Category Archives: Blog

South Korea: Busan at a Glance


South Korea is another one of those places that we probably wouldn’t think to travel to on our own, but we sure were excited when our ship docked in the city of Busan (also spelled Pusan) for the day.



Upon arriving in a new country, we immediately try to obtain some of the local currency. In South Korea, it’s apparently easy to be a “millionaire.” :-P


The first place we visited was the Beomeosa Temple, which is situated on a mountain slope and accessible by bus or taxi. Originally built in 678, it’s one of the more well-known temples in South Korea and is made up of several colorful buildings. It’s a nice place to photograph and we spent at least 90 minutes there.

Our next stop was the downtown fish market, which we got to via the public bus system. By this point, we were used to looking like confused tourists, so when we had to hold out a handful of unrecognizable (to us) coins to the bus driver, gesturing for him to just take what he needed, we just laughed about it.

The fish market in Busan was one of the craziest markets I’ve ever been to. There were so many different kinds of fresh fish on display and many of them are ginormous, still alive, and/or insanely creepy. There were literally octopi trying to crawl their way of buckets and onto the street. To me, the most wild thing about the place was that there was zero fish smell. None. That’s how fresh everything was. There was an indoor portion to the market as well and the entire second floor was all for dining. Thank goodness we opted against eating there, because our fellow cruise guests DID try to eat there and showed us a video of their meals being delivered. No joke, the fish were still moving on their plate.

With the remainder of our evening, we decided to seek out a location for shooting a yoga image. The Yongdusan Park was within walking distance for us and appeared to have some interesting architecture. I knew this because, when traveling abroad, I always purchase an international data plan for my phone so that we can access the internet and the map app (a life saver) when we’re out exploring. The main part of the park is situated at the top of a pretty high hill, so we got a bit of a workout climbing the stairs to get there. Once at the top, we ran into our friends Chris and Leola, who also teach on board the ship. It’s always fun to run into people you know in really exotic places. We took a yoga image in front of one of the ornate pavilions there and then moved on.

From the park, we walked a few blocks to the world’s largest department store. I’m not a big shopper, but we wanted to check out the view from the roof, which also housed a small park (yes… a park on the top of a building). It turns out, we ended up getting two more great yoga images there before heading back to the ship.

Up and down the China coast


“I’d love to get you, on a slow boat to China, all to myself, alone…”

Ok, so maybe we weren’t alone, and maybe our “boat” was actually a not-so-slow, luxury cruise ship. But hey, whenever I have a chance to quote some Jimmy Buffett song lyrics, I’ll take it.

On our last international trip, we had the opportunity to experience China (and several other Asian countries) for the first time, visiting a few towns and cities near the coast. One of the interesting things about China (at least the places we saw) is that you have ancient villages right smack beside some of the most high-tech metropolitan areas in the world. From a photographer’s perspective, this is pretty convenient because you don’t have to travel too far to get a diverse collection of street photography.

We spent the most time, by far, in the Shanghai area. While we were on board, the ship made three stops there, which totaled about eight days to explore. On day one, I bought a small travel guide for Shanghai and the surrounding areas, and over those eight days, we basically knocked off every major thing in that guide… from ancient water villages to the world’s tallest skyscrapers. There are several different districts in Shanghai, and of you’re ever going, I’d recommend spending a day in each one.

We also made two stops in the Xiamen area. On the first visit, we explored the downtown area of Xiamen, and on the second visit, we took a ferry to the neighboring island of Gulangyu, which is pedestrian-only and loaded with fun things to explore and photograph. Theres a bustling market, a tea museum, piano museum, temples, and quiet streets with interesting architecture. Much of it feels untouched by time, which was a nice contrast to the modern city not so far away.

I’m not going to blab a lot here. I’ll mainly let the pictures do the talking, but I will give my general take on the experience. I loved the ancient buildings, the super modern architecture and the unique shops. We also really enjoyed the dim sum! I did not, however, connect with the culture too much. There is lots of pushing, butting in lines and spitting in public. I understand that it’s just the way it is, at least in the areas we visited, and I am always respectful and accepting of all the different cultures we see and visit. I just didn’t connect with it. That’s all. One thing is for sure though… China can be a visual feast, especially if it’s your first time visiting the country, as it was for us!



The last English signage we saw after arriving in Xiamen. Getting around in Asian countries where the words look like symbols can either be like a game, or a nightmare, depending on your personality type. 


A colorful street in Xiamen is home to dozens of food and tea vendors.


There’s lots of cuteness in China. And I’m always down with cuteness.


This guy knows how to pack.


A cute little temple on the island of Gulangyu, a short ferry ride from Xiamen, China.


Street scene in Gulangyu


This is what the quiet streets in Gulangyu look like. Look! An English sign!


