Fourth of July BBQ in Pacifica

Rae Chang

On the Fourth of July, 2001, I drove up with Dardy to the Pacifica State Beach, where the Sze sisters of Amabelle and Felicia were at it again in organizing a BBQ beach party. This is the second BBQ that I’ve attended that they have hosted, the first being a couple weeks prior at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

I woke up on Wednesday morning around 7:00 am. After getting a little coding work done, I went out for an hour and a half hike along the San Antonio Trail in Mountain View. I loaded up my The North Face Springbok internal frame backpack with lots of heavy stuff to give me a better workout. There were a lot of people on the trail today, no doubt doing what I was doing: exercising now for a guilt-free BBQ gorging experience later in the day!

At the trail marker where I turned around at the 40 minute mark, I ran into two guys who were running along the trail, with whom I chatted for a few minutes. Sam was visiting from LA his friend, Eric (didn’t mind being called Eric or Erik or even Erick). He was running to get back in shape and to learn patience. His temper occasionally flares up, and running, he felt, would help him become more calm, in addition to get him in shape. He’s going to try to do it everyday, which is certainly commendable. After all, it’s something that I want to do with my exercise regimen. I wished Eric and Sam the best and went on began my hike back to the house.

After arriving at my place, I called and woke up Dardy at 10:00 am, arranging to meet with him to drive up to the beach at 11:00 am. We arrived at the Pacifica State Beach around 12:00 pm. It’s here where the Fourth of July BBQ in Pacifica photojournal begins. This presentation is separated into five sections listed below:

Additional coverage of the July 4th, 2001, BBQ can be found here:

People Watching

Droves upon droves of people descended on the Pacifica State Beach on this fine Fourth of July holiday. There were people from seemingly all walks of life hanging out by the ocean and chilling over a couple cold ones and food.

While I was standing along the beach, where the foamy wet froth from the ocean makes it furthest inroads before receding, a lady walked up to me and asked if I was shooting anybody in particular. I told her that I was just shooting interesting people, to which she asked if I wouldn’t mind taking pictures of her boyfriend who was out in the water on a surfboard. Dana pointed out where James was in the water. Even at 200mm, it was challenging to get a good shot of James as he went under and over the waves.

Believe it or not, I never learned how to surf or body board while I was growing up in San Diego. I was never fond of the ocean, unlike Eric, who is currently vacationing and working in Bora Bora. In seventh grade, my high school went on a snorkeling trip to Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles. I had an scary experience with a seaweed cave, where I was sucked under at one point; I drank a couple of gulps of “delicious” sea water as I struggled to swim my way back up to the surface. Since then, I haven’t really been back in a wet suit. I’m slowly getting back into appreciating the ocean’s beauty, both in and out of it. Perhaps one day, I’ll get my diver’s license and add to my land adventures with journeys under the waterline.

There was this one guy who was at the beach with his family and friends who reminded me of me. He was Asian, of course, and had long hair. None of the guys in our group other than myself had long hair, if I remember correctly. It was neat to see his hair flowing in the wind without getting in the way of his face. That certainly was not the case with me, as I was constantly fighting my hair to stay in one place. There’s a benefit to having short hair, as I’ve stated many times in my hair musing, it doesn’t get in the way! Still, I’m going to stick it out and let my hair grow as long as it wants to.

At any rate, this clone of mine must have gotten it cut so that the hair doesn’t flop around in the front of his face — either that or he used some major hairspray or gel to keep it in place!

Most of the pictures that you see here were taken with the 70-200 mm f/2.8L. This lens really allows you to get close to the action without actually being physically close. I know that some photojournalists will scoff at this type of photography, perhaps calling it spy work instead of true photojournalism. To them I say, “Give me a break!” Photojournalism to me is about capturing the moment. It doesn’t matter how you do it or with whatever type of equipment. True, your choice of camera and lens may play a role in determining the overall effectiveness of your photographs, but it isn’t something that ultimately determines whether you are a photojournalist or not. You use whatever means necessary to get the shot. If it means getting up close and personal with the subject, you do it. If it means being perched up in a tree with a 400mm lens, you do it. Just come back with something interesting, please!

