shortly after, I got to save enough money, and it so happens, the new nVidia cards just released, so I got the GTX660Ti.

That is when I started to think about upgrading my peripherals starting with the keyboard. I always wanted a mechanical keyboard, so I got the Ducky DK9008 Shine 2 Cherry MX Blue mechanical keyboard.

2013
2013

Sometime passed again, and this time I upgraded my mouse to the Razer Deathadder (first and last time I ever bought a Razer product…) and replaced my monitors with 2 23″ Dell 2340L IPS monitors.

2014
2014

Another time has passed, I then upgraded my GPU to a Radeon R9 390, my first AMD/ATI GPU ever, since I have always been buying nVidia cards (and I have since returned to nVidia with my latest GPU, and with my experience with the R9 390, I think I will not go back to a Radeon card any time soon… more on this later), and added yet another 23″ Dell 2340L IPS monitor to finally reach one of my goals… having a triple monitor setup. I am no stranger to multimonitor setups, since I have always been using a minimum of 2 monitors since 2008, but only in 2015 did I finally get triple monitors. And yes, no cable management under the desk! CRINGE!

2015
2015

A year later, I got a better chair, this isn’t like the DX Racers or something, but it did the job. I also got a new printer. I also finally made a little effort to fix the cables under the desk. Having the printer helps hide the cables. Oh yeah, I also got a Logitech G600 MMO gaming mouse. This mouse has become a legendary mouse for me as it is one of the few pointing devices that was perfect for me and my uses. Sadly, it broke down… I can usually salvage it by repairing it myself, but this time, I couldn’t save it. I since then replaced it… more on this later.

2016-1
2016

Sometime later, I passed my medical licensure exam, and my first purchase with my first salary, was the new case, a Phanteks Enthoo Evolv. Notice the plastic is still there at that time. I also added a new extended mouse pad and a Logitech G13, as well as a Logitech G430 headset, and a Logitech F310… this is when I was really starting to be a Logitech fanboy.

I earned myslef a 4 day weekend, so what better way to sepnd it than to game!
2016

A year later, I finally bought an Ikea desk and a proper gaming chair. I also got a Logitech Z333 speaker system. Told you I was a Logitech fanboy.

UPGRADE THE BATTLESTATION!
2017

Later that year, I just upgraded my headset to the Logitech G933 and upgraded my controller to the Logitech F710.

Workstation update for my other sites
2017

It is well known that I love Formula 1 and I love racing games, so I finally got me a new wheel and pedal set (my first one was sometime 2008, but it was from an unknown brand. I recently found it in our storage room at the back of our house, just gotta make time to retrieve it and show it off), the Logitech G920. Logitech yet again!

2017-3
2017

I told you I love Formula 1! I then ordered a custom F1 rim from the guys at Speed Max Racing all the way from Italy, as well as a small LCD from them for my racing needs.

Finally got the adapter! Time for the setup of the custom wheel!
2017

From this point, I haven’t really upgraded anything on my PC, but I did upgrade my RAM to 16GB (4x4GB) G. Skill Sniper 1600 RAM, I have since then added 2 SSDs (Plextor 128GB and a Samsung 250GB), I also sleeved cable extensions for my PSU, but I can’t recall when I got these anymore. Nice to note that I still rock the Seagate 500GB HDD in my rig, because I have 8TB NAS storage for my photography and backups; the 500GB is just used for documents, eBooks, and whatnot.

The latest upgrade were made when my PSU and GPU, the Corsair GS700 and the Radeon R9 390, both finally bit the dust. I replaced the PSU with the ThermalTake Tough Power Grand Series 650W RGB and the GPU with a MSI GTX 2060 (I have returned to nVidia!). The latter of which reminded me of my love for nVidia because the temps are 20-30 degrees C lower than the R9 390 even on triple screen ultra gaming. So, I think it is also due to MSI’s twin frozr cooling, but the overall nVidia architecture. I mean, I knew that long ago, it has become a meme, that Radeons are way hotter than Geforce cards, but the R9 390 had a sweet price back then.

I also had to replace my Logitech G600 because I can no longer repair it (soldering new Omron switches, etc.), with a Corsair Scimitar PRO RGB. It is surprisingly similar to the G600, just lacking a few buttons here and there, and the Corsair iCue software isn’t as good as Logitech’s. But hey, I can no longer find a new or even used Logitech G600 any more, unless I want pay for international shipping that is frankly not worth it. So I finally from my Logitech fanboyism and got the Corsair Scimitar PRO RGB. Overall, I love this mouse, too; it will definitely be as loved as the G600.

2019-4
2019

And that’s it… for now… I think the next time I upgrade, it will be a new system… meaning a new processor, motherboard, RAM, etc. Whatever I can be salvaged from this current build, will be passed on to the new build, and you guessed it, I will build on the build from there.

So there, I didn’t buy all the components at once! I built upon it… it is evolutionary. So don’t fret, build upon your dream… after all, isn’t that what we do with our lives, too? Toil day and night at school, to one day get that dream job? So think of it that way. Heck  think about grinding in video games: you are just level 1 now and it sucks, but later on, you are level 99 with all the best gear and buffs. And what’s more important? You can look back and see the journey to how you got to your dream build. Like I did. Like I will.

And that’s that!

Til next time! PEACE!

SHODAN's Evolution


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What’s in My Camera Bag: Street Photography Edition

I get often asked by my friends what do I bring with me when I do street photography, since, after all, street photography is one my favorite genres of photography – I love taking the life of the city/street or the lesser known areas and not just the landmarks its known for; I love taking candid shots of people and how they naturally act; I love the thrill of walking the fine line of being artistic and not crossing anyone’s privacy; the list can go on… Thus the majority of my shots I usually post in social media are street photos.

But what do I bring with me in the streets?

Well, let us check out what is in my camera bag… and well, what is my camera bag, too! So, let’s start with the bag!

 


 


1. ZKIN Champ Camera Shoulder Bag

My first couple of shoulder bags were a small Lowerpro one (funny thing is, I don’t know where this bag is now) and a small Nikon branded shoulder bag. Back when I was still using the Nikon D5000 and didn’t have that much gear, these 2 bags worked like a charm. then inevitably, I upgraded my DSLR and got more lenses and other gear, I needed a new shoulder bag that can accommodate my needs for street photography.

I love simplicity in designs overall; retro/vintage shoulder bags fit the description I’m looking for. Not only do they look quite classy per se, but for the uninitiated, they wouldn’t know you are packing in expensive photography gear inside (until you whip out your gear, of course), and makes going around the busy streets of anywhere easy without getting too much attention (again, until you whip out your gear, of course).

Truth be told, I never heard of ZKIN (Heck, I thought it was pronounced as skin, but with a Z instead, when it is pronounced Z-KIN, or at least that is how it is as per their URL), but this seller caught my eye as the bag he was selling was the Champ series and it looked vintage/retro enough, and certainly quite simple in design, thus fitting the bill. Not to mention it was the right color, navy green cloth and dark brown leather. Perfect.

Upon receiving the shoulder bag, I just wanted to test its max capacity. Take note, I will never bring ALL the items I will mention in the next segment in this bag all the time, but it was only a proof of concept that this ZKIN Champ shoulder bag is indeed a good bag for my needs.

 

So, what are the things in the photo that the bag was able to hold?

  1. Nikon D7200 with Nikon MB-D15 battery grip attached
  2. Nikon SB-600 with diffuser and stand
  3. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM with lens hood (reversed)
  4. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM with lens hood (reversed)
  5. Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM with lens hood (reversed) and tripod collar
  6. Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2
  7. Extra 2x EN-EL15  batteries; 8x AA Eneloop batteries
  8. LYNCA SD Card Case (an over glorified one, as this one has a USB 3.0 card reader, but had water damaged. Thus an over glorified SD Card Case now)
  9. Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader (with an OTG dongle)
  10. Eneloop charger (with AC adapter)
  11. Nikon MH25a (with AC adapter; I don’t bring this anymore though, as I use the Wasabi Power Dual EN-EL15 charger)
  12. Romoss Solo 5 Powerbank (and Anker Micro USB cable)
  13. M Square passport case (for overseas travel… duh)
  14. Andoer 77mm filter kit (ND2, ND4, ND8, and CPL)

Quite bonkers to think that many items can fit in the ZKIN Champ! But it is heavy as you can imagine. Again, I don’t pack all these in the bag for most trips, this was just a proof of concept. I will make another post in this “What’s in My Camera Bag” series, this time what I would usually bring for Formula 1 weekends that uses a backpack instead of a shoulder bag.

I’ve owned this bag for almost a year, as I purchased this last April 2018, and we had a lot of adventures around the Philippines already, and been to Japan as well, and surely, I will be adding more places around the Philippines and more countries to its CV in the coming years.

I am quite obsessive compulsive when it comes to anything I own, but this is one of the things I own that I don’t mind it getting scuffed up and such, as I consider them as battle scars for our adventures.

One of the scuffs or battle scars of my bag

 

Sadly, I can’t find the Champ series of shoulder bags in ZKIN website anymore. They have the Hydra series on the site, though it appears to be smaller in capacity; they also have the Cetus series and Amarok series that are the closest in capacity as the Champ series available on the site as well.

ZKIN Hydra
ZKIN Cetus
ZKIN Amarok

 

And just look at it! It looks great while out on the streets!

 

Now let’s go talk about my DSLR!

 


 

 

2. Nikon D7200

My first DSLR was the Nikon D5000 back in 2010 and as I gotten the lenses I wanted and other gear I wanted, it was time to upgrade the camera body as it was also starting to hinder my creativity and growth as a hobbyist photographer, thus I chose to upgrade to the D7200 in 2018.

Wait… isn’t the D7500 available at this time?

Yes by 2018, the D7500 was already out for a few months, so why didn’t I go for that simply by adding a little more cash to get the newer model? Well, a simple, almost shallow reason… okay, it is shallow… I liked the battery grip better on the D7200 since the D7200 has contacts on the bottom of the body, thus not needing an external wire connecting from the battery grip to the accessory terminal. The D7500 doesn’t have contacts on the bottom and has to rely on wiring up the battery grip and connect it at the accessory terminal… sure, I have a lot of things dangling or connected to my D7200 as it is, but I seriously wouldn’t like a shutter release cable connecting the battery grip and body permanently sticking out.

