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 the Rain

I took this image at the same time as this one. Although I certainly like the first better, this one also has its charms.

Street Portrait - Hero

We were sitting around for a pint of beer at Marlena's when he walked over to turn on the light behind us. Not thinking much of it, we admired his uniform. Costume, really, we thought.

"What is it? Marine?" we asked.

"No," he said. "Air traffic controller." I thought that was the end of the conversation. No surprise here that I can't recognize an air traffic controller when I see one. All uniforms look mostly alike to me.

Then Robin asked about the medals. "And what about those? Are they real? Did you get them?"

He shyly explained that they were. And what they were all for. I'd tell you, but the only thing I can remember is that I was impressed. Quite impressed. He explained that he was at the bar with 'his fellow' to celebrate the end of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' And that's when I knew that there were medals he deserved that weren't there on his chest. And we thanked him for serving his country even when it wasn't ready to accept him.

I didn't catch his name, but I hope he had an excellent night out. And I hope that when I get to be his age that any of my old clothes continue to fit so well!

Another From the Beach

Night Heron

I was lucky enough to see this guy just hanging out by Lake Merritt the other day.

Cat Macro

Glad to have you safe at home, little one.

October Mini Sessions Q&A

So, since I know you all have burning questions about the mini sessions in October, I thought I'd answer a few here.

Note: October Mini-Sessions are now scheduled for Sunday October 30th, not October 29th. I decided that Sunday would work out a bit better. For more information see the previous post here.

Q: Is 30 minutes really enough time?
A: Good question! My normal session length is 1-2 hours. With 30 minutes things are a bit shorter (obviously), and there isn't the possibility of different locations or outfits (unless you're a quick-change artist, in which case, go right ahead!). That makes the sessions have a different feel. Often they're more relaxed and fun, which I love! Also, it's a great chance to try out a themed shoot, without investing too much time and money into it.
    However, since the shoot is shorter, that means fewer pictures. Included in the price is 5 full resolution images. If there are more than 5 great shots (which is quite likely, you handsome devil you), you'll get to pick your favorite five.

Q: Since it's the day before Halloween, can we wear our Halloween costumes?
A: Absolutely! I thought you'd never ask. I'm dying to have some Halloween themed images. Black cats, Elvis Presleys, and Lady Gagas of the world unite!

Q: I was hoping we could get a good photo of the family for our holiday cards.
A: Sneaky. That's not a question, but it does sound like a good idea. A mini session is perfect for a relaxed family photo.

Family fun!

Q: I'm a little camera shy and I'm not sure if this is a good idea for me. Still, I'm intrigued. What do you recommend?
A: It's only 30 minutes, so why not? Wear the clothes you feel like a god or goddess in, do your hair, get your nails done, or get a massage - whatever makes you feel incredible - and then come work it! I'm pretty sure you'll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

A rockin' dress is always a safe bet for excellent photos.

Q: I'd like to bring my dog and get a shot with him. Would that be ok?
A: Yes! Pets are welcome and totally invited. Bring Fluffy, Mr P, and Speckles. The more the merrier. Just please keep an eye on escape artists. It'd be a shame to have to fish Speckles out of the fountain.

Yes! Bring him.
Q: Where exactly is this going to be? I've never heard of this place TBD.
A: Funny, that's where I initially schedule all my shoots. Most likely we'll be at a park somewhere in San Francisco. Hope that helps you narrow it down a bit.

Chances are, the location will look something like this. 
Then again, pictures on the beach might be great as well . . . 
All right, please let me know if you have any more questions! Contact me at jessica (at) quotidianphotography (dot) com to book a session.

Minisessions in October! (for a good cause)

I've always been a fan of Vanity Fair. I'll admit, I don't always make it to the end of their articles (I swear, they are novella-sized!) but when I do, it's so satisfying. The photography is always stunning (witness this month's Angelina Jolie on the cover - I'll admit I've spent at least a few minutes trying to deconstruct the lighting setup  they used on her face), and the investigative reporting is some of the best on the newsstand. Plus, in this era of information in bite-sized chunks, it's nice to sit down for a good read. One where you need more than two minutes to finish the article.

