Sunday, September 24, 2017

First Photography Field Trip

Today was my first time EVER shooting in manual mode on my camera!  I have been taking a photography class for the last 4 weeks, and today was our field trip to practice what we have been learning.  I also used my 55mm-300mm lens for the first time today (and I will NEVER switch back to my 18-55mm lens to shoot people again)!!   

Our field trip was in downtown Cleveland at the Fifth Street Arcade.  As you can see it was two stories high, and very ornate.

The area that we were shooting in had all kinds of stores with window displays in them.  There were numerous people from my group around, and everyone found different things to shoot.

So I started practicing shooting different things.  The gargoyles caught my eye first...

So I started shooting them...

And here is my first attempt at trying to shoot something through the class displays.  I was having a lot of trouble because I was trying to stand too close to the window.

I saw this cute little dog with a bunch of other stuff around him in a window display, and I was trying to get a picture of the dog in sharp focus with the stuff around him kinda blurred out.

I shot this little dog for like 20 minutes before I started getting pictures that I really liked...

I was setting my settings manually so I was trying to make sure that he was bright enough/not too bright... and that he was in focus... and etc...

I was annoyed because I felt that the metal thing behind him was in more focus than the doggie... so I kept moving around to get a better shot...

This one I thought was a little bit better...

I liked this angle...

Finally the effect I was going for!  The dog is in prime focus and the background isn't really in focus.

Here's one of my favorite ones...  or at least... as favorite as a picture of a statue dog can be.  Honestly I was getting bored with shooting inanimate objects.  Maybe some day I'll graduate to liking to take pictures of random things... but I'm more of a portrait photographer... I love taking pictures of people!  So I quickly moved away from shooting pictures of the objects in the displays to taking pictures of the photographers around me!

So as you can see... I started out a little rough...  Here I was trying to rush to get the composition that I wanted and I over exposed the picture (made it too bright).

Here I under-exposed the picture... (made it too dark).

But after I was practicing a bit, I started getting some shots that I was proud of!  I think that technically this was a decent attempt.

Now I was excited about this picture because of HOW FAR away this guy was!!  I was totally on the opposite side of the area than him, and I was still able to get a picture of him.  I absolutely LOVE the 300mm zoom range!  I felt like the paparazzi taking pictures of people.  My lens was long enough that I could hide behind things and take nice zoomed in pictures that people didn't notice that I was taking.

This was probably my favorite picture of the day!  This was such great timing, and everything was exposed properly.  I showed my friend Gauri the picture, and she was like wow!  He would absolutely love that picture of him, he'd probably give you a million bucks for it!  So I ended up going over to him later on and showing him...  I'm going to have to send it to him.  :)

 This lady was walking by, and I was trying to catch her looking at her reflection in the display mirror.  

This was one of the instructors talking to one of the students...

This guy was way up above me on the balcony taking pictures.  So I was down below taking pictures of him...  I have to say that these pictures were also some of my favorites.  And this is one of the reasons why I don't think I'll be switching back to my 18-55mm lens.  I absolutely loved the long range and detail that I had with my 55mm to 300mm lens.  I've been hesitant to switch to it, because I thought it would be too zoomed in, but after today I don't think that is the case at all.  The next weddings that I go to, I will definitely have my 55-300 mm lens on me.

When I bought my camera it came with two lens.  One was the standard kit lens (18-55mm) and the other was the 55-300mm that I used for the first time today.  Like I said above, I never used the second lens because I thought it wouldn't look good in my pictures.  However, last Wednesday, we had a class on lens and they showed us this slide with the recommended settings to shoot in based on what we were trying to shoot.  And then they provided hours worth of details as to the differences in the lens focal length.  That is why I decided to try that other lens out today to see the type of pictures that I got.  Loved it!

I can say with 100% certainty that I would not have gotten this quality of a picture of this guy with my other lens.  I think that I was zoomed in around 200-300mm to get this picture.  I'm glad that I tested out this lens, because I was thinking about buying a new lens that had a range from 10mm-150mm but honestly I don't shoot much architecture or landscapes (however in Hawaii that could change...)  so I'm thinking that sticking with the 55-300mm will work out ok for me in most circumstances. 