Image result for d7200 battery grip

Very shallow reasoning isn’t it?

And truth be told, the Nikon MB-D15 battery grip doesn’t add any new feature to the D7200, heck, it only takes 1 battery, just like the body itself (you can place a battery in the D7200 prior to connecting the battery grip, then by using the menu, tell the D7200 what order of batteries to consume first – in my case, I have 3 EN-EL15 batteries, I can place one in the body and another one in the battery grip, tell the D7200 to use the one from the battery grip first, once consumed, replace it with my third battery, and when that is consumed, have the one in the body be used), so why even bother getting a battery grip for the D7200? Because I like big things… that sounded wrong. Another shallow reason, though. The battery grip makes it look like those high end pro DSLR bodies. That’s it.

Those shallow reasons over a better sensor and a newer model… I’m weird like that.

Though the D7500 has a better sensor,  I still love the upgrade in resolution and quality of shots with the D7200, not to mention better features, coming from a D5000 over the years. So, I’m still happy with using the D7200 and opting out of the D7500.

I mentioned that it has a lot of things attached on it as it stands, apart from the Nikon MB-D15  battery grip, I got the Peak Design V4 Anchors on each of the triangle split rings, and I also have the Andoer QR-60 on the bottom of the camera.

Andoer Qr-60 is an Arca Swiss compatible plate that has a loop/hook that can be tucked away for use with a monopod/tripod or be revealed to be used with a sling strap.

 

The Anchor V4, along with a Joby Tether, are for added security in case the loop/hook breaks off from the pivot point (unlikely, but no price for peace of mind), as seen in the following pics:

 

You can read more of these two products HERE.

Now, wait again! Why not mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC)?

Definitely don’t have that much extra cash to spend on a Sony, maybe a Fujifilm is possible, but that would mean me getting an adapter to use the system with my current lenses, lest I buy proprietary lenses for those systems.

Then comes the new Z series MILC from Nikon that even selling my kidney won’t be able to purchase one without getting into debt.

Thus, I stuck around the DSLR system for now. Maybe sometime in the future I will switch to the Z system of Nikon, but for the foreseeable future, I will be holding on to my D7200 for as long as I did with my D5000, or even longer.

Certainly the D7200 is not a camera to just laugh at, it has great performance for its time, and still is in most cases compared to other cameras right now. And whatever camera you have is already the best camera, as is the words of Chase Jarvis: “The best camera is the one that’s with you”. And I will make the most of my current gear.

Time to show the lenses I bring for street photography:

 


 

 

3. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM

The first lens I bought outside that of the kit lens that was included with the D5000.

I got this lens sometime September 2011, and it has been, and most of the time still is, my go to lens for most situations even if I have a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DS OC HSM (more on that later) and the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM (more on that on the next post on this series of “What’s in my Camera Bag”).

One of the reasons I wanted a prime lens was for me to think more of my shots instead of simply zooming. I also don’t crop my photos if I can, so putting that limitation on myself, forced myself to  make framing shots better.

Also, primes are fast lenses for street photography, and yes, I was already thinking about street photography at that time as a genre I want to get into in photography. Having a fast lens in the city streets is very handy, so you can take that perfect candid shot at that moment or take a shot of a stranger so quickly they won’t even notice you took it.

It may be a f/1.4 lens, but as you can imagine, it can get very soft at wide open, but sometimes you can get a good shot with it at that aperture.

For me, I usually shoot between f/2 and f/2.8, and only when I can have more time on a subject in the street that I try the aperture range of f/1.4 to f/1.8. Otherwise, I stay between f/2 and f/2.8 if I want that bokeh effect, and f/4 or f/5.6 for more of the image being in focus, sometimes even reaching as low as f/8 or f/11 to get nearly everything in the frame in focus.

This lens acts like the nifty fifties if you use it on a crop sensor body. In my case the Nikon D7200 has a crop factor of 1.5x thus a 30mm acts like a 45mm prime (30 x 1.5 = 45; or just get half the focal length and add it to the max focal length: 30 + 15 = 45), close enough for a 50mm prime.

Here are but some sample shots with the D7200 and 30mm f/1.4 combo (the 30mm f/1.4 has more sample shots combined with the D5000; I will probably post those in a different blog post):

 

Next lens!

 


 

 

4. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM

After purchasing the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM in 2011, I haven’t bought another lens until 2017, December 2017 to be exact. I gotten busy with medical school and such, that I was content with my 30mm f/1.4 and the kit lens that came along with my D5000.

As part of my upgrading plan, I decided to buy the Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM the month prior in November 2017, which was one of my original dream lenses for the “Trinity of Lenses” that I was trying to collect when I first bought the 30mm f/1.4, then stumbled upon the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM for a bargain price that I can’t say no to. Come on, it may not be the best standard zoom lens with f/2.8 fixed aperture, heck, the distance scale isn’t even in a window like my 30mm or 50-150mm lenses, but for its original store price being a bargain in itself, having it go on sale more, makes it all the more sweeter. And it does take good photos for what its worth.

The 17mm (17 x 1.5 = 25.5; simply 25mm) on a crop sensor body like the D7200 still offers quite a wide angle perfect for street photography, as it is effectively a 25mm at this point, practically 24mm like other standard zoom lenses for full frames, to literally get, the bigger picture, but can still zoom (max zoom at 50mm is effectively 75mm) to get those closer shots without having to be in the faces of people if they are your subject.

Being wide open at f/2.8 is more forgivable, unlike the 30mm at f/1.4, of course, so shooting at its widest is a pleasure. Then, like the 30mm, I stop down to f/4 or f/5.6 to get more of the frame in focus, and again like the 30mm, can go even lower to f/8 or f/11 to get even more of the frame in focus. It being a f/2.8 lens makes it quite a fast lens as well, and like I mentioned in the 30mm section, having fast lenses helps a ton in the streets.

Here are quite a number of sample shots with the D7200 combined with the 17-50mm f/2.8:

 


 

 

5. Nikon SB-600 Speedlight

Truth be told, you don’t need a flash during street photography, be it day time or night, well for me anyways, but I still bring it just in case I do need to illuminate an object or an area of interest in very, very, low light situations. Otherwise, I just bump the ISO quite a lot; on the D7200 I bump it up to 6400 if needed, it may get noisy,  but not so much that a photo is unusable. Plus, if you try to take photos of the people candidly, a flash will surely make them notice you.

Again, I still bring one flash for other situations that may indeed call for it.

Now let’s go talk about the other accessories, starting with my sling strap:

 


 

 

6. Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2

I was never fond of neck straps ever since I started with digital photography as a hobby. Back when I first began my hobby I got cheaper sling straps that are obvious knock offs of the Black Rapid variety.

Fast forward to when I got my license as a physician and got work as to not pester my parents for money for my hobbies anymore, I got myself the Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2, finally, after years of drooling over the Black Rapid sling straps.

Sling straps divert the weight that would be on your neck to your shoulder, effectively making it seem you are carrying a messenger/shoulder bag. This comes in handy if your camera gear as a whole is heavy – lesser strain on your neck.

Another good thing is that since it is just dangling on beside your hip, you can be a lot more mobile without having it to be quite bothersome as the day goes on if you just use a neck strap.

Lastly, you look less like a tourist. Not that I don’t like looking like a tourist when I travel especially to different countries; playing the tourist card can get you forgiven for the stupid things you might have done during the trip because you don’t know any better. But with this, you stand out less, so to speak.

Been using a sling strap for nearly 8 years now and I don’t plan on ever switching to a neck strap or any other type of gimmicky strap other than this sling strap.

This strap has the Joby Tether and a Peak Design strap connector for added security when used with the Andor QR-60.

 


 

 

7. Spare EN-EL15 batteries and AA Eneloop batteries

You can never tell when a simple street photo session can be short one lasting an hour or a long whole day adventure, so having spare batteries for the DSLR is obviously needed.

I have 3 EN-EL15 batteries in total, one from Nikon that came with the camera, and 2 others bought 3rd party, the Wasabi Power EN-EL15, that also came with a dual charger that actually takes in Micro USB instead of the standard AC, which is great if I travel out of town or out of the country, because by then, I would have also packed an Anker 5-port USB charger, thus one less thing to take up a socket.

In terms of performance vs the original Nikon OEM, the Wasabi Power EN-EL15 batteries are really great; holding a charge just as good, if not, slightly better, than my Nikon branded one. I highly recommend this brand if you need spare batteries  as they sell for Sony and Canon as well (haven’t checked if they started selling for Fujifilm).

The longest shoot I had was in Japan, for 3 consecutive days, I shot the whole day, for both street photography and during the Formula 1 race, and I never consumed more than 2 batteries on each of the 3 days. Having the 3rd one is still great just in case I do consume 2 batteries one of these days, but thus far, never consuming 2 batteries on a long day shoot.

The AA Eneloops are just for the flash if I really need it.

 


 

 

8. Spare SanDisk SDHC Cards, LYNCA Card Case, and Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader

Like the batteries, it is best practice to have spare SD/SDHC or whatever memory cards your camera is using.

In terms as to what speed/performance for your memory cards, that is based on what you are shooting really. For me, I don’t mind just using the SanDisk Ultra SDHC 32GB what has a write speed of at least 10MB/s; good enough for any day to day shooting.

For instances, like in Formula 1 races where I shoot Continuous High, I use the SanDisk Extreme PRO, which have a write speed up to 90MB/s; great to avoid buffering during this shots. Also great for long exposures, since it can take a while for it to write on the card.

A card case is simply for convenience. My LYNCA card case is an over glorified card case as it was once my USB 3.0 card reader as well. But water got into the contacts rendering it useless… I have since replaced the car reading duties with the Transcend USB 3.0 card reader and have a generic OTG dongle, so I can connect the reader to my phone and post straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) shots, if I feel like it.