So, last month (or July - time passes faster than I thought, I guess) they featured a story on the ivory trade and the declining population of African elephants. You can read the full text of the article here, but I'll warn you it's a rather depressing read. In the struggle between elephants and poachers, the elephants are not doing well. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it. You can also see a slideshow of the related images here.

One line from the article really stood out for me. "But elephants are not human, of course. They are something much more ancient and primordial, living on a different plane of existence." It's exactly how I feel about them, although the author has expressed it better than I ever could. And I'd like to do something to help, no matter how small.

All images on this page were taken by Vanity Fair photographers. Not me. Although, someday, I really hope to see and photograph a wild elephant. 

That's why I've decided to donate part of the proceeds from my October 29 October 30 mini-sessions to Save The Elephants.

Date: Sunday, October 30
Cost: $75 (that's half of my most basic portrait session price)
Included: A 30 minute portrait/family/pet session in San Francisco (exact location TBD), and 5 high resolution files with the rights to print them, put them on holiday cards, or just share with friends and family.
Feel-good factor: For every minisession booked, I will donate $25 to Save The Elephants. And together, we can make a difference.

To book a session, email me at jessica (at) quotidianphotography (dot) com.

I'll update this blog post as the sessions are booked.

Mini-sessions, October 30

12:30-1:00 pm - BOOKED
1:30-2:00 pm
2:15-2:45 pm
3:00-3:30 pm
3:45-4:15 pm
4:30-5:00 pm

Gorgeous light minisessions also available! Might be a bit chilly, but sunset/dusk light is some of the most beautiful and flattering around.
5:30-6:00 pm
6:15-6:45 pm - BOOKED

I hope to see you in October. And together we can do something to help, no matter how small.

If I printed this . . . .

. . . it would use a lot of ink.

Thank you digital!


One of my favorite flowers. I just love those tightly packed petals.

Life's A Beach

I've lived close to an ocean almost all my life, but I think I've always taken it for granted. The ocean here is a bit different, too. It's not the warm, sultry, sunkissed ocean you might find further south or even further west. No, ours is a bit forbidding, rather windswept, and it's not the kind of water you ordinarily want to stick more than your toes in, and even those, not for long.

Yesterday I made it to the beach for about half an hour after some coffee with a new friend. I went expecting to spend only five minutes, kind a 'hi beach! bye beach!' interaction, but I ended up staying longer.  To tell the truth, I was just completely captivated with the soft, gorgeous slightly foggy light. Everything seemed slightly blurry, and usually that's not a term you associate with good photography, but it was working for me.

I hadn't planned on taking out my camera, but as usual it was in the bag, and so out it came. And there was something wonderful about the clean, cold, rushing air, and the solitude. I remembered, as I seldom do, that I was standing at the edge of a huge continent facing an almost boundless ocean.

Next stop, Hawaii. Till then, just waves, wind, and wilderness.

These images bring back that feeling for me, the calm, the peace, the cold purity of the beach.

A flock of pelicans flew by, and I regretted not having a longer lens.

And the whimsy of a sand dollar sitting there waiting for me. I left it for someone else to find later.

What about you? Is there a place you feel at peace? Somewhere that just overwhelms you in a good way? I'd love to hear about it.

Food Week Reprise - Peach Butter

I know I promised to blog this recipe last week, but I lost my cat, and I decided blogging wasn't at the top of my list of priorities that day.

Fortunately, we found the cat, so I can share this deliciousness with you. Honestly, it's pretty phenomenal stuff. And the recipe is so simple, it's a bit unbelievable. I was inspired by this post on Smitten Kitchen, you can check out the original for more in-depth analysis of the peach butter phenomenon, and probably also better directions as well. If you're interested, here's a peach and lemongrass butter that also sounds intriguing.

Ingredients: peaches, the best you can find (optional: sugar and lemon juice, but I used neither). Pretty simple, right? Just fruit, nothing else.

Mmmm, delicious window light. 

Cut your peaches into eighths, and put them in a big pot.

These are not eighths, these are halves. I trust you to know the difference. 

