adventures in macro photography

Twenty five dollars and one frustrating night (“how the hell do you put this thing on?”) later I am the proud owner of an embarrassingly cheap and extremely amateur macro lens. Naturally the best way to test it out in the field was to spend a couple hours in my room trying to figure it out how to work this darn thing.

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the invariable importance of painting and calendars

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With Christmas behind us, I decided the next few days will be all about doing the things I said I would do over the break, but never actually do because I’m so busy doing everything else. This includes reading a new book (“Starting Point,” a Hayao Miyazaki autobiography), cleaning the bathroom (still haven’t gotten around to that one yet), and, one of my favorites, painting.

I love painting for a few reasons. The stroke of a brush is much more forgiving and supple than the hard lines of a pencil. While drawing easily becomes stressful for me, painting is purifying. When I paint, I feel that I have a goldmine of skill stored inside of me, and the riches can only be extracted if I keep going. It is the inescapable cliche of self-discovery through art.

So I sat down with my watercolors and brushes yesterday, trying to get inspired. I ended up sifting through my Pinterest board and eventually ended up with these cute little things.

A few years ago I remember buying a calendar with my Christmas money, and when my friend saw it, he couldn’t understand why I spent 12 bucks on it when there is a calendar app on my phone. I was taken aback and had a hard time justifying my purchase. I mean, each year I always bought a wall calendar. It was the way to start off the new year in my family. But, he was right – it was kind of a waste of money. Right?

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So creating these teeny calendars made me happy, because I don’t think paper calendars are obsolete. And I was glad to discover that some of my friends were willing to pay me to make them, as treats for themselves or gifts for others. I can’t quite figure out why, but I feel like there is something important hidden in the idea of having a calendar on your wall, not just on your phone. It’s validating to know that others feel the same.

the only tradition

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Growing up, there were never many Christmas traditions in my household. Since I moved around a lot as a kid, it was kind of hard to establish traditions when we were always in a new house and hardly ever near any family. But every year, without fail, my mom was always baking. This year she decided to rev it up a little bit. Maybe it’s because my brother and I are getting older, maybe it’s because she’s trying to feel closer to her mom, or maybe she just feels like baking, and, well, I’m not complaining. The product of her craze was a kitchen table with a healthy dose of sugar, frosting, and Christmas spirit. And here’s just a part of it.

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(Man, I wish I could be a food photographer for Good Housekeeping or something.)

Bonus photo of a Christmas gift I’m making for my parents.

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Next up is a bonus entry about her gingerbread cookies, which are so adorable they deserve their own post.

photo wall series part I

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I set up this wall in my room to display some of my favorite photos. The photo wall has two rules: 1) I must have taken the photo, and 2) there must not be distinguishable faces in the photos. Because most of the events I photograph don’t follow the second rule, this has proven to be quite the challenge. The wall has allowed me to sharpen my eye for photographs that I might not otherwise take.

In this series, I will go one by one along the wall, giving context about each photo and allowing my work to receive some well-deserved exposure outside the comfort of my bedroom.

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Each spring in Texas the bluebonnets bloom like crazy for a few weeks and then disappear again until the next year. It’s very common for teenage girls, children, and families to go fields of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes to have their portraits taken. One of the reasons I’m fond of this picture is because when I first got my camera, I didn’t have many subjects besides flowers or my dog. Some may find it boring to shoot still objects all day (especially when you have a brand-new camera that you are ready to whip out every two minutes) but I liked it because it challenged me to get off auto and learn how to shoot in manual (and manual focus!). It may be a little elementary, but I still love to take pictures of flowers.

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At Arlington National Cemetery in D.C., there is a memorial for JFK called the Eternal Flame. I was curious whether the flame really is eternal. Turns out it has gone out a few times, but there is some kind of automatic lighter when it does go out from the rain, etc. Admittedly, there is really nothing extraordinary about the picture except for the cool-looking fire..

Overall Arlington was a memorizing place to visit, and the reason I’m not talking about it much here is that I have some other posts lined up to discuss it in full justice.

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This was taken in the summer of 2013 while waiting in line at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. As an incredibly popular attraction, to eat at Franklin one must show up very early in the morning and wait outside in the southern heat for hours before they finally open up. Meanwhile, waitresses will walk along the line selling drinks and taking orders. And when the doors finally open, there is very limited seating and they are open until they sell out (which, believe me, doesn’t take long).

I took this photo with my old purple point-and-shoot Kodak as I sat on the curb in line. When I returned to Franklin a year later, there was, in the same place, some very expert graffiti of a long-snouted dog propping its head up with a human hand.

You may recognize Austin for its “Keep Austin Weird” slogan, but it’s more than just weird. It’s a fantastically unique city, and I love it there.

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This last simple photo is of my house plant, a cactus named Zimmerman. I bought him while I was quite interested in spirituality. I thought purchasing some succulents would bring me peace. Sadly, Zimmerman’s partner, a globular plant named Archibald, died at my inattentive hand.

I thought that having plants would bring me the same type of peace I feel when my dog sleeps in my bed. The ability to take care of something alive is a skill I’m still trying to learn.


In this series, I don’t plan to present anything eloquent or extravagant, and I won’t even be showing my best work. But photography is about taking risks and making discoveries.

And I think it’s about sharing them, too.


next up: more on D.C., Williamsburg, and suburban sunsets.

a change of pace

I’m usually not one to write “slice-of-life” blog posts, but today was a relaxing juxtaposition to the tone of my previous posts. Perhaps I wanted to show that, when left to my own devices, I don’t always have to be so serious and pensive.

While I should have urgently been working on my scholarship essays, the course of my day was predetermined after I slept in two hours late. (Hey, there are three days left to write those essays, right…?)

So I felt unashamed to spend the afternoon decorating the family Christmas tree and making holiday cards for my friends and family dispersed across the country. As I was working, I realized this would be my first Christmas with my Canon. Naturally I grabbed the camera and started shooting.

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Here’s a bonus photo of my dog, who didn’t exactly know what to think of the tree. When I was taking this, she was lying so still that I lowered my f-stop to 1/8!

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My next post will focus on my photography and revisit my time in D.C.