Beautiful, Interesting and Ooo Shiny! Images From Various Places

Indonesia

New Year, New Blogs

Windows
Location: Indonesia
Camera Info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/250 sec

I’m back! Or more specifically, I’m trying again. Life got very overwhelming last year, and I had to make some cutbacks, so unfortunately this blog had to take a backseat as well. This year looks like it will be pretty busy as well (I’m looking forward to my wedding, as well as up to three potential international trips), but I will make a strong attempt to keep this going, even if I have to cut back to once or twice a month instead of every week. You wonderful people deserve it! So sorry to keep you waiting this past year.

This week’s picture makes me think of reflections. As I looked out those windows in Indonesia, I thought about where I had been and what lies ahead, and now I am doing the same. This last year has seen Andy and I losing employment, gaining it, losing it, etc. Currently he has found a job and I am still looking (yet another reason why I actually have time to write again!). We are planning our wedding for this spring (finally!) and hope to be heading overseas again shortly afterward.

Together, we’ve had quite the year! Both of us have been very involved in our Toastmasters clubs, with me becoming an officer and taking part in a humorous speech contest, and Andy becoming the very first non-inmate to join a prison club! Andy has kept busy ministering in the prison in various ways, as well as leading tours and working on archive preservation at the historic Harrison House. Of course I can’t mention Andy without his favorite sports, running and archery. This year, he has been teaching me to shoot with him, and he completed his 10th full marathon and 20th half-marathon, earning himself a place in the Marathon Maniacs club (Think: hotel discounts for life!). We’ve also added to our respective families. I took in a stray black cat, Ninja, and adopted a second kitten to keep her company (Leo). And yes, that means there will be occasional cat pictures for you as well! *giggle*

For 2014, we don’t know what it may hold, but we do know God is faithful to lead us. We’re excited for the new adventures that await us… and hopefully they will come with plenty new photos to show you! Thanks everyone for sticking with me. Here’s to a great 2014!

What’s your biggest hope for the new year?


Strange & Crazy Animals!


Location: Indonesia
Camera Info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/680 sec

“Is that a purple crab?” my friend asked, looking over our balcony. Sure enough, a solid purple crab was clinging to the side of the building near the water. Indonesia is one of several countries that sports these colorful critters. The babies (pictured above) start with some orange on them as well before they turn all purple. So it made me wonder, what other fun animal species can I find around the world that would deserve a second glance?

We’ve probably all heard of the platypus, sloth, alpaca, angora rabbit, komondor dog, and red panda, creatures that have ended up on pretty much every list of odd animals. But here’s some more:

  • More crabs! The white & hairy yeti crab (South Pacific) & ginormous giant coconut crab (Guam) are good examples.
  • The Mexican axoloxl salamander (Wooper Rooper) is so weird it’s kind of cute, so many people keep them as pets.
  • The aye-aye is a type of lemur from Madagascar.
  • If I ever met a star-nosed mole, I don’t know if I’d laugh of be creeped out. They live in Canada and the NE United States.
  • The leafy sea dragon lives up to its name by looking just like seaweed. Good luck telling it apart!
  • What can I say about the tapir? It’s just weird-looking, and inhabits jungles on three continents.
  • The hagfish is pretty much disgusting. It escapes predators by oozing goo (which can even kill itself sometimes).
  • The dumbo octopus got its name due to the “ears” (fins) hanging off what looks like its head. Unlike Dumbo, however, it’s very tiny.
  • The frill-necked lizard looks like it came straight out of Jurassic Park, but it’s actually from Australia.
  • Here’s a blobfish. They pretty much look like their name, and they hang out in very deep water around Australia & Tasmania, so you probably won’t see one while taking a dip in the lake.
  • I can’t think of the African shoebill without thinking about this video. You’re welcome.
  • And last but not least, NARWHALS!!!!! Yes, they’re real.

What’s the strangest animal you’ve ever seen?


Are You a Survivor?

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/60 sec

“Check this out. We call it a vase plant,” our tour guide said. I stared at the green and red growth, making a mental note that they carried fresh water. In our mini jungle survival course, our guide also taught us some good sources of food – like termites (they really don’t taste that bad)! So, I thought I’d share the wealth and include a few more jungle survival tips for all you crazy adventurers out there, just in case you lose your way.

