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🌇It has been way too long since my last post. Not shooting has been a drag, but after a sixth month stay in Europe, I had to settle back in and find work. So happy to be back in Philadelphia! 🌇 #blog

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🌇It has been way too long since my last post. Not shooting has been a drag, but after a sixth month stay in Europe, I had to settle back in and find work. So happy to be back in Philadelphia! 🌇 via Instagram http://ift.tt/1we1BkZ
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Blogger Questions

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I have a few questions that I hope some of you bloggers can answer for me.

  1. How many of you use some form of auto-posting to publicize your post? I use IFTTT recipes and as convenient and great as they are, I am starting to get the feeling that it’s noticeable and has negative effects on my readership. Essentially, it looks impersonal and something done out of habit, which I don’t think holds a very high appeal rating. When I think about it, the steps it would take to personalize a tweet, for example, would only take a minute longer. But instead of having some weird, automated “hey look at this” tweet, I could say something about the post, maybe add in an appropriate hashtag, and actually tweet at somebody if necessary.
  2. What photo challenges would y’all recommend getting into on WP? I have a lot of processed-and-ready-to-post photographs that I think would benefit from being tagged with some sort of challenge instead of the redundant “here’s a photo from there” formula. I just wanted to spruce up my blogging and make it more interesting for myself and whoever is reading this!
  3. Who is using the WPTouch plugin? I’m going to add it after I post this because it looks awesome. Anything I should know about it?
Galway Bay
Galway Bay

400 Followers=So Much WordPress Love

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There really is an art to posting on any social media platform, but I always think there is something special about WordPress. Maybe it’s because I started photo-blogging right as I began shooting around with my first DSLR. It was pretty easy for a then high school aged newbie to engage in a dialogue within the photo community. I wouldn’t say I learned everything from WordPress, but I’ve met some interesting people, I’ve been inspired by a lot of different artists’ works, and I’ve really taken away a lot of learned experience from the general blogging journey.

It’s nice to be back into the swing of things on WordPress, just because I find that some of these posts are longer than other posts on Instagram or Twitter (obviously). There’s really no limit to how I can express myself and rant on what I’m engaged in with my photography. The more time spent on both posting and reading other blogs is evidently rewarding!

So to everyone that has been engaging with me, especially those of you that have been for a long time, I really appreciate the WordPress love! And I look forward to reciprocating it in the future!

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Belfast to Giant’s Causeway

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Quick disclaimer: If anyone wants a more up to date feed of my travelling, feel free to follow me on both Twitter and Instagram (same username) @jvierephoto. My workflow and travelling habits are dis/allowing me to use certain forms of social media…

Anyways! Belfast. It took an arm and a leg to get here from Galway. The journey took me to Dublin Airport, which was close to three hours, and then a second bus that took another two. So I got into Belfast later than I wanted. I won’t lie, the parts that I wandered around were not the prettiest. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Well, actually, on the bus I was wondering whether or not there was going to be border control. As an American, you hear about the recently subsided violence between Northern Ireland and the Republic. But I couldn’t conceive what it would look like in actuality. I sort of had a DMZ scene in mind, but that wasn’t the case. I guess you need your passport if you were to cross a body of water, which, if you think about it, is quite fascinating. Consider that all the violence that occurred took place between two “nations,” according to one side, yet no one really cares enough to establish border control. (Maybe that’s my American take on it; there aren’t always huge walls between countries). But then again, when I went through Heathrow Airport, there was a good deal of security.

Here's me making an ugly face in a really strong wind. Giant's Causeway is right behind/below me. I kind of walked around a "trail's closed" sign and ascended several hundred meters.
Here’s me making an ugly face in a really strong wind. Giant’s Causeway is right behind/below me. I kind of walked around a “trail’s closed” sign and ascended several hundred meters.

