Paris’ Watchful Eye (Notre Dame Cathedral)

I’ve always had a fondness for this gargoyle – every time I’m on the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral I seek him out – I don’t know if it is the crazy eyes or what but compared with the others he seems just a bit ‘out there’. I cropped in tight on him this time – I wanted to make sure I focused on the eye because although it was sculpted centuries ago it is still in pristine condition and completely expressive in his thoughts.

The craziness hits me this week because we pick up a new puppy on Wednesday. As much as I’m looking forward to it I feel I’ve got a couple of endless/sleepless/eternal nights in front of me until we get the little guy accustomed to his new surroundings. Hopefully our seven year old cat is able to integrate the new companion into her day-to-day activities. She still has a lot of energy so I’m hoping they become playmates – fingers crossed that by introducing them slowly we can make them learn to at the very least tolerate one another.

Paris’ Watchful Eye (Notre Dame Cathedral)

Paris' Watchful Eyes (Notre Dame Cathedral)

Ten Days

Until the start the college football season. Shortly after that the NFL will kickoff. I’m still going to be rooting on my Tigers well into the playoffs of the MLB season but on Saturdays and Sundays I may be a little preoccupied.

Photo of the Day – The Golden Dome

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Last year during ND’s improbable run to the national championship we took in a game in the fall at Notre Dame. It is one of the most hallowed places in all of college football to see a game. The campus is pristine and everywhere you look you find items of historical significance.

Long day in the office today so I’m going to keep it short because I have to get back early in the AM. Only 1 1/2 more days in the office this week before taking off for Denver – meetings – followed by hiking in the Rockies.

Avoiding Troubles on your Trips Abroad

As we prepare for our trip to Italy (8 days away) I wanted to share a couple of pre-travel ‘musts’ that I make sure to take care of before going overseas.

1) Backup your Documents and bring hard copies – Make sure that you make a copy of your passport (color, clear copy), credit cards (front and back), insurance cards and any other travel documents (itineraries, hotel booking information, train/plane schedules and tickets), etc… just in case you wind up losing something along the way. In addition, it is always a good idea to also scan all these documents into a PDF and email them to yourself and one or two people (not on the trip with you) that you trust. In an instance where your other backups are missing you should be able to rely on your trusted friend to come through with the documentation.

2) Register with the Embassy – You can do it quickly and easily through this link. If for whatever reason there are troubles in the country you are visiting this simple step will make the ordeal much less of a nightmare for you if you can safely make it to the Embassy.

3) Notify your Credit Card and Insurance companies of your plans – Nothing is more irritating then sitting in a foreign restaurant having your card get declined only to find out its because of ‘suspicious’ activities which happened to be your purchases in an unexpected area (i.e. where your traveling). I love the credit card companies diligence in monitoring transactions so while this is a headache I’d rather have it this way then come back from vacation and learn someone rang up $2,500 in baby toys (true story happened after our honeymoon in Vegas and needless to say that card was cancelled/account closed quick since they didn’t ‘suspect’ that purchasing behavior – no kids, never bought a baby toy I don’t think – suspicious).

4) Know the Conversion Rates – They will change during your trip but not enough to make the math that much different. Knowing the approximation will help you know whether you are being ripped off or not. Currently $1.30/Euro…was hoping it’d drop a little lower but haven’t been so fortunate yet.

5) Exchange Cash and make sure you always have the appropriate currency – Some places won’t take credit cards so this is always wise. ATMs abroad will rip you off – they know they have you if your bank doesn’t have a branch there – so make sure you’ve always got a little cash. Also, recognize that some credit cards have foreign exchange fees of 3 – 5% of purchases so this could get pricey. Always good to know which cards do/don’t charge these fees before you go so that you can have one ‘prime’ credit card in case the cash is getting a little short and you are afraid of running out. For example, my American Airlines Citi Visa has foreign charges while my Hyatt Chase does not have fees abroad…therefore, most (if not all) will be run through the Hyattt Chase card.

6) Get a charger adapter – Electronics often don’t use the plugs abroad due to differences in the amount of voltage so it is important to have one (or preferably more) converters so none of your toys get low.

I’ll probably post some more as I go through my ‘mental list’ prepping for the trip but that’s what I’ve been thinking about/prepping for this week.

Photo of the Day – With Open Arms

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It’s been awhile since I posted a Notre Dame photo – football season is only 140 days away and the way the Tigers bullpen is blowing leads early in the season I’m going to be spending more time in August on college and pre-season NFL football then I want to!

