Happy Like a Fish In Water

After swallowing what felt like gallons of sea water, battling the currents and poor visibility, tumbling around in all different directions, and crashing to the bottom on several occasions (thank-goodness there were no sea urchins below); it’s official… I’m a certified PADI scuba diver!!

Pirate John was there to capture my moments of glory… happy like a fish in water.

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Wow! What an amazing, awesome experience. Even though the eerie green water was freezing cold and murky, visibility less than 4 feet, and my only life source is a 50 lb steel tank strapped to my back; the feeling of being able to swim with the fishes evoked the absolute magical and thrilling emotions deep within me.

There were challenging moments during the certification that made me lose my sense of bravery… but I was determined to make it through the training. Being a certified diver is the only way take my photography to the underwater world. I am looking forward to the new challenges and exciting discoveries waiting for me below. Here is my first of many photos to come as I embark on this new journey. Happy Diving! 😀

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A Different World

A couple of months ago, Pirate John introduced me to the world of sailing and now he has rekindled the love that I have lost years ago –Scuba Diving. I was probably about eight years old the first time I watched Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s undersea exploration shows. I was mesmerized by Cousteau’s beautiful underwater world and his French accent. I remember telling my grandma that I wanted be a scuba diver, undersea scientist like him when I grow up. While I ended up studying art, I never abandoned my desire to explore the ocean. A few years after moving to Seattle, I became a certified scuba diver. What an amazing experience. During my first open water dive, I encountered a huge octopus and that was it… the experience made me want to pursue my dream of being an undersea explorer. However, my undersea world was short-lived. Motherhood took center stage and I had to quit scuba. Over the years, I’ve thought about going back to the scuba world but for one reason or another, the timing and money just didn’t work out… until now. Pirate John gave me a wondrous gift — scuba lessons. Since it has been twenty years since my last certification, I have to start over. I will complete my certificate in a few weeks. It’s truly an amazing gift to combine my passion for photography and scuba diving. While I realized that I no longer wanted to be a great undersea scientist like Cousteau, I am looking forward to being an undersea photographer.

Since I can’t shoot underwater yet, I spend the weekend photographing Pirate John, scuba instructors and students from Evergreen Dive Service; the school where I will get my certification as a scuba diver. It was a fun and challenging shooting experience. The day was gray, the water reflective and the divers were mostly black moving objects. Talk about exposure nightmare. It was very difficult to get both the water and the divers with correct exposure at the same time. I decided to shoot a little under exposed so that the sky and water would not blow out. I find it easier to fix an under exposed dark area in Lightroom than a blow out area. Another challenge I encountered was the low light from the gray sky and the constant movement of the divers. I didn’t want to use high ISO so it was difficult to capture sharp images. But in the end, it was all good. I learned a lot on technique and processing. Mostly, it was great shooting and observing the divers in action… I can’t wait to be one of them in a few weeks.

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Pirate John & Cool Scuba Instructor, Chad.

_DSC1021A student requiring extra help to put on her fins.

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Calm, cool, dive instructor Chad. So patient and understanding.


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_DSC1239Pirate John, Alex, and Paul.

_DSC1356-2Finally, Pirate John noticed the camera.
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Alex, happy like a fish in water. He passed his dive tests. I’m sure he is looking forward to his diving trip he has planned already…

Paul, Alex’s brother. He also passed.
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And Hernan… the big smile says it all.

OKAY! We are certified divers!! Alex, Hernan and Paul.
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The Wheels on the Train…

I’ve always had a thing for trains. Perhaps it’s because I raised two boys who were so into trains when they were little and the fond memories I have in my heart of our train yard escapades. Oh, I remember those times we would sing over and over —  the silly song about the wheels on the train go round and round… and the big smiles on their little faces when the nice train engineer let them  push the whistle button. It’s amazing how something so simple yet ordinary can bring such joy and contentment when we are young.


Though I’m glad I still enjoy simple things in life  but I am not always content with the ordinary, especially when it involves photography. After taking a couple of shots of this moving train, I decided to challenge myself to turn the ordinary into something different. As I zoomed in, my creative brain began to turn like the wheels and I no longer see the train but instead I saw shapes, lines and lights. However, during processing in Lightroom; the images still seem ordinary in color. So I decided to turn them into monochrome. I really like the more dramatic and stylistic image then just a picture of a moving train. But that’s just me… and my wild imagination. 😀

Click on the photo to see a larger version. It’s definitely more dramatic.

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The Photographer and a Boring Spider

While walking around the yard looking for inspiration, I came upon a nice spider web covered with morning dew. However after a few shots of a boring spider on a web, I couldn’t get inspired to shoot more; the light wasn’t ideal to make the background interesting. Then a stream of sunlight broke through the cloudy sky and made the morning dew droplets sparkly and more inviting. I shot a few more frames, though I still find the images boring. But the sunlight helped stir up my creative brain and gave me the challenge of wanting to take the ordinary and make something unique with it.

