Scotland Pt 1: Edinburgh Photo Journal

Ah Scotland… It’s hard to find words for this place! Ben and I recently spent 10 days touring around the Highlands in a goofy rented camper van and a few days wandering around Edinburgh, visiting some old favorites and getting my fair share of haggis, sausage rolls, and Scottish breakfasts.

Amazingly it was sunny for at least part of every single day we were in Scotland! It felt kind of wrong, to be honest, but what can ya do.

Below are some photos from our time spent in Edinburgh and soon I’ll post some more from the camping trip.  Hope you enjoy! 🙂

_MG_6530My favorite alley in Edinburgh. It used to be fairly secret but this time around I saw loads of tourists holding travel books, which made me a little sad._MG_6536Ye Olde Grassmarket._MG_6541The Oink shop on Victoria Street, a place I’ve passed a million times, and taken a few photos of but still haven’t gone inside! Next time I guess…_MG_6562Lovely Rose Street bathed in sun. _MG_6582Riding the double decker buses on Princes Street, an oddly relaxing way to travel from point A to point B. And super efficient!_MG_6591The Castle_MG_6640The Royal Mile_MG_6659The city skyline from Calton Hill._MG_6668Ben dwarfed by some ancient columns at Calton Hill_MG_6929Arthur’s Seat after a sunrise summit! _MG_6781Woke up at 3:45 am for this sunrise. 🙂

Introducing Barefoot Atlas

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It’s been a minute since I’ve posted, but not for lack of content. In the past couple of months I’ve hiked to 10 different waterfalls, dragged myself out of bed for sunrises in the gorge, ventured to Olympic National Park, wandered around a Holland-esque tulip festival, and completed a 4 day solo camping trip along the Oregon coast, mountains, and desert.

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It’s been an incredibly grey and rainy few months, but instead of going somewhere a bit more tropical, tomorrow Ben and I are headed to Scotland. We’ll first stay in Edinburgh for four days and then we are picking up a camper van rental and touring around the Highlands, the Isle of Skye, and Northern Scotland for 10 days! You’re either thinking “that sounds awesome!” or “are you crazy?” and the answer to the latter is yes, probably. 🙂 If you’re interested in following along with my adventures, follow me on Instagram! The link is on the right side of this page.

Before I go, I wanted to mention a project I’ve been working on for a few months now that I plan to continue working on while I’m exploring the land of glens and lochs. It’s called “Barefoot Atlas”, and it’s mainly a combination of self-portraits and landscapes.

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The reason I decided to put myself in front of the lens (even though it’s scary!!) is because lately I’ve been struggling with focus and inspiration when it comes to photography. Sometimes taking a pretty picture of a landscape just isn’t enough for me.

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I was out on a hike alone one day when I finally had the revelation that my landscape photos need a human element. By adding a person to the image, I can create a sense of scale, I can infuse them with feeling, and I can tell a story to create more thought-provoking and lasting images.

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With these photos I aim to evoke curiosity and awe, wonder, excitement, nostalgia, mystery, even sometimes fear. Being in nature brings out my inner child, it makes me want to climb trees and walk barefoot and I tend to forget all about stress and discomfort.

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That transformation is powerful and I want to make people viewing my photos feel that same urge to explore and play, to reflect with nostalgia on their childhood, to go outside and connect with nature.

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There are many more photos on my new Instagram: @barefootatlas. I’d love to know what you think!

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Trillium Lake Engagement Photo Shoot (not mine!)

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Getting into the world of engagement photography is tricky because every time I say something like, “I have an engagement shoot this weekend!” I have to quickly clarify that it’s not my own before I get a “OMG CONGRATULATIONS!”

So let me clarify: in the last few months or so I’ve started doing portrait and engagement shoots as a freelance photographer.  I’m aiming to specialize in “adventure shoots” because a) I don’t have a studio and b) hiking and getting messy in the outdoors is a lot more fun and genuine.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of photographing a very sweet couple, Emily and Karlek, who are going to be married next August in Boston.  They moved to Portland recently and are making the most of the PNWonderland, so it was only fitting that their engagement shoot would entail a 4 mile round trip hike over seven feet of snow, walking on top of a semi frozen lake (and somewhat falling through), and getting sweaty, wet, and red noses in the process.

We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day or more perfect light. Many thanks to Emily + Karlek for being up for it!

170212-10170212-69Do you see what I mean about the snow?170212-29170212-1Gotta sneak in the ol’ ring shot! 170212-26170212-22170212-37170212-42170212-55170212-60170212-67170212-62170212-79“Ok now run towards me whilst looking lovingly at each other!” ft. Emily’s perfect hair bounce.

