XDrive Photo Lesson 17 – Rim Light

This is my submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 17 – Rim Light.

I was going to say this was the most difficult lesson for me. Then I remember feeling the same way with a couple of previous lessons. I think the difference is that in previous lessons, after I studied the subject, the real shooting time was a half day at the most. But this time it took 3 days and several tries on each day. (So glad we have two weeks to work on this!)

Again, After reading Raj’s lesson, I read more articles and watched some videos of the subject. Most of them, if not all, said rim light effect is EASY to achieve even for the beginners. Eliminating the guy who had fancy lighting equipment, and the guy who did outstanding post processing work, there were still a couple doable ones — that was what I thought.

Well, I carefully followed their steps, but my photos didn’t look like theirs at all. So, for 3 days, I tried to move the light forward and backward, left and right, turn the light toward the front and back, up and down… I am sure you get the picture.

Anyway, here is the first photo.

I took several photos of this glass. Like I said, it didn’t look as good as the one showed in the article. I was ready to give up, but I thought I should at least check it out in PS. It turned out that all I had to do was to make the black darker. Wow. The result surprised me. In a good way, I mean.

I took a photo of a wine bottle, which I would not post it here. I don’t understand why we have to work so hard to get our subject in focus, and yet dusts always have their own way to steal the spotlight.

Next is… well, another bottle with natural light. It does have the rim light, I think. I hope, anyway.

Then, I thought of the fireplace. It would be a good background, wouldn’t it? Let me tell you, it was very difficult to ask those bears to sit still. Not to mention the flashlight kept falling off from the box…

Finally… I hate selfies… but DIY is always easier. So, the last photo is a photo of me. I took this photo with a timer set with 2 seconds delay, so I could have enough time to run to the spot. This, again, took many tries, moving the light here and there… thinking… moving lights again… After taking so many selfies, I think I know exactly where each wrinkle is!

Thanks to Raj for another wonderful lesson. I also want to mention that my friend Amy at The World Is A Book… has an excellent post for this lesson. You may like to take a look. 😉

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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To Lois

A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.
— Jim Morrison

Dear Lois,

Happy Birthday! (This is the Monday, isn’t it? 😉

Picture this… we are sitting by the ocean drinking wine, hearing pelicans singing “Happy Birthday” – one, apparently, sings louder than the others (one off-key?) Look, they brought fishes to the party! Lots of fishes. Hmm, I wonder which fish man they stole those fishes from.

The sun is setting. The sky and water are turning orange, yellow, and red. I sit there thinking if you know that you have made this world more beautiful for many of us. Your sense of humor… I start laughing. I laugh so hard that some pelicans fly away.

I remember the first time I read that you started a Toastmaster club in a prison. I was happy for club members because I believe it would improve their communication skills and help them deal with problems in future. But, at the same time, I couldn’t help worrying about your safety. The trust you had built between you and them was amazing. I learned I should never give up on anyone. (Even though I had applauded you until my hands were red, I still couldn’t build up enough courage to do what you have done!)

Then, you shared your bad news and later some good news with us. Throughout the time, you were stronger than most of us. Even when you didn’t feel well, you continued commenting, sending us warm feedback, as much as you could.

So, I’d like to make a toast… thank you for all the things you have taught me (by acting more than talking), for making me laugh, and for allowing me to be me. I press my hands together; I am grateful to have a friend like you.

Pelicans are dancing… or it’s me having too much drink… 😉

Happy Birthday, Lois!

Helen

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Posted in Letters | 28 Comments

Observe Merit and Appreciate Kindness (NaBloPoMo Day 30)

Observe merit and appreciate kindness (觀功念恩) is one thing I learned from the LamRim class (Tibetan: “stages of the path”.)

I made my first trip back to Taiwan in 2002 — 29 years after I came to America. Before I went, I contacted two high school friends, Kay and Judy. To my surprise, even though we hadn’t communicated for so many years, we had no problem to reconnect. After that first trip, I went back almost every year. Every time I was there, three of us would take a 2 or 3-day trip together.

