The Getty Villa


August 27 2014 // Posted in Art, Architecture & DesignLife

One of my favorite places in all of Los Angeles is the Getty Center for the European art and artifacts. Until now though, I’d never been to the Getty Villa, and I can’t believe I’d waited this long to finally visit. In case you’re unfamiliar with the Getty Villa, it is a recreation of a Roman country house (specifically, the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy) and houses ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art. During middle school, I was a complete Greek Mythology buff (thank you “Hercules: the Legendary Journeys” and “Xena: Warrior Princess” for sparking that interest), and as I gazed at the Greek and Roman statues of the Olympians and wandered through exhibits featuring artifacts from the ancient world, I could feel that enthusiasm reigniting.

First, apologies for the lack of interior photos, but it was fairly crowded that day so I didn’t feel those were worth sharing. This photo is part of the inner peristyle with a detail of the ceiling.

Getty Villa ceiling details

If there’s a mosaic to be found, I’ll take a picture of it. This is in the East Garden.

Mosaic in the East Garden

No touching the works, of course, except for this recreation in a quiet corner outside.

Most of my photos are from the outer peristyle, where I spent the majority of my visit.

Due to the drought, most of the fountains were dry. But nonetheless the gardens were still beautiful.

Getty Villa dry fountain

There were many bronze sculptures recreated from the ones found at the Villa dei Papiri. According to one of the signs, the sculptures were for both decoration and stimulating intellectual conversation. I found the eyes super creepy and felt like they were following me.

Bronze Bust in garden

The gardens are planted with flowers, herbs, and fruits that would’ve been found in an ancient Roman garden. Here are some grapes and pomegranates that looked pretty delicious.

Grapes in the Garden

Fruit in the Garden

Last stroll through the herb garden before leaving the villa. I forgot what this vined walkway is.

A small fountain with water lilies and a spout featuring someone riding what I thought was a headless chicken, but is actually a wine skin.

Fountain in the Herb Garden



Picture Yourself When You’re Getting Old


August 01 2014 // Posted in PhotographyReviews

You know that thing on your to do list that you should do, that you even kind of want to do, and think you someday might do… but you just don’t do? And after a while it seems like it might never happen at all?

Photobook Spine

For me, that thing was making a photo album of my semester abroad, which was over six years ago…

At the time, I planned on going the traditional print and album route. But with 2000+ photos, I was too overwhelmed to start. How was I going to narrow them down? And how long was it going to take me to edit/retouch every single photo? And do I go with the sticky magnetic albums or sleeves?

Then a couple years ago I read about My Publisher when Young House Love talked about their family yearbooks. And this was year I finally decided to just get ‘er done already! From picking the photos to purchasing, I spent three weeks on this project (two weeks just putting the book together on the software) and was a little nervous about a potential let down.

I read so many reviews (this one and this one were helpful) before I took the plunge and ordered. So along with showing them off a bit, I thought I’d share some points for my own reference, and in case it somehow, someday, helps someone who’s having the same worries I did to read more reviews.

This is a very long post, so I’ll just start off with my overall opinions: I am happy with my books. The pages are nice, bound well, and the book seems sturdy. I will most likely order from My Publisher again because it’s a solid product at a good price point (with a coupon). If my photography improves and I want a book for showcasing photos instead of just recording memories, I would not order that book from My Publisher, which isn’t really geared towards professionals anyway. But these books are pretty much perfect for regular vacation snapshots or annual yearbooks, where the value of the photos is sentimental rather than artistic.

Front and Back Covers

With a 100 page limit, I had to split my 700 photos into two Classic Hardcovers (11.25×8.75 inches). The cover for the first book is Bordeaux’s Place de la Bourse and the miroir d’eau; the back cover is another view of the “water mirror” with the jets spraying lightly, and I thought the mother and daughter in the foreground made the photo especially sweet. The second cover is the Louvre, with a building detail on the back cover. I like that both covers have architecture and water. By the way, the blues for the spines were pulled from the skies from each cover.


My Publisher’s desktop software was pretty straightforward and didn’t slow down my laptop too much. It did crash a couple of times, but that was after hours of use and I’d also had several programs running at the time. The software saves automatically every 15 minutes or so, so even if you’re not saving manually, you won’t lose too much, thankfully! For the most part, I just used the page templates provided, with some tweaks. There’s also the option of making your own templates, which I wasn’t too comfortable doing, and the templates provided were pretty good anyway. After all that time spent on these two though, I’ll probably be more creative in future books.

The problem is that the prints are so dark compared to the original files. I’m not sure if it’s because I chose the matte finish, but I’ve never noticed this kind of disparity in brightness with traditional matte photo prints. The very right edge of this picture is much darker because of a shadow, but the rest of it is pretty true to life.

