Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday #33: You Are My Compass

bokeh

Happy Sunday, y'all, and 新年快樂 to those of your celebrating the Lunar New Year!  My family is across the United States so I haven't been able to see them on this holiday for the past four years.  This year, my boyfriend was out of town as well, so I had to make do with phone calls.  Rather than mope around being sad, I spent the new year doing a photoshoot and eating a lot.  If you celebrate, I hope you got to spend it with loved ones!

FULL FRAME

My friend David and I went out to Pasadena's City Hall to do a photoshoot.  I borrowed a Canon 5D Mark II from my university along with the 50 and 85 mm lenses and had a blast using them all weekend.  I've never had so much equipment to use and feel very fortunate to do so.  Look, I'm all about making the most of your available equipment, but using a full frame camera for the first time is just an unparalleled experience.  A Canon 5D is definitely on my wishlist.  Someday, I'll own you.

Lumière & Lens Photography Equipment

SHOOTS EVERY WEEKEND

Pasadena City Hall, Pawnee City Hall, Parks and Recreation
Pasadena City Hall

I've been scheduling photoshoots for the past few weekends.  I did Helen last weekend and my friend David this past Saturday at City Hall in Pasadena (part of Los Angeles County).  Recognize the building?  Pasadena's City Hall is represents Pawnee's government building in Parks and Recreation!  It was definitely one of the most difficult shoots I've done.  I was using new equipment, shooting in an unfamiliar equation, and struggling with directing.  However, David pointed out, "If you're not struggling, you're not improving" which I wholeheartedly agree with.  I like to say, "Life begins outside of your comfort zone."  Here's one of the shots from yesterday!

Portrait Photography, Portraits on the Canon 5D

I finished out the rest of my weekend with photo editing and taking it easy as I'm feeling a little under the weather.  We've just had a home cooked meal of chicken udon with bok choy and carrots (second time this week) and I'm ready to turn in.   

RECOMMENDED

•  Lorna's take on the loss of the relatable blogger that echoes my own sentiments.
•  Torrie wrote about the space between fear, fearlessness, and acting in the face of it.
•  I discovered Clara (or rather, she found me!) on the blogosphere this week.  Another chemist who blogs!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Portfolio: Helen

50 mm lens, 50 mm portrait, nifty fifty, Lumière & Lens
50 mm lens, 50 mm portrait, nifty fifty, Lumière & Lens


As part of my ongoing quest to eventually freelance as a photographer, I've been filling my Saturdays with photoshoots.  Portfolio will be the start of a new series on Lumière & Lens where -- you guessed it -- I hone my craft and share it.  I'm open to (and in need of) constructive criticism, so if you have any, please do leave them in the comments.  

I've been looking for new models.  Right now, my models happen to be my friends until I do headshots for my university community in March.  Here is Helen!  She's a fellow woman in science (a chemical biologist, to be exact) from my university.  All my friends out in California are scientists so you'll see quite a few of them here in the coming months.  If there is a time to respect scientists, it's now with all that's been happening this past week in the United States.  These photoshoots are more than just artistic experimentation to me -- they're an opportunity to capture and honor the bright minds that forge better futures for the world.  So, this is what a scientist looks like.  Thank you for sharing your day with me, Helen, and letting me catch your moments of mirth.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Irresistible Me Jade Hair Straightening Brush Review


{ I was sent this product from Irresistible Me in exchange for an honest review. }

I was recently contacted by Irresistible Me, a company that makes hair extensions, tools, and accessories, to try out one of their products.  I selected this tourmaline straightening brush after long deliberation because I wanted to review something I would 100% use.  It arrived in a sleek black box with a small booklet of instructions. 

I suppose you're thinking, "Your hair is straight.  Why do you need this?"  I work in a lab so my thick, heavy hair is usually up in a ponytail or bun for safety reasons.  When you have as much hair as I do, you'll know it's constantly in my face.  Not ideal for working with chemicals so it's pulled up as soon as I get lab clothes on.  Once my hair is in a ponytail then I'm stuck with the weird ponytail bumps, waves, and ratty ends until I wash it.  BOO.  Ponytail for three days in a row it is because my hair never sits right after it's let down. 

Hair before (left) straightening and sleek strands after (right).

The Jade Straightening Brush comes in useful for getting out the ponytail kinks out and making my hair sleek.  The tool is basically a hair brush except the bristles are small heated spokes.  There's an LCD screen that tells you the temperature which can be adjusted with the +/- buttons.  I set it to 450°F (recommended for thick hair) and just brushed my hair.  It heats up pretty quickly, but I would recommend giving it a minute or so to let heat fully disperse through the bristles.  It took me less than 5 minutes to make my hair sleek and straight.  The ceramic/tourmaline bristles are supposed to be hair safe so I skipped using a protective serum or spray which works because I'm very low-maintenance.



