Saturday, February 28
Today's neighborhood was La Boca, one of the poorest in Buenos Aires, but also one of the most visited by tourists thanks to the street of El Caminito and its brightly colored buildings. History says the unique color scheme developed after the area's Italian immigrants painted their houses with the paint leftover from their boats. It's know for being very crowded and touristy, but since I visited toward the end of the day, I found it relaxed and mostly (although not dangerously) empty.
This is the Puenta de la Mujer (Women's Bridge) in the Puerto Madero neighborhood of Buenos Aires. The neighborhood itself is one of the ritziest in the city, full of old warehouses that have been converted into restaurants and lofts. I don't really understand the bridge's name given that it reminds me of a harp, but I liked the pairing of the bridge with the photo of the woman on the left. It was part of a public art installation of black and white photos of women that continued down the riverbank. Maybe it was inspired by the bridge ...
Today was a travel day. I left Quito, flew to Panama City, spent an hour in their airport, and took a red eye to Buenos Aires. My day was spent in line, in boarding areas, and in airplane seats, none of which were all that photogenic. My boarding pass was the best I could come up with. At least it's representative!
Wednesday, February 25
Most Quito guidebooks highlight the city's Old Town or Centro Historico as the highlight of the city. Since I was too busy being indoctrinated into what I'm going to call "true" Ecuador, I didn't make it to Centro Historico until the day before I left. It didn't disappoint. The buildings and architecture were truly spectacular, and the multicolored colonial buildings and ornate iron balconies made me feel like I had stepped back in time and maybe into a part of Europe if it weren't for all the modern Ecuadorians around me. Best of all, I managed to wander through the area in the late afternoon, so the skies were dark and dramatic -- excellent backdrops for the white church towers and statues all around me.
Monday, February 23
In addition to its Carneval celebration (also known as Fiesta de las Flores y de las Frutas), Ambato is also known as one of the country's biggest producers of fruits and veggies. I spent the day at a house in its suburbs, and true to the city's reputation, the backyard produced delicious plums and raspberries. A friend of the friend I'm visiting invited the group of eight Peace Corps volunteers and me to her cousin's house for lunch. I spent a few hours cooking, eating, playing soccer with the kids who lived there, and soaking up a very authentic introduction to Ecuadorian hospitality and culture.
Don't be fooled by this photo. It's Carneval in Ecuador, and I spent the day and night in Ambato, Ecuador's fourth or fifth largest town with one of the biggest Carneval celebrations in the country. The festivities there were not this serene. It was more of a chaotic battle ground with roving bands of people armed with spray foam wandering through crowded streets of revelers listening to live music performed on multiple stages. There are different colors and scents of foam, and it shoots out of a can much like shaving cream does. Apparently being a tourist makes you more of a target, which would explain why I was foamed many, many, many times. I should be happy, though, that Ambato has outlawed the flour, water, and dyed oil that are used in other Ecuadorian cities and towns.
All photos from my time in Ambato can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26588367@N02/sets/72157615271955891/
I spent the bulk of my Saturday in Otavalo, a small town about 2.5 hours away from Quito that is known for its arts and crafts market. There was lots to look at, from intricately carved and painted chess sets like this one to t-shirts that were alternatively touristy with images of the Galapagos Islands and ridiculous with bad pick up lines in Spanish. The vendors were surprisingly nice about letting me take photos without buying anything, and I would probably have hundreds if my camera battery hadn't run out. Luckily, I got it to come back to life just in time to take a few last photos of the day's highlight -- an afternoon snack at a pie shop just off the main square.
All my Otavalo photos can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26588367@N02/sets/72157614516789764/
Friday, February 20
This is the Sanctuary of El Guapulo as seen from the very steep stairs leading down from the Hotel Quito. Lonely Planet said climbing down the stairs to the neighborhood of Guapulo ("a bohemian enclave that time forgot") was one of the highlights of a visit to Quito. It was a good walk with a lot of interesting sights, but I have a feeling that only Lonely Planet gives the neighborhood such high acclaim. The only people on the road with me were one or two other Americans toting their own copies of the guidebook and Quito residents walking down the hill to go to church.
I spent the day wandering around midtown Quito. These tires popped out at me at the start of my walk, but because people were watching and I was worried about my camera being stolen, I let the photo opportunity pass me by. Fortunately, I got over my camera shyness and the tires were still there when I returned. Later on, my host told me this was the most "Quito" of all the photos I'd taken that day. Excellent.
