Always Something There to Remind Me

It’s always rewarding to take a photo that will instantly bring you back to that exact moment in time and allow you to bask in endless nostalgia. I’ve been to Disneyland a countless number of times and have taken thousands upon thousands of photos of this 80+ acres of land, but while I do come back with some nice photos, I don’t often come back with photos that give me pure Disney (if that makes any sense, it probably doesn’t but in my head it did). This is one of the few photos that actually gives me that sense of Disneyland in the time period I best remember it — the mid-to-late ’90s. I guess I had tried all the angles and finally got one that was just classic, which is what I was striving for: a photo that looks like it could’ve been in one of those Disneyland souvenir guidebooks back when. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in trying to get an unseen angle, especially when you’re taking pictures of your favorite subject, that you miss taking the pictures that will actually describe that moment in time best. It happens to me all the time.

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Lens Flare

One trend that’s been happening is the use of lens flare in photos, especially portraits. A lot of ad campaigns and things use lens flare, even though it’s been deemed an aberration and a no-no in photography. As for me, I find that I like it when it’s used subtly. I experimented a little with my friends at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, which has a really beautiful art garden, during an impromptu fun “photo shoot”. These photos are strictly out-of-camera, no retouching has been done to them. They all use my Nikon D90 and a Nikkor 50mm/1.8 lens. The one on the left is your standard portrait. By tilting my lens and shooting at an angle where the sun’s rays just slightly spill into it (apologies to my poor camera’s sensor), I get a nice soft lens flare effect on the right one without the little light refractions which show up in my California Science Center photo.

Here’s another example with another friend taken on the same day. The left one is nice, but the right one seems to get a wash of sunshine:

The things about trends are that they can become really cheap and tacky looking really fast when the trend is over and another one shows up. For these pictures, I was slightly inspired by some photos I’d seen in my sisters’ teen magazines which use a lot of lens flare like this. I adjusted my white balance to be a little more golden and soft (auto white balance had corrected it so it was more blue). Some people don’t like the lens flare look, but I think it looks good when used in the right situations.

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Square-ish

This time, I wanted to try something out. The square format of large format cameras has been getting quite popular, especially with inventions such as the Hipstamatic application on the iTouch/iPhone; it really makes you think about composition because the square is a pretty unusual shape as opposed to the traditional rectangular canvas. You get to be more creative with the placement of your subject and the relationship between positive/negative space. I have to admit that I had been getting into a rule-of-thirds-rut. Usually when I take pictures, I tend to think of what would look good as a desktop background, so I place pictures in the right third, but using Lightroom, tried out different crops on this picture of a giraffe that I took while at the San Diego Safari Park (which used to be called the Wild Animal Park).

The post-processing is a little different than the one I did on my Grizzly River Run picture because I wanted to make it bolder and more reminiscent of those African photo prints that you sometimes see at places like Pier 1 Imports haha. I like the almost 3D look that the giraffe has. The processing was about the same as last time, except I skipped the whole contrasting/brightness thing.

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Descanso Gardens

My dad recently introduced me to this place Descanso Gardens. Unlike the sort-of-nearby Huntington Library, Descanso Gardens is pretty affordable and is more of a wilderness park than a manicured garden. It’s $8 per person and is located somewhere near the mountains so there is a lot of natural wildlife and things here. We saw countless spider webs, squirrels, and butterflies and more bees than you can shake a stick at. It’s a nice place to just stroll around and soak up some sun.

In the summer they also have weekly jazz concerts at night, which is a nice place to have a dinner date if you’d like. The day we went, however, was so hot that it was almost unpleasant but the flowers were full in bloom (except for the lilacs). There’s also a cute little train ride called the Enchanted Railroad that is $3 per person and takes you around the little garden area they have. So if you’re looking for a nice garden area to visit and the Huntington Library’s $15 admission fee seems a little steep for you, check out Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge.

