06/14/12

Travel Photography for the Free at Heart

Shutterbugs need to fly (for some reason I always picture a ladybug). Sitting at home and taking pics of your cat can only entertain you so far and if you’re not hoping to become a professional photog then you really want pictures you will be happy to frame and throw on your wall (and let’s face it unless there’s some really amazing light your ‘Apple in Repose’ is not making it up there).

Equipment

I have three cameras – a manual 35mm Sony (I think), a Casio 500, and a Nikon CoolpixP90. The Nikon has an incredible zoom which is mostly why I bought it, however, the light meter is pretty awful. My Casio is pocket-sized and takes the best night photos. My Sony is somewhere in my closet, I haven’t tried to use 35mm since finishing my art courses in undergrad. I’d suggest finding a pocket-sized, high pixel/resolution, with at least a 10x zoom for traveling. Also I am quite fond of those play settings like “party time” and “dusk”. I wish you could rename them since half are actually perfect aperture/f-stop readings for scenarios the company didn’t think of. Also buy at least 1 extra battery and 3 memory cards. Instead of buying one 16MB SD card I buy multiples so I can leave them in the hostel while I’m out. This way if I decide to go whale-watching and the boat tips I don’t lose all of my photos (also theft blah blah blah).

Timing

Automatic cameras are nice while traveling because you can literally snap a photo while running passed a church. You probably won’t be alone and should you have 3 seconds to snap a picture of the Louvre while you run to a tour bus, make it count. There is a limit to how much people will wait for you if you’re not with photo-friends, I generally got around this by doing the run-point-shoot method, getting behind and then sprinting, or suggesting a meeting place. This is good because your friends will have varied interests and while you weren’t particularly interested in cutting your trip to the Taj Mahal short to take a few pictures of a local market those pictures might be awesome to the point of iconic.

Tourist Pics

That being said, there are a lot of “iconic” pictures floating around my friend’s photo albums so don’t skip the Taj Mahal just because “everyone takes pictures of that”. They all take pictures cause it’s awesome!

Theft

If it is dark, and you’re lost, and there are very few people around put away the camera. This happens at least once a trip and even though most of your anxiety is cause by your unfamiliarity with the area it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Before You Go

Break out your camera and head to the local church, park, or parade. This will help you find all the right settings for direct sunlight, candle-lit churches, running water, and flood-lit buildings. It used to be that you’d take 100 pictures and get home and found out you’d been at the wrong aperture the entire time, film ruined. Now, you know immediately and spend twenty mins. finding the right one.

Final Word

Accept that some pictures won’t come out and that some memories will not be remembered any better because of a picture.

06/8/12

Are You Alright? You’re Clutching Your Pants

More on accents and Englishisms

Every time I go out someone asks me if I’m alright. My New York cynicism makes me want to scream “Yes. Why are you talking to me get away.” While my self-conscious nature leaves me thinking “why? what’s wrong with me? don’t I look alright?” Finally I remember I’m in the country whose slogan is Keep Calm and Carry On because if you hear the way they talk you’d think they were all about to Panic and Freak Out. Saying ‘are you alright?’ is the same as ‘how do you do’ or more aptly ‘let me know if you need anything’ (in stores that is). It’s a friendly non-committal I’m here for you which is a little odd for a country that has a national hug allergy. It’s so cold here you’d think everyone would be cuddle together for warmth but English stoicism is more than a myth it’s a pandemic; which is exactly how I like people – reserved, sarcastic and emotionally repressed (I think all the English soldier moved to New York after the war).

I’ve just gotten used to their make me feel awkward greeting when I discovered a new foe, the word clutching. I don’t know why but it makes me feel like someone’s just called me out on showing up to class drunk. I was in a meeting the other day when someone abruptly stopped speaking and asked me ‘what are you clutching’. -it was a bottle. I wasn’t holding it for dear life or anything but I got this self-image of me quivering in a corner clutching the bottle and drooling in bug-eyed fear like a raccoon who found a hot dog with bun and ketchup in the trash (the holy grail of nocturnal dumpster diving) and was terrified the night foxes would tear me to pieces for it. Oh dear I think I’ve just shat my pants (panties… remember?… see we’re learning!)

06/6/12

Cheers to my Pants – English Wit and an American Accent

Since moving from New York to London I have heard nothing but the constant and sardonic question, “do you have an accent yet?” The simple answer is no, but then again my answer would be I never did, which my friends here would disagree with since I came here begging for ‘cawfee’. While I have yet to learn to speak the Queen’s English, as far as I can tell it takes three years and then your in accent limbo where you don’t sound American nor do you sound English, I have lost a bit of my New York guttural drops and I have slowly adopted Lotte. Lotte is the voice in my head and she sounds like a daintier version of a GPS guide. Why my inner monologue is now broadcast with a British accent I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s something to do with being around Brits all day and my voice-box being unable to keep up. Either way I’m quite fond of Lotte and will be sad to see her go. For one, I think she’s had a rather beneficial effect on my writing. Not only in articles and papers but I find my e-mails have improved. While before I never knew how to end a semi-professional letter that was already rife with thank yous, Lotte had the answer. Cheers. It’s quirky, cute, and forces the person to ask about my time abroad, allowing me to try and express in mono-syllabic locutions just how fascinating I am and that they simply must hire me. Best works just as well when super-professional is required.

I’ve also discovered new words. I knew they existed before but much like tasting truffle oil for the first time knowing something exists and feeling it on your tongue are two entirely different sensory experiences. I’m not wearing pants I’m wearing jeans. This, and the fact that my dissertation advisor literally wrote the book on the consumption of denim, has made me see the blues in an entirely new light. Because while slacks and jeans are both pants in America, in Britain pants are undies; forcing trousers and jeans into their own separate corners and liberating slacks from that boring work appropriate, funeral mandatory section of your wardrobe – you know, the one you never touch. Now, I want to buy trousers for the sake of owning trousers. (Say the word… isn’t it fun?) Crisp linens and starched cotton, I no longer envision them in khaki or black but in a frenzy of colour Rainbow Brite would enjoy.