Without any border control, people obviously come and go as they please. For work, tourism, family. Yet, it becomes quite apparent that you’re no longer in the Republic of Ireland as soon as you get into Belfast. For one thing, the accent is different. Full-Brits (that’s what I’ll call those from mainland England) are not friendly. Northern Irish are somewhat friendly, yet I think I rubbed one of them wrong when I mentioned I was studying in Galway. Neither party is as friendly as West Coast Irish. Throw Dublin into the mix; from what I’ve heard, they’re not entirely friendly (towards Americans at least). But that is my vantage point as an American. It fascinated me to hear my Northern Irish coach (bus) driver think that the Northern Irish are a friendly community. Whoa-me saying that sounds like I’m accusing them not to be! Well, to be honest, I didn’t quite know what to expect because the violence was so recent. I don’t know if there is still an unspoken animosity. But the scars of the violence are evident in the façade of Belfast. (Definitely check out the Instagram feed. I’m getting some good shots with the iPhone and 5D).

But another indicator that you’re out of the Republic of Ireland is the currency. The UK’s pound is something like 1.8 to the USD, which is absurd and makes me furious (to the point that I’m including it in this post). The Euro equally disgruntles me, but the pound really sends me over the cliff. I have no clue what I’m talking about in terms of economics or business, but the quality of living here is a) not higher than Galway and b) not higher than America. The fact that consumable goods that are cheaper in quality here are almost double the cost than they would be in America is beyond my comprehension. But the Irish and English banks offer no-charge on withdrawing from ATMs, another indication that there is a strong attempt to revitalize the city. I’ve heard from West Coast Irishmen that as a result of the Troubles, Belfast economically suffered from the spite it received from the Republic. In other words, it’s visibly evident that the Republic spurned the Northern Counties to the point where a lot of streets are empty with abandoned shops. It’s an eerie feeling which I have not felt since the summer of 2011, when I first drove through some hardened areas of West Philadelphia.

But check out the architecture; definitely affluent in some areas. Listen to the driver’s accent too.

Enough about money and my ranting about the state of Belfast! (I hope to find some better spots to get another impression tomorrow). The countryside of County Antrim is beautiful. According to my awesome coach driver Pat, the scenic Coastal Route is globally ranked among the top 10 of some list of coastal roads. Even with the February weather, that was self-evident. Contrasted with Ireland’s other coastal region, this land was more in line with what I preconceived Ireland to look like; the grassy rolling hills and sheep. (Sheep are any and everywhere. But this land is richer with volcanic sediment, which historically caused it to be contested among Gaelic and Anglo rulers. The English Pale, that is Ireland’s east coast, is better for crops. You could see that in the shade of the grass. It wasn’t like Connemara’s, West Ireland’s, harsh countryside, which is littered with rocks).

This was a really cool trail that I wasn't suppose to be on. Oh well--yolo right? Yet there was a point where I was setting up my tripod and both it and me almost got blown off. Maybe I should've followed the rules?
This was a really cool trail that I wasn’t suppose to be on. Oh well–yolo right? Yet there was a point where I was setting up my tripod and both it and me almost got blown off. Maybe I should’ve followed the rules?

Because the Game of Thrones set was filmed throughout this area, I couldn’t help think of another sci-fi book, the Lord of the Rings. And then I had myself thinking that this area kind of looked like New Zealand. Maybe not the same (haha) but the land experienced some volcanoes and glaciers to form a really unique terrain! There were a bunch of Brazilian kids on the bus who also seemed to love Game of Thrones. It’s a very big deal here in Northern Ireland, particularly because the crew works out of Belfast. (They’re coming back here in June/July to start filming for Season 5 already…)

But let’s jump to the Giant’s Causeway. I have seen pictures and I have heard stories. It’s best to just visit the scene and experience it yourself. I had no idea Scotland was so close by, so that was a surprise for starters. The actual landmass is indeed uniquely shaped like stairs or a footpath. I scoped out the area pretty quickly and initially set up my tripod in an area away from other people. Then I got bold and went right for the money shot. There are jetties of the “causeway” that have massive waves crashing into them, causing the water to have a spray and nice visual effect over the rocks. I had to have the shot. There I was, edging out further on the slippery rocks in front of the other tourists who thought that their zoom lenses would suffice for this scene. I love what my 50mm makes me do! I started snapping away, fearing for the 5D as it got some ocean spray. I’m  not sure if I got the shot at this point, but I kept recomposing until I heard a really loud whistle. Startled from my laser-like focus on the waves crashing, I turned to see some type of authority figure. I picked up my tripod and headed over to him as he joked, “They (the waves) are coming in too big and too frequently!” Then it hit me that yes, in fact, they were. And if it wasn’t for this man, I probably would’ve just squatted there as water surrounded my small patch of dry rock.

