Whidbey (Whidby) Island (nicknamed “The Rock”) is located about 48 km north of Seattle in the Olympic Peninsula. It is one of nine islands, and especially gorgeous in the spring and summer. We took a day trip up to Whidbey, beginning early in the morning with a stop for brunch at the famed Patty’s Eggnest in Mukilteo, before boarding a ferry to the island. Beginning our day in Langley, we stopped by a beach to observe a scuba diving class and take some photos down by the water. We then headed north on the island, stopping at the picturesque Greenbank Winery for some wine tastings and pie, before heading to a farmer’s market in Coupeville. Late in the afternoon, we stopped at the beautiful Fort Casey Park, and walked along the beach. Luckily, the weather was on our side, and the sun shined brightly throughout the entire day. Just before sunset, we entered Oak Harbor and made our way to Deception Pass, where we grabbed some gorgeous sunset shots.
I highly recommend Whidbey Island as a great day trip for residents and visitors of Seattle.
Peep some photos below, with hi-res images available for download here.
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This year, I’m gearing up for my first-ever experience down in Austin, Texas for the annual SXSW music festival. Attended by thousands from around the world, Austin becomes a mecca for anyone who’s anyone in the entertainment business. Personally, I’m going for the music part, and can’t hardly wait for the free flowing booze and music that everyone raves about. Despite having only spent a little over a year as a writer/photographer in the music industry, I’ve been to my fair share of multi-day music festivals in the Pacific Northwest. There are the multi-stage festivals all contained within the same area like Bumbershoot at the Seattle Center and Sasquatch and Warped Tour out at The Gorge. Then there’s the multi-venue festivals that can have you walking miles (or *gasp* even driving) from one show to another, like MusicFest Northwest in Portland, or the new City Arts Festival in Seattle.
I prefer the first type of festivals, since it’s much easier to stay within a contained area, and there’s nearly always a central press room to stow gear throughout the day. Unfortunately, this is not what SXSW will be like. I’m expecting a clusterf*ck of people and bands, all within a huge radius. Don’t get me wrong, I’m counting on having a good time, but just the thought of navigating, shooting, and networking for 12+hours a day, seven days in a row is exhausting.
So in an effort to prepare for this madness, here’s my list of things I’m expecting, and solutions I have for them.
1. A daily schedule of showcases and parties. SXSW veterans are probably rolling with laughter at this idea. Given the hundreds of parties and events popping up on SXSW’s Twitter feed every day, it’s going to be nearly impossible to document everything I RSVP for, and totally impossible to go to them all. I know it’s all part of the SXSW experience to “just go with it” and not have a plan, but I’m still attempting a Google Docs spreadsheet to lay out my priority parties/showcases, and have backups, just in case.
*A word on parties and RSVPs: even if you are an accredited SXSW photographer with a camera tag, I’m being told this won’t always apply to big-name shows and private parties. I’ve been getting in touch with press folks running these private shindigs and asking for extra photo passes. Better safe than sorry.
2. Location, Location, Location. A SXSW veteran and friend sent me a map of downtown Austin, with all the major venues and hotels highlighted. I’m casually committing parts of it to memory, and seeing just how unrealistic my already impossible schedule is. The superhuman in me looks at the map and says, “2 miles from one show to another? I can run that in under 15 minutes.”
3. Get juiced. Gear-wise, I’m set with my DSLR and three trusty Nikkor lenses (with insurance for all!). What I’m extremely nervous about is running out of power and memory. Proposed solution:
- (2) 16-GB SanDisk memory cards
- (1) Western Digital My Passport Essential portable hard drive – 500GB
Luckily, all these things are relatively compact and will easily fit into my bag, and hopefully keep me powered.
4. Travel light. Some photographers recommend bringing two camera bodies for convenience, but given my small size, I think this will actually work against me. I’m sticking to my main DSLR body and 3 trusty lenses. For the day, I’ll stash my gear in my trusty Think Tank Retribution 10 shoulder bag. The laptop and MyPassport hard drive will stay in the hotel. I’m still leaning toward carrying an extra daypack to store my non-camera goods and any merch/freebies I can find. Wanting something lightweight, I picked up a Timbuk2 Q backpack, with a special laptop compartment (which will be vacant throughout the day). We’ll see if I end up using it or not.
5. Sell yourself. I ordered a stack of business cards from Vista Print with my updated contact info, and will have a ton of my publication’s stickers on me. Networking at SXSW is key, and I’m ready for that!
6. Dress well. I’m still stumped on this part. Shall I bring a rolly suitcase, or a backpacking pack? Shall I bother with cute sundresses, or just stick to T-shirts? Probably the latter in both cases, but who knows. I leave packing to the last minute, as always. It’s not like I’m going to a third world country. Still, essentials will be sunscreen and sunglasses; important to remember Texas weather is not Seattle weather. And as for shoes, sticking with my trusty pair of Keds—not too casual, but still comfortable.
7. Some other things TBA:
- A stool. Apparently photo pit access is very limited at SXSW, and given my lack of height, I worry about not getting a good view. A SXSW veteran seriously recommended bringing a portable stool. Still debating on that one.
- A rental car. Actually, I’m not considering this, but a SXSW vet I know is. I suppose it makes sense—if you’re staying far away from the action, and have a schedule that’s all over the place, a car might be a good option. Supposedly parking and rental rates aren’t bad either. If you are staying close to downtown, however, do think about taking the R&R shuttle; it’s supposedly worth the cost.
- A case of 5 Hour Energy. I know free food and booze (and presumably energy drinks) will be free flowing, but I’m partial to my 5 Hour Energy. I’ll probably buy a bunch and stow them in my camera bag for when I need a quick pick-me-up. I’m definitely bringing some Airborne, Pepto Bismol, and Tylenol; the last thing I want to do is get sick in Austin.