Elizabeth's hair before (left) and after (right) using the Jade Straightening Brush.

I also used the Jade brush on a photoshoot with my friend Elizabeth!  Her hair is thinner than mine, but we did most on the straightening at 450°F instead of the recommended 350°F, as the higher temperature worked better.  We had to go over a few sections again, but it wasn't too laborious since I was just brushing her hair a few more times.  It took us about 10 minutes to do her whole head.  Elizabeth noted that her hair still retained some volume after straightening, too.  Using this brush instead of a flat iron actually creates what I call a more "natural" straight hair look instead of obviously flat ironed strands.

The Jade Hair Straightening Brush retails from Irresistible Me for $69.  I would recommend this if you're looking for a multi-tasking hair-safe tool that lets you brush and straighten simultaneously.  In my experience, it works more efficiently at a higher temperature setting than recommended in the booklet.  I've been using it to neaten up my hair and appreciate having this in my toolkit for photoshoots!   

What do you think?  Have you used products from Irresistible Me before?  What were your experiences?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

(Healthier) Pita Bread Pizza Recipe


A healthier take on pizza with pita bread.

There are a lot of things I like about living in California: the proximity to the great outdoors, the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, that Los Angeles is almost always a guaranteed stopping ground for my favorite bands.  One thing I'm not a big fan of?  The pizza.

I like my pizza a certain way: crispy thin crust, lots of tomato sauce, and just the right amount of vegetables and herbs.  So far, no one seems to have gotten it quite right so when the cravings hit this January, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I present to you my version of a quick, easy, and healthier homemade pizza!  I use whole wheat pita bread in place of the heavy, carbier crust from pizza places and it makes a HUGE difference in how I feel afterwards (i.e., no post-pizza food coma).


Ingredients
Psst, you can eyeball and adapt these portions to your liking.

1 slice of whole wheat pita bread
1 tsp of minced garlic
1/2 tbsp of olive oil
1/3 cup of pizza sauce
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese
Handful of spinach
6 cherry tomatoes
Oregano and red pepper flakes to taste


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Sprinkle the pita bread with the minced garlic.  Drizzle the olive oil on top and spread it around with a brush or spoon.  Add the pizza sauce (I like Trader Joe's brand) and spread it.  Sprinkle the cheeses on top of the sauce.  Top with spinach leaves and cherry tomatoes cut in half.  Pop the pizza into the oven and bake for 8 - 12 minute depending on how crunchy you like the crust!  Finish with oregano and red pepper flakes.  And then you eat it!

I've eaten this pizza for lunch nearly every day this past week.  I like to alternate between baby spinach, kale, and arugula.  If I'm feeling particularly hungry, I'll add a few pieces of pepperoni or salami.  Everyone has their own preferences for pizza so the toppings are completely up to you.  I really like this recipe because of how easy and fast it is to make a delicious lunch.  Also, all the ingredients (assuming you have the oil and spices already), amount to just slightly more than $15 to feed yourself for a week.  Pretty budget friendly, too, I'd say!  

How do you like your pizza?  Have you made it with pita bread before? 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday #32: Crimson Red, Canary Yellow

Prismacolor Verithin Pencils, Prismacolor, Lumière & Lens, Drawing
Drawing with Prismacolor Verithin pencils.

Happy Sunday!  My week has been a flurry of doctors' appointments (finishing out all my annual check-ups) -- I went to optometrist and my astigmatism has improved by 2 diopters per eye!  I had to get new glasses ($400+ due to my heavy prescription, boo), but as a heavily myopic individual, any improvement is great!

I want to thank everyone who was so receptive to my thoughts on family.  I was apprehensive about sharing something that personal.  Your thoughtful responses were deeply appreciated.  Thank you for giving me the space to write and for the stories you, in turn, shared. 

DRAWING

I was watching Big Eyes on Friday (it's a biopic about the artist Margaret Keane and I highly recommend it) and was inspired to pick up my pencils to draw for the first time in months.  I grabbed the first visual reference I had which happened to be Glamour magazine with Felicity Jones on the color.  Does it look like her?  Not really, but I had a good time rendering the flesh tones on the face! Two of my friends asked me to draw them and I said, "YES."  Maybe I draw women too much, but I find them to be the most inspiring!

Work in progress, Drawing in progress
The drawing in progress. 

