Used Stuff

I love getting used stuff.

Especially at thrift stores. (Well-run) thrift stores that are genuinely community-driven and provide employment opportunities for folks in the nearby neighborhoods are, to me, not only socially responsible, economically non-limiting, and environmentally sound. Plus, you never know what you’re gonna stumble upon. Treasures to be discovered!

I’ll speak a bit more on the environmental front. Every merchandise we purchase or consume uses natural resources of some sort. Without FULLY getting into life cycle analysis of the hugely complex steps of resources extraction, refinement, transport, manufacturing, retail sales, and maintenance of any particular item, do know this — it is a hugely energy intensive process and in most cases, quite taxing on our environment. And this is only the environmental aspect. MUCH can be said on the (lack of) fair labor policies in place to protect workers, especially overseas, who are making these amazing devices and items of our everyday lives.
Since learning this in 2008/2009, I’ve been trying to purchase as much used (or as I often put it, “previously loved”) items as possible. My bike was purchased on Craigslist from another cyclist. My last 2 cars are both used, and my current vehicle is nearly as old as I am. My laptop belonged to someone else who decided it was time to upgrade. ALL of my camera gear except for several lens filters, 1 tripod, and my flash were purchased used. Many of my clothing items — perhaps half my closet — are from friends, REI garage sales, eBay, and thrift stores. I love the feeling of utilizing something that has minimal impact on the earth and its inhabitants. Getting used stuff eliminates the need for NEW materials, NEW mines, NEW oil pipelines, MORE transport routes, MORE exploitation of humans, MORE pollution, and not to mention — continuing the social hierarchy/status certain brands place onto folks of different economic levels. I don’t like ANY of that.

I really enjoy quality gear. Namely, outdoor and photography gear. Working at REI has given me some ridiculous access to quality gear at significantly lower retail costs. In the first few months, and I ain’t gonna lie about this — I splurged quite a bit. The bombproof Arcteryx jacket, the new hiking shoes, fancy this and that. I finally caught myself as I was spending what felt like superb deals on gear that I don’t absolutely need AND was questionable to its social and environmental impacts. I dug a little deeper and was quite disheartened to find that a huge majority of outdoor companies do not have widespread policies in place to protect their workers and, very ironically, the beloved places in nature where we use their gear. Patagonia is a true exception. They aren’t perfect, but damn they do try their best. Back in 2011, upon discovering that some of their factories in Taiwan were, in essence, practicing 21st century slavery, they quickly sent an investigation team to deal with and change the situation. Patagonia published the facts as they were on their website/blog, and made it clear to the public that it is something they will continue to work on with 3rd party companies to ensure compliance even in the 2nd and 3rd tier levels of the factories and supply chain. Patagonia ran a marketing campaign “Don’t buy this jacket” – in line with their own program “Worn Wear” to encourage folks to repair and resell their old gear. This is a service they provide in-house for any Patagonia products, free of charge. They have been a pioneer of using organic cotton, hemp, recycled polyester, AND ethically-sourced down. No other company I am aware of does all of this on their own.

The companies I’ve seen with a decent level of mindfulness in their resources usage and social-environmental responsibility are Prana, Toad & Co., United by Blue, Chaco, Royal Robbins, REI, Sanuk, and… well, I hope we’ll be able to add to this list.

Ok, so these photos. I scored these beauties at Value Village to showcase what one can find with a bit of time and patience:

$6.99 Chaco sandals
$7.99 REI hiking/travel shorts
$6.99 Paradox merino wool-polyester blend base layer
$9.99 Toad & Co. organic cotton shirt
$8.99 REI fleece sweater – made in USA (sadly, no longer)
$5.99 10,000 Feet Above Sea Level fleece pants

Plus 30% off those prices because I donated my old clothes and some other stuff I don’t need. ~$36 grand total. Just a new fleece sweater would be that much, if not more. Approximate time spend browsing and picking these gems out – 1 hour 15 mins.

Much more importantly, hardly any guilt in purchasing and enjoying these products outdoors for the rest of their lifetime.

Some additional reading if you are as passionate about this topic as I am:

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The Thousand Year Journey (Video)

My short bicycle tour with friends over the weekend reminded me how much I adore the life journey on 2 wheels. It represents freedom and exploration in a pure, self-powered, self-empowering manner that no other activity I’ve done has replicated (backpacking comes close).
It has been over a year and a half since my life-changing trek from Canada to Mexico came to an end. I long for another long bike journey in the near future.

