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CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT: Family. Friends. Hounds. Books. The Beach. Autumn. Cameras. Computer. iPhone. The color orange. Caramel frappucino. The words "dude!" and "nice!". Oh...and world peace ;-)

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28 February 2012

:: exercise #5: narrative portraiture | 30 people pictures ::

  • Goal: Single narrative portrait.
  • Tools: Camera; normal or telephoto focal-length lens.
  • Light: Natural or available light.
  • Location: An environment that acts like a stage.
  • Duration: 30 - 45 minutes
  • Subject(s): Someone with an interesting personality, is dramatic, or has a vibrant point of view.
  • Step 1: Find a subject with an interesting personality, is dramatic, or has a vibrant point of view.
  • Step 2: Choose a location with small details that set the stage for your storytelling.
  • Step 3: Welcome the subject & explain your idea for the visual story that you want to tell. Shoot for 30-45 minutes in a free-flowing way.
  • Step 4: Print one single frame and tack it up on your wall. Ask others for feedback and consider their advice.
  • ONE narrative portrait.
For more tips and inspiration, please read Chris Orwig's "People Pictures."

27 February 2012

:: WARL 02.26.2012 | washington dc pet photographer ::

Monday's post is usually reserved for our "People Pictures" exercise results. However, since I have had to scramble to find a film camera & appropriate film, I will post my results as soon as the photos come back from the printers.

Instead, as a trade-off, I am posting photos of animals from the Washington Animal Rescue League. I volunteered my services yesterday and had a blast playing with the adorable temporary resident dogs & cats. If you are looking for a new animal member for your family, please check out these animals and MORE at WARL.org.

Pimlico | his ears REALLY are like that!
Dr. Seuss and his brother, Barbalootz | big, squiggly (notice the motion blur) furballs with unstoppable energy

Nazzim | this guy was a perfect little model

Francesca | this chunky monkey is incredibly sweet and loving

Bronco & his pitbull mates | I wanted to take this whole lot home!

I love taking photos of cats -- they are so elegant and graceful, such natural posers

Another beautiful cat strutting his/her stuff

A WARL adoption volunteer cuddling with a VERY affectionate cat. This cat literally jumped onto my leg and stayed there while I squatted down to take some pix of his compadres!
For more photos from yesterday's volunteer photo session at WARL, please visit my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/binkiesandnoseprints

Happy Monday!!!

23 February 2012

:: the promise of spring | washington dc portrait photographer ::

Orange leather sandals from Rag + Bone | Fresh dandelion from my youngest :-)

I hope you are enjoying unusually spring-like weather too!!!

21 February 2012

:: exercise #4: 3 days of portraits with b/w film | 30 people pictures ::

  • Goal: 30 black and white people pictures.
  • Tools: Film camera; lens of your choice.
  • Light: Natural or available light.
  • Location: Outdoor or indoor.
  • Theme: ENDURANCE.
  • Duration: Three different days.
  • Subject(s): family, friends or strangers.
  • Step 1: Find a FILM camera.
  • Step 2: Choose film -- try the classic B/W Kodak Tri-X.
  • Step 3 {Day 1}: Pound the pavement and capture 10 pictures of people.
  • Step 4 {Day 2}: Make 10 window light portraits by positioning subject next to a window without directional or direct sunlight. Bracket exposure (underexposed, properly exposed, overexposed).
  • Step 5 {Day 3}: Make 10 outdoor portraits.
  • Step 6: Make prints of the 30 portraits by sending the film to photo lab.
  • Step 7: Reflect on this experience and write down what results you hope to find; set aside 5 top portraits and tape them to your journal; if none turned out nicely, repeat Steps 1 -7.
  • 5 out of 30 BW portrait prints (from film) to put into your journal.
For more tips and inspiration, please read Chris Orwig's "People Pictures."


My first reaction to this exercise was: Holy @#$% !!! Where am I going to find a film camera and how in ^&*@ am I going to be able to make 30 worthy FILM portraits without giving myself a coronary?!