A PHOTOGRAPHIC YES

I'm working on my portfolio with the eventual goal of freelancing and I'd like to do more "official" gigs.  Since 2017 is an exercise in the habit of SAYING YES, I set about to find opportunities.  Currently, I'm slated to play second photographer for an event at my university Y.  I also wrote a pitch to a committee in the chemistry department and will be doing headshots for the community in March!  I won't make money off either gig since Ph.D. students are disallowed from seeking secondary employment, but it will be good for experience. 

COLLABORATION

Over the holiday break, I received a collaboration request for Lumière & Lens from a company that makes hair products.  This was a first and definitely a surprise.  I sat on the email for three days before replying because a) integrity as a blogger is important to me and b) I wanted to carefully select something I would use.  I'm not in blogging for "freebies."  After receiving the product, I've used it on both myself and on a photoshoot with my friend Elizabeth so there will be a few posts forthcoming! 

I'm off to get some work done before my Sunday is over.  Anything exciting happen in your week?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fictions Lip Tint (Syndey) Review

Fictions Lip Tint, Fictions Lip Tint Syndey
Fictions Lip Tint Sydney, Fictions Lip Tint, Swatch, Sydney Swatch, Anthropologie

I love a good stroll through Anthropologie.  I was walking through the store last week, having a look through their after Christmas sales.  I rarely buy anything from Anthropologie because most of their products are overpriced, but I do love how pretty the displays inside are.  Now, I'm technically on a makeup No-Buy after my declutter, but I've been admittedly cheeky with purchases this past month.  Blame it on the holidays, eh?  

I was having a browse through their new beauty displays when I came across the Fictions Lip Tint ($16) in the shade Sydney.  I swatched this on the back of my hand, fell in love, and promptly walked over to the till with it.  As you can see from the swatch, it's a deep red tint, reminiscent of crushed cherries or just bitten lips.  While it's a darker red, I think it's a natural hue that we observe on humans which I really love!  Since it's a lip tint, the pigment is pretty sheer and it delivers a soft wash of color on the lips that can be intensified at your discretion.  It's made with castor and peppermint oil so it feels and smells good.  In my opinion, Sydney is a perfect go-to product for everyday and I'll likely use it into the spring.

What's your every day lip product?  Anything else you'd recommend from Anthropologie?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Family


My mother and I in 1989.

Every year since I my move to California, I've returned at least once to visit my family.  This year, I returned in December, both looking forward to it and a bit anxious.  If you ask children who've grown up in traditionally authoritarian Chinese households about their relationship with their parents, they'll tell you, "It's complicated."  Our culture is one that spares no harsh truths or criticisms, all for the love and betterment of their progeny.  As an adult, I've found this conflicting to navigate.  I feel both antagonized by words while simultaneously loved because my parents wouldn't expend this energy on anyone else.  In a sense, I was bracing myself for criticism and what I perceive as intrusive questions on school, marital status, and future plans.

The reality was different.

When I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to move out, away from rules and regulations.  Now, it gets harder for me to leave with each visit.  Maybe it's because I know the struggles my loved ones face and the time I spend worrying about them when I am away in California.  Maybe it's because I've been noticing how far and few people exist in this world who truly care for my well-being.  When I was a child, I saw my parents as infallible, and now each return is bittersweet as I note their aging and the passage of time.  In a reversal of roles, I wish I had the resources to go back and take care of them as they did me growing up.

When our family came together collectively for my brother this December, a switch went off in me.  As trying as it can be to deal with criticism/pestering/nagging from my parents, I have to accept that they do it because they care.  I put myself in their shoes and thought, "If your child was on the other side of the country and you were worried, what would you do? What could you do?"  For the first time, I exercised patience instead of exasperation at their "pestering" because we don't have the time for me to "not get along with my parents."
   
This year, I've gained a far deeper appreciation for my family.  When my parents and I came to this country as first generation immigrants, we didn't speak any English (my parents still don't to any level of fluency).  They have always worked hard jobs to support a family of three that became four.  (By the way, the next time someone complains about immigrants taking their jobs, email me. I'll be happy to tell you about the jobs they likely don't want to do).  All my parents' lives, they have worked physically demanding jobs, where they didn't have the luxury of contemplating fulfilling careers, job satisfaction, or hobbies.  We, the children, were their livelihood, and they gave everything to support us while obtaining citizenship so we could have better lives.  They sacrificed so much so that we could have the privileges that they didn't.  They were (and still are) selfless.  In stark contrast, my annoyance at them just being parents seems trivial and incredibly selfish.

