The Dam Eagle Road Trip

Finally… after over two months of being a couch potato to heal my broken ankle; I escaped on a road trip yesterday. The weather was the typical Pacific Northwest winter — rainy and gray, not exactly the best weather for landscape photography. But I didn’t care… I was in desperate need to get away before the insanity of boredom takes over permanently. I knew I was getting to the point of no return when I actually watched the season premier of The Bachelor. If I was looking to regain my self-respect and intelligence, I definitely lost more than a few IQ points for watching the entire episode. So… to redeem myself, I decided I need to put some creativity back in my brain. At first, I thought about escaping to the Oregon coast but given the fact my leg is still in the healing process, I decided to stay close to home — and shoot the bald eagle migration that happens around this time of the year, along State Route 20.

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Unfortunately, there wasn’t a single eagle in sight when I got to the area where they usually hang out. But… no matter, nothing could dampen my excitement and the exhilarating feeling to finally get out of the house and be in nature with my Nikon. I decided to do the dam road trip instead. There are several dams along Route 20. The route is also one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever traveled. Because of the rainy, gray, sunless weather, it was a challenge with lighting and exposure; everything was mostly flat and lifeless in color. I knew most of the images would be converted to monochrome. With that in mind, I try to shoot with the exposure that would allow me to manipulate in Adobe Lightroom for the mood I wanted to create.


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The Diablo Dam is the second of the three dams along the upper Skagit River. The Diablo Lake is probably one of the most beautiful places on earth. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture its beauty and grandeur. It’s one of those places that you really need to see it in person, especially on a sunny day, to experience its breathtaking vista.
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As I continued on to the third dam, Ross Dam; I came upon this sign. At the same time, I was starting to feel pain in my leg. So I took it as a sign to turn around and go back home… and lucky me — the perfect ending to a perfect day — I got to see a few eagles along the way. Since I still use crutches to get around, I wasn’t able to get close to the eagles without scaring them away. It was really difficult trying to hike close to the eagles with my crutches. After a few frustrating attempts of tripping and falling to the ground, I was able to shoot one from the comfort of my car. Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend. Happy shooting. 🙂

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Back to Basics

Yesterday, I started my new journey as an underwater photographer. Pirate John and I went back to the Mukilteo T-Dock for my debut. Unlike last weekend during my certification where the visibility were low and murky — which was made worse by so many other inexperienced divers; this time we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.

After spending sometime adjusting my weights, we were able to descend. I was so focused on photography and Pirate John was focused on keeping me safe and getting me to perfect my buoyancy. Which I can understand is really important but… the photographer in me was definitely more predominate; especially when we got to the bottom. The visibility was so much better. It was probably 20 feet compared to last week’s 3-5 feet. I was like a little kid with her first camera. I wanted to take pictures of everything. Since I don’t have a underwater housing for my Nikon, I had to use Pirate John’s point and shoot.

It has been years since I last used a point and shoot camera. I discovered it was quite a challenge to go back to the basics and shoot on automatic. The camera came with many settings, including underwater — which I chose to use to see what it can do. Even though it was a point and shoot, it was challenging for me. I missed being in control of my camera and the creative settings involved when shooting manual with a DSLR. But I think the point and shoot was  the best way for me to learn from in the underwater environment. I only have three buttons to work with: On/Off, Wide Angle/Close Up, and Shutter. Which is all I can deal with when I have to focus on staying buoyant and not float away with the tide. On couple of occasions, Pirate John had to redirect me because I was going in the wrong direction and floating too much with the current. You can definitely become easily disoriented in the wide open water with no landmarks to guide you. Or the fact you can easily go from 30 feet to 70 plus feet without feeling the change of distance. That’s why I pay close attention to the air and depth gauge on my dive computer. Safety is the most important, photography second…

A few minutes into our dive; I came face to face  with a young wolf eel half hidden in a kelp bed. Wolf eels are extremely shy and elusive. So it was amazing that I found one so easily. Excitedly, I took out the camera and Pirate John thought I wanted to take his picture. He took out his regulator and started to pose. I shook my head no and kept pointing towards the kelp bed.
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Since we only communicate through scuba sign language, by the time he understood what I said, the wolf eel started to swim away. Quickly, I just pointed the camera and shoot.

