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.  ๐Ÿ™‚

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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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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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.

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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”ย  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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Road To Big Bear

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A couple of months ago, I had my photography cover debut for 1859 Oregon’s Magazine. I am still in awe of my good fortune every time when I look at the magazine; which I have a copy on all the tables and shelves around the house. And today, I have another debut. Today I finally opened the doors to my grand project — Big Bear Rest Stop.

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A few months ago, after my long and winding road of employment rejections; a real estate developer saw my diverse work experience as positive qualities and he decided to hire me as the general manager to turn an old chalet into a rest stop that contains a restaurant, beer and wine garden, and a gift shop. It was the perfect project tailored for me. I knew there would be many challenges ahead to turn an old, dilapidated building into the grand vision I had in my mind. But it’s exactly those kinds of challenge that drives me — the kind that brings out my passion and creativity.

After countless construction delays, dealing with vendors, health department regulations, broken kitchen equipment, sampled more hot dogs than I ever had in the last 5 years but it was all worth it. When I see what I have accomplished in such short time I feel very grateful and proud — which is not something I usually feel about myself. However, with each challenge I overcome; I am learning to not be so hard on myself when things don’t work out the way I want. That’s why I was able to remain calm when I was driving up the beautiful highway 2 to Big Bear this morning, all excited about the grand opening when I got a call from my assistant, Billie. Right away, I knew from the tone of her voice that it was bad news. She told me the walk in refrigerator failed over night and while the fan is running, the temperature in the fridge reads 60 degrees (16c) Calmly, I told Billie we are going to open today regardless. Good thing the extra refrigerator that broke the week before had been fixed. I told her to throw away all the perishable foods, move everything else into the other fridge and work with what we have left that was usable. We might not be able to serve everything on the menu but I told her we will open and we will just have to deal with whatever that comes our way. In the end, all was well and we had an amazing opening day… my road to Big Bear is complete. ๐Ÿ˜€

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(These last four photos belongs to Billie Preston)

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Emily, Shannon, Malia, April and Billie

Cover Debut

Tomorrow will be the three-year anniversary forย  Emily’s Photography Blog.ย  In the beginning, I wasn’t expecting anything great would come from blogging. I started the blog because I was unemployed and the daily blogging kept my mind busy.ย  However it didn’t take long for my expectation to change — especially after my tumor operation a couple of years ago. I realized that photo blogging did more than just keeping my mind occupied. The blog taught me about determination, friendship, selfless sharing, support and learning about life around the world through pictures. Most importantly, it made me appreciate and perfect my skills so that I can become the professional photographer that I am today. So my fellow bloggers. Just keep taking pictures, blog about it and enjoy the journey… because you never know who might be looking and want to pay you for your hard work.

In the three years of blogging, I have received many requests to use my photos. I have granted all but one request for free. Normally, I’m okay without getting pay and would settle for a credit and link back to my blog. However, the one that I have turned down was actually someone who works in a famous hotel in New York City. The person was interested in using my photos for the walls in the restaurant. At first I was very tempted in letting them use it for free. After all, the hotel is famous. But then I thought, if I do that then I would only depreciate my own skills and the value of my work. It’s not as if they couldn’t afford the small payment I was asking. I wasn’t going to let my work be used by people who could afford to pay regardless of how much potential exposure I might get. I’ve learned long ago that I would rather get paid and get the exposure at the same time. If they want my work, they should pay for it. I’m sure they wouldn’t let me stay at the hotel for free.

Anyway, a month ago, I received a request to use my photos from the creative director of 1859 Oregon’s Magazine.ย  And on top of that, my photo debut made the cover of the magazine. When I received the check a month later, it was an amazing feeling to be compensated fairly for my hard work. I’m so glad I stay true to my values.ย  Thank you everyone for your support and wonderful comments. Your uplifting and kind words have helped me through these dark periods of my life in more ways then you’ll ever know…ย ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

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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… ๐Ÿ˜€

I Made It!

Flight Observation

Just one of those precious carefree days… sitting around… observing… wishing… enjoying one of nature’s wondrous gifts.

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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.)

Hope Springs

Hello everyone! Thank you for all your good wishes and comments. I’m sorry for the lack of response. Since the closing of my restaurant, I’ve been on the move for a new life and all my stuff are packed away in storage, including my computer. Hopefully, I’ll have some good news to share in my next post.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
— Andy Dufresne (quote from Shawshank Redemption movie)

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