Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Said Yes!

I stood outside of the Lido Regency Theater in Newport Beach with a magazine inconspicuously located in front of my camera. When I saw Mark and Tiffany making their way to the ticket booth, I began shooting from a distance.

Mark planned the cutest proposal and asked me to document the day. He convinced Tiffany to join him for a movie, but actually rented the movie theater to show a movie he made of their pictures and home videos. As they made their way up the balcony stairs, 100 guests waited nervously on the lower level. I snuck onto the balcony and waited for the: “Tiffany Will You Marry Me?” to appear on the screen. In the pitch-black theater, I heard Tiffany stifle a sob and said yes. I started shooting, but had a hard time (again!) fighting the tears.

The guests rushed the balcony after the proposal and when asked what her response was, she yelled: I said YES!

Mark hosted a BBQ at Balboa Beach and the rest of the afternoon was spent in the sun, laughing amongst loved ones, admiring Tiffany’s ring, and listening to the waves crashing.

I’m really excited to shoot their engagement session because after spending the afternoon with them and their relatives, I feel like a part of the family.

Here are a few from today…
From a distance

Showing the bling

Walking to the BBQ

Tiffany looking beautiful

Happily Ever After

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pineapple Ice Cream on Main Street

But Jasmine, JD said in astonishment, you’re in the same position I left you in this morning. I looked up with glazed eyes and smiled lethargically. I had been editing all day and only left my computer when it was time to eat lunch. JD just walked in from work and was trying to convince me to see the light of day. I know, I know I said as I stumbled into the shower.

As I was toweling my hair, JD raised his voice from our room and told me he had a date planned. To be honest, I didn’t really want to leave the comfort of home, but obliged. On our way to our favorite Mongolian BBQ restaurant, I thanked JD for pulling me away from my computer.

We stood watching the grill cook sauté our food through the glass window and waited for him to say, ‘Sank-you’, when we dropped our tips in the glass jar. I replied with a sank-you and made my way back to the table. So, where are we finishing our date, I asked JD while blowing onto my steaming chopsticks. He coyly smiled and shrugged.

When we pulled into the Disneyland parking lot, I was elated. Life doesn’t get too much better than a great dinner and visiting The Happiest Place on Earth. I made a mental checklist of the rides we just had to visit, with the Tower of Terror ranking first.

Toward the end of the evening, JD and I made our way to the Tiki Room. JD was craving the pineapple soft-serve ice cream and while we waited in line, the firework show was beginning. Normally, people have to wait an hour or so to get decent views of the show, but JD and I nestled ourselves into an empty corner and watched the fireworks while sharing the ice cream. Just as the Indiana Jones theme music played, JD leaned over and whispered: Happy 10-month Anniversary.

I.totally.forgot. We like to do something simple to commemorate our month anniversaries because, well, you only get one 10-month anniversary…and I totally forgot. Thank you, I whispered back. That was all I could say.

Thank you, JD, for pulling me away from the computer, laughing at my ‘sank-you’, sharing pineapple ice cream on Main Street, and being a wonderful husband.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

France does Italy

Perhaps it was the torches that lit the path to Sara’s front door that tipped me off…or maybe it was the aromas floating from the kitchen…it also could have been the netted lounge area with over-stuffed pillows, the abundance of lemoncello, and a PowerBook sitting by the bar flashing beautiful images from Italy that let me know this was not an average party.

When I received Sara’s evite, I thought it was a I-just-returned-from-Italy-and-I-want-to-show-you-my-pictures party, but I couldn’t be more wrong. What it turned out to be was more along the lines of My-name-is-Sara-France-and-I-am-so-fabulous-that-I’m-bringing-Italy-to-you party. Really. Bruschetta, gnocci, shrimp tossed in white wine alfredo, broiled chicken with rosemary, Italian cheeses, roasted peppers. It was the kind of food that might make Michelangelo regret he wasn’t around. Kristen from Your Day and Sara procured a phenomenal chef who kept shuttling platters from the kitchen to the table. Just when everyone agreed that another morsel of food would cause zippers to break and buttons to pop, Kristen brought out the gelato. Using tiny silver spoons, we shoveled spumoni onto our tongues and spoke lovingly about the black cherries and pistachios that hid in the gelato. And just when things couldn’t get better, the rain began. It wasn’t a downpour, it was humidity dressed in raindrops. Most of us gathered under the cabana umbrellas and jumped into each other’s conversations. When the rain subsided a few minutes later, everyone remained under the cabanas. Chairs were placed in a circle and the conversation lasted past midnight. The party was so much fun I didn’t even grumble when JD and I had to drive all the home from San Diego.

