Abstract Love

"Out of all the fish in the sea…" 🐟🐠🐟 #grammasters3

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Pictures of couples are a tricky thing. Those in them are usually in such a hurry to share with social media that little thought goes towards potential consequences. Think about that awkward Myspace phase in which teenagers kept posting closeup pictures of themselves french kissing. That was embarrassing right? Well so is the moment a Facebook user is caught ‘not in a relationship’ because they and their ex-muse have impulsively untagged all significant pictures between them. It’s the absolute tattle tale sign of the end. The end of couple spam and the beginning of unsolicited private messages requesting the latest gossip. Am I right?

"…I've found someone to share coffee with me!" #justkidding #nocoffee #redcups

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As a photographer, my distrust for couple pictures developed from a high school neighbor who requested portraits. I underestimated her chronic bad luck boyfriend syndrome. A couple check marks on the calendar and I was introduced to a new guy, another portrait request in hand. The amount of time and effort put into the first set of images was upsetting, especially because it was done at no cost.

This experience lead me to believe that couples, especially the younger ones, often post pictures of themselves for the wrong reasons. They may want to prematurely validate their relationship, make others jealous of their adventures, post private thoughts directed at each other…etc. Of course, if the couple terminates their relationship – the images risk disappearing. Alternatively, they may stay through multiple relationships as timeline of past conquests. Both scenarios risk causing turmoil among respective friend groups.

As photographer, it may sound a bit weird but I crave the privacy of keeping certain memories to myself. With my current boyfriend, I’m always tempted to upload pictures of us on Instagram. However, if something were to go wrong, I don’t want to look through my feed and see painful reminders. Instead I want to look back at memories that I’m proud of did I don’t mind having lived. That’s why when we started dating I started taking pictures of little things that put us as a couple but not in a big extravagant sort of way.

There’s a lot of people who post intimate pictures of themselves and their significant other, but imagine when they break up… would it be best to delete everything or to keep it for the record? What kind of reaction will the images cause amongst oneself, friends and family? Was it worth the instant gratification and the amount of likes that you got for the first 24 hours after posting? That’s definitely something to think about before posting.

Light show 🔦 before the storm ☁ #optoutside

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Foliage Silhouette

Got some shots of greenery contrasted against the dimming sky. Not a lot to say about it, I guess, other than I got the shots while on a walk in my cousin’s neighborhood.  The sun was about to set. I considered keeping the images in color but they didn’t flow correctly  when I tried to rearrange them to my liking. Hope you like!

The First 25 Hours of my 23rd Birthday

I woke up Sunday morning, unable to move with ease. After a quick inventory, I discovered that my left leg was covered in scratches  poignantly stinging at the slightest touch. Among the other discoveries was a swollen right knee highlighted in a shade of purple, mosquito bite on the left arm and soreness creeping across my right shoulder. It took a few hours before I noticed the poison ivy…

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“What are you doing on the 19th?” they’d asked, and while I’m the kind of person who favors a walk in the wilderness on the anniversary of my birth, there was nothing specifically planned. “Ok, good. Don’t make any plans, we are going to kidnap you.”

The night before the birthday, my guy friends showed up and off we headed. Upon my request, my little cousin came along as well. I cherished her company as we were the only girls. My parents thought we were headed for Vegas, but I knew better.

Friday – 8:00pm

Originally, the guys planned to go rock climbing. Unfortunately, there was a home invasion in which the suspect fled at 100 mph on the wrong side of the freeway. A helicopter shot down the vehicle and as a result we almost got stuck in an overnight traffic jam.

9:45pm

We dislocated our vehicle’s bumper by venturing into a desolate mountain path in an attempt to reach our destination. A group of drunk men looked up in surprise as we successfully reemerged from the rocky experience.

Saturday – 12:32am

After playing catch with a tennis ball in the living room, it was decided that I needed a few lessons in the art of wrestling. You know, in case I decide to visit Skid Row or something.

3:51am

My little cousin, myself and one of our friends wanted to go for a walk in an orange grove. Our other friend who’d accompanied us did not want to take chances among the trees. Instead, we explored the neighborhood and even climbed up a tree in someone’s front yard.

4:43am

The younger girl and I ran ahead of the boys so they wouldn’t see us venturing into what we thought was an orchard. We returned when they flashed us with a spot light. Next, my cousin and I jumped a fence into a playground. The boys joined us after they noticed the fitness contraptions we’d discovered along the edge of a field.

5:25am

We climbed on top of the monkey bars and drifted off to sleep while searching the sky for shooting stars. Thankfully nobody fell from the bars, the fall would have been devastatingly high.This probably tops the time I fell asleep on a table in the middle of a cow field while photographing stars.

Saturday – 11:59am

After Sabbath School, my cousin and I climbed over a wall into the church’s preschool. We talked about ‘acting mature’ but then proceeded to try out the freestanding teeter totter and raced tricycles down a hill. We somehow managed to sneak out without tearing our dresses.

3:10pm

Group nap during another friend’s goodbye party. We woke up to people taking pictures of us sleeping.

5:00pm

I decided to take a nap on the side of the road while the guys were trying to figure out the directions to a climbing spot in the mountains. My cousin knelt besides me and the next thing we know, a police van full of inmates stopped to ask if we were ok.

6:37pm

We climbed down to the ‘Creek of Misery’ and stopped questioning the name after getting tangled in blackberry vines and attacked by swarms of gnats. The scenery was beautiful though.

We couldn’t find the rock climbing spot so some went bouldering while others climbed trees or learned to whistle on acorn shells.

6:37pm

The driver stopped at place that usually has hammocks. This time, there were none up. Instead, we swung from rope swings and emptied our pockets before turning cartwheels on the grass. When the sky faded into darkness, they turned on the spotlight. Some sat on bleachers while others took turns wrestling.  Then they showed my cousin and I how to jump into a roll. We took Slow-Mo videos of the guys doing tricks. When it was our turn, my cousin was able to jump over someone laying on the grass. I couldn’t do it for the fear of falling while diving for the roll after the jump.

8:30pm

The group drove up to a friend’s house but instead of going in, we hung  out on couches the neighbor was trying to give away. The guys became upset when my little cousin and I placed a couch in the middle of the road as one of them had jokingly suggested. Hey, hey, it was a photo concept I’d like to recreate in the future!

9:05pm

I climbed on the back of a Vespa for a ride around the neighborhood. I was enchanted by the lack of hair blowing in my face as it does when windows are rolled in a car. At some point we tried to race a car up a bridge and almost won.

9:42pm

Upon our return, I was lead into the house. The inside was decorated with pink and green ribbons hanging over the biggest olive and pineapple pizza I’ve ever seen in my life. The boys wished me happy birthday. We laughed at each other as some used casserole dishes, pot lids or paper towels to substitute for the lack of plates.

10:30pm

I walked into the kitchen and my friends started singing happy birthday. They handed me a card and let me cut the first slice of oreo cake. The rest of it had to be meticulously calculated to allow everyone an even slice.

Sunday – 12:15 am

My friend’s mom walked into her son’s room to find us all passed out on the floor. “You guys can spend the night,” she invited, but we got up reluctantly because three of us had already missed curfew.

Exhausted, I fell asleep in the trunk of someone’s car because they’d laid out a blanket.

Sunday – 1:05 am

One by one, everyone got their back-packs from the back as they were dropped off at their homes. My little cousin didn’t get in trouble because her parents weren’t home. One of the guys though, got a call from his dad in China in regards to his whereabouts. I got a text from my mom but didn’t see it because I was stumbling trough the gate into my house.

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The next morning, I texted my little cousin:

“I feel like we kidnapped you this weekend, getting you home all late and stuff.”

“It was fun though.” she said.

“I’m so glad you were there! Otherwise it would have been JQ and the five guys O.o”

“I noticed. Those guys must really like you.”

Despite all the minor injuries which could have been prevented, I love my guy friends to death. They are certainly the best and their company was more valuable than a trip to Vegas.  I’m not sure who else would have been down to keep me entertained for more than 25 hours!

Wind Storm

We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. – Dolly Parton

This is one of the pictures taken during that top secret scouting trip a couple months ago. I’ve since been teased endlessly for wearing a wedding dress… for questionable purposes.

Wind (1024x683)It’s not like I’m in such desperate need of a marriage ceremony that I must carry proper attire should the opportunity present it’s self. No, it’s just that the dress makes for epic pictures. It’s a great reason, right? This is probably the third dress. The way fabric flows seemingly without gravity is delightful. I’ve always wanted to replicate the look from my Pinterest board but wasn’t sure how until now.

How we got the shot:

My friends and I left home in the wee hours before the sun kissed the earth. Eventually, we reached an area known as ‘Olancha’. At the time, the weather was so bipolar that we’d experienced snow, rain, sun and scorching heat all in one morning.

At Olancha, the wind blew our vehicle back and forth across the road. We were almost stupid for getting out of the car. Our bodies were slapped around like reeds and the reflector was useless, least someone go parasailing with it. Tripods for a self portraits were also out of the question, even with sandbags, the whole contraption would have been knocked over. For a couple minutes, I ran up and down the road like a nut house escapee until we were satisfied with the shots. Then it was time to go; we weren’t really interested in joining the approaching tumble weed convention.

