Sunday, November 30, 2014

Aftermath

Warning: this post is graphic.
No shave November!


   It doesn't take a lot to ruin someone's life. We are, for all our power and intelligence, very fragile creatures. Our lives can end quicker than it took to be delivered. Seconds... that's all it takes. For those who lose their lives, while tragic sometimes, it is not really them who seem to suffer, (although since I am writing this, I can't really say I have any first hand evidence to back that claim up!) it is their family and friends who suffer. Those who survive tragedy have theirs and their family's life disrupted too and sometimes ruined completely.

   I am writing this blog with one hand (so forgive any typos) for this very reason. On November 26th, the day before Thanksgiving, someone not paying attention disrupted my family's and my life in a split second. As I was driving home from school on my motorcycle on interstate 10 as I always do, a man in a black sedan entered the freeway and without signaling or looking, immediately merged into my lane and hit me from my right side. This sent me into the third lane on my left where I was then sideswiped on my left side at full freeway speeds (about 60 mph). I then fell and slid for a long while. As I slid I could see other cars barreling towards me trying as hard as they could to stop in time.


   When my slide came to a stop I immediately lifted the bike as far as I could and pulled free my trapped and mangled left foot. I took off my helmet which I am glad I was wearing as later I would see that the face shield was ruined and that would have been my face if not for that helmet. (always wear a helmet guys, they even look cool so if nothing else do it for that reason) I then tried to stand. I was stopped though, not only by pain, but two random men who stopped and told me they were trained nurses. One of them called an ambulance while the other helped me to the side of the freeway. After all, I was sitting in the middle of a 4 lane interstate.

The one near my toe goes to the bone.
   I thanked them at the scene, but if perhaps they ever see this post in the future, I hope they understand that no words of thanks can express my gratitude sufficiently. You are heroes in your own respects. Quickly I learned that the lady who had side swiped me on the left side stopped too and apologized to me. Her apology hurt me because I knew it was sincere and I could hear how worried she was, but in no way was this her fault and I told her so. However, the person at fault was no where to be found. He didn't slow down, attempt to pull over, then get scared and change his mind. He just kept going. Before he hit me I looked him straight in the eye. Our eyes met for a split second before colliding. He had no idea if he had just taken the life of the person he had locked eyes with or not, but that did not factor into his decision of cowardice.

   Although I was in pain, I really didn't think my injuries were so bad. I knew I had lots of deep cuts and scrapes, lots of bruising, and a swollen stiff elbow but nothing too serious. I even told my father I'd probably be released that same day. Wrong. In fact my arm was broken near the elbow and the bone was beginning to pierce through the skin. You know people always say, "Oh no, you'd KNOW if you broke it." I'm here to call bull shit on that statement. My elbow hurt a lot, but having never broken a bone, but spraining an ankle and taking many spills before, I really didn't feel like it was broken. Turns out it was broken in one of the worst ways and required surgery. Surgery is a really scary thing. It takes a lot to scare me, but to think that you cannot breath for yourself while under anesthesia and there is always a possibility of death is frightening. That... and a catheter...
That little white spec towards the end of my elbow is the bone starting to show.

   So my Thanksgiving was spent in a hospital room alone and in pain. I had told my mom to leave the night before despite her insisting to stay. Not all was gloomy and dismal though, my family brought me plastic containers filled far too full with Thanksgiving dinner later that day and sat with me as I ate and took pain medication. My appetite is only now returning to normal, but that was pretty good turkey and I ate as much as I could.

   Which brings me to my next point, and one that is probably most important. My family. Before I went to Japan I wrote a post explaining my role in the family as a sort of shield for them. I am the strong one. But recently this shield has bent and broken and in my weakness they have been strong. I really could not do this alone. I am strong, and I will never fully rely on anyone no matter what the circumstances, but even the strongest need a bit of help. They have not let me down. From dressing the wounds I cannot get to, to helping me get a cold soda from the fridge. They are amazing people and I love them more than you can imagine.

   To whoever this man was that did this to me, to my family, you are a coward. I am quite angry to say the least. Not because you weren't paying attention and hit me. Which is ironic since today's post is coming so soon after this post where I remind drivers to be careful with motorcyclists. I am angry because you were too much of a coward to face what you had done. I wouldn't have been mad if he came to me and apologized. In the end it was an accident. One that could have been avoided, but an accident all the same. Now I have hospital bills I cannot pay for, pain doing the most basic things, a plate in my arm, a disrupted life, and a stressed out family.


   I am thankful that my life was not taken. You hear all the time when someone dies, "He/she probably didn't even feel it," "He/she probably blacked out before it happened." If I had died that day, I would have seen everything. I was conscious through it all and I saw every vehicle barreling towards me trying to stop as I was laying on the ground. I would have seen my own death. At the start of this post I mentioned we are fragile creatures and that is true. But we are awkwardly amazing too. The human body can survive an accident that claims many lives every year with relatively little damage, only to be rendered helpless by that little damage doing the most basic things... like peeing. Peeing is a freakin' chore right now...

Friday, November 7, 2014

#BringDownJulianBlanc

   Hello everyone, just a quick and raw post tonight because there is something kind of disturbing going on. Some of you may not know about it but there is a certain "pick-up artist," or "dating coach" holding seminars teaching other men how to pick up women.

   As a hopelessly single guy I might think, hey that sounds pretty cool, maybe he knows something us unfortunate bachelor's do not. But then you see his videos and his... "techniques" and it is quite hard not to be disgusted. The techniques he uses are just demoralizing towards women and borderlines on abuse. In his video he shows a trip to Japan where he grabs women's heads and forces them into his crotch. These are the types of things he is teaching people. This is an excerpt from that video:

"At least in Tokyo, if you're a white male, you can do what you want. I'm just romping through the streets, just grabbing girls' heads, just like, head, pfft on the dick. Head, on the dick, yelling, 'pikachu,' with a pikachu shirt."

   This is not just something that is going on in Tokyo either, he is doing this everywhere and holding seminars around the world.

   So what can you do? Well so far he has had his passport revoked in Australia because of an overwhelming number of people signing a petition against him. Please do us all a favor and sign the petition too. This guy is disgusting and a disgrace to what it means to be a man. Do not let him come to your city and teach people these disgusting "techniques."

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween and Day of the Dead

 

   Halloween and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) has come and gone. Are you sad to see it go? Are you the type who stays up all night dressed in a ridiculous costume binge eating sweets watching Hollywood horrors? What is Halloween to you?

   For some it is a day for the kids. For others it is the one day you can be a kid again and get away with it. For others still, it is the Day of the Dead. I haven't really liked Halloween since that time in my childhood where I wanted to dress like nothing but Dracula for so many years in a row. I don't know why but I got out of the whole dressing up thing when I was pretty young.

   In addition to that, I never really understood Day of the Dead even though it is popular with Mexican culture. I am part Mexican and quite proud of that, but at the end of the day I can't really identify with that side of my heritage. I was, after all, raised by my very loving, and very white, mother. (Who ironically knows far more Spanish than I do go figure.) So Dia de los Muertos was completely lost on me. I didn't understand that it was any different from Halloween. I mean, people dressed up, skeletons are all over the place, the only difference I really saw is that it is slightly more colorful.