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After a few close up shots with different aperture settings, I decided to shoot at the largest opening available for my lens (f/6.3) to get the most shallow depth of field and bokeh background. With this in mind, I shot all the images a little underexposed so the background would be dark, with very faint details while keeping the details of the water droplets as sharp as possible. In Adobe Lightroom, I converted the images into monochrome with yellowish undertone for the highlights. After adjusting the exposure, contrast, and clarity; I added more highlights by using the brush tool to dodge and burn. I used the tool more like a paint brush: adding highlights to create  a more illustrative, surreal image. It was a good experiment and helped me think outside of the box — which is always a good thing… 🙂

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Foodie Friday

While visiting a friend yesterday, I was given a bunch of rhubarb from his garden. It has been awhile since I got to play with food, so the idea of making Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie came to mind.

First, you need 2 pounds of ripe, juicy strawberries. And 4 pounds of rhubarb stalks. Then completely remove the stringy skin off the rhubarb.

Once the rhubarb skin is removed. Slice the stalks into even thin slices. Do the same thing for the strawberries. I like thin slices because it looks better but more importantly; the filling will cook more evenly while the sugar and spices can penetrate into the rhubarb and strawberries easily.

Gently mix the strawberry & rhubarb slices with 2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup of corn starch, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper until it’s well coated. I use a 9″ spring form pan. Although you can use regular pie pan if you like.

For the crumble: In a bowl, mix 2 cups flour with 1 cup sugar and 1/2 pound of melted butter. Stir until mixed but still crumbly. Fill pie crust lined pan with strawberry & rhubarb mixture and evenly top with crumble until the filling is covered.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Baked for about 60 minutes or until you see the thick juice, oozing and bubbling through the golden brown crumble crust.

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The pie is really good as is. Although, a scoop of vanilla ice cream would definitely elevate the pie to a delectable sinful level — that you would be happy be devour without guilt. Bon Appétit!

Nautical Discovery

A few weeks ago, I took the furry kids for our usual walk around the boat filled marina near where I live. I have walked around the marina many times — admiring many of the beautiful boats tied to the docks, and daydreaming about sailing. My mind filled with the romantic notion of sailing to different places and someday… perhaps I might even sail around the world. Sounds rather crazy when I don’t know how to sail nor do I know anything about sailing and I have never owned a boat. Okay, I did have a kayak years ago but I don’t think that count as a real boat.

For some reason on that day, I decided to walk down an unfamiliar path. I thought it would be nice to give the furry kids different places to sniff and to get me out of the comfort zone. As the furry kids and I walked by a nice sail boat, the owner with a friendly smile said hello to me. Since he seemed friendly, I stopped to say hello. We chatted about sailing, boats and other topics. Well, the path took me to an opportunity I didn’t expect to find. Sometimes you just never know who you might meet… that will change your life for the better. Pirate John took me sailing… 😀

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What an amazing day it was yesterday for my debut as a sailor. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the wind — just right for testing out my sea legs and I’m very happy I passed with flying colors. I didn’t get sea sick nor did I fall overboard. The biggest challenge for me was to hold my camera steady while trying to stand firm on deck. Thankfully, Pirate John was a good sailor and he was able to navigate well on the sea. Once I began to get my footing on the motion and bouncing waves, I was able to shoot with abandon to get interesting POV of the 40 foot sail boat. It was a wonderful day… after six hours of sun and relaxation; I felt my creativity rejuvenated to a level it hasn’t been in a long time. While the bright afternoon sunlight and moving motion made the shooting challenging, it was one of the best times I’ve ever had in years. I discovered my love for sailing isn’t just a romantic notion and that someday, I want to realize my dream of sailing around the world… ALOHA!

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New Year, New Opportunities

One of the most profound things I’ve learned last year… when a door closes, another opens.  However, you might not always like the person behind the door with the offering and the price one must pay. My dream job last year was an amazing opportunity for me. Not only did the project gave me the validation I was looking for but it also gave me the financial earning I desperately needed. I was happy and grateful that I opened the right door… or so I thought. Unfortunately two months after I started my job, my boss told me he and I should date. I was speechless and dumbfounded as I desperately try to tell him off without bruising his ego. All I wanted was to keep my job. Trust me, if I didn’t need my job, I would have told him the truth, that I have no desire to date him now or ever. I was able to come up with some excuses to hold him off.

After realizing my days were numbered; I saved every penny I made and completed my real estate license to prepare for the inevitable of unemployment.  To make the long story short…  when my boss asked for a date a couple of weeks later, once again, I told him that dating him would be unprofessional and reminded him of my NO dating co-worker or boss rules. Well, after that he began to treat me poorly and made my job beyond difficult. In the end, job be damned… I had enough. I told him the truth and quit.

So, now that door is closed. And because of that door — even if the opportunity wasn’t what I had hoped — I was able to make the best of it so I can open another door to a path that I hope will be the right one.

