A couple of good friends and I have road tripped from NJ down to NC for a end-of-summer vacation.
We first spent some time at Cape Hatteras, before going to our Air BNB vacation home. We didn’t spend too much time at the beach, we’ll be coming back in day two- kits were flown and candid portraits were shot!
Let’s Go Fly a Kite
Milky Way and Meteor Puddlegram When we got to our vacation lake home, I was excited for the sun to set, and for the sky to darken. When time finally came to look at the stars, I was in awe. The photo below is a lot brighter than what the eye sees, but I was able to see the accents of the Milky Way through the naked eye here in the Outer Banks. Captured a meter/shooting star as well! 🙂
I really appreciate centers like this, because they provide normal people to see animals and wildlife up close, study them scientifically to further our research knowledge about animals. However, the reason why I these centers the most is because many of the animals we see inside the SeaLife center are rescued injured or orphaned wildlife that receive rehabilitation at the center.
After some gift-shopping and lunch with the family, it was time to say goodbye to the pretty little town of Seward.
And on to our last stop (where we began): Anchorage.
Anchorage is a very pretty city to photography because even though there are a lot of buildings that make for good “cityscapes,” There is often a view of a mountain in the distance.
My brother’s freshman college roommate happens to live in Alaska, and was in Anchorage, so we had dinner with him and my brother was able to catch up with an old friend. It was also a plus because he knew the city well.
By this time, I was pretty burnt out from all the traveling. However, I did for sure enjoy seeing the puffins, and Anchorage is a very pretty city. Decently quiet as well! Just one more day left!
Day 5, our second day in Seward, we went to see glaciers again, the day before on water, but this time on land! We visited Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. It’s a shorter and accessible trail, so pretty much anyone could walk the path and see it 🙂
The sad thing is, Exit Glacier is, well, exiting! The picture below is the one of the closest vantage points the park’s trail takes us to view the glacier. In 2010, the glacier was much larger. I would have been able to touch the glacier from where I took this photo only 6 years ago. 100 years ago, the glacier, the mile trail we walked was essentially all glacier.I essence, the glaciers in Alaska have all been slowly shrinking since the end of the earth’s ice age, but in just the last decade, it’s been shrinking faster and faster, and Exit Glacier here is an up close and personal example of one of them.
If that picture doesn’t scare you, how about this one? I took it from farther back where the glacier reached back in 2005, just eleven years ago (I was only ten years old, and I just turned 21 recently). I also added an indicator below to show where I was standing for the photo I took above of the 2010 sign.
What were you doing in 2005? 2010? Comment below 🙂
In the infographic below, Kenai Fjords National Park scientists also say that the glacier used to be much larger, and has been shrinking and melting more and more every year.
My brother made an extra climb up closer to the glacier, and he got to touch it! Check out his Instagram post below, and follow him @timclau 🙂
A few non-glacier pictures taken along the trail. Cool to think that all the trees, rivers, flowers, and earth used to be frozen less than a century ago!
We ended the day by going back to Seward and taking a stroll around Seward. Turns our there is large RV park by the bay, and lots of families either camping out or living in their RVs. It’s a beautiful place to be in the summer.
I hope you enjoyed these photos of Exit Glacier and the Seward Bay. However, I want to challenge you to educate yourself on the warming of Alaska. I know there is lots of controversy about the politics of global warming and climate change. However, I’m not asking you to look into politics, but to check out and see if beautiful natural wonders of Alaska-its glaciers for example-may soon cease to exist. Also, with glaciers gone, cute little tourist towns like Seward may lose its large amount of tourism, which is important for the town’s economic well-being (when no tourists come in the coldest months of winter, many Seward residents and workers actually leave for a break because there is no work for them).
The Natural Resources Defense Council, or the NRDC, a non-profit that aims to protect the earth’s natural ecosystem and the animals, plants, and humans within it. They have fought for clean water in Flint, Michigan and have campaigned against the antibiotics found in Kentucky Fried Chicken’s poultry. These are just two of the many projects they’re working on- and they reported the day I arrived back in Jersey that Alaska is having the hottest year ever recorded. Check out their tweet below:
You can take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m not trying to convince you to believe everything I say, but I do hope that you would at least educate yourselves about the climate change in Alaska if you have not already. The unfortunate conclusion is that in just a couple of years, kids will never be able to see glaciers in Alaska anymore.
