My residency is over in a few weeks. It’s hard to believe and I’ll have to dedicate a future post to reflect on the experience. My last site update was nearly a year ago and my backlog of posts is in the dozens, but I wanted to at least make a quick post and show that I’m still alive.
Last autumn, I traveled across the country for over a dozen fellowship interviews. It was a surreal experience because I revisited literally all the institutions I’ve studied or worked at after high school. I felt like I was time-travelling through the past 10 years of my life. Impossible not to be nostalgic and reflective.
Along the journey, one of my stops was Atlanta, Georgia to visit Emory University Hospital. It was my first time visiting Atlanta and I was so excited to visit the world-famous Aquarium. Its claim to fame is housing the world’s largest aquarium habitat. I could have sat there for hours watching the whale sharks swimming by and manta rays doing back flips. Wish they had a live stream of the view that I could set as my desktop wallpaper! I would never get any work done.
This is one of my favorite photos and in some ways encapsulates everything I’ve learned in photography over the past few years. Filmed directly into the sunset, this shot would be impossible without more advanced technique. I took six bracketed exposures and merged them to create a “super HDR file” in Photoshop which had stupendous amounts of RAW data. I then took it back into Lightroom for the usual processing without doing the typical exaggerated automatic HDR look. This is a neat trick I learned from Serge Ramelli. Shots taken at f/18 for that nice starburst effect. I’ll do a mini-tutorial in an upcoming post.
This is a sunset shot taken precariously over the cliff walls of Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona. My fear of heights notwithstanding, standing at the edge is legitimately dangerous. If you take a look at the surface from the side, you’ll see all the undercut rock that people are standing on which have no supporting foundation. You are one unlucky rock break away from plunging 1,000 feet into the Colorado River. I walked halfway around the rim looking for the sturdiest place but was still very uneasy taking these photos. Do I also need to mention how windy it is here?
Once again, I found myself at Valley of Fire outside Las Vegas. It is actually quite a small park, and the vast majority of people will drive through it and see the highlights in an afternoon. But the allure of its hidden sights beckons the adventurous, who are rewarded with dazzling sights. The “Fire Wave” is of course the worst-kept secret of the park and only a short hike away from parking lot #3. You can find GPS coordinates of miscellaneous popular photo spots online, but there are so many nooks and crannies that you’re almost guaranteed to find something interesting by walking around randomly and exploring.
This is the unofficially named Pink Canyon. It is reachable by walking along the wash from dip #5 on Mouse’s Tank Road. The colors are dreamlike and out of this world.
Other than the natural sights, Valley of Fire is also famous for its roads, which are common scenes for automobile commercials. I actually saw a crew of BMW employees scouting locations throughout the day, although they weren’t actually filming when I ran into them.
Shanghai is the first time I’ve visited China. As a Taiwanese-American who has been to Taiwan numerous times, I could write profusely about the differences in the people and culture that I noticed after this one trip. Interestingly, Shanghai in itself is a battle of contrasts: old vs. new, wealth vs. poverty. But my first and lasting impression of Shanghai was power and wealth. And what better way to symbolize that than Shanghai’s growing army of skyscrapers
This was taken from the 85th floor of the Shanghai Grand Hyatt, one of the tallest hotels in the world, located at the top of Jin Mao Tower. The hotel itself doesn’t have an official observation deck but you can take the guest elevator up to the highest floor for this stunning scene. For those afraid of heights, be wary!
The best part about photography in RAW format is the freedom of post-processing. Whereas jpeg photos are automatically processed by the camera and have limited capacity for retouching, the sky is the limit with RAW files, which contain raw sensor data with extreme flexibility for interpretation using a program like Adobe Lightroom. I first started shooting RAW in 2010. It would be really interesting to revisit photos from years past and see how my current self would process those photos.
I was going through my hard drive looking for a photo to print and came across a favorite from last year. I tried re-processing it from scratch and wow, what a difference.
My edit from today
My interpretation a year ago
This illustrates how my personal tastes in photography have changed. One might think the new edit is more fanciful and less realistic, but currently my tastes are bolder and more saturated. Who knows, my edit in 2015 will likely be completely different. At the moment, I feel this best captures the mood of the scene as I experienced it, basking in the ocean breeze and setting sun.
As a Los Angeles native, I visit Las Vegas so often that on recent trips I’ve started looking into day trips outside the city. Valley of Fire is a brisk sub-hour drive away and I especially recommend it for landscape photography enthusiasts. The sandstone formations provide dazzling colors that look from an alien planet.
Fire Wave used to be a secret location known only to informed hikers and photographers. But it became so popular in recent years, with more people parking on the sides of the road and hiking to the spectacle, that a couple years ago the park service forbade people from parking off-road and unofficially laid out a hiking trail with guideposts. I say unofficially because Fire Wave is still not labeled as an attraction on the park map (although it’s featured on the map cover *wink wink*). The only way people can accidentally stumble upon it is by chance seeing a small sign in a small parking lot pointing in the direction of Fire Wave.
The hike is an easy 0.5 miles and well worth the walk. For photo purposes, I was hoping for better clouds and a more interesting sunset. Nevertheless, it made a strong first impression on me, and I will certainly be back.
Hello, Internet. Have you missed me? I recently went on a two week trip to Taiwan and Shanghai, China. Rather than doing my usual trip photo dumps, I’m going to divide photos into more focused posts. This way I can have semi-regular content rather than an update every 6 months =D
Taiwan is rather notorious for the ubiquitous show girls present at any and all expos. Not unlike booth babes at E3, show girls try to drum up attention at their respective booths with dancing, sexy clothing, and free swag. An interesting subculture has evolved alongside the show girls, whose schedules are followed by dedicated fans that show up en masse for photographs and videos. A couple dedicated people I subscribe to on Youtube are SGLoveJacky and ikkiknoles, who seem to attend all the big expos.
Attending Taiwan expos is one of my favorite things to do because it’s always such a spectacle. I was lucky enough to visit the Photography Expo in Taipei, alas only for a little more than an hour before closing time. I could stay at these expos for entire days, they’re so much fun.
Swarms gather at every stage show, armed with high power camera gear