It’s More Fun in the Philippines: Manila

When I told people I was traveling to the Philippines, the biggest piece of advice was this: Get out of Manila.

The advice was well intended, as the Philippines is a GORGEOUS country, and it would have been a waste if I spent all two-weeks in the sweltering heat and traffic of Manila. However, Manila wasn’t that bad.

Granted, I was staying in Metro Manila in a nice apartment in BGC, so do what you will with that information. I still had a lovely time though with my cousin and his partner, Valerie. After I went to San Pablo and Banaue/Batad, I shadowed my cousin at his job as a teacher at the International School Manila, which definitely fed my longing to be a teacher, and we also went on a guided tour of Intramuros, Manila’s old walled city.

If you are ever in Manila, I highly recommend going on the Walk This Way tour, led by Carlos Celdran. It’s performance-art-meets-guided-tour, and Carlos was not only a riot, but the tour was super educational, emotional, and just amazing over-all.

I also walked myself over to Market! Market! and took some photos in that crazy shopping center.

Another thing my cousin and lovely Valerie took me to was the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, which is just outside of Metro Manila. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip, as art museums make me so inspired and awestruck and this museum was just filled with excellent contemporary Filipino art that made my heart ache and my hands itch to create.

My trip to the Philippines was amazing, even Manila. However, I am not completely naive: I know I was in a nicer part of the city, and that I saw the bits that tourists were meant to see. I did, however, drive by the not-so-touristy-and-heart-breakingly-impoverished parts, and I forced myself to be conscious. There were beautiful colors, people, and juxtapositions, but I always asked myself “Do I think this is beautiful because it is exotic to me? Am I beautifying poverty in my mind, because I have no idea what the realities of it are?” It was difficult at times because I would see the beauty in these places but have to remind myself that what I was seeing was just the surface. Manila is a complex, beautiful, and heart-breaking place, and I actually look forward to returning to get to know it better.

Shout-out to Steve and Val for being the world’s best host and hostess– love you guys and give the kitties pets for me!

To my readers: seriously– go visit the Philippines already.

Happy shooting and safe travels!

It’s More Fun in the Philippines: Banaue/Batad

The best decision of my trip to the Philippines was to go to Banaue/Batad. It was seriously the highlight of my trip, and quite easily in my top 3 favorite places in the world.

Researching how to get to Banaue was daunting, but thankfully I had the help from Valerie, my cousin’s lovely partner. She set me up with an amazing guide, Alvin Gabriel, who met me at the bus station in Banaue and stayed with me the 36ish hours I was there.

Since I was only staying one night, we were very busy. When my bus rolled in at 10AM (after being 2-hours delayed after a break-down at 3AM… it’s always something when I travel!) Alvin took me to get breakfast at a cafe with a GORGEOUS view of Banaue. I drank water, ate a sandwich, and kept marveling how I actually made it to such a beautiful place.

After breakfast, Alvin took me to the trail to Batad via tricycle, with intermediary stops along the way for great photo opportunities. I kept saying “WOW,” because it seemed to be the only word I could remember. I said, “It’s so GREEN!” and Alvin told me “Wait until we get to Batad.”

Now, Banaue is beautiful, but oh my goodness, if you make the trip there I HIGHLY recommend hiking to Batad, because it is even better than Banaue. It’s very remote, I had no phone service and the homestays do not have wifi, but seriously, GO. If you don’t go, you are seriously missing out.

It was raining off and on that afternoon, so our hike was broken up between waiting under awnings and hiking the rice terraces. The weather was so beautiful, a mix of clarity and atmospheric clouds. Seriously amazing weather for photo-taking.

Another lovely thing about the rain was I was able to talk to other travelers while we waited for the weather to break. I met two Columbia University students and an older gentleman from Pennsylvania, and a couple from Melbourne. I’m normally a shy person, so meeting others and actually having fun conversations with them was a highlight to my day.

Alvin took me up to the viewing point, which over-looked the entire valley. It was breathtaking and I never wanted to leave.

