Tag Archives: Cityscape

Climbing a Mountain (Figuratively)

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Someone Else’s Childhood (in Taiwan)

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There’s something unsettling about nostalgia that doesn’t belong to you.  The bittersweet melancholy of realizing you’re witnessing someone else’s memories is poignant.  Stories others have told have painted hazy images in my mind’s eye, and I can recognize snapshots from their memories as I go about my adult life, but it’s just not the same.

My mother grew up in a town in Taiwan where everyone knew everyone else.  Her father was the principal of their local elementary school, as was his father before him.  Schools were a hub, and my mother’s family lived in tiny Japanese-style homes that were specifically built to house teachers on the school campus.

Why were these teacher-homes Japanese-style?  Because Taiwan was under Japanese occupation from 1894-1945.  My grandparents grew up speaking Japanese in school, and all other languages were banned.  (Fun fact: My grandfather’s earlier books were written in Japanese, and it wasn’t until he taught himself how to write Chinese in his mid-20s that he translated those books into Chinese.)  Later, when the losing government from China took up residence in Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese was mandated, and other languages banned.  My parents, therefore, grew up speaking Mandarin.  What was spoken at home?

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So what’s it like to witness someone else’s childhood?  This is what it’s like.

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These are the semi-abandoned remainders of the teacher housing from fifty years ago.  My mother’s home is this one:

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My mother’s childhood home in Longtan, Taiwan.  Somewhat renovated, this house appears somewhat like it did when my grandfather and his family were still living here when was still a teacher, fifty years ago.  The calligraphy engraved on the wood panel was written by my grandfather.  [Digital photo because I wasn’t able to capture it with my Canon AE-1]

How strange.  How weird.  How funny!

But it’s not just my mother’s childhood that I’m surreptitiously reliving.  It’s also my father’s.  It’s also my fiance’s. My parents grew up in Taiwan in the 1950s and 1960s, and my fiance grew up in Taiwan in the 1980s and 1990s.  And yet, their childhoods are very similar.

This is what an elementary school looks like.

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So different from the elementary schools of my childhood in the U.S.

To them, the outdoor sinks directly outside the classroom, the mops hanging on the wall, the shape, size, and color of the buildings itself . . . These are their childhood memories.  These memories are not mine.  They will never be mine.  I can experience their childhood through trinkets and remaining edifices now, as an adult.  And that is where the bittersweetness floods in.

For good measure, because it was the Taiwan elections when I was in Taiwan in January, I’m including a photo from the Taiwanese elections.  I had to capture the historic, historic day!  The day a female president was elected! Tsai Ing-wen, now the most powerful elected female in the Chinese speaking world.

(So much passion lie behind Taiwanese politics.  I will address it some other day.  Today, I celebrate something that the U.S. hasn’t been able to achieve– the election of a powerful, opinionated woman to the helm of a country with a complicated, convoluted, and confusion past.)

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It wasn’t as crazy or exciting as the TV showed Taipei was, but Longtan’s elections, held at the local elementary school (my mother’s), was fantastic in its own right.  Quietly, people (the majority of the people of Taiwan) voted.

Yet another memory that isn’t quite mine.  I merely bore witness.

// 35mm film photos taken in Longtan, Taiwan, mid-January 2016 by a Canon AE-1.

Taiwan in the Winter

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In those rare opportunities when I get to experience something from a different perspective, I am always pleasantly surprised.  A few months ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Taiwan during the winter.

A January Taiwan is a very different experience than a July or an August Taiwan.

Some background on Taiwan

Taiwan is my parents’ home.  Neither of my parents grew up in Taipei, and my childhood trips to Taiwan were always to the towns in which they grew up.  I’m a country girl, my mom would say.  She spent her young years playing hide and seek in the rice fields, and Taipei was a big city that warranted an  occasional visit but never was “home.”

Instead, my mother’s home is a town about an hour’s drive from Taipei.  Her home is where I go every time I’m in Taiwan to visit my remaining grandparent.  Her home is where I meet up once every few years with my Taiwanese cousins to eat and drink and catch up on family news.

[That top photo is the Longtan Lake, a few blocks from my grandfather’s house.]

