2010 A Look Back: The Places I’ve Been

The clock has already turned in Australia and, since I was born in Australian time, I suppose I am already officially in 2011. Happy New Year!

At the end of each year I try to look back and choose my favorite photographs which, of course, becomes more and more difficult as I take more and more photos. So, this year I plan to separate my picks into three post: The places I’ve been, The things I’ve seen and the people I love. It still won’t scratch the surface, I’m sure, but at least that way I can share some of my favourite shots without being paralyzed by choice.

This was a big travel year for the Ishidas with two major international trips and many small local adventures. In March/April we headed to Australia for my brothers wedding, we had family from Ohio visit in July and took a long-awaited trip to Japan in October. Mix in with that a couple of trips to the coast, an embassy visit in San Francisco and a little business travel, and it honestly feels good to be home as we ring in the new year. It was exciting, fun and a little exhausting all at once.

Christmas Is Over – And I have little to show for it

Christmas is done. The month-long build up has reached its climax and I don’t quite seem to know what to do with myself. It saddens me to think that the Christmas tree will be coming down within the next week, yet I am ready to move on to January and all that the new year will bring – more exercise yadda, yadda, yadda.

As has been the case with Christmases past, I took very few photos. I just find it very difficult to work with the lighting in the depths of winter and I prefer to be in the moment rather than behind the camera – although I did spend a lot of time trying not to place my large rear in full view of Kei’s video camera setup.

Thomas woke early on Christmas day and the poor kid had to wait a full 30 minutes or so before Samuel woke up and we were able to head downstairs. Santa was good to both boys this year with a Melissa and Doug castle for Samuel and a Fire Station Lego set for Thomas. This was really the first Christmas that Samuel understood the concept of opening presents and, after a quick tutorial from his brother, he jumped right in.

Of course Thomas is already a pro.

After opening all of our presents, grabbing a quick nap (for all four of us) and catching up with our families in Ohio and Australia via Skype, we finally settled down to eat a massive hunk of meat and some delicious glazed carrots, complete with the Thomas seal of approval. Oh, and my apologies in advance to any vegetarians who may be stopping by the blog.

For Christmas I received a brand new Canon Speedlight Flash for my camera from my wonderful husband so next year I’ll be tasked with taking some *good* Christmas photos next year. For now I’m focused on finding a space for the new toys and disposing of a pile of wrapping paper that threatens to overtake the living room.

Oh, and I head back to work tomorrow. Now it seems Thomas isn’t the only one praying for snow instead of rain.

Only the Best Pre-Christmas Family Day EVER!

We woke up on Saturday without any specific plans, only that we would try to visit Santa at Macy’s downtown. So we headed out the door, parked the car on the outskirts of the city, and jumped on the lightrail.

After hopping off the train and making a very quick stop at Finnegan’s toy store (that place is a parent trap), we finally turned the corner to see this.

I’m sure it’s even more beautiful at night, but I was satisfied with the cold wintery day and the flashing led lights that look like little sprinklings of snow.

After looking at the tree for about 2 minutes before the kids got bored and asked to move on, we headed into Macy’s. Based on past experience I had my doubts about whether Thomas would be comfortable talking to Santa and, since Samuel takes Thomas’ lead on most things, our chances of a picture with the big guy were doubtful. Sure enough, Thomas told us he’d rather stand back and look at Santa from a distance. Unfortunately the setup at Macy’s means that this was the closest we got.

And I’m OK with it. Sure, I won’t have that iconic photo of a screaming child in Santa’s lap, but part me of me likes the fact that Thomas is a little wary of strangers, especially the kind who ask you to come and sit on their lap and offer you presents.

The biggest benefit of choosing Macy’s for our Santa visit was that Santa is not the only draw. Reindeer and elves were there in abundance.

Even Rudolf made an appearance.

We then headed over to Pioneer place for lunch and a stop at a couple of stores (the ipad was calling my name at Apple – sadly I left empty-handed).

And then, without warning, it SNOWED! Inside! Sure it was some weird-smelling foam substance, but for the few minutes that we were in the mall it was amazing.

At one point, Samuel simply looked up at the falling snow and let out a big sigh of contentment.

So, you’d think getting a glimpse of Santa, saying hi to Rudolf and an unexpected indoor snowstorm would be the highlight of our day, right? Wrong.

We headed back outside and looked across the street and that’s when Thomas’ head exploded.

They were there to draw attention to the Salvation Army bell ringer (it was working). Of course Thomas was too afraid to get close – those Storm Troopers are bad guys you know – but Samuel was game for a Chewbacca high five.

He even tried to relieve one of the Storm Troopers of his blaster.

That’s one authentic Chewbacca outfit.