Photographing random people is rather fun. You don’t know these people, and you’re probably never going to see them again (and if you do, you likely won’t remember them). With the camera, you can peer ever so slightly and briefly into their personal world. I find this type of photography, this type of photojournalism to be fascinating. I think that it’s as fascinating as documenting events with friends, though I feel it’s more challenging because of the transient nature of meeting these random people. With friends, there’s always the next get together or there’s always the question, “Would you mind me taking your picture?” With random people, you have to quietly observe them and, at the decisive moment, take their picture. I haven’t gotten to the point (at least, not on a consistent basis) of being able to walk up to someone and ask, “Say, you are really interesting, mind if I take a picture of you while you go about your business?” I’m not there yet… yet.

With that in mind, here’s a sampling of some of the interesting things and people that I had the pleasure of photographing at the Pacifica State Park on the Fourth of July, 2001.

Food, Fun, People

Just when I thought I was getting the hang for remembering the names of all of Felicia and Amabelle’s friends, even more people arrived at this BBQ! It’s going to take some time, but I’m confident that I’ll get my Willy’s and Eddy’s straight eventually. Seriously though, it was nice to see these people for the second time. The first time meeting someone can often be a bit awkward. After repeated encounters, however, familiarity grows (or animosity, but hopefully that shouldn’t happen, right?), followed by friendship.

As is befitting a BBQ, there was plenty of food to go around, much more so than the BBQ at Ocean Beach. They were distributing bratwurst (just as good as they make it in Castle Wolfenstein!), hot dogs, burgers, salmon, chicken, and portobello mushrooms. I think that the mushrooms were a special order for a couple of people, though Steven and I were both eyeing those mushrooms with ravenous intent. Man, I remember the time when I hated to eat mushrooms; today, they aren’t so bad!

Someone had also brought some Chinese custard pastries, which were heavenly. I love eating those pastries, so much so that I could probably each them all day if I had the opportunity. Of course, I’d balloon to be bigger than Jabba the Hutt, but at least they’ll have tasted really yummy!
In between taking photographs, I had a hot dog and a bratwurst, along with some chicken wings. While I was eating my hot dog, I played a little frisbee with Amabelle and Bill, who made what looked like were yummy corn on the cob. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to eat a helping of corn… sometime to save for the next BBQ, I guess. Running in the sand is very difficult. I don’t think that I would like playing Ultimate Frisbee on a beach, especially one as littered as Pacifica State Beach! That beach was pretty filthy, as there was litter strewn everywhere you walked. I just hope that there weren’t any syringes or other nasty things buried in the sand for our feet to uncover!

I met quite a few old and new people at the event, but there are a few that are worth mentioning in greater detail below.

A Tale of Two Changs

I met two women at the BBQ whose last names were both Chang. In fact, there were a number of people who had the same first or last name. I count two Mark’s and one Marc and two Lawrences to name a few. Though everyone is familiar with the name, Adam, I don’t see many people who are called Adam. I guess that’s good, since I do find it strange to talk to someone who has the same first name as I do. But, what about if someone out there in the world has the exact same name as you do? That’s a tripper. I know that there is another Adam Tow out somewhere in the state of Iowa. It messes with your mind ever so slightly to know that you have a name clone in the world!

Rae Chang

That’s a cool name, “Rae.” That name and spelling remind me of Ras Al Gul from Batman; fortunately, Rae Chang was much nicer and much prettier than Batman’s immortal antagonist! Then again, maybe her name is more along the lines of Rae Dawn Chong, the actress from Swarzenegger’s Commando. That was a classic movie, with some great quotes from Arnold like, “I’ll be back, Bennett,” “Let off some steam, Bennett,” “I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I’m very hungry!” I’m sure that Rae gets that comparison a lot from twentysomethings who grew up watching Arnold movies (sorry, Rae!).

I found it interesting that she studied studio art in college and was now doing web design work. When I was a freshman and sophomore at Stanford, I considered doing a double major in Computer Science and Studio Art. I ended up majoring in Symbolic Systems, but I continued to do art in my spare time, making flyers, posters, and more for various Stanford groups and publications (see my Art Gallery).