Into The LightI realized that no matter how many doors I have to walk through, there will always be the one that shines brightly if I don’t give up.
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Facing The UnknownWhile it’s scary walking into the unknown… it’s even scarier to give up my humanity and self-respect.
Safe HarborThere are times I long for the security of a safe harbor…
_DSC9573But, in the end I rather have the freedom and wings to fly to my true destination…

Happy New Year, Everyone! I wish you another year full of prosperity and doors of opportunity without having to sell your soul.  🙂

Hello, World…

Hello everyone, I’m still here and doing well. It has been a while since my last post. I hope to get back into regular blogging next year, which I can’t believe is less than a week away. Where did the time go?? 2013 has been a year of surprising opportunities and rediscovery for me — both good and not so pleasant. But in the end, I try to learn from my furry kids, Evie and Max… live life in the moment and enjoy the good times regardless of its duration — for I’m grateful to be alive, healthy, and with my humanity still intact. Best wishes to everyone, see you next year…

“May All Beings Be Happy & Peaceful.”

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The Perfect Lunch

I haven’t had much time to do any kind of quality photography for fun in months. My poor Nikon has been so neglected and was collecting dust —  as with my photographic skills. Finally with the tourist season winding down a little, I had some free time from managing duties to play with the camera. I thought it would be good to shoot some items from our menu to put on Big Bear’s Facebook page. The opportunity to do some foodie shots was a welcome relief for me. While I enjoy shooting all kinds of subject, Food Photography is still my most favorite. I find food photography more challenging to shoot than other subjects. There are many components that has to be just right to get the food to look appetizing: lighting, composition, styling, and presentation to name a few.  Luckily, I have a great chef at my service — not only can she cooks well but she has a good sense of presentation in putting the dish together, which is very important in food photography. And of course, the best part about food photography is that I get to eat the subject; in this case my perfect lunch.  🙂

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Nothing like chewy, gooey, chocolate chips cookies right out of the oven. Shannon, the chef makes these from scratch daily. Being a professional baker myself, I have to admit her chocolate chips cookies are the best I ever had — yes, even better than my recipe. 😀

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Here is the grilled eggplant sandwich with freshly made potato chips. This is probably the best veggie sandwich I ever had. Shannon makes her own secret sauce that elevates your taste buds to a level of sophistication that makes you want more. And the warm potato chips is unlike anything you will find in the stores.

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While I felt a little rusty with my photographic skills, it was a fun and tasty shoot.  As they say, practice makes perfect…  stay tune for more yummy dishes from Big Bear’s menu.

Kitchen Nightmare Moment

On my way back from the post office this afternoon, I passed a group of people filming on the sidewalk. I thought one of the man looked very much like Chef Gordon Ramsay from the reality television show, Kitchen Nightmares. Quickly, I pulled over to take a better look and to my happy surprise, it was Chef Ramsay. This is what I called the “Being at the right place, at the right time”  opportunity moment. I certainly did not expect to see him in my little town. But there he was… dressed in his casual shirt and jeans. I found a place to park and proceeded to follow Chef Ramsay and his entourage. They went into the restaurant, Prohibition Grille.

I found out Chef Ramsay is in town doing a follow-up show on the Prohibition Grille that was featured on his show, Kitchen Nightmares last year. I was told the restaurant made the top three worst restaurants he had to makeover list. And they are doing a special to see how the restaurant have improved — or have gotten worse. From listening to Chef Ramsay’s closing act outside the restaurant (which he had to retake about 30 times to get it right) the restaurant had made a significant amount of improvement; the best part was that the owner no longer subjects her customers to her appetite suppressing belly dancing acts. I saw the original episode last December, and the belly dancing would have turned me away regardless how good the food was. Though in her case, the food was as bad as her dancing. Would I go there to eat? Probably not.

 

I’ve never been one who cares much about celebrities, but I have to say — I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to meet Chef Ramsey. So I waited with the crowd of his adoring fans across the street from the restaurant, with my crappy camera phone — wishing I had brought my Nikon. Oh I kept thinking… the great shots I could have taken, instead of the poor resolution images from my not so smartphone. But oh well, it was still an amazing opportunity to finally meet the loud mouth, bad tempered, super talented chef I’ve admired for so long. It was a long wait, but in the end: I got to meet him, shook his hand and had him autographed the only paper I had in my purse; my bank statement that I got from the post office. Which I believe is a good sign. Perhaps his money making energy will somehow transferred on to my bank statement and brings me the opportunities to increase the balance to millions someday….

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As I watch him smiling and chatting with his adoring fans, I could sense Chef Ramsey has a kind demeanor about him, not at all the loud, dirty mouth, condescending jerk that he portrays on T.V. His hand was cold but his eyes were kind as he shook my hand and said “hello” to me in his lovely British accent. So, that was my excitement for the day. Perhaps, I should have invited Chef Ramsay to come visit me at Big Bear and challenge him to criticize my food… which I doubt very much he would be able to find any faults with Big Bear. 😉