Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Small Flash Class

I took a fun Small Flash Crash Course this past Sunday with instructor Michael Schwarz, who is a professional photographer, digital photography consultant, and teaches for the Nikon School. I was a little intimidated going into the class, worried that everyone was going to know so much more than me, etc., but I went with a friend (thanks, Adam!) and found that everyone there was just as eager to learn and share what they have learned. The class took place at Professional Photographic Resources (PPR), which rental all kinds of professional camera equipment and has a studios for rent. (Incidentally, I hear that it's also a great place to rent camera lenses if you want to try one out, even for amateurs like me.) We mostly used Studio 1, complete with a huge, white, coved cyclorama wall and floor. The studio is so large, you can even drive in and photograph a car! We also took about 2 shots outside during the course of our 1-day class. I learned a lot about using the SB-800 in a studio setting, and I hope one day I might be able to get even a small bit of the equipment I would need to re-create shots like these! Many thanks to our model, Marc, who put up with our jokes about him blinking (we were constantly using flashes in his face *all day*) and put on a great face for the "paparazzi"! Here are some of my better shots from the class:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

San Francisco Recap

We did so much in San Francisco, I decided to create a list rather than paragraphs. Naturally, being part of an Asian family, a lot of our visit centered around food. Here's what we got done on the laundry list. (You might want to loosen your belt a bit...)

Wed Feb 3:
  • First significantly delayed flight (ever), due to a loose sheet metal flap at back of plane that did not have anything behind it for fasteners to attach to - happy to get on a new plane that would stay in the air, even though it put us back about 3 hours. Still beat parents to OAK.
  • After arriving at OAK, got the rental car and headed to downtown Oakland for a snack while waiting on parents to arrive - Ying Kee Noodle House = lots of food for little $!
  • Made it to San Jose for the night - stayed with Aunt Sophy and Uncle Chi-Yin for a few days.

Thurs Feb 4:

  • Visited the Intel Museum in Santa Clara. Had fun getting a personlized tour following a bunch of school kids on a field trip. Didn't know friend Kent worked on the 6th floor, but no matter since we met up with him and Mandy for lunch on Fri.
  • Lunch with bonus sister Erin and her friend at Golden Era Vegetarian Restaurant in downtown SF - mock chicken was great! Followed up with a walk through the drizzle around Union Square and San Francisco Centre on a search for coffee/gelato/crepes. Found it at Melt - lycee gelato was delicious!
  • Took scenic/long way back to SJ after dropping Erin off in Hayward - stuffed pizza dinner waiting when we got back.

Fri Feb 5:

  • Dim Sum (#1) at Hong Kong Saigon Harbor Restaurant in Sunnyvale with the family and friends Mandy and Kent from GT. My aunt warned that we had to get there right at 11 AM, or we wouldn't get a table - she was right! By the time we sat down and had a few bites, the place was packed, including a line out front by the time we left!
  • Visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View - exhibits were getting reworked there, so not much on exhibit, except for the amazing Babbage Differential Engine No. 2 - the second one built in the world by a Microsoft exec., to Charles Babbage's exact drawings, except his house can't hold the weight of the machine right now, so it's on indefinite loan to the museum. The docents ran the machines, showed us how it worked, how it was put together. Incredible!
  • Quick dress change and we were on the way to R&G Lounge in SF Chinatown for the Rehearsal Dinner. Sis was flying into SFO, and since the wedding rehearsal ran a little late, made it via BART just in time for dinner. Shark Fin Soup, Salt and Pepper Crab, Peking Duck, Mock Abalone (mushrooms) with Greens, Beef and Scallops, Roasted Chicken with Shrimp Chips, Honey Prawns with Walnuts, Steamed Whole Sea Bass, and to finish it all off, Red Bean Soup with Tapioca - the best I've ever had! (This is only the beginning, folks!)
  • Post-dinner ice cream gathering at Fenton's Creamery. Oh my goodness, talk about some serious ice cream sundaes! Sis, D and I shared the black and tan sundae, and it's a good thing because it was gigantic! I am in love with their toasted almond ice cream. Fenton's also made a cameo appearance in the animated movie Up - check out the scene near the end!

Sat Feb 6:

  • Dim Sum (#2) at Dynasty Chinese Seafood Restaurant in San Jose with family and some other relatives. Pretty good, but DS#1 was still better.
  • By the time we finished Dim Sum, it was already time to head over to the First Chinese Baptist Church in SF Chinatown for the wedding.
  • Saw the wedding party heading into the streets of Chinatown for some pre-wedding photos on our way to the church - I got a couple good shots. The wedding was beautiful - the sanctuary was a unique, square layout with sunken seating, and then steps back up to the altar area- - very intimate. The reception was at the Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley, in a space that reminded me of a large, cozy library/study complete with huge fireplace. Dinner was Spanish paella, complete with cheese and bread platter, olives, and sangria. Dessert was coconut wedding cake and 4 other types of flavored layer cakes, all made by Ani's mom and aunt. Everything was delicious! Fun things at the reception included a wedding trivia game adminstered by Brian and Ani, a slide show of the two of them, and a "photo booth" in a corner complete with remote control so that the guests could take photos of themselves. (Can't wait to see that photo album!)

