Dawn patrol

This week I went surfing at 5 am for the very first time. I got up at 4.30 am and got ready. I got dressed, grabbed the wetsuit, grabbed my bag and waited for the van to pick me up. It was freezing outside but I was so incredibly excited. I always wanted to go to the beach before the sunrise and swim and surf while watching the sun rise. As soon as we arrived at the beach we put our wetsuits on, grabbed our boards and headed to the beach.

I was barefoot and we had to walk a little distance to the beach on concrete and my feet were completely frozen and in pain from walking on the hard and sharp concrete. I finally stepped on sand and immediately ran towards the water. I stayed in the more shallow spot first to just practice a bit before my teacher called me over to try some bigger waves.

After many failed attempts I finally managed to stand up for just a second before I fell but it was still amazing. The sunrise was absolutely beautiful and there were many seals just swimming around us. One of them popped its head up right next to me and looked at me curiously before it dove back down.

It was my first time being at the beach before sunrise and it was a long dream of mine that I was finally able to fulfill.

https://www.liveabout.com/what-is-a-dawn-patrol-3154748

The fast five

Through my photography, I have been able to travel to the most beautiful places on this planet. But one definitely stands out to me like no other. The Masai Mara in Kenya, Africa. A heaven for photographers. It is one of the best places on earth to see big cats. I have traveled there three times already, and I fall in love over and over again. Last summer I was able to observe one of nature’s seven wonders, the big migration of the wildebeest that come over from the Serengeti to find fresh grass in the Masai Mara.

Many big cats use this chance to hunt wildebeest that got injured during the crossing. There is especially one group of wild cats that are known to almost all photographers. The fast five. The fast five are a coalition of five male cheetahs. Two brothers got together with a set of three brothers and formed a coalition to hunt and live together. Nowhere else on earth can this be observed.

I have had the privilege of observing these magnificent cats hunt, and it is truly incredible. Each one of them has a special dedicated role and their hunting is extremely coordinated, I have never seen anything like it in my life. They know that they have a higher survival rate if they work together. They hunt every day and are more successful than any other group out there. I am excited to see them again on my next trip to the Masai Mara, and I hope that many others get the privilege to see these beautiful cats.

It is truly incredible what nature has up its sleeves sometimes.

picture by author

Dreams

Everyone has dreams of what they want their future to look like. I am currently a senior in high school and I am getting ready for college. My dream school is Montana State University in Bozeman. It is just 1 1/2 hours away from Yellowstone and just 2 hours away from Grand Teton Nationalpark which is a dream place for me and my photography. But before I go to college I will take a Gap year. I had always planned to take a gap year after high school to just have one year of not studying and doing what I want.

My Gap Year will revolve all around my photography. I am am planning to travel to my favorite place in the world, the Masai Mara in Africa for 2 months. I will work with rangers to help prevent poaching as well as spreading the word of wildlife conservation. On the other hand I will work with vets to learn more about the wildlife in Africa. I am also planning to travel to a place that I always wanted to go, Uganda in Africa. I am planning to spend about 4 weeks there to spend time with one of the most incredible species out there. The silver back gorillas.

I have always been fascinated with gorillas. The way they communicate with each other is incredible. I am hoping to further my understanding of these incredible animals and also help protect them as they are on the verge of extinction.

I am excited for my Gap year, as I will do what I love most. I am hoping to have an impact with my photography and spread the word of wildlife conservation further around the globe.

Picture: l-KmFSmjjss19LKaud2dx-L6SYW6RpBAoJMkfF7ClsqSS1vizheYvNRofgwh5UpF6BcK0z3qfP1E1Xx0Jxpe1CrDlSBn6IvL0l9VK6EFTx3Ed6TyOg1FP-2xqbI

An uproar in wildlife conservation

For many years I have been an active advocate and participant in wildlife conservation. With my photography, I am hoping to reach people and show them the beauty and diversity we have on our planet and show how important it is to keep it alive. There are so many incredible photographers out there that do just that, and who use their voice to stand up for animals. I have many role-models that I look up to, but recently there has been an uproar for one of them.

David Yarrow is one of the most famous photographers and one of the seemingly biggest advocates for wildlife conservation. But in reality, he embodies everything that is NOT conservation. From chasing a giraffe to get a perfect shot, to using wolves and bears that are enslaved, to game farms with a record of abuse, there is one image that has caused the public to hold their breath. A picture in which a model is standing just 15 feet away from 3 elephants.