 

 

9. Andoer 77mm Filter Kit

I chose to bring a ND2, ND4, ND8, and CPL 77mm filters in case the need calls for it. The Sigma 30mm is a 62mm threaded lens, so I also got a step ring just for it – I need not get the same filters for 62mm threads.

Wow, this is the shortest section of the blog post yet! Because, what else will I say? Oh wait, why Andoer? It is cheaper, that’s why, and I hardly use ND or CPL filters anyways, it is just there for those rare moments I do need them.

The next for is shot with D7200, 17-50mm f/2.8, and a ND8 filter; not a street photo, but yeah, whatever:

 


 

 

10. Dust blower and micro fiber clothes

Because after a shoot, or even during a shoot, dirt, moisture, etc., can be built up on the front of your lens, causing awful artifacts in some of your shots.

Plus… I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.

This is officially the shortest segment.

 


 

And those are the things I bring with me typically to a simple street photography session. Most cases I also travel out of town or country, so I have a backpack/luggage to keep the other things like chargers, AC cables, tripod/monopod/gorilla pod (if I deem that I need it), intervalometer (again, if needed), and rain cover for my gear (I usually read forecasts and pack accordingly. A great example was in Japan, where on the 3rd day I’m there, there will be a short afternoon shower during the Formula 1 race; I packed accordingly, and got to use the rain cover when the heavens opened up).

 

During qualifying for the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix; packed a rain cover for my camera since I read the forecast and packed accordingly. Again not a street photo shot, but whatever!

 

Other things like my phone, a powerbank and a micro USB cable, earphones, shades (just a pair, of course), can still fit inside the ZKIN Champ bag with my street photography gear if I choose to place them in there.

 

Knoll shot up ahead:

 

And the following photos are how I usually pack my ZKIN Champ bag with the street photography gear:

With the front of the bag facing me, I usually place the Nikon SB-600 on the left compartment and the dust blower can be tucked on top; in the middle, the Nikon D7200 lies and still have space on top of it in case I want to place anything else; and finally, the Sigma 30mm and 17-50mm stacked on top of one another on the right compartment
The space between the case insert and the bag itself I can tuck away the Andoer filter kit and the Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2 strap
Left front pocket is reserved for the SD/SDHC card case, card reader, and the OTG dongle; still room for anything else
The right front pocket is the “power pocket” where the extra EN-EL15 batteries are placed
Continuing the theme of “power pocket”, the Eneloop batteries can be placed in here, too; there is still space to place a powerbank if I choose to do so.
Back pocket is a catchall, if you will, I place the flash stand, microfiber cloth, and anything else really
And still looking good with all that!

 

Thus with that, this post is done! Tune in next time if ever I do make a sequel to this series, this time what I bring during a Formula 1 event!

Til next time! PEACE!



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Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Days 3 and 4!

FINALLY! It only took over 3 months to completely post my Japan trip!

This post is dedicated to Days 3-4!

Again, this is a very word and photo heavy post!


DAY 3

Let’s Go!!!

Similar to Day 2, I packed the same gear and such, had the same big breakfast at the hotel, made my way to the station, but this time, the Kintetsu first class tickets were sold out and the earliest was 10:30AM departure, which isn’t entirely too bad, as the race will begin at 2PM and the dirvers’ parade, for which I missed the drivers’ parade in Singapore last year, is at 12PM, and calculating the travel time, I might just be able to make in time for the parade.

I would have opted for the non first class ticket, which I should have, if I really wanted to see the parade , but I guess I just wanted to have good seating for the trip back to the track.

Needless to say, I didn’t make it on time for the parade, since there were some unexpected slowdowns of the train ride, due to how busy that day is, so knowing that I missed yet another drivers’ parade, I opted to just rest up before the race that will start in a little over an hour and just eat.

Won’t really be exploring a lot before the race as I know there will much time for that after the race; it is nice to not as well that I have purchased a return ticket for the shuttle service this time around since I don’t plan on going as late as the day before, but that would be slightly my undoing, as we will get to that later.

Grabbed a bottle of water and Coke once again, this time bought a few more F1 tokens, but smaller compared to the day before, so lugging it to my designated seating area is not so bad this time. And there I went, through the same uphill and downhill walkabouts towards my seat before the race begins. With my exhaustion from the past two days catching up to me in record time, I really felt the fear that my right knee will just give way and I will be carried off by the medical staff around the track. Thankfully, my knee held up, but the day is still young, and it will be tested until I reached my hotel later this day. Well, then some, seeing I had a hard time walking when I got back to the Philippines for a week at least.

I got to my seat, panting like there was no tomorrow, but I had to hold it in and save face, as the day before, I forgot to mention, that I befriended a man from Australia, James, and I also befriended a family of 3 from the States, but for the life of me, I only remember 1 member of the family, their daughter, Taylor. Curiously, the day before, there was an empty seat between me and James, so I knew it will be occupied this day, and yes, I was right, and I made yet another friend, Wei-Ting, who resides in Taiwan.

I mentioned that Day 2 is probably the best day of the entire trip, and nothing can get better than going thru the pit lane and track, but establishing friendships is just as much of a highlight as those things that happened in Day 2.

I made friends as well in Singapore during the race, and it was great to meet new people that love the sport you do and are from different ethnicity and such, for when the time comes you visit their country, they will be more than happy to meet you up and show you around. Such is the case with Robert, from Hong Kong, whom I met during the Singapore Grand Prix, and when I went to Hong Kong last year, he went out of his way to meet me and my sister for dinner and talk about, none other, but F1!

And I, in turn, if they ever visit here in the Philippines, I will surely meet up with them!

Got a lot of better pictures this time around since the lighting was better than it was during Qualifying, so here are at least 1 per driver… Again, I will not bombard you will all the pictures.

Kimi Raikkonen, #7, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Sebastian Vettel, #5, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Lewis Hamilton, #44, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Valtteri Bottas, #77, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Daniel Ricciardo, #3, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Max Verstappen, #33, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Nico Hulkenberg, #27, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Carlos Sainz, Jr., #55, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Fernando Alonso, #14, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Stoffel Vandoorne, #2, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Charles Leclerc, #16, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37; notice the broken nosecone after colliding with Kevin Magnussen in the start/finish straight
Marcus Ericsson, #9, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Pierre Gasly, #10, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Brendon Hartley, #28, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Sergio Perez, #11, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Esteban Ocon, #31, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Kevin Magnussen, #20, Haas F1 Team, VF-18
Romain Grosjean, #8, Haas F1 Team, VF-18
Sergey Sirotkin, #35, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Lance Stroll, #18, Williams Martini Racing, FW41

When the race was through, we just had to have a picture as new found friends. And exchanged social media information, then it was time to part ways and hope to meet each other again somewhere and some time in the future.

Panorama!
New found friends! Wei Ting from Taiwan and James from Austrailia!
New found friends! Taylor and her father, from the States!
Just had to ask Wei Ting to take a photo of me overlooking Turns 1 and 2!
Happy Hamilton Fans!

I wanted to reach my hotel by 7PM or 8PM at the most to buy some more souvenirs for my friends and maybe eat some more sushi nearby, so seeing as it wasn’t even 4PM, I wanted to photograph and get photographed in the places of interest I missed out the day before.

2018 Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13
2018 Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13
2018 Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13
2018 Scuderia Toro Rosso STR13 and me!

Since this is Japan, of course, Honda is the star, thus why Toro Rosso (whose engine supplier is Honda after the debacle with McLaren; and Honda will supply big sister, Red Bull, next season) is big during the race event. Also, Honda had a very successful run with McLaren in the late 80s and early 90s, with drivers like Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost manning the helm (yes, McLaren and Honda had a great run!). Also to note that Senna already had a history with Honda in the Lotus before he moved to McLaren and Honda also supplying McLaren from that point onward.

I say these, because since Honda is obviously a Japanese brand, they will showcase the Formula 1 cars that they powered!

So here are the more famous Honda powered cars!

1968 Honda RA301, famously driven by the 1964 Fq World Champion, John Surtees
1968 Honda RA301, famously driven by the 1964 Fq World Champion, John Surtees
2006 Honda RA106 as driven by Jenson Button, who would late with the F1 World Championship in 2009, where the Honda team was bought outright by Ross Brawn and became Brawn GP
2006 Honda RA106 as driven by Jenson Button, who would late with the F1 World Championship in 2009, where the Honda team was bought outright by Ross Brawn and became Brawn GP
1987 Lotus 99T driven by the legendary Ayrton Senna; this marked his last year in Lotus before switching to McLaren the following season
1987 Lotus 99T driven by the legendary Ayrton Senna; this marked his last year in Lotus before switching to McLaren the following season
1991 McLaren MP4-6, a car in which Ayrton Senna won his third F1 World Championship; McLaren also won the F1 Constructors Championship for the 4th consecutive season
1991 McLaren MP4-6, a car in which Ayrton Senna won his third F1 World Championship; McLaren also won the F1 Constructors Championship for the 4th consecutive season

After seeing this cars, I had a little more exploration, made more friends, that’s when I decided it was time, with a heavy heart, to leave for Nagoya, so I can buy more souvenirs and start packing for my flight the next day.

Closest I got to a grid girl the entire weekend lol
With The Ice Army of China! More Kimi Raikkonen fans!

Thank you Suzuka Circuit!

When I reached the main entrance, a big banner saying goodbye to us and that “always be together” is perfect; indeed, we may not really know each other, not all fans got the result they want for their team or driver, but we share one thing in common… the wonderful, magical, experience of a grand prix weekend… and it will be that common thing that will bring us together… always.

Worked my way back to where the shuttles were at, bypassing the ticket booth since I already bought my return ticket, and boy, the line… was… crazy. I think it took me over an hour to finally got on to a shuttle, and upon arriving in Shiriko Station, I just missed out on the Kintetsu first class ticket once again, and had to wait well past 9PM to avail for one, so I took the non first class ticket and went on my way.

It was at this point that I thought to myself that next time there is a shuttle service at the end of a grand prix event, that it is better to do what I did the night before and just use a taxi. Thought it may be expensive, at least it will be less hassle.

