Monday, May 31, 2010

Currency Roulette


(Photo Title: Feed Me Taxes- Doge's Palace)

In 2008 I traveled to Europe and relied on credit cards and ATMs to pay for my journey. This was certainly easier than departing the United States with euros, but AMEX and ATMs charged over 2.7 percent above inflated exchange rates. As I started to plan an extensive European tour for 2010, I knew that I needed to take cash with me to avoid unfavorable bank fees. As you know, the world economy is still uncertain and the European Union is no exception. With this in mind I played "currency roulette" and decided to wait to purchase foreign currency as close to my trip as possible. Thankfully my gamble paid off!

When you read exchange rates, one must keep in mind that the advertised rates are for institutional-sized transactions, such as $1 million. When I contemplated purchasing foreign currency, Bank of America offered the best rate, $1.38 per euro and $1.60 per pound sterling. I put my chips, so-to-speak, on the table and waited for more international turmoil to take place. At the time Greece was faltering and other Euro-zone countries were struggling. Fortunately my prediction was correct and I nabbed euros at $1.30 and pound sterlings at $1.50, a significant savings!

I hope the world economy will one day achieve stability and gradual growth; please, no more bubble economies! In the meantime, I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel the world and be blessed with a loving family and friends. I could not ask for more!

The image above was taken at the Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy. The mouth of the male sculpture was used to collect local's taxes. Even the powerful Venetian empire relied on taxes to supplement other revenue sources. I took this image because the face seems a little perturbed and evil, two characteristics that the taxpayers probably did not appreciate!

Ago vita vos somnium (live the life you dream)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Day on the Bay - San Diego

I spent the day on the San Diego bay. What a treat! The warm sun perfectly counter-balanced the cool sea breeze. The Canon S90's manual controls helped me capture the photograph I envisioned. I love the two control rings in the front and back of the camera!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Indoor Fountain Swirl

While traveling photographers constantly look outside to find the next image, but sometimes great photographs can be had indoors at the hotel. The picture above was taken in the atrium of my hotel just before I ventured outside to capture the deep blue hues after the sun set. To increase depth of field and create a swirl effect in the water, I used f/16 at 8 seconds for this exposure. Tripods may be cumbersome in certain circumstances, but it’s the pits when you are left struggling to stabilize the camera on makeshift supports while traveling. I always take my tripod with me when I know I will photograph at sunset or after. Look on the bright side, carrying a little extra weight equals a stronger grip that will come in handy for long photo jobs!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Castle in the Clouds - Hotel Del Coronado

Southern California has diverse scenery that present photographic opportunities around each corner. In March I headed down to Coronado, California for some San Diego photography in the sun, only it was a gloomy afternoon. After I parked my car and explored the main street in Coronado, I headed over to the wide sandy beach fronting the Hotel Del Coronado. Looking out to Point Loma and the setting sun was a little generic for the day. I pointed my camera in the direction of the Hotel Del Coronado, and after a few minutes of experimenting, I determined how best to take a new look at Hotel Del. Above, the Victorian style Hotel Del Coronado looks like a castle perched in the clouds. This image was taken below a thicket of ice plants to create the illusion of a floating castle. The sun was falling in the sky as I exposed this image. The warm rays of the San Diego sun gently licked The Del’s façade and washed the clouds with light orange hues. Ago vita vos somnium (live the life you dream) May 25, 2010

The First Day of the New Travelogue

Thank you to the readers. After the first day of using this new blogging format to showcase my travel photography, the site has been read by people in the United States and as far away as Saudi Arabia, India, and the Ukraine!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Into the Olympic Wilderness

My photo excursion to the Pacific Northwest proved fruitful. This San Diego Photographer greatly appreciated the lush rainforest, rocky beaches, and a general change of scenery from Southern California. The Olympic Coast in Washington State was ideal travel destination. As you can see in the image above, my journey was blessed with blue skies, which rarely occur during the winter months. On this outing, I hiked through an area of relatively small trees blanketed by a thick carpet of monster-sized ferns on the forest floor. Gently babbling streams and soothing winds marked the otherwise soundless landscape. Serene. Stepping into nature, and sometimes out of one’s comfort-zone, is a great way to both explore and self reflect. I found that on this journey I was at peace being part of the landscape. I could not have asked for more! Ago vita vos somnium (live the life you dream) May 24, 2010

Post Alley Public Market - Seattle

On a rainy evening I set up my tripod and clicked off a few double-exposures in Downtown Seattle. The blue stormy skies help the red brick building and neon signs pop in the image above. A few other tourists stood by me and tried to take this same picture with their pocket-cams. I have a feeling their images did not expose properly. A Canon S90 (click for review) would have resolved this scene pretty well if used on a tripod.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