In case you haven’t seen the other pictures from that day, the dress’ train isn’t actually as long as conveyed through the image. In the original (not shown) the dress actually blew up past my ankles, exposing black leggings. I extended the fabric in Photoshop by adding segments of the dress from other pictures taken with the same lighting conditions.

Then ta ta! I’m actually excited about this one, it’s a Pinterest success!

Jupiter and Venus Hiding Behind a Tree

My friends had gone out for sushi but I’d chosen to pace back and forth on my parents driveway. Amanda, one of my roommates from college, was explaining her dilemma in regards to art school. I could only relate and acknowledge her struggle in frustration.  Sometime later, my mom told me to look up at the sky. I was feeling ‘eh’ but she insisted and even helped find my tripod. The result was as good as it could get from within city limits.
IMG_0973a (1024x683)
“There is too much light” I complained. My mom agreed to drive out but in the end, we decided that there was no place near that would be shielded from the city brights. Then she started laughing “It wouldn’t work anyways.” I shrugged in confusion.
“The moon.” She pointed out.
After learning my lesson on that a couple years ago – I’ve no idea how It could have been forgotten. Bottom line – the moon is not a friend when it comes to taking star pictures 😀

La La La Light Pollution

Given my dislike for large pockets of civilization, the amount of times I’ve visited the city of Angels within the last six months is surprising. Ok, ok – admittedly that’s not entirely true. Being born within the city limits, does give Los Angeles a special place in my heart.HollyWood Sign (1024x141)During the summer Solstice, I climbed up to Griffith Observatory. The sun was diving beyond the hills. The amount of selfies taken against the railing was rapidly diminishing. Those still there reset their cameras with a slight tint of panic. There was no longer enough light to capture the Hollywood sign. For me, that was fine. City Of Angels (1024x138)

I was there to see the lights that spreed across like stars on a desert sky.

LA Glitter (265x1024) LA Lights (249x1024)

The city of LA does not disappoint.

And About Photography

Taking landscape shots at night differs from taking portraits. With portraits, generally the photographer sets up flash for the desired effect. These brighten the subject, objects in the background and so on.

With landscape photography, the photographer is limited on what they can light up. Sure, if it’s astrophotography; pictures of the stars, sometimes the photographer can light tents, trees, cacti, etc. with flashlights.

Cityscapes, on the other hand, are often too bright for anything else to be illuminated. Human silhouettes look nice in the foreground but an opposite approch might clash if done incorrectly.

Most of the light entering the lens comes  from the cityscape it’self. Even from taking pictures in seemingly barren places, cities do have a tendency to glow way beyond what a human eye can spot.

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I was content with the images from Griffith Observatory until  they were displayed on a larger screen. With the artificial light came the absence of stars. Ironic since the image was taken at a place where astronomers historicly gathered to look at celestial bodies.

Sadly light pollution is a real thing. According to Wikipedia, it is described as ‘degradation of photic habitat by artificial light’. It’s a byproduct of urban civilization. For example, if spending the night in a populated  area, a midnight stroll on a cloudy night might result in the frightful discovery of orange clouds as the city reflects on to them.

Since I grew up in the countryside, I was surprised to find that most Americans have only seen a couple hundred stars throughout their lives, if at all. According to an amusing tale, during 90’s blackout in Los Angeles, people called the police in regards to strange clouds in the sky. Apparently they had never seen the Milky Way before. Guess the unknown is always a bit scary.

At first, I didn’t think that there were any other negative effects to light pollution other than annoyance. After some research, I found that it affects certain animals which rely on natural light as an indicator. These range from endangered sea turtles looking for breeding grounds to the common moth which is attracted to dangerously hot light bulbs :p Even plants get confused about photosynthesis.

One can combat light pollution by enclosing indoor lights with curtains, using motion sensors for outdoor lights, pointing lights down and lowering their wattage. If entire cities did this, it would make a big difference.

Anyways, I decided to create a composite image to visualize the concept of light pollution.

Light PollutionUgh, this is one of those times where light is a foe.

Don’t Get Carried Away

If you want to do a photoshoot from an aerial perspective do you:

A. Use a drone

B. Take images from a helicopter

C. Have entire crew jump from a plane and capture the shot mid air

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For the traveler, airports are the worst but for a photographer, they are an ideal playground. Whether it’s sticking a DSLR out the window or sneaking onto the runway, there is so much potential in everything that deals with flight.

IMG_0308People don’t realize how much I enjoy doing photoshoots in which planes are involved. My first official fashion shoot took place at an airport and I’ve done three others since. The thought of working on a fifth project is just as exhilarating as the previous ones have been.

Runaway Gypsy Child

This past weekend, I found myself on an air strip in the mountains, bouncing ideas with friends.

  • Work with a male model, since the previous four shoots have been with females.
  • Have the plane in a grassy field with a group of friends picnicking in the foreground.
  • A father with a child who dreams of becoming a pilot.

The whole grassy field thing would be amazing, but it seems like something that might be difficult to pull off, at least in California. I have yet to get past photographing aircraft in their parking spots.

By the time we finally made it into the office, the airport was already closed.  Thankfully, we did get the chance to talk with a pilot from a helicopter tour company. One of my friends asked if it were possible to go up for the specific purpose of taking pictures. To our surprise,  the pilot said he could remove the door so we could  get better quality images. In addition, he said that if we wanted to photograph a specific location, he could fly us over at the same rate as the tours. AWESOME!  Minds went traveling wild.

“We could totally put a model in a long dress on a peek and have him fly over.”

“Hey, that’s what I was thinking.”

Thus for the rest of the day we talked and talked and talked about how cool it would be to do such a thing. IMG_9922On the way home, I was like “Wait, we don’t need a helicopter; we could just use a drone.”

There were a couple disheartened sighs until someone brought up the possibility of the drone falling on the model and thus injuring and damaging all. Though such an incident would be anything but funny, there were certainly  laughs to go around.

“Ok, so back to the helicopter?”

Judging from that picture I took while flying a Cessna, there are definitely some other concerns besides cameras and things falling on people. Like what if the model looks like an ant and when the pilot agrees to descend, the she falls due to wind force?

When I told my parents later that day, my Dad suggested that I don’t push for the idea unless it’s of monetary value. After all, as a whole, this project would be more expensive than the rock climbing idea from last week. While I still think the experience is worth it, my Dad does have a point.

Well, it’s ok to reach for the stars. Only time will tell what opportunities might come up. As I found out yesterday, this group proved it’s possible to do a photoshoot in mid air 😀

Glitter and Rope

I’ve started following Instagram accounts with outdoor photographers. The way they capture foggy mountain cross backs makes them seem to be living a dream. Nostalgia for the alps and especially the little French mountain with the Swiss flag is especially strong at this moment.

IMG_0183a (1024x768)Unlike the previous weeks, this time there were no strolls on LA rooftops, no scouting for hippie garbage cans in Riverside and finally no fancy outfits. Instead, I hung from beams at REI, off roaded at midnight, climbed ladders and clinging to dear life from the tops of boulders. ­­­­ Inspiration. IMG_9140 (1024x683)There was also a significant amount of time spent arguing about the best way to conceal a harness during a rock climbing editorial. Really? It may look more natural if the harness is showing. We shall see. That will be a project for another time when there is enough equipment available… maybe a year from now.

Glitter (396x1024)In the mean time, I’ve been practicing non- portrait shots. It’s all too easy to get used to capturing the beauty of the human body and forgetting to take other techniques into consideration.

This particular set on the left was a bokeh experiment. All four images were taken at the same distance with a 50mm lens.

It’s kind of interesting to see how the change in focus altered the over all color and feel of the image. It would have been cool to add the silhouettes to this sort of environment.

In the future, I’d like to work on merging the subject within the backdrop… making them belong as part of the scenery. Not entirely sure how it will work out as I’d also like to include elements of editorial, fashion and conceptual photography.

Due to our inability to find the correct colors and sizes, Karen and I have also discussed the possibility of designing our own outfits for future projects.

So many ideas and not a lot of time to get it all together. Hopfully, I can present a specific plan in time for summer. Our group has been planning a lot of adventures for then.  Sunset 2 (1024x158)

In Control

Public undress isn’t something I usually encourage. It’s so uncomfortable to see someone in that predicament. Strangely enough, I may or may not have ended up in my underwear, smack in the middle of a brightly lit sidewalk. Thankfully, the incident didn’t result in nightmares. There have flashbacks though, often triggered by the raging fury of European cruisers. I hate panic trickling up my spine but it does bring back the memories. I love the memories.

