The Dam Eagle Road Trip

Finally… after over two months of being a couch potato to heal my broken ankle; I escaped on a road trip yesterday. The weather was the typical Pacific Northwest winter — rainy and gray, not exactly the best weather for landscape photography. But I didn’t care… I was in desperate need to get away before the insanity of boredom takes over permanently. I knew I was getting to the point of no return when I actually watched the season premier of The Bachelor. If I was looking to regain my self-respect and intelligence, I definitely lost more than a few IQ points for watching the entire episode. So… to redeem myself, I decided I need to put some creativity back in my brain. At first, I thought about escaping to the Oregon coast but given the fact my leg is still in the healing process, I decided to stay close to home — and shoot the bald eagle migration that happens around this time of the year, along State Route 20.

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Unfortunately, there wasn’t a single eagle in sight when I got to the area where they usually hang out. But… no matter, nothing could dampen my excitement and the exhilarating feeling to finally get out of the house and be in nature with my Nikon. I decided to do the dam road trip instead. There are several dams along Route 20. The route is also one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever traveled. Because of the rainy, gray, sunless weather, it was a challenge with lighting and exposure; everything was mostly flat and lifeless in color. I knew most of the images would be converted to monochrome. With that in mind, I try to shoot with the exposure that would allow me to manipulate in Adobe Lightroom for the mood I wanted to create.


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The Diablo Dam is the second of the three dams along the upper Skagit River. The Diablo Lake is probably one of the most beautiful places on earth. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture its beauty and grandeur. It’s one of those places that you really need to see it in person, especially on a sunny day, to experience its breathtaking vista.
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As I continued on to the third dam, Ross Dam; I came upon this sign. At the same time, I was starting to feel pain in my leg. So I took it as a sign to turn around and go back home… and lucky me — the perfect ending to a perfect day — I got to see a few eagles along the way. Since I still use crutches to get around, I wasn’t able to get close to the eagles without scaring them away. It was really difficult trying to hike close to the eagles with my crutches. After a few frustrating attempts of tripping and falling to the ground, I was able to shoot one from the comfort of my car. Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend. Happy shooting. ūüôā

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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 fianc√©, 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 entr√©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…

Home Sweet Home

After more than three days and 1400 miles later, the furry kids and I finally arrived to our new home. This is the view of our new back yard  playground. I took this shot from the side deck of the house.

It was an incredible journey for my mind, body and soul. During my journey of escape to freedom, I went through a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s amazing what your mind will think about when you have nothing to entertain you but a long and winding — mostly uninhabited road through some of the most amazing landscapes in North America. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos. Not that I didn’t want to… there were so many breath-taking sights. But with a heavy eight-foot trailer towed behind my SUV, made it difficult to just stop and park anywhere. The most difficult part about the trip was traveling with the furry kids. While they were the most well-behaved traveling companions, finding a place to stay with them was not easy.

On our first night, I couldn’t find a motel that would take the furry kids. Since it was freezing cold out, I couldn’t leave them out in the truck on their own; we ended up sleeping in a motel parking lot. Yes, at least they were kind enough to let us use the parking lot. Needless to say, it wasn’t very comfortable sleeping with the steering wheel and it was so cold. I didn’t get very much sleep that night. Our luck was much better the second night. We stopped at a very small town. And there were two restaurants to choose from. One was part of a casino. I was surprised¬†to see a large casino out in the middle of nowhere. So, my instinct told me to choose the small family restaurant instead. And it was the right choice. After subsisting on Subway sandwiches, beef jerky, and water for two days, I was ready for some really good home cooked meal. As I waited for my food, I started to chat with the owners. They were a very nice couple who had been through some hardship themselves. After learning about my plight, the owners were very generous and didn’t charge me for dinner and they also offered free breakfast the next morning. They also directed me to a motel where the nice owner decided to let slide the “NO DOG” rule for us. I was very touched by their kindness and generosity.¬†I felt as if these people were like my guardian angels. They gave me more than just food and shelter; they gave me HOPE and COURAGE to continue on my journey.

On the third night, I thought about staying in Las Vegas. It has been over twenty years since the last time I’ve been to Las Vegas and if I had thought it was an ugly city before, it’s even more ugly now than I had thought. Looking around the environment, I can see why it’s nick named — Sin City. I decided to skip the city and thought maybe a motel outside the city limit would be better. However, the motel I came to would not take Max because he was 10 pounds over the weight limit. It was really late and I was very tired. I pleaded with the clerk to let us stay but he wouldn’t. The clerk refused to budge from the rule that they will only accept dogs less than 45 pounds. Guess I wasn’t surprise by the clerk’s lack of compassion. After all, it was Las Vegas. So, I drove on for another few hours while trying to stay awake… finally just when I thought about sleeping in the SUV again, we found a place that took the pups and without extra pet fee. ūüôā

The next day, we arrived to our new home around noon. I met my new roommate Shannon and instantly; I knew we would get along just fine. Her home is on the end of a street, surrounded by the beautiful wilderness. The back yard is part of the national forest with hiking trails that go for miles.

