Taipei // Longshan Temple

if you read this blog [and look at the pictures] you probably know by now I have a thing for the dragon-covered temples that can be found around every corner in Taiwan.

Longshan Temple in Taipei is one of the most famous temples in Taiwan. like many temples, it is dedicated to a combination of Taoist and folk deities [over 165 are worshipped here] and is one of the oldest and busiest religious sites in Taiwan.

if you take the MRT to the Longshan Temple stop, you can exit through an underground mall and surface across the street from the temple. past the gate there is a large courtyard with waterfalls to the right and a golden dragon fountain to the left.

the inside of the temple is packed with worshippers of all ages, burning incense and supplicating the various deities.

do I feel awkward and maybe a little irreverent poking my lens into someone elses' place of worship? yes. but I do my best to stay out of the way and be as inconspicuous as a white girl with a camera can be. [also, I saw five other people snapping away while we were there. so a little less awkward.]

Longshan Temple lacks the gold and sparkle of some of the places I've visited in Thailand, but I find the faded dragons just as captivating. there's just something about detailed tilework and ornate carvings that I love... no matter the culture the come from.

I might be biased with my love of dragons, but I think that Longshan Temple is definitely worth a stop if you're in Taipei - particularly if you've never been to a temple in Taiwan before. the complex is large but not overwhelming, and though every temple is unique, Longshan has a great representation of several different elements and styles.

plus... you could email me to come be your tour guide!


52 weeks project recap

since we are almost to the end January, I figured I better share the results of my 2013 52 weeks project with you:

I made it through all 52 weeks! and I actually ended up with 53 photos... I'll explain why in a minute.

the simple twine + mini clothespin display I started last January has finally filled up! if you remember, I hung the twine using tiny 3M sticky hooks. I added a few more strands as the year went on.

for a while, I was hanging all of my instax photos here... but I've moved the extra photos elsewhere in the apartment for now.

41// Guang Fu Road
42// dragon archway
43// one of my park writing spots
44// red door + lion knocker
45// plum blossom pavillon
46// the gardens by our lake
47// a striped selfie

48// dragons + power lines
49// roadway gate [more dragons]
50// the egg sculpture
51// Big City Christmas tree
52a// New Year's on the roof - me
52b// New Year's on the roof - Husband

that's right... week 52 has 2 photos. I actually thought I had completed the project, but on December 31st I realized [just in time] that I needed one more. Husband had just come home from school and the sun was setting, so we ran up to the roof to catch the last of the light. there were 2 exposures left on my camera. it only seemed right that we should each have an "end of 2013" photo.

I love this wall so much... every time I see it, I smile. 2013 was an amazing year, and I'm so lucky I can reflect on those memories every day just by walking into my office.

not every picture turned out perfect, and I learned a lot about working with instant film. I definitely think I would attempt this again as another 52 weeks project. but for now, my instax camera will just be for fun.

this year I've decided to tackle a weekly self-portrait. [all of your comments about self-portraits made me really want to try it again!] I may not be sharing them all on the blog, or even telling you that they are part of my project when I post them... but they'll be there. [hint: check out the last photo!]

have you ever done a photo project? are you working on one this year?

see the rest of my 52 weeks posts here:


5 tips for better travel photography

five tips to help you improve your travel photography

I love photography. and I love travel. in the past few years, I've had the opportunity to capture some amazing places with my lens. below are a few tips that I've found to be helpful - all of them learned from experience! I hope that you'll find them helpful on your next trip, or even shooting around your own backyard.

Hong Kong travel photography tips
Thailand travel photography

1. try a new perspective. 

if you’re visiting a major tourist attraction, chances are that thousands of people have stood exactly where you are and clicked the shutter button. go ahead and take the “classic” shot, then start experimenting. try a new angle. get in close. then get in even closer. look up. look down. find the details that make this place unique. [just don't cross any barriers and get yourself kicked out!]

3. get up early. 

let's be honest: jetlag sucks. but when I find myself awake on vacation at an inhuman hour, I walk outside with my camera. [the above sunrises were both from early-morning jetlag walks.] most people come home with sunset photos, but the light is usually pretty fantastic in the morning. arm yourself with a cup of coffee and try it out sometime.

