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

In Motion

Often when I wait for the bus after work I practice my panning. There I stand at the bus stop, looking impossibly dorky with my camera to my eye, firing shot after shot at the passing bikers. The others at the bus stop try not to catch my eye or get in front of my camera. And I actually know how they feel. Today on the bus a Japanese tourist (I assume Japanese, with pretty good evidence) pointed his something-D with a 24-70 L lens on it at me from 3 feet away, and I admit I felt a bit awkward. I looked down at my iPhone fixedly, and then was glad mine was the next stop.

But somehow I feel that shooting people in motion as they glide by me is not so bad. My thanks go out to this gentleman who is clearly in tune with his elegant, slender-spoked steed. He looks good riding by and now I will always remember this 1/20 of a second, thanks to him. When man and metal were merged, just for a moment. And everything else was just a blur.


A view of the houses that line Ocean Beach. Although I doubt the folks who live in these houses ever see a day without cold winds and thick fog, I still bet it's a pretty nice place to live. Plus, you have a front-seat view of the constant war between graffiti artists and the paint that tries to cover their work in vain. I've never seen the seawall devoid of graffiti, but it is constantly changing. There is something to that. Kind of like the sea itself.


I don't have a green thumb. Some might even call it black. The longest living plant I've ever had was a basil plant in college, and I suspect it lasted so long because we . . . kept buying new ones. I only trust myself with cactus, now, and even then I wouldn't probably buy one for myself. I swear the only reason the cat survives is that she's a good meower, anything that can't scream at me for food and water doesn't have a prayer.

But Evan's grandmother has a greener thumb than mine, and a definite way with orchids, and she asked me to take a few photos of them while they were looking their best when we were over at dinner last week. Evan was kind enough to hold some white paper behind them as I took the photos, hence the white background (which I cleaned up a little in post). Considering that I took these by lamplight I'm actually pretty pleased with the way they turned out.

Oh, and in other news my blog is now on Alltop, a pretty good way to keep up with blogs. You sign up for a subscription (it's free) and then create your own homepage which you populate with your favorite blogs, then check from time to time to see whether there are any new interesting posts. Here's a link to my page, which has all the blogs I subscribe to on it. (I'm not finished choosing blogs to add, so if yours isn't there please don't be sad!) And, you know, I subscribe to my own blog just to see what's happening with me.


There's something about the sport of bowling that is a great equalizer. Usually it's the shy, somewhat awkward types who end up being a whiz at the pins, and the charismatic, popular ones who throw a series of gutterballs. I can't bowl to save my life, but while this would bother me about another sport it's somehow not a problem under the fluorescent lights, amid the squeak of rubber on polished wood.

Still, nothing compares to that moment of concentration before the throw. I just loved seeing both these guys, intense, with their orange balls in hand. They both ended up winning their games, as if that's any surprise.

Garage Door

Another shot from day I took the shot of the paint peeling which I used for texture overlay here. There was, in  fact, a handle on that door and so I took this photo because I loved the extreme angle on the shadow.

On the Side of the Piano

The side of this piano was so shiny that it reflected almost perfectly. And then this delightful morsel toddled by and made the perfect picture!

Anatomy of an Image, Week 3

I thought this image of the moon might be an interesting choice for week three.
Mouse over to see the original. You may notice that I . . . ahem. . . . made the moon a bit larger. Well, there's only so far that a 55mm lens reaches, you know?

Let's take a look at the specs first, before we do anything else.
Focal Length: 55mm (shot with my trusty, almost never off-camera 17-55 f/2.8 Canon lens)
Shutter Speed: 1/1600 of a second
Aperture: f/3.5
ISO: 200
Time of day: Civil Twilight

A Little Bit of Explanation
Ok, so some of you might be scratching your heads right now. The moon comes out at night, right? And night photography in general calls for slow shutter speeds, and high ISOs. I totally agree, but if you're shooting the moon, you have to remember that the moon is a sunlit object, and to get any detail on the face of the moon you need to shoot it as such. In order to get the moon properly exposed I had to underexpose for the ambient light by probably about 4 stops. The sky was actually a light blue in color, and not this deep navy.

