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I've had my eyes on the Nikkor AF-S DX VR 18-200mm lens for awhile now, but it was nearly impossible to find in store to personally test it due to a world wide shortage; Nikon couldn't make them fast enough to keep up with demand. While Macsen was in San Francisco he found it in a shop and texted me asking if I wanted him to pick it up, but I asked him not to as I still wanted to try it before making the purchase (he said it was offered as a package with the Nikon D80 which I think would make a great combination for anyone taking their first steps into the dSLR world). I've been kicking myself ever since as we figured out that with the current dollar to pound exchange rate I could fly all the way to San Francisco, purchase the lens, and fly all the way back for cheaper than it is to buy it here. Finally a few weeks ago I came across it in a shop and tested it out, fell in love, and bought it. My reason for wanting this lens is to have a versatile travel lens so I won't have to continue carrying two lenses, my Nikkor 18-70mm and my Sigma 70-300mm which is heavy and it takes valuable time to frequently switch lenses, missing shots and risking dust on the sensor. Despite being excited about my new lens I haven't had a chance to try it out properly until yesterday and wow, it is great! It is smaller and lighter than my Sigma so I can fit my D70 with it in my bag easily with plenty of space to spare (I prefer to carry my camera in an over the shoulder leather bag instead of a camera bag, I don't like to advertise that I have a camera on me), but I still get a zoom capability close to that of the Sigma's and the ability to photograph at a wide angle whereas before with the Sigma I had to be a long distance from anything to fit it in frame if I couldn't take the time to switch back to the 18-70mm. The lens is remarkably quiet, a mere whisper in comparison to the jet engine Sigma, it is fast to auto focus, the picture quality is very sharp, and the VR (image stabilization) is superb for low light situations. It isn't perfect, which I wasn't expecting with a lens of this price anyway; there is slight vignetting and distortion and the bokeh doesn't seem quite as silky smooth as it is with my Sigma, but I haven't had a chance to fully test this yet. For this reason and for the longer focal length of my Sigma I intend to keep it for the occasions when I have time for lens-swapping, but I doubt I will ever use my 18-70mm kit lens again. I've decided to skip the upgrade to the D80 and instead save my pennies for the D300 (which will probably take several years) and after I do upgrade I will invest in some seriously sexy glass, but for now this lens is good quality and covers my need for versatility.

Yesterday was the kind of day that makes me fall in love with London all over again. I couldn't sleep the night before, finally giving up and made myself warm milk with honey and waited for the sun to rise. I cooked a poached egg on buttered toast and caught the train into London, which was still covered in frost, and went to the V&A museum to see the The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957.

I had never been to the V&A before, for some reason I always had it in my mind that it was a pain to get to, but as it turned out I only had to take the train to Waterloo and tube it on the Northern Line then change to District or Circle until I hit South Kensington. Now that I know how easy it is I will visit more often. While walking to the V&A I passed an ice skating rink and stands selling steaming mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate (I tried to be respectful and not photograph the Bambis on ice). The V&A itself is a stunning building and I had no idea that they had a giant Chihuly chandelier in the entrance hall. I was free to take photos throughout the building, but they didn't allow photos in the Couture show sadly. Those guards watched everyone intensely, I only managed to get one photo off of some corsets before one of them goose-stepped around the corner. The show was impressive, the intricate details and craftsmanship that went into every dress was so much more evident in person than in old photographs. As were the women's tiny waists who wore them, when these clothes are in front of you it really makes you realize how petite and skinny these "ideal" women were and yet they still managed to appear to have curves thanks to the cuts on these dresses. The differences between the Paris and London designs were obvious when put next to each other, I loved the Balenciaga and Christian Dior dresses the most; they seemed more creative and unique than the others. In the final room they had modern John Galliano for Dior dresses on display and I almost think they did Galliano more harm than good showing them after seeing the expert craftsmanship of the older dresses, Galliano's looked gaudy and clumsy in comparison. It is disappointing to see such a drop in quality in modern couture, especially when they're still charging insane amounts of money for their dresses.

By the end of the day I had been up for over 36 hours and yet I still had trouble falling asleep, I have this wired feeling recently even though I've had no caffeine or anything. I'm enjoying it.

Shots taken with my new lens, I am so happy with it!

chihuly in the entrance hall of the v&a

playing with DoF

corsets corsets corsets

v&a dining room

the lens VR blew me away in this shot, I only stopped for a brief moment and had no tripod, didn't brace myself or the set
the camera on anything, or even held my breath and it came out incredibly sharp.

