Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Archive for the ‘Roadtrip’ Category

Balancing

Posted by Ben on February 28, 2012

I haven’t completely forgotten about the blog. It’s just taken a back seat for the past couple of days. I’ve been fairly loaded down with things from school: homework, readings, writing (and grading) a midterm for my precalculus class, and studying for my own exams.  I’ve also been pretty busy outside of school, dancing most nights of the week, either at lessons during the week or socially on the weekends. I’m still, as I always seem to be, struggling to find that perfect balance between work and play, school and hobbies, being serious and actually enjoying myself.

I count myself lucky that I’ve got several good friends here that always seem to be there to pick me up when I’m feeling a little down. I am feeling a little stir-crazy though. I think I’ve only left Eugene twice since getting back in January, once hiking at Kentucky falls the day after I got back, and then the trip to Odell Lake a few weekends ago. I’d love to get back out exploring the area, or even just driving through the mountains again, but I’ve either got too much to do over the weekend or the weather is being uncooperative (something I guess I should get used to this time of year here). Maybe it’s a good thing, and keeping me focused on getting things done, but sometimes I just feel full of restless energy telling me to get out and go somewhere.  At least there are only three and a half (admittedly difficult) weeks until spring break. Hopefully that week off will give me a chance to act on some of these restless impulses without too many pressures hanging over my head.  And, if not, then there’s always the summer I guess, though that seems like an eternity away.

Anyway, that’s enough of me rambling about my life for one post (I do feel a little better having written something a little more substantial than usual).  Here’s a picture from this past summer that fits with the theme of the rest of the post:

This was taken up in Acadia, at the end of the Wonderland trail where it opened up onto the beach. There were a number of rock piles like this one dotting the beach (which was a lot more rocky than I was used to seeing along the East coast). I remember trying to position myself so that the angle of the rocks matched that of the shore in the background, but this was the closest I was able to get. Anyway, I thought it was a neat shot. You can see the different colors that appear in the different rocks. I’m also glad I got a little bit of the (much) larger rock that this pile was sitting on in the foreground of the shot to give it a little additional depth.

-Ben

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Summer Wrap-Up

Posted by Ben on August 23, 2010

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here, but I feel like I’ve got some pretty good excuses.  After finally recovering from Strep throat a few weeks ago, it was crunch time at the REU.  We had to compile all of the information and projects we had been working on the entire summer into a single paper.  It took us a few days, and several revisions before we got it to a point where we could submit it.  We also had to come up with a final presentation, scheduled for Thursday, that was around 40 minutes.  Luckily, we were able to split this up pretty well, and it wasn’t too hard.  The presentation went very well despite us not actually practicing the entire thing together beforehand.  Thursday night, everyone in the program went downtown together to American Dream pizza.  It was a very fitting end, as it was the same place we had all gone the first night we were in Corvallis eight weeks before.

After turning in our paper, and having lunch with one of the program advisers, Leanne and I hit the road for the East coast.  That first afternoon, we drove about 5 hours through the middle of the Cascades in Oregon.  It was some of the prettiest countryside I have ever driven through.  We stayed in Burns, Oregon for the night, then headed through Idaho and part of Utah the next day.  That night, we took a quick trip out to the Great Salt Lake, where the picture above was taken.  Specifically, it was a place called Antelope Island, though we didn’t see any antelope while we were there.  Sunday was spent mostly driving through Wyoming, where we took a brief excursion along a pretty dirt road and saw some wild horses.  The next three days of driving were mostly uneventful.  Wednesday night, we ended up in Blacksburg, which can only mean that we went Salsa dancing.  It was nice to be back in the familiar stomping grounds and see some people that I hadn’t seen in a few months.  And after the previous week, the four hour trip home on Thursday barely felt like anything.


Overall, I’d have to say that this was the best summer I’ve ever had by far.  I got to spend the first month of it basically goofing off at home, which was a really nice change from the past few summers where I’ve had to start right into my internships as soon as I got home from school.  This gave me the time I needed to kinda decompress from the previous semester, which was pretty stressful in the last few weeks.

I’ve written a good deal already about the trip West.  It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.  I got to see a lot of the country that I had never seen before.  I also had the chance to revisit some of the places that I had seen as a kid, but had not been mature enough to fully appreciate.  I was bummed that I didn’t get to make it up to Glacier, but the trip through Mount Rainier was a pretty good substitute.  I guess I’ll just have to make another trip some day to get to Glacier.

The REU program was all that I had wanted it to be, and then some.  One of my major reasons for choosing this program over the one with the NSA was to get a better feel of whether or not I really wanted to go to grad school for math.  My research project last spring really sparked my interest in doing math research, and the experience this summer just fanned the flames higher.  At this point, I feel like the question has changed from “do I want to go to grad school?” to “where do I want to go to grad school?”  I also had the chance to work on a team for a good part of the project this summer, which was completely different from last spring.

I also had the chance, on the weekends, to explore a lot of the area around Corvallis.  I took trips west to the coast, north to Portland, and south-east to Crater Lake.  While I did do some work on the weekends, it was nice not to be shackled by the amount of work I generally have during the school year.  All of these places were great, and I hope I get the chance to make it back to them all some day.

