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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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Take a Hike: South Lake Tahoe

Every three-day weekend is another calling for adventure.  This past Independence Day weekend was definitely one to remember.  Seventeen friends and I ventured out to South Lake Tahoe (in reality, Kirkwood) for the weekend.  Most started out from the Bay and only a handful from Southern California... and of course, two amazing individuals from good ol' San Luis Obispo.  I was antsy all Thursday afternoon sitting in the office. There was nothing I wanted more than to be outdoors, lost in fields of green at South Lake Tahoe. Never having visited, I had little idea of what to expect of the trip. Here's a quick recap of what went on.

I left with two others in my car around 8:30 a.m. on Friday morning. The previous night I had prepared some humongous spam musubi to eat on the car ride up. It would take approximately 6 hours to reach the rental from San Luis Obispo. The car ride felt especially long while driving on the 41 and 5. There was nothing to be found for miles but desolate brown grass fields.  Well, there were a few small pit stops here and there, too. A few patches of green also showed up in the form of a vineyard or fruit/vegetable farm. At one point we passed a cattle ranch that must have had a population of over 1,000,000,000,000 cows for slaughter. It was an interesting sight to see so many cattle in living on one straight stretch of land. The smell of cow dung and musk in the dry summer air was overpowering as it intruded our nostrils. We continued along the 5 and eventually hit some windy roads closer to Tahoe. I was pleasantly surprised by various different shades of greenness amongst the granite and basalt faced hills and mountains

We made a pit stop at Peddler Hill Overlook about halfway to the rental in Kirkwood which overlooks the Lower Bear River Reservoir. The clouds were lumpy and fuzzy like cotton balls, and the air was crisp and warm. We walked around a bit and stretched our legs outside of the car. I snapped on my 14-24mm f/2.8 and took a couple shots out over the horizon. Nearby, two large stacks of hay bales were left abandoned on the side of the road still on trailer(s). Not sure why... they disappeared when we passed again later during the weekend.

After twenty or so minutes we decided to continue our journey into Kirkwood. The roads were windy (as in, curvy) and reminded me a lot of the roads back on Kauai. The clouds, woodlands, and roads brought back many memories of driving through the back roads of Kauai in my Tundra back home. I wished I had a truck here to do the same... perhaps in a few more years.

We made it out to the rental around 3:30 p.m.  However, we were lost as the address only gave the rental's unit number, and not actual address. It turned out that the rental was part of a duplex. We waited another hour for the person with the keys to arrive. A few cars full of people showed up in between and we stood in a circle, chatting away, while taking in the fresh air. However, most were tired from the long drive to Kirkwood. Some of the rental neighbors also arrived shortly after we did, comprising mostly of small families (and dogs).

Tired and hungry, everyone unpacked their cars and lounged around in the rental. A lone ceiling fan circulated air around the living room. I started to defrost 8 lb of ground beef in a pot of water for dinner. Meanwhile, we spent some time catching up with each other's lives. Most of us were friends back in our Cal Poly days. A few more cars arrived during that time and people trickled into the rental. The sun started to set as we started dinner. Many willing hands aided in preparing the night's meal, but the kitchen was a little cramped for more than three people.

We ate well that night... Home-made burgers, store-bought buns, and an accompaniment of salad. Meanwhile, 50 First Dates started playing on the TV. A few of people planned out the following day where we anticipating hiking 11.7 miles (it was actually more) to Lake Aloha in South Lake Tahoe along the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT). Meanwhile, I and a few others started preparing the stew for Saturday night's dinner. After 11.7 miles of hiking, everyone would be hungry, hangry, and craving for a meal. Most people went to bed by midnight. I stayed up an hour longer to let the stew meat soften a bit more, and then crashed quickly afterwards.

Surprisingly, I awoke rearing to go at 6:00 a.m. I woke up my roommate and headed towards the kitchen to start making breakfast. Some of the other guys and girls joined in on the effort as well. We made cooked up some pancakes, scrambled eggs, and hot links. Everyone ate a few bites, although I don't think the food was quite hardy enough. Everyone was to make their own sandwich(es) for the day, so that freed up time for the people preparing the main meals to pack their bags for the trip. Jocelyn packed a couple sandwiches for me as I cleaned up the kitchen with a few other helping hands. Then, I packed up my camera bag and everyone else was soon ready to leave towards the trail head.

