Tag Archives: California

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).

Last Summer Hurrah (in Napa, CA)

chilling-3

From a technical, Western standpoint, summer is still here.  The autumn equinox isn’t occurring for another seven days.  A week.

Yet it already feels like fall.  The days are crisp, and the everything feels fragile and delicate.  I grow melancholy in the evenings as the shadows grow long too soon.  Long days shorten.  Nights grow long and cold, and spicy scents fill my nostrils as I go about my day.  For those of us who celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, the full moon watches over us and declares that it is fall.

chilling-4

However, today I am not talking about the fall.  No, sir!  Today, I’m talking about the summer!  About how I’m still trying to grasp the last wisps of summer before they escape and give way to the chill of the winter.

I think I cherish summer more so than the other seasons because I’ve been without one for so many years.  Summers in San Francisco are chilly affairs, filled with fog and cold and no-sun.  So any day when the sun emerges or I’ve left the San Francisco bubble and entered the sunny, hot days of summer, I am excited.

Napa, California is one of these places.

California wine country is a hop, skip, and a jump from our home.  In fact, it’s probably faster to get to the fringes of Napa or Sonoma than it is to get into San Francisco proper.

So we frolic.

chilling-7

The strands of full berries greet us from vineyard to vineyard.  Winery to winery.

We aren’t tourists.  So we don’t try to cram as many wineries into one day as possible.  One, maybe two, at most.  Otherwise, by tasting flight three or four, the wines all the same, tannins puckering our lips and taste buds.

The Boys.jpg

Instead, we take our time, joy ride in the sun, and stumble upon random wineries in Napa.

As a last hurrah for the summer before our friends and we went back to teaching, working longer hours, etc., we went for a joy ride to Napa.  We found this gem, a quiet winery in the lazy wine country with outdoor seating, wood fired pizzas made to order, and bocce.

I am spoiled.

chilling-5

chilling-6

//35mm film photo, taken with my Canon AE-1 with Kodak Portra 400 film.  Sonoma, California, August 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. }}

Ending a Roll

End-5

Shooting film means shooting in sets of 16, 24, or 36 frames.  What ends up happening sometimes is that I don’t quite finish a roll, and then I’m left with a few extra frames to shoot before I can bring the roll in to be developed (I hate waste!).

Last time this happened, I grabbed C and told him that we were going to run around San Francisco for a little bit and finish the last few shots before dropping off the film.

A good sport, he agreed.

Drove in and found a cute little spot in the Mission in San Francisco.  Park. Run. Ooh, chilly. Pose. Snap. Pose more. Snap. Snap.

End-2

Run back to car.

It took a total of five minutes.  Probably less.  It was really cold.  And windy.

There may or may not have been some people in the car next to ours staring at our 5 minute shenanigans.

End

(Weirdos. Cool weirdos.  I think he was giving the people staring at us a weird look back.)

05610032

End-4

Hi there, male model!

Did I mention that it was the perfect lighting? Golden hour, in the shade– A natural light box of filtered sunlight.  Approximately 3 minutes after these photos were taken, after we had loaded ourselves back into the car and I was winding my film back into its canister, the light was gone.

05610036

Thinking about beautiful light gives me chills.  It really does.  It makes me happier than I can even explain.  Lights and shadows are among my favorite things in this world.  This photo right here, for example.  The sun is waving adieu to the sky, and the leaves trail shadows of varied light across textured surfaces.

I really should write a post dedicated to light and how it works in my photography.  Maybe that will be an upcoming post.  Stay tuned!

And because I rarely ever have photos of myself, here’s one of me:

End-6

And it’s a wrap!

Littles

Skylar

This is Skylar.  She’s my niece.  To clarify, she is not one of my brothers’ children.  Rather, she is one of my cousins’ children.

If you ask her, she will tell you that she is four years old.  She will also let you know that her favorite color is pink.  Sometimes.  Other times, it’s purple.  Or rainbow.  But not black.  If you ask nicely, she might even tell you her favorite colors in Chinese.  She’s in a bilingual preschool, and she can count, declare her favorite colors, and sing Lunar New Year songs.  Just ask.

Or, depending on her mood, she might ignore you altogether.  (“When are you leaving,” she asked me bluntly the other night when we were over for dinner.  It wasn’t so much a question as a declaration.  You’re leaving, her tone said.  Oops.  Cutie-patootie was tired.)

