It’s becoming a practice for me to write reflection post come year end and I have been doing so since I started blogging in 2006. This year was slightly special because I’ve officially graduated from college (university for some of you) which is huge for me because it concludes the end of a really long bittersweet journey.

When I was younger I’ve always thought growing up feels like a very long process – every year I was going through the same routine of going to school, listening to lectures, taking examinations, and that’s all I had to worry about – college was similar with some added perks which I liked more than school itself but at some point I wondered if I’ll ever get past all that, I couldn’t wait to be an adult and stand on my own feet and pursue my dreams. This year, it finally happened, in a surreal kind of way. There was no more school to look forward to – the next step from then on would entail something entirely different and it wasn’t as peachy as I’d imagined and it really taught me a lot of good lessons.

While all of us sang our Alma mater in the commencement ceremony back in May 20th, a mixture of feeling consumes me – it was a bit of everything: fear, elation, confusion, pride, and a whole lot of nostalgia. Yes I was glad to be done with school but I was both anxious and fearful of what’s next. I was mostly sad because I had to leave the city I fell in love with three years ago, and there was a lot of flashbacks, regrets and what ifs attacking my happy thoughts of being finally done – could I have done better in school? Should I have majored in something else? Why did I make those mistakes I made last year…. This strange confusing struggle between being protected under the institution of academia and real world wasn’t something I was prepared for, not the least. I can finally understand why some people choose to stay to buy some time before they’re ready for the latter.

It wasn’t an option for me. I was born for the real world and I’m not backing down no matter what. However I didn’t jump right in to the first job that I could get, I took 6 months after graduation off to settle down back home, take a much needed break before I start a new job in 2013. I was able to do a lot of soul searching during these 6 months doing the things I love – photography, write, read and spend quality time with the family, while searching for a job that I believe would make a huge difference in my career path. The fact that I took it easy had given me enough time to make wise and thoughtful decisions, despite all odds and challenges, I was very fortunate my hard work and perseverance paid off – an effort which landed me a job with a company I could only dream of working for. I count my blessings everyday because I truly believe I’m a very blessed individual, luck always seem to be by my side at very crucial times in my life.

Another milestone in my life that I’d achieved in 2012 was launching my own photography business early this year. Among the projects I did was photographing over 30 portraiture sessions, UW’s first Fashion Week, non-profit organization Custom Canines and United Nation lecture series, and various on-campus events while I was a final semester senior in college. The funny thing is I had never been more confident about photography, than I have about everything else that I have done. When I hold the camera in my hands, I feel very powerful – I could make things happen my way or capture things the way it is. It is an unspoken authority but more importantly, it allows me to share my point of view with those who care. I love writing and I’m articulate in public speaking but to me, photos and images can impose a greater message than words can ever be.

I’m so glad I discovered this passion of mine at this point in my life because I still have the time and energy to nurture the skills, vision and artistry of my work. Since the inception of my project I had been affiliated and recognized by Getty Images, PhotoVogue by Vogue Italia and WPPM. My work has also been published in local newspapers. I have also garnered a considerable amount of following on the internet and just this past month I joined a cocktail recipe book project as the official photographer; the book is pending release in 2013. Again I’m utterly grateful for all the opportunities that have been directed at me since I made the decision to establish a brand for my work.

2012 was also a year filled with adventures. I’d visited more places in United States than I have in years and fell in love with every one of them – New Orleans, Lexington, New York City, Southwest America – Nevada, Utah and Arizona, all of which are historically rich, unique in their own ways. I also proved the importance of traveling with people whose company you enjoy and not for the sake of traveling and see places. What I love about traveling is the whole learning process – from scouting locations, accommodations, eateries to the historical landmarks, everything requires a good amount of research. It marvels me how capable we are at adapting though – I truly believe it’s possible to survive anywhere on the face of the earth, except north pole, I’m not a huge fan of the cold. I usually had the most fun from interacting with the locals and other tourists, that’s for sure – it’s like fate working its magic when strangers meet at the most random places on earth. I still keep in touch with people I met through my travels. I don’t believe traveling needs to be luxurious but instead it should bear meaning and stories. There are many things that you can buy with money, but not everything.

