Saturday, December 20, 2008

My desert island, all-time, top-five most memorable breakups, in chronological order

Not really. I just really like that movie.

(I don't watch that many movies, so if you haven't seen it and I have...that's a shame. Especially for that movie. You should go correct that now.)

This is actually my list of top TEN (Read: 10) favorite shots that I took in 2008.

I originally had like thirty (Read: 30) shots that I whittled down to the ones seen here. There were some still lifes and landscapes, but in the end, the people won.

So without further adieu: My desert island, all-time, top-TEN most favorite shots from 2008, in chronological order.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Right Now A Star's in the Ascendant

ETA: I started writing this maybe a month and a half ago but never published it. Oops. I've also added some to it since then.

Today I got stopped by a cop. And I kept on going.

I'm pretty law-abiding, so let me back up and explain.

I'm too poor and broke (and cheap) to pay for parking, so I park by this lagoon near school that has free on-street parking. The only thing is you can't park there between 7:30 and 9:30 am since it's a main road, and it blocks "heavy" traffic at that hour. (Read: This town's got nothing on my hometown's completely packed 6-lane highways.) But if you get there by like 9:40 or 9:45 am, there's no parking left.

So I usually get there around maybe 9:25, and usually I just leave for work anyway. Not today. I stop and park before I realize, OH look. There's a cop staring straight at me, just waiting to give me a ticket. (Read: I'm not the brightest crayon in the box before about noon.)

So I put the car back in drive and kept on going. Only to park like maybe 100 ft further ahead. It turned out to be serendipitous.

On any normal day, I take the sidewalk surrounding the lagoon, making sure to avoid the massive piles of goose crap. Today I decided the shortest way to get to work was to take the path through the lagoon.

Maybe I should stop and pause more often.

I originally started Project365 to not only get myself acquainted with my camera and become a better photographer, but also to slow down and take a look at what's around me, to see things in a new light. To appreciate it. Lately, that hasn't happened, despite carrying a camera everywhere, as I sit here and cram and cram and churn and churn massive amounts of (non-)data for a conference.

Today was a good reminder that I need to stop and, really, just breathe more often. It was a good reminder about why I wanted to do this in the first place.

So I'm putting it down here. You know what they say, anything worthwhile bears repeating. Tell them what you're gonna tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. Except I guess I'm telling myself again, ha.

Why did I start this project? Last school year, I was completely out of sorts and not myself. I was tired of feeling like that and decided it was time to fill my life with the things I thought I deserved. But for the longest time, I think I had started to take a lot for granted. Things that I just believed would be true the next day, and the next, and the next. I wasn't appreciating now. I wasn't applying any effort to treasure what I already had.

You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes
You just might find
You get what you need
--"You Can't Always Get What You Want," Rolling Stones

Stopping to appreciate the little things? The things that make everyday go tick? Definitely necessary, but all too easy to forget. And one of the intangible reasons that I couldn't even really define for myself then why I was doing Project365. Things always seem clearer in retrospect, ha.

If you had asked me a year ago what my plans for the future were, I'd have given a very different answer -- but in some ways, that answer is still the same.

Slowly, my life is becoming so much more enriched and fulfilling than it ever was a year ago, and I am actually happier than I have been in a long time, despite the rough patches and the difficult journey I'm still going through. Before...I had become too content and let too many things slide. Now I'm realizing dreams and building boldnesses I never even had the faintest gossamer web of thought or ambition to do before. I'm beginning to question and challenge a lot more. But not only that, I'm seeking answers and feeling like I'm going somewhere, like I can make a difference. Sometimes it even surprises me, to hear some of the things I'm asking come out of my own mouth. (It amazes me even more when they happen!)

Some days I still feel like I'm trying to find and shape that new, improved version of that person I used to be. It's been a slow, painful year, filled with lots of learning experiences, and sometimes it still hurts. But slowly I'm rediscovering and redefining things about myself I can't ever believe I compromised for someone else -- and am definitely never going to take for granted again.

Earth meets sky

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Show Them All the Beauty They Possess Inside

I was super disappointed we didn't get to play on the inflatables on the green of Jacobs Field for Buddy Walk (silly rain), but I still had a great time shouting cheers and giving high fives to little kids (and big ones who thought they were too old for that sort of thing).