I knew I wanted the power lines to sort of frame the face of the moon, and that I didn't want much else getting in the way of the shot.

And With the Help of My Computer . . . 
I used Photoshop to copy only the moon onto another layer and then Edit: transform, scale, to make it a little larger. I held down the shift key as I changed the size of the moon so that the aspect ratio remained the same. I also increased the contrast on the moon itself and made the sky a bit deeper of a blue.

And that's pretty much it. Let me know what you think!

Sunday Unusual

This image is not my usual style. It's dark, it's not completely sharp (as I may be a bit anal about having my images be), and it's not my usual subject matter.

Mouse over the image to see the color (and uncropped) original. 

But as I was walking home the other night in the thick fog, this kind of image was all I could think of. An indistinct figure at the end of a tunnel of trees and houses, walking into the light. But there were few other people out in the inclement weather and I doubted the image would present itself exactly as I imagined it. Then this man stepped out onto the street in front of me, and so I quickly got out my camera. I only had the time to take a few blurry frames - this was the sharpest one - and then he was gone again, into the mist. I've tried to process the image so that the lack of sharpness isn't such a detractor, but what this really is is a sketch, something I'll (hopefully) be able to reshoot later and better.

Until then, let me know what you think.

PS Thanks to Scott Law for teaching me how to do the mouse over technique on the blog. I've said it before, but Scott, you're awesome!

Lunch on the Grass

All right, maybe that's a bit pretentious as this doesn't hold a candle to the real thing. (Side note: Poor Manet. When I googled the name of the painting all the search suggestions made by Google included the name Monet. For the want of a letter . . . ) This version also includes a lot less nudity, though. Safe for work!

The farmer's market near my work on Wednesdays has been having awesome tomatoes at ridiculous prices, so naturally I've been taking advantage. I've been using them to make sauces, eating them fried with polenta . . . delicious! Nothing better than a really good tomato, and there is such a difference between those grown outside and those that start life in a hothouse. (And don't even get me started on sun-dried tomatoes . . . it's true love.)

So anyway, plunked these down in the grass and suddenly it was a photo opportunity!

Meet Danbo

He would like to offer you some grapes.

Fractured Reflections, and Interruptions in the Early AM

I was woken up this morning by Evan making a loud whoooshing sound. At 5:30 am, which, if you know me at all, is not my usual wakeup time. I'm much more a 7:30 kind of girl, 9:00 if I can finagle it.

So I gently said, "Evan?" Translation: what in heaven's name can have possessed you to make SUCH a noise at SUCH an hour? He said, "Shhh. I think something's eating the cat food."

Now internet, I may not have mentioned that our house is currently under major construction and there are huge holes to the outside in places. I don't mention it because I'd rather not, if you catch my drift. I like for my blog to be a construction-free zone. Anyway, turns out a band of merry raccoons (we surmise, as we never actually saw the perps), after having entered our house through one of the lovely construction-created holes, were gently unrolling our bag of cat food and bringing out handfuls to munch on quite carefully. It's the only explanation that accounts for the fact that there were no holes in the bag at all - just it had been unrolled to open it. And no mess around the bag either. Raccoons are notoriously clean eaters, I think.

So, anyway, raccoons, here's a message for you: we hid the cat food. It's gone, sorry. So no reason to pay another visit. But, uh, thanks for having such nice table manners?

On the Square

As a former Linguistics student I can definitely tell you that square is usually not a positive term. It's a synonym for dull, stodgy, boring. Conventional.

And most people will tell you that it's harder to make square photographs exciting. People prefer wider pictures to taller pictures. But I've been seeing a lot of beautiful square pictures recently and it's something I really want to start experimenting with. So consider this step one.

A note about this photo: I took it one evening in Yerba Buena park in San Francisco, while I was explaining a few photography concepts to a friend. I mostly just took this to show him the effect a long shutter speed has on moving water - makes it turn to silk - but then I got all into the composition and stuff, and ended up with a photo that I really like. Is that instant karma or what?

