Saturday, August 30, 2008

The perpetual tourist

San Francisco is city that I'll always feel like a tourist when I visit. I think it's because I don't live there. I actually don't have any desire to live in San Francisco, I like it as a city, but I'm not much of a city girl. Going into SF tends to stress me out, whether it's navigating through the non-parallel or perpendicular streets, dodging crazy drivers trying to bypass traffic, or trying to stay alive when you're the pedestrian and the MUNI or road rager is doesn't care if you're in the crosswalk. 

But I do love walking around and seeing all the sights. It's great going into the city because I do always feel like a tourists. I'm not disenchanted or discouraged by what the city has to offer. Golden Gate Park is beautiful, the views from different points in the city are diverse and lovely in their own ways, and San Francisco is always pulsating with life. It's a place that I've come to appreciate more and more now that I've been so many more times in the last few years.

China Beach Sunset
China Beach Sunset on a clear day

Nice light
This is my friend E. This was the awesome light we had! I know it needs a little work, but I really like this photo of her.

Yummy warm, light! Hopefully I can get some of this tomorrow... No fog!

Happy Saturday!

Friday, August 29, 2008

My first gig!

On Sunday I will be photographing the daughter of my Editor-in-Chief! This came about back in April, before I even decided to make the big leap. But I had been thinking about it and it was always in the front of my mind, so when the opportunity came about, I decided to take it.

The company I work for had a team building activity for the Spring. They asked employees to place a "service" for auction and if other employees were interested in the service, they could bid on it, silent auction style. All proceeds would go to benefit local school libraries. Pretty interesting idea. I had coworkers who offered up baked goods, ready-to-serve meals, hemming pants, knitting lessons, poem writing, and providing someone with daily breakfast for a week.

I thought about what my strengths and talents were. It wasn't cooking. I don't really write poetry. I can't hem pants and I don't really knit. But I was in the midst of taking a Photoshop class. I finally learned the power of layers, layer masks, and selection. So I decided to offer to retouch photos. I also thought about offering up a photo session, but felt awkward about it. I thought it might be weird having to take photos from someone I vaguely knew at the office. Then again, I realized that the feeling was silly because if I wanted to take my photography to the next level, I'd need to practice, even with "semi-real" clients. Clients and potential clients nonetheless.

I decided to go for it. To my surprise, my auction item had a mini bidding war. My service went for over $100, which was on the higher end of what other items were going for. After the auction was over, I learned that the Editor-in-Chief has bid on my item. She even asked her assistant to proxy bid for her, if anyone had outbid her. How exciting!

Sunday is the big day. I will be photographing her 3-year-old who I have met at the office before. She's really cute. I will definitely be posting the results when it's done!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How's about some pictures!

I realized this morning that my posts have been pretty word heavy. I gotta lotta words, what can I say? But here's some lovin' from SF on the Friday after the FTS tour.


Plus one from my neighborhood, playing with a little sun flare.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

F-Stop Beyond = AWESOME!

Since launching myself into the nitty gritty of photography, I've been scouring the web for links and sites and forums (oh my!) that are helpful for a newbie like me. One such site that I've discovered and now LOVE is F-Stop Beyond and now F-Stop Beyond: In Living Color.

I first stumbled upon F-Stop Beyond when Liana Lehman posted that her interview would be available that day. I had never been to the site, but man, I was sure glad I clicked on over. I listened to the interview and it was just so blown away. Hearing the words of a successful photographer, recognized by her name and her branding in the industry, and listening to her journey from where she started to where she is now was so humbling. Not to mention that Ron Dawson is a great interviewer, who delves in past "What kind of photography do you do?" and really allows listeners to get to know the photographer on a deeper level.

And now, with the launch of F-Stop Beyond: In Living Color, there are video interviews! Even better! The first set is of the Santa Barbara rockstar (in my book!) David Jay. You get a peek into the Freedom House, get to listen to DJ's story, and anecdotes from THE assistant, Crystal. I'm not sure how to phrase this, but the interview allows us to bring him down to a more real level. You get to see that DJ is a real guy, with a real business, living a real life, and so down to earth. I appreciate and respect DJ and all his success that much more! Check it:

Thanks Ron for what you do. Thanks for sharing these fantastic interviews, and I can't wait to see/listen to more!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Over-Achievers Anonymous

Well, I've done it. I emailed a group of friends and family and asked them for five words that define me. I came up with a list myself, but I think it's definitely a different twist when you get the outside perspective. Thanks J* for the "homework".

