Why I Can Never Forget My First Travel Abroad

It’s been over two months since my first travel outside the Philippines, and here I am still reeling from this incredulous feeling of finally, “I made it!”
 
Everything about my travel – the places my son and I visited, the food, the people there, and all these that I narrate here – make my first travel abroad something I can never ever forget.
 
Thanks much to my son who invited me, my long time dream of going abroad has come true — and traveling SOLO at that! Of course, my son would be there to meet and fetch me after work, then take me around. You see, he often goes to Singapore as part of his job, so he wanted me to be able to visit the country while he was there.
Me and the mini Merlion somewhere along the Marina Bay – a photo taken by my son, my avid photographer during my stay at the Lion City

Yet, the prospect of traveling abroad all by myself – getting to the airport and back (from the trip), and going through the long process from check-in to security check, and flying alone with strangers — was daunting enough for me because that meant getting out of my comfort zone. I’m used to being assisted especially in new situations.

 Last year in fact — as I shared in a previous post — the chance to travel overseas already presented itself to me. Not your regular adventurer at heart, I found many excuses to back off.
 
But this time, I mustered the courage to embrace this golden opportunity, for such may no longer come my way. Besides, my son had already bought my plane tickets at short notice, too (so I’d no longer have any excuses to say no).
 
With little time to prepare my mind, my heart, and my things, “a drum of anxieties was revolving in my consciousness” (to quote Alain de Botton in his book, “The Art of Travel”) days prior to my scheduled flight.
 
Worrying about losing my way at the airports (here and at Changi), my hearing impairment, and my natural clumsiness even at my age, I was getting to be a big bundle of nerves as the time drew near.
 
Despite my own research on what to expect for a first-timer traveler, plus lots of pointers and encouragement from family, I still feared making mistakes. Which I had on several instances. After all, I wouldn’t be me without my bloopers!
 
My family and some close friends understand how I also hate taking a taxi on my own, or going home late, much less taking myself to the airport back and forth.
 
Yet, anticipation and thrill, together with my complete trust in God that He’d take care of me overtook me. An act of faith, as one good friend said.
 
Thus from my Grab ride to NAIA to my surprisingly pleasant experiences going through each step, and everywhere I went “already the confusion and jitters of the present moment were receding.” (Alain de Botton).
 
Today, I am still reliving the sights, sounds, and flavors of Singapore — as if it were only yesterday. Already I’m missing my first taste of authentic Hainanese Chicken rice and soup, the very first meal I ate right at Changi Airport. I want to go back to Singapore and explore more.
at the Marina Bay, Singapore with the Esplanade in the background – the first area where my son took me right from the airport
Capturing the Marina Bay Sands on my 1st evening…

Ah traveling abroad – even for a short stay – does open a wider perspective and a great way to know myself more! I’m giving myself a BIG pat on the back as well for taking up the challenge.

Funny but the urge to travel again to a new place is creeping up on me now.
 
Most of all, I am overflowing with gratitude  and I thank God for this blessing. Indeed, all these that I have overcome with grit and faith and my loved ones’ moral support make my first travel abroad an experience that will last forever in my heart.
While waiting for our lunch to be served, I took a shot of this view of the Marina Bay Sands from the National Gallery of Singapore
 
One of the waterfalls at Cloud Forest at the Gardens by the Bay – I was careful not to let my phone slip from my hands while taking this photo
Silhouette of the Marina Bay Sands looming in the background

Through the Lens of an Amateur Photography Enthusiast

A professional photographer friend of mine recently gave me a few honest-to-goodness critique of some photo shots I did as I’d requested. I appreciated it because there’s nothing like having a mentor or teacher who can help in your journey of learning.

And the most encouraging part of his feedback is telling me to just enjoy my photography — for his is more on the technicalities of taking photos, such as avoiding overexposure, taming the whites in your photos, proper framing, and the like. At least I know where my weaknesses lie, and how to improve my techniques.

Then I  came across this article, What is Composition in Photography?

“Composition is the language that you, the photographer, can use to communicate with the viewer. How you place the different components of your image relative to each other is what gives your photos meaning.” — Harry Guinness

It gives me great comfort to know what I’m actually aiming for in my photos has a place in the world of photography. As this author-photographer Harry Guinness writes, “Photography isn’t just a technical pastime; it’s an art. […] There is something more to photography than just technical perfection.”

Of course, I like to be technically correct, so I’m learning to use the manual setting on my phone cam or my digicam, instead of the Auto mode.

Yet, for the most part I enjoy creating a certain mood, like making a scene dramatic or pensive. Or making the scene before me seem like someone is peering through a corner. During the post-editing stage, I refrain from relying on filters to get the effect I want. But I use the editing options for straightening, cropping, and improving the tonal quality of my shots. It’s something like cinematography. It’s creating art indeed.

I like how I was able to frame those people within the bars of the railing from where I stood…

Often, I get so caught up with this particular goal of mine that I tend to overlook the technical part. So I do understand if some of my better equipped, more polished photographer friends fail to recognize what I’m really aiming for.

