Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - A Year Of Firsts

Make no mistake, I don't hate 2008. I learned so much, I lived so much and I experienced so much. I reconnected with friends, I found a love for hiking and photography, I found that I can be miles away from family and friends and they are still just as great of friends to me as if I still lived there. I think all experiences are positive. You can learn something from each thing that happens to you. It's up to you to grow from it or to let it keep you down. I look forward to 2009 because it's a new year full of new experiences. I can't wait to see what it brings.

So to to honor this crazy year of discovery, I thought that I would share my firsts through my photos.

My first post was a goodbye to my home in LA. A lovely two story Craftsman home that I spent only 4 months in. It was my first place living alone after getting out of a terrible relationship with a man who, although taught me quite a bit about myself, never really got me. When I look back in hindsight, he was very "me-focused" and self centered, but at the same time very self deprecating and insecure. He grew up in LA (go figure) and was originally going to be a minister, but decided that being a rock star was more up his alley. I learned so much from him that even now it's hard for me to truly be angry with him for the bad times. His encyclopedic knowledge of music was so contagious that we would spend hours discussing an album. I think my favorite moment with him was at a Dead Can Dance concert at the Hollywood Bowl. As we listened to the music flowing over the crowd, drinking a bottle of wine and eating pieces of brie, we dissected each song as they played...much to the chagrin of our neighboring concert goers.

My first trip up the Oregon coast via highway 101 was a crazy experience. Taking 3 days from LA to Seattle, Panda and I traveled through countless cities and towns. Saw so many sights that I can't even list all of them. It was an awesome experience that I will remember forever. My favorite moment was on a black beach off the highway in Oregon. We pulled off for Panda to take some shots of the massive rocks and the waves that crashed against them, and as I looked back to take in the view I noticed that our footprints were the only ones in the sand. I took this picture with my iPhone.

I never actually wrote a post about my adventure to Mt. Si. I had done some hiking trips with Panda, but Si was our first big hike. Originally we were planning on doing Little Si (5 miles round trip, 1200 ft elevation gain) but after a hard family day and a little teriyaki we decided to just say "f it" and head up the big mountain (8 miles round trip, 3,400 ft elevation gain). We were ill prepared and a little lost so we ended up at the Little Si trail. I was hungover and the first mile was agony, I almost threw up but I pushed on. There was a spur off the main trail and, as adventurous as Panda and I had been lately, we decided to take it.

A grueling few hours later we found ourselves connected to the main Mt. Si trail. We had taken the old trail which is actually one mile shorter (by some accounts) but with an extra added elevation gain of about 300 ft. This may not seem like a lot, but this trail is straight up the mountain, no switchbacks, on a primitive trail.

We reached the summit by sunset and ate what little food we had brought and tried to conserve water for the hike down. I had started to go into survival mode and was eating snow to keep hydrated. I snapped a picture of myself and of Haystack, the actual summit of Mt. Si, which is a scramble to the top.

The hike down was lit by only a small pen light and a cell phone. We had no food, hardly any water and had to find a trail that was poorly marked in the dark. I began to freak. Panda turned to me and said "You need to hold it together because I can't be strong enough for the both of us right now." That comment has stayed with me on each hike. I've learned that I must be just as strong as my partner on a hike for it to be successful. I can't give up at the top of a mountain and say "I'm done now", I have to find my way back. These lessons that I've learned hiking have helped me infinitely in life and I credit the trip up Si as the defining moment that everything for me changed. I learned to be strong, I learned to never give up, to pick my battles and to not rely on others for my source of strength.

water gooood

My first hike in Los Angeles was with my cousin Blake and my uncle George. This was probably my favorite moment from the whole trip. George is only 12 years older than me and he and his wife are about the most put together couple I've ever met. They are awesome parents to their three children, Carolyn (his wife) is a drug and alcohol counselor for teens, my uncle is a rocket scientist and my cousins are the most intelligent and loving children I've ever known. I relate to them so much and I miss them every day. On a hot day in August, hiking in the desert with my two favorite people, I  had never felt happier.

Don't Shoot Me

The first time I was ever shot at.