Camping at Moran State Park on Orcas Island.

Camping at Moran State Park on Orcas Island.

Biking by Crescent Beach by Eastsound on Orcas Island.

Biking by Crescent Beach by Eastsound on Orcas Island.

And this brings me to the main dish of this post…

This magical video articulates and visualizes the beauty and enlightenment I have gained through bike touring. It speaks to the soul. Truly another level. See for yourself.

Sound on + full screen, most definitely.

The Thousand Year Journey: Oregon To Patagonia from Kenny Laubbacher on Vimeo.

I hope that this film is a healthy nudge for people to shake up their lives a little bit.
Jed’s radical choice to quit his job and ride his bike across the world is a perfect challenge to the rest of us to get out of the routine and make some scary decisions. If you’re afraid of a decision ahead of you, you’re probably on the right track. Choose it. !

Follow Jed’s adventures @jedidiahjenkins
My Instaspam @kennyjamez

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A day in life, July 20 twenty fifteen.

It’s been an emotional last 24 hours.

I awakened from the dream state to the sound of birds singing in the trees paired with the rustling of leaves dancing to a gentle breeze. Clouds covered the summer sun, keeping the air around us and earth beneath us from quickly heating up, as it has been for the past several days. A welcomed break from the unusual heat and dryness this region has seen. My friend Jess and I agreed it was one of the most restful nights we’ve had recently. Sleeping out in nature almost never fails to provide this unparalleled restoration of the body and mind.

The warm sun peeked out of the clouds as we enjoyed a nutritious breakfast. After reminiscing on the great chats under the milky way (and several shooting stars) in the previous evening, we set off for a little stroll into the woods. We picked ripe blackberries along the trail and bushwhacked our way in and out of the river bank. Being a Monday morning at the state park, we were the only wanderers. We felt grateful for our non-routine work schedules and the tranquil reconnection to nature.

A swift drive filled with more good conversation and equally quality music teleported us back to the urban center we call home. I bid farewell to Jess as I returned to my mobile dwelling, and soon after, a favorite local coffee shop. Single origin, fair trade, organic coffee. This batch was from Colombia. $2.65 happily spent on ethical beans and labor. What a way to commence the afternoon.

The sun provided warmth, comfort, and Vitamin D to my skin as I Skype-call Cathie Bukowski, a PhD student at Virginia Tech who had set up a call with me to talk about the Beacon Food Forest. She is deeply interested in and has been studying food forests and community gardens around the country for over 4 years. I agreed to share my experiences and thoughts on permaculture and the food forest, a very special place to me and many others I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with.

Cathie dug deep. I can tell she has been seeking deeper answers and motivations that fundamentally drive folks to take action and make projects like the Beacon Food Forest a reality. I nearly teared after answering one of her questions. My own words (re)ignited the fire in my belly. That’s not something that happens frequently. Moments and days like this stick with you. An hour passed by. It felt sublime to feel further connected to a global community of earth stewards who are reversing the disconnection from our foods, our earth, and one another.

I spent the following several hours in a zone of my own. Recorded live sets by DJ Medicineman kept the groove going strong while photos from the big cameras were downloaded and edited in the digital darkroom. It is always a treat to relive all those moments captured on film. It is one of the greatest joys that I get to have as a documenter of this beautiful life. It felt great to have had an afternoon to do so.

I then caught up on emails and correspondences with friends and family. I lived through recent funtivities of my little nephews and their parents via our family chat group. I allow myself to somewhat mindlessly scroll through the endless news feed on Facebook for some time before mindfully shifting gears to the latest updates from my dear friends in Nepal. They have been working tirelessly with local organizations and rural villagers on the road towards the rebuilding of homes, schools, roads, and livelihoods. I got reminded of my blessings. I needed it. It is often too easy for one to fall into a spiral of trivial, first-world problems.

8:30pm. The sun was about to set in less than 30 minutes. I told myself I would dedicate the evening on an important outreach email on the crowdsourcing fundrasier for the Beacon Food Forest and brainstorming ideas as well as a timeline for the funding of my own trek to Nepal in September. I’ve been putting these 2 important things off for a number of days.