Kay is a successful business woman, who started her own company many years ago. She has a big, soft heart, but she often acts and talks like an impatient boss. Although I had never owed a company, I had spent many years working for corporations, and I am somewhat Americanized. 😉 So even though I have no problem following someone’s lead, I do know my right and I’m not afraid of speaking up. Judy has been a housewife for all these years. She gets angry when being pushed, but no matter how angry she is, she keeps her anger deep inside.

One night, during an election season, we went to a park. Two guys stood in front of the gate passing political fliers. Walking in front of me, Kay accepted a flier and thanked the guy. I quickly stepped to the side to avoid getting one. Kay stopped and turned to me. “You should take a flier! Do you know those guys can’t go home until all the fliers are gone? If everyone is like you, they will have to stand there until midnight!”

I was surprised at her loud voice. Calmly, I said, “I don’t have right to vote. Why do I want to take a flier?”

Kay started lecturing me, telling me that it didn’t matter if I could vote or not, I should have some sympathies toward those workers.

Judy tried to distract us, but Kay wouldn’t stop. Finally, I raised my voice, too. I said, “If I take a flier, I am wasting their printing money and we are killing a part of tree for absolutely nothing!”

Kay finally quieted down.

I wasn’t upset that night. Frankly, I didn’t give a lot of thought on what had happened. In a way, the whole incident wasn’t important enough for me.

That was many years ago, long before I started my LamRim class. A couple of years ago, again, three of us took a trip together. We arrived at the hotel late. Everyone was tired and hungry. Kay pointed at a small table in our hotel room and said to me, “Why don’t you put your suitcase on top of that, so you don’t have to bend over. It’s better for your back.”

I said, “How about you and Judy?”

“You are the only one who has back problem,” she said.

So, I did. A minute later (yes, only a minute!), Kay shouted, “Why are you putting your suitcase there? Where am I going to put mine?”

What’s her problem? It was just a minute ago she told me to place my suitcase there! I could feel blood rushing to my head. Just as I was going to shout back, I remembered “observe merit and appreciate kindness” (觀功念恩), which I’d learned in my LamRim class before my trip. For a short while, time stood still. In my mind, I went through everything Kay had done for this trip: she researched the town we were going, finding out where to go sightseeing and which restaurants we should eat at; she worked with a traveling company to arrange our transportation and hotel, and she handled our money. My anger went away; I felt grateful for all the works Kay had done. Without saying a word, I moved my suitcase to a different spot.

The leader of my Lamrim class said during one of our classes, “Our feeling is deceivable!” (Not sure I translate it correctly.) Following a link at Yvette’s Group Therapy (Friday Fictioneers) And thoughts on stealing, eventually I found the Court Case web page and in it, it says “Don’t believe everything you think!”

Now you’ve heard the whole story 😉

Thank you for visiting my blog. (Aren’t you happy this is the end of NaBloPoMo? 😉

Posted in Memoir, photo, Writing | Tagged | 13 Comments

Aging (NabloPoMo Day 29)

I am kind of lazy today, so I decided to rewrite something I found in my old journals. This was supposed to be a quick and easy task, but it ended up taking a lot of time, because I just couldn’t stop reading them. Anyway, I wrote the following letter to my friend J on Oct. 2002. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I do.

* * *
Dear J,
You said, “I’m less happy than I think I should be. Is this part of getting older or something else?”

Do you know this was the first time you asked me a question? And, I do think I am qualified to give you an answer. After all, I am much older.

So, let’s talk about aging. My biggest complain about getting old is the decline of my health. My knees, back, teeth… none of them are as strong as before. I don’t run as fast and I often forget things.

But, I am more content and I am happier. I don’t irritate myself by setting impossible goals. I know my limitations well, and I am okay with having them. I accept who I am. If you can keep a secret… I really love who I am.

Freedom is another good thing that comes with aging. I don’t worry too much about what other people think. I’ve learned how different each of us can be, so I don’t get upset when someone does things differently or say things I wouldn’t say.

Being less happy because you are getting older? Not possible! Maybe you are burning out. Try to take a break from what you are doing. If you can’t take a break, at least pour yourself a glass of red wine or something.