My first photo assignment. 

my first picture

On September 20th I said goodbye to my point and shoot and hello to my new Canon Rebel XT DSLR. This was my first picture that I ever took with my camera. When I bought it I had a mini nervous breakdown. Looking back it seems silly, but I think it was because I had finally found something that was an outlet for me. I've felt restricted and claustrophobic, with all this artistic energy and no way to express it. This has become my way. Hardly a day goes by that I'm not shooting or thinking of a shot I'd like to take. I'm constantly scouring the internet for tutorials, playing with my photos in Photoshop and looking to others for inspiration. I don't think I've ever had something so profoundly mine.

cottonwood lake peak

Of course I had to start investing in lenses. This was my first shot in the field with my 70-300.


I will end with my favorite photo of 2008. It's alone, fallen from a tree and dead but still beautiful. It signifies the end of a season, with the promise of what is to come. It's smooth lines bring you out of the shot and towards something new.

My hope for the new year is that I continue to grow, that I travel, that I don't dwell and that I learn from the mistakes of others and myself. I hope the world becomes a little calmer and we begin to appreciate the earth as responsible inhabitants and appreciate this gift we have been given by God...which ever one we decide to worship. I hope for tolerance, I hope for love...and I hope to lose 20 pounds :)

Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for a wonderful year!

Monday, December 29, 2008


It's interesting what I see after I've had some sleep.

I've been looking at my photos from the last post and I'm not happy with them. I've been overprocessing the black and white and I don't like the way they I've redone a couple.

third try

I keep coming back to this shot as I love the stories that I can think up while wondering what he happened to be doing alone on a Saturday night. I've begun working with layers and since I'm so unfamiliar with them I keep forgetting to add one. I'm trying to get in the habit. I'm not sure if it will stick.

beer number two

This one is still a little white, but the yellows were so pronounced in this frame that it was hard for me to bring out the darkness of the wood grain but still keep the shadows of the beer and phone on the book. I have a soft spot for this one though.

f you makers

Casey had cut his finger earlier and had found a very vulgar band aid to cover his wound. I smiled when I saw him wrap his injured finger bound in profanity around a nice glass of Makers on the rocks.

So what do you think?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas present to me

I was lucky enough to get a little bit cash for Christmas so the day after the holiday I purchased a nifty fifty. I was told this would be my low light friend, so I thought what a better place to test it out than a bar!

I got home yesterday for the first time since the snow started to fall. After digging my car out with the help of my landlord I called up Casey to see if he wanted to have dinner and try out my new lens. He agreed and I made the short trek up the block to Smiths.

I'll have the rose

Low light friend for sure! I forgot to sharpen up this photo, but my first lesson with this lens is while yes it's great in low light I must remember it has a very shallow depth of field at f1.8.


I really love the specials board and I was sitting at the bar right below it. I leaned up to take this shot, but I'm not exactly in love with this particular frame. However, seeing as I always second guess myself I figured I'd add it to this post.

perfect saturday night

There was a very pretty girl sitting next to us who was reading a book. Apparently her flight home had been delayed so she had to stay an extra night in the city. She got up to use the ladies and I stood up on my chair to get this shot.

just talk to her

There was a boy sitting across the bar from her who kept glancing her way. I caught him a few times in my viewfinder, but he looked away so quickly that I couldn't get a clean shot. He too was sitting alone on a Saturday night reading a book. I didn't understand why he wouldn't just get up to talk to her as he was obviously interested. Perhaps she was a fantasy that he didn't want to taint by actually talking to her and finding out she wasn't what he had imagined.

What I loved about the bar was that I could shoot freely with my SLR and they didn't question it. In fact they loved that I was exploring my new lens. I'm not exactly happy with the shots that I took, but I'm getting to know this little lens and I'm excited to see what I can do with it.