At first I thought I can just stand on the train ride back home, since there wasn’t that many seats available, but I was wrong in about 30 or so minutes time, my legs were giving way, so I asked if I can squeeze in between some nice fellows since my knees were dying.

I was a bit embarrassed to do so, but I just can’t stand any longer as my knees were really giving up on me. This is why a DSLR backpack trolley will be immensely useful in future travels.

I also made sure that if any of my seatmates left their seats, I will create a big space for anyone else that wants to use it.

I then reached Nagoya, but it isn’t over! I still had to walk to my hotel… But before that, I decided to buy the souvenirs just in case the shops will close.

After buying the souvenirs, I let in a deep breath and make my way to the hotel. I was very hungry… I was very thirsty… My knees were not cooperating… I was sweating profusely… I was just hoping to make it safely to my hotel. AND I DID!

I let out a triumphant cry in my hotel room!!

IT WAS A SUCCESSFUL DAY YET AGAIN!

Rested up my knees… drank a bottle of Coke I had in the fridge… and took some pain killers. I was recuperating.

Before I went out yet again to eat, preferably sushi, I had to once again reflect on this day, and the whole trip.

I said I learned a lot last year in the Singapore Grand Prix, and indeed, I took what I learned to the Japanese Grand Prix, and with what I learned in the Japanese Grand Prix, I can improve on that further and be even more prepared for the next Grand Prix weekend than I felt that I already was in Japan.

I will invest on a DSLR backpack/trolley; I will get one of those reusable grocery bags with a zipper for my drinks, towels, and whatnot, during the Grand Prix weekend; I will also buy a stadium cushion that can be used on bleachers or seats for extra comfort, while watching the race; and a monopod – even if my Nikon D7200, with a Nikon MB-D15, a Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM, and Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter, all combined, isn’t all too heavy for whole day hand held shooting, I feel I will have more stable shots consistently with a monopod. Just remember when you zoom in completely far out with a telephoto lens, that the minute movement makes it hard to keep a subject in place, so a monopod will keep me consistent in that regard.

Rested enough and my stomach begging for some sustenance, I went my way back out and went to a nice little sushi shop near the station.

You just gotta have sushi in Japan!

It was a perfect way to cap off my day and trip.

It was cozy for someone like me, and I loved it.

Explored a little bit more of the city, without a camera to take pics with, soaking in as much of Nagoya and Japan I can before heading back to the hotel and pack up.

Nothing like watching “Love Live! Sunshine!!” while packing!

Before I knew it, it was 2AM when I got done packing, and I plan to leave for the airport before 7AM, which thankfully, I bought a first class Meitetsu ticket after dinner.

Slept only an hour before I had to ready up myself and that is how I consider now it is Day 4… time to go home.


DAY 4

Thank you Nagoya, Japan! Stay awesome!

Went out to find a vending machine to get coffee and still soak in more of Japan before I check out and go to the station. It was, again, a surreal feeling. Being in the country I am so in love with, and having to watch the race in a track that I had dreamed of many times when I was a kid. All this, traveling alone, in a country I have never been to before, and only using my prior research of the place, and my lackluster Japanese phrases. I was really at the top of my game… I was really accomplished. The only thing left is to have enough energy and enough right knee left to make it back to the Philippines.

Check out in VIA INN was pretty awesome, just stick your key card in a machine, and you are good to go. Then I used their PC to print out my ticket, gave my thank you to the staff, and off I go to the station one more time in this trip.

The train ride, at 7AM, going through different areas of Japan, from Nagoya going all the way to Chubu Centrair International Airport, provided a nice, heartfelt “farewell, and see you later!” from Japan. The skies were so clear, the sun was happily out, caressing the beauty that is Japan. I was close to tears again at this point at what I just accomplished.

Having some more souvenir purchases inside the airport, maybe find anything else I want to buy for my camera since they have a BIC Camera inside as well, drowned in so much more coffee so I can use up my coins, but later found out I can just donate them in a box, and so I did.

Time to head back home…

Finally, it was time to board. And I just had to think to myself, “Arigatou, Japan! I will see you again real soon!”

Back home in the Philippines, as per usual, a wall of heat greeted me, telling me that I am indeed back in the Philippines. Met up with my mom and our driver, Rico, and we all drove back to Angeles City, a good 2 hours away from NAIA, and boy, I think my exhaustion caught up big time, and I got dizzy in the drive back home.

When I got back home, I gave my dad a hug, and greeted him a belated happy birthday since I was in Japan when it was his birthday, when straight to the bathroom, vomited because I was so dizzy from the drive back, went to my room without talking about the souvenirs I got for my family or that of my friends, didn’t change out of my clothes, and didn’t even bother going to my mattress that was already on the floor, and just decided to lay on the rug and I got knocked out for several hours.

Upon waking up, I was so eager to show my family my pictures I got from the trip. It was at this point, that my dream, indeed came true.

And with that!

My blog for the entire trip is done! Took only over 3 months to post!

Til’ next time!

PEACE!

P.S.

It is not easy attending a Grand Prix weekend! I got some bruises  from the event lol

Bruise on my right forearm
Bruise on my left hand
Wound on my right leg

How I Use My DSLR on an Arca-Swiss Compatible Tripod/Monopod While Still Being Able to Use a Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2 Without Unscrewing Anything (almost)

I, for one, never got into using neck straps for cameras. Even when I got my Nikon D5000, I only used the neck strap once while I was waiting for a sling strap. Now take note, that sling strap I bought back then when I first started in my hobby of digital photography was a cheapo Black Rapid knock off, because, well, I was still a medical student, and it was my parents that helped me pay for my Nikon D5000, so I don’t have much of my oen money to spend on accessories. But simply put, as early as I got into photography, I knew I would not be using a neck strap.

Granted, I am talking about the stock neck strap that comes along with a brand new DSLR, MFT, MILC, etc. Most of the aftermarket neck straps like the Cecilia or Peak Design neck straps are indeed a far better cry that the stock ones, but I still had my reasons for not wanting to use a neck strap.

My reasoning for not using a neck strap were a bit odd, but some are justified. Let us go through them:

  1. They are not comfortable:
    • shooting all day, especially with the stock straps, can give me neck pain and it can be a bit annoying when you consciously feel it on your neck the whole day.
  2. They can be quite attention grabbing:
    • practically, you are a walking ad with that big camera manufacturer logo; I do take a lot of street photography and want to be incognito as much as possible. TAKE NOTE, THOUGH! I am still very interested in the Black Rapid Nikon AN-SBR2 sling strap, albeit, attention grabbing (lol)
    • When travelling to a different city/country, you can look more of a tourist than you already are (lol)
  3. May slip off shoulder if used as a shoulder strap:
    • If using it as a neck strap isn’t for you, you can always make it like a shoulder bag and carry it that way, but the stock strap does not grip too well and may slip off your shoulder.
  4. Too small to be used as a cross body sling:
    • Like using it as a shoulder strap, you can just try and use it as a cross body sling strap, but it is far too small to do so.
  5. Future proofing my comfort with heavy lenses:
    • Even when I first started out with my Nikon D5000, I knew I will be collecting heavy lenses and most likely upgrade my DSLR body. It may be 4-5 years off, but I always like to at least try and future proof my comfort – using a neck strap while using a telephoto lens will tip the center of gravity.
  6. Too mainstream (lol)
    • Yeah… everyone has it.

See? Told you my reasoning is shallow, but here we are.

Image result for quick strap
Cheap Black Rapid knock off… the Quick Strap

The very first sling strap I own, as mentioned above, was a cheapo sling strap simply called Quick Strap. From 2010-2015, I actually used this in every event, every trip, absolutely anything.

Around 2015, I would have already owned a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM (bought at 2011) and a Yongnuo YN465 Speedlite Flash (also bought 2011), along with my Nikon D5000, it was fairly heavy altogether. I mean, nowadays, I realized that combination wasn’t at all heavy, since my current gear are more heavy, but for what it’s worth back then from 2010-2015, even if this is a knock off sling strap, it did it job well.

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Black Rapid FastenR

One thing I like about the Quick Strap quick release plate system is that the 1/4″ screw that is used to attach the quick release plate also has 1/4″ threading on the opposite side, so you can still use you tripod without having to remove the strap’s plate, unlike that of the Black Rapids that use a D-ring fastener, named FastenR, as seen above.

Image result for Blackrapid RS7
Black Rapid RS-7

By 2016, I wanted to finally get a Black Rapid strap. I got the Black Rapid RS-7, though a bit late to the party, because this was released around 2010, if I am not mistaken, and there was already a Black Rapid RS-Sport available with the Brad Strap (the strap that loops around under your armpit to keep the strap from sliding too much), but around 2016 I just starting working as a physician since I just passed my licensure exam earlier that year. So I wasn’t in the realm of affording the more expensive sling straps from Black Rapid.

I loved the RS-7, since knowing that the cheapo knock off worked so well, I had no doubt that the Black Rapid RS-7 will hold up to any sort of condition.

My only gripe was, as was already mentioned, is that the FastenR takes up the tripod mount screw from the bottom of the camera, so if you want to use a tripod, you have to unscrew the FastenR, screw in the quick release plate from your tripod, and when you are done, you do the opposite. Time consuming. But I wasn’t all too bothered.

By 2017, I started to get into photography again big time, so it was time to complete my version of Holy Trinity of Lenses: I got a Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM and a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM, to join my “go-to” lens that I already own, the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM. I also got a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash to finally replace my Yongnuo YN465 Speedlite Flash.

Now with my new gear, especially if I attach the 50-150mm lens along with the SB-600 flash, unto my Nikon D5000, it was certainly very heavy and the center of gravity certainly shifted towards the front, so I have to screw in the FastenR onto the telephoto lens’ tripod collar to alleviate it. This adds to another set of time consuming screwing/unscrewing if I switch lenses (thus changing the center of gravity again), or if I need to use the tripod on the tripod collar for the telephoto lens. Again, I wasn’t all too bothered.