Tooo stinkin’ cute!

5 Reasons I Still Shoot with Film

I’m an analog lover- record players, film cameras, my vintage Timex wristwatch. Of course I’m not alone- it’s hip to appreciate cute old fashioned do-hickeys. They’re endearing in this modern age of instant knowledge and easy listening.

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Film photography is a hobby that has weaved in and out of my life for the past six-ish years or so.   The other day I brought a coveted roll of Portra 160 to be developed and what do you know, half of it turned out under exposed, half over exposed, and at least four photos had an inexplicable pink glow cast over them. But a few turned out awesome, and that’s enough for me.

As a millennial, there are 5 main reasons I love using film:

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1. The Aesthetic. Film photos are inherently nostalgic. The colors are usually a bit more dreamy, the grain simulates recalling a fuzzy memory, twisted from time. For me, that translates to beauty. No matter what you do to manipulate and perfect digital images, there is something more beautiful and natural about film photos.

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2. It forces you to accept imperfection and embrace limitation. In a roll of film you work with a limited number of exposures, usually 24 or 36 and after that you have to take physical action before you can shoot more. That’s incredibly limiting. You can’t be nearly as shutter happy as you can be with digital.

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The light and ISO are also limiting factors- a roll of film has one way of accepting light that you have to work within; whereas with digital cameras you can usually work even in the pitch black, which is how astrophotography is possible. Film photography also has limited post-processing options, whereas you can theoretically rework a digital photo all day without ruining its integrity.

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In the digital age we have unlimited room for revision. Backspace and delete are almost always options; editing and v2 and v3 are the norm.

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Film forces you to you succumb to the medium, to be imperfect and to accept smaller boundaries to work within. It’s relieving, in a way.

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3. Whereas digital is about safety in numbers, film is about thinking. Because you are working with finite resources, you are naturally more thoughtful about the shots you take. You think more carefully about the composition, the exposure, the light sources, the story you are telling, because there might just be one shot.

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Taking it slower and thinking more creatively upfront allows you to connect more vividly with the surroundings. It draws you into the moment much more powerfully and when you look back at a certain film photo, oftentimes you clearly remember the emotion you had when you took that shot and exactly what you were going for.

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Digital photos also have this effect, but I find that compared to scanning through hundreds of similar digital images from the same day shoot, the moment I took the film photo is much more clearly etched into my memory.

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4. This brings me to my next point: Slowness. We live in an incredibly fast-paced world where most things are instantly available and impatience is a widespread learned behavior. For the same reason I enjoy walking instead of driving, I relish the time it takes to shoot a roll of film- sometimes over the course of months- and then waiting for it to be developed. That whole process is a lesson in slowness, in taking my time and not demanding instant gratification.

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5. Which brings me to: delayed gratification. It’s fun waiting to find out what shots I nailed, which ones turned out like crap, and which ones I totally forgot that I took! The suspense, surprise, and giddiness associated with picking up a developed roll of film is unparalleled in my life.

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Nevertheless, film is an expensive and dying breed, and one day I’ll probably give up on this hobby altogether, so I might as well enjoy it while it lasts. I hope you enjoyed my grainy imperfect photos! =]

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Photo Journal: A Sunny Day at the Coast

Last weekend my friend Greta visited us in Portland so we decided to take a day trip to the Oregon Coast.  The destination? Cannon Beach- a lovable little beach town, home to the famous Haystack Rock and Ecola State Park (not to be mistaken for Ebola or E. coli).  It was a gorgeous sunny day, and WARM- despite the treacherously snowy road conditions on the way there and back.

I could barely peel myself away from the camera viewfinder… just a constant onslaught of stunning natural beauty.  But I’ll let my photos do the story telling this time.

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A rabbit, snow, and white-knuckle driving in the Central Cascades

I know, you weren’t expecting to hear from me again. I had high hopes for blogging as I travelled the world, but then I took a break from traveling the world, moved to Portland, and became boring. That’s not 100% true, but my life has changed very much since I last posted.

Moving to Portland presented some new challenges: housing, for example…not exactly a walk in the park! After months of checking out sketchy tiny houses, overpriced micro studios, aptly named “butternut squash” apartments, and tons of dead end house shares, we finally hit “the Craigslist jackpot” as our housemates call it. In other words, we are now living in a beautiful Victorian mansion from the 1880s, right off the walk able downtown and NW districts of Portland- not to mention awesome housemates!! Somehow hiking trails are now even closer to my house than when I lived in Boulder (2 blocks away!). But getting to this point took lots of patience (and a couple of dog bites…).