It was somewhat late in the evening but the sun had only dipped behind the horizon within the hour. Already, city lights gleamed in a rainbow of color.  The lake was the most rewarding.  The moon shimmered on its surface and the fountain lights turned on to showcase the Jet d’Eau in all it’s glory.  This was why we’d done it. This was why we were stood above the city without ropes or any other logical safety measure. We gazed out only in the safety of the metal that kept us from falling. We wanted to be adventurous. We wanted to be epic like the crane climbing rooftop hanging, Mustang Wanted.IMG_0192 (1280x837)

The moments of bliss were interrupted by the loud cries of police sirens. Perhaps our all black ‘voleur’ attire wasn’t enough. Perhaps we’d been caught. Either way, it was time to get down. Our decent was accompanied by the passing of Swiss patrols and injury to our knees as we struggled to get down. Every second, we held our breath in suspense. Every moment, we were in danger of getting caught.

In the end, one by one, we managed to crawl under the fence. We managed to get away. A few minutes later, the three of us stood on a seemingly deserted street. The timing was off. Cars and pedestrians suddenly burst through, finding us in various stages of undress. This was the 3rd outfit change in one day.  We let down our hair and left in dresses. No one would have recognized us then. Girls in dressed couldn’t have been up in the crane just a few moments before.

Looking back on the experience, it’s not the actual crane climbing that was most treasured within the adventure.  We’d talked about it before; the reason why we’d taken a break from school and moved to Europe. Throughout our academic careers, it was easy to follow the advice of our parents. In a way, it was as if we were trying to live their dreams and not our own. Climbing the crane was symbolic because it was something we’d chosen to do for ourselves.

Silly at it sounds; it was the point of realization that I could actually do whatever I truly desired. Not so much about going outa control crazy but rather that I was in control of my destiny. By the same token, it was also understood that my life will be determined by the choices I make whether good or bad.

 On ending thought, it would have sucked to get deported!

After the Rain

Once, when I was young enough to hold my mom’s hand, we stopped to talk to a man on the street. They reminisced on old times and laughed about childhood shenanigans. Sometime into the conversation, my mom checked her wrist for the time. Her watch wasn’t there.

“Sorry to ask, but do you have the time?”

As it turns out, it was midnight. At first my mom seemed appalled but then she commented on how safe it was to be walking around in the middle of the night. The man agreed with her that the town was safe and in the times that we visited before my 17th birthday, it seemed steadily the same.

My cousins and I would run off during the day. I’m surprised our parents hardly noticed. They always assumed we’d be at someone’s house when in fact we were not. Sure, there was a time we got surrounded by vagabonds and another in which we got chased by a man at the carnival, but in general, we felt safe.

During a wedding in 2010, my cousins and I asked our parents if we could go downtown instead. At first they agreed but when one said no, the rest were quick to change their minds. “It’s too dark therefore its dangerous,” they’d concluded. We tried to leave anyways but stayed put when security appeared. Instead, the group huddled and spoke about the rumors in hushed tones. Some were skeptical. Adults can sometimes be known to exaggerate.

A couple days later, my cousins and I walked across town around 2am. The streets were not as dark and isolated as one can imagine. There were two big parties in town that night and others were constantly walking to and from the festivities. We even played ding-dong-ditch at one point. It was the last time we enjoyed that careless freedom. The next time we walked home late at night, we may or may not have witnessed a kidnapping.

In the years that followed, I went from going downtown by myself to being accompanied everywhere, even to friend’s houses down the street. If the children dared play outside, they were often seen running home in fright. There was a shooting at an elementary school, a man was killed inside his home a couple blocks down and others went missing. Even in the light of day, the streets were empty. The bliss was gone and everyone was left afraid.

Mexican StreetsIt’s been a couple years since I saw the streets clear in the presence of danger.  Now everyone just walks around minding their own business. Is it that the violence has gone down or has the community been desensitized? It’s the difference between the eye of the storm and the sky clearing after the rain.

Mexico (1)Mexico (2)Mexico (3)Once, I chased a guy down this alley in the middle of the night. It’s a story for another time though. For now, I’m just happy to feel safe in walking down the street.

Straying from the Truth

They say that one should not lie because more lies will be created to cover. I have never understood this as well as last Saturday. Eventually, I will have to explain to my parents. Las Vegas + wedding dress? What a scandal.

It started when Erwin suggested that we drive to Death Valley to check the venue for an upcoming camping trip. He told four others. Anastasia thought it was cute but impossible. Hannah is underage. Gretchen was appalled. Pallas understood, she agreed to go and I just wanted to get away.

Glendale, Ca -4:28am

Parents thought I was at school. Classmates assumed I was going home. Took advantage of the confusion and left before the sun rose. Later, Pallas and I saw rays of cream through charcoal atmosphere.

Inyo, Ca – 10:04am

Wind, Maybe SnowThe sky turned so blue that it made the scenery pop out of a postcard. Pictures were mandatory; I threw on the white dress. The wind wrestled with the fabric, pushed me up on my toes and hassled the others.

Stovepipe Wells, Ca – 11:12am

“Inquiring Minds would like to know if you are going hiking.” Erwin’s Mom texted. She thought he was in LA visiting Lindsay.

“I won’t be able to make it.”

There was a pause, then “I greeted Lindsay, she is at church today…?”

Salt Creek, Ca – 12:09pm

Salt Creek“Jacquie isn’t  here either,” Gretchen texted, “It’s so pretty here, you are missing out…”

Badwaters Rd – 3:40pm

The car drifted off the road. “Why are you stopping?”

I turned around and saw the lights. Pallas looked out and saw the uniform.

“Do you have any weapons?”

“Yes,” but we didn’t list them all.

CA 190, Near Zabriskie Point – 5:30pm

“Did it bother you to invite two girls younger than yourself and tell them to not to tell?”

Erwin laughed, “Sounds so wrong when you put it that way.”  It would have looked worse if he’d told the ranger about the machetes in the trunk.

Las Vegas, Nv – 8:00pm

Las Vegas at Night

“You’ll fit right in,” they said, so I kept the dress. We strolled down the strip but even the lights couldn’t compare to infinite sparkle splattered above the desert.

Somewhere – 11:45pm

“We heard you talking with a guy.”  I scrolled down to see when my mom had called.

“Oh, just went out for a walk.”

La Sierra – 3:01am

Finally made it home after 813 miles in less than 24 hours. Perhaps it was immature for us to go scouting unbeknownst to the other campers. I didn’t necessary lie about what was going on – but I said things that lead people from the truth. Even worse, as a group – we started creating an elaborate cover story in case we got caught. Seriously? It’s easier to be honest.

The campout is in a week. We shall see what happens between now and then. Normally my parents would understand, but me wearing a wedding dress in Vegas?

Ending note: My mom dreamt that I went to Death Valley without her, yikes!

A Taste of Europa

They looked like toy soldiers from afar but up close it was no joke. Most people ignored them, but I was terrified. They stood silently at their posts but threatened with their eyes and the AR-15s they carried. Finally the glass slid, allowing me to walk through.  I sighed in relief and scanned the crowed for a familiar face. She walked right by and didn’t seem to recognize when I called her name. Guess it’s been a while.

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Christmas lights and poinsettias still hung across the streets. There was even a Santa sitting at a coffee shop, probably resting from last year’s festivities. Of course, there weren’t teddy bears suspended from windows but never the less it brought back memories of Alsace, France. Even the Christmas markets appeared to have been similar.Zacatecas (1)We walked down the cobblestone chitter chattering away. At every corner, Ari’s Dad kept asking if I was sure I’d been there before.

“Si, pero fue hace mucho tiempo cuando estaba chiquita.”

For some reason he didn’t seem to believe. Maybe he was right, because in my recollections, the city of Zacatecas had indeed looked  different. I remember it as being  smaller, more crowded with lots of little shops. We always used to go shopping with Ari’s family. In one particular  incident, we dragged our parents into a candy store only to be kicked out. The shop owner could not tolerate our toddler selves chasing each other with handfuls of candy from the bins he was selling.

“Te acuerdas de eso?”

But they shake their heads and neither of them seem remember. Ari’s Dad guides us into a theater where they are playing a documentary of Pancho Villa. Every once in a while, Ari leans over to whisper. She wants to make sure I understand everything about the history of her country. The quality of the film is actually very bad in comparison to the elaborate architecture of the building and the show that proceeds it.

We walked out to the Cathedral after. It’s Baroque style reminded me of the many churches my friends and I had visited throughout our European adventures. Unfortunately, we were too late and the doors were closed for the night. A burro accompanied by a group of musicians walked up. I wanted to plug my ears and couldn’t help but feel sorry for the little guy. Ari said that they used the burro to carry beer for anyone who might want to come out and dance to the music.
Zacatecas (6)Finally, Ari’s Dad lead us into a small Café. We sat under the arches across from flower hanging balconies. The waitress just smiled and promptly brought Abuelita’s hot coco along with a slice of carrot cake.

“This is better than Starbucks! Do you know what Starbucks is?”

Of course they knew. And really, Starbucks couldn’t beat the homely environment in that Hacienda styled courtyard.

And thus began my adventures in Mexico.

 

Californian Wilderness

“Hey Mom, I’m in LA!” There was a pause on the line. It was almost midnight.

“In LA? I thought you were going hiking with your friends.”

