Back to my roots

“It’s not working,” I thought to myself right about the end of last year after a busy year of photography. I had shot more weddings and events than all the previous years combined. I had gone from a hand full of photographs to thousands of pictures that are consuming every available Gigabyte I could get my hands on. You could imagine myself as an old man with a very cluttered office space filled with all kind of obsolete hard drives. I had come far from where I had began, but I was no where I needed to be; I was veering off course. Don’t get me wrong, photography is a big part of my life, but I had become overwhelmed and unhappy with my progress.

What had started as an hobby had grown very quickly in to a  demanding profession, and I was unprepared. Between my day time job working at United Airlines and editing hundreds of pictures late in to the night, I had little time for anything else.  Gone were the days when I could update my blog, watch Game of Thrones endlessly, play video games, listen to music and sleep in all day.  I felt as though I was back in my college days where ample sleep and having some resemblance of a life had little relevance while working tirelessly towards deadlines meant the difference between a passing grade or failure. I had become sensitive to the photography business, and I had stopped paying attention everything else. Once a client called (which happened quite often last year), I was always eager and excited to answer it and agree to all terms regardless of the budget of my clients. What I didn’t know was that I was digging myself a well without a ladder, and my enthusiasm and appreciation for photography began to wane. I was not only circumventing myself by taking on so much work, but I was a disservice to my clients by over extending myself. At times, I had gone two days without sleeping while I worked from midnight to sunrise. I was so tired at times, it felt as though there was sand in my eyes.

What the hell was I doing? This was supposed to be fun. I was left with two options. I either had to rekindle my enthusiasm for photography or give up professional photography entirely. And if I wasn’t going to give up, I had to revisit the reasons I enjoyed photography in the first place. Fortunately, the reasons were partly due to curiosity. The very first camera I owned was an old manual Pentax SLR film camera which I had bought in San Francisco nearly a decade and a half ago. It was a summer afternoon in San Francisco, and I was out to buy a used camera. I had taken a stroll into the city and found my way into one of the camera shops lining up the main entrance of Chinatown. No sooner did I enter the store,  two very keen Arab men greeted me. They tried their best to persuade me to purchase their most expensive digital cameras, but I had my eyes fixated on the cheap old Pentax camera. It was as simple and as bareboned as any manual film camera could get.  There was no auto focus and no light metering. You even had to manually wind back the film using a tiny lever above the camera. Regardless, it felt right at home in my hands and the price was below my budget. No sooner had I bought the camera, I began taking pictures. The beauty of shooting on film unlike the instant gratification you get today from Digital cameras is the low expectation and the element of surprise. You are never really sure about the results of negative film until you make prints, and there were times when I was blown away by the quality of my work. This element of surprise fostered my curiosity and sent me on a journey to explore my talents and seek more gratification from photography.

My solution to my problem was simple. In order to rekindle my love for photography. I had to raise the bar financially, and I had to avoid my rudimentary  approach to shooting weddings and events. . What gives if the client likes the pictures, but I know I haven’t lived up to my own expectations? I took a hard look at my clients and sought out a business plan. I went about changing the price structure and tailoring the price to suit my clients needs without jeopardizing my commitment and enthusiasm to my clients and the job. Moreover, I now require areas of flexibility  during the event which allows room for greater creativity without the added pressure of time constraints or limitations. No longer will I need to struggle between my day job and editing photos at night. However, these changes are new, and I have no idea how far these changes will take me, but at the very least,  I feel more enthusiastic and look forward to fostering my curiosity and enjoying more gratification with every work.

In the garden of Eve

It was winter on a late afternoon in 2000 in a small community college located in Rockville, Maryland. The weather was brisk, and you could hear and feel the wind nibbling at the tip of your ears. Everywhere you looked, it was dark and gray…not even the late afternoon sunshine could change that. There was ample space in the main parking lot, and there was barely any activity around campus. It felt as though the world had come to an end, and it was only myself and a few others on campus who didn’t get the memo.

In all honesty, I preferred it this way. One of my greatest fantasies is exploring an abandoned town…satisfying my curiosity with everything I found from abandoned family pictures to diaries, to books and personal items. Anyway, there I was…walking along a curved path from the parking lot to the Art building with dead leaves quietly floating around my feet while the naked trees barred me from indulging in any sense of isolation.

Speed figure drawing

As I enjoyed the trance ambiance, I made my way to my figure drawing class thinking about the beautiful figure model assigned to our class. I figured the day was right to have her all to myself. May be I would share her with one more student at the most…may be two or three if everyone was quiet and laid back. Even better, the instructor might leave the classroom for the entire session. And as soon as he was gone, the model would undress, and the classroom would change into a garden  overlooking a timid waterfall on a nice summer afternoon. She would float around the garden in her naked awesomeness while I chased her around with a chalk and a drawing board.

Needless to say, I soon arrived at the classroom, and to my disappointment, the classroom was crowded and noisy. I felt as though I had gone back in time and attended a spectacle at a coliseum in ancient Rome. What the hell is this shit? Everyone was chitchatting and moving around unnecessarily while this beautiful creature lay vulnerable and naked in the center. Even though the student’s conversations were tangible and appropriate, it felt as though they were barbarians chanting for the blood of this creature to be spilled only for the emperor (the instructor) to appease the crowd and give the order. It wasn’t what I had hoped for. Sadly, as I started to draw in the middle of all that noise, unnecessary chatter and restlessness, I actually felt alone.

Letting yourself go.

One of the frustrating things I observe in Maryland is that people are afraid to present their real selves out to the public. On one hand, I am eager to absorb people no matter how crazy, silly, goofy, angry or immature they think they are in private. I mean…whats there to judge; I was off the charts too the last time I checked. On the other hand, there is always the fear that people may see you for what you really are and may threat you accordingly or avoid you all together.

I find the latter annoying just to say the least, and it does make Maryland a somewhat difficult place to live compared to California where a day doesn’t go by without you running into someone with a fresh personality.

Thankfully, my lack of enthusiasm for Maryland was somewhat broken during a gig I worked on a few weeks back. It was nice to see people let loose and be themselves for a change. Even though it was all work for me, I felt encouraged to get into the grove with a few dance steps myself. Why waste a good moment? Let it all out. The clients didn’t mind. No stress, all fun. Good gig.


Black & White

Life isn’t so black and white except you desaturate in photoshop! Here are two silhouettes of my younger sister. She is due any day now.

Frame in a frame

Frame in a frame












One more black and white photo of a couple I shot just before they got married.

Engagement photos

Event Photography

Yesterday, myself and Yanju went to the Quality Inn hotel to shoot a church gathering event at one of the hotel’s banquet halls. Before hand, I had visited him in the morning to discuss how how we were going to approach the event,and what structure we were going to have in place. After a few hours of planning and testing, we had an idea of what we were going to do. Although, the entire session went quite well, we unfortunately encountered some problems. The fact is, you can never be prepared for the unexpected.

Event Portrait

Event Portrait

For instance, we had a Nikon SB-600 which operated intermittently under Nikon’s wireless commander mode. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to simultaneously engage the event participants in a cheerful conversation…as they maintain their rigid poses…while you are busy fiddling with a problematic piece of equipment. And at the same time, you are hoping they don’t loose their patience.

Let me put it kindly, if you suffer from high blood pressure, and you want to take up event photography, you will most likely collapse and die with a camera underneath your belly. You think I am kidding? Okay! Anyway, there is nothing wrong with the unexpected if you learn something and make corrections towards the future. I mean…if you are not willing to face problems, how else are you going to gain experience?

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