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Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

February 25, 2018

REVIEW: Nikon School Photography Classes

Recently, I was lucky enough to experience Nikon's traveling photography school during its stop in Orlando. The class series runs over the course of four days, but each class is priced, scheduled, and themed individually - ranging from a few hours to all-day. I found the "Elements of Photography" course to be the most inclusive, and probably the best option for an amateur seeking a well-rounded foundation of skills to build on. This course is broken up into four topical sections (exposure, control, light, and creativity), presented over the span of seven hours with a lunch break. 

The class I attended was led cooperatively by Reed Hoffman and Michael Schwarz. Their decades of diverse experiences really combined to make for an intriguing blend of techniques, tips, and knowledge.The facts and suggestions that formed the course content were a balance of creative personal passion and fine-tuned technique - presented in a way that made sense and drew interest. I did get the distinct impression that many of my fellow students had at least a fair amount more experience than I did, and at first that was slightly intimidating. However, Michael and Reed were able to craft their delivery in a way that encompassed definition for the less-experienced while also including the trial and error methods for success that more seasoned photogs were sure to appreciate. Throughout their lectures, they shared examples of their own work that put the lessons into perspective. THIS was the specific approach that spoke to me, and it helped me to comprehend some basic terms and skills that I've struggled to grasp. They regularly referred to the balance of creativity and technicality that makes for good photography, and their presentation of the course was the most brilliant example of that perfect combination.

Nikon's official description of the course provides the following topical outline: 
  • Exposure—ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed—how to get a proper exposure and be more creative
  • Taking control of your camera—understanding what all of the modes and settings are used for in order to take photos and make them more unique
  • Managing autofocus to your advantage
  • Understand the quality of light—learning how to modify light and use a camera’s built-in flash or an accessory flash to take well-lit photos
  • Workflow basics—shooting JPEG vs. NEF, basic editing using Capture NX-D software
  • Sharing your images via built-in Wi-Fi or by using Nikon’s Wireless Mobile Adapters
  • Fundamentals of shooting video
  • Explore creative types of photographs—High Dynamic Range photos, Time-Lapse, Night Photography, Light Painting, Underwater pictures, Close Ups, Black & White and more.

...But that really is a very basic summary! I had a couple of concerns going into the class. For starters, I was worried that the quality of the information would be minimal. So many topics were covered in ultimately a short frame of time. That raises the concern that crucial details would be lost to the rush. Surprisingly, this wasn't the case. While I won't say that a total novice will walk out of here ready to sell a million dollar photo to National Geographic, a person with a reasonable understanding of photography and an eye for a good shot can certainly get a great foundation of knowledge that Google searches and discussion forums can subsidize! (Speaking of - there is an official Facebook group for Nikon School students - wonderful resource, and the instructors remain active here as well!) This course provides you a starting point to build from, and the motivation to practice. My second concern was that this would essentially be an extended Nikon infomercial with little value beyond a sales pitch. Well, if you think about it... Nikon is already a well-regarded name. Do they really need to waste effort on such an oddly-veiled tactic for no other purpose than a traveling commercial? Of course, Nikon products were the basis of the examples, and this makes good sense for many reasons, but the knowledge and tips that were shared applied to photography in general. There wasn't a blatant, cheesy pitch interwoven through the entire course, and the focus genuinely was on the skill of photography. Personally, I found this to be refreshingly endearing.

As far as my overall take-aways from the course... I have often been told that I have a good eye for photography. My skills are "okay", but I rely heavily on having a cooperative canvas. Toss a curve ball my way, and I'm likely to be sunk. I photograph a very diverse range of scenes - personally, for my "day job" as a marketer, and for this website. I can rarely afford to be stymied by a challenge, because I encounter far too many of those! Many situations I am tasked with photographing are one-time opportunities, and I am devastated when I can't get it right. I'm ashamed to admit that I've had a decent camera for a while, but I always set everything to auto and let it fly. This left a lot to chance, and many times, I found myself disappointed in the result. I'm anxious to explore camera settings a bit more, now that I have a grasp on what they mean. I am particularly interested in photographing sunrise and sunset scenes, so I've looked up the best places to find them locally, and a range of suggestions on settings to use (including those obtained in our class discussion). I'm creating a photo schedule to test out my newly-learned skills in these and other settings and situations... and I'll be trying it all out on a camera that Nikon is kindly loaning me. I see some very interesting pictorials in our future - and just in time for some stellar upcoming events! In the interim, I was out this weekend when I stumbled upon a small carnival. All I had with me was my mobile device, but it does allow for some ISO and aperture settings. So, I took just a quick moment to snap a picture of a very vibrant piece of one of the rides. First, I took one as I usually would - auto all the way:

Then, I spent two quick seconds making a simple adjustment or two based on what I learned in class, and I tried taking that very same shot again:

Not a flawlessly perfect image, but the difference is clear - and before this class, I never would have known how to do it! 

