I'm so glad you found me! I'm a San Francisco photographer, and this blog charts my journey in the ever-evolving world of photography. One of the things I love about photography is that it's a journey, not a destination. I'm constantly learning and meeting wonderful people. Please peruse the blog to your heart's content, then check out my website and feel free to contact me! (I love hearing from you.)

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow." – Imogen Cunningham

“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.” – Edward Steichen

Day 142 (July 31) - Kittens!

A warning to those allergic to cuteness: you may want to skip this blog post.

There are new kittens at the school, in need of good homes which are hard to come by in Thailand. For the moment, though, a lady at the school is taking care of them, with the help of their mother.

I mean, come on, don't you want one?

I want to adopt all three, but I don't think I can bring four cats back to the US with me . . .

Day 141 (July 30) - At the Window

I love these kids, they are just so photogenic. And friendly. I don't even teach this one, and yet he was totally happy for me to shoot him through the window (with my camera! I don't shoot with anything else, mostly because my aim is terrible).

Don't miss the second kid. It's one of my favorite things about this one.

Day 140 (July 29) - From the Archives

A non-photo day, so a couple more from the past week. Another photo of a student in class. I love this one because it seems like he can't believe how hard the worksheet is. You can almost see the desperation in his eyes. Or maybe it's concentration, I can't be sure.

And another photo of Mouse. This one is sharper, but I liked the composition of the other one more, plus it gave her a little bit more space to breathe.

See you tomorrow! Have a great day.

Day 139 (July 28) - Lanterns

Some lanterns tonight in Bangkok.

Inside and outside views.

Day 138 (July 27) - Post Processing

Working backwards today, just for the hell of it.

Photography is a funny art form. Inherently, it lends itself to arguments about purism, since you can just take a picture and print it. Done. Only two steps: push the shutter button, and push the print button.

Some people would say that the two-step photography is the only real photography. I tend to disagree.

Ever since I started shooting raw images (because, and this is a certainly a post for another day, they capture so much more detail, and they're much more flexible in terms of being able to change them after capture) I have to process them. They are by their very nature, by their very definition, unfinished. They need my post-processing input to be complete.

I would argue that in no other kind of art would people view a piece as 'better' because it only took 1/100 of a second to complete. But in photography, post processing is often a dirty word.

"That image looks soooooooooo Photoshopped."

You've heard it. We all have. Hell, I've even said it myself. So I'd say there's a boundary, between enough PP and too much. Where is too much? That is so debatable I will not even touch it with a ten foot pole. However, I will point you to this article, which I feel has summed up a lot of the main points pretty well.

Anyway, the image above has had a significant amount of that devilish post processing applied to it. Do you want to see how I got there?

This is the image out of Lightroom, below. In the (gasp!) Photoshopped image above I added some more sharpening, darkened the background a little, and then added a curves layer to create some more contrast where I felt it was lacking.

In the image below, I took my raw file and decreased the saturation of the colors almost (but not quite) to zero. Then I played around with contrast and making the image a little darker, and darkened the blue of the shirt so it wouldn't pull the viewer's attention away from my beautiful subject's face.
The image below is what would normally come out of Lightroom. I took my raw file and just made it look a little better. I did no major edits, just adjusted exposure, brought up the color, and did a little sharpening. Nine point eight times out of ten, this is what I use Lightroom for. But today I thought it was a little boring and decided to see what else I could come up with.
And finally, this is my raw file, straight out of camera. You can see that it needs some processing to make it look good. Although, it's not bad.
So, which version do you like best?

Be brutally honest. Brutal honesty is the best kind.

Day 137 (July 26) - Windows

Nothing exciting today. We spent the weekend at home, which was nice and relaxing, but not full of photo opportunities. Also, as is common during the rainy season, it rained all day.

So I went out in the rain to see if I could catch one or two photos, and ended up with this view of our windows, which I kind of like for its abstractness.

Tip - Shoot from the Hip

I always have trouble taking pictures of people. I hate it. I feel awkward, I always wonder, am I stealing a piece of their soul? (Not really. I'm pretty sure people keep their soul regardless of photography.)

Even when I have express permission (which I recommend getting) I still often can't quite bring myself to take a picture. A good example of this was when Evan and I were in Myanmar, and being herded around like sheep, as tourists often are in Southeast Asia. We were taking a day boat trip on Inle Lake, and one of our 'stops' was to see a few ladies from the Long Neck tribe. Basically, the entire purpose of the stop was to take pictures of these women. And they invited me to.

But I couldn't do it. It still felt rude to me. As though by taking a picture of them I was saying, "Gosh, you look sooooo weird. I have got to show the folks at home a picture of this."

So, sorry, I don't have a picture of them to show you. But honestly, that's okay with me. Google Long Neck Tribe, and you'll see a ton of pictures very like the one I might have taken. It wasn't going to be Art.

