Blog: You are the Investment

When starting out in your creative career you will find that you need equipment, lots of it. At first its hard to put your hard working money into something that you aren’t even sure about. You may look to professionals and feel so far away from their level.

When I first started out in photography, I didn’t believe in myself. It took me forever to finally buy a $800 dollar Rebel Canon. The price tag seemed like a million dollars. I remember going in to the store and realizing, if I didn’t buy this camera, I would never get better at my craft.

That winter I traveled to Australia. I was so excited to finally use my camera. The last night I was in Sydney, I left my belongings in a friends car, including my camera. The next morning, everything was gone. Stolen. My heart sank knowing all my photos of the trip were gone.

I returned home and didn’t take another photo for months. I figured my dream to be a photographer was dead.

I was allowing money to control my creative passion.

My dad found an old film SLR film camera at the local Goodwill. This time the camera was $100. The amount seemed a lot but I missed taking photos.

Even though film is limited, buying that camera was the best thing I ever did for my art. It helped me learn what I needed to be a photographer. I began sharing my photos with my friends on Facebook. To my surprise, friends and family wanted to hire me.

Every weekend I was booked with a shoot. It seemed too good to be true, doing what I love and getting paid for it. My film camera soon stopped working. It was time to buy a new camera. I wasn’t going to let money stand in the way of what I love. I wanted to get the new 7D, the question wasn’t, “Is it worth it?” but, “Was I worth it?” I placed a bid on eBay, leaving my destiny in to their hands.

I won. When I received the packed, I didn’t feel worthy. It was overwhelming. But I overcame those feelings, I knew I was worth the investment.

This battle never finishes as a creative professional. There is always new equipment to purchases. The key is being wise on what you spend money on, and if you really need it.

Every side job I get from photography I put that money in to a “creative fund”. I then use my creative money to buy the next item I need. Beware, if you are looking to buy something expensive, make sure you will use it. If looking for a lens, buy what you would use most. Test out lens and see what you like. I bought a few cheap ones that now I wish I would have saved up for what I needed.

If editing is your passion, save up for the software. Painting, save up for paint brushes. Don’t let the money stop you from growing and learning.
While you wait to save your money up, you can do the next best thing: read books about your craft. This is probably the best type of investment. Reading books about storytelling, photography, poems and so forth will enhance your creativity. I’ve read some amazing books over the past few years and posted blogs about them. Do a search on my blog for “books”.

How do you invest in your talent?

Road Trip: Portland

The  moment we drove in to Portland we could tell it was different from any other. The streets were full of bike riders, dog walkers and skateboarders. We got off the highway to find a coffee shop. We picked a small place called The Red Square, which made it easy to find because it was a red square.

As we drove the streets of Portland, we laughed at how accurate the TV show Portlandia is. We parked the car and did some exploring.

When we had to leave after only spending a day in Portland, we couldn’t stop talking about it in Seattle. “Can’t wait until we go back home.” When we returned, we both took a deep breath of relief.

The first thing we did was walk around Old Town. We found a great comic store in China Town. It was a young boys dream.

When we walked around the block we discovered the Portland out door market. The whole city was outside doing something creative.

By the end of the day, we were all tired. It was time to look for a hotel. For some reason every room in the city was booked. We all looked at each other hoping one of us would have a solution. After spending hours calling around we finally found a room open at a fancy hotel, which meant lots of money. Sleep in the car or in a palace? Us California kids chose the palace.

The next morning we all agreed to go to a rose garden. As we walked around and relaxed in one of Portland’s beautiful garden we all felt refreshed.

When Monday finally came along, hotel rooms were open in abundance! Living out of a suit case isn’t easy but it never loses its excitement. (I’m sure it does at some point haha.) But you never know what kinda room you’re going to get. At the Shilo Inn, we got a retro room that we adored!

Our last and final day in Portland, we did a Portlandia tour. I found a site that named all the places the show  filmed at.

Oblique Coffee Roasters – This coffee shop was in the middle of the suburbs. We ordered the house coffee and enjoyed the morning paper.

In Other Words – This store was pretty exciting to visit. I was astonish that this place was real. I figured the show created it for the skit but when I looked in the window everything was exactly the same.  Video Clip

The last Portlandia location we went to is where they filmed the Pilot… which turned out to be a music video. We understood why, when you walk around Portland, you can’t help but sing how special it is.

