Scooters, Scooters Everywhere!

I’m in love with Taiwan! There are scooters everywhere.

Rows of scooters lined up outside of restaurants…


Cute pink scooters parked by the door…


Weaving through traffic to get to the front of the pack, and then zooming ahead of the cars at a traffic light…


Drive through shopping at the night market…


Parking wherever you like…


It’s reminiscent of Italy, only different in the sheer numbers and the type of scooters. Taiwan is its own brand of scooter heaven.

Oh, scooters, how I’ve missed you! Who needs trees when there are scooters about?

Color or Not?

Today we are continuing our study of the Lights of Night, this time with a tripod shot from my weekend excursion. One of the things that captivated my attention were the tree shadows. Probably no surprise, since I’ve been obsessed by trees lately! The question at the end of the day becomes… How to process them?

Do I leave them in color, with the interesting color from the streetlights…

Tripod, ISO200, 82mm, f/18, 30s

…or do I convert to black and white and eliminate the color?

I tried both, and prefer the color. It doesn’t have the same feel of night in the black and white, and I like that warm glow from the lights of night. What do you think?

While you are thinking about it, you can visit the other participants of Exploring with a Camera! And have you gotten out at night yet? Brave the weather and give it a try! Dress warmly, bring an umbrella if you need to, ask someone along as a “spotter” and get out into the night. The holiday lights won’t last too much longer! Visit the Lights of Night post for lots of links to night photography resources. See you back here!

My Name in Lights

OK, my name is not in lights literally, but I’m over on Moms Who Click today with an interview and a giveaway. If you would like to win a spot in the upcoming Find Your Eye series then click yourself right over there to enter! And of course, to learn a little more about me and my photography. Thanks so much to Kristina at Moms Who Click for inviting me to participate in their Behind the Lens series!

But back to our regularly scheduled programming… the Lights of Night.

I’ve been very much attracted to neon lights lately. After I ditched the tripod on Saturday morning, that’s what called to me. This was my favorite capture from the window of a local pizzeria. It tells a bit of a story, don’t you think?

Handheld, ISO400, 35mm, f/1.8, 1/125

I also shared one in the Exploring with a Camera: Lights of Night post from San Francisco earlier this year. I love the repetition of the neon signs in this one, and the detail you can just make out through the windows.

Handheld, ISO400, 35mm, f/3.2, 1/50

You’ll notice the last couple of days I’m adding the settings for the photos I share. I’ll do that all this week as I share night photos. I want you to get a feel for the settings I’m using to get effective images, so you can see what you might want to try if you are struggling.

Capturing neon signs can even more of a night photography challenge, because they are often so bright relative to their surroundings. I have discovered a few things about successfully photographing neon signs:

  • It often works best when there is some ambient light behind the sign. If you are photographing a sign in a dark window, all you are going to get is the sign on a field of black. That might be what you are going for, but I find the sign with some context of what it is advertising is more interesting.
  • It is easy to overexpose the neon sign relative to the rest of the frame and lose the color. Dial back your exposure so that most of the sign is not overexposed.
  • It is ok for the brightest part of the neon to be overexposed as long as you don’t overexpose the whole thing. In the Pizza by the Slice image above, the center of the letters is overexposed and completely blown out. Can you tell? No, because there is enough color in the rest of the sign to blend in and provide the colorful neon glow.

Good luck! Be sure to share your night photography experiments in our Exploring with a Camera link up this month. Share the triumphs and the failures, it’s all good for learning. I’m happy to help you and answer questions if you are struggling, too. Just leave a comment.

Crepes, Anyone?

I’m embarking on a new adventure in my photography… I have an exhibition at our local Arts Center coming up in April. It will be a joint exhibition with another photographer in a small gallery space they reserve for local artists. I’m excited and nervous!

I’ll be showing images from my Market/Wheels series. Since I discovered this series in the last six months I was living in Italy, I had always planned to go back through my archive from Europe and find more images to fit. I knew there were more there for the series, just waiting for me to re-discover them. The upcoming exhibition gave me the motivation to get this project done.