But two truths are clear: 1. Alaska is having the hottest year that’s ever been recorded. 2 This glacier, Exit Glacier, has been shrinking faster and faster by the decade, and so are the other glaciers in Alaska.
For me, that’s enough reason to start demanding climate action when I can, and having a different perspective on how I treat my earth’s ecosystem- even back home in the suburbs of New Jersey.
What do you think of this “warming of Alaska”? I’d like to hear your opinion if you would like to share; comment below!
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check my past photo blog posts about Alaska by clicking on the images below 🙂
Our first day in Seward, we embarked on a day cruise ship named the “Orca Voyager” with the wonderful Kenai Fjords Tours and sailed in to the Gulf of Alaska to see glaciers and wildlife. We saw orcas, sea lions, otters, puffins and other birds, and the humpback whale).
The Seward harbor and our cruise ship, the Orca Voyager.
Otter – before docking the ship in the morning, we found an otter chewing away on a fish right next to the harbor boardwalk. Pretty adorable 🙂
Orcas (Killer Whales) – I wasn’t able to get many good photos of the orcas, but they’re one of my favorite animals! This photo came out alright.
Humpback Whale – another aspect of our trip (like the weather during our Denali tour and the weather during the cruise), we found a humpback whale (probably a young one according to the ship captain) that jumped almost 30-40 times, and waved to us, sort of showing off. But it was a beautiful sight. My dream is to see more dolphins ❤ in my home state, in Atlantic City.
Alakik Glacier – this glacier could be gone in a couple years!
Birds – there were lots of seagulls, puffins, and other birds, but most of them were very small to see. Puffins especially. Without binoculars or anything, it was hard to see the cute faces of the puffins. But there were so many. The captain liked to point out large puffins to us; she said that there are puffins who have eaten so much that they can’t fly, and when they try they end up failing. That’s sort of adorable :). At the Wildlife Center in Seward that my brother and I visited on Day 6, so look out for some adorable puffin pictures on my post for that day!
Sea Lions – these water had a couple sea lions that are called “Stellar Sea Lions.” They are branded with a letter/number combination, for studies. I found a link online to a spreadsheet that tracks where they’ve been seen.
We stopped by Fox Island, where they had a cafeteria that served us salmon, prime rib, and if you wanted, king crab for an extra fee, as part of the overall tour package. Then we returned home, finally, after an 8 hour trip.
Extra Tidbit: The Van Gilder Hotel (Alaska’s Oldest Hotel)– for two of our three nights at Seward, we staid at the historical place called The Van Gilder Hotel. It’s very historic and has been placed by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a part of the National Register of Historical Places. Essentially the hotel has kept his architecture very much the same and using their old fashion beds and antique furniture. There are obviously renovations , such as added TVs and bathrooms. There were still bathrooms and even a shower room in the hall of the floor I stayed on.
After we left, my brother said that there is a myth about a ghost inside the Hotel, called “The Ghost of Fanny Guthry-Baehm” (there’s even a book about it). I’m glad he told me after we left, or I may have been freaked out. The synopsis of the book linked above says “Fannie Guthrie-Baehm was murdered in room 201 in 1947, and her ghost has been witnessed by many over the years.” Oh my. Chills. Would I recommend the hotel? I’m not sure. I liked the historical vibe, but it wasn’t as comfortable as a normal hotel. Also, now that I’ve read up on the myth, it’s spooky. But the owner was nice and helpful!
Day 5 coming up soon :). Thanks for reading!
Read about my previous days clicking on the labeled photos below:
Alaska Day 3: our day will finish down south in Seward. It’s 200+ miles south of Talkeetna, with Anchorage (where the airport is) in between. You should know that Alaska has two legs right? Well, there’s a little peninsula between the two legs- that’s where Seward is- on the south coast.
We stopped by three places before reaching Seward:
1. Potter Marsh Wildlife Viewing Boardwalk – a boardwalk where there is a lot of grassland water. The water apparently was created by man, by accident. We saw a moose, eagle, and lots of other birds at the Marsh.
2. Beluga Point – a lookout point by the water viewing the Ocean between the peninsula and the West Alaska. There are apparenty Beluga whales that come by the coast, but we didn’t see any.
3. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center – this isn’t exactly a zoo. This conservation center’s animals (beats, bison, deer, elk, etc.) are mostly hurt and/or orphaned, and the center takes very good care of them. Just last year, they released a large group of wood bison back into the wild. There are three bears- two were orphaned cubs when their mother was shot. Another was found injured by a porcupine by some people snowmobiling in Alaska. I’m really glad that this conservation center is seeking to help animals, not just show them off for attention or money. 🙂
1. Potter Marsh Wildlife Viewing Boardwalk
Views of the water and grasslands at the Potter Marsh:
2. Beluga Point
3. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
After the Conservation Center, we drove another 2 hour or so and made it to small town Seward. It was around 9 PM Alaska time, and most restaurants were closed, but we were able to find dinner 🙂 We would be staying in Seward for 3 nights. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading! Check out some of my past posts by clicking on the images below, and keep a lookout for Day 4!
Our second day in Alaska was rain-filled. However, we had a whole day in Denali National Park in the sun, and got to see the great Denali mountain, so we could only count our blessings! Our morning was pretty relaxed because of the rain, and then we drove from Healy, AK (our motel near Denali) back down south to our next stop, Talkeetna, AK.
Without much to do outside because of the weather, we arrived at our lodging spot in Talkeetna around 4:00 PM Alaska time, or 8:00 PM EST. It’s a very lowly-populated little town, with on around 876 residents inside a square milage of 42.9 square miles. Talkeetna is a great place to find airplane tours to see areas around it (including Denali), and is also a prime spot to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Unfortunately, it’s too bright at night (it never really gets dark here) to see the Aurora during the month of June 😦
Because of the rain, we had a lot of free time. We were able to watch Game 7 of the NBA Finals entirely 🙂 Congratulations LeBron! Usually, on vacations like this, it’s very easy to want to use every hour of every day, but during our vacation, we’ve had a lot of time to relax and rest just as much as exploring the amazing state of Alaska. I’ve really enjoyed that and a lot of that goes to my brother Tim’s specific but flexible itinerary! Thanks bro!
After the game, we decided to visit Talkeetna’s downtown. To walk there, we walked a path through the woods that required us to cross some train tracks. Train tracks tend to look nice in photos….. hahah!
We reached downtown Talkeetna rather quickly, it wasn’t very far away. It consists of many little houses, mostly restaurants, bars, gift shops, and travel offices. It was cute, but it was pretty quiet and empty.
We had dinner at the Wilderness Cafe, which had phenomenal seafood. As well as salmon, halibut is very popular here in Alaska. There’s Halibut at almost every restaurant, and it’s actually more expensive than salmon.
The Wilderness Cafe had cool dishes like seafood curry (with halibut, crab, salmon, shrimp, scallops, etc. all in one dish), a deep-fried salmon burger that my brother loved, and many other dishes.On our way in, a couple walking out said: “when we came in, the people leaving our table said it was worth the wait.” After eating there, my family agreed. If anyone visits Talkeetna, I highly recommend eating here!
After walking home a different route, we essentially rested for the night, getting ready for another long drive all the way down south to Seward, AK, where we would be staying three nights.
Talkeetna was a small town and it was rainy all day, so we didn’t get to do too much there. However, my family and I got to stroll through it’s quaint little downtown, have a great seafood dinner, rest up, and also watch the NBA finals 🙂
Thanks for reading! Click the photos below to read the last couple days in Alaska 🙂
Day 1 after 30 hours of travel and a good early night’s rest (also adjusting to the 24 daylight called “Midnight’s Sun” here in Alaska), we were up early and were off by 7:15 AM to Denali National Park, home to Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), the highest peak in the US.
The only way to get into the park past a certain point is to use the park’s bus tours (the main road extends to 84-89 miles long, but private cars are only allowed to drive past mile 15 now). The bus we signed up for went from the parking lot to the 84th mile – Wonder Lake. The bus made about 8 stops give or take, and the bus also often stopped if there was any wildlife near the roads. The buses would be rotating very often, so if we wanted to stay at any certain spot and enjoy the view longer, hike a trail or two, or even camp, we could, and other buses could take us a long later. However we stuck with the same bus all day, and the trip went on from 7:30 AM till around 6:30 PM (almost 11 hours!). 168 miles on not the best terrain, with stops along the way.
Everywhere we went, there was just so much distance to see for miles and miles, and beautiful mountains surrounding us.
We saw a good amount of wildlife.
Our bus ride might have been great, and the car ride could be boring, but our driver might have been the highlight of the trip. A school bus driver during the year, she gets to work in Denali National Park, interacting with people, telling stories, or make lots of jokes. Thanks, Wendy, for being a compassionate and loving driver and tour gjide.