Some of the fun things I did during this 6 months break was getting my hair permed, a new look for the new year. I also caught the Zumba fever and lost some weight. I had a wart removal surgery and I’m still recovering from it, not exactly the way I wanted 2012 to end but it’s now or never since the bugger has been bugging me for years – so out goes the bad, in comes the good.

Now that 2012 has come to an end I’m ushering the new year with a brand new job in a new city. But one thing remains the same – I’m still me, a better version of myself.

How was 2012 like for you?

Horseshoe Bend

This post is a continuation from my American Southwest adventures! Read part 1 here.

And so our adventure continues….but we did not realize that Arizona was a different time zone than Utah and Nevada so all of our schedules in Arizona was done an hour ahead, which also means I’d lost one hour of sleep because we literally departed from Bryce Canyon at 3 in the morning.

Most photos were taken from within our vehicle. The scenic view is really amazing! It was quite scary to be driving at 3 in the morning but thankfully there was a freight truck in front of us so we followed it for most of the journey..until the sun came up which was pretty sweet.

We drove until the sun came up, which was pretty amazing

3 hours later, we’ve reached our destination!

After we parked our car we hiked for a good 10-20 minutes to Horseshoe Bend. I’ve seen photos of it and was mesmerized but its grandeur but to see it with your own eyes is something else. I can still recall the first moment I take a good look down Horseshoe Bend. I almost cried because it was soooo beautiful. Yes, I have a lot of emotions.

Horseshoe Bend at its finest.

Horseshoe Bend is the name for a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River located near the town of Page, Arizona. It is located off Highway 98 just a couple of minutes south of Page. It’s rather tricky to spot but you won’t miss the road sign that says Horseshoe Bend viewpoint, which leads to the parking space. It’ll take roughly a 3/4 mile hike up to the viewpoint so make sure you wear proper shoes as the terrain gets tricky – first sandy, then rocky.

This breathtaking 1,000 foot drop is amazing yet scary because I’m so afraid of heights! Plus there were signs warning us of potential danger and that honestly didn’t quite help.

The viewpoint is not gated and while the rocks appear sturdy it is not advisable to step too close to the edge because if you step on a soft/crumbly spot you’re screwed. Although I know a lot of photographers have actually gotten really intimate with the edge (ie. lean on their stomach or what have you) to get a majestic view with Colorado River making a complete loop around the bend, I wasn’t quite sure I was up for it and attempted a panoramic shot instead. Not knowing how it would turn out post-processed (this particular photo was 6 photos stitched together), I tried my best to get as close as I could without freaking myself out. Yes, each inch forward takes a ton of strength and will power!

Thankfully this worked out. This really took my breath away – height and beauty wise. I doubt I’ll see anything as magnificent and I do hope I did this view justice.

Up next – Antelope Canyon!

The American Southwest: Utah

Our trusty tour guide

Had no idea how to drive, but I’m a good navigator and dedicated photographer!

I had the most life changing Spring Break this year. Both my best friend and I decided to be spontaneous and ventured to the American Southwest, covering states like Nevada, Utah and Arizona, to put our not-so-adventurous self to test. We ditch comfort and opted for a road trip, which none of us have done before. With her being the sole driver, we were very skeptical if we could pull it off at first but since it is going to be our last vacation before graduation we vowed to make it epic and put our doubtful selves aside.

Before we embarked on our journey we had a pretty slothful retreat in Las Vegas for two days, basically pigging out at buffets, sipping on daiquiris and trying our luck at slot machines, at one point I was so sick of being urban bums and the smell of second hand smoke in hotels and casinos is clouding my thoughts and sanity, but thankfully we were driving out of town first thing in the morning via incredible scenic routes and here are some of the amazing, amazing views from our vehicle.

On our way to Bryce Canyon – the scenic view along the 4.5 hour drive kept me occupied

These mountains are massive!

Contrary to my expectations, these places are relatively cold and windy due to the altitude so don’t let the deserts fool you!

