Friday, January 29, 2016

Boating on Chilika Lake from Barkul

Boating on Chilika Lake from Barkul
Chilika (also pronounced as 'Chilka') is Asia's largest and world's second largest lagoon, lying on the east coast of India in the state of Odisha, separated from the mighty Bay of Bengal by a small strip of sand. Barkul was the penultimate stopover for my overnight halt on the return ride from Daringbadi. In an earlier photo post I had told you why I consider Barkul as the perfect gateway to Chilika Lake. Chilika is not only a mammoth salt-water lake popular for boating but also a prominent hub for biodiversity, nourishing myriad avian and aquatic species. It was my fourth visit to Chilika Lake but the first from Barkul side. Finding an accommodation at Barkul is pretty easy. You'll find budget rooms within 500 meters from the lake. But mind it, if you want a lake-view room then OTDC Panthanivas is your best bet and prior reservation is much recommended. A post-lunch winter afternoon is ought to be perfect for boating on a scenic lake. So, after dumping my saddlebags and taking a quick shower in the hotel room I was out in no time to explore the turquoise water under the mellowed sun.
Boating on Chilika Lake from Barkul
At Barkul the jetty is quite long and located inside the premises of OTDC Panthanivas. Don't be disheartened by the thick crowd in the jetty area. Majority of them are local inhabitants lazing around with least intention to compete with you for a boat. Few dozens of bluish wooden motorized boats resting in a row along the colorful floating synthetic platform of OTDC water sports complex is visual treat for any lens, be it your eyes or your camera's. The usual tourist destination from Barkul Panthanivas ferry is Kalijai Island. To and fro journey on a simple motor driven boat costs around 800 bucks and it can haul up to 20 heads. Speedboats are also available which obviously accommodates no more than 5-6 passengers. I was alone. Before parting with the whole fare amount from a single wallet I reconsidered waiting for a while and it turned out to be a smart move.
Boating on Chilika Lake from Barkul
Within 5 minutes I saw a large group of young men approaching the boating counter and it was almost a Voila moment for me. In the beginning their leader was bit reluctant to include me in their herd but a little more monetary contribution eased up the situation. Well, I didn't anticipate the poverty of etiquette in my co-passengers until they started screaming at every boat we passed by and ended up videographing a group of girls bathing near the Kalijai Temple! I would rather choose to skip that abhorrent moment and keep this photo post focused on my otherwise pleasant experience of boating on Chilika.
Boating on Chilika Lake from Barkul
Kalijai Island is roughly 5.5 kilometers from the Barkul OTDC jetty and the one-way boat ride takes 40-45 minutes. Apart from the guaranteed soothing breeze, cool sun and the greenish blue lake water, the inviting vista comprising distant hillocks veiled in fog, islands embroidered with greenery and large group of migratory birds is there to tease with the pleasure center of every traveler's brain. You'll soon get oblivious of the monotonic note of your boat motor and love being on it. You'll long for the boat ride to last. After all, it's the journey, not the destination that matters. I tasted the water to check whether it was really brackish. Yes it was salty! As you spot the island, flamingos shall escort your boat in turns till you touch the rock.
Boating on Chilika Lake from Barkul
Kalijai Island is more of a pilgrimage site than tourist spot. Goddess Kalijai is the presiding deity of the Kalijai Temple. There are legends associated with this temple but they are far from being interesting or relevant. Besides worshiping the deity, tourists visit the rocky island for picnic. Religious rituals are bound to nurture man-made nuisances and spoil the overall ambiance of a place. Kalijai Island is a victim of such practices. The tiny island is dirty (abundance of plastic waste), noisy and packed with crows who're ever eager to poop on your head. There are boats from Kalijai to take you for a quick ride to nearby island villages over Chilika. I wish I had time for the same...
Boating on Chilika Lake from Barkul
After one hour or so, our boat left the island. We were left mesmerized by the eloquent hues of the setting sun. It's no less than a poet's work to describe how beautifully the blue lake water metamorphosed to liquid gold and kept shimmering till the sun lingered onto the wide horizon, then to finally shed its royal charm and wear the murky cloak of fast encroaching nightfall! We returned back to the Barkul jetty but my thirst to explore Chilika still remained, perhaps with revitalized intensity. Next morning I couldn't risk investing time on the breathtaking sunrise over Chilika as a motorcycle ride of 620 kilometers was on the card. I left Barkul as the sun stretched its voluptuous wings and kept fantasizing about a picture-perfect sunrise throughout that day. Some things you should really not leave unfinished!
Boating on Chilika Lake from Barkul