The problem now… I have too many images for this small exhibition! I’ll have to carefully choose which I want to display. I thought I would share the new images here over the next few days, and at the end add them to my Market/Wheels portfolio and get your opinion on which you like best. I have my favorites already, but this will be a fun, interactive exercise to provide more feedback as I get ready to decide and order prints.

This first one I’m sharing is from Taormina, Sicily. I love how the shape of the crepe cart echoes the shape of the doorway behind, and how the vendor situated the cart so perfectly in the opening. I wonder where the vendor disappeared to? It doesn’t really matter, since no one seems to be interested buying crepes at this time of night. Poor lonely, little crepe cart.

Anyone interested in crepes today? I find I wouldn’t mind one for breakfast, right now!

Lessons from Abroad: Focus your Thoughts, Focus your Energy

[Over a year ago I wrote the original Lessons from Abroad series. Since moving back to the US, I’ve found the lessons from living abroad have not abated; just changed. I’ve decided to continue this series with a periodic post on the new lessons as they crystallize for me.]

Venice, Italy

What’s on your mind? Have you thought about where your thoughts are spent? Maybe this Monday morning it’s planning out your week, or revisiting some great moment of the weekend. Maybe you are already into your workday, and your thoughts are on the job. Wherever your thoughts are going, that’s your focus. And wherever you focus, that’s where your energy goes.

This important concept is not new or novel, but it’s one that has been brought home to me in new ways since living in Italy and moving back to the US. I discovered there is nothing like removing yourself from your regular routine for an extended period of time, and then putting yourself back into that routine, to show you where you’ve been spending your thoughts, and consequently, your energy. While in Italy, I had the opportunity to change my thought patterns in unexpected ways. I stopped worrying about some things that had filled my thoughts on (I realize now) a regular basis, such as my weight and money, and created space for new thoughts to arrive. Thoughts about creativity, and photography. Thoughts that have fundamentally shifted my approach to life, and consequently, my focus and energy.

I’ll give a very personal example, that perhaps many of you will identify with: my weight. Since my high school years, I have thought and worried, and at times obsessed, about my weight. Watching what I ate, comparing my body to some unrealistic ideal, always falling short. Dieting, exercising, always keeping my eye on that number on the scale, the size of the clothes. If it was high, I would berate myself. If it was low, I would be full of happiness. The happiness only lasted for the moment… maybe days or months, until the number crept up again.

Then I moved to Italy. My weight had slowly been increasing for years before the move, a stressful job at work, and then preparing for an international move had triggered my stressful eating behaviors. So as we moved to Italy, I packed my “skinny clothes” with the intent to focus on losing weight after the move. I can remember the moment, early on in my time in Italy, when I consciously decided to not worry about it. I looked at those skinny clothes, and said, “To hell with it.” I was not going to spend my time in Italy worrying about what I ate, or my weight. I instinctively knew this would adversely affect my experience. I wanted to experience my life and travels during my time in Italy unfettered. Without the stress and baggage that losing weight would represent. So I put the skinny clothes on a top, unreachable shelf in the wardrobe and put the scale away.

For the first time in over twenty years, I lived without the constant thoughts about my weight. For the first time, my self-worth was not affected by the number on the scale. Sure, my weight increased a bit over the two years but it eventually plateaued. What I gained was so much more than a few pounds though. I gained the space in my thoughts to think of other things… to explore my experience deeply, to discover the call of art and creativity and to see myself in a new way – as an artist. I discovered an almost limitless energy available to me when I focused my thoughts in alignment with my heart. I found an energetic creativity that has touched everything I do, since.

I did not clearly recognize this relationship between my thoughts and my energy until I moved back to the US. You see, in Italy, there was so much going on, it was hard to sort out all of the influences that led to my personal creative renaissance. I had held off the thoughts around weight and other topics by telling myself I would deal with them when I returned home. So guess what happened when I returned home… they came back. Funny thing about thoughts like this coming up after a long absence: you notice them. They are obvious and clear, and felt so out of place in my “new” self. For a time, I succumbed to them. It was easy, part of my “living in Oregon” routine. Then at some point, in those first few months back I stopped and faced those uncomfortable thoughts and said, “I don’t want you anymore. I’ve lived without you for two years, and now I see I don’t need you.” The problem was, I didn’t have the wonderful distraction of living abroad to keep them at bay. This time, I had to deal with them at a fundamental level.

