I didn't grow up in a town with 4 seasons. Basically in southern California, we have hot, less hot, and lukewarm. Some evenings get chilly, but I've had others (from out of state) visit during wintertime in their T-shirt and shorts. So we often have to go elsewhere to chase the seasonal appearances. This time, we found ourselves in Alabama Hills, located in Lone Pine, CA. It's an out-of this-world rock haven. Even though it was a busy weekend, camping spots could still be found whereas I've found trouble getting a space in Joshua tree if I didn't show up Friday mid day. Spaces are spread out and we were able to have a whole corner rock stack to ourselves with the best views of the Sierras. We journeyed through the Mammoth Lakes, hiked up the Mt. Whitney trail, dipped into the Lone Pine Lake and took the smokey views of fires in Lion Meadows Trail. It's the best to explore for change in seasons at the moment. The colors are the most vibrant in the season before the leaves start to descend. Don't wait, the time is now!
And from inlands, I was headed out to the islands! I know it's nothing special to most people, but we decided to do it local style, spend time with family, dance party in the car, hike out to some special places, do some fishing, fish for avocados, wait what? Just watch!
Along the way, we got out of the sun and up for a trail run on Waihee Ridge to round things out.
All in all, keeping things different and fresh all the time will grow the mind. Sometimes doing things over and over will put you in a rut. Change it up like you change your underwear and see what happens.
Happy New Year! I regret the lack of updates and posts. I am more active on IG at the moment but only because I like sharing pictures with you. Sometimes I want to do it all and get sidetracked. Life gets real, real quickly and you know how the story goes..
I just wanted to touch on a thought today. I recently thought why are we always reading someone's review and taking notes on the next best thing to emerge from that location. Whether it's a location to shoot or best place for your favorite food, we tend to read reviews which results in a deliberate plan of action. Unfortunately, it doesn't allow us to think out of the box.
Recently I thought about all the travel blogs and reviews I read about, make some plans around that, and give it a go. Well I consider that a little bit bad for any of us that are trying to find some originality. Like a wise man once said, "There's nothing new in this world. There's only a different arrangement of things." (1) As I pondered what I was going to do, I decided to scrap my plans which would have me doing exactly as someone else, gathering the same points of view. On this day, I ended up hitch hiking around the city to get to my destinations. Something some may not recommend. They might urge you to take a taxi. In my case, I have had more bad run-ins with taxis than I did locals.
I'm thankful for these lucky choices. I would be missing out on some very beautiful memories, otherwise lost to convenience and someone else's ideas. The thoughts I was preoccupied with, trying to be somewhere, I decided I'd make it work around me.
Hiking around the city to get to Amapura to see the sunset over U-bein Bridge. I missed catching the boat to see sunset along the bridge horizon but came upon beauties I would have missed otherwise.
(1) Henri Cartier Bresson on The Decisive Moment
Pictures are different for everyone. Please take this post with a grain of salt if anything. My personal photo journey has led me to a not-so-simple, but dedicated set up. You might not feel the same and that's okay. It takes a few travels to find what you like for yourself. As long as you're able to capture what you want for your use, that makes me happy!
Canon 5D Mark 3
Tamron 35mm f/1.8 VC
Canon 50mm f/1.2
Canon 85mm f/1.2
I decided to nix the zoom lenses unless I'm in studio or on a job. Unfortunately they are too much to carry daily. Don't get me wrong. A 135 or 70-200 might really capture a great portrait, but try carrying that, along with my backpack. It's not happening, but I commend anyone that is willing to go through the trouble. Also shooting for night time conditions is an absolute must. Even going indoors, an extra stop of light can really help with your exposure or even keep you from missing a great shot. Something my phone camera can't always capture. It's just impossible due to sensor size capability.
My holy trinity of primes: 35/50/85.
35mm is one of the best wide angle primes to consider having in the arsenal as it makes every scene look perfect in a cinematic way. Any wider, may grab a whole scene, but tends to look overly distorted. It's just the nature of the lens design. 35mm happens to be the perfect length for myself.
50mm keeps everything in perspective. It's nearly similar to what the eye can see. Thus it makes one of the best lenses to convey what the photographer is feeling. The $100 nifty 50mm 1.8 was and still is one of the best buys that anyone can have in their gear arsenal.
85mm is a medium telephoto. Without going any longer and having such a long lens to carry, The 85mm can do double duty by nailing a portrait or taking a step back to take a landscape. Although these days I carry around the f/1.2 which is heavier, but I can shoot in near darkness.