Monday, January 25, 2016

Fossils Live performance at Haldia Mela

Fossils Live performance at Haldia Mela
Last Thursday evening I got a volunteering opportunity in Haldia Mela 2016 (annual fair). In reality it was a strategically grabbed date. Never before I felt so good being "On duty" in a carnival environment! How else could I have encroached so smoothly up to the stairs of the main dais and felt the booming psychedelic vibe of Fossils through Rupam's voice from a yard away? Being too busy in seeing through the viewfinder, a shutterbug often misses the soul of his surrounding. So, I had ensured to set my heart free to float with the music while my eyes did the clicking.
Fossils Live performance at Haldia Mela
(From left) Guitarist Deep, singer-songwriter Rupam, Bassist Chandra and guitarist Allan.
Fossils is a Bengali rock band, formed in 1999 when only a hand few people could appreciate rock music beyond the realms of West. It'll be a lie to say that Bengalis didn't have affinity towards this genre. Till then we had kept our music appetite limited to what international rock bands like Aerosmith, Radiohead, Metallica, Oasis, U2, Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins (to mention a few prominent band names) used to cater. Although Bengali rock was pioneered by the band 'Moheener Ghoraguli' right back in the 70's, their genre was not purely what we mean by rock. It's only in the 90's when Kolkata started conceiving bands dedicated solely to this genre. Fossils was born then to fill up the gap of hard rock in Bengali music.
Fossils Live performance at Haldia Mela
Fossils, through their explicit lyrics and unconventionally critical tone which was unseen to Bengal's music scenario so far, succeeded in securing the top spot among then existing Bengali rock bands in a quick time. As of now, Fossils has six albums to its credit and I believe they are working on the seventh. They have a huge fan base even outside our West Bengal and this popularity slowly built up over a decade time, has gloriously trespassed many international borders. I know you might be taking my writeup as a fan's biased blabbering, but who can gather facts and figures better than a good fan?
Fossils Live performance at Haldia Mela
Rupam Islam, the founder-member and the lead vocalist of Fossils.
Let me introduce you to band members of Fossils. Rupam Islam, the founder-member and the lead vocalist of Fossils is a playback singer, composer, lyricist and author. Being a Rupam's fan I can write few pages on him, but considering the title of this blog post that would be unfair from a photo blogger's perspective and obligation. Deep, Chandra and Allan play guitars and complement Rupam with their backing vocals. Tanmoy, the fifth pillar of Fossils is a awesome drummer and percussionist. You can read more about them in Fossils official website or Rupam's personal site.
Fossils Live performance at Haldia Mela
Allan plays guitar and complements Rupam with his backing vocal.
It was tad difficult to catch (read: 'click') expressions of these four guys on stage in such bouncy lighting conditions. Added to fast-changing lights, came the second hindrance- Band members playing hard rock in a live show can't be expected to stand still in predefined positions on stage. My poor lens was seriously struggling to lock its focus on these guys. Rupam kept moving over the stage and expressing himself in his usual ways throughout those two hours of jamming. Come on, he has turned 42 right today! Happy Birthday to you brother. Wish you good health, peace and success throughout your journey. See, how easily I assumed he'll be reading this photo post!
Fossils Live performance at Haldia Mela
(From left) Drummer cum percussionist Tanmoy and Bassist Chandra.
It was an awesome musical evening with Fossils. Only after the program was over I realized that I had been shuttling from one end of the stage to other in a loop with my camera for last two hours and by then I had shot over 1500 frames! If you haven't heard Fossils yet but willing to tease your eardrums with quality Bengali rock tracks then pamper yourself with five of my personal recommendations from Fossils- Ekla Ghor, Bishakto Manush, Hasnuhana, Bicycle chor and Acid. By the way, next blog post shall bring back the blue Chilika Lake once again.
Fossils Live performance at Haldia Mela
Long live Fossils!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Barkul - the pefect gateway to Chilika Lake