I was a little hesitant at first. I mean, who wouldn't be? What if my self-reflection was way off base from what others see me as? And of course, I cringe at criticism, even when I ask for it. I think it has to do with the fact that I suffer from "Over-Achievers" syndrome. I strive to be the best and achieve as much as I can. Like I said, I missed being the Valedictorian in high school by all of 0.18. Close like the Olympics.

It all happened since I started school -- not just high school, but grade school too. It's come from years of praise, starting in pre-school in France. Yes, France. When I was a little kid, my dad's job got moved to St. Etienne, France, about an hour outside Lyon, and about six hours south of Paris. I was about three and a half and not yet in school. When I started pre-school, I didn't speak a word of French, but being really young, languages just come naturally. I was speaking better French than my parents! When learning to read, I learned in French first, English second. My teachers were amazed that I was learning just as easily as the other French kids who were native speakers.

When we moved back to the US, I started second grade. I had a little trouble at first pronouncing some of the words in English, but for the most part, the transition was smooth. My parents were always really proud of me and I think it was that positive reinforcement that pushed me harder to succeed. I moved up to the top of my class and pretty much sailed through elementary school and junior high. But I think it was the lack of occasional criticism or constructive criticism that causes me to tense up and cringe.

I like positive praise. It's a lot harder for me to take criticism, I mean who likes it? It's tough because I know that criticism can be constructive and make me and my work a better person. I recently had my performance review at my job. It was actually the first performance review meeting that I've had since I started two and a half years ago. My first experience with a corporate performance review wasn't very positive. It wasn't that I hadn't done a good job, it was that my manager and I did not see my performance level eye to eye. Where I thought I met the requirement completely, if not above it, she said I "met minimum". This was hard for me to swallow. It was tough. After that, I decided I didn't want to work with her anymore and any bit of criticism that came from her, I took like a bullet. I was on a mission to get out of that situation.

However, from that first "real-world" job, I learned that, in a way, her review of my work and constructive criticism (even though I didn't see it that way at the time), pushed me to where I am today. I wanted to prove to her and my eventual new manager that I would out-perform and over-achieve unlike anyone else. I guess that's just my personality. While I'm not the most passionate about my job (and this is where my journey as a photographer begins) I do still strive to do well. So as I was saying, I had my performance review for the year with my current manager. It was a smooth meeting because, as intended, I met my goals and out-performed where I could. And I said to my manager, "I don't know if you knew this, but I'm kind of an over-achiever", he laughed and nodded and replied, "Yeah, I sort of noticed".

How does this tie in to my photography?

Well, I've discovered that I'm in an entirely new arena. I'm not the best. I'm not the most talented. I don't know everything. I don't have years of experience or formal training. I want to incorporate my burning drive for photography and achieve. I need to take what I do have, my personality, my honesty and candor, and my drive and in Tim Gunn's words, "Make it work." I will define me and build my brand.

Here is a sampling of the responses to my question:
tenacious, focused, honest, reasonable, authentic, funny, kind-hearted, dedicated, charming

I was really touched to receive these answers from my friends and family. These were honest answers as I didn't bribe anyone :) These will definitely get me on track with my definition.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Schmoozing or Networking?

From Webster's dictionary :: schmooze: to converse informally : chat; also : to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favor, business, or connections

I told my friend that she's a professional schmoozer. I meant it with the best intentions, but I guess she didn't think it was the best compliment. I quickly backed up my assertion with direct evidence -- she is a label relations manager for a streaming music company; she speaks to label reps daily, sometimes going to dinner and/or drinks, and attending concerts. This last week, I had the opportunity to see her in action. As she "worked" the room, she was constantly called out by different people - label reps, coworkers, company partners, musicians, etc. One label rep said enthusiastically that she was "her favorite relationship manager ever!" That says a lot.