What I would do differently: Sometimes finding that sweet spot for a lightweight set up. I don't want to preach on why to shoot prime lenses. I'm sure there's enough of that on the internet. I think the practicality of not having to search all over between a wide range. You're bound to miss a shot here and there. Partly why I find it hard to watch when others trying to find the perfect focal length while the scene is unfolding, firing off 20 shots in a prayer that one of the focal lengths just matches. I know that's a real pain and I know that you can just choose the "perfect" shot later. But try this, simplify. Look at the various shots you chose and at what focal length. You'll often see patterns of what works best. Eventually I'll change to fixed camera, similar to a phone camera (because digital zoom *cough* don't do it). Since traveling and shooting is necessary to my end goals, it's something I've considered thoroughly. Well, you don't have to take my word for it...
So many people prescribe, whatever fits in the suit case, we'll take with us. Or we have to make space for it because we use this at home.. but is it really all that necessary? I'm going to go over my packing and how much it actually weighed. Pros/cons. Hopefully more pros for myself and you reading.
Traveling or Vacationing? This makes a difference as well. So many times, I'm packing like a vacationing. Nobody told me the difference and as such, I've always brought more than needed. Even on a vacation, why would you want to bring a ton of things? You're trying to get away from your everyday routine life! Always remember that you can purchase what you need abroad. In some cases, it may be harder to purchase, but if it's important, choose wisely and make space. My mistake in forgetting some small items like dental floss which are much harder to locate while traveling in a rural area, far from city locale.
Lowepro 45L Whistler backpack
1 Neck pillow
1 Pair of Jeans
2 Pairs of Shorts
4 Pairs of Underwear
4 Pairs of Socks (maybe make one of those pairs dress socks?)
3 Tank Tops
1 Long-sleeve Athletic Shirt (for layers)
1 Outdoor Vest
1 Dress shirt (I didn't know if I was going anywhere nice so just some consideration)
Camera Equipment: 3 lenses, 1 body, flash unit, remote, batteries, battery charger, tripod
Misc: Universal adapter, Sunglasses, Phone, travel book, medicine, toiletries, belt, trekking pole
Total Weight: 28.2lbs!
For myself: I was backpacking 2+ weeks around NY and Myanmar, I had to stay light and mobile. Ever see the lucky people drop their bags at the check in and wait at the conveyor belts to receive their luggage like cattle at the troughs for feeding time. It's an arduous and slow process. I packed enough clothes for several days, about a week and was able to hand wash or pay for hotel laundry daily when I felt I was going to need something. Easy peasy. My undergarments are usually a quick dry, polyester or sport dry material. This will help as cotton tends to hold water well and take a long time to dry.
I'm not a rich man, but the value or having fresh laundry, possibly saving on check-in fees, etc, overshadowed carrying too much luggage. While in Myanmar, average washing was 300kt (kyat) per item. For 20 or so items of washing, it came out to less than $5 US. 21 items came out to $4.80 exactly.
What I would do differently next time: As much as I've been trying to compromise on my bag, I realize it's a bit too much and too heavy for travel. It's meant as an adventure backpack that's used for cross country skiers and the like. The weight and suspension system isn't designed as well as other backpacking systems. Also, definitely, bring extra under garment items. I washed some clothes one evening but was in such a rush, I left it drying next to a fan when I went to run after a morning bus. Being short on underwear is no joke!
So now that I considered, tried, and tested my two week pack, I decided it was plenty for me. I could probably consider less if I wasn't going through different climates. In NY, I saw 4-12*C/40-53*F. On my stops to China, I saw even colder. At my destination, it was about 25-35*C/77-95*F. I'm glad I brought a little bit less than needed. I always had space to bring back more throughout my trip, so next time consider lightening the load.
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to all my family and friends!!! (even if you're not in the US, I'm still thinking of you and thankful for your presence in my life)
There's something to be said about the food that we eat. Many times cultures rich and deep rooted with culinary pasts rise to the surface with such reverence. The provisions to such a spectrum rivals that of tropical wild skittles. It's all over the place, the goods ones at least, and for many delicious reasons. To think of it, I have not been to a country where their culinary tastes, hopes and dreams are not also representative of their nation's pride and history!
One's love for food, is also love for the fellow man. Just like we're all the same color underneath our epidermis, culinary delight binds us, prep to line cook to chef to patron. Maybe that is why mother's cooking is always best? It's the love that goes into each slice, sprinkle, and dash.
This is why when you happen to get food artisans mucking up (more often than not) a truly blessed offering from the food gods, purists or just lovers of food will be angry. Don't reinvent the wheel. Be innovative but err on the safe side that someone probably did it better than you and still does it better than you. Food is always a great equalizer. Even when it's only tasted with a teaspoon, a master can be humbled in a second.
