Sunday, December 21, 2008 that the semesters has ended.

Though I'm still a little in denial that the semester is actually over, I really wouldn't trade the break for anything.

In the last few days before the break, the pauses between finals allowed for some time to do whatever... including taking some photos for personal enjoyment.

And that's a big deal.

Photos for personal enjoyment are the ones that cause you to learn the most. Instead of taking photos for jobs - which a lot of the time means less experimentation and more "safe" shots - free-time is just for fun and experimentation is part of it.

...or just getting to know a different lens.


No Photoshop for me!

So, I think this Christmas season will be full of some experimentation and...

...there will be spans of time when I just use one specific camera with one specific lens for a long long time.

Its another good way to learn.

But in other news it IS, after all, Christmas.

And on Friday, the significant other and I took to the coldness with cameras...

And, speaking of the significant other, she is quite pretty... wouldn't you say?

If you hear of me referring to the MC... that's her.

So I've talked a little about Christmas, shown some photos, introduced you to the MC, and...

...Oh, and after Christmas I'm going on a little trip. Excited? Yes. You should be. Why? Because its to New York City for New Years.

Ringin' in the New Year in Times Square... or as close as we can get... 20 blocks or so...

That's gonna be crazy! Expect many a photo from that!

Talk soon, my friends. Stay tuned.
~noah d.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My college plays basketball...

Though the blog posts may not tell it, I have been working a lot these days.

Many of these "work" moments occur as taking photos of groups or functions, not many that are THAT fun... so, I really try to do things that I love to do... like, actually take usable photos instead of snapshots of people at parties.

Wow, I sound like I'm hatin' on some snapshots...

Don't get me wrong, snapshots at functions are where the paying jobs are... but, really, who wants to do that ALL the time just for money? Besides, nobody in my position as the fledgling photographer does it for money... we do it because we love it.

And, besides, this time of the year is a BIT slow. Not many organizations schedule things during the weeks leading up to finals.

But basketball continues!

And basketball is fun to shoot.

At least, I think so.

I was having issues with the lights tonight, but I think I can blame that on the 5D's contact with the remote.

I was also using the D300 with my boss' Nikkor 80-400 VR... which is a pretty sweet lens. It's a little dark on the long end, but it can reach a long long way...

...and see things like this:

Bad call?

But the 80mm end has some great out-of-focus rendering, too...

...even if the zoom ring is a long long way around to zoom from 80mm to 400mm.

But enough of that technical stuff. I just love me some photos...

That's not creepy at all...


So, anyways, I do take photos, believe it or not... and I love doing it.

Its finals week and its icey outside and it hasn't broken 25degreesF all day. My apartment parking lot is a solid sheet of ice.
No, really...

Stay tuned.
~noah d.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Do you have a couple thousand hours to spare?

A while back, my dad read a book called "This is Your Brain on Music". In the book, the authors cites a whole bunch of studies concerning "mastery" and becoming an "expert" in something.

I've known of this book for quite a while now, but it is just now getting some attention... especially in the arts.

So, it says 10,000 hours... takes 10,000 hours to become an "expert" in something. That's 5 years at a 40-hour work week. Or, 9 years at 3 hours per day.

Its backed up with ridiculous amounts of research (from "experts", of course).

Honestly, its encouraging. But it also means I have to work pretty hard for a few years.

My digital archives go back to 4 Dec 2005. That's not very long. Almost exactly 3 years. But on that day, I took this photo:

Taken with my first digital camera. A Nikon Coolpix L1 digicam. I don't actually know where that camera is now. But with trial and error and a LOT of experimentation I figured out what shutter speeds and apertures do. I mean, I didn't even know that was what they were called at the time, but I knew one of them was a 1-over-some-number and the other one had an f-some-other-number and the f-number went up, the 1-over-number had to come down to make the picture look the same. But if the 1-over-number was smaller, things blurred... so was born the Speed Hands Photo.

A year later, around 4 Dec 2006 (actually 2 Dec, I think), I took this photo:

This photo was taken with a Panasonic DMC-FZ50, my second digital camera. I could operate it completely manually like the Canon A1 or Minolta XG-M that I was using, too. This photo, however, was one in a series that I was commissioned for. It was my first commission and first time I was paid to make a photo.

It wasn't the pay that was so great; it was the fact that someone was paying me to do what I loved to do!

Then, a year later on 4 Dec 2007, I was in a completely different world:

I was being paid to take photos on a regular basis by the HU Public Relations department. I was shooting with a Nikon D80 and a couple cheap 2nd-hand lenses, most of which I came to find out later that they had some sort of problem. My 50/1.8 didn't focus to infinity and the 80-200/2.8 had a loose front element. Oops...

And last week on 4 Dec 2008:

I work for two departments on the HU campus and "unofficially" on at least one other. The above photo was taken because I had an order to "we need a photo before the paper goes to print at 4pm and its 2:30." It was to accompany a story about a bunch of people at my school who ride these long skateboards to class. This wasn't the one they chose, but I kinda liked this one...