  • First, don’t panic and run in circles. It doesn’t help. Keep calm, and try to find a trail. If you can’t, pick a direction and travel that way consistantly. Eventually you’ll find something useful.
  • One very useful thing is rivers. Small streams will lead to big streams, which lead to rivers, which (more often than not) lead to settlements. They also create a break in the treeline, which may make you easier to spot from above.
  • WATER is the most important thing you can find. Several plants (like the one in the photo) can collect water. Bamboo is a good source, as are some types of vines (avoid the ones where the water is red, yellow, or milky). You can also collect it from a fast-moving stream and boil it, or start digging!
  • FOOD is next. Many plants are edible, such as palm hearts, but unless you know for sure which ones, be careful! Avoid most red berries, plants with milky sap, and anything with sap that irritates your skin. When in doubt, follow some monkeys. Most of their diet is compatible with ours.
  • The biggest dangers in the jungle are falling trees/branches and insect/reptile bites. Use your various forms of insect repellant, don’t touch the plants when you don’t have to, and build your hammock or shelter above the ground
  • Don’t forget the all-important things – how to build a fire and tie a good knot. It’s also a good idea to carry a machete. They’re just so useful!
  • Don’t forget to pack the essentials before you travel! Things you may consider beyond the usual stuff: salt (for drying, santization & diet), foot powder (the humidity makes fungal infections common), or condoms (not for what you think… they can protect from waterborne pathogens when crossing rivers)
  • Finally, keep a good attitude! The will to survive, fight off fear, and find humor in tough situations is the key factor in most survival stories.

P.S. There’s way more tips than I can summarize on just this short blog. Check out these sites for more.

Have you heard any other survival tip you find interesting? Let us know!


Setting Up the Perfect Scene: Composition 1

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/340 sec

For all the other aspiring photographers out there, here’s one you don’t want to miss! Previously, I talked about the use of aperture and timing. This week’s photo lesson covers a few points of composition, something you can practice with anything from a DSLR to a cell phone camera. There are lots of rules to composition, yet rules were made to be broken! My suggestion is to learn the rules and practice them until you know when you can break them. Since there are so many, I’ll give a few here and plan to add more in future posts.

The most well-known composition rule is the “Rule of Thirds.” Take any scene, and divide it up into three pieces, both horozontally and vertically. Now place your subject at any point where those lines meet (which normally seems just off-center). Here is an example (this can also be applied vertically). One time to break this rule: when your scene is symmetrical.

The second rule: framing. My photo above is the example for this one. Putting elements on the edges of the picture can help draw the viewer’s eye to your subject of the photo. In this case, I took this photo of a dock in Indonesia from inside the outhouse next door (and yes, it’s kinda freaky that the holes in the boards were that big!). Trees also make good frames.

So start practicing with these two rules and there will be more to come!

What is your favorite photo? Share a link and we can discuss how it was composed.


The Thing No One Wants to Talk About

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/240 sec

I don’t know how I got here. I can’t remember much of the past few hours at all. This afternoon, I went to the market with my friends, and one of the merchants offered us free samples of his latest dish. Not long after trying it, I felt really tired, so I sat down on a bench while my friends continued shopping nearby. That’s the last I remember. Now I’m in a dimly lit room with no windows, and a door locked from the outside. I’ve tried calling for help several times, but no one answers.

Soon, an older man and woman enter the room. I try to get them to help me, but they just look at me coldly. The woman accuses me of stealing food at the market, and tells me I must work to pay her back. I refuse and try to run past her, but the man grabs me and hits me until I stop fighting. He drops me to the floor, where I sit there crying, unable to move because of the pain.

That first night in the brothel still haunts my dreams. I had three “customers” visit me, and each one was meaner than the one before. They didn’t care that I was only a child, or that I was trapped in a tiny room while my family searched for me in vain. All they wanted was what I could give them, no matter how unwillingly.

(This fictional story was adapted from the testimony of a young woman in India, who was rescued after being enslaved since she was 12 years old).

It’s Human Trafficking Awareness Month, so I wanted to focus on that tough topic this week. As most of America gears up for the Super Bowl on Feb 5th, traffickers are also preparing for one of their busiest weeks of the year. Children and young girls are brought into the city from Asia, Europe, and the Americas to give visitors more “entertainment” during their stay. Local law enforcement and many ministries are working to prevent these things from happening and rescue these modern-day slaves, but it’s everyday people who can raise awareness and protect their children and others’ the best. Turning a blind eye to the problem will only allow it to continue unhindered.

So what is your part in ending modern-day slavery?