I also desired a change of scenery before refueling the system with some nourishment. I pedaled towards Golden Gardens, a nearby park with sweeping views of the Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains silhouetted against the fiery gradient. Gorgeous. Light waves crashed against the rocky shoreline. I love that sound. I felt content and lonely at the same time. I wanted to share the moment and beauty with somebody. Somebody who shares my world views, passions, and values. I wondered, as I often have, if she is someone I know already, someone who is witnessing the same sunset, or perhaps instead a starry night sky on the other side of the globe?

I shook off the nonconstructive emotion as best as I could on the 2-wheeled journey home, and was welcomed to the sight of a still-burning barbecue by my motorhome. Mike and Caroline must have just cooked, or was about to. I was greeted by both of them soon after. To no surprise, they asked if I wanted to join for dinner. They are truly the best neighbors and friends I could ask for.

As food was about to be served, I caught sight on my phone of the flooding that’s been happening in southern California. Record rainfall for what is typically the driest month in that region. Collapsed bridges, mudslides, damages, injuries. Unprecedented drought, wildfires, diminishing water supplies, and now flooding all at the same time. Even the Pacific Northwest is witnessing the same issues. A surge of worry and anxiety rushed by. My mind raced through all the facts about our changing planet and the degradation of the environment and couldn’t help but feel defeated in this “battle” to hold back, let alone reverse, the devastation stemming from our species’ ignorance. Every action and progress made on the individual level and at a higher, global level ceased to matter. All those times protesting on the streets and in front of city halls for climate action… plugging into discussion forums, rallies, conferences, and heck, peeing into a mason jar because I cannot stand the idea of flushing 1.6 gallons of perfectly clean, potable water down the drain — poof! No longer mattered. My generation, that of my little nephews and all subsequent offspring will simply have to live with unpredictable climate in a rapidly desertifying earth. It’s too late.

It’s easy to become fatigued and jaded. This is not the first time these emotions have hit me face on, nor will it be the last. I took a deep breath in, and tried to let it all out. The thoughts still weighed heavily on my shoulders. I tried my best to stay upbeat during dinner. I didn’t bring any of it up until I was cleaning up with Caroline after. She offered much-needed support. We both have immediate family in southern California. The water issue truly hit home. “The flowers will keep blooming. We do our part,” she reassured me. I couldn’t let this emotional rollercoaster ride on without some proper release and solace. I decided to write for the first time in months, maybe even over a year.

The earth shall keep rotating. The sun will continue to rise and set as the oceans rise and inundate low-lying regions, displacing humans and other living beings from their current habitat. The fever of the planet shall subside with or without humans on a geologic time scale. This blue dot floating in space has seen far worse. We as an organism exist and operate in a timespan that is absolutely minute, yet certain minutes within our lifetime carry a life-long impact. We forget the power we potentially hold on ourselves and one another, and certainly on this rocky sphere we all call home. We are a part of the marvelous cycle of life that has taken 4.6 billion years to evolve and come to be at this very moment. Whether we choose to live in empowerment or ignorance is entirely up to us.

I have and will continue to choose to live in the light. I find with each passing day better clarity about myself and the passions I hold true and dear to my heart. I am thankful for all the comrades and friendships established as we march together, fueled by a sense of wonder with the natural world alongside the incredible stories of the collective human experience. To look away and act differently would be foolish of me. So I am going to keep riding my bicycle, keep growing food, keep taking photographs of inspirational moments and beauty all around us, and keep supporting projects as well as communities that share these common grounds.

Signing out to another restful evening in dreamland.

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Conscious Impact // Nepal

Summer is undoubtedly off to an incredible start, and now I have another journey to look forward to. From early September to mid October, I will be spending time in Nepal alongside my dear friends Allen​, Orion​, and Juliette​, the crew behind Conscious Impact (www.consciousimpact.org)​, to rebuild homes in villages where they have been visiting and surveying hundreds of families on their needs. My friends have also partnered up with ABARI​ (www.abari.org), a local organization that specializes in sustainable mud and bamboo construction and has been working to support rural villages affected by the earthquake. The road to rebuilding has been and will continue to be a rocky, complex path, but I feel optimistic in the perseverance of the human spirit and the amazing unity that has been brought forth since the devastation swept through the region. Yours truly will be documenting my entire experience there using both stills and videos, and I intend to soon launch a personal fundraiser in supporting my way there in addition to the gear and supplies needed to aid this tremendous project. Please stayed tuned for more information, and thank you in advance for your support!

