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  • Misty Mountain Majesty

    I cannot believe it has been almost TWO YEARS since I posted to this blog, but it's also been two years since I've been working full time as an assistant in Boulder. The day I met Michael Lichter at an ASMP meeting at a coffee shop in South Boulder, my life changed completely. It has been two amazing (yet at times demanding and stressful, of course!) years of learning from an incredible and accomplished photographer. Instead of whipping my own camera out during the weekends, I'm usually trying to re-group my own life or spend time with my boyfriend and just... Relax. A lame, terrible excuse? Yes. But! At least this is something. 

    So, I present to you... The Flatirons! Ever since I visited Boulder for the first time, I fell in love with these unique geologic formations that make up a tiny yet stunning section of the Rockies. In a way, it reminded me of home on Maui. My favorite view of them is to the side, where you can see how they got their name.

    Springtime can mean that Colorado's famed sunny days are nowhere to be found. Last night's rain brought low laying clouds to Boulder, gently enveloping the peaks in a serene mist...

  • Megan in Betasso Preserve

    When a lovely girl you meet has pink hair and also is graciously willing to pose nude, you take advantage of it (Thank you Megan!).

    I am always impressed by how easy it is to access seemingly remote wilderness in Boulder.

  • The Blood Moon

    A rare lunar eclipse occured in the early hours of April 15th, perfectly visible from Boulder's clear skies.

    I took "artistic license", shall we say, to create this composite. In other words, it's not an accurate portrayal of a lunar eclipse phase. The shining orb appeared in the sky from the left and moved to the right, gradually fading away to reveal the highly anticipated "blood moon" in all its ominous glory, then repeated the process until it regained its pearly white innocence.

  • Home

    I did it, I moved to Denver. I've never lived in a city before, so my little peek of the skyline out my bedroom window is pretty neat!

  • Moab - Boulder

    I had the chance to visit my dear friend Molly in the northern Colorado town of Boulder. The quickest route's halfway point (clocking in at 6 hours) was to Moab, Utah, home of Arches National Park. Its most famous structure, the Delicate Arch, is an absolute must-hike to witness in person. Utah is so proud that it's even depicted on their license plates.

    On the side of the Northbound U.S. 191, somewhere in Utah... I was horrified to pull off on the side of the road for photos, feeling my car tremble from the sheer force of vehicles roaring by at 80 miles an hour before I got out. The horses seemed so curious but trotted off when I approached.

    I stayed in a little cabin at the Moab KOA. Clean, afforable, and the staff was super friendly. They have locations all across the United States. P.S. Hawaii people- KOA stands for "Kampgrounds" of America, so you pronounce it as Kay-Oh-Ay... not koa (which I did before someone corrected me.)


    The Delicate Arch at dusk. As soon as it became dark, little kangaroo rats started scurrying around. Google them. So cute.

    This is what happens when the last person leaving shines a flashlight in your camera during a long exposure...

    That's better!

    I set out in the morning for another 6 hour drive. The sweepingly beautiful and barren desert landscape transitioned to lush pine trees and a view of the Colorado River running right along the highway.

    Boulder is nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills, offering the luxuries of both rugged outdoor wilderness within minutes and the metropolitan city of Denver in a half hour (that's without traffic, of course...!)


    Boulder has a big cyclist community. Molly is just diving into the culture and I must say, she fits the look quite nicely. Whether you're pro or just a casual rider, this town has a wealth of biking facilities to take advantage of. The trail here is part of Valmont Bike Park, which is actively maintained and free to the public.

  • Pamplona

    What better Euro-Trip grand finale is there than to experience the Pamplona festivities of San Fermin? I decided on going about a month prior and it was almost impossible to find accommodations. I found a hostel that could take me for 3 days, but unfortunately was a day after it started. I would have loved to photograph the opening celebrations, but ah well. It seems that many other people suffered the same fate; when I arrived at the very tiny train station, it was mass confusion as hoards of tourists began hunting down taxis. Pamplona goes from a population of 200,000 to 1,000,000 for the week of San Fermin. When I made it to the hostel, they offered me a festival outfit package if I didn't already have the proper attire: a white shirt, white pants, red handkerchief, and red sash.

    "Oh, I'm pretty much here just to photograph."