So, I’ve slowly but surely been figuring out ways to deal with these topics as they come up. I’ve had to face each one and find strategies to change my thought patterns. My experience in Italy helped, because I knew the value of letting those thoughts go. I now recognized that these thoughts were draining my energy. It hasn’t been easy though, to define new ways to think while living back here in the old place and routine. Behavior and thought pattern change is hard.

It is also worth it. Because I have learned that were I focus my thoughts, my energy will follow. I want my energy focused on creative things. I want my energy focused on art and photography and empowerment and connection. Things that bring value to my life and to those around me. I imagine you want those same things too.

As with all of my Lessons from Abroad, I hope that you will be able to learn from this lesson along with me. Here are a few ideas, to help you along:

  • Consider where you focus your thoughts. ┬áDo you have any thought patterns that routinely come back to you? For me, a couple of trigger topics have always been weight and money.
  • Notice your thought patterns around a trigger topic you identify. How often are you thinking about this topic? What kind of thoughts come up, are they positive or negative? Can you see how they may be stealing your energy?
  • Try an experiment: For a few weeks tell yourself you are taking a break from this thought pattern. Give yourself a deadline. Then, set the thoughts aside and see what other things arise in that time frame. (You really can trick yourself into doing this, I know, because I did it for two years in Italy.) After your self-imposed deadline, see what happens. Do the thoughts come back? How do they feel to you? How did you feel during that hiatus period, without them?
  • Get help where you need it. Let’s face it, changing thought patterns is difficult and we may not be able to change some of these thought patterns on our own. They involve the people around us, and our interaction with society as a whole. Use all the resources available to you – books, friends, counselors, whatever. For my weight issues, I’ve discovered Intuitive Eating “>Intuitive Eating as a great fit for what I learned in Italy, so I’ve been reading and taking classes to consciously integrate a new approach to eating and weight.
  • Be clear on where you do want to focus your thoughts and your energy. It is much easier to say “no” to the thoughts you don’t want when you have thoughts you very much want to say “yes” to. For me, creativity and photography are so important to me, I don’t want any of these other thoughts diluting my energy. It makes it easier to deal with them. Changing my thoughts is no longer about being someone I think I should be, it’s about who I want to be. It’s a conscious and deliberate choice.

At the end of the day, all the matters is that each and everyone of us align our thoughts and our energy to our hearts. Imagine what our world would be like, if everyone did that. Right now, rather than changing the world, I’ll just settle for imagining my own life in this way.

Lanterns & Lights

This week I went exploring our little downtown area looking for holiday lights. These lanterns outside of a sushi place caught my eye, and I was delighted to find the holiday lights in the window as I moved closer. A bit of compositional play ensued. That’s the best part of going out exploring, when you find a scene that inspires you to play!

The red lanterns on this restaurant also reminded me of our travels around Italy. You see, we were always on the lookout for red lanterns along the street while we travelled. Why? They typically indicated a Chinese restaurant. I know, I know, Italian food is amazing. There are so many regions and so much variety to Italian food. My challenge to you: Try eating it for every meal for a week or two straight and see if you don’t want a little variety. There is not much variety in ethnic food available in Italy unless you are in a big city and know where to look. Chinese is the only ethnic food you can regularly sometimes find. And the Chinese food in Europe is awesome, a bit different from the US and we loved it.

When we saw the red lanterns during our explorations of the day we would mark that spot to come back later for dinner. We all had our favorite dishes and would rate that dish from one place to another. I would get to enjoy a nice pot of tea, another thing without much variety in Italy. It was always a welcome break from the usual and a yummy meal.

I don’t think I’ve even had Chinese food since returning home, I’m still trying to get my fill of Mexican food. Maybe we’ll follow the red lanterns here, and head out for some Chinese this week. It was fun to have these memories come back, as I looked for holiday lights.

Exploring with a Camera: Holiday Lights continues for another week. What are you finding? Go out exploring and then link in to show us. A little story about your photo is always fun to share too!

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