As 2018 rolled in, I did upgrade my Nikon D5000 to a Nikon D7200 and also grabbed the Nikon MB-D15 battery vertical grip (one of the major reasons why I chose the D7200 over the D7500 – the latter doesn’t have contacts on the bottom of the camera to communicate with a battery vertical grip without using a cable on the side). This is definitely a big heavy upgrade once again, and the Black Rapid RS-7 had no problems with my new current gear, even at its heaviest configuration. And the comfort, as always with any sling strap I ever used, was there.

Some would argue that it bumps on your hip too much, but overall, I don’t even notice it too much.

Image result for focus f1 strap
Focus F1
Image result for black rapid rs sport 2
Black Rapid RS-Sport version 2

It is at this year I also added 2 more sling straps: a Focus F1 sling strap and (finally) a Black Rapid RS-Sport version 2 (slimmer version than the original). The former is more of a backup and the latter is more of my “go-to” sling strap. As for my Black Rapid RS-7, I gave it to my dad, and he is still using it to the fullest.

The comfort is there… all throughout the years that I have been using a sling strap, no matter the brand, or lack thereof, but the screwing/unscrewing for the tripod mount, is starting to annoy me.

Image result for zomei z699c
Zomei Z699C

I also recently got a Zomei Z699C (review later on), that takes advantage of an Arca-Swiss standard quick release plate, so I thought, there has to be an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate that can also easily hook up with a sling strap.

There was a famous video on how to still use your tripod easily that uses Arca -wiss standard, while your camera either has a L-bracket or the tripod plate:

Black Rapid FastenR Tripod

And there is of course, the Black Rapid FastenR Tripod, that is essentially a D-ring that can hook up to your sling strap and the can be tucked away if you need to use the tripod/monopod. The idea here is that you replace the screw from the quick release system with one of these.

The former method, since I live in the Philippines, is not as easy to get the items shipped here for a decent shipping fee… Heck, I recently got 4 SDF Macros figurines, shipping was 60 bucks and then I had to pay another 80 bucks for import fees… I nearly died.

The latter seems to be too thin of a metal holding in the ring to really carry my gear in its heaviest configuration.

There has to be another way!

Arca-Swiss Compatible Fusion Plate – Black
Fusion Photo Gear: Arca Swiss Compatible Fusion Plate:

I chanced upon a the Fusion Plate from Fusion Photo Gear. As seen from above, it is an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate that happens to have a loop for your sling strap and that can be tucked away when it is time to place it on a tripod/monopod.

Sadly, as already mentioned, it is tough for me to get it shipped here in the Philippines, so I was just looking for any product similar that is available locally, or granted, if it were shipped, have it easily shipped without too much fuss.

Plus the price… I wasn’t willing at first to spend 65 bucks on this plate (maybe later on lol), so I found one that is of similar design from Andoer.

Image result for andoer qr60
Andoer QR-60
Image result for andoer qr60
Andoer QR-60

As you can see, it is similar in design, and the price is better, but you get what you pay for, as they say; so far, it is holding up VERY well even with my current gear on its heaviest configuration.

I even spent an entire day using this on the tripod collar of the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM (plus lens hood for the heck of it) with the Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter, all attached on the Nikon D7200 that has the Nikon MB-D15 (I placed 1 EN-EL15 battery inside the D7200 body and another on the MB-D15 battery vertical grip to add more weight), and added the Nikon SB-600 (4 AA Eneloop inside), and it had no problem carrying it all in the loop. NOTE: This is my gear’s heaviest config, but I don’t find myself using this config for any future shoot… it is just to test the QR-60.

What I feared at first for both the Fusion or Andoer plate is if the aluminum loop is a single piece of metal that hinges on the bigger black aluminum plate. It turns out that the loop is of several components: 1 is the actual aluminum loop, a couple of ball bearings to lock the loop in certain angles, and a very sturdy metal rod to attach the loop on the metal plate. This is important to me, because if it was a single piece of aluminum hinging on the plate, there is a bigger chance of failure, but having a separate rod, lessens the failure. It can still fail… but not as likely.

Image result for joby tether
Joby Tether

Of course! I am still worried that a failure will indeed occur, so I added a Joby Tether, which according to research, can hold up to 15lbs of gear; now my gear in its heaviest is not 15lbs, it is more of 10lbs, but upon receiving this item in the mail, I tested it with my gear, holding the tether, and dropping my gear towards my bed (DUH!), and it does carry my gear perfectly without snapping it. This isn’t meant to carry your gear the whole day, though it can, it is more of security, so when something fails, this will give you enough time to pick up your gear as it dangles.

And so, the last problem with this tether is that I have to hook it to one of the strap eyelet or the triangle split ring on the camera body itself, then the carabiner to be hooked on to your sling strap, but as you can see from the pic above, the carabiner on the tether is not that easy to unhook. I will not place this carabiner on the Black Rapid CarabineR itself, because I also categorize that as a possible failure point, so the tether’s carabiner should be hooked on the sling on its own directly.

Peak Design Anchor Links Strap Connector V4

Thus I decided to purchase a Peak Design Anchor Links Strap Connector V4; well, I wanted to purchase it, but my mom insisted she buy it for me for my upcoming birthday. So there.

I looped one end of the Joby Tether to one of the Peak Design Anchor Links, and one of the Anchors will be looped on one of the strap eyelets/triangle split ring of the camera it self, acting as a quick release system, while the carabiner of the tether is permanently in placed in the sling.

So, let us see how I set it up!

The Andoer QR-60 attached to the tripod mounting screw; this is important, because with the Black Rapid FastenR, I had to unscrew it in order to place the Arca-Swiss compatible plate to use it on my tripod/monopod
If I want to use my Black Rapid RS-Sport V2 or any sling strap, I just pull down the loop
Hook up my sling strap!
Combined the Joby Tether with one of the Peak Design Anchors Links
Added one of the Peak Design Anchor V4 to one of the triangle split rings
Hooked up the Joby Tether’s carabiner to the sling strap; best if it is ahead of you sling strap’s own carabiner
Then link up the Peak Design Anchor Link and Anchor V4! You are done!
All I have to do is reverse the process, then I can now mount it on a tripod/monopod, granted it uses Arca-Swiss compatible mounts, without having to unscrew anything… except the actual screw to lock or unlock the plate on the tripod/monopod (told you from the title… almost…)
I also added another Andoer QR-60 on my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM’s tripod/monopod collar
Same concept, pull down the loop from the Andoer QR-60, hook up your sling strap’s carabiner, then connect the Peak Design Anchor Link and Anchor V4 for added security if something fails, and you are good to go!
Again, just reverse the process, then you can mount it easily on a tripod/monopod! Note, I also added the Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter just for testing of carrying around the heaviest configuration of my camera. That is: Nikon D7200, with Nikon MB-D15 battery vertical grip (1 EN-EL15 inside the actual body and 1 EN-EL15 on the battery vertical grip for added weight), Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM, Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter, and I then added the Nikon SB-600 (with 4 AA Eneloops insde), just to have the heaviest configuration and walk around the house for some time. It all held up wonderfully.

And there you have it! That is how I use my DSLR that has a Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2 (or any sling strap that applies) on an Arca-Swiss compatible tripod/monopod! It may be quite a lot of components, but it works, and it is quick to switch between the use of a sling strap and then mounting it on a tripod/monopod.

Hope this helps!

Cheers!

Nikon D7200 “Peaked”

NOTE: ALL PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST BELONG TO THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS.


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Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Day 2!

Continuing from my previous post of my trip to Japan!

This post is dedicated to Day 2!

Again, this is a very word and photo heavy post!


DAY 2

The night before, I packed up my gear that included Fancier DSLR Backpack (which funnily enough, I bought way back in 2011 when I only owned a Nikon D5000, kit lens, and a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens; I knew I would, one day or another, have more, bigger lenses, and DSLR… I was right):

PHOTO_20181006_020135

  •  Nikon D7200 with a Nikon MB-D15 battery grip
  • Nikon Speedlight SB-600 with Eneloop Batteries
  • Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
  • Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM
  • Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG
  • 3x EN-EL15 batteries (2x Wasabi branded and 1x Nikon OEM)
  • 2x SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC, 1x SanDisk ULTRA 32GB SDHC (kept inside SD card case of course)
  • Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader (since my LYNCA card reader/card case swallowed a ton of water and buggered out), along with an OTG cable (The Nikon D7200 can be wirelessly tethered to my Android phone, but if you take more than 100 shots, it takes a long time to find those couple of photos to upload without post processing, thus an OTG cable with a card reader is much faster)
  • BlackRapid RS-Sport Version 2 Sling Strap
  • Joby GorillaPod (not used lol)
  • ND Filters (also not used lol)
  • DSLR Rain Cover (because I knew it would rain)
  • ROMOSS Solo 5 10,000mAh Power Bank

Then I also packed in a separate plastic bag:

  • LOTS of face towels
  • Umbrella (because of course)
  • Couple of bottled water (some tracks don’t allow you to bring outside drinks, so double check on the track you are visiting; of course the sell drinks track side, but sometimes it can get a bit pricey, so getting a couple of bottles will hold you off until the time you really need to buy from trackside)
  • Extra shirt
  • Alcohol (of the Isopropyl variety of course)

Ate a big breakfast at the hotel to keep me satisfied during the train ride to Suzuka as it takes at least an hour to reach Shiriko Station in Suzuka, and at least 30 mins to reach the track by way of shuttle service.

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I used the Kintetsu line to get to Suzuka, and much like the Meitetsu line, I opted for the first class tickets in order to enjoy the ride, and again, I usually spend a bit more to be comfortable during travels/commute because of my right knee, and boy was my right knee tested this whole trip and I learned new things to better prepare on my next travels to ease the pain on my right knee.

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The train ride was really comfortable and fast; great to see the scenery, but since this is a main train line between lots of cities and such, you don’t really see the country side, but there are some areas of pure green fields to marvel at. And not to turn down the city side view, as we all know, that Japan, and not limited to Tokyo, have beautiful cities that are well managed and well planned. So it still quite a beautiful sight!

Welcome to Suzuka!

