May 25, 2017

Travel Photography Tips

One of my favorite things about traveling is taking photographs of new places. No matter where I travel these are a few tips I use when taking photos.

View of Los Angeles during sunset [Film]

Seattle cityscape during sunset [Digital]

San Francisco Streets shortly after sunrise [iPhone]

1. Wake up early, Stay out late

Whenever I travel I like to wake up early to explore the city while it's still sleeping and I like to stay up late to experience the nightlife. In the morning most places aren't as crowded and at night big cities come alive. Natural light changes throughout the day and the short period after sunrise and after sunset, known as "golden hour", is my favorite time to take photographs. During golden hour the light is soft and warm, unlike the afternoon when the light is usually the most harsh. Lighting can make a huge difference in your photography!

Women in Kimono in Kyoto [Film]

Busy shopping streets in Osaka [Film]

People watching at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) [Film]

Downtown Seattle [iPhone]

2. Use People

Take a tip from street photography and don't be afraid of strangers in your photos. Use people, buildings, and objects in your photography to tell a story. While traveling you come across all sorts of new people and places. I'm not brave enough to go up to a stranger to ask if I can take their picture. But if possible, I like to capture small moments with strangers in the frame to help set up a mood and to add interest to an image.

Golden Gate Bridge [Digital]

Multnomah Falls  [Digital]

View of Lake Hollywood from Cahuenga Peak [Film]

3. Perspective

Places like Las Vegas, NV have beautiful desert landscapes surrounding the big city. Las Vegas is surrounded by the Mojave Desert, where you can see some amazing landscapes with different types of cacti, joshua trees, sand dunes, and animals. When taking photos of the desert or any landscape you want to make sure to consider composition and perspective. If possible, try to get a view from a different angle or height.  A photo of a cityscape or landscape can become more interesting with added depth. Consider the foreground, middle ground, and background of the image. Lowering your viewpoint and moving to the left or right to change your composition are easy ways to add depth to your image.

Long Exposure taken at El Matador State Beach [Digital]

4. Use a Tripod

Carrying a large tripod around isn't always practical. But if you mainly use your phone or compact camera to take photographs, there are a variety of small, compact tripods on the market. Tripods are especially great when taking photographs at night, when you might want to slow down your shutter speed. A tripod would work great if you are trying to capture city lights at night, like the Las Vegas Strip. A tripod allows you to set your camera position, so you can spend some time setting up your composition. And it also allows you to play with your camera settings.

5. The Best Camera is the one You Have

You don't need a fancy camera to take great photos while traveling. My DSLR is heavy and bulky, and I have gone on trips where the main camera I use is my iPhone. Lately, I've been shooting more film on a camera that is older than I am! Throughout this post I shared whether a photo was digital, iPhone, or film. What I typically use to take photos:
  • For my iPhone I like to use a few apps to edit my photos including: VSCO and Snapseed
  • For photos I take on my DSLR I use a Canon 6D with a 50mm f/1.4 and edit my photos on Lightroom. 
  • For film I typically use my Canon AE-1 and 50mm f/1.8 lens and I prefer Kodak Portra 400 film.  
Whichever camera you use, take the time to learn how to use it correctly and take advantage of any features it may have. 

I hope these tips help you out on your next trip! With summer approaching, check out these great Las Vegas Deals for your next trip! Living in Los Angeles has allowed me to make multiple trips to Las Vegas and there's always something to see and do, from The Strip to the dessert! 


May 7, 2017

To Live

I recently heard about the film Ikiru on a podcast and decided to spend a leisurely Friday night watching the film. And I loved it. Ikiru means "to live", but the film is about Kanji Watanabe, a man that is dying. The first screen shot is from an early scene in the movie, around the time that Watanabe learns that "pleasure is not life". He sings the song, "Gondola no uta", hauntingly with a sense of great loss in his voice. It's a deeply emotional and honest film about life. 

I think in a lot of American films with a terminally ill protagonist, the protagonist does something drastic. They quit their job. They sell all their things. They go and have an "eat, pray, love" experience or something of the sort. Not in Ikiru. And that's why I loved it. Happiness is relative. You don't have to do something that seems extraordinary to have a worthwhile life. At this point in my life, this film really resonated with me. I'm sure a lot of us grapple with the same questions - Am I merely existing? What is happiness? I am in my early twenties and I still have a lot of growing to do. I have given into hedonism time and time again. And have always felt empty. Watanabe's realization that pleasure is not life coincides with recent events and thoughts that I have been having recently.  Like many people, I liked to joke that 2016 was a terrible year - I experienced a lot of hurt, resentment, and unhealthy relationships. 2017 started off rocky, but I'm starting to understand and come to terms with my priorities, trying to learn new skills, and setting new goals for myself.