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Experiment


One thing I like to do is experiment with vintage looks. So I tried it out on this picture from Grizzly River Run I took, since the Imagineers did an awesome job of making it look like an old mining town, and came up with this.

This is the original photo:

Tintypes and carte de visites of the 1800s tend to have a lot of darks and lights with not a lot in between. So I upped the fill a LOT to lose a lot of that beautiful DSLR detail, upped the brightness, and lowered the contrast. I converted to black and white and played around with split toning to get that tea-soaked look that a lot of the old photos had. Then I used a vignette effect to get the “just-developed-off-glass” wet look. Afterwards, I sent it over to Photoshop where I used a texture from firesign24-7 on Deviant Art. I used the blending layer option “Multiply” to get enough of the texture showing where it didn’t overwhelm the picture.

Don’t know how accurate the look is (especially with the tubes haha), but I’m happy with it. For now.

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Renaissance Man

One thing I love about the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Irwindale is that it just provides a great escape into another time. Yes, I know that the Renaissance portrayed at Renaissance Faires are highly idealized, stylized, anachronistic, and overall myth (I don’t think Jack Sparrow is classified as “Renaissance”) but I can’t help but want to believe that this place existed and that people like this guy existed. There are so many characters at the faire, so many sights and sounds, it is simply overwhelming and why I go every year.

And on a more personal note, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire this year gave me an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and take the photo. Usually I am afraid to take candid photographs of people, but I was very inspired by street photographers like Vivian Maier that I just decided to go for it. And I’m very glad I did! I’m far from being that good, though.

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L.A. Lights

In my Literature of Los Angeles class, there was a story that featured a lot about the lights of Los Angeles. It’s called “L.A. Glows.” by Lawrence Weschler and in it he talks about how effervescent they are, how they have a mysterious quality to them that was unlike any other city. When it was written, undoubtedly there were fewer lights than there are now. So just imagine if that writer had been right next to me, on the roof of the Griffith Observatory, looking at the humming glow down below.

This was the first time I’d gone to the Griffith Observatory at night but not the first time I’d seen L.A. from above. However, the sight never fails to make me stop for a moment and just be taken by the lights which promise so much to so many.

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Hello Officer

Recently, Universal Studios in Hollywood, CA has been utilizing more and more street talent to liven up their movie set-quality cities. You can hear bickering neighbors up in the balconies, see your favorite cartoon characters dancing in the streets, or even one of the Queen’s guards standing post (but watch out, he’s a little mischievous). It’s made Universal Studios a much more spontaneous place because the cast are so great!

This policeman was looking for trouble until he found me! Haha.

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California Science Center

The California Science Center is a place that a lot of people seem to take for granted. It’s a great place for children and is high on interaction, which is essential for any education. The entry way to the science center is settled beneath this grand walkway next to their IMAX theater in the Science Plaza.

Designed by artist Larry Kirkland, the top of this structure is covered by a Dichroic Skylight, which changes colors throughout the day and leaves beautiful imprints of color on the floor. The 1,578 orbs which hang from the ceiling come together collectively to be called the Aerial. The gold and palladium painted spheres makes you think about the galaxy and about where everyone is located in relation to each other in the world. It’s a mark of greatness that you start learning about science even before you take a step inside!

Find out more about the Science Plaza at the California Science Center here.

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New York

New York always seemed like such an elusive place before I finally went there in 2007. To me, New York meant “the big city” even though I live in L.A. However, New York just seems like the quintessential American city. It’s a bustling melting pot of a place where new meets old, where modernity meets tradition in a seamless assimilation. When I was there, I definitely could feel a difference in the way people lived. It was a fast-moving city where people routinely began crossing the street before the signal turned, even cops did it!

The architecture itself was also a sight to behold. From the humble apartment buildings to the towering skyscrapers, it was a mishmash of artistic styles and views that matched the eclectic culture of New York and its inhabitants. I’ll admit that when I was there, I didn’t particularly like it, but once I left, I realized that New York never left me.

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