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

A Rose By Any Other Name

 . . . would smell as sweet.

The Layers of a Photograph

Apparently, if you photograph rain with a high enough shutter speed, it can look like snow. Cool!

What do you need to make a good photograph? Honestly, I think this is one of the hardest questions of all time. In their most basic form, photographs have three main elements:

1. Subject
2. Light
3. Composition

Often, if you have a really kick-ass subject, people will like your photographs. Go travel somewhere cool and everyone loves your shots. Use the same technique at home, and you might not get the same adulation.

Lighting, on the other hand, is my personal favorite, and many of my favorite photos would be nothing without the light in them. Cool light can make a photograph, and some photos are really only pictures of the light - the subject is almost nothing.

Composition, while arguably the most important of the three, is also the hardest to quantify and also the most difficult to truly master. Real control of composition can take a lifetime.

The photo above, for example? I'd say it definitely has cool light, passable composition and a fairly average subject. That still makes it a shot I'd post on the blog (clearly) but probably not one I'd put in my portfolio.

What about you? What other layers are there in a photograph? I can think of a few more that are quite important. Maybe we'll talk about those another day.


Photos Evan and I took of each other on a walk in Tahoe - thereby incorporating three things I count as play. Also, please note that Evan was unable to move the grass so that it wasn't in front of his face. I take no responsibility for that. 

Inspired partly by the Happiness Project, and partly by the Shu Box, here are a few things that would qualify as play for me now. I feel like it's a really important moment when you finally realize and accept that it's ok if you don't enjoy exactly the same things as everyone else. And sometimes it's hard to understand why not everyone loves what you love to do.

Play, for me, is:
-taking photographs (duh!)
-processing photos (not as much, but still fun)
-going for a walk
-reading anything: a novel, the cereal box, a magazine left on the kitchen table, blog posts, the like . . .
-thinking about language
-board games that are language related: Boggle, Scrabble, Bananagrams, etc.
-knitting (I haven't for a few years now, but if I found myself with more hours in the day I still would)
-drinking coffee, especially with friends
-travel - that's a big one
-meeting cool new people
-having philosophical discussions
-singing in a chorus
-cooking a good dinner with a companion

Not play for me: team sports, competition, performing solo, computer programming, video/computer games, sudoku (but I do like crossword puzzles), cleaning (here, at least, I'm not alone)

So what about you? What do you consider play and not play? I'd be interested to hear.

Things that make me happy

That's real lens flare! I've never gotten the circles before. Fun!

1. 500px. I recently created a profile, and it's so much fun! The quality of the photography is just outstanding. I could spend hours on there, marveling at the skill of everyone else.

2. Red and white as a color pair. Particularly light red. So summer.

3. Taking pictures into the sun. At dusk. Right after a rainstorm. (Word to the wise - do not look through your viewfinder. Looking into the sun = bad.)

4. Reading new theories on learning. Especially this one really makes a lot of sense to me.  I think connections underlie a lot of what we do.

5. Summer vacation. It's a mindset, not an event. Even having a summer feels like vacation. (Today we saw the sun in SF again! Never taken for granted.)

6. Finding a new blog all about color palettes! I want them all, all around me. And I love the food and color combos in this post. I don't know if green, chocolate brown and ivory, or the simple navy blue and snow white is my favorite.

So, what's making you happy this July day? I'd love to hear in the comments.

PS Keep your camera away from seagulls.

Jack of All Trades, Master of None?

Infrared is not my focus. But it has been fun to play with. Mouse over to see the color version.

All the time in photography (and honestly, in life too) I feel like I hear two conflicting pieces of advice.

1. Have many experiences. Try everything at least once. Look at other people's work. Look at art. Don't put boundaries on your creativity.

2. Focus. Decide what you want to do, and practice that. Get really really good at it. Don't waste your talents on other pursuits.

Now, in terms of life and photography I wholeheartedly subscribe to the first piece of advice. But the second resonates too. Practice makes perfect - I believe that. And it stands to reason that honing your skillset in one particular area would make you much better at that particular thing.

I rebel because I think number 2 would be boring! When I focus on something I do it because I'm so fascinated or passionate about the subject that I really can't help myself. Without that feeling and that impetus, I don't know what good my focus would do.

In addition, I feel like sometimes you learn the most by playing, just trying as many new things as you can until all the information just coalesces into an understanding of the guiding principles.

What do you think? Jack of all trades, master of none?

Mandy and Tony Sneak Peek

"We can come over earlier in the afternoon," they said.

