traverse of the grand sort

It's been a long time. I apologize. The bad news is that my laptop, a Toshiba Satellite A105 series, sadly met its maker last month, taking with it everything I had not yet backed up. Thankfully, that wasn't too much. The good news is that I was still under a service contract at Best Buy, Best Buy honoured the $1000 that I spent on Zorba almost three years ago, and gave me a credit. I used this towards a new MacBook, and I think we'll be very happy together. After two Toshibas with nearly identical demises (having to do with the power input), I am done with Toshiba. Since I was also done with HP, I narrowed my choices to either Sony or Mac, and I took the plunge and went Mac. It's really neat. I might write a whole blog about it on my other blog, but since this is about photos, let's pick up where I left off, shall we?

To refresh memories (yours and mine alike), when I last pblogged, I began pblogging my trip Up North--meaning to the northern half of Michigan. I covered Sleeping Bear Dunes, and now I'm on Traverse City and the surrounding area. Beautiful, beautiful places. See for yourself!

Traverse City

I thought this was a cool shot from downtown Traverse City. It's one of those obviously picturesque, old-fashioned downtown areas that I kind of love. I've been trying to develop a better eye for photographic patterns, and I like the lines in this shot. 1/80, f/11, ISO 200.

Kilwin's Fudge

All over northern Michigan, the smell of Kilwin's fudge infiltrates said picturesque downtown areas. This is also something that I love. We stopped at Kilwin's more than once on that trip! I'm partial to the mint fudge, myself...such a delightful shade of sea foam green. 1/40, f/3.5, ISO 200. Shot through a glass display case with a circular polarizer.

Old Mission Lighthouse

I love a rich blue colour for the skies in my photographs, and I often underexpose a bit to get it. I didn't have to do a thing to this in Photoshop besides clone out a little dust speck and bring out the red in the chimney just a smidge. This is definitely one of my favourite shots from Day One of the trip. Oh right, the subject. It's Old Mission Lighthouse. We headed up the Old Mission Peninsula in late afternoon, with plans to photograph at the point and eat at the Peninsula Grill. We weren't sorry, because of shots like this, and also because of the potatoes at the Peninsula Grill. They were garlicky and buttery and full of potato goodness. I think they were the best potatoes I have ever had, and I've had a lot of potatoes. 1/80, f/11, ISO 200.

Grand Traverse Bay

This might not be the best swimming water, but it makes for more interesting photo composition than your average sandy beach! Taken from just in front of the Old Mission Lighthouse, this is the northern end of the Grand Traverse Bay. 1/80, f/11, ISO 200.

Grand Traverse Sunset

Grand Traverse sunset...emphasis on grand! When we left the Peninsula Grill, we walked outside into one of the most beautiful sunsets I'd ever seen. So we got in my car and floored it back to the "scenic lookout" that we'd seen on the way up and managed to catch the tail end of the sunset. I don't often wish for a tripod, but I wish I'd had one for this shot so I could have used a lower ISO. The original is a bit noisy, but it reproduces well enough for web. 1/200, f/8, ISO 1600. Reds enhanced a bit in Photoshop to bring out the rays.

I hope it won't be too long before my next blog, but you never know, I guess. Next time: More from Up North, but from the Upper Peninsula.



Just as I was starting to get back into photoblogging, I have to take another hiatus. My laptop is in for service again. This makes three times in four months for virtually the same problem--power issues. If Best Buy calls me within a week to tell me that my computer is back, then I'll cut them some slack, but if I have to leave for Vancouver next week without my computer, I definitely will not be kind.

In the meantime, I'm without a computer that has Photoshop. I'm borrowing a computer from my mom's work, but since I'm not an administrator, I can't install anything, including the free trial of Photoshop. I've already tried, just to be sure.

If all goes well, I'll be back with new blogs after my trip to Vancouver for the 2009 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.


up north

Michiganders refer to anything north of Clare as "Up North." It's just an unwritten rule. It's always capitalized, to the point that it's even pronounced with capitalization. In fact, Clare, although it is located right in the middle of the "hand" and just about as far as possible from any state or international borders, is home to a large "Michigan Welcome Center," right off of Highway 127, the main artery that bisects Michigan vertically. Kind of amusing.

