12 December 2012

Impromptu Camera Run... Niagara Falls

Since taking this new full time job I've been racked with guilt for missing taking photos.
However, because of this job I've been able to travel to places that I have never been... without having to pay for it (always good).

One of these places is Niagara Falls.
Here are a few of the photos that I took while I was there.

The Canadian Side of the WaterFall. The Corner is a power station that I got to tour (but no photos). 

I have about ninety photos of the waterfall, but after going through all of them... I only posted one. The sheer volume of water was hypnotizing which I ended up taking photos almost on autopilot. This gave me a lot of photos to work with, but wouldn't be THAT interesting as a post. 

One of the best photos I felt was when a Seagull landed on the platform RIGHT in front of me. 


Because I had to make it to the airport in time to leave, I couldn't stay for sun-set (which I am sure that Niagara would have been breathtaking). However, as I walked away the water vapor and the sky... a rainbow appeared. Minor tweaking in the RAW import + my favourite Florabella Action wash (Cashmere) gave me my favourite photo of the trip.


10 October 2012

Harley Davidson Museum

While cleaning off my memory cards for product photography (not as exciting) I found several photos of me at the Harley Davidson Museum.

I think in the break-up with my ex I had filed these photos away to deal with later.  It was a gut reaction to want to delete the photos until I saw how impressive the photos came out.

The Museum, dimly lit and filled with odd lighting was a challenging place for me. I remember taking seven of every photo... just praying that I would get a couple of good ones.

With very little done in PhotoShop, I am excited that they turned out so well.
Something about Harley Davidson that resonates with all things American that makes me love these photos.

Harley Davidson 12
Welcome to the Harley Museum.

Harley Davidson 11
Harley Water Tour. 

Harley Davidson 13

Harley Davidson2
Scott, listening to the audio tour. I love his concentrating expression. 

Harley Davidson3
Amazing the glitz and glam. 

Harley Davidson4 
A bedazzled bike...

 Harley Davidson9 
Point of View

  Harley Davidson7 
Horn reach around? This bike had a horn the passenger could use.

American icon... Harley Davidson.

08 August 2012

A Gas Station Stop-- leaving the security blanket of my DSLR

I have to admit the great lag in posting photos has been largely due to my own laziness.
I started to travel so  much more.
I hate having to prepare for a trip by packing.
I stopped packing my camera.
and then... stopped taking photos... because I had built up a mental block that somehow not having all of the correct equipment-- made my photography less legitimate.

But, this past weekend... I may have had a slight break in that block.

I went to California for the weekend to spend time with Kenneth.
He's moving to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (I cannot say that town's name to save my life). It was a wonderful road trip weekend... where I got to see most of the diversity of environment that California offers!

On our way down to San Luis Obispo-- we stopped at an abandoned gas station.
The sign with the beautiful California background

Kenneth had a friend that was into urban exploring on the East Coast and wanted to stop and see the gas station. Naturally I am always wanting to try something new-- enthusiastically agreed to stop.

After all, it didn't look like either terrible haunts or serial killers were hunkered down in there and ... I had a strong... perhaps slower running companion with me during broad day light :-)

Me and Kenneth. Alive and well after our exploring bout.
Although I didn't take as many photos as I normally would have with my SLR... the trip was interesting for me. I didn't have to have my SLR to be able to have my "photographer" glasses on-- and I was able to still see photos with just my iPhone.

Beautiful wrought iron bench outside where birds had made their nest

So, perhaps a new leaf...  
and maybe a little paradigm shift for me when it comes to taking photos. 

The sun going down as we finished digging around in the Gas Station

07 June 2012

The Great Wall of China

One of the places that work has sent me recently was mainland China. I found myself with an extra 18 hours between my lay over in Beijing to the destination of the World Wide Meeting in Shanghai. As such I took the opportunity to grab my camera and go see one of the world's great wonders, The Great Wall of China.

My first trip to the Great Wall
JinShanLing section of the Great Wall
I speak Chinese, so navigating the city and getting to the Great Wall wasn't too difficult. However for  those who are planners and worry warts... book your tickets ahead of time and print out every copy for receipts. 

As for everyone else? Any hotel in Beijing will have a daily, if not hourly tour group to go to the Great Wall. I found when I priced the difference between a taxi ride and the tour-- there was only a 20 USD difference and it was worth the peace of mind to me to be on a tour group.

The Great Wall was actually several walls built in different dynasties that was eventually connected to form one wall under Emperor Qui-ShanHang (the first Emperor of China). A really good paper on the History of the Great Wall can be found here.

The best place to visit the Great Wall is Beijing, which has the most open to the public sections. Most tourists elect to go to the Badaling section of the wall (it's closest), but is a smaller stretch of wall and has four times the number of people-- so instead, I went to the Jin Shan Ling section. This section had seven towers, an air car lift and... a toboggan to get back down (I love toboggan's and hadn't seen one since I used to live in Europe. Basically a metal slide with a cart you can zip down a mountainside on!). 