It's nice being home, but I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I was in the place I had been staying for the last week. I had a panic when I couldn't figure out where I was and I actually couldn't fall back asleep! So strange. It's hard being used to something and then have it not be there anymore. I'm sure after a couple more nights I'll be back to normal.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Much Needed Walk

...but first, cookies!

pinky hair

I was feeling down yesterday and Panda must have been feeling it too as he suggested a much needed walk through Mercer Slough. We suited up and headed towards the park over the snowy and icy streets of Bellevue. I'm guessing they decided on the no salt rule as well, thus effectively turning the city streets into giant potholes filled with ice.

wintery goodness

No matter, we still plowed it over to the park just as the sun started it's descent into the west, casting a beautiful pink hue over the entire park. I was mesmerized and also surprised to see that my camera could capture the color I was seeing.


I'm not sure who buried this poor little unicorn, but he was too far gone by the time I reached him. I blame the leprechauns...evil drunk Irish trolls!

fall leaf in winter

I think this is my favorite of the day. I really love the fall color still hanging on even in the deep freeze of winter. I was waiting for Panda to finish hanging out with the duckies and I spotted this leaf reaching out to me.

We headed around the park in what proved to be a nice precursor to the winter hiking that is sure to come this season. It was about three miles and as out of shape as I feel I am, both of us were able to make the journey around pretty easily and I felt the better for it. Nothing like a little serotonin to bring me out of a funk.

tree shadow

As we were walking out I noticed the shadow of the trees illuminated by the street lights cast over the snow. The pink of the street lights were easily taken away by turning this shot into black and white.

They are forecasting more snow for Christmas so I'm guessing this will be staying around until at least Friday. Yay snow!

And as a second thought, I'm going to add this shot too. It's busy, but it reminds me how snowy it was out there .

bridge over snowy waters

Monday, December 22, 2008

Still Snowing

I'm still holed up in Bellevue, un-able to retrieve my car as it's stuck on a nice incline near my apartment. I'm grateful that Panda has put me up at his house and it's been awesome spending time with him during the holidays.

I am becoming melancholy. Christmas is almost here and I can't see my family, my friends in LA and my Mom. I love the snow here, but I can't see how it looks downtown because I'm confined to an area due to the conditions. I hate that I have to come into work when it's not necessary. I am feeling a bit claustrophobic. I made Christmas cookies last night and that just made it even worse. Mom and I used to make cookies together every year and I was hoping to carry on that tradition, but I did it alone and although I tried not to let heart was broken a bit by the effort.

I think my pictures are reflecting the fact that I'm really miserable right now. I can't take anything that I really feel is good. I'm grateful...stupidly grateful...for all that I've been able to see over the last few days, but each time I see something amazing I want to immediately call my mom and share it with her. I lost a lot this year and as it's coming to an end I'm just glad for it all to be over. It's crazy because I lost the love of my life, but he's still here and I get to see him every day. I lost my mom, but she's still alive and I'll be able to talk to her again one day when she gets better. My friends and my family are all far away but I can still talk to them and they still care about me. I'm rambling now...I guess I kinda needed to do it. I've been quiet, really quiet the last couple days because all this is mulling inside of me and I'm afraid to let it out.

In any case, I've been thinking about this shot. I did it in black and white, but I wasn't happy with it so I'm including it here in it's original color.

snow berry

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rattlesnake Lake

The snow has stranded me on the east side, but we've made the most of it and spent quite a bit of time wandering around the city with the help of a 4x4.

Guilt forced me into work on Friday, but I left early and Panda and I headed for the mountains. Like there wasn't enough snow down here to make us feel like we were living in Snoqualmie, we needed more. The destination in mind was Rattlesnake Lake.

rattlesnake mountain

The roads were pretty covered, but the sight of the frozen lake made the trek up completely worth it. I ventured off to get some shots of the mountain and Panda headed out to take shots of the lake. The suggestion to take the lake trail was thrown out and I thought it would be a fun little hike so I agreed.

three trees

As I look at these pictures I noticed how just crazy blue everything was. I tried to adjust the temperature but, next to turning it all black and white, this was a close as I could get.

I've been lucky to been on many hikes that included seeing Bald Eagles and this was no exception. There was a particularly large eagle flying majestically over the lake and as the sun was setting it created a lovely back drop. We sat for about 30 minutes in 20 degree temperatures trying to capture it, but in the end walked away pictureless. However, upon developing the pictures at home it was discovered that there were deer across the lake as well as the soaring bird. I'm always amazed at the things I see only 30 minutes away from home. Sometimes I really love Washington.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let It Snow At Night

Part two of the snow day.