Recently, however, I discovered a new solution to my shyness: shoot from the hip. People get self-conscious when you bring the viewfinder to your eye. What was a natural smile or pose turns a bit awkward.

So, instead, hold your SLR like a point and shoot. Or even lower. If you have Live View, this is a great time to use it. What I do is turn Live View on until I see a framing I like, then I turn it off but keep the camera in the same place, then use the shutter button to autofocus and take the shot. And if my subject's not looking at the camera, or can't hear the shutter, they don't even know I took a picture!

I used this technique recently to take the shots of the students in the classroom. And I ended up with a lot of interestingly composed frames that I might not have had otherwise.

It's not a perfect technique. And I usually have to take a few shots to find a keeper. But it's better than nothing, which is what I've often ended up with before. Try it! Let me know if you do, I'd love to hear how it works for you.

Day 134 (July 23) - Trash or Treasure?

Another photo of the students hard at work today. This is one of my favorites, but I can't actually explain why. Technically, it's not great. The camera was metering the wrong thing, and accidentally underexposed, so it's noisy in the shadows after I brought up the exposure, plus I cut off the top of the kid's head in front.

And yet, I really like it. So, what do you think? Trash or treasure? Let me know.

Day 133 (July 22) - Students

Went to work again today, as I'm feeling better. But fate had arranged a light teaching day for me, so I went and sat in on one of Evan's classes and took some pictures. The kids have no desks in our classrooms, so there is plenty of room to run around and play games. This means, though, that they have to do all their writing sitting on the floor.

Both of these are favorites, for different reasons. I think the top image is much better, photographically, but the bottom image is so much fun! I shot the kids through a glass door, so the reflections are a bit annoying, but you can see what hams they are. And so cute, too!
That's it for today. I stupidly missed the eclipse this morning (total solar eclipse, although not quite total here, 69%) which made me super angry at myself until I read that no one in Bangkok had really seen it, because it was cloudy.

So, a little bit of schadenfreude makes everything better.

Day 132 (July 21) - More Cat

I spent the day at home today, which didn't provide a lot of photographic fodder. But fortunately the cat volunteered to pose for me, and she did a pretty good job!

Day 129 (July 18) - Photowalk?

So yesterday was the second annual Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk. As you can imagine, I was pretty excited. Evan and I were both signed up for one in Amphawa, a town with a floating market a couple hours away from Bangkok.

But Friday night I had a fever again, and so Saturday morning I made the difficult decision to skip the photowalk, even though I was feeling somewhat better. And then I totally freaked Evan out by passing out, so instead of going to the photo walk, we went to the hospital. Again.

All of which to say, I have no photos from yesterday or today. I'm sorry. And I'm fine, the doctor just thinks I have an antibiotic resistant form of tonsilitis, so he gave me some stronger antibiotics. Tonsilitis. Makes me feel so Victorian. Maybe next time I can have gout, or goiter, or for some really old-school drama, consumption.

Day 128 (July 17) - Care For A Cool Beverage?

Sorry, I drank it all.

Day 127 (July 16) - I Should Buy A Lab Coat

Taking a page out of yesterday's book. This is not as dramatic a photo, nor as dramatic a change, but I still turned an image I would have thrown away into one that I'll keep, for now.

Here's the original (I'm still cringing, showing it). I took this seconds after the other one. I thought I wanted a narrow depth of field, but now I'm not so sure. I think maybe I would like more of the water to be in focus. What do you think?

Day 126 (July 15) - Experiment

So far, I've kept my use of Lightroom to what I thought would make the images look more like the reality I saw. I edited, sure, but I kept it restrained. Well, today on Scott Kelby's blog there was a post from David Nightingale, also known as Chromasia, and his story went kind of like this (he told it much better): in processing bad images he learned how to create better ones.

And this is a kind of learning I've been doing too; processing my images makes me think about what I could have changed at the time of capture and I truly believe it has made me a better photographer. But a lot of images (the really bad ones, and the just sort of 'meh' ones) I just don't process. I ignore them, I delete them, and then I forget them.

But. Today. I decided to rescue one. Not a full rescue, mind you. And maybe not a successful one. I don't absolutely love it, and I'm sure there are some terrible mistakes I made in the processing, but I think it was a good exercise. And one I'll try to repeat in the future.

Okay, and now here's the before picture. I almost don't want to show it, because it's so blah, and why did I take it in the first place? But brutal honesty is good for the soul, right? Please bear in mind this is a raw file with no processing: no sharpening, no color adjustment, nada. All the stuff my camera could have done for me to make it better, I said "No thanks. I'll do it myself."

If you're curious, this was taken during a rainstorm at school yesterday.

Day 125 (July 14) - Fan

Inspired by my now no longer auto focusing lens, I decided to experiment with a little blur. This is our blue fan. I rotated the lens during the exposure.

f/1.8, 0.6 seconds, ISO 100.