After going to the top of the terraces, we went down, down, down into the village to get to the Batad Village Homestay. It was there I met Rona, the wonderful owner of the homestay, and she showed me her traditional house. The traditional house looks like a hut on stilts, and she told me how she was born in that house and she lives there to this day. She explained she didn’t like “modern houses” because the rooms are all separate and inconvenient, unlike her single room home.

She showed me some old statues, which belonged to her parents, which were of rice guardians. Rona said she didn’t believe in the old religion, that she was a Christian, and we talked about our love of God for about an hour before I went to dinner.

The power had gone out, so I ate via candlelight and read a book while Alvin and some of the other guides played guitar. I definitely sang along to “Country Road”. No shame.

The next morning I woke up at dawn and looked out my window, and once again was awestruck at how amazing my life is.

Alvin and I saddled up and hiked down to the Tappiya Falls. There were lots of stairs to go down… So many stairs… But the falls were breathtaking. People were swimming in the river but I decided nah, and drew a crummy picture instead (no, you can’t see.) I had a lot of fun relaxing in the sun, listening to the roar of the water, breathing in the fresh air.

Then we hiked all the way back up the stairs, and I cursed myself for spending the past two years of grad school sitting on my butt behind a computer screen, and promised to get myself to a gym or something because dang, that was difficult. Shout out to Alvin for being patient!

After the falls I was actually kinda sad, because that meant we were going to hike out of Batad and back to Banaue. I didn’t want to leave Batad at all; it was so beautiful and peaceful. The hike back wasn’t without it’s nice views, though, and I snapped some pics of interesting things along the way back.

I left for Manila that evening, already planning to come back in the near future.

So, Banaue/Batad? Definitely go, get Alvin as your guide, and you won’t regret it.

Happy Shooting!

 

It’s More Fun in the Philippines: San Pablo

Nothing says “Bye, grad school, I’m sO DONE WITH YOU,” quite like leaving the country not even a week after graduating and running away to the literal other side of the globe.

#YOLO indeed.

Before I gush about how amazing the Philippines are, we gotta talk about the Taipei airport.

So I had a 4-hour lay-over in Taipei, Taiwan on my way to Manila. The funny thing about my trip was I didn’t really feel super excited or even nervous about traveling. Honestly, I think I was emotionally drained/exhausted/dead inside because of the stress that was the end of my school career. Even on the plane I was like “meh.” However, when we were in our approach to Taipei, when I could see the ground coming up beneath us, it all hit me.

I’m traveling to SE Asia, alone, after completing my MFA in Photography.

I started crying on the plane. The young lady next to me was kind enough to ignore me and not to say anything (thank goodness.)

But then I got into the airport and was enthralled by how amazingly tacky the whole thing was. They had themed gates, and my gate was a HELLO KITTY GATE PEOPLE.

What an awesome airport.

BUT ONTO THE PHILIPPINES

My amazing and cool cousin, Steve, let me stay with him and his partner Valerie in their apartment in Bonifacio Global City, which is in Metro Manila. After I got there, we all left to go spend a weekend in the gorgeous San Pablo.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast, owned and operated by the legendary Patis Tesoro. Patis was lovely and kind, and her home is FABULOUS. Patis is very into recyclable materials, so her house is made from recycled woods, second-hand tiles, etc. It’s really amazing.

If you are ever in the San Pablo area, I highly recommend making a reservation at Patis’s Garden Cafe.

Another highlight to my stay in San Pablo was visiting the Villa Escudero. Steve and Valerie took me to have lunch in the waterfall there, where we literally got to go into the water to get our food. It was super cool, and it was fun watching everyone enjoy the water.

It was a great weekend.

Happy Shooting!

Embarrassing America, Pt. 1: From Chicago to LA

I finished my first year of graduate school at 2AM in a Las Vegas hotel room.

But I’m getting ahead of myself there.

For about two years now, some of my friends and I have been talking and planning on a cross country road trip. It finally happened and it was surreal and awesome and wow.

To begin, my friend Sean lives in Virginia, and he drove his ol’ reliable VW Rabbit to Chicago to pick me up. The next leg for him (and the start of the journey for me,) was to voyage across dubious Iowa and the way-too-large-and-empty state of Nebraska, to Denver, Colorado.

