Old Friends, New City by Amanda Liew

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After almost two years of forcing my brother to come up to New York City, I finally got the chance to make the trip in the other direction and visit Washington DC this past weekend. While I was hoping to finally check off the cherry blossoms from my bucket list, the never ending winter foiled those plans. Luckily, thanks to some especially fortuitous timing and a last minute scramble, a few of my college friends from Penn (and one straggler from Princeton, ahem) managed to all convene in DC for a spontaneous reunion! As much as I love my new post-grad life in New York (I think I'm one of the only people that prefers "real life" to college...), seeing everybody in one place reminded me of what I truly value from my college experience. Yes, I had wonderful professors and a pretty great education, but most importantly, I was surrounded by an incredibly diverse group of people who were all high-achievers in vastly different fields. When I first got to Penn, I shunned the word "feminist", had no idea what racist microaggresions were, wouldn't have recognized privilege even if it slapped me in the face, and all around just knew so little about society! The diverse ethnic, cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds of this group here as well as so many more of my friends at Penn totally transformed my viewpoints on life, society, education, and culture. Even though we didn't realize how diverse our little reunion actually was, looking at these photographs now brings so much joy to my heart. Beauty truly has no bounds - just look at these people! Beyond the lofty thoughts, though, of course the whole weekend was just an all around great time. I got to explore more of the city, meet my brother's friends, experience some epic brunches (shoutout to Tonic for their ridiculous breakfast tots and Busboys & Poets for their very unique Iraqi corned beef hash!), experience one of the weirdest shows I'll probably ever see, eat a gigantic passion fruit macaron from Bakers & Baristas (although it wasn't a "real" macaron in my humble opinion #ladureesnob), check out the incredible Newseum (the Pulitzer Prize photo exhibit brought tears to my eyes multiple times), re-live my study abroad semester with a friend at Nando's, and of course force everybody to pose for portraits and more portraits. Can't wait to travel more!

20150327_0053_Washington DC 20150327_0089_Washington DC 20150327_0100_Washington DC 20150327_0103_Washington DC 20150327_0106_Washington DC 20150327_0108_Washington DC 20150327_0117_Washington DC 20150327_0118_Washington DC 20150327_0059_Washington DC 20150327_0073_Washington DC 20150327_0078_Washington DC 20150327_0076_Washington DC 20150327_0083_Washington DC 20150327_0058_Washington DC  Group shots (iPhone 6):  124AFD96-FF0D-424B-8217-3FE3110EEB32 CBF06B1C-4B5E-44C2-81B2-470074BFE12C

A Christmas Wish: 50mm Prime Lens by Amanda Liew

_DSC0249_Christmas 2013

After learning the basics of photography with my Nikon D3100's kit lens (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6) for the past year, I decided it was time to upgrade my equipment and branch out. After talking with a few other friends and doing some research online, I thought the best next step would be a prime lens, specifically the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G! I requested the lens for Christmas from my family and my wish was fulfilled! I had a fun day trying out the new prime lens and comparing it with my zoom lens today. _DSC0272_Christmas 2013 _DSC0279_Christmas 2013

Some delicious macarons from Bouchon Bakery - hand carried by yours truly for my grandparent's Christmas gift!_DSC0306_Christmas 2013

For those of you who don't know, a prime lens is fixed at a specific focal length (thus, also called fixed focal lens). My zoom lens goes from 18-55mm, but my prime lens is static at just 50mm. This means that you have to actually move closer and farther from your subject to get the right framing - it's a challenge to be constrained in this way, but supposedly it also helps you to develop a photographic eye and to be able to frame things in your mind before you look through the view finder. The quality of the lens is often much better, and the aperture on this prime lens can go much lower (f/1.8) than my zoom lens  (f/3.5 minimum). The lower the aperture number, the more light that can come in and the shallower the depth of field. This is perfect for shooting in low lighting which was something I was really looking forward to!

A great practice field was our Christmas tree. My mom has long foregone the cute kindergarten macaroni ornaments we made years ago & instead has curated a musically themed Christmas tree complete with various instruments, bells, speakers, etc! Below is a comparison of a similar shot between the prime lens and the zoom lens. Note how the low aperture of f/2.2 on the prime lens allows for a bokeh effect with the Christmas lights in the background, but also helps to increase the shutter speed.

Prime lens: f/2.2 aperture // 1/80 shutter speed // ISO 1600_DSC0237_Christmas 2013

Zoom lens: f/5.3 aperture // 1/50 shutter speed // ISO 1600_DSC0242_Christmas 2013

One thing I really like is how I don't need to be as concerned about the background of my subject because of the depth of field. In the background of this image there's a boring staircase, but I could be in a nice little studio for all you know!_DSC0257_Christmas 2013

The 50mm prime lens is also often turned to for portraits, and I can see why! It's easy to have your subject stand out, and the extra aperture stops help with making the background blur aesthetically. _DSC0217_Christmas 2013

As a final note, I've made all my purchases (camera body, zoom/kit lens, prime lens, and other accessories) through Amazon, and each product has always come perfectly packaged and protected. I highly recommend it as a supplier!

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