It Was The Best of Times… It Was The Worst of Times… It’s Life.

As 2017 comes to an end, I can’t help but reflect back to the last few years of my life and how far I have come from the worst of times to the best of times. Those of you who have been following my blog for some time, have witnessed my struggles and celebrations. Thank you for your support and kindness.

The Best of Times…

Four years ago, just when I thought life would give me a break, I fractured my left ankle during the first day of my 7 day Hawaiian vacation. It wasn’t exactly the break I was looking for. At the time, all I could see were regrets and pain. If only, I wasn’t so eager to chase after that turtle! If only I wasn’t so clumsy… if only I didn’t take that step… If only… Oh the regrets that occupied my mind…

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That step took me down a hole so deep that I thought I would never be able to climb out. But somehow, I did. As terrible as that step was for me, I realized; I would not be where I am today had I not taken that slippery step. The broken and painful step took me on the path of living a purposeful life — where I can use my life experience to help other people who are still stuck in their own deep holes to see a way out. The job affords me the opportunity to live the independent life I had lost so many year ago.

For my 52nd birthday last month, I went back to Hawaii to celebrate my independence.

IMG_3426_resizedI finally fulfilled my dream to swim with the turtle after three years of waiting.

DSC_8226I rediscovered love with me, myself and I.  And found myself at the end of the rainbow.

IMG_1508Life Lessons learned: Things happen for a reason, good or bad. No regrets. Learn from it and move on. Have faith. The right opportunity will show up when you are ready to receive it. You never know where that next step will take you.

The Worst of Times…

After I got back from Hawaii, a very difficult decision was waiting for me to make. My beloved Max was having hard time walking. I took him to the vet and was given the bad news that cancerous tumors have invaded his entire body. I could prolong his life for a few months with surgery and chemo. Given the fact, Max was 12 years old; I decided to help him live the rest of his life as comfortably as possible. And hoping, maybe… by some miracle that he would get better on his own. Unfortunately, after a couple of weeks; I knew I was only being selfish keeping him. I did the inevitable and took him to the vet for his final check-up.

Now that he’s gone, I realized I took him for granted. Maximus Minumus, a true friend and companion who never complained, never hurt me or anyone, was always ready to play and most of all give unconditional love.

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DSC_8238This photo was taken two hours before I took him to the vet. Even to the end, he was ready to play; even if all he could do was to sit there and enjoy the the moment.

Life lessons I learned from Max:  Live life in the moment. Accept the good and the bad. Enjoy what you have. Give love and kindness even if the person doesn’t deserve it. Smile even when you hurt. Don’t complain. It’s Life.

May All Beings Be Happy and Peaceful… Happy New Year.

 

Seeking Truth and Forgiveness on Route 66 – Part 1

When life becomes too much for me to handle and I need to rediscover my true self, my solution is to go on a road trip. Usually, I would take a nice long drive along the Oregon Coast.  However, since I am now living in the middle of a desert state, I’ve been trying without much success to find places among the cactus and sandy landscape to help me escape the trials and tribulations of life. Being an ocean girl at heart, it has been quite a challenge for me to find a substitute escape route. I’ve driven to Phoenix, Flagstaff, Sedona, and none of the roads provided me the comfort I find along the ocean coast.

When I came to work last Friday, feeling unmotivated and extremely sad… I knew I was on the verge of burn out from all the challenges of running the restaurant by myself, and the recent life changing mistake I’ve made. As I sat in the booth feeling sorry for myself, tears running down my cheeks. I couldn’t help but feel that life is just so unfair: I work my butt off and yet; I am still unable to get ahead. My body aches; over worked, filled with guilty conscience and a broken heart. I couldn’t fathom why there seems to be people who I didn’t do anything wrong to — tried their best to see that I don’t succeed.

As I went through the motions of preparing for the day’s business, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I felt so trapped and knew I had to escape. And there was only one place on my mind. The ocean. The closest place I could think of was Los Angeles. That’s it… I’ll escape to L.A. I put a sign on the restaurant door informing the potential customers that I would be back in a few days. Quickly, I head home — threw a few things in an overnight bag and off I went… I drove west towards the Pacific Ocean. However, after about an hour on the freeway — I start to wonder if going to L.A. is a good idea. After all, I am trying to escape. And who in their right mind would want to escape to L.A. — the land of greed and deceit — to find truth and forgiveness.

Just then, I saw the sign for route 66. I had heard of the road but never really took the time to learn about it. I knew it was popular for something… and suddenly my inner voice told me I should go on route 66 instead of L.A. Well… I believe things happen for a reason and your instincts are usually the right one. There was a good reason for me to go on route 66. It turned out to be the trip I was looking for…

I got off the freeway and followed the sign to the town Seligman, on Route 66. Talk about tourist trap. As I drove through town, I thought perhaps I should have gone to L.A. instead. Souvenir shops, motels, food stands, signs, and rundown buildings crowed on both sides of the road.

