Category Archives: Travel

New York, New York (in BW)

000056520015

There are some books that are written out of order– they start somewhere in the middle and piece together the various strands of the story into a woven tapestry of scenes, pictures, and images.  Not every moment is recorded, and not every scene is explained, but it all becomes one cohesive whole at the end (or beginning) (or middle).

My blog is much the same way.  It’s mostly linear, but I jump around like a nervous flea, unsure where the next juicy tidbit will be, but sure that it will be delicious when I get there.

000056520002

Thus so, too, are my images from New York City.  We had three days to wander this massive city, and everything in memory became jumbled.  Some of it comes back in a rush, focusing on the lightspeoplesoundssmells– the hum of a massive life form that is the city itself.  The crush of people was incredible!

Other memories come back in snippets: of hot steam with a faint stink rising up under my skirt, of aching feet, of glimpses of people who stand out in this town where anything goes.

000056520001

And yet, somehow, typical me, I find the pockets of quiet in between the people.  My camera lens is drawn to peace, even when there are actually hordes of people around.

Chris, observing me, once said, “Many people, when they need alone time, they go to the quiet of their homes and spend time by themselves.  You– when you need alone time, you seek out people and spend time with them.  Alone, but not alone.

000056520012

He’s right.  I become wrapped in the quiet envelope of space that is all my own. I can be surrounded by people and yet hidden in my own pocket of peace.

000056520009000056520010

I’ll be back in this City That Never Sleeps for a few days starting this weekend.  Hoping to capture a few more shots of this fabulous city!

000056520017

//35mm black and white film photos taken with my Canon AE-1 on Ilford HP5 400 film.  Images were taken in SoHo, Central Park, and the Upper East Side (I think that’s what they’re called).  Captured a few in color, so I may throw those in for good measure in another post.

Embarking on a Black and White Journey

000084680031

For those of you who follow me on Instagram in addition to this blog, you already know that, starting January 1 of this year, I started on a new project.

Yes, my friends– I am now shooting in all black and white.

And I am not talking about just converting select color photos to black and white, but actually shooting black and white film.  When all 36 frames in the camera refuse to accept any tint or hue.  Only shades of black, white, and grey.  So many greys.  My current films of choice are Ilford HP5 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400TX.

Why?

To be perfectly frank, I decided to plunge into all black and white because I am hoping to develop (ha, that pun) my photography skills.  I don’t have formal photography training, but that doesn’t mean I can’t improve my skills.  And improving, to me, means developing my eyes.

I want my eyes to think as much as they see.  

When I started shooting film, I noticed that I was putting a lot more thought into my images– into the composition, the why and the what of a shot.  Questions I began asking dealt with the ultimate, future image that was hidden within the case of my Canon AE-1. Thinking.  And I saw myself gradually improving, frame by frame.

000084680035

Black and white strips away all the distractions.  The colors, however striking to my naked eye, are gone in the final image.  What’s left behind are the bones of my photo: the subject matter that my eye managed to see.  Was it worth it?  Why did I take this in this fashion?  Was it the texture?  Was it the composition and/or placement of the subject?

Why is such a difficult question to ask.

I’m still looking for what I consider to be “my” style.  I am also looking to explore and expand past the inane, generic photos that flood Instagram in millions every second.  Why should others care about what I’ve chosen to spend time, effort, and money on?  (Truth is, I don’t know why they should care; I certainly don’t care sometimes.)

000084670020

It’s a path I walk down, slowly and somewhat uncertainly.

I’m excited, as well, to see what happens.  I recently looked at photos from my very first roll of film, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was rather terrible with film (washed out, unfocused, etc.).  But I’ve improved, and I am hoping that someday I will look back on my first rolls of black and white film and chuckle at my inexperience as I chase something else that will make me even better.

//

35mm film photos taken in Shanghai, China, during my trip out to Shanghai; January 21 and 23, 2017.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Brothers.jpg

These are my brothers.

We hang out.  We have a good time.  We look alike.  Our favorite pastime is sending awkwardly close-up selfies to each other in group texts.