All my photos from Quito can be viewed here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26588367@N02/sets/72157614081911527/
This photo was taken as my plane taxied away from its gate at Miami International Airport on its way to Quito, Ecuador. It was the perfect time to take off. Sunset was just starting, and it became more intense over Cuba before adjusting itself into bands of saturated yellow, orange and blue over the open ocean. By the time we got to Quito, it was dark outside and the lights of the city were there to greet us. Interesting fact about the Miami airport: there were no Starbucks or McDonald's, at least not in my terminal. Impressive.
Wednesday, February 18
My time in NYC was too short for sightseeing, so I prioritized spending my time on errands and friends. Noah, Jean, and I had a fantastic dinner at a restaurant called Salt in SoHo. I hadn't seen Noah in over a year, and we had a lot to catch up on ... including my upcoming trip and his recent marriage! Dinner with the newlyweds was definitely the highlight of my day. Second place went to our Salt dessert of lemon tart with lavender crust and earl gray ice cream, followed closely by the Wi-Fi enabled bus ride I took from DC to NYC.
Now I'm going to go back on everything I wrote in the previous post. Today's decision came down to this photo and one the mural of Marilyn Monroe on the corner of Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue that welcomes you toWoodley Park. It's a part of DC not often seen by tourists, but since I lived in that neighborhood for two years, it's something I've come to associate with the city.
Maybe it's because I went with a DC-specific photo for February 15, but this time I went with the photo that I liked better but could have been taken anywhere. I love sunsets, and this one had it all -- oranges and golds, God-rays (a matte painter's dream!), dark clouds of varying hues and textures, and silhouetted shapes. The linchpin, though, was the plane that can be seen near the upper right corner. It connected the photo to my hope that my travels are filled with beautiful and unexpected sights.
I had a very difficult time deciding which photo to post for February 15. I guess that's part of traveling. There's such an over-abundance of photo choices that it's hard to pick just one for the day. Compounding the issue was the fact that I had a clear favorite, but it didn't do much to evoke an overall sense of where I was. Do you choose the best, or do you choose the one that represents where you were and what you did? In the end, I went with my favorite of the requisite DC photos, not the one I liked best for the day. It came down to blog philosophy. When I look back at it, these photos are meant to tell me what I did and saw over the course of the year, and something that represents DC overall will be more evocative than a little statue of a man made out of bottle caps. It's pretty cool, though. You can see it and the rest of my DC photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26588367@N02/sets/72157613771822421/.
Sunday, February 15
I did have a Valentine's Day themed photo for today, but I skipped it in favor of this one, which is much more interesting. This portrait of Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln was created as a temporary art installation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum as a celebration of Obama's inauguration and Lincoln's 200th birthday. What's cool about it is its medium is cupcakes. That's right, cupcakes. 5,600 of them, all baked and iced by hand. After everyone had enough time to marvel at the creation, it was dismantled and the cupcakes were distributed to everyone present.
Saturday, February 14
This photo was taken at the San Francisco Airport, right above the gate of my Virgin Airlines flight to Washington Dulles Airport. I really like how the framing turned out -- the silhouettes the chairs, tables, and parallel and perpendicular lines of varying thicknesses all set against a bright blue sky with clouds. It's almost as if I were already in the sky.
More photos can be seen here:
It's go time! A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to take some paid time off from work, so I seized the chance to travel for a month. From February 13 to March 12 I will post from different parts of the country and the world. My itinerary includes Washington, DC; New York City; Quito, Ecuador; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Fairbanks, Alaska; and the airports in between. I've been so busy preparing for the trip that all I could manage today was a photo of the two books that will guide me through my international destinations.
Another rainy day photo. I was struck by the streaks that formed on my car window as the previous night's rainfall wiped away, so I took this photo at a stop light on my way to work. The white balance was on a different setting than usual, which caused the blue tint. It was a happy coincidence because this photo came out better than the ones that reflected the actual colors of the day.
Tuesday, February 10
This photo was taken and posted in honor of the Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa DVD that was released on Friday and distributed to DreamWorks employees today. After seeing shots of the movie on repeat for months and months, it's still a little too soon for me to want to watch the movie again. But I am excited that millions of people bought something that has my name in it ... even if they stop the credits before it actually shows up on their screens.