Looking for the Light

As photographers it's always hard to determine how much of the success of the photo is due to the person who pressed the shutter and how much in the subject matter. Certainly there are some things it's almost impossible to take a bad photo of. Flowers, for instance. Picturesque travel locations. Beautiful women.

And that's why a photo like this always pleases me when I find one. It's conceivable, of course, that someone else could see this office plant peeking through the blinds in this office building window and see the possibility, but I think it unlikely that many people would.

Here I appreciate the diagonals against the parallel verticals, the green against the white, and the curves against the lines. Plus the living against the lifeless. This is full of contrasts. Plus it kind of is reminiscent of a reaching hand.


I just realized that I didn't edit this photo in Lightroom before I sent it to PS. So here is just a Lightroomed version. A little darkening of the background, and selective sharpening. This might almost be my favorite version of the image, actually. Embarassingly.

Anatomy of An Image, Week 2

I thought this week I'd try something new. First, here's the image.

ISO 100
Focal Length: 55mm
Shutter Speed: 1/640 of a second
Aperture: f/2.8
Lens: my 17-55 f/2.8 IS which hardly ever leaves my camera, honestly
Time of day: late afternoon, facing west

So this is some bouganvillea I encountered on a walk home, with some nice backlight happening. A nice image, sure, but not groundbreaking. Any flower with light coming through the petals is going to have some visual interest. Below is another image I took on the same afternoon, with the same light, except that I took this one facing south. (Side light for texture, remember? I went a little crazy with that theory on this particular afternoon.)

My plan for this image of paint peeling off a garage door was never for it to stand alone as an image, although there is certainly some visual interest there. No, I took this for the sole purpose of using it - gasp - in PHOTOSHOP. You know it, that tool of the devil and overzealous magazine editors who use it to prune models down to toothpick size, removing and adding body parts at their will. 

Well, I had a similarly nefarious purpose. I planned to take the texture layer, and then overlay it on the picture of the flower, to add a little more visual interest. Now there are plenty of tutorials out on the web on how to do this - if you can use PS it's pretty easy. Here's a quick and dirty:

Step 1: Open both files. I was lucky, I shot both with the same camera and both were uncropped so I didn't need to do any resizing. This made step 2 super easy.

Step 2: Copy the texture and add it as a separate layer on top of the flower. You shouldn't be able to see the flower any more - oh no!

Step 3: It's ok, we can bring the flower back. If your texture is colored in any distracting way you should switch the blend mode of your texture layer to Luminosity. In my case, I kind of liked the subtle yellow, so I left the blend mode at Normal. Then bring the opacity of the texture layer waaaaaay down. I mean, almost so it's not there any more. I'm not kidding, mine was finally at 3%. But then I'm a fan of subtle. And it depends on which texture you use as well, I'm sure.

And you end up with:

Subtle, right? But a bit different. (Feel free to sound off in the comments and be like "Jessica, I do not see a gosh-danged difference at all!) Back when everyone and their grandmother was overlaying textures onto their images I was a little skeptical. But now that the fad has died down a bit I feel like I can experiment without being part of a fad. And that's so important to my self image, you know?

Another Beach Image

This one similar to the beach photo I posted last month. Actually, it was taken at the same time. And like the other I processed it in color and in black and white. What do you think? There was something about the light on this particular day that I really loved. 

Gearing Up For Halloween

Another shot from the Academy of Sciences. And no, I don't remember what kind of spider this is, but I was pretty glad there was some glass between the two of us.

Reminds me of the spiders in Thailand. Some of them shared our house with us, from time to time. And they were big, and hairy, and about the size of your hand. My strategy for dealing with them was just to give them their space. You want the wall in the kitchen, big guy? It's yours. Have at it. Be my guest. I'll just . . . just . . . uh, I think I hear someone calling my name in another room.

So the spiders and I got along pretty well. Now Evan, on the other hand, as usual, had a different approach. I won't elaborate on all the mishaps he got into with the spiders, but let's just say he discovered that getting them onto a broom handle he was holding was not such a good idea. And that mace doesn't do much to spiders, but does seem to affect the cat who was sitting in the room and watching you. And the girlfriend when she gets home hours later and realizes you sprayed mace in the house.

