The Great Pacific Northwest

 

The Pacific northwest (PNW) is a very special place in the world; adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by mountains, and bordering Canada. A place where picture perfect sunsets in the summer is a daily thing, a place where you get a new perspective of rain. A place where thunder and lighting storms don’t exist, and a place you can go to feel humbled by nature when life starts moving too fast. The Pacific northwest is a place I called home for almost two years.

During my last month there, my best friend from home came to visit for a road trip to the west coast. We started our trip out in Seattle, walking around Pioneer Square, seeing the Pike’s Place fish market, and taking a view of the Olympic mountains from the park.

We rented a bright orange Mini Cooper and started our trek to the west coast of America. If you’ve been to the Pacific Northwest you already know, but you can’t drive anywhere outside of the city without getting gorgeous views of all nature around. Even the highways in Seattle are overflowing with lush green, that get trimmed a few times a year because of how much growth falls over the highway.

Our first destination was a stop in the Olympic National Park, which is home to mountains, but what is more special than that is it’s home to one of just a few rain forests in all of the United States. We drove and made stops along the way just to appreciate the scenery around us.

We spent the night in Forks, which is a small town close to the coast, that’s most famous for the movie Twilight. Which means literally every place we went to had Twilight themed things, including the names of the Subway special sandwiches. Our airbnb was a quaint little cabin along a river, which was the most relaxing sound to hear.

The next morning was our only full day on the coast, so we woke up early to make the most of it. Ruby beach was our destination, which is one of my favorite beaches in America. When you enter, the beach is full of rounded stones and pebbles, but the further you walk down, it turns into the purest form of sand. As you stare out into the ocean there, its easy to be taken away by the waves and the rocks. But as soon as you turn around, you’re reminded of where you are in the world, where all you can see is forests of pointy evergreen trees and logs. Breathing in fresh misty air on the beach is a feeling I hope everyone can experience at least once in their lifetime.

Next on the agenda was Cape Flattery, which is the northwestern most point of the contiguous United States. Cell phone service goes out, roads become more windy, and the excitement builds. The rain starts falling a little it harder than usual as we pull up to the parking lot. It’s a short hike with some uneven terrain but a lot of wooden walkways and tree root steps. The Pacific Northwest has given me a new perspective on rain than what the midwest has given me — the rain is light, it’s mild. It’s not like the heavy buckets of water with lighting and thunderstorms that I’m used to. The rain in PNW adds a bit of life to everything. Our hike was full of shiny, glossy leaves, that reflected all of the light in the most gorgeous way. The sound of the light rain hitting each leaf is one you could meditate to.

After running through the forest, we finally see the coast. The trees start to open up and our excitement took over. The cliffs here are untouched and unfenced, which makes for an unobstructed view of the various rock formations, wildlife, and water. It is a place I would recommend everyone to go to, because its absolutely unforgettable.

As we started our trek back home right before sunset, a bald eagle flew past our car which was really a great ending to a mini road trip.

I’ve moved out of PNW, but it forever will hold a special place in my heart, and it will always feel like a second home to me. This trip shows just a micro-fraction of the beauty this pocket of the country holds, and I am so thankful I got to spend a portion of my life growing here. And who knows, maybe one day I will call it home again. Until then, I will be back soon to visit the mountains and everything else there is to offer.

 

Japan

 

Although I live in Seattle, I consider Japan a home away from home. While I'm half Malaysian and have actually made Japan more frequent in my calendar than annual doctor's visits, culture shock is still prominent. It is a country where full self-expression is encouraged (and expected), where cleanliness and controlled chaos can be found walking among others in busy streets.

Fashion here sets precedent for new global trends and it's married to traditional cultural values that still remain of utmost importance, like showing respect. Behavioral nuances such as respect are woven into the fabric of Japan's culture so much so that you can even see the influence of this cultural differentiation even in the cuisine.

Making my way through the city as an outsider, I was able to find enjoyment in the otherwise mundane moments we take for granted.

Happy Girl, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Happy Girl, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

An afternoon bike ride, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

An afternoon bike ride, Shinjuku, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

The daily grind, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

The daily grind, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

The daily grind, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

The daily grind, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

The first thing I heard were the constant announcements I couldn’t understand.

