Tiny Person Photoshoot: Baby Weston by Amanda Liew

A few months ago, I brought my camera along for fun to the joint baby shower for Amy & Renee. Fast forward to late August & imagine just how ecstatic I was when Amy asked me to take photos of the newest addition to her family: Baby Weston! One of my goals for this year is to branch out in terms of subjects, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to photograph such a cute little nugget! A tiny person photoshoot - what an adventure, right? Because Amy didn’t have a specific plan or style in mind already, I originally planned to capture photographs that were gentle, intimate, and peaceful. Hilariously, Baby Weston had a different plan in mind. I certainly learned a lot of pointers during the shoot, that’s for sure. A few nuggets of wisdom on photographing the nuggets themselves:

  • Because of babies’ extreme short-sightedness (only a few feet at this point!), it required quite a bit of extra maneuvering and positioning to try and capture his gaze. This meant lots of squatting, jingling things, and shooting nonstop.
  • Many babies find running faucets extremely soothing which isn’t too far fetched, but it was pretty amusing to watch Weston go from crying to “in the zone” the minute we leaned him over the sink. It made me wish I had a waterfall easy access all the time for when I'm stressed (how nice would that be..)
  • Cuddly and textured blankets are your best friend. It was so easy to spread one out on the floor & still have it large enough to capture straight down shots & angled depth of fields without catching the edge! You don't get this luxury with "big person" photoshoots, so take advantage of it in this instance.
  • Keep the camera on the entire time. I was able to capture so many tender moments between the family just while they were arranging themselves, comforting Weston, or changing his outfit. Some of the photos of Weston clinging to Amy’s shoulder are so much more precious than anything we could have pre-posed.

One thing that I definitely want to improve on is shooting in low light settings. Even with a f/3.2, I had to bump up the ISO quite a bit & the graininess definitely comes across. As I continue to develop as a photographer, I'm starting to consider different equipment options (reflective surface probably would have come in handy here).

Aside from the photos themselves, this photoshoot was the 2nd time that I tried out my new donation-in-liew-of-payment method (get the pun..get it..?). A few months ago I first tested this out by asking Sarah Jane to donate to Krista’s mission trip, and similarly I asked Amy to donate to our church’s new women’s ministry which I strongly believe in. It’s continued to be a win-win-win for all involved: beautiful photos for the “client” // an implied valuation attached to my time & effort that doesn’t commoditize my art // an extra donation to a worthy cause! Beyond that, it’s been wonderful to connect my clients with those in need of the donations, thus helping to form a stronger connection within our community. If anybody else has unique payment systems, I would love to hear them!

30 Snapshots: Kristin & Johnny's Wedding by Amanda Liew

Over the 4th of July weekend, I had the beautiful opportunity of being a "witness" in Johnny & Kristin's wedding. Throughout the festivities in New York, Kristin asked me if I could take some snapshots behind the scenes - candids to capture the fun spirit, spontaneous moments, and beautiful friendships that were there to celebrate this union. While the professional photography was done by the fantastic duo that is With Love & Embers (check out their engagement session of K&J here), I had so much fun riling up the other witnesses and family members to relax, have fun, and get weird. 

Question for all you photographers out there - what is your best method for digitizing film photography? I've tried taking photographs of the photographs with my DSLR before, but found that cumbersome. This time around, I tried using my HP F4400 scanner. The resolution of the Fujifilm itself is relatively low, but it almost seems that the scanner is making it worse. I welcome any tips or advice!

Jordan Solo Trip: A Grand Adventure by Amanda Liew

For the most part, I'm a planner. But for some reason, my wanderlust and impulsivity kicks into overdrive when it comes to planning a trip. For my vacation this year, I knew one thing and one thing only: I wanted a grand adventure. As I was browsing options on G Adventure's website, I pondered over South America, Morocco, Greece...and then I saw Petra. And it was just a done deal. I forced myself to think about it a little more ("Be responsible!" "Do more research!" "Shouldn't you be traveling with friends??"), but six days later I couldn't resist and I booked the entire trip...alone! What started as an impulsive decision finished as one of the grandest adventures I had ever experienced. Determined to make the most of my photographic experience, I decided to ditch my Nikon kit lens in favor of just my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 for portraits & close ups and my new Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 for landscapes & architecture. Thanks to some pestering, Rob also managed to snag me an Ona Bowery camera bag at their sample sale for 50% off! which served me incredibly well throughout the entire trip! 

For those of you looking to travel to Jordan, I couldn't recommend it highly enough. Jordan is an amazing country filled with hospitable people, the most delicious falafel you have ever tasted and landscapes that will repeatedly leave you speechless. Thanks to my excellent trip to South East Asia with G Adventures, I decided to do the Highlights of Jordan Trip since it would take me around the entire country.

Amman, Jerash, The Dead Sea & Mt. Nebo: We started in Amman, then took a day trip to the Jerash ruins and the Dead Sea where we bobbed in the water and coated ourselves in mud! We visited Mt. Nebo, the mountain where Moses was shown the promised land, and got our first real taste of the vast landscapes Jordan has to offer.

