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

Martin and Bethany - San Francisco Engagement Photographer

It was Martin and Bethany who reminded me of a very important truth - you can't photograph everyone the same way.

Now generally before any shoot, I think about backgrounds and poses, and I try to visualize the shoot. It calms me down and it makes me feel more prepared. Then when I start the session, I often use the poses and the locations that I've already visualized. And of course I do some things on the spur of the moment too, based on light, and backgrounds, and the personality of the people in front of my lens. Spontaneity is key, that's a given.

So I started off posing Martin and Bethany, and it just wasn't feeling right. That's when I realized that I was doing the wrong thing for them; I needed to give them more freedom to be who they really are: quirky, awesome, and full of fun ideas.

Once I remembered that, it all was awesome. I think you'll agree.

Bethany almost ate Martin's finger.

We found this sign that said Park Ranger - isn't it supercool?

And these steps that completely matched Bethany's outfit!

And of course, we finished the day with some color-coordinated bikes. Cause we're snazzy like that.

Thanks so much you two! It was amazing.

Red and Blue - And Gray

I just spent an entire weekend watching Zach and Jody Gray on CreativeLIVE and getting my mind blown. Over and over. I feel like all of my gray matter is dripping out my ears and puddling on the floor. But in a good way. Sometimes, I'll admit, I don't really feel like I'm cut out to run a business - focusing on money is really hard for me to do. But a business is not a business without money, and if I don't get paid, I can't afford to do this thing.

It all just keeps affirming that photography is what I was meant to do. Well, no, not it. Me. I keep affirming. I really can't affirm anything else. And maybe I'm not as good at selling as I could be (yes) but photography is in my blood. And I'll make it work. I'll make it awesome. I won't stop trying.

I hope you'll stick around and maybe we can keep making beautiful pictures together.


Happy Caturday!

Sunset Through the Thicket

Souvenir Foto School Starting Soon!

{Photo and Design courtesy of Miss B}
So, I don't know if you all remember, but I am an alum of Souvenir Foto thrice over. Once when our project was to photograph the same thing for six weeks (I chose spring blossoms, because I'm a girl), once when we had to photograph food for a while (and I created one of my favorite photos during that session) and then most recently when we photographed the alphabet in 30 days. Man, I won't lie, it was a bit grueling. But I did it, I was proud of that.

And it's all happening again. The alphabet, that is. Starting on February 1st, right around the corner. This time there's a fee to be involved, but it's modest, only $30. And I'm sure it will all be a lot of fun. I enjoy it because it always gets my creative juices flowing. Last time I broke out the Lensbaby and the macro attachments. I experimented with LED lighting as well. Who knows what I'll learn this time?

So basically the DL is this: 26 letters of the alphabet in 29 days of February. That means (if I'm getting my math right) that you have three free days, but every other day you must be taking a photo and uploading it to the Flickr group. Photos must be taken on the same day they are posted, no exceptions!

More info, and a place to pay may be found here. Hope to see you there! And even if I don't, I'm sure you'll be seeing my photos here in February as I work my way through the alphabet.

*Disclaimer: my fee to participate has been waived in exchange for mentioning Souvenir Foto on my blog. But I've mentioned it before when no such arrangement was in place, and I'd likely be doing it anyway because you'll be seeing all of my photos from it soon! Plus I do think it's a fun thing that you should know about.*

Squeaky and Wigi

Some more cuties from the SF ACC. Adopt them while they're hot!

This is Squeaky. Super cute, and what a lover. Came up to me and tried to cuddle immediately.

And this is Wigi. A little more on the timid side, but super sweet. And very focused on getting back to her particular area during the shoot!

Light Painting

f/2.5, ISO 640, 8 seconds. 85mm lens. 

Here it is, Tuesday again. Amazing how time does fly. And I said that I would do something vaguely photography related on Tuesdays, didn't I? Oh, Jessica. You always speak too soon . . .

Well, ok, I actually had this topic lined up. But Tuesday still came faster than expected.

So, light painting? What is it exactly? Truth is, I'm not exactly an expert, This was the first photo I've tried it out on, but I dare say it won't be the last. Basically, you find a subject (that's pretty much always the first step in photography - what do you want to take a picture of? without a subject, you won't get very far) and set up your tripod. Yes, tripods again. And it has to be night time, because otherwise you won't get your lights to show up. Then you set a base exposure, focus manually (at least I have to, because the 5d won't focus after 6:00 - it keeps union hours), and make sure in general that you're good to go. Set up a self-timer, or use a remote trigger, or what not.

Then we come to the gear you need. To successfully do some light painting, you need a camera, a tripod, and a light source. I recommend a flashlight, the more powerful the better. The newer LED flashlights are also pretty great. You can also pop your flash at low settings multiple times within the frame, but that's a bit harder to control and takes more practice and tweaking.

