Travel · Washington State · March 2016

Just a few days after arriving back to San Francisco from Chicago, I soon found myself back on a plane bound for Seattle, WA, this time with my cousin Donmiguel (@donmiguelluis).

Just like the last trip to Washington State that Donmiguel & I took together, we seemed to have had brought the warm and sunny California weather along with us. Because of clear blue skies during the day, the only truly optimal times for us to photograph were either early morning sunrise or late evening sunset. Because we both wanted to take back a number of great images to share with you all this time around, we made it a priority to wake up early for sunrise for three of the five days we were in Washington State. The 4:30 AM wake up times were definitely not what either of us had anticipated for this trip, but the beautiful views made the loss of sleep well worth it. We knew that we had to make a trip back up to the North Cascades again, as well as his up Snoqualmie Falls. One of the coolest parts to me, though, was when we decided to drive east to Lake Wenatchee, Tye Haus, and the Foss River Train Trestle to witness all three for the first time -- definitely have to go back when we get some nice, moody (and hopefully foggy) weather!

In between sunrise and sunset, we did the usual touristy things that every local would most likely be sick of by now, and also opted to hang out with our very good friends around Seattle practically every day. Special thanks to Vinnie, Herod, Darrell, Henderson, Vickie, Henry, Justin, Long, Brian, Malissa, and Sam, who made this an unforgettable short trip. I can't remember the last time I laughed so much in such a short span of days, and it's trips like these that make me feel most alive. Definitely planning to be back here before 2016 ends!

Travel · The Windy City · March 2016

Made a trip out to Chicago, Illinois for a couple days with my family, thanks to my sister having her spring break from UCSD and the family wanting to take advantage of that week off! Despite the cold weather compared to the SF Bay Area and California in general (which locals over there said was actually warm, at ~40 degrees Fahrenheit), we had an amazing time and were able to visit a lot of beautiful locations, both tourist attractions and local hotspots alike. In regard to the food, don't even get me started! The Chicago Deep Dish Pizza was definitely enough to make me want to go back, easily the best deep dish-styled pizza I've had to date (go figure). All in all, a wonderful time spent in the Windy City, and an even better time given that it was quality time spent with the people that matter most.

Believe it or not, this short trip was the farthest east I've ever been in the United States, but this only makes me even more excited for this coming summer, where I'll be making trips to both Ohio & New York! 

Personal · Gone South

Having been back in the San Francisco Bay Area for not even two full weeks, I soon found myself back on the road, headed south to Los Angeles. This trip was taken more for leisure purposes than anything, primarily to eat good food and visit friends, as well as my sister who is currently studying at UC San Diego. After visiting my sister, though, I also had the pleasure of meeting up with some local Instagram buddies, Zac (@seahola) and Aaron (@aaron_gill), to go and shoot around the beautiful Sunset Cliffs of La Jolla on a cloudy evening -- always a pleasure linking up with talented and motivated individuals.

I'd like to give a special thanks to my good friend, Nick, for housing me during my stay in Southern California and being willing to drive anywhere and everywhere! A dedicated photo-trip to SoCal is definitely in the works, so I'll definitely be back soon.

Travel · Philippines · January 2016

Jeepney engines growling all-day and all-night long. One of the most unique, abundant, and world-renowned ways for transportation in all of the Philippines. You definitely didn't visit the Philippines if you don't remember taking a ride in one of these. Oh, and don't forget those good whiffs of fresh diesel fuel burning throughout the entirety of the ride. Roosters cock-a-doodle-doo-ing as soon as the first light hits. Cockfighting, locally known as "sabong". Completely legal in the Philippines and, not to mention, extremely popular. Men walking around and yelling "taho" and "balut" in hopes of reeling in potential customers. Two well-known snacks/delicacies that cost less than $0.50 USD (~20-25 PHP). Both delicious and must-try foods to all, for both tourists and locals alike. 

While this mostly portrays the city of Manila best, these are the sights, sounds, and smells of a typical morning in the Philippines. Constant hustle-and-bustle is the name of the game throughout all of the Philippines' largest and most-commercialized cities, while the slower, simpler life is depicted in most other parts of the country. Despite being in the Philippines for only six full days, I was able to experience and attain a solid grasp of the lifestyles that both had to offer. In just that short span, I was able to stay in the city of Puerto Princesa in the beautiful, lush island of Palawan to go on the Underground River and Honda Bay Island Hopping tours during the beginning of my trip before flying back to Luzon, where I had the opportunities to wander the congested and traffic-filled streets of Makati, snorkel and explore a beach with USF Casa Bayanihan's staff and students in Batangas, tour the beautiful campus of Ateneo de Manila University, shop around the "young and hip" area of Katipunan, venture through the unique markets of Quiapo, and visit my dad's side of the family in Valenzuela. 

A friend of mine once told me, back when I was studying at the University of San Francisco, that the Filipino people she had met and interacted with during her two-week long immersion trip to the Philippines were some of the kindest, respectful, helpful, and loving people that she had ever met. Not only that, but they were also incredibly generous and willing to give all that they had, despite not having very much to begin with. After spending less than a week and having had a few opportunities to interact with the locals, her words definitely hit home and confirmed that for me. The Philippines was an absolute culture shock in that regard, as if I hadn't been exposed to culture shock since the beginning of this entire trip (starting with my first week in Japan) already!

I'd like to give a special thanks to my girlfriend, Christina, and the rest of the Casa Bayanihan staff and students for the hospitality during my short stay while I was visiting them for part of my trip. The program is absolutely wonderful, to say the least, and although I admit to counting down the days that Christina returns back to the US, I'm beyond excited for the students partaking in Casa Bayanihan this semester and the lessons and blessings that await them. I'd also like to give a special thanks to my dad's side of the family for being always willing to drive, cook, and help out in general. I'd like to thank them most of all, though, for their unconditional love and hospitality as this reminded me that home is truly where the heart is. Despite not seeing everyone for almost twelve years, it felt like time hadn't passed and everything simply felt right. 

I do wish that I had the opportunity to take more pictures on this trip than I was able to (especially portraits), but being in this beautiful country for only six full days and spending half of them visiting my girlfriend, Casa Bayanihan, and my dad's side of the family didn't present me with a ton of opportunities. I do know that the memories and experiences alone were completely worth it, though, despite not being captured on a digital medium, and I wouldn't trade those moments for anything. Like what I had said about Japan, I'm already looking forward to the next time I get to come back here. 

P.S. In the last few years that I've had this photo blog, where I'd talk about a certain topic and follow it up with images, I feel like I've been a bit conservative with showcasing my work in my posts. For this post and the last one (Japan), however, I posted up more photos than I "normally would" because I felt that they worked best, in correlation with my words, in a much more fluid sense. Yes, this might be due to the fact that these two posts were a culmination of multiple days of photographing, experiencing, and immersing in different cultures, but I do believe that it is still very possible to do this with any "normal" blog post that would consist of a day-trip or less. 

A personal goal of mine this year is to be more consistent and confident with showcasing my work in my blog posts, even if it means adding in certain "filler" images that wouldn't necessarily be deemed as my "best" or "favorite" shots from a certain outing. With my wedding, event, and lifestyle photography, my style is such that I use different photographic elements and techniques that help allow the story to unfold - tighter crops, extreme wide-angle views, close-ups, incorporating shallow depth of field, and so on - so that one wouldn't even need words to know what was going on. Sometimes it's those "filler" images that make or break the story. This should be no different with my nature and urban landscape work (and I definitely want to add more portraiture into the mix, as well), for I want my audience to feel the emotions and moods that I felt, and see the sheer beauty that I saw.