I was hoping for more natural beauty and not so much commercialization. However, once I got out and saw the town from behind the viewfinder of my camera. I was captivated by the abundant photo opportunities.

Not sure how long ago this pump was last used. Wish we still have oil prices like that.

As I continue on my Route 66 road trip, I came upon a view that gave me hope of the great adventures ahead…

POV of A Cactus Plant

Last week during my daily morning hike with the furry kids, I decided to take the camera with me to photograph the abundant cactus plants in bloom. It was about 5:30 am and as we walked along the familiar trail, I was attracted to the soft glow of the morning light on everything. I’ve been looking forward to taking my first cactus blooms in the wild and when I came upon this plant with clusters of buds and blooms, I knew it would be the perfect subject to experiment with.

One of the challenges I enjoy in photography is to try to get as many POV (point of view) of the subject as I can. While the color version was pretty to look at… I converted them into B&W. Oftentimes, I find images become more interesting and unique when it is in B&W rather than color.

Where the Heck Is Spring?

One thing about owning a restaurant… I get to meet a lot of people, share cooking tips, gossips, and get up to date weather report. The other day when someone told me that we were going to get snow, I didn’t want to believe it. After all, it was 70 degrees and sunny outside. Besides, I’m eagerly awaiting for the cactus flowers to bloom. I’ve never seen cactus blooms in the wild and there are quite a few cactus bushes around my wilderness backyard with buds — ready to bloom in a couple of weeks. Well… one thing I am learning about the weather report here… they are very accurate. I woke up yesterday to snow — as they have predicted.

Great… I thought… just what I need when I am trying to get my restaurant going. Anyway, I took the opportunity to use my camera. As I was shooting, the sun came out. I’ve never been in a snow situation where it’s snowing and sunny at the same time. And the thought of perhaps seeing a rainbow came to my mind. I wasn’t sure if snow works the same way as rain and would create a rainbow. Maybe they taught this in my science class and I was daydreaming… which I did a lot when I was in school. Well… I looked and didn’t see any rainbow. But it was still a very pretty experience.

Desert Snow Storm

The temperature last Thursday was sunny and around 74 degrees. I awoke on Sunday morning to find over a foot of snow have fallen and it is still snowing outside as I sit here typing…   looks like the weatherman was spot on about the snow prediction. There’s at least two feet of snow accumulated. Normally, I would be very excited about the snow but… I am right in the middle of a very exciting and important project with tight deadlines. It is a project of my dream come true… and that also explains my lack of activity visiting and commenting on your blogs. I haven’t been able to do much photography and finally the snow forced me to take out my camera so that I can capture the snowy moment forever.

Ah… I’m sure I got you wondering what my dream project is. 😉 I will reveal it in the next post. Hopefully everything will go according to plan and will workout without delay. You will probably be as surprised as I am on how I found the opportunity to make my dream come true.

Okay… back to my snow storm rambling… it had snowed a couple of times since I’ve moved here but it was only a couple of inches. At first I was really surprised to see snow but then again, the town is located over 5,000 feet above sea level. I am learning the temperature here can go from one extreme to another in a very short time. From the looks of the amount out there, it’s likely the snow will probably stay around — at least until Thursday when the temperature suppose be around the 70’s again… in the mean time, the furry kids and I are trying to make the best of the snowy event. As usual, they enjoy running around like wild, crazy, pups and of course; I enjoy (sort of) hiking through knee-deep snow, at 7:00 a.m., on the back trails of my home with the camera on a tripod — looking for that spectacular shot. While I didn’t find that spectacular shot, here are snap shots of the desert snow storm. My first time seeing a cactus covered with snow.

This is a tree located in front of my house. Not sure what kind of evergreen this is but its bright color bark and interesting branches caught my attention.

As I continued the hike up the now — very familiar trail in the back of my house, I felt as if I’ve been transported to a winter wonderland.

