Wishing I Was In Beijing

I had planned to be in China right now.  Beijing to be exact.

My good friends, Leigh and Ray (Leigh went to medical school on Saba.  I first met Leigh at her house early in the year 2007 and we instantly bonded over our love for trash mags, and TMZ.  YES.  I JUST ADMITTED THAT.  AGAIN.) are in Beijing adopting their son.  He is now eight years old, and they have both had a miraculous journey to get to this point.  Leigh asked me last year if I would accompany them on their trip and photograph their journey, and of curse I was in!  Unfortunately, international adoptions aren’t free, and due to extra last minute expenses with the adoption, an all expense paid trip for me to photograph their adoption in Beijing had to be nixed.

We were both so sad.  🙁

Since China, is well . . . China, (aka COMMUNIST) Leigh does not have access to her blog or facebook while they are in Beijing.  I have been receiving daily emails (along with 100 other people of course) documenting their journey.

I cry during each email.  A LOT.

There is no doubt that God has his hand in all things.  Leigh and Ray are such a great couple, I’m so glad they finally have their son!  I will post a link to her blog when she returns from China so you can read more of their story!

In 2009 I’m Surprised I Didn’t Lose My Mind!

2009 sure was a crazy one.

I’d like to say, “It sure was a lot of fun!”

David is a fourth year medical student,

Which means, with his time, he is quite prudent!

I’m a photography student and stay-at-home mom.

I’ve tried to manage everything and stay calm!

In Utah, we started the year.

We lived by family, it was nice to be near.

In February, we made our first move of the year . . . Kansas City!

It was beautiful and really, really pretty!

Living in Kansas, we felt so blessed.

I still can’t believe we moved to the Midwest!

We  enjoyed living in Kansas, it’s full of nice folks.

To our surprise, we learned we’d be moving to New York.

Shocked, we thought, “Is this a joke?”

We loaded our car with our kids, Paris, and other good things that we needed.

Pulled a little U-haul and off to New York we proceeded.

The kids traveled well.  Paris was fine.

There were only a few times I thought I would lose my mind!

We visited some Saba friends on the way in Ohio.

We ate so much food and had so much fun, Oh my!  Oh!

We loved living in Rochester. We loved it so much!

Seven short weeks was not long enough!

On our move back to Kansas, we heard some bad news.

We had to move again.  We didn’t get to choose!

School regulations made it impossible to stay,

So we packed up the house much to our dismay.

We found ourselves in Utah once again this time,

David went to North Carolina, oh my!  Does this even rhyme?

We are all together as a family as we speak,

Which is great for us because we love to kiss our kids’ cheeks!

Who knows what the future holds for us now.

I just know there are more moves for us, HOLY COW!

All things considered we are doing quite well.

In fact, I think my heart might swell.

Aside from the moves that have made us nomads and gypsy’s,

Other exciting things have happened that made us quite tipsy!

First, Dallin calmed down A LOT.

No more a screaming baby, who’d have thought?

Hannah sings, dances, and entertains.

She’s already worn out her first pair of ballet shoes and has a lot of brains.

David is busy, school is crazy.

Bummer for him, there’s no time to be lazy.

I started school at the Academy of Art.

Mastering photography, I’ve learned a few things to impart.

Paris has done a mighty fine job as our only family pet,

We’re not looking for another dog, at least not yet.

2009 was full of surprises,

Four cross country moves, I said a lot of “goodbyes.”

I say, “Bring on the New Year!”

Heck, I’ll even say it with good cheer!

In 2010 I just ask for one thing,

Please don’t tell me we’re moving to Beijing!

The Erie Canal

I am still trying to grasp the concept that I currently live on the East Coast.

The East Coast.  Home to more major cities than I can name and the Great Lakes.  I have been busy photographing everything:  houses, buildings, churches, you name it.

Like this for example:

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I pass this bridge on my way to the grocery store.  As I drive along the highway, the Erie Canal parallels the road.  It flows into this Aqueduct, making a beautiful waterfall.

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This is what the bridge looks like from the other side in a park.  What you don’t see in this picture are several locals fishing and  tons of bugs swarming around my body.  It also stunk VERY BAD.  Fresh water canals don’t smell that great.  In fact, the smell faintly reminded me of the night market in Taiwan.  (You may have read about my experience shopping in the stinkiest place in the world here.)

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I shot this just after sunset.  I read how to photograph waterfalls capturing the “silky water” look in a book.  You must shoot just before sunrise (which, lets be honest, I don’t get out of bed before 7:00 AM, so shooting before sunrise is just not likely) or just after sunset.

If I could handle the bugs and the smell, I think I would enjoy photographing more of this area.

As of right now . . .

Don’t count on it.

There is so much to photograph around here.

My blog is going to be overloaded with new images over the next few weeks.

Lost in Translation

In my previous life (the one where I got a paycheck for working hard) I visited Asia several times.

I learned a lot on those trips.

Like this for example:

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At 5’9″, I was one on the tallest people in all of China.

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Little washing machines work just as well as big ones to wash wedding dresses.

