2013 in one post…

Sometimes you blink and a year goes by! I know I have had a serious lack of posts, but it’s not for a lack photos. With 2014 now upon me, I am refocusing my photography efforts. I now have a new price list and plan on reworking my website. As I started pulling photos for this blog, I realized, it’s been quite the year! No wonder I didn’t have time to post! Below are my 2013 highlights. Here’s to a fantastic 2013 and looking forward to an even brighter 2014!!

Early in 2013, I started working with an exciting organization, Nerd Nite LA. Nerd Nite LA hosts monthly lectures at Witzend in Venice. Lectures vary in the nerdy topics, discussing topics ranging from Google Glass to new innovations in cancer treatments. As one friend described it, “Nerd Nite is like Ted Talks with booze.” Yes, drinking and heckling the speaker are both encouraged.

Though many new things happened in 2013, some things stayed the same. I continued to shoot dodgeball for the World Dodgeball Society. Covering leagues from Long Beach to Melrose and even a tournament in San Francisco.

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And in venues that sometimes also include the Staples Center

There were also head-shots

And a family trip to Sedona, where I was able to take a breath and shoot scenery instead of people for a few days.

But since it was Spring-training that week we had to stop by for a game in Phoenix on the way home.

In April, my Otis coworkers and I hosted the 2nd Annual Kite Festival. This year we more than doubled our event passing out 2000 kites and having close to 5000 people in attendance. Save the date for next year, we’re planning for it to be even bigger and better, Sunday, April 13th.

KTLA Coverage http://ktla.com/2013/04/14/otis-2nd-annual-kite-festival-sunday-in-santa-monica/#axzz2qWACzoDn

Later that month, I shot the wrap party for the Jeff Prost show. You might remember Jeff Prost as host of Survivor. Jeff and his crew were some of the nicest folks I’ve ever had the pleasure to shoot. It’s rare that you find a crew that cares so genuinely for each other, that even an outsider can feel the warmth.

In the Summer, I returned to Palau with Otis College, which in a lot of ways was like coming home. (More blogs about Palau in past blogs)

One of the more special shoots I had this year was of this little fella’.
ben ben parts
He’s truly a miracle baby. His mother was on bed rest for months before he was born and he was still born months early. Every step of the way this little guy had to fight and has won. However, with a dad who is called “Super Dave,” he was born to be a warrior.

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I did my second shoot for AYSO and although it was a long day (thousands and thousands of photos), it was fun to be outside and in the middle of excited kids kicking a ball (that wasn’t going to errantly hit me in the head).

The Year ended for me with a trip to Paso Robles for no other reason then to enjoy and celebrate all the hard work of 2013.

Phew! Ok, so that’s why I was so tired.

Now it’s 2014 and I’m up and running. This year was off to an early start, beginning at sunrise on New Year’s day. If you know me, you know that I love my sleep; however, some things are worth waking up pre-dawn for, such as having the honor to shoot a very special wedding.

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They say what you do the first day of the year can set the tone for the rest of the year. If this is true, it’s going to be a year immersed in photography and surrounded by beauty and love.

Wishing everyone a fantastic 2014; stay tuned! – Allison

Palau 2013 Day 11

Today was our last real day, so it was time to pack a little bit of everything into it. A number of us started the day by presenting to one of the classes at the PCC. It always impresses me how the Otis students are willing to take on more presentations and responsibilities for the Freedom Memorial then asked of them. Once in Palau everyone gets a new meaning for the Freedom Memorial and the personal investment in seeing it finalized gets amplified.

Later in the day I hiked out to Tebang to finally purchase my very own storyboard, a manta ray with a story about finding your way back home. I’m super excited to bring this Palaun artwork home and one of the guys from Tebang graciously engraved it with the date and the shop name for me.

After lunch it was time for some snorkeling and relaxing at Rip Tide. It was nice to take a moment to just soak in the view.

In the evening, Matt and I spent a wonderful dinner with our adoptive Palauan family. I don’t have the words to express how amazing these guys are and the people in Palau in general.

