Category Archives: Photography

[Local Lore] A Cacophony of Color at the Corvallis Farmer’s Market

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Moving to Corvallis after living in California for the last thirty odd years, there’s a lot of change to wrap my head around, ranging from the menial and small to mind boggling large.  I know that I shouldn’t compare Apples to Oranges, but when all you’ve known are apples – when you find an orange, it’s like OH MY GOD, THAT’S ORANGE?! Corvallis is like continually discovering that there were other fruits in the world when all I wanted to look for where Apples.

There are more farms and less people, more seasons and less oppressive heat all the time, more clouds and rain and less sun, more rural roads and less highways, a heightened sense of calm versus a continual sense of anxiety, the list could go on and on,

If you think the colors of Autumn are astounding, have you even seen the colors at the local farmer’s market?? Sure, there are Farmer’s Markets everywhere, and I don’t mean to diminish your personal experience, but the variety and vivacity of the fruits, vegetables, dairy and locally grown meat you can find here are simply out of this world.

Feasting on seasonal change, I’ve loved taking in the cacophony of colors at the Corvallis Farmer’s Market. Running both mid-week on Wednesday mornings, as well as Saturday morning on the weekends, the local Farmer’s Market has become my church.  I revel at the productions, and am not so secretly plotting to enter my crafts into their Saturday fair.  Here’s just a taste of my favorite scenes from the local Farmer’s Market; enjoy!

 

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For more on the Farmer’s Market here in Corvallis, take a trip downtown on Wednesday or Saturday between 9 and 1pm to see for yourself; or simply head to their socials!

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[Self Discovery] The Serenity of the Sea

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 “My life is like a stroll upon the beach, as near to the ocean’s edge as I can go”
— 
Henry David Thoreau —

Summer in SD

Ever just feel the need to get away? Not to necessarily escape from life, but to take a midweek vacation from all the humdrum stress of your vocation and whatever else might be plaguing or mentally exhausting you.  Lately, there’s been this large itch to jump in the car and not be home – maybe it’s the incredible heat waves we’ve been having in Los Angeles proper, maybe it’s the fact I’ve formally lived in Los Angeles for a decade now; irregardless, lately I’ve had this distant itch that I’ve needed to scratch from sandier locations.

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I work from home and have been working from home for the last five or so years.  It’s a wonderful life, but at the same time – it can make for some stir crazy mornings and cabin fever-esque afternoons.  Thankfully, for the last few weeks, I’ve been blessed enough to tag along while my dad goes on a few work trips down to gorgeous and sunny San Diego, and every now and again I’ve also been jumping in the car with Danny and working from anywhere that cell phone service exists along the Southern California coast.  From Santa Monica, to Long Beach, San Pedro down to Orange County and San Diego – the California Coastline down here has a bevvy of beautiful beaches, ripe and ready for adventures.

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With seventeen miles of coastline and nearly 5000 acres of land, San Diego boasts an incredible amount of beaches per capita, each with their own unique charm, from Ocean Beach to Encinatas and back to Moonlight Beach – you simply can’t go wrong as you bounce from one sandy piece of heaven to the next.  Yes, of course beaches will be crowded – have you met Summer in SoCal?! – so be sure to head there with plenty of time to spare and plenty of sun and sand to be had.

Travel up the coast a bit and you’ll hit the beautiful beaches of Orange County and Newport, including the stunning 1000 Steps Beach.  But I’ll be honest, the only version of the OC I like is the show – and it’s primarily because I can put it on mute. Anyhow, just a hop, skip and a jump up and you’ll reach shores of San Pedro and Angels Gate Park, where notorious scenes from my all time favorite movie were played out in the 90’s.  Can you name the movie? I won’t give it away!  Nestled between two coastlines in a sprawling green park that overlooks the coast, you’ll find the fabled ‘Koren Friendship Bell‘ in all of its vibrant glory and impeccable hand crafted detail.

Los Angeles itself is known as much for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as it is the menagerie of beaches against its coast.  Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu, Point Dume – you simply can’t go wrong.  Now, it’s definitely a personal decision, but Danny and I typically off for the off the beaten path locations with less people – the more of a tourist trap it is, the less peace, quiet and space you’ll have, you know – if you’re into that sort of thing.

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“Don’t underestimate the healing power of these three things:
music, the ocean, and the stars.” 

Hypnotically beautiful with brooding turbulence underneath, the Ocean water mimics the human condition: meeting new highs and pulsing lows, bringing rocky baggage ashore and washing herself clean of the past, pulling new ideas back undertow and ingraining them in her personality. Summer in SD

It’s as if the waters have found themselves in the midst of mindful meditation that you can’t help but immulate: with this wave – I’m breathing in, with this wave – I’m breathing out.