 
   This year I figured I would go downtown to see a Halloween costume contest. What I found, much to my delight however, were people setting up little booths and shrines of sorts for the Day of the Dead. Many of these were beautiful and very labor intensive for sure. I even stumbled upon these guys who were glad to talk to me about what was going on that day and took real pride in their work. I have no idea how much of it was set up prior, but I can tell you they were working on it for hours before and after I got there and the result was fantastic. They were kind enough to give me their Facebook page which you can check out here: AlamoBasementSA.

   I saw many different booths and each were highly decorated. I even saw one dedicated to Robin Williams which I thought was pretty cool. He was my favorite actor after all. (Go see his non-comedic movies. That really shows what kind of an actor he was.) Still, seeing all these really didn't grant me any more understanding as to what Day of the Dead really was, beautiful though they may have been.




   That is... until I discovered the most eye opening piece of art work I think I have ever personally seen. Tucked away behind a wall so you may very well have missed it was a piece that was so unassuming I almost passed it by. I am glad that I didn't. A simple dead sapling tree (or branch disguised to look like one) is all it was with ornaments hung from its bare twigs like a very sad rendition of a Christmas tree. Underneath it was a blanket with  figures drawn that were reminiscent of much of what I had seen already that night. I was about to leave because beside it was a 6 or 7 foot tall booth dedicated to John Lennon, when something in my head told me to take a closer look at the piece. Perhaps this "something" comes from seeing so much art over time. When you view a piece, you must always try to see it from different angles, distances, and with different lighting. But perhaps it wasn't that at all, and maybe, just maybe something else called to me, beckoning me to see what this was actually all about. So for whatever reason I walked up closer to see the ornaments. What I saw, or rather what I read, will be in my memories forever. The minute I read some of the notes that were pinned to this poor little twig of a tree I felt that, "Oh it's nothing I just have something in my eye," feeling. Come on guys, you know which one I am talking about. For on these ornaments were messages to passed loved ones. Some were vague, some were written by children, and some celebrated the deceased by explaining to whoever read it what their favorite food in life was.

   I couldn't believe the beauty and sadness in this little otherwise unremarkable work of art. I can't explain to you how surprising and moving this was for me. The words scrawled on these little strips of paper touched a part of my soul I didn't even know existed. None of them were very long, a few words at most, but the love and care put into those few words were powerful enough to humble this average observer. Of all things, that showed me what the Day of the Dead was all about. It's not about ghosts and goblins. It's not about candy and costumes. Rather, Day of the Dead is about honoring, respecting, and remembering those who have left us. It's a time of sadness, but also a time of happiness knowing that we have a day dedicated especially to their memory. It is the Day of the Dead, but it is also a day of the living. On this day we can be thankful we are here to feel the sadness we feel for the deceased. We feel it, not really because they are dead, but rather because they were alive, and we miss them.

   The Day of the Dead is a reminder to everyone that life is fragile and precious. Precious because sometimes you can turn a corner down a path you never expected to go, and find the beauty of the human condition scrawled on a strip of paper hung on a twig.





   As always, thanks for reading everyone. I hope you had a great Halloween. If you'd like to follow me on twitter so you can be updated when I post new blogs, please look me up @thealexscene.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Motorcycles and Stereotypes

   I just saw something on the interwebz of a guy who filmed himself and a group of fellow motorcycle riders doing stunts on the highway and then being chased by a cop. This officer was behind the group of riders when he saw them speeding and performing "stunts" on the open highway. In the end the officer was outnumbered and decided it was best for himself and for the general safety of the public to leave so as not to encourage them further. This video was uploaded anonymously and police are looking for the riders. I will put the video down below.



   I myself drive motorcycles and I enjoy doing so. It's great to be out on the open road with the wind rushing by and the road stretched out in front of you. When you drive a motorcycle your whole body is one with the machine leaning to turn, sensing vibrations, and listening to the engine's requests to shift. It is an experience matched by very few things.


 
   One thing that bothers me though is the stereotype "bikers" have. To some people the word "biker" has become synonymous with crime and recklessness. The only things people think about when they hear someone drives a bike is either biker gangs or reckless young riders who are all over the news because they drove their motorcycle straight into another car. I tell people I am a motorcycle driver and I almost feel the need to caveat that with, "but I am not like the guys you see swerving in and out of traffic at 100mph." It really shouldn't be like that, yet it is.

   Part of the reason it is like that is because of riders like in this video here. There is absolutely no reason to put yourself and any other driver at risk like this. If you feel the need to "stunt," I get that completely, but that kind of stuff should be done on a closed track. Instead you have videos like this one perpetuating the negative stereotype of young riders and people all over the internet cheering them on because the officer left. I am amazed at people's naivety.

   Look, driving a motorcycle can be a dangerous thing to do and we all accept that every time we sit in the saddle. To all my fellow riders, there is absolutely no need to make it any more so. Furthermore there is no reason to feel like you are above the law just because you are on a bike.

   The last thing I want to say is, if you are not a motorcycle rider, please do not allow people like this to shape your image of us. Most of us are not like this at all. Remember to look out for us while on the road and give us more space and attention than you would a car. Drive safe everyone.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why Freedom of Speech is Bad

   I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and freedom of press. Both are so important for the general well being of our country and our own selves that I could write a book on the topic. If freedom of speech and press were not available to us you would not be reading this blog. Our life as we know it has been shaped by freedom of speech.

   In Hong Kong right now a movement is happening because of China wanting the ability to approve Hong Kong's candidates for their 2017 elections. Hong Kong was once sort of "borrowed" by Britain and returned as per agreement to China in 1997 with the promise that Hong Kong would be able to operate as they had been under British rule, but still be a part of China. This meant that they could have democratic elections and other freedoms that came with democracy. Now however China wants to "approve" who Hong Kong can "democratically" elect into office. Because of this a peaceful protest on a massive scale began and police handled it poorly. It's interesting that police reacted the way they did, throwing tear gas and pepper spraying protesters, because Hong Kong has peaceful protests quite often, it is nothing necessarily new for them.

   This is not something that is only happening in Hong Kong though. Here in the U.S. we face our own problems all the time with freedom of speech and other freedoms. Perhaps we aren't facing exactly the same issues Hong Kong is, but we face our own all the time. It's just a part of an imperfect race trying to perfectly govern an imperfect race.

   Now that brings me to why freedom of speech, and more importantly for this post, freedom of press is bad.

   Something has been really bugging me lately. As I browse the internet which I so often do, (I am a computer science major after all so that's my excuse for being on a computer way too much) I am bombarded with news articles about this or that. I love it, I don't watch television much so being able to get so much news at basically all times without having to watch TV or waiting for the next day's paper is a blessing. What I can't stand though is how much crap is also out there. More disgusting is how many people accept it without question.