Palau 2013 Day10

We’re in the paper! As in years past we were featured in the Tia Belau, with an article about the status of our project and an invitation to our public presentation this coming Thursday.

Today was our museum day, we went to both Belau National Museum and the Epison (spelling might be incorrect) where students were introduced to a past favorite, Elvis the cockatoo.

It was about the time of the second museum where my stomach started doing mini back-flips, so I cabbed it back to the dorms with a small group to relax; however my stomach had other plans…. Ok Mom, don’t freak out, I’M OK, but this blog is a little short on photos today because this was my view for half of the day: Palau10-1624

Yep, sometimes when I get food poisoning, I get it REALLY bad, so I got the insiders tour of the Palau National hospital (conveniently only a $5 cab ride away from the dorms). I must say that it was a relatively easy experience, despite the nature of the visit and not long after they got me hooked up to the IV my stomach stopped seizing and I felt MUCH better.

For Obvious reasons I wasn’t feeling too adventurous tonight. I found myself a baked potato at the Rock Island Cafe and on the way back I couldn’t resist stopping at the ball field and the basketball gym. Visiting a baseball field can be like meditation to me, the crack of the bat, the smell of the wet grass, the athleticism of great plays being made, yep if I’m in the area of a ball field I get drawn in as if by some sort of magnetic force.


When I arrived back at the dorms a number of the students were gathered outside trying to pick up an internet signal and enjoying the balmy night. While I was indisposed during the day, a few of the students had been selected to meet with the tribal historians, who just so happen to be having a conference this week. Historians from most of the 16 states are attending this conference and are the exact people the students need to speak with to clarify what stories should be included on the monoliths. The experience with the historians was described as “magical,” the descriptions of how the meeting went reminded me of the surreal / amazing feeling we all had during year two’s meeting with the Matriarchs. The historians completely understood the intent of the project and were very happy to help gather the proper stories for the students. When we meet as a group again I should have more specifics on this meeting, but from what I gather, another major milestone for the Palau Freedom Memorial was met today.

Palau 2013 Day 09

Today was a slower pace. After a relaxing morning of lounging and souvenir shopping, we met for a bus tour of Palau, where we visited two places that were new to me and the veteran staff. Our first stop was the Palau research college, part of the USDA network; this location focuses on root crops and ways to increase production, cataloging and efficiency. Spanning 25 acres, the research college takes a look at the sustainability and the productivity of different crops native to Palau.

Our second stop was the fish hatchery; here different fish and crabs are both studied and raised for not only food production, but also to help ward off extinction.

When our tours were over we were free to enjoy the rest of the evening. Matt and I were able to meet up with our old friends from years past, both Charles and Kenny are some of my favorite people and it was nice being able to catch up with them. We ate dinner at Kramers (an old Otis haunt) where we were also reunited with Marsha, who was a PCC student herself during year one of our project. From Kramers we headed to the new hang out “the field” where we met new Palaun friends and were just able to enjoy good company. The people are amazing in Palau and nights like tonight make me remember why I fell in love with this country two years ago.

Palau 2013 Day 08: Free Day

I slept 8.5 hours last night, best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in Palau, woke up worked on the blog and then went back to sleep for another hour. Last night was the first night I just didn’t have the energy to wrestle with the internet to get the blog up; the internet here is like our old school dialup, but less consistent. It makes more sense once you’re here why it’s so hard to get people to email you from Palau, it’s not that they don’t want to; it’s just not so easy here.

Today was our first entirely free day and it was glorious to be able to sleep in and do things at our leisure. At some point in the morning it felt like time to get out of bed and I made it as far as the coffee shop / central meeting place (because it has non-instant coffee and free wifi!) and as I sipped my iced cappuccino, students also trickled in. From the coffee shop, a group of us met up at the wood carvers for what basically turned into an art lesson in wood carving. The guys at Tebang patiently showed the students the process and techniques to wood carvings and let the students chip away on their own wood. Of course the students did great their first go around, impressing the seasoned carvers with their first-timer carvings.