 

No matter the mood or emotion I bring to the water’s edge with me, it’s always washed away and I’m left feeling rooted, as the soles of my feet and tips of my toes edge their way in and around millions of grains of sand that each have thousands of years of stories to tell.  Twisting my head to and fro to see as far as the eyes can see, I’m inexplicably drawn to the cascading of blues that measure where the sky and sea are drawn together in an almost hand painted gradient.  It’s here, that I shed my snakeskin of the past to the salt and air and become again.

Where do you go when your soul needs to refresh?

 

[Tech Talk] Dive Into DSLR Photography

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You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”

― Alan W. Watts

Serenity in the Sequoias

Being a photographer is a bit like if you give a mouse a cookie:  if you give a photographer a point a shoot, they’ll want a dSLR; give them a dSLR and they’ll want a prime lens; give them a prime lens and they’ll want a wide angle and a zoom lens; then they’ll want studio lights, a professional flash…and well, you get it – it becomes an addition of the best sort.

From as long ago as I can remember, my step-mother would always have a camera attached to her hip. She captured poignant moments of an awkward childhood, from gleefully following my dad and I on our beach adventures or feeding ducks, and capturing birthday parties and basketball games; as I grew older, I found myself in awe of her keen eye – finding the simple beauty in nature, exploring minimal architecture, capturing the first bloom of a rose, or creating a mood with striking black and white imagery.   At least once a month, the three of us would wander down to Stanford Shopping Center for an afternoon outing to the now defunct One Time Photo, enjoying some sorbet from the ice cream shop next door while we patiently waited for the film to develop.  Wandering back through the photo store, I let my fingers unknowingly explore film from different ISOs as the printer that took up almost two-thirds of the store whirred with excitement. Then, I started stock piling disposable cameras – with a quick flick of the wrist, and the wind up flash, they became my quick introduction to pre-digital photography.

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Finally, when I was in high school, through a combination of technological advances and parents caving to their teenage daughter: I was given my first digital camera.  Within the photo world, there’s an ever present debate between the merits of Canon versus Nikon, with both the Sony Alpha and Panasonic Lumix lines not far behind.  But in my family, there wasn’t ever a choice – we’re a Canon + Mac family, through and through; so it began: first with a Canon Powershot, and then a Digital Elph.  Fast forward to now, and the technology for your cell phone’s camera has caught up to the most basic point and shoots, and your most basic iPhone or Android has the rudimentary functions of a camera. How-the hell-ever, in a sense you’re still dependent on your technology to do most of the heavy lifting.  Enter the DSLR.  I had my first real introduction to them in college – when I worked in retail to make some extra cash, some of my coworkers were attending the Brooks School for Photography.  I eagerly lapped up every iota of information I could as I sat in through product shoots and photoshoots; truth be told I moved to Los Angeles because of my love of modeling but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve learned how much I prefer being behind the camera, versus in front of it.

 

As I forayed my way into the Music Industry five years ago – I realized cell phones and point and shoots simply can’t capture the depth and detail the way the professional cameras can; not to mention, with DSLRs – you can go from capturing a moment to creating a moment.  Leaving your camera in Auto relegates each camera function to its internal camera, meaning that even though you’re pressing the shutter to capture the photo – it’s actually the camera’s AI that determined the richness of color, depth of field and focus.  Conversely, in Manual, when each camera function now relies on the user’s aptitude and emotion in the moment, twenty photographers could take the same photo and each produce a very different image.  I’ll admit that for the longest time, the DSLR scared me – it was intimidating, clunky, with what seemed like way too many buttons but after almost four years of watching Danny make magic with the 6D, I’ve finally mustered up the courage to carry it around for the day and get a few pictures that I’m happy with.

Back in the Spring two years ago while we gallivanted through Sequoia – there was something in the air that was so inspiring, it lured my creative nature out of hiding and brought it out to play.   It was frustrating trying to understand settings on the fly, adjusting for almost each image to get it the way my mind’s eye saw it, but as is the thing with life: you can’t get better at the things you don’t try.  Every once and a while for the next months after, I’d pick up the camera, fire a few images I was unhappy with and politely place it back where I’d found it – until I found the right resources, books and mentors to help me get my bearings.  In the time Danny and I have been together, he’s gone from a self taught amateur to a contributor for Getty Images; it’s beyond impressive. What he always tells me is that everyone – every single one of us – sees the world through their own unique prism, and it’s only through the exploration of your own creativity that you can convey those images to everyone else.