Little Moments, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 1.4 50mm

Little Moments, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 1.4 50mm

Looking around were people wearing face masks, minding their own business and busy on their way. It was around 5pm, so rush hour was in full effect; employees orchestrated the swarms of people like water flowing into a funnel into the already overly packed train; a collective disregard to personal space.

In Japan, cleanliness and attention to detail does not go unnoticed.

A rare sight in Japan, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

A rare sight in Japan, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Walking down the streets you may be shocked to find an absence of litter, no garbage cans, and vending machines for cold and hot drinks everywhere. Early in the mornings we would observe shop owners cleaning every single leaf off the sidewalk that has fallen the night before. Cleanliness is an act that everyone feels an obligation to participate in.

Tokyo is a streetwear photographers paradise. I was lucky to spend the first few days and nights there. Apparel is not simply worn to stay warm or to be practical with whatever place of employment they were hustling off to, their look is a full expression of themselves. Tokyo style is a hybrid of trends that combine with unique personal touches creating an air of effortlessness which is so intriguing.

Supper on a Rainy Night, Shinjuku Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Supper on a Rainy Night, Shinjuku Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

I felt like I was a little kid again in a big city with everything new and exciting. There were beaming bright lights around every corner, playful typography among the seas of various signs and my favorite-- bunches of ramen and sushi shops everywhere!

Lost in Translation, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Lost in Translation, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

The Ramen Source, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 1.4 50mm

The Ramen Source, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 1.4 50mm

More noodles, less talk, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 1.4 50mm

More noodles, less talk, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 1.4 50mm

The perfect ramen, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on iPhone X

The perfect ramen, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on iPhone X

Little toy vending machines selling cute trinkets for 200 yen became instant pit-stops.

Long noodles, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Long noodles, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Taiyaki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Taiyaki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Kyoto was next. The JR train, which is one of the bullet trains that run throughout Japan, made this extremely accessible. The warm and flourishing sights of the countryside were a stark, yet welcome contrast to the hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

Kyoto is one of the quietest cities I’ve been to.

A quiet bus ride, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

A quiet bus ride, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Walking to the Airbnb while rolling my suitcase felt like a disruption because the noise of the wheels against the pavement was loud. It felt almost serene to be able to reflect on otherwise minuscule details with stronger attention because of this sound awareness. Even the food shops felt slow paced in comparison to Tokyo. 

Chicken Ramen, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Chicken Ramen, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Peace in the city, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Peace in the city, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

The next day, I went to the bamboo forest. It was a sacred area, filled with tombstones and shrines.

Shine sunsets, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D 24-70mm

Shine sunsets, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D 24-70mm

Eternal peace, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D 24-70mm

Eternal peace, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D 24-70mm

It is blanketed in bamboo as high as the eye could see.

The depth of bamboo forests, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm

The depth of bamboo forests, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm

The surroundings are enough to get lost in, so it was exciting to stumble upon new little things all along the way. Every detail about Kyoto is in complete opposition to Tokyo. From the ambiance and environment of Kyoto, I can still imagine sitting on the side of the road just listening to the gentle wind in a state of meditation.

Tranquil Mountains, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm

Tranquil Mountains, Kyoto, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm

Osaka was next. The first steps taken off the train from Osaka was immediately immersed into a river of people and shops. Once I got out of the street of shops, I was greeted with neon lights covering every single building, and food shops everywhere. Osaka was full of life, full of moments.

Osaka, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm

Osaka, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm

On the last leg of the trip, the journey continued back to Tokyo. I got the chance to shoot with a lovely model, Mizuki. While our communication was more visual than verbal, I'm happy that the positive energy was captured in a successful shoot.

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 50mm

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 50mm

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 50mm

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 50mm

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 50mm

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 50mm

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 50mm

Mizuki, Tokyo, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with Sigma 50mm

I’m thankful for the opportunity to travel and document the wildly diverse parts of Japan. It’s one of the most unique countries in the world and I'm already in anticipation of when I can visit again!

In Another World, Osaka Aquarium, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm (shot by Evan Luza, edited by me)

In Another World, Osaka Aquarium, 2017. Shot on Canon 6D with 24-70mm (shot by Evan Luza, edited by me)

Sunrise over Japan, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm

Sunrise over Japan, 2017. Shot on Leica M8 with Voigtlander 1.4 35mm