It’s amazing to observe the different colors and textures of various mountains and terrains where highways were built around so even though 4.5 hours seemed like a long drive, there’s no dull moment really because we’re constantly under the spell of these magnificent structures. But I got to hand it to the Americans for having such well maintained highways, it’s unreal! Driving across states has surprisingly been the smoothest part of our journey and it didn’t matter what time of the day we were driving, we felt really safe being on the road. As we were driving into the Bryce Canyon National Park information center, we drove past these beautiful brick colored canyons called Red Canyon (for very obvious reasons), which is very much different from the ones I’m used to seeing here in the Midwest (or even back home), heck I’ve not seen anything quite like this before and I couldn’t stop looking at how beautiful those colors are.  There’s a scenic viewpoint few miles into the exit, which allows you to stop and take photographs so that’s really neat.

Red Canyon

Red Canyon from the scenic viewpoint

Red Canyon

Red Canyon arches, there are two of them along this route which is quite exciting to drive through

After what seemed like forever, we have finally arrived at Bryce Canyon National Park info center. According to the park ranger, Inspirational and Bryce point are the best lookout points. Keeping that in mind, we made our first stop at Sunrise Point and took the Queen’s Garden Trail to get a closer view of the canyon (retrieved halfway through because we were running short on time – if you have more time make sure to go all the way as you’ll see the famous Thor’s Hammer and Wall Street, which are both very sweet spots!).

Here are some of the views from Sunrise Point.

Bryce Canyon from Sunrise Point

Queen Garden’s Trail! It’s pretty steep so make sure you have good hiking boots on.

Bryce Canyon amphitheater – incredible view from Queen Garden’s Trail

Notice the tiny lonely tree.

Below are photos taken at Inspirational and Bryce Point, which are simply gorgeous and like the name suggest, truly inspirational. Bryce Canyon isn’t really a canyon, but a giant natural amphitheater formed through erosion. If you see some of the photos below you’ll see the resemblance of an amphitheater, which is really unique. When I first saw how magnificent these structures are, I felt so tiny and insignificant in comparison and all my insecurities have literally reduced to none. I finally understood why men would push their physical limits to get up close and personal with nature, more so conquer them because if they do, it’ll provide them with insurmountable amount of confidence and empowerment. I’m not adventurous in that sense, but instead I’ve seek inspiration in these wondrous structures.

In a way its beauty and grandeur has become my motivator. Whenever I’m feeling down these days, I would look at these photos, recall those empowering moments where I stood 7,000 ft high overlooking the breathtaking work of nature, and regain my strength to be a better person because I have no reason to make a big deal out of the menial things in life when I really should be living it. That thought alone keeps me going so hopefully it’ll empower those who view these photographs as well.

Hoodoos – tall thin rocks that protrude from an arid drainage basin

Bryce Point

The intricate details are amazing

These textures and terrain are so unreal, almost painting-like!

Rubber rabbitbrush, wildflowers that bloom at comparatively high elevations.

This panoramic photo is the most scenic vistas of the full amphitheater, at 8,300 ft. high. (6 photos stitched together)

For those who are interested, all my photos were taken with a 18-105 mm kit lens mounted on a Nikon D5000. Although a wide-angle lens would be more ideal, I’ve pushed the limit on my trusty kit lens and was rather satisfied with the outcome. When it is just not wide enough, try a different angle or shoot multiple frames and stitch them together during post-processing. Remember, your best tool is the one that you already have!

After we’ve been wooed by Bryce Canyon’s beauty, we were tired and retrieved to a nice lodging owned by Ruby’s Inn, where we had a surprisingly pleasant and hearty buffet for dinner before embarking on our second destination to Page, Arizona the very next morning! Stay tuned!

I Know What It Means, To Miss New Orleans.

I was told that New Orleans could change my life but I did not believe it. I’m a tough nut to crack and not the easiest person to please but this winter break, things were about to change – big time. The experience I had in New Orleans was for the lack of better word, life-changing and I didn’t believe it until I was there to experience it for myself.

