Apr 29, 2011

Good things in little packages

Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement yesterday. I haven't had a chance to respond to all your comments, but I read and appreciate every single one of them. I am especially honored to get a link shoutout by the amazing Jane of Ill Seen, Ill Said.

This past month, I participated in the spring photo swap co-run by the lovely ladies of the sweet light and lucent imagery. I was paired up with Danielle Lemoyne and it was funny because I thought I recognized her name. Sure enough, we had once interacted over Etsy back in the summer of 2009. Small photo world.

I received Danielle's beautiful package (from France!) and had to share. It was so delicately put together with a gorgeous pink ribbon, paper cutouts of cherry blossoms and a seriously heartstring-tugging sweet note. Along with her lovely cherry blossom print, Danielle was kind enough to include cherry blossom-scented L'Occitane hand cream (love this brand) and a few packets of Japanese green tea "delicately evoking cherry blossom." (Yeah... no theme here, nope.) What a lucky partner I am, eh? :)

Enjoy your weekends!

Apr 28, 2011

A new space to call my own

The reason for this unusually early post today is that I'm very happy to share with you the official launch of my website and portfolio. Finally! I couldn't even sleep last night, I was so anxious about it and proceeded to have nightmares about a host of website bugs.

Thank you all for your always encouraging and supportive words. Whether you've shouted out to me on twitter, or sent me a flickrmail, or chatted me on gtalk when I was feeling frustrated about my progress, or commented on this blog, or sent me an email (or even if you're just a lurker here!) - your words definitely helped push me through the some 30+ hours spent working on this over the past week. And a huge special thank you to Jimmy, who stayed up even later than I did last weekend to help me with the coding and who worked tirelessly through all the kinks to make sure everything looked perfect. When I gave up, he persisted. I really can't thank him enough.

Click above to get to the main site, or you can just direct yourself to my portfolio.

I faced a lot of challenges when I was putting together my portfolio. One was the typical photographer catch-22 dilemma in that the photos I most want to display (that is, professionally styled food and interior shoots and more official restaurant shoots) aren't going to happen until I have the right portfolio to attract those kinds of jobs. But I can't get the right portfolio without having had those kinds of jobs to begin with! And thus, my portfolio consists of rather candid, "unofficial" shots... for now, at least (I hope!).

Two was that I decided to display only portrait format shots and only shots that complemented another to tell a more complete story. Sometimes I felt I had a great standalone shot but I had to scrap it because it just didn't fit with something else. Other times I would put two shots side by side that I felt could work, but going back to it a few hours later, it just felt bizarre and not right. So I scrapped those too. I had to remind myself constantly not to get too attached to an idea or image.

Three was that I am very disorganized when it comes to photo storage. Multiple drives with multiple folders for my pictures. Things calmed down after I got Lightroom, but everything before that is a mess. Part of what took so long was painstakingly finding old folders and hunting down specific images from a few years ago that I knew I would want to visit. On a similar note, I really wished I had shot in RAW back in the day. (That is advice to you all out there still shooting in JPEG!)

I know the hard work, setbacks and challenges don't end here. I know how competitive this space is and how many stunning portfolios there are out there. One of my career goals is to shoot a printed cookbook and I will remain thoughtfully optimistic - here's to even harder work and hoping for more exciting things in the future. Hope you'll stick around!

Apr 27, 2011

In all their out-of-focus glory

It was a bit of wishful thinking on my part that maybe after a few months of neglect, the Canon EOS 3 would work properly again. Lemme sum up the issue - the camera took a tumble onto tile floor back in January, the 50mm f1.8 died, and the camera seemed superficially ok until I realized the focus was just a tad off in every picture. It seemed to be focusing on stuff behind what I intended it to focus on. I was feeling hopeful anyway, and I had a few rolls of 35mm film left and wanted to give it one more try.

Last Friday (a glorious day off), I brought the camera to Brooklyn and shot though two rolls of Fuji 400H (I do love this film but sadly wasted it on these OOF shots). Let's admire what these pictures could have been, shall we? Although at this small size, it's hard to really tell...

First up, we have Cafe Pedlar, a kind of bare-bones cafe with only so-so light unless you grab the tables by the windows. I was mildly disappointed because I think I had built it up in my head to be a really charming cafe with fantastic light, but there actually wasn't much that stood out there.

Jimmy orders a cortado 95% of the time, and I almost always go with a drip or cappuccino. The coffee was fine. The giant biscuit with jelly was even better. We still wanted a proper lunch though so Yelp led us to a place a few blocks away called Ted & Honey.

