Beautiful, Interesting and Ooo Shiny! Images From Various Places

Travel

New Year, New Blogs

Windows
Location: Indonesia
Camera Info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/250 sec

I’m back! Or more specifically, I’m trying again. Life got very overwhelming last year, and I had to make some cutbacks, so unfortunately this blog had to take a backseat as well. This year looks like it will be pretty busy as well (I’m looking forward to my wedding, as well as up to three potential international trips), but I will make a strong attempt to keep this going, even if I have to cut back to once or twice a month instead of every week. You wonderful people deserve it! So sorry to keep you waiting this past year.

This week’s picture makes me think of reflections. As I looked out those windows in Indonesia, I thought about where I had been and what lies ahead, and now I am doing the same. This last year has seen Andy and I losing employment, gaining it, losing it, etc. Currently he has found a job and I am still looking (yet another reason why I actually have time to write again!). We are planning our wedding for this spring (finally!) and hope to be heading overseas again shortly afterward.

Together, we’ve had quite the year! Both of us have been very involved in our Toastmasters clubs, with me becoming an officer and taking part in a humorous speech contest, and Andy becoming the very first non-inmate to join a prison club! Andy has kept busy ministering in the prison in various ways, as well as leading tours and working on archive preservation at the historic Harrison House. Of course I can’t mention Andy without his favorite sports, running and archery. This year, he has been teaching me to shoot with him, and he completed his 10th full marathon and 20th half-marathon, earning himself a place in the Marathon Maniacs club (Think: hotel discounts for life!). We’ve also added to our respective families. I took in a stray black cat, Ninja, and adopted a second kitten to keep her company (Leo). And yes, that means there will be occasional cat pictures for you as well! *giggle*

For 2014, we don’t know what it may hold, but we do know God is faithful to lead us. We’re excited for the new adventures that await us… and hopefully they will come with plenty new photos to show you! Thanks everyone for sticking with me. Here’s to a great 2014!

What’s your biggest hope for the new year?


2012: The Greatest Hits

Concert

Location: USA
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
(No EXIF Data Currently Available)

Happy New Year (six days ago)! If you were around last year, you may remember I did a year-end review post so that you could relive the awesomeness of posts from 2011. Well, it’s that time again! May I present to you… 2012’s Greatest Hits Countdown!

10. First, everyone here wants to take good pictures, right? That’s why Composition 1 came in at 10th place. Free education for all!

9. Next, let’s travel to Asia. India’s Division of Labor gave us some cultural lessons from the subcontinent.

8. The sad & sobering news stories strike again, but this time with a glimmer of hope in Forgiveness in Colorado. This post also took the top spot for most comments of the year (even if the majority was from the same person) 😉

7. Travel reviews are an intricate part of this blog. Fly Sky High in the Eye is for those looking for fun stuff to do in London, England.

6. Lists make everything seem so organized, even when they make you cringe in embarrassment. At #6, we have Top Tourist Mistakes! (Don’t try these away from home)

5. For all the photo enthusiasts, some practical help was needed. Composition 2 was the top pick of the photography lessons provided this year.

4. Let’s bring on the funny! Many got a kick out of the 15 Funny Road Signs From Around the World, even if we still didn’t understand all of them.

3. It seems people were attracted to the big news stories this year. After only a month on the blog, A Poem for the Children rose to #3 on the charts.

2. Next is a topic that is near to my heart, but again tough to discuss with people. That’s why I called it The Thing No One Wants to Talk About.

1. Last but best of all. This post is on a serious note, but one that illustrates the value of small things done in love. This year’s top post is A Moment in Time.

Bonus Track: Surprise! Surprise! Apparently, people were really interested in my personal life. 😉 This post made honorable mention at #11.

Did your favorite post not make it on the list? Give it some love and tell us why you like it in the comments!


Escape From the Camp

IMG_2792

Location: Poland
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 100 • f 4 • 1/100 sec

I’m going all serious on you again.

Earlier this week, I watched part of a documentary on how a North Korean man escaped from the concentration camp he had grown up in. He had watched his own mother and brother executed there for trying to escape, but eventually the desire to be free got to him as well. He and another man worked together to get out, and the other man was killed in the process. This type of stuff is still happening in North Korea.

I can assume that North Korea’s camps are very similar to Auschwitz, the Nazi camp we visited in Poland. Security there was extremely tight. In my photo, you can see a sign reading “Stop!” on a standard electric fence. Behind that, there is another barbed-wire fence with the top curved inward. It was also electrified. A third fence, the same design as the second, is next. Finally, there is a brick wall. Just by looking at it, I would guess it around eight feet high. If you look down the fence to the end, there is a small building with four windows. That is one of guard shacks, which were spaced along the perimeter of the camp. Guards would wait there for potential escapees, and try to shoot them before they reached the fence. In fact, our guide told us, prisoners would sometimes use the fence as a form of suicide, since the electricity was such a high voltage it would kill them. The guards tried to shoot the prisoners first, however, since they “did not like to clean up the mess” of someone being electrified.