If you have the option to attend a Nikon School course, I highly suggest you do so. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of experience, you have plenty to gain from these courses. The instructors have a vast array of knowledge they are only too happy to share. For personal or professional tweaking, this opportunity is every photog's dream.

December 28, 2017

REVIEW: Titanic Gala Dinner Event

Photo: Titanic The Artifact Exhibition
All aboard for a one-of-a-kind experience as you set sail to cross the North Atlantic on the world's most luxurious ocean liner. She's been called the 'Ship of Dreams', but her name is Titanic. You can find this fabled vessel in one of the last places you may expect... on Orlando's International Drive.

Titanic The Artifact Exhibition is a year-round attraction that serves as a clever combination museum-show experience. Guests have the option of a self-led tour, or a guided tour with an authentically tailored period character through the series of recreated scenes and hundreds of artifacts. And, if you really want to make it a first-class experience, jump into your mental time machine for the Titanic Gala Dinner Event!

November 26, 2017

REVIEW: Christmas at Gaylord Palms 2017

2017 marks the 15th season of Gaylord Palms Resort's holiday spectacle, ICE! - and the first year to feature "Christmas Around the World". This brilliantly inspiring theme spotlights a cascade of global tradition and culture in vibrantly colored, hand-carved ice scenes and sculptures (more than two million pounds worth, to be specific).

But, I may be putting the cart before the horse here. You see, ICE! is merely a portion of what Gaylord Palms has to offer for the holiday season... the tip of the iceberg, you could say. There is a lot more to Christmas at Gaylord Palms than the nine-degree anti-Floridian tundra takeover known as ICE! This event is a genuine festival of merriment that rivals any other holiday extravaganza in the Orlando area; with a slew of opportunities for celebration.

November 11, 2017

REVIEW: Extreme Dinosaurs: The Exhibition - NEW on I-Drive!

If you've been cruising around I-Drive lately, you may have noticed something new. Frankly, you can't miss it! For those who are familiar with the area, you know that the building isn't new... 7220 International Drive was once home to a real estate office, and briefly it served as a seasonal haunt attraction. Most recently, it contained rotating exhibits such as CSI: The Experience, Our Bodies, Consumed By Art, and Leonardo da Vinci: Man - Artist - Genius (all run by EMS Exhibits). Since the abrupt closure of CSI and Leonardo da Vinci in October of 2015, the building has stood vacant, leaving a tremendously envious space wasted, and sparking great curiosity about what would inevitably take up residence in the building. Speculation led to discovery when Extreme Dinosaurs: The Exhibition opened its doors to the public on October 12 - exactly two years to the day that EMS shut down their exhibits.

September 23, 2017

REVIEW - Brio Tuscan Grille's Fall Seasonal Favorites Menu

When a hurricane drives a weary evacuee your way, and you've been battling storm aftermath yourself, words cannot describe the appreciation of a good meal. What a perfect time to take advantage of the Fall Seasonal Favorites menu at BRIO Tuscan Grille! Through October 1st, BRIO offers guests the hearty flavors of autumn in a special menu including three dazzling entrees with seasonal wine pairings and a brilliantly fresh dessert. Chef Daniel was all too happy to give us a tour of these inventive creations.

BRIO serves authentic, Northern Italian fare. inspired by the flavors of Tuscany. There are BRIO locations in more than 20 U.S. states, including over a dozen in Florida. Our nearest BRIO is at Millenia Mall - a location with smartly maximized space, providing an assortment of tables and booths indoors and outdoors, as well as bar seating. Orlando's tourist corridor tends to relax on attire expectations, but it is safe to consider this one to be a notch above "casual".

