Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday #20: Manhattan Beach

Under Manhattan Beach Pier.

BEACH.  One of the common misconceptions about living in California is that we go to the beach all the time because we're "right by the ocean!"  This is far from the truth since we live at least an hour inland.  We don't make it out as much as we'd like to!  My roommates had friends in town so we made a group trip out to Manhattan Beach.  As you can tell, it was really bright which wasn't the best set of conditions for photography, but I made the best of it.  I ingested quite a bit of salt water playing in the ocean, but I loved it!  I'm a poor swimmer, but being in the Pacific Ocean made me want to start swimming at my university's pool for cardio. 

Manhattan Beach Pier
Manhattan Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach, California, California Beaches, Pacific Ocean
Manhattan Beach Pier.

LISA SEE.  Remember how I mentioned that I wanted to read stories about Chinese / Chinese-American women?  I found On Gold Mountain and Dreams of Joy at a quaint little used bookstore.  I've read Shanghai Girls by See before and quite enjoyed the story.  In some ways, there's a lot of cultural empathy when I read her books.  There are a lot of ideas, themes, and phrases that are very familiar to me.

Manhattan Beach Pier
Manhattan Beach

WEEKEND.  I'm trying to enjoy the rest of my weekend; I might do some work later on today.  My presentation went pretty well last week.  I was pretty stressed about it because I was reading an area of science that is very new to me.  But that's alright!  When my advisor and I were talking about future research plans, I explicitly stated that I wanted to work in a completely new area.  Life begins outside of your comfort zone, eh?  Tonight, I just want to eat a nice meal and relax.  Where did the weekend go?

THE FACE SHOP.  Has anyone else been to The Face Shop?  There is one in my local Westfield mall and I've really enjoyed using their Real Nature sheet masks in the past.  They had a huge promotion today so I picked up a ton of masks.  Think I'll have myself a bit of a pamper tonight (i.e., mask + planning out the rest of my week).  Cheers.  Check in soon.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday #19: Writing

Derwent and Ticonderoga graphite pencils on Strathmore drawing paper.

Happy Sunday, y'all!  How has your weekend been?  I've taken a more leisurely one than usual.  I borrowed an Amazon Kindle from my university's library and have been glued to it all weekend.  This afternoon, I shifted to more academic reading for my presentation this Thursday (the lab I work in has three meetings of presentations a week)!

CINDERELLA.  The Kindles from my university store books on the Cloud so anything that was downloaded by others is retained on the device.  Whilst perusing my options, I rediscovered an old childhood favorite, Chinese Cinderella, by Adeline Yen Mah.  It's a heart-wrenching memoir, a companion story to Fallen Leaves.  Lately, I've taken great interest in writing that pertains to my culture, particularly the voices of Chinese women, real or fictional.  If you have any recommendations, please do leave them here!

GRAPHITE.  I dug up an old sketchbook and found this drawing I had started more than a year ago.  I've since lost the references I was using for the shading, but decided to add a little bit more and call it a day.  My favorite part is the left in this drawing.  I quite enjoyed doing the shading.  Something to work on?  Making subjects appear more realistic; there are portions of this portrait that look almost like a cartoon.

CHAPTERS.  I started creative writing again this week to make more productive use of my free time.  Okay, I still keep Netflix on because I enjoy background noise, but I'm trying to not be relaxing like a vegetable.  Here is what I have noticed: as an adult, I have a far harder time committing words to the page that I did as a teenager.  I'm more self critical so I agonize over my sentences.  My future writing task: get the words out without worrying about getting it done perfectly the first time. 