Inspire Me

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/350 sec

Inspiration comes in many forms. We can be stirred up by a piece of music or the beauty of nature. It can come from stories of others. A picture like the one above could be found on one of those black motivational posters with a clever caption like “FLIGHT: If you’re crazy enough to attempt it, don’t forget your parachute.” Ok, maybe not. :/ But some of my best inspirations have come from other people.

First, there are stories of overcoming. My aunt Sally is one. She has had cancer four times in the past five years, yet still keeps a positive attitude. Each treatment she faces, she claims will make her cancer cells “scream and run for cover.” 🙂 There’s also stories like “Chase No Face,” a cat who lost her entire face in an accident, but still lives a normal, happy life and has thousands of Facebook fans (Warning to squeamish people: photos on her page are graphic).

There are stories of persistance & accomplishment. My boyfriend Andy was one of the first two people to complete three races in one 24-hour period at the Air Force Marathon 2011, and a friend of his won a race blind. My uncle Doug and aunt Sue were another example. They dated in high school, then were apart for 35 years. Doug never gave up looking for her, and they met again and got married in their 50’s.

Some of my favorites are stories of love and friendship. This past weekend, our pastor, Chris, found out he had cancer in this throat. He asked for prayer from everyone in the church, and I got to see the entire choir surround him for a spontaneous prayer session, and many online friends change their Facebook profile picture for him. Then of course, there’s Jesus. His love for people motivated him to sacrifice his own life to save them, and it wasn’t an pretty death, either! (read more here)

Inspiration can come in many forms, but the stories are what make it personal.

Who inspires you? Why?


The King’s Magical Water Pot

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100  f 2.8  1/300 sec

No matter what country or culture you’re from, people love to spook each other with ghost stories. There must be some common part of humanity that gets a thrill out of being scared, especially when you know something really can’t hurt you.

Things were no different in Indonesia. Our tour group spent one evening with the village elders, listening to them tell tales of their island’s history and legends. One in particular we found fascinating. Apparently, the islands used to be part of a small kingdom, and the king’s family once lived on another island very close to ours. Their graveyard was still there, guarded by a distant relative of the king. In the graveyard was a clay pot. The elders told us that the pot had magical powers, likely because of the location. It was said to always contain some water, even in times of drought, and would never overflow, even during the rainy season. They also claimed that photographs taken of the pot would not turn out. Hmmm… challenge accepted.

Later during our trip, we were able to visit that island. It was just as they said – a decorated graveyard on the property of a single farmer. The graves were covered with yellow plastic (the royal color in that area), and a full canopy covered the king’s plot. The man knew we were coming to visit, so he showed us around.  The only thing that bothered us was his goat, which decided to casually walk up and headbutt every single one of us. :/ We found the legendary pot easily – it was big enough for one of the kids to hide in! Yes, it did have a few inches of water in it. Of course, I made an attempt to take a picture. Ok, so not all of the stories were accurate. However, it was still interesting to see the site of the island legends.

Have you ever visited the site of an urban legend or a supposed haunted house? What happened?


A Journey of Faith

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7.0 • 1/220 sec

This week’s picture reminded me of the journey we are all on. Life can take us through both good times and hard times, and both are needed to grow. Several months ago, I wrote a post about the goodness of God in natural disasters. What about when the struggles are personal? Is He there for us then as well?

This past week included some of the hardest moments I’ve had in years. I spent hours begging God for answers, getting upset at His silence, or waiting quietly in expectation. Finally, despite my frustration, I took time to worship. I’m a music freak, so for me that means cranking up the volume to 11 and dancing. I barely made it through the first song before I was at His feet, crying. I saw that in my time of struggle, I had simply forgotten who He was.

“He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”
(Psalm 146:7-9 & 147:3-4 NIV)

God does all these things, but not always on our schedule. Sometimes His healing takes time, and sometimes His justice comes to the world when we are not there to see it. Other times, He just holds us close and lets the pain help build character in our lives. IMHO, brokenness sucks. Yet sometimes I need to remember that Jesus went through the same things – willingly! – in order to be there for me when I’m hurting. Not only that, but He promises to use it for something good… someday.

What pain are you going through right now? Can you see God working through it?


The Home on Stilts

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/450 sec

As the wind and waves battered the house from all sides, I wondered if this seemingly feeble structure could withstand the storm. We were a good ten feet or so off the surface of the water, yet the waves reached the slats in the bottom of the floor. My roommates and myself were glad when the storm ended, and even more amazed at how this small house on stilts could take such a beating without being torn down. Maybe there was more to this style of architecture than I first imagined.