4. avoid the crowds - OR - use them. 

if you can, visit a location during low season or right before open/close when fewer tourists will be around. pay attention and time your shots carefully if you want to keep strangers out of your frame. if you are at a high-traffic attraction, this may mean getting creative. [when we visited the Grand Palace in Bangkok, it was swarming with people… but I made a game of trying to shoot without people in my frame.] OR. use the people around you to make your photographs more interesting. I get wrapped up in just the scenery a lot of the time, but capturing a few of the locals can really add to the atmosphere of your shot.

Wat Pho Thailand

4. use what you know. 

vacation is not the time to experiment learning full manual on your new DSLR. I fully encourage you to learn how to use manual. but. you should practice when it doesn't matter rather than while shooting a once-in-a-lifetime scene. practice shooting lots of everyday things before your trip - your dog, your dinner, your local art festival - and you'll be comfortable using your skills. OR if you haven't had time to figure it out, shoot using the mode/lens/camera you are comfortable with. you'll end up with better shots if you feel confident in the equipment you're using.

Boracay sunset

5. don’t spend the entire time behind the lens. 

yes, you want to bring home memories of this amazing experience… but you also want to experience it. I’ve been guilty of getting so caught up in taking pictures that I don’t give myself time to actually enjoy what we are seeing/doing. every now and then put the camera down and just look around. not only will this help you be in the moment, but taking some time to view the scene may inspire a great shot you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. besides, you're on vacation!

want to improve your travel photography skills? these five tips will get you started


packing list: 10 days in Bali

this detailed packing list breaks down what to bring for a 10 day trip to the island of Bali, Indonesia. figuring out what to pack is always tough for me, so I thought I would share in hopes that this will help you out! this list is specifically for my trip to Bali, but could work for any number of tropical climates.

I'm leaving for Bali tomorrow and my bag is finally packed! [except for my toothbrush, etc... obviously plan to use that before leaving but you get the point.] according to statistics and science and stuff, you guys like when I post about packing. and since part of my pre-packing planning and crazy procrastination was to take pictures of most of my clothes, you're about to see exactly what it is I've packed.

I'm going to preface this with a little disclaimer: we are flying on an airline that allows 20 kg of luggage for free, and my backpack has a 75 liter capacity. we are also staying at the same hotel in Ubud the entire time- so packing light is not a huge concern. our major activities will be visiting temples and beaches, hanging out by the pool and walking into town for food. maybe some scooting and definitely some avoiding thieving monkeys in the jungle.

with that in mind, I have packed:

dresses: for some reason I don't like traveling in pants, so I plan to wear a dress with leggings on the plane. dresses are also easy to throw on to head for breakfast, or dinner, or the beach, etc etc. it's also good to bring one nicer outfit just in case.

shirts + shorts: I try to pack a mix of plain and patterned shirts. since shoulders need to be covered when we visit temples, I'm bringing half of my shirts with some sleeve. each shirt has go with at least two of the pairs of shorts. I could probably survive with only one of the jean shorts... but while the ones on the left are longer, they tend to stretch out after a few wears.

swimwear: I like my swim tops to have a little support- especially since I will occasionally wear one as a strapless bra while traveling. this means they can't scrunch as much and take up more space, but what's a girl gonna do? I also will bring multiple bottoms to go with certain tops sometimes... my black swimsuit has four different cut/patterned bottoms I can wear with it. [though I'm only bringing two this trip. see? progress.]

outerwear: Bali is going to be highs around 85F and a low of 75F while we are there. I've packed this scarf and a light cardigan to take with me at night. I may not need them, but I hate being cold and I tend to get chilled easily if I get too much sun. the jacket is mostly for the plane [since I always FREEZE] and is a super comfy sweatshirt material.

not everything is pictured because it was either in the laundry, or I changed my mind about what to bring. [or because you know what a white v-neck tshirt looks like.] also included but not pictured are the 12 travel essentials I shared with you before [medicine, entertainment, etc] and a few splurges too [camera gear, nailpolish.]

here's a more comprehensive list:
4 tank tops
5 tshirts
4 dresses
3.5 swimsuits
3 pairs of shorts
1 set running clothes
1 sarong wrap
1 scarf
1 cardigan
1 sweatshirt/jacket
2 pairs sandals
pajamas + underwear

and it all fits in here! my bag officially clocks in at 11.3 kg, not including the zip-on backpack that I will use for a carryon.