Anyway, this sucker looks nothing like those spiders, but he does look like you don't want to mess with him.

Purple Haze

Evan told me I shouldn't blog this because too much is out of focus. Ha! Showed him. (For those new to the blog this is another Lensbaby Composer and +10 macro filter shot. I actually am really liking the combo for a certain look. For sure, that look is not 100% in focus. But I've been loving the blur lately.)

So now that I've shown this to the general public, let me know what you think. Too blurry? Probably. You can tell me. I can take it.

In other news, I attempted to switch from coffee to tea this morning. I drank three cups of black tea, and I spent all day feeling slightly hazy (kind of like this flower! hmmmm...). Conversations were slower, objects seemed to move toward me at increased speed. I normally only drink one cup of coffee a day, but I am not a morning person. Never have been. I'm never really coherent until 3 hours after I wake up, doesn't matter what time. Coffee can push that back one or two hours, so it's been kind of a staple in my professional life. Just seems fair to me that if someone's paying me to do something I should be mostly coherent. I'll let you know how this experiment goes. I'm going to try again tomorrow. (I have visions of tea-drinking leading to some yoga-filled, uber-healthy, triathlon-winning, raw-vegetable-eating life. Most likely the first and last step will be the tea.)

Hmmmm . . . what next?

I've been having this sort of weird push-pull sensation with my photography lately. On one hand, I'm feeling really confident about my ability to get the shot. I feel like I know my equipment, I can see the light, I know how to frame it all pretty well. I mean, don't get me wrong, of course there's room for improvement, but the foundation for it all is there. And I finished putting together my New York photo book, and it's being printed as we speak. Some of the images in it I absolutely love. I can't even really believe that I took them. I will definitely show it off here when it arrives.

But . . .  what I really want to be doing is photographing people and I'm just not succeeding. I'm not brave enough to ask my friends, and then when I do take their picture I feel like they wouldn't want me to blog it (definitely true in Evan's case) and so it just molders away on my hard drives. I want to get some more portrait experience, so I really just need to make it happen.

Wish me luck, k? And send some bravery my way.

Side Glance

Maybe it's not a great life to be a chicken in a coop, but this one sure looks purty. And I love the way the fence in front of it just faded into oblivion.

Took a great walk this evening. The lights were shining orange over the blue lake, and unusually it was warm and fogless. It was nice to just walk hand in hand and not think of the long to-do lists. I have to put walks further up on my list from now on.

Heartless - A Must See

A film by Whitestone Motion Pictures, the backstory of the Tin Man from the Land of Oz. Beautifully lit, gorgeously shot, and only 22 minutes, so you have no excuse not to see it.

And, you know, because I can't blog without a picture, here's a shot of SF nearing sunset, from a walk I took last week. I'm probably overusing the shots with blur, but I do enjoy it.

Anatomy of An Image, Week 1

I've decided to start a new series on the blog called Anatomy of an Image. I'll post it once a week, on Mondays. I hope to talk more in depth about my thought process as I take each picture. I can't promise it'll be interesting, but maybe it'll be informative.

The Basics
Focal Length: 53mm on a crop sensor, equivalent to about 85mm
ISO: 400
Shutter Speed: 1/320 of a second
Aperture: f/2.8

The Story
The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. This frog was in a huge terrarium and he was maybe an inch across. And he was just stuck up on the glass like a little suction cup. So I got as close as I could,, focused with my center focus point and recomposed so he was in the left third of the picture. Then I took a few shots to make sure he would really be in good focus. Fortunately for me there was good light.

Anything else I should be adding to this series? Other information you would like added? Or maybe this completely bores you. Whichever it is, let me know.

More Beach Shots

Which one do you like better?

