Photographer and Author
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A Cup of Joe and a Slice of Humanity
My adventures with coffee shops   About a year ago, I wanted to create a space for myself to overcome my anxiety with writing, so I created a website called Demitasse Wanderlust where I blog about the different coffee shops in the greater Phoenix area. I’ve been writing most of my life. My degree is English Literature, so you can imagine the amount of writing I did in those four years. However, after I graduated from California College of the Arts with a MFA in Creative Writing, I noticed that I had developed a lot of anxiety when it concerned sharing my work with others. The workshops in graduate school made me acutely aware of all my weaknesses, but they also affected my confidence. The main and original purpose of this blog was to remind myself to lighten up. As my mother often tells me, “Even the longest life is a short one.”   As I’ve been working on this blog, I’ve realized that coffee shops are more than just a place to satisfy your caffeine addiction. They are symbolically significant in our society because they offer a place to gather, meet, and to feel a part of a community. […]
Aug 12
Concert Photography: Heavy Metal vs. Classical Music
My first foray into photojournalism was concert photography. Because I was a heavy metal musician for many years, I got assigned to a lot of metal concerts. These were some of the toughest assignments because heavy metal bands like to create an ominous, theatrical atmosphere with red, purple, or blue lighting. It took me a while to adjust to such low lighting. Even though it was a challenge, I still enjoyed the process and in the end I became a much better photographer.   Recently, I was hired to photograph the East Valley Youth Symphony. From a photographer’s perspective, this environment is very different from rock n’ roll and heavy metal. At a rock concert you have the photo pit and three songs to get all your photos. However, with the symphony, you have seated guests and the musicians sit close together. Being discreet and quiet is of utmost importance. Most cameras make a noise when the shutter is released. This means you don’t want to shoot when the music is really quiet. Following a dress code is also important. Wearing black or dark colors is advised so that you don’t stick out and distract the audience from the performance. […]
Robert Capa: Photographer Profile
Whenever I interview someone, I usually ask them about their greatest influence. You can learn a lot about a person from their influences. What qualities attract us? How do these individuals shape our style, workflow, methodology, and etc? Maybe this influential person is someone in our field, or maybe it’s someone we know well.   I had been involved in photography for a few years before I had learned about Robert Capa, but when I had watched a documentary about his life, I became fascinated with the way he worked, his courage, and his incredible talent. Capa was a Jewish Hungarian photojournalist as well as one of the founding partners of Magnum Photos cooperative. As a young man, Capa witnessed the violence that was consuming Europe. He was part of a generation that watched Spain fall into civil war and Hitler rise to power in Germany. Capa was undaunted by the danger all around him. For example, during World War II, Capa parachuted with American troops where they were dropped into Germany. Hundreds of paratroopers died and Capa could have easily died with them, but it never stopped him from capturing footage of the war. Because of Capa, we have a glimpse […]
Jul 22
Project Zodiac
Every year since I was a child, my mother bought Llewellyn’s Astrological Calendar. Besides being interested in astrology, my mother referred to the calendar to know the dates for cutting our hair. For example, if you cut your hair on the full moon in water signs, which is Cancer, Pisces, and Scorpio, it’s supposed to promote thickness.   Several years ago, I became friends with a woman who studied astrology and even worked for the renowned Mountain Astrologer Magazine. Through my friendship, I gained a much better and deeper understanding of astrology. I learned that it involves much more than our sun sign, which is the sign we’re born into. I love talking astrology with other folks. When I decided to embark on this photography series, my two main goals were to use models that were actually born in the sign they were portraying and to create my own interpretation so that I wasn’t merely replicating the imagery that I’ve seen so many times for each sign. Of course, like with Gemini, which I have pictured above, there are some elements that I had to include. Gemini is about the two sides of the coin, the twins. However, Gemini is […]
Themes
I enjoy all my shoots, but I particularly had fun with this one. When I first mentioned doing a photo series for the 7 Deadly Sins, a lot of people told they thought it was over done. In some ways they’re right, but I thought it would be an interesting challenge to see if I could come up with my own interpretation, despite the fact so many people have put their own stamp on this theme. This photoshoot was Gluttony, which involves an excess of food usually. I got the inspiration for this shoot from an old Gwen Stefani video called “Luxurious.” There’s a scene where Stefani is lying on colorfully wrapped candy. I loved the colors and the concept, and so I adapted it to my shoot. I certainly did get weird looks at the store when I picked up bags and bags of candy. Though I bought quite a lot, it still wasn’t enough. During the shoot, I made sure to arrange the candy so that I would be able to go back into Photoshop and clone the candy so that the entire background would be covered. The editing was a little more difficult than I thought it […]
Dealing with Doubt
The hardest part with the arts is that there is no “right” answer. It’s about choices, preferences, interpretations, and so much more. As an creative person, there have been many moments where I have felt doubt creep into my mind. Typically, I’m one of those people who thinks about every outcome, as though I’m playing a game of chess. This is especially the case when I’m trying to get to sleep, and I can feel my fears spiderwebbing. It’s definitely not a healthy way to live, but how do we overcome doubt?    When I can feel the anxiety intensifying, which has been a frequent occurrence these last few weeks, I’ll talk to my mom. One of the things that she always tells me is, “It’s not brain surgery. You don’t have someone’s life in your hands.” This is very true, and I’m glad my work doesn’t involve a life or death situation. However, this doesn’t always help me in the moment when I have to make a decision. I’m a perfectionist and very passionate about what I put out into the world. For example, I had been really stressing about a decision I had to make about a project […]
Giving back