"Oh no," I replied. "The light will be better at 6:30. So I'll still see you then."

Come 6:30, San Francisco was doing its thing. Cold, foggy, windy . . . you name it. But Mandy and Tony were excellent sports , they braved the cold and the wind. And they followed my ridiculous instructions, like, 'go stand behind the fence!'

And the light was pretty great, to be fair.

More of Mandy and Tony's session coming next week on the blog!

Saturday Morning

A view of Alcatraz from the Marina. I used the black and white software Silver Efex Pro 2 in my processing. Anyone care to guess how?


Can you believe there's still snow in Lake Tahoe this time of year? It's crazy! But kind of photogenic . . .

On a totally unrelated topic, this is probably the only chess game I would get really excited to play . . . but it's a little out of my price range. Maybe next year . . .

The Doorway


I was lucky enough to get to spend a weekend with Oscar recently. Look at that nose! Isn't he adorable?

One tip for photographing animals: get down. Like, really down. I was lying on my stomach to take this shot, and I don't think it would have worked any other way. If I could have gotten any lower, I would have.


Or wildflowers. Depends on your perspective, right? If you're sitting in the hot sun, trowel in hand, trying to eradicate that stubborn dandelion, you're probably in the former camp. If you're going for a hike on a long weekend, breathing in the pure mountain air, you might be thinking along the lines of the latter.

I think sometimes we forget that it's all perspective. Just because we can give something a name doesn't mean it's the right one. And names don't make things so. I can tell you that when I came upon these, I breathed "wildflowers," lay down in the dirt, and took a few pictures. With nary a trowel to be seen on the premises.

Incredibly Delicious, Incredibly Easy Peach Galette

You know that saying, easy as pie? Well, they got it a little wrong. It should properly be 'easy as galette.' Not as catchy, perhaps.

I can't take credit for the brilliant simplicity of this recipe; all I can do is shout its brilliance and simplicity from the rooftops. And then I can make it, again and again. Seriously, I've made it four times so far, and all I can tell you is that the quality of the peaches you use makes a big difference. The better the peaches, the better the galette. And use them ripe. Sometimes unripe fruit can bake up better than ripe fruit - not so in this case. Wait until the peaches are almost falling off the stones, when you can slip the skin off with a little pressure from your thumb.

Ah, peaches. You could do this with nectarines just as easily, I'm pretty sure, especially since the original recipe calls for them (thanks go to to Real Simple's 3-ingredient recipes).


2-3 peaches, sliced thin (Real Simple advises 3, I advise 2. 2 big peaches will be exactly enough, in my humble opinion. But if you've got little scrawny peaches, use 3)
lemon curd (my addition, just a little extra bit of deliciousness)
one pie crust (homemade, if you can, store bought if you can't be bothered)
a little butter (optional, I used this the first time I made it, and skipped it afterwards)
some sugar (turbinado is probably best if you have it, but any kind of sugar will work)


Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice the peaches as thin as you can. Roll out the pie crust. Take a spoon, and spread about 3-4 tablespoons of lemon curd on the crust, skipping about the outer 1 inch of crust. Then arrange the peaches on the crust, leaving the outer two inches of crust uncovered. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of sugar on the peaches at this point (Real Simple calls for turbinado sugar, I didn't have any, so I used regular white sugar). If you're using butter, cut about 2 tablespoons onto the peaches at this point as well. Then fold the edges of the crust over the peaches as shown in the picture.  Using a brush or a wet paper towel, brush water over the edges of the crust. Sprinkle the wet edges with a little more sugar. Bake on a parchment paper covered baking sheet for 35-40 minutes (check earlier, as baking times have varied a bit for me, and no one wants a burnt crust!)


Blue Skies

A shot from a job today. Finally it wasn't raining or foggy! And great timing.

Delights of Summer

Here in San Francisco it sometimes seems like summer is a cruel joke played upon us by California's propaganda campaign. This is California, land of endless summer, where all the cows are happy and every blockbuster gets its funding. Right?

Well, the past week of rainy, cold, gray days says no. I don't know about you, but if I were a cow I don't think I would call this fun. I might even consider moving to Wisconsin, where I could get some respect and have seasons that behaved themselves. Fortunately, there are still some glimmers of summer here and there. Most obviously in the produce at the farmer's market.

I've always loved peaches. Apples are my winter fruit, peaches are my summer. Soft, sweet, juicy, delicate, perfumed. There's nothing like the smell of a ripe peach. And it seems that peaches are having their heyday; every stall has cardboard boxes full to the brim, swarmed by customers looking for the perfect peach.