But that's just the point, isn't it? When we step out of our comfort zone, that is when we really challenge ourselves. While I haven't used a film camera since my little stainless steel point-n-shoot from 1997, I would love a chance to try a Holga 120. For $39.99 (+ $3.49 for a roll of BW Holga film), it is certainly within reason.  On the other hand, if anyone is willing to lend me a film SLR, I'd love to experiment with that as well :-)

Holga Glo 120N Plastic Medium Format Camera (Orange Burst)

Since this exercise requires a lot of heart, sweat and time, let's leave the deadline open. The point of the exercise is to test your endurance and resolve -- keep trying to make great film portraits until you GET.IT.RIGHT. Realistically, however, most people don't have the luxury of dedicating a chunk of contiguous time to an exercise like this. So let's take it one step at a time and make it as enjoyable as possible. I will post my results as soon as I am able, but will post updates in the meantime.

Have fun experimenting!

20 February 2012

:: exercise #3 results {defining your style} | 30 people pictures ::

As a recovering architect, I have always defined my style in architectural terms:

CLASSIC MODERN (Bauhaus, Mies van der Rohe, le Corbusier) with a touch of CHARLES + RAY EAMES = Form Follows Function with a touch of nostalgic softness.

This week's "People Pictures" exercise allowed me to think about "my style" in terms of objects, colors, music and food, which in turn reinforced what I already know about myself and my craft. I encourage everyone to do this exercise -- it will help you clarify/define your style and hopefully you'll also discover something about yourself.

{5 out of 25 Favorite OBJECTS} ribbons | lighting | bag | balloons | stationary

{RIBBONS} colorful, textural, seemingly infinite in one dimension, while finite in the other dimension = one point perspective (photo courtesy of Our Labor of Love)

{LIGHTING} one purpose (to illuminate), yet so many ways of doing it (uplight, downlight, diffused light, spotlight)

{BAG} form follows function with the promise of adaptive use and evolution (Jack Spade Coal Bag = my camera bag)

{BALLOONS} idealized happiness + innocence (Tumblr.com)

{STATIONARY} visually and/or verbally communicative, purposeful and tactile (photo courtesy of Elum)

{Seasonal COLORS} I adore the color ORANGE. To me, it is mercurial, lovable and charismatic. It is unstoppable and can be morphed to fit into any color scheme/season. I'm still not sure which season best describes my photographic style, but perhaps an elegant yet complex shade of orange???

{SPRING} optimistic, hopeful, fresh

{SUMMER} vibrant, lively, lush

{AUTUMN} dreamy, quiet, contemplative
{WINTER} easeful, content, serene
(all color palettes by design-seeds.com)

{IDEAL WEATHER for Photo Shoot} Clear sunny day with puffy cumulus clouds. Preferably filtered late afternoon sun.

I love this image because 1) I had beautiful subjects and 2) the light quality of the early autumn afternoon light was AMAZING.

{MUSIC Style} An interesting combo of Nina Simone | Leonard Cohen | Eva Cassidy | New Order. Classic, with dashes of bohemian + electric . I find that what I listen to while editing depends on the feel that I get from my clients and their session. I try to really FEEL the emotions of the story that I've captured , and music allows me to insert myself into these intimate moments. To hear some of my favorites, click on my Playlist tab above.

{FOOD Style} Cupcakes. Cupcakes. Cupcakes. I know cupcakes are now considered passe, but what's not to love?! It is delicate, colorful and sweet. It is childhood perfection personified.

This was a looong exercise, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about myself and my stylistic vision. Read about my fellow photographers' self-discovery and photographic styles:

Abbey Road Designs -- http://abbeyroaddesigns.blogspot.com/
Claudia Muir Photography -- http://claudiamuirphotography.com/blog/
GSG Photography -- http://gsgphotography.wordpress.com/
Elaine Janet Photography– http://elainejanet.com/
What Eyes See Daily -- http://whateyesseedaily.blogspot.com
Group -- http://dc2011women.blogspot.com/

17 February 2012

:: finding light | washington dc natural light photographer ::

Don't get me wrong. I actually like my external flash; on the other hand, I am totally ok that my $$$ camera doesn't have one that's built-in. I still get really startled every time I see someone's built-in flash on their dSLR POP! up automatically. That's why the 50mm F/1.2 L lens is my all time favorite to use in low light situations -- I can keep the aperture wide open to let max light in and get the creamy bokeh/background my clients want. Against popular opinion, I find the 85mm (a much favored "portrait" lens) to be too close for indoor shots.

