It was a long tiring day. The worst thing about being single is that you can’t share experiences of the day with anyone but pillows. The reader opened a chapter from his favorite book and started reading quietly.
The night was at its peak. Grave silence was blended in the air. The moon was waiting impatiently for Mary near the lake.
“May I ask you something if you don’t mind”, the moon asked the girl. Curiosity was killing him since quite long.
“How do you know that you’ve found the one?”
This was a great question indeed. The reader of the book was longing for the answer since the moment he met his first crush in his early adolescence. He stopped for a moment, took a deep breathe and continued reading.
“I know that you guys don’t like the same music. You have different taste-buds. Your morning habits don’t rhyme with his. While I often see him lost in capturing my reflection in night, you seem to enjoy the silence.
How were you so sure that Peter was the one?”, the moon said with no halt as if he had practiced this many times.
After a pregnant pause, Mary spoke,
“Everything in life has got a purpose and a meaning. Sometimes, It’s important to see things the way they are.
I have learned that some poems don’t rhyme, yet they communicate the fullness of expression. Some trees don’t bear fruits, yet they give shade. Some days are not sunny, yet they are beautiful.
Look at yourself. Even after flaws and imperfections, you are so magnificent and beautiful that famous artists have been carving you in the best of their work since ages.
The starking contrast in our vision and different ways to perceive the same thing made us true companions. We might be different. But together, we are highly potent mixture.”
The reader had finished the chapter. In fact, he liked that part so much that he could never finish the book. “I must have read the story of moon and the girl a hundred times”, he whispered to himself.
Clock didn’t tick for long since my first visit to US and I got a chance to visit Redmond again. Another high priority work, short deadline and huge expectations.
August 11, 2017
Hot summer evening and snacks break. A kind of perfect time to gossip about things around you. I was discussing entrepreneurship journey with my friend who was in Hyderabad for a startup conference. His zeal and passion to build something was making me go crazy and it hooked me in no time. Suddenly, my phone rang. It usually flashes name of the person at the other end only when something important comes up. Last time it did was when I had a trip to US and the second time, I got promoted.
“Hey Aashish! How are you doing man?”, my manager asked.
“It’s good”. While I was talking, another thread in my mind was trying to find clue on what might be the reason for this urgent meeting.
“Some urgent work has come up. We have to start on this immediately. Before I tell you the specifics, let me warn you that the timeline is quite aggressive and you have to be really efficient in delivering it. We have carefully chosen two engineers with strong debugging skills who can fix and unblock issues quickly.”, he explained the situation in one deep breathe.
“What is the ETA?”, I asked.
“YESTERDAY”, he smiled. “One thing that can be of your interest is that there is an opportunity to visit Redmond. I know that you love traveling. Based on the peer feedback and the work you have been doing, you have proven yourself to be the guy who gets the work done.”, he continued further.
“You can think over the weekend and tell me if you are interested in taking up this opportunity. I would like if you say yes”, he was done with talking.
Well, I didn’t know if I had a choice to press the NO button. Nevertheless, there were multiple reasons on why I wanted to work in that area. There was high visibility and sole ownership. I wanted to work on something new. Plus visiting Redmond was the icing on the cake. I didn’t need a weekend to make up my mind.
“I see it as a fantastic opportunity from the visibility perspective. I am in”, I was excited.
“Thanks man! I will let you know the dates”, he looked happy.
August 25, 2017
I wrapped up the work I was doing and started getting myself familiar with Applescript, a Mac automation language. 2 weeks later, I came to know the exact date to travel.
In my last visit to US, I missed shooting Seattle the way I wanted because of last minute ticket booking and not bringing the right gear. Two things I did over the weekend. I started a mail thread in Microsoft Photography Club about the best places to shoot and if anyone wanted to accompany me. Second, I booked tickets in my favorite airlines, Emirates.
Technical bugs can snatch away your happiness. Just before 4 days of travel, I received mail from American Express Travel Agency saying my ticket in Emirates was not booked because of some technical glitch. The front end and back end were not in sync and there was a problem communicating my ticket booking request. What I received was the itinerary and not the flight tickets. They were in continuous talk with Emirates folks for 2 days. But no luck. I, finally booked tickets in British Airways.