   Everyday I see things linked to me through Facebook, e-mails, YouTube, etc. that is just complete fear mongering click bate.

Allow me to rant for a minute about some things I have observed.

  Many times the things linked to me, especially on Facebook, are articles that the person linking has not fully read through themselves. The person linking it will say something like, "What is our country coming to??" and the article will be about France or the lost city of Atlantis... (not 100% sure about Atlantis!) Most of the time I disregard these articles because I naturally have a distrust for any "no name" news sources that I stumble across via Facebook. However, every once in a while a title grabs my interest and I end up reading it with a high level of skepticism as any informed media consumer should treat all things read from any source. When I get through the page I am usually just mortified that any self respecting journalist could write such a horrific, fear mongering, biased, short sighted, unreliable, and borderline untruthful article on anything. Sometimes I feel like reading the tabloids would be a more credible source of information.

   What I am saying here is this; freedom of speech and media is ever so important. Without it we would not have a voice when we really needed it. However, it's becoming a little bit like the boy who cried wolf. Media above all else must be trusted to spread accurate and honest information. When we have to second guess the validity of anything said from any news source, media becomes toxic at best. When you begin to abuse media and freedom of speech for your own selfish gains, it's not really you who loses out. You are stealing something from a society and potentially the entire world.

   To those of you who believe everything you see on Facebook, please research more extensively before you draw a conclusion. Unfortunately we cannot take news coverage at face value. Some may argue, "Have we ever?" and to that I would answer, "No," but there has always been a moral responsibility for journalists to follow. More and more this is becoming swept under the rug for internet traffic and "Likes." Just be careful everyone, there is some bad stuff out there that some sources are trying very hard to make you aware of. But their voice is being squelched by the fear mongering sensational media screaming, "OBAMA DRINKS RADIOACTIVE SPORTS DRINKS EVERY NIGHT BEFORE BED!"

   Really guys, just read.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Personal Projects

   Hello everyone. This is blog post #50. In the grand scheme of things that's really a small amount. Some blogs have literally thousands of posts and thousands of readers. For me though, 50 posts is pretty exciting.

  I guess this will be more of a brainstorming post though. If you have any thoughts on any of this or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below.

   So here is where I am at with my thoughts. For one I don't really know what I want to do with this blog in the future. I have been thinking about a few things. I do want to get a website going for a photography portfolio. When I do that this blog will be moved to that site. This is something I have been chewing on for a while and I think I know what I am going to do. That being said, it won't be for a while still. When I finally do it though I will be sure to update everyone with the new blog url. 

   At the end of the day this blog is a personal project. I like having personal projects, stuff that keeps me working towards a goal. Personal projects keep my mind going and challenges me creatively or as a person in general. I think these projects are important for everyone even if they are not creative projects. They are things we do for ourselves, not to get paid or to do really anything with. Sometimes though, at least in the creative world, those personal projects can open up other doors you would have otherwise never seen before. But a personal project is just that, something personal and dear to yourself. 

   On the topic of personal projects, other than this blog I really haven't had one since my Japan trip. I really don't have the time for one. Personal projects take a lot of time and effort. You can end up spending a lifetime on a single personal project. That's just the nature of the beast. I don't like not having an ongoing personal project and so I have been milling around for things to do. 

   It's pretty embarrassing to admit that I don't have an actual portfolio to show for my work. My photos have been so far spread and differing because I like to try to be a well rounded photographer. True, my favorite type of photography is photo journalism and street photography, but I try to stray away from being stuck on any one type of photography. If you have ever read Miyamoto Musashi's "The Book of Five Rings" then you would understand why I feel that way. This is good except that I have no portfolio. So I think my next personal project will be something that fills up a portfolio and works towards my goal of moving this blog to it's own site.

   Anyways what I am trying to say here is, be looking for a new personal project from me soon. If you are into that sort of thing then check back here every once in a while. Aside from that, if you have any ideas or suggestions for the blog please let me know. I really would like to reach post 100 and beyond if I can. It's fun, you know?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Photo Basics: ISO

   I realize these are probably my least read posts of all, but I would like to continue with my "photo basics" posts in the event that someone does find them useful and just isn't speaking up. I have many readers on this blog who, for whatever reason, have never left a comment. Or if someone finds these posts in the future and it helps them then I think it is worth it. For those of you who find these useful, thank you for patiently waiting for another. I put a hold on these posts for a while when I was abroad and just didn't get back into doing them afterwards.


   Let's jump into it. ISO. What is it? Why is it? Who is it? How does it taste? And so on. Perhaps I can't answer all of those but maybe I can answer some of the questions you have about ISO.

   When film was the only medium to shoot on there was a rating on each different film roll called an ASA rating. Lower ASA film needed more light to be properly exposed and not be too dark. These low number film rolls were usually marketed on the box as "for sunny days," or whatever. The higher your ASA, the less light a particular roll of film needed from your scene. This meant the film was more sensitive to light and it also meant more "grain." This grain was little flecks of silver that would show up in the image. So as a general rule, lower ASA less grain good for bright days, higher ASA more grain but better for darker scenes.

   But how does that relate to digital photography? We no longer use film, so what do we need to know ASA ratings for? Well you still need to record the information your camera captures onto something. Back in the day this was film, but now film has been replaced by light sensitive digital sensors. Though it isn't film, we still need some way of knowing how sensitive to light that sensor is just like with film. How do we do that?

    ISO stands for International Standards Organization. To put it simply these people took ASA ratings, matched them up with different sensor sensitivities and gave the sensors ISO ratings. So in theory 100 ASA = 100 ISO. This isn't exactly true but as a very crude generalization, that's good enough. So in turn this also means that the lower the ISO, the more light the sensor needs, and the higher the ISO the less it needs. But unlike with film grain, we get something a little bit different in digital sensors called "noise" as we change our sensors sensitivity higher.

   This "digital noise" happens to all electronics as you push them further and further. For the sake of simplicity I won't explain that much in detail but if you'd like to know more (and you're a nerd like me) there are tons of sites explaining all the small details of how digital noise is introduced into electronics. Digital noise doesn't quite look like film grain though because digital noise shows up as random specs of color throughout the image, mostly in darker areas of the photo. Photographers can kind of bend reality to make it look close to film grain, but in the end grain is grain and noise is noise. At the end of the day just remember that higher ISOs have a lot of noise and unlike film grain, it doesn't look as nice.

Nikon D610 at 3200 ISO
   Some cameras handle this noise better than others. Older cameras or cheaper ones will have a
Nikon D5000 at 3200 ISO cheaper/older camera
whole lot of noise at, say, 1000 ISO, but a newer or more expensive camera may not have any at all. Many other factors play into how much noise comes in at higher ISOs like sensor size, megapixel count, in camera processing, lighting, sensor manufacturer and so on. But really don't bother yourself with all of that. Generally all cameras are fairly good in low light at this point but some are better than others. Technology has come a long way in terms of ISO. On the right I have two examples of differently priced cameras from two different eras but at the same ISO. It's hard to tell but the Nikon D5000 doesn't hold up in low light as well. You may need to enlarge them to see what I mean. I'm pretty impressed with the Nikon D5000 though. It still held up quite well proving that older technology shouldn't be completely scrapped just yet.