Three cheers to Sara and Emily for getting our department involved in this awesome event -- and what a way to start off the school year!

And why yes, I have a thing about photographing little kids. Something about their innocent, unsuspecting smiles just makes me happy. Even though I was cheering for them, I think I got just as much of an ego boost as they did.

Goodbye craptacular 2007-08 school year. Here's to looking forward to making 2008-09 a fantastic one!

The sun came out!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It Don't Have to Change

Oh do you remember
When the family was everything?
Oh do you remember?
It was so long ago and so much has changed
I wanna go back
Wanna go back to those simple days
I wanna go back
But now we've grown and gone our separate ways

Times is hard
And things are a changin'
I pray to God
That we can remain the same
All I'm trying to say is our love don't have to change
No it don't have to change

-- "It Don't Have to Change," John Legend

While I was home, I went to the reception of two very dear friends from high school.

In high school, she'd been crazy about him practically from the beginning. In high school, he couldn't have known she existed. I'm really glad he finally opened his eyes.

Being home and seeing so many old and familiar faces that I hadn't seen in a while made me ecstatic...and sad. Sad and happy at inevitable change and growth. You really can't ever go home again.

But I love you all the same.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Let the Works That I Do Speak for Me When I'm Gone

On Friday night, one of my personal heroes died.

He lies in repose today in Houston's City Hall, the first man to hold such an honor in the city he helped define.

His legacy lives on in a million different ways. He invented the roller pump critical to heart-lung machines -- making open heart surgery a possibility -- while he was still a medical student. He helped establish the MASH unit and the VA hospital system. He used his wife's sewing machine to make a Dacron graft, which is now widely used to repair blood vessels. He developed artificial hearts and numerous heart assist devices, including the current pump which can be implanted into a small child. He pioneered the surgical procedure on aortic aneurysms, which later saved his own life at the ripe young age of 97. He helped build a world-class medical center with world-class surgeons, and trained many new generations to continue his work. He personally touched lives, having performed more than 60,000 operations in his lifetime.

Although there is no photographic evidence, I feel honored to have met the man and shaken his hand. But even more importantly, I feel even more honored to have worked with and worked on his inventions.

And still, his legacy lives on, as I am forever influenced by this great man to find ways to improve on his works.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Time Goes By So "Slowly"

OHEMGEE! IT'S A NEW POST! (Read: OK! OK! I get the hint! grumblegrumblegrumble :0) )

Apologies for not posting in the past few months.

Although there have been some ups....

Remember this?

Yeah. I totally got it. appears my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year is not over yet. The drama includes -- but is not limited to -- family, friends, relationships, research, being a graduate student....oh, and cars. In the past 2 months, my car troubles have included -- but are not limited to -- air bag indicator lighting up, headlight burning out, electrical failure...oh, and did I mention DYING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD WHILE I'M DRIVING? Yes, the car was still moving.

C'est la vie.

It also appeared I ran out of space on my laptop! Can't upload pictures that way! Requires a new external hard drive! (Read: ohemgee am I so not made of money! Good thing I went home...and my parents bought me a 1 TB external hard drive. If I run out of space now, someone please take my camera away from me.) But I did take pictures!

While everyone else was oohing and aahing over the fireworks July 4, I was getting excited over some silhouettes. I wanted to enjoy myself (Read: be lazy), so I opted to bring my compact point-and-shoot Sony DSC W-70, which resulted in lots of blurry pictures and lots of cursing at myself for not being able to set the aperture or shutter speed or being able to hold steady. I still like them anyway.

Leah, Ben, Tim, Nick, and Brian

It's like we're superheroes!
Nick, Ben, Me (Thanks, Salma!), Tim, Patricia, and Brian

Patricia and Linda

Linda being pensive

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Light My Fire

Things have been rough around here's one from the archives to appease the masses.

I wrote this a few years ago. There are no pictures today, but it's related. I hope you'll enjoy it anyway.

