A State of Mindful

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Those of you who know me well will know that I’ve gone through some bad patches in my life. You feel like there’s no escape when you’re burning in hell but then, time (as always) proves to be an unseen but a felt friend…with the passing of time I’ve learnt to accept, forgive the past, and to forge ahead. To quote a cliché, life has its share of ups and downs. So I’ve tried to show that with my photography. I capture what is out there, without post processing or any of that crap. I like my pictures straight out of the camera, just like real life.

And speaking of real life…well, I have to admit something—I’ve been doing very well lately. Not that I’m earning loads of money or any of that what-successful-people-have-done shit. I’ve learned to become more mindful of who I am, and to keep tuning myself towards it…a state of bliss and contentment with myself. I don’t take life so seriously any more…of course there are times when bad things happen or things don’t go the way I want them to go, or people don’t react the way I hope they do. But here’s the thing—we can’t control the world, or people, or situations, or whatever. However, we can control how we react to them. It all sounds very Zen but the thing is, I’m going with the flow of life. And like a boat flowing with the currents, life suddenly seems much easier without the constant tugging and fighting with whatever is thrown at me.

I’m really enjoying being with myself…and to do the things I like to do, such as my photography. So what if I’m the only one who likes my pictures, I don’t care, LOL. I’m just happy doing what I love. And I’ll continue doing it…period.

The Joy of Single

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As 2013 draws to a close I am still a singleton…and proud of it. There is something uniquely empowering about being alone and independent, doing things on my own without having to rely on someone else. Traveling alone has been fun, because I can do whatever I want at my own leisure. For the most part it has been a good year, with my move to FF (Full Frame) in the form of the Canon EOS 6D and my trip to San Francisco. Of course, there are times when I feel pangs of loneliness (is there such a term?) and long for some companionship…but clichéd as it sounds, it’s better to be alone than to be stuck with the wrong person. If she comes, she comes. Searching for a soul mate? Hmm. The secret of searching is that…there is no search (me and my Zen-ness).

I’ve enjoyed doing what I want, when I want, and sometimes I do absolutely nothing…without having to deal with the considerations of another person. Is that selfish? Maybe, but oh, it’s so much fun, especially when I’m caught up with my photography. I believe in doing whatever makes one happy, and if that doesn’t go down well with some people, screw them. Life’s too short for what ifs.

The new year brings with it certain hopes. Travel will play a big role, together with my photography. I’m just going with the flow, and really, I don’t care what other people think anymore. Here’s to a happy 2014, people.

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.