   Some other things to consider when choosing which ISO to use are color and detail. When you go up through the ISO ranges colors start to change a little. Not so much that red becomes blue, but what you thought was bright orange may not be so vibrant as you climb to higher ISOs. Again, the difference is subtle, but sometimes it makes all the difference. Detail also takes a hit at higher ISOs. If an image is cluttered with digital noise, hard edges become softer. In my opinion (as with anything on this blog) I think it is best to shoot at the lowest ISO possible for the amount of light available and the image I am trying to capture.

   If you have read my other photo basics posts then you will know that aperture and shutter speed go hand in hand when properly exposing an image. Now you must also think about ISO. In a future post I will put all three together and explain how each one effects the other.

   Here are some examples of what different ISO's do. Keep an eye on two things as you look through each image. One: the black box and shadow area to the right of the motorcycle helmet. Here is where you will see the digital noise the most. Two: the color of the chair. Watch as it changes ever so slightly as I climb the ISO ranges. No editing was done to these images. I merely took the RAW files straight from the camera and converted them to JPEG for this blog.
Nikon D610 100 ISO

Nikon D610 200 ISO

Nikon D610 400 ISO

Nikon D610 1600 ISO
Nikon D610 25600 ISO (looks like a dumb instagram filter)
   Anyways guys I hope this helped. If you have any questions, feedback, suggestions, or anything else, please leave a comment. I read them all.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Nikon D750; Am I Regretting the D610?

   I have recently bought the D610. A full frame 24.3mp camera that fixed a few issues people were having with the D600. It shoots 6 frames per second, great performance at high ISO, records 1080p video, is relatively small, the list goes on and on. In simple terms, it does everything I really need it to do while still being small enough to do the kind of candid photography I like to do. I don't really ever see myself going to a professional body simply because of the size alone.

   Then come the announcement of the D750 literally a month after I buy the D610. So what do I think? Should I have waited? First let's take a look at the specs. A full list can be found here but I will run down a few of the major specs that stood out to me.

This Nikon D750 will include:
  • 24.3MP full frame CMOS sensor
  • 6.5fps
  • 1080p @ 60,50,30,25,24 fps
  • A tilting LCD screen
  • Built-in wifi
  • Lower weight/thinner profile
  • 1/4000 max shutter speed
  • 51 point auto focus
  • Powered aperture while recording video
  • +more stuff

   This all comes at a price difference from the D610 of about $400. So am I crying myself to sleep every night that I bought the D610?... Absolutely not and here is my lengthy explanation why...

It's the same thing!(lengthy)

   If you know anything about the specs of the Nikon D610, this new D750 has very little differentiating the two systems. If anything this new body should have been the Nikon "D650" or something. It is not a full upgrade at all.

   No doubt this camera will be amazing, I would be foolish to say that it won't be,
but a full upgrade from the D610? Really the only reason I would ever grab the D750 over the 610 would be for the better auto focus (the D610's auto focus is infamously ridiculous but you learn to work with it) and the powered aperture in video mode. Even the lighter weight wouldn't be a factor for me as the D610's weight is comfortable. Oh and come on, that tilting screen? Even the D5000 had a better tilting screen because it could also rotate even though it was utterly useless on a tripod. The D750 screen tilts up...and down... The inner college girl in my brain is screaming, "#Gimmick #partytrick omg for realz Nikon?"

   So some of you may be saying, "But Alex! Built in wi-fi!" and I say, "No please keep that crap away." Yes, I do see the benefits to built in wi-fi. Yes I see how convenient it can be and how wonderfully glorified it is. But when I think about it, that's actually kind of dangerous for casual shooters and, say, a working journalist alike. Not too long ago I read a story about a guy who followed random young girls on instagram (or twitter) and just through their constant uploading of photos alone, he was able to track them down and identify them in a public place. Fortunately he was doing it to prove a point and not to harm them. Apply that same scenario to a journalist working in an area he/she may not be the safest in. Perhaps said journalist forgot to turn off the wifi function or something? Perhaps something like that sounds far fetched but if you are documenting a war torn area, do you really want the people with guns knowing where you are going so that you can spread the word of their crimes? I'd rather not take the chance.
   Again, these may be extreme examples, but to me it turns me off of wi-fi connected DSLRs. Besides, I really don't want to post unedited RAW files to the internet and I would rather be focused on shooting than uploading to instagram. 

   Anyways, my final thoughts on the D750 are as follows... It's really kind of the same thing as the D610. The only real improvement (on paper of course, I have never used one so take that for what you will) for me would be the improved auto focus. Some of the other things are just nice to haves. But is a better auto focus worth $400 to me? No... no not really.

(Edit: I would like to point out that a FULLY ARTICULATING TOUCH SCREEN is something that is terribly needed on ALL DSLRs, including professional systems. The lack of such a screen is just crazy...in my opinion.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Why I Decided to Take a Photography Class

   My blog is called "Making a Scene" for a reason. I continuously encourage people to go out and "Make a Scene" for a reason. This blog was intended to be an avenue for my photography. It is something I enjoy doing and I believe I am at least slightly proficient at. When I snap an image, I believe I am making a scene. Of course I talk about other things too because I myself enjoy reading blogs that are diverse. Perhaps that is the wrong way to run a blog, but that's a topic for another discussion.
   On this blog I have posted some knowledge on photography basics aimed at teaching people how to use their camera. I have stopped for a bit because I went to Japan but I will be writing more of those posts in the future. Today I went to my second beginners photography class and so the question I would naturally ask someone is, "How can you teach the subject if you are taking the class?" So I will explain and for that we must go back to the 90's!