Barkul - the pefect gateway to Chilika Lake
Did you read my motorcycle log of riding to Daringbadi? On the fourth day of that trip I had descended down from the hills of Daringbadi and keeping Chilika (we pronounce it as 'Chilka') in mind, had chosen Barkul as the destination for overnight halt. Exploring Chilika Lake in a winter afternoon was the sole idea behind opting for such an early stopover. Barkul lies more or less on NH-5 and roughly 150 kilometers from the Kashmir of Odisha. For you, more relevant would be to know its distance from various major places of Odisha. As per G-map, Barkul is 102, 105 and 71 kilometers away from Bhubaneswar, Puri and Berhampur respectively.
Barkul - the pefect gateway to Chilika Lake
The much famous Chilika Lake with its royal span of thousand plus square kilometers is the largest lagoon in India and probably, the second largest lagoon in the world. It is obvious for such a large water body to have more than one coast locations or gateways for its tourists. If you are keen on spotting Irrawady dolphins and visit the point where Chilika pours into the Bay of Bengal, then you should directly head to Satpada. Usually regular tour operators from Puri would take you to the Satpada side of Chilika Lake. If tranquility and added presence of hills near the lake shore excite you, Rambha should be your ideal portal to this brackish water lagoon. Are you an avid birdwatcher? Then choose Mangalajodi. Fourth option is for travelers who want to enjoy the view of the vast expanse of blue water dotted with countless wooden boats and hazy view of faraway hills. Of course, I'm describing Chilika as seen from Barkul!
Barkul - the pefect gateway to Chilika Lake
Owing to its vicinity to Puri, Satpada is more familiar to tourists visiting Odisha. But I tell you, if you want to experience the beauty of Chilika you got to decide between Barkul and Rambha. Good thing is these two points are hardly 25 kilometers apart and sincerely connected by NH-5. Both Barkul and Rambha have OTDC Panthanivas by the side of the lake and you can reserve your room there through online-booking option. Definitely Barkul has more lodging options apart from OTDC, making this place more suitable for backpackers. Despite so many negative reviews against the OTDC Panthanivas at Barkul, I think its location (lake view) is too good to avoid. I can ignore the poor in-room service, forgive its apathetic staffs and battle with mosquitoes with the repellent in my saddlebag, just to get spellbound by the mesmerizing sunrise or sunset over the lake right from my room balcony.
Barkul - the pefect gateway to Chilika Lake
There are OTDC operated as well as private boat services to explore Chilika from Barkul. I had taken a shared boat-ride to Kalijai Island to surrender myself to the afternoon lure of Chilika and my boating experience over Chilika deserves a separate blog post. Chilika is not any teeny-weeny park lake merely meant for boating. It is a hub of rich biodiversity, sheltering hundreds of migratory birds and many endangered species which are not found anywhere else. Chilika is nature's gift to the east coast and certainly the second most significant trump card for Odisha Tourism. Do visit Barkul and spend a couple of days by the lakeside to discover those seldom sung charms of Chilika.
Barkul - the pefect gateway to Chilika Lake

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Solo Ride to Daringbadi - the "Kashmir of Odisha"

Solo Ride to Daringbadi - the Kashmir of Odisha
Post Sunset sky from the Hill View Point Park, Daringbadi.
Apart from clicking photos, traveling oxygenates me. Not long ago, I used to be an amateurish travel blogger. How and why I shifted to photo blogging is not so interesting though. Solo backpacking suits me the best. First thing that clicks my mind when I hear 'traveling' is a motorcycle ride! The truth is: If you want to be happy for a day, buy yourself few drinks; if you want to be happy for a year, get married; but, if you want to be happy for a lifetime, ride a motorbike! The whole idea of occupying the saddle for hours, throttling steadily over open roads, taking the wind-blast over my chin while watching the odometer piling up more miles, stirs me up to the soul.