In the late afternoon, Matt and I snuck away with our good friend Soline to PPR (Palau Pacific Resort) to enjoy mocktails and cocktails by the beach, where we were also treated to traditional dances performed by one of the local dance troops. Reports back of other activities from the students included scuba diving, souvenir shopping and playing volleyball while swimming and grilling fresh caught fish with some of the PCC students from Chook, another Micronesian Island. One of the best things about staying at the PCC dorms is that we’re right in the middle of things, right in the middle of Korror and immersed amongst all of the PCC students. One of the wonderful things that happens each year is that our students make friends with the PCC students from throughout Micronesia, and as one of the Otis students relayed to me today: it’s not an experience you would have staying at a hotel.

Palau 2013 Day 07 Peleliu

Today was our Peleliu tour, home to one of the bloodiest battles of WWII. However, the landscape bares few scars from the past, more just remnants and relics that continue to be uncovered. Our Pelelliu days are more intense, half due to our knowledge of what happened there and half due to the heat. It’s hot in Palau, but Peleliu is on another level. Being both very hot and humid, the amount you sweat is incredible, just standing in place I sweat more than a double header of dodgeball or a 10k run; it’s nuts! That being said, today was the most comfortable I’ve ever been in Peleliu, it was still way hot, but it was not so hot I couldn’t enjoy the beautiful landscape; Peleliu is gorgeous, it’s crazy hot, but it’s also quite beautiful.

During the course of the day we visited White Sands Beach, which holds special significant, as it is the beach our faculty member Cindi’s father’s Platoon came to Palau through, during the Battle of Peleliu. We also visited Orange Beach, Honeymoon Beach and Bloody Nose Ridge, where you can take a stair case with 114 steps (there used to be 115) to a lookout point of the whole Island, with panoramic views of every shade of green. It is hard to imagine this place burned to the ground as it was during the war.

For more information on Peleliu or our tour here, please visit the blog from our first tour.

Palau 2013 Day 06

Ahh finally a day of rest; well, sort of. Last night I finally got to bed early and was able to wake up early enough for a run. Living at the dorms has many perks, one of them being its proximity to the track. So at 6:30am, before the heat of the day, I went for a run on the gorgeous, rubber track just yards from my room; my cold shower felt amazing afterwards (even with my lights going out halfway through it). We met as a group at 8:30 to find out what our schedule was and were put on hold to see if meetings could be finalized. Not knowing if we’d get a call like the day before that we would need to meet with the Queen in an hour, we all stayed near the dorms for the morning, most of us congregating in the new coffee shop that also hosts FREE internet! Ahh this place is great, full service coffee, fresh waffles, air conditioning; what more can you ask for?! Part of what’s wonderful about Palau is that you are forced to disconnect from your normal life, American cell phones don’t work here, the internet is hard to access and when you do, it is painfully slow, but it was nice for all the students to take an “American moment” with their lattes and internet.

Around midday, we heard that we were free for the rest of the day and students disbursed to tend to sunburns, bug bites and explore a little more of Palau. A few students ended up at Tebang, the wood carving place, many at riptide, an amazing beach and others visited the capital building. It was nice for everyone to have a little free time to decide for themselves what they would like to do. As for me, I did a little of everything. I visited the wood carvers (after three visits to Palau this year I will be finally bringing home a storyboard of my own!), I stopped by the Flamingo to catch up with Soline and I made it to Riptide just in time to see the fading sun paint the sky pink.

At the end of the day most of the group met at the Taj to celebrate Logan’s 21st birthday! So many people do Vegas for their 21st birthday; however, it’s hard to beat celebrating your big day in Palau!! Tomorrow is Pelielu, so I’m taking some Benadryl for my bug bites (which are beginning to connect in places) and going to bed!

Palau 2013 Day 05 Sorry I have to go the President Just Called…

In the morning we met with the Society of Historians, Sonny and Linda. The students presented their current ideas and we discussed the collection of the narratives and how they would be carved and into which materials. Both Sonny and Linda were super helpful, referring us to an existing group of stories that has been in fact vetted and having many ideas for materials that can be used for the monoliths. It was just about 10am and we had the rest of the day free… or so we thought… On the way back to the dorms students who hadn’t seen the prisoner’s gift shop went in and looked around and then everyone dispersed for a little R&R.