   This is not my first photography class. Middle school is where I became interested in photography. I had seen a film in the 90's about a young guy who documents his odd family using a 35mm film camera. What movie you ask? None other than the movie, "Pecker." For all it's absurdity, the movie really got me interested in photography, and more importantly, photo journalism. I didn't know what it was called at the time, but I knew I liked that he was making images about what happens around him in his life. I was not a rich kid though and when I went to look for a good starting camera, all I saw were 3 and 4 digit numbers. Digital photography was barely taking off in the early 2000s and film cameras were still in very high demand. This meant that film cameras (unlike today) were still relatively expensive, and digital cameras (being new technology) were even more out of my price range.
   So I did what I could with what I had. My mom had bought me a weird little Sony camera one Christmas and that is what I had I think all the way through high school. In fact I probably still have it somewhere. Other than that I never would have dreamed I could have picked up a real DSLR but the itch was always in the back of my mind. With that little camera, and later cell phones, I knew I was making pretty cool looking images, but I never really had any formal training.
   Fast forward a little bit to high school. Now is my one chance to actually get some formal training in photography. I sign up for my school's photo journalism class and I am excited and ready. But of course, this class was a let-down for a few reasons. Let me begin by saying that the photojournalism teacher was probably one of the sweetest ladies you would have ever met. She and I really got along. For whatever reason she could see more in my photography than even I could and she always encouraged me to do more.
   It is very unfortunate that I went to high school in somewhere like my hometown, at least in terms of photography though. In a town where art was rarely ever a high priority, schools allocated less and less funds to the creative classes. As such, my photography class had enough money only for basic point and shoots. A caveat: GEAR DOES NOT MAKE THE PHOTOGRAPHER. But what point and shoots do not allow you to do is learn. Point and shoots are great for snapshots or for learning things like composition, but for anyone seriously wishing to learn, a point and shoot cannot give you the control you need. So I was stuck reading theory from a text book and never being able to practice that theory.
   But that isn't the only reason this class was a let down. As I stated before, the town I grew up in did not have a very strong artistic culture. Not much art comes from there. There are great works of art which have come from my home town, but it is not really known to be a hub of artistic talent. Because of this, the general attitude towards creativity was muted at best and discouraged more often. Those of my peers who were taking the class were simply taking the class for an easy A. Trying to concentrate and be creative in an environment like that was incredibly difficult.
   With all that said, I learned next to nothing. A few nuggets of theory stuck in my brain but it would have been just the same had I not taken the class. It wasn't until after high school that I really started picking up photography. By this time DSLRs had dropped dramatically in price, especially used ones, and information was all over the internet. Plus I had my own job and could afford to buy what I needed to learn. As soon as I realized I could learn photography myself I was a glutton for information much as I am for any other topic I am interested in. (I read a lot.)
   This is where I explain why I am taking a beginner photography class even though I have already been paid for my photography. (Kind of backwards right?) The first reason is quite simple. Just like a native Chinese speaker taking a beginning Mandarin class, I simply wanted an easy A. But beyond that I don't think it is ever safe to say you are completely the best at anything you have learned. Think about it, if that were true, then innovation would be stuck at the invention of the wheel. But instead because someone learned how to make a wheel (perhaps from the inventor) that person then went on to learn more about it ultimately ending up in your Toyota Prius today. All because someone said, "Yeah, I know all about this wheel, but I want to learn more about it." There are always things you don't know and things you didn't know you didn't know. For that reason I am filling in the gaps in my knowledge in this class. Perhaps I will come away with no new knowledge, but how will I know if I never took a class? Even if this class improves my photography by only 1%, it was well worth it. My last reason for taking the class is structured assignments and breaking me out of my photography comfort zone. I will be forced to do things like studio work which I learned to loathe. But I am now looking forward to it just to get the rust out of those particular set of gears in my creativity.

   So to sum this all up, I am taking a photography class as a nice little refresher. This is not my major in school (bless the poor souls who are going for art degrees) my major is actually computer science. But it is something I plan to continue doing professionally or semi-professionally in the future along side my other career goals. Beyond that I just simply enjoy it. I enjoy writing my blog, I enjoy teaching about photography where I can, and I enjoy making a scene for you, my readers, about the things I see. This should be as much of an adventure for you as it is for me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Overachieving and Being a Bad Blogger

   Hello everyone and allow me to start by saying I have been a bad blogger. It has been two weeks since my last post and I have made it a point to try and post at least once a week all the way up until now. (I think I may have skipped a week before. Oops.) All I can say is things have been hectic but I have not given up blogging. I thoroughly enjoy having a blog and plan to keep it going for as long as I possibly can.

   I am, for better or worse, a college student and needless to say I have been gearing up to get back into the grind which comes in the form of Fall semester. For those of you who are barely starting your first semester, congratulations. Are you excited? For those of you returning, you know exactly how foolish that excitement is.
   I don't necessarily hate school. But you must admit that this generation of collegiates has an understandably hard time seeing the value of a college degree. With tuition prices inflating year after year and books costing on average from $100 to $400 per book, the amount of debt just doesn't seem to justify the benefit most of the time. No one can deny the power of a degree but more and more that power seems to be waning.
   This post isn't about all that though. Instead I have a story to tell as I so often do.

   So I have just transferred to a university. To me this means two things. One is more expenses for classes and the other is having to learn a whole new school and system all over again. I really hate logistical stuff. I am just so bad at it and it confuses me. So knowing all that I decided it would be a good idea to go a few hours early, do a walk-through of the campus to find my classes, finish up all the last minute logistics, and then get into class comfortably early. I absolutely hate to be late to ANYTHING and you will rarely ever catch me running late. I have a motto I live by, "I'd rather be an hour early than a minute late" and that's the way I live my life.
   In staying true with that motto I found myself on campus a full three hours early. Or at least I thought. In that three hours I got to walk to all my classes, explore a few neat looking areas, obtain my school ID, eat breakfast, then with an hour and a half left until my first class, sit patiently for it to begin.
   Thirty minutes before my class is to begin I start noticing something odd. In these three hours I have seen very little of the student body... "I guess no one really likes morning classes." I thought to myself. But then I notice absolutely no one has walked into the auditorium where my class is being held. In fact no one but me is even anywhere remotely near it. The few people I have seen all walked straight past it.
   Wondering if perhaps the class had been moved or cancelled for some reason I go and try to enter the auditorium. I put my hands on the cool metal door knobs and pull. Sadly to no avail. Locked. I look around for a sign announcing where it has been moved to and I find nothing. Now my mind starts running. Did I mention I HATE to be late? If I had missed a memo about the class I was sure to be late or damn close. Thankfully across from the auditorium sat a cheerful looking young lady in an office for something or another, so I gladly went over to ask, "If my schedule says, 'room number' it's that auditorium over there right? It's not some room next to it or something?" The very insightful lady gladly assured me that I was indeed waiting for the correct room. So then why was it not open? My next question was, "So do you know more or less when they will open it?" She looks at me and says, "Oh probably on the 27th(two days from now) when classes start."
   I could have slapped myself right there. I was not, as I thought, 3 hours early, but instead a full two days early! How's that for overachieving? In a desperate attempt to save face I said, "Oh yeah I guess so. Alright thanks, just wanted to know." As if I knew that all along but wanted to see the auditorium before hand... I felt like such a dumb ass. It was the community college that started on Monday and NOT the university.

   So the moral of the story?
   Look at your stupid schedule...

Monday, August 4, 2014

FYI Other Blogs

Hey guys.

   I am a blogger. I like to blog. I like to write, record, and ultimately document my thoughts, feelings, and experiences to share with whomever may stumble across them in the future.

   However, I am not the end all be all to blogs. As a matter of fact, I blog because I enjoy reading and watching blogs myself. So what I want to do for you all is point you in the direction of some of my favorite bloggers and vloggers. Take a look through this list of some of my favorite blogs that I keep up with on a daily basis. Some of these guys and gals are awesome and you will be happy you checked them out.

   I will be setting this up by category. Many of these people have both a written blog and a YouTube vlog. I will link to one or the other but be sure to check out both.