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Enchanted

#4 in #EnchantmentLakes series. #Dusk magic over Upper Snow Lake.

A photo posted by Jonathan H. Lee (@subtledream) on

Just a #MountainGoat doing its thing. Lake Viviane, Enchantment Lakes, WA.

A photo posted by Jonathan H. Lee (@subtledream) on

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SO good to be back in the solar-powered mobile.

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A new home, on wheels.

The cat is out of the bag!

This is the mobile dwelling I have been living in for the past 6 weeks.

I feel free. I am free from lease contracts, financial burden, and perhaps most importantly, I owe the banks nothing and can relocate it anywhere, anytime (within reason, of course). I purchased my “house” in full, and that is a damn good feeling.

She’s an ’86 Winnebago Minnie Winnie class C motorhome. The previous owner? Samur, a Turkish woman in her 60’s who had traveled throughout Washington state and lived out of it while attending college in Olympia. I had a blast chatting with and getting to know her.

Living in the Winnebago is not without its restrictions and inconvenience — by choice. By not having run the gasoline/natural gas generators once, I have not had running water, electricity, and heat. More on this in a bit (but thank goodness for good outdoor gear).

Thus far the experience has taught me immensely about urban camping, parking regulations in the city, reaffirm my desire to break free from materialism, and even shed a new light on the hugely complex issue of homelessness. There is more… perhaps in future postings.

I have found myself spending more time out and about — exploring new corners of the city, hitting trails in the mountains, spending time with friends, and volunteering with the local community food forest. Here’s a shameless plug for the amazing Beacon Food Forest!

Ever since this idea to dwell portably and simply started laying roots in my mind, I have met and interacted with quite a number of folks who had or have been living similarly. Just a couple hours ago, I was at a Tiny House gathering (via meetup.com) at Sean’s house in Seattle. Sean is an architect by day and a tiny home builder in his spare time. He purchased a shipping container last autumn and plans to finish his 160-square foot future home by August.

I was telling a friend several weeks ago what an special, magical feeling it is to be able to simply drive my entire life from one place to another at my own free will.

I have numerous plans for the motorhome, and many of which are going to require a safe, level-ground location with electricity and plumbing to get the ball rolling. A driveway or backyard would be solid. I have been envisioning an overhaul of the interior to bring it out of the 80’s and truly personalize the space to suit my needs and aesthetics. I would also like to thoroughly cleanup the exterior and do some rust control – western Washington is wet! It’s going to require a beautiful mixture of elbow grease, power tools, upcycled materials, and certainly helping hands.

On the electricity front I am happy to report that I have already invested in a Goal Zero solar system to be able to run lower power-drawing devices like laptops and cell phones. Wouldn’t it be amazing to run my computer, screen, and speakers to edit future photographs, time-lapses, and videos? subtledream photography on clean solar energy. Oh yes.

So without a doubt, the next logical step in my experimental living — a place within biking distance from downtown Seattle to park, live, build, and thrive out of for the next several months. I would be absolutely, incredibly grateful for your thoughts and connections to make this happen. Whether it be a monthly monetary contribution or some sort of service/barter (garden/pet/house care, photography work, etc.) for the space and amenities such as electricity, water, and laundry… I am open to the conversation!

Friends, please pass the word to especially friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family in the region who may be interested in a symbiotic agreement. Message me and I’ll happily send my phone and email.

Much gratitude to Jen T., Greg M., Cami C., Cynthia F., Dana W., and SO many individuals for the lessons, pointers, conversations, and opportunities gifted in making this a reality. Special shoutout necessary for Jessica S. and Maria C. for kindness and keeping me defrosted on several winter evenings.

