My 2011 Summer–A Photography Documentary

25 Sep

I guess we could all go to the beach for one more time, but the summer of 2011 is sadly over. As I was doing my seasonal photography archiving, the captured moments reminded me what a wonderful summer I had.

So I decided to do a post about this summer—places I visited, people I met, food I ate, and some random moments when I happened to press the shutter of my camera.

2011.7---Yellowstone, a trip of lifetime

2011.7---Grand Teton, hiked on some unforgettable trails

2011.6---New York City, a different skyline of the city from the Highline

2011.6---Hoboken, just another quiet Sunday evening

2011.9---Jersey City, Home, Summer fun cooking

2011.9---Jersey City, Home, Summer fun cooking

2011.8---New York, Grand Central

2011.9---Houston, TX, taking off with the first sunlight

2011.9---EWR, getting ready for another 11-hour trip

2011.9---Portland, OR, waiting for a table for brunch


48 Hours in Portland

18 Sep

I still had six hours before my red eye flight back to New York took off. I was sitting at Jake’s, after a two-and-a-half-hour walking tour, three local draft beers in three different bars and a half dozen oysters. Feeling a little tired and tipsy and realizing I still needed to drive my rental car back to the airport later, I decided to skip the class of chardonnay I was going to order. My waitress Stephanie strongly recommended the Sunset Beach Oysters from Hood Canal, Washington as I told her I love big and fat oysters.

Sunset Beach Oysters at Jake's

“Anything to drink?”

“No, thanks. I’ve been drinking beers all afternoon. Portland has great beers!”

“We absolutely do! I’ll bring you some bread and iced water. They are good to sober you up.”

Stephanie’s recommendation turned out to be excellent. The oysters were so fresh, fat and juicy. I washed down my second half dozen oysters of that day with a glass of Portland’s sweet iced tap water, feeling sober enough to drive.

Jake’s apparently is one of the most well-known restaurants in town. About 20 minutes after I sat down at the table set up on the curb, I overheard the waiting time for a table was around 40 minutes. I looked at my iPhone, it was only 5:50pm.

For entree, I ordered Seafood Newburg–sauteed prawns and scallops in a lobster cream sauce. It was a fantastic meal but what made the dining experience more lovely was watching Stephanie greeting old customers with a big smile and reading Jake’s menu where I found a story about the history of this 119-year-old seafood restaurant.

Jake's Seafood Newburg

Across the street, there was Kenny & Zuke’s, where I had my brunch that morning. I waited for a half hour to get a small table at around 12pm. When I finished my last piece of bacon, it was 1:20pm and there were still a long line outside of the restaurant. But the line of Kenny & Zuke’s was actually much shorter than Mother’s Bistro, where I was told the waiting time for brunch that morning would be more than 2 hours. I had dinner at Mother’s Bistro the night before. After spending a long day at Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood, taking photos and hiking, I finished the “Cascade Natural” Beef Pot Roast served with a rich & velvety gravy, smashed red potatoes and sauteed green beans and a glass of Oregon red wine in 20 minutes.

Brunch at Kenny & Zuke's

Brunch crowd outside Kenny & Zuke's

48 hours in Portland is of course so much more than great food, beers, wines, friendly bartenders and waitresses who are enthusiastic about telling people how great Portland is.

The historic scenic drive Route 30 is filled with mysterious waterfalls; Mount Hood not only has breathtaking views for road trip lovers, but also long trails for serious hikers and vineyards for wine lovers; TriMet, Portland’s public transportation system has a huge free zone and what makes everyone happy is there is no sale tax!

Mount Hood (Some smoke caused by a wild fire)

Vista House on Route 30

Kids & Waterfall

Columbia River Gorge

Multnomah Falls

Besides all the above, Portland is just a cute and smart city with self-maintained solar-powered garbage cans that don’t need to be cleaned out for every eight months, colored bike lanes on almost every street and unfiltered but sweet water pumping out from public water fountains.

A summer afternoon in downtown Portland

A summer afternoon in downtown Portland

Who doesn't like bikes?