Then there was the whole making friends thing and finding grocery stores and learning the layout of Portland and dabbling in slightly illegal parking and building a routine. And then there’s the job thing… While Ben has been working hard on starting his own health food delivery business (see: thrivehealthfully.com), I’ve started taking my photography career much more seriously, and recently began working at a Portland-based start-up as a photography intern (woohoo!).

So yeah, the blog has collected some dust.

But the adventures have continued!

For instance, I don’t know how I survived last weekend. What started as an impromptu trip to the Central Cascades, quickly became a very harrowing two day battle with icy forces of nature.

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I’ve missed serious snow footage and had been wanting to explore Washington for some time. So Ben and I spontaneously picked a tiny town called Roslyn on the Airbnb map and booked 1 night in a converted dentist’s office. Surprisingly less creepy than it sounds. We didn’t do much research on what to see or do, as we just wanted a little mountain escape, with the possibility of some friendly snowy hikes and alpiney photography opportunities, maybe even a dip in a hidden hot-spring, dare-say.

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The first stop on our 4 hour trip to Roslyn was Rattlesnake Lake. I’d wanted to check out this pretty lake for some time. As we rolled in it became obvious that the conditions were less than amenable. The wind was roaring so loudly, that I felt sure a freight train or an avalanche was bound to hit us as any moment.

img_6176Still, we ventured out to the lake for some quick windy fun and to check out the eerie tree stumps that line the shore and abruptly stick out from the frozen lake surface.

img_6156img_6161Later in the day we found ourselves trapped in the car for 3 hours on a closed section of highway between mountain passes as the temperature dropped to 14 degrees. It quickly became dark and Ben and I traded turns running outside the car to quickly scrape off the accumulation of snow from the windshield while we quietly hibernated for what seemed like a maddening eternity. It was truly scary not knowing when we would get to leave, surrounded by cars and semi trucks, with a quarter tank of gas and already shivering under every layer of clothing we could put on.

But finally, FINALLY police directed us off the highway and a half an hour later we were tucked into our warm dentist’s office/bedroom above a sweet little café.img_6283 It turns out the little town of Roslyn is not short on charm. The main street is comprised of little shops with Western style facades, a biker bar, a natural grocer, and its main celebrity: the Roslyn Rabbit. img_6291img_6284I actually didn’t know about the rabbit, until a drunken man staggering home at 8 am saw me taking photos and slurred “Hey did you get a pitture of the rabbit?! Come here, flippity flop. Flip flop come get some food!”img_6301Figuring he was looney tunes I ignored him until a little while later we spotted a friendly obese black bunny rabbit munching on some lettuce in the snow! It turns out the Roslyn Rabbit is just some wild rabbit that goes door to door begging for food and pets like a cat.

After sufficiently creeping on the rabbit and stuffing our faces with bacon and eggs, we drove to Cle Elum Lake, which I can’t really tell you anything about because it was buried beneath a blinding layer of ice and snow. Being out there was like being in a white vacuum, or that cookie thing from Season 3 of Black Mirror.

img_6322img_6358And lastly…the harrowing drive home. We decided to take “the scenic route”- mistake number 1, which entailed driving through 58 miles of a deserted unplowed road through a Native American reservation while it snowed heavily- mistake number 2. The road was so full of snow, we could barely make out any tire tracks as we drifted at an agonizingly slow pace, with frequent breaks to de-ice the windshield wipers.

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In the end we spent 7.5 hours in the car driving through one massive unrelenting snowstorm, with too many white-knuckle, adrenalin inducing, stomach churning, hair-greying moments to count.img_6268

But also many moments of spectacular beauty.

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Much love to my faithful CRV for making it through. ❤

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Moab: Our first night camping and the C-RV maiden voyage

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When I last posted, I felt full of confusion and uncertainty. Our travels had come to an abrupt halt, we went to recover at home with my mom, we said hello again to all the people we had so recently said goodbye to, and watched the leaves turn in Colorado- a seasonal event I was hoping to miss; despite its beauty, it never ceases to draw me into a mawkish pit of nostalgia and sentimentality.img_1239Now I sit on an unfamiliar loft bed in house that we are temporarily sharing with two strange men (in both senses of the word), in North Portland. I admire the shy sun through the skylight, not because I miss it, but because its effort is endearing. Yes, it’s fairly rainy here, but I love the moodiness.

Let me back up a few steps, to a warm evening on Friday October 14th, when we wearily pulled up to a vacant walk-in site at Kane Creek Campground in Moab, Utah.

