Block Printing - Year of the Water Snake

What you've always wanted to do: Print your very own Lunar New Year cards! My co-teacher Lettie and I will be teaching a Block Printing Workshop on February 2nd 2013, from 2:00pm to 3:30pm, at Creative Canopy - a new community art center in Inner Richmond (4338 California St, SF 94118). Please email me if you'd like to sign up!
More info at


I started with a pencil drawing of my design. In this case, I wanted to print a watery background for a snake that I'd already designed. I put the design, pencil side down on my rubber print block (much like a giant eraser) and pressed to transfer the design. Using cutting tools, I carved out the design. The pink stuff is really easy to cut, unlike linoleum and wood which require much umph.

Ink and roller were prepped - a small dollop a dime in diameter is plenty of ink. A bit of rolling evens out the ink texture, and I rolled it smoothly onto my carved block. Next, turned the block upside down and placed it carefully on paper, and pressed. I used a flat (plain) block to press downwards, for even pressure.

Next, grabbed my previously-made snake design, rolled it with a contrasting ink and printed it over the water pattern. Did a couple of variations and Voila! A whole mass of watery snakes, perfectly eye-catching as fliers. If you're lucky you can grab one of these prints at a local retailer or public service provider.

Huggable Hearts

My daughter loves owls. She also loves shapes. I love fabric. I hoard fabric. All these loves came together when I found a tiny bit of time to do some crafting. Once I cut out the pattern, consisting of a big ol' heart (x 2 of these) and a long rectangular strip, cutting the fabric and sewing the heart together went quickly. Next I hunted down cushions we didn't care much about (the ones no-one misses, lost behind the sofa), gutted them and gave the stuffing new life in the heart cushions. The third cushion is cut from a large handkerchief featuring a map of (a city close to my heart), Hong Kong.

Huggy Time

Happy 2013! Of course, I resolve to be a more frequent blog poster. I have many gems to share from the last season, starting with these Mama & Baby snuggly pics that make me want to immediately grab my kid and give her a smooch. I think these kinds of portrait photos need a genre name of their own. Nothing eloquent comes to mind, but perhaps Huggy Time covers it well enough. I would love to do shoots that specifically document Huggy Time. Before long, little ones will want less and less HT, pics like these are really photos to cherish.


Holiday Crafty

Every year prior, I've worked right up until Christmas - weekends packed with holiday shoots, and weekdays busy with editing pics for people's photo gifts and cards. And every year I think about making ornaments, baking cookies... doing fun crafty holiday things. This year, I prioritized holiday fun for myself and my family starting early December. And what resulted from this time dedicated to Xmas cheer? Felt Pine Cones. Yes, I'd been contemplating felt pine cones for a few years now.

Incredibly work intensive though not requiring of much brain power. I started by making circle stencils out of cardboard. Lacking a drawing compass, I hunted around the apartment for lids (mostly from plastic drug bottles) to trace circles of 7 varying sizes. Chalked the circle shapes onto felt, cut them out, stacked them up and adjusted number of circles so that the proportions of the stack resembled a pine cone. Unstacked them and cut the edges (my husband enquired "why do you have all those cogs?"), and skewered them with an embroidery needle. Anchored the bottom with a button knotted on the end, and loop at the top. Tedious but quite simple, really. Helps if you have a fondness for felt, which Oh Yes I do! More Felt Please!
But not for sale - I'd have to charge $50 for each 4" tall pine cone for the time and labor.


Also attempted was my first batch of iced sugar cookies. Rolling dough and cookie cutter cutting sounded easy enough; I was more interested in the icing challenge. I wanted to learn how to make cookies look like they do in bakeries (those cookies that cost $5 a pop) - perfectly smooth coverage, even edges and perhaps an artistic drip over the edge here and there. My icing recipe required a little adjustment to be the right consistency, and voila. I'm eager to up the complexity in icing art. Stay tuned.

Holiday Brights

Holiday mini-shoots are different from full sessions. They're shorter, for the main purpose of capturing photos for holiday greeting cards. That means less time for chasing kids and getting candid shots, and more focus on sitting-for-portrait-like photos, especially group family pics. One challenge of family group pictures is how to place everyone for a good composition. I don't want to stack heads, nor have all heads on the same level, nor have heads places too symmetrically. It's a balanced asymmetry.

I rarely shoot downtown, and was pleased to find photogenic holiday decor and that the shade of nearby buildings actually provided a flattering soft light. Red instantly festivizes any photo, and I love the color coordination of this family's outfits, elegantly casual without being matchy-matchy. Worked well with the poinsettias and the pile of very giant holiday ornaments.

Pink Dress Fun


An absolute delight, photographing these little ladies at the Legion of Honor. LoH is not just for weddings - it's a fantastic place for family and kids pictures. Almost 360 degrees protected from wind; the same walls will corral kids. The off-white marble reflects a flattering, diffuse light and the columns add elegance, without being distracting or fancy. A great place to highlight how cute your kids are.