Now shooting with a Nikon D300, a Canon 5D, and a whole bag of goodies...

...and a Leica M4-P for those film days.

Hmm... I wonder if I've made a dent in that 10,000 hours yet...?

I'm going to keep doing my best. I wonder what kinds of things I'll have done on 4 Dec 2009...

I like to think about it.

Think about it in your own little world.

With that in mind, I'm going to go do some studying. Finals this week. Worried about having a couple dozen internship applications floating around the continental United States for the next month. Who knows where I'll be next summer!

There's something exciting coming up, too, though. No, not Christmas. I've had Christmas all year. Just after Christmas. I'll leave it at that.

Stay tuned,
~noah d.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

...but I wasn't there very long.

Florence was nice.

But Arezzo was just... whoa...

My sister has been living at the Accademia Dell'Arte in Arezzo, Italy, since early September (or was the late August?)... anyways, it was a long time.

So we went to Arezzo to visit her.

We had to wait a little while until she got out of class... so the resident guard dog entertained us.

As for small-town Italy? When you're making a little trek through Italy, you may be tempted to hit all the highlights - Milan, Florence, Venice, Rome - but there is something really incredible about seeing how the REAL Italians live.

Okay, the people in the big cities ARE real Italians... but... if you have a vision of "Italy" instead of "New York Citaly" then get outside the cities. Go an hour or more. Go to Arezzo. Go to Stresa. Go to Assisi. See the ways Italy USED to be...

With quiet pedestrian streets...

...1000-year-old cathedrals...

...and the gargantuan pigeons to go with them...

I'm sure you can stay in a Bed & Breakfast anywhere in Europe... but when you go small-town B&B, there's something to be said about the experience.

Did the proprietors speak ANY english? Nope.
Did we have to do the ring-once-knock-twice thing? Yep.
Was the door unlocked with a skeleton key? Yep.

It was a very wonderful experience, honestly.

Arezzo is so small there is only one touristy shop and most of it is "antique" souvenirs. Yep, pretty darn cool.

The parents were really enjoying themselves. We all got to see Hailey. And we were onward to our final stop...


It was quite enjoyable to take a walk through the Forum again...

...and just turn the corner to see the Coliseum at the end of the street.

A few of you may remember me writing about Trevi Fountain back in April when I visited the first time: when I was there, I did the good ol' throw the coins in the fountain "as a down payment for my return trip to Rome."


...lets see if I go back for Round 3.


And THAT was the most touristy thing I did the whole time; we definitely saw all the touristy things, but we did well staying away from the black-socks-and-shorts-crowd...

But in mother's constant search for Pashmina scarves that have "Made In Italy" on the tag, we came across this little friend:

Kinda wish my apartment would let me have a cat.


We spent the first day with the Forum and downtown, but we headed to the Coliseum on the morning of the second day.

A little rain never hurt anybody.

And in 2000 years, I'm pretty sure the Coliseum isn't bothered by it much, either.

At times in a torrential downpour, my parents and I left this side of town and took the metro out to...

Vatican City.

The first time I was here, I waited about 15 minutes in the line. We thought we had done good to get there 15min before it opened! Well, this time we took our time and got there at 11am... and didn't stand in a line.

Just as I remembered... I mean, how much could the Vatican really change?

The big ball wasn't spinning today.

And I noticed a little quirk. See if you can see it, too. Look closely:

I don't remember the brontosaurus in the Bible but maybe I wasn't reading close enough.

That was on the ceiling of the Hall of Maps in the Vatican Museum. It MUST be true, right?

Oh, and here's my contribution to this month's edition of "Taking Pictures of Things I'm Not Supposed to be Taking Pictures Of."

Yeah yeah... everybody in the room was doing it. I guess it wasn't against the rules that day.

Photos of the Sistine Chapel aside, it was really cool to see this staircase again.

I think I like the new one. I wonder if they'll let me put it on the next cover, too!


So, by this time of the day, we were all quite famished. And it was raining.

More pizza? Yes.

But we weren't through at the worlds smallest sovereign state...

And I got to see the inside! I had not before. Its a good rainy-day thing to do.

Nuns in the rain. We were in the rain, too. Stand in line for a while to put your stuff through X-ray machines and metal detectors. I'm glad digital cameras are not damaged by X-rays. I went through probably a dozen just during this trip... maybe even more.

By the way, my previous excursion overseas involved a Nikon D80. During that 4 month span I rode it hard and put it up wet quite a few times - even dropping on Mt. Precipice in Nazareth, Israel, and breaking the 18-135mm - and it made it home and is still kicking 75,000 shutter cycles later. Dust storms, rain, snow, extreme cold, all of it... Sure, people in our group came home with their digicams with shattered LCDs and lens extension tubes unable to retract anymore, but the D80 - plastic body and all - definitely can handle being beat photojournalist style.