Arriving at Shiriko Station at Suzuka, you can clearly see the signs to help you reach the shuttle service in order to reach the track since the track is not close to the station. You are certainly not alone, so you will see fellow fans locally or fellow foreigners, so if you can’t see the signs, just follow a fellow fan, and you will be all right.

After the shuttle parked up near Suzuka Circuit, it is at this moment where you have to purchase a ticket for the shuttle you used in order to enter the track, for 900 Yen; this is also where you can get a return ticket for the shuttle service – the combined price for the return ticket is 1700 Yen – also purchasing the return ticket now not only gives you a slight discount, but let’s you avoid queuing up at the ticket booth later in the day. At this day, I just got the 1 way ticket because I knew I will be going home late and will use the taxi services instead.

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First thing I noticed is that the Suzuka Circuit has a lot of uphill and downhill walkways; don’t get me wrong, they are made in a way that the average person can traverse to (well some walkways are REALLY steep, which I will get into later on), but having come from Singapore Grand Prix in the Marina Bay Street Circuit, being a street circuit, it was definitely more flat terrain that was far more easy for me to walk around the track in. Plus having to carry like 10lbs of camera gear may not sound a lot, but having to lug it around on a not so flat terrain for the majority of the day on a bad right knee, can certainly take its toll on me. This is one of the new lessons I learned in this Grand Prix weekend – that is to invest on one of those DSLR backpack that doubles as a trolley so I can just drag my gear around the circuits in the future.

After a couple of minutes walking from the shuttle stop to the main entrance, it was a sight that made me want to tear up.

Suzuka Circuit
Note: I already got my plastic ID ticket when I started having self portraits lol

Suzuka Circuit

I mentioned already that I have always dreamed of visiting Japan because of my numerous hobbies that are link to the culture of Japan, and being a F1 fan since 1996, Suzuka Circuit is one of those tracks I always dreamed of visiting on a Grand Prix weekend, but honestly never thought it can come true, yet, there I was… in Japan… And right in front of the famous main entrance for the famous Suzuka Circuit… God is great indeed!

My Happiest Place on Earth

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Inside the circuit premises, it is like home for a Formula 1 fan as you’d expect; I see everyone wearing their colors to support their team and/or driver… I see everyone interacting with strangers to talk about the sport we love, befriending them, and helping one another getting photos of each other or even together to mark a special weekend and keep for memories.

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You see all the booths much like I did in Singapore, selling what can be considered overpriced F1 gear if you haven’t already ordered some of the gear online elsewhere prior to the event. They also sell limited edition memorabilia, like the Kimi Raikkonen Suzuka Edition that was sold out minutes as soon as the shops open I heard, and thus, one of the special edition shirts I was so hell bent on purchasing was gone before I even got to the track that Saturday morning. F1 fans, I included, will pay a premium for any F1 gear we deem worth it… and Raikkonen is one of my all time favorite drivers, who is famous everywhere, but ever more so in Japan.

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Lots of places to eat and grab drinks as well. From your typical western style food, to the more local Japanese food.

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Since the track premises also house MOTOPIA, a themepark, there are numerous rides if you are into that sort of thing. Deeper within the track premises and ever closer to the actual track, you can also ride the famous Ferris wheel that is a fixture in the skies eavh time I watch the Japanese Grand Prix on TV. I was about to avail for the ride, but I did so much elsewhere around the track, and the queue was really getting long for that particular ride, that I thought to myself that this will give me another reason to return to Suzuka in the near future just to ride this Ferris wheel.

Kimi Fans United!

Many of my friends called me out for wearing Ferrari colors last year for the Singapore Grand Prix, calling me crazy spending on the gear (not gonna lie, the Formula 1 shirts, caps, and whatnot are pretty pricey indeed), as if they themselves don’t spend a lot on basketball jerseys or the like, but unlike Singapore, the fans here in Japan are all out! The fans in Singapore (plus the fans that traveled to Singapore) also showed their love and colors for the sport, but here in Japan (and again the fans that also traveled to Japan), the fans are not shy to show their love and passion for the sport! I mean, they aren’t shy to show their love for any hobbies they have, and that is one of the major reasons why I love Japan and its people.

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With Sebastian Vettel (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With My Hero, Kimi Raikkonen (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With Fernando Alonso (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With Sebastian Vettel (Uhm, Close Enough!)

You see people wear face tattoos, wearing racing overalls and helmet, you see them making big banners for their favorite team/driver, etc. This may not be a big deal for other sports like basketball, but unlike basketball, though F1 being famous, is just not as famous to my friends. So seeing other passionate people as I am gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that I finally belong somewhere.

It is also of note, that I still haven’t gotten my plastic ID ticket yet, since the pick up point is in the GP Square right next to the track that is a bit further from the main entrance.

Kimi for President!

Thus, walking towards the pickup point, I obviously took my time to look around the track, maybe buy a couple or more gear and such; meet new people, befriend them, and trade social media info; and of course, take a ton of photos of the life inside the event and have some self portraits for memories.

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I then got my ID ticket and felt more empowered… well it doesn’t really do much, but having to wear the ID around the track feels oh so good.

Suzuka Circuit

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Did a little more exploring, then grabbed a big bit to eat, stocked up on another bottle of water and Coke, then I headed towards my designated seating. The skies were also beginning to darken and hints of rain by way of a drizzle.

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This was the toughest part; I was already quite tired from my exploration before the Qualifying Session even started, but going to my seat entails going around Turns 1 and 2 which is also quite long, but having to go down a steep hill then up again was worrying me if my right knee can take it especially when I’m carrying a lot.

Eventually, luckily, and unbelievably, I made it to my seat, and a few minutes to spare before the Qualifying Session began, so I started to setup my Nikon D7200 by messing around with the settings that will be perfect for the current cloudy conditions and that with my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM and Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, which with the teleconverter, loses 2 stop of light, so with the cloudy conditions, it really isn’t helpful if I want to shoot at a higher shutter speed. Thankfully, I still managed to find the sweet spot in order to get the shots I wanted.

So here are a few shots of each driver during the entirety of the Qualifying Session:

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen, #7, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel, #5, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton, #44, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas, #77, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo, #3, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen, #33, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg, #27, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Carlos Sainz Jr
Carlos Sainz, Jr., #55, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso, #14, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne, #2, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc, #16, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Marcus Ericsson
Marcus Ericsson, #9, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly, #10, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Brendon Hartley
Brendon Hartley, #28, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll, #18, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Sergey Sirotkin
Sergey Sirotkin, #35, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez, #11, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon, #31, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen, #20, Haas F1 Team, VF-18
Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean, #8, Haas F1 Team, VF-18

Near the end, of the Qualifying Session, Qualifying 3 to be exact, the skies began to open up and it poured. Having my DSLR rain cover at the ready, my gear is certainly safe. I also had a rain cover for my back pack and learning from last year in Singapore, I also bought a rain poncho at trackside knowing that the rain may be coming.

Results wise, it wasn’t a good day for Ferrari, but experience wise, it was just perfect. No rain will dampen my parade for sure.

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When all was said and done, there was a special historical lap event for the past F1 cars; they will give an exhibition of sorts, but I decided to forego that and make my way back to the GP Square, because my ticket enabled me to have a pit lane walk and be close to the actual cars, albeit behind barriers, or so I thought… wink wink.

Knowing others will also take advantage, I quickly had another bottle of Coke, another bottle of water, and headed my way to to queue up for the pit lane walk.

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The Eye in the Suzuka Sky

It took an hour I think to queue up, but it was well worth it; to be in the pit lane, seeing and talking to some of the teams’ engineers, getting close enough to the cars to photograph, being right underneath the podium…

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IT WAS A MAGICAL. I thought to myself, I have been quite lucky in this trip so far… how can it get better than this!?

AND IT DID.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Working my way up to Ferrari’s garage, knowing that much like other garages at that moment, it will be empty as per FIA mandate, all cars after the Qualifying Session must be parked up next to the Scrutineering Garage just to make sure that was no exploits to have gained an advantage in the session. But I felt I took enough photos of the Ferrari and that of the other cars while I past by the FIA garage where they are being scrutineered, so I still headed onward through other garages and that of Ferrari’s.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

I chanced upon meeting two of Ferrari’s engineers and thought having a photo with them, because why not!? It was at this moment I wanted to shoot myself in the foot because I forgot to show them a video of me and my racing simulator playing F1 2018! Not saying they will be so impressed by my driving, but maybe at least be impressed by my set up… who knows, maybe they would have invited me inside to show their friends my set up. Sigh. But still, having a nice little chat and a picture with them was awesome.

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Finally made it to the Ferrari garage, just taking pictures of the heading, the equipment, the engineers, all inside the 2 empty garages, again, because the cars are being scrutineered at this moment, but all of a sudden, I was hearing so much commotion, I also heard some people speaking lots of Italian, and when I turned around, lo and behold! It was Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari SF71H car being hauled back into the garage! It was so close, I can taste it! Sadly, I wasn’t too close because I was caught off guard thus, others had a better vantage point than me, but I took a great garage photo of it, in my opinion. Just being that close to the Ferrari SF71H was beyond a dream come true!

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Knowing way better at this point, even if I was taking so many shots of Kimi’s car, that Sebastien Vettel’s Ferrari SF71H will also be hauled in soon. And it did. This time, I was at a better position, to the point that the car’s rear right tire was so close to my leg, so close to the point that if I ever tripped, I was would have scuffed up any part of the car and be sent to jail. It would have been worth it though. And I got a good enough garage photo of Seb’s car. But that is give and take: I got a great pics of Kimi’s car in the garage, yet so and so pics while it being hauled in; I got great pics of Seb’s car being hauled in, though I got so and so pics of his car in the garage. And that is like the cherry on top! I was so satisfied with my trip and my visit to the track… that I really can’t think of anything topping this. Everything else is just more cherry on top, and trust me, I ended up with lots of cherry upon the end of my trip.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Another car that I was able to brush right up against was Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes AMG F1 Wo9 Power+ (Simply, the Mercedes W09) car; admittedly, I was never ever a Hamilton fan, but I respect him as a great driver, and amazed at all his accomplishments. Being a Ferrari fan since I started watching the sport, of course, my allegiance lies with the team and most of the drivers that either drove for us for a time, still drive for us, or left (Like Fernando Alonso, I never really liked him before, but became a fan when he drove for us, and since respected him until he eventually retired this year. Same goes for Kimi Raikkonen, didn’t like him at first, but when he drove for us and grabbed a title for us in 2007, I became a fan of his and he remains my number 1 current driver, even if he will return to Sauber next season).

