Photo editing… In progress.

So as I have mentioned previously, or maybe not, I am a photographer. I used to be wary about using the word “photographer” to describe myself but the more I take pictures and learn more about my abilities, the more I know that I have a gift which if nurtured carefully will become phenomenal. I realized early on that I am not a portrait artist. I do not like posed individuals; give me candids any day. There is something to be said about catching a person in their natural state, unaware of everything including me and my camera. The same reason why people go to a safari to watch animals in their natural habitat is the same reason I love taking candids ( yes I just compared my subjects to wild animals). My belief is that you can pose people any and everyday but catching unique moments in the day of the life of a person cannot be replicated. Lately, I have also come to realize that I love black and white photos. Take this picture for example…

CollageBoth pictures have merit and without getting too technical, it suffices to say that neither is more beautiful than the other. I don’t remember when I first saw Ansel Adams’ work but I did not have a positive reaction. I thought his pictures were boring even going as far as to ask myself why anyone would want to take black and white photos when color was so readily available. As I began to get more serious about photography, I revisited his work and was struck by their beauty in the absence of colours. And that is why he remains my greatest inspiration to this day. Ansel is famous for his pictures of the American landscape but if I can do with candids what he did with nature, I could not be happier. I feel like I still have a lot to learn about photography but as the saying goes, you stop learning when you die. So while I may not yet be the Ansel Adams of candids, I know that I take beautiful pictures and it can only get better from here!

The following were taken in Cancun, Mexico. A Canon T4i and Canon 50mm lens were used to capture the photos. Pic Monkey was used to watermark the photos

Once again we have "Happy Chicken". I love this picture which is the sign for one of the restaurants at the resort. I loved the name of the restaurant.

Once again we have “Happy Chicken”. I love this picture which is the sign for one of the restaurants at the resort. I loved the name of the restaurant.

This was my second time at the resort and on the previous visit, I had taken a picture of these wheels. However, upon analyzing them on my return and talking it over with a photographer mentor of mine, I made some changes to the composition and voila! I like this photo for how the wheels lean on each other and the white rocks scattered around.

This was my second time at the resort and on the previous visit, I had taken a picture of these wheels. However, upon analyzing them on my return and talking it over with a photographer mentor of mine, I made some changes to the composition and voila! I like this photo for how the wheels lean on each other and the white rocks scattered around.

I probably took over 20 shots of her in a 10 minute period and not once did she move. Where was she?

I probably took over 20 shots of her in a 10 minute period and not once did she move. Where was she?

It was a hot day. We had been walking around in what seemed like 200 degree weather. She is obviously feeling the heat but her body language is relaxed and calm.

It was a hot day. We had been walking around in what seemed like 200 degree weather. She is obviously feeling the heat but her body language is relaxed and calm.

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Travel Junkie cont.

This is a continuation of a post I started weeks ago but you can read it here!

So my friends and I were stuck in Brussels with the next flight not leaving until 2 days later. Putting our heads together we came up with the website http://www.flightstats.com. When we pulled up Brussels to Douala, we could not find any viable options. We did find a flight leaving the next day from Paris and so we moved on to figuring out how to get to Paris. We opted out of using the train because it would take us only 90 minutes to get there leaving with a whole day and 6 suitcases to lug around Charles de Gaulle Airport. The next option was to rent a car and we were able to get a great deal from Hertz. Before we knew it, we were piled into an Opel Meriva ready to drive from Brussels to Paris with nothing but a little map we got from the Hertz counter.photo-8 I was designated the driver as the car was manual transmission and I was the most experienced. I drove  around Brussels for about an hour or so just so we could explore  but with no real sense of direction we tired quickly and decided to head towards Paris. Using our map, we figured that the R0 made a loop around the city of Brussels and from there we could hop on the A8 towards paris. After a few wrong turns we made it on the A8 and our road trip began in earnest. As a traveller it is not unusual that most of my greatest friendships were cemented on (a) trip(s). My 1st college best friend and I bonded on several 15 hour Greyhound trips and my 2nd college best friend and I bonded on a trip to London wherein we had to share an attic room and a slightly smaller than twin size bed. This trip was no different and I look forward to many more trips with my travel companions. We pulled into Paris at about 9pm and from memory alone of my last visit I was able to get us to the Eiffel Tower and Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Exhausted by now, we decided to find a cheap hotel. Wouldn’t you know it, there was an Expo in town and all the hotels we stopped at were booked for days! Well instead of getting upset we kept the money we would have paid for the hotel and spent the night in the car! The only downside of this was that I parked in a hotel lot that had motion sensitive lights and so every time one of us turned or moved in the car, the light came on. It seemed even a deep breath turned that light on! We woke up at about 5am and headed for the airport, each of us expressing sadness at having to turn the car in, as it seemed like the end of a glorious adventure. And guess what? That Opel Meriva took us from sightseeing in Brussels, to Paris and sightseeing some more, turned on with the heat blasting for 5 hours and then to the airport on just under a 3/4 tank of gas! Now is that impressive or what?