Every mirror is a selfie opportunity


The food only gets weirder from here.



This is seriously where our ship docked. Right in the heart of downtown! We saw this view out of our stateroom window. Not too shabby! Here I am doing a little bow-pulling pose on deck. This was one of the few instances we caught a glimpse of sun in Shanghai. For most of our stay, it was cloudy and so smoggy that you couldn’t see the tops of those sky scrapers in the distance. 


Navigating the city was a little interesting. Always an adventure!


One of the food vendors at the huge market in the Old City. I’m kind of glad I couldn’t read the names of those food items.


Another market stall. We were pretty adventurous when it comes to driving different foods in China, but the only thing I actually enjoyed was the dim sum. 


There’s an “antique street” in Shanghai that is lined with crowded stalls of old stuff. I just loved this snoozing vendor. 


Another sight on the antique street. We spent a lot of time here shooting and just checking out all the funky wares.


I’m guessing this guy was delivering stuff to one of the antique stalls. They really know how to load their bikes in Asia!


Here’s a scene from the ancient water village of Zhujiajiao. (I can’t pronounce it either.)


In Zhujiajiao Village, lots of shops and eateries line the water. 


Me and the mister. :-)


One of the food shops lining the streets in the crowded Zhujiajiao Village. Speaking of crowds, you don’t know the true meaning of the word “crowded” until you’ve been to China. The streets in this town were so crowded that you were literally pressed against other people as you walked around. You could probably lift your feet off the ground and keep moving down the street. I was holding on to Ben’s backpack so I wouldn’t lose him.


I never miss the opportunity to photograph awesome dogs.




I believe this was the entrance to the post office in Zhujiajiao Village.


Two kids look out on the crowds from a second story restaurant in Zhujiajiao Village.


This is a view of Qibao, another water village accessible by the Shanghai subway system.


Selfie in Qibao


The doorway to the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai.


The interior of the Jade Buddha Temple.


Tags: , , , ,

Taiwan at a Glance


One of the great things about our cruise ship travel is that we get to visit places that are super interesting but that we wouldn’t think of traveling to on our own. Taiwan is one of those places. The ship docked right in downtown Keelung early in the morning and would stay there until late at night, so we got to do some exploring outside of the city during the daytime and then come back for the crazy night market before returning to the ship.

Before we embark on a trip like this, I like to scour the interwebs and create a Pinterest board for each port of call. This way, we have ideas on where to go and what we’d like to photograph before we arrive. During this process, I kept seeing awesome pictures from the town of Jiufen, which is about 45 minutes away from our Keelung docking location. The buildings and the colors just looked so striking, and I learned that the scenery in the animated movie “Spirited Away” (which I adore) was based on this town. So we had to go!

Since there were no tour busses going to Jiufen, we had to get there via the Taiwanese public bus system, which was a very “exotic” experience. Of course there are no Western characters anywhere, so we had to try and decipher the Asian symbols in figuring out what bus to get on. Luckily, before we left the ship, we had a Taiwanese guide write down the name of the town. We were able to show this to the bus driver who, after driving the bus up a twisty, cliff-lined mountain like a bat out of hell, graciously gestured to us which stop to get off at. The downtown area of Jiufen is made up of tiny [but crowded] pedestrian streets that are lined with tons of food vendors and funky shops. It’s all built into a hill, so there are not only streets going back and forth, but staircases going up and down. It felt like this crazy, Asian labyrinth that was a feast to all the senses.


We spent a good two or three hours exploring Jiufen, trying some of the snacks, photographing the street scenes and visiting a tea museum and a few surrounding temples (which were VERY colorful). By some miracle, we actually made it onto the correct bus to get back to Keelung so we could continue exploring there.

Once back in Keelung, we hit up a Starbucks (yes, there are Starbucks in Taiwan), not because I needed coffee, but because I like restrooms without “surprises,” and in Asia, I saw Starbucks as a restroom that didn’t make me squirm. (That’s a tip, by the way. Starbucks = Acceptable Loo)

From there, we walked a few blocks to a downtown shrine to do some shooting. This is where “The Yoga Series” started. I asked Ben to take a casual iPhone shot of me in front of this shrine so that I could send it to my sister. After looking at the results, we decided to take a few more, only he shot them with his “bog boy camera.” We ended up liking the finished product so much that we started seeking out interesting locations for these yoga images and, by the end of the trip, a full blown series was started.

Because the ship was staying in Keelung until late at night, we opted to have dinner at the local night market instead of the 6-star Crystal Dining room. Call us crazy, but we’re always up for a unique experience… and Taiwan did NOT disappoint. I admit that most of the food we saw was unidentifiable to me. Lucky, there were a few signs in English… signs that read things like “WOW frog legs” or “pig miscellaneous soup.” MISCELLANEOUS?!?! For me, there was fortunately a vegetarian kiosk which had rice and veggies in some kind of yummy sauce (hopefully it wasn’t cat broth :-/) but Ben got more adventurous, sampling all kinds of things. The market was full of crowds, lights, smells and crazy food. It was exactly the kind of thing we love to see and experience when traveling to exotic places.


