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 Perfect Caprese Salad

I've always been enamored of tomatoes. Their roundness, their softness. Their surprises. Sometimes sweet, sometimes acid, sometimes a perfect balance of the two. Growing up, I drove my mother crazy by eating all the cherry tomatoes she had reserved for salad. In my defense, they do make a great snack. Just mouthful size, there's a satisfying pop when you break the skin, and then the juices fill your mouth. Mmmmm . . .

And this time of year . . . it's tomato heaven. The markets are full of gorgeous San Marzanos, Early Girls, and my favorites, heirlooms. In all their strange multi-colored, slightly misshapen glory. Whatever variety you choose, a caprese salad is a great way to use them. The smooth creaminess of the fresh mozzarella contrasts with the acid bite of the tomatoes, and basil makes it heavenly. If you're a traditionalist, you'll finish your salad with some good olive oil, but if you're a renegade like me you'll spoon a touch of balsamic vinegar over each one. The older and thicker the vinegar, the better.

Enjoy! And tell me all about it .

Building in a Building

Sorry I've been MIA. It's a quick post tonight, I'll have more for you tomorrow.


I apologize for being away from the blog - I've been as busy as the proverbial bee. Evan and I are finally moving out of our two-room, raccoon-friendly abode into something more livable. And can I just say I am walking on air? It's soooooo lovely. I feel like I'm staying in a hotel, except that Evan always looks at me funny when I try to order room service.

So, I'll be back to more full time blogging soon. Until then, enjoy the flowers.


Another tilt-shift photo. I'm working on it. 

How do you know what's your calling? It seems like an old-fashioned concept. These days many people bounce from job to job throughout their lives, looking for new challenges or better pay. Maybe just something different.

I was watching an old episode of Twit Photo (like, a month old. And yes, that's the name of the show. No funning.) with Zack Arias, and I loved some of what he had to say. A couple of things he said, and I quote: "Photography calls many, but chooses few. [If you want to be in the photography business,] just make great photographs. Keep it clean, keep it simple. keep it true, keep it bold.... Just work on your craft." He also said , "The number one thing that matters is relationships."

Amen, Mr Arias. Well said. So I'd say photography has called me. We'll see if I get (and remain) chosen.

What about you? Do you believe in the idea of a calling? Do you have one?


35mm lens at f/2. See how soft the corners are? I should have stopped down. 

Recently I think I've been getting a little cynical. I think I've been spending too much time with people who talk about money - making it, not spending it. (I'm pro spending, in small but enjoyable amounts. I'm pro making it in a similar way, on a small scale, doing what you love, what moves and satisfies you.) I've gotta say, what's been happening with the politics in this country has also been very disappointing. I can't help but think that politicians acting on their personal beliefs about what would best serve the country in the long run, rather than what would best serve them in the short run, would be acting differently. Washington, I'm disappointed in you. All of you, regardless of party line.

Anyway. End of political rant, that's not what this blog is for. The reason I'm mentioning my cynicism is to remind myself that there is hope for all of us. Enough that someone in Chinatown felt the urge to label the side of the building with it. It was a small gift to come across.

                                                                   ***     ***

And, some things I came across on the internets that you might feel like wasting your time on:

The ultimate case for your iPhone 4. I can't tell if it's incredibly tacky or kind of cool. Also, I'm suspicious about the sustainability of walnut. Anyone know better than me?

An amazing new food blog, with gorgeous magazine-ready recipes. Someone buy me some backdrops in every color of the rainbow! I want to make those recipes and then shoot them! Also, I really want to try a caipiroska. The cherry hand pies look amazing as well.

In addition, Evan and I just pulled the trigger on an expensive but cute addition to the family.

Plus, some gorgeous animal photos I found on 500px. Do yourself a favor and check them out. Read the artist's statement as well. I think my favorite part is this: "My pictures never try to take account of actual circumstances. They are my elegy on an animal world which disappears in tragic way every day more and more."   - Wolf Ademeit

Mouse Over Monday 10 - Picture Bombing

PLEASE mouse over.  

I quite honestly think this is one of the greatest joys of Evan's life.


Action Shot

Self Portrait - What Not to Do

So, here's a tip with the 35mm lens: don't shoot up or down anyone's nose. Not that I have the smallest of noses on good nose days, but this photo doesn't exactly minimize the schnozz . . .

I admit, I'm a bit leery of self-portraits. It's often said that photographers choose to hold the camera rather than be in front of it, and while I wouldn't say that's a large part of why I take pictures for a living, I certainly don't mind. I don't mind not being in the family photo, I don't mind coming home from vacation with 100 pictures of Evan and 10 pictures of me.