More than ever now, I commit myself to continue honing my photography skills (as taught by experts and professionals) and still enjoy expressing myself the way I want to.

Here are some of my favorite practice shots.

Thought it would be fun to capture the silhouette of my sister’s cat as she lays next to her reading a book…
Caught my sister reading and thought of focusing on her book and her hands’ silhouette
A practice on perspective – at the same time I tried to come up with a different kind of composition
My practice shot on scaling…
A shot from my book pile series
taken with my old Canon PowerShot A3100 IS — tried to imitate a common book arrangement in bookstores…
It seems like the leaf is catching those soft fluffy white clouds…
To trained eyes, this shot is not a good one (long shadow on the building’s facade) but it’s still a better version of many of my earliest photos…

There you go, my photography journey in 2018. Hope 2019 finds me offering you a fresh batch of more artistically done shots. Blessings to all!

a gift from my son…

 

Cat Eye on Spotlight

In a previous post, Best Loved Photos of Our Family Pets, I featured some of my sister’s outdoor cats.

Now, there’s this one cat my sister treats almost like a princess, and she rules the house! Kring, as she is fondly called, is an indoor cat. She also knows my favorite hobby of clicking away at them pets. And though she remains aloof to me, she doesn’t hesitate to call my attention when I fail to notice her with my phone camera. I’m just enjoying myself, but hope to really practice the great animal photography tips for beginners.

One tip I’ve learned is to focus on the eyes. These photos may not yet do justice to Kring, but I’ve managed in a way to capture her personality, another tip.

                                                 

 

 

 

 

 

        

perched on the ref — one of her fave spots…
taken with my smartphone (Samsung J5) ƒ/1.9   1/17  3.7 mm  ISO640

 

“Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.”
Mark Twain

Best Loved Photos of Our Family Pets

Tomtom, eagerly ready for his photoshoot…

Outdoor cats ~~ these gentle-looking felines are not mine, but my sister’s. Yet I’ve become a familiar face. And they seem to know by now my fondness for taking photos of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So they gamely pose, no longer afraid, whenever I start taking out my phone. Yes, I only use my smartphone for many of my shots, like these cat photos here.

Using my phone cam’s manual settings — ISO 100, and tweaking the exposure compensation + or – here and there, I concentrated on how to frame and catch them in their most natural mood or pose. I think somehow, I’ve managed to get to their individual personality.

“Who me?”
Batman ~~ he used to belong to the neighbor until he found a way to my sister’s home and heart…

  “Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

– Sigmund Freud

Flowers

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” — Buddha

The above photos are among my random practice shots using manual settings on my simple phone camera, practicing the various tips I’ve been learning from WP’ The Daily Post. In these photos, I experimented with different light and exposure compensation settings. I also tried to come up with the so-called “studio look.” Just here enjoying the process of learning as I trek a different creative path…

A Temporary Relish

As my response to last week’s photography prompt by WordPress’ The Daily Post ~~ Temporary~~  am sharing here this photo of a round platter of colorful, varied pungent yet tasty fita bread sauces, which we recently came upon and enjoyed at a Persian-inspired restaurant. Because of its savory taste and aroma, it was gone as soon as it was set on the table.

 

Life’s Golden Hour

The golden hour occurs twice each day, in the early morning just after dawn’s blue hour. At the first golden hour of the day, the sun has started to rise in the east and cast its glow.

At morn’s golden hour, you feel a tinge of warmth, if you happen to be outdoors, and if looking from the inside, you can observe everything to be cool yet there is a promise of a bright, warm or sweltering day.

In the late afternoon, the day’s golden hour occurs just before the blue hour this time. The scorching sun is no more, its warmth already tame upon your skin, its reflection bathes the environment with long soft beams of light.

This day’s afterglow lends a certain radiance and coolness around that sorts of warms the heart — so unlike that of the morning’s golden hour.

Just to clarify,  I’ve only started to know and appreciate this beautiful moment –being a novice photographer, or simply a photography enthusiast who’d like to take photos with a little more skill.

my 1st feeble attempt at the Golden Hour

So my golden hour shots still leave much to be desired — but am enjoying the process of learning. I find myself awaiting this precious moment almost spontaneously.

Afternoon glow

I like how the golden hour creates a different kind of beauty each time, bringing a different color or mood to the surroundings: both a promise and a hope; a call to rise and shine and do your best, and a call to slow down, relax, and hope for another sunny day.

So it is with our life’s golden hour. The rhythm of the golden hour offers something for us to ponder.

Our beautiful moments fleet by and everything in between is just temporary. Things may be good or bad, happy or sad. Yet at the end of the day, there is hope things will become better.  We can always hope — like each day is always beautiful no matter if there is a storm coming our way.

It is just how we deal with what life’s throws at us that sometimes create all the chaos around or within us.

Life’s golden hour is also a time to pause, reflect, and plan to do better and be a better person. Just like I’m finding it inspiring to take better golden hour shots each time I try. Still a long shot for me — as you can see from all these amateur shots — but I keep the hope.

Just trying to catch the glint of the sun upon those structures…

So when you’re feeling a bit down, just look at the sun.