We were finally understanding the city. Not everything is open during normal business hours, people make old houses in to coffee shops, you can’t buy a book but you can borrow one and weird is normal.

While we were out we came upon our own great Portland discoveries. Record stores!

The first thing we saw driving in to Portland were these space ship looking things going across the city. We spent all afternoon looking for it. Finally we found it at the Portland Hospital.

There was this book we found in the hotel room that explained that Portland is divided unto four parts. North-East, North-West, South-East, South-West. “Ohhh, now we get it!” We were finally understanding the city.

The last thing we did was hanging out at Powell’s Book Store. We must have been there for a few hours, there were floors and floors of books. I of course wanted to see if they had a Christian section, to my surprise they did with a lot of old vintage books.

After we walked around looking for an open coffee shop but no luck. I guess every one went home for the day. We went back to our car, left the city and said good bye to a place that felt like home.

Portland, I love you! 🙂

Road Trip: San Francisco

On our way to San Francisco I read off a sign with all the towns we were passing through. I remembered I had an aunt that lives near by. When I called her she was so excited, I couldn’t even get a word in. I introduced her to Gus and told her about our adventure camping. She fed us and let us get all cleaned up. It was a breath of fresh air to visit. I loved how happy she was to see us.
When we arrived in San Francisco we were ready to see the city. We drop our stuff at a hostel and went to go take some photos in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

After dinner we made our way to the Arcade Museum. It was fun to actually play with the vintage games. I was so excited when I saw they had a photo booth. Gus said they are a curse for couples but I reassured him my parents took a ton when they were young.

The next morning Gus woke up early (due to staying in a hostel.) He text me early in the morning and said, “I’m ready.” We were up so early nothing was open when we walked around town. We set out a quest to find china town. I had driven pass it many times but never bothered to walk the streets. Since he is in to marshal arts, this place was heaven for him. We ended up spending three hours shopping, and looking around.

When we were done I said, “My turn, lets go to hippie town.”

I finally got a t-shirt made that I’ve been talking about. “Go Indie.” It was a comment I made once on Facebook when a friend was complaining about how dumb movies are. We made our way down to Dolores Park to get a coffee. It was kinda strange to find so many people sitting at the park on a Wednesday morning, it seemed like no one had anything to do. We found the atmosphere to be relaxing.

3pm hit and it was time for the long 10 hour drive to the magical land of Portland and Seattle!!!

Road Trip: Yosemite

I remember flying to Canada, looking out the window and seeing the west coast light up with splendor. I got excited when I recognized the Golden Gate Bridge. I tried to guess where Portland was. It seemed like there was so much to see down there, and here I was flying over it.

I first mention a road trip to my boyfriend, only to get one of his honest answers, “You do know we will hate each other by the end of it.” I smiled as I knew this was his way of saying lets do it.

A few days before our schedule departure date, we began to make plans, which wasn’t easy. It turned out to be very confusing, “Which day are we sleeping in Seattle? Where do you want to stay in Portland? So we leave San Francisco in the morning? Do we really want to drive 10 hours straight?” We decided we would figure it out on the way. With only a blue print, we would let the trip unfold before us. It sounded nice at the moment…but more on that later.

Our first destination, camp at Yosemite National Park.

The ride was exciting, listening to all of our new music, talking about what we would do in each city. When we arrived to Yosemite, we stopped right away. I didn’t want to miss anything while driving to our camp site. The first thing I noticed was everything was green, the air was fresh and the world seemed so big.

What caught my eye was the way the sun was hitting the forest. The shadows seem to make the forest come to life. When we were out looking for fire wood, we saw a deer. I had never seen a wild animal. We made eye contact with the deer and all of us stood still for thirty seconds.

That night was one of the longest nights ever. We knew we couldn’t bring any camping gear since both of us would be flying out of Portland, so we figured we could sleep in the car. We had no idea how small that car really was. We put the back seat down thinking it would level out, but instead made two levels. Gus slept in the trunk and I on top of the back seat. Both of us would wake up in the middle of the night laughing at how squished we were. The car was so small, and the temperature was dropping every hour.

I woke up around 6am, got ready and walked around.

When Gus woke up we left to find a look out. What we found was heaven.

I tried to figure out how early explorers traveled through these mountains back in the days. I guess the old fashion way, hiking. Lucky for us there was a road leading straight to this look out. We left Yosemite knowing there was still so much to see. Up next, San Francisco.