Japan
Anyone interested in Japan, or who may be traveling there in the future should take a look at some of these blogs.
  • Gimmeabreakman This guy is the "godfather" of the Jvlogging community. He is really funny and even teaches some Japanese. He owns his own English school in Japan and has been living there for like...half my life or longer. He also has another channel called Gimmeaflakeman.
  • TokyoCooney I have mentioned this guy before in my videos. He is the first Jvlogger I had ever watched and he is hilarious... I'm serious. Many sleepless nights were spent watching his videos and laughing uncontrollably. I have linked you to one of my favorite videos of his, but look at the rest. Unfortunately he is not uploading anymore but promises a return some day. His blog is also here
  • Sharla in Japan A very informative and light feeling blog from a Canadian. Canadians always feel light hearted don't they? It also helps that she's cute!
  • Kazuko from Japan A pretty Japanese girl who does sort of social experiment videos in a fun way.
  • Unrested A Jvlogger from Osaka who doesn't seem like it, but is just as much of a nerd as I am! He is also an artist for many table top role playing games. My favorite kind of RPG.
  • jlandkev/busankevin Another Canadian living in Japan who tends to blog about the more mundane things in Japan which is a good thing. It gives a more realistic feeling to his blog. He also has a really well done podcast!
  • hikosaemon Another long term expat who does a lot of longer form videos and a lot of videos with gimmeabreakman. One thing I like about him is he has a lot of subscribers and really tries his best to interact with them every day.
  • Higgins In Japan In my opinion a vlogger that does not get as many views as deserved.
  • Caleb and Rainfall Review Game reviews and funny stories. I linked to an older video of his because I think the story is funny but if you don't like his format in this video he has changed it quite a bit.
  • Rachel and Jun These two give a very interesting perspective in their blog from the point of view of an international(is that the right word?) married couple.
  • Abroad in Japan  I can't even describe how funny this guy is... Really... You have no idea.
There are many many more that belong in the "Japan" section that I have not listed. Just check out some of these for now and you will inevitably find the others.

Photography
These are for people interested in photography gear, techniques, and so on.
  • FroKnowsPhoto A successful photographer who shares all of his secrets.
  • Matt Granger   An Aussie photographer who also has a lot of interesting stuff to say on the topic of photography and I am in love with his assistant Tina.
  • DigitalRevTV Although technically they are a camera store based in Hong Kong, they put out videos showcasing newly released gear. These guys are incredibly funny. I am also in love with their ex co-host Alamby and I am deeply distraught that she has since left the channel.(To Alamby only because no one else can see this: Please marry me...)
  • TheCameraStoreTV Another awesome gear review channel and photography store.
  • Chase Jarvis A photographer that does some really amazing work.
Film/Video Production
For those who enjoy a moving picture.
  • Phillip Bloom I only wish I could produce the kind of videos he does. Amazingly beautiful films.
  • Basic Filmmaker A funny guy and great tips for video. He does his best to, and succeeds in, interacting with his audience. 
Travel/Food
Some awesome Travel blogs for you guys.
  • Migrationology An awesome food and travel expert Mark Wiens eats everything from the most outlandish, to the most mouthwatering. He's also just an amazingly good blogger.
  • The Taiwan Adventure An expat missionary in Taiwan, this blog is amazingly interesting and well rounded. This blog is a big part of why I started mine. Go back to his earlier blog posts and start from there, you'll thank me.  
Science/Education/Thinking
I'm a thinker, it's what I like to do, and I am incredibly curious. For anyone else who is a nerd... here ya go.
  • Vsauce This vlog presents science in a very forward thinking, "what if?" sort of way.
  • Veritasium  This guy teaches Science with questions. Something I like about him is that he values the mistakes we see as "common knowledge," and sees those mistakes as a new way to learn.
  • numberphile I really don't want to downplay this channel but this is really only a channel for people who, like me, enjoy thinking about math as more than what they teach you in school.


   I suppose that's a pretty good list for now. I know I have forgotten so many other blogs that I read and watch but this is a good start for anyone interested. Check any and all of these people out. They are all very good blogs and deserve to be seen. Then, of course, check back here for more of my blogs!

EDIT: I forgot to mention Kyde and Eric They are an American couple who live in Japan now but have been traveling around the world and recording videos. Theirs is very high on my list of favorite travel vlogs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chasing the Rising Sun: 13 Tokyo Japan Return to Namja

Hey guys I have been back for a few weeks and too lazy to post some of my last videos from Japan. But here is one!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Introversion

   Introversion.

   A taboo for some; introversion, or someone who is introverted, has become a kind of naughty word. In school we are now taught to work together and socialize. More and more single desks are being replaced by round, 4 person, open tables in 4th grade math class. Math, writing, and reading class are no longer solitary activities but rather group social environments. Work places encourage working as a team on any one task instead of as an individual.

   For others it has become a kind of "cool" label to ignorantly place upon oneself or another person. These people do so without fully understanding introversion, and more importantly themselves.

   The thing is, at least from my point of view, introversion isn't really understood on a wide scale. Even harder is to be able to classify someone as introverted or extroverted (or ambiverted) and I feel that many people classify themselves as one or the other incorrectly. Likewise schools and workplaces seem to misunderstand introversion as well. So much that it is often discouraged and labeled as "anti-social."

   I don't really like to label myself as one particular thing or another but some labels are accurate whether you like them or not. At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I will confidently say that I see myself as an introverted person.

   Introversion isn't a curse nor a gift. It's not a disease and it's not an endowment. Neither is it being shy, or anti-social. Shyness and antisocialism are often labels put upon people who are introverted for lack of understanding. They are different things regardless of whether or not they are often also experienced by an introverted person.

   So what is introversion and what is it not?

   Simply put, introverted people draw their energy to socialize and interact with others from within themselves. Extroverts,(extravert same thing different spelling) on the other hand, seem to gather their energy from those around them. For example, everyone is having a good time so your mood reflects that. If everyone around you is stressed or just not in a pleasant mood, you are quite sensitive to that and emulate these feelings to an extent. This isn't to say that every time someone is completely bummed so are you, but an extrovert would find it quite hard to be sunny and bright in such a situation. Extroverts are also seen as being very talkative and outgoing, often making conversation with anyone they meet. They do this because that's where their energy comes from. In my case I find it really tough to look and sound like I am sympathizing with a person. I do not normally feel gloomy if someone else does, and I can feel gloomy in the middle of a party. That is just an example... but the point is my energy, my chi if you will, is completely independent of the aura others are giving off. So often when people come to me for advice, my advice can seem cold and indifferent. I really do sympathize with people, but not in the way they are used to.

   For those who are introverted it's a bit harder to speak to people because they are their own source of energy. Speaking to someone takes a lot of effort, and at least in my case, it's quite a daunting task to try and have a conversation with people. Because of that we are a little bit more reserved because we want to save that energy for the right conversation...so to speak. I have heard so many times, "I always wanted to talk to you before but you always seemed so stand-offish." Actually, however, it is more likely that I do want to speak with people, but starting a conversation is incredibly hard for me. Imagine if all you could do is speak to one person per day before you just absolutely fell over like you had ran 30 miles. That is quite extreme, but when looking at it like that, you can see why I would rather be very selective in who I speak to.