The Golden Dome at dawn

I arrived in South Bend long before sunrise but due to not knowing the layout of the campus and/or where I could park this was the only shot I got in ‘ideal’ light. Everything else I got that day was a little less than perfect as far as the way the sky looked.

Photo of the Day – Bathed in Purple

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The Golden Dome is a well known college football landmark. If you grew up watching ND on TV each weekend like I did you would realize why it is such a special place. I’m hoping we can make it an annual family trip as it is half way between a bunch of family. Always a good time to get together and even more so when the team is playing well.

It must be true because I read it on the Internet or is it?

When I first started with my DSLR I spent hours in the library reading books, scoured the blogs and websites seeking out any information I could possibly find. I was like a sponge. Unfortunately, I was also like the girl on the StateFarm commercial who thinks her date is a French model because he told her on the Internet. Unfortunately, most people dispelling advice on the internet (and even in some books) just spew constant garbage that takes amateurs in the wrong direction. I wish, wish, wish I had known who Scott Bourne was back then – he disputes a number of those ‘myths’ in this article – ten MORE myths about photography that I wish I’d known when I’d started.

The one that was most poignant to me and my development was the myth about ‘manual’ mode. I took an entire class on shooting in Manual mode – I practiced, was left unsatisfied and practiced some more. As others were out just pointing and shooting I used to think how much better my photos were going to be once I ‘learned’ and they’d still be on ‘auto’ mode….amateurs! Well I never did learn manual mode because I eventually realized that the pictures I was getting out of ‘Aperture Priority’ mode were better than those I took in manual mode. What a waste of a PTO day from work and $100 that class was!

Photo of the Day – Crisp Fall Morning on the ND Campus

When the world at Notre Dame was ‘right’. I’m not a huge fan but if I was this would have been the best day of the entire season for me – sure they only beat Wake Forest which wasn’t much of a contest. However, two things happened that day:

1) It was senior day – the last time the faithful would see the man who grew into a legend, Manti Te’o
2) Later that evening both Oregon and Kansas State lost putting ND in the control of their own destiny for the National Championship game

Roll forward two months? WTF happened? Blown out in the national championship game and Te’o? Oh Te’o? How is he going to get out of this whole Catfish thing over his fake dead girlfriend. This story just blows my mind. How did it take the media so long to find this out? I mean this is not only embarrassing to Te’o but also every news media outlet that blindly covered this story several months ago. So many holes now that it is spelled out but no one caught on. Crazy!

Wake up the Echoes – Saying a Little Prayer at the Grotto

Right now I bet the Grotto on the Campus of Notre Dame University is packed right now with students not lucky enough to secure tickets saying a last minute prayer for the Irish. As we head to kickoff I think we will get a relatively low scoring game (as most have predicted) and I’m hopeful that Notre Dame can pull it out. I am not necessarily hopping on the bandwagon per se just want to see the Irish take out the mighty SEC. Either way I just hope we get a good game.

Photo of the Day – On my Knees at the Grotto

I positioned the camera along the railing at a similar height to where most people (I’m short so I raised the camera a bit) would wind up if they knelt on the provided kneelers to say a prayer. Shortly, after I set up this shot one of the administrators came by and blew out all the candles. As this was the morning of a gameday they wanted the fans to come and light more candles thoughout the day. When I passed by later on my way back to the car there was a large crowd of pre-game folks walking by, lighting candles and saying a prayer for the Irish. It must have worked because they got themselves into the National Championship.

Early Morning at the Golden Dome

The Main Admin building at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana is commonly referred to as the ‘Golden Dome’. Clearly it is not hard to see why. I met my family there for a football game this fall not knowing that they were going to wind up playing for the national championship – good year to get to a game I suppose. Being down in New Orleans this week the hatred, or should I say utter disrespect, for Notre Dame is clear. This is LSU country but even their fans, bitter rivals of Alabama, think the Fighting Irish are a joke. I don’t consider myself a Notre Dame fan or anything but I do think they have a shot at winning the game which puts me in the minority down here where the SEC reigns supreme….and people calls U-M fans egotistical?

Photo of the Day – Hail to the Victors

The U-M football fight song is Hail to the Victors but the campus of Notre Dame is filled with many holy memorials paying homage to a historic football program. They had a great and historic year with a number of hard fought victories. I for one wish them luck in the National Championship game and think they are going to at least make the game competitive.