Seriously, Nebraska was awful. I’m sorry if you live there. The only redeeming thing about Nebraska was the plethora of bABY COWS. They were the cutest little things with their little legs. Good job, Nebraska, on the cute cows.

The next leg was Denver to Vegas. The mountains in Colorado were gorgeous and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’ve been to the Rockies before, but those were in July. There was still snow on these mountains. It felt like a dream.

It was so dreamy I fell asleep. But not after Sean and I delivered an excellent rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High”.

I woke up when we were out of the mountains and I did what any reasonable person would do at 9AM: find the nearest Starbucks. I’m glad we found one, because we then got into Utah and I thought we were gonna die. It was some The Hills Have Eyes vibes, man. No gas stations, no food, no people. The day before I had thought Nebraska was the worst. But I was wrong.

Until about halfway through Utah, when we started seeing canyons and such. Then it wasn’t so bad. Good on you, Utah. You’re a useless state until you get to the middle/western side. Then you’re alright, I guess.

I also almost got in a stranger’s vehicle. My bad. #swag

If you’re ever traveling through Utah, fill up your gas tank or you might end up on the side of the road. And, if Utah is a horror movie, you know how badly that might end up.

We eventually got to Vegas, where we checked into our super classy hotel, Circus Circus. I’m telling you, that is one swanky place. But Sean and I walked down the strip and endured the usual Vegas debauchery, were dog tired, and went back to the hotel around midnight. And that is when I finished my graduate school research paper… At two am, in one of the biggest party cities in the world. If that’s not a good way to end your first year of graduate school, I don’t know what is.

We got up in the morning and went to a tacky gift shop, then promptly left for Los Angeles, where we were meeting our friend, Dana. We spent a few days in LA, which were incredible. We went to Mt. Hollywood and checked out the observatory, which I HIGHLY recommend if you’re into space and such. My fellow nerds and I love space, so we spent some time there playing with the telescopes and reading about radio waves and all that jazz.

We also visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which was pretty neat and touristy, which is what I like. I am not ashamed to admit how kitschy I am. I embrace it. Which is probably why I enjoyed our other destination, Santa Monica Pier. I LOVED IT. It was everything tacky and more.

On our last day in the LA area, we went to Laguna Beach. Now, I’m from the Midwest, where 70 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t beach weather. It’s just chilly enough to hate yourself. However, in SoCal, it’s fine. I went into the Pacific Ocean, expecting to die of hypothermia, but in two minutes I got used to the water and was having a blast getting slammed by big ocean waves. It was great. Bless you, California.

We went adventuring on the rocks and I got to see tide pools– which made my life. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a child, so seeing tide pools for the first time made me giddy like a child. I thankfully had my waterproof camera with me, so I snapped some photos of the tide pools. The little hermit crabs were AWESOME and I even saw an anemone. It was my favorite part of the trip so far, climbing on rocks with my best friend and experiencing a piece of nature I had only ever read about.

I did have some issues. The camera was a cheap point-and-shoot in a waterproof housing, so the focus was all off. And, for some reason, the film was discolored. I was a little bummed at first, but I think I like the out-of-focus dreamy look some of these have.

Little did I know that my journey was going to continue to impress me, as we drove up the Pacific Coastal Highway, through San Francisco, and onward to Yosemite. I’ll tell you lovely readers all about that part of my adventure in my next blog post!

Until then, safe travels and happy shooting!

 

 

 

Time Flies When You Are Missing Ireland

I went to Ireland about three months ago now (wow, it’s been that long?) and I finally got the money around to getting the rolls from my trip developed. I shot everything using my precious fuji natura classica (bless that camera’s little soul.) I spent two and a half weeks in the Burren, where I studied and made work at the Burren College of Art.

We then spent a few days in Dublin before heading back to the United States. This was my second time in Dublin, but my first time visiting the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA, as in, IMMA look at some hella rad art.) We also went to the Natural History Museum, where we saw one of the highlights of my trip, the bog bodies. Holla.

