Southern Charm


October 21 2014 // Posted in PhotographyTravel


I spent the first couple of weeks this month in Charleston. It had been a few years since I’d done any traveling more significant than a weekend getaway, and I relished every minute of this trip. Even though it’s consistently rated as a top travel destination, not too many people around here, at least in my limited circles, think of Charleston as a vacation destination. But with a life-long obsession with Gone With the Wind, and having gone to New Orleans with my best friend just a few years prior that intensified my fascination with the South, I had to finally see for myself the city from which Rhett Butler hailed.

With weeks of research, I’d compiled a list of almost every major attraction that guides list as “Must Sees.” Three plantations, five house museums, a national monument, and a few colonial landmarks – I did those and more, and still I feel like there were so many more things I hadn’t managed to squeeze in this time around.

But probably the best aspect of this trip was just wandering around, getting my bearings and exploring something new around every corner and every new street. And Charleston’s Historic District consists of some of the most charming streets I’ve ever found myself wandering in.

With my King Street hotel just blocks from the incredibly picturesque Broad Street, I spent many hours wandering back and forth, peeking in all the little shops, restaurants, and art galleries.


Even alleyways were fascinating, like Philadelphia Alley – also known as Dueler’s Alley. When I first read about it, I thought, “What’s so great about a walkway?” As a history lover, I should have known something like this is about the hows and whos and whats that make it more than just a pretty spot, but a truly interesting place that’s more than just cobblestones and bricks.




I probably spent the most amount of time at The Battery and the White Point Gardens, visiting it several times over the course of the week. I loved walking along the river, and was endlessly fascinated with the houses – I mean, there’s a giant pink house!




My favorite aspect of the three plantation tours might have been the gorgeous oak trees draped with Spanish moss. One of the most romantic and beautiful sights I’ve ever seen is the wind rustling through the moss-draped oaks. Boone Hall Plantation is known for its ¾ mile long avenue of oak trees, which I could not do justice in my pictures.


It’s also known as the summer home in The Notebook. Since Boone Hall is still a working farm and holds lots of activities (like a corn maze and other Halloween festivities), it was the most fun to visit. But no Ryan Gosling.


I adore the pineapple motif that’s everywhere, because I am a fan of delicious flavor (you know that’s right). I’d love to see the Pineapple Fountain again when it’s running.


While I probably should have looked into some of the many great walking tours available, there’s something to be said about wandering and exploring on your own. And Charleston makes it a lot of fun, since many houses have plaques explaining their histories.




Isn’t it a little strange, and sometimes a bit sad, to look back on a trip that you’ve dreamed of and anticipated for so long? I’m working on a photobook for this trip, that I hope to finish before the end of the month, so I’m sort of reliving it by working on this project – plus there’s the excitement of receiving the ultimate souvenir when it arrives. And of course there’s still the hope of revisiting in a few years, something I’m thinking a lot about as I drink from my Charleston souvenir mug, and scratch the remaining 8 of 15(!) bites from the South Carolinian bugs. But all that swelling and itchiness were all worth it to wander streets as pretty as this…


Post-trip blues are a real thing, and I’m missing Charleston something fierce, even just hearing “Y’all” everywhere. You know what helps, though? Knowing Halloween, for me the kickoff to the best time of the year — the holiday season, is just around the corner!



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 19¢/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!