The Barbs that Hold Us Back

When was the last time you thought about what is keeping you from doing what you want and being who you want to be? If you are like a lot of other people, it has probably been too long since you really sat down and mulled it over. I am not talking about the things you blame for holding you back and use as scape goats. A person obsessed with poker isn’t being forced to play by a casino any more than you are being forced to sleep by your bed. The constant scramble to win more poker chips is indicative of a much deeper issue that he needs to work through by first admitting it to himself.

The things that hold us back more than anything are our emotional baggage and our fears. The barbed wire fence that has been built in our minds to keep us from being as free and creative is only an idea. These restrictions we forced upon us by the world around us and we can break free with just a little push. The barbs might dig into our clothes and skin as they try to keep us in line, but we can’t stops trying for fear of a little pain. We may try to convince ourselves that the barbed wire is there to keep us safe from the dangers of the world, but that’s a lie we tell ourselves to make us feel better. We become addicted to the safety of inactivity because if we can keep doing the same routine over and over without changing then we can know what to expect. In this way, we are not so different than the gambler and his poker chip sets. You have to know when it’s time to cut your losses, jump the fence and break free.

It’s time.

Flying to ampm

Flying to ampm

The Skeleton in Katie

The Skeleton in Katie

The actual joy of Halloween is capturing yourself OR your own self-created creepy atmosphere to go along with what Halloween stands for. This is a bit close to what Katie thinks captures the spirit of Halloween for her, with as little time as possible spent on the photo editing, when she was putting the makeup on. She did the makeup herself.

The above photo is the result of the following extremely basic HDR settings I played with in Photomatix (which comes with some of the most advanced HDR tools on the planet), while working on the original:

  • Reduced noise
  • Histogram testing (played with the different Luminance, Red, Green and Blue Histogram settings)
  • Focused on the Tone Compressor settings instead of the Details Enhancer

Of course, the above photo was what Katie thought portrayed the demise better. My original very basic HDR editing of her original photo was actually focused more on darkness than the redness.

The Skeleton in Katie

This came from the original image also. With a touch of some very simple HDR techniques in Dynamic Photo HDR, the photo above came to be. That is a bit close to what I originally thought captured (in as little photo-work time as possible, of course) the Halloween spirit for her at that moment.

Here is the main bulk of what I played with very quickly to arrive at the above image:

  • Reduced noise.
  • Added clarity to the picture.
  • De-hazed the areas.
  • Changed the light radius, focusing on intensifying it on the right hand side.
  • Made the surface texture a less smoth to the right edge and the left sides.

Both of these photos, of course, came from the original image that was taken within 5 seconds of Katie finishing her preliminary makeup and the associated costume. You can notice the blurriness a bit as my Sony Cybershot DSC-W80 choked in the very dark lighting. I hate using flash, so I enjoyed choking the camera. That is when you need to act like a mummy holding the camera if you want the blurriness to disappear altogether OR to at least be less noticeable.

The slaughtering continues, of course, as the above image itself was edited to include Hot Pixels Subtraction, resizing to 1024×768 pixels, and the caption embedding.

Happy Halloween!

No Parking to See the Sun

No Parking to See the Sun

Looking at the sun is a very interesting thing for me. Sure, it’s one of the stupidest things you can do to go blind or get an awesome headache. I know whenever I look at it even remotely I become dazed and confused. The reason I find it interesting is because when given the chance, I tend to naturally and instantly look at the sun only to realize what I’ve done. The funny thing is, when I’m blinded by it, I don’t blame myself but I always end up blaming looking at it without caution. I usually like wearing sunglasses not to hide from the sun but to protect my eyes in case I look at it. I never even realized I looked at it so much until I started writing about it in this post.

This picture was taken near the highest tip of Mount Diablo in Clayton, California. My first focus was taking picture of the sun, which the camera wouldn’t do to my satisfaction. Then I decided to take a picture of this “No Parking” sign. The sun was behind, and the rest is history. Or the rest is what you see here. The contrast is beautiful. I love a certain kincontrasts, and this

I simply love how even looking at the sun in this picture at full brightness makes me go a bit blind. It could be my laptop’s brightness setting, though. I have to stop and take some rest now. And close my watery eyes for a while.

Do you usually look at the sun or take pics of things against the sun?

Architecture Curvature Helps Vegas

Architecture Curvature Helps Vegas

The weekend of Katie’s birthday. In Las Vegas, people usually focus on having fun through two things: drinking, and gambling. We went out and start having fun visiting all the different hotels on The Strip. And walking by this one was part of it. I do not remember if we went inside this hotel, because I cannot remember which hotel this is. For me, it now looks a little bit like the Vdara Hotel & Spa, though the sides of the Vdara appear smoother than the sides in this photo.