I can’t wait to travel again. I make photos all of the time, but they are so constructed. It feels good to just go out and take pictures without having to think too much or contemplate concepts or piece together a thesis. I’m already looking forward to my next adventure, whatever that may be.

Happy Shooting!

Snapchat Adventures to, in, and from New Orleans

My snapchat adventures continued on my trip to New Orleans for the SPE National Conference. My mom and uncle tagged along, and, well, it was an interesting road trip.
Yo

 

We started in Michigan obviously and took a full day to drive through Ohio, Kentucky, and part of Tennessee. We stopped for the night in Nashville, ate at the Hard Rock Cafe (because tourism, duh,) and went to bed. We woke up, hopped in the car, drove about two hours and then had a four hour excursion through a ton of antique shops, because my mother and I have a problem.

I’m telling you, if you don’t go to antique stores, you are seriously missing out on some beautifully strange things.

Well, we finally left Alabama and got into Mississippi around dusk, and man… Mississippi is actually the worst state. Worse than Ohio. It smells funny, the roads are super dark at night, there are NO lights basically ANYWHERE, exits are few and far between, and when there are exits, the towns look so spooky you’d think Freddy lived there or something. So yeah, Mississippi? No bueno. If you’re from Mississippi, mad props to you, but sorry not sorry on my opinion of your poor, poor state.

But yeah, we got to Louisiana, checked into our fancy Motel 6, and crashed.

Only to wake up hella early the next day, because I had one day to do some sightseeing. So our marathon through New Orleans happened.

My adventures through New Orleans ended with an SPE related event, which was a lecture at the New Orleans Museum of Art by JERRY UELSMANN.

If you are unfamiliar with this amazing soul, go educate yourself.

He is one of the founding members of the Society for Photographic Education, and he is a charismatic speaker and has endless wit. I bought his book after and had him sign in, and he signed it TWICE. His reason? He didn’t like how the first signature looked. I love that man.

He asked if I was a student, and I told him yes. He said that he was too, and that it was important to never stop learning. I couldn’t agree more.

I went to bed on cloud 9 and woke up and spent the next 3 days above the clouds. SPE was incredible. I met some incredible people like Olivia Parker, Anne Noble, and faculty from Columbia College Chicago, Judy Natal and Ross Sawyers. It was a wonderful time, and I’m already looking forward to the Regional Conference this Fall.

And that was New Orleans. After a brief trip to the cemetery, we headed back to Michigan. In one go. Because we are insane.

Also, how creepy is that abandoned Toys R Us? It was down the road from our classy hotel accommodations.

And that is my snapchat adventures for New Orleans. I’m not traveling anywhere for a while, so the snapchat streak is coming to a temporary end. Thanks for browsing my selfies and bad jokes; I’m sure you weren’t avoiding anything important.

Happy Shooting!

New Orleans in 35mm

I went on a wonderful trip to New Orleans, Louisiana over my spring break for the national Society for Photographic Education conference. And, of course, I brought a few cameras with me, one of those being the camera I take with me everywhere, the Fuji Natura Classica.

So, here are some pictures from that wonderful 35mm film camera.

I started taking pictures in Nashville, and continued into Alabama, Mississippi, and of course, Louisiana. Getting down to New Orleans was quite the trip (because it literally was, y’know, a trip,) and I made sure to pull out my camera or my iPhone (do it for the snapchats!) whenever it was fitting.

I think some of the best places to take pictures are antique shops. We stopped at a few in Alabama (our butts were hurting from the driving, so we needed to walk it off and go on a treasure hunt in the process,) and man, you can find the coolest and weirdest stuff. I found a flashgun for my Polaroid Automatic 100 at one, so I’m looking forward to trying that out.

Actually, the southern United States are interesting in general. You should go if you’ve never been, and the rest stops are wayy nicer than they are in the north. They have security and everything, if you can imagine that.

Because rest stop areas are obviously the most important thing on any journey.

At least they are when you live in Michigan, and most of the rest areas look like a place where Freddy is hiding in the forest… Can’t really rest at those rest stops without sleeping with one eye open.

Well, that’s all for this installment of my trip to NOLA. Keep an eye out for some medium format prints, digital photos, and snapchats!

Happy Shooting!