I know that all of the people that I was taking pictures of were all photographers (for the most part)... but I didn't know any of these people really... so I was hoping that no one would get upset that I was taking their pictures...  So I was being super sneaky and taking quick shots and moving away from people.  

More sneaky shots...  

This guy was sitting in one consistent spot, and it was really easy for me to set my settings and shoot him...  so I ended up taking quite a few of him.  I later showed him the pictures and learned that his name is Martin, and he was happy about the pictures and interested to see them.  :)

This guy was in a really dark area... so I was trying to expose him correctly.  This is the only shot I took and he happened to turn around right as I was ready to shoot it.  What's funny about this picture is that he didn't have a clue that I was taking it of him.  He happened to turn around right after I had set up my settings to shoot him... he actually turned super quick and then looked back out the window... but this picture looks like he was posing for me!  And it's exposed decently for how dark the room was!  Yay!

This is my friend Gauri.  She has the Nikon D5600 and I have the Nikon D5500 and they are basically the same camera.  I'm sure hers probably has some feature that mine doesn't, but darn if either of us could figure out what that feature is...  Anyways... since we basically have the same camera, we have been paired together during our classes, because the thought is that if you have a question and you are sitting next to someone with the same camera as you, you'll be able to ask them questions.  Well, I was telling her that I didn't really like taking images of inanimate objects and that I was more interested in shooting people but that I was nervous because I didn't know the people that I was shooting.  And she was like "Oh don't worry, I'm sure everyone would be thrilled to have pictures of themselves taking pictures.  Personally I'd love to have pictures taken of myself as I'm taking pictures."  Weeeeellll.... you know me... that's all the opening that I needed.  I walked away to ask an instructor a question, and then I sneaked across the room to take pictures of her.

Now I took probably like...  30 pictures or so of her.  Some weren't exposed correctly or they weren't focused properly.  But here are some of my favorite shots.  

I was trying not to get a blur from the window that she was standing next to, which was quite a challenge.  

At first I was shooting from across the hall from her (because I thought that was the best chance that she wouldn't see me), but I was getting frustrated with the display case in front of her.  So I ended up standing on the same side as her, but about 3 stores down so she wouldn't notice me (long lens for the win!).   It was kind of funny... I was hiding behind the display and shooting at her... I felt like a paparazzi  haha.  But this is when I ended up getting almost all of the pictures that I liked...  So here is the before angle of the pictures that I was getting of her...

Here is the after angle... which I felt looked better and was more focused on her.  During our composition class they told us that changing your perspective and moving to a different angle/area can completely change the shot... and I definitely agree!  I liked this angle much more.  After she was done shooting, I showed her the pictures and she was delighted and wanted me to send them to her.

 We went upstairs to start shooting from up above, and she was posing for me.  I thought that this picture was ok... but I asked her if she'd go back to the same spot and I'd try to adjust my settings.  I wanted her to be the main focus and I wanted the background more out of focus.

Money shot!  I was so excited that I got this shot, because it was what I was going for!  She loved this shot and actually said that she'd probably make this her profile picture (my secret objective whenever I take a picture).  So I was happy with how my field trip went, and I'm super excited to be learning more about photography.  It's exciting to be able to practice and have shots come out the way I intend them to.  I can't wait to get to learn more and keep practicing!  I think that in the next two weeks we are learning how to take portraits of people both indoors and outdoors (yaaay!!)  so I can't wait for those classes.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Carnival Vista Vs. Norwegian Escape Comparison

This year was an exciting year for us, because we went on two cruises this year!  At the end February we went on Carnival Vista (CV) and now at the end of May we've gone on the Norwegian Escape (NE).  Both of these ships are the newest/best ships on both Carnival and Norwegian so I thought that it might be interesting to compare the two ships since we've gone on both.  Now, please remember that these are just my experiences and thoughts of the cruise lines and I'm only rating things that Cody and I find important on ships.  With that said... let the comparison begin!!