Petra: After this began the best 48 hours of the entire trip. Petra is probably most well-known in modern culture for scenes from Indiana Jones and Transformers. It was a hidden city established by the Nabataeans and was unknown to the Western world until the 1800s. While most people assume Petra is simply The Treasury, the site contains miles and miles of other tombs, monuments, and hikes. What's incredible is that from the surroundings, the entire city is virtually hidden. Our tour guide Zuhair forced us to get to Petra at 6AM, but wisely so because we had the entire Treasury to ourselves! Unfortunately due to the turmoil in its bordering countries, Jordan's tourism has plummeted. On one hand, it was shocking to see how empty certain sites were of the usual swarms of tourists, but on the other hand we felt like we got a private & intimate view of the country to ourselves. We were in Petra for an exhausting 12 hours, doing two major hikes to see the Treasury from the top of a mountain and to see The Monastery. In total, we finished 15 miles, 35,000 steps and roughly 115 floors! It was all worth it in the end, but "dead" would probably have been an understatement for both how we looked and felt. The entire day was stunning both from a landscape perspective and architecture perspective: the vibrant reds of the sandstone, the complex water transportation, the incredible buildings carved from top to bottom.

Wadi Rum: The next day, we traveled to Wadi Rum, a desert valley that was unbelievably vast and expansive. We hopped in the back of two pick up trucks for some sandduning and took in the landscapes. We eventually pulled over to watch the sun set over the mountains which was a perfect moment to just take it all in. There are so many moments when you travel where everything just seems surreal and you just can't believe how fortunate you truly are to experience that moment. At night we stayed at a Bedouin camp where I happily taught the non-Americans on our trip how to make banana boats (slice open a banana, stuff it with marshmallows and chocolate, wrap it in foil, and set it next to the campfire until it all melts!). We shared stories ranging from incredible travel sites to hilarious misadventures in foreign countries. In a once-in-a-lifetime moment, a few of us pulled out our beds to sleep under the stars. The most incredible moment was when we realized that the thick white stripe across the sky was in fact the Milky Way - visible as clear as a paint stroke! We fell asleep for just a few short hours before we woke up at 5am to catch the sunrise on camelback. Interestingly enough, we actually watched the sun rise twice in one morning - once between two mountain peaks, and then again from a different angle above one of the mountains. 

Aqaba: Winding down our trip, we made our way to Aqaba, a coastal town. There was a thriving night life and we had the chance to take out a private boat to snorkel in the Red Sea. At one point our captain pointed out the four countries surrounding us: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt! It's one thing to see these countries on a map and another to see it pointed out right in front of you. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my water proof camera case with me so I didn't get many underwater action shots, but there are some things I'll always keep tucked away in my memory. On our way back to Amman we stopped one last time to see another view of The Dead Sea and to witness the depletion of the water source as well.

Sad for the end of the trip, we prolonged our goodbye dinner in Amman late into the night. In retrospect, I've realized that one of the best parts of traveling solo is that you're not traveling solo at all. You have the opportunity to meet new people, form new relationships, and hopefully find new friends to travel with in the future. I'm so fortunate that my trip was made up of an incredible group of people! Many thanks to Zuhair, our fantastic "CEO" (Chief Experience Officer) for giving us an incredible taste of Jordan. Hopefully one day I'll be fortunate enough to return!

Travel Tips & Tricks:

  • Clothing: There was no expectation to be fully covered, but it is recommended to cover shoulders, cleavage and knees. For the most part I wore T-Shirts, maxi skirts, and cute patterned lounge pants. I was surprised that even despite the June heat, the maxi skirts and lounge pants offered enough of a breeze to keep me relatively cool. For shoes, I wore sandals / flip flops most of the time, but brought running shoes for Petra & Wadi Rum. Petra has hundreds of steps & climbing, so I probably could have used shoes with better traction.
  • Safety: As of June 2015, there were absolutely zero moments during my trip where I was remotely worried about my safety. All the panic from Western media definitely had my family concerned when I told them I was visiting, but there were no realistic threats to be concerned about. In comparison to my time in Europe and South East Asia, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of pickpocketing as well. As for women traveling alone, there was a decent amount of men leering & calling out from cars, but I can't say that it was much more than what I've experienced in New York City or West Philly.
  • Food: Absolutely delicious! If you find yourself in Amman, I highly recommend Hashem Restaurant or Jafra Cafe. The falafel and hummus is unlike anything you can taste in the United States. Additionally, because many Muslims do not drink, you can find an abundance of smoothies and shakes everywhere you go (perfect for my alcohol allergy!). The lemon & mint smoothies quickly became a favorite.

Ethereal Light in Bushwick: Sarah Jane Shanks Collaboration [Part 2] by Amanda Liew

  This is Part 2 of my collaboration with the life-loving Sarah Jane Shanks! To see Part I please click here.

For Part 2, I'm showing you guys the photos from the incredible rooftop of this apartment we used in Bushwick! The wind was blowing hard and it was a lot colder than it looks, but we laughed our whole way through, played with the breeze as much as possible, and witnessed swatches of colors appear in the sunset behind us. I had so much fun experimenting with light out on the rooftop and in the interior shots in Part 1. It's incredible how just the slightest of movements, the tiniest of blockings, can completely change how a photo comes out. Soft hues versus sharp contrasts are all possible. While normally I would try to be editing the colors of my photos to remove any "unnatural" hues, I actually loved the shades cast on Sarah Jane as the sun set and sought to capture them even more. 20150403_0280_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0311_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0328_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0331_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0339_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0343_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0345_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0351_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0353_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0358_ALiew_SJShanks Collab 20150403_0366_ALiew_SJShanks Collab20150403_0373_ALiew_SJShanks Collab