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JSSK - Day 2 of a Crazy Weekend

The second day was a special day: a small shoot for Jocelyn, Shaina, Sarah and Karina.  You know... the more time goes by, the shorter the time between events tends to feel.  I notice this to be true as I reflect on the first moments I met each of them as freshmen, whilst now joyfully seeing them as seniors of their class.  Since then, a lot has changed.  Two of the four are sticking around for another year for various reasons.  One will be receiving her teaching credential and moving home to teach young kiddos English and life struggles, and the other will be starting a career in the Construction Management industry.... Woohoo!

First few key memories:

  • Having Shaina and Sarah over for dinner as freshmen (Loco Mocos cuz HA-Y-N) in exchange for a hand of bananas. Mmm... Bananas.
  • Jocelyn derping... Yeah nothing has changed.
  • Karina.... asking a billion questions as I washed dishes at ye olde Meatlocker (one of the ministry houses back in the day)...

Anyway, I started the day by picking up Jocelyn and Sarah on my way to campus on a wonderfully sunny Sunday morning.. Jocelyn had forgotten her hard hat at home so we doubled back to grab it.  Yes... CM folk wear hard hats instead of grad caps during Poly's graduation ceremony.  We arrived on campus and had to wait for a little bit for Shaina and Karina to arrive.  In the mean time, Jocelyn wanted to do some individual shots as Sarah had previously taken portraits with another photographer-friend.  So Jocelyn and I did just that.  Here's some of the fun.

Shaina and Karina arrived fashionably on time.  Our first stop was the rose garden off of California, which is quickly turning into my go-to spot on campus.  The next few hours were full of laughter and smiles.  Cloud cover was spotty but there was shade aplenty thanks to a few well-placed trellises and shade trees.

Afterwards, we decided to walk around the business building and surrounding area... and then headed over to the Cochett Education Building.  One of 'em reaaaaaally wanted to stop by the steps in the business building... and we did.  Ha.

Annnd... second to last, this gem of a spot near the architecture building.  Slats of dark grainy wood and beautiful people. Good times.

And then...

Congratulations Jocelyn, Shaina, Sarah and Karina!  I and many others have been blessed by your friendship over the past few years in SLO.  I'm excited to hear about the big things that will be taking place in your lives over the next few years, and more.

What was learned...

  • Shade shade shade shade shade...
  • Good friends = good photos...
  • 70-200mm f/2.8 is quickly becoming my favorite go-to lens for portraits, though I do enjoy using the 14-24mm f/2.8 for shots that include buildings as backdrops.


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The Build Up

This past weekend was a wild ride.  After a fairly quick-paced, though tedious, day at work, I headed down to Orange County with a few SLO folks who wanted a ride down for Mother's Day.  For the most part, the entire car ride was filled with conversation.  One person of interest was my shotgunning passenger who is soon ending her career as a Dairy Science Product Technology undergraduate at Cal Poly.  During the ride, she shared about her passion for the artisan cheese industry (such a cool subject) and dairy industry in general.  This conversation piqued my interest as I had little to no idea about the cheese making process (or about California's dairy industry in general, at that rate).  One aspect I have grown to love the most about driving folks home include coming to know them as individuals and learning new tidbits about the world.

After a long night of driving around LA/OC and dropping passengers off, I finally made my way down to the relative's house I was crashing at for the weekend.  All was quiet as my cousin's husband opened the front door and I stepped inside.... mentally preparing to take on the weekend.  I would be spending a majority of Saturday hunting for apartments/housing with a friend (who at this time is living in Orange County) and most of Sunday morning at a graduation photoshoot for Esther, a good friend from my Cal Poly SLO days.  With a mind drearily burdened from work, exhausted from a long drive, yet excited for the weekend ahead, I unpacked my bag and quickly dozed off.

Saturday passed faster than it should have.  We spent a good seven hours of the day looking at apartments throughout Tustin, Lake Forest, and Santa Ana.  Thankfully, we settled on two prospective places but will be continuing our search just in case.  Saturday came and went faster than I could say "WHYRENTSOHIGH?

Sunday Fun-day

As preface, I met Esther through Cal Poly almost half a decade ago (wow, doesn't that make us all sound so much older?).  It seems like just a few moments ago she here in SLO attending Cal Poly, and then... BAM... on to pursuing her Masters of Accounting (which I learned is abbreviated as MAcc).  She was always quite an ambitious young woman, and... well... still is.  Accounting, IM games, heavy involvement in ministry... and probably many more activities always filled her plate.  I never quite understood how she did it, but she did, and now she's set to walk from USC in just a few days.  Meanwhile, I scraped by with my Electrical Engineering degree. Haha.

