Starting My Bucket List

I have been keeping this photography blog for over two years now. The experience has been more rewarding than I’ve ever anticipated. In addition to my greatly improved photographic skills and style, the other valuable experience are the people who I have the pleasure to come in contact with from all over the world. The support and comments are priceless… it’s like having someone to give you a pat on the back — to wish you a job well done. Or when life gets too much and you needed a gentle push. And then there are those people whom I’ve connected and their words help change my life for the better. Yesterday, was my birthday and I received an unexpected birthday wish email from a blogger friend. I was thinking about going to Grand Canyon for my birthday but wasn’t completely sure about it until my friend told me that everyone should see the Grand Canyon at least once before they die. He was right and I decided to add Grand Canyon to my dusty Bucket List. So… that’s what I did for my 47th birthday. I went to see one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world.

Even though the weather was very nice, the harsh lighting from the sun and not to mention the hundreds of people all over the place didn’t make it very ideal for the shots I was looking for. While I couldn’t change the lighting much, I drove around the park seeking areas where there were fewer people. I found a few places and were able to take some snap shots. I discovered the Grand Canyon is one of those places that is very difficult to capture its true grandeur and beauty with the camera — unless you have time and patience to learn about the environment around there. I read that some photographers would study the weather so they know the ideal time to go — to hopefully capture that amazing shot. After taking some photos of the Grand Canyon, I can understand the need to study the weather and light. The harsh lighting created drastic contrasting shapes and shadows of the canyon and over all; the landscape looked flat. Some creative exposure from the camera was needed to make the images more saturated. For me, I try to capture the image as close as I can within the camera instead of relying on using the software to do all the fixing. Also, I knew I would want to turn some of these images into black & white for the more creative look. With that in mind, using manual setting: I set the correct exposure for the landscape in the light so that the shadow part would be even more underexposed and vice versa. It was a very fun learning experience. I got some interesting photos though nothing that I would be overjoyed about. I kept the photos in color for this post. Later when I have more time to play in the darkroom (Adobe Lightroom), I’ll post them in B&W.

I hope someday to return again but given the fact I will be moving out of Arizona, I’m not sure when I will see it again in my life time. But… at least I can cross Grand Canyon off my Bucket List — the list which I want to continue to add to it even if the items might be out of reach right now. Seeing the Grand Canyon has helped clear my blurry vision so that I can see what my life can be around the corner… 🙂

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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 fiancĂ© 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.

Happy Trails — Part 1

I thought life have finally decided to be kind to me and gave me a break.  After the closing of my restaurant, it took every cent I had, and with the imminent homelessness nipping at my heels; I thought I finally found the saving grace. A job that not only pays me what I need to live on but I would be able to utilize all the skills and experience I have accumulated over my life time. On Friday, the owner, owner’s fiancĂ©, and the general manager met with me for lunch. After some selling discussions on my qualifications — I was hired. We shook hands and they said I would start Monday. Well… to say I was elated would be an understatement. I thought… finally… someone who actually sees my multi-talents as an asset rather a deterrent. I decided to take a weekend road trip to clear my mind — and prepare myself for the new challenges ahead of managing the bank accounts of a multi-million dollar company.

After looking over the map of Arizona, I thought I should just finish the other half of Route 66. Except instead of seeking truth and forgiveness, I was seeking amazing vistas to quench my creative mind. And most of all to reinforce my belief that I am a strong and capable woman who can overcome any challenges that come my way…

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the other half of Route 66 as fascinating and visually inviting as the western half. It doesn’t have the diverse landscapes I’ve experienced on the other side. For the most part, the landscape was boring and flat. And a good majority of Route 66 was also part of Interstate 40 and somehow having to drive 75 miles per hour and being sandwiched between semi-trucks didn’t bring the same peace and nostalgia feel my previous Route 66 trip had evoked. However, being the photographer always trying to see something out of nothing… I did my best to see beyond the surface.

Along the way, I also stopped by a couple of tourist traps  attractions: The Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see either attraction up close. It cost $ 15.00 to see the Meteor Crater and $ 10.00 for the Petrified Forest. I have this aversion for paying to see Mother Nature’s handy work when we already paid so many taxes. Since I have a 4 x 4 SUV, I thought I would circumvent the crater and perhaps find an area that had free access. No such luck. There were fences and no trespassing warning signs all over the place.