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Driving a car is not popular . . .

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But if you must own a car, drive a little one in style.

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And most importantly, all things get lost in translation.  (Yes, I took this picture in a bathroom.  What?  Don’t you snap pictures in the bathroom?)

(Visit engrish.com for more great Engrish from around the world.)

Shooting in HDR

Recently, I was looking at some photos on Flickr and came across some pictures my friend took.

I WAS AMAZED.

He took this picture of the London, England LDS Temple.

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Amazing, right?

Turns out, he used a technique called High Dynamic Range (or just HDR).  Because I had never heard of this technique, I thought it was new.  (I’m so obnoxious.  Obviously it must be new if I’ve never heard of it because I’m so in the know, you know?)

Check out more pictures from him on Flickr.

This is the tutorial he recommended to learn how to shoot in HDR.  Basically, in basic Emily language, this is how you do it:

  • Set your camera to AP mode (aperture mode)
  • Using a tripod (or arms as immovable as a robot) shoot your subject in three different exposures.  -2, 0, +2.  Most DSLR’s have an option to do this for you.
  • Then, you buy really fancy software Photmatix, Photoshop, and Noiseware Professional (noise reduction software) to make the magic happen!

I haven’t tried this technique yet (because you actually have to plan to shoot this way by taking three consecutive pictures at different exposures and merging them, and I don’t have Photomatix . . .) but I can’t wait!

Trey Ratcliff, the photographer who teaches the HDR tutorial, is AMAZING.  He’s been all over the world, photographing it the way he sees it.  Not they way a regular point and shoot sees it.

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This is Hong Kong.  Honestly, every time I try to describe how ginormous the city is, I can’t do it adequately.  “It’s ten times bigger than NYC!”  Is my “go to” explanation.  But really, how big is NYC?  HUGE.  Right?  So Hong Kong must be HUGER!  🙂  Okay, I have no idea, but it is huge, and beautiful.  This is exactly how I remember it.  Not the very sad way my point and shoot captured it.

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This is the skyline across the harbor from Kowloon.  I’ve been on this ferry to see the city lights at night and I loved it.

In 40 years, when my husband is out of medical school and we have an income, we’re going to Hong Kong.

And I’m going to shop like there’s no tomorrow.

And I’m going to take pictures like these.

And he’s going to golf.

And I can’t wait!

Six! Seven! It All Sounds the Same to Me

I know a girl named Seven.  As in the number seven.  She was my dress assistant when I worked as a fit model in Taiwan.  She was so sweet and lovely, and spoke basic English pretty well with her soft low voice.

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One day, after my skin felt like it would fall off my body if one more piece of fabric touched it, (she had helped me slide in and out of over 100 dresses that day) I asked her why her name was Seven.

Did you know that Asians who work primarily with Americans give themselves American names?  Yeah, they just pick out a name that sounds nice to them, and name themselves.

This is why she is named, Seven.

Because some ill-informed Asian told her that the number Seven was a popular name.

I kept calling her Six (on accident) when she was so nice to take me to the world’s stinkiest night market to help me find make-up brushes.  I yelled, “SIX!” several times above the loud hum of the crowded market to get her attention, and only after her non-response did I realize that the numbers six and seven don’t sound the same.

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(Seven is on the left in the green shirt.  She is the the only Asian in the photo which might give her away too. . .)

Moral of the story:

Don’t name your kid after a number.

The Post Where I Reveal A Little Too Much

Not all food tastes the same all over the world.  Really.  When I was in Taiwan, we ordered a combination pizza from Domino’s. (Which, by the way, is NEVER a good idea when in a foreign country) Sounds safe, right?  It came with corn, shrimp, and broccoli on the top.

NOT KIDDING.

I’m a quick learner.  I now know NOT to order American food in Asia because is just doesn’t taste right.

But . . .

Did you know that Doritos and Coke and all other beverages and chips taste slightly different too?  Okay, the word slightly might not be a strong enough word.

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I’m not a Coke drinker.  I’m a Dr. Pepper girl.  But, I’m pretty sure Dr. Pepper isn’t available in Asia because all I could find was Coke.  Now I know Coke and D.P. are TOTALLY different, but I would order a Coke in lieu of my unavailable preferred drink.

Like I said, I’m not a Coke drinker, but I do know that Coke in the USA DOES NOT taste like Coke in China.

Please don’t argue and offend my discriminating taste buds.

Now, I have a concerning secret to share . . .

I still have an unopened Coke can from Taiwan from like four years ago.

This is weird.  Tell me this is weird.

It’s unopened, and after all this time, the longer is goes unopened, the more I can’t bring myself to do it.

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Now, I’m not sure what’s more concerning:

  • That this Coke is older than Hannah
  • That this Coke traveled all the way from Taiwan to Kansas by way of Texas
  • That this Coke can sat in storage for three years
  • That the mini-bar in the hotel I got this from charged me $5 for this one measly can
  • That it’s still unopened

Pam?  Do want this?

In My Previous Life . . .

