Back in Southern California for Aiko's 88th

It was just a couple weeks ago that we were in the Los Angeles heat for our family reunion. I flew down again to help celebrate my Aunt Aiko's 88th birthday.

5-Aug, Friday

This trip was the same duration (in fact, the same flight numbers in both directions) so a lot of the journey was the same, except this time I was by myself. The only wrinkle is that the day I flew south our street was going to be paved, which means closing it. I was going to walk to the bus stop anyway, but wanted to avoid walking on still-sticky pavement. I thankfully managed to get going before they closed off the street.

I told my cousin that I would take pictures at the party. She did give me a heads up that my Aunt was hoping to get pictures with her and various family combinations, so I decided to pack up my lighting gear, which is a bit too long for carry-on luggage. After I checked my bag, it felt strange going around the airport with just a backpack; I kept making sure I wasn't leaving my bag somewhere. I didn’t have TSA Pre✓ this time, but the general screening lines were operating that way anyway; I was able to leave everything in my bag and keep my shoes on.

Another thing I did differently was keep my camera out for the whole flight down, and I was able to catch some fun photos. Of course, Mts. Rainier and Adams were in full view, but I wasn't able to see Mt. Saint Helens. The Cowlitz river made a neat pattern. I was also able to see Yosemite's Half Dome along with Mono Lake (with its large tufa formation in the middle). As we were descending, Malibu was easy to pick out (as well as the Getty Villa at the lower left) as was the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood sign.

On the way to the house, we stopped by Marukai to do some shopping for dinner. Then it was back into traffic. Not long after we arrived at the house, my Aunt Frances arrived for dinner. I enjoyed catching up with what she's been up to post-retirement, and I filled her in on what's been going on with us over the past couple weeks.

As I went outside to see my aunt to the car, I noticed that Jupiter was out, just above a crescent moon.

6-Aug, Saturday

The birthday party was going to be a luncheon, so I took the opportunity to walk around a bit in the morning. Instead of the usual route to the northeast, I went around to the golf course a block away, then did a bit of winding on my way to Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center. They're doing a lot of construction, and plan to be done in 2020.

I wanted to get to the Miyako Hotel a bit early so I could scope out a good spot for portraits. The party was on the patio and sun was pretty harsh. Because of how things were set up, the best option was around some bamboo and a water feature at one end. I played with the idea of using my umbrellas as simple reflectors for fill, but it was quickly evident that wouldn't work. I set up the flashes, got Eric to be a test subject for quick settings, and got things pretty close. Robert and Holly also volunteered to be tests, and it was a good thing; the setup was slightly bright, so after fixing that, things looked good.

People started showing up, and I turned everything off, leaving things set up. Unfortunately, a breeze kicked up, knocking over one of the stands. I put it back, rotating the legs a bit, and it seemed to do better. Almost, at any rate; later on, the umbrella had tipped into the water, and the flash got a lot of splashes on it. It still powered up and fired fine, so I just set it aside to dry off.

The lunch was a bento box with very generous portions of lots of food. There was also salad, miso soup, and a strawberry mousse for dessert. Of course, there was cake, which was very colorful when sliced. It actually went well with all the decorations (lots of cranes and cut-out flowers, cute picture frames and collages), all done by Alice. She put a lot of time and effort into everything, and it showed.

During dessert time, they did a couple activities. For one, you had to answer as many questions about my aunt as you could, ranging from her favorite color to where she graduated from high school. The second activity was bingo. They did three rounds, and winners emerged pretty quickly each time.

I tried to take photos during the event, doing what I could about the combination of sun and shade (as well as the color casts from the patio umbrellas). Taking pictures of people isn't my forte but looking back, I did have several that turned out well, and I now know more for the next time I happen to be photographing an event.

As things started to wind down, we moved over to the portrait area, and I was much more confident that things would turn out well in that area, especially since the sun had moved enough so the shade was even, letting the flashes fill in faces.

It's always hard for our family to say goodbye, and today was no exception. We lingered for quite a while before finally getting to the parking lot.

After we got back to the house, I turned around and went to find good internet access (the connection at my parents' house is spotty and pretty slow). I had enough time to work on the photos: selecting, processing, and uploading.

My dad made up some udon for dinner, a nice, simple meal.

7-Aug, Sunday

As it ended up, my cousins Kathy and Irland had a flight out of the same terminal at LAX a little before mine. We left the house early so I could be sure to at least say hi before they boarded. It ended up being a good thing, since traffic was really bad once we got close to the airport.

If you’re unfamiliar with LAX, the terminals are arranged in a large U; the first terminal is Terminal 1 (my cousin Robert and his family were in that terminal on their way home), the last Terminal 7. I was in Terminal 5; normally you would take the second shortcut from across the center of the U and end up near Terminals 5 and 6, but due to the traffic, my dad cut across to Terminal 7 and I just walked back down to 5. I got into the security line (no TSA Pre✓ for me again) and while the line didn’t look too long, it was moving very slowly. Ends up they only had two bag screeners feeding into one body scanner.

I made it though, and met up with Kathy and Irland. Ends up their flight was delayed two hours (they later found out it was because of a medical emergency on the inbound flight), so we chatted for a while, then went off to get lunch. It was nice to spend time with them and hear some tidbits on what’s going to happen with their son Paul’s wedding in a couple weeks.

After we said our goodbyes, I proceeded to my gate, and just as boarding was going to begin, they delayed the flight by a half hour for some safety checks. When we did eventually board, I saw a maintenance worker leave the plane, grab his toolbox, then proceed to the tarmac. Glad they got it working.

I took more pictures on the flight north. Once again I was able to see Yosemite and Mono Lake, but since we were a bit further west, I saw El Capitan in addition Half Dome. I also saw an impressive front holding off clouds over Oregon. We also did a nice sweep over Seattle to land towards the south. I had great views of downtown, the ship canal/Lake Union, and Northeast Seattle (our house is pretty close to dead center in the photo).