Big Sister Little Sister

Among the most challenging of shoots is the Newborn and Older Sibling session. Newborns are limited in their non-held-by-grown-up positions, and many older siblings are not quite ready to be trusted with not letting the baby topple over. This big sister was very helpful and did what she could for the pictures.

Pure Kid Fun

Palo Alto Summer Blooms have long left us alas, as they do make for such vivid and fun photo shoot play environments. Two weeks ago I left San Francisco; there were hints of an Indian Summer, so I returned recently with high hopes for warm weather. Instead, the crisp Fall - cool air and a smattering of leaves, weather beaten macabre decorations dragged out for their annual one month hanging.

A pile of edits awaits. Being laptopless is probably a blessing - I couldn't bring my work on vacation with me. Now through jet lagged lenses,  I jump on the opportunity to photoshop when I am energized at 6am, thinking: I am going to have a long productive day! To be seized by a nap attack at 3pm. It feels very much like large bed tentacles peel me off my desk and tuck me in for an afternoon snooze.

This set of Garden photos has snapped me out of the strange dream fog that accompanies deep midday slumber, and has snapped me out of writing like I'm in creative writing class. I loved doing this shoot. Basically, we let the kids be kids; without worry of dirtying outfits or scuffing shoots, without requesting poses. It's pure kid fun that makes for photos like these.

Garden Baby

Happy Babies and Gardens is a winning combination for a photo shoot. Both are a breath of fresh air, and I feel a little lighter just viewing these photos! Reds and pinks are great for photos - especially on a cloudy day (which is great lighting for portraits), such colors bring such a warm pop, you'd barely notice it was overcast. Living and shooting often in San Francisco, dismal for most of the year, I often encourage the wearing of garden and jewel tone brights.

Puppy Love

An engagement shoot with pups, in Sunny Marin. A multi-destination session, we went from university campus to the Marin Headlands, a beautiful outdoor spot.

I resolve to give more time to my blog! As I edit photos, I constantly set aside and resize photos for blog posting, but that final step - I somehow don't get around to it. I leave it to do post work-load, and inevitably, it's time to give my kid a bath, or she wakes from nap or I just want to go to bed... well. There's always something. But now that I have 2 full work days (thank you day care!) to focus on photography. Fall is high season for several reasons: there's the pre-holiday demand, plus... so many babies are born in the Fall (new year's resolution?) additionally, there's the newborn shoots and one-year milestone sessions. Anyways, I look forward to posting more for you blog readers out there!


My husband rarely asks me to draw for him. He'd asked me to do a drawing of "Godzilla, a banjo, and the Golden Gate Bridge" before, but I forgot, as I am a busy lady. He asked me again, and I realized he was quite serious, and I realized that he would resort to some awful clip art if I didn't come up with something. And so I got to work on some sketches. The main difficulty:
- Banjo players are often viewed front on, but Godzilla's head is hard to draw front on
I google-imaged comic drawings of Godzilla, to see how other artists had tackled the Front-View-Of-Reptile, and most often, Godzilla was portrayed at a 3/4 angle. I consciously tried not to make him too cute. I have this drawing affliction where I draw critters cutely. I simply cannot draw ugly critters. I think this is a happy medium of Good-Lookin' Reptile without being huggable. This is a facebook banner after all, for an all-guy bluegrass cover band, Fog City Banjo. The colors were originally turquoise and tomato red. Can you make it less.... happy? he asked tentatively. Fine. Ominously dark slate-gray sky, tetanus-rust instead of red.

Fog City Banjo... Playing Sat 9/15 at 7pm at Chomp n Swing, and Sun 9/16 at 2pm at the Human Be In fest in GGP, San Francisco.

Color Pop

One of my more colorful newborn shoots! While I do have a small supply of newborn accessories, this little one had her own mini-wardrobe of hats, headbands and skirts. I love the unexpected pop of color; often newbie photos consist of more muted tones. This cutie slept through the entire shoot - that's a first for me. Exhausting being a newborn, no doubt. 

This was a faux studio shoot, set up in my client's home. Newborns take up very little space, so it's easy to drape a backdrop over a few chairs and set up my newborn cushion on an ottoman or bench, right in front of a window. For pics including grownups, I have a pop-up backdrop.

Time for some baby chub!

It's been too long since I've posted... and far too long since I've posted chubby baby photos! Just look at those fat rolls around the ankles and wrists! Alas, they are shed all too soon. I took photos of this happy little guy in his home, set up on the floor near a patio window with fabrics draped over a sofa. The faux fur is a wonderful prop I got from Ikea.

The 6-8 month age range is great for photos. Maximum chub - iconic of babyhood, not quite crawling yet, but sturdy and good at sitting and pushups and grabbing toes. And lots of smiles and interaction. It's the age of the quintessential gerber baby. I love this pic below, looks like he's rockin' out.