My D300 this time didn't bat an eye. Rain, snow and cold was about all the "extreme" conditions it had to handle. As for image quality, the D80 is shelved to the D300, but... what do you really expect. Images like: the the high ISO range would have been practically impossible. Little soft? Probably. Still a little dark? Yeah, my bad.

But its kinda cool to be able to set a camera at 800ISO or 1600ISO and let it run. I don't think I took a single photo over 3200ISO the entire trip.

ANYways... nerdy-ness done. Promise.

After a sardine-like ride through the Metro to the Spanish Steps...

...the trip came to an end. All too soon. We flew out of Rome to Newark, NJ, on Saturday after the Thanksgiving rush... but we made it back to Atlanta and finally home about 1am Sunday morning.

At 9am Monday morning I was back in class in Arkansas.

Between classes on Monday, I had a thought: 2 days ago I was looking at the Coliseum as we drove by it on the way to the airport. How small this world really is!?

The Coliseum...

...the aqueducts of Arezzo...

...the Milan Duomo...

...and the flooded streets of Venice...

...they are all closer than you think. No alien planet. Its just a little plane ride across the sea.

Nothing changes the way you see life more than traveling to places that are completely different from anything you've ever seen before. You may have seen gigantic buildings in Big City America, but you won't be able to wrap your head around a 1000-year-old structure built WITHOUT cranes and WITHOUT any computers... done completely by hand and simple machines.

Call me old-fashioned, but that is a testament to the power of the human mind. Not "hey let's see if we can invent something because we're too lazy to do it ourselves"... instead they were thinking "Hey, this is what we have; its not much, but let's do our best."

Yeah, kinda corny, I know... but in a couple hundred years, I'd prefer to be thought of as someone who would have done great things with less instead of taking the easy way out.

Normal posts resume soon. No more overseas travel for now.

Stay tuned,
~noah d.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

There are good days and great days...

I guess you can't have a bad day in Europe...

...well, I guess you can if you're in Greece right now.

But when you wake up to ridiculously cold sleety snow in Venice, Italy...

...that's gonna be a good day!

It was going to be an early morning - we knew that - but we didn't know that when they say, "Snow showers likely" on the weather forecast, they're serious!

And it wasn't just little flurries here and there, it was all-out big flakes of winter-y goodness!

Alright, so you're probably going to see more photos from Venice than any other place on our trip, honestly. But its just so freaking cool!

And then it SNOWS!

While we were waiting for our train out to Florence, I walked around the train station and out in the plaza and took snowy photos...

Thank goodness for a bit of weather sealing on the D300...

Oh, and then we sat on the track somewhere in eastern Italy for more than an hour. It eventually delayed our train 75 minutes at the arrival... but it was mighty worth it.

We were on our way to the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence, Italy, our next stop on the little trip.

Ah, good ol' Florence...

I visited Florence first in February of this year, a second time in late April... and now. It's probably one of my more favorite towns in Italy.

We stayed in the Pension Pendini... which was definitely a testament to the power of off-season travel. Ridiculously cool hotels for the good price. Where?

Our room was on the top floor next to the arch on the right. See? Check it out. Definitely worth it.

Anyways, all these aerial photographs are brought to you by the Dome of the Duomo.


...or inside... it falling apart?

I would, too, if I were that old!

My father made the trek up to the top with me. I had not done it before, either.

So, its difficult to appreciate how massive structures like this really are.

I heard once that the Florence Duomo was started before the technology existed to be able to finish the dome.

Now, similar building techniques are still used today. Pretty neat-o, really.

I wondered how they got these dudes up into this little room. Its the little smaller domes on the "shoulders" of the Duomo. Its up these tiny narrow staircases and twisting spirals... they had to have been brought in through the roof. There's no way.

I find it difficult to get a mattress up a straight staircase... I wonder what it was like hauling THOSE dudes up! For a bit of scale? See the ladder?

They kind of look like they're having a conversation... maybe about the ladder...

Moving on...

On to GROM for some mighty-sexy gelato. Its good. Its worth finding.

The Duomo is off to the left of this frame. Literally one block. Like... in sight. And that photo looks crooked. Grrrr...

And so it began to get darker. We took a walk towards the Medici Palace and past the Uffizi to Ponte Vecchio.

All sorts of pretty things there.

And back to one of the main reasons we had come to Italy in the first place:

My sister has been in Arezzo, Italy since late-August or early-September and this was just a little visit to her. She came to see us that night for dinner.

I gotta say, it was pretty cool to be in Florence, Italy, at the foot of the Duomo with my family.

It was quite a unique and memorable experience...

Oh, and the Gates of Paradise were still there, by the way. I'm sure you were worried.

So was the rain that makes such awesome puddles in the cobblestone streets.

See it. Love it. Its Italy.

I should write their tourism slogans, right? ;)

Or just go to sleep now...

...goodnight, my friends. Stay tuned.
~Noah D.