New York in film

City streets

I recently came back from a fantastic 9-day vacation in New York. I’m usually fairly minimalist when I travel, but this time, not so much. The fact that I’m a California girl packing for a New York winter was an added challenge. How do I stay warm, dry and fashionable (because I’m vain like that) for over a week? It’s all about good shoes, a warm coat (or three in my case), and the appropriate accessories (hat, gloves, scarves). I need to go back so they don’t collect too much dust. I haven’t had to be immersed in cold like that since I lived in Portland, and even then it wasn’t that severe.

But enough about clothes. We’re here to talk about photography. Still not being minimalist here, I brought two cameras. I’ve been on somewhat of a film kick lately, so I decided to bring my uncle’s old Pentax Spotmatic. It’s a wonderful camera. I kept the 28mm lens on that baby the entire time, but I also brought a 50mm, just in case. I should have kept it at home though because the wide angle was perfect for my needs.

I experimented a bit. I used color negative film. Kodak Portra 800. It creates a deep saturation that’s really fun. The colors really pop.

My cousin and his wife scored a sweet 5th floor walkup for a steal in Chelsea, which they let me use as home base and let me come and go as I pleased. They live a skip away from the High Line, which is a mile-long, elevated park built on an old rail line.

Snow along the High Line. No one wanted to sit here.

Walking along the High Line provides a great vantage point of the neighborhoods.

View from the High Line.

The architecture is a great mix of old and new.

Love the old and new architecture.

Flat Iron Building, Hotel on Rivington

I wish that SF had some more variety and creativity with their buildings. I mean, come on, the shape of this condo building is so refreshing! You gotta love it.

The Blue Condos

In addition to walking everywhere, I spent a good amount of time learning about the subway, taking the train multiple times daily. It makes me realize how truly lacking in accessibility and connectivity the Bay Area’s public transit system is.

NYC's subway system is so much better than what we have here in SF.


I rarely had to wait more than 5 minutes for any train. And while the underground wasn’t as encompassing as say, Japan’s underground, they still offer more than what SF’s MUNI offers.

I wonder how much business he gets in the subway.

My favorite thing about visiting a new place, is the chance to get immersed in everyday life. It provides an alternate perspective of how to live. I liked figuring out how to adjust my needs to a new locale – where to get coffee, where to get food, which park to visit, how to spend my free time.

Typical old apartment building. Love.

I popped off a button on my coat (the disadvantages of wearing vintage, the thread had gotten quite weak), and usually I would have fixed it myself, but here I just took it to a tailor to have it fixed on the spot. The seamstress was really friendly. It’s nice to patron local businesses, the frameworks of a neighborhood.

Popped off my button, she's fixing it!

The night life is truly great. Dinner at midnight, dancing until 4am, there are a plentitude of options for late night entertainment. And so many people out in the wee hours of night. I never felt unsafe because of the sheer amount of people walking about. I understand why this city never sleeps.

Snapped this while crossing the street, managed not to get run over.

I met up with many friends, shopped the sample sales, hit the bars, ate so much delicious food, enjoyed museums, sights, a comedy show. It was nonstop. And to make this a true hedonistic trip, I had a vacation from my vacation. I retreated for a couple days in a sleek, minimalist hotel. It was difficult to leave when it was time.

Lobby entrance at the Hotel on Rivington

When it was the day to return back to San Francisco, it started snowing (again). I finally found the motivation to use my digital SLR (the only time I used the camera). I brought out my Canon 5DM2 with my 24-105mm lens, and went on my cousin’s roof to capture the huge clumps of snow falling from the sky. This is still completely novel to me – soft, frozen water falling from the sky, especially in an urban setting.

I wished that I would have been snowed in, delaying my flight back to SF. But, I suppose, it’s good to get back to reality, lest I get trapped in this dream of a vacation and never want to climb back out.

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San Francisco in film

Last month I spent a day riding my bike around SF, enjoying the gorgeous weather. I brought along my dad’s old Canon SLR. The camera’s metering system runs on a battery that’s no longer made, so I either have to use a separate light meter (I use an app on my phone) or guesstimate and hope for the best (which I do more often than not).

I used 400 speed film, which was probably too much for the full sun that shone brightly that day. Oh, the limitations of film. Luckily, unlike digital, it’s more forgiving.

When looking at my black and white film prints, I sometimes pretend that the photo was taken a long time ago, and try to imagine what it would be like if I were around in that day and age.

Here’s the Conservatory of Flowers, originally built in the late 1800’s. When I rode by it again that night, it was lit up green.

golden gate park

I ended my bike tour at the Sutro Baths. I sipped on a cappuccino from the new cafe and enjoyed the view before trekking down to explore the ruins. This was my view. Not bad.

sf landscape

It was as crowded as I’d ever seen that place. Everyone lingered for a beautiful sunset. I used those moments to breathe deeply and savor this incredible life I’m lucky enough to find myself experiencing.