Sometimes I stumble upon good light in unexpected places. The staircases in older museums of another era are really intriguing to me. They are usually very grand in scale, and they're usually well-lit by double/triple height glass openings. Moreover, the light-colored stone materials often found in these spaces act as perfect light diffusers. I would love to do a series of silhouette portraits in some of these gorgeous staircases around town.

14 February 2012

:: heart to heart | washinton dc valentine's day photographer ::

You're in the mood for love.
You're in the mood to dance.
You're in the mood for a little romance.
You're in the mood for love.

Can I have the last chance.
To be your little romance.
Can I have the last dance.
I'm in the mood for love.

~"Little Romance" by Ingrid Michaelson (listen to it on my playlist)

While organizing (reshuffling, more like!) our basement storage, we found a HUGE bag of old crayons from our wedding. To keep the underaged guests entertained, we had craft stations set up around the reception area. Instead of adding them to our already motley collection of crayons and markers, I recycled them for Valentine's Day.

WEDDING --> VALENTINE's for O's classmates. Appropriate, don't you think??? Here's to my *secret* soft spot for romantic comedies, peppy indie music and scallop-edge paper punches.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

:: exercise #3: defining your style | 30 people pictures ::

  • Goal: Use verbal descriptive terms to define your style and/or the style you would like to have.
  • Tools: Pen, journal, magazine images, images from your favorite photography sites.
  • Light: N/A
  • Location: N/A
  • Duration: open
  • Subject(s): N/A
  • Step 1: Brainstorm about physical objects for 15 minutes, write down 25 items & circle 5.
  • Step 2: Write down the colors you associate with Winter, Spring, Summer & Fall. Create small color palettes for each season & write about the moods that each season evokes in you. Choose the color palette and mood that best describe the style of pictures you would like to make.
  • Step 3: Write down the ideal weather for your ideal photo shoot. Describe the weather that matches the photographs that you want to make.
  • Step 4: Pick a musical piece/music style/composer that best accompanies the type of pictures you'd like to make.
  • Step 5: Make a comparison of your photographic style to food.
  • To be able to verbalize the essence of the photographs that you want to make. To have a clear vision of a cohesive style that is uniquely yours.
For more tips and inspiration, please read Chris Orwig's "People Pictures."

13 February 2012

:: exercise #2 results {clarifying your craft} | 30 people pictures ::

This week's "People Pictures" exercise is all about CELEBRATION, COLLECTION and CRITIQUE of the visual world around us. An objective of this exercise is to establish habits/routine that we can incorporate into our lives that will help clarify our artistic vision.

As a recovering architect, this exercise was right up my alley. I still often have flashbacks of crits and presentations from the biz -- think post-traumatic stress, rather than sweet nostalgia. However, one very important skill that I learned from being in the profession -- for which I am grateful -- is visual analysis of all things, well, visual. In many ways, I was encouraged to celebrate my natural penchant for beautiful "things" -- buildings, objects, art etc. I was encouraged to collect and document them in a multitude of ways -- sketch, paint, photograph etc. I was taught to think critically about what makes "something" appealing and visually successful.

Instead of tearing and pasting images into a journal, I decided to document my exercise with iPhone photos and Pinterest boards. Sure, there is something to be said about the tactile quality of paper, glue and pen/pencil (as my old-school profs and colleagues would agree). However, I feel that the collecting of imagery through electronic means is equally valid in this day and age. Of course, I was also one of the few people in my program who presented the master's thesis project using computer generated drawings and images (gasp!).

Here is my journey of CELEBRATION, COLLECTION and CRITIQUE in pictures:

CELEBRATE something that I naturally enjoy -- visiting a museum (Hirshhorn).

COLLECT images that I love (American Photo Mag, NGS & rodneysmith.com)

CRITIQUE | What makes a people picture good or great? A great portrait is the perfect blend of fiction and non-fiction -- a beautiful story that awakens your imagination, yet carries meaning that grounds it in reality. ~Leslie C.