Event: Around The World Party

Two of my best friends, who are more like sisters, graduated from college. Brooke graduated from Law School and Bianca with a Marketing degree. To celebrate they threw a costume party. My first reaction was not to dress up but Anabel talked me in to it, “You traveled all around the world, be one of the culture you saw.” I’ve always wanted to pretend to be french.. 🙂
When I arrived the girls all thought my fake cigarette was real, I then pretend to not care. I smiled when I saw everyone’s outfit and broke character. It was nice to see the world getting along.

I later grabbed my SLR. I wanted to test out my fisheye lens with my new flash. A social event is the best place to practice, making mistakes are forgivable, making mistakes are encouraged. For some reason the fisheye lens capture the party perfectly.

It was nice to see world peace, even if it was for a night. 🙂

Event: Collector Car Auction

When Gus told me he was on the production team for a collector car auction I insisted he get me a ticket.  Seeing classic cars is like traveling back in time. I picture the families that use to own it, the conversations that took place, the adventures, the everyday moments like going to the grocery store. It takes me back to a time I only see in movies, a time when life was simple.

All the cars were so unique from each other with amazing details. I decided to photograph what makes each car special.

Decades later we call these cars a work of art.


When I saw this black Chevy I was taken back to my childhood. My dad use to have one and he loved it. I remember when a random man came to our door and offered him cash for it. I can recall the look of sadness on my dad’s face, it was hard for him to let it go but finally did.

When I went inside for the auction it was amazing how much these cars were going for. Each one was going for no less than 40, 000. A black mustang went for 100, 000.

This 1960’s Porsche was my favorite!!!

Each car held its own beauty. The closer I looked the more elegant it became.

The Time Machine was even there! But not for sale 😦

Being at the auction I understood the heart of the buyer. My emotions would take over and I would pay anything. I pictured myself ridding the car in the sunset, cruising. Yes, if I had that much money I would say, “I worked hard for my dollars, why not.” haha..

Photos: Capturing the Everydays

My favorite pictures to take are of my nephews. I love watching them play and interact with each other. They remind me of life’s greatest joy, having each other. When I arrived at my sister’s house I told David I was there to play and visit with him and Jacob (instead of using the babysitting term.) They welcomed me with open arms and allowed me in their world.

Its amazing when I think about the days when my sisters and I use to play together.  Time passes by so fast, if we don’t take the time to stop and notice, soon, the years would have passed by. Good thing for photos and video, they help us remember what we’ll probably forget. They capture the everydays.

Black and White shoot

I decided to change what I was looking for during this shoot. I found the real change was in the editing room. When I was picking out the photos -the usual ones I would disregard I decided to keep and my normal shots, I disregarded.

I for one love color but I wanted different results so I went black and white. I wanted to capture the eyes attention and keep it. Black and white has that power.

Here is Olivia.

Color….. I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

Travel: New York, New York

Back in 2010 I traveled to New York. I never shared the pictures or the journey until now.
Anytime you travel somewhere new, you have this idea painted out in your head of what it will be like. You gather all the stereotypes you’ve heard and develop an opinion about a place you’ve never stepping foot in.
The moment comes when you are finally there. Suddenly, the city becomes more than fancy buildings and entertainment venues. It becomes a place where real people call home. That is when travel starts to change you. Each day your opinion changes.

New York. What I didn’t expect was to enter in to a city that was very much a community. When I was on the subway, I was looking around at all the different cultures that were there. I then felt a woman looking at me, she was looking at what I was wearing, my hair, my eyes. I was the odd one! She was looking at how different I was. I suddenly became a part of the culture. I was a person in New York traveling on the subway awaiting my destination.

What I began to discover was a place where everyone seemed to be taking care of each other. It might sound strange, but New York was nice to me. When on lookers saw that my friend and I were lost they wouldn’t hesitate to help us. One girl even said, “This is my stop, I’ll take you to the place you are looking for.” We walked and talked with her and suddenly she felt like an old friend. She told us what brought her to New York and the dreams she holds.

The first place we went to was a record store. I am thankful for technology, but I still enjoy walking through a real music store. By the time I grew up and had money of my own, record stores no longer exists in my area. Buying old vinyls makes me feel like I have the only copy in the world!

Anabel and I arrived at Time Square. It was nearly 9pm and the night was just starting. There seemed to be a million things to do. Since I had my big camera with me, people smiled when I took pictures of them, which made me smile. Usually I get mean looks when I take pictures of people. I guess here in Time Square, it was okay to be a tourist.