During our two separate dives, I was able to experiment more with the camera and swam around happy like a fish in water… point and shoot at the abundant of sea life around me.
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There were flounders everywhere… most tried to camouflage themselves though, I was able to capture a couple having fun. Can you see them?
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On our second dive, Pirate John took me to the popular dive spot, Geo Dome. It’s a man-made structure but the sea life didn’t seem to mind. The visibility wasn’t good because of the strong current and lack of sunlight but I could see the abundant sea critters hidden everywhere. As I tried to become neutrally buoyant so I can steady myself enough to shoot without stirring up more silt, the current was bouncing me in all directions.  Then I spotted a large rock fish and was able to get a few shots while battling the strong current at the same time.
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On our way back, I didn’t see anything interesting. So I decided to do some selfie shots.

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I took this shot just as the current pushed me down on my back…

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And as I looked up, I saw a school of fish. When I tried to shoot, the current pushed me sideways and I ended up with this image. I like the abstract look of the fish and air bubbles.

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Finally, after I tumbled around a few more times and couldn’t get the photos I wanted; I put away the camera and enjoyed the rest of the dive with my dive buddy, Pirate John… who made sure we do the safety stop before ascending to the surface. Over all, it was a good first underwater photography experience and though these snap shots aren’t award winning;  it’s a thrilling feeling to know I’m another fin kick closer to my new goal of being an underwater photographer. Happy Diving! 🙂

Good Things Take Time…

I’ve been trying desperately to find work since the closing of my restaurant in October. Yet, it was one rejection after another. I discovered the grass isn’t always greener somewhere else, especially in the desert.

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I was facing homelessness and was to the point of great despair about life when the generous support of a caring friend came to rescue me in time. I was given the opportunity to start over. Although, when I no longer have my restaurant to keep me busy, I knew the lack of diversity and slow pace life style in Arizona just wasn’t for me. I moved back to the place where my heart is.

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See Through The Forest

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After moving back in December, while I had a roof over my head and food to eat; I was still struggling to find work. Once again, it was one rejection after another. After three months of rejections, I was so disgusted with all the bullshit employment discrimination: too old, over qualify, not enough experience, too skinny, too whatever… when I was rejected for making sandwiches, I really hit bottom. I came home feeling so useless and sad but also angry. I just couldn’t believe that someone with my experience and qualifications was so unemployable.

After ranting to myself, I decided I wasn’t going to let these rejections get the best of me. I told myself that someone out there will find my skills and talents an asset. I just need to have faith that good things will happen soon… and wouldn’t you know, ask and you shall receive. The following week, I went from willing to be a sandwich maker for a minimum wage to being hired as a General Manager in charge of a rest stop building project by a multimillion property developer. The rest stop will be a destination place with a restaurant, a gift shop, a beer garden and a wine tasting room. And as if the new job wasn’t enough, a creative director from a well established Oregon magazine, saw the photos on my blog and decided to use some of the photos for a feature article in their next issue, including the cover. I was beyond elated by the turn of events. I mean, I went from unemployable to being a general manager and a professional photographer all in two weeks.

The other night as I was watching a silly comedy movie called Rat Race, one of the characters said this quote… “Good things take time, great things happen all at once”. While the movie isn’t exactly award worthy, the quote got me to think about all the great things that seem to happen to me all at once in the month of April. Yes, it took many years to build all the skills that I am now using for managing the rest stop project. And for the last three years, this blog gave me the opportunity to developed the photography skills to take photos that is cover worthy!! The magazine will hit the stores tomorrow. Yup, doing the happy dance… 😀

I Made It!

From The Heart

The best kind of love is the one that comes from a selfless heart.

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(This photo was created by shooting a heart shape fire opal stone on a black granite tile in front of a window. I used the light from the window to create the bright contrast on the black granite background. In Lightroom, I changed the white balance, brightness and saturation to get the reddish color. I used Photoshop to create the etched text.)

Happy Trails — Part 2

I’ll be 47 years old in a couple of weeks. I remembered I was 12 years old; and one day while walking home from school — for some reason, thoughts of what my life would be like when I’m 47 came to mind… it seems like forever at the time — 35 years away. Yet, little did I realize that it would come a lot quicker than what my childish mind have perceived.  At the time I thought I probably would have kids, have a husband who loves me forever… have a house filled with love and laughter, I would be this great artist, and have the financial independence to travel the world; all the innocent thoughts of a child — full of hopes and dreams — dreams of that perfect life. The only things that came true were the kids. And while not great… I’m an artist.