Getty VillaRegardless of whether you’re surrounded by gear heads, mentors or photographers, the best thing you can do is get some real hands on experience while stocking up on excellent resources.  I started on Canon 6D for Dummies, which was a great introduction to all things DSLR from the bottom up: lenses, features, menus, camera set up and some more intermediate functions like HRD and Multiple Exposure images, setting up the WiFi and adjusting the White Balance manually.   Even though making your way through the manual page by page might seem like a bore – after reading through Canon for Dummies, it also felt absolutely necessary to learn the core tools of the trade.  Next time you pick up a camera, do yourself a favor and just play around with the settings, comparing images to fully understand what each button can do.Related image

Next up, I migrated to the more  advanced Canon 6D: From Snapshots to Great Shots, which was more of a top down approach to the settings based on epic images, along with some informative asides on F-Stops, ISO and Shutter Speed while diving into each function of the camera; and let me tell you: this is the most important thing to understand.  The Shutter Speed is the length of time that your lens is open to absorb light,while the aperture – or F-Stop, controls the depth of field that the camera focuses on.  Finally, the ISO controls the cameras sensitivity to light and the ways the camera processes detail. I just got my paws on The Photographer’s Playbook  which has a menagerie of photography exercises for anyone, amateur to professional. Here’s the thing – you can read books til the cows come home, sit in on photo shoots as the second shooter or an assistant, or pull up Youtube tutorials to walk you through the basics but the best experience will always be true experience.   If you’ve been itching to pick up a camera, just do it – you’ll be surprised to find your mind working in new and creative ways to capture a moment, and trust me – you’ll be just as hooked as I am.  For anyone looking to jump in – Best Buy has amazing Open Box deals, as does Amazon, while F Stoppers has a great online repository of resources.

If you’re in the market to take your photography to the next level, F Stoppers is a wonderful online resource as well. Not to mention,

Photo bugs – what are some of your favorite pieces of gear? Let me know in the comments below!

[LA Life] Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Scenic Highway

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Image may contain: sky, mountain, plant, cloud, nature and outdoor

Mother’s Day Weekend is a special weekend, a fruitful time for family and a fitting occasion to embrace the divine feminine, and within that – our true Mother – Earth, Nature, Gaia – if you will.  As Danny and I gallivanted away this past weekend to go spend some quality time with his mom in Lancaster, we had (what we considered) a brilliant idea: instead of taking the 14, let’s take a leisurely drive through the Angeles Crest Highway.  And what a magical adventure that became.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

The Angeles Crest Highway is often referred to as the ‘Highway to the Heavens‘, and in my opinion – rightfully so: just one cruise through it’s winding trails, your car eagerly hugging the curves and you’ll be confused if you’re still in Los Angeles, let alone California – or the United States.  At times, the drive reminded me of Zion, my fiance kept thinking of the Grand Canyon and it’s easy to think that you’ve instantly been transported to the Swiss Alps or somewhere picturesque in the South of France.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Considered one of the most beautiful non-coastal drives in the United States, the Angeles Crest Highway spans the northern most portion of California State Route 2, reaching from the the tip of Los Angeles County in La Cañada-Flintridge to Wrightwood in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains.  Wander along the winding roads and you’ll find picturesque views of every angle of Los Angeles from the ridge-line of the Angeles National Forest.

The area is befit with a rich history that dates back to the turn of the 19th Century, and boasts plenty of turnouts with epic views, and hiking trails for those willing to adventure. And with nature just off of a stunning Superbloom season – or as I’d like to think of it, still marinating in the tail end of it, the hills are currently lush with bright yellow, violet and pink blooms.

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest HighwayStopping literally at every turn out we could – because, why not?! – we quite accidentally took a hearty nature break where Mill Creek intersects with the scenic byway.  As Danny found himself enamored by the tunnel born out of the mountain slabs, we were stopped in our literal tracks by the serene sounds of a bubbling brook. Danny eagerly clamored down the hill, reveling in the diamond in the rough that we just discovered – I was busy freezing in my flip flops, overthinking my way down to the water’s edge. After negotiating, and then poorly navigating my way down – spoiler alert: I slipped several times anyways – it was absolutely worth it.

Because we live in the wonderful Mediterranean climate of Southern California, it’s pretty much always a good time to go for a drive on the Angeles Crest Highway, but during the winter months (and some awkward days of June gloom), the snow can shut down parts of the mountain pass and the fog induced poor visibility is actually terrifying – just trust me on that one.  So, before you hop in your car and ride away into the sunset – make sure you check the road conditions to ensure a smooth, beautiful drive.

