Two Cities: Two Weeks

Wow, so a lot of stuff happened in the past two weeks, so let’s get started!

Two weeks ago, I traveled to Montreal and it was an amazing experience. But first, I had to endure a 10 hour train ride.

Everything about the city was perfect. The people were nice, the sights were breathtaking, and I was relatively comfortable traversing the city since I’ve been to New York City so many times.

I was staying with my friend, who generously allowed me to live with her for a whole week. We’ve been pen pals for the past five years, so it was amazing to finally meet her.

The city has some really interesting quirks, like the architectural headache that is Habitat 67 and getting Costo applications in the subway.

I got to try some delicious food as well…because that’s important!

Like all things in the world, my little adventure had to end at some point. I was extremely depressed to leave such an amazing city. But I will return…some day. More photos can be found on my Instagram: billynguyentm

Almost as soon as I got home, I had to get ready to travel once again. Destination: Metlife Stadium.

It took me nine years, but I finally got to see Coldplay live! It was so awesome seeing your childhood idols right there in the flesh. Aside from the concerts Touch-N-Go put on campus, this was my first legitimate concert ever!

These two things were easily the biggest highlights of my summer. I don’t honestly think anything can top them, but with school just three weeks away, I’m open for anything. Until next week!

School, Football, and Drones, Oh My!

So apparently my last post was never approved, which isn’t good. And that kinda explains the lack of content on my part, so I do apologize! Unfortunately, not a lot has happened since I made my last post. I have some really awesome travel photos planned for my next post though! I won’t say where I’m going, but I’m definitely excited.

So my short and brief time at Rutgers has come to a close. I passed Thermodynamics and it was easily one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do this summer. I even brought donuts to our final because it was going to be a long, four hours.

Apparently Rutgers likes MLH.

One of my high school friends, who graduated Monmouth University for a degree in Media and Broadcasting asked if I wanted to help him shot some drone video for a football camp. I didn’t realize the camp was lead by some very well known football players and coaches.

I had a lot of fun and it kinda reminds me of high school. I miss those days.

And here’s my current draft of my drone video that I’m working on.

Drone Antics

So the past couple of weeks I’ve been flying my Mavic Pro around my hometown and surrounding area. My ultimate goal is capture enough footage to make a short video showcasing all the cool things I did this summer. For now, a lot of videos I have now are place holders for what’s to come.

I primarily use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit my videos and originally used to use Sony Vegas. It was hard adjusting from Vegas since I’ve used it for over six years, but now I’m super comfortable with Premiere and even After Effects. Currently I’m reading up on color grading and color correction which is something I’ve been meaning to get better at.

If anyone’s interested, the draft of the video can be found here!

Summer Biweekly Photoblog is Now a Thing!

Hello, hello! After receiving some feedback and suggestions from my lovely supervisor and boss, I’ll be starting a biweekly photoblog! The format won’t really change from what you’re already used too (it’s really just more photos and less words), so I hope you all enjoy it. I plan on doing a lot of really neat stuff this summer so I look forward to what the summer has in store for me the next few months.

Shortly after I completed my last final, me and two of my roommates went to Venice, FL. Basically the place I fled to in order to avoid Hurricane Matthew. Here’s a photo of me getting stuck in a tree, 16ft off the ground.

It was nice to finally come back to Venice. It’s really a nice town that has a lot to offer, and I fell in love with it after my first visit.

Aside from bike-friendly roads, awesome people, and neat architecture, Venice has some really nice beaches.

I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s a jetty in Daytona Beach.

It was really nice seeing a sunset on the west coast again.

Missed Connections

From art crawls to art galleries, I dived head-first into the Lexington art scene. I traveled to Cincinnati to visit art galleries and an aquarium. I explored the history behind Kentucky and neighboring states, but there was still much more to do.

There were so many things I missed out in in Kentucky that I wish I had the opportunity to experience. I’m not a basketball fall, but I’ve heard there’s nothing better than bleeding blue at UK basketball game during March Madness. I also missed Keeneland – a local horse derby. Again, horses aren’t a passion of mine, but I had a sunhat or two that I could have sported! Lexington is also home to a few Bourbon trails. I have no idea how Whiskey is made and I don’t have much interest in drinking it, but Lexington is best place to learn more.

Ultimately, I missed out. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is absolutely real (Broad City reference). I kept telling myself that four months is plenty of time. All I did was blink, and my time was up in Lexington. To future interns: consider how much time you truly have in your host city and plan accordingly! If you don’t get something done (like me), then you have an excuse to cater to your wanderlust and visit again. I’ll be back Lexington!