At 1:08pm the phone rings, it’s Rich calling to inform me that we have a meeting with the President scheduled…at 3pm today… OK, so much for our elusive jet-lag day (3 days later we still haven’t had it); let’s rally the students and fast! Good thing it’s a small island and that the students travel in packs. The phone tree started to ring out and it became one of those where were you when you received the call to meet the president, at lunch with a view, getting a massage or in Matt’s case, being caught in a downpour as his backpack started a chorus of rings as he had several of the students’ phones where in his dry bag. In under two hours all 17 students, 4 faculty and three staff members were changed and in the common room of the dorms ready to board the bus and meet President Tommy Remengesau.

The presentation to the president was a success. There were smiles all around and the only complaint was that the ribbon cutting couldn’t come soon enough. It’s been a whirlwind couple of days; I can only imagine what the rest of the trip will hold!

Palau 2013 Day 04: Rock Islands Tour, swimming in an aquarium

Palau04-2728One of the highlights of any trip to Palau is the Rock Island’s tour. Today we visited our good friends at Sam’s Tours to experience some of the surreal beauty that Palau has to offer. This is my third time in Palau and sometimes I still have to pinch myself to make sure it isn’t a dream, the snorkeling here is out of this world; you literally feel like you’ve stuck your face into a high-priced aquarium.

Part of the fun for us staff and faculty is seeing all the first timers experience the Rock Islands; excitement is contagious and both boats were teeming with it. Although it was the staffs third time on this tour, we had a new dive stop, Hidden Lake. To enter this lake you must pass through a small opening in the rocks, which you can only do when the tide is just right. It was a bit scary passing over the soft coral and trying not to bump your knees, but once you made it through the passageway we had an enclosed area all to ourselves. I have no words that will sum up Palau, photos, are a start:

Our next stop was the Drop-off, characterized by its shallow coral reef, that quickly “drops-off” 3000 feet, hang on to your cameras, masks and fins here, because if you drop it… there’s no getting it back. The drop-off is my favorite snorkel spot, I love the contrast between the reef and the deep blue nothingness, plus there are soooo many different kinds of fish here and such a plethora of them as well.

After the Drop-off it was time for lunch with a view. The students couldn’t stop grinning when we anchored on the white sands of a beach on one of the smaller Rock Islands. We ate next to the water and then our favorite guide Malahi showed us how to husk coconuts

We call this photo died and gone to heaven…

After lunch it was time to travel to outer-space, or a lake that resembles something from a sci-fi channel, Jelly Fish Lake. It’s one of the few places in the world where Jellyfish are protected from natural predators and have therefore overtime lost there ability to sting, which means you can safely swim in a swarm of these pink, pulsing creatures.Palau04-2622

After the Jellys we made a quick stop at the giant clams (an area that contains 7 or the 9 species of the world’s clams and where some clams can grow to six feet in length and 3 feet in diameter. Lastly we finished up at the Milkyway. Named for it’s creamy color, the Milkyway contains the same mud that you would find at Glenn Ivy or other high-end resorts. As tradition calls for we covered ourselves in mud (not just for the pictures, it’s supposed to be amazing for your skin!).Palau04-2738

I’m beat and my bed is calling my name, but I’ll leave my Otis friends with one more little something:

Palau 2013 Day 03: Getting our Feet Wet

Palau03-1970After finally settling down past midnight, I was up with the sun. Thankfully it was at least after sunrise, as my good friend the rooster (who rises before the sun) has appeared to have flown the proverbial coop. As in years past, most were up pretty early and even though it wasn’t planned, made the 7am breakfast. After half a day here, it feels like I never left, my room is nearly the same, no hot water, the lights don’t work (I’m currently typing in the dark), but with the addition of some rather nice curtains. You can breathe deeply in Palau, not just because the air is cleaner, but also because there’s a peacefulness here, tension instantly lessons. The people are so friendly, everyone says hi to you or good morning as you walk through campus. The sky is bright blue and there is green everywhere you look, jetlag or not, it just feels good to be here.