Ocean Beach At Dusk

I keep  learning new words for my favorite part of day. Remember when I told you about the blue hour? Recently I learned that another word for that is Civil Twilight. And separate from these is the idea of dusk. Civil dusk starts when the sky stops being light blue, and when you start needing a light to read outside. So my guess would be that this picture qualifies as dusk, but also as part of the blue hour. Anyone who knows better is welcome to comment!

San Francisco Street

It's funny. As soon as I tell myself that it's ok to take a break from shooting I can't seem to stop. Maybe it's because I've been walking more, but I keep feeling inspired to pull out the camera. Today on my way home, for instance, there was this amazing side light on all of the buildings. We know the mantra: front light for color, side light for texture, backlight, for shape. So I took a bunch of shots of just textures. I've never been a fan of overlaying textures onto my images, but who knows? That all could change. I'll let you know if I try it out.

I've also been trying to put together a print book of some of my New York images. I've wanted to create a book for a while, but just organizing it all made it seem impossible. Restricting it to just New York made it feasible. So I'll let you know how that goes; I may turn it into an ebook as well if I feel motivated.

In other news, I realized that I often make changes to the blog and don't let you guys know. For example, did you know that you can sign up to get this blog by email? There's a box on the right side of the blog, you just type in your email address and Feedburner (the service I use) will send you an email to confirm. Once you confirm you'll get an email of the blog every day I post, and of course you can unsubscribe at any time (although I don't know why you would want to!).

In addition, I've put up two portfolios, one of people and one of architecture/buildings. They are still very much a work in progress, and I'd appreciate any feedback you all have. The links to those are top right on the blog, but you can also visit them here and here.

And the picture in this post? Took that yesterday. I was bored waiting for the bus so I decided to practice my panning on some pedestrians. In some ways it's harder than it is with cars. But I'm sure as with anything I just need more practice.

That's enough for today. I'll see you tomorrow.

Sun in the Afternoon

Nothing better than a sunburst to brighten your day. I was feeling a little uninspired, had actually decided to put off shooting for a while and just organize my archives instead. But I walked home instead of taking the bus, and I saw some cool light, one thing led to another, and this is the result.

And then I went on a shooting trip to the beach for the blue hour. But I haven't processed those images yet, so this one will have to do. I was actually thinking I might do some kind of SF architecture inspired project, so I shot a bunch of garage doors, and windows, and different colored Victorian houses. Then I saw the sun, and it was all over after that. I hope I don't go permanently blind from all the staring into the sun that I do, trying to find just the right composition.

Also, I have been seeing this lovely reflected light all over the city. I have only one person to thank for turning me on to this kind of light, I might have never seen it and continued to be totally oblivious, but I recently started reading Eli Reinholdtsen's blog, and she has recently shown some beautiful photos using this kind of light. Take a gander.

(Not sure how I did this? Check out my sunstar tutorial here.)

I'm really enjoying....

My tendency is to make these lists too long. So in the spirit of restraint....

Macro journey by Angie Seckinger. It might, just might have something to do with my recent foray into macro photography. She does it much better, of course.

Sean Duggan, principally his pinhole images. Like a trip back in time, if going back in time made you feel pensive and as if everything was new and interesting again and time had slowed down to a murmur.

Voyages Etraordinaires. Amazing photoshopped collages. For those who think Photoshop destroys creativity, let them see this. I'll give you a tip: zoom in.

And below, a photo that I want no one to take seriously as I did it mostly as a sort of experiment in compositing. What I learned is that this didn't turn out as well as I would have liked it to - still, it's a little fun.

Some mornings it's exactly what I feel like doing, that's for sure.


I still long for a dedicated macro, but I'm finding that with practice (and enough light) the Lensbaby macro filters do a fairly decent job. And this photo celebrates finally being finished with the Souvenir Foto School Alphabet challenge. If you're interested you can view the whole set from A to Z here. I'm not totally in love with all of the photos, sometimes the quality was not so high as other times, but in general I feel that it was worth doing and I learned some new photographic techniques, specifically how to use the stuff I already own to do some macro work. And I'm pleased at the level of detail I was able to obtain in this one shot.

