2011 a year in review

It seems that I’ve once again neglected a blog. No matter, here’s a summary of what happened in 2011 (and bits and pieces of all the content I never got around to writing). Picture heavy post ahead!

In February, D’Ann got her first doll. She’d been wanting one for some time so I hit up Volks to see if they still had any in stock. Fortunately, they still had a Miu available after the DP event so I picked her up. Even though it was still a few months before D’Ann’s birthday, I let it slip that I already had the present. Here’s what happened…

Early birthday present

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Dabbling in close-up photography

A couple weeks ago, I picked up a brand new Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens from Amazon to shoot with. Being used to various zooms, it was a bit of a change in shooting style going to a non-stabilized prime lens. Once I got used to it, I found that it produced far sharper images, wonderful background blur, and beautiful portraits. The somewhat short focal distance got me to thinking… how good would it be for doing close ups?

To find out, I signed up for a macro photography workshop at Daniel Stowe. The instructor walked us through some tips and showed us some (expensive) equipment that would help, then it was off to the field!

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My first attempts showed how sharp the lens is. These were taken at f/5.0 (and cropped a bit). I’m sure if I worked at it, I could get my reflection in those water droplets… Just as a quick note, all of the photos in this post will display the full sized counterparts when clicked. 🙂

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Weekend visit to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

The weather was gorgeous in Charlotte this weekend, with temperatures slowly creeping up past the mid 80s. Summer isn’t quite in full swing yet, so I decided to take advantage and make a trip out to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. I grabbed the D50 and headed out.

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Sadly, one of the things I forgot to do was grab a shot of the front entrance. On the grounds, however, I did snap one of the greenhouse which is home to the garden’s fine collection of orchids. It wasn’t a completely cloud-free day, but I really enjoyed the cool breeze that came through.

 

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My first DSLR

Yesterday I brought home my very first DSLR camera. Someone at work had a used one up for sale and I jumped on the opportunity. Even though it’s an older model, it still has enough features to get me started.

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Behold, the 5-year old Nikon D50. The set I picked up included two lenses (18-55mm and 55-200mm), external flash, filters, and a bag. It was lightly used by the previous owner (~1400 shots total) and is in very good shape.

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Merri Kurismasu!

Lit up waterway

Merry Christmas from Charlotte, North Carolina! Sadly, no snow here today, only rain. As with last year, some coworkers and I went to the Daniel Stowe Botanical garden to see the holiday light displays. I keep saying that I’ll bring a tripod or something with me to steady the camera, but alas, I forgot. It’s a step forward from last year, however, when I forgot the camera all together…. >.<

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Odds, ends, and upgrades

The past few months have been pretty eventful, though nothing in terms of figure acquisitions. I am, however, expecting a couple things in the near future, including a set of Summer Uniform Lucky Star Figma (Kagami, Tsukasa, and Miyuki), Yoko Real Image ver., and a bunch of BDs and DVDs from RightStuf’s 12+ Days of Christmas sale.

Black Friday also came and went, and while I didn’t actually go out, I did score a couple interesting items. The first of which came in the week before Thanksgiving…

TV

Yes, that is a brand new DLP television in my living room. Just how big is it and how much did I pay? Keep reading…

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Trip to Japan – Odds and ends

After almost a month after coming back from Japan, I’ve finally made time to tie up the loose ends from the trip. Photos have all been uploaded, Photosynths have been completed, and blog posts written. To bring things to a close, here are the things that didn’t make it into previous posts.

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Beware, lots of multimedia ahead!

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Traveling to Tokyo

It’s now the start of my first full day in Tokyo. The jet lag is a bit hard to deal with (13 hour time difference between here and Charlotte), though I did try to force the adjustment by staying up for most of the 26ish hours it took to fly to Japan, get to the hotel, and have some dinner. Still, after going to be around midnight JST, I managed to get about 5 hours of sleep.

The passing time on the flight from Minneapolis to Narita was much easier since I chose to fly first class. Any seasoned traveler will know that First Class means super comfortable seats, in-seat entertainment systems, decent food, and all the drinks I want. That last item in particular made the flight very enjoyable. 🙂

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Yes, I know… I’m a drunk 🙂

The flight in wasn’t actually too bad despite it being long. The flight landed in Narita around 17:20 JST. Following landing, I breezed through the quarantine checkpoint (didn’t appear to be active), passport control, baggage claim, and then customs.

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After meeting up with Eric, it was time to convert some money over and take the bus into central Tokyo. The ride itself took over an hour due to large amount of traffic in the city. By the time we hit the hotel, we were pretty tired and hungry. This meant going out and finding something to eat…

Our hotel is right across from a Tokyu Hands department store, which has a huge selection of restaurants. We settled on a tempura restaurant, which had some pretty good food.

IMAG0120After dinner, I was pretty much ready to pass out. I’d been up for most of the last 26 hours and was in desperate need of sleep. A quick shower was in order and then some channel surfing on the hotel TV. We stumbled upon what appeared to be the Bandai channel, which was showing all sorts of ads and reairing some older anime (including Mai-HiME).

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I managed to snap some pictures in the wee hours of the morning after I woke up at 5am JST. This jetlag is going to stay with me for at least another day, I suspect. I’ll need to struggle through the later parts of today and try to get myself on a good schedule. Fortunately, today is all about Tokyo Game Show, so I’ll probably be pretty wired.

More pictures and updates to come later on in the week!

Counting down to Japan

With a little over a week left until I leave for Japan, everything is falling in place. I got an email a few days ago from my travel companion with the following picture attached:

TGS tickets!

Thanks to his friend in Tokyo, we have our tickets for Tokyo Game Show 2009, which opens to the public on Saturday! I’m a bit sad that I won’t be able to make it there for the industry keynotes, but the public exhibition should still be awesome with all sorts of interesting characters showing up. I wonder if I can sneak myself into the Microsoft booth using my badge… ^.^;;

Our itinerary for the week has pretty much been nailed down as well, with only a few loose ends to work on. Here’s a rough outline:

  • Thursday – Depart United States, land Friday late afternoon JST. Go to hotel and crash.
  • Saturday – Tokyo Game Show
  • Sunday – Harajuku
  • Monday – Lunch with some Microsoft Japan folks, exploring Tokyo
  • Tuesday – Akihabara
  • Wednesday – Saitama for Washinomiya Shrine, Do As Infinity concert (hopefully)
  • Thursday – Ghibli Museum
  • Friday – Train to Kyoto in AM, do sightseeing
  • Saturday – More sightseeing in Kyoto
  • Sunday – Train to Narita and return to US
  • Monday – Taking day off from work to recover

It’s going to be a very packed trip, I think, and I’m getting pretty psyched about it. With our hotels booked and itinerary made, all that’s really left for me to do is pack and get on the plane next week!

Planning a trip to Japan – Part 2

Just as a quick update to my last entry about Japan, I now have confirmed dates and have booked my plane tickets! I’ll be leaving Charlotte on September 24 (arriving on the 25) and leaving October 4. Now that my airfare has been booked, it’s really going to happen! All that is left is to find a hotel, plan an itinerary, and pack.

…now, which camera equipment should I take, and should I bring a Figma along…