My parents gave up a lot for us so I think I can spare time to call home more often, to check in.  I can exercise patience when they "nag."  I can take the spotlight off myself for one second and focus it outward because not Every. Dang. Thing. is about me.  Mostly, I want to spend more time appreciating and honoring them.  It is the least I can do.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sunday #31: Back in California

Arcadia Mall, Los Angeles
First Girls Night of 2017!

Hello, lovelies!  I hope you've all had a good first week in the new year!  I've only been back in Los Angeles for about four days so I'm getting myself back into the swing of things after holiday.  This weekend has been fairly relaxed: we had some family in town, watched Apocalypto (too violent for my tastes), and rang in the first Girls Night of 2017 at Din Tai Fung.  See that photo of us?  Our bellies were full to the brim with delicious dumplings!

CHANGE OF MIND

I am coming into 2017 with a determination to better my attitude because words and thoughts become manifest.  I can attribute some of my mindset last year to burn out; I'm surprised at how refreshed I feel after the holidays which means I'm more pleasant.  Since returning to Los Angeles, I've made a conscious effort to interact more kindly with people, regardless of my sentiments towards them.  Putting positive vibes out there has definitely been better for my overall mental and physical state!

EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA. Lumière & Lens
Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA. Lumière & Lens

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA.

I saw my friend Chris (we go way back to undergrad) when I was in Philadelphia and we decided to visit Eastern State Penitentiary.  The prison is a famous U.S. historical landmark and was known for its principles of reform as well as the solitary confinement of all prisoners.  The inside of the prison is designed to resemble a church so that prisoners might be reminded of God at all times.  It was cold and raining when we visited -- perfect weather for touring a dark and haunted (supposedly) prison.  Believe it or not, it was colder inside the prison!  If you're in Philadelphia, I'd highly recommend visiting.  It's a great cultural and learning experience about the American prison system.  Take a shot for every time I used "prison" in a sentence, including this one.

BLOG DESIGN

I've given my blog some minor tweaks for the new year which may not be immediately noticeable.  I'm always looking to streamline Lumière & Lens further so I've gone with a more simple, minimalist header and an update of the fonts.  If you have suggestions on how you think this blog's design or content could be improved, don't hesitate to let me know! 

RECOMMENDED

• Nicole Marie shares 20 Myths About People With OCD that is a must read.  We need to stop dismissing mental health disorders and regard them seriously, just as we do with illnesses like cancer.

The Summit: a documentary about the deadliest day of K2 mountaineering in 2008.  

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sunday #30: Hello, 2017

Hello 2017, Lumière & Lens,

Hello, 2017!  I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year's Eve.  I'm in Philadelphia and spent it with my family.  ICYMI, check out my resolutions/lifestyle changes for the new year here!  

JANUARY 1

I started off the first day of 2017 by meeting up with my friend Mark who I hadn't seen in about four years!  We'd spent a lengthy amount of time catching up on video chat yesterday and it turned out we both had time for lunch today.  We grabbed food at Applebee's and had a wander around the mall before sitting down for coffee (how very Philly of us)!  It was really good to see him after so long and to pick up as if we'd only seen each other recently.  I think the most wonderful of friendships are like this.  Tomorrow, I am going to Eastern State Penitentiary with my friend Chris, who I also haven't seen in years.  I can't wait!

PHILADELPHIA

I had a few free hours last Friday while my family was working.  I made the trek via public transportation into Center City since no visit to Philly is complete without at least one trip there.  I stopped by City Hall which seems to have been cleaned up a bit since I lived here a few years ago.  I think the architecture and sculptures are quite intricate. 

City Hall, Center City Philadelphia,  Market Street
City Hall on Market Street.

I've been pretty inspired by Julia's adventures in Philadelphia and wanted to explore some of the sites I'd neglected when I lived here.  After City Hall, I decided to walk to the historic parts of Philadelphia in Old City.  Since I was being thrifty, I went to the free historic landmarks that didn't have lines.  I took a stroll inside Carpenters' Hall and a visit to Christ Church (where Betsy Ross, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington have worshiped).  These buildings are older than our country!  While I was exploring outside, it started to snow and I was pretty chuffed since I've not experienced it in four years!

Carpenters' Hall, Philadelphia, Old City
Carpenters' Hall. Christ Church, Philadelphia
Christ Church.

I'm keeping it short and sweet this Sunday.  I've mostly been relaxing because I'm on holiday.  It's back to work for me again in a few days!  After the Midwest/East Coast cold, the California nights are going feel very warm again. 

I want to wish all who read Lumière & Lens a Happy New Year!  What did you get up to over New Year's Eve and the weekend?