There’s something absolutely sacred about the way a car hugs a tight turn along a scenic cruise, whipping the soul around to enjoy a palpable, panoramic landscape in a heartbeat; albeit I think the windows should be down and music up to take full advantage of the moment – but who am I to tell another soul how to enjoy a leisurely, weekend drive.

Take a peek at my recent adventures on Flickr!

For more on the Angeles Crest Highway, peruse their website and social media channels – or just take yourself out for a spin; trust me, it’s worth it – and you can thank me later.

Website | Facebook


Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

Adventure Along the Angeles Crest Highway

[Tech Talk] Painting and Photography Collide with Prisma

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Have you ever wanted to marinate inside of a moment? Venture into mind melding visions of alternate realities while mediating comfortably in place? If you’re my kind of human, then you’re answer is undeniably, unequivocally – yes.  In my opinion, we’re all several shades of guilty – from real dreaming to daydreaming, and everything in between, as humans our escape fantasies eagerly, effortlessly and egregiously effuse from our souls like pheromones in search of a higher purpose, catalyzing creativity and breaking us free of old molds and mindsets.  To me, it’s part of the reason we create, coddle and crave the arts: through music, literature, art and theater – we discover new, previously hidden parts of our personalities while filling our soul with passion like a warm meal on a cold night.

Photography is an out of body experience where distortions of reality, mind melding visions of what’s possible and bends in time and space, painting – double so.  But unfortunately some of us (waves hand), weren’t blessed with a drawing gene or with a paintbrush in their hand  My stick figures are relatively lackluster and the cat face I’ve been trying to draw for the last 31 years hasn’t gotten much better. Suffice it to say, I’m in awe of true artistry when it comes to painting, drawing and all things in between and will try ad nauseam. So, when I caught wind of a photo app that alters your images with filters of popular artists – I was immediately sold; hook, line and sinker.

It’s happened before, and my heart swoons as it happens over, and over again: every once in a blue moon, a smart phone photography fad stops me dead in my tracks and requires hours of endless exploration.  Now that we’re 7 solid months into this year, I can safely proclaim that Prisma has been that app. Just a quick upload of a square sized photo (thank you, Instagram), and you’ll be on your way to fantastical results.  Once inside the app, Prisma applies an intricate and advanced learning algorithm to your photos that combines artificial intelligence with neural networks.  Basically, it’s like Deep Dream, Photoshop and Instagram had a psychedelic love child and it doesn’t matter if that last sentence made sense to you or not – because any way that cookie crumbles, the results are simply stunning.

Try on the tantalizing stylings of esteemed artists ranging from contemporary pop art legends Roy Litchenstein and Andy Warhol to classic stylings of Van Gaugh and Picasso, with detailed renderings that from a repository that looks like the lovechild of Android Jones art, fractals and street art.  There are also nods to artists such as Miyazaki, Kadinsky, Mucha, Chagall, Hokusai and Kadinsky – as well as eras of artistic prowess like Impressionism, Gothic Art, Manga, and more. Once your new work of art manifests in front of your eyes, you’ll have the option of taking the photo at 100 proof, or adjusting the edits down to a smaller scale.  If you just tap into your settings you can remove the watermark from the app, and last but certainly not least – it’s free! The only slight downfall of the application is the need to be connected to the Internet to query the algorithms to work – as the app gains popularity, the servers are also noticing a surge and have rendered themselves as over capacity; quick solution – just try, as try again – you’ll get through eventually!


From top, Left to Right: Tears, Urban, Tokyo, #GettUrban, Illegal Beauty, Dreams, Mononoke, Gothic, Curly Hair

My current favorite filters include Tokyo, Urban, and the Natalie Ratkovski-inspired Illegal Beauty – and I think I’ve even found a favorite way of manipulating the photos a second time using Instagram’s Layout app and creating a photo stack from the same image.  The results? All sorts of magical.

 

Did I pique your photography curiosity? i surely hope so, this is one of the most fun photography apps I’ve played with in a while – and admittedly, I play with a LOT!  The proof is in the blogged pudding, head here to check it out

Download for iOS | Download for Android

For fantastic edits and more information on Prisma, head to their website or social channels:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

[Tech Talk] Say Sayonara to Facebook Image Compression

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No matter if you’re an amateur photographer or an expert photo editor, if you load your photos to any sort of web server or social media site then you face the issue of image compression and for some of us – the results can look like a near nightmare.  Vibrant nuances of color, sleek lines and keen tones are lost to algorithms that take redundant chunks of your data’s bits and bytes.  The eventual result is that by pairing down the “redundancies” you’re left with a photo that your 10 year old cousin could have taken with last year’s iPhone.  Yikes.  Good news is there’s a fix for that, and I’m here to share the good news.