Whenever I get saturated with my immediate surrounding I go for a day-ride on weekends. But it had been a while since I made my last proper motorcycle trip (In 2012, I had rode 1026 kilometers on my 125 cc Discover in 6 days visiting all popular beaches of West Bengal in proximity to Bakkhali, Gangasagar and Digha. Do let me know if you want to read that old travelogue). It's a shame that I had failed to execute any long ride in last 3 years. Managing leave from office during Christmas time was tough. But I guess, my riding starvation was tougher, stronger and definitely more intense. Even without a chalked out itinerary in mind I scooped out a week long leave. Finally it was time to embrace my Pulsar 220 and make those days count!
Solo Ride to Daringbadi - the Kashmir of Odisha
It is hard to resist the temptation of cruising fast on such a wide, smooth and sparsely congested highway as NH-5.
Don't get embarrassed if it is the first time you're reading about Daringbadi. Strangely I found out that many Odia people living in the state capital, Bhubaneswar are unaware of Daringbadi despite its recognition as the "Kashmir of Odisha" among tourists! Lying at a modest altitude of over 3000 feet Daringbadi is a tiny hill station located in Kandhamal district of Odhisa. Winter snowfall in Daringbadi is a rare occasion but certainly not a myth. No, I did not ride to Daringbadi with any expectation of witnessing snowfall. This hill station was in my travel wish list for quite some time, and very recently one of my colleagues had dragged its reference over a cup of tea. He wanted to plan a group drive. Sadly, four wheels clearly beat two wheels when it comes of catching the taste of majority of road lovers. Although I didn't dampen his travel enthusiasm at that point, I exactly knew where to ride next.

Daringbadi is well connected through good roads with Bardhaman (my hometown). G-map showed a distance of around 710 kilometers which comprised mainly national highways. Neither I had rode to hills before, nor did I ever clock more than 300 (may be 320 at most) kilometers in a day. I avoid riding on highways after the sun sets. My rational self convinced me that munching 700+ kilometers in a winter day (when sun rises after six and sets by five) wasn't doable. So, I had to break my journey and pen down a proper riding plan.
Solo Ride to Daringbadi - the Kashmir of Odisha
You can still recite, "Woods are lovely dark and deep..." when you're at Daringbadi.
After several last-minute alterations, my five days ride itinerary turned out to be:-

Day 1) Ride from Bardhaman to Bhubaneswar. Overnight stay in Bhubaneswar.

Day 2) Local city ride in and around Bhubaneswar. Overnight stay in Bhubaneswar. Local sightseeing included- Dhaulagiri, Nandankanan Zoological Park, Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves.

Day 3) Ride from Bhubaneswar to Daringbadi. Exploring Daringbadi and an overnight stay.

Day 4) Ride from Daringbadi to Barkul. Boating on Chilka Lake. Overnight stay at Barkul.

Day 5) Return ride from Barkul to Bardhaman. Ah was it a goodnight sleep or a riding hangover that soon surrounded me?

