Ben's Photo Blog

Photos from my various adventures

Posts Tagged ‘People’

Concert in the Woods

Posted by Ben on September 25, 2010

Last night, I had the chance to go to see the Punch Brothers perform at the Theater at Lime Kiln in Lexington, Va.  I think it was probably the perfect settings for a group like this.  The concert took place in basically a natural amphitheater set in the middle of the woods.  I had been looking forward to this concert since about July, and was not disappointed at all.  Below are a few of the pictures I took during the concert:

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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.


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Trial and Error

Posted by Ben on March 4, 2010

For those of you who are regulars here, you know that almost all of my photography experience so far has been doing landscapes and natural scenes.  I have had very few attempts at taking pictures of people.  But I was recently asked to help take some pictures at one of our weekly salsa lessons.  Out of the 75 shots or so that I got that night, I think this one, of one of my fellow salsa instructors,  is definitely the best.

I was shooting without the flash.  I figured it would get pretty annoying if I were going to be taking a bunch of pictures.  As a result, I was reduced to some fairly slow shutter speeds, especially when zooming in.  This shot was taken at the full 20x zoom, and had a shutter speed of 1/5 of a second.  After seeing that speed, I was really surprised with how clear the subject came out.  The camera automatically set itself to f5.7, giving a pretty small depth of field for this shot.  This produced a nicely blurred background.  Eventually I remembered to bump up the ISO; this one was at 80, but I think I moved up to 200 or so after a while.  The difference in quality was barely noticeable,  but the shutter speed dropped back to about 1/15 of a second.

Overall, I think this was a good learning experience for me, both for snapping pictures of people and shooting in lower light situations (at least compared to the direct sunlight I’m usually shooting in).

I can now say I am ready for spring break to start.  All that stands between me at this point is a meeting with my research professor and a Technical Writing assignment.  After that, I’m free.  I am looking forward to tomorrow night, when I’ll be helping to teach a salsa lesson at the Y for SVSDS.  We probably won’t have a lot of people there because of the break, but I’m still excited.

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Posted by Ben on September 23, 2009


About a week and a half ago, we had our annual “Nerdfest” Ultimate Frisbee game with the other honors dorm, Hillcrest.  Unfortunately, my wrist was still injured at this point, so I wasn’t able to play, but I did end up with some good pictures.  I definitely don’t have much practice taking action photos, but the extended zoom on my camera does make it easier.  I know a fast shutter speed is essential to capture “still” images; this one was about 1/400th of a second (ISO 200), and I think it worked pretty well.  The expression on both of the faces are great, and it seems like luck that I managed to get the frisbee in there too.  I also think that Burruss makes a pretty good background for the shot.

I can’t claim that much actual composition took place before I took this shot since the game was moving so fast, but it turned out really well.  One convention I’ve read about in taking sports shots is to leave space in front of the subject for them to move into.  I got the reverse effect in this shot, creating “dead space” behind the two.  However, I think it really works with this picture, in effect emphasizing the ground that the two have covered to reach the frisbee and that there is no one else around them.

We ended up winning the game pretty handily 13-4, a good start to the Nerdfest season.

Well, I’ve got my first major exam tomorrow night in my Real Analysis course, so I should probably be getting off to sleep at this point.


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A Leap of Faith

Posted by Ben on August 31, 2009


This is another photo from our community trip to the Cascades last weekend.  This shot comes from the waterfall that gives the Cascades park its name.  The mountain stream feeding the falls and the pool below it is frigid, even in August.  And while most people look forward to cooling off after the hike, the numbing cold of the water is pretty extreme.  In my three years of experience now, I’ve found the best idea is simply to jump in and get the shock out of the way quickly.  I managed to get a pretty good shot of a group of community members jumping off the base of the falls into the pool.

There’s a lot of energy in this shot.  You’ve got the ones in front leaping into the air, the ones to the left just getting ready to make the jump, and, in my opinion coolest, the waterfall behind them all.  I was surprised how clearly this picture came out.  It was taken at about 8x zoom (from across the pool) while I was hand-holding the camera, so either my hands were remarkably steady for this, or the Image Stabilization feature of the camera works wonders.  According to my camera, this was taken with a shutter speed of about 1/400th of a second, quick enough to freeze the motion of the jumpers and a good portion of the waterfall.  Seeing the falls frozen like this as opposed to a blurry time-lapse shot emphasizes to me just how much water is actually coming over the falls, the power with which it’s moving, and it’s really neat to be able to pick out individual drops of water coming down.

In more personal news, after my post last night, I decided to go out and play some ultimate frisbee.  Unfortunately, I took a pretty hard fall during the game and tried (unconsciously) to break my fall with my hands, which was a mistake.  I went to the health center on campus this morning where I had some x-rays taken of both wrists.  Luckily, they couldn’t find any fractures in the wrist, but my left wrist was put into a splint for protection.  And while I’m glad that there weren’t any fractures, I’m pretty bummed that I’m going to be out of commission for a few weeks.  The splint pretty much knocks me out of frisbee, dancing, and running for a while.  Also, I can’t really hold my camera very well, so there probably won’t be any new pictures for two weeks or so.  I’ll probably try to go back through my archives to find some more cool ones to post for the coming days.


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