On our bus, we met an older couple who owned an RV and have been driving for a long time. The lady told us we must get food at the “Salmon Bake” and that it’s worth it. It was! Salmon and Halibut are Alaska’s favorites. Also, Happy BIrthday Mom!
Part II: June 26, 2015, Rutgers University – Livingston Campus, Piscataway NJ.
Livingston Campus is the favorite campus of both Jasmine and myself. In fact, even though we attended the same church and youth group growing up, we actually really became friends during freshman year, living on the same dorm floor… on Livi!
I don’t remember how planned out this was. Regarding the pictures, I learned my lesson regarding sunlight and the face shadows it creates at most angles. The first photo I took was taken in an area where it was completely shadowed from direct sunlight (by the student center building) so the light is even across the photo. I angled the rest of the photos with the sunlight directly behind Jasmine for an interesting effect. The face shadows didn’t appear with this angle either!
However, re-editing the photos, however, I realized that with a lot of harsh, bright sunlight behind a subject, there is a lot of chromatic aberration and purple fringing, where there is unwanted purple colors between the subject and the background. My original edits 8 months ago didn’t account for the fringing. I used to say “the sun is my best friend,” but still gotta be careful!
The most difficult part is that the purple fringing is similar to the pinkish/purple color of what Jasmine was wearing. There is a fringing removal tool in Adobe Lightroom, but when I used it to get rid of the fringing on the borders, it would remove colors from her shirt as well. I had to use more effort to remove as much fringing as I could without ruining the color of the rest of the photo.
Yesterday, I started the Jasmine Series. Check out Part I (click on the image below)!
It’s been almost a year since I’ve pursued learning the art of photography and all the knowledge, skills and techniques behind it.
I really enjoy astrophotography (pictures of the night sky) the most, but I also love learning about other photography styles, like macro photography and sports photography.
One very important style is portraiture (photos of people) and fashion photography. This is different than candids or photos of events where the subjects of the photo don’t really know they’re being photographed. Instead, the photos have been planned, and subject knows they’re being photographed.
This style is important. But it’s been hard for me to learn. When taking photos of a model, I don’t really know how to direct them. And to have confidence in that takes experience, and to gain experience takes practice and the awkwardness that comes with it.
That’s where Jasmine comes in. She’s been a very close friend of mine since my freshman year, and she loves fashion. So I asked her to help me gain more experience taking portraits.
Let’s be straight here. It’s totally awkward taking a friend out and taking pictures of them. We’re friends, so it’s not like a professional photographer and a model, it’s a friend who likes taking pictures and a friend who dresses well. Big difference. But she was cool enough with the learning curve, and didn’t mind the awkward posing (or not posing) and me standing around with a camera trying to figure out what the heck to do.
Jasmine and I have worked together on four different occasions (that I can remember). Jasmine’s 21st birthday is this week, so I decided to make five posts in five weekdays as a project for myself to get me blogging again and also a thank you to her. The first four days will feature one occasion each. The last one is TBD 🙂
The first occasion was last Spring on April 16th, 2015, at Johnson Park.
Re-editing these photos ten months later, it’s nice seeing what I did/didn’t do well back then. Some photos (like the first one below) came out almost perfectly, and I’m very proud of it. However, there are some obvious flaws even among my favorite shots of that day. The biggest flaw is lighting (like in the second photo below). With the sun as the only source of light outside, the sharpness and quality of the picture will be pretty easy to obtain (fast shutter speeds, higher f-stop numbers and lower ISOs), but where the sunlight comes from is a big deal. With one source of light, there are shadows, even in a person’s face due to the human facial structure or random objects. This can create a portrait where the face has very obvious shadows and dark spots, which is not good even though the photo is nicely composed otherwise (like the second photo below). It’s nice to look back at photos and learn from my mistakes.
Anyway, here you go:
Look for The Jasmine Series Part II Series tomorrow, Tuesday 3/1/16.
A weak point of my relationship with God has always been prayer.
…How am I supposed to talk to someone that I can’t hear…?
Dear God… thank you for the food… thank you for my friends and family….zzz
People in the Bible would pray and miracles would happen. I certainly haven’t seen that, nor can I “do” that.
What confuses me the most is prayer with other believers, or corporate prayer.
How is talking to God sincere if everyone in this circle just repeating the same prayer requests again and again? Isn’t once repeated good enough for a God that knows everything? – I still sort of think this way.
I’m so worried about what I’m going to pray about out loud that I’m not even paying attention.