September 17, 2017

REVIEW - Taking Flight at iFLY Indoor Skydiving

I've long been curious about iFLY, but a little uncertain about it at the same time. I realize that my self-induced limitations are a bit unfounded at times, but the concept of indoor skydiving unnerved me. Call me crazy, but I feel rather comfortable with solid ground under my feet.

As much as I'd like to be a thrill-seeking adventurer, I'm unfortunately a wee bit of a chicken. What I didn't realize is that this is a good reason why iFLY is a perfect fit for me! As the company describes their concept: "indoor skydiving is the simulation of true freefall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel. It’s where the dream of flight becomes a reality".

I am fully aware that there is no chance that I will ever skydive in this lifetime... and I am completely okay with that. However, it's nice to know that an option exists for people like me to still get an understanding of the experience. iFLY makes that possible with a vertical wind tunnel technology that really is quite fascinating! Learn more about it here. The science behind the concept provides a great basis for STEM learning, which makes for unique and engaging educational programs as well. Learning a bit about how it works before I went set me at ease a bit, but I soon pondered a new concern I hadn't realized until I arrived.

September 12, 2017

REVIEW: Buca di Beppo - New Location at Celebration

If you have been a ComeSeeOrlando fan since the beginning, you may have caught my previous article on how to do Christmas, Italian-style at Buca di Beppo. Way back then (in 2013), I was reporting on a South Florida location, and hoping we had one closer than we did here in Central Florida (Maitland). Well, it seems that the Buca gods heard my plea, because they recently decided to grace us with a brand new location in Celebration, just minutes from my home. I don't think I've ever been so happy to have such a tempting assortment of calories so accessible, but I would gladly accept a few additional pounds for this! (Don't judge... there's a big menu to work through, after all. It's my duty!)

September 4, 2017

Then and Now: Returning to I-Drive 360

Ah, the nostalgia! Remember the good ol' days of watching The Orlando Eye progress from a simple base to a full-fledged super structure? Seems like forever ago now that the I-Drive 360 complex is so well-established and thriving as one of the most unique and diverse entertainment districts in Orlando, but the (now) Coca-Cola Orlando Eye only started spinning guests high into the sky little more than two years ago. So much has changed in that brief period of time!

REVIEW - Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club and Tarpon Springs

Just about two hours from Orlando, on Florida's Gulf Coast, lays the tiny little Greek-infused coastal village of Tarpon Springs. Following its founding in 1887, Greek sponge divers brought Tarpon Springs to life in the early 1900s, centered around the thriving area known as the Sponge Docks along the Anclote River. 

August 20, 2017

REVIEW: Coca-Cola Store at Disney Springs

I've visited the Coca-Cola Store at Disney Springs a handful of times since it opened just over a year ago (on July 2, 2016, to be precise). I've gone to gawk at the treasure trove of Coca-Cola merchandise sprawled across two floors in the shop - clothing, accessories, home decor, kitchenwares, polar bear gear - and, speaking of polar bears... I may have popped in just for photo shoots a couple times with a furry friend who resides on the second floor - don't judge.

August 19, 2017

REVIEW - Sierra's 21st Birthday Celebration at Planet Hollywood

We recently visited Planet Hollywood Observatory for the first time since its reopening. In retrospect, I can confess my regret in taking so long to stop by! From pre-remodeling visits, the whole family had already been huge fans of the blissfully inventive Cap'n Crunch Chicken, so the venue had passed our approval long ago with that alone. Considering our diverse tastes and varied opinions, we don't always have a lot of luck finding a restaurant that we are all equally impressed by, but our post-remodeling pop-in reminded us how much we loved Planet Hollywood before... and it has only gotten better. We were so dazzled by the entire experience that we didn't even have to consider alternative choices for celebrating Sierra's 21st birthday this month. This milestone provided the perfect excuse for a return - and a great reason to check out Planet Hollywood's Stargazers Bar!

July 30, 2017

REVIEW: Marlow's Tavern Summer Menu Highlights

Photo: Marlow's Tavern
Marlow's Tavern has launched a fresh new summer menu featuring creatively trendy new dinner and drink offerings, as well as the decadent "sweet stuff" menu. Grilled salmon or chicken, roast chicken panini, tuna salad, and Marlow's Famous Hummus accompanied by refreshing side items like mint barley risotto,  orange and radish slaw with citrus vinaigrette, roasted fingerling potato, and grilled, toasty pita points are all so very tempting, but I rarely get the opportunity to thoroughly enjoy dessert because I have yet to locate a second stomach. This time around, I'm taking full advantage of being an adult. I'm breaking the rules and going straight to dessert - spoiling my dinner completely - because the "sweet stuff" genuinely warrants a spotlight of its own. Let's delve into Marlow's Tavern - Winter Park!

