Sunday, January 27, 2019

Best Buy Photography Workshop Review

     You know those little ads that pop up on Facebook and Instagram because your phone has been secretly listening to you?  I never thought I'd be one to click on these ads, but a poorly made tote bag and a lighting set up later, these ads actually don't bother me anymore.  In fact, I kinda embrace them.  They (usually) pertain to something I'm interested in or at least talked about in my daily life, so even when I get the occasional ad for Chia Pet, it's still comical.  One day, an ad for a Best Buy photography workshop popped up, and being the curious cat that I am, I clicked on it.  I was skeptical, but for $50 I figured at the very least it will bring you this blog post.  Your welcome! 😃

     There were only a few locations to choose from, but the closest one to me being offered was in Burbank.  We had to meet at the Burbank Best Buy store, check-in in front of the store, and then board this charter bus to be taken to the location of the workshop.  I really didn't know what to expect, so this was quite exciting LOL.

     We ended up somewhere in downtown L.A. near the garment district.  I only knew this because I caught a view of the Santee Alley from the 8th floor during one of the sessions.

     Once you checked in, you are given a colored lanyard with some nicely laminated quick reference cards along with your name tag.  The reference cards were well done.  I could see how someone attending this workshop knowing nothing about photography or how to use their camera would find these cards very useful. 

     Once on the bus, the guide introduced himself to us.  He's a professional photographer, and used the time on the ride to the studio to explain each of the reference cards on our lanyards.  I took a look around to see who was paying attention, and I would say at least half the bus was following along.  By the end of the day, I gathered that of the 60-ish people who were at this workshop, there was a good mix of people who knew nothing about their camera, intermediate photographers, and a few advanced photographers.

      After being dropped off, we walked a short distance to this building and found ourselves in a studio space on the 8th floor of a building in DTLA.  There was some down time as the presenters got everything ready.

     This gentleman was the main presenter.  He's shot a bunch of prestigious things and had many accomplishments in photography, so it was cool to know that they had legitimate people running the workshops.  

     There were four studio rooms and each group (assigned by the color of your lanyard) would rotate through the rooms.  We spent about 30 minutes in each room.  First up for us was the creative portraits room.  There was a giant sign that was an enlargement of one of the reference cards on our lanyards upon entering. 

     Lenses were also available from various brands and free to borrow - you just needed to hand over your driver's license.  I saw some entry level lenses as well as premium lenses, and was a bit shocked they just had them on the table like this.  The check out process was very casual, and I think I just expected there to be more security, especially considering some of the cameras/lenses they had to loan out.

     They had two great models (Emily Chamberlain and Anna Love) and some backdrops for their portraits.  This was an enjoyable session because the models were great at posing, and there was very little work to do as a photographer aside from making sure you used the correct settings and composing the shots.

     In the next rotation, we were in the self-portrait room.  They had some great set ups in here with various backgrounds on the walls along with textures and a variety of lighting.  They had tripods for everyone to use, and some ring light set ups.  It seemed a little awkward to do this with other people around, but it didn't seem to bother most people.  Unfortunately, I could not get my camera to sync with my phone until the session was almost over, so I didn't get any selfies in.  I know, you're so disappointed. 😛

     Our next room was for learning how to take pictures that tell a story.  I really enjoyed this session, and was quite impressed with the thought and attention to detail that Best Buy put into curating each room.  The artist is Abudu

     The last session was on macro and detail photography.  There were a bunch of Joby Gorilla pods, Lume Cubes, and LED lights for everyone to use.  Everything was set up on a few tables and we were free to roam around and shoot all the details we wanted.  There were 2-3 assistants in this room that walked around either carrying an LED light, or seeing if anyone had any questions.  I liked that help was so readily available to people who needed it.  They also had macro lenses for people to borrow.  

     Once all the sessions were done, they had lunch ready for us.  It was a variety of sandwiches, salad, fruit, and cookies.  I know that sounds pretty basic, but I was shocked at how good the food was.  

     At the end, the main presenter went over what we did for the day, told us about the contest and discount coupons that were going to be in our swag bags, and then directed us up to the roof top for a group photo.  It was a nice clear day, so naturally everyone was trying to get photos.  It took a while to get the group photo, but once that was done, we left the building and boarded the charter bus back to the Burbank Best Buy.  This was when the traffic Gods showed us that no day can be too perfect and sent us some horrific traffic getting back to the store.  It took about an hour, compared to the 15 minutes it took in the morning.  Crazy.

     Here's a shot of the swag in our bags.  Your eyes do not deceive you. That really is a Peak Design Cuff!  This retails for $29.95!  There was also a small cleaning kit with a blower - always good to have in your camera bag!  Finally, you get a Best Buy pen and two coupons - one for 20% any lens in store, and 30% off photography accessories.  