I don't know what it means "to live". But I do know that with every experience, opportunity, and person that comes into my life I will get closer to understanding. 

This screenshot is from towards the end of the film, when Watanabe is sitting on a swing in the park, singing "Gondola no uta" again. But this time with contentment in his voice.


Apr 20, 2017

Japan Film & Thoughts on Traveling (Solo) and other Musings

I have been wanting to go to Japan for ages. So on a whim, I decided this year I would go. I haven't traveled out of the country for almost three years (!!!). I couldn't find anyone to accompany me, so I traveled to Japan solo...and so ensued another solo travel adventure. I began my trip in Tokyo and then made my way to Nara, Kyoto, Mount Koya, and Osaka. I'm sharing a few of my favorite shots that I took on film. I was hoping to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, but I was a bit too early and the weather was a bit too cold. That didn't take away from the beauty of the country or my experience. There is so much to see, do, and experience in Japan that I'll just have to go back.

This wasn't my first time traveling solo. My first time was right after I graduated from college and I went off to Europe for 5 weeks. That was a scary, amazing, and an insightful experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. But when I came back from that trip, I was forced to face the "real" world after graduation. I had no job. I came back to a post-grad slump. I debated with myself about going back to school. I worked a job that I didn't love. I quit my job. Started a new job. Figured out new career goals. Dated - a lot. Had my heart bruised. I traveled more (domestically). I moved back to Orange County. I made new friends. I've been growing. 

So traveling solo this time wasn't as anxiety inducing. I was excited and ready to see what this new country had in store for me. I arrived in Japan and fell in love with the country instantly. The people, the culture, the food. Because I grew up and went to school in predominately Asian areas my whole life, not too many things were shocking. I experienced some culture shock - the language barrier was a huge one. But nothing too difficult to overcome. I met some awesome people in Japan. Some of the best conversations I've had have been with strangers (who later become friends). I don't think I'll ever forget those drunken nights talking about life, travel, dating, photography, friends, our homes. Amazing how quickly strangers can connect with each other. 

Traveling solo has been one of the most rewarding decisions I've made. One thing that I hear from people when I tell them I'm traveling alone is that they aren't sure they could do that because they enjoy sharing the experience with someone else. Well, I can say I've shared a lot of experiences with a lot of strangers and new friends. And honestly, if I wait for people to travel with me I would have probably not traveled out of the country by now. Traveling solo is a unique experience, and I'm glad to be able to do so. Travel is a different experience for everyone. I travel to experience new cultures, meet new people, and ultimately experience humanity. A lot of conversations I had with people I met were about how when you come back home nothing has changed. The beauty of travel is that all your titles and who you "are" is stripped away. While I agreed with everyone that things are the same when you come back home, I mentioned that while things may be the aren't. Travel changes you in a way that's hard to describe. Since returning, I've met up with a few friends to catch up and talk about my travels. And although things were the "same" when I returned home, I realized that I wasn't. And while that can be frustrating, to have changed so much while everything around you is the same, I've come to appreciate where I am and the opportunities I've been able to take. I don't travel to escape. I always return home with a fresh perspective on my current situation in life. I'm thankful to have friends and family that care about me back home. 


Jan 18, 2017

My Vantage Point

I recently learned about a new start up camera company called Light. I love photography as a way to capture memories and to share my perspective, but carrying around a DSLR isn't always possible or practical. Light's L16 Camera allows users to have the power and quality of a DSLR in their pocket.

Recently I was challenged to share my vantage point from a favorite image of mine. I chose a recent image I took while in San Francisco in the SOMA neighborhood. I took a short walk to a coffee shop by our hotel and had to stop to admire the way the morning light was hitting the buildings. 

I typically find myself stopping and admiring my surroundings and wanting to capture the scene. I didn't have my camera with me, but I did have my iPhone. With a tray full of coffee in one hand and my iPhone in the other I positioned myself to compose the shot to my liking. The compact size and ease of taking a photo on the iPhone allowed me to take this photo while on a quick coffee run. In this particular photo I wanted to capture a scene on the street - the diffused and refracted light from surrounding buildings and the juxtaposition of nature in an urban landscape. 

I've heard that the best camera is the one that's with you, and I think that's an important concept in photography. I think finding my own unique vantage point, while using different mediums and cameras, has been a small step toward learning more and improving my own photography. 

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