But of course that's not fair. And it leaves me with a bit of a hole in my personal history. Most photos I have of myself are from moments when Evan grabbed the camera and turned it on me. (Don't tell him, but usually they're blurry . . . don't worry, he doesn't read the text on my blog, he only looks at the pictures. Hi Evan!) So I've been thinking recently about self portraits. And in a rare moment of whimsy last week I grabbed the camera with the 35mm on it, held it out in front of me and took a shot.

This is what showed up. I think I like it. I won't promise, but I'll say you might see more self portraits coming on the blog soon . . . .


Here's to the luckiest dog in San Francisco.

Also, some links for you:

Important tips to remember when shooting a portrait. My number 1? Keep talking. It makes everyone more relaxed.

An intriguing cilantro pesto. I think I want to try it out.

A great post on being more brave braver (nice linguistic skills, Jessica!) asking strangers if you can shoot them take a photo in public. I admit, I'm a wuss about this.

That's it! Time for bed. See you tomorrow.

Sf Film Night in Dolores Park, and a Look at a 35mm Lens

I'm a big fan of a blog called TOP, and the author, a one Mr Mike Johnston, always goes on about his love of 35mm lenses. He also goes on about his love of working with view cameras, and medium format, and other pieces of this photography craft that I don't intend on doing any time soon. Although film would be fun . . .

So, for a long time I just thought he had a bee in his bonnet. And then I bought a full-frame camera that I couldn't use my beloved wide angle zoom on, and realize that I had no wide angle lenses for it at all. And I did a couple of family shoots, and shoots with children and pets, and I realized that 35mm could be a very useful focal length.

With the help of some Amazon gift cards I'd been saving, and waiting for months for the price on Amazon to come down to reasonable levels post tsunami in Japan, I got the lens for very little out of pocket.

And  . . . it's kind of perfect. I still love the 50mm, and I absolutely adore the 85mm, but the 35mm is my new favorite, and is probably going to live on my camera for the next little while.

For one thing, it's a great street lens. Perfect for walking around town. And it's really sharp in the center of the frame, although the sharpness at the edges is kind of amazingly horrible. This just means I think twice about putting the focal point at the edge of the frame, which isn't much of a problem.

A cute street in the Castro.
In addition, it's small, making it low-profile. And light. I don't think anything of it when it's on the camera. Apparently, it drew enough attention that this man on the street asked me to take his picture. (I'm sure it was the 35mm lens.)

Like I said, a lot of fun on the street. Doesn't that produce in the Mission look great? A good price on those 'lemon yelows' too. If you look into the background of this photo, you can see that the bokeh's not great. It's a little nisen, also known as double-line bokeh. (Look at that clock.) But that doesn't bother me, especially since I'd have to spend a lot more to get a better 35mm lens. And it just means that if I want gorgeous blur, I have to put it in the foreground, and not the background.

You have to be a little careful with portraits with the 35mm, because it can make people's noses and heads look big. But it's fine for a full-body or torso shot, as long as you think about it. (That's Mengying, holding our precious Bi-Rite ice cream. Salted caramel and brown sugar with ginger for me, and toasted coconut and roasted banana for her. Mmmm!)

We went to Film Night in the Park at Dolores Park last night, and it was really fun. They showed Jaws, and although the film is showing its years, it still made me jump a few times. (That's not hard, as Evan would tell you.) It did get incredibly cold, but fortunately Evan showed up and brought blankets.

It was pretty popular. We got to the park around 7:00, and although the movie didn't really start until 9:00, the park was full when we got there.

One of the great things about a prime lens is shooting in low light. The 35mm is only f/2, but that seems like plenty. I very rarely wished for any more light.

Mengying was a little cold. 

And then when it gets dark, you can just go with it. All you need is the light of an iPhone.

So, to sum up: 35mm, a good little lens. And movie night in the park, also fun. The next one is Roman Holiday at Union Square on August 27, 8pm. I think I just might go. And take my 35mm lens with me.


Check out these fun skateboarding videos, too!

Also, want to check your color vision? I got a perfect score! (Zero.) Woot!

Happy Caturday


I don't think I'll ever get tired of those eyes.


Click to get a larger version, for more intense scrutinizing. 

So, Chris Orwig emailed me and asked for a copy of my notes from his talk. Guess he lost his. That's a little embarrassing  But I'm happy to save his bacon, no problem. Just check behind you next time, Chris.

(Totally joking, guys. I'm SURE he just misplaced them. Check in the backseat of the car! That's where my stuff always ends up.)

(Ok, ok, joking again.)