Whenever I read stories of people volunteering their time to helping others, I’m often reminded of how little I’m involved in my own community. Thankfully, my photography and writing has given me some opportunities to reach out to people. However, it’s very easy for me to lock myself in my office and work until I fall asleep. I’m an introvert. I’m shy, and I suffer from social anxiety. It’s hard to overcome our fears, but I’ve reached a point in my life where my desire to be part of the community is stronger than my anxiety. A friend of mine told me about a volunteering opportunity where Bethlehem Church shelters and feeds homeless women for the night. It was an incredible experience for me because I had a chance to meet some of these wonderful women who benefit from this volunteer organization. Besides the fact that it felt good to do something for someone else, I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself. I believe that’s what it means to feel part of a community. While we have social media platforms that give us virtual space to express our views, there is still a false sense […]
May 31
Tattle Tales: Victor
Even though I have completed my first book, Tattle Tales: Tattoo Stories and Portraits, I still like to collect stories of people and their ink. I met Victor while he was working for my parents. Of course, I immediately noticed the art on his sleeve. It’s no surprise that  Alice in Wonderland is one of his favorite movies. However, one thing that I was surprised to learn from my conversation with Victor is how tolerant religious communities have become in regard to tattoos. Victor is very active in his church, and he has not encountered negativity towards his tattoo. During my interview with Victor, I came to realize that tattoos give people the ability to keep their artwork and memories with them no matter what. In the past year, we’ve seen horrific environmental disasters affect many cities all over the country. Sometimes, in a matter of a just a few hours, people lose everything that they own. People with tattoos don’t have to worry about losing the art on their bodies. As tattoos have become more mainstream, our idea of art has evolved. Art is no longer exclusive. Art belongs to all of us.
May 07
Wanderlust
  Before I became a photographer, I thought I wanted to be a full-time writer. In 2012, I graduated from California College of the Arts with a Masters in Creative Writing. I do love to write, but I found it could be very lonely work. After I wrote my first novel, I decided I needed to take a break. During this break is when I started interviewing and photographing people with tattoos. I loved combining my passion for writing with photography because it gave me the best of both worlds. I’m an introvert, so I don’t necessarily hate sitting in a room by myself for hours working. However, I like how photography allows me to collaborate with other people. Plus, the process of photography is generally much faster than writing. For example, I spent three years writing my novel, whereas I could photograph and interview someone and see the results within a few hours. Patience is indeed a virtue when you’re an artist, but sometimes it’s nice (and perhaps necessary) to see something to completion. It makes you feel like you’re moving forward in life. I still love writing fiction, but these days I’m more focussed on photojournalism. So what […]
Cathy Rankin
I have had the pleasure of working with Cathy on a few shoots. This shot was taken during a shoot where we were trying to get as many different looks in one session. In just a few hours and using only natural light, we were able to get many different looks. Being resourceful is an important skill as a photographer. I chose to shoot at my parent’s house because their backyard has interesting walls and lots of greenery, which is rare in Phoenix. Overall, the shoot was a success and we both had a lot of fun.
Superhero
A couple of weekends ago, I had the honor of photographing for the band Superhero at the W Hotel in Scottsdale. Superhero often performs at major corporate and charity events, playing some of the best music from 80’s through today. The band was absolutely great, but the lighting was a definite concern for me. There was very little lighting on the singers, and a large projector screen silhouetted the musicians because there wasn’t enough light in front to balance the screen’s brightness. Because I’ve photographed so many metal bands who play on dark stages, I knew how to handle the situation. Besides adjusting aperture, ISO, and, shutter speed, the other thing that I do in this situation is wait for appropriate moments to capture a good shot. For example, I knew it was too dark to get any kind of jumping or quick movement. Instead, I waited for those moments where the musicians held a pose or weren’t moving too much. A lot of concert photography is making the most out of the situation. The lighting isn’t always going to be ideal. The venue may be so crowded that it’s hard to capture a shot of the band without fans blocking your view. […]
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara 2016
Sep 11
Happy Hour at Parkwood Studios
I’ve always struggled coming up with exciting or unique poses, and  the fact that I put so much pressure on myself to suggest cool poses on the spot doesn’t help either. During the last Happy Hour shoot, I saw that the model had absolutely no problem coming up with different poses and expressions, and I decided that I should let her choose the pose and then I’ll compose the shot. Since my background is concert photography I’m more used to photographing things that are outside of my control. Unless there’s a specific look or idea that I have, I like to collaborate with the other person. In this case especially, our model, Lux Lacheln, had a lot of great ideas for poses that complemented the wardrobe and background. I think the results turned out pretty well.
Aug 02
Happy Hour at Parkwood Photography Studios
   I love going to the workshops hosted by Photographers Adventure Club. These shots are from the most recent Happy Hour Shoot at Parkwood Studios. I’ve never been confident setting up lights in the studio because it requires a high level of accuracy. Lighting, according to many photographers, is the most important element to good photography. So you can imagine why I’ve found it a bit stressful. I really appreciate how PAC sets up the lights and backdrop. Even though I’m not a part of the process, I still learn a lot from watching. The models PAC brings to these workshops are also really good. Since most of my work is the realm of photojournalism, I’m not used to coming up with poses on the spot. Every model I’ve photographed through these workshops has been amazing at coming up with poses. I imagine it’s tough trying to come up with different ideas, but they never cease to amaze me. I’ve actually learned the most from models when it comes to poses because they already know what works and doesn’t work for them.