    "Believe me, you're going to need it. Even the photographers wear the clothes."

    Oh, really now. Still not entirely convinced, I went ahead and took the package anyways... and I'm so glad I did. Maybe about 10% of people were not wearing the outfit and stuck out like sore thumbs. Even though I wasn't partying like the rest of the revelers, I still felt part of the experience, which made it that much better just being there to document. It was amusing seeing the "sexy" variations of the clothes worn by young women, like white booty shorts instead of pants, or red bras underneath sheer white tank tops. I think the one uniting factor for everyone was the red handkerchief tied around the neck. It seemed like the most important aspect of a San Fermin outfit. On the last night there is a solemn midnight ceremony called "Pobre de Mi" where candles are lit and the handkerchiefs are removed.

    THE BULL RUN

    The daily celebrations begin each morning with the infamous running of the bulls, the encierro, starting at 8 AM. I arose at 5 to make sure I could find my way down to the town square and locate a good spot somewhere along the streets. I barely caught a wink of sleep because of the heat during the night. Spain in the summer, go figure. But around the hours of 4 to 9 AM it finally cools off and feels glorious, and was a blessing for watching the bull run.

    Well, little did I know that people stay up partying all night long, so the streets are filled with drunken revelers that have already claimed their fence spots. The only other option of viewing the race, which many people find much more favorable, are balconies that overlook the streets. These must be reserved months in advance and cost quite a bit of money.

    I met some Ecuadorians who saw my camera and invited me to sit with them on the front fence. It was also their first day. We were unaware that the front fence is reserved for press, police, and medics, so we scrambled to get another spot when were told to get off about 30 minutes prior to the run. Lame.

    Not the greatest view for pictures, but it gives you a sense for everything going on.

    When the group ran by, we jumped off and made our way into the street to see the runners and the bulls inside Plaza de Toros. Don't ask me why the police didn't say anything to us, but apparently the race wasn't quite over. So many people participate nowadays that the run is divided into two sections (at least that's what it seemed like.) We suddenly saw more runners flying by, heard the pound of hooves, and before we knew it, more bulls came barreling down the cobblestone street. It was a very surreal moment as they passed by just feet away.

    Holy Moly!

    We continued our way into the Plaza de Toros, where participants are funneled in and run around with a single bull if they so choose. The runners, still intoxicated (most of them anyways), think it's great fun scurrying around and agitating the frightened bull, who is also subjected to the screams of belligerent people by the hundreds. I was pulled into the frenzy by the Ecuadorians at one of the entrances... quite literally pulled. It was like being at a concert. As I was squeezing by, my pockets were quickly felt up and rooted through. This is why putting your money or any other valuables (if they fit) into a boot is the best idea, ever. Slippers would not have worked, nor would running shoes. Praise be to boots! I was told that thieves from all over Spain come to Pamplona for the amazing pickpocketing opportunities during San Fermin.

    The only way I could get a shot like this was if I raised my camera high into the air and fired away.

    Do this...

    ...and this might happen.

    I noticed that the bull's horns had been capped off. Too bad, I really wanted to see one of those fools get gored.

    Okay, not really...but.......maybe just a little.

    The aftermath of the run. I wanted to include this one somewhere just to show the mess that people make. Pamplona actually does quite a good job of cleaning it up, but an hour later the trash is back. During the day, the hot sun putrefies the stench.

    The second morning, I went out in hopes of finding a spot that was situated closer to the front fence and on a curve so I could get a better view of the action as it came towards me. I found a decent place and quickly claimed it. Some raucous Spanish youth came later and told me to scoot over (in Spanish, but I knew what they meant) so they could fit all four of themselves on. I shook my head. They proceeded anyways. One of the policemen came over and told them to scram, thank Jesus. I continued to defend my position until 8 AM finally rolled around and the run began. With my 70-200 lens, I was able to reach past the people on the front fence, but they still got in the way occasionally. I envied the press who arrived just ten minutes before, taking their spots on the front fence with completely unobstructed views.

    The Pamplona police keeping an eye on the onlookers.

    Hi guys, just coming through.

    The one on the right has its eye closed, kinda weird looking isn't it?

