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Another year comes and goes. Honestly, this felt like one of the fastest year ever with a lot of wonderful surprises and turns.  I didn't think I'd be able to travel as much after I started my new job the year before, but somehow we managed to explore quite a bit this year. 

Feel like there's so many things to look back for this year alone, but I figured I'd just give the highlights through some of my favorite pictures that I took.

In the spring, we took a last minute trip to Portland, and between the beautiful outdoor scenes and (friggin) delicious food, I'm ready to come back.  Also got to see an old friend from work that had moved here, and apparently gone full-hipster... well, at least his facial hair did. 

And thanks to Joel Horwath's addiction for pretending to be a New Yorker, I tagged along for the ride to take some shots of the big apple.  Visited a lot of the stereotypical touristy spots, but hey there's a reason why people like to go here.  My personal highlight had to be the alley in Brooklyn overlooking Manhattan Bridge, and my first taste of Shake Shack..... heard they went public today, maybe we'll get a Shake Shack here soon *wipes drooll*

Shake Shack at Madison Square Park

The absolute highlight of the year is hands-down, no question about it, having done the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  Everything about the trail was just surreal: walking on the original Inca roads, seeing the ruins, learning the history, camping in the mountains.

First picture here is from an alcove in Winaywayna ruins on our last night on the trail.  We were sheltering ourselves from the rain in a reconstructed part of the site.  I love this scene because it shows both the Andes and the Inca ruins blending together, as if becoming the same part of the history and legacy.

And though, food pictures seems cliche, but I like these shots because they show two parts of the Peruvian culture.  The traditional ceviche served on the streets, and making organic ice cream at El Hada in Cusco, and 'cuy' the local delicacy; old and modern now part of the wonderful gastronomic culture of Peru.

And no, I didn't eat the cute guinea pig.... I wanted to, but I couldn't.

2014 was also the year of the National Parks for us.  We've even finally bought the annual pass (multipass!).  On a 4-day trip, we visited both Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks.  Yellowstone was so huge, we only did the driving tour and stopped at the famous sights and we still had to miss quite a few spots. 

Got to see a Bison / Buffalo up close as we were driving towards Lamar Valley.  Amazing how stout and powerful, yet docile these things were.  Their massive ruggedness feels like the perfect personification of the park.

And seeing the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone from Artist Point was just stunning.  The photo I took looked as if somebody actually just painted it. 

Checking off another item off the Bucket List... finished the Chicago Marathon, 'twas the worst race I've ever had.  Horrible, just plain horrible, a cramp-a-mile from mile 13 on, and a full hour off my pace... ugh.

But otherwise, it's always nice to visit Chicago.  Between riding elevated train around downtown, and the characters you meet on the street.  Like a street hip-hop artist that goes by the name Nino Velli, he chatted me up while I was snapping shots from the river and we talked about old-school rap for a while.  Nice fellow, maybe he's the next Fifty Cent.

I started out the year with the goal of doing more portraits and commissioned work, and somehow managed to get a few in.  Definitely feel more comfortable about going in to a shoot now, and I actually do enjoy working with others  to create a photo.

Like this ones with my uber-fit friend Demetria.  She's so fit and healthy, almost make me want to cut out fried chicken from my diet and drink celery juice for the rest of my life.... only if I could.

This past year I've also spent a considerably more amount of time in the city itself.  Managed to do a bit more exploring, like from a photowalk I joined in Chinatown.  The goal was to take pictures that would freeze the scene in time, and I thought this picture of a very modern stylist salon encapsulates more of the way SF Chinatown is slowly changing. 

Speaking of exploring locally, I got a surprise scenic airplane trip around the bay.  This was super cool, and we had a pilot friend who flew us around the bay.

On a whim, took a trip to Yosemite National Park for a weekend.  Always enjoyed going to Yosemite, I don't think I'll ever get bored of its granite walls and scenic valley.  Also got to try to stay at the Wawona Lodge which was a delightful experience.  We woke up early the next day to catch the sunrise from Tunnel View, and were treated with a really cool fog layer on the valley floor. 

Can't wait until we go back there early next month when it's thick with snow.

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And lastly, with very brief planning, we did a tour of the Southwestern Canyon regions in Utah and Arizona. Zion National Park was just absolutely stunning, and we were very very lucky to get snow on the first day!  On top of that, I also checked another item from my photography bucket list, by taking a sunset pic from Horseshoe Bend. 

I'm still combing and working through the billion photos I took from this trip, so stay tuned for a write-up on the trip.

All-in-all, 2014 was pretty cool.  Got to travel wayy more than I thought I would, and checked quite a few things off my bucket list.  Thanks to everyone that have come along on this trip or who've just been around to make this year great.  I don't know what's in store for 2015 yet, but hopefully it'll be just as awesome.