Sunday, February 8
A few months ago, I commented in my photography class that it felt like half of photography was luck. You just happen to be in the right place and click the shutter at exactly the right time and boom! you get a great photo. Yes, you have to know how to set the right exposure and frame it, but with the right opportunity, anyone can get great results. My instructor didn't disagree, but he also made a good point: it may feel like that sometimes, but it's amazing how often it's the good photographers who get the incredible shots. They see more of the world around them, pay attention to the details, and learn to anticipate these so-called "lucky" opportunities.
His comment stuck with me, and I now make the effort to see beyond the banalities of everyday life that tend to eclipse the interesting details. Today's observation was of a sprinkling mini Dots candies on the ground in a parking lot island. They made me laugh -- was someone practicing for Easter? Or experimenting with new fertilizer techniques?
I have a new SF foodie favorite! Humphry Slocombe has been added to my so-good-its-almost-worth-the-drive-itself list, joining the exalted ranks of the Ferry Building Farmers' Market, Blue Bottle Coffee Cafe and kiosks, Bi-Rite Creamery, and Tartine. The best part is it's only a month old, which means the ice cream loving hordes only seem to arrive in trickles to sample crazy and delicious flavors like olive oil, secret breakfast (bourbon and cornflakes), mango-carrot sorbet, and balsamic caramel.
Friday, February 6
I started a new photo project at work. I tell my coworkers I need to take their photo for some official business and give them leeway to take it however they choose. The Lighting Techincal Directors, aka the TDs, decided to spell out their title with their bodies. They posed for this photo by lying on the floor right in front of the main entrance while I shot from above.
Featuring: Adam "T" Gaige, Samo "Half-D" Michel, Katy "Half-D" Harrison, Jon "S" Shih
Thursday, February 5
I've always liked rainy day photos that keep water droplets in focus, so when I walked outside this morning to the leftovers of the rain from the night before, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. This is my roommate's car as viewed through mine. I played around with the cropping until I decided on this version. I like the strong diagonal stripe, how the water droplets are offset by the different materials behind them, and the fact that it isn't entirely obvious that the photo is of a car window viewed through another.
Usually when your boss asks you if you're busy, she has new tasks for you. Not mine. She just wanted to know if I wanted to go outside and take cherry blossom photos with her. It only took me a few seconds to grab my camera and follow her out the door. I used the opportunity to experiment with apertures. I know a lot of photographers like f/2.8 for the ratio of focus to blur it provides. I'm starting to think I'm more of an f/8 girl. That's what this photo is.
Tuesday, February 3
It was a big weekend for DreamWorks for more reasons than the big Super Bowl 3D extravaganza. On Friday night at the Annie Awards -- the awards given to animators by animators -- Kung Fu Panda dominated. It received 11 awards for all its 11 nominations. On Monday, we celebrated the way we always do, with champagne for all! Jefferey Katzenberg called on the producers to give a speech about their experience that night. My two favorite anecdotes: our animators are better looking and have sexier accents than the competition (in the words of the director's wife, they're HOT), and once Kung Fu Panda started winning, people finally felt confident enough to say they liked KFP better than Wall-E in voices louder than a whisper.
Super Bowl XLIII
Pittsburgh v. Arizona
Steelers v. Cardinals
Monsters v. Aliens
It was a good game, much more engaging than I expected. But I was more excited about the commercials, especially the 90 seconds of 3D awesomeness that DreamWorks Animation sponsored right before the halftime show. I'd been looking forward to getting a photo of everyone at our house wearing their 3D glasses. I wasn't disappointed. I think it has a very back to the future feel.
It was a beautiful day in San Francisco. Absolutely gorgeous. Like summer, but in January. We spent the morning at the Ferry Building Farmers' Market, followed by a hike in the Marin headlands, and then an ice cream break in Sausalito. A lot of the photos turned out really well, but this was my favorite. I also tried out the timer on my camera for the first time. It took a couple tries and a lot of coaxing to get the dog to look in the right direction, but eventually we managed to take a good one.
Our house hosted a Chinese New Year dinner, complete with Yu Sheng, the Singaporean traditional salad created by mixing carrot, radish, lime juice and all sorts of other stuff and then tossed with chopsticks by everyone present. It was messy and delicious. My contribution was the above-pictured Kueh Lapis Beras, a labor-intensive coconut milk dessert. It was a childhood favorite of almost everyone present, and they were grateful to be able to eat it without having to be the ones to cook it. Thank you, Kent, for being an excellent seux chef!