I met so many amazing photographers—who just so happen to be even better people—and I’m so blessed to be surrounded by wonderful support system.

Sara, you’re party was just as fun, wonderful, and beautiful as you…thanks for such a great time! And know when I throw a party, YOU’RE in charge! ;)

On a completely horrifying note, I stole the following pictures from Shyla’s blog. She bought a new Mac, so we had a little “fun” during the party with Photobooth. I’m not sure if JD really understands the love-affair I have Photobooth, but he was sweet enough to play along. Little did I know that Shyla was taking our pictures from a distance…

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Pimp My MacBookPro

My dad hates when I refer to my childhood neighborhood as ghetto. He also hates when I say my family was poor. However, just because he hates it, doesn’t make it any less true. Don’t get me wrong, I loved growing up where I did—government issued lunches at the community pool, door-to-door vendors selling everything from tamales to finger puppets, state-funded home improvement loans at no interest. There were perks. But the drive-by shootings at the local carnival also left a sour taste.

Despite the bleak environment, there were spots of beauty speckled across the city—like God held out a paintbrush and flicked His wrist, as if inspired by Jackson Pollack. On Sunday afternoons, cars would cruise a main boulevard and the drivers, sitting so low in their seats one could barely see their pupils above the steering wheel, would cast askance glances to see who was looking. These cars—otherwise known as ‘low-riders’—were basically outdated automobiles with new glitter-infused paint jobs, gold-plated 17-inch rims, and hydraulics that could cause the Richter scale to reach 4.2. With music blaring loudly enough to be almost inaudible to everyone but dogs, the cars would cruise at a walking pace, with their gold-plated car club name swaying from side-to-side from a spring mounted on the back window.

Oddly, as a child I found this spectacle to be beautiful. Strangely beautiful. Often times, I’d hear drivers refer to their cars as ‘pimped-out rides’. The notion of reinventing something old has been embedded in my mind like sedimentary rock over thousands of years. The ironic thing is that I never thought I’d ‘pimp-out’ anything, but, alas, the time has come…

A dear mentor sold me his MacBookPro for a great price a couple weeks ago and today I metaphorically cruised the Internet highway for some ‘pimped-out’ gear. I felt like I was a kid in a candy shop ordering my new DVD burner, internal hard drive, external hard drive, battery, and USB port. I’m telling you, the only thing I’m missing is dice in my mirror.

Who would have thought that God’s speckled beauty from childhood would replay itself years later in electronic form?! ☺

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Debutant

Christine and her dance instructor were circling the ballroom dance floor and the lighting technicians were positioning the spotlights when I walked in. Dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, Christine patted herself dry and sipped on a bottle of water. On our way back to her hotel room, we talked about her morning and the sudden case of nerves she was experiencing. It wasn’t until I saw her costumes—four decadently designed pieces of lycra, spandex, and crystals—when I understood what an event this was going to be.

I was commissioned to shoot Christine’s Debutant Ball after shooting her sister’s wedding a few months ago, but I suppose I didn’t fully understand what a production these types of parties are. Christine donned a heavily beaded wedding dress and crown for her grand entrance and danced a cotillion with her 14-member court. The 200 on-lookers loudly applauded and Christine brilliantly smiled. Once dinner was complete, Christine quickly changed into her costumes and performed each ballroom combination number flawlessly. Her mother presented her with a bouquet of flowers and the DJ announced a special surprise…a surprise that awaited her on the other side of the heavy wooden ballroom doors…

Christine and her court ran outside and discovered a brand-new car resting outside, complete with a large, red bow.

The event was beautiful, the dancing was fabulous, but seeing Christine’s face light up was priceless.

Here are a few from yesterday…
Christine's crown

The dance shoes

Christine getting her makeup done

Finishing touches

The stunning birthday cake

Christine and her court, just before performing the cotillion

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Road Trippin'

The summer after I finished my freshman year of college, I begged my parents to allow me to fly up to the Bay Area. JD had to move out of his dorm room and drive back to LA for the summer, so we thought we’d make a trip of it. After my relentless pestering, my parents capitulated and bought me a one-way ticket.