I'm so impressed with my friend E's ability to make connections and for lack of a better word, schmooze. I guess it is also called networking, but schmoozing has so much more personality. E also realized after I explained it to her that I didn't mean it in an offensive way, but in all seriousness and honesty, that is what she does, daily. She's clearly made connections and maintained relationships with those who will not only help her in her career track, but also with whom she can assist. It's a symbiotic relationship.

I've learned that I never really took advantage of the whole networking "thing", perhaps to my own detriment at times. I didn't graduate college with fistfuls of referrals or business cards from prospective employers. I was often too shy to put myself in the open and ask the questions I wanted. I didn't make contacts that would put me on the fast track to success. I sort of regret that as I look back.

But I am now moving foward. I want to take advantage of as many opportunities to meet people - photographers, future clients, future friends, anyone - to further my business as well as reciprocate however possible. I want to foster relationships, where I can learn, help, and return favors from others. There's so much to learn from other perople, and so far, I've been met with the utmost kindness from some of the biggest names in the industry. It's so humbling to know how down to earth and grounded these folks are. It makes putting yourself on the line that much easier.

Never in a million years would I think that I would introduce myself to two of the big names in the wedding industry, but I did. I never thought that I would have the courage to message industry giants and become "friends". These little steps nurture my confidence level and push me to do that much more the next time. Introduce myself to five people. Give out ten business cards. Comment on three blogs.

I'm learning from my friend E, the "schmoozer" and taking her example and applying it to my business. I see the importance of networking, and would like to make the most of it with each opportunity!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fast Track Photographer

I was so excited about the package I received in the mail! It was Dane Sanders' Fast Track Photographer, which I have patiently been waiting for since I ordered it.

I forget exactly where I first heard about the Fast Track Photographer, but I was so excited about it coming in the mail. I was even more stoked to get the eBook from Dane a few days prior to the book shipping from the warehouse. I quickly downloaded and opened the PDF and started reading. Everything started to resonate in my mind. I want to be a "Beth" not a "Franz". I don't want to get the "Grumpies".

I'm only on Chapter 3, but I know that this book will definite serve me so well as I develop my business. I also think it's so awesome to have this book now while I start my business, helping to curtail some of the frustrations of any beginning.

I just took my pDNA test and I'm ready to see where I lie and how the rest of the book unfolds! The sky's the limit!

Denver, August 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kickboxing and Branding

I was huffing and puffing in my kickboxing class. It's been about four weeks since my last class. Oh that pesky ankle sprain and travel for work. The ankle is back in action (thanks to cold laser!) and things at work have cooled down.

Bob and weave. Jab. Cross. Hook. Upper. Deep breath. Side push kick, roundhouse. Wipe my forehead.

In the midst of trying to follow along with the punching and kicking combinations, all my mind could go back to was branding. Branding? While kickboxing? The whole business side of photography has been at the forefront of my mind since the Free to Succeed tour. How am I going to brand myself? What is unique to me? How do I add value?

All this while doing front kicks and back push kicks. Maybe I wasn't working hard enough in the TurboKick class, but I sure was in overdrive in terms of branding. I was thinking about the 24 Hour Fitness brand and how it has been promoting its training sessions along with the Olympics. I thought about the Nike Swoosh and how it's an internationally recognized symbol of Nike and the "Just do it" slogan. I thought about how Jasmine Star built her brand from the ground up and claimed her piece of the pie in the wedding photography capital of the world - Orange County. I want to create a brand.

So while I keep working on my brand, I'm taking more action. I'm taking J*'s suggestion and asking friends and family to come up with five words to describe me. I don't want this to just be an esoteric project. I want to share it with everyone, as I craft my brand that is uniquely me. This is not a solitary endeavor! I can't wait to see what comes!

Jab. Cross. Hook. Upper. Cool down.

I'm pumped! I'm doing it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Yesterday, for the first time in a good four weeks, I went back to the gym. I have "good" excuses for not going including birthdays, get-togethers, traveling in three different time zones, work dinners, and the Free to Succeed Tour. Blame the tour, right?! Ha. As one of my friends always says, "DST: Diet Starts Tomorrow" for those times when you get bogged down and know that you haven't been eating very healthy. Anyway, I started my routine over again yesterday.