Embarkation Process

As far the embarkation process goes... I'd have to say that Carnival Vista wins.  We got through security very quickly with Carnival Vista, and it was very clearly marked as to where we would be going to get on the ship.  As you can see above, the Norwegian Escape did not have any signs or indications on where to line up.  It made us feel pretty stressed out since we felt rushed to get on the ship for Vibe passes.  CV 1 vs. NE 0

Room Availability

When we travel, we only pack what will go in our carry on bags, and we keep those carry on bags with us when we enter into the cruise ship so that we have our stuff right away.  So, we have a vested interest in our rooms being ready quickly so that we can drop our stuff off.  On Vista our room was ready right when we got on the ship, whereas we saw a note on a locked door on the Escape telling us that our room wasn't ready (and it wasn't for a few hours).  So...  CV 2 vs. NE 0

Exclusive Area:  Havana Vs. Vibe

Again, Carnival Vista wins!  In my opinion, I preferred the Havana area on Vista vs. the Vibe on the Escape.  First of all, the Havana area was a bigger area.  It had a pool, two hot tubs, and the shaded seats in the water were wonderful. I think that the Havana area is my FAVORITE area on any cruise ship that we've been on.  Even better, access to the Havana area is tied to buying a Havana room, so if you want access to that area you just book a cruise during a time when a Havana room is available.

 I don't want to take away from the Vibe area though.  The service in the Vibe area is unlike service that I have ever experienced on a cruise ship.  The waiting staff is so good at getting to know you and making sure that you are taken care of that it's great.  However, if you are not a VIP on Norwegian or have a way of getting onto the ship before the general public... good luck at getting one of 70 limited passes for this area.  Obviously Cody and I proved that it is possible to get these passes, but waking up at 7am, rushing to the port, and then running like crazy to get the passes is not a good way to start your vacation.  Even worse, is doing all of that but still missing out because the passes to sell out in two minutes.  There were a lot of disappointed/angry people that weren't able to get the Vibe passes during our cruise.  I am predicting that someone is going to get hurt on a Norwegian cruise because people are running to get these passes.  I think the Vibe area would be better if rooms were sold as a "Vibe room category" just like the Havana area is sold on Vista.  Now I know some nay-sayers might say, "Well Norwegian does have an exclusive area that you can buy a room type for... the Haven."  And to that I say... Yes you are correct.  However, for a week in the Vibe area it only costs $200 extra per couple. Haven rooms start between $3,500 up to $7,500 per person, so I'm not going to call that comparable to the Havana area on Carnival Vista which is around that $200 extra price point.  CV 3 vs. NE 0

Drinking Package

I would say that an area that Norwegian definitely stands out from other lines is that they include the all you can drink package with your cruise (if you pick that promotion).  This really gives cruising a different feel because you don't have to worry about money as much.  Also, Norwegian has a really good variety of bars that have different types of drinks at them.  We found the drinks to be much more tasty and convenient to get on Norwegian than Carnival.  We did end up spending around $900 on the drinking package on Carnival so that we "wouldn't have to worry about spending money."  Well, that actually had the opposite effect, because my worry shifted to worrying about drinking enough to get my money's worth.  And I would say that in the end, we felt like we did not get our money's worth for what we ended up drinking.  We drank way more on Norwegian than we did on Carnival.  CV 3 vs. NE 1

Lunch Options

I feel compelled to break up the food category into multiple categories, because in some areas I felt Carnival was stronger in and others I liked Norwegian better.  So for lunch... Vista wins!  Carnival has teamed up with Guy Fieri and his two lunch areas on the ship are the BOMB!  We loved the Burger Joint and Pig and Anchor.  Vista also had a chinese and Italian restaurant that served lunch portions for free too.  We often didn't eat lunch on Norwegian because there weren't any exciting lunch venue places like there were on Vista.  CV 4 vs. NE1