That evening we ventured out to see the night blanketed in snow. It was exactly like I remembered it from when I was little. The streetlights bounced off the snow creating an amber hue. I had a couple shots in mind, but I didn't get exactly what I was looking for...per usual.

leafy green

I caught a glimpse of a shrub lit up in interesting colors and asked Panda to pull aside. Through my viewfinder I caught the light illuminating a leaf and I really liked the outcome.

snowy walk

I've been working on this pathway and I've shot it a few times, but I still don't like it. I'm including it anyway since sometimes something I don't like resonates with others. We'll see if this is the case on this photo.

Let It Snow

I don't even know why I came into work today. I hate my job as of late and seeing how beautiful it is outside makes me hate being here even more. As an "f you" to my company, I figured I'd spend my time posting my pictures from yesterday.

Snow was in the forecast Wednesday night and Panda needed help retreating his 4x4 so he asked me to embark on a trip up north to get it. I knew snow was coming but I thought my little girl could handle it, bald tires and all. I was having a fun time of it, however coming up an overpass onto the 405 there were some stalled cars that caused me to slow. I'm sure had I the momentum I would have been able to make it up and over, but the slowing caused me to lose traction and I spun out on top of the over pass. It took super Panda and two other youngins to get me out.

There was no snow in the Seattle / Bellevue area so I decided to head home for the night. I woke up around 5:00 am to a deafening thunder crack and looked outside as the snow started to fall. By 6:30 there was 6 inches on the ground. I called the President of my company and said "I think it's a snow day!" and then texted Panda to come get me because we needed to go play!

snow wall

While waiting for him to pick me up I took a few shots of my block. This is right outside the door to my building. I love the simplicity of it. I'm having so much fun with black and white, but this would look great as a color shot as well.

palm tree slide

There is a set of palm tree's across the street from me and I love that they had snow on them. I wondered what the tree's were thinking. I can't imagine they are used to snow. Did they call their cousins down in Florida and say "You'll never guess what I'm standing in".

drawing snow

Panda retrieved me and we proceeded to a few spots in Bellevue and let our cameras run wild. It was coooooold, wet and snowing like crazy.

walking in a...

I loved this pathway and with the three ladies walking in the shot I thought it was a perfect capture of what I was seeing. The near white out conditions proved to be a fun and challenging adventure for me. I will play with this picture a little more later to lighten up the trees, but other than that I'm pretty happy with it.

snow birdie

Heading over to the blueberry fields I noticed these little birdies playing in the trees, trying to grab the last of the seeds and fruit before they were frozen over. They were quick little guys and I stood in a foot of snow waiting for them to stop long enough for me to get them. I switched to manual focus and with some luck I was able to get this shot.

We headed home to get warm and then after putting up the tree we ventured back out into the cold. I don't have those processed yet, but they will be coming soon. My co-workers have started playing Rock Band, so it looks like it's time for me to get the heck out of here. All weekend I'll be shooting so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Black and White

I'm at a loss for words today.

I've tried to write a few things, but my head just isn't in it. Maybe my brain is frozen. I'm sitting at my desk in a down parka and my nose is still chilly.

Even the cold didn't keep Panda and Kobna from shooting for yet another night. After some car shopping we headed over to a location that Panda had scoped out from the weekend. I attempted a few shots that I wanted to get but didn't because it was raining.

zoooom burst as well

In the plaza was a large tree, lit up in dark red strands. I played around with zoom burst and was happy with the above shot. However, I've been trying to work with black and whites so I decided to play around with it in photoshop.

What I love most about converting to black and white is the color curve. I don't see certain colors until I reduce them on the scale and they slowly turn lighter or darker. This particular shot interested me because although the tree looked red, the orange came out in the finished product and when converted you can distinctly see the color running vertically through the shot.

drawing zoom

I took a quick snapshot of the weather when we were out. Damn, it was cold.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Very Cold Weekend

Seriously, burrrr!

