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.

 

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. 🙂

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A Very Foggy Adventure Part 1

It has been quite a challenge learning to dive in a dry suit. When underwater, the suit acts as my buoyancy device instead of using the BCD (buoyancy control device) vest. So knowing how much air to add or subtract has been a steep learning curve for me. The worst part is that I would be swimming along just fine but when excessive air gets to my feet; suddenly I find myself starting to float upside-down quickly towards the surface — which is not a good thing when you are down at a depth that requires decompression time before surfacing. I would desperately yet remain calm as I try to regain control by letting the air out of my suit to get back to the bottom and get on me knees so the air can be release from my feet. On these upside-down occasions, I definitely thought about switching to the wet suit instead. With wet suit, I don’t have to deal with the uneven air disbursement. By using the BCD vest, it’s easier to know when I have to change the air quantity and the air stays in once place. However, with the water temperature in the Puget Sound around 40-50ish degrees Fahrenheit all year round; I know it would be in my best interest to learn to dive in dry suit so I can stay warm longer if I want to capture the amazing underwater life with my camera — which Pirate John has prohibited me to take with on our underwater dives. While I understand his reason for taking the camera from me, it drives me crazy when I see a photo opportunity swims by me.   But… first things first, I need to overcome my buoyancy challenges. Though I have to admit, it’s without doubt I would make the worst dive buddy when I have my camera.

After 15 open water dives and many weeks of  expert guidance from Pirate John to help perfect my buoyancy, I am able to hover and navigate underwater without crashing to the bottom or floating upside down as much. A couple of weeks ago, I went on my first boat dive trip to the San Juan Islands. While my buoyancy is much better and I was eager to jump off the boat to navigate through the heavy kelp forests — and search for the giant octopus and wolf eels along cliff walls; I decided not to do the boat dive because of the dry suit challenges I still have on occasion. Instead I tagged along with my camera. What an awesome adventure it was…

It was a very foggy morning when we left Anacortes for the dive destination in the San Juan Islands. While everyone else was inside, staying warm — I walked around the boat looking for photo opportunity. The fog was so thick, visibility were limited but the water was so calm — and with the sun trying to break through the clouds, it casts a warm glow all over. A great sense of peace and serenity came over me… as I stood at the stern watching the trail of wake the boat left behind.

Finally after about 40 minutes, we arrived to our first dive destination. There was a break in the fog and I was able to see land. The view was absolutely breathtaking…
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However, since the fog was still really thick, we weren’t able to stop at our first dive destination. The captain must have full visibility of all the divers at all times. Captain Phil decided to go on to a different place, hoping the fog would burn off when we get there. As we headed into more fog, the land disappeared. Once again I couldn’t see anything but debris and jelly fish floating by the boat. So I just stood on the deck and enjoy the beautiful foggy surrounding while keeping my eyes open for what I call “Being at the right place, at the right time” kind of shots.

After what seems like another half-hour, the sun broke through the thick clouds and casts light on the thick fog. And suddenly there it was… my being at the right place, at the right time shot came into view. I saw an arch that looks a lot like a rainbow but without the colors. The bow was mostly white with some very faint color. The captain told me what I’m looking at is a fog bow. Well… talk about learning something new. I didn’t know there was such thing as a fog bow. As I composed the shots, I had difficulty getting sharp focus and correct exposure because the bow blends in with the fog background. I shot the fog bow at different exposures and settings to try to capture its faint detail. I noticed under exposure was the better setting, since I can always brighten it during processing in Lightroom.
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Finally after what seems like a never-ending fog, the blue sky and land appeared out of no where. While everyone was getting ready with their scuba gear, the fog bow  and beautiful scenery kept me occupied as we continued to the dive destination.
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We finally arrived at the dive destination with full sun and clear visibility. The area was beautiful though the homes on the land kind of took away some of the natural beauty. Regardless, happy like fish in water; the divers put on their scuba gear and one by one jumped into the emerald-green water, ready to explore the underwater world below. At that moment, I wish I was diving too… but… life was kind to me and the adventures ahead would make me a very happy photographer.

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_DSC2367Happy Diving! 😀

Nautical Discovery

A few weeks ago, I took the furry kids for our usual walk around the boat filled marina near where I live. I have walked around the marina many times — admiring many of the beautiful boats tied to the docks, and daydreaming about sailing. My mind filled with the romantic notion of sailing to different places and someday… perhaps I might even sail around the world. Sounds rather crazy when I don’t know how to sail nor do I know anything about sailing and I have never owned a boat. Okay, I did have a kayak years ago but I don’t think that count as a real boat.

For some reason on that day, I decided to walk down an unfamiliar path. I thought it would be nice to give the furry kids different places to sniff and to get me out of the comfort zone. As the furry kids and I walked by a nice sail boat, the owner with a friendly smile said hello to me. Since he seemed friendly, I stopped to say hello. We chatted about sailing, boats and other topics. Well, the path took me to an opportunity I didn’t expect to find. Sometimes you just never know who you might meet… that will change your life for the better. Pirate John took me sailing… 😀

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What an amazing day it was yesterday for my debut as a sailor. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the wind — just right for testing out my sea legs and I’m very happy I passed with flying colors. I didn’t get sea sick nor did I fall overboard. The biggest challenge for me was to hold my camera steady while trying to stand firm on deck. Thankfully, Pirate John was a good sailor and he was able to navigate well on the sea. Once I began to get my footing on the motion and bouncing waves, I was able to shoot with abandon to get interesting POV of the 40 foot sail boat. It was a wonderful day… after six hours of sun and relaxation; I felt my creativity rejuvenated to a level it hasn’t been in a long time. While the bright afternoon sunlight and moving motion made the shooting challenging, it was one of the best times I’ve ever had in years. I discovered my love for sailing isn’t just a romantic notion and that someday, I want to realize my dream of sailing around the world… ALOHA!

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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… 🙂

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 fiancé 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 fiancé, 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 entrée 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…

The Sun’ll Come Out… Tomorrow…

The sun’ll come out
Tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There’ll be sun!
Just thinkin’ about
Tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
‘Til there’s none!
When I’m stuck a day
That’s gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,
Oh
The sun’ll come out
Tomorrow
So ya gotta hang on
‘Til tomorrow
Come what may
Tomorrow!
Tomorrow!
I love ya
Tomorrow!
You’re always
A day
A way!

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