Anyway, I though you might be interested also. If not for the content, for for how freakishly I organize the layout of my spontaneous notes. And yes, that is my current favorite Japanese gel pen there, you can buy one here. I thought I really loved this one, so I bought a bunch, but turns out they all stopped working after about three days. This one though? I bought one and it's still going strong. Work on your QC, Japan.

I am making friends left and right during this blog post.

Anyway, notes. Here they are. Enjoy!

(By the way, check out Chris's work. It's wonderful. Always gives me a feeling of calm and contentment and possibility.)


This photo reminds me of the green I like. Hmmm, wonder if I should add peach too?

So, I know you guys are all waiting to hear about my upcoming nuptials and what we're planning.

Well, BIG NEWS! I have (kind of, maybe) decided on a color theme. Once we chose the venue, it seemed a little clearer. The colors are: grass green, sage blue, lavender, camel/latte, and maybe gray. I think choosing camel and gray is a little cray-cray, historically they are neutrals you're not supposed to mix, and I may end up ditching the gray, but we'll see. (Also, not everything at the wedding will be in this color scheme, I am not that fussed, but playing with color makes me happy.)

I guess my only question to you is, do you think that I should keep the blue and the lavender, or just stick to one of them? The main colors to my mind are the green and camel. All the others are just accent colors. I've been reading The Perfect Palette a bit lately (great fun if you're addicted to color combinations) and I like her palettes, but this one just feels like me.

But then, you know, I feel like adding yellow, and that doesn't go with any of the existing colors . . . gah! Fortunately, there's no big hurry. So, what do you think?

I can't stop listening to . . .

Unrelated photo. I've been messing with the 17mm t/s lately, trying to use it to the full extent of its capabilities. This is one of my favorite places, Sutro Baths.

Elenowen's Pulling Back The Veil. Gorgeous, stripped-down harmonies, and well sung too. A great chill album.

Panic! At the Disco's Vices and Virtues. Almost a polar opposite, it's upbeat, catchy, and I can't stop singing along. I think they might be an acquired taste, but I love everything they've done. And I also love frustratingly the unreleased track Kaleidoscope Eyes (theme song for the apartment, Barrie? Maybe, maybe not).

In other news, some of my Lensbaby images are up on their site. Just go here, and then look at either the pinhole or the Sweet 35 optic in the optic drop-down menu. In total, three of my images are up. Nothing major, but still fun and exciting!

Cable Car Pan

Mouseover Monday 9 - The Photographer

Mouse over to see the image in color.  

I've been watching David duChemin on CreativeLive (a class I bought a while ago and hadn't watched yet - yes, I'm behind), and one of the things he said about quality of light really stuck with me. I admit I like softer light most of the time, especially for portraits. But he mentioned one way of dealing with super contrasty light that I haven't used much (mostly because I just avoid shooting it at all).

The method he espoused is exposing for the highlights and letting the rest fall into deep shadow. Especially if you have a small highlight area this can be very effective and dramatic. So while on a photowalk last week (courtesy of the now-defunct Adobe pop-up store) I decided to implement the strategy.

I found a slice of light, positioned myself and waited for someone to walk through it. It just happened to be this other photographer from the photowalk who came through the light first. And I actually like the hard light on his technical clothing and photography equipment - it feels appropriate.

Don't forget to mouse over the picture to see it in color. I like it in color too, but I like the feel of the black and white better.

Also, do you ever have trouble finishing projects? This article might help.

And these are the best 1 minute videos I've ever seen. You must watch all three.


 . . . for Melanie.

Mandy and Tony, San Francisco Engagement Photographer

Mandy and Tony are special. And I kind of knew that from the first moment I saw them together. They balance each other out, and there's a quiet give and take that's a real pleasure to watch. We met at the Rose Garden in Golden Gate Park last week. As I may have previously mentioned, San Francisco summer evening weather was out in full force, so it was just a tad cold, but Mandy and Tony didn't complain. In fact, I think I probably complained more than either of them, and I didn't have to wear a dress.

Plus, did I mention that Mandy's a fabulous baker and you can get some of that deliciousness whenever you want? I highly recommend the churro cupcakes. That is all you need to know.

The roses are particularly fine this time of year.

They also brought the third member of their family with them, Oscar. He was a total picture champ, as you'll see.

The two of you are so cute together. It's beautiful to watch.

I know I posted this photo before, but I'm just in love with it.

This one is another favorite. Oscar, if I ever need a dog model, I will definitely give you a call!

Gorgeous. Were we lucky with the light or what?

They brought along a hat to keep Mandy's hair contained. (The San Francisco wind never sleeps.) Apparently the hat was originally Tony's but Mandy stole it. And I can see why. It's the perfect color to go with her dress.