    So, did I see any gorings? All the accidents happened the day after I left, of course. There was a 20 year old student from Utah who got a horn through the abdomen and had his spleen removed, a Spanish man who was pierced in the thighs and buttocks, and a 23 year old Australian woman whose chest was perforated and suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung. There's no way I can feel sorry for these people though, because they essentially have 'done it to themselves'. The bulls attack when people fall and try to get back up, or when a bull gets separated from his herd and panics. 

    The morning light was always nice after the run.

    IN THE STREETS

    Between the bull run and the bull fights, general partying and merry making happens all through the streets surrounding the town square.

    They're watching...

    A San Fermin singing club, Muthiko Alaiak. The name is Basque, not Spanish, which is the original language of Pamplona. Basque people inhabited the regions of northern Spain and southwestern France. Every sign in Pamplona is also written in Basque.

    Children performing traditional Spanish folk dancing.

    THE BULL FIGHTS

    “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bullfighters.”
    ―Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

    Every evening at 6:30, there is a scheduled bull fight at the Plaza de Toros. The stadium (third largest in the world) is divided into two halves: sol or sombra, sun or shade. Shade is more expensive, understandably, and people serious about the sport of bullfighting sit here. The people who sit in the sun are slowly roasted for two and a half hours, but are too busy dancing to the peñas (social club brass bands) and pouring sangria on each other to watch the bullfight or care about the heat. I waited for 2 hours the following day to purchase my ticket from the official ticketing counters, getting there extra early before they opened to ensure that I'd get a favorable seat the following day. Scalpers lurk everywhere trying to sell off tickets that are more than likely counterfeit, and as a tourist there's no way of gauging authenticity. Ideally, I wanted a shade seat in the first tier of the stadium. After learning that the cost would be around 150 euros (close to 200 dollars), I opted for the middle seats, which drastically brought the price down to 40. When I got to the ring the next day, I found myself seated directly in front of a pillar. Photo below.

    Seriously?? Did the architect not foresee issues with this?

    Again, just my luck. The two people next to me commented on my dilemma (in Spanish of course, but they said something about 'fotos' and looked at me sympathetically.) They didn't seem to mind when I slightly invaded their personal space to get shots on either side of the pillar.

    Sun people...

    ...versus shade people.

    The event starts with a parade around the ring of everyone involved in the bullfight (the cuadrilla) as the peñas begin to play. The toreros remain in the arena as the bull is released. The four toreros work together, teasing and tiring the bull as it charges their fluttering magenta and canary yellow capes, catching the attention of the agitated bull. Usually only one of the toreros holds the title of matador, being the most experienced bullfighter of the group.

    Two picadores arrive at the scene, dressed in attire just as intricate as the toreros on blindfolded and armored horses. They hold a spear with a short blade that is plunged into the bull's neck when it notices the horse and attempts to gore it. This is the first stage of the fight; Tercio de Varas. It is remarkable watching the horses as they are literally lifted into the air by the bull and remain impressively calm. The stab weakens the bull's charging force and also drives it into a wounded frenzy.

    The picadors exit as the toreros continue to tire the animal, taking turns running at it with banderillas, decorated barbs, that they plunge into its back. This is part 2, Tercio de Banderillas. The bull is a sorry state at this point, with blood sometimes beginning to stream down its back. Its tongue lolls out, breathing frantically.

    The matador exchanges his cape for a bright red one, the muleta, and is handed a sword. With controlled poise and ballerina-like grace, he performs the final act, Tercio de Muerte, with the exhausted beast. It is a dance of death both beautiful and saddening, a clash of visual splendor and brutality.

    When the matador senses that the time is right, he drives the sword into its back, usually dropping the bull to its knees. He is given a shorter blade which he stabs into the neck, delivering instant death by severing its spine.

    If the matador is truly skilled, the first sword plunge will successfully kill the animal. The crowd roars with approval if this is the case and the matador will triumphantly throw his hand up, showing his appreciation of the pleased crowd. The brass bands begin to play music again and onlookers cheer voraciously as three decorated horses are led out. The carcass is attached to the horses and they run out of the arena.