By the end of Day-5, I had totaled 1820 kilometers, covering 622 kilometers in the last day. By now you must have realized that my solo ride to Daringbadi is getting lengthier than usual photo posts and culminating to a motorcyclist's diary. Well, for the sake of old good days shouldn't I let it be?
Solo Ride to Daringbadi - the Kashmir of Odisha
Daringbadi is such a hill station where you'll get easily disappointed if you travel with the preformed mindset of sightseeing.
Here I'm narrating my ride story of Day-3 only so as to keep your focus locked onto today's primary subject- the "Kashmir of Odisha". Don't worry, photos of Dhaulagiri, Nandankanan Zoological Park, Udayagiri, Khandagiri and Chilka Lake shall be blogged subsequently as separate photo posts with a promise of keeping them textually short. From the hotel I was staying in Bhubaneswar, Daringbadi was 244 kilometers away (as per G-map). None of the hotel guys seemed to have any idea of the route to Daringbadi. The map had told me how to go but my query was different. I wanted to know, "From where does the uphill road start?" (Remember, it was my first attempt on hills?)

Without clearly knowing what I badly needed to know, an easy 244 kilometers was long enough to turn me over-speculative. I checked out of my hotel at 5:25 am and it was so damn dark outside. Pulsar's headlight fell short against the hindrance in night visibility posed by my helmet visor and the thin December fog. For the first time I wasn't enjoying the driver-friendly contour of NH-5. Cruising past sleepy trucks was no more enjoyable. A poor visibility can really kill the fun of riding and mess up with the confidence of a rider. I kept cursing myself continuously for leaving Bhubaneswar before the crack of dawn.
Solo Ride to Daringbadi - the Kashmir of Odisha
The setting sun at Daringbadi was very kind to me. He painted the sky with picture-perfect hues.
After riding for half an hour I felt like checking the route map once more. Just when I stopped the motorcycle and took the mobile phone out of my trouser pocket, I got a call from some unknown Bhubaneswar land-line number (what a coincidence!). It was the hotel reception guy on the other side, "Sir, I think you've left your backpack in hurry." All of my clothes, food and other regular stuffs are packed into saddle bags, while most valuable items like documents, extra cash and the camera are put in the backpack. Now you know the worth of that backpack right? There was a current of mixed emotions that ran down my spine. I was shocked, relieved and at the same time angry with myself. I was already 30 kilometers away from Bhubaneswar and it was still dark.

Stick to the awesome NH-5 till you get a prominent right-turn at Nirmaljhara (roughly 112 kilometers down Bhubaneswar). It is hard to resist the temptation of cruising fast on such a wide, smooth and sparsely congested highway. Thankfully, my Pulsar is wobbly beyond 120 km/hr mark. You have to keep restraining yourself every minute by repeating- "Speed thrills but Kills". The black tarmac narrowed considerably as I took SH-30 but it was decent enough for riding. From thereon every local people will be able to provide you the route guidance for Daringbadi but you won't need any help in most part of it, if you simply remember names of few places in correct order- Khallikote, Aska, Sorada, Gazalbadi and finally Daringbadi. 

After you cross the Rushikulya River at Kalasandhapur, NH-59 will take you to Daringbadi (about 82 kilometers from there). Till Sorada, Rushikulya River shall accompany you. Beyond Sorada, heavy construction work was on progress. Riding on sand and gravels was not only time consuming and risky but also quite exhaustive. Steep uphill climb with sharp turns started 30 kilometers before Daringbadi. I could feel heavy breathing and occasional panting of the 220 cc dtsi engine. After all, its rider was a rookie on the mountain too!
Solo Ride to Daringbadi - the Kashmir of Odisha
A large Hanuman statue will welcome you before you cross the Rushikulya River and enter Sorada.
It is a broken, yet picturesque single lane mountain road through thick forest with numerous 'U', 'S' and 'Z' turns. Even in second gear rpm was mostly staying below 3000. The entire road had more langur population than vehicles. Sometimes I was apprehensive that they might loathe the lone rattle of my bike, but langurs of Kandhamal were real gentle-apes! Tarmac of NH-59 widened 5 kilometers before Daringbadi. Mountainscape by the side of the road got clearer the air at 3000 feet felt aromatic. There was room for the rider to breathe but not for the motorbike. The road was broader and smoother, yet loaded with frequent ascents and descents. That's how mountain roads are supposed to be.