Thus I present to you some favorite droolers. Evolved over time but yet to be ruined by over thought and creative mess. I'm not sure what is worse, my writing or my pictures. Please excuse my pictures, not a food blogger by any means.
Although I kick myself for not exploring more of the country other than Istanbul, I do have every intention of going back. It was a volatile time in the history and bombings were rampant. Seeing emergency vehicles rush past inside Taksim Square and narrowly missing the bombing at the Blue Mosque square didn't make it much easier, with an unnerving feeling. But I wouldn't give up the experience for anything in the world. Not that I was chasing danger, but somehow, it was just the right place at the right time.
I was visiting a friend over there and he had told me about what to expect, how people were, and be prepared for some awkward interactions. Not that I didn't see where his perception was coming from (we both grew up together) and what he said held some truth, but there was much more. We discussed the politics of the people, the current natives and neighboring immigrants interaction, the general misconception of brotherly love (men hold hands and kiss in a platonic way, but much closer than the rest of Europe in my opinion). There's just a fourth dimension to the Turkish people of this three dimension world. You can see it when you're walking down the dark desolate alleys, surfing through crowded bazaars, and studying the individuals in mid-conversation while rolling a tobacco cigarette. They will look up, give you a nod and smile, as we're friends that all belong... not just beings in this world, but belonging. I know I should be afraid going down the alley ways that don't look welcoming at all to a single soul, but as I explored, it just opened up other beautiful skies of Turkey.
Upon landing in Turkey, I had to collect my bags. The Ataturk airport managed to lose my luggage and they would have to get back to me. Hmmmm, sketchy already Turkish Airlines!! After hailing a cab, I must admit, the airport rides are much more relaxing than the city taxis. City taxis won't understand our broken directions and half the time won't give us a friendly help to locate where we need to go. Finally I find my way to Nisantasi, which is similar to Beverly Hills in Istanbul, ritzy and expensive shops surrounded by what is like the rest of downtown Hollyhood and old Los Angeles. I went to visit my friend. He would be my contact in Turkey, home base, emergency call to in case anything would happen. Thankful for times like this as exploring with friends can bring you to some cool places that you didn't think to or wouldn't have tried to get lost in. And most people in Turkey don't speak English, so don't expect them to be ready to help you if you look lost. But if you smile and give them a, "Merhaba" (hello), then they just might respond back. Hellos and thank yous go a long way.
I won't bore you with the play by play. There were lots of food to be experienced in my tummy, so that was happening a lot. I apologize, I'm not a food blogger, but I definitely try to capture some spirit of the kitchen. I don't know where I'm going with these posts. Perhaps the next post will be some interesting folks I ran into or some lessons learned.
Remembering my first time in the San Gabriel Mountains... September 16, 2011, I returned to sunny California. I had just came back from working abroad for the year in South Korea. Home sick, hopeless direction in life, and a break in relationships at the time. I had more questions about life than I knew where to look for answers. Where do I even begin searching?
There wasn't an easy answer, not one that I could find retracing my steps. I realized when I was slaving at work, I was making money, I had no time. Now I had time, but not the most money. I had sparked an interest late in my life for hiking and yearning for adventure. With little money, what could I do? My friend lived by the San Gabriel Mountains and suggested that we take a hike down Chantry Flats. By no means is it a challenging hike, but we were looking for something more than just our responsibilities of adulting!
That day, we walked down the 1.8 mile path to Sturtevant Falls was defining for my future. The simplicity of a small stream running along the path, overhanging trees shading us, and fellow beings taking in a breath of fresh nature air. I am still not sure if I answered any questions that day, if only to open my eyes. I do know that life is just more than the tiny bubble we live in at times. It starts as a path, into a forest range, builds up to a mountain of rocks and then the rest of the world.
I had brought a single bottle of water on that warm October day. I was out of water on the way back and walking up the steep path, panting and begging for breaks. From that first hike, the breaks became less an issue and more of where-to-next! Crystal Lake, Mount Baldy, Wilson, my world blew up in best possible way. Since then, I've come to adventure to other mountain peaks, but I'll always return to San Gabriel National Forest.
The saying that you don't have to go very far to experience life pulled at my heart strings. The friendships created, bonds forged, roads to be explored and dust that has yet to settle. I'm eternally grateful for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
This is regards to the San Gabriel National Monument blog contest.
Although when people see Istanbul, modernized and globalization might come to mind, but in a population of 14 million they're still catching up with the rest of the world. You can see it in their everyday life. Old and young partake in selfies along the Bosphorus divide, a sea of vendors delivering chai tea the old way, bazaars full of people, and their native culinary so delicious and untainted by Western taste buds. You do have your conglomerates moving in slowly, and Turkey's Got Talent on the tele, but it's far from ruining their beautiful culture.