Looking at all this, I did wonder how some people managed to successfully escape, as it seemed nearly impossible. According to our guide, some 802 attempted, but only 144 made it out alive (not counting all those liberated at the end of the war). I heard some found favor with dissenters who worked in the “hospital” and were snuck out. Some also escaped during work outings, but at high cost: for each successful escapee, ten others from their work team would be shot as a deterrent. Others were freed by SS guards who changed their minds about the Nazi agenda. As we walked around, I kept wondering to myself: If I was put in their place, what would I do? Would I try to escape or stay to protect those around me? If I did make an attempt, what would I try to do?

Put yourself in the prisoner’s shoes for a moment. How do you think you would handle this situation? Remember to pray for those still in camps today.


The Exposure Triangle: Bringing it All Together

Location: India
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 20 • 1/125 sec

Hey my fellow shutter-bugs! It’s been a while since I had a lesson, so I owe you one – and it’s just in time for you to take all those crazy family pictures during Christmas! Previously, I talked about Aperture and Shutter Speed. Today’s lesson is on ISO, as well as answering the question: so what’s the point of all of this?

ISO (International Standards Organization), or as old-school photographers would say, Film Speed, is simply a measurement of how quickly the media in your camera can pick up light. For example, think about the last time you moved. If you had to pack a truck, how long would it take to fill if only you were working? How long would it take if you had a whole team of movers? These scenarios would represent low and high ISO settings, respectively. Higher ISOs “pack in” light faster than low ones, allowing you to shoot better pictures in low light. They also introduce film grain (pixellation) at higher levels depending on your camera.

So now you have all three pieces of the Exposure Triangle, every photographer’s rule to taking properly exposed pictures. The main point is to keep the triangle balanced. When you adjust shutter speed down, you may need to open your aperture or use a higher ISO. When you set a high ISO to shoot at night, you will need a longer shutter speed or wide aperture, etc. You will know these three are balanced when your camera’s light meter is centered.

Now comes the fun part: with this knowlege, you can shoot any camera in manual mode and actually know what you’re doing! 😀 You can try several combinations of the three elements, just remember how else they affect your photos (aperture affects depth of focus, shutter speed affects blur, and ISO affects noise). Also, you can use the Tv, Av, P, and any other settings appropriately. Just know that Tv lets you choose your shutter speed & ISO, and it will pick the aperture for you. Likewise, Av does the same with letting you control aperture. P is fully automatic except for the focus & flash.

Ok, your turn! Try taking some pictures and let us know your experience in the comments. Did you get the image you were going for? Do you know why/why not?


Are GMO’s Really That Evil?

Location: Thailand
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 11 • 1/30 sec

A cursory Google search will return pages upon pages of arguments for organic produce and fears against GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). Why is that? Most debates in the public sector have had equal representation of both sides of the argument, but in this one, only one side is well heard. For the sake of discourse, I thought I would write this blog from the other side.

Disclaimer: I have nothing against organics or the people who encourage others to grow them. One of the great things about living in the USA is our freedom of choice, including being able to choose what we eat. This blog, however, is about other places around the world.

GMO’s were originally developed with the world’s good in mind. Scientists saw problems such as famine in Africa, malnutrition in Asia, and children dying of preventable causes in many areas, and they wanted to do something about it. Using what they knew best, they began to develop agricultural solutions to these problems. For example, the poor in Asia eat rice as their staple diet, but often do not have access to other essential nutrients needed for healthy development. To improve their overall health, scientists spent years working on “golden rice” – a crop with additional vitamin A. Meanwhile, in Africa, strong weeds or a drought could cost a family their entire crop for the year. So they dealt with both a lack of food and a lack of income. Some even had to sell off children they couldn’t feed. As a result, several crops were developed to be more resistant to weeds, insects, and drought. There are many more examples.

Much of the concern has been over the health risks of GMO’s. Does playing with the genetic code cause cancers or other health issues? Thousands of other scientists have worked to answer these questions, and many regulations have been put in place. While there are occasional mistakes that aren’t foreseen, most testing will find any problems long before a product makes it to the market.

Regulations also limit the amount of work that can go into this research in the first place. For example, those who work with the genetic code of plants are limited to only changing certain amino acids in a strand of DNA. In nature, entire sections of DNA can be moved, cut out, or duplicated, causing major changes. It’s like the difference between people of different nationalities. Naturally, they have different hair and skin colors, different bone structures, and even different susceptibility to health issues. Using this comparison, a GMO would be like changing people’s eye colors.

Some companies have become known for shady business practices, but not all operate that way. Some people are allergic to certain food additives, but that doesn’t mean they are bad for everyone. The excuse “I won’t eat anything I can’t pronounce” often forgets the fact that any substance on earth can have a long complicated scientific name, and that certain natural ingredients are extremely toxic. The point is: proper balance is needed. We need to evaluate things one at a time based on their own merit, not paint the entire thing with a broad brush.

Are you particular about where your food comes from? What are your eating habits?