Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday #45: A Feast of the World

Indonesian Dance, Lumière & Lens

Hiya!  I'm finally sitting down to write this because it's been a pretty packed week.  On top of graduate school related obligations, I've had two photoshoots and friends in town.  It's been a fun and action packed weekend, but I am pooped out!  


My friend Cat came into town; we met through our undergraduate research work and she was in town for the weekend.  She's one of the most interesting, honest, and intelligent women I know.  When we hung out it was as if we hadn't missed a day -- I think the best sorts of friendships are ones that are unperturbed by the passage of time.  Since I'm a photographer, you know I sat her down for one of my front yard portrait sessions!  We got some delicious ramen (take a shot every time this is mentioned on Lumière & Lens) and walked around while chattering at a mile/min.  YES!  Anyways, it was an awesome time and I was so glad to see her for the first time in years.


Our university had a world food and culture event this past week.  The event featured tables of food from countries around the world as well as performances at the end of the evening.  My friend (who is partially in charge of directing the event) asked me to photograph it so I came armed with my roommate's 28-200 mm lens and an empty stomach!  In our current political climate, I've learned to more deeply appreciate the celebration of multi-cultural events.  Some favorites: an Indonesian dance (see above) and a diabolo juggling performance!

Lumière & Lens, Chinese food
Chinese food as eaten in Hong Kong.
Lumière & Lens, Chilean food
Chilean delights!
Lumière & Lens, Diabolo performance
A diabolo juggling performance.



My boyfriend had good friends in town so we went to the La Brea Tar Pits and hung out in LA near LACMA.  It's a pretty cool museum filled with the skeletons of animals that have been retrieved from the tar pits.  There are tar pits on the grounds that you can look at as well as a site that is being actively excavated.  The museum houses the skulls of hundreds of direwolves, too!  I didn't even know they were real; I thought direwolves were just of Game of Thrones fiction.

Near the entrance of the Tar Pits Museum.

If you're in the LA area, I think both the Tar Pits and LACMA are worth a visit.  Bring your student ID -- you get a discount!


•  Patient Explorers - a photojournal by Kyle.  
•  A reflective piece by Louise on managing stress and living her best life
•  Tales by Light: a documentary series on Netflix on the physical journeys and experiences of photographers to capture their images.  An incredibly beautiful and inspiring series.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles

The Last Bookstore, Window Panes
Window pane art display on the gallery level.

The Last Bookstore is the largest used bookstore located in Downtown Los Angeles.  It was one of the places Gina wanted to visit when she was in LA because she loves books and knitting.  We took the LA Metro to Pershing Square and after lunching at Bottega Louie, ventured to explore the bookstore.

Firstly, The Last Bookstore is situated right by the Jewelry District, which is one of the sketchier areas of LA, so I recommend going with a friend.  The bookstore is pretty serious about security so I had to check my small backpack before going inside.  You'll notice the scent right when you walk in -- the air is a little stuffy and smells of old books, but what would you expect?  The ceilings are high and the lighting is dim so you feel as if you've entered a vault.  To the left of the entrance is a room of rare volumes which also had a beautiful gallery wall (I think I spied a Keane painting!).  It was fitting as there were many beautiful art and photography books that I'd love to own as references some day.  They also had a lot of great art volumes on sale! 

The Last Bookstore, rare booksThe gallery wall in the rare book room (left).  The entrance to the bookstore (right).

I think most of the books are housed on the first floor.  You'll find both new and used merchandise that spans old and more contemporary publications.  After we perused the shelves on the ground, we headed to the second floor.  What's unique about The Last Bookstore is that the second floor runs the perimeter of the building, so the center is completely open, giving you a view down to the ground floor.  Upstairs, there is a famous book loop and bridge that are favorite photographic spots.  Their horror section (hello, Anne Rice) was located upstairs inside a Horror Vault, which was neat.  

The Last Bookstore, Lumière & Lens
View of the ground floor.
The Last Bookstore, Lumière & Lens, book loop
Gina stands in the book loop, a popular spot for photographs. 

In addition to books, The Last Bookstore is also host to art galleries, Gather (a yarn store that Gina was all over), and independent stores.  She left with a bag full of books and textiles!  My favorite parts of the bookstore were the art galleries (pictures weren't allowed) and the little stores upstairs.  There was one store that had an entire display of vintage analog cameras!  It was hard not to impulse buy them.  One day, I tell you.