We packed JD’s car to the brim and made our way along the coast. We lunched in Carmel and decided last minute to walk along the beach. With sand hidden in the crevices of our toes, we used a box of tissue paper to wipe away the grains and resume our trip south. We drove through the Grapevine and blared “Road Trippin’” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

We sang inharmoniously while sticking our arms out the windows:
Road trippin’ with my favorite allies
Fully loaded we got snacks and supplies.
It’s time to leave this place, it’s time to get away.
Let’s go get lost somewhere in the USA…

It’s a trip I’ll never forget.

As luck would have it, JD serendipitously turned on the car radio yesterday and that very song was playing. Seven years later, we were still Road Trippin’ together, but this time we were headed to San Diego to hear DJ lecture about his newest software, work-flow, and his photo lab. The PUG meeting was awesome and DJ delivered a phenomenal presentation, so he made our trip so worth the drive. After the meeting, we grabbed a late dinner with DJ and the adorable Sara France and had a wonderful time. We spoke about life and—for some reason—I freely relayed all my idiosyncrasies, complete with the I-can’t-sleep-alone-at-night to the I-ran-into-JD’s-ex-girlfriend-yesterday-at-Trader-Joe’s-and-wanted-to-melt-into-the-floor to asking totally inappropriate questions. Yup, not only did I eat a great meal, I also chewed on my foot a few times…and the best part of it all was that my company didn’t seem to mind ☺

JD and I started our way home around midnight and after he cracked the sunroof, I reclined my chair. Just before I dozed off, I stared at the stars how thought about how far I’ve metaphorically road-tripped. And the best part is that I’ve made many more allies along the way.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Jessica and Travis

There are times when everything works together. When the sun shines with its full glory, when the waves brilliantly bow to the sand, when love floats through the air on an infectious vapor. For Jessica and Travis, Sunday was that kind of wedding day.

The wedding was held at Casa Romantica in San Clemente, which is a lovely venue in it and of itself, but Jessica and Travis’ wedding was something out of the ordinary. Jessica’s mom—a fashion show coordinator—orchestrated a stunning event, where no detail was taken for granted. Casa Romantica was extravagantly redesigned with custom lighting, freshly potted plants, chic flower designs, three martini bars, and dining tables—each named after a martini—wearing beaded covers and hosting white roses, lilies, and tulips. The jazz band played as guests picked up their parasols and made their way to the ocean view terrace.

Jessica and Travis are both dedicated surfers, so every date centers around the beach. After they recited their vows, they later recounted checking out the phenomenal swell along the Pacific, longing to be together in the water.

Promise me that when times get tough—and you want to give up—promise me we’ll return to the place where our love never falters, Jason said as he recited his personal vows. The water is where we fell in love, and the water is how we’ll stay in love.

I know I must seem like a baby, but I cried. And (as many as you know) this isn’t the first wedding when this has happened. There is something about love that never loses its appeal. Witnessing two people swearing their lives to each other is absolutely breathtaking and emotional. I allow myself to get caught up in the current and relinquish the urge to stay professional. I prefer staying personal. So I cried.

There is no other way to describe the beauty of this wedding than to say it was casually elegant. The groom wore flip-flops, the bride wore Manolo’s. The groomsmen drank Foster’s beer, the bridesmaids sipped on apple martinis. Just before the filet and salmon was served, sides of creamy potatoes and sprigs of rosemary were served in martini glasses. The jazz band played during dinner, the DJ (who usually spins at LA’s “Standard”, not at weddings) had everyone grooving on the dance floor. It was casually elegant.

As a gift to the bride and groom, Jessica’s mother had a surf board custom designed by LOST with their names and wedding design emblazed on the front. Jessica cried and kissed Travis squarely on the lips. That’s what made this couple so amazing…their ability to find pleasure in small things. Surfboards, the ocean, flip-flops. The simplicity of their love is what makes their relationship so elegant…and their wedding embodied this notion as well.

Here are a few from Sunday…

**To see the shoot in its entirety, CLICK HERE**


Monday, July 17, 2006

Bernadette and Allen

She smiled as the priest helped her out of the car. He said something to her that made her laugh, something the rest of us on-lookers couldn’t hear. Then he asked her to remind him of the story how she met her husband-t0-be. She paused, stopped mid-breath, and started to cry. The happy kind of cry—the type where a girl fans her eyes to stop the mascara from running.