Dinner Options

However, for dinner options... I have to say that the Escape wins, and I think this is another area where Norwegian stands out.  You can eat at any type of restaurant you could want on the Escape for dinner... hibachi, italian, french, brazilian, steak house, seafood and etc...  The range of dinner options on the Escape is outstanding and they all have high quality food in them too.  There were so many options that we weren't able to go to all the places that we wanted during the 7 day cruise.  I also like that their specialty dining options are reasonably priced.  Another big difference between the Escape and Vista is that on the Escape you can walk right up the restaurant and get your seating assignment.  On the Vista you have to go up to the floor above the dining room to get your seating assignment, which seems like a really bizarre set up to me. I have no idea why Carnival decided to do that.  CV 4 vs. NE2


The dessert options have to go to Carnival Vista!  Carnival's signature dessert, the chocolate melt cake, is legendary!  Not only that but Vista also has a whole buffet section dedicated to desserts in their buffet area, and they have a really good ice cream place called Cherry on Top where you can make ice combinations kind of like Cold Stone.  They also had a milkshake spot where you could order regular and alcoholic milkshakes.  Sorry Norwegian... you're just not competing on the dessert level.  CV 5 vs. NE 2

Cruise ship Apps

It's the digital age, so obviously both cruise lines have an app that you can hook up on your phone and use for free on the ship.  Both apps show you your onboard balance and activities that were upcoming on the ship.  I would that Carnival's app was a little better than Norwegian's because it also showed you pictures that were taken of you by their photographers, and it also had a feature that allowed you to mark upcoming activities as a favorite, and then you could sort your day by your favorite activities.  This made it very easy to see when the activities you were interested in were coming up on Vista.  Norwegian's app did not have this feature, and I found myself wishing for it while we were on the cruise.  CV 6 vs. NE 2

Appearance of the ship

I honestly usually think that most cruise ships look pretty similar to each other... but I have to say I absolutely loved the Escape's chandelier.  It caught my attention from the moment that we walked onto the ship.  It was truly the centerpiece of the ship and it was beautiful... especially at night when it changed colors.  Vista's had a digital column that just didn't compare to this at all.  CV 5 vs. NE 3

Theater Seating on the ship

You might think that it's odd that I'm rating the theater seating on the ship, but I feel compelled to do this, because the Carnival Vista has the WORST theater setup I've ever seen.  You walk in and all of the chairs are right on top of each other.  There were chairs that were fixed in their position, and then there were ones that could move.  It's almost like they decided "Oh we have quite a bit of room in-between these aisles, let's bring in some extra chairs and set them down to get an extra row of seating."  which caused there to be no room in-between the rows of seats.  The theater also didn't have stadium (or raised platform) seating, so if someone tall was in front of you... forget about being able to see.  You can't tell in this picture, but they also have large/gigantic support beams that block your view in the theater.  No matter where we sat in the Vista theater, I had a hard time viewing the show we were watching because people or support beams were blocking my view.  The chairs also have these awkward little tables on them, presumably to put a drink on (but I feel like any drink could easily fall off that little table).  The Norwegian's Escape theater was like a breath of fresh air after having been on Vista, because it was set up like a large movie theater which was absolutely refreshing after being on Vista. All I have to say about the construction of the Vista theater is why?!?!?  I'm thinking that they must have wanted it to not feel like a theater... but... that's what it is... so I don't know what they were going for.  CV 5 vs. NE 4

Theater Show Entertainment

 I think that the Escape wins in the theater entertainment department as well.  They have very high quality productions almost every night.  And not only do they have one large theater venue (that actually works as a theater) they have another smaller area called the Supper Club that puts on very good shows as well.  I also think that the Escape's entertainment was more consistently good than Vista's.  We went to a juggler on Vista who I honestly think would have been X'd on American's Got Talent.  And the juggler that we saw on the Escape had won the gold medal in the world juggling competition (Yes apparently there is a competition for everything in Vegas haha).  CV 5 vs. NE 5

