So what’s the plan?

I was asked this question almost every morning while drinking coffee with my sifu David. Some days I could reply straightaway—”I’m going to do this.” “I’m going to have lunch at ______.” Other days I would smile, and say something like “There’s no plan for today.” Meaning that I wanted to just chill and not do anything specific—or do stuff if and when I felt like it. For me, that’s my idea of a real vacation—not going out everyday to do things or see stuff, hell, sometimes I don’t want to do anything but to relax. That’s the way I play it. Moreover we sometimes make plans, and then later on we have to postpone or cancel them, due to unforeseen circumstances. For instance, we planned a trip to Monterey but David shelved that because there was a major event going on there and it was also predicted to be very cloudy. Not a major issue for me, and as a result I don’t set myself up for big disappointments.

Admittedly we do need to plan for a lot of things in our lives. But there are, and will be, times when it’s best to let loose the paddles for a little while, and to just coast along with the flow.

I can see your house from here

Here are a set of photos of the neighborhood in Milpitas, where I stayed. Yes, the skies are very blue—enhanced with my polarizer but other than that I don’t and never post-process my pictures.

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(Below) Here’s the front of David’s house. I enhanced the skies with a Tiffen GND (Graduated Neutral Density) filter.

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(Above) Peter D. Gill park is just a short walk away. Plenty of open space here…I like it. And as you can see from the picture below this is a quiet residential neighborhood, clean, and the roads are so wide!

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The Golden Gate Bridge

Before I go on, let me list out all my Canon gear so that I won’t have to do it again for subsequent posts:

Canon EOS 6D, 24-105mm f/4L, 17-40mm f/4L, Speedlite 600EX-RT, Oben AC-1310 tripod. Borrowed from David: Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro and 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS.

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The next day after my arrival, David and I decided to set out to capture San Francisco’s most iconic landmark—the Golden Gate Bridge. Construction of this monumental landmark started in 1933 and it opened in 1937. The total length of the bridge is 8,980 feet (2,737 meters), while the longest span is 4,200 feet (1,280 meters). The bridge is popular with pedestrians and bicyclists; there are walkways on either side of the six traffic lanes. The photo above was taken at one of the tourist stops in the Marin Headlands. The view is looking towards San Francisco in the background. The picture below of the city was shot using a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L with a 1.4x Extender.

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(Above) I used the same lens to capture this tight shot of rush hour on the bridge. We then drove further up to get a better viewpoint, like the photo below. The evening sun illuminates the bridge and really makes it golden.

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(Above) It was then a matter of waiting for the sun to set and the bridge to illuminate. We were fortunate that this was a very clear evening, with an absence of fog. As a bonus, we had a full moon rising. I love the pinkish and purplish hues as evening sets in.

(Below) Taken at around 7:30 PM. Using a slow shutter speed I was able to illuminate the trails of traffic on the bridge.

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And finally we have the moon casting a glowing reflection on the bay with the bridge in the foreground. At this time the wind was howling and I was chilled to the bone even with my jacket on. We called it a day, packed our gear and headed for the long drive home. We were tired but I knew I had some good shots in the bag!

Wondrous Stories

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“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” ~ Saint Augustine of Hippo

There’s something very compelling and rewarding that I find about travel. Perhaps it helps us to see the world in a different light, even though many things are similar. We all have our favorite destinations, and mine is the USA. You can’t fault me because I lived and studied there a long time ago. The fact remains, though, that I love America and its people—I find Americans to be friendly, charming, curious, open, and welcoming. And sometimes I believe that it has to do with the power of luck and timing—for this current trip I had my first meet-up with David (a Facebook friend I’ve known for 2 years plus). We both share a passion for photography and Canon cameras, so that set the stage for a very exciting trip and meet. So many good (and unexpected) things presented themselves during this wonderful trip that I’ll probably have to write a couple of shorter blog posts instead of rambling on here. My destination, as you can see from the photo above, was San Francisco—a city I had visited two or three times in the past, and haven’t been back to for almost 15 years (told you I was excited).

Of course, things have changed in this city that I call the Paris of America…I had my first pleasant experience when I went through Immigration and Customs. Naturally, there was a long line and that’s the last thing you need after a tiring 12-hour flight, but I cleared both without a hitch. The Customs officer was so friendly and polite. He looked at my passport, said “Oh, you’re from Malaysia—Selamat Datang!” What a great way to start a vacation, right in the airport itself. After getting my bags I stepped out of the Arrivals hall into the cool and sunny spirit of California, and before long David arrived to pick me up in his Honda.

More coming in the next post!

Man in Motion

The only thing certain about life is…uncertainty. I don’t believe in fortune telling, horoscopes, palm reading, and all of that stuff. As I type this it’s cloudy outside, rain is falling occasionally, and I’m listening to some soothing David Foster. I have no idea where life is taking me, but this I know—I want to enjoy life…every precious moment of it, because I am life. This physical body will perish one day as it will for all of us, but I believe our spiritual essence will continue forever.

Some doors are opening, some are closing…sometimes a chilly wind blows and tries to make me shiver. All I can do is embrace and accept what’s coming. I need to venture out of my comfort zone, so to speak. I’ve grown so used to the solo life and being alone, but sometimes…well you never know what’s going to happen (and therein lies the beauty). As Rumi mentions, “What you seek is seeking you.” With the love I have in my heart I hope you’re out there, looking for me…as I am looking for you.

Epiphany

Avid readers (are there any left?) of my blog might recall the fateful day when I bit too hastily and greedily into a hard piece of garlic bread. What happened was that I broke my first lower molar on the left side of my mouth. That was almost four years ago and since then I’ve had it patched and repatched a few times. There was even once when it got infected and my dentist had to take the nerve out. Yes, yes, I hear you say—”Why didn’t you have it extracted way back then?” The answer is that I’m a complete wuss, especially after hearing people say how painful and difficult it is to pull out one of those big babies…

Fast forward to the present and I had an inkling that the molar was acting up again since it was giving me a numbing sort of pain the past few days. I had resorted to some ibuprofen when the pain made me wake up in the middle of the night. OK—enough is enough. I went to the dentist yesterday and here comes the scary and humorous part. He poked around the tooth, told me that it had broken yet again and it was loose. Before I could respond he yanked it out!! I almost hit the ceiling!! He quickly sprayed some anesthetic on the area which numbed the pain, and then he showed me the remnants of my molar…ugh, what a bloody mess.

Of course there is a gaping hole where my humble molar once resided but you know what? I don’t mind…and now—suddenly, I feel liberated about not having to constantly remind myself to bite or chew too hard on the left side. I’m not gonna do a crown or stuff like that (let’s not get into that here) but in a strange kind of way, the left side of my mouth feels relieved. Better out than in, I say!

A feeling of gratitude

I guess humans have been complaining ever since God put them on this Earth. We complain about the weather, the economy, our jobs, relationships, and on and on. I’m glad to say I’ve actually managed to keep my complaints under wraps—I hardly ever complain about stuff but living here in Penang I do occasionally lapse into bemoaning why the weather is so hot and humid at this time of year. And then my brother’s emails from Melbourne jolted me. They have been having sleepless nights because of the extremely hot and dry weather and strong winds. Bush fires have encroached into their suburb and they nearly had to evacuate. Fortunately, through a combination of a change in wind direction and the skills of the firemen, they were spared this time. An added plus was they received some rain. They are not quite out of the woods yet, at least until the current hot weather lets up in mid-March.

Can’t imagine what mayhem would occur in Penang if we had strong winds and bush fires.