And for the first time in my life, I was able to wake up every morning and look outside my bedroom window to witness beautiful sunrise.

For the last few days, the furry kids and I have been getting up every morning to hike up to the top of the hill to see the gorgeous sunrise. As I sit on top of the boulder looking at the brightly lit sky, casting a warm glow to the valley below — I knew I found the place that I can finally have the quality of life I’ve been looking for. While I know there will be challenges ahead, but for the first time in years; I truly feel happy and free.¬†And it looks like the furry kids feel the same way…

Thank you everyone for all your support. And for those of you who’ve donated money or bought prints, I can’t tell you how much your contribution means to me. All I can say is — THANK YOU!! I will never forget the favor and will find ways to pay it forward when I am back on my feet. ¬†Happy Valentine’s Day! ūüėÄ

Surfs Up

We decided to take a longer road trip over the Labor Day weekend. With summer coming to an end, I wanted to enjoy the ocean beaches while we still have the gorgeous summer weather. We spent three days driving along the Oregon Coast. At first we thought about camping out on the beaches but then the idea of sleeping in a small tent with the sand covered furry kids — and the fact that Maximus often farts in his sleep didn’t sound very appealing. So we thought we would take our chances with motels instead. However, the last situation No Vacancy Road Trip did cross my mind. And honestly… we almost had another similar situation but guess luck was with us this time and we were able to get a room that was also pet friendly.

The Oregon coast have changed a great deal since the first time I was there 25 years ago. And unfortunately most of the changes are not for the better. Many of the popular towns have become overcrowded with expensive condos, heavy traffic and people. In our quest to find a more secluded beach, we discover an amazingly beautiful small cove with many surfers catching turquoise color waves.

Needless to say, I was happy as a clam to have the great opportunity — to practice shooting action shots. It was a good practice. Though, it would have been even better if I had a longer telephoto lens. I would have love to get up close and personal shooting the surfers and waves. But… since the waves were strong and unpredictable; I didn’t want to take a chance of  the camera getting splash by the waves or worse yet — I get swept out.

Detoured Road Trips

Hi everyone, thank you¬†for all your supportive comments and emails. I haven’t posted lately because… I seem to be having a creative road block. And it’s taking me a little longer than usual to get back. Hopefully, my road trip this weekend will help me find my way and I’ll¬†something interesting worth posting. Have a great weekend!

Return Of The Forest

It has been over 30 years since Mount St. Helens blew its top: Thirteen hundred feet of the mountaintop collapsed into the Toutle River Valley. The explosion claimed 57 lives and devastated almost 150,000 acres of forests. I’ve wanted to visit Mount St. Helens for many years. Finally on Saturday, we took a road trip to see it. While it was a beautiful drive… I was surprised by the lack of trees and vegetation in areas closer to the volcano. Most of the new forests were planted — more than 18 million seedlings were planted by hand. And in some areas of the blast zone, you can still see a lot of trees lay where it fell from the blast.

The area was a photographer’s paradise. However, it was a challenge for me to get good shots. I wanted to capture the vastness of the devastated areas but since my widest angle lens is 18mm, it was difficult to get the feel. I decided to shoot panoramic so that you can get a better sense of the area. The panoramic image below was created using three images. Click on it to see a larger size with better details of the volcano.

For those who enjoys hiking, you can hike up to the top of the volcano. It’s about 18 miles round trip. I thought it would be awesome to get images of the inside of the volcano, but I probably need to get in better shape before I attempt the climb.

Here is a panoramic image of the valley.  Click on it to see larger image.

Wordless Wednesday

The Wheels On The Truck…

I’m sorry that I haven’t been visiting and commenting on everyone’s blogs lately. The graphics card in my computer burned out a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to get it fix but have ran into some technical difficulties. Hopefully, when the correct graphics card arrives sometime this week, I will be able to get the problem solved and have my computer running normal again. In the mean time, I am running on the standard back up graphics card and needless to say, it runs very sluggish or would freeze with heavy graphic websites.¬†It’s been¬†tricky trying¬†to get some posting up¬†before the computer would crash if I make it work too hard.

These photos I took of a semi-truck’s wheels pretty much describes the road trip I went on yesterday. Without going into the long details, all I can say is that — the experience has left me reflecting and spinning my wheels. At first I thought the truck driver was nuts for driving so fast. We were already doing 70 miles and he was passing us. But when I saw the reflection of my car in the wheel’s hubcap, my creative light bulb turned on. Quickly, I grabbed¬†the camera and started shooting at the wheels. At first the driver wasn’t sure what I was doing but once he understood, he played along with me and slowed the truck down so that I could get a better shot.

Even though the road trip¬†didn’t turned out like I have planed, I’m sure there are life lessons to be learned from the expereince. I just need to have faith that things will work out for the best in the end. And to enjoy the happy moments because I am sure, the spinning wheels will eventually take me somewhere grand… Happy Monday Everyone!