photo-9photo-6**Travel Junkie Tip**

If you miss a flight or get stuck at an airport, use http://www.FlightStats.com to find other airlines, flights and alternate routes for getting to your destination.

Travel Junkie cont.

My mother reminded me yesterday that all in one month I have visited 4 continents (my sister and I are still arguing about the validity of one of said continents) and 7 countries. In the last week alone, I visited 3 countries and 3 continents! Now that’s an achievement if I can say so myself. I love to travel! I am an avid traveller and will do almost anything if it means I get to see a new country or go on a new adventure. My dream job would be a travel photographer and/or writer and one would think I would be using my blog as a platform/practice but I tend to procrastinate way too much. Furthermore, I take lots and lots of pictures and feel like writing about some of my destinations without benefit of visual aids is a great disservice to anyone who reads it. So, that’s part of why I have not finished my adventure about getting stranded in Brussels. I got to visit some major monuments this past week and got to participate in an important event but as much as I want to share that, I refuse to do so without pictures. So, I am promising myself that after work tomorrow, I will come home, shower, eat, sit far far far away from the TV and work on all the lovely photos I have amassed over the past month. I remember when I first got my camera late last year. I was scared that I would never learn how to work it properly and while I am still skimming the surface of its abilities, I love seeing the beautiful pictures I create. Same with this computer which I got to help me elevate the quality of my pictures but persists in intimidating me. I shall conquer them both someday soon. And when I do, watch out world!!

Random Day.

Today I made my juice for the day and it smelled like freshly cut grass. While to some this may seem disgusting, to me it speaks to the fact that I am putting very natural sustenance in my body.

Today I found out that one of the cleaning ladies at work is from Colombia and speaks not a word of English. What it must be like for her to spend 8 hours in an environment where she is invisible because she cannot communicate with anyone? As a Catholic who was raised with the concept of Retreats, it could be that she gets to spend 8 hours each day in a retreat – in commune with God, a higher being, a supreme life force. 8 hours during which her brain may churn out the answers to life’s greatest questions. I am going to choose to believe this is the case instead of thinking that she spends 8 hours sad and alone, banished to the solitude of unwanted thoughts and memories that always come unbidden when we least require it.

Lately I have gotten obsessed with the notion of people dying alone. I don’t know if it is societal programming because if it is I will be pissed off, but I wonder if there is indeed a difference between dying alone and dying while in the presence of loved ones or any body at all.

As someone devoid of that special person in my life to call BFF, true friend, I find that I am always on the hunt for that special person. And the more time goes by, the more I fear that I won’t find one first of all because I believe that the best friendships are created in academic environments. College was my last chance and I blew it. If I can be honest with myself, I am hoping that joining the Air Force will create another opportunity for me to make good friends. After all, if you are going to trust me to protect you and your life you better consider me a great friend!

TV is the kryptonite of my creativity. I watch TV, get lost in it and don’t journal, don’t write, don’t edit photos. I am one contract away from getting rid of cable. Until then, I figured I would watch all the shows I have saved on my DVR. One of my favorite shows is Intervention on A&E but it comes on while I am at work so I record it on the DVR and watch it as soon as I get home. Well, one night in mid January, I raced home eager to watch that night’s episode. I pressed play and realized with dread that the night’s episode was about Bulimia. I was about 2 weeks into my juice cleanse and seeing food triggered some severe cravings and hunger pangs for me, so watching the young man on the show shovel plate after plate down his gullet was too much to bear and I stopped watching it about 5 minutes in. I am proud to say I watched it tonight with no side effects!

Fear shall not imprison me.