When I got my portrait taken by a street artist, I asked if I could take a photo of him too. It was like exchanging  images. I showed him his photo, he smiled and said, “very nice.” When I received his drawing of me, the girl had long lashes and a different chin. I said, “This girl doesn’t look like me.” He answered like a man would, “I made you pretty.” I laughed and said, “Thank you for making me pretty.”

The next morning we went to see the Statue of Liberty. I began to place myself back in the late 1800’s when immigrants from all over the world came to America. The joy they must have felt when they saw Miss. Liberty for the first time. Freedom was awaiting them, a new life, hope, dreams and the possibilities of living a great life. It was surreal to see it myself.

When I looked at the sky line I figured out why New York was different than I thought. There were two towers that changed it. Changed everything. No one would have ever thought buildings would go away. This is why the city was taking care of each other, even ten years later.

I couldn’t help but imagine the streets covered in ashes, people running. What I saw on TV back in 2001 became real to me.

Construction of the One World Trade Center was still taking place. I could see the ground where the buildings once stood. I took a moment to believe what I was seeing.

I could feel the sorrow in the air but most of all hope. Things would never be the same but what was being built would bring some peace to some. The memorial center was more than just remembering 9/11, it was a place where we  could remember all the families that were directly effected by the tragedy.

That evening Anabel arranged for us to go see the Lion King on Broadway. I was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

The next day we slept in. One thing about New York is that it will take all your energy away if you let it. We decided to take it easy and walk around Central Park.

It was so relaxing to hang out with the butterflies and birds. We spent hours walking around the garden.

What makes Anabel great to travel with is that she is as spontaneous as me. We ran in to the zoo and decided to go see some New York animals.

I remember it being so hot that day. Everyone seemed to be looking for a way to cool off.

We walked around the city to grab lunch. There was still so much to see! Lucky we had a ticket for one of those tour buses who took us all over town.

We arrived at Soho. The place looked strangely familiar. I couldn’t help but think of Felicity, one of my favorite TV shows when I was in high school. There on the corner was Dean & Deluca, where Felicity worked while she was going to NYU. I loved watching her adventure in NY. Even though it was a fictional show, being here in her neighborhood made it feel real.

The last thing to do on our tourist list was visit the top of the Empire State building. I remember going through all the lines, elevators, stairs and said, “This isn’t very romantic.” haha.

Finally, our last day in New York came. We spent it once again in Central Park. After we had a nice picnic we ended up taking a long four hour nap. I guess this made us official New Yorkers or just homeless.

As we walked to a music venue I tried to take in the city and notice all its details. My world back home is so different from here.

We found Pianos, a cool music venue and enjoyed one of the local bands. There is so much to see in New York but I think the best part of traveling, are the discoveries.

Film: London and Paris

The first day of walking around with my large DSLR  in London I decided that I would capture the city in film instead. Who am I to compete with every great photo on line of these amazing cities. Call me lazy or call me smart. Either way, I hope film live pass my life time.

I took 3 rolls – 2 came out. Fortunately, all my Paris shots came out. I’ve been let down by film before, so with every film shot taken I did a digital copy.

Film is indeed a dying art. I love it for the magical flaws it seems to capture.

May Film Live On

So for the past month, I’ve been doing this independent thing. I do a few photoshoots here and there and with free time I go outside and play.

I was in disparate need to shoot film. I hadn’t done it in a while. My friend Hector and I went across the field by his house to take some photos. When we were walking I couldn’t help but feel peaceful. I told him the feeling of being outside at the end of the day reminded me of my childhood. “When I was a little girl I played with the neighbor boy in his grandpa’s junk yard, this kinda feels like this. ” I told him to stand still so I can take some pictures, but as any boy, he kept moving. haha.

There is something pure about film, it capture the purity of life.

Make Them Feel Beautiful Not Imperfect

My cousin asked me if I could do a shoot with her. She told me she went to the mall with a few of her friends to take pictures. My aunt began to tell me about their experience. “The man at the studio used a green screen for the backdrop. The picture came out looking fake. You could see green in their hair. He also touched up the photos, painting make up on the girls, adding eye lashes, taking out the lines on their face, and making their eyes bigger. He said he was making the photos ‘better’.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t know if I should laugh or be angry. For one, these girls are fourteen, they have no wrinkles!
Getting photograph is an experience that should make the subject feel beautiful not imperfect. It’s the photographer’s job to capture the best in people not be a plastic sergeant.
I told my cousin I would take a few photos of her. I knew she loved to draw graffiti so I took her to a wall of graffiti I found a few years ago. She loved it.