I love this panorama! This IS the Giant's Causeway, from a high vantage point. The tourists congregate in the center left. Those are the "steps."
I love this panorama! This IS the Giant’s Causeway, from a high vantage point. The tourists congregate in the center left. Those are the “steps.”

So we backed away as I chatted him some more, seeking where to plant the tripod again. It took me a good 15 minutes to go about 15 meters into another, smaller jetty that was displacing the water in a visually captivating manner. The rocks were so slippery that I had to use my Manfrotto as a cane as I ventured out into the quickly ceasing low tide. Once positioned, I realized that yes, again, I was surrounded by water. But this time, since I was away from the tourists, there was no one to blow a whistle at me. My heart started pounding as 10 foot waves broke in front of the lens. I was just far enough away from the spray but I didn’t want to lower the tripod any more than it was already at for fear of getting washed away. A wave broke in front of me and judging from the current, another was going to break to my right. I turned the tripod head and got the shot of the day. (Sorry I don’t have it uploaded yet…such a tease).

Follow me on Instagram for more photos of the trip. I hope to have some edited-RAW files up soon…

Amsterdam

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I know I said I’d have a part two for my hike last week, but time is really flying by over here. (Ask me in person if you were dying to hear the end of that story).

I’ll just start by saying that it’s interesting to compare the sharp contrast between the advertised facade of a city and its actual likeness. There’s no point of me delving into what Amsterdam is depicted as, especially when targeted to a younger population. But I will say a few things on those topics; legal prostitution and legal drugs. One thing is done more casually (or subtly) than the other. From what I could tell after eating in a local cafe outside of the tourist traps, marijuana is a part of the Dutch lifestyle. It’s hard for an American (maybe not so much now with Colorado’s legalization) to see drug use aside from fringe behaviour.  But try, if you can, imagining yourself as Dutch. You’re fairly well-educated, multi-lingual, and have an awareness that your Amsterdam home attracts a large tourist population because certain activities are legal. You don’t live near any of the touristy spots of town. You don’t binge on substances (like other cultures typically do without hesitation).

Here is Central Station sitting across from the equivalent of NYC's Time Square. Behind it is the IJ. Beautiful architecture was certainly the theme this weekend.
Here is Central Station sitting across from the equivalent of NYC’s Time Square. Behind it is the IJ. Beautiful architecture was certainly the theme this weekend.

While eating in a crammed sandwich shop, my friend and I listened to the outgoing owner going back and forth between English and Dutch. His shop was tiny, but within the 30 minutes I was there, you could get a sense of a more genuine Dutch culture from his interactions with his patrons. He knew everyone that was in his shop, except for me and my friend. But that didn’t stop him from joking with us in his well-polished English. As well as being outwardly educated, Holland is noticeably ethnic;  “Asians” and “blacks” gathered in this luncheonette and were also regularly interchanging between Dutch and English.  One of the younger patrons asked what the owner was doing later to which he replied, “Smoking some weed and staying in.” I wasn’t surprised at this, but the scene certainly presented me with a foreign culture that was different from Ireland and America. Lax laws and small, intercity businesses make for a brighter population.

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This is the National Monument that was built in 1956 to commemorate the dead of WW2. The street to the right (behind the tree) is where our hostel was. To the left is Dam Square.

But Amsterdam didn’t end up like that by chance. I went to the Rijksmuseum and saw Holland through its historically rich art. For anyone that doesn’t remember their European history, the Netherlands dominated the trade scene throughout the colonial period. As a result of being progressive then, combined with struggles with Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, the country continues to be forward-thinking. Yes, this means legal drugs and prostitution, but the locals in Amsterdam were really into venerating the art. The museum was beautiful and packed full of Dutch and foreigners. (Dutch is distinctly audible; something like a cross between French and German. So I could quickly tell who I was standing next to, if their height or garb didn’t give them away. There were some tall individuals in that town…)

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One of the three, earlier canals of Amsterdam’s Grachtengordel. The 17th-century canal ring area, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan. The Herengracht is the nicest; literally means “patrician’s canal.” (Gracht=canal, lake). Initially, depending on what inner loop of canals you lived between was associated with your social status. The further outside of the city centre you lived, the poorer you were.