*Flashback to Several Hours Earlier *

The goal was to go cliff diving. We’d been looking for a spot and Tar Creek Falls  seemed to be the best. Honestly, it is my fault because I was the one that suggested it. Apparently there had also been a misunderstanding regarding who had actually ever been there, and in the end, it turns out none of us had.

I woke up somewhere around four. The rides from Magic Mountain loomed in the distance.

“Where are we going?”

“Ventura. It’s a while past here.”

 “What!? Dude, I woke up thinking we were going to Central Cal or something, didn’t think it was this far.”

*Yawning* Our group was rather varied. Three were close to 30. Another three between the ages of 16 and 23. Then of course, 7 year old Dakota.  We drove around a small town trying to find out where the falls could possibly be. Ah, a road leading away from civilization. Cool!

“How long until we get to the trail?”

“About an hour, maybe forty five minutes.”

What!? The dirt path just kept going and going further into the hillside. By the time we’d turned around and found the parking spot, the 16-23 group was ridding on the roof and tailgate of the van.Thankfully, the trail entrance was conveniently located across from  parking.

The Californian wilderness was so beautiful, especially with the rays of light distorting the  mountains blues. Unfortunately, all too soon the light was gone and we were unprepared for any further exploration. We trekked back in complete darkness with the exception of the stars twinkling above. Every turn seemed like the last but the trail continued on and our group separated in two. All of the sudden, those who were ahead vanished into the darkness.

“Where did they go?”

“I don’t know. Wait – get back. Get back now!”

Unsure of what was going on, I attempted to scramble out of the path. Apparently it wasn’t fast enough and one of the guys threw me into a bush. Everyone dropped down to crouching position. Loud music and yelling burst through our ear drums. What was later described as a ‘high rise redneck truck’ rolled before us as we laid in the shadows. A rather large group of potentially drunk men poured out. They walked across the path, towards the van and shined their lights through the windows.

We waited, they walked around some more before finally piling back into their vehicle. With the red lights still glowing on the dirt, we ran across the path. The truck roared in attempt to turn around. We huddled behind the van as the men poured out again, this time to free their truck.

Someone accidentally turned on the lights. Our position was reviled. Ooops! We piled up and with in a couple seconds, speed down the road. We were going so fast it’s a miracle the van didn’t topple over the edge of a cliff. Every couple seconds I felt the urge to look out the back window, half expecting bright headlights to surprise us with misfortune. We reached the nearest town in record time but it’s eerie atmosphere kept us on the road. Bright lights and decorations but not a car in sight except our own. We weren’t in the mood for taking chances with a ghost town. I called my parents once we made it to LA.

Funny, isn’t it? How one little misadventure could make you paranoid of all sorts of things for the rest of the night. At one point some one freaked out when they saw a woman walking down an alley with a child. Come on, if she can do that and feel safe, we shouldn’t be freaking out.

Anyways… so yeah… I don’t even know what to make of this one. We never even found the water to go cliff diving!

Estrellas y Extraterrestres

School is out of my schedule for an entire seven days.  What’s on the calender instead?

ROAD TRIP! 

Nothing too extravagant like cross country, but driving up the state of California can be quite an adventure. Point of Departure:  Julian, CA – Final Destination:  St. Helena California.

Over the past weekend, my friends and I have been camping out somewhere south of Julian. While most are just hanging out and enjoying the break, several have suddenly become obsessed with Mexico.

“If we walk to the fence and take pictures, then our album can be tagged as ‘Mexico’ !”

Yes, we actually requested to be driven to the border but unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity to do so. It was decided, however, that the images could still be tagged as Mexico. Why? Because we captured images of the Mexican sky! Yes- let’s just go with that version of the story.

 Staring up at the night sky is something sure to take one’s breath away. Of course, this is only true with the exclusion of light pollution. For us, looking up after leaving our daily urban lifestyles was simply amazing. With all the twinkling lights, it was almost as if a whole city was up there.

 Soon after arrival, a small group headed out to capture the night sky. The winds were strong and we held on to our tripods for the lives of our cameras. All of the sudden  light came out of the darkness.

“Do you need help?”

We turned around. A lone man stood at the edge of the road. We assured him everything was alright. He vanished into the wilderness. We carried on and didn’t realize how late it’d become. Didn’t get back to camp till 2am!

The next day, more people came out, on two different occasions, actually. The first was to photograph a car. The owner really wanted the shape of it to stand out. In the end, we got somewhat of an outline by putting a flashlight behind it. Otherwise, the ambiance was pretty dark!Sport Car and the Stars

Later on, a bigger group came out. Jeff directed most of the shots. We tried all sorts of things and it was a lot of fun.Follow the Stars

Probably the most frightening thing was the increasing fear of running into strangers. It was actually really bad. As it got later and later, random fires started popping up in places were there were no campsites. Sometimes they just looked like cars but were stationary among the desert brush. People from our group had a tendency of wandering off and this added to the paranoia. Once we caught someone in the bushes and later another crossing the road. A spotlight was shown on them and everyone would start freaking out including the individual in question. It wasn’t always easy to see who it was but after positively identifying them, we were all good.Campfire

The other thing that we had to deal with was wind. Strong, random gusts of wind. Sometime during our outdoor adventure – one of the tripods actually fell over. Thankfully nothing happened to the camera but it was definitely a frightful warning. From then on, we piled weights on them or made sure someone was physically holding on at all times. The wind did win a lot of battles even afterwords. It would rattle the tripod heads in such a way that some of the images came out blurry as a result. Ugh! I might need to get a new one – but I walked 6 miles last week to buy the one I do have >.< not looking foreword to repeating the process.

But anyways… yeah. In the course of time that I’ve been into photography, gotta admit that astrophotography is something that never ceases to amaze. The stars are magical, they are like little windows into a galaxy we haven’t even begun to understand.

Aliens, Lets be Friends!

For being new, there is a surprisingly large amount of familiar faces. A cousin, several church friends and definitively a ton of students who also transferred from the same college in Napa. Regardless, there is still a feeling of emptiness and loneliness in a new environment. Seeing acquaintances isn’t the same as creating epic memories with mes copins. Orientation didn’t do a very good job of introducing new friendships… oh well. Sometimes one has to find other was of making connections.

Last night, I walked out under the full moon to see what images could be captured. Three young men came by and one of them asked if I needed a model. Of course, he must have been kidding – but if someone is going to offer, why not take it? Handed him a flashlight and told him to go draw something. The other two guys started backing away.

“Wait for me!” he pleaded, but the others claimed be on their way to study O-Chem. Who knows, the girls dorm doesn’t quite provide the adequate C2H6O environment, but they promptly headed there anyways. (Wait, was that ethanol? Ok, so maybe… never mind. You can tell I’m no Bio major).

The guy who stayed drew away. He was intrigued by the unedited effect in the images. Cool. We formally introduced ourselves before also had to get caught up on O-Chem.

Hoping to go on a night hike, I followed the dirt path outside the dorm. Unfortunately, after a couple of steps later, I realized that it just lead to more housing. Funny thing, the same thing happened in France when Grace and I accidentally landed in someone’s yard. Guess one can’t trust trails leading away from girls’ dorms. They never quite seem to quite get away from civilization. Gonna have to search for the trails in the morning light, lol!

Missed the Moon (800x103)

Though the view wasn’t quite as anticipated, I set up the tripod and took a panoramic with the 50mm. Unlike Napa –  you can kinda see behind the trees. The view is still one to miss though.
Grapes amongst the evergreen groves.
Endless rows of purple wine.

Goodbye – One Last Time

We were up by 2:45am. Yeah, I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only way we’d be out by 3. Of course, the night sky was a cause for constantly running into things. Oh the stars, so many stars, oh so overwhelmingly marvelous!

We tried to set up the tripod at the base of the mountain but were soon chased away by a pack of unchained dogs. Thankfully a group of men racing down on scooters unknowingly diverted them away from us.

Out of all the times being paranoid, this was probably the worst. There was obviously some creep lurking in the darkness. Maybe human, perhaps a beast… Oh, all the things a wild imagination can come up with! At one point Sarah and I had to crawl under the guard rail to hid from an upcoming car. Ironically, we didn’t trust any weirdos riding up at at four in the morning!

The sky lightened and the glitter faded away as we reached the top. It was such a surreal view with the lights still glowing in the cities below. I stared at it for a good long time because I assumed it would be the last.Snow, Sunrise Over the Alps 628 (1024x683)Deep breath, deep sigh. It was time to move on. We walked for at least another half an hour. It could have been 45. It probably was 45.  Finally, after crossing from one side to the other  it was certain that the sun would rise before our eyes. I set up the tripod and promptly fell asleep by the side of the road. Don’t worry, no one slept through the grad event; we’d given ourselves enough time for a handy dandy nap. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Then all of the sudden, magic filled the air. Sarah told me to get up. It was so exciting! We stood on our tippi toes as the sun peeked over the horizon and spread it’s warmth across the Swiss,French, Italian alps. Words  and pictures cannot express the beauty we witnessed that day. Not even in composite.