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On December 14th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC), krisochka commented:
Hi Naomi!
Wonderful photos and heartful atmosphere!
Thank you very much! You are only one person in my friendlist who sharing my mood today)
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On December 15th, 2007 03:22 am (UTC), nomi replied:
Thanks, Kristina. :) At least we are feeling positive today, I think some of my friendslist is suffering the same as yours!

Edited at 2007-12-15 03:23 am (UTC)
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On December 14th, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC), heuteistmeintag commented:
heh, should've had macsen bought the combo here and sell the d80 body

by the time you save up for he d300 the d400 will probably be out :-p

i tried to convince my uncle to lend me his 18-200 (his D200 came with one) when i was planning a trip to alaska earlier this year, but he just looked at me like i'm crazy. he had the "you can have my 18-200mm when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands" look.
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On December 15th, 2007 03:29 am (UTC), nomi replied:
I think there was a slight worry that I'd get a bit overly "attached" to the D80. ;)

You're probably right about the D300, but if something is better when I can justify spending the money then I will seriously consider it. Have even contemplated switching allegiances to Canon, but with the investment into the 18-200mm now I will not make the decision lightly.

Not surprised about your uncle's reaction, I liked this quote about the 18-200mm that I read today:

"The range of this lens is astounding, and it took a while to adjust to having so much range. I was actually surprised at how unaccustomed my eye was to having so much 'grabbability'. I got the lens to have the flexibility, but once I began using it, it was like the first time I slept in a large bed as a kid. I just loved the room and roamed and rolled with great pleasure that just felt liberating and luxurious."
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On December 14th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC), dawaioser commented:
Wow! Every photo looks so crisp and the colors just POP. I can see why you are excited about it and I'm not even a photographer. ':)

I *love* the Italian green and blue glass Cthulhu chandelier...how fun.
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On December 15th, 2007 03:39 am (UTC), nomi replied:
The sharpness of the photos surprised me, I didn't expect it to actually be better than my Sigma in that regard. It has filled me with renewed enthusiasm for going out and taking photos again now that I know I can travel lighter and a lot of my previous frustrations are now gone - very liberating!

Cthulhu chandelier, good way of describing it! A few years ago Kew Gardens near me had a Chihuly exhibition, with big blown glass balls floating around in the ponds.. I wish it were always there. He's a bit of a character, I want to recount a story I heard about him from a friend who met him, but I'm afraid I'll get the details wrong.. I'll poke Gael to see if she'll tell it - she's much better at remembering anecdotes. :)

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On December 15th, 2007 02:23 am (UTC), vizzygoth commented:
Oh, thanks for showing pics of the V&A... I used to go there all the time during my short stint in London. I love that place, it always felt very haute Victorian jumble sale. I remember sitting in the dining room for hours and just soaking it all in, but I think they've spiffy-fied the lighting since I last visited! How rewarding to see such awesome Chihuly and Balenciaga in one visit--definitely worth the sleep-deprivation. :) I love that color combination on the chandelier.

Gorgeous shots with your new lens, by the way...
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On December 15th, 2007 03:53 am (UTC), nomi replied:
Haute Victorian jumble sale - haha, that is the perfect description of it! I haven't even explored all its corners and exhibitions yet, it has a great feeling about it.. the whole time I was there there was a man sketching in the hallway and there were fashion students sitting on the floor excitedly talking about the couture show and writing notes. I can see how it would be enjoyable to just hang out there for awhile. I drank a pot of tea in the dining room and admired its grandness.

I love those globe lights, I posted a photo of them on my flickr and it was invited to a "sci fi" group, there's something a bit steampunk or film set about them.

Speaking of sleep-deprivation it's now past 3:30am here. I got some sleep last night, but I'm still riding this wired high.. I imagine I'll come crashing and sleep for several days soon. ;)

Congrats on finishing your Biochem!!
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On December 15th, 2007 06:30 pm (UTC), vizzygoth replied:
Congrats on finishing your Biochem!!

Thanks so much! :))

And I really really love the Arabic reindeer icon. What an interesting way to use the structure of the characters...
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On December 15th, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC), nomi replied:
It's from Ten Poems from Hafez by Jila Peacock, she drew each animal based on the ones described in the poems using Persian calligraphy. It was also animated into a short film which I happened to catch on tv a week or so ago, it was so mesmerizing and one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen that I panicked trying to find the manual for our dvd recorder so I could learn how to record it on the +1 channel (we've had that thing for, oh, over a year now!) I managed to get it just working just in time, I will convert it and put it up here if I can. :)
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On December 15th, 2007 02:44 am (UTC), sapience commented:
The chandelier is phenomenal! I've never seen anything like it. Thank you for sharing these great shots of it.