We could have probably stayed longer, but we had to be on board an hour before the ship was to depart Keelung. Overall, it was a long and adventurous day… just how we like it!

Hong Kong: A new adventure begins

When Ben and I are in the United States, we live on the road (traveling in a bus/motorcoach). When we’re abroad, we live on the sea. We spend a couple of months every year teaching the Digital Filmmaking course to guests on board a beautiful Crystal Cruise Ship. This year, we will be spending two months on board the Crystal Symphony, traveling from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, with loads of ports of call in between. Our complete travel map is shown below.

What’s pretty funny about this itinerary is that we’re picking up right where we left off last year. Last year, we traveled through Australia and Southeast Asia, ending in Hong Kong. This year, we begin in Hong Kong and continue north.

It was nice to land in a city that we’re familiar with, as we were able to hit the ground running. Wr arrived in Hong Kong after about 40 hours of travel. At the cruise terminal, we crossed paths with the lovely Erin Manning, who was just disembarking the ship after teaching the Digital Filmmaking class on board. Basically, she was passing the baton on to us!


The Crystal Symphony

Hong Kong is kind of split into two sections: Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, and between them is Victoria Harbor. The ship was docked on the Kowloon side, but it’s really easy to get between the two. There are lots of easy ways to get around in Hong Kong using public transportation. You’ve got the metro, the iconic Star Ferry (which goes between Kowloon and Hong Kong), the historic cable cars, the public busses, etc. We never had to take a taxi because the public transportation was so convenient and cheap. The local people are also very happy to help you out and point you in the right direction.

So what did we do in Hong Kong? Well, we explored a lot of the major sites last year (Read about that HERE), so we felt a little more relaxed about our sightseeing and took the time to mosey a bit. We did take a bus to Aberdeen, which is located on the south side of Hong Kong Island. We had heard about the famous Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant and decided to check it out. It’s pretty wild-looking, as it’s a huge, colorful, ornate “building” that is floating amidst an otherwise average-looking marina and waterway. There are free shuttle ferries that take you out to the restaurant, and they are running constantly. The restaurant is at least three stories, with the main eating area on the top floor and different VIP/specialty rooms on the other floors. It was kind of an experience for us because we were the only westerners there, and we had no idea what we were doing. For example, it took us a long time to realize that the menu was this little card inside of a leather folio, where you check off the items you want. Much of it looked pretty foreign to us, but we were told that about 4 selections would be good for two people (at least we think that’s what they said! There were not many English-speakers). Being the seasoned travelers that we are, we were a little adventurous with our selections, which included a “1000-year egg” (which looked like it was 1000 years old and tasted like a bad jello experiment) and cuttlefish curry, which looked as if it was going to squirm off the plate and back into the ocean. We also ordered some dim-sum-style dumplings and spring rolls, which were much more familiar to us and tasted quite nice.


Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant

After making it back into the downtown area of Hong Kong, we headed back to the Mid-Levels, which was one of our favorite areas to explore and dine during our previous visit. The interesting thing about the Mid-Levels area is the long escalator that runs up several city blocks. (the hill is that steep). It’s the longest escalator in the world and you can get on and off at each cross street. All of the streets that cross the escalator are interesting to walk down. They’re full of unique restaurants, bars and shops. It’s a good place to spend an evening to have dinner and drinks after doing some shopping.

On the Kowloon side, right along the water, there is a walkway called Avenue of the Stars, and it contains the stars, signatures and hand-prints of famous Hong Kong actors and actresses. The crowd taking pictures of the Bruce Lee statue was huge!

We were also told that the Hong Kong Flower Show was going on, so we decided to check that out. It was pretty huge, but the crowds were so bad that I didn’t take a single photo. In fact, all I wanted to do was get out of there. It turns out that the crowds here would be a good precursor to what we would find in Shanghai.

If you’re planning a trip to Hong Kong, definitely check out my LAST POST on the city because it includes most of the major sites, such as The Peak, the Big Buddha and more. For now, I’ll leave you with some more images.

Next stop: Xiamen, China!


Ready to get on the free ferry/shuttle to the floating restaurant


The entrance to Jumbo Kingdom



Lunch at Jumbo Kingdom



At the lower part of the Mid Levels, there are several elevated walkways, from which you can get some interesting street shots.



The Star Ferry



A traditional junk boat


The Palm Court on Crystal Symphony. It feels like we never left!