Add a little water (about a cup, maybe a little less). Cover the peaches and cook over medium low heat for about ten minutes, until the peaches soften up and start to release some of their own juices.

Then uncover your pot, and cook the peaches down for a while. Depending on your stove, and how ripe the peaches were when you started, this could be anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour.

After a few minutes.

After about half an hour.

I probably cooked my peaches down a bit too far this time, but I don't think it made a huge difference in the finished product.

Then either puree the peaches in a blender, use an immersion blender, or put them through a food mill. (I used a food mill. This one, if you're interested.)  Once the peaches are blended, return them to the pot and continue to simmer them on medium low heat, stirring frequently. Your goal is to get rid of as much water as possible from the peaches so you're left with only pure peach essence.

Your peach butter is done once it gets thick and sticky, and a spoonful of it on a cold plate doesn't form a ring of water around it. If you're making a small batch over higher heat, this might happen fairly quickly (30 minutes or so). If you're making a larger batch or cooking over lower heat, it could take a while. A couple of hours, maybe. Be prepared to wait it out, because trust me, it's worth it.

Once it's done, you can can it by boiling it in a hot water bath for ten minutes and then setting the cans on the counter for 24 hours. Or you can just put it into a container and make sure you eat it quickly. Or you could freeze it. It's up to you. Make sure to test the seals if you can it. Also know that since there's no added sugar it's probably only shelf stable for a few months instead of the year that most other jam products can last.

Then put some cute stickers on the jars. This is an essential step.

Then enjoy! It's great stirred into yogurt or spread on top of a biscuit. And it's divine on waffles. I think it would also make a very gourmet pb&j.

Peach season is almost over, but this is perfect for very ripe fruit. Let me know if you try it!

Lost and Found

Yesterday we lost Mouse for about ten hours, and I would be lying if I didn't say it was some of the worst hours of my life. I couldn't even begin to imagine life without my little mischievous ragamuffin. Fortunately she found her way home around 11:30 last night, as I was sitting on the stairs outside our apartment, pondering whether I should sit up all night and wait for her.

Fortunately we have an abundance of pictures of her. Here are some of the shots we considered in making lost cat posters.

This is how she attempts to recreate the heat of Thailand.

Those eyes!

Not only is Mouse cute, but she's also very well read. 

Welcome back home, Mouse. And don't you ever do that again!

-Jessica, resident cat caregiver and failed door monitor

Delicious (Food Week Day 6)

Oh, oops, skipped day five. It's been a busy week. And today's a short post - just a delicious sandwich. Can't get better than fresh mozzarella, some basil, a little hummus, and a toasted pita. Oh, and a little balsamic sprinkled on top.

I really will tell you all about the peaches tomorrow, I swear!

August Flame (Food Week, Day 4)

Today I went from this . . . .

. . . . to this . . .

. . . . to this.

August Flame is the name of these peaches. I think it's appropriate. Aren't they gorgeous? As you know, I have a love affair with peaches, as I have proved a couple times before. Come back tomorrow to hear the full story of the latest installment. (Hmm, that seems like an oxymoron. The latest installment of the full story?)


I'm trying something new. This is food week on the blog. Every day I'll post a photo of food and then either a story or a recipe. Want to join in? Join the flickr group and post your food photos!

Simple Heirloom Tomato Basil Sauce (Food Week, Day 3)

Have you ever seen yellow tomato sauce before?

Well, I spent all evening taking the tomatoes in the top picture and turning them into tomato sauce, and then jarring it up. That part was extremely satisfying, but because it was evening, the light was not superb, and I'm not really satisfied with either of these shots. Yes, I could have used some lighting equipment, but I was a bit lazy. Let's just leave it at that.

What I am satisfied with, however, is the sauce. WOW. I love heirloom tomato sauce. It has a flavor that you just wouldn't believe. Mmmmmm. I'm going to be having dreams all night.