And of course… the furry kids. Max is starting to show his age with little white hairs showing up around his face. Someday he will sport the familiar white face mask that all golden retrievers get…

Evie  loves to plow through the snow…

Thanks everyone for your supportive comments and I apologize for my lack of response. The last month has been a life changing experience for me. I am beyond amazed by the events that’s changing my life for the better… better than I have ever anticipated. While I will still fit blogging into my life, right now with my limited time — I will not be able to post regularly. Thanks, everyone! 😀

Snow Wimps In Action

I woke up this morning expecting the rain to come and wash away all the snow but since I live in the convergence zone, we got more snow instead — while the rest of the greater Seattle area got freezing rain on top of the snow from yesterday’s storm. Needless to say, the city pretty much came to a standstill from layers of ice. While I do agree, Seattleites are terrible drivers in snow but was it really necessary for the L.A. Times newspaper to insult us? Yesterday, the L.A. Times did a report about our snowstorm and called us snow wimps. The reporter was very condescending about our reactions to small amount of snow. I mean really… of all places, L.A.? They don’t even know how to drive in the rain and I doubt they would know how to drive in the snow at all — yet the reporter has the audacity to lecture us about our snow driving ability? I don’t like it when people make judgments without knowing how it really is. Does the reporter even know what the Seattle streets look like? I find the reporting really rude and not to mention bad journalism.  I know when I first moved down from Alaska, I had no problem driving in the snow but over the years, my ability becomes more cautious because of lack of practice. It’s hard to practice when it snows maybe a few times a year if even that. And that’s part of life… when you don’t continue to practice, you are not going to be good at it and eventually you might even forget how to do it. So… Take that L.A. Times… we are snow wimps and proud of it!

And speaking of practice. It has been a while since I shot my furry kids in action and with all the thick, fluffy snow; I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice my action shots. By afternoon, the snow fall had lighten up enough that I thought it would be okay to take my camera out in it. And of course, the furry kids love any opportunity to play in the snow.

One great thing about shooting Max in snow is his golden red fur. It creates nice contrast and makes it easier for me to get the correct exposure. Unlike Ms. Evie whose creamy white fur blends in too much with the snow. I tend to shoot her a little underexposed so that I can capture the details of her better.

Max is quite an athlete. He can catch Frisbees, knows how to play basketball, and he loves soccer. Nothing like a fun game of soccer in the snow. This was his first time playing soccer in the snow and as you can see, he was pretty good at it. 🙂

Winter Wonderland

Saturday was the first snowfall of the season and it has been snowing intermittently since. From the weather forecast, it looks like there will be a big snowstorm tomorrow. They are forecasting 4 to 6 inches. Yes, I know… for a lot of places — these measurements would be considered more like flurries than a storm. However here in the Pacific Northwest, anything over a few inches and they call it a storm. We don’t get snow here very often except up in the mountains — so having snow a few days straight is not a common sight. Unfortunately, this also means a lot of people are terrible drivers in snow. On the news, I saw Metro buses and cars sliding down hills, slamming into each other. It doesn’t take much snow for the roads to become chaotic. So I hope the snow doesn’t stay around too long. In the mean time, I’m glad to have snow. It’s definitely better than rain.  At least I can finally go outside with my camera. I took these photos late today. The sun came out long enough to cast a nice glow on the snow-covered landscape around my neighborhood. These shots were taken at the golf course field. It’s amazing to see the transformation a little snow can make.  It transformed the golf course into a winter wonderland. 🙂

New Year Sunset and Guilty Conscience

After weeks of rainy days, the sun finally broke through. This is the first sunset for the New Year.  Sunsets are amazing. It doesn’t take much for its beauty to leave a lasting impression — just like your wonderful compliments about my work and all the awards bestow to me. I can’t express enough how much your support means to me. I know lately I haven’t been keeping up with my responses and visiting your blogs. I apologize for the neglect. It is my hope that this New Year will pave a better road for me. And I will be free to be… 🙂

And that’s why it is not easy for me to write I’m going to write next… and hopefully, I don’t sound rude or ungrateful. But I feel it’s time I clear my guilty conscience regarding this matter.

Yesterday, I received another nomination for the most Versatile Blogger award. While I have received many awards since I started this blog, I never did follow the rules for getting the awards. And that is to write 7 things about myself and then to nominate 15 other people’s blog for the award. I want to apologize to those people who have taken the time to honor me with these awards but I chose not to follow the rules. It’s not that I am not grateful; I really appreciate your acknowledgment and I hope we continue to support each other. For those blogging friends who have follow and commented regularly on my blog, I show my appreciation by putting their links on my Blog Roll. While I appreciate any future nomination, I sincerely hope you will not take offense if I don’t follow the rules. Thank you.

A New Journey Begins

Another year has come to an end… and today a new journey begins. Although, I’m not sure where this road of life will continue to take me. One thing is for sure; I know  my journey will not be empty.

I’ve  had my share of challenges this year and at times I feel so used up, I just want to give up. But I made it through and in the process learned some valuable lessons that I will take with me as I continue on this journey — in search of my destiny.

Seeing the forest through the trees…

Learn to see ordinary things from a different perspective.

Because by seeing things from a different perspective, you might discover a better point of view. And turn the ordinary into something unique and different.

And when there are stormy mountains to climb…

Don’t give up! Because you just never know the wondrous beauty you might find on the other side.