   It's a double edged sword at times though. I can actually be quite a chatty person. I love to have long, deep, one on one conversations with people. At times I start to feel bad for the person I am speaking to. Either because they are too polite to end the conversation, or because they are actually quite into what we are speaking about, I have been known to keep people up way past their bed times. But it really is an exhaustive process. Okay, I am not sweating profusely after I speak to someone, (that happens because I actually do tend to be shy and nervous with new people and has nothing to do with introversion) but the energy expended in having a conversation with someone actually does make me physically and mentally tired. Because I choose to save this energy until I find the right person to use it on, I often end up not speaking to anyone at all. This is a bit disappointing because I am sure there are more introverted people like myself out there who enjoy having conversations, but we simply cannot find anyone to speak to. I am sure that more times than not our body language and quiet demeanor gives the sense that we don't wish to be bothered at all. Usually that is not the case at all and is quite far from the truth. With that being said, think twice about the quiet person sitting the next table over from you. It's more likely that they really do want to speak with you than you may think. Help them out and say, "Hello," you never know what kind of friend you will make. Introverted people can be some of the most intelligent people you will ever meet because we spend a lot of time thinking through things.

   Back to the way we discourage introversion though. It's actually quite sad to discourage people who are more inclined to work on projects by themselves. I have a very hard time with this. Some of the best work a human being is capable of comes from being left to their own devices with an issue or idea. True, there is value in group work, but I am much more comfortable working a problem out by myself. I value other opinions and ideas, but at the end of the day I need to be left alone to concentrate. So why on applications and interviews are we forced to paint ourselves out to be the person who works great in a group environment? Why must we all be machines and think alike? Why must we assimilate into the workplace? Instead, let's learn to value a person who can solve a problem by way of peaceful solitude.

   When I was younger I did not know I was such an introverted person. Looking back now it would make sense though. When I was in high school I only had very few friends even though many people seemed to like what I had to say about things. At lunches I would usually hang out with just one person and stay away from the crowds of people as much as possible. After I graduated so many people started telling me they always wanted to speak to me but I was "too quiet," or, "scary," whatever that meant. I think it just came from me being reserved which may have been perceived as arrogance. Now that I am older it has not gotten much better. In fact it has gotten worse because I am no longer forced into a whole class room full of chatty teenagers. Classrooms now are my worst enemy. I know there are so many intellectuals in my college courses I would love to have a conversation with, but I cannot simply gather the energy. If by chance friendships do form, they are often not kept because of my lack of socialization with said person. Not many people understand why I can't go out to the club every Friday night, or go out with a bunch of friends every night. My comfort is going out to dinner with just one person and having a long conversation. Even then, however, I cannot do that very often.

   My first job out of high school was a call center. Now, saying what I just said, you can probably figure out that this was one of the worst jobs for me. I am not joking when I say that I had nightmares where I had to answer calls. That is a serious statement, the nightmares were so bad that they would wake me up at night. I didn't understand it, but now I do. For one I was forced to speak to hundreds of complete strangers in an eight hour day. We were encouraged to seek out help from coworkers we had never met before when we were stuck, and group events like potlucks were in some ways mandatory. I realize now that I was under a lot of stress in this type of environment. I was doing exactly what my body and mind were telling me not to do. I am sure there are plenty of introverts who have overcome this or do not feel the same, and to them I have to say, "You are much stronger than I am." I did try though, and not just once either. At first I thought it was just that particular call center. So later down the line I tried another... and another... all with the same result. Being asked to answer that phone was like asking me to stab myself over and over again. I'm really not kidding about any of this, it may be hard to understand but believe me this is all true.

   Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about the way I am. It has taken me a long time to arrive at this conclusion. I have only done so because I have learned a lot about myself and I am quite comfortable with the knowledge obtained. There are many people out there who have overcome their introversion, at least enough to obtain the relationships or status they need and want. I know I am no exception to the case, I just have no need or desire yet to do so. Sometimes it is a little tough though. I like being inside my own head, but sometimes my thoughts need to be shared. That is precisely why I have this blog.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Re-edits


Not really much of a blog post but more of an FYI for those who read my blog.

While I was in Japan I was using my lap top to edit my photos. The monitor on this lap top is smaller, darker, and has unreliable color representation. Therefor some of my edits, upon looking at them on my desktop monitor, came out in ways I did not intend them to.

So I will be re-editing and reuploading many of the photos that are currently in past blog posts. Just an FYI in case you are wondering why they look different if you go back to them. Examples of re-edits are as follows:
Before(too red)
After(more accurate)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Capturing the Scene

 
    At times photography is more about failure than success. As I have said before you can go out with a goal of capturing a full story worth of photos and come back with nothing. Other times the whole story is summed up in one photo. In a kind of backwards irony, if you can capture everything in that one photo it is far better, and more rare, than capturing everything in multiple photos.

   As for me, I struggle with that one photo every day. It's hard enough trying to capture everything you need to say in multiple photos let alone just one. But that one photo is kind of like the crowning jewel. At times unobtainable, but through hard work and perseverance, sometimes you can get your hand around it.

   In Japan I challenged myself to take one roll of film with me and be as selective as I could with it to record a photo I am proud of. Please understand that my favorite style of photography is photojournalism or more specifically, "street photography." I feel I must preface this photograph with that bit of information because street photography is not the glamorous, highly polished stuff that comes from a studio with flawless models. Instead street photography is candid, real, and aims to preserve a fleeting moment in time that will never happen again. Street photography is rarely perfect because it's quick and reflexive, it's rarely beautiful, but it is always interesting.

   This photograph absolutely made my trip. If nothing else had gone right during this trip, and actually the trip was pretty difficult, I really was hoping this photograph had come out the way I thought it did.

   So, the story, that's what we are all here for right? On this particular day I was walking around in Ginza. Ginza is named after a silver coin mint built there in the Edo period. Many years later it became the most expensive part of Tokyo, kind of fitting for a place that once minted silver coins right? So walking around Ginza, the very air smelled of money. I felt I needed to pay 500 yen just to breath there. But just as I am getting sick of the smell, I see the most out of place character imaginable. I saw a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk with a pair of drumsticks. I watched him for a bit from a distance. He didn't ask for money from passersby. In fact he was sitting in an area where you really couldn't walk past him. He was simply sitting there minding his own business. So seeing how interestingly out of place he was, I couldn't resist taking a photo. I walked up, crouched down and prepared to take the photo before he noticed me. But something startling happened. Right as I pressed the shutter button, he looked straight at me and I caught this photo.

   His look was not of surprise or anger. It was simply pure curiosity. As curious as I was of him, he was curious of me. In that moment I felt so much respect from him, and a certain sadness that only comes from looking straight into a defeated man's eyes. It was clear to me that, regardless of why he was on those streets, Tokyo had taken it's toll on him. I don't often give homeless people money, and the people who are in my photos I do not pay either. But this man was different. I walked up to him said, "ありがとうございます," and gave him a few coins from my pocket. It was not much, but he gave me everything I was hoping for from my trip, and I gave him a meal for the night.