Sunrise Over the Swiss Alps (1024x109)

We danced in the morning light, just as we’d danced under the moon.

Sunrise Over (1024x389)But all too soon, the time was up and we had to go back. The hills jingled with the sound of bells. The cows grazed peacefully in a way that no California cow could ever dream of. They were friendly and curious too. Snow, Sunrise Over the Alps 706 (1024x683)One day, I’m going to own a little herd of cows… each one will have a cowbell with a different note down the musical scale. And as they graze, they will make songs… and be moosical cows!

Anyways, we probably ran the rest of the way down. I had to dress up for a program at the chapel. It was crazy that we’d done everything with enough time to participate in it.

So many things happened in a short couple of hours that it seemed like forever since we’d stood on the edge of a mountain to look over the alps. Less than a couple sun ups  and four countries later, I stood in the MontBlanc store in Las Vegas, Nevada. All of the sudden I got the connection between the pens and the mountain. Excitedly, I ran over to the clerk and showed her a picture in my camera.

“Is it the same?” I asked.

She looked at the logo in comparison.

“Yes, it looked like it. Where did you take that?” the woman asked.

“On the mountain behind my school.”

She looked me up and down. “Really?”

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

Yeah. That’s where I’d spent the last year of my life. Feels just kinda creeped up. There are very few places in the world when you can have windows as tall as the sky and literally live with the Alps past your backyard.

From Afar

There is something enticing about the flickering multicolored lights produced by concentrations of civilization. They are like little galaxies within the planet we call earth. They represent everything that comes with human kind. Life. Happiness. Tragedy.

Many prefer to walk within the comfort of concrete sidewalks and street lamps. They see carefree smiles of strangers and feel warmth in their passing. It’s a comforting feeling to be among one’s own.

But I, sometimes I feel different.

Yes, the dazzling array is magnificent in it’s own way, but to me… only from afar. Even then, it makes me a little sad. All those twinkling little lights represent people. Humans from all walks of life. The rich, the workers, the homeless… and that’s just to mention a few. All these, though different in social standing, come together as one when it comes to other matters.

Sometimes people are so focused on their thoughts, problems and little smart screens that life passes around them and they forget to live it and enjoy it. Even worse, they only see the world through a single lens. They experience life from inside the box and are ever so [lazy, frightened, busy, unadventurous – you fill in the blank!] to venture out.

Don’t be that person. Don’t be one of them. When the moon is full and the city is too busy dancing with egotistical personas and selfies on Instagram, come and experience an adventure.  Get away from civilization.

IMG_1751 (853x1280)Do you dare carry on past the gates and venture through the trees? Do it. Leave your worries and mundane affairs behind. Don’t be afraid; your worst nightmare only exists within the depths of your imagination.

Aren’t the stars beautiful? If it’s dark enough, they’ll sweep across the sky like sand on a Tahitian paradise. They twinkle and sparkle in a scientific formula epically more fantastical than your average light bulb.

Do you hear the bells of domestic cattle? Maybe a pond full of amphibians, crickets in the field or that creepy children’s laughter produced by a clan of coyotes?  Let nature’s tune lull you to dream land as you cuddle with friends (hopefully human ones, lol) under Orion’s Belt and the Milky Way.

 

* City of Geneva as seen from one of our sleepovers on the base of the Saleve. (Although this is pretty much the same view from our dorm rooms.)


That One Time Switzerland Invaded France

One hour of determined hiking can get one to the top. The view is absolutely amazing. Makes you realize how small you are and how big the world is in comparison. It’s fun going with friends, but sometimes going alone is the best option. You can loose yourself from pretty much anything. All the troubles and stress … pretty much just let everything drain out.

That’s why I really love the Salève.

But do you see that tiny red dot near the top? What is that?

Climbing in a Dress (2) (1024x683)

Depending on who you ask, you might get a different story. Department flag, Swiss flag, street art… so many things it may or may not be.

Yesterday, we had some visitors from California, specifically from the same city where my parents live. They drove in an Italian car and brought us beans from the US! Oh, it was so, so exciting! This is probably the only time I’ll admit to missing home. Anyways, one of the men stated that his father was a student at our school… and may or may not be responsible for that red dot on top of the mountain.

According to the story told, in the 1960’s there was a group of people who were up to nothing but mischief. Most of them were American students but of of them was a professor at the school. One night, they hiked up the mountain and repelled themselves down on the face of the Salève. Armed with flash lights and cans of red paint, they set to work. Their plan? To paint the Swiss flag on the French mountain!

The next morning, as you can imagine, France was freaking out! The Swiss were invading, possibly planning to take over the mountain! The boarders were closed and both countries glared at each other, preparing for the worst. Meanwhile, an investigator set out to find the culprits of the offending vandalism. The professor’s French girlfriend alerted the authorities that American students were responsible.

When the investigator appeared at the school, the dean of boys could not believe that  he wanted to question them. Never the less, everyone was lined up. Since the Americans had made a pact: to tell the truth if they were caught but not to incriminate each other, the investigator caught all of them except the professor. They never even found out that he was involved.

The tension between France and Switzerland ceased as they charted the Americans up the mountain to clean up after their devious adventure. Strangely enough, no mater how hard they tried, the paint was permanently stained on the mountain. The boys were all expelled from France and sent back to the US. Sometime later, someone repainted the mountain with the regional Savoy flag. Only if you hike up to it can you see the original Swiss flag underneath.

“But wasn’t it worth it?” I asked our visitor. “Oh yes!” he said, and we all laughed in agreement.

Climbing in a Dress (3) (1024x683)Apologies that this is the only close up of the flag. Here I am after climbing the mountain in the rain with my dress and high heeled rain boots. Not smart, I tell you. Not smart. Within the image, you can see three layers of flag. The Swiss one in the deep red, the regional French flag and one 4th of that which was repainted the fall of 2013.

Climbing in a Dress (4) (1024x575)Here is the view as seen from the flag. Directly underneath is France. The village on the lower left of the screen is Collonges-sous-Saleve. Can you spot the freeway splitting  it in two? The Swiss boarder is is not too far from that.

Oh, that reminds me! As we were descending from this hiking trip, a series of bikers rode by. The first one greeted us in an American accent. We got so happy that we started singing out the National Anthem to cheer him on. Unfortunately, the annoyed face and flag on the second biker let us know that at least that one was  definitely Swiss! Oh, how embarrassing! Americans do have a reputation out here, for being loud and obnoxious >.<

* All images (except of mountain from afar) were taken by Grace who also made this video of our hike:

*This blog post was originally written in March.

Night on the Lac Léman

Went camping along the Lake Leman. By camping, I mean staying in cabins not too far from the water’s edge. On our first night there, Grace and I sat on one of the docks along the shore. Being there  reminded us of another lake in a country far, far away.

We talked about life and whatever else flooded our minds at the time. Both being interested in night photography, we turned on our DSLRs and challenged ourselves with the scenery.

IMG_9975a (1280x844)White balancing night shots has become my most recent issue. For this image, I lit up the subject in red and green light during exposure. Ugh! That yellowish tint still showed through!  Still, it looks better than the shots without the green and red light. Those were even yellower, probably caused by a lonely street light up on the road.

Lake Leman, maybe with MatterhornHere is a shot of the city across the lake. It could be anything from Yvoire to Thonon-les- Bains. Given our location, it was probably the latter.

I actually find this image very interesting for several reasons. First of all, do you notice that pink tint in the clouds? Given the time that this image was taken, it’s probably light pollution. That’s actually really sad. Had the night been clear and the moon gone, one probably wouldn’t be able to get good pictures of the stars.

The second thing (noticed as the picture was being up loaded) is the mountains in the background. Do you see that pyramid shaped thing? In the center, almost faded into the sky? Could that be the Matterhorn!?  It might be!

If it was, that would make me incredibly happy! MUSIC Age 15Painted this on commission at age 15.  The mountain was chosen at random but before coming to Europe, I realized that it was the one and only Matterhorn. This whole time I’ve lived less than an three hour drive yet haven’t found a way.  It was really my dream to see it but now that the time is up, even knowing that I’d seen it at a distance would be elating.

Google SnapshotOh, and here is a 2009 google image  of the dock with the boats.  The night we took the images, Grace and I were sitting on the next to the last platform on the right (behind the car).

Night Under the Mountain

There is a group at our school that is often going camping or planning such outdoor activities. Wish I’d been better friends with them, because honestly those are the types of things that I miss from my childhood. The things I hope to continue doing in the future.

I did get to hang out with them a couple weeks ago when they decided to camp out back by the boulder field under the Salève. The weather report was super sketch. It was actually supposed to be raining, but not a drop fell from the sky.  It didn’t matter, we were determined to go camping either way.

We met up at 8pm, girls dorm. After blankets and sleeping bags were arranged, we set out to look for wood. Sometimes, when the laughter would fade into smiles, we’d hear music in the distance. Tried to ignore it, but it was kinda hard not to feel the base booming through our veins.