as I've been putting this post together I realize that most of my packing issues revolve around procrastination... but at least this time it's for a good cause. I'm leaving tomorrow but have scheduled a few posts for you while I'm gone. you can also keep up with our trip on twitter + instagram [depending on internet availability.] have a great few weeks and I'll see you in february!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

update: where it's from
red + grey stripe dress, pink/blue/black pattern dress, blue pattern tank, orange pattern tank, purple tee, rolled jean shorts, newsprint bikini, sweatshirt moto jacket : Anthropologie 
black + cream striped dress, scoopneck tee : Target
grey dress, green shorts : Old Navy
mint v-neck tee, black tank, palm print bikini : Victoria's Secret 
ripped jean shorts, printed scarf : Forever 21


friday thoughts

it's been a while since I just sat here and wrote. I've been trying so hard to keep up with things and stick to a schedule that the extraneous gut writing has been building up. I know you guys love free fonts and travel stories and goal-setting... but sometimes a girl just has to make a list of random things.


1. I get anxious before I travel. not about the actual travel [I kindof like flying] but about getting everything done before I leave on a trip. I feel very overwhelmed and that there are a hundred things that MUST be done... and so I turn into a multi-tasking machine. but I try to do so many things [half of them not actually important] that it takes me forever to get things done.

2. case in point: packing. oh.my.lord does packing make me anxious. my train of thought goes something like this... I'm staying for 10 days so maybe I'll bring 4 pairs of shorts and 3 dresses. no, that's too much. 3 pairs of shorts. but which 3 pairs? if I bring these shorts they will go with this and this and this top... but I really like these polka dot shorts that only match one shirt. I need tshirts for visiting temples... wait, are the temple rules the same here? I should probably google that. and on, and on, and on.

3. for some reason I decided a great way to procrastinate get organized for packing was to pull out all of the clothing I might want to take with me, and hang it up and photograph it. said clothes are currently in a giant pile jammed into my wardrobe. if I get my ish together and actually decide which of those things I'm bringing and get them into my bag, you should have a very thorough packing post before I depart. [or maybe when I get back.]

4. I've been spending so much time writing at Starbucks [and probably tweeting about writing at Starbucks] that Starbucks followed me on twitter the other day. so... that made me feel pretty cool. but seriously, Starbucks has become my office. I have two tables that I alternate sitting at, depending if they're taken or if I feel like a high table that day. the baristas know my name and order, and there is one girl who shouts out "grande coffee of the day!" whenever I walk through the door.

5. aside from writing my face off and being too busy worrying about packing to actually pack... I've been getting into Jillian Michael's 30 day shred. [did you know that pretty much every one of her videos is available on youtube?] Jillian and I have been spending a lot of time together these past few weeks. and I both love and hate her. I've started the 30 day shred a few times before, but this is the first time I've made it to level two. dude, plank jacks. I'm not doing it every day, but mixing it in with the occasional run has made me feel a lot stronger.

and that's all the random I have for you today. [oh- and I did google temple etiquette in Bali.]


DIY wall art: painted washi tape words

I have a thing for paint projects that involve tape. [probably because I can't freehand a straight line to save my life.] so when I saw that the first creative collective project involved making an art piece of your 2014 motto, I knew exactly what I was going to attempt.

if you remember, my 2014 motto is actually challenge accepted. but I decided that the best way to tackle this particular challenge was to simplify things. so... I gave in to the hustle.

I didn't have any blank canvas on hand, so I cut off a spare cardboard chunk. I started with a coat of silver poster paint. this paint has been hanging out in my office unused for way too long, and I figured it was about time to break it out.

once the silver was completely dry, I taped off my word and a border to go around it. I knew the tape would be great for straight edges but not so much the curves. so I made my "font" a little angular and intentionally funky. painter's tape would also work instead of washi tape here.

I painted a coat of emerald around the tape, let it dry and peeled it off. [yes, it's really that easy to make wall art.]

it's a little rough around the edges, literally. I think you would have better results with canvas, but I'm still happy with how it turned out. and of course it all comes back to my motto... I challenged myself to use materials I had on hand and I made it work.

plus, I really love how the silver + emerald work with my chevron wall.

I'm so excited to be linking up with Melyssa for this creative collective project, and to find new ways to exercise my creativity this year! I hope you'll join us.
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