Synchronicity

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The way I see it, life is all about risk. We take a risk when doing almost anything…eating our meals, driving (especially here in Penang!), work and play, relationships, etc. However, we are akin to ships—we can feel safe and secure docking in the harbor of our comfort zones, but that isn’t what ships are built for. We need to be cruising along the oceans of life, sometimes encountering violent storms (for sure) and sometimes being in the doldrums. Those times are inevitable, but there will almost definitely be times where the winds are kind to us, and we’re sailing along at just the perfect pace.

I’m quite the introvert. Apart from my piano teaching (where I talk a lot) and my hotel work, I keep pretty much to myself. When I eat out I eat alone most of the time. Very typical of me is that when I return home, I have a simple meal, some tea (or wine, if I’m so inclined) and then curl up with a good book or go online (nope, no TV). Yes, I’m not the sociable type since I have an innate dislike of crowds and noise—so my home is my fortress of solitude, so to speak. However, I like to travel when time and finances permit, so this recent trip (although brief) has been very good on the whole.

I’ve met some people for the first time. With some I’ve felt a stronger connection than others. That’s fine—I’m not going to get along with everybody I meet, and there are some who will avoid me the moment they set eyes on me. But…there are others who ply the same frequencies as I do…and without taking a risk of meeting them, I’d simply be in the dark. So I go for it. Take a chance. If it works, it works. If not, then I learn from it and move on. So far I’m happy with my single life, even though sometimes I do feel a tug of loneliness. However, with photography making a comeback in my life (it never really left, I guess) all I want to do is to take more pictures of this beautiful world. And the beautiful people that I meet.

Life is short, and as a dear friend said, too short to sweat the small stuff. Jettison the junk. Keep sailing.

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.

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!

State of Independence

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One tends to get a little wistful when writing the last post of the year. Yes, I’ve made some mistakes. Some wrong choices. Some cock-ups. I’ve learned from them and put them in the past behind me. I’ve also taken some calculated risks. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I like to think I’ve become a kinder person and more compassionate towards my fellow humans. I’ve made some new friends, but I haven’t forgotten the old. However, I’ve become so much more grounded since my last trip to the States. I love traveling by myself, even more so to the US, where I spent four years of my life. There’s just so much to see in this huge country and I’m so fortunate to have made some great friendships with some Americans—thanks to Facebook and instant messaging I can always rely on any of them to carry me through my difficult times. And now I have a beautiful sister in Hackensack, New Jersey (you know who you are, heh)

My aspirations are to do more traveling in 2013. Saint Augustine of Hippo is quoted as saying, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” I’ve always hankered to visit Italy—I think Italian is the most romantic language in the world, even more so than French. I’d go wild with my photography in such a picturesque country (and let’s not forget about the food). Doing the cities—Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice, etc. Wow, that would be a dream trip. However, I’m also leaning towards the West coast of the USA, thanks to a friend in San Francisco (probably the most romantic city in the States). A road trip along Highway 101 from San Francisco to Seattle, Washington via Portland, Oregon (approximately 800 miles) would be another dream. Perhaps I need to get some larger capacity memory cards for my cameras, LOL.

Meanwhile I’m very comfortable in my solitude. I dislike crowds and tend to favor quieter places. I’ve become more introverted as life goes on, but there’s nothing wrong about that. Of course I’d be lying if I say that sometimes I do feel some pangs of loneliness, not waking up with someone on the other side of the bed, not being able to hold hands with someone I care about. I have questioned myself about looking for a soul mate, but the essence of searching is…there is no search (yup, a Zen aphorism there). Gonna do more reading too, and not forgetting my occasional glass of wine in the evenings.

Here’s to a great year ahead.