Beach Light

Ocean Beach in the afternoon is a fantastic photo location. There are not many places in the city where there is a big expanse of sky, and wonderful sunset light. My client was hoping for the rather vintagey look, so I was happy to experiment with filters. It was a warm, thus busy day at the beach, and I spent some time removing background people who interrupted the mood, such as in the 4th picture here. 

It's been a while since I've posted, I apologize! It's been three weeks, and three weeks ago I started playing ultimate two evenings a week. Blogging time was replaced by ultimate I'm afraid, and as all mommas know, that me-time is so necessary for sanity preservation! Meanwhile the rest of my week is a whirlwind of toddler rearing and photo processing. Practically July already... I don't know where time goes.

Graduation Season

Graduation day... a big day for these 130 or so SFSU undergrads!  I am so far removed from graduation and academia that I had a strange deja vu feeling, when I wandered the crowd pre-ceremony, taking in all the giddy excitement. I recalled way back when, I realized that my outfit would not be visible beneath that hulking cloak and thus Shoes really mattered. It seemed that much attention had been given to shoes on this day. Somethings don't change.

I'd photographed a graduation for this department in the past, and so had some idea of what I was getting into. Something like a wedding, in that I get one chance to get that Shake Hands With the Dept Dean photo - except, x130 instead of that just one wedding kiss. Similar in that I get no choice about lighting. I rented an upgrade on my flash - one that cycles faster than my own (ie, after one flash is ready to flash again faster), and a power pack so I wouldn't have to worry about draining and swapping out batteries.

While the auditorium was still empty, I recruited a friendly person to stand on the stage while I tweaked my camera settings to optimize for my flash and poor stage lighting.
There were speeches and award presentations prior to the Dean Hand Shake. I hovered in the wings taking photos... and then my battery pack simply died. !!! I had just rented it, and it was supposed to be fully charged. I scooted down the aisle and found an outlet, relying on my back up AA batteries for now. The thing never worked again. Fortunately, my AA batteries held up - though I worked conservatively and took only one pic per grad Hand Shake instead of the 2 in quick succession that I had planned, to have a choice of 2 in case of blinks. In the end, 2 out of the 130 contained blinks. I've offered those students a photoshopping service, but have not heard back. Post ceremony, I cruised the crowds, taking grad's family photos. I posted everything on a online kodak album for people to buy prints. There are ways to link a shopping cart to my website, mark up print prices and get a % return for prints ordered etc etc but eh, I just want grads to have their pics.

Hehe I'm pretty sure it did not occur to that professor that wore red shoes that they would be featured in every single grad's Hand Shake photo.

I was very surprised to hear from one grad via email. "Your professional photos are amazing and they are really clear even though the theatre lighting was dim.  You add a quality touch to every photo that brings out the additional joy of our graduation ceremony!" How nice is that? 

Fans of Bugs!

Bug Day at the Randall Museum. Such an event pre-selects its attendees - those who do not like bugs of course steer clear. Thus, all those who joined were huge bug enthusiasts, and were intrigued to hold bug friends such as the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper, Giant Millipede and Giant Thorny Phasmid. These invertebrates were guests of the museum courtesy of The Randall people asked me to capture the expressions of kids holding bugs, but none that I saw made a Completely Astounded face. All were very excited by calm and curious, treating the bugs with great respect and with a gentle touch.

Whew. It's tough finding the time to blog; it seems most every moment is filled - with being a Mom or squeezing in a bit of computer editing photo work. There is always something to clean up... maybe it's procrastination of cleaning right now that has pushed me to add a blog entry!  I am thoroughly enjoying my time with my toddler these days, and am happy to forego pushing my photo biz in favor of spending days touring city playgrounds, exploring farmer's markets and singing kid songs for her. I can get back to photos any time; toddlerhood doesn't come back.


I was delighted to be invited again to pro bono photograph for Kathy Mata Ballet and friends for their 2012 Bay Area Dance Week performance. Classical through modern, I watched it in entirety though a lens, timing the shutter for the apex of the movements. I wound up with over 1000 images over 2 hours, which were curated to a collection of about 100 by my friend and dancer Vin, featured wearing yellow and black in the 4th picture here. Kathy Mata Ballet is a non-profit adult ballet group of incredibly dedicated people who have whole other lives of work and family in addition to dance. As always, I love the challenge of dance photography (almost the only time I use my camera in Manual mode), and lose myself in enjoying the music and movement.

Pop of Pink

There are a few shoot locations with views of the GG Bridge, including Baker Beach, China Beach and Horseshoe Bay in Sausalito. Crissy Field is the more sheltered option, which I recommend for babies. Wide angle was well suited to this backdrop, with the expanse of sky and stretch of bridge, but it's this lovely little lady who really makes this picture pop, clad in bright pink with a mischievous glint (is that a rock in her hand?) It was a fortunately hazy day, perfect for lighting despite our midday meeting.