Now many will probably wonder why that is so bad. If anything would have happened during the shooting, say if one of the elephants started to feel stressed or threatened, they could have firstly endangered the life of the model, but also their lives. If one of the elephants would have attempted to charge, he would have paid for it with his life and would have probably gotten shot. One of the three elephants is named Craig, one of Africa’s last big tuskers.

Now I wonder, is it really worth it to risk a animals life just to get a perfect shot. And most importantly, can you call yourself a wildlife conservationist while actually exploiting animals. I don’t think so.

Yarrow has finally said something and apologized for his actions. It is not much but it is a first step in making things right.

picture credit to David Yarrow

Fall in Ojai

Now that it is October I now feel the need to wear warm cloths, drink hot tea throughout the day, and I expect the scent of pumpkin spice to fill the air.

But we live in Southern California, where we spend the beginning of October in a wave of one hundred ten degree heat and smoke filled skies from wildfires raging across the state.

The trees don’t turn colors from that end of summer green to stunning shades of orange, red, and brown. Instead, the leaves either are scorched from the blazing heat or they simply fall to the ground with no colorful exit.

Sometimes I find myself wishing our little town of Ojai experiences all the beauties and wonders of the “typical” fall, but I then remember what fall is like in our quaint town.

Fall is going to the farmers market early on Sunday mornings and starting to see the seasonal fruit and flowers being sold change and the abundance of fresh pies made from apples and pumpkins. It is going to the grocery store and seeing big bins of pumpkins fill the sidewalk and overtake the porches of houses. It is going to the local pumpkin patch and riding on the old tractor around the corn field. It is watching the most incredible sunsets of the year.

So no, we may not have the stereotypical fall with the cold weather and shades of orange that fills the treetops, but we have our own beautiful version of it in our small Southern California town.

Image credit: https://www.pinterest.it/

Finding Inspiration

Inspiration has to do with pretty much anything we do. If it is writing, drawing, dancing, cooking, playing an instrument etc. But sometimes it is hard to get inspired and we feel stuck. We sit at our desks starting a sketch or a choreography for a dance over and over again and we just get frustrated because nothing seems right. I get this feeling a lot.

After school I spend a good amount of time sitting in front of my laptop, looking through photos I have taken on my travels around the world. For me, photography is something to escape to and to relax. Going through pictures is almost like you are reliving these moments. I always think it is so overwhelming how much meaning a picture can have. I pretty much only take pictures of animals and it has grown to be my biggest passion. When I look at my pictures, and I get to look an animal straight into the eyes through a picture I have taken, it almost feels like as if I had some sort of connection to it. For a moment everything is quiet and it is just me and the animal.

Photography has its many amazing sides. You get to travel the world, see the most amazing spectacles that nature has to offer, but there is also a side to it which sometimes brings you down. I follow hundreds of other photographers on social media, and sometimes I scroll through certain accounts just thinking: wow. I wish I could capture pictures like this.

I have a bad habit of comparing myself to others and being very harsh to myself when it comes to the pictures I take. I try to find inspiration through others but in the end it just makes me feel like my pictures aren’t good enough. I have spent hours and hours trying to find a style, that when people see my photos, they know that they are from me. Every time I post something I think it is just not good enough, my pictures all look the same and they all just look flat. I get frustrated and I can’t find any inspiration or whatsoever. But this is part of the progress. Nothing is ever perfect. But there are moments, when I see a picture that I like, and it just makes me so incredibly happy and proud. And these are the moments that keep me going.

People text me telling me that my pictures inspire them. That they enjoy my work. And these are the moments that make everything so worth it. I love what I do and I am so incredibly thankful for all the amazing moments I have got to experience thanks to photography. I love sharing my work with other people, bringing people closer to our wildlife and nature, showing off the beauty and diversity our planet has to offer.

Photo taken by the author.

bicycle

Riding on a bicycle should be a very simple thing, but it is extremely difficult for me. When I was a child, I could ride the four-wheel and three-wheel bicycle very well, and I liked to ride around in my neighborhood. I felt myself was as cool as the police riding on his motorcycle. 

pc: rei.com

However, I cannot ride the bicycle anymore that I rode when I grew up. I started to learn how to ride the two-wheel bicycle, and it is much more difficult than I expected. This kind of bicycle is totally different from what I used to ride, it has no balance at all. Someone told me that you can get balance when you’re riding. So I was trying to pedal and let the bicycle move forward, and it was quite smooth at first, I even could felt the breeze touch my face gently. But, this condition did not last longer than one minute, I felt that I was just like a clown performing acrobatics when the bicycle started to shake left and right. I was too scared to continue pedaling, then the bicycle started to tilt to one side until it touched the ground. Then I was sitting on the cement floor with a scrape on my knee. 