There come times in our lives wherein life requires us to make tough decisions. Sometimes it requires us to change the way we think or remove ourselves from a situation. Neither option is easy but often times before we even try we have talked ourselves out of it. Once upon a time, not too long ago, I had nothing. I lost it all and found myself at the bottom of the barrel with nothing and no one, at the mercy of anyone willing to extend a helping hand. The biggest lesson I learned from that experience was that having nothing can be very freeing and with it comes an absence of fear. I feared nothing and no one because the way I saw it, there was nothing anyone could do to me that could negatively affect me – meaning I was so low I couldn’t go any lower. There was nothing they could do to me that had not already been done. I remember telling a bill collector who threatened me with a lawsuit to go ahead at risk of losing his job because his company would spend more money in court fees that they would get out of me. I even added a giggle at the end of the statement; he was speechless. I found myself more emboldened than I have ever been in my life. I can honestly see why people who lose it all and become homeless prefer to remain in the streets. There is freedom from worry that exists when you have nothing that living a “normal” everyday  life lacks. There is no worry about losing one’s job, losing material things, no worry about enough money in the bank, no worries about downgrading or upgrading one’s lifestyle etc. Were it not for the value system instilled in me by my parents to strive for success and be the best I can be, I might still be hugging the bottom of my barrel today. As I picked myself up and my fortunes changed, I promised myself that I would always remember that while material things make us comfortable and may fill us with joy, they are not necessities to life and living. And while a job may provide us with the means to acquire the material things we crave, we should not feel obligated to remain in a  place that does not make us happy or leave us feeling fulfilled. In short, I never want the fear of losing anything to keep me imprisoned in any situation.

Presently, I find myself once more in a defining moment and while I can’t quite explain it, it feels different this time around. Lately I have begun to fall victim to fear but I am determined to conquer it once again. I am going to make a decision that will change me and my life but it must be done.

Commitment phobia? Present!

I suffer from commitment phobia: I fear commitment like a plague. I fear apartment leases, car notes, cell phone contracts, anything that locks me in for either a determined or an undetermined length of time. Every time I have to make a commitment, I either down play it in my mind or negate it’s significance to myself. The first time I signed an apartment lease I opted for a 6 months lease even though I knew that I was most certainly going to be there longer than that – I signed a new lease 2 more times, 6 month leases each time. When I sign cell phone contracts I have to give myself a pep talk before I agree to the terms or tell myself that all I am doing is paying the cost of the free phone I am getting. Likewise in relationships, I refuse to establish timeline parameters: I have never celebrated an anniversary because I never establish a start date. No start date, no length of time to count.

When I began juicing I knew it would be a lifelong commitment. Now almost 4 months after I started, I begin everyday with fresh green juice or green smoothies. That’s just they way it will be for as long as is conceivably possible. However today I took time to sit back and actually ponder what juicing had become in my life – a life  long commitment. There was that dreaded word. I wanted to fight it, find some way to negate it but I can’t. Finally, at least for now I have found the one thing that can lock me in forever and there is not a darn thing I can do about it.

Travel Junkie cont.

Growing up, I did not have the best relationship with my mum and I never imagined that it would get better. My dad can be extremely morbid and would try to prepare us for their eventual demise by having conversations about it. When I was younger and less to close to them than I am now, I was certain I would not miss them and would recover quickly from the loss. But now as time goes by and I get closer to them, I know I am going to miss them dearly. So where am I going with this? I don’t even know. I just felt the need to put that out there. Well, then again I think I know where that train of thought started. I love to travel, like adore, like hopelessly in love with travel. I am a wanderer and a seeker of adventure. Any who, I have goals in life like getting a PhD, making a documentary, not relying solely on my job for financial stability… little things like that. While visiting my mother this past week she brought up the fact that in the course of achieving my goals, it might become necessary for me to put travel on the back burner. I nearly passed out at the thought but the more I thought about it the more I  realize that she is correct. She sent me a template outlining how to set SMART goals – Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Timely. The conversation that brought us to her sharing that information was one I never imagined having with her and that is why I know that I will miss her dearly whenever we part in this mortal realm.

So, as previously mentioned I recently acquired Moira my new laptop and we are still getting to know each other. Eventually, Moira will help elevate my photos to professional standards but until then enjoy these raw and untouched images of this past weeks journeys.

I was driving and trying to take pictures at the same time. Not the best way top get good pictures.

I was driving and trying to take pictures at the same time. Not the best way to get good pictures.

Children crossing the street on what looked like a school outing.

Children crossing the street on what looked like a school outing.