Friday, January 8, 2016

ASUS ZenPad 7 tablet Review

ASUS ZenPad 7 tablet Review
Since 2012 I've been using the first generation Nexus 7 tablet. Well, I'm not much of a tablet guy. I tend to manage all "on the go" stuffs in my phablet itself, and for rest of the things which demand extensive reading/writing works, like what I'm doing now, only a laptop can be of help. So, however orthodox it sounds I am yet to figure out how exactly a tablet can watch my back. This justifies why I'm still stuck with a four years old tablet! Back then Google had collaborated with Asus to manufacture the beautiful Nexus 7 series. Performance of my Nexus 7 had outdid its on-paper specifications. Despite its 1 GB RAM (low as per present standard, right?), resource leech games like Asphalt 8 could be played without slightest lag. In a nutshell, Asus had succeeded in impressing the potential gadget lover in me, except with their poor after-sales service. Couple of months back Asus released three new models of tablet in India, marketing them under the series name 'ZenPad'- ZenPad 8.0, ZenPad 7.0 and ZenPad C 7.0. I got hold of a review piece of ZenPad 7.0 (Here I'm talking of ZenPad 7.0 Z370CG and not its lower variant- ZenPad 7.0 Z170CG). As of now yours truly doesn't seek salvation in reviewing gadget unless it got something to do with photography or traveling. But the catch is, apart from myriad other features, ZenPad 7.0 Z370CG has got two cameras: Primary 8 MP (f/2.0 Aperture) and Secondary 2 MP respectively, with 'PixelMaster' technology that Asus had introduced earlier in ZenFone series. Neither I'll be mentioning the spec-sheet of ZenPad 7.0, nor shall I be rhyming out its special features as highlighted by Asus. This review shall solely encompass my four days' experience of fiddling with this android slate.
ASUS ZenPad 7 tablet Review
Out of the box you get- A tablet, 7 W Adapter, USB Cable, Warranty Card and User Manual
Key Features of ZenPad 7.0 Z370CG as Highlighted by Asus:
* True2Life Independence IC producing ultra realistic images with accurate contrast and sharpness details.
* dts-HD premium sound for virtual 5.1 surround through its world-first interchangeable functional rear Asus audio cover (Optional accessory though).
* HD display with 72% view area and Corning Gorilla glass.
* Dual camera option for extensive still and video editing and effects.
* All new ZEN UI redesigned for greater personalization and customization.
* 8 hours battery life, plus the chance to extend this to 14 hours in total using the protective Asus power case (again, an optional accessory).     

After using the ZenPad 7.0 for four days I found out:-
 
The PROS:
* Minimalistic yet posh design, with robust build.
* Decent primary/rear camera.
* Lack of excess bloatwares.
* Perfect ergonomics to receive voice calls like you'd do with a chunky phone.
* Clear display with good tactile response.

The CONS:
* Poor battery backup.
* Unexpected lags while moderate multitasking.
* Supplied micro-USB cum charging cable is too short for practical usage.
* Inbuilt speaker volume is clearly inadequate.
* Lack of an earphone in the box does hurt, especially when our tablet is multimedia focused.