Annie Chang

Annie Chang recently moved to the City from Emeryville, home of the new IKEA outlet. I was looking at IKEA’s web site yesterday afternoon, but I was quickly turned off by the lack of quality images of products on the site. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m going to be buying something online, I need to see it, not some line drawing of the product!

I was talking to Lawrence when Annie walked up to me and asked if I was a professional photographer. You know, this might sound a bit strange, but I still feel a little weird when people ask me that. Yes, I have shot professionally on the side at weddings or other events, but it just seems strange to hear it come out of my mouth, “Yes, I shoot professionally.” Maybe it’s because I have a day job at Palm, or maybe it’s because most of my photography happens in the evenings or on the weekends. No, I think it’s because photography is a passion of mine. When you have a passion for something that derives you financial reward, it doesn’t seem like work or it doesn’t seem like it’s your profession.

Perhaps then the correct response should be, “Yes, it’s one of my passions.” Photography is definitely not a hobby for me. After all, I don’t think it would be wise to spend sooo much money on something that’s a hobby. Treat it like a hobby and it’ll pay like a hobby.

At any rate, Annie wanted to know if I would be available to take some portrait black and whites for her. You bet, Annie! This will give me an opportunity to test my studio lighting techniques with umbrellas and flash strobes. Plus, I’ll get to work with a very beautiful subject. The D30 doesn’t have a black and white mode, meaning I’ll have to do post-processing of the color images to simulate the properties of black and white film. The images below were processing by converting the images with the Channel Mixer control, followed by a conversion to Duotone (Pantone 132). The resulting images have the appearance of a photograph from the Wild Wild West, with a tinge of copper-brown to make the image look old-style.

Run to the Water, Angela!

Angela was the only person, I think, who went into the ocean. I walked along the beach with the water running by my ankles, but I didn’t jump into the ocean as Angela did. With the 28-70mm f/2.8L lens, I was able to get a couple of nice shots of Angela jumping in the Pacific Ocean. The one of the right is intriguing because of its composition. It appears that it’s just her and the sea, as there are no other people visible in the photograph. It gives the image a kind of stark quality that I think is pretty cool.

Part of me wishes that I could find someone, a partner so to speak, who loves to take pictures as much as I do. Often times, I see photographs in my head that I’d love to take with me in them, but I don’t have anyone to frame the shot and press the shutter. Sure, I could do the whole timer on a tripod trick, but that takes set up time… it’s certainly easier to have someone who has an eye for photography to take your picture for you. I know that there are people who love to be behind the camera lens but absolutely hate to be in front of the lens. I’d say that I’m the reverse. I love being both behind and in front of the camera! And so, I keep on searching!

I haven’t hung out with this group of people that much, but the more that I do, the more it resembles how I would think that our parents lived when they were in their teens and twenties in Hong Kong, China, or Taiwan. As I stated in my last Sze Sister BBQ entry, the pictures that I’ve seen from our attic closet pictures resembles sooo much the pictures that we took yesterday. Sure, they were in black and white back then and ours are in color, but the feel, the look on people’s faces… it’s the same. I wonder if this is how they felt when they were hiking the trails along Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Hmm… guess that’s a conversation I’ll have to have with the parents in the near future.


At the BBQ, there were three other people who keep online journals of some sort:

  • Dardy Chang
  • Amabelley
  • Rita Lee

I met Amabelle through Eric, and I met Rita through Amabelle. Finally, I knew Dardy when I was at Stanford, though we didn’t really hang out until after Dardy started his online journal. Slowly but surely, a community is being formed between this small set of online journalists. There are countless others out there on the Net today, and I’m wondering how large this group is going to get. Perhaps some of the other people at the BBQ will get “inspired” by our musings and coverage of the events in our lives that they’ll begin their own online journals.