Photo of a geisha applying lipstain by Jodi Cobb
This photo by Jodi Cobb has the perfect blend of fiction and non-fiction. This is the story of an anonymous woman who is carrying on the ancient profession of privately entertaining rich, powerful businessmen/politicians. One could easily imagine all that she encounters at work, yet we know she is bound by a code of conduct that prohibits her from disclosing what she sees & hears. On the other hand, I am eager to learn more about the facts behind her profession and the tradition. Why the white makeup and red lips? What was her training like? What is the average age of a geisha? What is the psychology behind this profession (from the perspective of the performers and the clients).

Please let me know how you spent our second week of our "People Pictures" exercises! Tell me where you found inspirations and what you've learned about looking at pictures critically. If you'd like to see what else inspires me, feel free to follow me on Pinterest.

Please also check out these photographers and read about their experiences with this week's exercise:

Abbey Road Designs -- http://abbeyroaddesigns.blogspot.com/
Claudia Muir Photography -- http://claudiamuirphotography.com/blog/
GSG Photography -- http://gsgphotography.wordpress.com/
Elaine Janet Photography– http://elainejanet.com/
What Eyes See Daily -- http://whateyesseedaily.blogspot.com
Group -- http://dc2011women.blogspot.com/


11 February 2012

:: equine | washington dc portrait photographer ::

I love taking photos in the stables. Not only are the horses so fascinating to photograph, the stables have such incredible textures and perspectives that can be used as beautiful backdrops for "in-context" portraits.


10 February 2012

:: mrs. president 2008 | washington dc product photographer ::

Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign organization is asking supporters to contribute in order to offset last of the campaign debt. They've asked me to take photos of some of the memorabilia for sale.

My favorite piece which I photographed was the limited edition artwork by the late artist, Robert Rauschenberg:

There is also a beautifully illustrated children's book based on Hillary's childhood:

And this poster that comes in six different colorways:

If you are interested in donating to the organization or to purchase a campaign memorabilia, please visit the website: www.hillaryclinton.com

08 February 2012

:: giving back | washington dc pet photographer ::

As you may have already guessed, my biz name and logo are inspired by my 3 hilarious children and 2 obstinate beagles. I am not kidding when I refer to my household as "The Circus."

As a lifelong pet lover and owner, I am always thinking of ways I could give back to the pet adoption community. For a few years, I worked with B.R.E.W (Beagle Rescue Education and Welfare) as a home-check volunteer. After the children arrived, I found it hard to commit a big chunk of time to the cause.

Now that the children are a little older, I am again ready to volunteer my services to help the homeless pets in our local shelters. However, instead of serving as a home-check volunteer or foster parent, I've asked the Washington Animal Rescue League if I could take *free* professional headshots of their animals for their website and print material. My goal is to really showcase the available animals' true personalities and inherent beauty. Once the pet is adopted, I will then give the new parent(s) high-resolution digital negatives of the new members of the family as a keepsake.

While WARL is essentially still a shelter, it has several facilities improvements that make it quite cozy and homey for the animals: 1) the floor of each individual pen is heated and easily washed. 2) the glass ceiling over each glass-enclosed pen has a cascading waterfall that serves as a white noise machine that dampens noises. In addition, the staff and volunteers at WARL are phenomenal -- incredibly caring and conscientious.

Thank you, WARL for giving me this incredible opportunity -- I cannot wait to get started!

If you'd like to learn more about the Washington Animal Rescue League, or volunteer in any capacity, please visit their website. For more photos of the animals at WARL, please visit my Facebook page.

Pitbull X puppy - 8 weeks old. Sooo sweet!

WARL staff member cuddling with a chihuahua who was used for breeding in a puppy mill.

"Miss Moffett" from Baltimore - so affectionate and waiting for her adoption papers to go through.

Beautiful kitty inside the glass-enclosed pen.

Another pitbull X puppy - he and his brother used my camera strap as an enrichment toy.

Lantry, a 3-year-old hound X who reminds me so much of my hounds. He has been there for a while, but is sweet as can be. He is VERY well behaved and gentle, kudos to the trainers of WARL.