With temperatures down in the 20's and a windchill of even below that, conditions were less than ideal for me to be shooting. Did that stop me? Of course not. I found myself downtown every night for hours at a time, standing shivering in my down coat, watching in awe of a black and white bear working his magic on anything that glowed. I was less than successful at getting some good shots. Friday was raining, Saturday was snowing and Sunday was so downright cold that just putting the tripod away made my eyes tear up from the pain.

Saturday proved to be an interesting evening though. My good friends know there are three things that make me stupidly clap my hands together and say yay happy, and snow is one of them. It began to snow just as we reached the Duwamish channel at the Port of Seattle.

urban snow

Before the snow began we attempted to shoot at the new light rail station, but was turned away. This became a theme for the weekend where Panda learned that to shoot urban you either need to get permission or break in. Luckily he's no stranger to a little mischief and we were able to find many places to shoot stealthy.


As he was standing outside the light rail station I wandered off to take a picture of an interesting store front. As I was waiting for the exposure I heard a whistle off to my left. I looked over to see a man coming towards me with something shiny in his hand. I asked "can I help you" and he said "can I help YOU? What are you doing here". As he came closer I noticed he had a knife. My adrenaline started up and I tried to stay calm and explain I was just taking pictures and didn't want any trouble. Panda stayed at a distance, knowing that I can handle my own, and the man walked away. I slowly put away my camera and decided for the rest of the evening I was going to make sure we stayed close to each other. Sometimes I forget that we are shooting in dangerous conditions.

I noticed a makeshift skate park across from the Port of Seattle entrance. They had built a concrete wall and brought in generators and created a huge fire pit. It was pretty amazing and I wanted so badly to walk over there and ask them if I could shoot. I knew to respect their group however and today I asked a co-worker who is familiar with the underground skating and street artist community to ask around for me. I'm hoping to get an invite to hang out down there and photograph the crew.

My old boss from LA was in town visiting and I met him for brunch on Sunday with about 15 other people. It was excellent catching up and I was grateful to be reminded that no matter how long I am away from that town that my friends stay loyal and cherished.

Yay snow!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Lights at Coulon Beach

The cold has arrived.

My alarm did not go off this morning, but it was not needed. At 6:40 am I was gently nudged awake by Jack Frost. The chill in the air made me shiver beneath my blankets and when I set my foot down on the carpet it was like plunging my foot into a mountain stream fed by glaciers. I drove to work listening stories of Amish buggy auctions on NPR with periodic local weather reports reminding me that the snow will be coming tonight.

My Panda has been down in the dumps the last couple days and it's been up to me to keep spirits high. It's the least I could do for him after he's been so great this last month during my own family dramas. He suggested a shoot locale last night and I was more than down.

I have been studying photos like crazy lately trying to understand the complexity of photography. It's especially hard during this time of year to shoot with any daylight so I've had to work on my night shooting. It's a test of skill and with my new found resolve to shoot less, appreciate more, I figured after shooting last night that I would come away with one shot that I liked.

blue christmas

I was right, and this is it.I hope you like it.

Happy Friday everyone!

And upon further review of my photos, it's been suggested that I add the following...


This photo was a lesson for me. The dock around Coulon Beach was strung with hundreds of large bulb Christmas lights that reflected in Lake Washington so beautifully that it was the first thing my eyes were drawn to. One of my goals is to begin focusing on a single object in a photo, a reason for composing a shot instead of just "shooting pretty". I decided to focus on the lamp posts dotting the wooden pathway. I took multiple shots, but in the end this one is my favorite.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just another day at work...

Yesterday paper snowflakes, today parking lot races.

Seriously, do we do anything here?

I'm thinking there will be no hiking this weekend, but I look forward to some lowland snow! Let's give my iPhone a break and let Steve Pool tell me what the weather will be this weekend. Check out Wednesday's low!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Paper Snowflakes

Are you seeing a theme this week?

My company is actually having their holiday party during the holiday season this year (typically they are held in July...we're a busy group) which is forcing me to think about decorations, presents, donations and a way to expense liquor without it saying as such on the reciept.

never the same twice

I decided to decorate the lobby in paper snowflakes. Professional? No... Fun? Hecks yeah!

never melts

Noisy little guy, isn't he? Damn high ISO...