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot

No, but seriously… is Daytona ALWAYS been this hot in May? The moment I drove over the Georgia-Florida state line I could feel the change in heat. Aside from fighting the curly hair struggle in humidity, I’m excited to be back!

Local restaurants and coffee shops like Tia Cori’s and Sweet Marlays’ coffee shop have been calling my name. I can’t forget Bethune Grill – home to the best wings in Daytona. It’s a must-have!

Five minutes beyond the mom-and-pop shops is the “Most Famous Beach in the World.” I’ve already pulled my beach blankets from storage and prepared an emergency beach bag equipped with sun screen, shades, a good book, and a Bluetooth speaker. I’ll always be ready for a spontaneous trip to the beach.

Even better, I have a few friends staying in town for Summer courses so we’ll be getting into the habit of $6 movies on Tuesdays. Wonder Woman, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Cars 3 are just a few of the movies on my list.

I’m a year from graduation, so this could very well be my last Summer in Daytona – home to enjoy a lot of local pleasures. I’ve already begun checking things off the list, but for every item I cross out I add three more. I’m not sure if this will ever happen, but I’ve just added Skydiving and Swimming with Manatees.

End of the Semester Review

Hello again! I’m so sorry about the long period of radio silence. Things here have been a bit hectic, but I have so many things to talk about so hopefully this might make up for the lack of blog posts. I guess I’ll have to start back way, way back in March right before Spring Break.

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Shortly before flying back home to New Jersey to start what would be a moderately eventful Spring Break, I bought myself a DJI Mavic Pro! Eagle eyed readers might remember that I bought a drone my freshmen year, and they would be correct. Ultimately I regret to admit that that drone was a waste of money, but the lessons I’ve learned about drone operation and aerial imagery have long stuck with me.

Once I got home to New Jersey, I spent most of my Spring Break helping my parents out at their nail salon, mostly working as a receptionist and interpreter/translator. Whenever I had some down time, I’d fly my drone at the park by my house. It was really fun to get back into the hobby of aerial photography, but I just wish it wasn’t so cold during break.

I love the snow and it was one of the many reasons why I was super excited to fly back home, but I realized that it takes a lot of time, energy, and planning to fly out in the cold. Not to mention, you’re kinda at the mercy of the weather. Thanks to “Winter Storm Stella,” which turned out to be a bust by the way, the weather was pretty lame since it rained and sleeted a lot. Oh well I guess.

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It wasn’t until towards the end of the week that the weather got better so on Friday I spent a day in New York City and spent Saturday packing up my things for my flight back to Orlando on Sunday. And just like that, on that cold Sunday afternoon, I found myself on a train headed back to Newark International Airport so I could start class the next day.

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School for the most part has been pretty challenging as always. I think on the week I came back, or the next week, I had three tests scheduled in a row. Definitely not super ideal, but at this point, this has happened about two times so far this semester so I was kinda used to it. I did ok on one of the tests, while I did a lot better on the other two. However, I didn’t have time to contemplate my test scores because the following Sunday I had to shoot a wedding.

I’ve never done wedding photography before and wedding videography is a whole different animal. I will admit I was super nervous because with weddings, you only get one shot so if you blow it, well you’re out of luck. If I had to do it all over again, I’d definitely hire someone else to shoot video with me because one camera man is definitely not enough to cover everything.

Once I recovered from the wedding, I was handed another project: Completely rebuild the Digital Studio website in four-five days. Thankfully, the time-frame was extended for a total time of about two weeks. Now, before starting this huge undertaking, I was pretty good with WordPress and HTML coding. But, the more time I spent working on the website and trying out different design methods, I felt a lot better about my coding background and attitude towards coding.

A lot of people, like myself, complained that ERG115, the class where you first learn how to code in MATLAB, basically made them hate coding. I totally understand where everyone is coming from, but as I started branching out into other programs and coding languages, I rediscovered my love for coding and problem solving. I guess I needed some time off after doing fprintf(‘Hello world.’); so many times.

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Somewhere along the way, I was invited by my friend to join him at Sun ‘n’ Fun. For those of you who don’t know, Sun ‘n’ Fun is this huge airshow out in Lakeland, Florida. Many people have compared it to Oshkosh, but I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s much smaller. Regardless though, I had a lot of fun, but I do wish I’d gone earlier. I went on Sunday with my friend which was the last day of the week-long event, and a majority of the static aircraft, mostly military aircraft, and airshow performers had left. That was ok because I got to see the Blue Angels perform for the first time in my life. After seeing the Thunderbirds perform for three years, this was definitely a welcomed change.