The Last Bookstore, Lumière & Lens, Gather DTLA, yarn store
The Last Bookstore, Lumière & Lens
Part of the railing on the second floor is composed of lights wound through metal.
The Last Bookstore, Lumière & Lens

If you like books, cozy art galleries, and stores with unique merchandise, I'd recommend taking a trip here.  Expect to pay a bit more for your non-book merchandise, but you'll be supporting stores that aren't corporate bigwigs.  If you love big bookstores like The Strand (the original one in Union Square) in New York City, then The Last Bookstore is the place you want to visit in LA.

The Last Bookstore is located at 453 S Spring St – Ground Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90013.

In the comments . . . what are your favorite books?  What would you look for in a used bookstore?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday #44: Good Bread, Acts of Kindness

Lumière & Lens, fresh bread, flaylay, wooden flatlay, europane
Rosemary currant bread and coffee on a sunny morning.

Hey, you!  Hope you're well.  It's a drowsy Sunday and I'm gearing up with my second cup of coffee.  On the agenda today are house tasks, a workout, and data work to send my advisor before the weekend is over.  I'm doing some work with The 100 on --if you like post-apocalyptic science fiction, you'll like this show!  Now, on to the post!


Right after I shared a bit of realism on this blog, I had a rough night.  I broke the crock pot and cut my hand open on the serrated ceramic edge.  While flossing vigorously that night, I accidentally unbonded a part of my permanent retainer.  I then felt ill and didn't sleep until past 3:00 AM.  The following morning, I dropped my medication and spent awhile digging around for it in my room.  By the time I went into lab, I was a mess.  My colleague left Easter candy on my desk because she said, "You looked like you were having a really bad day."  Later that night, my boyfriend did all my dirty dishes so I wouldn't have to soak my cut hand.  I don't always think about it, but on that day, I appreciated the thoughtfulness of those acts of kindness.  It's the little acts of kindness that can really make a difference in someone's day and they inspire me to pay it forward.


I was invited to a dinner for my university's Y to meet the wonderful people who make student activities possible.  The guest lecture of the night was delivered by former Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Dr. Charles Elachi.  It was a fantastic talk on the accomplishments of the US in space in addition to being educational; I learned that moon formation can occur in the expansive rings around Saturn.  I also did a bit of photographic work this week: new headshots for my friend who is a junior professor and group photographs for a lab at my university.  The question I keep getting is, "So when are you going to start charging?"  I've been 100% focuses on portfolio building so far!


Half our house is gone this weekend on a backpacking trip.  The closest I will get to nature is camping -- I refuse to go backpacking because I'm NOT into that whole doing your business on the earth thing.  What I am into, however, is playing with Stella, but she went with my housemates and boyfriend so the house is TOO quiet this weekend.  I miss hearing the clicking of her feet against our wooden floors while she zips around all day!

Lumière & Lens, puppy, dog,

Looking forward to having her and my boyfriend home tonight!  I won't lie, though.  It's nice to have the whole bed to myself with candles lit, The 100 on, and not worrying about whether the stray light is keeping someone else up.  Just saying.


•  Nat talks about taking a non-linear career path with a law degree.
•  Felicia writes about our culture of hate-following and shifting our focus towards love instead.
•  Gillian shares 10 small ways to save money.  Definitely going to make some changes!
•  Michelle takes tangible actions to beat the Sunday blues
•  How women and men are socialized to -- or not at all -- to apologize.

Tell me about your week?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Realistically, Behind the Scenes

I started this blog nearly 1.5 years ago as an outlet for photography, creativity, and positive documentation.  Life was (and continues) to be stressful and I wanted a place that was all my own, to freely create and write my whimsies.  So far, I think I've done a fairly good job at keeping Lumière & Lens a positive place: I share adventures, good times, and photographs I love, while keeping mention of the negatives to a bare minimum.  When I have a particularly uninspired or perhaps rough week, I've refrained from posting at all.   

However, that's not realistic, is it? 

One of the main complaints people have about social media is the illusion of a great life because only positive moments and achievements are shared.  In the age of blogging as a career, Instagram-curation, and personal branding, there's both pressure and expectation to maintain an image.  While Lumière & Lens, in all its aspects, and I are far from perfect, my adherence to showing just the highlights makes me an active contributor to the problem.  