The main thing, or the best thing, about cornering the corner of something, like in this picture, is the idea of realizing not just how it stands out against the background, but how after the photo has been taken, we still focus on our emotion related to the photo, without being able to realize which single element prompted us to take the picture. It probably has to be the building. The sky is always there. And many times it is simply a dull piece of object laying around, waiting to sneak into almost every picture taken above your head level.

While the usual focus is on a silhouette or a background, I think this is basically taking picture of a corner that you think is awesome. I do not know which Hotel this is. I do know that it is big for its era of today. And that it is a physical, offline element added to a world that already proclaims the death of many things offline in favor of an online world. Will places to live be some of the only remaining things in the future that will be physical and be completely offline? I am not sure.

How many construction workers tweeted while building this? How many people will tweet from this building? How many people will tweet about this building? How many people on Facebook took pictures of this while it was being constructed? How many people send e-mails from the lobby of this hotel? Was this building built so that it could be Tweeted, Facebook’ed, BirghtKite’d, or MySpaced? Did the origins of this building have anything to do with the online world? Did it solely exist in the mind of the architect who got paid to build something? Or was it built solely to make money? Yep, it was.

In addition to walking around, Katie and I also drank. And we hit the slots too. It’s interesting how the visual expressions of photos usually focuses on a subject that is not us. I am beginning to think I should focus more on personal portraits again, and maybe for a long time. Like the Night Series. Or maybe I can consider the subjects that I portray in my photographs to be part of me, or to be me.

Thank you for looking. And reading. If you could let me know which Las Vegas Hotel this is, I would really appreciate it.

Update April 19th, 2010:

After seeing a billboard of it yesterday in San Francisco, I found out that this hotel is the Aria Resort & Casino. :)

“Shark Legacy In The Berkeley Shark Van”

Shark Legacy In The Berkeley Shark Van

Berkeley is a city many people associate with weirdness. Good or bad, the weirdness is usually a result of people wanting to be different or themselves without the pressures of the society. These pressures are usually slopes that tend to roll down people into a pile of red tape, in case someone wants to do something that puts a bad name to the reputation of that society. While Berkeley tends to call itself a hippie or a trendy culture, it can in fact, when observed, can be seen as a city that takes many qualities of San Francisco and applies them to a quieter, less hyper and in many cases a safer area called Berkeley.

Shark van, shark van, who are you?
Shark van, shark van, what are you?
Shark van, shark van, who drives you?
Shark van, shark van, where are you?

Berkeley houses many different types of visual differences compared to many of the neighboring cities. Even San Francisco, which exceeds Berkeley in many levels, has random exhibits of emotions and ideas in people and the artifacts that are visible to both the people and the cameras. Whether one is on Facebook or on MySpace, people in Berkeley can walk around with almost any attire in many of the different areas around the UC Berkeley campus. This Shark Van in Berkeley is one of such artifacts in Berkeley which differs than many, if not most, of the vehicles in San Francisco. While it is unknown whether the Shark Van can conquer the heights of the hilly roads in San Francisco, it is very clear that the Shark Van exists to conquer the curiosity, or visual satisfaction, of many observers.

Who drives the Shark Van? What is is used for? I am not sure. I would love to find out. I have seen the Shark Van drive by me more than once when I used to live in Berkeley. Then, the thoughts of where to eat the next Thai food or which movie to watch that night immediately followed the happy face that came around after seeing the Shark Van. Now, I have to think about the Shark Van and wonder about the reasons behind and around it, and the reasons it creates for other things.

Shark van, shark van, can I ride with you?
Shark van, shark van, I am scared if you carry candy with you?
Shark van, shark van, who was it that made you?
Shark van driver, shark van driver, do you eat vegetables, or do you eat shark and tofu?

So here is the Shark Van. Found in Berkeley in this picture. The actual shark, or the driver, may live nearby.

“Ford F1 For A Colored World?”

For many people, the car represents masculinity. For me, a car can probably represent two things, among a few others: art, and a way to travel. A car for me does not represent masculinity. In fact, I do not know how many of the major things in my car work. I do not like car magazines, nor do I prefer to obsess with cars. Same thing with cameras. I like cameras a lot, though my love for camera starts only around the picture arena. I personally do not care if a camera has 1 megapixel or 18 megapixels. If the picture that comes out is good, or if I can take a good picture, I am so happy that I start focusing on photographic dreams.