Well sorry guys, I think I nabbed it.


ISO 800, 17mm, f/2.8, 6 seconds. Mouseover to see what the infrared image looked like straight out of camera.

I've had a loaner infrared filter for a few months now, but what with having to pull out the tripod to use it, I hadn't played with it at all until this past week.

And I'm still a bit unsure as to how much I love it. Seems like I like infrared photography when other photographers do it, but my own efforts so far leave me feeling a little underwhelmed. The exposure times are just so darn LONG. 6 seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 800. Crazy, right? I know. If anyone has any tips for best image quality when shooting with an infrared filter, I'm all ears.

Still, it's always good to experiment, right?

Pussy Willow

Some Links

No picture for you today, but I have some links.

A delicious flatbread recipe.

An interview with David LaChapelle written by a friend of mine!

A wedding shot entirely with an iPhone 4. Not sure whether to be awed or shocked. Also, this is just a little ludicrous. (Both links via Tafari.)

An interesting article on the 99% about creating for yourself.

Hope you enjoy!


How to Get Out of a Photography Rut: 5 Things to Try

I think it was yesterday that I mentioned how I felt like I was spinning my wheels. Well, whenever I feel like that, photographically speaking, there are a few things I know to try that usually fix me right up.

1. Go somewhere new. For me, this is a big one. I'm stimulated by new sights, sounds, smells, people. Tastes! And you don't need to travel anywhere far away. Just choose a part of your area you haven't explored, or go to a festival near you. Photograph, but don't forget to participate too.

2. Give yourself an assignment. Doesn't matter what it is. Curves, lines, the color red, close-up, environmental portrait, black and white landscape, whatever. Just make yourself shoot something within given parameters. If you're at a loss, there are many photography challenges online either monthly or weekly. DPS, for one. Also, the Learn Photography Facebook group.

3. Try a new technique (or practice one you haven't used in a while). Panning, say. Or making the lights in your photos become stars. Practice shooting backlit. Take a walk and only shoot from the hip. Try to predict what your camera sees when you can't look through the viewfinder. That one's harder than it seems.

4. Find a photo buddy. I'm always happier when I have someone to talk photography with. People can give you feedback and new ideas. Both of which are obviously beneficial. Don't know anyone? I've had great success using meetup.com.

5. Create a series of images. Instead of thinking in single frames, try to come up with a concept that can be expressed in more than one image. Perhaps change over time? A photo essay about a person or subject can also really get the juices flowing. Or maybe you can document your day, from wake to slumber.

What about you? What can you add to this list? How do you stimulate the photographic juices when it feels like you've run dry?


More and more I find that integral to a good image is not only controlled sharpness, but also controlled blur.


This is a composite of two shots, one focused on the fence and one focused on the garage. Both were shot at f/1.8 with my 85mm lens. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels. Days pass, my to-do list doesn't get shorter, it only lengthens, and the important items remain unchecked. I try to remind myself that this feeling is only an illusion, that actually I'm a lot farther ahead now than I was at the beginning of the year, but I find myself unconvincing.

I'm itchy, too. I haven't spent this much time in one place in a long time, and I need to get some more travel under my belt. I long for far-off places, different languages, temperatures, smells. It's time for a trip. I crave the jolt of creativity that comes with travel; the feeling that we're all the same and yet, thankfully, also so different.

For the time being, I'm staying put, buckling down and working hard. But soon that trip will get put on the schedule. I'm thinking South America, because I've never been. Macchu Pichu, Buenos Aires, maybe Rio? Who knows.

Where would you go if you had the chance? Say money and time aren't factors in the equation.

San Francisco Nights

I don't know if you're familiar with Chris Isaak, but I went through a phase when I was about sixteen where I bought nearly every one of his albums. An unabashed crooner, there are few in the music business who can sing like him. One of my favorite albums by him is 'San Francisco Days' and the eponymous track closes something like this,"I'm heading for that Golden Gate, hoping I won't be too late to find the one that I still love . . . San Francisco nights."

And for me this image perfectly reflects those words, that melody. The soft, muted tones of a San Francisco night. The kind of fog that almost embraces you, muffling sounds and blurring your vision. For me, home.

