Throwback Thursday: A Day In Oxford

It’s been almost two weeks since two of my fellow travelers and I hopped on a bus to Oxford for a quick day trip. Part of my delay in blogging about the adventure is due to the fact that I packed the wrong camera lens with me during my hectic attempt to stuff everything I needed for three months in Europe all into one bag way back in May. I have my little f/1.8 50mm lens which is what I use for food photography and is awesome… but not ideal for travel due to zero versatility as it’s a prime lens. Ok, enough techy camera details. Moral of the story is I was bouncing between my iPhone and camera, all while trying to not spill tea on myself or my various equipment (there were multiple close calls). But I’ve finally uploaded all the photos and sorted through everything. This is the result:

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We had an incredible trip despite multiple main attractions being closed and getting caught in a downpour. Oxford is a charming, tiny town with endless history, gorgeous architecture, and home to one of the most prestigious universities in the world. And there was a gluten free crepe cart! (Is it terrible that was just as memorable as the university tour?)

Some Oxford fun facts:
– Oxford University is the oldest university of the English speaking world
– The city is the birthplace of the Oxford English Dictionary and is where the recent debate to add “twerk” as an official word was located (unfortunately, it’s now a permanent part of the English language)
– The university was established by monks, for monks and subjects besides theology were introduced relatively recently
Oxford 5– From 1878 through the 1920’s women were allowed to study at Oxford, but they were only allowed to be part-time students which meant they didn’t take exams (awesome) but also never received a degree (not cool)
– The Oxford dining hall was the inspiration for Harry Potter
Blackwell is the largest book store in the UK and has over 5 miles worth of shelving and a basement that runs under multiple buildings in the city

If you find yourself in London for an extended period of time, be sure to schedule in a day trip to Oxford! But, an insider tip: book the Bodleian Library in advance – space is VERY limited and is almost impossible to score a spot same-day! We unfortunately missed it! Maybe I’ll go back one day…


Seeing London Through New Eyes

Life is all about perspective – in order to see the detail of some things, one must look closely. But other times, stepping back is the only way to see something clearly. In addition, the lens through which one looks can make all the difference.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon on an Alternative Walking Tour of East London. I joined the group as a naïve American tourist hoping to learn a few fun facts, but as the tour began my perspective shifted and I was suddenly seeing things in a different way, noticing things I never would have before. And it was all thanks to this guy:


Our tour guide, an East London artist originally from Australia, spoke with deep passion about the creativity that surrounded us as we wove through side streets and admired artwork. He had profound appreciation for the architecture that set the scene for his tour and raw admiration of religious structures that had survived periods of brutally violent history and made it out alive, although sometimes as homes for different religions. Some of the artwork was done illegally, but much of the artwork was done with permission – allowing artists to visually communicate with whoever was willing to walk by and actually see.

IMG_5814Take for example what is known as a Jonesy. These tiny, yet extraordinarily detailed sculptured are placed on the top of street signs, only to be noticed and appreciated by by those who truly have their eyes open. It’s amazing how many times we walk through the day with our eyes open, but not really seeing anything. I can’t tell you how many times I look at my phone to see if I have a new text message only to have the a blank screen with the time on it. But then 30 seconds later I have to look back at my phone because I didn’t actually see the time, just the lack of text messages!

The amount of creativity and innovation was incredible. Once my eyes were opened and I was able to see through the proper lens, East London transformed before me. Knowing that the blue building below is number eleven and a half because the house was split into two due to the lack of affordability at the time changes everything. And the mural below of an unknown man was made by drilling away at parts of the concrete. Our tour guide summed it up perfectly when he said, “destroying something to create something is the essence of what graffiti is.” Graffiti, street art, creativity, or whatever you want to call it – it is absolutely breathtaking.

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After two hours of engrossing ourselves in East London culture, Laura and I wandered back towards Old Spitalfields Market with the group, tipped our guide, and headed to dinner. It was on the way that I found this amazing old car.

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We ended up going to Dishoom, a Bombay Café home to the most delicious Indian food I have ever had. I was so hungry I forgot to photograph the dishes, but I did manage to get a shot of the table behind us with this awesome clock and a sneaky shot of the kitchen where fresh naan was being prepared..

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Yesterday was an awesome day of experiencing London culture and indulging in ethnic food. And it really made me think about using my sight to actually see the world around me – It’s all about perspective.

Travel Detour Part One: North Carolina

My plans to summer happily for three long months in Europe were sharply interrupted after just one week. Luckily, I am an eternal optimist and will attempt to turn lemons into a freaking ice cream sundae if I can. Screw the lemonade.

Insert the perfect opportunity: My grandmother’s birthday was coming up and she offered to buy me at ticket as her birthday present! I feel like I was offered a better deal, but who am I to refuse such a generous gift? And instead of her paying for a round trip ticket to Asheville, I asked if she would be willing to make the second leg of my journey a flight to NYC. She said yes!

So for the past week I have been getting a sneak peak into retirement which is such a tease considering I haven’t even officially entered to work force yet! (Can I please just fast forward past the 40 years of  9-5 clock punching?) We ate out at great restaurants, took scenic drives to lookout points and through parks, attended outdoor concerts, perused art galleries, shopped, went to the movies, went to the theater… the list goes on.

And as wonderful of a time as I had, there are few things that I just could not get over.

1. Every room of the house has photographic evidence of my awkward childhood. I kid you not. Every. Single. Room.

2. It is impossible to drive down a single road and not be presented with at least 4 fast food options. Eating healthy outside the house requires a series of in-depth searches because veggies are often covered in cheese sauce, fried, or simply used as a garnish.

3. Street signs are apparently not required. And if they are present, they are often part way down the block… or turned at an angle that you can’t read it until you’re halfway through the intersection… or in such small print you need binoculars. I recommend turning on your maps app.

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I Always Get the Butterflies.

ALWAYS! Before every photography job I’m hired to do I psych myself out. I should have done more research, looked at more photos for inspiration and examples, anything to better prepare myself. I am flooded with reminders that I have never taken a class, am mostly self-taught, and am still pretty much a kid. These are the thoughts going through my head as I have my client in the passenger seat of my car on the way to the park where I’ll be taking her headshots and having her model the jewelry she makes. I’m simultaneously trying to connect with her so she feels like she can relax once in front of the camera while telling the hamster wheel of negative thoughts to stop running.

However as soon as I get started and step behind the lens, my mind completely quiets. As everything starts falling into place, I am reminded why I enjoy photography and that I always manage to capture at least a couple incredible photographs. Being self-taught and never having taken a class isn’t a bad thing because it has always just made sense to me. And sure, I’m only 19 years old, but I started getting hired and selling photographs at the ripe age of 15… a 4 year career is definitely enough time to make lots of mistakes and learn a lot. And although I’m confident in my abilities the moment I raise the camera to my eye, I’m wise enough to know that I don’t know everything… that I have a lot more learning experiences in the near future.

But with that, I present you with some photographs of the incredibly talented jewelry artist Kathleen Connor.

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