I must confess. Sometimes I turn on the TV, for no reason in particular other than to fry perfectly good brain cells. Tonight was just one of those nights. I turned on TLC and a show called “Say Yes to the Dress” was on. I had never heard of it, but as I started watching I became very intrigued. Not only because it was all about a bridal salon selling wedding gowns, but because the store looked vaguely familiar. Then, I noticed the owners of the store. Um, yes, the bridal industry is a small world. I recognized the owners of the shop, therefore telling me where the show was being filmed. Kleinfeld’s in New York. This is by far the largest, most elite bridal salon in the USA.

You see, in my previous life, (when I put on make up, wore great clothing, and went to work) I actually owned a bridal salon in Dallas, Texas. I was involved in every aspect of the business from hiring, training, floor sets, marketing, advertising, and selling, to the designing of wedding gowns. I would see a dress sketched out on paper, and then have that exact dress on my floor ready to sell in nine months. Yes, I secretly was a Jane of all trades in this business. Both David and I experienced SERIOUS BURNOUT in this business. I AM SO GLAD I DON’T HAVE TO WORK WITH BRIDES ANYMORE. Thank goodness for the burnout though. It caused both of us to evaluate our current and future life very seriously. After a good long, hard evaluation, we both felt right about getting out of our business, selling the house, and car (we kept one) to move to a deserted island in the middle of the ocean so David could start Medical School. Yeah, I’m still scratchin’ my head on this one.

As I was watching this show, I desperately wanted to turn it off, but I couldn’t! How could I look away? It was like watching a reality TV show filmed in my old store, except I was missing. From the emotional brides to the flat out CRAZY brides, I have dealt with them all. They also highlighted the alteration department, and truthfully, any alteration department in ANY STORE could hold a reality show on its own. The DRAMA that exists in just that one place is enough to make you go gray early, or possibly loose 15 pounds from stress. (Not recommended for a diet plan)

Needless to say, watching this show CONFIRMED to me why I am SO GLAD we are no longer in that business. What a headache.

If Brides Only Knew

My sister Jenn called asking for my “Professional Wedding Gown Advice”. This topic always seems to challenge my memory because part of me has tucked away those bad memories in a very, very, safe place, the other part of me feels like that was such a lifetime ago, (okay, like three years ago) do I really remember anything? Well, the mind is an amazing thing. Even after you have had a baby and been vacationing on a teeny tiny island in the middle of nowhere for the past two and half years, you can STILL REMEMBER STUFF.

Here’s the situation in a nutshell: Her friend bought a wedding gown. The wedding gown is dirty. How does she clean it? Well, the answer is very simple. You throw it in the washing machine. What? You’re gasping too? I forgot how sharing insider information about the bridal business can make someone have an instant brain aneurysm. YES, YOU TURN THE GOWN INSIDE OUT, AND WASH IT ON A DELICATE CYCLE IN COLD WATER WITH LIQUID DETERGENT.

Now I must make a disclaimer, this is for MOST wedding gowns. There are a few fabrics out there for which this would not work. Like silk-satin for one. However, if you paid less than $1,500 for your gown there is a 99.9% chance the tag on your wedding dress says POLYESTER, (regardless if it feels like Italian Matte Satin, or Satin, or whatever. Polyester is made to look and feel like a lot of fabrics. Again, don’t gasp when you find out you actually wore polyester to your wedding.) and it is safe to throw it in the washer. Now, this may be a shocker as well, but almost all Bridal Stores have a washer on site, in their back room. I know, this seems deceitful and wrong, but lets face it, do you really care how your dress was cleaned?

To prove the truthfulness of this crazy concept to my sister (who had a mild heart attack over the phone when I explained how to how clean the dress), I sent her some photos I took while visiting a major factory in China that produced most of our gowns. It shows them washing BRAND NEW WEDDING GOWNS IN A WASHER. How do you think we learned this great trick? From “the people in the know” of course! Here is a peek into what goes on in a Chinese factory:

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The worker is hand washing one gown in a RUBBERMAID CONTAINER. Check out the washer and the other gowns just hanging out in their very own Rubbermaid containers.

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Check out this worker’s handy work. All beads are hand sewn. Watching her, I thought she was in fast forward. Her hands were lighting fast.

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This worker is also sewing on beads. Check out all the pins! An average dress is worked on by 13 different seamstresses. Each specializes in an area.

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I can’t remember why they are intentionally making a mess on this fabric, but it has something to do with outlining a design. If brides only knew the beginning phases of their dress!

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This is the initial process of making a dress. Cutting out the design.

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There are entirely too many talented seamstresses in China. Check them out, going to town on wedding gowns!

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These gowns are ready and waiting for final inspection. Notice the gown on the floor; it is being folded and wrapped up for shipping to the States. It passed the final inspection.

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These are the hard workers going to dinner. Everyone wears the same outfit to work; men in dark blue, and women in the light blue. They are off to dinner. Each person puts in an average of 14 hours a day, with only two meal breaks for lunch and dinner. They all live on site at the “compound” in dorms, and only see their families a few times a year. Many of them send all of their earnings home to support extended family.

So there you have it.