Esther had shot a quick text to me during the week prior inquiring if I had the time to do a graduation photoshoot for her and some friends at USC.  I think all, if not most, of them were to graduate from USC's Levanthal School of Accounting's Master's Program.  Originally, seven people were scheduled for a 3.5 hour shoot... but this number dropped to three.  I was content with three.  Of course I agreed to put on a small shoot for Esther and her friends.  It was a pleasure to be able to serve a friend from Poly in such a way (and get a sweet tour of USC's campus).  The last time I set foot on USC's campus was probably close to ten years ago for a cousin's graduation.

That Sunday morning I quickly threw on my go-to Hawaiian Style tank top, some cotton shorts, and my trusty pair of black Locals slippahs (because who needs to dress fancy when you're doing a photoshoot for fun, anyway?)  I arrived earlier than expected and met Esther and her roommate, Katie.  After a short while we walked a few blocks to USC's campus and met one of their other friends, Kay.  I learned that Kay also knew another friend from Cal Poly who graduated with my class... What a small world we live in. 

Most of the time we spent together on campus was figuring out where to shoot, how to shoot, and waiting for people to move out of our desired locations.  There was definitely solid conversation along the way, but from this point forward I'll only summarize the morning's events.

We started the day off near the Alumni Park in front of The Trojan statue.  However, there was a small waiting line so we ended up in front a building whose name I only know because of the ginormous plaque hanging above one of its major archways.  Big.  Right?

It was a slightly overcast morning, which proved in our favor for most of these photos.  Esther, Kay, and Katie were a fun group to shoot with.  There was plenty of laughter and chatter to go around.  A few other photographers and their subjects were wandering around and/or waiting in line for the Trojan.  Faithful. Scholarly. Skillful. Courageous. Ambitious. Now, those strong adjectives that I am certain describes these three women (and... hopefully the rest of USC). 

Afterwards, we made our way through to the Steps of Troy... which is, as you guessed... concrete steps with more adjectives inscribed in to it.  No pictures here, though! Some other folks were already busy on the steps, so we proceeded to walk a short distance to the Leventhal School of Accounting.  If I remember correctly, this is the building where all three women have spent the most time learning all things in accounting-land (aptly named by me as I have little idea as to what goes on there) over the past nine months.  A majority, if not all, of the buildings have a red brick exterior. The same style of archways and exterior appeal were consistent throughout all of the buildings we walked past.  I was not sure whether to be impressed by the potential age of these buildings or the fact that architects kept the same style throughout the years of constructing new facilities.

A short walk later and I found us in the courtyard of the Mudd Hall of Philosophy.  We found ourselves waiting quite a long time to take advantage of corridor (which you shall see a little further down)... so I did the next best thing... Sat them down on a bench in the courtyard.  I think this was natural laughter :). Ha.

After what felt like a quinquagintuple years (yes, that is an actual word), the corridor opened up!  After a few minutes of shooting, three more groups lined up behind us.  I struggled to shoot as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Think we got some good ones here though.

Afterwards, we packed up our bags and headed towards the complete opposite side of campus (I think).  I don't recall why we headed that direction, or even what the building we ended up at was called... But Esther and Katie led the way as I walked in the back with Kay.  We chatted a bit about life.  She shared a little bit about her family, life in SoCal, and a brief life history and I shared about my life back in Hawaii and about moving to the mainland since starting college.  I've always enjoyed talking with other people about the lives they've been leading.  (It also provides an opportunity for me to share about home, which immediately causes homesickness, which sucks.) 

Afterwards, Kay dropped us back off at Esther and Katie's place.  She then departed and the rest of us attempted to find a Hawaiian-inspired cafe to get some macadamia nut pancakes.  To my dismay, the cafe was closed... We decided to visit a Taiwanese breakfast place called Huge Tree Pastry out in Monterey Park.  I got lost on my way to the parking lot; In my defense, I'm not accustomed to an urban environment yet... That was my first time eating "traditional" (or maybe it was typical?) Taiwanese food for breakfast.  Honestly, I was impressed by its simplicity yet tastiness and would go again, though perhaps not by myself.  The three of us chatted a bit more, though I was already quite drained from the past two days, and then grabbed some boba afterwards.  At the boba joint, I ran into one of my cousins who happens to live in Orange County.  (Can you see the trend with the world being so small?)  I hadn't expected to see him as I was on the road most of the weekend, yet it happened.  We also bumped into two other friends from SLO who were making the trip back up the same day.  What were the odds?  Anyway, after drinking most of the sugary-milky goodness down, Esther, Katie and I parted ways and I started the ascent back SLOme.

Congratulations, Esther, Katie, and Kay.  Fight On.

What was learned...