If everything fails, count how many years you have left in this life. Can you really afford time to be less happy?

Helen
* * *
Hmm…I was wise at one point of my life 😉

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Tequila Sunrise (NaBloPoMo Day 28)

When my daughter was a second grader in elementary school, I discovered Tequila Sunrise at one social gethering. The drink is easier to swallow, comparing to other drinks. And I liked the yellow, red colors. I would stare at it for a long time before taking a sip. Seeing how much I loved the drink, my husband started making it, once in a while, at home for me.

One day while my husband was making the drink, he saw my second grade daughter, who was standing next to him, paying attention to his every move. He decided to show her how. My smart daughter soon became my personal bartender. “Mom, would you like a Tequila Sunrise?” she would ask when she was very bored. Quite often I would say ok.

We had a water-leaking problem in one of the bathrooms one day. I asked my college’s brother, who was a plumber, to come to take a look. When the doorbell rang, I opened the door to greet the plumber. After chatting a little bit with him about his brother (my college), I was ready to show him where the bathroom was. Then, I heard a loud voice saying, “Mom, should I make him a Tequila Sunrise?”

I have not had another Tequila Sunrise ever since!

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Posted in Memoir, photo, Writing | Tagged | 13 Comments

Her Passion (NaBloPoMo Day 27)

Watching my daughter cooking the Thanksgiving meal was like watching a good artist creating a piece of art. Her concentration, her obvious enjoyment of every moment… everything indicats to me that she has a passion in cooking/eating gourmet food.

She was not an expensive kid. Up to junior high, she preferred to wear homemade sweatshirt to school (and I wasn’t even a good tailor). If she didn’t hear a boy laughing at her, she probably would keep wearing those clothes for the rest of her life. She doesn’t wear jewelries. After receiving a beautiful necklace from her aunt, she turned to me and said, “You take it. It’s no use for me.” When the third generation of iPhone came out, we asked her if she would like to have one. “No. My phone works fine,” she said. It took us two or three years of begging to finally buy an iPhone for her. Camera, iPad, car… as long as she has one that works, she refuses to get a new one.

But she does love gourmet food. Her Christmas wish list, year after year, has several cookbooks in it. She enjoys fine dining, once in a while at an expensive restaurant, and she buys quality food and cooks great meals.

Last week, we took her out to eat at a nice restaurant to celebrate her graduation from graduate school many years ago. While eating, in my heart, I applauded my daughter (like mothers usually do) for never stopping fulfilling her passion… 😉

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Posted in Memoir, photo and thoughts, Writing | Tagged | 14 Comments

XDrive Photo Lesson 16 – Contrasts (NaBloPoMo Day 26)

This is my submission for XDrive Photo Lesson 16 – Contrasts.

Shortly after I started looking at other photographers’ photos online (a few years ago), I became a big fan for some photographers; I wowed at every photo they posted. It took me a long time to figure out that all those photos had something in common; they are all high contrast photos — I figured that out after one of my admired photographers commented on one of my photos saying “add more contrast!” 😉

So, high contrast was a good thing, I thought. I started pushing the contrast to the upper limit to all my photos; I thought, for sure, I got it. But my husband didn’t like my high contrast photos. “Too much contrast!” he often told me. We argued, and then each continued his own way.

To my surprise, 6 months later, I got tired of my high contrast photos. Quietly, I toned it down somewhat, and I am happier with my photos now. 😉

Raj said, “Now the question is, I am supposed to have more or less contrast in my picture? Well, the answer is “its left to you”. You choose the contrast levels based on the picture or the story you are going to be telling.”

Raj is right, of course. I just want to add that based on my experience, “it’s left for me” doesn’t make it easier for me. It takes time to figure out what my story really is (and what my photographing voice is)… maybe because we have many layers?

Here are 3 photos I selected for this assignment.

Raj is focus on the tonal contrast in this lesson. I like to include one color contrast photo because I have determined to take some new photos for each lesson 😉 (Yellow and violet are on the opposite side of color wheel.)

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