Many of you commented on how I maintained my optimistic attitude on a day where nothing went right recently.  Truth be told, I'm naturally a very pessimistic person.  I consciously work against that nature, because it's draining to both myself and others around me.  Wallowing, complaining, and self-pity is the easier, downhill process against which I fight.  However, it doesn't mean that behind the scenes, I don't have myself a good rant, or struggle to kick myself out of it.

Towards the end of this past weekend, I was feeling unhappy, irritable, and frustrated, which I didn't share.  You get the happiness, not the moodiness.  You see the clean flatlays and not the mess of laundry on my bedroom floor.  I told you about happy I was to see my best friend, but not how sad I was to see her go because it's like parting with family.  I thought, "Nobody reads a blog to hear complaining."

When I'm having a rough time, I avoid Lumière & Lens, but I don't think that creates the most realistic representation.  I'm not going to start posting diatribes, but I want to acknowledge that it's not all light, all the time.  Not every moment makes it to the highlights reel, but they're not less worthy of a mention. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday #43: 14,000 Steps

Self portrait in a gallery piece at The Last Bookstore in LA. 

Happy Easter, to those of you who celebrate this holiday!  I've never celebrated Easter, but there's been so much going on lately that it's felt like a holiday for most of the week.  My best friend Gina came to visit me, I spent time with my friend Roberta today at The Huntingdon, and there's a lot of preparation to be done before the new week starts tomorrow.  Suffice to say that I am knackered especially as I've walked 14,000 steps today! 


Gina finally arrived in LA!  I think we've been friends for nearly a decade now; I honestly lost track of the years.  As Gina puts it, we first bonded in undergrad by going to lunch, and were then stuck together forever.  Much of our friendship was built around shopping, food, and studying together.  She received her a PhD a few weeks ago so while this trip didn't involve a lot of studying, it certainly included copious amounts of food and shopping (I gained 5 pounds in one day from eating, no joke).

We went into LA via metro to eat at Bottega Louie.  We saw some well dressed, California fashion savvy women taking photos in front of the restaurant which prompted Gina to say, "Look! Bloggers!"  I suppose that's the thing you start recognizing when you hang out with me in addition to the (probably annoying) constant shutter clicking.  After lunch, we went to The Last Bookstore (post coming soon!) and took a trip to Little Tokyo.  During her trip, we also visited the Norton Simon Museum, ate our weight at Ramen Tatsunoya, and did a lot of walking around the city (13,000+ steps on all the adventure days).  

 Gina and I (top).  Walking through the Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo, LA (bottom).

It was so much fun having her around!  We go back so many years that it was like having a little piece of home in LA with me.  I also took every chance to photograph Gina during her visit.  At one point, she asked, "Do you think you have enough pictures of me?"  Nah.  She was my first photographic subject when I got my DSLR all those years ago and will always be one of the most beautiful, inspiring women to me.  


My roommate Paul's birthday was on Friday -- what a week of nonstop activity!  We had an impromptu wine and game gathering that evening with people dropping in and out.  I played photographer/annoying-person-with-the-camera as I usually do and got a few snaps that I'm sharing.  Heck yeah, some Bananagrams happened! 


Some other things I did:  my lab had a full group meeting this Saturday in preparation for a research communication event.  I went in to listen to the practice presentations and then went home to get some painting done.  It was definitely one of those weekends where everything I painted looked like absolute GARBAGE.  I managed to fit in an ab workout afterwards that left me very sore.  I started watching the much buzzed about 13 Reasons Why and wrote up a post on Lumene skincare (click?).  There's still SO MUCH to do in terms of tasks and experiment planning so I'm off!

Are you watching 13 Reasons Why?  Anything exciting in your week?

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Sunday #42: Cat Socks

handknit, knit socks, cat socks, knitting, Lumière & Lens
Cat socks, painting, and the moon.

Do you like my new socks?  My best friend Gina hand knit and sent them to me in the post.  She's coming to visit me next week for a few days and I can't wait!  I'm currently at home, recovering from a cold (I've had symptoms off/on this week so it might be allergies?).  I plan to make a trip into lab later and a short photo shoot with a fellow graduate student at my university.  I'm much more accustomed to photographing females so this will be interesting!  ICYMI, I also shared tips on improving your photography this week.  Clicky, clicky. 