  1. Switching lenses between locations is extremely inconvenient. Considering buying a second body if I ever need to do this as a full-time gig.  Or maybe my old D7100 will work fine. It probably will, in some instances.
  2. First time shooting with the 70-200 f/2.8.  It is a beautiful creation that generates sublime bokeh.  Going to take care of that baby... It is practically a baby.
  3. Shoot in the shade. Shoot in the shade. Shoot in the shade.
  4. Don't be afraid to start conversations. Even if it's about school and the future. They'll lead to other conversations such as family, travel, faith, future plans, and current experiences.
  5. Apartment hunting and doing a photoshoot on back-to-back days is exhausting.  As an introvert... I think I need some time to myself once in a while.

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It is difficult to believe that it has been over a year and a half since my undergraduate study.  Graduating within four years with a B.S. from Cal Poly SLO's rigorous Electrical Engineering program was no trivial task.  Since then, I've been gratefully working as an Energy Engineer at a small energy consulting company in SLO.  During this period in life, I've been graced with the opportunity to be present when other great men and women walk off of Cal Poly's campus... young professionals who proceed into the world as auditors and accountants, designers and developers, marketeers and managers...  some who have traveled around the world as missionaries to foreign countries... some who have moved their permanent residences to places unknown... and some who have continued to reside in SLO.  Each individual destined to shape the world around them in some way, shape, form, or another... hopefully for the better.

A few days ago I had the pleasure of hanging out with a young man named Brian, whom I have known since beginning at Cal Poly.  He is a fellow Electrical Engineer who has just completed the 4+1 program and will be officially graduating in under a week.  You could say he "one-upped" me... I remember initially meeting him during freshman year.  He had a quirky, funny, and quiet (though not) demeanor.  He also loved food.  Yep.  Food.  Food is good.  The same characteristics hold true to this day.  Although I hadn't spent much time getting to know him through our years at Cal Poly, i was grateful for the chance to catch up on his life during a small graduation photoshoot.

Getting out of bed was the hard part of the day.  We had scheduled meeting on campus at 9:00AM.  However, i had slept fairly late the night before and was also planning on bringing Jocelyn to campus so she could work on a group project.  After groggily waking up and throwing on a pair of dark jeans, a beanie and jacket, and a pair of shoes (none of which I enjoy wearing on a regular basis), I picked Jocelyn up and headed over to campus.  We arrived on campus a little later than expected and I headed over to the Power Electronics Lab to rendezvous with Brian.

Brian opened the door and let me in to the lab; we shook hands and he donned his cap and gown.  Brian and I started chatting about life and the wonder of Cal Poly's Electrical Engineering program.  I starting reminiscing about the old days full of drudging through homework, labs, and senior project... Sigh, senior project.  Why does our senior project have over 1,700 views?  

It was a calm, overcast, and not-too-cold winter day so we ventured outside and continued talking about the past, present, and future.  A few strides out of the Electrical Engineering building I noticed a quiet undisturbed spot just between the Computer Science and Graphic Arts building where the trees had shed their leaves.  Afterwards, we continued on our way for a while, stopping at various locations, until finally parting ways.

Brian plans on traveling for a short while after graduation and will then start working for a well-established integrated circuit (IC) company.  He is the type of engineer I could never have aspired to be... a designer.  But I am sure he will perform extraordinarily. 

Congratulations and best of luck, Brian. You earned it.

If you are interested in having your graduation photos taken for Spring 2016, please feel free to contact me via email or Facebook and we can discuss further details.

What Was Learned

  • An ironed sash is a happy sash.
  • If a tassel has lettering (i.e. 2015) attached, be sure it is facing forward... or in a not-so-awkward direction (oops).
  • Tassel on the right before receiving diploma. Tassel on the left after receiving diploma.



Cal Poly Graduation '15

The second week of July was very hectic. Quite fun filled, but hectic: working full time, shooting and editing graduation pictures, and cleaning the house to prepare for the big weekend drained the life out of me, but the oncoming weekend's excitement brought joy. The Friday night before graduation, I and a fellow Kauaian, Dawn, hosted a "Hawaiian night" and invited over a bunch of people from Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island for some ono grindz. I don't recall if anyone from Maui was present. We also opened up the house to anyone in SLO to come out and hang, but many of the graduates probably didn't attend because they had family in town. Regardless, we made tonkatsu, spam musubi, kalua pig, and curry. People got fed... a good twenty-five or so people showed up, including most of our house members.


Friday night came and went. Some people went to the bars and others stayed home. A few of Willis' friends and his sisters crashed at the house, so it was fairly packed. Then... Saturday arrived. The Big Day, Round 1. The big ceremony ended around 11:00 a.m. COE, CAFES, COSAM, and CAED all walked that day. Most graduates attended the big ceremony, some didn't. Afterwards, we met a small handful of grads at the very popular Rose Garden right behind Spanos Stadium. Nearly four years ago I remember meeting all of these young men and women as wee freshmen. It was fitting to be around and see them end their college careers as well. Here are a few photos from the garden. It was bright, hot, and sunny. Keywords: hot and sunny.