Based on recommendations from my friends in company, I created a list of places to shoot in Seattle. The list topped with capturing Space Needle from different view points.
September 1, 2017
“Good morning, Mr Aashish!”, the gorgeous lady at the Checkin counter greeted. “Would you like a more luxurious and comfortable journey.”, she asked and explained the business class etiquette.
“Is it a free upgrade?”
“I’m sorry. But No”
“I think I will do just fine”, the happiness was gone in the split of a second.
The same lady was wandering around after an hour looking for me.
“May I see your boarding pass please”, she asked.
“Is there a problem?”, I asked and handed over my pass to her.
“Not if upgrading is an issue for you. Make sure you travel business next time by yourself”, she smiled.
I couldn’t believe it. Last evening I was reading some blog for free upgrade and their tips worked. This was first time I was traveling with British.
It didn’t feel any different until she asked, “Would you like to have some Champagne sir?”
Their menu never changes
I stayed in the same Marriott hotel I chose last time. I must say, they don’t like a change. Nothing had changed in 8 months. Same California grapes, juicy pineapple and waffles with chocolate chips.
My schedule in US was simple. Wake up at 4:30 in the morning, take hot water bath in bathtub, reach office by 8-8:30. Mornings are best when you want great productivity and efficiency. I got 5 free evenings dedicated to photography.
Day 1 – Kerry Park and Alki beach
I met Vijay, a Microsoft engineer and a wildlife photographer. We planned to shoot sunset at Kerry Park and skyline at Alki beach. It was a sunny day and there were chances to get good drama in sky and Mt Rainier in the behind.
The blue hour beauty
This is another picture from my Space Needle series captured in blue hour. 10 points to those who noticed Mt. Rainier in the background before reading this.You have to be really lucky to capture it from Kerry Park. The day has to be clear and sky has to be smoke free to frame the beauty of Space Needle and Mt. Rainier in one postcard shot. When I was in Seattle, due to some wildfire, whole Seattle was in smoke and haze. Mt. Rainier was visible on only 2 days.
I took 3 pictures in different exposures when the sun was about to set. One, for the Space Needle, second for the Mt. Rainier, and third for the rest. I then blended these pictures in Photoshop to bring what I witnessed there.
PS: Did you know that Space Needle is the 8th most photographed subject in the world?
Lonely Space Needle under the moon
Kerry Park in Seattle is very famous among photographers for its postcard view of Space Needle. On a good lucky day when the sky is clear, part of Mt. Rainier can be seen too just behind the Space Needle. Vijay and I had planned for shooting sunset, blue hour and of course moon as we were shy of just 3 days from full moon. We reached Kerry 2 hours before sunset and found that there was some construction going on and it was making our frames look not as good as we planned. Making up early there came to our rescue as we were able to grab the best spot to avoid the cranes. We could feel the envy of fellow photographers.
The moon stood high above Space Needle at around 8:30 and I captured two pictures with different exposures, one with the moon in focus and the other with the Needle. I then blended those two pictures in Photoshop to get closer to what I witnessed there. Photography is about patience. We had to wait 4 hours for few good pictures.
Technique used: Exposure bracketing and blending
Day 2 – Waterfront Park
This picture reminds me of the serene beauty, I oftentimes wish to visit. The place where there is a bridge and a big lake around. A fusion of man made and nature. Waterfront park in Seattle is quite pictureque and you can’t go wrong anytime in evening. I wanted to shoot sunset, but ended up capturing blue hour as the sky was not dramatic that day because of smoke.
I shot two pictures at different exposures, one for the bridge and the railing on right and second for the rest. Due to dark, there was noise in picture which was corrected using longer exposure. I then blended those pictures in Photoshop.
Day 3: Columbia Skyview tower
The Great Wheel teleport
Seattle Great Wheel from 73rd floor of Columbia sky tower looked like a toy. I wondered what would it look like if it were to be teleported. I pulled out 35mm, slowed shutter to 13 seconds at f14 and pano’ed while capturing. It took 20 minutes and multiple shots to bring the wheel to perfection. The result was no less than what we get to see in sci-fi movies.