The kelong, or stilt house, was a common sight around the islands we visited in Indonesia. Most of the locals were fishermen, and these structures fit their lifestyle well. They could fish right off the front porch! Not only that, the islands were tiny, so dry land was limited. Solution: build the village out into the water! All the houses were connected by long strips of wooden slats that formed a boardwalk. In my western mindset, it appeared very rickety, but they didn’t seem to mind hopping over the large holes between the boards.

It is a long and involved process to build a stilt house, but the more I learned, the more it seemed to work. The posts, or piles, holding up the house were thick tree trunks driven as far as 6 meters into the ground and supported by cement. In the ocean, they would last about six months before rotting, so most structures had multiple support posts that could be changed out at different times. A layer of planks and water-resistant rattan ties held everything together. Finally, the house was built on top of this structure. This design protected the village against flooding, various animals, and even malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Today, even some hurricane-prone areas in industrialized nations are starting to use this design for their buildings. Now that’s a good idea!

Have you ever seen or visited a stilt house? What was it like?


3,2,1 Start Your… Sailboats?

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/350 sec

Even on a semi-deserted island in the middle of nowhere, you can’t get away from sports! On a trip to Indonesia, I visited one island that only took ten minutes to walk from one shore to the other. There was a village on the island, and the people were excited to have tourists visit them and learn about their culture. They showed us everything they could think of, including one of their favorite pastimes – sailboat racing!

The rules were pretty simple: sail out to a certain island a good distance away, make a loop around it, and come back before anyone else. Oh yeah, and don’t dump yourself and the boat into the ocean in the meantime! Easier said than done. Several of the men from our tour group hopped in the boats with the locals to give it a try. At least we gave the islanders a laugh! They lined up to watch our guys attempt to maneuver those big sails (or, in some cases, just bail water as fast as they could while the “experts” steered). Either way, whether from shore or on the ocean, we all had a good time.

Sailboat racing is actually a very popular sport around South Asia. There are championships and boating clubs & associations in some countries. Others, like our islander friends, just have informal competitions to connect with their communities. No matter what the community or sport, it seems that competition is part of human nature. Just try and beat that!

What is your community’s favorite sport? Does taking part make you more connected with them?


Even Strange Dreams Can Come True

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/340 sec

Fitri lived on an island that was a 10-minute walk from shore to shore. She only knew her family and the small Muslim community that had raised her, but she desired to go to the mainland and attend college. Fitri was already learning English when our tour group arrived, so she helped translate for us. Her mother had never left the island, but for years had watched the rest of the world via satellite TV. If you’ve turned on the tube lately, you may know that our TV programs don’t exactly represent Americans well. When we arrived at the island, another local expressed surprise that we did not show up in bikinis. 😯 Right…

We were invited to Fitri’s home to meet her mother, and we spent a while on the porch drinking tea and strumming a guitar. Then her mother gave us a tour of the small home. Like many island houses, it was located over the ocean on the end of a rickety boardwalk. Some of the locals could not afford glass for their windows, but almost all of them had satellite dishes — their only connection to the outside world. When we were getting ready to leave, Fitri’s mother told us that her dream had come true.

“I’ve always dreamed of having white people come to my home.”

Wow… thanks, I think.

It’s amazing what a simple visit might mean to someone. Who knew that our stop-over for tea was this woman’s life-long dream? It’s neat to make a difference in someone’s life, even if their dreams are a bit… interesting. 😉

What’s your strangest dream? Has it ever come true? Or have you, like us, become the answer to someone else’s dream?


Sometimes These Things Just Happen

Location: Indonesia
Camera info: Fuji FinePix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/750 sec

I probably have more people ask about this picture than any other one I’ve taken. Maybe because it’s been my logo for Shine4Him Photography since the beginning? Or maybe just because it rocks! 🙂 Either way, this has been one of my favorite “accident” shots.

A group of us were having a fun time at an island resort, and several of the locals enjoyed jumping off the dock. There were two levels to jump from, one about five feet and one about twenty-five feet.  I attempted the high jump once, but after getting the wind knocked out of me on the landing, I opted to stay on the low jump and take pictures of the people who seemed to have a liking for pain. I noticed some steps that went all the way to the water below the dock, so I sat on the bottom step and snapped a few pictures of the jumpers. The girl in this picture jumped right when the sun was behind the dock post, making a perfect silhouette. Sometimes you just luck out like that. 🙂

Are you feeling lucky, even blessed? When have things just worked out for you?