Going up to the top of the wall using the Air-Car , gorgeous mountain views. 
The Toboggan to get back down from the Wall.

Since I was traveling across China on this trip and traveling mostly on my own--I didn't bring my usual photo kit and instead only brought my D700 + the 35-70 mm midrange zoom (I even left my favorite 50mm at home!).  The weather ended up being gorgeous at the Wall, so photos turned out fairly well.

SO here are some of the edited favorite photos:

The wall, in the distance.
Arriving at the entrance to the sky-car to the top of the Wall. Vendors lined the entry way.
 (Black and White put the emphasis back on the Wall in the distance). 
You can see the wall trailing beyond the section that I'm standing on!

Third Tower to climb
Climbing the section of the wall.
The sections are unbelievably steep n some places, but very shallow and narrow in others. This section was the Watch/Arrow Tower.

New Section of Wall Grafiti
I love to notice the graffiti on items. The views of the mountains from the Wall are really breathtaking. 

Apparently even refreshments are exhausting
I didn't think that business was so heavy that she felt perfectly okay taking a nap. This is where you could purchase a 4.00 bottle of water (to put into perspective, most water costs less than .30USD)

Stairs are so steep
Get an idea of how steep the stairs were going to the last tower.

The mortar was made out of rice paste originally
You can tell if you are at an un-restored section of the Wall by looking at the mortar of the bricks.
The Great Wall is held together mostly by... Sticky Rice

The stairs are steep
It surprised me that most of the visitors to the Wall were actually all... Chinese. There were very few foreigners at this section of the Wall.
The number of statues on the end of your roof indicated your status. Because this section of the wall had a armored watch tower, this roof has more than the normal number of figures. 

 I'm glad that I got to visit the Wall. Although the inner geek spent a large part of trip wishing I had someone I could discuss what we could do to be spotted from Space (since the Wall was visible already)-- I still enjoyed getting to photograph and see the wall myself. I hope to come back some time and be able to bring my tripod, flash and a few more lenses to be able to capture how majestic the wall --- and China's mountain-side is.

I'll leave this post with my favorite photo of the trip. 

  The Mountains up at the Wall

28 May 2012

Golden Gate Bridge

Lately I've been traveling a great deal for work.
One of the trips I had been looking forward to was San Francisco. Something about that city has always spoken to me-- and I was itching to be able to explore the city.

Unfortunately, like most work trips-- the obligations that I was already committed to hindered my ability to be able to explore. However, I managed to squeeze in a trip to get a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge before I had to show up to set up the booth at the trade show.

The Golden Gate Bridge has been speculated to be the most photographed bridge in the world. So, one week before the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, I joined the ranks and took a few myself.  After googling, "Best Place to Get a Photo of the Golden Gate Bridge", I was able to get some options and find my destination, Baker's Beach.
The day was not particularly clear, but I think I managed to get a few decent shots.

Shot using Nikon D700 at F13 ISO 200 1/400 using the Nikon 2.8 35-70mm lens in my kit in RAW

 I was still carrying the set up from my trip to China (those photos to be posted later). Although I am not exceptionally excited about the sharpness of the 35-70mm mid-range I purchased used... the lens didn't do too badly. However, coupled with the overcast, the lens clarity, my own lack of a tripod -- a lot editing had to happened in photoshop.

The below photo ended up being my favourite.
I was watching a little kid and his family far ahead of me.  I really wished I brought my 70-200mm to get a better zoom of them. I settled on this shot: the kid was walking along the surf, kicking up his feet--- completely engrossed in the activity.
I love seeing the bridge behind him.

Nikon D700, f.13 1/400s ISO 200 35-70@700mm

I need to arrange another visit to San Fran, bring more camera gear... and actually see the city. 

Link to the Wikepedia Article on the Golden Gate Bridge! 
About the Golden Gate Bridge-- most photographed bridge in the world

12 April 2012

My First Mid-Range

After lusting after the Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 D for the past two years... I made myself a deal. Take more photos- and make money... THEN-I can buy that lens.

However, if how frequently I actually post shows... I failed and will never have that lens. Until, on a lark I was on Craigslist and saw a post that I checked out...
AND, welcome to the newest member of my quasi-habit/hobby team: the 35-70mm F2.8D Nikkor AF.

Nikon Nikkor 35-70mm 2.8 D
 Ken Rockwell does a good review of lens, and actually recommends this one for cheapskates (or lazy) photographers like myself. Despite my ardent aversion to CraigsList, I went-- checked out the lens and for 120.00 came home with it. The catch? There is a small scratch in the internal lens... I haven't taken it to my favourite camera shop here in Dallas yet to get a cost on how much it is to refit the glass, but after testing it out throughly-- I came to the conclusion it was worth having a wide angle + 50mm in one lens for the price. lensscratch

So we will have to see how this lens works out. I did do a little digging and found this comforting article I suppose the truth will be in the photos. We'll see how much I get out of my CraigsList 120.00 buy :-)

31 March 2012


www.laraswanland.com is officially reinstated. 

