Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

Just back from my first trip to Mexico, other than briefly stepping over the boarder when starting the Continental Divide Trail. It didn’t disappoint – the weather was hot and sunny, the food was hot and spicy, and plenty of tequila to wash it down :) Not a bad recipe for and short winter break. We flew into Cancún, hired a car and worked our way down the Peninsula along the Caribbean sea.

2 days in Cancún

Lovely beach, sea was a bit strong for swimming, too many big concrete hotels for my liking, Nicky loved the swimming pools and air conditioning though.

3 days in Tulum

Tulum was lovely, all the accommodation along the coast was wood and thatch Robinson Crusoe style cabana’s. Everything had bags of character. We visited the ruins nearby, interesting enough, there’s access to an awesome beach by the ruins, make sure you take your trunks, we forgot…

1 Week in Mahahual

I really liked Mahahual, it’s about a 5 hours drive from Cancun, if I came back to the Yucatán I’d just drive straight here. We spent 4 days in the town, lots of beach side bars and nice places to eat, very relaxing and quiet. We quickly found our favourite bar – Chiquita’s, they had swings hanging from the roof as bar stools. An innovation I’d have to say I quite liked, a very relaxing way to enjoy one of their mean margarita’s. On the 3rd day two cruise ships pulled into town and the place was transformed, we quite enjoyed watching the sleepy little village spring to life to service all the cruise ship passengers before they embarked later in the afternoon. The sea is that amazing turquoise blue colour, calm and great for swimming, there’s a reef just off shore so it’s a bit like a lagoon. We stayed at Luna de Plata just on the outskirts of town, 700 pesos a night (about £35) very good value for money.

Then we drove down the coast road for a bit and stayed at Almaplena eco resort, probably the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at. It was twice the price of Mahahual, but it felt like it was worth the extra. Extremely comfortable rooms, right on the beach, nicer water than at Mahahual – deeper and bluer, palms trees hanging over it, awesome. I wanted to continue down the coast to the ‘naturalist retreat’ Playa Sonrisa, but once we’d found paradise Nicky didn’t want to budge.

All in all it was a pretty awesome break, wished we’d gone for longer. I’ve uploaded a set of holiday pics on Flickr is you want to check it out.

Mexico5

New Zealand Highlights

Last week was the opening ceremony of the trail me and Nicky walked in New Zealand – Te Araroa. To mark the occasion I thought I’d share some of the progress I’ve made on all the photos and video we brought back.

I edited the photos first, there was about 25,000 to go through so I’ve only just finished! I got them down to reasonably easy to flick through 200 photo set of the highlights. And then a slightly longer 1000 odd photo set that covers the trail in a bit more depth.

We even got a few photos published in Geoff Chapple’s official trail guide, got our copy through the post the other day :)

If you followed our progress on Nicky&Cookie.com, you’ve probably seen most of these before, but you might be interested in checking out this short highlights video I’ve just finished putting together. It’s roughly in chronological order from the Top of the North Island to the bottom of the south, unfortunately I don’t have any footage of us getting to the end due to a memory card malfunction… Hopefully I might be able to recover some of it though. The rest of the video should be finished in the New Year.

Across New Zealand in 3 and a half minutes:

International Kings of Sport

International Kings of Sport

Well I’ve been meaning to post some pics and video of my brother stag do for a while and never got round to it.. Well better late than never!

Deciding what to do ‘as the main event’ for Giles’ stag do was a pretty simple decision as it was a continuation of a theme that’s been ongoing for the past 16 years. Me and Giles had a tradition of trying to drink our age in pints on each others birthdays. To prove that we had done it and quite frankly to help ourselves keep count, we would take a notebook to keep a tally of drinks. Usually it was only me and Giles that believed in the purity of starting at 11am when pubs open. So after we’d exhausted topics of conversation, we’d start filling up the notebook with not only the pints we’d drunk but also the scores of all random games we’d be playing from pub to pub. Influenced by a television programme of the same name, these bi-annual competitions of drinking stamina and pub game prowess become known as International Kings of Sport.

I’d always wanted to do something more like the original TV show, which itself was based on a surrealist concept from the 1960′s called the Flux-Olympiad, it followed the same format as the normal Olympics, with one small difference – the events were just plain stupid. Well no point explaining any further because I can just show you, first up is the..

Long Jump (head first)

International Superman Dive

Rules are pretty much the same as the normal long jump, but instead of measuring from your back foot, you measure from your furthest outstretched hand.. you know the superman dive! Shanks topped the charts on this one with an almighty jump of 5 metres 75 cms, although there was some controversy involving a double movement, but we let him off.

Photo by John, check out his photography portfolio – Cloverleaf Images »

Here’s the video:

100m Sprint (around a 10m circular track..)

100m Sprint (around a 10m circular track..)

In retrospect I’m not sure this was the best choice of event, running round and round in circles with a belly full of beer isn’t that good for your guts.. and the contents of my guts were all over the beach soon afterwards..