I also really like the pictures with the trees. Just lovely.
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On December 15th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC), nomi replied:
You can imagine the gasp I let out when I walked into the V&A and saw it hanging above me - a really wonderful surprise. :)

I've been loving the cartoons you've been drawing recently; you have a lot of talent not just for drawing but for evoking a mood, thank you for sharing them with us!
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On December 17th, 2007 09:11 am (UTC), sapience replied:
Yes, that must have been a marvelous feeling!

Thank you for your kind words about my drawings. I sincerely appreciate the feedback. And I am thrilled to be sharing with others the joy that the sketches have brought me. :)
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On December 15th, 2007 03:26 am (UTC), snej commented:
Those are beautiful. The last one amazes me, because any time I try to take a photo in dim light, I end up with a 1/8 sec exposure that's a blurred mess.

I am envious of fancy photo gear like that ... but on the other hand, I insist on having a camera that will fit in my pocket. If I were serious about taking Good Pictures it'd be worth getting a DSLR, but mostly I'm just running after the kids. :-P
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On December 15th, 2007 04:18 am (UTC), nomi replied:
The blurred mess is about 90% of my low light photos, it's the rare one that comes out due to a lot of bracing and slow steady breaths. Being able to get a sharp one with one shot feels near miraculous!

I had a pocket point & shoot camera too until it was stolen at the American airport security bag check (yep - didn't disover it was gone until I was on the plane!) Since then for a more portable option I've been using M's Canon, but it's hardly pocket sized.. unless you have bizarre fashion taste. I can appreciate the need for one that's more compact, but once you get your hands on something with the amount of control that an SLR gives you it's hard to settle for just p&s again.

I actively encourage everyone I know who likes to take photos to get a dSLR, knowing the joy I've gotten from it (no I don't work for Nikon :p). Finally a friend has given in and today decided to get a D40 with the same lens as my new one. :)
On December 15th, 2007 04:25 am (UTC), snej replied:
I started out in high school, using an old SLR of my dad's. No auto-focus; the most it would do automatically was adjust the exposure as I turned the f-stop dial. Then afterwards I got to develop the negatives and prints myself in the school's darkroom. I had a lot of fun and took some good pictures, but it was a huge pain compared to any modern camera!
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On December 15th, 2007 03:24 pm (UTC), hal_obrien replied:
I used to have to go to Bolivia, mine the silver for the emulsion, then swim to Saudi Arabia to drill for the oil to make the plastic for the backing! Then I had to ring up George Eastman, promise my firstborn for some HC110, and hike up to Rochester... In the snow... Uphill... both ways...

We didn't have darkrooms, we had to wait for total eclipses, and process quickly enough to avoid the burn when the sun came out from behind the moon.

Look out, I'll wave my cane at you, if you aren't careful.
On December 16th, 2007 05:31 pm (UTC), snej replied:
Re: Luxury!
Pshaw! The summer after fourth grade, my father locked me inside his camera obscura, with only a stick of charcoal, and made me draw the images projected on the paper. And if I got any motion blur, he wouldn't give me my stale baguette for the day. THAT'S where I learned my craft!
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On December 15th, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC), hal_obrien replied:
Proof, yet again...
...that I should read the whole thread.

"Finally a friend has given in and today decided to get a D40 with the same lens as my new one."

Ah. Well, that answers that question.
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On December 15th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC), hal_obrien commented:
Yeah, I have a Panasonic DMC-TZ1 (dpreview and Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools review), and a 10x zoom is something one gets used to in a hurry. The downside with the TZ1 is it's a bit noisy in low light, but very crisp in sunlight.

I've been looking at the "cheaper" Nikons, having an FE2 and older glass (I heart my 105mm/f1.8). What's the advantage of the D80 over the D40? 'Cause the D40 is clearly near the end of its lifecycle, which means it's about half the price. Will it use your 18-200 zoom?

Very nice pictures, as usual. One or two might become a desktop. :)
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On December 17th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC), uetsu commented:
Mmm, 18-200. Swoon. Still slaving away with the 18-70 lens kit on the d70. Nice, yeah, but one always wants more...

I'm thinking of stepping back into realm of a small and portable manual to accompany the largeness of the dSLR camera, as lovely and convenient as it is.

Great photos though, really agree, that one of the lights in the trees near the tube entrance is v. impressive.
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