In near darkness, with only the dull phosphorescent glow of the tick-tock timer for company, she gently washes her hands through the cold liquid back and forth, catching a whiff of acetic acid with each wave. The muse had spoken, and for many days, she had mulled over scores of ways to frame the story. Sometimes, she acted with a spontaneous whim, but today, today, she had spent the afternoon hauling the heavy equipment from scene to scene. She had set and reset her shot carefully, waited unhurriedly for the perfect mix of shadow and light. Today she had been patient.

The seconds trickled downward, and as always, she could feel her anticipation climbing. The moment of truth had arrived—would her image be technically clear? Would her meticulous composition be precise? Had she set the right texture? Had she captured the story? The clock stops, she breathes in. She turns on the light.

Feats of engineering in biological research are quite often like developing a photographic negative. There is the inspiration to the problem, the design and development of criteria for your potential solution, the setup in which you choose your materials for construction. Finally, there is the execution, the moment you determine if your product is successful or if you must adjust your negative to get a polished print. Photography is also like biology because with so many uncontrollable interactions and changing variables—such as light, temperature, space in photography; ion concentrations, drug interactions, fluid volumes in biology—the photographer and the biological engineer must be able to adapt the design to account for every situation.

To me, it is developing the negative that demonstrates the sophistication level of the photographer. The negative is the artist’s real template, relating the original scene to the audience using the photographer as the messenger, and developing a proper template requires an intimate knowledge of the work. Likewise, for me to devise a viable solution, I must understand the biology and properly apply it to the consumer’s needs. Without the artist and her negative, the story cannot be told to the audience; without the engineer and her design, the research from the bench cannot be translated to the market.

The appeal of engineering for me is the same as my excitement for photography: the wait in darkness until the careful moment of revelation, when you discover if you’ve captured the story, if your design worked. Photography requires patience, creativity, and a lot of experimentation to charm the medium to recaptivate the mood that inspired you to take the photograph. You choose the camera, film, aperture, exposure; you develop the negative according to chemicals and temperature; you print the negative depending on paper, exposure, developing time. You place the print in the developer—and you wait. Engineering requires persistence, critical thinking, and a lot of experimentation to get a successful product. You research current solutions, materials, problems; you brainstorm methods and designs; you construct according to your plan, available materials, budget. You set up a few experiments to test your design—and you wait. If it isn’t what you expect, you fine-tune what you have to see if you can get what you want—until you admit you need to take the picture again, go back to brainstorming.

Standing quietly in the darkness, there is a hush and eagerness. The timer winds down, telling me the moment has arrived. I push my film through its final wash, inject the imaging tracer into my engineered heart. Did it work? I can’t wait to turn on the light.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I Will Remember You

These are my first real forays into using a zoom lens and night time photography.

I used a Nikon 55-200 mm zoom telephoto lens for these shots.

I didn't even have to edit these photos.

I think I'm really pleased with the results.

(Read: I'm in serious love!)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Let's Dance to Joy Division

I've been dancing nearly my entire life.

I did ballet and pointe for 10 years, tap and jazz for 2 years. Before college, I danced probably somewhere around 12 hours per week. My ballet mistress was once a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet. She once told me very early on that if I kept working as hard as I did, I could possibly make at least corps de ballet.

But of course, I am now an engineering graduate student. (Read: My parents said do your homework.)

In college, I got busy, and dance fell to the wayside. I took the occasional dance class here and there: a semester of East Coast swing, a semester of Latins (salsa, cha-cha, merengue, tango), a semester of lindy hop. Went to a random Sunday social swing or salsa night now and again. But beyond the spontaneous jeté across the academic quad, I didn't really dance.

When I got to graduate school, I became friends with some very outgoing salsa and swing dancers. I kept getting invited to dance functions.

I've found I miss dancing.

When I'm dancing, it's just the music, connecting my partner and me.
We can get to know each other in the span of 3 minutes. We don't even have to speak.

Even though we are moving through this time and space, it's only us two, suspended in our own world.

A million things may have gone wrong with my day, week, year, but when I'm dancing...I'm content.

This indescribable happiness bubbles through me when I'm dancing.

My camera lenses may not have been fast enough (Read: Mom, Dad, I would like this, this, this, or this for Christmas! Oooo! Or maybe this!) to catch all the amazingly creative body conformations seen at Steel City Blues.

But on closer inspection, I saw I captured reflections of my own joy.