This place was adorable! Stray newspapers on the communal tables, wooden furniture galore, and exposed brick walls - yes, yes and yes. It was a bit crowded so I didn't go all out shooting, but it was really cute and cozy.

I noticed Cobble Hill (the Brooklyn neighborhood we were in) was chock-full of beautiful brownstones with enviably large windows. When I was a freshman in college, I dreamed very specifically of owning one of these... I obviously had no intention of being a photographer back then because I had ambitions to make millions. Oh well, sorry, Mom and Dad. :P

Apr 26, 2011

Sunday's snapshots

It feels like ages since I used the 5Dmkii out during the daytime and not for restaurant shooting (since I've been too busy waxing poetic about film) but it felt nice to shoot digital again this past Sunday. I noticed I now shoot a lot less even when I'm on digital because film has made me more "careful" about each shot. I'm not sure if that's necessarily a good thing because sometimes the best shots are from unintentional snapping around. Anyway, that's not the point of this post. I just wanted to share a somewhat typical weekend day (at least when the weather is nice).

This particular day began at Abraço (duh) and then uptown (I was trying to get to Bloomingdales but they were closed!) where I saw this lone yellow tulip somewhere on Park Ave and then this lovely Japanese maple during a detour through Central Park. A walk through the park inevitably ends at Bouchon... I could probably eat this lunch every day - a simple turkey sandwich on fantastic bread, cranberry lime soda, and the perfect pistachio and pb&j macarons. We then shuttled down to the Herald Square area where there were tulips galore. The final task of the day involved picking up beans from Stumptown. Apparently when you buy a bag o' beans, you get a free French-pressed cup of coffee! I'm a sucker for things like that. :D

As a side note, the peonies in this post have bloomed to epic proportions. I have never seen such big blooms in my life. Holy moly.

Apr 25, 2011

Last week's ramp dinner

It was brought to my attention that I haven't posted a dinner/food at all in a long while. I think part of the problem is that my standards for restaurant food photography and food photography in general have come a long way since I began this blog (largely attributed to the amazing portfolios of those in the same tier as Ditte Isager) and I just can't shoot the way I'd like in unpredictable restaurant situations. Sometimes I would kill to take an above the table shot of a dish because it would lend so well to that, but I can't very well stand on my chair in a nice restaurant. And I don't want to post mediocre stuff just for blog content.

On that note, here is the multi-course ramp dinner from last Wednesday night. I must say, Hotel Griffou is one of the hardest restaurants to shoot food in. It may as well be pitch black in there. These were all taken in RAW at ISO 4000+ and I processed the HELL out of them. Extreme white balance adjustment and exposure compensation in ACR and then more curve editing in Photoshop to get the whites whiter (thank you, Karleen, for that tip! It is a LIFESAVER). And finally some more color/contrasty punchiness added. I can't say I'm happy with these pictures but I can definitely say I did the best I could short of setting up my own lights next to the dinner table!

I enjoyed this dinner immensely, not only for Chef Santos's always amazingly prepared dishes, but for the ridiculous company I was fortunate enough to be part of. Sitting next to all those superstars was very humbling and gave me a lot to aspire to, as cheesy as that sounds. I was also happy to finally be sitting in a different room than usual. This room had so much character. I would love to just go back and shoot all the individual historical props there.

Quick roundup - a few hors d'oeuvres, vichysoisse with ramp oil and piri piri, hearts of palm with wasabi leaves and ramp vinaigrette, fried frog legs with ramp pistou, steelhead on sushi rice with pickled ramps, cecatelli with arugula and duck egg yolk with a side of ramp ricotta, a KFP version for Jessica :P, wagyu beef with ramp puree, and finally, asparagus ice cream with candied ramps. Whew.

Apr 24, 2011

Today's instant gratifications

I was super excited to find peonies this weekend, as they are my favorites after ranunculus season dies down. The lovely Sunny's Florist had a stock of them from France and Sunny ensured us these were the "most beautiful blooms" she had seen. Well, these beauties were literally golf-sized buds when we took them home on Saturday afternoon and I was a tad worried if they'd even bloom at all under my not-so-green thumb (especially at $9 a stem!). Barely an hour later, I noticed one of them opening up and I could have sworn it was speedily blooming as I watched it. It was almost frightening.