I don’t say this about many places but this funky city really touched my soul – the sense of community, good food, music in every corner of the city and moderate tropical weather is all too good to be true, and a pain to leave. I guess we were lucky to have met some great folks during our stay in New Orleans which made things all the better, plus I was with my sister whom I love very much so nothing could go wrong.

We were lucky to have lived in a bed and breakfast owned by a host who genuinely cared about us and gave us tips on where to go and what to do. He was like a fatherly figure who told us to be careful and not bring eye-catching totes when venturing the streets of Garden District, he’d also told us that Frenchmen St. is the alternative jazz and bar scene if we wanted to get away from the rowdiness in Bourbon St., he even invited us to his Christmas dinner where I was introduced to more locals who are both friendly and warm. For the first time, being the only Asians (my sis included) in the party did not make us feel uncomfortably outnumbered, in fact everyone took a genuine interest in our lives and we had a great time just getting to know each other.

People in New Orleans, well they’re very different. They do not necessarily speak with a thick Southern accent like I’d expected because I found out that most of them were migrants from other states. I even met a guy who was from Wisconsin before he decided to move and settle here 20 years ago after visiting the Big Easy for the first time in 1989, so he did warn me about how I could potentially fall in love with this place and live here forever (won’t mind if I do). I’ve also met a laid-off high school photography teacher who waitresses at a local restaurant that took a great interest in my camera, a cab-driver pursuing higher education in law through self-study, and a retired professor in history who runs a carriage tour with his mule, Scarlette O’Hara. I respect how the locals are resilient in rebuilding their lives, especially post-Katrina in 2005. People here are all big characters who lives passionately and I really respect that. Most of all, they’re non-judgmental and take you as you are.

Besides the people, the food is also amazing. The local Cajun and Creole cuisine, which is absolutely flavorful, appealed to my palettes immediately. Its heavy use of sauces, herbs, seasoning and the fact that they eat everything under the sun in its true form resonates with my gluttony nature. I like my bones in, shrimp with their heads intact and whole fish served – I don’t mind getting down and dirty with my food and I’m glad New Orleans agrees with me. My favorite dish? Seafood gumbo! I could eat those all day everyday which I did while I was here. I can safely say that I’ve not had a bad meal at all. Except that I couldn’t get enough of it.

There was also so much talent around the city – street musicians and artists alike who played every show like its their last, and when I see them living a nomadic life performing from one spot to another, I can’t help but wonder why they’d chosen this path because trust me, it didn’t look easy at all. But of course when you’re doing what you absolutely enjoy, it will feel a lot less harder than it should be (just like how photography is to me). I could never live that way it’s far too little security for me to handle, however I have so much respect for them so the only thing I could do was to tip them if I liked the music they were playing, or the fun tricks they were pulling.

I felt renewed after staying in the Big Easy for a total of 8 days, in fact it’s the longest I’ve spent on a vacation in one single location but there was never a dull moment while I’m here as I was met with new surprises every single day, right from the moment I touched down in the NOLA airport till I leave. I met and talked to locals, learn about their stories, and was especially moved by those who’d decided to live in New Orleans after coming here for vacation. I can understand why one can be drawn to this place so much because I personally think I could live here too, provided I had the ability to. Besides that, I went on tours which I learn the history of New Orleans and origin of Dixieland Jazz from and took a cooking class which taught us how to cook local cuisine and met nice strangers like us, who seek to have their lives changed under the graces of New Orleans. It’s truly amazing and I will definitely revisit again and again. There’s more to New Orleans than Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street and binge drinking and I’m glad I was able to see beyond that.

This trip has made me realize how little I know and how much I’m dying to learn about everything around me. My desire to travel was ignited once again and I can’t wait to see where my next destination takes me. I will travel the world, one place at a time, with my camera on one hand, the desire to learn and give on the other.

More photos to follow, so stay tuned!

My Inspirations

I’ve been under the weather lately, both physically and mentally. It’s challenged me on many levels and put me through a rough time. I was at the brink of giving up, especially when I let so many negativity get to me and it all sort of started from my unprecedented meltdown on the day of my birthday party. I know people forget things but I’m not the kind of person that forgets easily. I was naive to think things have gotten better because it obviously hasn’t. I tried to ward these thoughts off but sometimes it’s easier said than done. I’m tired of feeling like a backup plan and I think my subconscious needs more positive energy than usual, because frankly I’m tired of being cranky so it has to end right now.