• I am blown away by Bon Iver's Holocene every time I listen to it.
•  Ever think about the different types of friendships?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


bokeh, flowers, nifty fifty, 50mm, canon, dslr

Yesterday, we took a walk around the surrounding neighborhood.  The last time we did this 3-mile loop, I lamented not bringing my camera so I made sure to grab my DSLR before we left the house.  I don't have many words today so I will tell you that I really like symmetry.  I also like gardens and landscaping because I think of how we've taken the materials nature has given us to build inorganic formations.  It reminds me of that time a friend took me to James Turrell's Skyspace piece to watch the sunrise and I thought it was a brilliant juxtaposition of the inorganic and natural world (more on Turrell's work here).  Then my other friends teased me for repeatedly saying "juxtaposition."  But, shh, it's still one of my favorite words.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday #18: Creative Flow

Nails of the week.

Hello!  Hope y'all are having a lovely Sunday so far.  It's a bit past noon here and I'm writing this while watching The Originals on Netflix with a bowl of Nongshim ramen.  Shhh, I don't care how bad ramen is for me - I love it!  

LAB.  I've been doing more computer and literature work for lab in recent weeks.  I've gotten back into doing more wet chemistry.  For some reason, reading seems unproductive to me, even though it's a necessary part of graduate school and learning.  It doesn't always feel like tangible productivity.  However, it really paid off this week when it came to collaborative discussion.  As part of my quest to learn new techniques, I  imaged cancer cells this past week and that was pretty cool.

WEEKEND.  I think self care is really important, but that tends to get neglected when I'm busy and stressed.  Sometimes, I really need some time to myself to decompress, paint my nails, and do a sheet mask.  Saturday was a bit of a self care afternoon and the evening was topped off by a campus theater production of Much Ado About Nothing.  The Shakespeare play is a comedy, but it sure got dark at some parts!

Self-portrait with a #2 pencil.

CREATING.  Drawing and writing fiction used to be my mainstay hobbies, especially when I was a teenager.  I'm ashamed to admit, I haven't really drawn in over a year.  This self portrait was sketched quickly on a whim this past Friday.  Self portraits have always been a challenge for me.  While this one is done with many flaws, it is the best one I've ever done in terms of (some) likeness.  I haven't written seriously since I was fifteen so I started up a little again this week.  Since we're on the subject of creativity, I shared my photography kit this week!  Aims for this week: use my downtime to write/draw/photograph instead of Netflixing.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

My Photography Kit (Blogging & Every Day)

One of the most important lessons I've learned is that an artist should be able to produce good work, irrespective of the medium of expression.  I am a firm believer in producing art with one's available resources and upgrading when those have been thoroughly exhausted.  Of course, there exists technical advantages to using more expensive photography or materials for fine art.  My line of thinking is that if I'm good at what I do, my skill and talent should be evident in the work.  If I'm not, no expensive piece of equipment is going to make me a good photographer or artist.  This philosophy may not be for everyone, but it is the one that works for me.  Now with that in mind, let's get to talking about my photography kit!

I shoot with the Canon Rebel XS (around $500), a now discontinued entry level digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera.  At the time, it was the cheapest camera offered by Canon.  My only requisites were that my DSLR take decent quality photos with full manual control.  The Canon Rebel XS is a 10.1 megapixel camera which is enough for my current needs.  With a few affordable prime lenses, I've found that my kit is more than adequate for blogging and every day photography.

18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (Kit)

18-55mm / Long Beach landscape.

The 18-55mm lens is decent as kit lens go.  The Canon Rebel XS is a cropped sensor camera so my pictures are always more zoomed in than the focal length of the lens.  This is by far my most wide angle lens; it performed pretty well for my landscope shots from Catalina Island and Joshua Tree.  I need to be close to an object and zoom in to get any sort of bokeh (the blurry background effect) with this lens, but it's certainly doable.  While I don't reach for the 18-55mm as much as my prime lens, this is my go-to when multiple focal lengths are needed.  Fun fact: a photograph I took at a concert with this lens was retweeted by Built to Spill!

50mm f/1.8 (< $125)

50mm / Bokeh.