Heirloom tomatoes (I used striped Germans, mostly)
Fresh basil

Olive oil, butter, salt

The recipe is simple. Take some heirloom tomatoes, cut them in half or into quarters, put them in a pot on low to medium heat. Cook them like this for a while at a simmer to reduce the amount of liquid involved. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. When the consistency is something like a thin sauce, put the liquid through a food mill to remove the skins and some of the seeds. (Or you could just leave them in. I've tried it with and without skins, and I don't really mind them. But I got a food mill, so I used it.)

Then continue to reduce the amount of liquid in the sauce by keeping it at a low simmer. The sauce is going to spatter; that's expected. At this point I add some fresh basil to taste. (I personally like a lot of basil, but you may not.) Also, you might add some salt. But you're not going to need a lot, because if there's one thing this sauce isn't lacking, it's flavor.

Continue cooking down the sauce until it keeps its shape on a spoon, or there's very little liquid rising to the top. At this point you can add some olive oil or a little butter, but you really might not need to. It's so delicious. The only drawback is that the cooking time can be rather long, and you don't end up with a lot of sauce. I started with probably 12-15 pounds of tomatoes and I ended up with 4 12 ounce jars of sauce. But you also don't need a lot of sauce for a bowl of pasta - like I said, it has a lot of flavor. You really don't need any parmesan cheese to go with it, and trust me, usually I'm a parmesan fiend.

If you try this, I'd love to hear about it. Or if you have any other great tomato sauce recipes you'd like to share, please do.


I'm trying something new. This is food week on the blog. Every day I'll post a photo of food and then either a story or a recipe. Want to join in? Join the flickr group and post your food photos! (Yay! I am now not the only one in the Flickr group. Please don't be shy and come post some photos of delicious food.)

Espresso Banana Bread - A Photo Essay (Food Week, Day 2)

(For the curious, I used this recipe, and added a shot of espresso, some cinnamon, and a cup of chopped walnuts. It was pretty good, but just a little too soft for me. I'd recommend 3 bananas instead of the 4 I used.)


I'm trying something new. This is food week on the blog. Every day I'll post a photo of food and then either a story or a recipe. Want to join in? Join the flickr group and post your food photos! (Yay! I am now not the only one in the Flickr group. Please don't be shy and come post some photos of delicious food.)

New Challenge - Food Week on the Blog

I thought I had planned it all out perfectly. Isn't that the way these stories always start? I had bought some tomatoes, I was going to go pick them up in North Beach, then walk to meet Heather for coffee downtown at Blue Bottle. The timing was going to work out just right: it was about a 20 minute walk and I had just shy of half an hour. What I didn't factor in was that 24 pounds of tomatoes might slow me down just a hair.

Ummm, yeah. 24 pounds, you read that right. Which, in my delusion, I thought was no biggie. I lift weights sometimes, I'm ok with a heavy box or two. 24 pounds might be a little heavy after a while, but I'd just do it. I could handle it.

(So this is the point in the story where everyone asks why. Why 24 pounds? Why not one, or two pounds like normal people? And I have to admit, the question confuses me a bit, and I have to think about the answer. Why? Because tomatoes are awesome. Duh. You mean you wouldn't jump at the chance to have 24 pounds of them? Really? Because I would. Clearly.)

Anyway, I counted the blocks as I walked them. I knew there were about 9 shortish blocks to get back to Market St, and then 3 1/2 longer blocks on Market. The first five blocks weren't that bad. I found a comfortable position with the tomatoes, and we were fine. It got a little worse when I stupidly decided to put the bottom box on top because it might be easier to carry. Oops! It wasn't, it was harder. So I carried it like that for a few more blocks, and then switched back. By then I was a little warm and my arms were feeling it.  So I took a break for a minute or two, and then I picked up the tomatoes and kept walking.

After that it just got harder and harder. My arms were burning, I started to sweat a bit. (Or is it glow? Ladies glow, right? Well, I was glowing all over.) I started looking all over for ledges to set the boxes down on, just for a moment. Just to catch my breath. But there were no ledges, and it was downtown San Francisco on a Saturday morning. Men pushing strollers blithely walked in front of me, seemingly in no hurry to reach their destination. Possibly homeless or perhaps just hygiene deficient folks walked an unpredictable line. Tourists chattered in groups, looking at each other and nothing else, pausing unpredictably to the joy of those behind them. And I just wanted to put these tomatoes down.