I met Allen on the tennis court in college, Bernadette enlightened the priest.
Was it love at first sight, the priest asked.
She paused again and managed to say yes before the fanning of her eyes resumed.

By the time Allen was standing at the front of San Juan Capistrano Mission Church aisle, Bernadette has composed herself and walked toward her groom with a smile that lit up the church nave. The priest was there to pat Allen’s shoulder as he cried. The happy kind of cry—the type where a man makes a fist, places it on his lips, and cinches his eyes closed to keep the tears from escaping.

After the ceremony, the couple made their way to the Mission Courtyard and celebrated in the rays of a humid California day. Bernadette and Allen bid farewell to some of their guests and made their way to Monarch Beach at the St. Regis Hotel.

Along the Pacific coast, Bernadette wiggled her toes in the sand while her veil danced in the wind. Allen took her in his arms and held her so close they looked like one person from a distance. And in a certain way, that’s exactly what they became…one person, united in love and bond by eternal commitment.

Here are a few from Saturday…


Saturday, July 15, 2006


Every photographer's pictures are a thumbprint. This is what I told DJ at dinner last night. He asked me to expound on this notion. Well, I said, just as thumbprints are unique to their owners, so are pictures unique to a photographer. I continued saying, If you were to line up 16 pictures from different photographers, I'd be able to tell you who shot which photo.

I've poured over other people's images for so long, that I'm able to spot their work the same way one might differentiate a Picasso from a Matisse. Studying images has been my greatest tutor, so I take pride in identifying pictures before the shooter is revealed.

DJ, Shyla and I continued speaking about a myriad of things, but I couldn't shake the thumbprint idea. Thumbprints-like pictures-leave impressions, an invisible mark of presence. DJ has left his indelible thumbprint in my life, and many others I'm sure. However, I feel blessed because while his thumbprints have been placed on others the same way it has been left on me, I have a tangible thumbprint of his. As if I rolled his fingers in ink and firmly pressed them against a piece of heavy parchment. It's sitting in a Queensbury album in my living room. And his thumbprint is handed from one guest to another with JD and I host company.

When we finished our sushi, we left the restaurant and walked Santa Monica's Promenade for a short time and called it a night. As I made my way home, I felt undeservedly blessed for the wonderful people in my life and the direction in which I'm moving. I hope there comes a day when my thumbprint serves as identification, both for my images and my character.

DJ and Shy, thanks for everything last night…you guys ROCK! :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Jocelle and Harry

I walked into Jocelle’s room and found a red Chinese dress lying next to her wedding dress. Surrounding the dresses were typical American wedding accoutrements—like the garter and ‘something blue’—but I was intrigued with the gold coins and the miniature mountain of cotton balls, amongst other things. I discovered that the coins represented future wealth and the cotton balls symbolized a light and carefree marriage.

I love events steeped in culture, so Jocelle and Harry’s wedding was something I looked forward to. Their wedding was a smooth blend of Asian culture (Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, just to name a few), and a twist of Catholicism. With light pouring in the skylights and the priest sprinkling water on their wedding rings, I snapped away. Jocelle paid homage to the Madonna and Son with a bouquet of flowers, only later to be lassoed to Harry with a marriage cord and covered with a purity veil. So much beautiful culture.

At times docile and quiet, Jocelle and Harry relaxed completely after the ceremony. It was as if their loved underwent a metamorphosis after the first kiss. They cuddled and laughed like school children and gazed into each other’s eyes as if it was their first time doing so. Their love is a culture all it’s own and I was happy to be a part of it.

Here are a few from Saturday…


Monday, July 10, 2006

Holding too Tightly

Walking through the streets of Milan, Italy with JD four years ago, I stared into horizontal windows filled with pointy shoes and silk scarves. Pigeons cooed on the cobbled streets and mopeds zipped by. I had always dreamed of visiting Milan during the fashion season; where the haute couture stores are littered with super models and European movie stars. Standing in the blazing heat of an Italian summer, I was a few months too early.

The town was a lot quieter than I imagined. Smokers taking a noon drag, women maneuvering the uneven pavement in five-inch heels, and men looking like they walked off the pages of Vogue. I felt very American in my I’m-touring-Europe walking shoes, toting my non-lambskin leather sidebag, and so-last-season sunglasses. The only thing missing was McDonald’s golden arches behind American-sized waist.