...and to keep with the theme of the week, the latest forecast...notice that it's not the mountains! Snow in the lowlands, me thinks.

My building's property manager just dropped off 5 (oh yes, I said five) pounds (oh yes, I said pounds) of See's Chocolates at my desk.

Lord help me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

iPhone Brings Me Snow

Sometimes I hate my phone.

I've had three.
The first had an unfortunate accident with a wall.
The second was probably sold on ebay after it was stolen from my purse.
This third I have now..the much talked about

However, if it was to break...I'd buy another one. I'm addicted to it.

One thing my iPhone does occasionally is take a screen shot, and I thought it was a random thing that my jacked up phone would do. However, it's actually a feature. I've utilized it to show you the weekend forecast for the mountains. Can a Panda handle the cold? Can a girl from LA take a hike in below freezing temps? We will see.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A little weather for ya

It's getting cold.

There is snow in the mountains, and the low lands are dropping into the 30's during the day. I'm so excited that I feel like crocheting a scarf!

One weather phenomenon that you can always count on in Western Washington is Mt. Rainer predicting precipitation. Contrary to popular belief, Seattle is not the rainiest area in the country and although you Twilight fans know that Forks does win the award for the most overcast days, that doesn't mean we don't have quite a few clear skies in the Emerald City.


When I was growing up and we had a particularly long stretch of clear days I would always look towards Mt. Rainer for the inevitable cloud hovering over it's peak that always meant rain was coming. When I saw it my heart would sink because I knew the sun was being replaced by the endless amount of gray that always accompanied the rain.

The clouds are called "lenticular clouds."  They're caused when the air flow is just right so when it flows over Mt. Rainier, the air gets pushed upward where it cools and condenses into clouds.  Depending on how smooth the flow is, you can get some amazing clouds formations as pictured above.

Kinda let's hope for some snow!! I'm ready to start snowshoeing, sledding, making snow angles, throwing snow balls, yay winter!

'Tis The Season

The air is crisp turning my nose a bright red. The night is coming quicker and the days are becoming shorter. The mood in the city is cheerful, but wary. Lights decorate apartment windows and glimpses of decorated Christmas trees peak out from vertical blinds. This is my first holiday season back in Seattle and I'm enjoying every second of it.

I visited Seattle last year for Christmas and New Years but I was still connected to LA so everything here felt like an anomaly. I spent 25 years living in Seattle, but 5 years in LA took all those experiences out of my memory banks and replaced them with palm trees and 75 degree holiday seasons. I'm appreciating the newness of the holiday's here and I'm reveling in all that the season is bringing to my life.


I've been wanting to check out the light display at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens and Friday night Panda accompanied me to the holiday light extravaganza. It's exceptionally hard to capture really artistic light photos without them looking too cliche, and because of this we ended up playing around more than actually shooting. I enjoyed it though, it was nice to see him having fun with photography; draping his $2000 camera around his hands like he was holding a $100 point and shoot. 

zoom burst too

It was cold and all ideas I had about shots went out the window. Instead I spent quite sometime with the zoom burst, on almost all light displays we went by, but in the end I do like this one the best. I had made a mention jokingly a few days ago that I want a Nikon and so this weekend was an exploration on the differences between Canon and Nikon. I was able to shoot quite a bit with the D300, and after learning a few more things about the parameters of my camera we decided to head off to Best Buy and really check out the differences.

close to the edge

After quite a few lessons in photography this weekend we headed over to the Port of Seattle and the park next to it. With a different perspective now about what I really want to shoot opposed to just pointing at something pretty and hoping it comes out, I found myself taking hardly any pictures at all. I think this might become a theme the more I learn, and it's not a bad thing. Quality over quantity, plus it might make me pay more attention.

Something about me I've noticed is that I end up knowing a little bit about a broad number of subjects, but I'm not an expert on anything. I can have a conversation with just about anyone about anything, but it's surface. Get too deep and sometimes I flounder. The older I get the more I'm able to hone in on the subjects that really interest me and as a result I become more quiet with people unless discussing a subject that really interests me. I like it because it helps me to bring quality people into my life, people who will make a difference and impact on me instead of bring me down.

so fun.