Invariably, it all needs some tweaking. You'll take quite a few exposures. Ok, so once you're all set up, try a test run. Decide what you want to illuminate, set your camera up, take the shot and run your flashlight or other light source over the part of the photo you want to make brighter than the rest. You can get some really cool results, especially if you have a few different colored lights. Keep in mind, though, that the more complicated what you're trying to do is, the longer of an exposure you need, and the larger the number of shots you'll probably have to make before it turns out well. Make sure you check your histogram after the first shot; you may have to change your exposure slightly.

Ok, hope that made sense! Please feel free to ask questions in the comments if something still isn't clear.

Wall of Inspiration

I know there are some photographers who don't look at other people's work (only one comes to mind, but I think I've heard a few say this), but that's definitely not me.

I look at photos all the time. On the web, in books (if I'm lucky), in person (if I'm really lucky), any way I can. I believe that having a varied visual diet is good for me as a photographer. Also as a person, but that's a bit less quantifiable.

One of the ways I make sure I'm seeing photos that are fresh and current and appeal to the public as a whole is by subscribing to magazines. I subscribe to quite a few of them. And when I see an image I love, or where there's something I think I can use - a pose, a lighting angle, a feeling, a concept, whatever, I tear out the page. My favorites I stick up on the wall in my office as inspiration, in the hope that after seeing them over and over I can absorb a bit of their awesomeness.

Now, you might think this looks a bit messy, and maybe it does, but it works for me. I use washi tape, so I can take them down and put them back up as often as I want without worrying about putting holes in the wall or taking the paint off.

So what about you? How do you stay inspired? Do you believe in looking at other people's work?

January Self Portrait

I always knew there were a few reasons I dragged my feet when it came to making self portraits. One, I hate tripods (most of the time). Bulky, awkward, slow . . . no thanks. Getting the focus right is also really really difficult - I don't know how people do it. I really don't. I think it probably took me about 20 minutes of trial and error to get shots that even started to be in focus.

In addition, since it's just you and the tripod, it's very hard to create a photo that feels like it has a connection. Most of the time I just looked blank, or bored. Not to mention the fact that like most people I am squeamish about looking at pictures of myself - do I really look like that???? was often my reaction.

I considered scrapping the resolution, but I decided that was the easy way out, and nobody likes a quitter. So I picked the one I liked the best, and then I edited it a bit (which is kind of odd when it's your own face, but it's also oddly satisfying. I like to imagine that the changes I make are all echoed in real life).

Okay, January self portrait done! Only 11 more months to go.

Using Shadows in Your Composition

When you're out and about, the unobvious photo may not pop out at you. It might not scream, "Take me! Take me!" The sunset screams. The travel spot screams. The beautiful flower screams (but only to women and amateurs - just kidding!).

That interesting patch of light and shadow on the side of the building stays silent in comparison.

That's why you have to look for it. And sometimes that makes it sweeter to know you had to search a bit to find it. Use your eye to frame it just right. And press the shutter button just at the right moment.

I don't know exactly why I love this shot, just that I do. The frame created by the shadow on the left and the bottom and the brick on the right makes me smile. And that's why I do this, to smile.

Barrie, Ed, Maggie, Megan, Killer and Lupe - A Christmas Card Shoot, Blogged a Bit Late

Here's another shoot from last year that I never shared with you folks. (Well, ok, I did blog a couple images here and there, but I wanted to share a few more with you all, particularly because it was just so fun.)

Now Barrie and Ed have an annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party at their house, and I usually go because it's the most fun you can have without doing something illegal. So it will come as no surprise to you that their house is well stocked with Christmas decor and attire.

I'd like to also point out that Lupe (the dog) and Killer (the cat) previous to this photo were absolutely 100% against being in the same room, but they put aside their differences for the 1/150 of a second that it took to take this photo. No, photography is not always the best mirror for reality.

Notice Killer is no longer in the photo.

Then of course we needed some shots of Ed and Barrie and Lupe.

And some of Maggie and Megan. One of the bells from Megan's sweater came off.

Then a couple of the siblings.

My complicated lighting setup: windows on the left, umbrella and flash on the right.

Ok, finally done with Christmas. On to 2012!

Night Photography

If you're like me, your attempts at night photography consist of shooting an hour or two after dusk, sticking to fast lenses, and hand-holding until it just isn't possible to take a sharp photo any more.

Now, I'll admit that this technique does have its benefits. For one thing, I've gotten really good at keeping the camera steady. For another, I have developed my after-dark eye. It has often been one of my favorite times of the day to take pictures.

But I never brought out the big guns, the one item you really need to take a great night photograph: a tripod. That's right, folks. Surprisingly, it does make it a heck of a lot easier to take a good night photograph. No real surprise there. The surprise for me was how much better the photos are - it's amazing! No real noise! No blur, not even a bit! And such great detail. So let me break it all down for you - it's pretty simple, but it bears saying.