The one on the left is older.  The one on the right is younger.  I’m the oldest.  The youngest just turned 21.  So they came to visit me, and we explored San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Here is what we did.

Lands End with the Brothers.  A Photo Essay.

59200034

592000355920002659200027lands-end-2lands-end-3

lands-end5920003159200030

Traveling with my brothers, while exhausting, is a rare pleasure.  They both live in Maryland still, where our parents are, and I don’t see them often.  Even though technology allows us to communicate easily and frequently, it isn’t the same as seeing them in person.  They’re both still in school (graduate and undergraduate), so traveling out to California to see me is difficult.

But when they’re in town, I love being able to show them all my favorite places– from my favorite photo opportunities to the best cafes and bars.

And it’s also good to get to know my brothers better.  I’ve known them both their entire lives, but little things that occur in day-to-day living are missed when you only see each other once in a blue moon or through the lens of a text, snapchat, or post on Instagram.  So when we’re face to face, especially after it’s been a long time, it’s like I’m hanging out with a completely new set of people.

Plus, being the older sister, I am still sometimes astonished that these younger brothers of mine, long thought of as babies, are actually thoughtful, deliberate human beings with ideas, beliefs, and opinions of their own.  It’s like they’re adults.  Or something.

We have a good time.

This is the first of a couple posts I have in mind for documenting their visit to see me in August 2016 and celebrate Baby Brother’s birthday.  We spent part of the trip in San Francisco just eating and wandering and enjoying the life of a San Francisco tourist.  This part of the trip included wandering the cold edge of San Francisco: Lands End and Sutro Baths.

For those of you who have never been to Lands End and Sutro Baths in San Francisco, you need to do it.  It’s a beautiful park, with paths to walk and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.  Where ocean waves create lace on the grey sands of Ocean Beach.

59200036

// All photos taken with my Canon AE-1 on 35mm film (Portra 400, if I recall correctly).

Ooh de lally (Thoughts on Solo International Travel for Work)

000006640023

I often pass this fella on my way to my company’s Hong Kong office from my hotel.  Undistracted by passing traffic and immune to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, he looks like he’s listening to a storyteller weave a fascinating story.  // 35mm film photo, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, August 2016.

I travel a lot for my job.  I am largely responsible for my department’s function in the Asia Pacific region, which means if I’m not visiting our Hong Kong or Japan offices, I’m attending conferences in Singapore, Malaysia, and other places around the region.  This year alone, I’ve been to Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia.  This doesn’t include local travel within the continental U.S. that I’ve also had to do.

The travel affords me the opportunity to shoot in a variety of locations, and, between my love of exploration and my love of photography, I am pushed to leave the confines of my hotel room to explore my surroundings and seek beauty in a new city and country.  (I have a growing backlog of photos documenting my travels that I have queued up for blog posts.  One of these days, I promise, I’ll get around to sharing them with the world.)

The perks of work travel are great.  But, today, I’m focusing on the not-so-wonderful aspects of traveling for work.

Solo International Travel for Work

The majority of my Asia trips are solo.  The reason for this is because my team is lean, our budgets are tightly controlled, and we usually can’t spare extra people to travel without good reason.  Plus, Asia was the reason I was hired.  So to Asia I go.  Alone.

Due to the frequency and length of my travel, my fiancé can’t accompany me either.

So I go it alone.

And, despite the perquisites of travel to a new and exciting place, it still kind of sucks sometimes.

The Californian and Asian time zones are as diametrically opposed as time zones can be.  It’s better when I am staying through a weekend and can plot out an entire day of true explorations.  But when it’s work travel, the majority of the days are spent in meetings or talks/discussions, when “home” is still awake.  By the time I have freedom in the evenings, everyone back home is asleep.  This means that there is a rare sliver of time in which folks back home are awake and can talk.  The rest of the time– especially that time right around dinner and before bedtime– it’s radio silence.

When I don’t know a soul in a new city, and I’m faced with only a few hours each evening to spend on my own, it’s a bleak look I have on life.  The loneliness can ache.