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I also got to go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for the first time. I’ve been to Kennedy Space Center and the launch pads, but surprisingly never actually went to the Visitor Complex.

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With my sixth, wow has it really been six?, semester now coming to a close, I’m definitely looking forward to going home for the summer for some R&R. I look forward to taking Thermodynamics at Rutgers and flying my drone a lot more since New Jersey’s airspace isn’t as dense as Daytona Beach’s. I look forward to working either with my family or at a supermarket since I was already offered a job starting when I come home. But, most importantly, I look forward to summer and what it has to offer. Four months is a long time and I look forward to sharing everything when I see you all in August.

For now, good luck, and if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading.

New Semester, New Year, New Digs

Hey everyone! Welcome back to our scheduled broadcast. I hope everyone had a fantastic winter break. Despite only having three weeks off from school, I vowed to make the most of my break….that was until I actually flew back to NJ and realized that it was really too cold to do anything.

Flying into New York, I was greeted by the pleasant sight of snow...which soon melted the next day.

Flying into New York, I was greeted by the pleasant sight of snow…which soon melted the next day.

So what did I do during break? For the first week I helped my parents out at their shop since Christmas and New Years were right around the corner. Not surprisingly they own a nail salon and since I’m lacking in the manicure department, I was basically a receptionist for seven days.

Once the holidays blew over, I started making plans with some of my friends who were home for break. The thing about going to school in the South vs. North is that everyone starts and ends school at different times so it’s always a ballet trying to find times that work for all parties involved. In the end, some plans worked out while other didn’t. No biggie: That’s what summer vacation is for!

I didn't go on a lot of photo trips this break sadly. Hopefully the summer will allow me to make up for it.

I didn’t go on a lot of photo trips this break sadly. Hopefully the summer will allow me to make up for it.

I did get to see Rogue One in theaters though! That was the first time I saw a Star Wars film in theaters and it was honestly an enjoyable experience. I think near the end I had to use the restroom, but I was so captivated by the action and story that I was glued to my seat. The movie had so many memorable moments and just listening to the audience react to the film made me miss going to the movies.

I sadly didn’t get to go to New York City like I wanted to though. I keep forgetting how much effort it actually takes to plan out a trip to the city. In my experience, you need an itinerary of places and things you want to do. Without one, you’ll probably get lost and side-tracked and might forget why you even came to the city in the first place. The weather was also a major factor.

Speaking of weather, it actually snowed! I was so excited to see snow before I flew back to Daytona. While shoveling and driving in snow is a bit of a chore, you have to admit that it is fun to play with. If anything, it adds a whole new layer of atmosphere to your environment.

Time slows down, you can hear the slush on the road as cars drive by, and kids emerge from their homes and enjoy their one out of three snow days. I wish it snowed earlier, like around Christmas like it’s supposed too, because it’s just nice to be around it.

But, like all good things, my break was over. Three weeks with my family was well needed and I was very sad to leave. However, while traveling to Daytona, my sadness turned into excitement when I realized that I have not only another semester to make up for the last one, but that I kinda have a new lease on life.

Watching rockets launch on the beach is one of my favorite pass-times.

Watching rockets launch on the beach is one of my favorite pass-times.

I have had a lot more time to myself, I have some goals that I want to accomplish, and overall, I’m starting to understand my limits and how I operate. Hopefully this knowledge and sudden urge enlightenment isn’t just a phase.

Break-ception with Astrophotography

I think with all the breaks we’ve been having and have had so far in the month of November, we might as well just take the whole month off right? Not quite.

With the semester nearing its end, the classes, assignments, tests, and projects are certainly upping their level of difficulty. In addition to school, juggling three jobs has also been quite difficult. Time management is key and I’m still working on it. Hopefully Thanksgiving break will give me some time to catch up with all my classes since things have been getting a bit cluttered in my schedule.

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Day & Age – The Killers

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ITS SO PRETTY.

Thankfully, the breaks we’ve had so far allowed me the opportunity to travel deep into the Floridian wilderness for some stellar astrophotography! Ocala National Forest is definitely one of my new favorite places in Florida just because of how beautiful it is at night. I mean, sure you have to drive like one hour and thirty minutes out of your way to get there, but you’re greeted by breath-taking views of our vast galaxy.

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Stars and constellations make themselves known while the Milky Way comes out of hiding where you can see it with the naked-eye: I almost broke down and cried because of how beautiful it was. Because I was so far away from civilization, I had to be careful with my surroundings…which can be hard to do as you’re admiring the scenery around you.

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That’s not my truck.