    To watch this tremendous animal come bounding into the ring at the full height of its power to 20 minutes later being dragged away bloody and lifeless is quite something. To watch this six times in a row was a little overwhelming, I'll admit it. I knew I'd be a little uncomfortable watching a blood sport but when you're in Rome, do as the Romans do. I came, I saw, I documented. If I was going to experience San Fermin as a whole, the bull fight was just as important as any other element. I realize how significant bull fighting is to Spanish culture, but it's a shame that the animals have to endure such torment.

    As far as photographing it went... I wish I could have been down there with the media coverage team! My 70-200 lens barely was long enough to reach the action at the seat I was at, but thank God I lugged it around Europe for 4 and a half months just for that event.

  • Madrid

    In Madrid, I had positive site seeing experiences by way of the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace) and the Prado/Reina Sofía art museums. The Royal Palace's interior was stunningly ornate and in emmaculate condition. I couldn't take any photographs but snuck some iPhone ones.

    Exterior.

    The State Dining Room and Royal Chapel.

    The Prado Museum houses an impressive collection of European art stretching from the 12th to early 19th century. The highlight of the collection is paintings from the Spanish greats like Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco. They even had a few Hieronymus Bosch works including his most famous, The Garden of Earthly Delights. That was a great surprise and worth the entire visit for me. The Reina Sofía museum, or the Queen Sofia Arts Center, is Madrid's modern art mecca. There was a special Dalí exhibition that displayed a wonderful assortment of his works but the famous melting clocks, The Perception of Memory, was not included (gotta go to New York's MoMA for that.) I was just happy to find that my favorite painting of his, Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, which I patiently snuck pictures of.

    I took others without the women but kind of like their heads framing the piece. To the right is the view at the top of the mueseum, with the reflection of downtown Madrid on the ceiling.

  • Barcelona (...but not really)

    No photos, just a whole lot of writing. If you'd like to hear about my worst mishap yet, read on...

    I got off the 10 hour bus ride from Dubrovnik to Split and boarded the same tram that I took 3 days ago. This will be easy, I thought. No stress here. A voice came on over the intercom and I asked someone what they said. They didn't speak English. At the next bus stop, everyone got off. I had a bad feeling about staying on, then got off at the next few stops when I realized it wasn't going in the direction of the train station. This would happen to me. It must have been because the president was in town, probably having something to do with celebrating Croatia's admittance to the European Union which happened to be that day. Well thank god for smartphones, because I had no problem finding my way there via walking with Google Maps, though it did take a good 15 minutes and was pretty tiring from hauling my things in the glaring evening sun. I boarded the night train and had to have a laugh to myself about the bedding situation. Someone with claustrophobia might have had a problem with the setup, let me just leave it at that. I crawled up the narrow ladder leading to my tippy top bunk in a tight room of 6. I hit my head numerous times on the ceiling trying to settle in. But really, I was just content with a place to lie down, which meant I could sleep.

    Now, despite having had somewhat decent rest through the night, I made a grave mistake far worst than any previously by far. In Munich, I went down the stairs to the bathroom, opening up my wallet to pay the 50 cents required to enter. I left the wallet in my hand, dragging all my belongings into the stall. I must not have put my wallet back in my purse. I again dragged all my things out of the stall, forgetting my wallet which I probably put on top of the toilet paper dispenser. I went back up the stairs and to the luggage lockers. I reached in my purse for my wallet to pay… where was my wallet? I remembered the bathroom. I bolted back down. It must have been about a 3 minute time period. I yelled to the janitor to let me back in so I could get it. This has happened to me before in life, much more when I was younger. I've become far better at not forgetting my belongings by learning the hard way, but hey, shit still happens. But usually the wallet is still there, or someone has handed it off to lost and found. It wasn't there. I hoped for the next best situation, that an honest person discovered it and turned in my missing wallet. I was wrong. In the 4 hour waiting period for my train to France, then to Spain, I went back numerous times to lost and found. Nothing. I could only be thankful that my passport and travel documents were still with me, but it still didn't help the situation of having absolutely zero money (okay I had about 20 cents but you can't purchase anything in Europe for under one full euro.) I felt incredibly vulnerable being alone in a foreign country with no ability to purchase anything, especially not sustenance. There were of course problems with a Western Union money wiring and instead of being able to receive in minutes, it would take 5 hours. I would be on a train at that point, in fact I'd be on a train all the way into the next morning. I would only have to endure not eating for a good 24 hours, which was disappointing, but thought instantly of people like my father who purposefully go on fasts for 10 days at a time. And not to mention the millions of people who starve on a day to day basis. I would be fine. I then realized the predicament of paying for a metro ticket in Paris to transfer trains. All I needed was 1.70 euros, but I only had 20 cents. I would have to beg, there was literally no other way. I thought about how utterly embarrassed I would be, how shameful I'd feel… then I realized that I'd been collecting coins from every country I'd been in so far. Maybe the currency exchange would take my coins! I dashed over to the counter 20 minutes before departure. They said they'd take my pounds which was converted into a little over 2 euros. I was saved! Hungry, but everything would be okay. Well… until my metro ticket didn't work. It happened to us a few times in Paris; the machine says your ticket is good but the revolving bars don't turn. That wasn't going to stop me. I shoved my luggage under the bars and hopped over them, and never was yelled at. Hallelujah. I didn't have loads of time to make this transfer either, so talking to a security guard just couldn't be on the agenda, nor was buying another ticket in a line that was getting increasingly longer. I finally boarded my night train heading for Spain with two other British girls munching on a wide assortment of snacks in their bunks. I was too proud to ask for some. Too proud!