Mouseover Monday 8 - Depth of Field

100mm at f/2.8 Mouse over to see it at f/7.1 

So when I decided that I was really starting a photography business, I made a list of all the equipment I thought I needed to be prepared for almost any job, and I dipped into my savings and bought it. I bought two camera bodies, but I knew what really would make the images would be the right lens at the right time. Since then, some lenses almost never make it off the camera (hello 50mm and 85mm!), some lenses are in heavy rotation (hello Lensbaby!) and some lenses kind of languish (hi 70-200 and 100mm macro).

I decided last week that while the 70-200 is kind of more of a statement lens than I'm ready to bring along with me on casual photo outings, I could definitely use the 100mm more. I mean, it's a beautiful lens, with almost perfect image quality, the bokeh is superb, and it's a macro lens! which I've been wanting for a long time.

So I took the 100 with me on a photo stroll last week, to kind of put it through its paces. We walked around the Panhandle (a smaller park near Golden Gate Park) and we took pictures of whatever captured our fancy.

Some of these you have already seen here and here. The lens is a little long to be a perfect walk-around lens for me. I really like 50mm, and the image quality of the 85mm slays me every time. But the 100 certainly is fun, and there's nothing better than being able to get as close as you want to whatever you're shooting.

Anyway, this Mouseover Monday is a little different than the previous ones. I haven't converted this one into black and white; instead, I'm showing you two different shots of the same leaves, one at f/2.8 and one at f/7.1. Neither one has much depth of field, but they certainly have a different look to them. Which do you prefer? I think I know which one I'm partial to, myself, but I certainly wouldn't mind getting a second opinion.

Oh, and by the way, Happy Independence Day! I hope you're doing something suitably relaxed and pointless.

What I've Been Reading Recently

I've always been a reader, I guess. In third grade I was the most popular girl in my class. You could tell because I often spent my recess with a book. Or two, depending on their length.

As I got older there was less and less time for reading. Or more assigned reading. So instead of my usual bags of books from the library I spent time with textbooks or handouts. And then when I got into photography I focused on photography books and blogs, almost to the complete exclusion of all else.

Then I discovered ebooks on my iPhone, and racked up quite a few purchases for reading on the bus. For convenience, ebooks can't be beat. For price, well, that's a different story.

But last week I got a library card, and I feel like a new woman! Imagine, books for miles, all for free, and then you don't even have to store them after you read them! What a deal.

Here are some of the books that ended up coming home with me.

bird by bird by Ann Lamott: Written in lovely flexible prose full of vibrant metaphors, Ann Lamott takes us through the sometimes painful but ultimately worthwhile process of writing. I picked this up because I often have trouble figuring out what to write on the blog, and I'm not exactly sure what 'my voice' is, if that doesn't sound too pretentious. The book focuses on writing fiction, but a lot of the advice is applicable to any kind of writing. And Ann's humanity is palpable. You just want to give her a hug and say, "Thanks so much for the advice. I'm going to go home and write, now."

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson: I admit, I picked this one up purely on impulse, because there were a few copies of it displayed prominently in the library and so I figured it might be worth reading. I haven't gotten over the initial giddyness my library card engenders; any book is worth a look. Plus, I must admit, I judged it by its cover, and that was enough for me. The book centers around a middle aged British widower living in a quiet country village, sort of the last of the 'old guard.' He's surrounded by people who are more surface than substance, including his own offspring, a rather self-centered Roger. There is one bright spot, however: his friendship with the local Pakistani convenience shop owner. Like him, she enjoys literature and a good cup of tea. However, the townspeople don't approve of their friendship and so a few difficulties are thrown in their path.

I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. The characters are all well drawn, and the author has a high enough opinion of the reader that she leaves much to nuance, rather than spelling it out. We area able to sympathize with almost every character, even as we find them to be horribly wrong or cruelly ignorant. The Major himself is not without fault; but he at least is endowed with a sense of dry politeness that never fails him.  I highly recommend this book for some late summer reading. Perfect for a visit to England, even if you never leave home.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers: Now I've been a fan of Sayers for some time, probably since the first time I picked up one of her books for a quarter at a local library sale. No one spins a plot better than she; I am almost always surprised by the denouement, and I also enjoy her characters a great deal. But Gaudy Night is something more special still. It's set at Oxford, in a fabricated women's school, and has the distinction of being one of the few mysteries I've enjoyed where not a single soul bites the bullet. There are shenanigans galore, but no one gets seriously injured or hurt.

I would highly recommend all three of these books, depending on what takes your fancy. Happy Reading!

What good books have you read lately? I'd love to know.

Red and Blue

Is this bright enough to make your eyeballs bleed or what? I like to call this 'my red phase.'

You are allowed to hope it's a short one.