I led two of the girls into the woods to help collect loose sticks. You will not believe what was hidden amongst the foliage. Two enormous speakers almost as tall as we were! They played loudly into the trees as we stood there, mouths hanging in utter disbelief. A couch, table and among other things had been placed nearby. I ran to the dorm to get my camera but upon my return, one of the guys said that a large group of party people had formed in the woods and we should probably stay away. Bummer.

Wish there were more pictures to depict the evening happenings.  This is just the progression of our campfire. The last two images in the set were taken by Grace after she climbed on top of one of the boulders. Camping Sous Saleve

S’mores were devoured along with an apple pie one of the boys had baked on the campfire. Stories were told, songs may or may not have been sung. We had a darn good time.

After everyone had laid down for the night, Sarah agreed to stay up with me to take pictures of the stars.

The Saleve at Night (1280x404)Doing astrophotography of the European sky has been on my bucket list for quite some time. The predicted rain clouds where nowhere in sight. The moon was shrunk to only a sliver. The conditions where perfect… well perfect except for the camera. The lens to be specific. As I’ve found, a 50mm is not always a best friend. Specially not in this case.

Try as I would, I could not get a good image. We were camping way to close to the mountain. Not only that but the white balance was an issue. After an hour or more of unfruitful attempts, Sarah went back to the dorm. I tried one more thing; panorama shot.

Bedtime! I laid awake long after snuggling into my sleeping bag. Perhaps trying to count the stars, perhaps watching them circle above the mountain. Lid were eventually shut as I slipped away into a dreamy world…

 

Silhouettes Against Les Horizons

The group of us headed out back around 8pm. Given how late the sun sets, we had enough time to set up camp before climbing up the boulders. Got up just in time to see the last sliver of sun slip behind the Jura Mountain range.IMG_1695 (1280x853)Sad to say, but it might be the last sunset we see over France. It’s been awfully cloudy lately with a forecast predicting mostly rain. We have hope though – the weather report isn’t always right.

Anyways, here’s a picture of just the earth and sky. Not as epic as it could have been, yet it still looks pretty cool.
IMG_1702 (1280x853)I really like the palette. At first glance, one could distinguish between the blue and the orange. Upon closer inspection, you can see  neon orange, tangerine, sherbet, as well as the  lavender, prune and blueberry. So many colors!

Durango Falls

Camping is fun. Experiencing different cultures is fun.  So, when I was invited to go camping at La Concha Durango, how could I say no?

We got there by bus. Everyone unloaded their belongings and got ready to set up camp. But not everyone had come well prepared. There were only two tents to accommodate the group of 30 something. Several families decided to rent hotel rooms instead. Everyone pretty much chose their own thing. Someone may have even stayed in the bus.

Durango Falls (1)A group of boys tried to set up the larger of the two tents. It wasn’t really working out.  Someone tossed out the tent I’d be staying in. To my surprise, it was the exact model (Long story- but it was probably the exact tent) in which I’d camped so many times as a child. In less than 10 minutes, it was set. The boys were shamed and I felt bad.  In the end, my little tent was shared between 8 people. Now I can officially say I have cuddled with strangers!!! Other girls and kids thankfully, lol.

A short walk from the campsite was the reason we’d come. Public baths. A mix between civilization and nature.

Durango Falls (2)In Mexico, these are a little different than your typical public pool. Yes, sometimes people actually shampoo and wash themselves. The pools are usually connected to an outside water source (like a river or stream) and thus the water is always flowing through. Sometimes fish live in the pools to help keep them clean… and also to eat the dead skin off people’s feet.

La Concha Durango has public, private and natural pools. We jumped right in! The water was so warm! It was like a gigantic jacuzzi!

Durango Falls (3)This is Jonathan. His parents weren’t on the trip. I was supposed to keep an eye out for him. He is an awesome  kid. Big eyes with the longest most enviable eyelashes.

Durango Falls (4)Here we are looking over the blue bridge. Seems like an infinity pool. Sometimes people swim along the edge… but it wasn’t very common.Durango Falls (5)On the other side there is a series of waterfalls. It’s not jacuzzi status, but the water is unbelievably warm!

Durango Falls (6)A lot of the girls were afraid of getting sun tanned/burn. Although there was a small shop nearby, I don’t remember it selling sunscreen. Offered mine, but the girls didn’t think it would help if they were already burned. There needs to be more sunscreen available, everywhere! You can never use too much!
Durango Falls (7)Anyway – this is my favorite candid shot. It looks like some guy was walking by and suddenly a bunch of girls peeped out from behind the waterfall, lol. It wasn’t like that. He was with us, but I don’t remember who he was exactly.

Most of the men didn’t go swimming. They hung out together and discussed life and stuff. There conversations and stories were rather amusing.
Durango Falls (8)I guess it is kinda interesting how groups naturally separated by age and gender. Age is understandable, but gender seemed to be more of a cultural thing.

Durango Falls (9)Trying to remember this little kid’s name. He is Jonathan’s little cousin. Took this image because he looks so adorable and cute, right out of the pool.

The men told us that they had gone exploring and wanted to show us what the canyon area looked like. We walked along the river for around an hour… even crossed it a couple times. Well more like seven.

Durango Falls (10)There were several interesting spots along the way. I really enjoyed the hike, but many of the other women got angry and started complaining. Crossing a river seven times can get to you!

Durango Falls (11)Instead of going back, we did a full circle and walked on a dirt path. The clouds were lovely. Just love that cotton candy look.
We spent another lovely afternoon in the pools before returning. It was a lot of fun, I’d love to go back sometime.

Ice and Sky

We climbed up high hopping to catch a glimpse of the setting sun. The days had been getting warmer, thus we were truly surprised to find a blanket of snow. Live Life (1)

Even more amusing was the team of paragliders standing next to the edge. The sun pierced through their gliders. The colors spread throughout the sky. It was so beautiful.  Hopefully these extreme sports fans weren’t bothered by our presence. We may have gotten a tad bit too close.

It would be an absolutely amazing experience to try it out. Unfortunately, Kaelibeth and I won’t be able to go paragliding anytime soon. We have to wait till the end of the school year. Fingers crossed!

Live Life (2)In the meantime, we should probably hike more often so we can enjoy the view!  It is truly inspiring.

 

Heaven… as Seen from the Entrance of the Olympic Museum.

We got the chance to visit the Olympic Museum Lausanne, Switzerland. It was actually a pretty amazing experience to get to see everything from memorabilia to actual costumes worn by the athletes. Strangely enough, my favorite time was spent outside the museum.

Switerland (1)The scenery was just amazing. Absolutely jaw dropping. Clouds hovering over the water… sun in the distance… It’s a shame that a camera cannot always mirror the beauty in a moment.

IMG_9414a (680x1024)I took pictures of Kaelibeth and Tobar doing handstands in front of the museum. I got carried away and edited an artificial sort of rain surrounding them…  it’s more of a conceptual photograph than a realistic one. Balance your inner child.

Switerland (2)

Just a few minutes ago, my friends and I were watching the winter Olympic Final… so I thought I should hurry up and post this… before it became irrelevant.

Bare Feet, Snow and the Pre-Alps

Walking on Snow (1024x683)

Of course, everyone in California is bundling up for the cold. By cold, I should probably specify that they are experiencing temperatures in the 70s… But when the sun shown over the French Pre-Alps and the temperature rose up to 43◦, we grabbed black dresses and ran barefoot across the snow.

Again, I borrowed Grace’s camera because mine is broken. Unfortunately, it ran out of battery. Ankle length silk dress, tea mug in hand, Sarah went to get a fresh one. She was seen running down the mountain side by a very confused French woman.  (Sarah was later seen in a red dress lugging a boulder… this girl! XD )

Anyway, the final image was a composite of four different images. The first was of the landscape. Afterwords, Sarah, Kaelibeth and I took turns in front of the camera.  Camille lighted us individually to make sure that we would pop out in the image.

At the end of the day Grace edited the pictures to make sure we all fit together.

I’m now recovering from a cold… but I already had it when this picture was taken.

 

Water Colours

Geneva (1024x681)

Our goal was to see the fountain of Geneva up close, so we headed over to Switzerland for a stroll down the lake.  Rain drizzled here and there. Puddles reflected the smiles on our faces. But search as we did, there was no fountain to be seen. Guess it was off that day. No matter. We had fun anyway.

We walked down a bridge. I was taken away by the lights reflecting on the water’s surface. It was so pretty! Grace had to let me borrow her camera to get a couple of shots.

Later on we walked down the Bain du Paqui. At the end, there was this light house structure. It was cool to walk around it… but not so much when we discovered exactly how many large spiders nested there!!!

Antsy to get to Annecy

That View (1024x683)

After dinner one night, an older man stopped for a chat. He recommended that my friends and I visit the French town of Annecy and  Pont de la Caille.

Having just arrived in France, I was scared to venture out. But I really wanted to go! Thankfully, our school had an outing planned.

IMG_4151 (1024x683)

The town itself, especially old town, is so cute.  We spent a lot of our time taking pictures and at one point just sitting along the river absorbing the beauty.

