Sunday, October 28, 2012

one year

Can't believe it's been a year since I first started shooting in DSLR and writing this blog.  I guess time moves much faster when you're passionate about certain things in life!

When I first started learning tennis, my instructor told me that people generally learn most at the beginning and then after you get better, improvements come in much smaller increments and that's when the real challenge begins.  I of course never became a real good tennis player, but I went through the learning curve and understand what he meant.

As I move on to the 2nd year of my photography study, I remember what it was like when I first started playing tennis.  Looking back this past year, I can see my skills improved noticeably.  I still take lots of crappy photos, but at least I kind of know what I am doing now.  But as I continue to learn more and be happy with what I've achieved, I should also remember that the real challenge is always ahead and the learning never ends.

Last week I was at the Cincinnati Art Museum for my new AAC Photojournalism course assignment.  This was my second visit and it's been 6 months since my first.  I am breaking the rule by showing 6 photos in this post because I want to celebrate my newbie achievement.  With this post, I can now pat myself in the back, be happy with what I've done so far, and look forward to many more years of learning!

October 20, 2012

 March 31, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

goodbye summer glories (part 3)

Life by the Ohio River is a wonderful experience and this river has gone through a lot if you look up its history on wikipedia.  I was at an Ohio River photography exhibition last week.  All the works were taken by Cincinnati Enquirer's photojournalists.  They are all inspiring works and make me even more sure that photography is not an art of the moment but an art of the collective moments from the past.  Only when a photo tells a story of the past, it strikes a chord in people's heart.

These photos were taken in the summer when my parents visited.  We were at Mt. Adams looking out to Kentucky.  It was a hot but beautiful day.

goodbye summer glories (part 2)

Cincinnati is a city with non-stop summer fireworks bonanzas.  I am grateful to be part of the excitements especially because I learned to shoot fireworks with my ancient Nikon D70!

First of all, you really should have a shutter remote (along with a tripod) when shooting fireworks because fireworks is spontaneous (for the viewers at least) and you don't know what you'll get until you see it.  Putting the camera on a timer is just simply crazy- and that's exactly how I did it.

Because my camera is old (8 years and counting) so buying a shutter remote is not a smart investment, especially knowing I will be upgrading my camera in the near future and it may not work on the new camera.  So it's my choice to live with the timer situation for now.

There's a minimum 2-second wait time for my timer so I needed to anticipate the fireworks and pressed the shutter beforehand.  This means taking fireworks was a hit-and-miss exercise for me.  I should be proud of what I got and not dwell on what I couldn't get.

I want to highlight the last photo here - it was taken at the Labor Day Riverfest, in the rain, with an umbrella, standing on top of the muddy Kentucky Newport levee, looking out to Cincinnati.  Not great work but it sure was a messy and interesting experience!

goodbye summer glories (part 1)

It's now mid-October and my last post was in June!  How time flies and sadly, summer is long gone...

I complained about the hot summer in Cincinnati and I'm sure I'll complain it again next summer.  But I know I'll miss the hot humid air more and more as the weather gets colder and colder.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

b&w to the rescue

Sometimes converting a photo to B&W is not entirely an intuitive and creative choice, but a reality.

My Nikon D70 is 8-years old and the ISO technology back then is nothing like the DSLRs today.  So when I photograph in low-night situations, I have no choice but to crank up the ISO setting and that just means the photos will end up with lots of unwanted noise.

The B&Ws here are the outcome of these situations.  I've spent a lot of post-processing time on these because the originals are just awful.  I was not happy with the color in the originals but I am quite happy with I was able to salvage by turning them into B&Ws.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


One of the things I've learned to photograph at art museums, is a more candid way in which viewers interact with the art works.  At the beginning, I have the tendency to capture people looking at arts and just accept what are being presented.  But now, I am more interested in how people and arts co-exist in the frame, more like equal partners.

These were taken at MOMA on a Free Friday Night.  Note to myself - Free Friday Night is a perfect time for people watching and photographing but definitely not a good time to enjoy arts quietly!

street portraits in baby steps

Thanks to the mobile madness these days, I am able to get some street portraits without too much difficulties.

I'm a coward, I know.  Taking advantage of people that are engrossed in their mobile world is taking the easy way out.  I know...

Of all the styles of photography, taking portrait photography is my biggest fear.  This is why I am inspired to be any type of photographer but a wedding photographer.  I don't think I am capable of handling so much human emotions in one day and still be able to create beautiful images of supposedly the most important day of people's life.

I know one day I'll have to overcome this fear and embrace it.  I know I will.  Hey, at least I've stop shooting people from the back all the time.  But in the mean time, just let me take a few more baby steps...