During my 48-hour visit, I spent a lot of time thinking about Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove who purchased downtown Portland for 50 cents and named the town in 1845. Sitting on a bench on the bank of Willamette River and watching time passing by as the river running through the center of the city, I was wondering how many things have changed in the last 166 years–the buildings, the bridges, the boats and the people. But there are also things that have never changed —the running river and the snow capped Mount Hood and Mount Saint Helens in the backdrop.

Take a closer look at Mount Hood

I told Stephenie I was totally full and had to pass the very tempting desert. On my check, it was a whole number, no tax, of course.

Urban Fever 2—First Grand Central Photoshoot

14 Aug

This is a quite spontaneous photoshoot. If I knew I’d do a photoshoot at the Grand Central, I would have charged my camera and brought all the extra gears. But when I was on my way to visit a friend on the Upper East Side on Saturday, I suddenly found myself standing in the main concourse of the terminal. Grand Central has everything a photographer needs—great lighting, giant space, commuters who are not annoyed by cameras (because there are just so many people taking pictures) and fascinating stories behind the building. I unconsciously took out my camera and ended up spending an hour there.



Urban Fever 1–A Tourist’s New York

11 Aug

The Tourist is an unbelievably bad movie. I feel bad for Johnny Depp because I think he’s actually a good actor and should not be having those ridiculous lines with Angelina Jolie who only knows how to toss her hair beautifully and show the best angles of her thick lips. But I guess the movie at least made one point–being a tourist in a new city is always an adventure.

I heard people say you can’t call yourself a true New Yorker if you don’t live in the city for six years. Lately I heard the number has increased to ten years. I guess that might be because the real New York City has become even harder to figure out, with more tourists (I bet a lot of them are from China), the dysfunctional Wall Street, weird commuters from New Jersey (like me) and more dogs that perhaps cost more money on food every month than I do. Anyway, how would I know? I just moved to this area only a bit over a year ago and I don’t even live in the city. So I guess even though I know a few streets of the city, I’m pretty much still a tourist to New York City.

So here is a little piece of the big city through a tourist’s eyes and lens on an ordinary Saturday in the summer.

Note the commercial on that blue screen is about a Chinese city called Chengdu, my home town!

I was trying to remember when was the last time I was on a MTA bus. Failed!

NYC Cab Yellow

The Empire State Building looks pretty different

A B&W photo always feels more elegant and classy

@Union Square Farmers Market, better than Whole Foods across the street

Love the color

Those guys must be smart. But why I don't see an Asian??? Weird!

One Man’s Trail–A Single Man in Grand Teton & Yellowstone

18 Jul

So I survived from another national park trip after hiking on back country trails on my own for over 30 miles, suffering serious sunburns (you will see some pictures of my poor face) and bug bites, driving for more than 1200 miles and flying over 4500 miles.

If you follow my Twitter or is a friend of mine on Facebook, you would know on my first day in the Yellowstone there was tragic news that a couple got attacked by a grizzly bear and the husband was killed. And the day before, I just hiked on a back country trail in Grand Teton National Park for almost seven hours.  For more than four hours in the deep woods I didn’t see another human being. And I think I should mention I did see pretty fresh footprints of bears. So you can imagine I was a bit scared when I heard about the news. But I followed what the brochure I got from the trail head told me: keep clapping and making noises to reduce the chance of encountering a bear. I guess the technique worked. The only animal I saw on the trail was a deer. While you are back in nature, you just have to follow certain rules. It’s not a man-made environment, so it’s important to show your respect.

The respect includes don’t get mad at AT&T for no reception at all in some areas, for days.

I almost hiked or biked everyday. I was regretted I didn’t bring my running shoes so I could even run everyday. I burned so many calories and I slept like a baby at night. The next day, I got up at 6 am, feeling fully recharged and starting a new day of adventures in the wilderness.

Most part of the trip wasn’t quite comfortable by any standard though. First of all, as I mentioned before, the bugs in the Grand Teton had been ridiculous this year. No matter how much bug spray you put on your skin, it just didn’t work. And two hours after you started on the trail, I found my arms and legs were so oily because of the bug spray. To make things worse, I had to put more of the greasy lotion on top my skin. Then it was the heat. Although the temperature during the night could drop to lower 30s, the highest temperature during the day when I was out hiking or biking or driving still reached over 90s. So my shirt was always wet. Another challenge was the sun. Since the average elevation of the area is above 7,000 feet, the sunlight is so much stronger than I expected. I didn’t realize that until the third day when I was shocked by my red skin from the sunburn. And apparently it was already too late to put any sun-protection—the damage had reached to a point where only time could perhaps heal it. Finally, the snow. Yes, the snow. I didn’t expect at all to hike in more than 15 inches of snow while wearing shorts and sweating. But there was still a lot of snow on many of the trails and for some sections you couldn’t even pass through without winter gears.