One less thing that I feel guilty about not having complete.
Now I just have to get the rest of the TODO list down!


03 March 2012

Costa Rica Birthday Vacation

I am a lucky girl.
Not only did I have one of the most beautiful vacations, but I got to celebrate my birthday in a place I have always dreamed of going and with several of my favourite people.

Costa Rica has been on my bucket list for the past several years. Shamelessly after watching one of the episodes of ABC's "The Bachelor" I have always wanted to visit the place where you can- Zip-line across the rainforest, climb a volcano and learn to surf!

So, me + 6 of my Minnesota friends + Boyfriends and some new friends met up in a little Costan Rican town of Jaco for an entire week.

Jaco, a place of amazing surfing + some of the most beautiful rainforest was where we were able to rent a quaint little villa. Although it was far away from most of the activity, it was perfect as a place to decompress and relax.

Our group lucked out that one of the members was a professional Chef. The entire vacation was culinarily satiated.

Peacefully hammock reading 
Welcome to Costa Rica- Chandra reading in the hammock at the Villa.

The best part about Jaco was how easy it was go to go the beach and sit and watch the Sunset.
Nothing is more peaceful to me than to sit on the beach listening to the waves crash and watching the sun turn from yellow to red… then slip down the horizon. There were a couple of days that I grabbed my journal and just sat on the beach absorbing the experience.

My Friend Corinna, enjoying the sun with me.

While on the beach many characters came about. This guy was by far my favourite. A cross between surfer man- and resident… party guy… he was laden with Cigars and for some reason could sell them at 60% less than what the stores could. I had a feeling that these were cigars that "Fell off the Truck".
The Man selling bootlegged Cigars

A few days later our character was upset and didn't come near the beach bar we usually met up at… to find out that there was a Cigar Rolling demonstration. I found it fascinating. I suppose I had always assumed Cigars were like Cigarettes that had paper and stuffed with tobacco. Instead it was interesting to see the entire tobacco leaf being rolled in. Per everyone at the bar's opinion Costan Rican Cigars are just as good if not better than Cubans with less grief associated.

Rolling his own Cigars for sale at Clarita's Gringo Bar.

The materials to roll the Cigars!

I just loved being near the ocean-- there was a man that offered horseriding every time he saw me.
Horse Riding on the Beach Offered

The Smalls 
Friends on the beach.

Of my contemplations on the beach… was watching the rocks roll around and seeing how Sand was created. The beach at Jaco isn't the white sandy beaches you imagine of Hawai'i or the ones that I saw in Australia. It's a combination of volcanic material (the sooty black) and mashed up rocks.

Come to Costa Rica
Welcome to the rocks … how Sand is formed.

Rocking the V's
The Rocks, leaving V's Behind.

Casio EX-G1 Waterproof, Shockproof Camera…
This is a good little Camera and helped me keep the love of my life, (my D700) safe back at the Villa. I took the Casio everywhere that required a little adventuring or … was perhaps not the safest for tempting fate (e.g. PickPockets).

The entire group wanted to do the ziplining, which was fun considering we were traveling with well over 11. I was amazed at the variety of flora and fauna just up in the canopy, it was as if we were in a different world from just 100 feet below at the base of the trees!
A Tour of the Rainforest Canopies via ZipLine

Kim Coming in for a landing

A few of us with White Water Rafting.
We had heard before coming to Costa Rica that this was a perfect place to Raft.
Right now it's the dry season, which makes the runs that we made Class IV and Class V. I've never rafted before, but figured… Go Big or go Home :-)… so I went.
The group, www.h2ocr.com was wonderful. They not only train you on how to deal with Rapids, should you have the misfortune to fall out, but had a professional photographer/kayaker traveling with us! If that isn't a dream job… I'm not sure what is. He would kayak ahead of us, pull his Canon out of the pelican case climb rocks and shoot away. I've posted one of his photos after the Casio ones. I liked having both perspectives, IN the boat and out of the boat. With the exception of water spots, the Casio did an amazing job keeping up with all of the water, banging around and rough handling! I can't recommend any camera highly enough for adventuring that it!

Gorgeous… the water was so clear and blue!

A little Fuzzy, but we were just going down a rapid when I turned around and took this snapshot.

The rocks were Amazing! Apparently during the rainy season ALL of this is under water.

Our Team Mates behind us in the last Raft.

NOT MY PHOTO, but rights given to me by H2ocr.com
This was borrowed by H2o Adventures, but an amazing photo of us White Water Rafting

This was a perfect way for me to spend my birthday… with friends, in a beautiful place… and just really soaking in and loving life.
I am a lucky woman.

Steph, Contemplating the beautiful Costan Rican Sunset (iPhone 4).