After adding a little money to the Salvo bucket (they earned it), we headed further up the street and that’s when our day reached it’s peak. I think the only thing that would have made this moment better would have been if Carrie Fisher herself walked out in a gold bikini (circa 1985 Carrie, not 2010 Carrie). Since that was unlikely to happen, we settled for a Princess Leia stand-in and the scariest guy in the universe. (and some random child in my photo because it was difficult to avoid other people’s photo opps and there was no way my children were going to stand anywhere near the dark side of the force).

I’m told that the guy above on the right was trying to be Luke Sywalker because he has the green lightsaber – but that he “doesn’t REALLY look like Luke Skywaker mum”. I explained to Thomas that even Luke Skywalker doesn’t look like Luke Sywalker anymore. I hope I didn’t crush his dreams.

Thankfully, this guy never changes.

Alas, Darth and the Ishidas had to part ways – Darth, to collect more money for the poor and the Ishidas to enjoy a little hot chocolate as the perfect end to our day.

Well, almost perfect. Thomas’ snow globe ornament that I let the him choose at Macy’s earlier that day was not long for this world and ended up in a wet, glassy mess on the floor of Peet’s (rookie Mum mistake).  And, since I couldn’t let the day end on that note, I quickly ran back to buy a new one before we hopped on the train to head home.

Then it really WAS perfect.

And then Samuel got sick later than night and threw up on me – the end.

Ahhh, reality. It always brings us back with a thud.

Sunshine and Sparkly Lights

Took a very quick trip to Seattle yesterday and today to take photos at the work Christmas party (sometimes I really love my job).

I arrived yesterday to cloudy skies, but woke up to this view out of my hotel room window. (Photos taken on the iphone with Hipstamatic.)

I used my real camera to take most of the event photos, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to capture the venue using a new toy app for the iphone that takes amazing panorama shots.

Leaving soon and hoping the standby gods are good to me so I can get an early flight home and take a nap on the plane. Apparently I just can’t party like I used to.

Happy Friday!

Random Musings: December 2010 Edition

Christmas is next week. Next. week. I’m not quite sure how it crept on me but somehow it managed to sneak in there between school and work and family time and general business. Sadly, the blogging has been suffering.

Not that you’ve been missing much. As it so happens, winter is my least favourite season for taking photos. I lost my inspiration somewhere between the yellow color cast of indoor lighting and lack of inspiration offered by the four walls of my house. I think we need to get out more.

Just to prove we are not, in fact, hermits, here is a sample of the few photos I have managed to capture over the past weeks.

1. The kids bundled up on the walk to daycare during a brief cold spell. Although I hate how long it takes to get them into all of this gear, I do love the colourful burst of cuteness.

2. The “arctic blast” sent us a teeny tiny sprinkling of snow (apologies to anyone East of the Dakotas), so I walked back through the park to capture a few photos. I was told off by one of the park landscapers for walking on the public grassed area while it was fragile with frost. Apparently even our grass is ultra-sensitive when it comes to the cold. How many months until Summer?

4. I suppose it WAS cold enough to produce icicles in the pond that were large enough to impale a small child. Anyone else frightened by this photo? Just me?

5. We spent a little time searching local secondhand/vintage stores for the perfect side table to use as a docking station in our office. Although we had no luck on the side table front, we did spot this fantastic couch. Would make the perfect addition to a man cave if only we had a finished basement. It even has a built in record player.

6. It also offered us the opportunity to introduce our children to a rotary phone that (gasp!) plugs into a wall. Samuel still needs a little practice.

7. I finished my Christmas shopping and managed to ship a package to Australia before the deadline. Sorry, just had to throw that in there…

8. This man had a birthday. I won’t tell you how old he is except to say that it starts with a three and ends with a nine. Happy birthday sweetheart.

A Memory Recaptured

I was not a photographer when I lived in Japan twelve years ago. Sure, I took more than a few snapshots during my visit, but I have always regretted the fact that I didn’t have the passion for photography that I have now. In many ways it feels as though 12 months of photo opportunities passed me by and it’s difficult not to feel a small twinge of regret for those lost moments. One in particular stands out as the photograph that got away and I remember, even back then, that I was disappointed not to have captured it on camera.

I was 23 when I first arrived in Tokyo and already fairly well traveled having undertaken the 3 month backpacking trek through Europe that is almost a right of passage for Aussie University students. Still, the bus ride from Narita airport to our hotel in Tokyo was eye opening. I remember looking up at the enormous apartment buildings with thousands and thousands of identical windows and wondering what it must be like to live in such a confined space. I was a long way from my suburban Melbourne home and, for some reason, this image was the one that made it a reality.

When we traveled back to Japan in October, I tried to capture this image on camera. It’s not perfect – taking photos out the window of a speeding train has its challenges – but I was grateful to have captured, on film, this memory of my first visit to Japan. To me, it’s much more than just a photograph.