And this is what all three of them looked like by this morning -

Stunning, aren't they? Even with this long-ago expired polaroid film.

These petals are just perfection. I'm sure I'll get around to posting some digital shots so you can see just how pretty the shade of dark pink they are.

Now, for some tales of a real photobooth. Jimmy and I were relaxing at the Ace Hotel lobby after picking up Stumptown beans when I noticed a good ol' photobooth in there. I couldn't not check it out. The booth barely fit the two of us and we had no idea what we were supposed to do. Suddenly the flash started going off and we were complete deer caught in headlights. The three other shots that ensued were no better. After the flashes died down, we waited outside the booth for what seemed like an eternity before it ejected a little strip of four pictures. Here's the first one below... (also, J's face revealed hah.)

Could we look any more confused?

We'll be better prepared next time we hit the photobooth. :)

Apr 22, 2011

Early weekend

Oops, missed blogging yesterday after a heavenly sushi dinner at Sushi Yasuda and decadent ice cream from Sundaes & Cones. I couldn't have thought of a better way to kick off the long weekend. Today was spent sleeping in a bit, then onto Brooklyn with only film cameras for coffee and lunch. Then I dropped off a special print order with a customer (exciting stuff!) and found myself at the Union Square Greenmarket yet again. I think I have now shot that place to death.

Also, it is downright COLD again. Don't know why warm sunny days are still such a luxury in late April!

Hope your long weekends (if you were lucky to get today off) are great!

Apr 20, 2011

They're here!

Last night I finally received my long awaited letterpress business cards from Dolce Press. I knew they were going to be thick, but I didn't realize just how thick 220lb paper was! Crikeys. Hopefully that means no one will want to throw these away or crumple them into their pockets. It would take some real effort to crumple these guys.

I should also never be a prop stylist. This was very hard to make look presentable in a tiny and dark apartment. I improvised as best as I could with a wee bit of evening light left, and maybe somewhat succeeded because I showed some pictures to Jimmy and he was like, "Whoa where did you take these?" (meaning he didn't recognize his apartment!).

Well, now this means I really need to get cracking on my website, because if you've been to it, you'll notice that placeholder has been there for an inexcusably long time now. Ah!

On the menu tonight is Hotel Griffou's multi-course ramp dinner and tomorrow, Sushi Yasuda. Should be a good time!

Apr 19, 2011

Scenes from the MoMA

This post took much too long to put together because I have been intensely involved in a few Words With Friends games. Major throwback to Yahoo Literati games back in the day. And thus, major productivity fail.

Here are some snapshots from a recent visit to the MoMA. Jimmy and I were really there to check out the Standard Deviations: Types and Families in Contemporary Design exhibit, but we also came across a neat exhibit on kitchen design. Also pictured is the initial sketch of the ubiquitous I <3 NY logo! These were all shot on Portra 400. I'm dying to get my hands on more slide film but alas, Passover means the camera stores won't be open for another week or so.

I loved this hallway but probably could have done much better with a wide lens. The light there was perfect.

And a quick behind the scenes - can you guess which picture this resulted in? :)

P.S. Karleen, I think you were impressed that I wore those red heels all day but you can see here I cheated a little bit. ;) Sometimes you just gotta choose function over fashion.

Apr 18, 2011

Greenmarket, spring edition

There's never a lack of great scenes at the Greenmarket and my most recent trip there with the Contax and some new Portra resulted in many greens and purples/pinks. I really think the bokeh is nicer on this lens (the Zeiss 80mm f/2) than on even a 50mm f1.2. There is almost a watercolor-y look to it.

This daffodil in the first row is out of focus because these two guys came over and half-mockingly, half-genuinely asked me something like if I were some professional flower photographer (maybe more like 90% mockingly). I was in the middle of fielding their questions and getting distracted, and you can see the results from that. Manual focusing has never been my strong suit and although there is autofocus on this camera, I'm afraid it eats up the battery even more than normal shooting already does.

Sidewalk bokeh! :)

Apr 17, 2011

A real live behind the scenes

As you may have gathered, Jimmy's the one behind the behind the scenes posts I do, and this past weekend, he sneakily took a few videos of me shooting. I had no idea (usually I'm too engrossed in focusing/getting the exposure right)! So here you are getting a totally unstaged (albeit unexciting) and candid peek behind the scenes. I hastily compiled a few clips below in iMovie - do they not have better fonts?? Please excuse the cheesy font choice. If you click to the video page, you can view it in glorious HD.