I stopped in front of this building which looked like a palace to get directions and still have no idea what it was.

I stopped in front of this building which looked like a palace to get directions and still have no idea what it was.

Belgian countryside.

Belgian countryside.

Travel junkie!

Brussels

So it has been a week since I was here and what a week it has been! I am not sure how I picked the dates but I made plans to visit my parents in the motherland at the end of March. Since I am not as conscious of the christian calendar as I should be, I neglected the fact that the week of my visit would be Holy Week: that is the week preceding Easter. From the start, the journey was fraught with little headaches here and there. First of all, when I went to get the visas for myself and two other friends who were joining me on the trip, I forgot one of their photos and so a second trip was necessary. Additionally, my mother sent me a shopping list long enough to stock a small warehouse and what with 12 hour days  here and there, it was a struggle trying to sneak in shopping between work, so I bribed a friend of mine to help me out which led to several phone calls while I was at work with questions like: liquid of powder?, what is lemon green?, are you sure she wants 20 Glade sprays? Finally, all the visas were obtained but then we realized that for some reason the normally scheduled Monday flight was cancelled and so we would have to travel a day later. We regrouped and I actually appreciated the extra date as it gave me a chance to close all loose ends and get a moment to relax before the trip. I ended up not sleeping the night prior to flight day but spent it packing and weighing. Once morning broke, I left the house to pick up some last minute items. I was doing great on time but some where along the line I lost control and ended up doing my normal mad dash to the airport with minutes to spare.

We made it to Brussels just fine even getting Business seats. In Brussels we bought liquor, horsed around and strolled to the gate. When I asked the gate agent what the seat availability looked like she informed me that there were seats available but because of weight load restrictions there was the possibility that we might not make the flight. I was not worried as I had taken this route several times before with no issues. Not today! We did not make the flight and the next one was 2 days later! Could anything else go wrong?

Womp Womp… Race was cancelled :(

I woke up early this morning at about 0540. I was both excited and nervous so I hit the snooze button a couple of times, finally rolling out of bed at about 0608. I was dressed in no time as I had already set aside my clothes for the race. I am not a breakfast person although lately I have no problem drinking a smoothie or green juice in the morning. Well, the amateur athlete in me has heard about carb loading before a race and although I did not have clear facts, I decided to eat some carbs; crackers was all I had so crackers was what I had – 2 small packs of oyster crackers. I got to the race location at about 0640 and when I called my running partner she had not yet left her house and told me she would be leaving at 0720! When I left home, I had felt a tinkle of moisture which could scarcely be classified as rain but as I waited, I saw lightning and eventually actual rain. While I wished it was not raining, I was determined to run the race no matter what. My friend finally showed up at about 0740 and went to pick up our numbers, Just as I arrived the Start line, an announcement came over the speakers declaring the race cancelled. I was kinda upset although I acknowledge that it had been raining pretty hard and it was for the best. As with most races, there are sponsors and athletic companies at the site peddling their wares. Well with this race cancelled, it was a free for all. I could not take a picture as it was raining but there were two 10 foot long tables piled high with bananas and another 10 foot long table filled with bags of Einstein bagels. Muscle Milk was also in attendance and while they had been giving out a bottle at a time to passers-by, with the cancelling of the race, they encouraged everyone to take as much as they wanted and fill the little eco-friendly-made-from-plastic bottles shopping bags race sponsor Whole Foods had provided. Which brings me to a thought I had as I filled my bag with bananas and Muscle Milk. Whenever I am faced with something free, I almost always over do it meaning I take too much/ more than I need. And even when I walk away, I am still wondering if I took enough, if I should go back for more and berating myself for not having taken more.

My goal after my cleanse was to stay away from processed foods and I have done well so far. I took about 6 bananas which will come in handy for my smoothies. The Muscle Milk I had no business taking as I did not even read the label but I ended up with 7 bottles. I did not take any bagels and I am very proud of myself for that. When I initially arrived at the race grounds, I had concerns that my pre race meal had been inadequate so I grabbed some Cascade Farms Organic Granola and some Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Chips and a small Lara Fruit and Nut Energy bar – not one of the labels on these products did I read  so this constitutes my first impulse food consumption post cleanse. Once I found out the race was cancelled, I knew I could not let all that food just hang out in my body so I decided to let Shaun T and Insanity help me burn it and burn it he did! Pure Cardio is a beast but I am glad I did it!