I picked up a large canvas (36" x 48") recently in the interest of painting again.  I haven't painted seriously or consistently since high school, when I had access to a studio and a dedicated two periods a day to work.  My friend Roberta is a fantastic artist and she inspired me to start working on traditional art again.  In the grips of my cold yesterday, I turned my front porch into a makeshift art studio.  I bundled up, drank copious cups of tea with honey, and reacquainted myself with the feeling of paint on canvas.  Here's the laying down of the painting's foundation. 

Lumière & Lens, Painting, Acrylic painting
Lumière & Lens, Painting, Acrylic painting
Detail of painting.

I also managed to ruin my 7 For All Mankind jeans with paint.  Before you gasp, know that I buy all my designer jeans at consignment shops because I work in a lab.  This way, I can wear nice jeans, but not be heartbroken when they're ruined.  Now I have a pair of painter's jeans and an excuse to buy a new pair because I've ripped my Topshop skinnies as well.  Whoops.


I also decided to take my new camera out mid-week and aim it at the moon with my roommate's 28-200mm zoom lens.  Check out those craters!  Unlike my old camera, I don't have to downsize the image to keep the sharpness.  Am I going to be an astrophotographer any time soon?  Probably not, but it was nice to get a closer look of the celestial body that orbits our planet. 

Moon photography, astrophotography, Lumière & Lens
Moon on 4/5/17 (left) and 4/8/17 (right) as view from Southern California. 

Speaking of celestial bodies, have any of you seen the movie Another Earth?  It's a fantastic science fiction drama that introduced me to the work of Brit Marling.  Marling is the co-creator and star of the Netflix show The OA.  My boyfriend and I tore through the entire first season over the weekend.  It's a suspenseful and intriguing narrative.  The storytelling is some of the best I've ever seen.  I love how the show blurs the lines between science fiction, drama, and romance.  It's hard to put it into one definitive genre.


I finally finished compiling pieces for my photography portfolio this week. You can see it here, if you're interested.  I've showed a few people at work and my boss's secretary put up some of my work across from her desk to build a gallery wall.  She encouraged me to submit pieces to my university's art and literary magazine so I sent some photographs in this week!

Let me know what you think?  I'm open to constructive feedback, positive or negative.  I'm definitely focusing on building up my portfolio in 2017, so if you're in the Los Angeles area, don't hesitate to drop me a note if you want to collaborate!

I'm off now to make the most of this Sunday.  Let me know about your weekend in the comments? XOXO

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Improving My Photography On A Budget

Lumière & Lens

Whenever I'm tempted to spend money on expensive equipment, I remind myself that the photographer determines the outcome of a picture, not the camera.  I recently upgraded to a Canon 750D body from a 9 year old 1000D.  People have weighed in on my decision:  Why don't you just buy a 70D or a used 5D?  You can get a full frame used for just $1000.  Just buy a full frame camera.

I believe it's important to work with what I have.  My gear is not what determines my vision -- my execution does that.  What camera do you use?  Does it really matter?  Instead of asking me that question, give me an opportunity to show you what I can do.  Personally, I take a minimal approach to photography.  I always ask myself, "How can I produce great work without spending a lot of money?"  Working with limitations forces me to be more creative, resourceful, and grow (DPS encapsulates this sentiment well). With that in mind, here are a few tips for improving photography on a budget!


No matter what camera you own, learn about all the settings and utilize them to the best of your ability.  For DSLR users, shooting in manual (or semi-automatic) mode lets you control exposure, aperture, and shutter speed.  The more you learn about your camera, the more you can exploit its capabilities.  Here's a guide to getting around your DSLR.  When possible, shoot in RAW, an image format that saves without compression (i.e., loss of image data).  Post-processing can help take a good image to excellence and it's more facile if you have all the data.


Natural light is beautiful, universally flattering, and 100% free.  A majority of my photographs are taken in natural light -- it helps images look clean and bright, without need for excessive post-processing or color balancing.  Early morning, late afternoon, and the hour before sunset (Golden/Magic Hour) offer the softest and most flattering light.  On sunny days, I tend to shoot in the shade, away from direct light.  Overcast days offer the most freedom for shoot times; cloud cover helps to diffuse the otherwise strong exposure of the sun.  The two portraits below were taken during Golden Hour using both entry level and professional DSLRs.  Note how the subjects are softly illuminated without being washed out. 