Thank you everyone for all your support and wonderful comments. Your encouragements and kindness definitely have helped me through many of the detours I’ve encountered these last couple of years. I am so grateful to have your friendship. Wishing everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Warning Signs and Common Sense

While I do have a lot of opinions about life in this crazy society of ours, I generally keep the opinions to myself — unless I’m asked to share. However… sometimes some problems are hard to ignore — especially when it might have an impact on me in some way. I find the need to put in my 2 cents.

One of the joys about living in the Pacific Northwest is the abundance of wilderness parks and recreation areas available for use. I enjoy going on hikes and exploring the back-countries with my camera. While most of the popular national parks and forest areas usually are well maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, still… whenever I visit any of the parks and recreation areas, I am fully aware of the dangers and risks of venturing out into the wilderness. And if I choose to ignore signs like this, and I get hurt… I have no one to blame but myself.

I guess that’s why recent news of people suing our Park Services for wrongful death really infuriates me. While it is sad that these families suffered the loss of their loved ones, however by not willing to accept personal responsibility and placing blame unjustifiably and seeking compensation with frivolous lawsuits will end up making these beautiful places inaccessible for others to enjoy its natural wonder.

Last month a woman whose husband was killed by a mountain goat last year, is suing for 10 millions dollars. Her lawyer is claiming the national park service knew the goat was aggressive and dangerous and they should have kill it or remove it from the park… Gee, what a great idea… let’s kill and remove every dangerous wild animal from the wilderness so that it is safe for people to visit. And yesterday, the parents of an 11-year-old girl, who was killed accidentally by a huge ice boulder at the Big Four Ice Caves over a year ago — is suing the U.S. Forest Service for their daughter’s death. According to the suit, the parents and their ambulance chaser, lawyer insisted that the Forest Service did not provide enough adequate danger signs warning people about the risks of collapsing ice, snow and unstable caves along the trail to the caves.

I’ve visited the Big Four Ice Caves a couple of months ago and there were warning signs along the trail — not to mention the sign at the end of the trail giving the final warning about staying off and out of the ice caves. And from what I’ve read from other visitor’s comments, the area always have warning signs about the dangers of getting too close to the ice caves. The parents chose to ignore the warning signs and put their children at risk. During my visit at the ice caves, while I did heed the warning of not climbing on and staying out of the ice caves, I did make the choice of venturing out into the danger zone to take some close up photos of the ice caves and waterfalls. I was at least 25 feet away from the  ice cave entrance. The father said the family was standing about 15  feet away from the ice cave entrance to get pictures when the accident happened. Trust me… when a large chunk of rock falls off the mountain above the ice caves, you would need a lot more than 15 feet to be safe.

In my opinion, with or without the danger signs, anytime you are hiking in the wilderness; you should always be aware of the hidden dangers and obey the warning signs or proceed at your own risk. It’s not right to blame others if you choose not to use your common sense. Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now… thanks for listening…

I Only Read Picture Books

I love collecting cookbooks. Over the years, I have accumulated over a few hundred cookbooks. Before I started food photography, I used to buy a cookbook based on the title and recipes. It didn’t matter if the book is all text or  illustrated with only drawings. I was more interested in the recipes than anything else. That is — until I got interested in shooting food. It was probably about a year ago, I realized being a foodie photographer have changed my cookbook buying habit.  Now, I would only buy and read picture books. The styles and techniques of the photos are more important to me than the recipes as my deciding factor to purchase a cookbook.  😀

One of my favorite places to buy books is Goodwill. They have a large selection of new and old books priced at a fraction of the original price. It’s interesting and great learning experience to see the evolution of the photographic techniques and styles of cookbooks through the years. I have learned a lot of my food photography technique and style by studying the pictures of the past and present. It’s exciting when I look at a picture and I can tell what the settings the photographer probably used to get the shot. For those of you who want to improve your food photography skills, the picture books are great for learning about lighting, aperture, composition and other technical aspects of photography.

As I sat at the table this morning having my coffee and donut while looking through the new stack of picture cookbooks I bought yesterday. Something clicked and slowly… I could sense my creativity turning back on. The beautiful food pictures motivated me to play with my breakfast. And for the next hour, I came up with these shots. I experimented with different white balance, aperture, and exposure time. For the light, I used the natural lighting from the windows. One good thing about rainy day — it makes perfect light source for food photography.

With food photography, there are many aspects of technical details to keep in mind; however from my experience, definitely composition and lighting are probably the two most important factors to get a good photo.

For me, I am most attracted to images that show the food up close. I want to be able to see the details but sometimes I don’t need to see the whole thing. Also I like using objects in the background. If it’s done correctly, the background colors created from the objects can help make the food look interesting and more appetizing. From all the newer books, I noticed shallow depth of field has become increasingly popular in food photography.