Morning Dew - Two Months Ago

Two months ago I was in New York. We had just taken the bus from Boston, a four hour bus ride leaving Boston at 2 am and arriving in Chinatown at 6 am. Another hour on the subway + bus to get to Queens, and we were stumbling back to our room when I saw this little flower and I knew I had to have it. On any other day I might have knelt down in the dew for a more interesting angle; on this particular morning running on only a few hours of sleep I didn't have it in me. But I finally found it in my archives and decided to brush it up with a little processing and stick it on the blog. We all know how much I love early morning light, and this photo is no exception.

I'm experimenting with text overlay on my photos, let me know what you think about it. I'm not totally convinced by this one.

Journey Through Java, a Review

From time to time, I sing the praises of David duChemin (even if I do think he pronounces his last name incorrectly - he makes it sound like douche-man, as opposed to the more Frenchified version my hoity-toity ears would prefer - but I love ya, David, I really do, no harm meant). And so the time to sing praises has come again. But actually, this time it's not David but one of his colleagues/friends/fellow photographers who has earned the accolades.

I've been following the work of Mitchell Kanashkevich for a while, maybe about a year or slightly longer. He has published two ebooks, one on using available light and one on post-processing in Lightroom which have been very well received, although I can't completely speak for them as I didn't purchase them myself. I have seen the samples, however, and I think they would be well worth the investment for anyone not completely familiar with Lightroom or seeing the light.

But the new Craft and Vision ebook by Mitchell is worth reading for any photography enthusiast. It's called Journey Through Java, and it's part of their The Print and the Process series. The basic format is to take a selection of images all captured over a fairly short time period in one rather exotic location, and then tell the story of the making of the images, and the thoughts and techniques behind them.

The Images
The images come first without any explanation. I really love that about this series. First we are given the opportunity to make our own judgments about the images before we are told what to think about them. I've never been to Java, but I found myself frequently flashing back to our time in Thailand while looking at them. There's something about the Southeast Asian light that is instantly recognizable for me now.

Mitchell has a good eye. His images use color contrast, simple composition, diagonals and leading lines to draw you in. And once you're in, he tells you the stories. Of sitting round the fire at night, or spending your days hauling backbreaking amounts of sulfur from a volcano, or porting baskets from the ocean writhing with fish. He creates a balance between the beautiful or desolate countryside and the very human people within it. And he knows how to photograph in challenging but beautiful low light situations.

The Process
And then once you've formed your own judgments he gives you his side of the story. And he talks about the light. I love the way he talks about the light. It could be me speaking there, but he tells it all much more articulately than I ever could. Most of his images use natural light, but from time to time he uses an appropriately gelled flash to make the capture possible.

He also covers equipment, his preparation for the trip (he learned some Bahasa Indonesia - hats off to him), getting around once on location (he rented a motorbike) and other practicalities. At the end of the book he goes through each image in detail, the thought process behind it, the time of day it was taken, getting permission from the subjects, anything you could want to know about it all.

If you've got five bucks, half an hour to read it, a few more days to let the information sink in, and you have any kind of hunger for photographic knowledge at all, plus if you like gorgeous images, you should buy it. I'm just saying. You'd be doing yourself a favor. Click here to visit Craft And Vision, if you feel so inclined. If you purchase before midnight today and use the code JAVA4 you can get the book for $4 instead of $5. And if you buy more than 5 books you can use the code JAVA20 and get them all for $4 each.

Das Boot!

And a happy Oktoberfest to you, too!

Edit: Thanks to my eagle eyed readers. Unsurprisingly, boot does not translate directly into German. My mistake! Apparently, the title of this post should read 'Der Stiefel.' But that just doesn't seem as fun to me.

The Lipstick Tree

When I was a kid, my brother and I used to call this the lipstick tree. As we waited for my mom to work out at the gym, there was one of these outside and we could spent a good hour picking one or two of the red, bristly blossoms and slowly dissecting it. My favorite were always the unbloomed buds because they provided more material for slowly picking apart.

At the time, we thought we were bored. Little did I know that even to this day, when I saw one of these trees that was all I would be able to think about. A lazy early evening with the lipstick tree.