Comedy Club

I have to say that Vista wins in the comedian department.  Carnival changes comedians every 3 days on their ship, so literally almost every night you can go to a different comedy show if you'd like to.  Norwegian keeps the same comedians on their ship the whole cruise, and you can only go to their shows one time during the cruise.  CV 7 vs. NE 5


Welcome to the future of cruise photography!!  Instead of printing out every picture they take of you and putting it into a binder for you to review (yes I'm calling you out Norwegian Escape) the Carnival Vista has huge digital screens that you can type your room number on and pull up all of your pictures.  You can also view all of our pictures on their Carnival Hub app.  I thought that this was brilliant, and I bet that this is a style that all cruise ships will adopt in the future.  CV 8 vs. NE 5

Piano Bar

Norwegian Escape wins the Piano Bar competition hands down.  Howl at the Moon is outstanding and is so much fun to be at, and it has a very different atmosphere than the piano bar on Vista.  Howl at the Moon has two pianos and 3 different performers.  In addition to the piano's they have a drum set and two guitars.  They have a light production and a video taping them while they perform.  Every hour the performers rotate out and get a 30 minute break.  Also they interact with each so well.  They back each other up, joke around, and if one person doesn't know a song they can throw it over to have the other person sing the song. Whereas, on Vista there was one girl on a piano that sang 6 days a week for 6 hours straight.  I don't care how entertaining that one person is on Carnival... they can't compete with Howl at the Moon.  CV8 vs. NE 6

The Crew

Now I don't have anything negative to say about Carnival's crew... but I just don't have anything to say that really stands out to me either.  However, on the Escape there were several crew members that knew our name and even bartenders that knew our drinks.  The crew on the Escape also seemed to have a lot of energy and seemed to have a lot of pride in their work.  I also liked that at the finale show that Norwegian called up the room stewards, bartenders, waiters, and etc... to be recognized for their hard work throughout the cruise.  CV 8 vs. NE 7

Loyalty Program

These cruises were our 3rd and 4th cruises that we've been on and they were our second cruises on each cruise line.  I didn't feel that we got any recognition on Vista for being a repeat guest.  Whereas, on the Escape we got a bottle of champagne, strawberries, and promotions for future cruises.  And after talking with different people in the Vibe, I believe that Norwegian has the best loyalty program out of any of the cruise lines, and I think that Norwegian takes care of it's loyal customers really well.  CV 8 vs. NE 8

Exiting from the Ship

 One thing that annoyed me on Carnival Vista is that their ports are not convenient for their passengers.  They specifically herded us through gift shops and made the walks off of the ship more congested and slower.  Norwegian did not drop us off at one port where we had to walk through a gift shop to enter through the port.  They also had carts that were shuttling passengers to and from ports that had longer piers.  CV 8 vs. NE 9

Returning onto the Ship

Norwegian knows how to treat their guests!  When you come back onto their ships they always have drinks and cold wash clothes to help refresh you.  At one port they were also passing out popsicles to everyone.  Another time, they had balloons set up and the crew was dancing to songs and welcoming you back onto the ship.  I can't remember Vista ever doing anything like that.  CV 8 vs. NE 10

Carnival Vista won 8/18 of my categories: 

Embarkation Process, Room Availability, Exclusive Areas, Lunch Options, Dessert Options, Cruise ship App, Comedy Club, and Photography.

The Norwegian Escape won 10/18 of my categories: 

Drinking Package, Dinner Options, Theater Seating, Theater shows, Piano Bar, The Crew, Loyalty Program, Exiting from the ship, and Returning onto the ship.

 I do feel that some of the categories that Norwegian won like the drinking package, dinner, and entertainment options were really big hitters.  After having been on both ships, I think that we enjoyed our time on the Escape more than on Vista.  The Escape had high quality entertainment that changed frequently enough that we never got bored at night on the ship (like we were on Vista).  Similarly with the food options, we got to try a bunch of different places to eat but it never felt like we were going to the same place over and over again (like it did on Vista).  In the future I think that we will be sailing with Norwegian over Carnival.