Friday, June 15, 2012

chicago by day

There is one thing you can't possibly avoid when photographing Chicago - magnificent skycrapers.  Your neck can seriously hurt by aiming the camera up all the time.

My AAC instructor Lisa pointed out before how I love shooting reflections.  Looking at the photos posted here, I have to admit that I am indeed a sucker for all sorts of reflections!

chicago by night

I love how darkness and light play in a mysterious way in Chicago's nights.  This city is modern yet full of old-school charm.  I brought my tripod with me on this trip and had a lot of fun with it.

These three are my favorites from this trip.

forms and structures

This year my photography learning plan is ambitious:  learn to create better B&W, learn to use tripod for night photography, and learn to use external Flash tastefully.

What I've done so far:
  • After purchasing a solid tripod and learning the settings of my camera timer, I've managed to start shooting more landscapes at night.
  • For B&W, I've put more attention on how light/shadow and texture impacts the image, and have been looking at more B&W photography books to get inspirations and ideas.
  • As for using external Flash, I bought myself a nice Nikon SB-700 speedlight as a birthday present, read a few blogs and watched a few youtube videos, but that's about it...

May not look like I've accomplished much, but my latest trip to Chicago did result in a few decent B&Ws and one of them was shot at night (Wrigley building).  So I'll say that my learning plan is still on track?


It's been a while since I did my last post.  Lots went on since then - taxes, traveling, family visiting etc.  Happy to say that life has been good and I've been continue shooting!

Since my cherry blossom and neighborhood project, I did another assignment in March before finishing the photography class at AAC.  I chose to use my flimsy little tripod and spent a few consecutive evenings outside of National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  What a beautifully designed building and I am amazed at how successful this exercise turned out to be.  I've learned a lot and this has ignited my interest in both night photography and architecture photography.

While I was there, I thought of an interview on Michael Kenna's Hokkaido project.  Of course I'm no where near his caliber but I realized at that moment how much I enjoy shooting things like this and similar to Michael, I can spend a long time, alone, framing the shots, trying different exposures, and experimenting different perspectives.  Just being able to explore the serenity of a place with no distractions is already a wonderful experience on its own.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

spring is here!

Last week's assignment was neighborhood/tree.

The class kind of knew that if the weather gets much warmer, cherry blossoms would start blooming and we would be able to take lots of wonderful photos.  Luckily that's exactly what happened on St. Patrick's Day.  The weather was wonderful - the sky was blue with beautiful clouds.

I love when the cherry blossoms first bloom in spring.  You don't have any green leaves on the tree yet and the flowers are so fresh and clean, you just wish they could stay like that forever.

Amazingly, Cincinnati is full of cherry trees and you can see the blossoms everywhere you go.  I feel so blessed to be able to experience this.

I took these shots with my 18-200mm lens with no tripod.  I had to drop my arms and take a break every few shots to make sure that my arms are not too tired from holding the camera for too long.  I could feel my arms shaking and I wasn't sure if that would cause motion blur when I zoom in so much with no tripod and everything was on autofocus.  I wish I have a macro lens and a solid tripod for these shots because I am sure I can get more beautiful and abstract photos if I get much closer!  Oh well, they will have to go on to my B&H's wish list...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

more on "a day in the life"

The more I work on this project, the more I appreciate the intricacy of B&W photos.  I will present about 10 of these tomorrow in class and make sure I get lots of feedback from our instructor Lisa on how I can do this better!

Friday, February 24, 2012

a day in the life

Next week, I will be sharing "a day in life" photos with my AAC classmates.  This is a pretty open-ended subject and it certainly allows us to present a series of cohesive photos with narratives.

I've determined to use this project to practice my B&Ws so I can get more feedback from my instructor Lisa.  So here it is, a day in my life - just an ordinary day.

We're all inspired to be extraordinary.  But sometimes, you wake up in the morning wishing you can just be ordinary.  There are no expectations to accomplish anything, no anticipations to achieve anything, we can just live through the day as is.

This may sound uninspiring but really, being ordinary has its beauty.  A day like this means you don't have unnecessary dramas and chaos.  I think we all deserve to have a day like this every once in a while.  This is certainly the cheapest form of therapy.  After an ordinary day, we can have more energy to charge forth and face many unknowns in life.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


We've just relocated to Cincinnati Ohio in the new year!

Moving away from New York City is a very sad thing.  I felt really connected to the city.  It really is a photographer's paradise with endless inspirations.  Having said that, the move to Cincinnati is a great opportunity for me to shoot a very different environment.  It definitely allows me to gain new perspectives.

After arriving here shortly, I eagerly registered for a photography project course at Art Academy of Cincinnati.  Here is my first project - hands. Three very different approaches yet similar in some ways.  I'm glad that I got creative with this.  Hopefully I can continue to push the boundaries and test my capability.