As I stated in my musing on journal writing, I began keeping a journal in ninth grade of high school. Since those days, I’ve amassed quite a large cachet of memories and events. I can instantly be transported back to when I was a freshman in high school, a freshman in college, or a recent graduate with a few clicks of the mouse. If you’re consistent and diligent with writing in a journal, and especially if you’re honest, you can track step by step the events and decisions that have shaped you into the person that you are today. That’s powerful. With photographs, your memories of the past need not be confined to fleeting images in your head — they can be right in front of you on your computer screen.

All four of us had our various digital and film-based cameras with us at the BBQ. It is indeed cool to see other people who realize the value of keeping a photojournal of their lives. I don’t know what else to say other than, “Wow, that’s cool that you do the same thing as I do!”

This was the first time that Dardy met both Amabelle and Rita in person. From both of their journals, it’s clear that they have been chatting over email and IM over the past couple of weeks, so it was really neat to see them meet each other face to face. I can’t speak for what their overall impression of each other was, but I guess we’ll all find out when we read their journal entries for July 5, 2001, no?

What about Eric? Where’d that guy go again? On the Fourth of July, he’s on the other side of the world, vacationing and working in Bora Bora. Still, with the power of digital imaging, we were able to bring Eric into our little group shot of Rita, Dardy, Amabelle, and me!

Here are some additional photographs that were taken of, as we’ve been calling it, this little “incestuous” group of online journalists:

Journaling can take up a significant amount of time, I must admit. Documenting and cataloging the event can take much more time than the event itself. While one can view this as a disadvantage or drawback to keeping a journal, be it online or offline, I see primarily as an advantage. Sure, I could be hanging out with friends or doing something else with my time, but I see the time that I spent making these photojournals as a time to reflect and absorb the events into my psyche. In doing so, I think that I’m also helping others remember the event, and that is a satisfying thought to know.

So, what are you waiting for? What were your thoughts about the BBQ? I should probably add forum capabilities to this web site, much like what’s available on Photo.Net. Guess I’ll be adding that to my list of things to do for the site!


Around 3:40 pm, Amabelle and I gathered everybody to take a group photograph. A couple of people, such as Lawrence and Annie, had already left, so the group photos that we took weren’t inclusive of everyone who came to the BBQ. For the pictures, I placed the D30 on the Gitzo tripod and used the 17-35. On a D30 with a 1.6x focal length multiplier, I needed all the millimeters on that 17-35 in order to get everyone in the picture! I also slapped on a neutral graduated density filter, which helped to darken the sky and prevent it from being blown out in the picture.

After we took two group photos, everyone began the long process of saying their goodbyes. Although Amabelle and company were thinking of doing some additional things back in the City, Dardy and I decided to head back down the Peninsula. It was around this time that the police started to file onto the beach, handing out red flyers which explained what people could or couldn’t do on the beach in the evening: No fireworks, no alcohol, and no fun. Okay, so the last item wasn’t on the red flyer, but judging from the list of restrictions on the flyer, it might as well have been there!

While we were driving down 101 South, Dardy spied this tow truck, which you see in the image to the right. On the truck was the URL to the company’s address on the Internet, I bet that they wanted to get, but sorry, that’s already taken! I haven’t gotten many requests for selling the domain name, only a couple in the past 6 years. I doubt that I ever would sell the domain name, unless it fetched a substantial price (like the recent $141 million SuperLotto jackpot).

On an interesting sidenote, as of the morning of July 5, 2001, entering the URL, results in a Host Not Found error message. Guess there working on the web site, no? Or, perhaps they’re engaging in reverse deceptive advertising, where the deception is on them!

After I dropped Dardy off at his place, it was around 5:00 pm. Since then, I’ve been working near non-stop on this web site. It’s true once again, writing and documenting the event took longer, more longer than the actual event. Still, it was definitely worth the time, as the event itself was another memorable one. Kudos to the Sze sisters for organizing it and thanks to everyone who attended! Perhaps everyone will come down from the City to the Mountain View or Palo Alto for the next party!

2 thoughts on “Fourth of July BBQ in Pacifica

  1. MEI LAM

    JUNE 9, 2005

  2. Funny … somehow I got a referral from this page … interesting to read of the first time you met Rae. =) And you’re married now!

    Also, seeing Pacifica, unglamorous as it is, makes me miss the Bay Area. =)

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