Anyway, in June 2008, I went on my third trip Up North. It was my last trip Up North as a Michigander, taken just a couple of weeks before I moved back to Chicago. I was with four of my favourite road tripping buddies, and it was our annual birthday celebration, since four of us have birthdays between mid-May and mid-June.

Our first stop was Sleeping Bear Dunes, a national lakeshore located near the pinkie finger of Michigan's mitten, just west of the Traverse City area. After paying a nominal admission fee to enter the park (good for the weekend, although we had too much to do to go back), we took the scenic drive through the park. We didn't stop at every point of interest, although I think we hit the most important ones. It probably took about 2 hours in total, just because we stopped for quite a while at one of the turnoffs.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Our first view of the dunes and a spectacular vista with Lake Michigan in the distance. I love the way that the sky turned out in this photo.

Warning Sign!

Okay. Noted. I did not attempt to scale the bluff.

Steep Bluff!

However, I did take a photo of others trying to scale the aforementioned steep bluff. This photo is as-shot. I promise, I didn't tilt it or take it from an odd angle to make it appear even steeper!

Sleeping Bear Dunes

This view was worth the drive already, and this was only the first stop on the trip.

Up next: more from Up North!


bound for olympic dreams

Apologies for the lag in updates to this blog! I've been busy moving (twice) this summer, as well as doing quite a bit of traveling. This weekend, I'm moving to downtown Chicago, and I'm starting grad school at Roosevelt University next week. So while I have a bit of time tonight, here's the last entry on my East Coast trip from June.

I started watching the Olympics in 1992, and my first love was figure skating. If you read my blog, this shouldn't be a surprise. My second Olympics love came during the summer Olympics in 1992. My mom was in Mexico for a week, and I spent that week at my grandparents' house. They had cable. And it was the first week of the Olympics. I spent the entire week watching as much as I could, but especially the gymnastics. Shortly after that, I switched from dance classes to gymnastics lessons, but I wasn't very good. I did compete for a year in high school, but trust me...I really wasn't very good! I've always loved the sport though, and it's especially magical during the Olympics. So when I happened to be passing back through Philadelphia during the Olympic Trials, and the friend I was staying with just happened to be a former gymnast, things finally fell into place for me to attend my first elite gymnastics competition.

Carly Patterson

There was a "Fan Fest" outside the arena before the event started, and I confess, we went early so we could see Carly Patterson. I was expecting worse, but I'm not about to run out and buy the CD, either. It was pretty standard pop music. I did get some good shots of the 2004 Olympic All-Around Champion, though, and this is my favourite.

Jana Bieger

Photographing gymnastics is different from many other sports, since they move through the air so fast. This was my first great shot of the night, after messing with settings throughout the first rotation. It's Jana Bieger, and she ended up being an alternate to the 2008 Olympic team.

Alicia Sacramone

I was really rooting for Alicia Sacramone to have a great meet and eventually make the Olympic team, and she did both! In my opinion, floor exercise is in a really sad state now -- hardly anyone really dances or bothers relating to the music, and even fewer have choreography that appears to be thoughtful at all, but I did like Alicia's FX, as far as this year's routines went.

Nastia Liukin

This should be a familiar face to many people now! It's, of course, Nastia Liukin, the 2008 Olympic All-Around Champion, just one of the 5 medals that she won there. I like her "Dark Eyes" FX as well, and this was my favourite shot from the night. Her left foot is a tad blurry in full resolution, but I think the rest of the shot makes up for it.

Shawn Johnson

My friend and I were sitting in the corner where the vaults landed, so I have clear shots of this pose from most of the gymnasts. I picked Shawn Johnson to post, since she's so adorable, and also a four-time Olympic medalist now. Plus, I think she's my favourite gymnast in a long time. I hope she sticks around and continues competing.

More photos from the event available in my Flickr portfolio.

