Beautiful, Interesting and Ooo Shiny! Images From Various Places

Thailand

Are GMO’s Really That Evil?

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 11 • 1/30 sec

A cursory Google search will return pages upon pages of arguments for organic produce and fears against GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). Why is that? Most debates in the public sector have had equal representation of both sides of the argument, but in this one, only one side is well heard. For the sake of discourse, I thought I would write this blog from the other side.

Disclaimer: I have nothing against organics or the people who encourage others to grow them. One of the great things about living in the USA is our freedom of choice, including being able to choose what we eat. This blog, however, is about other places around the world.

GMO’s were originally developed with the world’s good in mind. Scientists saw problems such as famine in Africa, malnutrition in Asia, and children dying of preventable causes in many areas, and they wanted to do something about it. Using what they knew best, they began to develop agricultural solutions to these problems. For example, the poor in Asia eat rice as their staple diet, but often do not have access to other essential nutrients needed for healthy development. To improve their overall health, scientists spent years working on “golden rice” – a crop with additional vitamin A. Meanwhile, in Africa, strong weeds or a drought could cost a family their entire crop for the year. So they dealt with both a lack of food and a lack of income. Some even had to sell off children they couldn’t feed. As a result, several crops were developed to be more resistant to weeds, insects, and drought. There are many more examples.

Much of the concern has been over the health risks of GMO’s. Does playing with the genetic code cause cancers or other health issues? Thousands of other scientists have worked to answer these questions, and many regulations have been put in place. While there are occasional mistakes that aren’t foreseen, most testing will find any problems long before a product makes it to the market.

Regulations also limit the amount of work that can go into this research in the first place. For example, those who work with the genetic code of plants are limited to only changing certain amino acids in a strand of DNA. In nature, entire sections of DNA can be moved, cut out, or duplicated, causing major changes. It’s like the difference between people of different nationalities. Naturally, they have different hair and skin colors, different bone structures, and even different susceptibility to health issues. Using this comparison, a GMO would be like changing people’s eye colors.

Some companies have become known for shady business practices, but not all operate that way. Some people are allergic to certain food additives, but that doesn’t mean they are bad for everyone. The excuse “I won’t eat anything I can’t pronounce” often forgets the fact that any substance on earth can have a long complicated scientific name, and that certain natural ingredients are extremely toxic. The point is: proper balance is needed. We need to evaluate things one at a time based on their own merit, not paint the entire thing with a broad brush.

Are you particular about where your food comes from? What are your eating habits?


Crazy Acts of Death-Defiance

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 5.6 • 1/800 sec

 What’s the craziest thing you have attempted to do? Did you succeed? A couple years ago, I challenged myself to go ziplining with some other crazy adventurers in Thailand. I enjoyed the challenge, but apparently not as much as our guides (pictured above)! I was excited when I could cross a cable without holding on to my harness, but no way was I going to try upside down.

I’m sure we all have our limits when it comes to what kind of adventures we will tackle, which makes this week’s news all the more amazing. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all week, you’ve probably heard about Felix Baumgartner’s record-setting jump from Red Bull Stratos. I was one of the lucky 8 million people who watched it live on YouTube. Aside from morbid curiosity (my dad and I were betting each other on if he would survive or not), I think there was another reason so many people tuned in to watch. We wanted to see someone do someone we wouldn’t dare attempt ourselves.

Are there any other great feats of courage (or stupidity, depending on your perspective) that you remember witnessing? History is full of them, so here are a few of my favorites (most of which, I am too young to remember in person):

  • Alain Robert – “The French Spiderman” likes to climb buildings – really, really tall ones.
  • David Blaine – Magician who also broke the world record for holding his breath underwater – for over 17 minutes!
  • Evil Knievel – Known for leaping over large distances in a single bound… on his motorcycle
  • Gary Connery – Skydived without a parachute – and lived!
  • Harry Houdini – Magician and master escape artist, he was most known for the Chinese Water Torture Cell stunt
  • Jackie Chan – Actor who does all his own stunts, including a 21-story slide down the side of a building
  • Martin Strel – Expedition swimmer who tacked the 3000+-mile Amazon River – and all that swam in it
  • Philippe Petit – Tightrope walker who crossed between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. How he got access to them was an even more challenging feat.
  • William Trubridge – Holds the record for the deepest free dive, swimming 380 feet straight down
  • Yves Rossy – AKA “JetMan”  or “Fusion Man”, crossed the English Channel with just those rockets on his back

If you could be known for some crazy stunt, what would you attempt?