1. First, you've got to choose a location. And you've got to have some light - a full moon, streetlights, building lights, or your own lights/flashlights, but you must have some light.

2. Wear warm clothing. This is not strictly speaking a photography tip, but trust me, you'll be glad you did. For example, I will definitely bring some fingerless gloves next time, because my hands were so cold I couldn't really feel the buttons on the camera.

3. Find your subject, choose your lens, set up your tripod and frame the shot the way you want it. Make sure your tripod is shake-proof. Use your photo bag as a little extra weight on the hook at the bottom, if you've got one.

4. Think about whether you'll have anything moving in your frame, like grasses, or water, or such. It'll most likely be blurred quite a bit. Are you ok with that? If not, you might want to come back and shoot it another time.

5. Set your settings. This shot was at f/4, ISO 160 (the cleanest ISO on my camera, yours may be different), and 30 seconds. Shoot raw so you'll be able to massage the files a bit afterwards. In particular, your white balance will probably need a little work.

6. Maximize your sharpness. Use mirror lockup, and either use your self timer to take the shot, or some sort of remote or cable release. Remember that the vibration from your finger pushing the shutter button can make a big difference in the overall sharpness of the image.

7. Take a few! Look at your histogram. Make sure you're not blowing out your highlights. Check the overall exposure - too dark? Too bright?

8. Celebrate! Then compose the next shot and do it all again.

EDIT: I forgot one key step! Now if you're shooting Nikon, you auto focus whizzes, this may not apply to you. But if you're Canon like me, you must must MUST focus manually. This is the only thing I use my live view for. Use live view, zoom in, and get your manual focus just perfect. It's worth it to bring a flashlight to shine on your subject at this time to make it easier to see if the focus is good.

*Finally! A post on photography. I'm going to try to continue posting informational posts like this on Tuesdays. Any topics you'd like to see? Hit me up in the comments below.*

Why I Love Moo

I've blogged about how I love the paper products from Moo before - but this time it's really love. Or addiction. I'll let you be the judge. Please disregard the fact that I have bought almost everything they make. It's not a problem - I can stop any time I want!

First there were the mini business cards. And yep, they were pretty darn cute.

Then I graduated to their rounded corner business cards. One thing I love about Moo is their Printfinity technology - I can have a different image on each card if I want to. This makes for great conversations with people as they try to choose their favorite image.

And that goes for their stickers, also.

And I got some logo stickers, too. (That faded effect was on purpose - I wanted four different levels of strength in my logo, just for fun and to see what it would look like.)

Plus some address labels - why not?

And some of their gorgeous postcards - easily my favorite product of theirs. I love that the front and back are completely customizable. 

Those postcards sure do look good in a gold envelope with one of my stickers on them!

Or, maybe a silver envelope too - why not?

So, in short, if you have some printing in your future, I highly recommend Moo.

*Oh, and until February 10 you can get 10% off all printed products, just use the code MOOPRINTJAN.*

Christmas/Hanukkah Session

So I never shared these with you in 2011 (too much going on at the time), but my mother and her boyfriend Bruce asked me for some pictures for their annual holiday card.

Of course, I was all too happy to oblige. Evan came along as my assistant, and I honestly don't know if I'd ever use him again. That boy has a lot of sass! And he always wanted to hold the reflector in the wrong place. (Just kidding. I'd use him again. He comes at a good price. :) )

We started things off inside the house, and then we moved them outdoors.

Don't they look so sweet together?

Then we brought out the holiday decorations, and all bets were off! I'm pretty sure that's a Christmas tree skirt on Bruce's head and then later around my mom's neck. But what can I say? It looked good.

Then we brought a menorah into the mix just so no one would feel left out.

After that, we got a shot of Bruce looking a little more serious, potentially as an author shot for the next version of his book when it gets published.

Thanks guys! It was a fun shoot. I'll put you on my calendar for next year!

January Desktop Photo

New Year's Resolutions, take that! I've at least begun scratching one off the list - my monthly desktop photo. It's all yours to paste onto any computer desktop you like. Please restrict your use to personal stuff, though - I'd appreciate it. (I.e., don't sell the image as your own, fairly straightforward, but sometimes it needs to be said.)

To get the larger image, click on the photo, then right click to save the image, then follow whatever steps you normally would to make the image your desktop background.

Hope you enjoy! I personally never get tired of looking at the Bay Bridge.

(If you have any questions about how to accomplish this, put them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer helpfully. Or I'll enlist Evan to help, since he's a technology guru.)

Looking Back - 2011 Top Ten

Finally, the top ten of 2011 are here!

Drumroll, please . . . .

Man! It was so hard narrowing it down to ten. I started at 25, and then it was like killing my children to get the number any lower. But I had promised myself 10, and so I did it!

Happy Saturday, everyone.

*Don't forget, you can get a print of any of these at a very reasonable price by clicking Buy Print under the image you want. You can choose your size, and I'll optimize the file for print with Fotomoto, no watermark included.*