That One Spot (1024x620)

My favorite part was probably seeing this view. It’s pretty much the only thing I had seen online while researching the town. I’m still a little upset that we weren’t there at night.  I would really like to come back to this place here and do some long exposures.

Them (1024x681)

After walking along the canals, we climbed up the hill. On our way, we saw a dungeon looking place. Naturally, we ran in excitement. Unfortunally, a strange stench rose from beyond the iron bars.  Everyone left the area very quickly.

IMG_4047 (1024x683)And yes, we did get to visit Pont de la Caille. The feeling of wind rushing through our hair as we ran up and down the bridge was totally worth the visit. I went to the edge and looked down. It was a long way. I’m saddened to hear that this is also called Suicide Bridge because of the number of people who jump on a yearly basis.

That’s really sad. It’s always important to look at the best things in life and leave the worst behind.

Anyway…. to end on a beter note, here is a Vlog from Grace’s youtube.
http://youtu.be/Foi_a2F_AJk

New Horizons

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I remember Caribbean sunsets as exotic, but there just aren’t any pictures to justify how amazing and glorious the French/ Swiss sky looks every day.

 

Guess there’s a reason why the guys’ dorm is called ‘Les Horizons’. Kinda jealous over here.  With Geneva, the lake, and French mountains on the other side of the valley, they clearly have the best view!  There are just too many trees in front of the girls dorm.

 

I wake up and go to class every morning regretting the decision to leave my cam in the dorm. Of course,  It’s usually cloudy and dark. But often, the clouds part just above the mountains, illuminating them with surrealness.  We just walk into class and stare out the windows until our professor walks in.

 

One day during break, we were blessed with a full rainbow. Yes,  from start to end. That’s crazy. I’ve never quite seen a rainbow actually start from the ground up. Gotta get that pot of gold now!

Anyway, this picture was taken during a morning run. The sun doesn’t rise on that side, but sometimes those mountains are actually gold.

I just can’t. It’s too pretty!

 

Price Tags ? Yeah, I Kinda Need Help…

Buisness card

For me, photography has usually been a pleasant experience… It’s certainly one of my favorite pastimes and helps relive stress.  But lately I’ve considered refusing to take on any new projects.

Before all of this happened, my favorite rewards for photography were tradeoffs.  Paid trips in exchange of family vacation photos. Headshots for an airplane ride. Snapshots for hand drawn portraits. Theater tickets, baked goods, art …

I used to never charge for taking pictures. In fact, all sorts of excuses would pop out in order to avoid the subject. Then one day, a stranger asked for a photoshoot. I said I’d do it for $35 but he was sort of insulted and handed me a $100 bill instead.

Since then– I decided to tell my clients to look up the pricing of photography and give me what they thought was appropriate.  Somewhere between the normal rates and what they could afford. At first this worked out great. People, especially gentlemen, were very generous with the amounts they paid.

Girls on the other hand are a whole different story. Of course, on certain projects I’ll collaborate with makeup artists, hairstylists, modeling coaches – whatever it takes to get the images desired. When photoshoots are requeste, though, people often expect wardrobe, makeup, props, transportation….etc. to be provided for projects I never intended nor have the inspiration to do.  Sometimes arrangements will be made for one person but friends and family will appear unannounced and expecting to get in on the deal.

During one particular incident, I spent 3 hours granting the every wish of two individuals who posed with their expensive clothing and accessories, often making comments about how well to do they appeared. One of these individuals was particularly rude, refusing to return my camera, deleting images without permission and hogging attention from the other during the session in general.  I was paid a less than deserving amount and became slightly annoyed when others asked for photoshoots later on.

Summer was in. Senior pictures were in. The price of $65 per session, edited digital copies of all the best shots… not so much. I thought $65 was a fair price. Don’t studios do the same job for more? Extra charges for different cloths, editing, poses – whatever?  After deciding that $65 was not a cool price – one senior decided take pictures of various classmates earning $25 for each session.

So now, I’m kind of annoyed and am not sure what to do about pricing. Too high, too low. I just don’t know :/

Light Up the Night Sky

Pretty Night Sky 428

Some time age, Markus, Ben and I went out to take pictures of the stars. It didn’t go so well because the moon was ridiculously bright. In fact, many of the images resembled broad daylight. (Sometimes pictures do tell a thousand lies!)

The assignment was postponed when the teacher realized they’d forgotten to check their star charts. Turns out astrophotography is best done without a full celestial sphere!

As the moon shrunk, Ben was able to out to take pictures on a nightly basis. I followed him out to the cow pond for one last photo session of the stars.

Pretty Night Sky 429Although to the human eye the moon was only a sliver, in the images it came out in full.

After the moon set on the horizon,  the pictures were almost magical.

Pretty Night Sky 430

It was as if there were hundreds of tiny little fairies fluttering about looking down at the world below.  We took as many pictures as we could before I had to return to my dorm.

Pretty Night Sky 418Instead of going to bed, I got carried away and played around with the colors. For some weird reason, I got attached to the lomo photography color scheme.
Oh well, I still got the originals in case I change my mind.

Midnight of the Magic Flashlight

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Here goes to DAY2 of shooting midnight pictures at Lake Hennessey. This time it was seven of us on a Friday night after vespers.

We didn’t go onto the main dock because a group of fishermen beat us to the spot.  Instead we parked by the side of the rode, went through a gate and walked down a path to the water’s edge.

Having been there earlier in the week, the possibility of taking midnight shots was exciting. This time we decided to try out our skills at light photography.

Light Photography

From top to bottom: Our Group split in two. Grace, Victoria and Zach chatted under the stars while Ben, Larissa, Harrison and I took pictures.

Our first model was Larissa. We tried all sorts of different designs on her. The favorite resembles the popular ‘Nike Winged Victory’ from Greek Mythology.

I think Harrison was supposed to be holding a whip. He looks rather magician like, maybe a young Merlin or something.

Victoria came over for a quick picture. Well maybe the 34Sec shutter speed doesn’t imply ‘quick’ but compared to the other pictures we took – we did this one in one try.

Light ArtIt was a lot of trail and error.  Not only was it difficult to figure out the right way to carry a design, but the photographer and light artist needed to coordinate their actions. Both of us being film majors, Ben and I came up with an idea. Ready, Set, Action.  I pressed down on the shutter until he signaled to cut.

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Sunlit Moon

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Would you believe me if I told you this picture was taken at 1:12am?

The challenge was to take a picture of the stars.  We set out really late because my last class ended at 10pm.

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First stop was lake Hennessey.  It took a while for us to figure out what we were doing.  The pictures kept turning out under exposed, over exposed , out of focus and so on. A bunch of them even  made it look like it was broad daylight!

As soon as we had figured it out, a thick mess of clouds covered the sky. We were very disappointed.  The boys wanted to leave but I convinced them to help me out with a few light photography tricks. It wasn’t the best choice time wise.

Stars

We all hopped back into the car and Ben drove us out to Pope Valley.  The ideal thing would have been to drive out to lake Berryessa, however I was only allowed out till 2am.

Instead we stopped at a random location in Pope Valley.  Markus, Ben and set out their cameras on the side of the rode. We tried again. It still looked like daytime.

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This is one of the ones that I took of just the stars.  We found out that the reason why our pictures weren’t coming out was because of the moon. It was way too bright. We are going to try again as soon as the new moon comes about.
Thankfully, the assignment has been extended till the end of May.

Floating American Dream

This past weekend I was kayaking with my friend Zach when we came upon a peculiar sight. There was a house floating in the middle of the river! What a crazy sight for sure! The house looked abandoned except for the solar panels on the roof top. Zach and I where like “Oh, what a nice location to make a film!” but upon closer investigation, we saw signs that said “Please Respect My Home” and so we circled around the property but didn’t touch it.  On the nearby shore, we found a log with wooden steps and a canoe hidden in the foliage. Zach and I banked our kayaks, climbed up the log and set off to explore.
The sight was absolutely breath taking. The forest was thick with luscious foliage and the river water shone in various shades of blue and green.

We hiked quite a ways down the trails but had to return after finding a series of sketchy things. Not only that but the temperature was significantly lower than at the river. I was shattering, shivering and couldn’t feel any fingers or toes! 

Back on the river, this is one of the last images I took of the floating house.
There is something aesthetically pleasing about viewing the weathered remains of furniture in someone’s floating back yard. The pastel colors and the texture really bring character to the objects. They have been somewhere – they have stories to tell- they speak on behalf of the owner. As I was staring at this sight, I was much inspired/reminded of William Eggleston’s work.  As a pioneer of color photography, this man had the ability of turning a mundane situation into a memorable photograph.  I hope that in taking this image I was able to capture the beauty among the ordinary as  Eggleston would have done.

Sunset Shore

These are the results of my first ever on location photoshoot with studio lighting. 