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High and dry

We are officially in a drought, and may be the worst one on record in California history. I remember as a kid in the 80’s we did our part in rationing our water when we were heavy into the drought. We collected water in buckets as it turned from cold to hot in the shower, which was then used to water the plants in our yard. We turned off the water during our shower when we soaped/shampooed up. Showering became a game, how quickly we could be in and out of there. And the whole “if it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down” mantra. Good times.

Clearer skies have never been seen so often in January.

Complaining will not bring rain, so I’m trying my best to ignore the guilt of this warm, sunny weather and enjoy it while it’s here. Last weekend I managed to catch both a sunrise and a sunset.

I’ve seen many more sunsets than sunrises in my life, simply because I’m almost always awake for a sunset. But last Sunday, I managed to wake up early AND get out of my apartment. I took my bike and rode to the very top of Dolores Park, where there exists a beautiful view of the city’s skyline. My bike enjoyed the view.

sunrise at dolores park and public bikes

As the run rose, everything the rays touched turned warm, golden pink. It created a beautiful juxtaposition with the cool blues of the landscape that still evaded the sun.

San Francisco sunrise

The park for sure was a madhouse later that day, as it was gorgeous outside and people flock to the park under these conditions. But to enjoy the park as it’s waking up, to savor the stillness of an early weekend morning, is perhaps a park that not a lot of hipsters know.

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The fluttering of petals and wings

Butterfly on white

A couple months back, Sabrina and I took our annual excursion to Golden Gate Park to photograph the dahlias in full bloom. However, [ahem] someone’s penchant for sleeping in, along with a surprisingly clear sky in the park, meant that by the time we got to the park, the sun blazed overhead and created some harsh lighting, as you can see in this photo (see? overblown in the center top area).

pink, yellow, white dahlia

My laziness minimalist heart prevented me from bringing a tripod nor diffuser, so I had to be creative with my shots. I used the shade of the dahlias and took some low shots.

orange dahlia

I used my sunglasses to filter out some light here.

Dahlia sunglass filter

Sabrina suggested we retreat to the haven of the Conservatory of Flowers. Although it’s humid in there, at least we would be protected from that hot sun (remember, we’re San Franciscans and can only function in the fog and temps cooler than 72 degrees).

My aunt has so many orchids in her backyard. I have no idea how she keeps them alive. They would rival these beauties.

Violet orchid

Water lily loveliness.

water lily in darkness

Water lily

The main exhibit at the Conservatory showcases hundreds of butterflies. If you’re lucky, one will land on you.


Also, insects are kind of frightening up close. They look so alien. Check out those eyes.

Butterfly on white 2

Be sure to check out Sabrina’s photos from the day.

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Watch this

Back in July I did a lot of product shots of watches for a series of promo ads. I enjoyed the challenge being creative for the backgrounds, using whatever I could find at the office. Here are some of my fave images.

TW Steel (background: microfiber cloth):

Seiko (background: folding chair seat):

Another Seiko (background: coworker’s sweater):

01TheOne (background: my leather jacket):
01TheOne watch for TouchOfModern

Bulova (background: my Puma jacket)

I have to give mucho thanks to my friend Lech for the gift that keeps on giving. A few years back he generously gave me a macro lens, and to this day, it’s one of my favorite lenses. I use it all the time.

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Roaming Around Chinatown

Sabrina was itching to go to Chinatown for a photowalk and asked if I would join her. Of course! Ideally we wanted to capture this vibrant neighborhood during Golden Hour, the time of day everything is bathed in the golden light of the setting sun. But this is San Francisco, where summers require parkas, so unsurprisingly it was cloudy.

Always up for a challenge (i.e., we had no choice in the matter), we ventured on our photowalk.

I stuck with the small nifty-fifty lens. Sabrina shoots with a bigger gun.

The shops sell all sorts of trinkets.

So sparkly!

He waits for the bus.

Is it time to eat yet?

And then fade out with your classic SF “pointy building” shot.

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Candied Meyer Lemon Slices

Continuing with my citrus candying adventures, I tried my hand at whole lemon slices. I don’t have a mandolin, which is what’s recommended to make these since the slices need to be almost paper-thin, so I used my sharpest knife and sliced them by hand. I got about 50% of the lemons sliced adequately without them falling apart or being too uneven. Good thing I have a plethora of lemons to use.

Candying the whole slice is similar to candying the peel, except you quickly blanch the slices, and then simmer them in simple syrup for a lot longer.

I pretty much followed Martha’s recipe.

After they dried overnight, I coated half the slices in sugar, which is reminiscent of those Sunkist fruit gem candies that I love, although these are much thinner (and of course these are real fruit slices!). I stored them in a glass jar with extra loose granulated sugar in there to make sure they are always coated.

The other half that didn’t get the extra sugar coating were stored in another air-tight container. Since they remain totally sticky, so I had to layer the slices between sheets of waxed paper so they wouldn’t stick together. They are messy to handle, but I think they would be really cute as cupcake toppers. Hopefully I’ll get the motivation to bake some soon.