Sun Feb 7:

  • Dim Sum (#3) at South Sea Seafood Village in Sunset with family, including cousins Ging and Billy and new baby Damien, Uncle Chuck & Aunt Denise (Chuck's my mom's cousin). This was the most interesting Dim Sum place, as you ordered everything a la carte from a checklist menu (much like sushi), and they brought it to your table instead of carts around the restaurant. We also tried some specialty teas - gingseng and lychee flavored. 7.5-month-old Damien stole the show, with everyone wanting their turn to play with the baby. We visited Uncle Chuck and Aunt Denise's house in the neighborhood after lunch - what a beautiful view of San Francisco from their back deck!
  • Drive into SF for some quick sightseeing stops so my Sis could get some sights in before her flight back out. Drove down the curvy part of Lombard Street, walked along Fisherman's Wharf to see the (very few) sea lions at Pier 39, drove through North Beach/Little Italy, then headed to my Uncle Kai and Aunt Jackie's in Hercules for dinner.
  • After settling in, D, Sis and I headed out to dinner with Cousin Ian for the taco truck experience. (The "adults" were not as adventurous.) Ian has the taco truck culture down, so we put our complete trust in him, and it did not disappoint! The truck we visited was Mi Grullense, with a partner truck of same name on the other side of the parking lot. Ian said the usual truck was better, so we tried tacos from that one, and D ordered a burrito from the partner truck. Yum!
  • After tacos, we headed into the Mission district for a quick stop at Bi-Rite Creamery before taking Sis to the airport to catch her flight. Flavors we tried included salted caramel, mint chip, and coffee toffee. The salted caramel was interesting, but perfect for someone (like me) who always needs that little bit of salty after sweet.
Mon Feb 8:
  • Outing to Muir Woods to see the big redwoods (and apparently the banana slugs were on the move, according to signs at the entrance to the park). The trees were so peaceful and majestic - amazing nature.
  • We headed to see the Jelly Belly Factory, but needed lunch on the way. Luckily we spotted (the only) In-N-Out Burger (in Marin County) off the interstate, so we made a stop so that D could experience his first "double double, animal style." I enjoyed my cheeseburger and strawberry shake.
  • Jelly Belly Factory Tour was interesting - I learned more about jelly beans than I ever knew (not that I started off knowing much about how they are made). Got our free samples, then headed back to Oakland for dinner.
  • We got into Oakland earlier than anticipated, so we had some time to spare before dinner. Perfect for a quick stop at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, which my uncle had suggested. The Cathedral was very modern on the inside, with its signature horizontal fins to let in natural light all along the exterior walls. The space was inspiring, even on a cloudy, rainy evening.
  • Dinner was at Binh Minh Quan Vietnamese Restaurant in Oakland - whole roasted catfish, beef salad (like carpaccio), fish soup, frog legs (yes I tried a bite, yes tastes like chicken), and another stir-fried beef dish. All good.
Tues Feb 9:
  • Headed to San Mateo area for the day to meet up with my high school friend Wendy. Had lunch at a GREAT Mongolian hot pot restaurant, Little Sheep, in downtown San Mateo. We got the half spicy, half original broth and all kinds of meat and veggies to cook in it. It really hit the spot on a cool but sunny day. We walked down to a little Taiwanese restaurant, China Bee, for jelly tea afterwards.
  • Wendy had to get on a conference call in her car (a mobile working day) for a bit, so we found the San Mateo Japanese Tea Garden while she did that. Then we all headed to Half Moon Bay State Beach to see the ocean and enjoy the sunny weather (we were expecting it to rain, but it didn't after all!). We got some gorgeous pictures, stopped in downtown Half Moon Bay for some coffee and dessert.
  • We headed back to El Cerrito to meet up with our family for one last dinner at Jac's Asian Bistro. Talk about Hong-Kong style Cantonese comfort food! All of the usual suspects, hot soup, chow fun, salt and pepper fried short ribs (YUM!), egg pancake, fried rice hot pots, oh it was all so good. It was such a great way to end our trip.
General notes:
  • Thank goodness for our TomTom - although it didn't always pronounce the names right (Spanish names esp., e.g. "San Hwah-zay" for "San Jose"), it got us where we needed to go.
  • Time to get back to the gym - just in time for Lent!
  • I love my family - got to visit both mom's side and dad's side and had a great time seeing them all. Such a blessing!
  • There's still so much to see (and eat) - guess we'll have to save some for next time.
  • Speaking of that, when are we going again?? :)
My photo albums:

SanFran Part 1

SanFran Part 2


It's been a crazy but fun two weeks, with no time to blog! I'll start by saying that I'm working on my San Francisco trip recap, but wanted to go ahead and record what I've been up to.

We were in San Francisco Feb 3-10 for a family wedding and sightseeing. My cousin Brian got married in a beautiful, intimate ceremony, and we welcome Ani and her family into ours! We ate a lot of food (see recap to come), visited a lot of family, and did I mention food yet?? Needless to say, I must have gained a couple pounds, and with today being Fat Tuesday, be assured that I'll be taking on (regular) exercise for Lent. We got back from our trip, I went back to work for half a week, then Chinese New Year/Valentine's Day weekend was here. Sis-in-law and future Bro-in-law, as well as MIL and stepFIL came into town to celebrate with us. Royal China Dim Sum was good, but I have to say after 3 really fabulous Dim Sum outings in San Francisco in the last week, this one just didn't compare. But Happy Year of the Tiger/Happy Valentine's Day to you all! I hope you get some pancakes for dinner tonight...laissez les bon temps rouler!