It was a trip full of all kinds of surprises–the crazy bugs, the snow in July, the sunburns, the bear saga, but most importantly, the views. The views of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone can seriously make you stop breathing. The most powerful adjective to describe beauty from any language is too weak for the tetons and the meadows, springs, snow mountains and geysers at Yellowstone. I spent two hours just sitting on a rock by the Yellowstone river overlooking the Hayden Valley, feeling extremely privileged to have the chance to get so close to a place that’s probably older than the time and see the view that has barely changed for hundreds of thousands of years. Only when I stood in front of the permanent glacier of one of the Tetons, did I realized my whole life would just be perhaps one tenth second to the Tetons.

A trip like this was indeed needed–it makes you realize how short our lives are, how meaningless to be bothered by some of the things we thought important and how easy life could be.

Now please enjoy some of the photos I took along my trip. More photos can be viewed on my Flickr page.

Flowers & the Tetons


Snake River & the tetons

Sunset at the Grand Teton

A Morning at Colter Bay


There's a catch for this view--8 hours of hiking

Old Faithful

Hayden Valley

A bison at the Yellowstone

A tiny piece of the Yellowstone beauty

The tan on my face says everything about the sun

A Different New York Skyline

19 Jun

There are certain rules that you have to follow if you want to have a better New York City experience during the summer, when the city is packed with tourists from all over the world. One of the rules is that you should never go to the High Line Park on a weekend.

This amazing public park, which was converted from an elevated freight railroad, is obviously not designed for holding too many people at the same time. So I went to the High Line in an weekday evening and it was an amazing experience to observe the city from a quite different angle and re-think what makes New York City so attractive to many people.

Following the rail tracks, it’s a journey to search for the city’s memories. The railroad, according to Wiki, connected directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to roll right inside buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods could be transported and unloaded without disturbing traffic on the streets. Today, the High Line has given a rebirth of the tracks, connecting multimillion properties and offers New Yorkers a new place besides the Central Park to appreciate the diversity of the City, check out their cute neighbors, flirt with strangers, enjoy the sunshine over the Hudson, and contemplate what the City is really about.

The High Line Stretches under the Standard Hotel

Time Stays, We go

People + City

New York Summer

A million-dollar view?

New York cab drivers drive too fast

The world's best city's skyline looks different today

A New York City Concert

16 Jun

I’ve never been a big fan of New York City. It’s too noisy. There are always too many people. It’s way too expensive. I have many reasons to not love the city. But there’s one thing that makes me can’t not to take New York City seriously–the serendipity that you can’t find anywhere else. I had never felt about this so strongly until last Saturday after I went to Nate Fetinger‘s classical music concert Not Dead Yet, Nate’s NYC debut as a classical composer and pianist.

The music is so refreshing and breathtaking. I was truly amazed by Nate, a 23-year-old young musician who however doesn’t event work in the music industry at all. I don’t know if I should hate the city for not (yet) let him afford to be a musician as profession or if I should appreciate the city for honoring me the opportunity to become a good friend with Nate, who might otherwise be already too famous as a composer if he never came to the city.

Perhaps this is why people love New York City so much–you just constantly find something amazing that you would never expect. Like a coworker of mine, who so inspired me as she runs 7 miles almost everyday. Or like another friend of mine who backpacked in Central Africa for a month. Or like Nate, who lives a simple 9-5 life while pursuing his music dream on the side (which is definitely what he should be doing for the entire time).

Congrats, Nate! Looking forward to your next concert!

Jonathan Estabrooks (Baritone) sings Goethe Songs. Nate (Piano) wrote the piece in 2010

THREE, a piece Nate wrote this year. Mioi Takeda (Violin), Wanda Glowacka (Cello), Nate (Piano)

Congratulations Nate!

He got some fans already

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