People have different takes on this: Some stay in their hotel rooms and eat club sandwiches and watch on-demand movies.  Others, like myself, try to explore to the best of their abilities.  Many meals have been eaten alone while wondering about how friends and family are sleeping back home.  I’ve become much more introspective.  Perhaps I’ll begin writing again.

It’s during this travel that my Kindle and I have become best friends.

I wrote about this on Instagram a couple months back:

singapore-from-above

(Quote from my Instagram post in October 2016)

International travel by yourself can be lonesome, even if the cities you are visiting are exciting and packed with millions of people. Literally.
.
But I don’t know these strangers, and they don’t know me. We scurry about in our tiny lives, oblivious to one another’s presence. I’m a random face passing them by momentarily on the streets of their life. They, the same, for me.
.
Even my local colleagues, though friendly and willing to devote time to me, have their own lives and families. I try not to infringe on their time.
.
It’s especially difficult when it feels like everyone I know in the world is asleep. The witching hour at home is hustling and bustling here in Hong Kong.
.
I’m still here. Alone. Watching people flow through their lives while mine feels like it’s standing still.
.
It’s not so bad, most of the time. I’ve been devouring books like I haven’t done since grade school. So something good is coming of this. And I’m exploring a lot, so the strange is becoming familiar. So there’s that.
.
One more week.
.
Bird’s eye view of tiny, tiny human beings in The Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.

I have a couple months of respite to recover from the travel and the jetlag.  I’m off to Shanghai in January, and I’m looking forward to it.

But for now, I’m resting.

 

James Turrell: “we are dwellers at the bottom of the ocean of air.”

james-turrell-1-2

James Turrell is a master of light.

We went to the de Young in San Francisco to check out the Ed Ruscha exhibit a couple months ago.  We had tickets to see the museum, too, and we were excited to explore properly.  A friend of mine was married at the de Young years ago, but we weren’t able to fully explore the museum then.  Plus, I wasn’t too interested in photography yet.

Thus, years later, we devoted a day to exploring art.  In addition to the Ed Ruscha exhibit, a main push to visit the museum was my desire to visit the James Turrell exhibit just outside of the de Young: Three Gems, 2005.  (For those of you in San Francisco this fall, the exhibit will be open on Friday nights with a light show.)

james-turrell-1

The sculpture is a calm dome of space, and one could sit there indefinitely, watching the atmosphere flow by overhead, contemplating peace and quiet.

In fact, I was almost embarrassed at the loud clack of my camera as I pulled light in to rest on film.  A silent agreement to observe in silence was made.

dual

We were in a vase of air, the frogs at the bottom of the well, believing, even for a moment, that the sky was merely a changing disk of light at the top of the upturned bowl.  The soft curves of the walls drew me in, held and cradled me like a babe.

Nothing could find me here, I felt.  A breath of a moment.  A slice of peace in our tumultuous world.

It was literally poetry for my eyes.  For my soul.

james-turrell-1-3

james-turrell-1-4

Things I think about when I’m left to the whims of my brain:

  • How do I get the same feeling of peace on my own, when I’m not surrounded by a structure that was carefully crafted to force upon someone a feeling of gentle surrender?
  • How did James Turrell decide on the angle of these curves?  What inspired him?  What inspires me?
  • Why don’t I go to art museums more often? Why don’t I seek out art more often, when it makes me so happy?
  • Then, darker . . . What am I doing with my life?  Why did I choose my career path? Why didn’t I choose art?  Wouldn’t sculpture or photography be better?  Where was I going?   Was it the right place to be, at the right time?

Perhaps I should spend more time on my own, thinking, browsing, feeling.  Soul seeking is always a good idea, I think.  I haven’t done enough of it, recently.  Instead, I hide behind a curtain of work and the fog of daily minutiae, never confronting what my teenage self once relished– the art of picking myself apart to find my weaknesses.  But then picking myself up to face the next day all over again.

How long could I have sat there, pondering?

I didn’t want to leave.

But I kind of did, too.

in-and-out

So off we went.  Sculptures awaited outside, and we walked those green gardens for a while.

squiddy

The entire De Young is a work of art, from the artwork hanging within its halls to the surfaces that form the building, and, with an entire afternoon to meander quietly, we did so.

james-turrell-1-5

For those of you who wonder what I look like.  Hello.  I need to cut my hair.

