tcchen

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Bubbles

Why do kids like making/blowing bubbles? Do I still remember the sensation as a small kid blowing my first bubble with just a straw and some soapy water and seeing it being carried away by a summer breeze? No, but I do remember the taste of soap and potentially this has something to do with the bubble-blowing activity. So I asked my 4-year-old and as expected she didn’t have enough vocabulary to describe much of her feeling, but she did sketch on a piece of paper the motion of her hands waving the magical bubble wand in the air. That drawing contains the little secret path to her brain, just like any artwork to its creator.

To her that wand must possess true magic power (yes like Elsa’s); To me watching her grow up, however fast, is no less magical.

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La Frontera

At the boundary of Bolivia and Argentina at La Quiaca I watched Bolivians* crossing the border by walking down the dirt path, hopping across the river, then climbing up a concrete debris slope into the shadow of some building, while the official border control sits atop on the southern end of the stone bridge. Many of them are locals who carry their goods to trade in the neighboring country – this reminds me of the trade that used to happen in the middle of the Taiwan Strait.

As I walked, at an altitude of 3.4km, under scorching sun, and taking in 30% less oxygen compared to sea level, pass a sign pointing to ‘La Frontera’ with a long line of weary travelers under it, I couldn’t help but think our true frontier shouldn’t be any wall built for the sake of separating people but the one 30km above us in the ozone layer – ultimately this is what keeps us all alive.

* During the 19th and 20th centuries Argentina was the country with the second biggest immigration wave in the world. Nowadays Bolivians still consist of roughly one tenth of Argentina’s population, and they (along with immigrants from neighboring countries) had faced xenophobic campaigns (sounds familiar?) from national/local governments. See https://nacla.org/article/hard-road-argentinas-bolivians

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Roaming

“Here, by the riverbank… I could keep myself busy for months without shifting my position, inclining sometimes more to the right, sometimes more to the left.” Paul Cézanne. 1906.

Cuernos del Paine, Chile

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The heart of a sunken city

In ancient times people built peculiar street pattern like a labyrinth to confuse the invaders. Venezia’s maze of narrow streets has the same effect to deter the modern day tourists, but only to a certain degree. Global warming and the growing tourism are both sinking the islands on different levels. It’s only during the wee hours that one can start to feel the heartbeat of the old city when it resurfaces from a cloud of perfume.

And to me, this bridge represents the heart of the city. No one seems to know which backstreets connect to either end of it. No gondola glides beneath it. The bridge seems so exposed yet private, so close yet so far. I don’t know how many true Venetians still inhabit the city, but I imagine there’s one of them guarding this bridge like the oldest and fondest memory.

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A historic theater

Through movies we relive someone’s live, but at the same time also a part of ours. Sometimes it hurts but eventually it finds way to untie the knots deep in our hearts, not unlike a massage therapy.

This historic Jones Theater in Westcliffe, Colorado was a saloon in the 1880s where miners spent their money from mining silver in the nearby towns. It has been more than 90 years since a Westcliffe man purchased the building and showed the first movie here. On this particular night they were showing a 2015 film “Ricky and the Flash” starring Meryl Streep, but to me the atmosphere felt more like “Out of Africa” from the 80s.

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Silver Linings

The summer of 2015 marked one of the most destructive wildfire seasons in memory for the entire west coast of the US.  Countless people/animals were affected with millions of acres land scorched, homes destroyed, and memory gone. The smoke travelled as far west as Colorado, 1000 miles away, causing hazy sky and polluted air. This was shot on top of Mount Evans when the setting sun was veiled by all the miniscule particles across all the four states (California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado) allowing me to direct a telephoto lens toward the sun, and with silver linings around the mountain goats.

Ice bean

What made you move to Montana?

One of my favorite photographers, Jesse Speer, after living in Colorado for years, moved to Montana. A Senior VP in my company has a one-man office in Bozeman. To me Montana has always been a state that has a lot of space, both physically and spiritually. It can be extremely cold which I suffered painfully when I was stuck on a lift chair waiting to be evacuated. The locals are tough enough to take the harsh weather like a piece of cake, but they also have a soft spot toward the nature.

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Unnamed hot spring next to Castle Geyser

A Wonderland of H20

During the few mornings we stayed at Gardiner, the north entrance to the park, we hiked up to the terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs before dawn to catch the first light. Standing on the brink of the pool, frigid, the light first hit the snow-capped hill behind us and gradually, the pool started to glow by reflecting the blue-white-ish sky. Before we knew it, the entire landscape in front of us was bathing in dazzling golden light. At Mammoth Hot Springs thousands of gallons of water well up each day, deposit large amounts of travertine, and build tier upon tier of cascading, terraced stone. The mist arose slowly from the terrace and shaped the sunlight in thousands of different ways. After a handful of pictures captured in as short as 10 minutes, we packed and headed to our transportation of the day.

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The crescent moon about to set behind the ridge

The Wolves

Yellowstone contains the largest concentration of free-roaming wildlife in the lower 48 states. Known as North America’s Serengeti, Lamar Valley has been home to the first reintroduced Druid Peak wolf pack. The original five members of the pack were captured in British Columbia and relocated to the valley in 1996. In the next five years this pack grew to become the biggest wolf pack ever documented. The dynasty has fallen and come back a few times in the past decade and has been documented in numerous films such as BBC’s Yellowstone series. The drama came to an end in 2010 with wolves leaving the pack followed by the death of the last female wolf. Nowadays the valley is mainly occupied by Agate and Lamar Canyon packs.

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Backroad along Paradise Valley

Christmas in Yellowstone

“Well, other than fly-fishing and being the filming location for A River Runs Through It and Horse Whisperer, I don’t really know where else to point you in Livingston…”, the young, skibum-like barista shrugged his shoulders. We were the last customers and he wanted to close down and call it a day.

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