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Mt Dickerman Overnight Climb

This is a photo series from the Cascade Mountains featuring a recent trip to Mount Dickerman and Big Four Ice Caves along the incredible Mountain Loop Highway in Washington state. ❄ I escaped into the central Cascades where I spent 2 days and evenings in the front and backcountry, soaking in the solitude, tranquility, and sense of wonder of these mountains. A much welcomed escape for the bustling city life. The waxing moon lit the landscape brightly through the cloudless sky. The snow-capped peaks looked as though it was daytime. It was past midnight and I hadn’t seen other drivers on the road for a solid half hour. Feeling confident that the silence would allow me to hear oncoming vehicles, I stopped in the middle of the road and snapped the first few long exposures. I feel that it captures that thrilling sensation I had as the vehicle took me further into the wilderness…

I commenced my hike up Mount Dickerman at around 3am, with a full pack of foods, sleeping supplies, and camera gear. With headlamp on and stones in both hands (in case of cougar or big predator attack), I marched into the thick and dark woods. My goal was to reach the summit before sunrise. After hiking a little over 2 hours, I welcomed the emergence out of the woods and into the fresh snow at around 4000 ft elevation. I put on my microspikes and forged a new pathway through the new snow, which had covered the tracks of the last hikers, and steadily made my way to the summit. The snow was quite deep in some areas and the below-freezing temperatures meant I couldn’t stay long for photos. The dawn light began to paint the skies and snow-capped peaks all around me… ❄

Oh that dawn glow over the mountain tops. Not another human soul within miles. Below zero temperatures, but thankfully only a light breeze near the summit. The fresh snow 2 days prior covered the previous tracks on the trail. I forged my way up towards the summit slowly yet surely while being mindful of where potential mini avalanches may be triggered. So glad I had gaiters and microspikes. The snow was nearly deep enough to require snowshoes. I really wanted to get to the summit below the first light hit the peaks…
For the rest of it… please read on. 

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

The incredible, incredible Mountain Loop highway. I departed from the city around 9pm. This was the beginning of one of the most memorable evenings and journeys of 2015.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

The satellite of the earth showing the way.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

This sight was absolutely surreal.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

The Big Four mountains at midnight. Moon working its magical illumination. I took a nap in the car before starting the hike at ~2:30am

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

I hiked in complete darkness between 3-5:30am in the forest. I am not going to lie, I feared for my life a little. I held rocks in both hands in case of a predator (cougar) attack. This was one of the first scenes emerging out of the forest. Notice the stars still shining in the dark blue sky and the gradient down to the Big Four mountains, which are now almost eye-level.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

As I emerged out of the thick forest into the sub-alpine mountain side, I was welcomed by the first light in the sky. The blanket of fresh white snow glowed as if it was morning already.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

The trail ended with the thick snow cover. I forged my own path, directly up to the summit.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Dragging my legs through foot+ deep snow. Fresh powder, fallen just days prior. I was the first to mark the terrain with prints. A great feeling, though energy-intensive.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Dawn. Those simply staggeringly beautiful dawn colors.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Incredible solitude mixed with adventure, bliss, and freezing limbs. I had to keep moving to stay warm.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

A scene out of dreams.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Probably the most picturesque peak I came across on that trip.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Capturing the magic with my mind and the machine.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

6:49am. Tired, cold, legs and body feeling heavy. But the reward surrounding and ahead of me… there was no stopping.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

The very first rays of sun hitting the peaks across the valley.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Mountain glow over the Big Four.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

The trail had been entirely covered in the last 2 mile or so. I made my own switchbacks on the steeper sections.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

7:18am. First ray of sunlight on my skin. Defrosting (finally) began.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Summit. Feeling blissful and accomplished.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Panorama from west to east.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Hello Mt. Baker.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Baker, the snowiest peak of the lower 48 states.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Rainier, partially hidden by the snow capped peaks surrounded me.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Looking back west towards the Olympics and Puget Sound.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Looking across the valleys, the ravines, the (mostly) untainted backcountry…

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Strolling across the ridge.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

2nd climber to reach the summit.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Admiration. He was the second or third climber to reach the top, I think.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Late morning nap. I was exhausted.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

I woke up from the quick rest to the moon setting to the west.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by a friendly stranger :) Time to descend!

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Met Warren @ The Outbound Collective​ on the way down.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

No filter. Literally.

Maps of Mt Dickerman and the Big Four Ice Caves:

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6 months w/ The SunJack solar charger

Earlier in the summer this year, I had the opportunity to work with Harold Tan and his innovative portable solar charger, The SunJack. My friend and I brought the versatile charger into the backcountry of the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains and into the toasty Death Valley in California for product testing and photography. 6 months later, the chargers are holding up without issues and have been used to charge USB devices such as my GoPro camera and smartphone. This design contest winner by Fayyaz_56 features 4 images taken in the Sierras and in Los Angeles (with photo credits to Sarah Kristin Ward and Dora Lee). Below are a number of top picks by yours truly from the photoshoots.

