Monday, October 9, 2006

Lumix DMC-FZ30: Some Hangin' Out in Colorado

Sitting on the third floor of the Marriott in Denver, I'm getting everything ready for a photo shoot of a Denver Broncos fan who will start his tailgate party at 11am Monday, 7-1/2 hours before game time. The guy is playing hooky from work, and I wonder just how many people might be in the parking lot outside Mile High Stadium.

A day earlier, my colleague and best friend Ken and I made a day out of hitting the mountains, trying to drive to the highest open public road in North America (over 14,000 feet above sea level!). We first grabbed a couple tickets to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad and act like tourists. Boy that does feel kinda weird, sitting inside a flat bed car filled with people, gawking over the edge as the steam engine chugged along its route.

Since our ride wouldn't start for another 3 hours, we stopped to grab a couple hot sammiches and took to the highway to swing off the beaten path and drive another beaten path up one part of the Rocky Mountains. Yup, I took a buncha buncha photos, because I can never seem to simply put my freakin' camera down and simply absorb the sights. But I did compromise, choosing to take my trusty little Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30, which shoots both still images and full motion VGA and QVGA video, which also records sound. I uploaded a clip that I just shot, and you can see the video here, but I compressed it from NTSC (640x480) to QVGA size (320x240) to save space and time; it'll download fast. This puppy is a really cool item to take as a do-all camera. I could shoot virtually any job with it in a pinch, since it zooms at 12X, a 35mm equivalent of 35mm f/2.8-420mm f/3.7.

The one road we really wanted to take, the Mount Evans Road, was closed (I guess the snow and ice had already made the drive dangerous enough), so we drove as high as we could, on Squaw Pass Rd, to a stop about a mile past Summit Lake. Breaking out the Lumix, we took a bunch of pictures, and also shot some shots of the scenery before returning to Georgetown, a really cool little cozy town off I-70. Driving there is simple, since I-70 starts in Baltimore. Just drive about 2000 miles and bear right at Colorado's exit 228; going under the highway and making a left, you bear right and drive along Loop Drive to the end. You can actually see the loop railroad if you search for the drive in Google Maps. Copy what's inside the quotes - "Loop Dr, Georgetown, Co" - then paste it in the box for the location, click on the "Satellite" or "Hybrid" option at the upper right side of the page, then zoom way in to see the satellite image of the railroad that circles around the parking lot. (You can see some cool sat images, like a full pro stadium in south San Francisco or a plane take off at Hartsfield International Airport near Atlanta!)

My batteries were almost depleted at the end of the train ride, and we then made a stop to check out the town, which looks like it would look really peaceful and postcard- like in a snowy setting. The battery indicator blinked that heart-stopping red as I squeezed every last frame I could as the sun set behind the mountain peaks, but I managed at least one more image of the Rockies as we returned to Denver.

Today, we checked in to the Marriott, where we learned that we shared the hotel with some really cool visitors. These people really suit up for Nan Desu Kan, where many actually dress like the characters they identify with. Plenty of knee-high socks, leather boots, fake swords and wigs at this event, plus NDK'ers apologizing for being "weird" or "ordinary," but I admire someone who embraces their passion through expression.

After grabbing some info for more sight-seeing, we started out at Sky Venture, a place where you can actually take part in indoor skydiving. Even a 3-year old could do it, and one actually did. I shot some video of her practicing skydiving, and when I get permission, I'll post it and give you a link-through in the process, but ya' gotta see her expression! She made some weird faces as she floated inside the chamber. We only stayed a short time (in other words, I was too scared) and then we drove to the Denver Museum of Art to check out the grand opening of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. For such a cool-looking piece of architecture, I didn't even photograph the exterior, perhaps because I felt like I had shot enough while having some personal time.

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