It has been quite a tumultuous journey… my so call journey of life. Often times I wonder why some people seem to have a life that seems so easy — so perfect. They set out to get what they want: work hard and obtained their desires. Then there are many of us who seems to wander endlessly… like a feather in the wind — seeking the same and yet we can’t seem to get it no matter how hard we try. Perhaps it’s because our destiny has already been etched in stone and we can’t change it — no matter how we tried to rewrite it. And yet, my tenacious personality refuses to let me believe that. I find myself keep trying… wanting to rewrite my destiny. Because I just don’t want to settle for less — at least not all the time. There are situations beyond my control that I have to do whatever to survive. However, what really bothers me more than anything else in this world is to depend my livelihood on people who are undependable.

Last week, I was so happy to finally find a job so soon after closing my restaurant. It was such a relief to know the furry kids and I would not be homeless. And the job has a lot of potential for me to move forward financially. I was told to start work on Monday. The owner said he would call me to let me know the exact time. Monday came and by 10 am, I didn’t hear anything; I called the owner. My alarm sensor went off when I heard his voice. He made some excuses about being busy and that he would call me back in an hour. Well… an hour later and still no words. I try to be optimistic and gave him the benefit of the doubt that he was busy. I decided to call my landlord to let him know the good news and I won’t have to move out of the apartment. Little did I know that phone call would change the course of my life in an instant. I was shocked, disappointed and disgusted beyond belief when I found out through my landlord that I don’t have the job. My landlord had lunch with the owner’s fiancé over the weekend and she told him they are not going to hire me. We both knew it was her who didn’t want to hire me… jealous? But what made me even angrier was the fact that neither the owner nor the general manager had the courtesy to call and let me know personally. When I finally talked to the GM, he sounded very uncomfortable, gave me some lame excuse on why the change of plan and that he would have called me sooner but he didn’t have my phone number… really… I deserved a better answer than that.

Needless to say, this week I’ve been ridding on an emotional roller coaster — pondering about my seemingly torturous life. Why God? I asked. I don’t ask for much. I don’t want all the material crap or the desire to be filthy rich. I just want a joyful, peaceful life where I can contribute some positive difference and to share it with someone who will love me for who I am. Seems simple enough and yet it has been easier said than done.

After beating myself up, and being angry at the world for the week, I decided that I wasn’t going to let this set back get the best of me. As they say… back to the drawing board. Even though once again, the furry kids and I have to deal with being homeless. And my job opportunities don’t look very promising. I try to see the positive things in this ordeal. As I sit and looked through the photos I took on my recent trip, I realized how lucky I am to be able to travel freely and captured the beauty of  my world. I’m grateful to have taken the weekend trip before the bad news. At least, I fulfilled my dream of visiting one of the most amazing landscapes in person.

While I’m not sure where this journey will continue to take me, I know it will not be empty. Until we meet again my fellow bloggers and friends… Happy Trails!

With a view like that… I would be more than happy to live in a box.

Seeking Truth and Forgiveness on Route 66 – The Confession

By the time I pulled into the motel, El Trovatore; I felt achy, hungry and very tired from the long day of driving in the desert. Needless to say, I was looking forward to a nice cool shower and hopefully find a good steak dinner somewhere in town. Of course, the first thing I noticed about the motel was its affordable price and the retro looking neon sign at the entrance. But there was something quaint about the place that intrigues me. It was unlike any other motels I’ve ever stayed in. I could sense there’s probably a lot of history behind this motel. Little did I know, this was also where I would finally get to confess my sins and get the much-needed guidance to see the truth I’ve been seeking.

When I drove further into the property, the hand painted murals depicting different scenes and iconic Hollywood characters that covered many of the buildings instantly stirred up my creative mind. For a moment, I forgot about being tired and started to think like a photographer. I saw photo opportunities. However, my growling stomach reminded me that I’ve eaten only road food consisted of nuts, dried fruits, beef jerky and countless bottles of water.

I walked into the office to check in and noticed the room filled with mementos; life-size cut out of John Wayne, pictures of Hollywood legends and Route 66 souvenirs. Just then, a friendly looking man greeted me. I told him I wanted a room for a night. He asked me, “Who would you like to sleep with tonight?” His question surprised me. I wasn’t sure what he meant. “Excuse me?” I asked him. He then smiled and proceeds to explain to me that he offers theme rooms of Hollywood legends. “Oh!” I said, feeling dumb. Since I was so tired, and I just want a room to take a shower, I told him “I don’t care who I sleep with.” As he rattled off names… “John Wayne, James Dean, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe… ” By now I was more lucid and thought about the choices of who I would want to sleep with. Well… I told him: I never had a thing for John Wayne; I don’t need a complicated bad boy, like James Dean; while I find Clark Gable desirable, I’m not in the mood for a romantic interlude; and I find Marilyn too high maintenance. Then he said, well… there is Audrey. “Audrey Hepburn?” I asked. Yes, he replied. Good, I’ll sleep with Audrey any day. And the next thing, we started to talk about why we both like Audrey Hepburn: her amazing beauty and grace; her generosity and unpretentious self; and she died doing what she loved — by giving selflessly of her love and compassion to the needy.

