It’s nearing the year’s end, so of course this means a somewhat sentimental blog post from me. I was thinking of a “resolutions/goals” type post, but I decided against it. Instead here’s something more entertaining: my favorite photos from the past year! Note that these aren’t necessarily my best, just my favorites.
Finding these is also a little bit of housekeeping for me and my photos. It forces me to sort the gigabytes and gigabytes of RAW photos I was casually dumping onto drives the entire year.
In any case, I did a lot of travelling this year! I don’t have to think twice to know this is the most I’ve ever travelled in one single year. Two new US states visited (Louisiana and Florida) and another trip to Japan!
Winter is undoubtedly the least crowded season in Yosemite, and yet it’s an interesting time that folks miss out on. My Honda Accord isn’t the best car for this, but I got lucky and didn’t need to put on chains.
I drove through the park at night, armed with an upgraded camera. I’d previously tried to take night images with my Canon 7D, but really struggled. On the other hand, the versatility of my new Canon 5D Mark III really shined here. I’m still learning though - I’m sure I could do better somehow.
Later that month I had my inevitable 30th birthday, and much love shown to me by my friends and family.
Thank you to my family for the cake and party, and thanks to James and Jessica and Son and Allison for showing up for my birthday dinner in Santa Monica!
I went back to Yosemite with Kevin in February, where I was able to tag along and take advantage of his all wheel drive. If I brought my Accord, I would’ve definitely had to put on noisy chains.
The trail wasn’t too bad except for a few rough patches with slow and ice.
Yuka and I traveled all around the area on weekend trips, sometimes going as far as Lone Pine.
This was a super tough shot to get. It’s supposed to be the moon in the background at dusk. No tripod - I think I just balanced the camera on my knee? Manual focused this one.
This was shot at Manzanar, and obviously we arrived way too late, so we decided to come back the next day.
The almost full moon was out and in a perfect position to illuminate these snowy mountains. There was an eerie glow coming from them that you could see with your eyes. We drove as far as we could on Whitney Portal Road before encountering a road block, beyond which the snow wasn’t cleared. There were a lot of cars parked here, undoubtedly a lot of people kissing in the dark.
Yuka thought I drive her up here so we could kiss too, but I was too interested in my camera and my photography, so I think I upset her a bit. She was also scared of the eerie mountains. Definitely a strange feeling from those lit up mountains that night.
I was amazed at these two cherry trees seemingly in the middle of nowhere, at full bloom. Certainly something that would’ve attracted much attention if it was in Japan. But here it was surprisingly uncrowded.
I really doubt I’ll be able to get the timing right on these trees again - I know how time-sensitive they are. And the high winds in the area must make it tough to get good shots before all the leaves fly away.
The bees were having a field day here! Never seen so many bees pollinating.
Yuka mentioned visiting the redwoods with a coworker when she was visiting San Jose for work previously. I was fairly sure it was Big Basin, my favorite place to hike in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Yuka had a lot of fun, and also discovered tree sap (yes, she instinctually touched it). Time to get her outdoors more!
New Orleans was a pretty spontaneous trip. We wanted to fly somewhere, and New Orleans was a place both of us are interested in.
What a great city! Definitely a party culture which I don’t identify with at all, but more than that: a walkable city with true culture, good food, good music. And super friendly people. Strangers who walk past you in the morning and give you an earnest “good morning!” with a smile. I grew up in LA - my reaction is at first suspicious, but then I realize they’re not asking for money, they’re just being friendly. What a concept. What a friendly city!
For better or worse, I became obsessed with brie cheese after eating this, which is a baked wheel of brie cheese with cinammon apples and a clove of garlic on the side, served with crackers and grapes. I don’t know if it was because I was so hungry from walking so much, but this was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Fantastic! Now I need to try to recreate this at home sometime.
I last visited Bodie, a real ghosttown, when I was a kid. I honestly don’t remember much, other than my dad warning me repeatedly to watch where I stepped, and not to step on any nails or any floorboards just lying around. I also vaguely remember it being hot and dusty.
This trip was made while it was still chilly outside. The sky was great and perfect.
When I told dad that the last few miles to Bodie is still dirt road, he simply replied “good!”.
Yuka flew out to see me, and I was so happy to see her again. We spent time at the Amelia Island resort, but we both kind of decided that resorts weren’t for us. We decided to explore, so one day we rented a car and drove to St. Augustine, Florida.
Some pieces of history classes came back to me, but to tell you the truth I would never expect there to be Spanish castles and this much Spanish influence left here. What an interesting place!
Back to local Northern California weekend trips. Yuka and I enjoyed travelling to Monterey, Morro Bay, Pescadero (garlic/hippy town!), and San Simeon to see Hearst Castle.
We ventured to Sausalito and looked up restaurants on Yelp. We looked at a few and decided on Sushi Ran. Expensive but super tasty and nice, and it made Yuka so happy. We later found out that it’s one of the few Michelin rated restaurants in the area, and was even mentioned by Steve Jobs at the first iPhone keynote as his favorite restaurant in the area. (note: I REALLY dislike Jobs and his ilk, people who idolize him, but I thought this was an interesting tidbit in any case)
Hearst Castle is another place I visited with my family in childhood, but the memories were still pretty fresh. Still, it had been over ten years or so.
I remember being fascinated with the ceilings here when I was a kid, so forgive the multiple shots of them. It’s still hard to capture it all. The angles here are all so awkward, I’m definitely not used to shooting stuff like this. This place is probably great for fisheye lenses.
This is a two-part post. If you liked this one, also be sure to check out part two.