The end of this story is I will never ride any bicycles again, even if it is more than two-wheels. 

Chinese New Year

It’s that time of the year, Asian new year. Asian new year is one of the biggest holidays in countries like Korea and China. We get to gather around with families that we weren’t able to meet for a while and celebrate each other by eating different kinds of food and talking about how their life has been. This is time of the year, where I want to go back to my own country. I always think about how fun it would be to spend time with family and relatives and laugh about stupid stuff, while I’m in my room laying on my bed. I wish one day I could celebrate Asian new year with my family and relatives.

a scene from a 2000s christmas

photo credit: floridamemory.com

The beach houses that my mother would find always seemed so big to my four-year-old perspective. 

With a staircase that I remember to be spiraling and

a brown and cream-colored chess board in the middle of a large living room

which was later to be covered in wrapping paper is what this house seemed like to me at the time. 

My mother was always frantically scurrying around the house to make sure everything was perfect for my grandmother, 

meanwhile, she didn’t mind the imperfections but simply didn’t have the power to say anything. 

The uncles were catching up as the oldest was in Chicago and the youngest was living his life in Australia.

My brother, was playing with his GameBoy, 

eyes locked to the screen. 

My grandfather was looking at the beams and the ceilings to find some reason why the house wasn’t architecturally perfect in his eyes.

And then there was me, either in the corner or on the couch next to my grandmother, where I would play with my Polly Pockets being relatively quiet.

/ / /

I do not remember a lot at the houses except for the people and the feelings surrounding the time.

The presents and all the other material items around me did not matter,  especially because I knew the reality of the grandmother’s illness and how she had limited time here on earth with me. 

I do remember the smell of the house, 

a mixture of palm trees, 

salty ocean mist, and

the sand that has been carried many miles, 

just for me to feel that unforgettable warmth between my toes. 

I also reminisce about her during the holiday season. She wore fuzzy socks. I still have a worn out, baby pink pair of her socks stuffed in the back of my drawers. 

From cuddling on the couch, with the chaos of my family 

to being on the beach, with the rolling waves and the roaring wind, 

her amenity still remains within me. 

Daily Mandala Challenge: Everything You Need To Know About This New Self-Care Trend :)

A Mandala is a symbolic spiritual geometric design which, when reflected on, has the ability to bring out profound inner transformation.  The Mandala is self-expression in the design, meant to represent the universe. The first evidence of Buddha Mandala art dates back to the first century. The Mandala is rooted in Buddhism but later became present in Hinduism, new age spirituality and other religions. Each Mandala has significance and represents an aspect of wisdom and is supposed to remind the meditator of a guiding principle. The Mandala’s purpose is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones with the assistance of deep healing. 

The “Mandala a day” challenge was created by Australian artist Elyse Lauthier and it is now showing up in select areas across the world. Drawing, painting or somehow creating a Mandala a day helps express yourself creatively in ways you wouldn’t normally. It promotes self awareness and Chakra alignments. 

The Challenge is simple: Each day you make a Mandala and simply let your creativity flow, embracing your originality. Creating Mandala is therapeutic because you can express your feelings through art. The Mandala a day challenge is a form of meditation and art.  Mandala’s take “The meditator on a wordless journey into the minds deepest mysteries” said in Eastern traditions. 

Another way to fully grasp Mandala’s intentions is to work/meditate with them. I would recommend investing in Mandala Source Book by David Fontana and Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, as it gives you specific guidance while approaching the artworks. The book includes 150 Mandala’s grouped in four sections: beginning Mandala meditation, healing mandalas, nature mandalas, And other mandalas. This book is a good reference for your own Mandala challenge or meditations. 

Obtaining Mandala mindfulness is a path of self discovery. This challenge challenges us to open up and learn more not only about our conscious minds but also our unconscious minds as we remain unaware of the deeper mysteries of our inner selves through Mandala realignment.

Image from Pinterest.com