photoblog

Fall Folliaging At Wright's Farm by Amanda Liew

I've lived on the East Coast for over 6 years now, but each time a season changes it feels like a new experience over again. What shocks me again and again is how fleeting each season is (except winter, because we all know winter lasts forever...). Last year I organized a group to go apple picking and by the time mid-October rolled around, most of the orchards accessible by Metro North were picked out (thanks, New York City). Determined to get full fall folliaging (yes, I'm making that a verb) and apple picking on this year, my dear friend Jamie & I decided to hop in a car this year and go out to an orchard far away from the reaches of those greedy apple-stealing city folk, which in reality is us too. We drove an hour and a half out to Wright's Farm in Gardiner, NY and found the perfect spot: 450 acres of trees, trees, trees! There was a cute farmer's market with perfectly fresh & doughy apple cider donuts, picnic tables scattered throughout the orchard, and the right amount of people enjoying a Saturday. We brought along a picnic of wine, meat, and cheese (complemented by a few apples, of course) and used a big blanket to keep all four of us warm under the table. We strolled through rows of apple trees at a leisurely place and everybody waited patiently while I snapped a bunch of photos to use for my next TPC project. All in all, it was quite the perfect fall day and a great opportunity to enjoy the fleeting season before winter traps us for the next 6 months. 

More details (as of October 2015):

  • $12 / person for entry, comes with an apple picking bag that fits a peck's worth
  • Market has a wide variety of pumpkins, squashes, ciders, baked goods, and hot food
  • Apple cider donuts were only $0.75 / each and probably the best I've had yet on the East Coast. We did pass a place across the street that had a sign saying it was voted the best apple cider donuts, but we didn't get a chance to try them
  • Well maintained & organized grounds although a few more signs on apple type would have helped!
  • Not incredibly accessible by public transportation from NYC, but that was a benefit this time around! According to their website, you can take a 30 minute taxi from a train station nearby, though.


Same Sun, Shifting Perspectives: Cru Millennials Retreat by Amanda Liew

As a Californian, I've taken a lot of things in life for granted. If I could do my high school years all again, I would have marched the few blocks down the street to the beach every single day and soaked in as many blissful moments of sunshine as I could to negate the next 6+ years on the East Coast. One thing that didn't even occur to me, though, was that I would lose something very special: sunsets over the water. Believe it or not, a funny little thing called geography kind of gets in the way of that when you switch coasts. So despite a total lack of sleep during this past weekend's Cru Millennials Retreat, when I got Paul's blast at 1am saying a sunrise viewing on the beach was happening, I decided 4-5 hours of sleep was sufficient.

There are few things in this world that I will wake up early for, but the opportunity to experience a snippet of my old life, just differently, was well worth it. We lucked out with just the right amount of clouds, just the right amount of evolving colors, and just the right amount of awe & wonder to settle into our souls. The thing that I love about sunsets and sunrises is that in the span of less than an hour, you have the same sun, but shifting perspectives. As the minutes go by, the sky changes, your squinting needs to adapt, even how you view people begins to shift. And somehow, that's just the perfect way to encapsulate what the weekend retreat was like. 

Cru Millennials is an incredible ministry that seeks to create a community among young adult Christians in New York City. They have a huge heart for connecting wide and connecting deep, and I was lucky enough to hear about the annual beach retreat to Ocean Grove, NJ this year. With zero expectations beyond the promise of the ocean, I dove straight in, and found such beauty. From the lifting of shame to the necessary reliance on God's strength instead of our own, there were so many verses that were exactly the same, but was now viewed with a different perspective. As we broke out into smaller groups, it continued: seeing these same topics now through the eyes of others, learning from their wisdom, sharing my own. It never ceases to amaze me that even after 10+ years of being a Christian, I'm constantly learning to see through different lenses. But then again, I suppose that's just reflective of the infinite beauty of knowing God. 

Many thanks to all the staff & volunteers of Cru Millennials for making this weekend as beautiful, fun, relaxing, and welcoming as we all needed. And if you'd like to learn more or get connected, don't hesitate to reach out!

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!

The Girl With the Purple Hair: Allison Gandolfo Hair Feature by Amanda Liew

_DSC0017_Amalie Hair Feature

  One of the best parts about living in New York City is that it's the intersection of so many different industries. While I originally moved here for the business world, it's been fantastic meeting friends who have backgrounds in dance, fashion, theatre, technology, architecture, and more. This has opened up a whole new world for collaborations, and I'm so excited to be featuring new projects in very different styles than I typically shoot. Thus, I was absolutely thrilled at the opportunity of photographing hair for a hair portfolio! My dear friend Amalie (who is quite the multi-faceted individual herself with both medical and stand-up comedy interests) went to the fabulous Allison Gandolfo of the John Barrett Salon at the top of Bergdorf-Goodman to try an adventurous hair color before she had to completely dive into the professional world. She came out with bright purple and blue highlights which blended perfectly with her typical jet black hair. I admit, I was hesitant when she first told me her plans, but Allison did such a detailed and well blended job! _DSC0027_Amalie Hair Feature_DSC0010_Amalie Hair Feature _DSC0014_Amalie Hair Feature_DSC0013_Amalie Hair Feature _DSC0016_Amalie Hair Feature _DSC0026_Amalie Hair Feature _DSC0040_Amalie Hair Feature _DSC0043_Amalie Hair Feature _DSC0051_Amalie Hair Feature_DSC0064_Amalie Hair Feature_DSC0072_Amalie Hair Feature_DSC0077_Amalie Hair Feature_DSC0058_Amalie Hair FeatureIn terms of photography, this was my first time truly using my prime lens for portraits, and I have to say - I truly understand what the raving is all about! I really liked how the f/3.5 images turned out (the top few photos) and I felt much more involved in the shoot because I was physically moving and interacting with Amalie rather than just zooming my lens in and out. As for shooting hair as the main subject, I found that it was much easier to capture the details in the shade due to her naturally dark hue. I also was very careful with my post-editing, making sure that I didn't alter things too much to ensure that the colors remained as close as possible to reality. However, I made the mistake of over-exposing Amalie's skin a bit too much on some of my shots. The more you shoot and practice, the more you learn!