What Actually Happened
A week later, I’m still trying to recover from the whirlwind that is SXSW. It was my first trip to Austin and my first time participating in such a massive festival. The experience is what many compare to Mardi Gras in New Orleans–the streets are open to pedestrians only and it seems like the entire city participates in the festivities. All in all, I photographed over 60 bands in the five days I was there for SXSW. Each piece of my photography gear suite was absolutely essential, especially the extra batteries, memory cards, and portable cell phone charger. A cell phone is your best friend at SXSW–following the essential Twitter accounts will tell you when random last minute events pop up, and your friends will be texting and Facebooking you like crazy. All of my TBA items ended up being unnecessary, although a stool wouldn’t have hurt in some cases, and I did take massive amounts of Tylenol and Airborne. I’d definitely add a bicycle to the list to make transportation easier. A bike would have been much cheaper than going by bicycle taxi and less taxing on your body.
The main piece of advice I have for anyone attempting SXSW is to pace yourself. Pick out maybe five bands a day you absolutely want to see and leave tons of room to improvise. My schedule I made before leaving turned out to be a great guide to structuring my day, but I didn’t stick to it at all. Also, remember to eat and hydrate. I found it surprisingly hard to come by free food at SXSW, despite what all the parties promised. It turns out free booze flows everywhere, but food not so much. Nonetheless, pause every once in a while and grab a great pulled pork sandwich from one of the many food trucks parked around in the grounds. Even if it costs a few bucks, you won’t regret it later in the day.
Bottom line: prepare in advance but expect to improvise, rest when you can, remember to eat, and just have fun!
Want to see all the concert photos and official coverage I got from SXSW 2011? Check this out.
“….Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure.Ours is an entertainment seeking-nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one….This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype- the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax…But is it such a bad thing to live like this for just a little while? Just for a few months of one’s life, is it so awful to…nap in a garden, in a patch of sunlight, in the middle of the day, right next to your favorite fountain? And then to do it again the next day?”
The above quote is from Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat, Pray, Love, which got me through the second half of my travels. In her deeply emotional and personal writing, Gilbert made a lot of statements that I identified with and a few of which I shared above. I do very fervently believe that “Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure.” Despite my embarking on a month of travel “for pleasure,” I admit that at times it was hard to completely forget my responsibilities and wonder exactly what I was going to do when I got home. I can’t think of anything worse than lying on one of the world’s most beuatiful beaches in Costa Rica when “the worries” start to set in, and suddenly I can’t appreciate my current pleasures because my mind feels so dependent on having every future detailed in my life figured out.
And then I realized that maybe it didn’t have to be that way.
My two main pleasure reading books for my trip were Eat, Pray, Love and The Power of Now. I couldn’t have chosen more appropriate books
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” -Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love
“Be present as the watcher of your mind — of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react. Notice also how often your attention is in the past or future. Don’t judge or analyze what you observe. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction. Don’t make a personal problem out of them. You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things that you observe: the still, observing presence itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher.“ -Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
Elizabeth Gilbert and Eckhart Tolle have their fair share of critics. A NPR feature reported a man who considered Eat, Pray, Love “chick-lit crap,” which I could understand because Gilbert is very forthright (and hormonal) with her emotions in her writing, which could drive a man insane. My friend who began reading The Power of Now after I had finished it couldn’t get past the first chapter because his theories and observations were “too out there,” which I could understand. Some of Tolle’s points seemed a little hokey to me too. At the same time, both authors had their good points. I think Tolle is absolutely right that too many people aren’t really alive in the sense that they are too caught up in the past or future, and are thus unable to live in the now. I am more than guilty of that. Gilbert has a similar revelation when she is studying yoga and meditation in India, and at one point makes the declaration that happiness is earned and requires work to maintain.
Perhaps I am speaking to a minority, and I am one of few who has this problem of living in the past and future, and not realizing that one needs to work to find happiness. If you’ve already figured all of that out, congratulations, and keep it up. If you haven’t, then I hope that these points are as enlightening to you as they were to me when I first realized them.
A huge leafy green salad. That is the one thing my body is craving when I touch down onto US soil in Houston after my 9 hour flight out of Amsterdam Schipol. The nutella-peanut butter sandwich and stroopwafle had definitely worn off, so a Wendy’s chicken salad leaves me contented, and thus, my one month of traveling is coming to an end. I can hardly believe that the full month has come to an end. Part of me is itching to hop aboard another international flight, and part of me is ready to quit living out of my backpack, wondering how long I’ll have to keep re-using my clothes before I can wash them again.
Overall, this trip has been rewarding in every possible way. As always, I managed to travel relatively lightly, since the only souvenirs I collect are postcards, chocolate bar wrappers, and Coke bottle wrappers. I must confess though that my pack has gained a few more kilos due to the licorice, stroopwafels and cookies my friends sent with me. As another sad yet unsurprising fact, my favorite clothes that were destroyed, in this case, a pair of jeans I’ve been wearing for the past 3 years, and 5 pairs of socks that got moldy and ant-infested in humid Costa Rica. Still, I managed to see and do an amazing amount of things during my travels including:
- kicking back in Americus, Georgia
- partying up in Atlanta
- experiencing an “authentic” Costa Rican holiday in Limón
- lounging the beautiful beaches of Puerto Viejo and Puerto Jimenez
- hiking the rainforests of Corcovado and seeing all the wildlife
- relaxing and taking in the beauty of Bahía Drake
- seeing good friends in Wageningen
- walking the infamous streets of Amsterdam
- falling in love with Bavaria on the Romantic Road
…and all the while being reunited with old friends and making new ones in every destination.
In the mean time, you can read about and support my next (planned) big adventure to Pokhara, Nepal by clicking here!