Check out the SunJack solar charger via their Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/theSunJack) and website (http://www.sunjack.com/).
The full brochure design can be viewed at: https://99designs.com/contests-fullscreen/432100/entries/42810224

SunJack design contest winner

IMG_0083 IMG_1555 IMG_0621 IMG_1717 IMG_1788 IMG_3529 IMG_3968 IMG_3974 IMG_8725

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Fall Instagrams

Mixture of cell phone and big camera snaps from autumn in the beautiful, beautiful Pacific Northwest.

The bounty from this morning. It was my first time volunteering with the SYGW (Seattle Youth Garden Works), a program by Seattle Tilth to empower and train youths and young adults in the community to gain valuable skills for future opportunities. It was beautiful day in the sun to do some fall harvesting! Big thank you to the crew in sharing the abundance and knowledge with me. Even found two edible mushrooms on the walkways, as validated by an experienced local picker. Having biked to the farm, I'm happy to say that these fresh organic goodies essentially have zero food miles and ultra-low carbon footprint. Hot peppers, dragon tongue and green beans, spinach, carrots, tomatillos, and golden radish – yum. I believe that urban living and affordable access to farm-fresh goodness do not have to be mutually exclusive. #seattleurbangarden #seattlefarm #seattlefarms #farmtotable #seattleyouthgardenworks #sygw #seattletilth #pnw #seattle #urbangarden #urbangardens #communityfarm #foodjustice #foodsecurity #seattleurbangardens #seattlefarmtotable #sustainability #sustainableagriculture #sustainableliving #fallharvest #autumnharvest #abundance #gratitude

A photo posted by Jonathan H. Lee (@subtledream) on

There is no prison. There are no bounds. Allow your mind to align with the #beauty and infinite #wisdom of the world – the #present #moment. You and I are #free "When you get free from certain fixed concepts of the way the world is, you find it is far more subtle, and far more miraculous, than you thought it was." – Alan Watts Beautiful photo by señorita Vilma Mejia #alanwatts #presentmoment #zen #meditation #infinitewisdom #northcascadesnationalpark #northcascades #diablolake #hwy20 #reflection #wanderwashington #wa_nderlust #discoveryournorthwest #pacificnorthwest #upperleftUSA #livewashington #greettheoutdoors #letsgosomewhere #getouthere #ventureout #adventureisoutthere #rei1440project #naturetherapy #maptia #subtledream

A photo posted by Jonathan H. Lee (@subtledream) on

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Pomona College Organic Farm

For the past month, I have been visiting and volunteering at this beautiful and well-run organic farm on the Pomona College campus in Claremont, California. It is a gem of a place and Nai, the farm manager, is delightful to work and hang out with. If you live in the region, I can highly recommend that you visit the farm and get your hands dirty on the volunteer days – every Saturday from 10am to noon. Perhaps you will be able to taste some of the fruits of your labor right away ;) Below are some favorite captures by yours truly.

Links! http://farm.pomona.edu/ // Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pomonafarm

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee - www.subtledream.com

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Acro Yoga Photoshoots in Coloma & Lake Tahoe

In late July I had the opportunity to spend several beautiful days in northern California, photographing and learning acro yoga (a new practice for me), eating some incredibly fresh and healthy gourmet foods, soaking in the beauty of the natural surroundings, and enjoying the superb company of new and old friends. It was a spontaneous road trip that started with a reunion with my friend Allen in southern California. Cogs started turning quickly, and the next thing we know, we knew we wanted to collaborate, co-create, and have some fun. He and his acro partner, Kate, were about to an acro yoga workshop at Coloma Resort in northern California, and we thought it would be a killer way to see what we could do together. The results are truly incredible, in my humble opinion. The following photos and captions will walk you through the best acro and photoshoot bits from that long weekend.

Presenting our instructors/models… Kate and Allen!

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Kate spotting one of our friends trying out a new acro pose.

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

It was a gorgeous morning, with spectacular lighting under the oak tree.

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

There is no rule that the “larger” person has to be on the bottom. With proper technique, reasonable strength, and very importantly – TRUST – the heavier partner can be the flyer too.

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

We put on quite the circus act, attracting other folks of all ages from around the resort that morning. A couple people even joined in on the fun!