Here’s the video:

Photo Finish (the 3 metre sprint)

Photo Finish (the 3 metre sprint)

I actually think this should be an Olympic event, it’s really exciting because it’s always so close you can only tell who’s won by examining the photo finish afterwards. No video for this one I’m afriad the 5D was taking the bursts of photos.

Tennis Whack (with a cricket bat)

Tennis Whack (with a cricket bat)

Simple rules, who can whack a tennis ball up in the air for the longest. We also played who can chuck a tennis ball the furthest, but to be honest the footage wasn’t that thrilling. The two greenies dominated this event, with big greeny just pipping his brother by 4 hundredths of a second.

Here’s the video:

Who was the King?

Who was the King? Hedgy!

Hedgy! – long live the king of sports! I’d like to point out that I came a very respectable joint second with Greeny :)

Well I could go on but I think this post is already quite long enough. If you we’re wondering where you have to go to find such fantastic weather, beautiful (and empty) beaches, the answer is North Wales! Harlech to be precise.

Our new little friend

Standard Foam Hat

1. Standard Foam Hat (Love that it looks like a Bearskin, this is what comes with the H4n)

Me & Nicky have fallen in love with our new H4n Handy Recorder, not only is he rather useful at adding good quality audio to the Canon 5D, but he’s sooo cute with his little hats on! So funny in fact, that we’ve already decided to make a little story about him walking across New Zealand in the same vain as this wonderful little film about a Wall-E toy:

I’m half tempted to take all the hats with us for costume changes, but we should probably pick just one, but which?

Afro hair

2. Afro hair (I pulled this one off my old Sony mic)

Genetically modified monster

3. Genetically modified monster! (This is the official optional wind breaker for this mic so might actually work best, but it’s a bit of a monster..)

Now all we need to do is hack into his LCD screen so we can display some facial expressions on there, anybody know how to do this without totally busting it..?

What Camera?

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Well this is the big decision I’ve had to make recently and to be honest I’m still quite shocked & amazed the Canon EOS 5D Mark II above is where it all ended?! I’m an amateur film maker and very amateur photographer, what the hell am I doing with a huge DSLR? Some of you probably already know the reason, I didn’t at the time, but below is a summary of how I found out.

Where this all started was me wanting to take my hiking photography up a notch, basically buy a little compact that takes a better picture than my phone! Being a style slag I fell in love with the Leica X1. Easy decision I thought, big sensor, little body, doesn’t weigh much, looks a bit like a M9, i.e. drop dead gorgeous. Job done, I put my deposit down and pre-ordered it months ago.

Then while I was waiting for the Leica production line to get round to making my camera I came across something called a 35mm adapter. This is the review by Tom Guilmette that I first came across and does a good job of explaining what it is:

$400 and I can make my Sony HDR SR12 do stuff like that, I want one! Shallow depth of field is something I’ve always jealously admired in other peoples work, but up until recently I didn’t even know enough about it to know what you needed to achieve it.. Ok I had my mission, find the best 35mm adapter to take to New Zealand, this is going to be awesome! After much research I couldn’t really find anything that beat the JAG35 Pro on weight, price and size.

But..

I started to freak out that carrying 2 cameras (video & still), a fairy large adapter, plus another lens on the end, not to mention all the chargers, plugs and cables for them all was getting out of hand.. There’s got to be a better way eh?

Back on google I came across this film by Sebastian Lopez, shot on a Canon 7D:

Whoa, that blew my pants right off! Ok now I’m getting somewhere, this wasn’t what I was looking for, but I don’t care. In fact how can I use a camcorder anymore after seeing footage taken with this new breed on DSLR? Ah yes, probably got something to do with the price, size and the weight.. Ah what the hell!

Anyhow it’s getting late, to cut a long story short – I cancelled my X1 order, then chose the 5D over the 7D because of bigger sensor blahdy blah, general consensus by reviewers yadda yah and the third party Magic Lantern Firmware, that’s not yet available on the 7D (didn’t want to risk it not being available before NZ).

The lens

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

This decision pained me. There’s a lot of different opinions flying around and it’s hard to find consensus. Please don’t tell me I bought the wrong one, my brain hurts from thinking about it.. I only wanted to carry one lens so I thought I’d get a wide angle with a bit of zoom, I picked the Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM. All I can say is that it’s the best lens I’ve ever used (although that’s not saying much), and it definitely looks bigger in real life than on the internets! I love looking down that massive piece of glass at the front though, feels like I’m talking to Hal 9000 ;)

What’s next? Well I think I can live without the remote controlled D5 helicopter, but when I see stuff like this by Luke Humphrey, I start thinking maybe I need a Merlin Steadicam..

I’m really looking forward to using this camera (I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited), hopefully this blog will soon be full of all the beautiful images I’ve been able to capture with it :)