Day 123 (July 12) - Some Photo News

I didn't take any photos today, but I did get a lot of things done. I finally finished editing and processing all the (decent) photos from Myanmar, so expect a long overdue post about our trip there on the other blog soon. I also think I'm going to try to make them into a book, and maybe an ebook as well, although I'll have to learn some new software to do it. So, we'll see. Still in the thinking stages for all of that.

The photo above I took at Inle Lake, on our day trip there.

I have also set up a new account at Red Bubble, a sort of online art shop, so if any of you are dying for some prints, you can grab one there. I'm still uploading photos, so if you know of one you want that you don't see there, just send me an email or leave a comment here. Here's the link: http://www.redbubble.com/people/quotidianphoto.

Day 122 (July 11) - Our Puppet

Did you know we have a puppet? Well, we do. We spent all of 15 dollars on him in Myanmar, which for us seemed like a fortune at the time, given that we had brought only a finite amount of cash into the country. He's pretty scary, don't you agree?

In other news, I think the autofocus on my 50mm f/1.8 Canon lens is broken. I'm not sure where to go to get it fixed, but I love that lens. I need my 1.8! It was working just fine in Chiang Mai, but today, no bananas. It gets close to focus, then just keeps searching. I'm pretty sure it's under warantee, but figuring that out is going to be a big headache.

Anyway, the manual focus still works fine, so that's what I used for this picture. But I'm lazy, and I like my autofocus!

Day 119 (July 8) - Panning

Any photographer will tell you, panning is no easy trick. Basically you make sure your shutter speed is relatively slow, and then you move your camera with a moving subject. If you're lucky (and talented, too :)), your subject will be (relatively) in focus and the background will be blurry. This is a great way to show movement, because a shorter shutter speed often makes the subject look like they are standing still.

Anyway, Evan went to the go-kart track our last day in Chiang Mai, so I practiced my panning skills. I had nothing else to do! I don't know if you've ever been to a track, but it can get kind of repetitive, the round and roundness of it all.

Out of some probably 50 pan attempts I took, only a handful were decent. But I did notice that I got better over time. At least it's now another trick in my arsenal. Check out our other blog for a couple more pan shots that turned out ok.

I apologize for the noonday sun and harsh lighting. Sometimes that's when the pictures happen, though.

Day 118 (July 7) - Recovery

Maybe that should have been the title of my last post, given the image's amazing recovery in Lightroom.

But actually, it's my own recovery I'm mentioning, if only because I'm so grateful to be feeling like a normal person again. As soon as we got to Chiang Mai I developed a fever, and basically camped out in bed for the next three days. Evan was amazing and supportive until he got sick too on day three, and then we moaned about together and complained about how difficult it was to walk to the restaurant next door to get sustenance.

Anyway, all of that came after almost four weeks of unrelenting colds and coughs cheerfully provided (I can only assume) by the cute but contagious urchins I teach at school.

All of which to say, I was extremely happy to be able to go out and do a day trip on day 4 outside of Chiang Mai, and capture this little fluffer. He's a caterpillar, and some of the village children were playing with one and throwing it around (poor thing), so I venture to say, not poisonous or dangerous in any way. For another shot of him, see my Chiang Mai post on our other blog.

And by the way (I almost forgot!) I have been visited by the blogging fairy. Please check the comments of the post below for a rather post modern take on blogging. I promise, you won't regret it (unless you happen to be Idiot #1, in which case you might feel a bit foolish).

Day 113 (July 2) - More Cheating

Another image from Myanmar. Evan and I are going to Chiang Mai tomorrow for a long weekend, so I didn't get a chance for a shot. Plus, sometimes I feel lazy and uninspired. But I won't hate myself for it if you won't, so it's okay.

Because we're going away, expect no posts for the next five days, and then a slew of posts when we return, as per the usual formula.

I'm posting this photo because it's a great example of what photo editing can do for you, as well as the power of shooting raw. Take a look at the original:

I mean, raw photos in general look a bit flat, but this is night and day. I'd love some feedback on the processing, if anyone feels so inclined. Just for your information, I was handholding and the light was fleeting, so I underexposed on purpose, to keep the shot in focus.

A short rundown of what I did to the photo: brought the exposure up, added some fill light to make the grass even lighter, used the graduated filter option for the sky, optimized the contrast, brought up the vibrance (colors), straightened the photo, and added some sharpening, plus a few other fixes.

Day 112 (July 1) - Ice Cream

Some ice-cream today, thought I would try my hand at a little food photography, Lensbaby style (since that was the only lens I had with me at the time).

Surprisingly, my favorite photos were the ones I took with someone in the background, and not the carefully arranged 'no clutter' photos.

By the way, for my one Canadian reader (if you are still reading!), Happy Canada Day!

And yeah, I know it's not really a big holiday in Quebec, given your whole 'we're not really Canadian' thing, but still. Thought I would let you know that I remembered.