After breakfast, small groups went for walks around town. Matt and I played tour guide pointing out our favorite places from the last years. First on the agenda for me was Yanos market, where I indulged in my favorite tapioca and a masubi roll. Next it was a quick stop at the Prison, where we chatted with the chief who was super friendly and as it turns out, went to school in Pasadena, then we checked out the art in the prisoner’s gift shop (yep, the prisoners make wood storyboard carvings and jewelry to raise funds for the prison). Finally, we made a quick stop at Long Island, where we had just enough time to stick our feet in the water before we had to head back to the dorms for our campus tour.

At 10am we met in the dorm common room for a reboot on our schedule and to get ready for our campus tour. Day 4 has been switched to our rock island tour (expect lots of pictures!) and Day 5 we will meet with historians. It also looks like we are on track to be able to meet with both the president and queen. At this meeting I also shared Andy’s inspirational letter with the students, which was met with a warm round of applause. Thank you Andy for your constant encouragement and support, you are the spark that keeps this project moving!

Then the super friendly Courtney took us around the campus, showing us the technology labs, the hospitality classrooms (which included a full kitchen and mock hotel check-in desks), as well as the library, where Palau class year two’s Freedom Memorial models have been added alongside year one’s. After the campus tour it was time for lunch, a quick clothing change and then it was time to walk across the street to the government building to meet with 3 of the senators, Rukebai Ianabo, Camsekelias Chin and Masasinge Arurang.

The meeting with the senators went well, the students got their first presentation down and the senators appreciated their ideas. Palau03-4097A new addition to our team this year is Rude Calderon. Rude is an instructor in the Continuing Education department at Otis and was the missing element for the freedom memorial. A trained and season stone-carver, the hope is that Rude can help train Palauan artists to be able to carve the stone monoliths. Palauans are known for their wood carvings and the thought is that this skill will be easily transferable. Senator Chin was especially interested in the Freedom Memorial, having himself served in the US Army. Among the questions the senators had, the location for the Memorial was a primary one. We discussed the potential of the Long Island site, but they also had another idea, an area called Ngetmeduch (just across the way from the crocodile farm, yes, crocodile farm) and in true Palauan fashion, we altered our schedule on the fly and with one phone call to Todd at the PCC, a bus was there and we were off to this new potential site. Senator Inabo met us on the side of the road, outside the site and we walked around discussing its potential. We all loved this new possible site; here the memorial would be visible as people enter Korror from the airport and it also had a different sort of peacefulness to it; it was also a great place to swim! Rule 1. for Palau, always have a camera with you, Rule 2. Always have your swimsuit!

After arriving back at the dorms everyone dispersed to eat dinner, find reliable internet (a challenge in Palau) relax and / or swim. Matt and I were hoping to meet up with Adora, but when work kept her away, we went to the Taj for Indian food and a mango lassi instead. Year one in Palau, we spent a lot of time at the Taj and with Taj owner Robert; however, year two Robert was off island and we missed seeing him. As Matt and I were finishing up our delicious dinner we spotted Robert! Robert joined us for laughs and hookah; we talked about our adventures from two years ago and the current status of the Memorial Project. We were also joined by Robert’s friend Tom, who is installing the new Aquarium in the new lounge section of the Taj. That’s right, for those of you who know the Taj, it’s getting bigger and better. On Saturday the Taj will celebrate its 10 year anniversary and in a few short months an entire new section of the restaurant will open, featuring a dance floor, a wraparound bar and custom made lounges for people to sit, relax and enjoy the atmosphere. While catching up with Robert we saw two students walk by who had just thoroughly enjoyed their meal and they also joined us for a bit. The students were impressed that we were so friendly with the owner, but that’s how it is in Palau; everyone knows everyone, people are friendly and with gaps of a year in between visits, coming back is like coming home.