It's only fair to share a few of the results from this shoot. These two below were the exact ones you hear in the video from the two shutter clicks. I used the lovely Portra 400NC. I was a bit meh about those two but my absolute favorite from that set is available on Etsy at a special price. :) Oh, and one more that would be lovely for your mum. And now I know if I ever need to blow through a roll of film in under five minutes, I just need a pretty bouquet... dammit, gets me every time!

Here is a sampling from the iPhone shots:

Mom, I was very much still paying attention, ok? ;)

I have a lot more film I want to share from this developing round! Stay tuned.

Apr 15, 2011


The beginning of weekends are always the best, brimming with so many possibilities. Of course Sunday night will roll around and we'll wonder how the hell 48 hours slipped past us.

Anyway, hope your weekends are sweet like this tray of petits fours from Bouley. (Note, not actually the same lunch date as this one. The macaron colors prove it!)

Apr 14, 2011

A few oldies

There has been a distinct (and sad) lack of coffee on my blog recently, so I yanked some embarrassingly old film shots of RBC from my archives that I've never shared. They have this super cool machine that makes a perfect concentric circle motion for all your pour-over needs (here, it is pictured with the V60 dripper). It results in a very clean tasting cup. No french press sludge there, for sure!

Also pictured is RBC's Vietnamese style espresso getting a good stir.

I've been feeling bleh this week because I didn't get any film developed. It's totally throwing me off!

Apr 13, 2011


An almost empty diner at the corner of 9th and Broadway last Monday night. Walking by, I found myself drawn to the shiny chairs (not wooden this time!) and the high bar chairs. Maybe I should have been a furniture maker...

Apr 12, 2011

Last of the cherry blossoms

Too food coma-ed and tipsy to come up with a legit title for this, but here are the final stragglers from the last roll I shot in DC. These were on good old Kodak Portra 400 but not quite as interesting, color wise, when compared to the other two rolls. I really hate how the sky gets completely washed out in these. There are obvious cloud details and blue in the sky for the other films but just nothing here. Blargh.

P.S. A few additions to my Etsy shop! :)

Apr 11, 2011

The hinny kick

One of my favorite go-to drinks hails from The Bar at the Modern. I think Joyce introduced me to it back in the summer of 2008 (edited: oops, 2009 rather, as I was 20 in the summer of 2008... not that it should matter :P) when I was extremely naive about cocktails and I remember I had major doubts about how good the drink could be (spiced pear vodka, lime, jalapeno, and ginger beer) because back then, my idea of a cocktail was like a cosmo or something super sweet and fruity. I took many a sip of hers and later found myself ordering a Hinny Kick every time I went back. Jimmy and I stopped by after a MoMA visit on Sunday for a quick drink. It was nice and quiet and we had no trouble getting seats at the bar.

Even the bar room is beautiful and lit wonderfully. I have never dined at the "real" Modern yet but hopefully soon! I of course got the Hinny Kick even though they were out of the spiced vodka. This was a poor decision on my part, as the drink just wasn't the same. It was painfully obvious something was missing. It's pictured on the right in the vertical shot, next to Jimmy's "Shot in the Dark."

Alas, my Hinny Kick craving will have to sit tight for now and I'll have to return for a properly made one.

Apr 10, 2011

An unlikely combination

My leather jacket plus leopard print scarf and his chalk-striped double-breasted suit, that is. And yes, we actually wore these outfits today... to Abraço, dim sum in Chinatown, the MoMA, the Bar at the Modern, and later to Belcourt. I'm sure we got a few stares!

First up, two silly shots of me giddily gulping down my iced cappuccino. Note how long my hair has gotten since the dramatic chop I got in the last his and her post. It's become rather unruly again. A bit of a boring outfit from me again (as I have gone an all-time record long for me not buying new clothes and I no longer am excited about dressing myself), but I definitely count the Contax as my statement-piece accessory.

And below, his (somewhat matchy-matchy) getup. I didn't get a good shot of the whole suit - it's hard to shoot faceless portraits - but it's quite unique and apparently fits somewhat "like a sweater." I also failed to capture the shirt details but it's a light pink stripe and made from vintage fabrics (oh and it's got a friggin' TAB COLLAR). Needless to say, any stares we might have gotten today were almost certainly directed at Jimmy. Wah.

And for the next round in this series, perhaps a casual look from Jimmy... we'll see!

Apr 8, 2011


My travel photos this year seem to involve a lot of bare trees and benches. Guess I can't get enough of them, or they are just everywhere!