I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to post again, but the next few posts will feature some great landscapes and sweet sunsets from northern Michigan.


these little town blues are melting away

Well, here I am with photos from the last day of my New York trip - only five weeks late, or something like that. Ah well - it's been a busy month! These photos are from Greenwich Village, where my mom and I spent most of our last day in the city. She'd hurt her legs from over-walking on Wednesday, so on Thursday, she needed to take it easy. We took the subway to the Village and wandered around, and then a college friend of mine met us for lunch and spent the afternoon with us. Definitely a much more laidback day than our other days in New York, but fun nonetheless.

Washington Square Arch

The Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park is, quite obviously, modeled after the Arc de Triomph in Paris. Mom and I have been to Paris together three times, so it was fun to find this homage. 1/80, f/10, ISO 100.

Judson Memorial Church

This is Judson Memorial Church, located on the south side of Washington Square Park at Thompson Street. I love this photo because I like the bright colour of the bricks and the even blue of the sky. The cloud and sky looks almost like a painted backdrop, but it was real -- it was just gorgeous that day. 1/60, f/10, ISO 100.

Judson Memorial Church

Here's Judson Memorial Church from a slightly different angle and with slightly different settings. I can't decide which one I like better. 1/50, f/13, ISO 100.

Father Demo Church

Here's another Greenwich Village church -- Our Lady of Pompeii Church. It's located at Bleecker and Carmine, on one of the corners of Father Demo Square. I like the clouds and sky in this one, too, and the colours of the buildings. 1/250, f/10, ISO 200.

Next time: Highlights from the 2008 U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Trials.


i want to wake up in a city that never sleeps

Day Four in New York started early with a tour at the United Nations. I wasn't thrilled with the tour - there were so many people there, and so many groups roaming around simultaneously. The guidebook also promised us a Chagall mural, which we did not get to see. Our guide could only show a select number of things, since there were other groups wandering. I guess they did what they could with the volume of people there, though.

United Nations

The headquarters of the United Nations. The assemblies are in a different, connected building, but this is where all of the offices are. In front of the grounds, flags of the member nations (in alphabetical order) line the east side of the street for five or six blocks. In case you're not up on your flags of the world, from left to right, the flags in this photo are: Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, and Israel. I loved looking at charts of the flags of the world when I was a kid, so this is one of my favourite photos from the day. 1/80, f/13, ISO 100.


After the UN, Mom and I had lunch at Prêt à Manger for the second time that week. I ate at Prêt so many times when I was in London last year, and so I was beyond excited to find it in New York. I had no idea that they had stores in the States at all. Sadly, they are only in New York on this side of the Atlantic. After lunch, we took the subway to SoHo. Mom sat on a shady bench and read for a little bit while I took some photos. 1/200, f/8, ISO 200.

SoHo again

Besides the fab shopping, SoHo is a great neighbourhood because of the interesting mixture of brick and iron in the architecture and the narrow cobblestone streets. It has a bit of European flair to it. Oh, and we also bought my Mom an iPod at the flagship Apple store, which was really exciting for me. I also looked longingly at the MacBook Pro, but that's way out of the budget right now. 1/125, f/8, ISO 200.

Brooklyn Bridge

Mom isn't a shopper at all, so there was still time after our walk around SoHo before we needed to head back to the hotel to change for dinner and a show. We finally decided to go to Brooklyn for ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. It's just on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to get there on the subway without backtracking and having to change multiple times. I didn't feel like doing that, so we decided to just walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. It's a classic New York experience, right? One problem: I am terrified of bridges. Especially when I can't cross them quickly! I stared at my feet and walked as fast as I could, but I made it all the way across and I even managed to pause a couple of times for some photos. I think this photo is worth it. 1/60, f/13, ISO 100.

Brooklyn from the Bridge

This shot was taken on the bridge, looking northeast to Brooklyn. This shot also made the trip across the bridge worth it. Oh, and the ice cream didn't disappoint, either. 1/50, f/13, ISO 100.