Getting Your Lion to Purr

Location: Thailand
Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 1600 • f 7.1 • 1/640 sec

“Nice kitty… good kitty… just don’t take my arm off, kitty.”

It amazes me to see full-grown lions and tigers acting like housecats, but they are related, after all! When they have spent their whole life around kind people, they also can learn “humans are friends, not food.” It still is wise to treat them with respect, as they will still play like cats and don’t realize their own strength.

So it was pretty funny in my mind to see this young lion (probably less than a year old, since his mane hadn’t grown in yet). He was just chillin’ on a rock in his pen, when one of the trainers walked by who obviously knew him well. When called, the lion jumped up, ran up to the fence, and started purring and rubbing his face on it just like an overaffectionate kitty. In return, he got his desired scritch behind the ears.

It kind of reminds me of an old video I saw once, of a guy with a lionness & cubs. A little kindness can go a long way!

Did you ever see a wild animal not acting like you expected?


Shutter Speed: Photography in Motion

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 2.8 • 1/500 sec

Photo enthusiasts! Time for another lesson! Are you excited yet?!?!

This week, let’s focus on shutter speed. The term is much simpler than all the other ones I’ve thrown at you, I think. 😉 Shutter speed is simply how long the shutter allows light into the camera – the speed at which it opens and closes. It actually requires a lot of technology to get the shutter to work at such high speeds, but I won’t get into that here. What you need to know is that shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. Anything longer than 1/60 of a second is considered “slow” in photography terms, and “fast” is anything above 1/500 of a second. So, the picture I took above is just bordering on fast.

What’s the point? When there is any kind of action or movement in your photos, your shutter speed setting will determine how much “blur” is in your pictures. Fast shutter speeds will freeze the action (if you look closely, you can see some stray water droplets around the pot in the photo), while slow shutter speeds will blur movement (here’s one I did with a moving subject). Pick your shutter speed depending on what you want to do with the photo – do you want to stop the action or show it? There’s just one rule here: when hand-holding your camera, realize that some shutter speeds may be too low to get sharp images. Anything slower than 1/60 should use a tripod. Also, it should be equal to or faster than the focal length of your lens. So, if I’m using my 70 mm lens, my shutter speed should not be lower than 1/70 sec unless I have a tripod.

Ok, now it’s your turn! Check your camera presets (some explanations here and here) and go to Tv (shutter priority) mode if your camera allows. If you live near a waterfall or fountain, you’re lucky. For the rest of us, use your shower or sink faucet. Try adjusting your shutter speed while taking pictures of the water. What kind of effects can you get?

Don’t forget to practice with some of our past photo lessons:
Composition 1
Composition 2
Aperture
Night Photography

Try it! Then comment and let us know what your favorite results were.


Fuzzy Little Beasts

Location: Thailand
Camera Info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 1600 • f 7.1 • 1/1600 sec

“Let’s go pet the babies! They’re so cute & sweet!” we thought. Even though we were intimidated by the thought of petting the adult tigers at the Tiger Kingdom, our group was excited to see the cubs. What we didn’t think about, however, was that the adults were trained – cubs aren’t!

When we walked into the enclosure, three cubs were sleeping. Cute. Two others were awake and wrestling, with little squeaks and roars (sort-of) as they tried to pounce and pin each other. Epi-cute. Suddenly, one of them noticed us and decided he wanted a better challenge. With a tiny growl, he started stalking towards us. The trainer shooed him off and distracted him easily, but it was a little unnerving. They are still wild, after all.

We went to hold one of the cubs that was sleeping, and he didn’t seem to mind too much, besides a few big yawns. He had huge paws for such a tiny critter, and I was surprised to feel how coarse his fur was. I expected tiger cubs to be soft! The little guy was pretty well-behaved, except for when he decided to get a taste of my friend’s shirt and started licking him. That’s a big no-no here, as the trainers don’t want the tigers to develop a taste for people. So we had to distract the cub and get him to stop licking. Pretty soon, he joined the other cubs in the wrestling match, and our group moved on to see the bigger cats. That was a different experience than I expected, but still fun!

When were you surprised by an experience that wasn’t exactly what you expected?