    The next morning I navigated my way to the nearest Western Union. Except there's this one problem I was informed of… not all Western Unions in Spain let you receive money. I sat on the street outside with my belongings in the hot, mid morning Spanish sun and cried. People walked by and stared. What if the next one to receive was miles away? I couldn't pay for a bus or a taxi. Again, thank god for my smartphone, as I was able to find out information leading to a currency exchange that would do it just across the street. The information was wrong, but they were able to tell me that any post office in Spain can do it. Why didn't the first Western Union tell me that? The language barrier can be a real problem. A post office was a 10 minute walk away. I waited in line with an American who had lost his debit card and phone the night before (drinking was the culprit.) The woman didn't speak any English but somehow the transaction was made and I came away with a glorious wad of Euros. Unfortunately, this was the wrong country to carry large amounts of cash in but c'est la vie, or should I say "que es la vida"? I went immediately into a cafe and had vegetable paella to break my fast. It sure wasn't top quality seafood paella from a 5 star restaurant but having never had paella before and as hungry as I was… just wonderful.

    As I vaguely mentioned earlier, Spain is probably the top country in Western Europe to get robbed. Especially Barcelona. Why? The economic situation in Spain is particularly bad, and a huge number of Spanish youth is unemployed. Stealing is the solution. To get arrested in Spain, I was reading, you more or less have to commit homicide. This means that many thieves are simply let go, which is only more incentive to steal. The next day in Barcelona, I went out with my purse and camera slung diagonally over me. It was a bit bulky but I'd manage. I cruised through the metro system with ease then came upon a very crowded metro. It looked to be full of locals and fewer tourists than I'd been seeing. As I stood in the center crammed with everyone else, a young man who couldn't have been older than 30 asked me a question in Spanish. "I'm sorry?" I said, smiling at him. "Ah, you are tourist!" he said cheerfully. I turned my body slightly towards him, clutching the lens of my camera in two hands. My purse was at my side. He began happily chattering away about how amazing Spain is of a country, and what to see and do. I listened politely, but I could barely make sense of his thick accent. Suddenly, I felt a hand every so gently tugging at the front pocket zipper of my purse. My adrenaline zapped into action. Thief! I instinctively swatted the hand away and looked straight into the other man's eyes. For a split second, just that split second, I saw the disappointment flash in his eyes as he shot his look downward and began to turn away. "You were unzipping my purse! You were trying to steal from me!" I said loudly. I was angry, angry that they had targeted me as a victim. I felt violated. In retrospect, of course they're going to target me. I'm just some naive white tourist girl. He immediately began denying my accusations, yelling at me back in Spanish, throwing his hands up. An older gentleman approached the thief and began shouting and gave him a deft, violent push with his stout arms. A commotion had started. It all happened so fast and at the next stop the pair scuttled off. The man approached me as I stood there in shock. Everyone else resumed normal life.
    "I have seen those two do that before. They ride these metros all the time finding tourists to rob. Pathetic". His English was good. I thanked him for helping me.
    "Was nothing. Just be careful."
    I'll try...