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Coloma Resort is right on the south fork of the American River – so it was tubing time for me after the morning session! GoPro comes out to play.

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Afternoon session – warming up on the rocks.

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What a place to be doing acro.

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Shanna found a spot in the river that was perfect for what we envisioning for the first photoshoot – a flat section where the waters were only a few inches deep.

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The warmup. This time, featuring Shanna.

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

And our setup… not to mention the spectators that floated by. I was probably 20-30 feet (7-10 meters) downstream from where Shanna and Allen were. I found a rock that was slightly exposed above water and perched myself on it for most of the photoshoot. My camera and lens were not in any waterproofing container, so I had to be very careful to be photographing just inches off the water surface.

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

“Side star” on the American River… love this one!

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

© Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

The lighting on that afternoon was essentially perfect, with some scattered clouds diffusing the sunlight slightly. While I think reflectors and/or flashes could have helped light the shadows and make our models “pop” a bit more, they were honestly not needed. I love working purely with natural light anyway! :) We had a ton of fun making this happen, and it was a superb learning experience for everyone to try new poses in a radically different setting for acro yoga.

Next destination.. beautiful Lake Tahoe.

A quick shoot on a deck got us the following. The rain clouds that had brought us an overnight shower followed us east to Tahoe, and they added a much-welcomed dramatic affect in the wide open sky.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Later that afternoon, we rented a stand-up paddleboard on the shore of South Lake Tahoe, and decided to turn up the difficulty level a notch or two higher.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

We were joined by our friends Brigette and Orion for this photoshoot. There is a section of South Lake Tahoe where the water depth is only knee-level for a couple hundred meters or so out. I had this image in my mind before the shoot to be able to have a completely unobstructed view of the landscape and lake behind us as we tried this relatively new (I’d imagine) sport: acro stand-up paddleboard yoga! The following couple shots were snapped with the GoPro.

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Slater the labradoodle came along too ;)

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First several – correction – DOZENS of tries were met with an equal amount of falling

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

With persistence and little adjustments to our setup, we were soon able to pull it off!

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

The waves got a little stronger as the afternoon breeze picked up, and we had to ask for Orion and Brigette to hold the board as Allen and Kate kept pushing the boundaries further. I snapped this one with the GoPro.

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And magic happened.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

The girls give it a go too.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Brigette flying beautifully on her second go!

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Of course, though, there were a few falls. All ending with good laughs.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

The “throne” pose – success!

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Here you can see how deep the water is where I was standing (left). I brought a waterproof sack along for the 2nd camera body, which I ended up not using. My primary camera was mounted to my favorite lens – the 135mm prime – and it worked for the shoot extremely well. Good thing the water was warm and the waves weren’t too large to potentially splash the camera as I (once again) hovered just centimeters above the surface.

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Two of the best shots as we got better and better at orienting perpendicular to the waves, positioning on the board, and other fine-tuning such as lighting and where I am standing to get the ideal backdrop.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Allen couldn’t resist being completely underwater as the base while flying Kate – check out how the curves on her body almost match those of the mountains! This one is a winning shot, I would say.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Best rental money and time spent for ONE paddleboard for a group.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Smiles all around from a fun and successful photoshoot.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

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After a nice break, we couldn’t wait to leverage the gorgeous clouds that had gathered in the region for an epic sunset and, you guessed it – a final shoot to end our day with a BANG.

So here is Tahoe at sunset and dusk, featuring our acrobatic stars:

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Brigette went for it too, and the results were mesmerizing. I really, really enjoy these almost-silhouettes against the deep dark blue and dramatic sky as the colors morphed and clouds danced in the panoramic view.

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Photo by Jonathan H. Lee / www.subtledream.com

Absolutely fantastic long weekend and fun photoshoots. Can’t wait to collaborate with more artists and good people in the near future!

I’ll be joining Allen & Kate once more in Seattle throughout the month of September for more acro, photoshoots, and nature-getaway fun. Contact us if you are in the area!

Connect with me @subtledream via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and 500px!

A little plug for Kate:

Kate Burkett is an inner-beauty expert, yoga instructor, and personal coach. Her website and contact can be found via kateinparadise.com
Twitter: twitter.com/Kate_inParadise
Instagram: instagram.com/kate_inparadise
Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Kate-in-Paradise/302880503055950

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