I was running late for the previously usual 24SET class, thanks to a long meeting at the end of the day. Those kinds of meetings really annoy me, but no sense in beating a dead horse. I don't like being late to those classes because then you end up being that person trying to set up and distracting everyone else. Instead, after changing into my workout clothes, I approached a treadmill.

Leading up to this decision, I kept thinking about how my fitness level had improved every time that I used the treadmill. I don't know if it was just a psychological thing, or what, but if it gets me there, I'll buy it. The last time I used the treadmill was probably May? I tend to use the more "comfortable" apparatus, my favorite, the elliptical. But yesterday was different. I decided on the treadmill.

Now I'm not one of those people who loves running. In fact, I thought my best friend was nuts when she joined cross country in high school. I was the one who finished in the bottom five for the freshman P.E. running test. I've never liked it, and I think running for my life is the only real motivator. But yesterday was different.

I'm determined to make changes in my life, along every step - my health, my job, my business, my relationships. It all has to start at some point, and saying "I will" or "I'll try" just doesn't cut it anymore.I really do feel that my life changed after August 11, that faithful day of the Free to Succeed Tour. I listened to DJ and Jasmine* ever attentively and soaked in every word. I took copious notes. And what stuck out in my mind yesterday when I pressed "Start" on the treadmill was when J* said, "either you're doing something or you're not" and gave the example of either you're lifting a chair or not lifting a chair -- you can't try to lift a chair. You either are or you're not.

In my little reflection, walking at 3.0mph, I decided, I'm going to run. I upped the speed to 3.5, 3.8, 4.0, 4.5... Soon I was running. I wasn't trying to run, I was doing it. At that moment I realized that this philosophy can be applied in all areas of life. Often, I know that I think about doing things or say that I'll try to meet up with friends. That's not actually doing. My efforts depend on me and my decisions.

As a result, I have a new mantra that I want to keep reminding myself of. This personal motto comes from Yoda on Star Wars, "Do or do not, there is no try".

I ran for a few short bursts, feeling alive and free, mixed with walking on an incline to catch my breath. I pushed myself to make it through a 90-second interval. I knew I could, I just had to do it.

Well, I did it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oh the things you can find on the internet!

The internet has been a phenomenal resource in furthering my understanding of various topics in photography, business, and marketing. I've been following the [b] school blog for a couple of months now, taking in each and every one of Becker's quick videos. It was through him that I stumbled upon Jodi Friedman's MCP Actions blog. Jodi is truly a Photoshop guru, who is so willing to teach what can be a very intimidating program.

Today, I was perusing her site and was wondering how photographers apply their logo with borders to all their photos that they post online. I figured there had to be a simpler way than opening each and every photo and applying each piece manually. Having to do it that way almost seems silly. And in the land of quick turnaround, it would be silly and self-defeating.

I searched the keywords of "borders" and "logo" and came upon an online tutorial, by guest blogger Matt Antonio. I recognized his name from the OSP forums (although, I'm still waiting for verification, and can only read topics -- it's still very helpful!), and was so stoked to find this help! The tutorial can be found here. It creates an action that you can not only run on single photos, but it's also batchable -- ie automated, so once you're ready you can just walk away. Way cool!

Here are some samples from some earlier photos:


Friday, August 15, 2008

SF Walking Tour

I've been in San Francisco this past week for work. The week started out great with the Free to Succeed Tour at the Sheraton down by Fisherman's Wharf. It was probably the most inspiring four hours that I've sat through -- but unlike any other four hour meeting, it went by so much faster than I could ever imagine. Eventually it had to end, and reality soon set in.

I set out to San Francisco Tuesday morning, after going to bed pretty late on Monday. I was so pumped from the show that it was hard to fall asleep. I was so excited, my heart kept racing. It was like that butterflies in the stomach feeling after my first kiss. That exhilarating feeling, where you feel like you could turn cartwheels, or run a mile without breaking a sweat. Yeah, it was that kind of a feeling.

Reality kicked in. Oh yeah, I have a real-world job. I have that "safe" job that keeps me "secure". I got to sit in on presentations for our National Sales Meeting. I think it was the largest gathering of people from our company from all divisions. We basically took over the Downtown Marriott. The presentations went well, but I yearned for the outside world, where I could shoot freely in the street, and make the most of having to commute 45+ minutes to San Francisco.