July 27, 2017

REVIEW: The Dinner Detective PLUS Interview With Creator Scott O'Brien

They say you can't reinvent the wheel, but this isn't entirely true. After all, haven't most of us experienced a product or service that left us thinking, this could be SO much better? While most of us only think it - some people take the initiative to DO it. Scott O'Brien is one of those people, and he is the force behind The Dinner Detective.

With a BA in Communication and a minor in Business, O'Brien found himself lured to Los Angeles where he worked as a Production Assistant in film and television before breaking into development and writing under the legendary David E. Kelley. O'Brien justifiably sees Kelley as the "best television writer of our generation", and he considers his time spent working with him as "the greatest television education you could ever imagine".

Wisely sponging valuable knowledge from brilliant minds on the set of shows like "Ally McBeal" and "The Practice", O'Brien developed a keen insight for quality entertainment - smart entertainment.

Attending a mystery dinner show at the urging of his then-fiancee, O'Brien was intrigued by the concept, but he left the show feeling that it could be better. The actors doubled as servers - the scripts were outdated and falling flat. His fiancee casually challenged him to try it himself if he felt it was so easy to improve. Challenge accepted - and met.

July 12, 2017

REVIEW: Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

I can genuinely appreciate an array of hotels and resorts, as most really do have the potential to appeal - it's just a matter of finding those qualities that make it awesome, or seeking out the advantages it has over other locations. Every now and then however, you stumble upon something that takes absolutely no effort to appreciate, and no narrowed audience to uncover. That is the case with our latest Summer Series Spotlight Resort - Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress! Covering a vast 1,500 acre site, bustling with lush gardens and tropical features, the resort boasts 815 non-smoking guest rooms and suites with views overlooking Lake Windsong or the half-acre pool. Opened in 1984, the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress underwent a $30 million renovation in 2013.

Click on any image for full-size

The wow factor is in full effect from the moment you drive up, and it kicks into high-gear as soon you enter the lobby. The main building is just stunning. It's an open-air atrium, awash in natural light. The elevators are walled in glass, allowing for tremendous views all the way up and down the building. Contemporary lighting and decor add just the right level of POP and style to every nook, cranny and landing.

Guests are offered a glass of champagne at check-in, providing the perfect excuse to roam the lobby for a cozy place to lounge out and soak it all in. Ample seating options beckon to locales flanked with fountains, televisions, lounges (of which there are three on-site, by the way), lush greenery, and a few other surprises.

July 9, 2017

REVIEW: Splitsville - Disney Springs

There's a lot of "combo" venues in the Orlando area - locations that kill two birds with one stone... er, visit. It's brilliant to maximize your time by combining your fun with your dining, for example, and one place that makes this appealingly possible is Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Disney Springs. Actually, if we're to be entirely technical - Splitsville is a triple threat... there's a gift shop, too.

Splitsville is abundant in options (and you know how much I LOVE options). Come for dining, bowling, drinks, or all of the above! If you're just strolling through Disney Springs with no real goals, you can even just stop for a quick song by the outside bar.

July 2, 2017

REVIEW: Planet Hollywood Observatory - Disney Springs

So much has been transforming in and around Orlando! Brand new venues are springing up, and familiar icons are unveiling dramatic aesthetic overhauls and revamped menus. I've always been a fan of Planet Hollywood, and I was thrilled to see the final product of the yearlong, $25 million remodel to its flagship "Observatory" location at the ever-evolving Disney Springs.

There's enough glitz and glamour within this colossal space to leave you feeling like an A-lister from the moment you enter! So, what's new at Planet Hollywood Observatory? 

For starters - a fresh paint job and spiffed-up facade can make a world of difference! The new exterior is just as eye-catching, but they went with a cleaner, more modern upscale look - toning down the loud, somewhat gaudy display put forth since the original opening in 1994.