Skylar Lulu-7

Skylar Lulu-6

But, occasional, fatigue-induced mood swings aside, Skylar is a cheery, happy-go-lucky girl. We have great times together.  But more on that later. Skylar Lulu-5

 

This is Skylar’s sister, Lulu, sitting on her mother’s lap.  For the first year of her life, she regarded me with hesitant apprehension (“stranger danger” much?).  There was nothing I could do to get her to laugh or smile.  But!  Over the last few months, she’s finally started warming up to me.  Smiles!  Giggles!  Success!

At some point, maybe because Lulu finally recognized I was no longer a stranger, her parents decided I was responsible enough (ha!) to babysit.  We went over for an afternoon of fun and games with the girls while their parents went for some me-time at a nearby brewery.

Babysitting

What I find fascinating about this new generation of children is that they’re so used to immediate gratification.  A photo taken on the phone or digital camera means that you can see it seconds later on a bright, tiny screen.  I shoot film, and so when most kids hear the click of my camera shutter, they circle around, hoping for a glimpse of their faces.  They’re bewildered to discover that my film camera has no screen for displaying the recently shot photo.

I usually bring my camera when I visit and when I babysit, so Skylar’s learned that my camera won’t yield immediate results.  She’ll still pose, however!

Skylar Lulu-2I told Skylar to pose for this photo.

Sweet face? Sure.

But, say cheese? Eyes to the camera? Nah.

She held this pose for a few minutes, waiting for me to take the shot.

No other poses were forthcoming.

Skylar Lulu

Skylar did have fun with putting stickers in her sister’s hair.  I bought a bunch of fun stickers during my layover in Taiwan earlier this past January and brought them over to babysit.  If you look carefully, you’ll see stickers on random locations– on a shirt sleeve, pant leg, in their hair . . .  I’m pretty sure my cousin’s going to be finding Taiwan stickers in random crevices of her house for some time to come.

Skylar Lulu-3

Skylar Lulu-4

Lulu says, “Chee–!”

I can’t wait until the next time I get to babysit these Littles!

// 35mm film photography with a Canon AE-1 Program; the top set of photos in a restaurant were taken at Pho Ao Sen in Albany, CA.  The bottom set of photos were taken a couple weeks ago while babysitting.

Rings and Things

Taiwan-4

There was great internal debate as to whether I would post about this online.  I’m not wont to share much of my personal life online, especially in highly exposed fora of arenas such as Facebook.  (I won’t go into it too much here, but I’m highly averse to the voyeuristic nature of Facebook and other social media.)

But my Blog is a different matter.  Plus, I’m rather pleased with how these photos came out, and I don’t know where else I could share these photos other than Instagram.  And sometimes, some things are too important and too special to be relegated to Facebook.

So, after the phone calls were made, after the dinners and lunches and happy hours and visits were had . . .

Taiwan-5

I’m happy to announce that I am engaged!

The questions that a person encounters as soon as her friends/family/coworkers discover that she is engaged are listed below:

  1. When’s the wedding?

. . . and that’s it.

Taiwan-2First things first: I am not going to turn this blog into a wedding blog.

Secondly: I didn’t know the answer to that question the day after I got engaged.

Thirdly: I still do not know the answer to that question, nearly two months later.

Taiwan-3

But I do like taking photos.  So while I and my new fiancé figure out what we want to do, I’m going to keep shooting.

These are 35mm film photos taken of my new, bright, and shiny engagement ring nestled among my favorite succulents.  I haven’t had an opportunity to shoot rings and jewelry before, so perfect chance, right?

Taiwan-6

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably looking for our engagement story.  Here’s the short version (email me if you want the long winded version):

We have a yearly tradition of seeing the Nutcracker every Christmastime at the S.F. Ballet. This year, he sent me a bouquet of flowers and then picked me up from work.  We stopped by the Marin Headlands despite the rain and being late to our dinner reservation because of lame traffic, and, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, he proposed.  (There was some debate as to whether we’d actually stop in the Marin Headlands because of the rain, but he had a semi-panicked, puppy-dog look in his eyes, and, well, let’s just say that it’s very easy to persuade me to take a detour to take photos in the Marin Headlands.)

The photo above was taken right before we engaged.

Voila!