So today, after my last session, we all had the afternoon free. I sat in the lobby (which has free wireless!) and listened to some of the [b] school podcasts. I haven't gone through all of them, but there hasn't yet been an episode that has disappointed. I can't wait until it officially launches. After checking my email and reading my blog feeds, I headed out on the town. I sort of felt like a tourist with my camera around my neck, but I didn't care. I was going to practice my craft and play with the manual controls.

I found that I was able to consistently take photos that had a good exposure. So apparently, I just discovered how to use the light meter. I always knew there was that thing in the viewfinder, but I didn't know that was the light meter. I felt kind of dumb after I realized it, but it also helped so much to nail the exposure! I was reading Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure at the airport last week, which led to my epiphany. Imagine, all this time "guessing" aperture and shutter speed! As well as constantly checking in the histogram -- I do know how to read those. :)

I walked from the Metreon, up to Union Square, and into Macy's. I knew that the little DJ had been found, but I went up to the spot that Jasmine* hid DJ. I found the spot and unfortunately for the guys in front of me, they got pooped on by the pigeons perched above.


I walked past Neiman Marcus and saw this awesome jewelry cart. I stopped to snap some photos and this lady walked by. I wasn't focusing on her, but she got in the shot. She clearly wasn't too pleased. Then I meandered up to Grant Avenue.

I finally saw the Chinatown Gate after a long time. I think I was probably a little kid the last time I had seen it.

Then I walked a bit through Chinatown and back up Bush past the French Consulate -- where I was issued my student visa for my year abroad. I enjoy my alone time. This afternoon was just what I needed after a long week.

I'm learning more about San Francisco bit by bit. I often feel like a tourist in the city, especially since I usually go into the city when I'm with visiting friends.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

As I sit here...

I'm sitting in the lobby of the Marriott in Downtown San Francisco, and I can't help but think about everything that is outside this building. Not just the surroundings, but the potential -- my potential -- outside this bubble of a safe and "secure" corporate job. (What corporate job is ever secure?) I'm here for work, helping with the presentations for our National Sales Meeting. I can definitely say that I'm comfortable being here in my current job capacity; however, I do crave and yearn for something more.

I remember how hard I worked through high school. I finished second in my class, 0.18 points from being the Valedictorian. I was driven and determined to succeed. That was the path that my parents put me on, without all the pressure. I desired success and I drove it to the finish line.

When I got to college, it was a whole different ball game. Classes were huge, and I became a guppy in the shark tank. Scared. Intimidated. I desired "safety". I floated through college with a major that I was interested in, but I lacked that drive and determination I was so familiar with in high school. Nevertheless, I did well in my classes, but I stayed in my comfort zone.

From the beginning there was one thing I was bound and determined to do since high school: study abroad. My junior year of college, I packed up two huge suitcases, kissed and hugged my family goodbye for now, and embarked on the greatest journey of my college career. I moved to Lyon, France for a full year. I met some of my best friends, learned so much independence, and eliminated any fear I held about travel. I also embraced my deep love for photography. At the time I only had a 2nd or 3rd generation Sony point-and-shoot digital camera, but I loved it. I captured so much of my trip and came back with a couple gigs of images. Friends, landscape, travel, good times. That year changed my life.

I've found that taking the uncertain path can have some of the biggest payoff. I knew none of the people who traveled abroad that year; I was the only one representing my university. And yet, these folks are my closest friends that I have today. Our bond from a shared experience and shared moments is unlike any other I can imagine.

And now, I yearn to take another uncertain path and pursue my love of capturing happy, once in a lifetime moments. After last night, I'm ready. I'm ready to take some action and not just think about doing it. This is something that I'm incredibly excited about -- and for anyone who knows me -- I'm not the most easily excited. That's how I know that this is different. I feel so alive. I'm not about to extinguish that feeling.

Free to Succeed Tour!

So I'm exhausted, but bursting at the seams with excitement and newly absorbed knowledge. I just got back from the Free to Succeed Tour in San Francisco hosted by the awesome David Jay and fantastic Jasmine Star. I totally feel like I got to rub elbows with celebrities. So starstruck!