I think the crowning moment was when the two boxes of tomatoes snagged a button on my vest between them. There wasn't really anything I could do at the moment, I just held them carefully, trying not to rip the button off until I could set the boxes down on something. I walked, and my arms threatened mutiny. But I run a tight ship, and so I kept on going.

Finally, about 30 feet from my final destination there was a ledge. So I stopped momentarily, laid down my burden carefully, trying not to dislodge the trapped button. I thought I had succeeded, but I looked down, and there was no button. Just some thread where it had been. And try as I might, I couldn't find the button anywhere. I retraced my steps, sans tomatoes, not caring if anyone cared to pilfer them. But no button was found.

Finally I gave up. I tried to wipe a bit of sweat off my face and smooth my hair a bit. I attempted to rearrange my vest so the missing button didn't call so much attention to itself, and so I made my way to meet Heather, 15 minutes late, all red, with 24 pounds of tomatoes and a button gone. I'm sure she was thrilled to see me. To her credit, we had a great time anyway, and she acted like buying so many tomatoes was totally normal. And I gave her some, to try to make up for it.

So, that's what I did on Saturday morning. What about you?


I'm trying something new. This is food week on the blog. Every day I'll post a photo of food and then either a story or a recipe. Want to join in? Join the flickr group and post your food photos!

5 Ways to Improve Your Food Photography

I don't know about you, but whenever I'm about to bite into something succulent and to die for, I always have the urge to whip out my camera and take a shot of it first. To preserve the memory of its beauty, its succulence, its perfection. And then I can chow down happily, with no regrets for destroying something so beautiful.

Done hastily, food photos can be disappointing. And I'm not a food photographer, so please don't assume I'm the last authority on the subject. But I do love photos of my food, and these are a few things that have worked for me.

1. SIMPLIFY. This goes in every kind of photography. I don't care what's in front of your lens. If it's in the frame, is it necessary? Absolutely necessary? No? Then get rid of it. And don't think Photoshop will help you. What you might be able to do in 30 minutes in Photoshop, you can do now in 30 seconds. So clean up.

2. LOOK AT THE LIGHT. Where is your light source? The best and easiest light to use for food is window light, the bigger the window the better, and you want the window off to one side of your food so you get some highlight and shadow patterns to give the food some shape and texture. You can also play with a bit of backlight, but make sure it's not distracting from the food.

3. LOOK AT THE BACKGROUND. Is it harmonizing with your food or is it distracting or clashing? If it's not helping, try a different background. Placemats, tablecloths, cutting boards, all of these can help improve or change up your background. Remember number one - the most important thing about your background is that it must be simple.

4. KEEP IT LIGHT. Dark food is less appealing than bright, fresh-looking food. If you have manual control over your camera, you might want to overexpose a touch.

5. CHECK YOUR COLOR BALANCE. There's nothing worse than a beautiful photo of beautiful food that is all blue. Or all yellow. Play with your white balance to get the best setting. Unlike in portraiture where having a color cast can be moody or cool, with food it's usually unappetizing.

Ok, so there you go. 5 basic tips for making the most of your food shots. What about you? Any tips you've found helpful? Anything you've eaten that you wish you'd photographed before it was gone?

Mouseover Friday - Mom

Sometimes there are images where I'm just torn between the color and the black and white. Take this one, for example, which I'm enjoying. I love taking portraits with the 35mm because it gives the subject some space in the frame, even when I'm close enough to interact with them normally. I've realized that I don't like taking pictures of people when I'm more than a few feet away from them - I feel like we're not connected. Having a conversation is more strained. And I'm all about the conversation, because it calms me down as much as it calms the lucky people in front of my lens.

Anyway, the 35mm is hitting my sweet spot today. And regardless of lens I'm glad I asked to take this photo of my dear mother when we were at a German (Austrian?) cafe with huge windows and the light was just perfect.

You can never have too many photos of the people who are important to you. 

Mouse over to see this in black and white.
Thanks for the coffee, Mom. Hope you like the picture.