VERDICT: Hold on buddy, just few pros and cons aren't sufficient to draw a decision. Moreover, I don't want to push my judgment into your prudent head! So, please bear with me and read the full review to decide for yourself if Asus has equipped ZenPad 7.0 Z370CG with enough mettle to challenge your new year android tablet hunt.
ASUS ZenPad 7 tablet Review
Various shooting modes in ZenPad's stock camera App
Cameras:
Ah I know, camera is not the primary lookout in a tablet. But what else could you expect from a photo-freak? Yes, it was due to its low light capable cameras I had gladly agreed to review the ZenPad 7.0 and you believe it or not, camera was the first thing I had explored after unboxing the device. ZenPad 7.0 Z370CG sports two PixelMaster cameras- a 8 MP rear camera with auto-focus and a 2 MP fixed-focus front camera. The rear camera has has 15 shooting modes (as you can see in the image above) whereas the front cam has 8. The auto-focus on ZenPad's rear cam takes its own sweet time to focus the object of our interest but, finally when it does it is seldom inaccurate.
ASUS ZenPad 7 tablet Review
The 8 MP rear camera of ZenPad 7.0 focuses quite accurately and capable of producing bokeh!
The camera could even focus close objects producing cool close-up shots (definitely not Macro) which many mobile phone cameras would surely struggle to capture. Shutter speeds in daylight and well lit indoor conditions are fast enough for a tablet's standard. But owing to its slow auto-focusing you won't be in a position to exploit the decent shutter speed. Using the "Depth of Field" mode you can get some good shots with fine bokeh effects. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that ZenPad's "Depth of Field" mode produced much better bokeh shots than those usual 18-55 mm kit lens of low end DSLRs!
ASUS ZenPad 7 tablet Review
Shots in low light conditions are not bad at all. If you find it too noisy, just lower the ISO.
Shots captured in low light were quite acceptable too which made me appreciate its lens with f/2.0 aperture and the vital role of PixelMaster technology. In low lighting conditions images are bound to come grainy (noise) and I would recommend you to try using a lower ISO value from the camera setting. Colors are little over saturated but that makes our images more vibrant. Details are moderately preserved but that can be graded 'good' when such details are obtained from a tablet camera. I had previously tested the camera capability of iPad Air and thus I can clearly make out how ZenPad rear camera fares better in low lights.
ASUS ZenPad 7 tablet Review
Panorama shot clearly lacks in details.
Panorama mode in ZenPad 7.0 is easy to use and the stock camera software does fine stitching. Unfortunately, it gives you very low resolution images which obviously means that our panorama photos would lack in details, making them fit for only social media sharing. If you have to ignore one single functionality in ZenPad's camera it should be nothing other than the 'HDR' mode. HDR mode is simply non functional and produces similar images like that of 'Auto' mode.
ASUS ZenPad 7 tablet Review
My headless selfie is certainly over-processed!
The 2 MP font shooter is not quarter as worthy as its rear counterpart. The front cam of ZenPad 7.0 opens default in 'Beautification' mode (which you can't even change to the normal 'Auto' mode) that kills image details aggressively in an attempt to smoothen the skin tone/contour. If you look at my selfie (albeit, beheaded) above, you'll see that all beard details are lost and color of the tee looks damn unnatural. People with too many dents or acne over their face might dig this front camera but others would hate seeing their mannequin-like skin. 140 degrees panorama mode of the selfie camera is a welcome addition though.

The rear camera (not the front one) can capture videos up to 1280 x 720 resolution (i.e. HD). Asus seemed too reluctant to endow any decent videography potential to this tablet. The test HD video shot in good lighting condition looked completely useless as if coming from an era when mobile phones had just started recording low quality videos (remember the 3gp format?). Liberal loss of visual details and sound details justified the minuscule file size of my 30 seconds HD recording!

Everything critical said about the photography unit of ZenPad 7.0, I must admit that there are only very few tablets available at this particular price point which have equally potent, if not better cameras. 
ASUS ZenPad 7 tablet Review
Design:
At around 272 g, the 189 x 110.9 x 8.7 mm ZenPad 7.0 with its rounded corners is fairly easy on medium to large sized palms. Although I was eying for the Aurora metallic color variant, I was sent an Obsidian black piece. Nonetheless, my black ZenPad 7.0 with its leather-like textured back looks like a premium device. The shiny engraved brand name at back in landscape orientation syncs perfectly with its posh look (strictly speaking, only from the back). When viewed from front, ZenPad 7.0 looks simple like most other 7 inches tablet. You'll surely wonder what made Asus add such a thick bezel around the screen in a time (this is 2016 dude!) when every manufacture is trying hard to make gadgets slimmer and compact. Top bezel houses the front cam, speaker (cum earphone for voice calling) grill and various sensors while bottom is like a barren land wasted on a single logo. The 3.5 mm audio jack rests on the right top edge, microphone and microUSB at the bottom, and the most important two keys- power button and the volume rocker are located at right side of its polycarbonate frame. Somehow I couldn't like the placement of the above said buttons. They have been placed lower than where they best fit and consequently, the user of ZenPad 7.0 would surely end up pressing them accidentally now and then nurturing his own irritation. Although the battery of ZenPad 7.0 is non-removable, the back cover can still be opened to get access to its micro SIM slot (supports 3G) and the memory card slot (supports microSD, microSDHC and microSDXC cards up to 64 GB). Despite the provided dent at right bottom edge, opening the back cover tested real stamina of my nails and I had to use the handle of a spoon to lift it up. All in all, ZenPad 7.0 has got a classic design and robust build.