Then again, Tony looks pretty fierce in it too.

We walked over by the de Young and found this great wild pool area. Oscar wanted to jump in and eat the water lilies or something, but we made him pose instead.

I really can't decide. I think this series looks fabulous in color or in black and white.

We finished off the shoot with a trip to some of the columns.

Tony, Mandy, thank you so much for being amazing on the shoot. Your wedding and the rest of your lives together will be something to watch. Oh, and your cupcakes are bomb, too.

Chris Orwig and Visual Poetry

Today I took advantage of Adobe being in town (which, by the way, is super cool) and I saw Chris Orwig speak. Now, you may have heard of Chris before (he's the author of Visual Poetry, published by Peachpit Press who are in Berkeley and publish all sorts of cool photography books).

Anyway, his talk was truly inspiring, and I wrote copious notes. Ever since I got out of school I've discovered that I really love taking notes; organizing someone else's ideas on paper is very satisfying for me.

[Side note: sometimes Evan swears that I am secretly OCD, because I get annoyed when he does things like put my pens out of order (I arrange them by color), and I also get peeved if he puts groceries away in the wrong place. I counter that I am only SELECTIVELY OCD, because in most other things chaos doesn't bother me, and I can leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight. You know, if the dishwasher's full or something. End side note.]

Some of the things he said that really stuck with me:
      -Use your camera to listen. I love this idea. When I'm happiest with my camera, that's what I'm doing.
      -Bring your passions together. Shoot what you're passionate about. This is something I had never really examined in my own shooting before. I think I already do, but maybe not enough. It's something I'm going to work on.
      -Surround and immerse yourself in what you love. I already probably spend too much time reading, thinking, breathing, and practicing photography, but I guess I appreciated someone telling me that it's ok to do that.
      -Reduce, simplify, and deepen.
      -Be engaged, focused, and alive.

As a teacher, I appreciated his lecturing style. Several times he asked us to discuss something with the person sitting next to us. Not only did this spice things up, it also made us more into participants and less into just watchers and listeners. I also came away from the experience knowing my seatmate (hi Terry!) and that's always good. If you can have community building and a lecture, then excellent.

Also, I really loved this question he posed. "How can you shoot basketball so that someone who isn't a basketball fan likes the shot?" The question is perfect for me, because I'm not a basketball fan, and much basketball photography leaves me cold. But some doesn't. What's different about the pictures that bridge the gap?

That, I guess, is the million dollar question.

Points of Interest

Generally, when I compose a photo, I decide where I want the viewer's eye to go, and then I try to minimize all other distractions so that their eyes stay where I want them to. Usually, where I want their eyes to go is my point of interest - a person's face, an intersection, a flower, whatever is the subject of the photo.

In this case, there's nothing like that. I was just drawn to the play of light and shadow on this patch of clover.

So what do you think - is it too busy? Not interesting enough? Have you taken a similar photo, where there was no discernible subject?

Endless Sky


It's been noted by quite a few commenters that I've been using slightly longer lenses of late (I am really truly smitten with the 85mm and the 50mm, possibly to an unhealthy degree), and posting more detail shots and less scenics. All of this is definitely true. I plead guilty. I think it comes from spending so much time in the city - there are only so many cityscapes, and I get tired of seeing the same streets and houses day after day. Detail shots always feel a little fresher to me, somehow. I can find things that I never noticed before.

But anyway, here's a landscape-y photo for y'all that I kind of liked the light on. It's true, I focused close to the camera and so the background's a bit out of focus (even though this was f/16 - aperture doesn't guarantee sharpness). I knew this was happening in camera, and I have a few shots where everything's in focus, but I like this one better for some reason. Anyway.

This shot happened as Evan and I were driving down the highway and the light got really pretty all of a sudden. I begged and pleaded with him to stop, so we took a random exit off and found this field and trees and mountains, all just waiting to be photographed.

So, there's your wide-angle shot for the week. Enjoy!

Plus, a very patriotic cake.

And an interesting monograph on the power structure of the United States.

Attempting to create a new habit or change something in your life? Have you completed Step One?

10 Things I Have Learned by Milton Glaser. Really good points here.

Also, echolocation in humans? Maybe not as implausible as you might think. This is a stunning story. Easily the most inspiring thing I've read in quite a while.

On another note, ever wondered if you might be slightly autistic? You can take the test. I scored a 10 (definitely not autistic, 16 is average - I wasn't worried, whatever I am it's not autistic).

Also, if you're in SF this week, you might want to visit Adobe's pop-up store. Lots of great free events going down there, seems like.