It was an exhausting and trying day. We had started out early, packing the last of our belongings into my newly purchased 2003 Honda C-RV and crossing our fingers that it was going to make it on our 4,000+ mile road trip west.

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We drove silently and calmly through the neighborhoods of Boulder, anticipating the six-hour drive to Utah and noticing the last bit of pink fade from foothills. No plans were made, no campgrounds reserved, no routes decided upon, and there was no apartment was waiting for us in Portland, our final destination.

Around 11 am we stopped in Penny Hot Springs, a not so hidden gem off the highway outside Carbondale, Colorado. A river runs alongside the road, and in one area people have created hot springs by dragging boulders together in the river to create shallow pools. It was a splendidly sunny and colorful day; joyous yellow cottonwoods shook their leaves in the breeze, the silvery green river sparkled and rushed cheerily, the angular blue mountains rose up confidently all around.img_1716So we should have expected the gorgeous scalding pools to be crawling with people. Flabby old men lethargically discussed hunting and real estate, a woman camped out with a visor and a book, a child splashed around noisily to my dismay. Despite my slight misanthropy, we enjoyed ourselves in the pools, and even jumped into the icy river for a second to relieve our slow-cooked bodies.

After returning to the car, wet, sandy, and stinking of sulphur, my stomach dropped. My car would not turn on. No lights had been left on and the only thing we could find that could have maybe caused the battery to short was a brand new car phone charger that I had plugged in when we parked. It was not charging anything, but it was only $5 from Target, so perhaps you get what you pay for. Regardless, a nice old man from the pools jumped the car and shortly thereafter we were on our merry way. Only not so merry, because I was completely rattled and disheartened that day 1 of our long journey the car had already flaked. What would it be next?

In the early evening, we rolled into the town of Moab, and were surprised to find it more crowded than either of us had ever seen before. The sun was near setting, and we were eager to find an open campground where we could quickly pitch our tent, set up our table and stove, and cook dinner before it became too dark.

As we made our way down to Kane Creek, steep canyon walls reached up out of sight alongside the narrow road, and the car brakes squealed down each harrowing switchback. We passed campsite after campsite, but all appeared full and were bursting with people.

Farther I insisted, just a little bit farther. Finally we found a compromise, a large campsite with a few vacant walk-in sites. It had a nearby composting toilet, and no adjacent neighbors. It was getting dark now so we missed the fact that the actual plot was just beyond some spiky-looking brush, and attempted to pitch the tent over some rock solid red earth that the stakes would barely penetrate (the following day, we nearly lost the tent because of this).

We clumsily unloaded our gear from the trunk and something heavy fell out onto my toes. There was the new Coleman two burner stove we bought from a sports recycler store, my brand new REI sleeping bag and our sleeping pads, a cooler with ice and food we just picked up from the mobbed City Market in town, two folding chairs from Target, a basin filled with basic cook wear we picked up at a thrift store in Boulder, propane, and firewood.

Though we had all the right stuff, as camping newbies, it turned out that setting up camp in the dark on our first night in a windy, sandy canyon with pricker bushes and fire ants and darkness (did I mention it was dark?), was a tad tricky. Ben’s flashlight decided now was the right moment to kick the bucket, so we shared one headlamp as we awkwardly attempted to slice up veggies with a dull Swiss Army knife and then unsuccessfully tried to stir fry them with garlic and ginger. We didn’t know how much gas to use as first-timers, so the veggies would not cook. After little success, we finally threw up our hands and ate mostly raw watery vegetables with raw ginger and garlic in the dark, while we spitefully watched our new neighbors blow up their queen sized air bed and drink wine from real glasses around their campfire.

In all, our first night camping could easily have been our last. Yet it was absolutely worth it, and after time the growing pains eventually lessened.  Moab and it national parks were achingly beautiful, and I have the photos to prove it. 🙂

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The camping pantry (that was frequently restocked).

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Sunrise at our campsite in Moab.

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Breakfast was a bit more graceful.

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Arches National Park

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Arches National Park- Balancing Rock

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Funny looking formations in Devil’s Garden, Arches.

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Arches National Park- the infamous Landscape Arch.

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Me overlooking some impressive views in Canyonlands National Park.  I like that Canyonlands doesn’t try to keep you in with ropes or fences. They let you get as close to the edge as you want.

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The land of canyons and White Rim Road, viewed from Island in the Sky.

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From another viewpoint.

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Ben and a rainbow of canyonlands.

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Our tent at sunrise at campground numero uno (note crappy stakes).