I recommend traveling with a few friends, bring some snacks, and the proper photography gear if you decide on traveling to the vast expanse of Ocala National Forest. Keep checking the weather days in advance to make sure the weather will be clear and not cloudy. The first time I went, I drove so far that I somehow drove past the clear weather and found myself surrounded by fog: Not cool.

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Shutter Speed: 30 seconds, Aperture: f/2.8, ISO 2500 & Focal Length: 16mm

In the realm of photography, a camera that allows for manual control and a tripod are pretty much what you need shoot photos with. In your settings, try the following exposure settings:

  • Shutter Speed: Between 20-30 seconds.There’s a thing called the “500/600 Rule” which basically involves taking either 500 or 600 and dividing it by your focal length, which is how wide you’re currently shooting (i.e. 16mm). The resulting number is the shutter speed you need to shoot at/below to stop the stars from “moving/streaking” in your image.
  • Aperture: Try to open up your aperture to its widest setting. Most lenses can do f/3.5, while other lenses can do f/2.8. In the world of photography, 2.8 is wider than 3.5.
  • ISO: This is your sensor’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more light it captures. Keep in mind, the higher the ISO, the more likely you are to get noise in your images. Because my 5D Mark III can handle noise fairly well, I shot at ISO 2500.

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If your photos turn out too dark, try increasing your ISO. Likewise, if your photos are too bright, consider decreasing your ISO to lower the amount of noise in your photo. Most importantly, set a 2 second delay after you press the shutter button. This will allow you to take the photo without having the camera move after you’ve touched it.

With that said, go out and have fun. That’s the most important thing!

Fall Break

Well, Fall Break is now behind us which means that there’s about six to seven more weeks left of the fall semester. I’m amazed at how fast we’ve gotten to this point and everything that’s happened since the beginning of the semester until now.

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Tennessee is so beautiful.

For Fall Break, I went home with my roommate to Tennessee, and needless to say, I was really excited since I’ve never been to to Tennessee before. We left Port Orange at 5 a.m. and embarked on a 10-hour road trip north. We encountered scenic roads, strange billboards, and interesting individuals: All the hallmarks of a great road trip.

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The architecture is beautiful as well.

When traveling through the country, I-95 is typically the only interstate I used, so traveling on I-75 was different for me. I saw things that I normally wouldn’t see on I-95, got to pass through cities I’ve never visited before, and got a better understanding of the United States geographically.

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I also visited Nashville International Airport.

Once we made it through Georgia, I was greeted by the large, looming mountains of Tennessee. Coming from a place like New Jersey, where the land is constantly flat with no major land changes, this was a real treat: I’ve never seen mountain formations like this before, and with fall rapidly approaching, the browning of the trees made me feel like I was in New England. Coincidentally, the homes in the area where my roommate lived were modeled after New England homes. I guess if I had to compare, Tennessee has a rural Pennsylvania vibe to it.

My Canon 5D Mark III died, so I had to use my roommate's Nikon D7000 for the day.

My Canon 5D Mark III died, so I had to use my roommate’s Nikon D7000 for the day.

The next two days involved sight-seeing around town and Nashville. While I’m not a huge fan of country music, Nashville wasn’t too bad. Then again, I really only spent time around the state capital building and the bicentennial park so I didn’t really get to see Nashville in its entirety. It’s kind of like trying to see all of New York City in one day: It’s impossible. I do plan on coming back to Tennessee though. There’s so much I want to do, and now that I have an idea of what the state is like, it’ll be easier to budget my time.

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So. Many. Mountains.

Sunday morning, we left my roommate’s house at 5 a.m. but this time took the scenic route home instead of the direct way we took there. The scenic route involved heading east into the mountains by North Carolina, southwest to Georgia, and then south back to Florida. Even though the route added an extra five hours to our journey, I think it was worth it. Tennessee just has something really unique and beautiful about it which no other state I’ve been to seems to have. Driving on the mountain roads with the morning fog was awe inspiring, and sharing the backroads with bikers was equally breath-taking. Passing through Georgia and Florida was pretty normal with nothing important to report. After driving non-stop, we managed to make it back to our apartment around 10 p.m.

The famous US 129 Harley Davidson store.

The famous US 129 Harley Davidson store.

I think this Fall Break will go down as one of the many highlights of 2016. I got out of my comfort zone, traveled to places I’ve never been to before, and got to see a lot of things that I didn’t know existed. Most importantly, the break gave me time to rethink my life and relax from all of the stress this semester has accumulated. I learned that I need to pace myself and take things one step at a time, which may seem cliché, but is probably something that will save me from breaking down one day.

With that said, I’m going to try hard to finish this semester on a strong note. Until my next blog entry, stay curious and be safe.