Printed Photo

And the original:

Original File

The differences are not quite as noticeable in all photos, but there were a few like this one where the it was quite obvious. I should note that it print looks slightly grainy from the texture of the page, but that is not a problem in person. The colors are not quite as disparate in person either, but there is still a noticeable difference that I can only assume is because colors vary across monitors.

More pages

I was able to end the first book exactly at the halfway point of my trip. When I finished loading my pictures in the second book, I had sixteen pages (front and back) before I hit the cap, which was the perfect amount for me to transcribe the various journals I kept at the time into a slightly edited Travelogue. These two books contain a lot of memories.

There are lots of different options before you send the book to print. Since I prefer matte finishes with traditional prints, I chose the matte finish. Their Classic and Deluxe books have the option of book jackets instead of printing the photos directly on the covers, which I thought would make it extra fancy. I decided against the jacket since those are the most apt to get ripped or lost. The option I was most indecisive about was whether to have binding with pages that curl, or pay a little more for lay-flat pages. In the end, I decided on the standard pages, since to me lay-flat makes more sense if there are two-page spreads.

My Publisher frequently runs coupons, but there weren’t any great deals featured when I ordered my books. However, I was still able to find a code for up to 70% off by Googling “My Publisher 70 off,” so you don’t always have to wait around too long. Originally, each book was $113.21, and the code knocked it down to $50.13, including tax and shipping. If I’d gone the traditional route and ordered 4×6 prints of all 700 photos, at 19ยข/print (I usually get my prints from Mpix with a coupon, or from Costco), I would’ve spent about $133, plus whatever several albums would’ve cost. Two slim, good quality volumes for $100.26 is just about right for me.

It takes quite a long time to get the book, and most of that time is watching it go in transit. The production is actually quite fast. But shipping is so slow and so expensive, with the cheapest option at $10.99 for FedEx standard. And right now there’s no option for combining orders, so all orders are placed and shipped individually, which is expensive and seems pretty wasteful.

If something awful happens to one or both of these books and I need to reorder, the books are saved on the desktop software so I can order through that. But My Publisher also saves them on their servers. So as long as the company’s up and running, your books will be there for you in your time of need.

As I said, overall I’m happy with these books, and I can’t wait to force them on my family and friends while boring them with my stories. I can’t say goodbye to prints forever (some images deserve the special treatment, and regular photobooks lack the richness and quality of traditional prints), but at the end of the day, not every photo is a masterpiece, and most of the time all we need is a pretty little book that holds our memories.

Oh yeah, I totally had “Picture Book” stuck in my head the entire time I wrote this post!



Book Review: “London”


July 29 2014 // Posted in Literature

This is inadvertently turning into a book blog.

Rutherfurd London

Edward Rutherfurd
Ballantine Books, 2002 (Reprint)

Rutherfurd’s modus operandi is to write about a certain locale (various areas in England in a few novels, Russia, New York, etc.) by telling the stories of a number of families as they live through the location’s history. With London being my introduction to this author, I found this book thoroughly, almost lovingly, researched, and was able to stay invested enough to read through the many, many pages with relative ease. It’s not a difficult read, just a very long one. Reviews promise that the book would cover the entire span of London’s history, and by George, does it ever, with the first page reading, “Four hundred million years ago…” Right. This book is a marathon, not a sprint.

We move through London’s history by following the lives of seven families, beginning in the pre-Roman era with Segovax, a little boy with webbed fingers and a flash of white in his dark hair. This is important, because it’s these kinds of details that serve to remind you who is descended from whom — or you can just keep track via the handy family tree provided in the first few pages. Over two thousand years, we see the families rise and fall as their lives intertwine with each other through friendships, marriages, feuds, and also sheer luck and coincidence. Rutherfurd weaves them into the tapestry of London’s history, so we meet several historical royal and literary figures.

By necessity, the characters move across the stage quickly, so there’s no point in investing in any one. Rather, they serve to bring London itself to life, the vignettes work to humanize and contextualize many of the names, dates, and events that, during my school days, teachers treated as little more than recitations. The coverage was wide and not very deep. We get the details of some events more than others (for example, we spend many pages on building the Tower of London, but other sites only get passing mentions), and some periods were not covered at all. I knew I was being drawn into the book because there were several times, particularly in the first part, where I would put it down so I could Google and learn more before continuing on. Inevitably, there were also many pages covering periods and issues which I personally found uninteresting, which made the book drag and almost feel longer than its 1100+ pages. But finally towards the end, when modern London began to take shape, I loved learning about how the places I visited and enjoyed came to be. And while I found the ending a bit abrupt, I was still, overall, satisfied with the way the author finished off the strands of his narrative when I reached the last page.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book to another Anglophile. I bought it and Paris based on my own affinity for the cities, and I wonder if this format can work its magic twice. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to discovering things about Parisian history that will bring new depth to my appreciate for that city which I love so dearly, as this book has done for me with London.