California Spires

Today I launched this new and more user-friendly blog, blog.jstuartstudios.com. Content will be posted both to this blog and my Travelogue. The challenge of marrying my two websites together was a fun exercise; hopefully this new photography blog will better serve you, the reader. From movies to advertisements, the palm tree is synonymous with Southern California culture. However, when I look at the image above, I think that the sky is the limit. We all have immense potential and we must take each opportunity to better our world and ourselves. For me, this image is hopeful with the trees creating a staircase to the heavens. I photographed this grove of palm trees in North Park, a community north of Downtown San Diego. The day was hot and the sun was bright. I stepped into the shade cast by an enormous palm tree. When I looked up, this picture came to me. Ago vita vos somnium (live the life you dream)

First True Blog Post

Welcome to my readers from far away places like Canada, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, The Netherlands and Scandinavia. Aside from the United States, readers in these countries represent the majority of my readership. Thank you! This is my first post to a real blogging service. My website is an excellent way to share my wedding photography, children photography, landscape photography, and travel photography portfolios, but I hope this new blog / travelogue format will provide new ease of use for you, the reader! Thank you for reading. Take care, Justin Shifrin San Diego Photographer

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Praha Dreaming

Travel photography is one hobby that is so rewarding. Each venture, each experience can potentially yield a defining memory or consequential photograph. I took this photograph while traveling Europe with my buddies during college. We traversed Europe by foot and rail. When we made it to the Czech Republic the winter temperature dipped significantly. The ambient temperature is not evident in this image. We walked everywhere we could despite the literally freezing temperatures, which, consequently made for great experiences. To get this photograph, we climbed up an Eiffel Tower-like structure high above Prague and braved the winds. The image shows off the intricate network of buildings, bridges, and alleys that are characteristic of Prague. This trip in 2004 lit my passion for photography. Since then, I have capitalized on any opportunity for international travel and travel photography. Ago vita vos somnium (live the life you dream)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cypress Sunset

My wife and I had the great opportunity to take a jaunt up to Pebble Beach and Carmel, California last year. We hiked around Big Sur, visited the Carmel village, went to Cannery Row and toured the excellent Monterey Bay Aquarium. This image, taken in a hurried frenzy as the sun set, out of all the lovely sites, exemplifies this trip. The soothing salty winds and calming waves are nearly transmitted through this image for me. I arrived at the Carmel Beach City Park at 5:35pm, just as the sun was setting. By the time I traversed the sand dunes the sun had set. However, at 5:37pm I exposed this image while hand-holding a ND to stop the sky down a little and help properly expose the sea. The windswept cypress trees along the Carmel coast are most interesting with their squat stance. Here in San Diego the Torrey Pines are very similar to the cypress trees of Carmel. If you are in San Diego and want an excellent hike that covers the beach and hilly terrain, head over to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve south of Del Mar and north of La Jolla. Your efforts will be rewarded by the fantastic ocean views from atop the bluffs.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Big Bright Tulips

These bright pink tulips were one of the highlights of my trip to Washington State.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Shanghai: Glass vs. Brick (Canon S90)

Now that the Shanghai World Expo 2010 started yesterday, April 30th, I feel it is appropriate to share my view of Shanghai. The Chinese government put on a superb fireworks display and opening ceremony that rivaled its own Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. On my recent visit to Shanghai I strolled the waterfront across the Huangpu River from the financial district. I feel that walking the city gave me an excellent understanding of where Shanghai has been and what its future holds. Shanghai is a city filled with juxtapositions. One of the best examples is that modern steel-framed skyscrapers were built with the aid of bamboo scaffolding! Countless construction sites were being topped, graded, or demolished as I walked Shanghai well into the evening. New York City is a 24 hour metropolis, and Shanghai is working feverishly to catch up. I even witnessed shift changes after the sun had set. The sheer number of workers that poured out of and then flowed back into the building sites was astonishing. The image above, exposed with my Canon S90 on its first international trip, shows the remnants of a demolished brick building with a contemporary steel and glass-clad edifice as the background. One can see that the motto "out with the old, and in with the new" holds true in Shanghai. This is not to say all historic areas and old buildings are always replaced, in fact, I found the opposite to be true. I explored many older neighborhoods. Exploring Shanghai both by motor-coach and on foot proved fruitful to fully gather the weight of changes currently taking place in Shanghai, China. For more images from this trip to China with my Canon S90, please click here.