If you only buy one prime lens in your life, let it be the "Nifty Fifty."  There are reasons why the 50mm is such a popular lens.  I immediately noticed how much more light this lens let in due to its wider aperture (lower f number).  I love this lens for drawing focus towards things in the foreground while achieving a wonderfully shallow depth of field.  It's excellent for portraits or when you want all the focus on a subject.  There is some loss of sharpness when shooting with the aperture wide open at f/1.8.  This is akin to getting one's pupils dilated at the optometrist's - a lot more light hits the sensor (your retinas, in this case), but there will be some loss of visual acuity.

24mm f/2.8 ($149)

24mm / Portrait of Stella with bokeh.  24mm / Wider angle shot.

The 24mm is a prime lens that is a nice compromise between the 18-55mm and my "Nifty Fifty."  Firstly, it's a pancake lens and compact enough to tuck into my pocket.  The wider angle means that I can use it for landscapes which I did for hiking up a mountain, but the big f/2.8 aperture lets me take portraits in a similar fashion to the 50mm.  The lens if so lightweight that it makes carrying my camera around a breeze.  All in all, this is my most versatile lens so long as I don't need to zoom.

28-200mm f/3.5-5.6

28-200mm zoomed in with bokeh.

This is a discontinued telephoto (aka, zoom) lens that belongs to my roommate.  I use the 28-200mm when I am photographing musicians or situations where I want to take a portrait from farther away while retaining decent bokeh.  It isn't the best for low light situations, but I've managed to use it at concerts with some success.  Unlike the other lenses I've mentioned, the 28-200mm does not have image stabilization so I rely on the steadiness of my hand.  I don't personally find the lack of image stabilization a problem.  If you don't either, then older Canon telephoto lenses may be an affordable option.  I'm looking into buying this for myself so I don't keep taking my roommate's!

That's my photography kit in a nutshell!  I really do think it's the lens that contributes the most to a photograph and all of the ones I use are relatively affordable.  There are no pending updates planned; I want to use what I have to the best of my ability before adding anything else!  If it ain't broke, don't fix it, eh?

What's in your photography kit?  Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, August 01, 2016

Sunday #17: Up In The Hills

The terrace.

Another Sunday past (okay, this post actually goes up on Monday) and it's the last day of July.  I can't believe the summer is almost over.  August seemed so far away when I outlined work plans in the spring and now it's here. 
PARTY.  My boss held his annual pool party.  The house is situated up in the hills and all the photographs today were taken from this vantage point.  It's nice to interact with people outside of the "office" (aka, lab).  One of my colleagues made a delicious grilled spicy shrimp dish that I think is very similar to this one that I'm interested in making. 

The gate.

WALKING.  I've been pretty lax about going to the gym lately; I only made it once this week!  On lazy days, I've been booting up Pokémon Go and taking 3 mile long walks.  This coming week, I intend to make it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at the very least.  I picked up some Under Armour shorts for 50% off this week so exercising will give me an excuse to wear them.

IDENTIFICATION.  My state ID from Philadelphia expires at the end of this month and it turns out that I need my passport to get a California ID.  Unfortunately, that passport is both expired and damaged.  Here is my dilemma: I can't get my passport without my ID.  I can't get my ID without my passport.  Quite the pickle, eh?  Thankfully, I was able to rush to my local passport office and discuss the situation.  Barring any extra paperwork (fingers crossed very tightly), I should be able to get my passport in the mail to solve my problem.  The day I had to deal with this was the most stressful part of the week.  I was at the DMV twice and at the passport office later.  I took a total of six Ubers that day.  SIX.  I hope I never have to repeat this experience again.

The best view.


•  JoJo released F**k Apologies.  I am SO excited for her new album to come out.
•  I love eating at Din Tai Fung.  I always get an order of pickled cucumbers as a starter.  I'm craving some right now so I'm going to adapt this recipe tonight and get pickling!
•  Hilary Clinton made history this past week as the first female candidate in a major political party.  It took us so long to elect our first black president.  I'm hoping we elect our first female president.