Luckily I was able to see a different side of it, multifaceted due to it's natives and the many immigrants that have taken refuge, while that danger is still a very threat. The country is still very much a nation-in-progress and behind the time due to social political issues. Once upon a period, the country was bountiful with peaceful times and as a developing nation, they were on their way to a European Union for the past decade. But due to interfering politics and a current "President" that supports fundamentalism in their nation, they are really reverting backwards. While I was there, the potential threat for harm was high and being alert for caution was necessary.
All the while, the people are as happy as can be. Welcoming and inviting into their culture. Friends have told me that south-eastern border, where the Syrian refugees are crossing, has allowed many appreciative human beings. In all the ugliness of current events, you'll find a very colorful and vibrant heart beating in this country.
I've been a wee bit busy getting plans together and booking some flights. I was actually wanting to explore SE Asia again. Behold!!! Okay, it's not that exciting. I ended up finding cheap tickets to Myanmar. It's my first time back to SE Asia since.. 2011 and I'd hardly call that SE Asia. SE Asia reminds me of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, but I was in South Korea, where everything is developed and it's one of the power economies in Asia. Some of the best ways to explore is sometimes add stopovers to certain places. Although it's not a stopover exactly, but I planned to fly out of JFK instead of LAX for a change and making a stop to visit some good friends makes it even more worthwhile. Also along the way, I have a couple stops in China that give me a day to explore. I thought I'd give it the ol' good college try!
I don't think I'm any worldly traveler. I'm just finding out that many things can be achieved with some research and decisive decision making. Learning how traveling with credit card points and mileage has been a headache, but I hope to be able to share that with some of you all. I'll be roughing it at lots of these spots and considering backpacking if I can pull out my sleeping bag somewhere. But we'll see. I'll be updating my travel gear. Normally I have all my camera equipment, but I'll be traveling lighter and packed for only a couple days at a time. New and scary is O-KAY!
Meanwhile, let me update my trip from Istanbul this year in my next post. It was somewhat hectic around the holiday schedule and I was lucky not to get caught in the crossfires of the socio political strife that has been occurring there. And if you've been following the news, it was a hotbed of attacks and the recent coup attempt by the "rebel military".
More on this scoop soon!!
Feeling on a high right now. I always had that unnerving feeling when pulling the trigger to make things happen. You know that feeling you get before the final exam (not looking at the curve setters here!), all the studying in the world would not have helped. You had to make a decision to ditch the country and run away to your nearest border and find refuge so you wouldn't dishonor the family hahah. Maybe not, cultural upbringings!! Sorry, well, so I always search and search and try to make excuses for myself on this unnerving feeling. "It's not the right time." "I have so many other things." "I have to x, y, z." And believe me, just like everyone, we could always be doing something else. All too easy to jump to safe routes, plan for success, and things work out. Well, I'm here to say, dangerous routes takes planning too! And not so much the reality of danger, but the possibility of the normal perception that makes futures unsafe, what-ifs, who knows...
It's always, "The start that's the hardest," they say. Forget the start. It's hardest when you realize you have actual responsibilities. Bills, children (I have a cute tabby cat), projects on the burner, projects burned and you have to re-cook. Well you started a hundred other things, why should you start another is where I'm getting at. Take responsibility, take hold of the things that are growing in your life before you can decide to be selfish. All too soon, we likely choose to leave things as they were, and guess what they're still there when you left. One hard realization that I've learned while working abroad was all the loose ends I left behind were still patiently waiting for me when I got home. One step at a time is all. So take a deep breath. Make a list. And knock a few things out of the park so you can be at peace.
Dear Buddha, God, Yahweh, E.T., please help me lift these boxes, clear these post dated checks at the bank, and watch my new borns for a few weeks as I need more than spiritual guidance...
Since I've been traveling and shooting around the world, I've noticed the pluses and negatives of choosing where to stay. It can all be preference.
- Charge for cleaning & some odd taxes, makes the room just as much as hotels (sometimes)
- Confirmation of available dates. Important! As out of town guests don't want to be stuck without a room. I was denied without reason.
- Since it's by private individuals, this isn't available everywhere...yet!
- Make sure to read reviews! You don't want to stuck in a room, much like a hotel room, you're not happy with.
- Easy to navigate UI
- Simple booking system
- Large spectrum of locations to stay for varied budgets!
- More personal experience as you're renting someone's personal space for use.
- The host can be your personal host on places to visit while in town!
- Save $35 with your first stay below by clicking!
Like minds. Off the beaten path. Hollow Tree. Views for days. River runs. Mosquito bites. Late night crawling. 5-star dining under shooting stars. Making life happen.