A shot from the last roll of film (Portra 400) in DC. Again, quite the difference in colors and tone from the other two slide rolls.

Thanks to everyone who checked out my little print shop and for your feedback! I hope to get some more goods up there in the coming weeks. Tonight, I'm just very VERY grateful it is a Friday.

Apr 7, 2011

After some four-months on the to-do list...

I finally buckled down and opened up shop on Etsy. I mean for this to be a soft launch, kind of to gauge interest and get any feedback from you guys. So please have a look around if you can and maybe something will tickle your fancy. Plus, there's free shipping and who doesn't love that? :)

Oh and I'm using the finest fine art paper there is around. If you REALLY know me, you know I don't mess around with paper.

Apr 6, 2011

Part ii, the provia version

Whoa, glancing at the Provia cherry blossom pictures, I see lots of green, grey, brown, and blue. Comparing this to yesterday's post, it's hard to tell they were even taken with the same camera at the same place. The Astia had rendered the sky's details beautifully, which is less so visible here, and (if I get around to posting the Portra version) I got virtually no detail or color in the sky with the Portra. Hmmm...

Also, there is some crazy vignetting in this first shot!

I'll try to give us a break from this tomorrow. It's making me a bit dizzy, all these repetitive branches and blossoms!

(ETA: A gratuitous epic behind the scenes shot by my mom. It amuses me greatly. :P)

Apr 5, 2011

It was a short teaser

Ah, part one of cherry blossom bliss. I apologize for the picture binge below - it's nearly 7000 pixels in height (yeech). These were all from one roll of the Fuji Astia 100f, another slide film that I tried for the first time. As I was scanning, I loved to see the way this film handled colors. I used three different films on Sunday, so I'll likely do two more parts to showcase those. The Astia is significantly different from the other two and I'm liking the rich blues that came out here.

The blossoms were less pink than I expected, which was a minor disappointment. Seas of white trees dotted by a scarce pink one here and there was the general gist. Still, the park was packed with mobs of people all toting around SLRs. I've never seen so many Canon L lenses in one place at once! The highlight was when someone in passing said (re: the Contax), "Now there's a real camera!" Anyway, I'm glad I went, even though it was a harried and tiring day trip. Now, onto the blossoms:

Apr 4, 2011

A bit of a teaser

A sneak peek of what's to come... though it's a bit of a teaser even for myself, as I just dropped off the film today! These developing costs are gonna kill me so they had better be worth it. I should learn to shoot less but shoot better.

Yes I am wearing polka dotted socks with my polka dot flats. The flats are really flimsy and uncomfortable and I needed more cushioning. Don't judge. :D

Apr 3, 2011

A long day

It's been a long, tiring day, beginning with a wakeup around 6:30 am to get to DC (hopefully lots of pics to come from that!). I'm definitely about to pass out any second now, but wanted to share this strange effect on the first shot of my most recent roll of the Portra 400NC. It looks like a weird light streak but the Contax has never had issues with light leaks, so what gives?

Well, it could have been a good shot.

Apr 2, 2011

Wednesday's dinner

It had been a while since Jimmy and I paid Corton a visit. I hesitate to link my first post on it, because the pictures didn't do the food justice. It was actually our first real date spot, and I didn't want to bring a giant SLR to a nice dinner and scare away this guy who didn't know me very well yet... heh heh. I'm pretty sure he was still holding back his laughter/snarky comments when I shot every dish that first night. Afterwards, there were a number of times when we thought of eating there again on a random night but if I didn't have my real camera, we decided not to (I know, I'm crazy) and wait until I could shoot it properly. We finally were able to do that this past Wednesday.

The main highlight for me was this salted caramel dessert. I was feeling pretty bleh about restaurant desserts for a while, until this one. It was all sorts of exciting, and I liked it so much I got greedy and didn't want to share. The mojito and sidecar flavored macarons were a hit with me too.

In a nutshell, these pictures go something like this: canapes, bread + seaweed butter (!), egg amuse for Jimmy, little thing of foie amuse for me, mushroom appetizer for me (three plates for it), foie gras + beet app for Jimmy, main poularde dish for me, main black bass dish for Jimmy (the thing on the rock is crispy bass skin), palate cleanser, and all the sweets. There were so many elements to each dish it's hard to really list out all the details (and would be a bore too, so let's just enjoy the food porn).

Not too shabby at all for a Wednesday night.