The Dangers of Snow in July

With the weather being colder than normal all summer, the snow up at the Mt. Baker Ski and recreation area didn’t melt away like it should at this time of the year. The road to Artist Point was still closed. From my estimation, the road was covered under at least 20 feet of snow. Well, I thought… at least we don’t have to worry about bears that normally would be out eating wild berries. From the looks of the area, a lot of the vegetation were still covered under snow.

I later found out it wasn’t the danger of bears I should worry about — it was shooting in the snow on a bright sunny day that was dangerous. For those of you who’s not aware of it — you can get sunburn in your eyes. I didn’t know until a few hours after I got home and all of a sudden, I felt this excruciating pain in my right eye. At first I didn’t know why only my right eye hurt so bad, then I realized it was because I had used that eye to look through the viewfinder on the camera all day. And every time I took a shot, my eye got a concentrated dose of the sun rays; add that with the bright reflection from the snow, it’s no wonder I burned my eyes.

I thank my lucky stars that my ignorance didn’t do more damage to the eye than having to endured four days of pain and suffering. And I was also glad this guy didn’t break his neck while sliding down the steep mountain side on an air mattress. Although, I wish I had used the video on my camera instead… it would have been a hit on YouTube.

Have a great weekend everyone and please remember to protect your eyes from the sun, especially when you are shooting with your camera.

Finding Inspiration On Top Of The World

Last Saturday was one of those beautiful sunny days that reminds me why I chose to live in the Pacific Northwest. The weather was absolutely perfect: balmy 78 degrees, sunny, bright blue sky with just the right amount of fluffy clouds — a great combination for finding inspiration — which I have lost and struggling to get it back. I decided to take a road trip to one of my most favorite places: The Artist Point on Mount Baker. In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

It was a great trip and I’m happy to say, I found inspiration on top of the world: I took a lot of photos, met some nice people, saw some crazy stunts, and most of all discovered the inner strength to climb the mountain peaks to reach the destination.

My first inspiration came when we were driving up the winding road to Artist Point. I saw an antique roadster drove past us and there were more following behind. Quickly, we pulled over to the side and I jumped out with my camera while being careful to avoid the edge — it was a long drop down. My fear of heights quickly disappear as I focused on the beautiful cars roaring down the steep hill… a perfect opportunity to practice panning — which is one of my weakest skills. It was a fun challenge and the most difficult part of the shoot was definitely focus and composition. Over all, I got a few good shots and better understanding about panning. 🙂

As I watched the roadsters drove down the hill… I felt a positive charge of energy that I haven’t felt for weeks and had the feeling that the rest of the trip was going to be interesting. I was right, it turned out to be a very good trip. Stay tuned for more photos from the top of the world in the next couple of posts. Thanks everyone for your words of encouragement in my last post! 😀

The Big Boss

There was an uproar of applause, cars honking, and sighs of relief from a lot of people yesterday — when the news broke that Boeing was awarded the Aerial Refueling Tanker contract from the U.S. Airforce. Looks like current Boeing employees don’t have to worry about layoffs for quite sometime and according to the news — tens of thousands of new jobs will be added not just here in Washington State but across the country as well.  I’m happy to hear this since my partner works for Boeing as an electrical engineer. So it’s a relief for me to know he will have plenty of work for years to come. Of course not everyone is over joy by Boeing’s victory. I’m sure the other two competing companies are very disappointed by the loss, to say the least.

Here are some shots I took this morning at the Boeing Plant in Everett. I had to shoot these from a far distance. And could not get the close ups of the plane parts that I would’ve like to.

Winning this contract is definitely a “Dream Lifter” for a lot of people. I just hope they will remember to save for the rainy days… 😉

On Top Of The World

One thing about predicting the weather in the Pacific Northwest — you can’t go wrong with guessing RAIN. It’s days like this that I wish I could move to some place sunny and warm all the time. Even the Sahara Desert sounds pretty good right now. However, when I look at some of the photos I’ve taken of the places around here; I can understand why I put up with the rain for all these years.

Here are some snap shots I took of one of the most beautiful places on Earth: The Artist Point. If you see the place, you would understand why its name is so fitting. This beautiful majestic vista will take your breath away and make you feel like you are standing on top of the world.

Artist Point is located at the end of Mount Baker Highway, State Route 542 and boasts 360-degree views of Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker, as well as access to a variety of trails. The road to Artist Point is 2.7 miles long and more than 5,000 feet above sea level. It is typically buried under snow and closed from October through July. Typically it opens in late July when the snow have melted enough for the road to be passable and remains open until late September or early October.

If you look at the upper right corner of the second photo, you’ll see a trail. This 6 mile steep trail will lead you to the Mt. Baker photo above.

Here is a close up view of the trail. It’s a lot steeper than it looks. Good thing I had Max to help pull me up the trail. Judging from his ear to ear grin, he was a very happy pup.

Here is the view Max was looking at — Mt. Shuksan. It is one of the most photographed mountains in the Cascade Range. 

Max and I have spent many beautiful, sunny days exploring the wilderness that Mt. Baker has to offer. Our last expedition to Mt. Shuksan’s Lake Ann was unsuccessful because of  bears. I didn’t see the bears but Max could smell them. As we came around the corner of the trail, his fur stood up on the back of his neck and he barked viciously. At first I thought Max was just spooked by a squirel and I tried to go around him but he blocked the path and pushed me back. He would not let me go past. Max is probably the most friendliest dog on earth. And for him to behave that way, I know better than to ignore his warning. We turned back — even if we were only a mile away from the lake. We later heard from other hikers that they saw bears on trail.

Maximus, my protector…  terrified of the vacuum cleaner and yet not afraid of bears.

The Artichoke

 My first experience with the artichoke was love at first sight.  It was the most oddest and yet beautiful looking vegetable I’ve ever seen… and being the curious kid I was, I insisted on buying one.  Of course my mom tried to talk me out of it because she didn’t know anything about this strange vegetable and didn’t know how to cook it.  It didn’t really matter to me, I was just eager to find out what was under all those leaves.  After much pestering, my mom finally bought it for me.  

First discovery, I didn’t know about the little thorns on the tip of every leaf.  As I proceeded to peel back the leaves,  with every prick by the thorns my excitement for this vegetable diminished.  I kept peeling back the leaves hoping to see something interesting and tasty looking.  In the end, all I got was a big pile of leaves and sore fingers. My discovery of the artichoke was painful and a big disappointment.  Needless to say, my love relationship with the artichoke was short and not so sweet.  I did not touch another artichoke again until my positive rediscovery of it years later. When I finally learned how to eat an artichoke properly and discovered its many health benefits, I fell in love again.

The artichoke is actually not a vegetable but a flower bud.  It is a perennial thistle originating in Southern Europe around the Mediterranean. The edible buds with numerous triangular thorny leaves are formed from a stalk. The edible portion of the buds consists primarily of the fleshy lower portions of the base, known as the “heart”; the mass of immature florets in the center of the bud is called the “choke”.  The flower bud becomes inedible as it matures and when it blooms, the individual florets are purple.