Since I didn’t get to see the Petrified Forest and being a rock-hound, I decided to stop by at one of the Petrified Forest gift shops to get a souvenir to add to my rock collection. When I walked in, I asked the woman behind the counter about using the restroom. She replied in a grumpy tone that the restroom is for customers only. I told her I would buy something after. She was still pretty grumpy after I used the restroom and was looking around her shop at all the different rocks and gemstones. I suppose, I can understand her manner. I know I would get rather irritated when two people want to share an $8 entrĂ©e at my restaurant. Though, I wasn’t grumpy; I did imposed a split plate charge to cover for the ice water with lemon slices, the napkins, the wear and tear of dishes, silverware etc. It is expensive to operate a business. Every thing costs money one way or another. So for my purchase, I chose a bag of mixed Petrified wood and a piece of desert rose. The woman became very friendly after my purchase. We chatted about the attractions in the area and I told her about my disappointment with the lack of exciting landscape for photography. She told me that if I want amazing landscape photography opportunities, I need to go up north to see the Monument Valley. I have heard of it and have seen some of the monuments in movies. She took out a map from behind the counter and showed me exactly how I can get there. I decided not to go to New Mexico and to head up to Monument Valley instead. On my way… I got see a beautiful sunset.

Once again, this is one of those “Listen to your intuition and you can’t go wrong…” kind of moment.  Happy Trails…

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…

Seeking Truth and Forgiveness On Route 66 – Part 3

There is nothing more thought-provoking than driving for hundreds of miles alone on a desert road to reflect about life. While the solitary beauty and grandness of the landscape made me feel grateful for being alive and having the freedom to enjoy the moment, the inner civil war inside my head continues its pursuit of right and wrong.  It’s beyond belief how a moment in life can be so beautiful and full of promising future of happiness… then you make that one wrong choice and puff… that opportunity is gone forever. I know… it certainly wasn’t the first nor would it be the last time I’d make choices like that but nonetheless, I felt like such a fool that I could be so careless. As the battle continues on I came upon another small desert town: Oatman. Although the town didn’t seem like much from first impression, I was glad to have the opportunity to take a break from my tumultuous conscience.

When I got out of my car, I almost stepped on to a pile of smelly excrement from the town’s mascot. Many years ago, Oatman was a gold mining town. And after the gold mines were shut down, the burros used during mining were released into the wild.  Some of the descendents became tourist attractions. The burros come and go as they please around town, leaving smelly piles everywhere.

My first impression of the town was correct. There wasn’t much to do. After reading the sign about the burros, I took some photos around town. As I started to walk back to my car, this burro for some reason decided to follow me. When I got into the car, he still would not leave me alone. He just stood there looking at me with pleading eyes. I told him to go away… I don’t have any food. There were signs all around town warning people about feeding the burros and yet I saw a woman feeding one of the burros her ice cream. The beast still would not give up and thought perhaps he could convince me by sticking his head into the window. Of course being the photographer, I grabbed the camera and shoot — at the same time trying to stay as far back from the beast as I could when he stuck his head further into the car. At this point I wasn’t sure what to do… other than continue to take pictures and ordering him to go away. Then he looked at me for a moment and backed off.

With a sigh of relief I thought he finally took the hint and decided to leave — instead he proceed to eat my car. Hey! I shouted at him. Don’t eat my car! I wanted to reach out and push him away but… just then a man who has watched my comical interaction with this beast came to my rescue. He shoo the burro away from the car long enough for me to escape…

Seeking Truth and Forgiveness on Route 66 – Part 2

After leaving Route 66 tourist town, Seligman. The road becomes a long stretch of beauty and solitude of the desert life — waiting to be discovered.

I put the SUV on cruise control, as the song “Hotel California” by the band Eagles began to play. I felt my heart lighten and a big smile spread across my face as I cranked up the volume and sang along at the top of my voice — looking forward to the unknown destinations ahead.

It was such an amazing feeling to drive aimlessly without a care in the world. With an occasional passerby, I was pretty much all alone out there in the hot desert sun — enjoying my freedom and the breathtaking vista around me.

I was pleasantly surprised by the change in the terrain on Route 66 as I continued on to the next town. The road went from flat and straight to steep hills and winding curves. The top speed I could drive with my SUV was around 30 miles per hour. As I carefully navigate around the curves, I thought how exhilarating it would be to drive the road in a convertible sports car with the top down.  đź™‚