It took about an hour from the rental to reach the trail head. The roads were just as windy as before, and there were less cars on the road than the previous day. Our four car caravan arrived at Echo Lake, where the hike was to begin mid-morning. We had some trouble parking and ended up in a dirt parking lot perhaps half a mile away from the trail.  The sky darkened and drops of rain started pitter-pattering on the car roofs as we parked. Grumpily, I muttered to the people in my car that I hate rain during hiking... which I do. Partly because of safety, partly because of comfort.

After a quick prayer and short while, the rain dissipated and we exited our cars. I decided to leave my 14-24mm f/2.8 in the car to lighten my backpack load. Our group of eighteen people gathered under the tree cover nearby and we started to walk towards Lake Echo. The sky was still overcast as we bought our Desolation Wilderness (what the area was called) passes. Regardless, the lake was serene and calm. A few visitors were kayaking and others were riding their boats along the water.

We started the leg of the Pacific Coast Trail shortly thereafter, wasting little time. But first, we took a few group pictures before the hike. The view from our stopping point was nothing short of breathtaking.

Shortly thereafter, we started our escapade towards the mountains and lakes. On the way to Lake Aloha we passed by three other lakes: Upper Echo Lake, Lower Echo Lake, and Tamarack Lake... all in the Desolation Wilderness. Inevitably, our group of eighteen split into three distinct groups. The first group sped along on nimble feet and ankles. I found myself part of the second and third group(s) who were a bit slower, but were enjoying the scenery nonetheless. Time seemed to pass at a snail's pace as we made our way through the PCT. The most difficult part was adjusting to hiking at 8,000 ft in elevation above sea level. Thankfully, the overcast weather stayed with us the entire duration of the trip. Despite inconsistent drizzling every half an hour, the hike wasn't strenuous at all. However, the hike was indeed very long and definitely the longest I've ever hiked in the past 23 years. The following photo is of the end of Lower Echo Lake, just as it turns into Upper Echo Lake. Numerous cabins littered the edge of the lake, some accessible only by boat or kayak.

An hour or so later and we found ourselves at the end of Upper Echo Lake. We ran into many backpackers and fellow hikers on the way. Many wished us a "Happy Fourth". Surprisingly, there were many families with young children on the trail. Many of them also had small (and big) dogs along for the hike.  We stopped for lunch mid-afternoon, savoring our sandwiches, power bars, fruits, and water. The sky continued to cry throughout most of the journey and I left my camera in my backpack for most of the trip, taking it out only when the rain stopped. Here is another photo (in black and white this time, because why not?) of Lake Tamarack, which was the last lake before Lake Aloha. Soon after eating lunch, the group of eighteen again split into a distinct set of three groups with I and Jocelyn in the middle.

Eventually, the first group stopped on an uphill portion of the hike. All three groups reconvened at that point and some were conflicted whether we should settle for Lake Tamarack or proceed another few miles to Lake Aloha. A couple passing by had mentioned that Lake Aloha was another two to three miles away from our current stopping point. However, we took a look at our map and figured that it was only another mile and a half to Lake Aloha. The group took a vote and it was decided to continue towards Lake Aloha as a bellow of thunder roared from the distance.

We pushed forward in our groups. Jocelyn and I found ourselves wandering into the wilderness without much direction other than the trail(s) before us. Arrows at each of the forks helped us find the main group. I was worried that we were going to get ourselves lost, but she insisted that we would be fine. Eventually, after an hour of wandering without any others from our group with us, we arrived at our final destination: Lake Aloha.

A few daring individuals jumped waded, jumped, and swam in the fresh water of Lake Aloha. It wasn't the most appealing scenery I've ever ventured upon, but the ambiance was certainly eerie. Dead trees forty to fifty-some feet in height towered above the lake. A few tents littered the lakeside amongst the granite rocks a bit farther inland. We stuck around for an hour or so before deciding to head back to the trail head. By the time we arrived back at the rental it was close to 9:00 p.m. We quickly made dinner and ate in silence (partially because of food, partially because of tiredness). A few people stayed up to watch Up, while the rest dozed off or cleaned the kitchen. Then on Sunday, we ate, then bid our goodbyes and farewells until next time.



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