In Control

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Suzuka Circuit Track Walk

My Dream Come True

Having my fix of the pit lane, I moved on to the start/finish straight, a sight that we all know too well when you are a racing fan… where obviously the starting grid is placed and the race starts, and ultimately ends with the chequered flag. I was really blessed to even just walk a few meters of the actual race track… I should have asked someone to photograph me pretending to kiss the tarmac, but I was so overwhelmed that I have forgotten to do so. Next time…

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After all that was said and done, I then worked my way back out the main entrance of the circuit and since it was pretty late and the shuttle service is over for that day, hence why I decided to just purchase a 1 way ticket earlier in the day and not the return ticket, so I waited in queue for a taxi; it took awhile, but it afforded me yet another few minutes to take a breather and just reflect on what I have achieved so far in this trip. It is surreal.

Got on a taxi eventually, was able to get the first class Kintetsu ticket, and soon enough, I made it back to the hotel, feeling so accomplished… so empowered… I was ecstatic.

I did a lot this day, but there are still more things to see the next day that I failed to do so this day, certainly more photos of the other points of interest around the track, and the weather forecast for the next day is clears skies with no chance of rain, so taking photos of the cars running laps will be so much better.

Capped off this amazing day with a random dinner and even more Coke…

Day 3 here we come!


Stay tuned for Day 3 post!

-o-

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Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Days 0-1!

WARNING:

VERY WORD HEAVY AND PHOTO HEAVY POST!

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY A SINGLE POST OF ALL THE DAYS OF MY TRIP, BUT I DECIDED TO DIVIDE IT TO THREE POSTS:

FIRST POST, THIS POST, WILL BE FOR THE INTRODUCTION AND DAYS 0-1 OF MY TRIP;

THE SECOND WILL BE DURING THE DAY 2 (FORMULA 1 QUALIFYING SESSION);

THE THIRD POST WILL BE FOR DAY 3 (FORMULA 1 RACEDAY), AND DAY 4, WHERE I AM GOING BACK HOME TO THE PHILIPPINES.

FINALLY, IF YOU STILL FIND EACH DAY A LONG READ, THEN TREAT EACH DAY AS A CHAPTER AND READ IN SPURTS.


Introduction

Talk about being late to a party… I traveled to Japan, specifically in Nagoya and Suzuka, for a short vacation and, of course, watch the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix – a race that I have always wanted to attend since I was a kid, in a country I have always wanted to visit since I was a kid, last October 4-8, 2018, and I only, finally, have time to write about. Here’s hoping I still remember what I have done in those days…

First off, a lot of my friends, both close and otherwise, would know me as a guy, in spite of my age, is still into anime/manga, gaming, collecting, and a passionately weird guy… With that said, it is obvious that someone like me love the country of Japan and anything Japanese. Thus, having to go to Japan is already a dream come true.

Second off, I am a Formula 1 (hereafter, F1) fan for 22 years now, and the Suzuka Circuit that hosts the Japanese Grand Prix ranks as one of the highest on my bucket list of F1 racetracks to attend. And again, having to visit the track and attend the race weekend, is another dream come true.

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That moment I got my Formula 1 tickets!
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Comparison with last year’s Formula 1 package; if you are up to date with F1, you’d know they changed their logo from this year onward.
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No hard plastic/ID card ticket on the package; one must pick it up at the venue, unlike last year in Singapore.

Adding those 2 dreams together, this is like the perfect trip for me! And it was!

Seeing that it has been way over two months since I traveled to Japan alone (yes, another solo adventure, which is better anyway lol), let us go down memory lane together… starting with…


DAY 0

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Solo trip!

The plane ride to Japan was pretty standard, plus no annoyance or drama since I am traveling ALONE, so I can just concentrate on my own things, upon arriving however, it was immediately fun and adventurous as I had to take a train from Chubu Centrair International Airport to the heart of Nagoya in order to check into my hotel.

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Meitetsu μTicket

It was already a trip to ride this just to get to my hotel since Japan is really known for the transport system, and having to ride the metro/subway for the duration of my trip in Japan first hand, I can say they are well maintained. Sure there was one time I did get into the subway at the afternoon rush hour, but it was still minor hassle.

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My hotel, VIA INN, specifically VIA INN Nagoya Ekimae Tsubakicho, since there are actually 2 VIA INNs in close proximity, happens to be relatively close to the station, thus why I chose it, and I am glad I did, as it was seriously in the heart of the city so I can pretty much go anywhere interesting nearby, and since the station was also close by, I can pretty much go anywhere a bit farther.

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Since it was already past 9PM upon check in, and was quite tired from the flight, I decided just to limit my exploration in this DAY 0 and just head out to a Curry House CoCo for dinner.

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Immediately, my love for Japan has increased, because unlike other countries where they use celebrities or athletes in their ads, in Japan they use they beloved gaming characters or anime characters to advertise absolutely anything and everything.

Of course, there are JPOP Idols like AKB48 and such that also advertise things, and I also don’t mind that! I happen to like JPOP, the only pop songs I care to listen to… So in short, I feel right at home in Japan.

I happen to know a few Japanese phrases, and these came in handy the following days; it is nice to note, that unlike in Tokyo (though I have never been there yet), other cities in Japan, most people may not know a lot of English, so knowing simple phrases can help. Not saying they CAN’T speak English, they do, but there can still be a barrier when you need directions or buying things.

When I run out of Japanese phrases and English is not the way to go in communicating, I did resort to the offline mode of Google Translate, type in what I want to say, show it anyone, and they either reply to me in English directly or type their reply.

So if anyone goes to Japan outside the majors cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, etc., you may encounter more language barriers, thus knowing a phrases and/or using the offline mode of Google Translate will help you and keep you confident going around. PLUS! This is Japan! MOST EVERYONE IS HELPFUL! One of the safest countries to travel alone, which I did…

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Anyways, I used a mixture of my known phrases along with Google Translate to order my curry rice from Curry House CoCo, and if you are familiar with the curry rice from Japan, it isn’t the usual Indian style curry you’d expect, but both are very delicious.

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Having satisfied my hunger, I had to be taken aback for a moment to realize what I just achieved; now this isn’t the first time I traveled alone, that would have been last year when I went to Singapore, also for a F1 race, but still, having to travel to Japan for the first time, alone for that matter; having to rely on my prior research from getting from Point A to Point B around Japan; being so at home immediately in Japan; knowing I will also watch my all time favorite sport, F1, in my all time favorite country to ever visit, Japan… I really can’t think of a more perfect vacation, a more perfect race weekend.


DAY 1

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Ready to explore!

I considered the day before, the arrival day, as Day 0, because pretty much nothing really happened apart from me nearly crying at the fact I am in Japan… the country I absolutely adore… So the very next day is Day 1, officially vacation mode!

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My plan for the trip! I am OC like this… In fact, most of my trips anywhere, I make plans, but not as detailed as this LOL
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Vital files that were also transferred to my tablet and phone; every time I have a trip outside the country, I do this, but the detailed general plan is a first.

As mentioned in Day 0, I did make some research prior to going to Japan; since this is in fact my first time in Japan, and me traveling alone, I needed to research on how to use the metro/subway, how to get to here or there, what to see and do, etc., and I will just give a bit of a spoiler, my research and subsequent plan that I made for the trip worked perfectly! This goes to show that being obsessive compulsive about any minute detail can aid you in traveling to other countries you never visited before. Now I may just ask the locals, but like I mentioned above, sometimes, though they may understand and speak English, there are still a number of people in Japan that may have a barrier, but with that said, they will still be more than willing to help, despite the barrier.

When I went to Singapore, I wasn’t all too worried from getting from Point A to Point B, because it is relatively easier to navigate since it is smaller than Japan, but it is not like I walked from end to end in Singapore, what I mean is that, it is easier to get to the airport, the hotel, the track, other tourist spots, etc, than in Japan, specifically when I have to go to my hotel from the airport, or from my hotel to the track in Suzuka… Also, I have friends that live in Singapore, so if the going gets rough, I will just give them a call. My trip to Japan, I really only had myself to rely on. Just the way I like it. It forces me to be… dare I say it… an adult.

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Preordered a Sigma APO 1.4x Teleconverter EX DG, since the Sigma 2x APO Teleconverter EX DG was sold out, but was surprised when I got to the shop and they had the 2x Teleconverter after all!

Also prior to the trip to Japan, I was researching for any camera shop nearby (there were lots of anime/manga, toy/hobby, tech/gaming shops nearby, so I need not research to much on them lol), since I was considering purchasing a Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG to couple it with my Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM and my Nikon D7200.

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Went to the wrong Bic Camera at first; there are two Bic Cameras close to my hotel.
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The correct Bic Camera!

Lo and behold! I found a shopping complex near my hotel that has a floor specifically for cameras! Bic Camera allowed me to preorder the item online and pick it up at their Nagoya shop (but there are two, and I knew about that, but I still accidentally went to their other shop which was also nearby lol) and have it tax free, and so, a few days before heading out to Japan, I preordered my Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG. Or at least that was the plan; they said that the 2x Teleconverter is sold out in the any of Nagoya Bic Camera outlets and the one near my hotel only has the 1.4x Teleconverter, thus I said, alright, let’s just get that and confirmed my preorder.

Thus the first order of business is to pick up my item and not get to excited along the way and buy every anime/gaming/tech thing I see. And to my surprise, when I showed the paper for my preorder, they came out with a 2x Teleconverter! So I was very happily surprised!