Display:
The ZenPad 7.0's modest 7 inch 1280 x 800 HD IPS display with a pixel density of 189 PPI is okay for media consumption but certainly not great. Asus True2Life and Asus TruVivid features which were supposed to enhance practicality, clarity and brightness seemed more like a manufacturer's vain gimmick. I'll tell you why. Whenever the "automatic brightness" is set, the screen looks quite dull and perhaps only suitable for text reading (unless you're in a dark room). For viewing photos and watching videos in normal indoor condition every time I had to drag the brightness level to its maximum so as not to miss the entertainment. Putting the blue light filter 'on' makes the screen look weird. Thankfully ZenPad's display has beautiful viewing angle from all four sides (178 degrees) and good tactile feedback. I could read a web-page under direct sunlight (keeping the screen brightness at maximum level though) without feeling the necessity to search for a shadow. In spite of its low pixel density and straight forward mediocrity I couldn't spot any pixelation throughout my movie viewing, reading and average zooming experiences. There is added protection of corning gorilla glass but being an apprehensive soul I'd rather put a screen guard over my ZenPad's display to further minimize the risk of getting scratched or traumatized.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A winter Sunrise over Digha beach

A winter Sunrise over Digha beach
Hey folks, greeting you warmly with a wish that's sincere for a healthy, happy and wonderful days. Wish that this new year be a messenger of joy, happiness, peace, smiles, and good times for you and your family. Happy new year 2016! I'm really happy my friends that I could conclude 2015 with a five days long motorcycle ride which I'll be blogging very soon. I have already started dreaming of riding more in this fresh year and of course click many more photos on the go. Today's photos of sunrise over the Digha beach have been pulled out from the archive of end-November weekend ride to Udaipur beach. I thought nothing better could ornament a new year greeting blog post than few visuals of the rising sun. Otherwise there's nothing new to narrate about Digha beach. It is dirty, congested and least picturesque (compared to other beaches). My hotel was adjacent to the new Digha beach and I was in a real hurry to ride back to my office and resume duty that day itself. So, I chose to forget Udaipur beach and settle with the lesser mesmerizing sunrise over the Digha beach. Moreover I was not sure whether winter fog would deprive us of the golden view.
A winter Sunrise over Digha beach

A winter Sunrise over Digha beach

A winter Sunrise over Digha beach

A winter Sunrise over Digha beach
Late risers like me are compelled to depend on forecast websites to find out the sunrise/sunset time of a particular place. In winter days the sun rises painstakingly late. Why I used 'painstakingly' you'll know only if you happen to wake up at morning four and left with nothing better to do other than waiting impatiently for a 6 o'clock sunrise. When I rode to the beach by 5:15 there were a couple of tea stalls open and not more than few dozens of tourists, half of them wrapped in shawl busy in sipping tea. It wasn't foggy around us but you never know the condition of the horizon (strictly being non-technical and skeptic) where the chief guest was supposed to take his leap. Na, it wasn't disappointing at the end. Even though it wasn't very colorful and vibrant we could at least view the sunrise over Digha beach. There was nothing poetic about it. I took the second tea of that morning and commenced my return ride. Not to forget- Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.