Here's the bus:

What can I say?! Tonight was so awesome and enlightening and inspiring. Jasmine Star's story totally resonated down to my bones. She reminds me so much of friends from college and I loved her message of "Keepin' it Real". I'm all about that. She's just as real and genuine in person, as she is on her website and blog. I loved the insight into a manageable workflow, word of mouth marketing, and the super cool ShowItWeb and ShowItSites. It's also humbling to learn how DJ started - at $1,000 a wedding and is now at $15k. As an aspiring photographer and a bride-to-be I got to experience both perspectives, and I have so much more appreciation and realize the value of my photographer's work.
I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and approached them both after the seminar. Normally, I don't think I would have done that. I consider myself to be a shy person, but I was like, "When then heck will I be in the same room as DJ and Jasmine Star?!" So I did it. I stood in line, as if to get an autograph, and said my thank you's (THANKS to YOU BOTH!), and got a photo op.

Check it:

It's 1am, but I wanted to get this out while it was fresh!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A New Challenge

I've been living, breathing, thinking, and dreaming photography since that day in Half Moon Bay, when I had an impromptu photo shoot with two of my colleagues' kids. I had brought my gear to the beach, thinking that I would just take some scenery shots. When I spotted that there were some kids on scene, I thought, "perfect"! I didn't want it to be awkward for the parents and just start taking shots of their kids, but I did anyway. It turned out to be pretty great. The kids were cute and their parents now had some recent shots to share. Yes!

Here are some of my favorites:

Little C: This little guy is my manager's son. I don't think he was too sure what to make of the camera, but I was able to catch some precious moments. His dad asked me about maybe taking some photos of his wife and him, as well as their whole happy family. Cool!

Little R: This little guy was so cute! He even asked me to take his picture. He posed and smiled and said "cheese". Definite ham. And on the upside, his mom called me the next week asking if I would be the photographer at their party. Unfortunately, I was out of town. Dang, it would have been a great first gig!

In pursuit of my personal holy grail - becoming a professional photographer - I've decided to challenge myself to practice more. It's all about the practicing. In order to hone some of my skills, I've been reading Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson, and has shined some light on the basics for me. Similar to the "101 in 1001" goals list, I want to complete my new goal of "30 photos in 30 days". This would just be a start, of course, to kick myself into gear and pursue my dreams. It's so close I can taste it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A most auspicious day!

I've always been the type of person who is into seeing "signs". I don't mean aliens or anything M. Night Shyamalan style, but in that things happen for a reason. I feel like nothing happens "accidentally", but has been laid out by a force larger than us -- whether that may be God or other spiritual entity you may believe in -- and we are faced with a choice of taking up the challenge or letting it go. Our lives are determined by the steps that we choose to take or to walk away from.

Today being 8-8-2008, I've decided to launch my blog to document my journey as a photographer. I will still have my personal blog, but I wanted to keep a space dedicated to my endeavors. As mentioned on the Flickr blog, today is "a most auspicious day!", and they are celebrating 24 hours of Flickr today, so log in and post your photo from today!

I'm so excited and have been blessed with signs that have been pointing me in the right direction. I've felt the yearning to pursue photography since even before I was entrenched in wedding planning and having met with our photographer. His energy and vibe, as well as his talent in capturing a moment, served to reinforce my motivation to pursue what drives me.

I stumbled upon Jasmine Star's first blog, and her candid honesty and openness to share her fears, struggles, and doubts, has been an incredible inspiration to me. Her amazing success since launching her business in 2006 has been an overwhelming source of motivation as well. I even emailed her to ask a couple of questions and she replied back! I get a little starstruck when personalities from the industry acknowledge my emails.

Finally, I think this will be a fantastic start to an incredible journey when I attend the Freedom to Succeed Tour hosted by the talented David Jay and the aforementioned awesome Jasmine Star! Reading their reports about each stop has been so fun and gets me that much more excited about the next stop. And the next one being in San Francisco! At first I had hesitated to sign up. But then I thought, why not? It would be my hesitation that would prevent from moving forward; I want to move forward and pursue this.