In the past few years, I’ve grown a lot more accustomed to editing photos in Lightroom as opposed to Photoshop.  Though I’m proud of most everything I can do – it’s felt like the one thing I couldn’t do was get the pretty picture to appear in Facebook the way I want.  I’m incredibly thankful that first, I’m not the only person to experience this problem, and secondly that I’ve come across multiple resources helping me fix the issue. So I can’t very well take all the credit, but I did do all the internet sleuthing by myself, so I can at least own that part; and through trial and purposeful error, I’ve seen the results first hand.  First, for those super excellent editors out there – I’ve heard through the wire that the compression algorithm affects JPG files more than PNG files, so if you’re willing to convert all of your images to PNGs – your photos will retain their crisp clarity and luminescence.

Master the Settings

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Do you know what the real difference between the top and bottom picture are? The bottom picture has smooth lines on faces and an even keeled blast of water, while the top looks more grainy, and less appealing.  I’ve heard some conflicting advice out there about exporting with a length of 720 or 960, and what I can say after some hands on experience – including the photos above, is that you really want to export at 2048 pixels, which is what the bottom picture is set to.  How about the one below? Between the left and right image – the sharpness of the right one is retained more than the left, and that’s the difference of loading a smaller image size, approximately 100k or less, so Facebook doesn’t compress the image itself.

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One more time, for your cheat sheet:

Length at max: 2048

Resolution: 96

Image Size: 100kb

To save these proper settings – On the bottom left of your Export Window, toggle ‘Add’ to save your user pre-set. When you’re loading your pics, make sure that you Easy-peasy, happy exporting!

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What are your perfect export settings for lossless Facebook photo albums? I’ve read a lot of variations of the metrics I’m using and would love to hear from other photo gurus out there! Let me know in the comments below.

[LA Life] A Gloomy June Afternoon In Ernest E Debs Park

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This past weekend the all too timely June Gloom hit Southern California, but that didn’t stop Danny and I from adventuring off into the great outdoors and exploring a nearby park that’s been on our bucket list.  As it turns out, there are actually upwards of 200 beautiful landscapes, parks and hiking trails scattered throughout the previously presumed concrete jungle of Los Angeles.  The parks themselves cover nearly 24,000 acres of land and are the perfect destination for those looking to romp, roam, rock and roll their souls all over the city.  Over the last few months, we’ve done some due diligence in the great outdoors, exploring the nooks and crannies of diversely delicious landscapes around the city from Cahuenga Peak and Point Dume to Lincoln Park and Griffith Park, so this time – we thought we’d keep it local and see what we could discover in our backyard.


For the last few weeks, Danny’s been raving about this wonderful outlook where you’re served a stunning 360 view of the city – including the skyscrapers of downtown (when it’s a clear day, that is) – and when I heard there was a little lake on top of the hill, I was sold; it was off, off and away on a Sun-date adventure to Ernest E Debs Regional Park in the heart of East Los Angeles.  Open every day from dawn through dusk, the park is never staffed and boasts a bevvy of picnic tables and BBQ fits perfect for parties and public use, and yeah – a gorgeous lake with lots of  little fish for those inclined to take their gear for a spin – and it’s smack dab middle of the city!  

As it turns out – that “little walk” up the hill to the lake has a pretty impressive incline, it’s short, sweet and way worth it…but don’t say you weren’t warned.  On our way up, as we stopped to catch our breath, we noticed a few black and white snails – and then a few more….and all of a sudden, we realized that there were literally hundreds of them swarming the plants.  I’ve never seen so many snails in one place!  If they could move quickly, I might have been a little nervous about the whole ordeal but I mean an infestation of snails is one of the least aggressive infestations I’ve personally ever heard of (or, seen, for that matter).

For more information on Ernest P Debs Park, head to their website or socials – or if you’re local to the Los Angeles area, just drop what you’re doing and pay the park a visit; I mean, when was the last time you took a real lunchbreak outside?  If you’re curious how your local parks stack up to the rest, take a gander at ParkScore.  A sucker for my city’s walkability, Park Score gives you a metric based, analytical overview of your favorite public spaces.  Give it a whirl!

Website | LA Parks |  Yelp | Facebook