Lost in Vegas

Las Vegas was not, is not, and won’t be my destination. It is, however, my convenient transit point to Utah national parks. Wrongly booked my return date, I ended up having to spend one more day here. I thought I would be overwhelmed by boredom, but not at all. You will see why.

I also dreamed of a jackpot, but I don’t even know how to use a modern slot machine. Besides I was overwhelmed by all sorts of the designs in my surroundings that I did not even consider to come close to the gambling table.

Looking around, I found my favorite flower vase,

Looking up, there are endless ceiling intererst:

Those glamourous casino hotels have characteristics of their own. My interest in architecture is my drive to visit them. However, the content of such hotels is too much for me. If not for a few eye-opening architectural designs, I would not want to stay indoors a bit longer.

Two white door frames welcome you into the restaurant; One hotel concierge is located at the bottom of a wood structure with a bar in the mid-level. I don’t even know how to describe the design.

In Vegas, the walk paths either lead you to a casino or a gift shop. I stayed away from the casino, but I love window browsing and enjoying the creative pieces of work. Chocolate dripping from the ceiling and down right in front of you. Simple fluorescent lights to showcase a fashion red and the whimsical bar stools…

Having hometown gourmet in a foreign place is like having fresh water in the desert. I was tired of expensive restaurants and buffets, so happy to enjoy a simple bowl of shrimp wonton noodle soup. 

Have steaming hot food in an outdoor cafe in Vegas, under 110 degree? Nop. These are cold water mist…

Too much to go on, I don’t want to get you lost either. Las Vegas is not my travel destination, but it is definitely a great place for street photography.

New York, New York (2) – Central Park, Skyscapers

New York is one of the ultimate destination for the tourists and photographers. I have been here numerous times, but the visit to Central Park is my first. Central Park occupies 842.60 acres, more than 5 times of Washington Park in Oregon. I entered the south entrance on 59th street and later discovered that I had to go out of the park and re-entered from 105th street entrance to access the north section of the park which ends on 110th street.

Thought to photograph some fall colors at Central Park, but prime time was over, and I don’t think the tree varieties here generate stunning colors as we have here in Northwest. For one thing, mountains are more superior than buildings as background. There are plenty of space and greens, but wherever you go, you are in the vicinity of the high-rise structures.  I guess it is not so bad to enjoy building/ vegetation mixed reflection which has a character of its own.

Wheather you jog along the reservoir or ice skate at Wollman Rink, you are looking into NYC ‘mountains’.  The shape and structure of the Bow Bridge are appealing. What I like the most is the walking steps wrapped under and hidden inside of the facade. In other words, you cannot see the steps from each side of the bridge.  Bethesda fountain angel statue is common, but it becomes interesting when I witnessed the flock of pigeons landing and forming that familiar sculpture…

You may have seen the giant bubbles at an amusement park or on a busy beach. I was amazed how the bubbles were formed and checked online. There are ‘recipes’ to make large bubbles, really. It is only in Central Park where I expected to see several groups of photographers filming broadcasting subjects.

Architecture in NYC is what interests me the most among the abundant resource of everything, vintage and contemporary. In Europe, we see classics, and here we get to appreciate both. The skyscrapers erect high in the sky and split the blue sky into chunks and strips. They are like a herd of horses sticking their heads up and racing to take up the sky. I meant to take more people pictures, but I could not resist the grandeur above.

Not only during the day, the night sky is also as charming as the day. When I looked into the night sky at home, I was aiming at stars. However, at this moment of time in New York City, I forgot about stars… I only saw the smogged cloud on the dark canvas and the mystical peace of the night.

Before this trip, I purposely avoided viewing other people’s pictures. Many excellent works of iconic landmarks are existing and very accessible online. I feel that I don’t need to jam in thinking that I can do better with these iconic shots. I cannot, particularly in a short stay roaming around town without a tripod.

New York, New York (1) – street photography

Happy Thanksgiving !!! While many are busy exploring Black Friday deals, I am posting a ‘Black Wednesday’ blog (with B&W pictures :-).

With street photography in mind, I went to New York and walked around Manhattan for three full days. Though I have been there more than 20 times in the past, I have never taken a close look at the city until this trip.

I made myself a goal to ask 10 people to take their pictures, as you may know, I like candid shots including wedding and family portrait pictures. However, end of the trip, I did not ask anyone. The city is in her dynamic mold, lively, converting and vibrant. It is like a revolving door moving with the constant flow of people including myself, I snapped as I walked by. I did not either previsualize my shots nor did I try to compose before I shoot.

People are inside and out of the building and coming to and from multiple directions. City life does not seem to begin before it gets dark.

New York is made out of high-rise buildings. A few parks here and there are barely adequate for the vast amount of city residents to hang out and enjoy a slice of greens. I  imagined that the gyms are packed with working people to get their fast work-out.

Morning jogging in Central Park is a treat.  At Northwest, our parks are surrounded by the mountains, and here, New Yorkers have the mountains of their own, the countless skyscrapers and tightly adjacent buildings.

I like nature and its quietness, I also like the action and speed in the big city. I feel energized when I move fast and see things in action.

On this note, I appreciate the life in the big city like NYC.  These people were lined up in front of the building, apparently waiting to get in. Time is an asset in city life and there were certainly no idlers.