Technique: Single capture pano.
Day 4: Waterfront park
Waterfront Park was something I fell in love with. I visited there again to shoot the beautiful fountain.
Capturing this frame was like a dream come true. Ever since I owned a camera, I had this routine of checking famous photographers’ portfolio and their work. The smooth flow of waterfall and fountains always intimidated me. Their gigantic beauty and mesmerizing views has the power to render anyone spellbound and speechless.
The moment I set foot in Waterfront park in Seattle, I had this composition in mind where the fountain would be in foreground hiding part of Great Wheel in the back. I wanted to shoot sunset. But due to some wildfire, whole Seattle was in smoke and haze. The sunset was very dull and unfortunately there was no drama in the sky. There were two challenges in capturing this picture. One, the wheel rotates every now and then. Two, the wheel changes color thereby casting different color shade onto the fountain. I shot two pictures, one with 25s exposure to give smooth flowing feel to the water and brighten the foreground and the other with 10s exposure to lit the wheel. To make sure this blends in a perfect one picture, I waited for the right moment when wheel was not rotating and there was enough time to capture two pictures without the change in color of lights.
Follow me on Instagram to see more of my work:instagram.com/aashishbarnwal/
Day 5: Gasworks park
Guns in the air
Gasworks Park in Seattle is famous for its cylindrical structures. One can get one of the best views of Skyline there. A part of it looks like big guns pointed to the sky when shot during sunset. This is a composite picture. Birds have been added in Photoshop.
Seattle is the most beautiful city I have visited so far. From magnificent skylines to gigantic mountains, from beautiful lake to green valley, from big shopping complexes to small huts, your eyes can never stop wandering. Sunset would make you wonder if this is real. I have just fallen in love with the city. I had plan for visiting Gasworks Park to shoot skyline and the large gas cylindrical structure. What I didn’t know was that it also offers a clean green valley where you can see a lot of couples roaming around. This looked like a perfect spot for photographers and love birds alike. When the sun was about to set and the sky changed its color, I saw this lovely couple holding hands and walking towards the sunset horizon. Although the park was full of people, I got lucky to frame only what I wanted.
The Piano Store
Being a Piano fanatic, I visited Classic Pianos in Bellevue. More than anything, I wanted to own a Piano since quite long. I tried many Pianos, ranging from 5k to 25k dollars. I really liked one from Yamaha and longing to get it.
Photography or Shopping?
Last day in US was annihilated in shopping at Seattle Premium Outlets. It was a tough decision as I wanted to visit the majestic Mt. Rainier and shoot the Paradise and Reflection view points. But due to some wildfire, whole Seattle was in smoke and haze. Parts of Mt. Rainier were closed until the wildfire settled down. I heard that there was some view point which was open and I was desperate to go there. But my friend wanted to buy things for his family. Premium Outlets was 35 miles from our stay and we spent whole day shopping stuffs for our families.
Life can be smarter, better and more efficient by following 3 Cs: Consistency, Choices, Communication. More on these below:
Whatever you do, be consistent. Be it waking up in the morning or playing piano or reading a blog.
The less you involve your brain in thinking about stuffs that don’t add much value, the more you would get to spend time in creative stuffs. Reduce choices in day to day life. Ever wondered what Zuckerberg’s wardrobe looks like? He purchases apparels of same color and design. It helps him keeping focus on important things.
What is the first thing besides dressing sense you notice in a person you meet first time? We get to know a lot about a person by the way (s)he talks. Communication plays a very important role in your professional and personal fronts. Public speaking is one good thing you would like to master. Watch Ted talks and practice speaking in front of mirror. It would help boost confidence.
Be in company of smarter people
It is said that a person is known by the company (s)he keeps. If you are in company of smarter people, you would get to learn more. A wise man once said, “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room”.