07 February 2012

:: exercise #2: clarifying your craft | 30 people pictures ::

  • Goal: To develop a critical eye to help us fine-tune our craft and be better photographers.
  • Tools: Pen, journal, magazine images, images from your favorite photography sites.
  • Light: N/A
  • Location: Indoors or outdoors.
  • Duration: open
  • Subject(s): N/A
  • Step 1: Write down a list of top 20 pictures of people you like most.
  • Step 2: Write down these three words in your journal -- celebration, collection and critique. Leave space in between to add more notes as your progress.
  • Step 3: Celebrate something that you naturally enjoy. Visit a museum exhibit, go to the library and look at various photo books, take a drive and study the pictures plastered on billboard signs. Slow down and pause with each picture you see.
  • Step 4: Spend 45 minutes collecting pictures that inspire you the most from magazines -- tear & tape them into the journal.
  • Step 5: Write down your own definition of what makes a people picture good. Read the 5 quotes in Orwig's book (quotes by Henry David Thoreau, Chris Buck, Evan Chong, Platon, Irving Penn). Take 15 minutes to craft an idea of your own.
  • A deeper understanding of what makes a photograph good and the inner strength to push yourself to make better photographs.
  • A "quote" from you about what you think makes a people picture good.
For more tips and inspiration, please read Chris Orwig's "People Pictures."

**This is a tough one, but it will be immensely enjoyable in the end, I think. The difficult part will be coming up with an original idea about what makes a photograph good, without being influenced by the many brilliant thoughts already out there :-)
Also, since the exercise does not require a final image product (other than the journal), please feel free to add your favorite images (pls give proper credit) and/or upload your own**

06 February 2012

:: exercise #1 results {pictures in 10 min} | 30 people pictures ::

For our first "People Pictures" exercise, we challenged ourselves by getting back to the basics -- shooting in manual, manual focus & short session duration (10 minutes!). To me, the hardest part was getting well-composed, meaningful shots while concentrating on the technical aspects of picture-taking.

Since I needed to challenge myself, I decided against using my "usual test subjects" (i.e. my children!); instead, I asked someone who has never been in front of my camera before. Luckily, one of my beautiful sister-in-laws just came to visit us from London -- so I roped her into helping me this week :-)

50 mm, ISO 800, F/1.8, 1/60 sec
This image is SOOC, except I cropped a little tighter and converted it to black and white. As you can see, the image is a little soft -- manual focus is HARD! Especially when you are as myopic as me. Who knows if my prescription is up to date :-) In any case, I took this picture while we were just chatting during lunch at a restaurant. We haven't seen Irene for over a year -- she had been working non-stop on her PhD dissertation at the London School of Economics. This accomplished anthropologist (and musician) -- who specializes in issues concerning the Middle East -- passed her exams with flying colors this Fall and is now a professor at Cambridge University. My children are very lucky to have such a positive role-model in their lives.

My intent was to be able to capture the joy of being with her family and the relief that I imagine she feels after such an intense academic program. My son helped by sitting in her lap and being his hilarious self, making his Auntie I laugh out loud. Getting the proper exposure was challenging-- we were sitting about 15 feet away from the nearest window, and Irene was back lit during most of the exercise. I took it slowly, and made sure that I'd gotten the proper manual settings first before I started shooting. On a typical shoot, I talk to my subjects quite a bit. I find that with adults, a normal conversation with them while I shoot makes for genuine, meaningful images. So I tried doing that this time as well. By the time I got this shot, Irene had no idea I had already begun my 10-minute exercise.

To see this week's results from other photographers, please visit:

Group -- http://dc2011women.blogspot.com/
Abbey Road Designs -- http://abbeyroaddesigns.blogspot.com/ 
Claudia Muir Photography -- http://claudiamuirphotography.com/blog/
GSG Photography -- http://gsgphotography.wordpress.com/
Elaine Janet Photography– http://elainejanet.com/
The New Diplomat's Wife -- http://thenewdiplomatswife.blogspot.com/
What Eyes See Daily -- http://whateyesseedaily.blogspot.com

Be sure to leave comments and feedback! We'd love to hear from you! Please check back here tomorrow for Exercise #2!