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Published in Photography Journey ・ Oct 15

2. Long distance relationships period (1)

This and the next post take place between July 2016 and December 2017. I was living in Silicon Valley, but I went all over, mainly around California and Washington.
My girlfriend took this picture for me that I've been using as a profile picture ever since. Do you want to see what I took for her? Spoiler alert: it's not good. 😂
After graduation, my girlfriend and I ended up working in different cities. She accepted an offer from Amazon in Seattle while I went for Facebook in Silicon Valley. We weren't sure how long we'd have to do this long-distance relationship, but that didn't bother us much.
For the first time in our lives, we lived on the money we earned, and we were getting paid generously. We've never been to Seattle or Silicon Valley before, so everything is new, refreshing, and exciting. We would take turns visiting others or meet up at a third location. I also explored my local area with my friends over the weekends.
With all this traveling and exploring, I shot a lot of different stuff during this period. Mostly wildlife, cityscape, landscape, portrait, travel, and nightscape. I wasn't sure which kind of photography I'd like to dig deep into, but I'm interested in finding that out.

July 2-10, 2016

We first stopped by California to settle down my stuff and check out San Francisco when we returned to the US. Then we went to Seattle to set up hers. We also went to the top of Space Needle to enjoy the nightscape.
THE spot for a famous composition, but I didn't see it back then, so I just snapped a few random compositions

September 4, 2016

My girlfriend came to visit me, and we went to this famous coastal city Monterey for a day trip. Monterey has now become one of the Mac OS's version's names! 😆
I love the sea, so I took a picture of the sea
I like to include people in the scene so that it feels there's something to look at
Having people in the frame also felt a bit more dynamic
I couldn't help but snap a few shots of squirrles
Aquirrium was a fun place to shot weird fish
More weird stuff
Some are quite amazing

October 28-30, 2016

Our first time traveling to Canada and our first time seeing fall color! It was super beautiful and memorable!
Taking picture for my girlfriend was a must
I like watching wildlife do their things
Love the carriage and the vibrant tree on the right
Trying to includes more colors by getting close to the leaves
Try shooting through droplet
The trees and bridges in the distance looks nice together
Taking the chances to shot city's nightscape
Whale specimen from below. I like the symmetry and the tension

December 4, 2016

Around this time, I started to notice how fun it was to shoot wildlife. But my 24-105mm and 24-70mm just aren't long enough. So I purchased one of the best telephoto lenses at the time: Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L II. At 400mm, it can make distanced blurry object looks enormous in my frame, and the image quality was second to none.
I took the lens out to Baylands Natural Preserve for the afternoon. Unfortunately, it felt so big and heavy and attention-drawing that I figured I wouldn't dare and feel comfortable to use it too often. So I returned it within 30 days.
I like shooting airplanes from the bottom
The image quality was superb that I can feel the texture of the fur
It even capture the water splashes!

Dec 24, 2016

After returning the telephoto lens, I purchased a Canon 50mm F1.8 STM prime lens. I was convinced prime lens has better image quality, and with a bigger aperture, it will come with nicer bokeh. Someone on the internet also advocates that with a prime lens, you'll eventually learn how to compose images better by walking around more, which now I think is non-sense.
We found a neighborhood with a full-blown Christmas decoration to enjoy the holiday and take pictures.
Deliberatly out of focus shot to emphasize the LED lights
Another one
The bokeh was nice for sure. But the face was backlit and looks dark 😅

Dec 25-30, 2016

During Christmas and New Year, we had 2 consecutive long weekends. So if we also take time off in between, we can create an 11-day long vacation. And that's what we did. We decided to use this time for our first-ever road trip in the US.
We went from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles for Disneyland and back, taking famous California's Highway 1 to enjoy the coastline along the way. It was the first time we realized we could drive long-distance and enjoy the whole trip, and we really appreciate the freedom and flexibility that comes with it. This trip became the first that inspired the many other road trips we have taken since then.
This is when I get the profile picture that I've been using for years!
My shot for my girlfriend was pretty bad 😂
We win this giant minion from a carnival game. The waiter was amused. It still lives in our living room today

Feb 11-14, 2017

After the Christmas road trip, we couldn't wait to get back on the road. So on our 4th anniversary, we went to Las Vegas and roadtrip to Grand Canyon. We realized we don't care much about city lives and enjoy the outdoors a bit more.
I also switch my camera to always save RAW+JPEG. Even though I still didn't bother to post-process my photo until later in the year, I felt there was no harm in saving those files.
I start loving having small people in the frame to contrast the scale of a grand landscape
Buying some souvenirs from the visiting center and took tourist photos
At Hoover Dam, I was imagining the scene in Transformers
Elphant-shaped rocks. We were more impressed with Valley of Fire State Park than Grand Canyon after this trip

March 25, 2017

Since I still need a telephoto lens to shoot wildlife, I researched all the lenses with telephoto capability and decided on this 28-300mm lens from Tamron. It was super lightweight, and the image quality looked indistinguishable from Canon's lens to me back then. I was so proud that I found this versatile all-in-one lens.
Squrrels again, at 300mm

April 4, 2017

We went to Yosemite for the first time! It was also our second National Park after Grand Canyon. I really appreciate American's National Park system that it's very easy to find things to do with very little research. We just need to show up and get that free yet well-designed brochure at the entrance. For this trip, we also ask a ranger for recommendations and simply follow that.
At the time, I had no idea of the picturesque potential of Yosemite, nor did I know the benefit of shooting during sunrise and sunset. So we just went out mid-day like a normal person. 😆
The classic tunnel view
Yosemite falls
We also join a ranger walkabout bears. We thought he would take us to see a real bear 🤣

April 23, 2017

My friend found this local park: Rancho San Antonio Country Park, which has many animals. So we went for a hike, and I took some wildlife pictures.
Squrrels again.

May 6-7, 2017

Now that we're in love with American National Park, my friends and I went to Seattle to check out Mt Rainier National Park for the first time. We had no idea it was still snow-covered in May and that I'd be coming back like it's my backyard.
I like that gentle lights touching the snow
I love taking candid photos of my friends
It gives me great satisfaction when these candid photos contain actions that strongly draw the viewer's attention
It also works similarly with wildlife. You know something is going on just by looking at the photo
As you can probably tell, I was drawn into nature a lot. I don't have any successful landscape photos yet, but I have a small taste of success with wildlife and candid photos that I really love.