The ship literally had the perfect view to see the Hong Kong skyline. Since we were on board last, new fitness equipment has been installed on deck. This is supposed to be used for pull-ups, but I found a better use :-)




Tags: , , , , ,

Shooting the West


Hey all! Ben and I just returned from a trip to Winnemucca, Nevada, where we spoke at a weeklong photography symposium called Shooting the West. This was an amazing trip for me, in more ways than one. First of all, we’re “between RVs” right now, so we’ve been spending a lot of time in one place (Florida). Being a travel photographer, I haven’t really been shooting much lately, mainly because I haven’t really been traveling much lately. Since our events at Shooting the West took place both in the classroom AND out in the field, it gave me a chance to do a little shooting. Yay for shooting!

Second, I can’t express enough how enjoyable it was to work with the gang at Shooting the West, and that goes for the organizers and the attendees alike. Everyone was so welcoming and charming. It truly felt like we were a part of one big family. To give you an idea of what I mean, get this: At the beginning of the welcome talk, attendees were asked to raise their hands if they’ve been attending for more than two years, then more than five, then ten, and so on. Usually, at events like this, fewer and fewer hands go up with each increase in years. With Shooting the West, it was the opposite. Not only did more and more hands shoot up each time, but there were a bunch of folks who had attended for ALL 27 years the event has been taking place! That, my friends, is amazing.

Finally, Shooting the West provided a big first for me, personally. Usually (ok, always), Ben is the one up on stage, teaching, and I am in the back or wandering around helping students keep up to speed. And to be honest, I’m good with that. I enjoy it. But this time, I actually got to speak as well. I knew I didn’t want to cover anything technical. Ben is the master at that, so I wanted to do something different. Instead, I titled my presentation “The Photographer’s Journey” and tied in our life on the road with my personal evolution as a photographer. Let me tell ya, I was nervous as hell, but everyone seemed to really enjoy it, and I feel honored to have been able to present (for the first time) in front of such a wonderful group of people.

Ben, being the veteran teacher that he is, was the keynote speaker for Shooting the West, and he taught a good number of workshops as well. We had a full-day class on HDR photography, a full day on panoramas, and a full day on post-processing. For the HDR and pano classes, we spent a lot of time in the field, which was a blast. Winnemucca is a cute little town about two and a half hours east of Reno, Nevada. It’s got lots of lovely, historic buildings in the downtown area and is surrounded by picturesque mountains, which were blanketed with snow during the week we were there. (This was a major bonus for the panorama class!) We also were welcomed to the Curtis Farm, which is home to LOADS of old cars, tractors and other odds and ends. Basically, it was the perfect place to practice HDR photography.

The week ended will a full-day “rendezvous,” which basically consisted of several different shooting locations that everyone could float between at their leisure. My favorite was the airport open house, where loads of vintage planes and cars were out on display, set in front of a beautiful, mountainous backdrop.

The entire week was just fantastic and made very special by the beautiful people and scenery we encountered the entire time.

So what’s next? Well, we’re about to head abroad for two months, where we’ll be shooting and exploring a LOT. In two days, we fly to Hong Kong, where we’ll board the beautiful Crystal Symphony cruise ship, which will serve as our home as we move north through China, Japan, South Korea and Russia before crossing over to Alaska and then heading down the west coast of the U.S. Needless to say, there will be lots of photos showing up here over the next few months! Stay tuned!

For now, here is what our experience at Shooting the West looked like:


Ben is about to present the keynote at Shooting the West.


A cute old Chevrolet truck that I shot during the HDR class at the Curtis Farm.

A "selfie" at the Curtis Farm during the HDR workshop.

A “selfie” at the Curtis Farm during the HDR workshop.


Here’s Ben, shooting a car that is over 100 years old!


One of the techniques covered in the panorama class is the “Panolage.” Here is one I shot overlooking Winnemucca and the mountains in the distance.


Ben is instructing students in the field during the panorama workshop.


The town of Winnemucca and the surrounding mountains, shot from the top of Winnemucca Mountain, right before sunset.


Ben is giving pointers on shooting sunset.


A panorama I shot at sunset on Winnemucca Mountain


Sunset on Winnemucca Mountain


The old firehouse building in downtown Winnemucca. This image was given a duotone treatment.


This fun building was right across the street from the convention center where Shooting the West was held. I obviously doctored this one a bit.


I loved some of the old signs in this town! I shot this image during the HDR class.


Here, I’m giving my presentation, “The Photographer’s Journey” at Shooting the West.


Ben found an old gas station in town so we stopped by so he could shoot it.


A beautiful plane that was on display during the Winnemucca Airport open house.

A beautiful plane that was on display during the Winnemucca Airport open house.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 11.51.22 PM

A little something I hand-lettered after the event :-)

Tags: , , , ,