Today I found inspiration in the form of a renowned photographer, Chase Jarvis. He’s one of the biggest names in commercial photography right now for being a visionary of our time. Listening to him talk puts me back on track, one of the most memorable quotes from his interview was:

“If you try pleasing everybody, you end up pleasing nobody. Including yourself”

He is absolutely right. There’s nothing worse than trying to please everybody else while compromising your principle and belief. I’ve hurt myself too many times in the past trying to be as accommodating as I possibly could, does it do me any good? No! I was taken granted for, shoved aside when I’m not longer ‘useful’, and worse, I keep letting people do this to me. But no, it has ended. I’m going to be a maker of things, as Chase repeatedly mentioned in the interview, I want to make things happen for myself and I will not let unnecessary feelings get into the way.

One of my biggest steps today? Creating my online photography portfolio. I’ve been having this idea in my mind for a while and I’m glad I’ve finally put it together. It’s still a work-in-progress as I have more things to be added but it’s looking pretty cool at the moment. Visit the website here.

Moving On

What does it mean to move on with life? It essentially requires one to let go of certain things in the past and get on with making new memories, even if it doesn’t involve people from your past.

Yes it isn’t ideal but there’s nothing wrong when people choose to walk away from your lives. They have the freedom to choose, you have the freedom to select too. Nobody wins or lose, it’s not a game, it’s circumstantial.

I wish I hadn’t confronted the truth, which ultimately boils down to more lies to cover up a truth that already hurts too much. But if I hadn’t been raw about my feelings, I would’ve been dissatisfied. Now that I know nothing last, I was able to move on.


Moving on, forgive but never forget.

Today will be the last of it. I’m nobody’s fool. I’m walking away from all this pretentious games we play. I’m better than you’ll ever get to see me. Too bad hater, too bad.

What It Means To Be 22

Birthdays are overrated in my opinion but every year I’m grateful to be able to celebrate another year of birthday in perfect health – if you knew my lifestyle, you’d know why I pray for nothing but health. Growing up my birthdays have always been very personal – simple dinner with my parents and sometimes siblings if they weren’t studying abroad. I guess that’s why I was never a big fan of huge celebrations involving random people that I could care less, but coming abroad myself, friends are like my families and I’m happy to be able to share this special day with those whom I love and care about, albeit limited in numbers.

I’m grateful for all the blessings in life, specifically my entire time in Madison. Sure there are ups and downs, bumpy rides along with all sorts of unwanted dramas but it all boils down to one very important thing – one has to have ultimate control over your own life. Over the past two years, I learned some valuable lessons about being self sustaining. You can’t always count on others to make you feel good about yourself or try so hard to please people who obviously do not care. If it takes you to be a bitch to demand some sort of respect, then why not? It’s worked for me so far in life.

Despite all odds, I’ve met some people who have made a huge impact on my lives at some point or another. Although for some of us, what’s left were mere memories – they essentially made me the person I am today. It’s been a good 22 years, and I’m looking forward to more fantastic years to come!

Fresh Air

Friendship – something we can’t live without. Let’s face it, we depend a lot on the social support around us. Friendship, it’s a funny thing really. One day it’s almost perfect, and there are times where it just drives you crazy. Some point in my life I literally gave up the whole idea of making relationships with people work because it hurts when they don’t live up to your expectations. Sometimes, a little break is what I needed because I’ve decided to give friendship a chance again. Somehow this semester started off right, I’ve been blessed with new people in my life and reconnected with those who used to play a significant role in my past. Like fresh air, they opened my eyes to a whole new perspective on life, and it really reminded me of how much I love meeting people and have an impact on their lives.

Right Now

I’m living in the moment. Right now all that matters is how I fully utilize my last year as a college student. I want to experience things I’ve not done before, meet people and touch their lives in the best ways I possibly can, have a great time while doing well in school. Everything else can wait. By everything, I mean the life after school.