See how thin they are? If they get stuck together, the slices get ripped apart due to their delicate, but so delicious, nature.

I prefer the sugar-coated slices in terms of taste and texture, but I love the translucent, stained-glass look of the plain candied slices.

Have you candied whole slices before? Do you like them more than just the peels?

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Hinamatsuri: Girls’ Day

hinamatsuri cookies
On March 3rd, girls in Japan celebrate Hinamatsuri, or festival of dolls, also known simply as Girls’ Day.

It’s celebrated by displaying special dolls of the Heian court. My mom gave me a lovely Empress and Emperor, and I put them out every Girls Day (um, except last year when I completely forgot!). My daughter loves to play with the tiny accessories, especially the sword. Me too.

Japanese treats are usually eaten on this day, with themes of pink and sakura (cherry blossom). I decided to make sugar cookies using this recipe from Martha Stewart. I found a cherry blossom cookie cutter from Daiso, a Japanese dollar-store that’s in town, and used it to make the flower shapes.

I didn’t have any pink sprinkles on hand, so I made some. It’s pretty simple.

And not to worry, Boys’ Day is still coming up on May 5th. It’s celebrated by flying koi-shaped kites. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have a kite to fly that day!

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Fluffy Puppies at Fort Funston

One of my photo-partners-in-crime Sabrina rented a Hasselblad to try her hand at photographing Bianca and Sorcha, her beautiful Samoyeds (a.k.a. the Fluffy Puppies), in medium film format. She invited me along for the shoot. I thought about taking my Yashica to also channel the medium format vibe, but then I realized I needed more film, so I took my trusty digital camera and captured them in 1s and 0s.

We went to Fort Funston during Golden Hour, which bathed everything in beautiful light.

The dogs recently turned 9, but they remain puppies at heart, always playful and rambunctious, not entirely aware of their stature, and quite the showstoppers with their gorgeous, fluffy fur.

Knowing the ocean was near, Bianca and Sorcha ran ahead of us and impatiently demanded we catch up.

Finally at the beach!

Let’s dig for buried treasure!

Time to test out the waters!

Then the sun set, and it was time to go.

Fort Funston is always a good time. Many thanks to Sabrina for letting me join her (and treating me to a delicious dinner afterwards!). I can’t wait to see her photos!

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Candied Citrus Peel

When we were first house-hunting over five years ago, my then-4-year-old daughter said that her must-have house requirement included a lemon tree. I’m not exactly sure why she wanted one so badly, but as luck would have it, we did in fact get a place that had a little Meyer lemon tree in the backyard. The tree was neglected, looked more like a bush than tree, but we gave it some TLC and this season our love for our little tree has come to fruition (ha!), as it produced a ridiculous amount of lemons. I gave away over 10 lbs. to friends. I then sold over 20 lbs. to Bi-Rite, but I’ll save those details for a future post. The tree still has a bunch of lemons on it.

I decided to try my hand making candied lemon peels. I also had a delicious cara cara orange from BiRite, so I saved the peel to also candy. I found a bunch of recipes online, all which varied slightly. I ended up picking and choosing what to follow as I realized that it isn’t an exact science. You basically boil the peels to remove the bitterness, then simmer them in a simple syrup solution, then leave ‘em out to dry.

1 orange
5 meyer lemons

Juice your fruit (save it for something yummy later), then use a paring knife to cut out the fleshy part and leave about 1/8″ thickness of pith. The pith is the white, bitter part of the fruit. Cut your peels to whatever shape you want. I cut rectangular strips for the orange, and random little triangles for the lemons. Boil the peels for 7 minutes, drain, and then repeat. This removes the bitterness. (I read that if you want to candy grapefruit, you are supposed to boil it something like 4 or 5 times because the pith is incredibly bitter.)

Next you are going to make simple syrup to simmer the peels in. Recipes differ in how much to use, but basically it’s a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. If you have fewer peels, then you don’t need as much syrup.

Simple Syrup:
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Bring sugar and water to boil, add peels, bring back to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer for 15-20 min or until very tender (like you can easily stab it with a fork). Remove from heat, let cool for 10 min. Using a slotted spoon or a mesh skimmer, transfer peels to wire rack over baking tray to catch drips.

If you’re impatient like me, you can speed up the drying process by putting them in a 200 degree oven for about an hour. Otherwise it may take overnight for it to be ready.

Toss peels in sugar and see it sparkle!

They can be stored in an airtight container for a long time. I’ve read for months. I would definitely say at least 2-3 weeks. But they will be gobbled up long before that.

Don’t forget to save the citrusy simple syrup after you remove the peels. Along with the juice, you can use it for: lemonade, fizzy lemon spritzer, lemon drop cocktails, sweetening your tea.

Here are the recipes that I found helpful:

They are slightly time consuming, but not very hard. And you will definitely impress your friends when you serve them homemade candy.

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