   But in that one look we spoke to each other. Two fish out of water, meeting for the first time with completely different situations, and understanding each other without speaking a word. To be defeated so completely must be an unimaginably sorrowful fate. Hopefully you can understand him as I did through this photo.

There and Back Again

If you right click my photos and select "open in new tab" you can see them in their original size which looks much better.
   I am back from Japan! I must say it is great to be back home. I have a lot to talk about. I suppose much of it I will cover in this post, but more of it will come out in future posts as it crosses my mind. For those of you wondering about any remaining videos, I do have more recorded and I am debating which ones to edit together and upload. I will upload some more in the near future so do look out for those.

   Going to another country is definitely a learning experience for many reasons. Not just because of the trip either. You learn a lot about yourself in the process too. For instance, I learned that I am much more of a Southerner than I thought. If you are from the U.S. you have probably heard of "Southern hospitality." I never believed much in that, I just figured it was on a case by case basis and my case was not one of them. But when I was living in my share house in Japan I always wanted to show good hospitality to my roommates around me as if they were guests. I don't know what it was. I always wanted to cook for them, or share things with them, or just include them in any activity I was participating in. It was like an automatic reflex that I couldn't shake. On one of my last days I cooked stuffed bell peppers for my share mates and it just hit me that southern hospitality seems to run in the blood and I was no exception to the rule. I don't know, it's hard to explain but that's the way I felt.

   Oddly enough you also learn a lot about your country while being abroad. You learn how that country views yours, what they like, what they don't, where the popular spots for foreigners to visit are (spoiler: it's LA and New York) and much more. It's like crossing the street and looking at your house from your neighbors point of view. It's a different perspective... seriously try it. Getting that point of view opens your eyes to your home country in a way.


   Sort of on that same point, you also learn a whole lot about your culture. Especially if you go to Asia. I really don't think there is a more contrary culture to ours on this planet than Asian cultures. It's not something you can really explain in a single blog post, but it's something that makes you view your culture differently. At the risk of sounding like a cynic, it makes you really hate a lot of things about your culture. Especially when comparing it to Japanese culture. Now don't get me wrong, Japanese culture has it's downsides as well and no one is perfect. But there are a lot of things I like about the Japanese.

   For instance, McDonald's. When was the last time you have gone into a McDonald's and the cashier is bright and smiling, the place is perfectly spotless, the cooks run when the frier beeps, and if more than two people line up someone from the back drops what they are doing and grabs an open cash register? When was the last time you stood in line for 2 minutes or less on a busy day at the grocery store? How about being led to where you need to go by a complete stranger without even asking? All of this stuff and more is completely normal for Japan. So normal in fact that this stuff goes basically unnoticed as being courteous or good service. My first 2 days back in the U.S. I got rude service from multiple cashiers, stood in a line for countless minutes at Wal-Mart, and witnessed a guy yelling and cussing at a store clerk because he didn't have enough money on his bank card for something he wanted. To me that paints a bit of a picture in my mind about our cultures flaws. Again, don't get me wrong, Japanese culture has many flaws. I can't deny them, and some of them stem from their mentality to constantly please.

   With my cynical talk out of the way, I really did miss the U.S. The minute I saw U.S. soil from the plane, I couldn't help but smile. That very soil is the soil I played in as a child and for all it's flaws, this country is where I am from and one that I love. That's really something else you learn while abroad. Simply how much you love your home country. It doesn't mean that you will have to live there forever. But it makes you appreciate all it has to offer you.

   I already miss Japan though. I really loved that place, I loved their traditions, their women of course, and their way of thinking. It just makes sense to me. I think many foreigners have a hard time adjusting to their mind set, and I can honestly say it's a bit hard at some points, but it just clicks. There are so many things they do and say that just make you think, "Why the hell don't we do it like that in the U.S.?" That country has a certain appeal for me that I can't place my finger on, but is strong enough to call to me like the scent of a breakfast that smells so good it wakes you up from a dead sleep. The place is amazing I can't stress that enough. You have to see it for yourself.

   As far as the trip itself goes though, for many reasons it was a horrible experience. It really had nothing to do with Japan. It would have been the same if I had gone to Bangladesh, Mexico, or the next town over. My trip just sucked horribly.

   However, there was one thing I was hoping for from my trip and it was something happened by complete accident. You see, I went to Japan with three cameras. My Nikon J1 to record my blogs, my Nikon D5000 for still photos, and my Honeywell Pentax 35mm film camera with ONE roll of film. The challenge I set for myself was to take that one roll of film and capture at least one moment that I was completely proud of. I will show you in another post that photo and I will tell you the story behind it as well.

   Seriously though, if you get nothing from my blog at all, I hope you understand that travel is important. This is our world, all of ours. Yours, mine, your neighbors, your dog's... It's everyone's world. So get out there and see what your world has to offer you. If you need a suggestion on where to start, I suggest Japan. If nothing else go for the food!

Monday, June 30, 2014

To Film Or Not To Film

   From Tokyo Japan, I say, "こんばんわ!"


   As you may have seen already I have been supplementing this blog with video style blogs instead. First off, I want to know what you think. Do you like video blogs more/less/the same as written blogs? Which would you rather see on a daily basis, or would you rather see both?

   Personally for me I enjoy written blogs a little more. It is fun to bring out the camera and film something every now and then, but I think I'd rather do that as a one off thing. I say that, and I feel torn as I do. I really do want to get better at video, but I just do not feel my place is in front of the camera. I am just not the TV personality Hollywood is gunning for. Although with these stunning good looks... they really should. What is wrong with this world?

   I suppose eventually I will be better at the video aspect of this all and no matter what I will continue to try and improve that skill. But first and foremost I love still photography. There is something special about hitting that shutter button and trying your hardest to capture every emotion, sight, sound, smell, and taste all in a single frame. What I have found is that I have been neglecting my photography for video. This is something I did not anticipate going into this little project of mine, and something I feel a bit ashamed about.

   Keep in mind that photography takes a lot of time and focus. Some days I can go out with the intention of capturing a whole event and end up with absolutely zero worthy photos. That is the nature of photography. The point however is that you have to pour all of your energy and attention into capturing absolutely nothing sometimes. You do it knowing you may get nothing, but trying to bring in that one worthy photo. That one worthy photo comes from absolute focus. It's "All in or nothing," as this huge sign says.


   What I have found though is that I am not focusing as much as I want to on my photography. Instead I am splitting my focus between video and still photography. Sometimes I will even have to think to myself, "Should I record this area? Do I already have enough clips for a full video?" when I should be thinking, "Is this the right light? Will this photo accurately represent this place?" and so on.

   So as I said before, I am torn. I really do like doing video blogs, but it is not where my heart is. It really is in photography and being able to sit down and write these blogs.

   That is not to say that I will never do video blogs again. In fact I wish to do more of them in the future. But I think they will be more planned out with time set aside specifically for video capture and nothing else. I am having a very hard time splitting my attention at the moment for both things.

   Anyways I just wanted to know what my readers think. What do you like best?