Sidebar: Tomorrow is our election day.  Let’s see what happens.  May there be plenty of James Turrell to go around if the results go awry.

//35mm film photos taken with my Canon AE-1 at the De Young in San Francisco, CA in September 2016.

Climbing a Mountain (Figuratively)

59460014

I think it’s the 79th anniversary of Golden Gate Bridge. Happy birthday, dude.  You rock.  Keep on going.

59460012

This used to be my view every. Single. Day.

I miss it.

It probably still could be my view, if I didn’t mind paying an arm, a leg, and my firstborn (and possibly my second) in order to afford rent in San Francisco.  I have come to the conclusion that those kids living n San Francisco (they’re all kids, no matter their age) must fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Independently wealthy (from the parents or perhaps because they sold their start up for at least $500 billion)
  2. Work at one of the few places that pay enough salary to accommodate for housing prices in San Francisco
  3. Under the age of 35, childless, and relatively new to San Francisco

I do miss it.

59460011

I am flying to Hong Kong tomorrow.  It’s the eve before I fly, and I haven’t even finished packing.

Oops.  I should get started on that.

But before I do, some background about these images.  These are all photos of the Golden Gate Bridge from different vantage points. These were taken over the course of the past few months.  Look at the hills: they’re still green, which means we were still enjoying a Northern California spring at the time I took these photos.

Nowadays, those hills are yellow in hue.  We’re not called the “Golden State” for nothing.  Those hills are pure gold.

So these photos were all taken after work one day.  Some days, when I drive in to the City after work, I take a break from the traffic to seek out the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge.

59460013

How is this not absolutely breathtaking?

When I took this photo, I had to shove a middle school kid aside and out of my way.  (Punks!)  It looked like a school field trip to the Golden Gate Bridge.  Dozens upon dozens of students getting into my shot.  So I was lucky to get a few.

59460017

It’s been a long week.  Maybe it’s time to go pack.

See you in Hong Kong.

//35mm film photos of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge taken from the Marin side.  If you look carefully, you can see Sutro Tower in the background.

Roses in Napa

59430007

Somewhere along the way, I was lost.  But then I found myself.  Or, at least, pieces of myself.  Step by step, like Hansel and Gretel picking up the crumbs they left behind, I am following the crumbs of who I am.

I’ve gone through many iterations of “me-ness.”  My haecceity.  (That’s a new word I learned this past weekend from reading a young adult book.  Makes me wonder about the level of my vocabulary– or it’s saying something about the authors when I can still learn new words to add to my lexicon.  Anyway, this is a very verbose way of say– look it up.)

59430005

Many of my friends are still figuring out who they are– what makes them tick and keeps them going.  Is there a midlife crisis before you’re in your midlife?  Because that’s what’s going on.  Many of my friends are changing their careers, leaving lucrative, high powered jobs, departing the known to pursue the unknown.  Others have hopped around, seeking the right fit.

How do we find the right fit?

I have friends who left and are now writers, calligraphers, artists.  That wasn’t the plan when we started out.

But then again, who were we, to presume to know our futures?

59430006

I changed direction, too.  I’m a million times happier now than I was two years ago, but it didn’t happen overnight.  I write a lot when I am stressed, and maybe one day I’ll do a photo shoot of the notebooks I write in.  Page after page, I dug into my soul with ink.  It was a stream of consciousness, rambling much like I am now.  Stormy ideas and thoughts, tumbling rough and unpolished, onto paper.

It helped a lot.

I’m not at the final stage of discovering who I am– and I may never really find that out.  I sometimes wonder why I’m not doing something different.  For now, though, I’m still following that little stream of clues of haeccity through life.

I’ll figure it out as I go.

59430008

{{Oh yes, these are 35 mm film photos of roses taken outside of the Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley, California from a couple weekends back.  Aren’t these petals dreamy?  The grain of the film (Portra 400) makes me so happy, too.  I fall in love with film every time. }}