Let’s start shopping, I suggested. JD and I visited Europe knowing we were going to frivolously spend, injudiciously eat, and live each day as if it were our last. Where do you want to begin, JD asked. He already knew the answer. When in Milan, do as the Milanese…shop Armani. On the train ride to Milan, I made a mental checklist (I live and die with checklists) of every store I wanted to visit. Emporio Armani topped the list. I was determined to buy JD a designer suit before he began his job at an environmental mitigation firm in Orange County, and—in honor of frivolous spending—I was sure it was to be Armani.

After the Italian frizzante was served and the seamstress beckoned, JD found his suit and it was mailed back to the States later that day.

As our trip came to a close—and much after JD had put up with my I’m-going-to-die-of-thirst, Are-we-there-yet, Just-five-more-minutes-I-promise—I wanted to buy JD something to express my appreciation for his companionship. A surprise. A just because gift. I was in no financial situation to make such a purchase, but I decided to live that day as if it was my last. I woke up early and made my way to the Gucci store. There I bought a crimson necktie sewn carefully with silk stitching that formed tiny G’s over its body. The tie I saw JD fondling a few days prior.

I hid the tie for the next few days in my cavernous suitcase, but took it out the day we were to return to the United States. I planned on giving the tie to JD once we boarded the plane. The minute I was no longer able to return it. I kept the black Gucci bag hidden under my airport chair and waited for our flight to be called. When boarding time arrived, I quickly grabbed my bags and boarded. Once the plane left the tarmac, I turned to JD and uttered what I imagine was a profound piece of oratory love manifesto...of sorts. I could be wrong though because my speech was clouded by my near shriek when I didn’t find the bag. The bag that was supposed to be under my chair along with my carrry-on.

Maybe I cried. Maybe I was angry. I don’t really recall. My overwhelming thought was that I deserved it. I deserved losing the tie. I held onto something believing it was a symbol of my love and gratitude. I trusted that something perishable was proof of my appreciation.

I promised myself that day that I would never, ever hold onto something so tightly again. For in holding tightly, the thing I so desperately want to keep may end up slipping away. This is a mantra I hold dear in every aspect of my life, including my business.

Looking back, I’ve never been so happy to lose something so dear.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Play Nice

You need to start showing them to me first, my sister told me. It was more of a command than a statement. Play Nice. That’s what I wanted to tell her. Because we’re twins, we did everything together throughout childhood—eating, fighting, laughing, playing—so when my mother noticed a nucleus of an argument forming, she always said, Play Nice!

Now, years later, there are times when I want to tell my sister to Play Nice.

I was showing her pictures from last week’s wedding and she decided she wanted to see other pictures on my blog. Pictures I didn’t post. I really don’t know how I choose my blog pictures, I just do. Pictures just sort of stick to me, like gum on the bottom of a shoe on a hot day.

You should post these pictures…for me, my sister said.

Bianca, these are for you. Because I learned how to Play Nice…

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stacy and Stacy

We were meant to marry each other…we even have the same name, Stacy told me last Saturday. Donned in her bridal gown, she was talking of her fiancé, Stacy. But you can call him Stacy Boy, she told me. She went on to recount meeting him in the seventh grade and dating him for three weeks. In the eighth grade, they were caught French-kissing by an arcade game. They escorted each other to their high school dances until Stacy Girl moved to California. Two years later, they met up by chance when Stacy Boy was choosing what California college to attend. From that day nine years ago, they dated exclusively, only to be married last Saturday, July 1, 2006 in Carlsbad.

The humidity was gradually shepherded away with the San Diego breeze as Stacy Girl paced the hotel room. I’ve waited so long for this day and now I can’t believe it’s here, she said as she rung her hands together. As soon as Stacy Girl finished dressing, she stepped outside to have a moment with her father. When he saw her, he cried. She cried. I cried. There was something painfully happy about the moment and—thankfully—my camera shielded the tears streaming down my cheeks.

Stacy and Stacy had a lovely wedding and everyone felt the bond they shared. Everyone at the wedding was a piece of their love story, a story that spanned 16 years. And a story that will no doubt carry on for many years to come.

Here are a few from their wedding…