Observation, on the other hand, can be an obsession that results in a liking. And this car is no different. My best friend Katie has a lot of interest in things like color, and I myself seem to have started appreciating it more after having married Katie. Living a life where we both do things together, the way we did as best friends, there seem to be very few, yet distinct, situations where I realize, or have to, that we are married and thus we are doing something or going through something. I like that concept a lot.

So what does that have to do with this car? Many things. First, Katie and I are both reflected in this picture, even though I thought I was taking a picture that may probably show me more than her. Second, focusing on a color concept seems to be a very important thing in many pictures. is a site that Katie loves. Looking at the colors outside in the world, I can get a small feeling as to why she and millions of other people do.

Long time ago, Ford created cars with only one color: black. Henry Ford, while a visionary in terms of car production time frames, was a narrow minded industrialist who thought that people would only want the colors that he would produce: black. Well, when demand increases and so does competition, a good sales person, a good stereotypical sales person to be precise, can change his or her own words. And back when female sales people were probably not to be found anywhere in the car industry, Henry Ford’s company decided to introduce cars in more colors. Not only that, many believe that Henry Ford shared similar views with Hitler when it came to the Jews. In 1920, it has been said that Ford told a New York World reporter:

The international financiers are behind all war. They are what is called the International Jew — German Jews, French Jews, English Jews, American Jews. I believe that in all these countries except our own the Jewish financier is supreme… Here, the Jew is a threat.

So here is a Ford F1. What year? I do not know. What model? Hmm, an F1? What specifications? 4 tires, 2 doors, 1 back hatch, and windows. What colors? Ohh, red, white, black, silver, and maybe a color or two more. Oh, and some green. Even if Ford did not want it.

Meeting Elmo On The Train

Meeting Elmo on the train

What is it about Elmo that excites you? Nothing. In my case at least. It is probably SpongeBob that excites me more. Way more. That is like saying exciting excites me. The trains also excite me. I think. BART excites me. Except when I feel I am about to be eaten by creepy people.

So here I met Elmo. Hi Elmo! On the Bay Area Rapid Transit [BART] train to San Francisco. What a happy personality he has! This is the Bay Area, so the destinations are aplenty. Or more than the turns on Sesame Street. The Bay Area Rapid Transit [BART] will take you to San Francisco. And to Richmond. And to Berkeley. And also back to where I boarded this train: Pleasant Hill.

Where is Elmo going? Oh who knows. Or who cares. In an area where many things happen, Elmo could be going to eat Thai food. Or meet his gay lover. Or become the new spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. Or he may be on the train simply to meet me and be featured on my site. Not sure. Many people react differently to the strange things happening on trains. I wonder if I was being ignored by others on this day, because of taking pictures of a red creature who needed to hold onto the seat in order to look at me sitting in the seat behind him.

Maybe they were scared of being eaten by the creepy Elmo and his photographer.

When? Taken July 6th, 2009, at 4:20pm. Somewhere between Pleasant Hill and San Francisco on BART, probably around Orinda. I don’t remember: I was busy thinking of more pictures.

Also on BrightKite, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Twitpic & Twitter.

Katie & Me.

What to put here,
what do I see.
The pinnacle of the start,
and the start of the “we”?

A different kind of partnership,
something that we have chosen.
A more complete outlook on things,
something that is outspoken.

Here we go, the beginning of life,
who wants to hold the road map?
Here we go, the beginning of life,
time to enjoy the road map.

Let us have fun,
let us do everything.
Time to go out,
in order to stay in.

A wave in all directions,
many leading to the heart.
This ripple effect is like an ecstasy,
since this is all a jump start.

So the road ahead tells us the details,
of how and why it can.
We look at it all and start wondering,
let us relax and focus on randomness with a plan.

Location: The Stanford Court Renaissance San Francisco Hotel at 905 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA.

When: December 31st, 2009. 8:34pm.

Who: Katie & Me. Wedding night.

Also on: Also on BrightKite, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter and TwitPic.

“Electric Towers Fading Against The Sky.”

Electric Towers Fading Against The Sky.

Electric Towers Fading Against The Sky.

Electric tower against the sky,
what are you doing?
You stand there flaunting,
where are you going?

The sky looks at you,
wondering why you cry?
You start gesturing back,
enabling civilization to survive?

No one comes near you,
for the fear of death by you.
Everyone wants the sky,
for the fear of mortality in you.

You are all alone in the deserts,
and in the backyards of those homes.
Your loneliness is hard to notice,
even though loneliness is in your bones.

So there you stand,
all alone and against the sky,
fading away with civilization,
wondering why no one else cries.

Location: Unknown. Somewhere in the Californian Deserts.

Also on BrightKite, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter and TwitPic.