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Winter in Taiwan

For once, I realized, I wasn’t sweating every waking (and sleeping) moment of the day.  The usual oppressive heat and sit-on-your-chest humidity had given way to a brisk coolness that wasn’t quite cold, and it wasn’t quite damp, either.

This was, for me, a new Taiwan.

So I wandered.

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Muted greys dominated, only to be broken by brightly colored temples.

Walls of Taiwan

I want to do a series of photos about the walls of Taiwan.  Taiwan’s tropical air forces walls and other edifices to age prematurely, weeping from the moisture.  Cleaning the walls is almost futile.  Why try, when moss and dirt return immediately like iron filings to a magnet?

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// 35mm film photos taken in Longtan, Taiwan (龍潭) in January 2016 during an afternoon wander near my grandfather’s house.  If, by some odd chance, you find yourself in Longtan, look for the Lupin Flower shop– that’s my aunt’s semi-defunct quilting shop.  That’s where I spend my Taiwan trips with my grandfather, uncle, aunt, and cousins.

Ending a Roll

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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:

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And it’s a wrap!

Rings and Things

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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 . . .

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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.

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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?

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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!

New Beginnings

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Have you ever believed that if you want something badly enough, some force will get you what you want?  Sometimes, I feel that way.  And when it happens– when the world comes together just so— it’s just wonderful.  The music plays; the stars align.

“Life is beautiful,” my mother would say.

I took this photo a few weeks ago in the Mission district of San Francisco.  It was taken spontaneously.  A stand alone shot, captured in a moment of inspiration.  “Occupy Waltz St.”  Cute moniker.  But, to be honest, I don’t even remember what they were playing.  My friend and I had spent the afternoon eating, talking, drinking.  Celebrating.

Earlier that day, I received a job offer for a position I had spent the prior 5 months interviewing and preparing for.  It had been a stressful time.  But I got to know the baristas at my local coffee shop pretty well.  I wanted this job.  Badly.  Two phone interviews, two day-long interviews, months of preparation, and one presentation later, I got a phone call while I was sitting on the hill of Dolores Park. 

I got the job!

I called my parents.  I called my boyfriend.  I texted my brothers. Success!

This is cause for celebration, my friend said.  Indeed.  Plus, she was on spring break from med school, and I had no where else to be. We wandered from Dolores Park through the Mission, finding a bar and sitting down for a drink. 

Over a couple of beers, we sat and watched an afternoon blossom into evening and a farmers market slowly unfold.  Music played.  Children scampered.  I shot some photos.

The streak of light running through the film is a reflection of the changes that occurred in my life.  The distorted colors are due to ISO 1600 enduring the stressors of an airport X-ray scan twice.  Stressors caused my personal and professional lives to twist and distort and throw me through a loop.  It might not be the most elegant way to get to where I wanted to be, but, like the resulting photo above, my life is all the more beautiful because of it.  

A Path Forward—Railroads and Crossings

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In Europe, railways are the old veins of the countries. They bring a constant stream of people from place to place. Country to country. Like cobwebs spun by the spindly legs of a spider, the railroads connect from city to city in an interconnected network of wrought iron and steel.

When I was living and traveling in Europe, railways were the expected mode of transportation, especially for a young, wide-eyed student such as myself. The snow-covered fields that I peered at through the train windows between France and Belgium on the cold December afternoon were beautiful and are forever etched in my memory.

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In the United States, not so much.

Individual subways and metrorails often operate within the confines of a city and its surrounding suburbs, acting like railroads, but on a much smaller scale. A brief look at a map of United States railroads reveals a system that is anything but lacking, and yet most of our railroads are used for carrying and transporting freight.

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It’s an old, somewhat political topic. The Economist explains it better. We’ll see what happens with California’s high speed rail. That might change things.

In the meantime, we have Amtrak. And rails that travel through Berkeley.

There’s just something about railroads that draws me to them.

Down we look at the Railroads

I can’t help but think that these photos represent everything that’s been going through my head and my life these past few months. It’s not the smoothest ride, nor am I on the most widely known path, but I have my options in front of me. The scenery isn’t always beautiful (especially in the U.S., where a system composed mostly of freight carriers means that a lot of railroads pass through industrial areas filled with factories), and there are crossings that stop things from getting across—temporarily—but, in the end, it gets the job done.

So here we go.  Onward and onward.