Lumière & Lens Photo, Lumière & Lens, Portrait Photography


A light reflector ($11.99) and a gray card ($7.50) will be the best $20 you spend.  A light reflector is indispensable for minimizing shadows and bouncing more light into the frame.  I always use a reflector when I'm shooting flatlays and objects.  In the example below, using a reflector helps mitigate the shadows at the bottom of the image.  When I post-process the photography, the brightness is evenly distributed across the whole picture.  

gray card, shooting indoors
Still shot under fluorescent light using custom white balance (post).

The gray card lets you set custom white balance on your camera.  White balance can make a huge difference in the brightness and mood of your photographs.  You know that ugly yellow tone you can get from indoor photos?  Using a gray card to set the white balance reduces the color balancing you'll have to do in post-processing. 


Unpopular opinion: I dislike the marble that EVERYONE uses for their flatlays.  I don't care how luxurious or clean it looks -- it's homogeneous and sterile.  I much prefer the look of wood grain so I get my wooden slats, crates, and birch pieces from the craft store, all for $10 or less per item.  When I want a white backdrop for added brightness, I use a big paint canvas that I got on sale from the craft store.   I personally like the subtle texture canvas adds to flatlays. 

Flatlay photography, flatlay backdrops
Flatlay using canvas as a backdrop. 

As for other flatlay props?  Be resourceful and look around the house (see above).  My textured cloths are kitchen towels or shirts I've arranged.  Even when I'm shooting flatlays, I want my props to be personal and authentic items that aren't just for aesthetics/show.  Chances are, if you see a prop in a photo of mine, it's something I actually use and keep in the house.  For example, the wooden crate I use as a backdrop here?  It houses notebooks and equipment when it's not being photographed.


We live in the age of the internet which means there are photography guides everywhere.  I always take the time to read photography tips my fellow bloggers post.  Digital Photography School and 500px ISO are founts for photography resources.  The most important thing I've learned in my journey as a photographer is to never stop learning.  Keep an open mind.  You never know what someone else will be able to teach you.

Do you have any tips on improving photography to share? 

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Sunday #41: Birthday Squad

Sunday birthday dinner at Bottega Louie.

Happy Sunday, folks!  I hope y'all had a good week.  Mine was pretty busy -- there was a meeting or seminar to attend nearly every day this week around which I had to fit my experiments.  Busy isn't calm, but it's good.  I've learned that it's always better to have too much work in graduate school than not enough, though.  This week, my advisor dropped news of some big changes at work and I'm feeling the ticking of the clock.  I need to find employment, pass my proposals exam, defend, and graduate.  That's a lot to do before December!


My roommates and their friend all play together in a band.  They had a jam session on Saturday that I took as an opportunity to photograph musicians in action.  My roommate Trevor (the bassist) is one of the most photogenic men I know so I inevitably aim the lens at him for extended periods of time. I was impressed by their musical prowess and less so by the fuzziness of the photos at higher ISO with slower shutter speeds to capture rapidly moving people.  Another photography lesson learned!

After the jam session, we grabbed burgers and came home to watch Doctor Strange, which is the most soporific Marvel movie I've ever seen.  I dozed off within twenty minutes of watching the film, as did Trevor.  I was convinced that Doctor Strange was going to turn into Goku halfway through the movie.  I'm glad I didn't sit through it in theaters.


The girls and I went out to celebrate Tami's birthday this Sunday.  Our friend suggested Bottega Louie in Downtown LA so we left around 4:00 PM today and it was quite a trip!  I have pretty awful motion sickness so we had to pull over about 0.5 miles from the restaurant.  Guess what yours truly did? Spectacularly upchucked in the middle of LA?  You betcha! #Weaksauce, but we got a few good laughs out of it.

Our friend suggested, "Let's take a picture!  You can put this on your blog!"  So here I am with Tami, looking like a hot mess while she grins.  The girls were impressed that my makeup stayed intact after the whole ordeal.  Small victories, you know?  This nice man on the street ran into a nearby grocery store and got me some water.  Very kind of him.  I must've looked like someone who'd been day drinking too hard!

Afterwards, we split pizzas at Bottega Louie, which is one of the most Instagram-able places I've ever seen, followed by a dessert of macarons.  It was a fun dinner with vivacious personalities, loud conversations, and laughter, which is how good company ought to be.  The older I get, the more I appreciate good company and kind people.  

Bottega Louie, Lumière & Lens

It's getting pretty late here so I'm going to sign off and get ready for another busy week ahead.  I'm still feeling a little tired and dehydrated so I'm going to rest up.  I hope you all had a good weekend.  Feel free to let me know about yours in the comments -- I read every one!