Audio: Power of Photography


When I first started to do these creative photoshoots, I would ask young girls who I had seen at church or some of my friend’s daughters to be my models so I could practice portrait photography, children photography, and fashion.
I heard back from the parents of these young girls and the impact the photos had on them. It was like these girls were seeing themselves as beautiful for the first time. Through out their life, they’ve seen printed media and movies stars as gorgeous. But never given the opportunity to really see how gorgeous they are. When I had parents come tell me that, I was encourage that my photography had a life of it’s own. A bigger impact then I knew.
Here I was concerned about getting practice but they were having an experience that made them feel beautiful. They were finally able to see the end results of their smile or their best side. And with that in mind I knew in the future, I wanted to use that power that photography has for the good.
When I was editing Pam Espinosa’s testimony about her battle with Breast Cancer, I was moved when she talked about her appearance impacting how she was feeling inside. She rarely talked about the physical pain she was going through because of the surgery. It was as if the emotional pain of seeing herself in the mirror when she wasn’t at her best was having an impact on her life. It wasn’t until she overcame that, that healing began to happen in her life.
When I heard her story, I imagined..(I like to call them a, “God day dream”), I imagined doing a free photo shoot with make-up, and hair done for women who had been through cancer or who are going through cancer and looking at the reaction on their face, having their true beauty shine for that afternoon. To just forget about whatever they are going through, to come and to enjoy being pretty again.
And so with one text to another text, I began to gather the creative troops; my friend Roni who does my hair and another friend Vero who does make-up and hair. And I asked them if they would be interested in donating their time to come along side me and be apart of this project with the girls. I had asked Pam if she could invite some of her friends and some of the girls she knew who were going through a difficult time or had been in the past.
I imagined it in this garden. But the garden is owned by someone who is very important in the community and in my life. I had been fortunate enough to been at her house a few times. She even offered to let me use the garden whenever I needed to. That was all cool in theory but really asking her I was a bit scared. I figured why not ask, its okay if there is a “no”, there is always another location. And to my surprise and yet not surprise, she said yes I would be able to use her garden for the afternoon.
This Thursday, I am hosting what I am calling, “She is Fearless Photoshoot.” Having an afternoon to take part in these women’s lives, to give them back what is really there: their beauty, their strength, and their courage. I am so excited to be able to host them. To give them an afternoon of just forgetting about all the drama in their life but just to enjoy the shoot. I am excited to see the results.
This weekend look out for a post of the girls, the behind the scenes and their photoshoot. I am going to rent a very expensive lens because they deserve it, everyone deserves a 85mm lens for their face.

Photos: Last Man Alive

The best time to walk around the city is late at night when no one is around. It was like my friend and I were the only ones alive. As I directed him to pose for me,  the story began to come alive.
He was the last man on earth..

My friend also took some photos of me, so I’m curious to see what story he captured.

Photos: Birth and Young Love

A couple who I recently met asked if I would take some maternity photos.  I was excited to hear that her husband was joining the shoot. This would give me a chance to capture the excitement that a first child brings both parents.

Erica requested that we do an in-studio shoot. Since I don’t have one, I transformed my living room in to one. For a maternity shoot, I found it worked better since it gave the couple privacy.

Sometimes when I take pictures, I image what it would be like to see the photos ten years from now. With that in mind, capturing the passion of their youth was important to me.

I did some editing on this shot which gives it a timeless feel.

I love how pretty she came out on this one.

I was happy to hear she liked my creative take on the maternity photos. I think with every shoot I do, I want to create something new and interesting. Most of all I want whoever is in front of my camera to have an experiences they can enjoy.

Congratulations to Eric and Erica. They are having a boy and naming him Matthew.

Capture it

“Otherwise, the moment just… Passes you by…” A great line and conversation from My Best Friend’s Wedding.

My mom was getting my nephew packed up and ready to go home. As I was kissing him good bye I took a mental picture in my memory. I decided to get my camera. When I returned my mom was grabbing him. I had to plead with her to let me take a photo. She gave me three seconds and took him away.

I got the photo…I saved the memory.