Small ceremonies commenced shortly afterwards. I followed a group walking to Mott Gym and the Rec Center, which is where Willis and Tony's ceremonies were being held. I stepped in to the Rec and snapped a couple quick shots for Sir Tony-a-lot, but just as quickly slipped out to attend Willis' ceremony. Sorry Tony!

There were actually more Mechanical Engineering graduates than I had originally expected (mixed with Fire Protection Engineering grads). I sat with WIllis's family, extended relatives, friends, and some of our house-mates in the bleachers. When he got up from his row to line up, I and a few of other other guys walked down to the floor to do our thing.

Afterwards, a few of us ran to meet the Electrical Engineering graduates at their ceremony. There were a lot of people waiting out in the heat. Thankfully, Poly provides free water for commencement attendees. Yay, free water. It was disheartening to see Dexter Lawn turning brown since the enactment of a new water conservation policy. Oh well. More water for the people.

A few of us went home for lunch. James and Willis' families awkwardly ate lunches in different rooms. Thankfully we have a big house with plenty of space. Chris, I, and Jocelyn rushed back to campus for his ceremony. We dropped Chris off near the Rec (his ceremony was at Mott Gym) and found parking nearby.

Jocelyn and I headed to the Multi Activity Center (MAC) in the Rec Center for the Parks and Rec ceremony. There were a ton of people there. Seats were packed back to front with some families standing along the walls. The P&R graduates entered the MAC through one of the rear doors. I waited for Angela to walk by, and snapped a few quick ones :). After she walked, Jocelyn and I quickly headed over to Chris' ceremony at Mott. He walked, had quite an embarrassing moment, Chris received his Certificate of Accomplishment and was full of laughter post-embarrassment. Let's just say that Chris won't forget handshakes any time soon.

Saturday night was eventful, too. I didn't end up attending the 7:00 p.m. ceremonies, but instead went with Willis, a bunch of his family, and some friends to Montana de Oro for dune boarding! Everyone slid at least once. Hiking back up the sand dune killed it, though. When we returned home, Willis' parents and aunt/uncle made delicious foooooooooooood for us to eat. Think: ribs, tacos, ribs, tacos, ribs, tacos, ribs, tacos. Yum. We stuffed our faces and spent a few hours at Feto with some of the other graduates, and called it a night.


Oh boy. We all crashed early Saturday night and got up early on Sunday. OCOB and CLA were set to walk in the morning and afternoon. A good number of people met in the Rose Garden (man, this pattern is going to get to me soon) just after the main ceremony (again), but before the small ceremonies. Everyone was decked out in their caps and gowns. Some were already wearing numerous leis on from family members and friends. Gotta love that Hawaiian culture. A good number of people had decorated their caps, too! Below is Esther's cap, I think. She's quite crafty. Understatement. And then there are Conner and Luke. They're fun. Understatement.

A short time thereafter we started moving into Spanos Stadium, which is where the big OCOB ceremony was being held. Most of the graduates we knew sat in the front and were easy pickings for photos :).

A lot of running went on that day. And it's not fun to run with expensive equipment in your hands. Our little group started at OCOB but walked over to the Graphic Desgn ceremony for Olivia. However, when we got there we knew that it would be a while before she was called. I got word from a reliable source that the OCOB folks were just about to walk. So I ran what felt like 100 miles back Spanos Stadium and made it just in time for the tail end of the Masters degrees and the start of the Bachelors degrees. I posted up near the front of the stage and tried to look professional... in my slippers. So happy for these folks!

Right after the business graduates walked, I got word that Olivia was about to walk, so I ran another 1,000 miles in an attempt to make her ceremony. However, I arrived just a minute or two after she was called, and was quite sad. Another 10,000 miles later I head over to the English ceremony for Sarah. President Armstrong was also there, shaking hands with the common folk! Just kidding. I got in on a selfie with him when I graduated last year :). Congratulations, Sarah!

Last but not least, a herd of alumni and friends headed back over to Mott Gym for Ms. Jorgie Wu's ceremony (Psychology). Crazy stuff. I and a few others just made it to the tail end of her ceremony, and so we stuck around for a while afterwards to bid our congratulations.

All in all, it was a crazy week and crazy weekend. Most of the graduates moved out of SLO over the course of the next few weeks. Since then, SLO has become quite less eventful. I think that says a lot about their presence in SLO.

It is done.

What Was Learned

  • I am capable of crying
  • D's get Degrees