But that still brings us to the fact that prostitution exists there. I feel like there is a bit of yin yang thing going on. If Holland is able to thrive so well culturally, it has to be fueled by something. I think that any town would benefit from tourism’s added spending. So combine that generic business mentality with the aforementioned, distinctly Dutch progressivism, and you end up with legal prostitution. However, whilst walking through the Red Light District, you can quickly tell that the whole prostitution shtick is a tourist trap. The way things are advertised and presented in those couple of blocks was very different than a couple streets away.  As amoral as it may sound, my hat is off to Amsterdam in the strictest economic sense. There was visibly a huge population of males, ages 16-30 that walked through that section and Holland prospers from it. (But not exclusively). The last thing I’ll say about this is that it was odd to see locals living above or across from the rooms with “red lights” over them. I guess I didn’t personally internalize how that would work out on a daily basis. But for the most part, that area was a tourist destination, not a residential area. I still think the local Dutch were distanced from that.

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From Central Station looking at the Church of St. Nicholas.

I went on a canal tour and saw the city from a unique perspective. The Dutch really dominate water; traversing it, controlling it, utilizing it. The Dutch East/West Indies Companies traversed oceans for trade. Amsterdam was built by damming and dredging the Amstel River (hence the city’s name). And to this day, there are certain parts of the city that are below sea level, which is an incredible feat considering the IJ Lake, canals, and river all have to be monitored to avoid flooding. The IJ (pronounced kind of like ‘ay’) was originally a bay. I can’t remember how much of the city now sits on dammed, artificial land but it’s more than half. Another fun fact is that there is an estimated 1.6 million bikes in the city. That’s more bikes than people. (I don’t know how that compares to Portland, Oregon, but there are separate road/paths for bikes and mopeds. It was wild to cross a street because you never remember to check for bikes, only for cars).

Here I am with the bikes, canals, and beautiful architecture!
Here I am with the bikes, canals, and beautiful architecture!

If anyone wants to hear more about my time here (or in Ireland), please feel free to comment below. I can email anyone if they’re interested. I would also love to hear any travel suggestions or photo destinations as Cork, Ireland is on my itinerary for this upcoming weekend.

Been Awhile…

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…and there are no new photos to show for it. I did, however, finally receive my Canon 5D! And I have been very excited that my 75-300mm and 50mm 1.4 Canon lenses work on the EF mount. I love the simplicity of the dials and buttons. I will admit that even with a battery grip, I still walk around with my camera off. So when I raise the viewfinder to my eye, I instinctively move my right thumb to switch on the camera to no avail. The Rebel’s body is very different from this professional grade setup. I haven’t had any great situations to shoot, nor the lens to experiment with the full body sensor, or a CF card reader. But I am getting around to those things! (I can’t change the weather, but I have been shooting random objects with the 50mm to get a good feel for my camera).

Because I am going abroad in less than two weeks, I wanted to save as much money as possible. I plan to shoot a lot while over there, but I don’t think the weather will immediately permit me to shoot landscapes at 17 or 18mm. So there’s no rush to get something wider than 50mm at the moment.

I need to swing by BestBuy (again) in the holiday hubbub to grab a CF card reader. Yuck.

In other news, I am cleaning up my usage of social media apps. By that I mean I am using a platform the way it was intended to be used. I have Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, Instagram, a Facebook page, a self-hosted domain, and Flickr accounts–so many things to keep track of! So I will have my Instagram feed on the right side of my WordPress. Those will hopefully be images with little to no explanations or blurbs. That’s for my WordPress! It will be my travel log, journal, and resource for asking questions!

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Under the Bridge, Philly

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I really loved taking this shot. I had some variations on where I stood so that my angle was different. After a few weeks of playing around with perspective, I realized that I like this off-centered angle the most. The reason being that the depth of field is really increased when your eye can see how far back the bridge arches go. Straight on, the camera cannot capture the bridge legs/arches because they are behind each other.

I adjusted the contrast, shadows, and blacks to get the right amount of darkness I wanted. I also boosted my clarity up; especially in these urbex type of shots.

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