The building serves as a four-story bar, restaurant, shop, and museum - to put it simply. New features include a 4,500 square-foot video wall incorporating innovative 3D technology, a 5,000 square-foot outdoor, open air terrace bar, and of course - a reimagined menu with feature contributions from celebrity foodie, Guy Fieri.
(Don't panic, Planet Hollywood loyalists... the Cap'n Crunch Chicken is still on the menu!!)
When you enter, you're immediately greeted by the impeccably courteous staff, sleek double stairway, and a few tantalizing bits of memorabilia to gawk at. As you reach the second level, take a moment to pause and discover the encased wardrobe tributes on display. I immediately honed in on Dorothy's gingham dress from
The Wizard of Oz beside a Walter White original from Breaking Bad, but then... something happened...

June 26, 2017

REVIEW: Studio K - Orlando

Our Spring/Summer Series focuses primarily on restaurants and hotels, but we do make room for those exceptional fun spots that need to be worked into your spring/summer plans. Studio K (a strikingly original dance studio, run by an equally remarkable woman) is a bit different for us, but easily a fast favorite! Regardless of your age, size, experience, or even your status as a local or a tourist - you may be surprised to find that Studio K is absolutely perfect for YOU!

Photos: Studio K

First, a little background as to how we came to find Studio K. This was actually a fateful stumble upon as I was trying to help Sierra find a ballet class. We quickly discovered that this was no easy feat! Call after call - and everyone seemed to have classes for three types of people: beginners who were toddlers and young children, adults who had been dancing since diapers, or the very wealthy who could invest in high-priced private instruction. Sierra is a beginner, 20 years old, and a retail cashier, so none of these opportunities fit her at all. Then, I found Studio K. Something about the philosophy displayed on the Studio K website really spoke to me, and I knew I had finally struck gold! As I perused the class schedule, I was stunned to discover that some of the classes even intrigued ME, and I had absolutely no interest in dance at all. I am the furthest thing from graceful, and I am not the picture of youthful fitness. No way could I (or should I) be trying to dance in a public place, where people could actually witness such a debacle! BUT... Studio K has lightsaber fitness! How could I pass up the opportunity to share that with our readers? I decided it was worth the sacrifice of my dignity to give it a shot.

June 25, 2017

REVIEW: The Florida Hotel - Orlando

This "Spring/Summer Series" spotlight takes us back to our home turf in Orlando. Originally opened as a Crown Plaza more than thirty years ago, The Florida Hotel is a 511-room facility with the distinction of being recognized by TripAdvisor as Orlando's "Friendliest Hotel". 

The Florida Hotel is anchored to The Florida Mall - a nearly two million square foot, indoor, shopping center that is home to a wide variety of retailers, dining establishments, and unique attractions like The Crayola Experience and M&M World. Designated parking is fenced off and separated within the mall parking lot. Valet parking is available for $20 per night. The hotel's location is more centralized than the majority of the area's accommodations - nearer to the airport than most tourist zones, but still within 15-25 minutes of our theme parks and the culture-rich downtown district.

June 10, 2017

MegaCon 2017 - Recap and Observations

MegaCon 2017 delivered its annual deluge of fandom insanity over four action-packed days, May 25-28 at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center. A festival of fun and fantasy - this year's event was speckled with memorable highlights, incredible encounters, and uniquely diverse talent. It was also a year for change, with many notable differences in the event's processes, presentation, and staffing procedures. One thing that remains consistent - MegaCon is never a disappointment. 

If you asked multiple people to explain the appeal of MegaCon, you'd likely get vastly different descriptions from each of them. The ComeSeeOrlando staff is a prime example. Though three of us consider MegaCon a must-do event, none of us agree on our favorite aspect - nor do we share common goals or expectations for our time there. When an event packs such a colossal punch, it's not much of a challenge to find something you'll enjoy. What you discover may surprise you! We've pinpointed our "Mega-motivators"... what are yours?

May 22, 2017

Destination: Clearwater - East Shore Resort

This year's "Spring/Summer Series" ventures beyond our Orlando borders to explore some nearby destinations to consider when you need a little getaway from the hustle and bustle of Orlando. You may be surprised to discover a whole new world just a short drive from theme park paradise. Speaking of paradise... we discovered a nice little slice of it, less than two hours west of Orlando, in Clearwater Beach!

It's immediately obvious how Clearwater Beach earned its name... crystal clear waters. Paired with that pure white, soft Gulf Coast sand, it's the kind of combination that you just can't resist. Growing up in Texas, I have always had a special love for Gulf Coast beaches, so this was a sight to behold!