Broketober 2018

It was a bit surreal purchasing a DSLR accessory in another country for me; I mean, sure it is almost like buying any sort of souvenir, but I always had a rule never to buy any electronic/tech gear outside my home country of the Philippines because of the simple fact that if it does fail or have problems later on, I can’t use the shop’s warranty, and let’s face it, the manufacturer’s warranty here in the Philippines can cause so much more hassle than it is worth – trust me, I have dealt with numerous RMA’s and it never ended well… actually, most of the time, it doesn’t even start well.

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Having purchased it without hassle since it was reserved for me prior to my flight, and the staff are very friendly, then add in the numerous, almost overwhelming amount of camera gear from Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc., it was like I am a kid at a candy store.

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Blurry. I know.

Also of note, just a few floors below are the action figures/hobby floor, and another is the gaming floor, and yet another floor is the PC floor. I can live here!

Another simple reason why I love Japan is that they don’t shy away from their interests and hobbies, be it gaming, anime, tech, anything! No matter how old they get, no matter if real life gets in the way, they still go back to their hobbies and are not afraid or shy to show it.

I for one, being a Filipino-American, I guess I am a little more comfortable than most people here in the Philippines to show his weird side… his sometimes, well most of the time, unbearable weird side, to others. But I don’t mind and I am not embarrassed to show my passion for my manga/anime, gaming, tech, Formula, photography, music, and action figure collecting hobbies. And to show it PASSIONATELY.

That is not to say there are no passionate people here in the Philippines with their hobbies. THERE ARE! And quite a lot! Which makes collecting easier nowadays since there are many hobby shops popping up now. Also, with the advent of the internet, ordering overseas for those rarer items are so much easier, too! But in terms of my close personal friends, I don’t have that many that are as crazy or passionate as me. I do have some, but they few and far in between.

Wait, I digress… this is supposed to be about my Day 1 shenanigans at Nagoya!

Keep Walkin'...

In The Art of the City

I had to dash back to the hotel to drop of my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM lens and newly bought Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, then pack in my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM and Sigma 30mm F/1.4 EX DC HSM lenses to explore more of Nagoya. And yes, I love my Sigma and Nikon combinations!

Next stop is at Nagoya Castle!

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I had to take the subway, and on the way, make one transfer until I reach the station just next to the castle. This is where my research and careful planning comes into play. And I felt triumphant, because my plan worked perfectly and not once did I feel that I got lost.

I made sure to go later than 8-9AM because of the rush hour, and being it my first time riding their subway, I need to make sure I get a seat to get used to it first.

Also, if in the rare event you do get lost or not sure where to go next, of course there are staff always ready to help you out. But it feels so much better doing things on your own, on your own (meaning, traveling alone and not relying so much on anyone but you yourself… like I did).

Another World

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With my friendly tour guides, Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

I decided, upon reaching the castle, I will take up the free English Tour Guide, so at least I won’t blindly go around the castle complex without knowing anything. That way I can learn about the history and just have a fun time with the tour guides.

And talk about lucky!

I was told by Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san, my wonderfully entertaining, knowledgeable, and friendly tour guides, that starting next year, they will start renovating the main keep and it won’t be as visible to the public. So, I visited on the right time. And as we continue with this post, you will see just how lucky I am this day visiting the castle premises.

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The golden kettle that was made from the original “shachi”

Looking at the scenery just around the castle, we also stopped by one of their tea houses and I was again lucky to see the golden kettle that is used for the tea ceremony; that golden kettle was made from the remains of the original golden “shachi” – A shachihoko or shachi is from Japanese folklore, where an animal has a head of a tiger and the body of a carp – and it usually hidden behind a glass casing, but during Fridays, the day I visited, they bring it out for the people to see, and they actually use it for customers that have tea.

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Moving on, I was learning a lot the history of the castle and that of my tour guides as persons as well. Of course, I will not give you a lesson on what I just learned from them in the history of the castle, you can always Google that, or preferably, if you ever visit Nagoya, grab a free tour guide (free English tour guides start at 1PM local time), so you can befriend and learn the history!

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Getting ever closer to the main castle keep, I was pointed towards the Hommaru Palace that was originally built in 1615 by the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, for his son, was actually under restoration for, if I remember correctly, for the past 10 years, and was just recently finished and opened for public viewing starting June 8 of this year. So I got lucky yet again!

I will not be posting any pictures from inside the palace, for it will add to the total picture count in the post, not to mention, more words, and it will ruin the magic… It is best to see it in person!

Nagoya Castle Main Keep

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Arigatou! Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

After the palace, and after seeing the main keep a lot closer, a few more chit chat with my tour guides, it was time to part ways. It was a free tour guide, since they were volunteers, but I wanted to at least give them something for snacks or drinks, but as expected, especially from the Japanese, they wholeheartedly declined my offer. I promised the next time I ever visit again, I will surely do my best to see them, granted they will still be volunteering. Nice people like them is hard to come by nowadays.

Parting ways didn’t mean I left the castle grounds immediately, I still enjoyed myself with snacks and drinks and to get a breather, since carrying 2 lenses, my DSLR, though not so heavy, does take a toll on me, especially with a bad right knee.

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I am welcomed a ninja clan!

I was entertained by a ninja performance, so it bought more time to rest, and of course, photo opportunity with one of the ninja!

@Nagoya

Aki

I then took a few more minutes to rest up, drink up some more, then head onto the city vis subway once more, this time to just explore anything and end up in Maidreamin Cafe! Yes, a maid cafe… because OF COURSE!!

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The Lines That We Cross

Road Rules

I was also supposed to go to Osu Shopping District to find nice souvenirs for my friends, and maybe some stuff for myself as well, but after going around the city, I knew I will just end the day in Maidreamin then head back to my hotel to recuperate and prepare for the F1 qualifying session the next day.

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I then reached Maidreamin Cafe, and well, it is what you would expect if you know anything about these cafe either from reading manga, watching anime, or generally being a weeb (which a lot of people call me, but I think I’m more of an otaku than a weeb). The maids are very friendly, though there was a bit of language barrier at first, in the end, I got what I ordered, and had a nice chat with a couple of the staff at hand.

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Believe it or not, visiting a maid cafe is one of my goals in this trip, and also have a Instax photo with one of the maid which is part of the bundle I ordered. I will say this now, out of all the photos I have taken in Japan, it was this photo of me, that wasn’t even taken with my phone or DSLR, as my stand out photo of the trip!

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Also in the bundle I ordered was the cat ears (you get to choose what animal ears you like, but since I love cats, it was a no-brainer to get the cat ears), and a maid uniform keychain. Overall, a great experience, and I am glad to tick this off my bucket list. Like I said to my friends, you know you made it in life if you tick off visiting a maid cafe off your bucket list.

After the maid cafe, thankfully there was a subway station just next to the cafe, so I made my way back to my hotel; truth be told, this station wasn’t part of the plan I made previously, but I was already familiar with using the subway and where to go, so even if this wasn’t part of the initial plan, I still made it to my hotel in the end with no hiccups… also of note, I did catch the subway during the afternoon rush hour, but usually the afternoon rush hour is not as bad at the morning rush hours.

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Reaching the hotel, rested up a bit, then had a quick dinner, and decided to sleep early to take a train to Suzuka and eventually the race track.

It is gonna be special!


Stay tuned for Day 2 post!

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Countdown ’til the Five Red Lights Go Out for the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix!

Only a few more days and I get to visit the beautiful country of Japan, a country I have always dreamed of visiting since I was a kid; I have always been fascinated by the culture, the history, I love reading manga, watching anime, playing games, collecting action figures, and being overall weird, thus wanting to visit Japan shouldn’t come at a surprise.

I may only be visiting Nagoya and Suzuka this time around, because by the above photograph, it is obvious I am going to Japan for the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix held at the legendary Suzuka Circuit; like the country of Japan, I have always dreamed of visiting the Suzuka Circuit ever since I was a kid, because of the memorable title deciders that took place there in 1998 and 2000, where we see Mika Hakkinen of McLaren Mercedes vs Michael Schumacher (arguably my favorite driver of all time, with Kimi Raikkonen a close second) of Ferrari (my favorite team of all time) duke it out in the 18 turns of the circuit. Even before that duel, we have duels of Alain Prost of McLaren Honda and later Ferrari vs Ayrton Senna of McLaren Honda during the 1988-1990 seasons being yet another title decider between the 2, obviously, I wasn’t able to watch this being born on 1989, so the former 2 seasons between Mika and Michael are the ones I remember from my childhood and instilled my dream to visit the track one day.

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Comparing last year’s Singapore Grand Prix tickets package (left) with this year’s Japanese Grand Prix tickets package

Truth be told, the Japanese Grand Prix was supposed to be the very first Formula 1 Grand Prix I will ever attend, but I chose Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit last year to become the actual first race I ever attended; this is largely due to the fact that early last year, there were plans not to renew the contract with Formula 1 to keep the event in the calendar. Upon arriving in Singapore, I was informed that they then arrived at an agreement to keep Singapore in the racing calendar.

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Last year for the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit

It may sound that I wasn’t happy that the Singapore Grand Prix became my first grand prix ever attended, when in fact, I was ecstatic; I may have wanted Japan to be my first race to ever attend, but Singapore had this special atmosphere, and I surely enjoyed my visit to the country and race. I wouldn’t trade that feeling and experience for anything else.

Now that I will fulfill yet another childhood dream, albeit now being the second race I ever attended, I can’t help but feel blessed, happy, and excited.

Much like last year in Singapore, I know I will have a great time exploring, although only in the Nagoya and Suzuka area this time around; I will be more prepared for the race weekend since I learned so much from Singapore; and I am ready to meet fellow Formula 1 fans from different walks of life, either supporting the same team and driver or not, it is the sport that we are passionate about in the end that will forge friendships that will last – again much like last year where I made new friends that may not share the same love as me for Ferrari but do love Formula 1 and we knew from that point we will be great friends and still are in touch today.

The experience and friendships in the end will be the ultimate win for me if in the event Ferrari will pull the same unfortunate result in the last race I attended.

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This picture still stings; during the start of the Singapore Grand Prix last year. Here’s hoping we have a better result in Japan.

Til next time! PEACE!!!

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