     Overall, I was quite impressed with the workshop Best Buy put on.  It exceeded my expectations, and I found the cost ($50) to be a REALLY good value.  If you factored in the value of that Peak Design Cuff alone, it brings down the cost of the Workshop to $20 and lunch is included!  I would definitely recommend this workshop to anyone who wants to learn a little more about their camera and have actual humans there to help you with that learning.  This workshop would also be great for anyone that wants to go take photos or is looking to expand their portfolio.  I conned two of my friends into going to this, and it was also a great way to hang out with your photography friends and meet new people who dig the same hobby.  A few of the people I spoke to said they really enjoyed the day, and a some had even gone to other workshops in the past.  You can check out the Best Buy website to keep in the loop about when they offer these workshops.  Thanks for reading! 😉

Monday, January 21, 2019

Maui :: Pipiwai Trail and Road to Hana

     What do you do when you've got 48 hours on Maui?  Why you go and fill up every second of your time with stuff to do, of course!  I've been meaning to write this blog post for a while, but got too busy for my own good.  Don't worry, I remember every detail of this day, and rest assured, if you don't read about it, you'll see it in photos!  Personally, I prefer the photos. 😉

     For one of my free days, I took my friend Mike hostage (joking - he went willingly - sucker!) and we set out early one morning to hike the Pipiwai Trail.  The shortest distance from where we were (Kahului) was to drive the southern portion of Maui, and not the northern roads.  It just makes one big circle around the coast of Maui, and both end up in Hana if you drive long enough.  Even though I am crazy, I wasn't insane enough to drive to Hana knowing how little time we had.  I figured we could get a taste of this road to Hana, and also be able to hike to a nice waterfall in the process.  

     The road started off like any other road, and soon became a two lane road (below).  It took us through some gorgeous countryside and honestly, this was probably the most enjoyable part of the drive.  It was so peaceful not to see people and cars everywhere.  We've made a good decision, I thought. 

     So I'm ashamed to admit this, but I prefer to drive smaller cars.  I didn't feel comfortable driving a large SUV in a place I've never been to, so the lady at Hertz kindly allowed me to release my hold on a Jeep and rent one of my go-to rental vehicles - a Nissan Versa!  Don't hate.  While this car may not be fast, it is a fun, zippy little drive.  I could park it anywhere, and after the drive to Pipiwai Trail, I was SO thankful I chose this car!

     We really enjoyed pulling off on the side of the road to take pictures.  Knowing there wasn't a caravan of cars behind us really made this easy to do.

     As we kept driving, the condition of the road changed a little.  It became less paved, and honestly looked like it needed some maintenance.

     However, it was worth it to be greeted to views like this!  It was a bit scary to drive the one lane portion of this road (you can see it closer if you click on the picture below) where you're right next to the ocean.

     There were parts of the drive that made me really nervous.  While it was easy enough to observe the rules of the road for parts where there was only one lane, the condition of the road really concerned me.  I knew we had a spare tire, but imagine if we got two flats?  I've actually had this happen can could only imagine how long it would take a tow truck to come get us.  Eventually, we saw this sign and breathed a sigh of relief.  We were very close to the trail head at last!

     After a small bit of driving, we got to the visitor center of the park.  After we paid the $25 fee, we parked, did a quick restroom break, and began our little adventure.  Seeing this map below, I thought to myself, Okay - not too bad.  We can totally do this!

     Then you see signs like this, and you think, Someone must've been dumb enough to do these things, or maybe there really are some dangers here!

     A little less than 10 minutes into the hike, Mike decided he needed to go back to the visitor center.  I agreed it was a good idea for him to head back because the ground was pretty slippery in some spots, and he was having trouble maneuvering the trail.  We didn't want to risk an injury so Mike headed back and I decided to finish the trail on my own.  

     There was some lovely foliage, which is to be expected on Maui.  I remember scrolling through my photos and noticing that the only pop of green on my iPhone camera roll were the photos I took on this hike with my phone!

     I've never been to Vietnam, but this portion reminded me of how Vietnam is portrayed in a lot of war movies.

     The trail was really easy to follow.  This was the first (and only) waterfall I saw.  There was another one at the end of the trail, but I knew I wasn't going to do the entire trail.  I stopped to take a few photos, and trudged on.

     I think during another time of day (and maybe having a different lens on me) this picture could've been pretty cool.  This thing was humongous!

     Eventually, I made it to one of the things I wanted to see - the bamboo forest.

     Again, what I loved about this was that there was hardly anyone around - okay, except maybe for this dude that walked into my photo.  I wish I had more time to just chill here all day, but I had to get back to Mike, and I could feel something biting me and knew I had made a bad decision not to bring bug spray.

     It was all downhill heading back to the visitor center where I met up with Mike again.  We were both tired, and I was already starting to itch from the bug bites.  Sadly, there wasn't any food for sale at the visitor center.  This was so disappointing, not only because we were both thirsty, but because they'd make a killing on selling water alone!

     Once back in the car, we drove until we came across this little fruit stand that also sold drinks.

     After we paid highway robbery prices for a small glass of iced tea, we were on the road again!  Definitely make sure you bring enough snacks and drinks if you're considering driving around Maui.  There isn't much available in terms of convenience stores.  And in case you're wondering, you won't find a gas station either - at least not along the road we took!

     Here are a few more lovely stops on the way back.

     So what did we learn from this little adventure?

1)  Bring more drinks and snacks.
2)  Make sure your spare tire is in good condition and inflated.
3)  Have a full take of gas before you head out.
4)  Always use bug spray

     Seriously, BRING BUG SPRAY!  Whatever bit me, it was no joke!  I looked like I had chicken pox for a good two weeks after this! 😬  

     Thanks for reading!  😉