Chloe and I had this crazy assignment for portrait photography. We needed to shoot on location with a lighting kit. Now this might sound easy but for a first, it was not so much. Especially since the kit was large and pretty heavy.
Chloe drove myself and our two models Sarah and Melissa out to Lake Hennessey. Once there, we tried to set up our equipment on the dock. We got the lights set, but the wind picked and threatened knock them  into the water. Thus we decided to shoot on paved ground, just in case. The wind refused to stop. It just kept acting up, pushing the lights this way and that. It was so bad that someone had to hold on to the lights at all times to make sure they wouldn’t tip over.
The wind was not our only concern though! Chloe and I had no idea which camera would connect to the light kit – we  brought multiple cameras (like five of them!) Thankfully one of them was able to connect, otherwise our project would have been a disaster.
Although we were in a hurry, we had a wonderful time on the shore of the lake. The boaters and tourists probably thought we were crazy. There was way too much equipment spread everywhere.
I really wanted to get a picture of Melissa from another side of the shore. We debated taking the lighting kit but decided against doing so.  Best choice ever made because the path to the specific location was super muddy and rocky! Oh well I still got some pretty shots 🙂
To view more of them please visit Sunset Shore.

Sprinkles and Droplets

This weekend I got to go camping in a place called La Concha, Durango.

I had Silvia snap the picture above.  The original includes a wider shot of the falls as well as a cotton specked blue sky. I cropped it in search of a more artistic look.  I’ve been told that it looks more like snowy pines than a waterfall!  This picture is ‘color selected’ although the original color isn’t much different.

Here is another picture. I really liked the sprinkles of color made by all the pool toys.  The water was so unbelievably warm! Especially the one that came from the various waterfalls.

I really liked the armaments of these floats but I can’t seem to edit the coloring of the picture quite right. Oh well 🙂

All of the Lights

This week I had the chance of photographing Sarah.  We spreed it out on two different day with four different outfits.

Here is a picture of my assistant/apprentice Amanda.  I asked her to bring her own equipment so that  could take her own pictures as well. I got to say that Amanda is super creative! She helped out a lot with the artistic aspect of this photoshoot.

On the first day, we started off a bit late.  The three of us girls hiked up some nearby hills and the photoshoot began. Though rays of light still peeked from behind the mountains, the sun was soon gone.

Even in the dark, we kept going.  Amanda and I experimented with anything we could come up with. In this picture for example, Amanda used flash from the left while I took the picture with extended exposure.  The result is a weird mixture. The sky is light as day, the city lights glow and Sarah is split  lit.

The next time we meet up, we were able to catch the sun a little earlier.

And instead of hiking, Sarah drove us up. It was a plus, especially since neither Sarah or I were wearing the right shoes.

Unfortunately, the setting sun made all of the pictures very warm.
But we still got some good ones 🙂 I tried adding some blue to the pictures in order to even them out and also in the attempt to add a vintage look.

We did walk down the hill to take some pictures by an old structure.

Sarah walked down in 3in heels and managed to survive!  We had to hurry back up the hill in attempt to catch some light for Sarah’s last change.

Most of the natural light was gone, but we still found ways of lighting her up.

Overall, we had lots of fun. Can’t wait for the next photoshoot 🙂

To view more pictures not shown here, please visit:

All of the Lights

Butterflies and Blue Blooms

Il ya quelques semaines, mes amis et je suis arrivé à escalader des cascades sur la propriété de notre école. Nous avons eu un moment de plaisir  éclaboussures dans l’eau et en essayant de ne pas trébucher sur des pierres. Quoi qu’il en soit, voici deux photos que j’ai prises après que nous avons fait une randonnée sur l’chutes 🙂

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A few weeks ago, my friends and I got to hike up to the waterfalls on our school’s property. We had an awful fun time splashing in the water and and trying not to stumble over sticks and stones. Anyway, here are two pictures I took after we hiked out of the falls 🙂

When I’m Done With the Books….

I decided to add some texture to a few old pictures I have of my vacation home in Rio…  since I’m feeling a little home sick.

I’v been there just about every year since I was a month old. True, I’ve missed a few – but I make it double just to make up.

Daisy Do

Euryops yellow daisies in their natural environment, abstractly out of focus.

Euryops yellow daisy in a cup of water. Sharply in focus. Notice the rainbow light outline on the upper right section of the cup. Beautiful reflections on the sides of the cup.

Eclipse!

Today I had the opportunity of photographing an eclipse 🙂

The light outside was very bizarre. It was like a picture with bad lighting. People gathered around to see the phenomenon.

The sun was playing peek -a- poo behind the moon!

And the shadows on earth grew weirder and weirder!

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Aerial Photography

As you have noticed from my past works, I love going to the airport.

I’ve traveled in planes since I was a month old and wanted to get my pilot’s license since I was 14.

Do to some unfortunate events, my wish has yet to come true.

But last night I was in for a special treat.

I got to fly a plane!

The winds were pretty strong and a heavy cloud cover prevented us from flying to either Napa or Santa Rosa.  Instead we flew over Pope Valley and Lake Berryessa.

In order to take pictures, I opened my window. The wind was too strong. I had to make due with the window’s glare.

I flew in circles around the lake; practicing banks and turns. Finally I gave the controls back to Vince and we flew back to school.

Yup, our school has it’s own airport, isn’t that great?

Runaway Gypsy Child

For the longest time I’ve had a this suspicious looking suitcase in my dorm. I actually used it to make a short for my film class. But after the project was over, I forgot about the suitcase. You can image my horror when I opened it and found  a large bloody looking knife inside!

So anyway, I was supposed to return the suitcase to the prop room, but I thought I would do a photo shoot fist.

Thankfully, Audrey was willing to help me out 🙂  So where Brandon and Keslie who agreed to hold up the reflector. This was the first time I’ve ever use a reflector in my photography.

The reflector made the images so much better! Especially since a lot of the pictures where taken with the sun behind Audrey.

We took the first half of the pictures at our school’s airport, but for the last half…well…

Earlier that day, my friend Jose had taken me flower picking at a field near the airport. There were so many flowers that the ground was white! As the sun began to set, we all ran to the field of flowers barely making it.

The sun sank into the hillside and we rushed to get back to school. It was important that we get back by 8pm so we could attend Vespers. (At our school it is mandatory.)

Upon our return to the airport, our friends Ben and Zach let us ride to Vespers in the back of their truck. (We had fun hiding from security!)  It was a productive day 🙂

To view the full set of photos, visit: Runaway Gypsy Child

Water Flips and Linda Falls

This past weekend I had the chance to shoot with one of my friends:Kara.
(Inspired by my personal dream of swimming at the Devil’s Pool in Victoria Falls, Africa.)

We hiked up to the waterfalls and went into the water right away. For such a hot day, it felt really good!

We shot in three different locations and had two dress changes.  I am happy that Kara was willing to help me out since the task proved to be quite difficult! Not only were we both stumbling on slippery rocks but she waited patiently as I struggled with both the reflector and camera.

The worst part came towards the end. Kara knelt beneath the waterfall and while I was trying to capture the image, my camera became soaked in the spray.

(Pictured below is Kara bravely sitting at the edge of the fall… it was below this fall that the water spray incident occurred.)

Thankfully we both survived the day 🙂 Including our barefoot hike back to our school’s campus!
To view the full set of pictures, visit my photography page at: Water Flips and Linda Falls

Rainbow Bubbles

 

I grew up surrounded by walnut trees.  Today as I looked through my old pictures, I found this one. It is of some young walnut buds. I remember the day I edited it on Paint to make the bubble effect. The picture makes me a little homesick for the rows of trees that stretched out around my childhood home.

 

As the Water Falls

Today I went hiking with a group of friends. We had a picnic by a waterfall and I was inspired to play around with shutter speed. This image here was taken at 1/4000.

This one was taken at 1/60.  I think this is the speed at which most of us see the water falling.

Now this last image was taken at 1/4.  Here the motion isn’t only implied, it is evident within the image.

When the Peach Blossom Blooms

Picture taken March 2005

(I’m noticing my improvement in photographic skills)

When I was little, I used to live out in the countryside where once a year, the orchards would turn pink with flowers.

I live in the city now, so I get really excited when I see a blooming peach or apricot.

Tomorrow, I’ll be driving through the area where I once lived. There in the valley, there will be fields as far as the eye can see.

But most of all, it will spotted pink with trees in bloom.

Colors of the Sea

These pictures were taken on the way to Coronado Island in Southern California.

I’ve been trying to play around with the colors. Each individual picture came out with a different color hue, but I haven’t decided which I like best.

I’m leaning towards favoring this last one though!

My First Picture EVER!

This is the first picture that I ever took on a film camera.  It’s of Lover’s Bridge  connecting the beautiful Island of  Old Providence to the smaller island of Santa Catalina.

It was 1998 and I was 5.  Many summers, springs and winters have gone by since and I miss hanging from hammocks and swimming in the tropical ocean water.  Can’t wait till the day that I go back to the archipelago that my family is from.  It will be a whole new photo adventure!

Rainy Downtown

When you look at the big picture… sometimes you miss the little details.

You might miss the eerie trees illuminated by the streetlights.

And tiny droplets clinging to the creepy crawler’s nest.