I think that was our ice breaker… for the next hour or so, Sam: the motel owner and I talked and talked… I told him I was on an escape drive to find the true purpose of my life… and to find forgiveness for something terrible I did to someone I cared a great deal about. I told him about moving to a new town, buying a restaurant and lack of cash flow, dealing with negative people etc… blah… blah… blah… Sam in return told me about his challenges in life, and the trials and tribulations he had to deal with. We both found out that we bought our business at about the same time period. And that he was facing the same problems I was experiencing. The only difference… his place cost more money so he had a lot more to lose. However, he gave me hope that things will get better if I believe in myself. Whether my restaurant becomes financially successful or that I might have to face the choice of giving it up, I need to find what’s important to me and how it will affect my life.

It felt good confessing to a complete stranger on a road I’ve never traveled on before… and yet somehow, I know it was meant to be for us to meet. My intuition rarely ever steers me wrong if I choose to listen. Because Sam and his wife, Monica showed me some of the answers I was seeking during my two-day stay at El Trovatore. There are still a lot of uncertainties of what I’m facing… although, I know as long as I stay true to who I am — heart and soul. Things will eventually workout for the best as I continued on this journey of life…

This is Taco. El Trovatore’s official mascot. A homeless stray; who decided to pick the motel as his new home, eight months ago. His own journey of how he came to be their mascot would make an interesting story…

Here is the contact information for the motel. You can see images of what the rooms look like on their website.
EL TROVATORE MOTEL
1440 E Andy Devine Ave
Kingman, AZ 86401-Route 66
Tel: (928) 753-6520
Email: trovatore@suddenlinkmail.com

Seeking Truth and Forgiveness on Route 66 – Part 4

They say confession is good for the soul. And that’s exactly what I was hoping to find: to somehow confess my sins without the fear of being persecuted for my follies, and to restore my faith in humanity. I drove hundreds of miles in the hot desert sun — hoping to quiet the turmoil in my mind. Although I wasn’t exactly sure if I would find it on the desolate road of Route 66, I thought if nothing else; at least I got the opportunity to explore and shoot some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.

One of the things I noticed about the desert is how quickly the weather changes; it can be stormy and sunny at the same time. It was fascinating to see nomadic clouds constantly changing across the bright blue sky.

During my on foot discovery, I came across a herd of cattle out in the middle of the nowhere desert. They looked rather emaciated. Poor cows… judging from their protruding ribs, it seems as if they hadn’t eaten in weeks. Perhaps it was the desert heat, or that I was glad to see another life form — I found myself talking to the herd. Asking them if they belong to anyone… if they are hungry and thirsty… and for a moment, I thought about confessing to them my troubles but thought better when they started to move towards me. Quickly, I backed away from them. Don’t need a stampede of cows running after me.

As I continued to explore the desert life, I came across a herd of dall sheep hidden behind a big boulder. I was surprised to see these kinds of sheep in the desert. I always thought they were a cold climate animal. I used to see them often when I lived in Alaska. The male sheep would be very aggressive with each other so I knew better and shot them from a safe distance.

It was getting late by the time I came to the end of Route 66 or so I thought… I later learned that Route 66 starts at Santa Barbara, California and ends in Chicago, Illinois. I decided to seek shelter for the night in the town, Kingman. I have passed by this town earlier on my way to Oatman.

I drove back Kingman’s Route 66 thinking I would do the road again the next day. I’m sure there would be more interesting photo opportunities. However, I wish someone could do the driving so I can focus on just taking photographs. Well… unbeknownst to me, my wish would later come true.

There were plenty of motels of all sizes crowding on both sides of the road to choose from. Out of the corner of my eye, a colorful tower with the word El Tra… something caught my interest as I sped by… and my thought was to stop there but since I passed by it already, I thought I would just find another place ahead. However, my inner voice told me that I should go back to that colorful tower. After driving another few miles, I decided to listen to my inner voice and I made a u-turn to go back to that El something motel. And this is one of those moments that reinforce my belief that your intuition rarely steers you wrong…