Next: last day in New York, with shots from Greenwich Village.


top of the list, king of the hill

Day Three in New York was a beautiful Tuesday. Mom and I had a fantastic, somewhat leisurely day, compared to the running around that we did on most of the other days. We began our morning with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and spent a few hours there. In a few hours, we still didn't even see half of the exhibits, but we did hit the kinds of art that we like the most and a few new things as well. Since the Met is located right on the edge of Central Park, we then spent the afternoon in the park. I took some photos and we had a fairly good Nutella crepe while we sat by the fountain and read for a while. Then we walked up to Lincoln Center, but they're doing construction on the fountain, so it wasn't very photogenic. Juilliard is right there, too, and I kind of wanted to get a Julliard pen to add to my collection of collegiate pens, but the bookstore wasn't obvious and the construction was loud and we were tired, so we headed back to the Times Square area. There, we met up with one of my mom's high school friends. Susan took us to McCormick & Schmick's for dinner, which may be a chain seafood restaurant, but it's classy and it's the best chain seafood I've ever had! I had the most delightful mahi mahi with pineapple and cashews, and Susan and I bonded over how fabulous Kristi Yamaguchi was on Dancing with the Stars. Good day overall. Now for the photos:

The Met

Façade of The Met facing 5th Avenue. It's so big that even with a 28mm and standing across the street, I had difficult getting the whole main part of the building in a single shot! 1/200, f/6.3, ISO 100.

New York

This shot of some of the New York skyline (with Central Park in the foreground) was taken from the rooftop garden of The Met. There were some really interesting metal sculptures on display up there (like a giant yellow "balloon" dog - but made of metal, not balloon) and it was a nice place to sit and re-caffeinate before tackling more of the museum. In order to get this shot, I had to crouch down and tilt my camera way upwards, but I really wanted to get that little bit of blue sky and all of the pretty clouds in the shot! 1/320, f/11, ISO 100.

Inside the Met

This is the main hall at the entrance of The Met, taken from the balcony on the second floor. I just love the arches, and how the big open space of the upper third of the room contrasts with the bustling floor. 1/80, f/4, ISO 1600.


The main fountain in Central Park. What a great day for being outside, and I'm normally not an outside-person. At all. This shot makes me want to watch Enchanted. 1/30, f/13, ISO 100.

Literary Walk

My favourite shot from Tuesday. I didn't think I'd be able to get a shot like this in New York during the summer! There's hardly any people in it! This is the Literary Walk in Central Park. It's so quiet and peaceful, and the shade is just beautiful. I had to take about five shots before I got the exposure right, but I love how it turned out, and it's now my desktop wallpaper. 1/50, f/11, ISO 400.

All of these were taken with the Tamron 28-300, and it was after I had a chance to take it back to the hotel and dust it off! Also - I want to note that after my last post, someone from Adorama contacted me (and was quite persistent when I was worried that it was spam!) and wanted to look into what happened with my order. I was then offered a discount off my next order and free shipping. Since I want to get a new bag that's better for travel before my next trip, I will probably use that, so it's nice that they are so focused on customer service. Like I said in my last post, things are always going to happen, and I understand that (occasionally!!), but it's what you do after something happens that makes a difference with me.

Anyway, on the subject of bags - I currently use a Lowepro Slingshot, and I like it as a small bag to use on a day-to-day basis, but when I travel, especially by air, it's a huge pain because I have to use the Slingshot as a carry-on, and then I also have to lug around my laptop bag. I'd really like a camera bag that also has a laptop compartment. I'm considering the Lowepro Fastpack and one of the Kata backpacks. The Kata is less expensive and it comes in pink (always a selling point for me, I have to admit), but I'm concerned about the capacity. On my next trip, for example, I will have my Canon 200/2.8L, my Tamron 28-300, my Canon 50/1.8, and I may also rent a Canon 70-200/2.8L. I found a good review of the Kata backpack, but it wasn't from someone who travels with telephoto zooms. So it might be the Lowepro - which I can get in red. Not as great as pink, but marginally more professional.

Next time I post (which might not be for a while - I'm moving this weekend/next week!): Day Four of the New York trip - United Nations, SoHo, and the Brooklyn Bridge.