All of the people involved in the program were amazing.  The advisers were all incredibly supportive and helpful with our projects.  The other students in the REU were all great, and it was nice to get to know so many people from different places and with fairly different backgrounds.  We ended up doing a lot of things together as a group, from going to meals, playing games, or going to events like concerts.

I also had something very unexpected happen to me this summer.  I fell in love, really for the first time in my life, with a beautiful girl named Leanne.  This was definitely not something that I had put on my list of things to do while I was in Oregon this summer.  We ended up hanging out a lot and going dancing a few times at the beginning of the summer, and things just grew from there.  While I may have done some of the same trips on my own this summer, I’ve discovered that having someone there to share them with makes them even more meaningful.  And even though the drive back was rushed, without the time to really stop and see the sights, I’d say it was just as good, if not even better than my trip west alone.  Even in such a short time as the eight weeks we had in Oregon, we grew extraordinarily close, and being trapped together in the car for eight or nine hours a day on the way back just made that connection even stronger.  Now sure, I have had crushes on girls in the past, but I have never felt this strongly about anyone before, and it’s an incredible feeling.  Taking her to the airport in Raleigh on Friday and watching her walk away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but what we have together means enough to both of us that we want to keep it going despite the distance.  It’ll be hard, I know, but will be worth it, without a doubt.

I should really get to bed at this point, the first day of classes is tomorrow.

-Ben

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Cliffs

Posted by Ben on June 29, 2010

This picture comes from a stop during my road trip somewhere in Wyoming between Lander and the Tetons.  I remember coming around a bend in the road following the river (which you can kinda make out in the right side of the picture) and being shocked at the contrast of colors between the cliffs and the sky.  Luckily, there was a turnout where I could stop and snap a few photos.  It’s neat to be able to see the different layers in the rock, and to see how they come up at an angle.

We’re a week into the REU program here in Corvallis, and things are going amazingly well.  All of the people in the program are incredibly nice, both the other students and the faculty.  I get the feeling that we’ve all grown pretty close to each other in a very short amount of time.  We’re currently in the process of narrowing down research topics for the rest of the summer, and we’ll be giving short presentations later this week about those topics.

Last week, I stumbled onto an advertisement for a live swing band playing in downtown Corvallis this past Friday.  I was able to talk two of the REU students into going with me, and I think we all had a blast.  Saturday morning, a group of us went for a hike which was fun as well.

-Ben

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Prickly

Posted by Ben on June 21, 2010

I haven’t had a whole lot of time for photography since arriving here in Corvallis, so here’s another one of my favorite photos from my recent road trip.  This one was taken on a ridge overlooking the Cedar Bluff Reservoir in Kansas.

The photo was shot using the super macro feature on my camera, which automatically fixes the focal length and zoom for the shot.  Because of that, I sometimes have a hard time getting the correct part of the picture the right distance from the camera and properly in focus.  This one turned out really well though.  The flower and the stem both seem to be nicely in focus.  Shooting in this manner also results in the nice blurred background.  I like that you are still able to make out a few of the other shapes really nicely though, especially the flower to the immediate right of the stem of the main one and the partial bloom on the upper right side.  I also like that I was able to get part of the horizon and the lake in the shot as well.  It’s hard to tell that the shot was taken on a ridge probably 150 above the surface of the lake, but the dark blue color adds nicely to the shot I think.

The first day of the REU went really well.  We had an introductory meeting this morning, followed by a brief campus tour.  In the afternoon, we had our first lecture from one of the professors leading a research group for the summer.

-Ben

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Curiosity

Posted by Ben on June 21, 2010

Saturday morning, I rose early and headed even further to the northwest from Olympia, eventually making my way to the northern section of Olympic National Park.  Once inside the park, I followed another twisty mountain road to the top of Hurricane Ridge.  The road eventually ascended into the clouds, but gave a beautiful view of the neighboring ridge line of the Olympic Mountains, still covered in snow, as well as clouds.  On the other side of the ridge I was on, you could see all the way down to the coast.  It was kind of a strange image, with the cloud-shrouded snowy peaks in the foreground, but looking down the valley to the blue water as well.  Outside of the lodge at the top of the ridge, a group of three deer were wandering around, and this was one of the best shots that I got of them.

Eventually, I made my way back down from the mountains and took a ferry across the sound to the mainland a little north of Seattle.  I spent the night with some friends in Redmond and left this morning for my final destination: Corvallis, Oregon.  The drive today was not that exciting, and was full of rainy weather for the most part.

I’m now mostly settled in my new dorm room, which is a lot smaller than the one I’m used to back at Tech, but I’m sure it will be fine for the next couple of weeks.  Nine of us who are here for the math REU all went out for dinner together tonight, and it was a lot of fun to meet everyone.  The program officially starts tomorrow morning, and while I’m sad that the road trip is over now, I’m definitely ready to get started.  Now I just need to find some places to dance around here in the summer and I’ll be set.

-Ben

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