Plan your day in advance
Note down things you want to do before you start your day. Not only this will help you manage your day efficiency, but it will help you remember easily forgettable stuffs. There are things you remember when you are not thinking much, but are easily missed when your have a busy schedule. Example, calling a friend, responding a mail or paying bills
No much TV series
If you are a TV series fanatic, you must be knowing how addictive it can be. It can affect your sleep if you don’t control your addiction. Watch less of series
Smartness is a continuous process. You need to work towards it each day. In this fast paced agile world, things change rapidly and you must adapt to the change or you would be outdated. Learn a new language or a new skill.
Take a walk and think
When you’re stuck in a problem and no solution seems to strike your creative brain, take a walk and think. It helped me many times in situations where I couldn’t think anything working while sitting in front of a monitor.
Remember 10,000 rule. The principle holds that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” are needed to become world-class in any field. Practice a skill you want to be good at sometime each day.
If you like this, you might like other posts in the Hack your life series.
Sometimes you would find the goal is too far,
Sometimes you would find things to be falling apart,
Sometimes you would feel everything is wrong,
Sometimes you would feel sadness in every song,
Sometimes the world around would seem to down you,
Sometimes noone would understand what you’re going through,
Sometimes your friends would leave you alone,
Sometimes your sorrows would break you bone by bone,
Sometimes you won’t be able to think straight,
Sometimes you would lose faith in your fate,
Sometimes your every effort would seem to fail,
Sometimes you would be left frustrated as hell,
Sometimes you would feel like ending up your life,
Sometimes you would feel you have no choice,
If you’re fond of roses my friend,
Of the nearby thorns, must not you be afraid,
You must believe in yourself and be strong,
You must fight back and right what is wrong,
Push harder, try again,
Whatever you do, must not you loose your sane.
In the life of every person, there is someone who (s)he looks up to. It is the human psychology. We tend to choose a hero whom we appreciate. Why? The reason is obvious. Sometimes, we love the way our hero lives. Sometimes, it is his popularity. Sometimes, it is just because his dreams were what ours is now. He kept on improving each day, each week until one morning he became what he always wanted. And we start seeing the perfect version of ourselves in him. Each time we come across his story and picture, our inner self echoes, “Yes, this is who I would like to be one day”.
But the question is, does it help by just following them. Sure, it is motivating. It elevates your desire to do something. It boosts up your will to achieve what you wanted. However, until and unless you do not work freaking hard, improve yourself day by day, that chosen hero remains in pictures. Like we see Hulk in Marvel movies. Remember not all people are blessed with quick learning abilities. We have to keep trying hard to know what works for us best.
I personally had many heroes in my life so far. When I was learning programming, I chose a hero who knew infinity as compared to me. When I was doing photography, I chose a hero whose shots just made me feel wow. When I was playing piano, I chose yet another hero whose fingers seem to turn into bots.
What I observed while following my passion is that even though, I chose my heroes, I made great progress in one while very little in other. What were the things that went bad and I couldn’t do well? Was my execution plan wrong? Was it the lack of motivation? Did I not have enough passion? Well, it was about my devotion and the efforts I needed to put.
To fix this, I made an execution plan. I set an achievable goal. Like, at the end of this summer, I would shoot at least 10 great photos. Or by year end, I would learn to play a song X on piano in melody and arpeggios. And I keep on checking myself every two weeks or so about the progress I make and the areas where I lag. This trick is working great for me so far.
Don’t follow a person. Follow your dreams. Chase your passion. That is going to define who you are. Be your own hero.
Who knows, by doing so, you will become someone so unique that people will start looking up to you. That said, we can’t compare between Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. All of them have made significant contribution in the music realm.
In his words, this Oscar goes to my hero, that’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I have a very important person in my life come to me and say, “Who is your hero?”. And I said I don’t know I gotta think about that, give me a couple of weeks. I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “Who’s your hero?” And so I thought about it and I said you know who it is, it’s me in 10 years.
So I turn 25, 10 years later that same person comes to me and goes “so are you a hero?” And I was like, not even close. No, no, no. She said “Why?” I said because my hero is me at 35. So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero is always 10 years away. I’m never going to beat my hero. I’m not going to obtain that, I know I’m not. And that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.