God has certainly been teaching me about the power of prayer during winter break. In Urbana, I learned that “being a prayer warrior matters;” and that when missionaries hear that people are praying for them back home, “knowing they’re not forgotten changes everything.” (Christine Taylor).
Ok. I don’t want to come close to comparing myself to a missionary. They have sacrificed and gone through so much more than I ever have. However, I was recently the beneficiary of prayer, and lots and lots of it. And I felt it.
Last Friday, on 1/8/16, I had “septoplasty” surgery to fix my deviated septum. You can click on the image below to read more details about the surgery.
This will be my update on my recovery, about 5 days later. I have had three oral surgeries before to remove extra teeth (gross, I know right?) and also my wisdom teeth. I would actually say that this septoplasty operation was easier to go through. Unlike wisdom teeth removal where I can’t eat, I could eat almost whatever I wanted after the operation, Friday afternoon. So that’s a bonus.
In short, the aftermath of the surgery felt like someone punched me in the nose real hard with a 3+ day long nosebleed, with sponges shoved deep up both my nostrils. But recovery was already said to take about 2 days, and the 2 days pretty much did it.
I also found out that I always freak out when I wake up from anesthesia. When I had oral dental surgery, I once whined like crazy screaming at my parents to get me a frappuccino or something. This time, I woke up in the recovery room that I stayed at for about an hour and a half. When I first woke up I was screaming and shaking like nuts and asking them to put me back to sleep… LOL. This was also a public recovery/preparation room, mind you. Don’t give me anesthesia, friends. I wonder how I would react to carbon-freezing (I’ve been on a Star Wars kick this last month).
On Monday, 1/11/16, I went back to the doctor’s office and my surgeon/ENT took a look at the result of his handiwork. He pretty much gave a thumbs up, removed the sponges in my nose, and sent me away. Most doctor’s don’t work that fast, but I admire his speed. He’s fast with his patients, but he’s also thorough. An unlikely combination for doctors these days.
Right now, Wednesday morning 1/13/16, there is barely any blood at all, and only minimal soreness in the upper-nose. I’m already working from home doing projects for my help-desk job, and spending time with my family. Since this is a photography blog, I thought I could squeeze in a random photo and connect it to this blog post by saying that I’ve healed enough to go outside and take pictures of birds…? I tried, haha!
I wanted to thank everyone who prayed for me or wished me a good recovery this last week. I was very encouraged to be reminded that my friends and family were praying for me. My mother put my surgery on the church prayer list, and the entire weekend my mom would tell me “hey! so-and-so is praying for you and asking you about your recovery” She was also forwarding e-mails that people were sending her asking about me. We even received a voice-mail at home from the head-pastor.
I received a batch of cookies from a family-friend- Lee-Ching Aiyi. Her homemade cookies are pretty darn amazing.
My Sunday School coordinator happened to be subbing for my class. Auntie Glenda got a card and had my class sign it. I couldn’t be more encouraged on Sunday after missing church.
And I can’t thank my mom and dad enough. They paid for this surgery with their money and insurance. My father stayed next to me in the recovery room when I was going crazy, recovering from the anesthesia and suffering from somewhat of a shock. They fed me all weekend. My mom wouldn’t go to sleep at night until I ate my anti-biotics, and had trouble sleeping because she was so worried about me all weekend. I’m a typical prideful dude and in the moment I am usually very reluctant to accept their help, giving them an “I KNOW” response when they remind me to drink water or eat my medicine. That’s why I’m hoping they can read this and know that I am so thankful for every second and every ounce of care they’ve given me throughout the weekend. Mom and Dad, I know I get annoyed when you care for me and overprotect me, but I am so privileged to have you as parents and I am so grateful for your love this weekend as well as your godly parenting the last 20+ years.
And that is the power of prayer that I have been enlightened with. I had been searching for results of prayer as the one praying, not the one being prayed for. The encouragement of knowing all these people were wishing me well and hoping for a smooth surgery and recovery in Christ. Yes, the prayer was for a result that did end up happening, but the most powerful part for me was knowing that all these friends and family were thinking of me… “hoping” in Christ… for me.
Again, thank you so much for reading my story, and also thank you for praying for me and wishing me a successful surgery and well recovery.
I am still learning and will always have more to learn about prayer, but I know one thing now: don’t underestimate the power of prayer and the different ways prayer can work in our lives. The God we pray to is real, so our prayer should be just as real.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on prayer for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18