It seems to be dangerous enough to be on the skateboard rolling down the sidewalk. I was ready to cross the street and suddenly felt the need to dodge the skater who sneaked into the scene without me noticing it beforehand. And, the black limo was pulling into the pedestrian zone at the same time… Glad that all went well and there was no honking or yelling.

 

I watched the couple strolling with their eyes closed. Holding the hands, they seemed so calm and relaxing, not being distracted by the noise and traffic at all.

Not intentionally, I discovered that I took many pictures showing the fashion and style in the streets. People are conscious of their outlook. Lots of suits for working men, coats and boots for ladies.

It was a windy day. In front of Tiffany, I saw this lady repeatedly trying to cover her legs while walking and talking on the phone…

People walked their dogs (I saw minimum two) in the busy streets. This man has had his dogs trained and was able to handle their street crossing in a very organized manner. He is apparently the owner. I heard that the students walk other people’s dogs to make some small money.

Just to grab a few shots from the streets to show you what I saw. I will be sharing more pictures in the next couple posts.

 

 

Norway – travel journal (1)

There was a reason that I put Scandinavia in my bucket list, I was not quite sure why till I am visually here.  I wish the weather is better and I am not shooting through tour bus window all the time. Completely unknown about this country, it has been an eye-opening experience getting to know this beautiful and sophisticated country.  

Norway has only 5 million people inhabited in this long and skinny land full of absolutely gorgeous fjords (a waterway), endless green field and meadows, story- book like houses, and mirror-like bluish green waters. Most of the farm houses are painted red with white trim. From distance, the dramatic color contrast among green, red, white, blue and other colors creates a picturesque landscape.
typical waterfront houses
In the cities, residential houses are mostly sitting on the hillside. Almost all houses have contrast coloration and barely two identical houses next to each other. The architecture of the regular houses and commercial buildings are both impressive. Old house and buildings are packed with fine details and characters. Newer buildings have also maintained their classic flare. From it’s architecture, we know there is significant history behind.

Upon our arrival, the first two meals are served inside the hotel. We had no idea about the food prices till we stepped outside the comfort zone and was shocked at the food prices. I would say, The prices paid for hole in the wall places can sit us in a upscale restaurant at home comfortably, with wine, appetizers and dessert.  One cup of coffee no refill is between $5-7/cup, hamburger is $17-22, with French Fries $27-30, bottle water $5-7, Danish $5 just to give some examples.

City buildings are manicured in Oslo
Northwest fresh salmon is great. I don’t want to say Norway has better fish, but the cooking method and spice used makes the same fish very tasty. I have to guess that they might use all organic vegetables because the taste is just like what I remembered in my childhood (when pesticide was not used).  It is not the stir fry that I am familiar, but it is so fresh and crunchy. I thought Chinese is the only one knows how to make vegetable crunchily tasty.
Breakfast place seems to all come with a mini bakery and at least half dozen varieties of bread are served in loaves. You cut your own, big or small, no waste. A big array of cheese selection is impressive and fish is served in all breakfast.  Coffee is good, but when we asked for decaffeinated coffee, we were handled over a jar of Nescafe. Also only regular tea is served, no herbal teas. Coffee cup is smaller, 8 oz is their regular size.  I have seen the mugs in the stores. They are all 8 oz.  This explains it why we have seen mostly tall blonds with slender figures.  Today is our 6th day of the trip and I have not seen any overweight people, men or women.
Many women have long blond hair and fair skin, very little make-up.  And, almost all the teenage girls have nothing on their faces, pure and naturally beautiful. No nose rings or tattoos either. Clean, Orderly and Organized are what I witnessed around the cities.
Wood crafts, knitwear, furs and leather products are Norway’s signature products. Sales tax VAT is 25%.  One regular sweater with pattern costs about $500. Simple wood souvenir items start with $20-30 each if it is made in Norway.  From what I know, Income tax is average 30-35% and the higher bracket 40-60%. Everything is so expensive, how people make their living and are elected ‘the happiest people’ in the world?
Original Trading Houes 
We all know Norway has acquired tremendous wealth from their natural resources such as oil and they have one of the best social welfare system. Norwegians are hard-working people. Traditionally they are frugal and have very good saving habit.
Their minimum wage is about $35-40 per hour using waitress as an example. Teacher’s starting salary is about $90,000…. For such earning, high tax rate does not drain them down.  In fact, they only have 3.7% unemployment rate. Average income is $50,000, 80% of the people are house owners. 
Crime rate is low. It has something to do with their gun control law.  Nobody can own a gun without officially applying a license and going through regulated training.  Due to long winter and shortage of sunshine, people tend to become depressed. Drinking is therefore becoming a problem. Fine for drunk driving is one month salary plus three weeks of traffic school. I like their straight and no bull shit rules.
If I want to jump into a conclusion with my short period of observation, I think they have conservative and practical lifestyle, at the same time, they have advanced and utilized all modern technology to create an efficient and self-sufficient society for themselves.

beautiful roofline (Bergen)
Internet has not been going on steadily and our busy tour schedule does not give me enough time to download and go through the pictures taken each day. I hope to catch up soon and I want to share this trip the best I can upon my return.
Just like home (Oregon) except
more dramatic and picturesque