Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chung Li • Beginner's DSLR Photography Class

Better pictures for the blog. That was my goal when I signed up to take an all day workshop with one of my favorite Bay Area wedding photographers, Chung Li. If you are interested in learning the basics about DSLR photography I highly recommend contacting Chung and asking him to put you on his list so that he can let you know the next time he schedules a beginner or intermediate class: CLICK HERE to Contact Chung

I LOVE this photo by my friend and classmate for the day Diane Phillips of DK Designs. Thanks Diane!

This is my new camera, a Canon EOS Rebel T1i Digital SLR Camera (Camera Body)

15.1Mp CMOS Sensor, HD 1080p, 720p, and VGA Video Capture, 3" Clear View LCD with Live View, DIGIC 4 Image Processor, ISO Expandable to 12,800, Compatible w/ 60-plus EF & EF-S Optics

The only thing that sucked was that I was hoping to use a couple of Sigma lenses I bought years ago for a film Canon Rebel body I'd owned. Unfortunately they didn't fit properly so I'll have to invest in some new lenses. I only used the film camera on the automatic settings and never learned anything about the manual and customizable options so I'm already way ahead of the learning curve now.

For the class Chung traded lenses with me and I used his honk'in huge professional lens that was so heavy my arms were burning within minutes. I really need to workout my arms if I'm ever going to use a lens like that again!

The format of the class is very intimate with only 8 students per session. When we arrived Chung had breakfast waiting for us. (I had water though.)

Mmmmmm I couldn't bring myself to eat a cupcake at 9:30 AM so I saved mine for the end of the day scarfing down the dark chocolate with cream filling treat just before heading home after 6:00 PM.

We spent the first half of the day watching Chung's keynote lecture presentation. FINALLY I understand what aperture and shutter speed are all about! He also discussed proper exposure, composition, lenses, photo editing (Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop) and more.

That's Chung Li. I took this photo during the second part of the day when we went to Ralston Hall in Belmont, CA and used their grounds to run through many exercises.

I took the class with friends Carl Mindling who wants to take better blog pictures too and Diane Phillips who wants to take better product shots of her handmade clay flowers.

Great examples of where I began the day with blurry, underexposed and over exposed photos.

Now you can see improvement.... From over exposed to an image with proper exposure.

The Goal: Was to create a short depth of field with the foreground in focus and the background blurry.

Playing with my aperture and shutter settings created both bad and good results.

Chung took this action shot photo while we were all busy shooting.

The Goal: Capture equal detail in the fore and background.

The Goal: Capture a sharp background while blurring Won's face as much as possible. It looks bad but was a successful shot!

The Goal: Create a blurry fore and background while keeping Cecile in focus.

And the class at the end of the day in a group photo.

The other cool thing about Chung's class is that I can apply everything I learned to my Panasonic Lumix point and shoot camera! This will create better pictures and save me time doing less post edit work in Photoshop. It's a win-win for me. Thanks so much for the wonderful experience Chung :D

Next on my agenda is to learn Adobe Illustrator. There's always something isn't there?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Life on Your Terms" includes an interview with me, Stacie Tamaki!

If you hate your job and have been dreaming about starting your own company because you would like to live life on your own terms (fearless, expressing yourself, doing what you love, surrounded by people you admire and respect) "Life on Your Terms" could be all of the inspiration you need to take your first steps in moving towards a more contented life.

In January 2009 I read (in a Ladies who Launch email update) that Shann Vander Leek (an inspirational leader who, after eighteen years of serving the television broadcast model of Corporate America, reinvented herself as the founder of True Balance Life Coaching) was searching for inspiring stories by entrepreneurs:

"I am writing a book about extraordinary entrepreneurs and "solo"preneurs who live on their own terms. They likely have achieved extraordinary results... leading to the creation of personal freedom. They are interesting, eccentric, bold, creative, unfiltered creatures of the universe who want to share their story with others to inspire them to follow their dreams..."
I thought to myself, "Hey that kind of sounds like me!" So I sent Shann a short bio and links to my websites.

When she messaged me that I had made the cut and would be one of 40 inspired entrepreneurs she would be interviewing for her book I was thrilled! We spoke on the phone for the interview and Shann decided my story would fit best in the chapter titled "Letting Go of Fear."

And now here we are, a year and a half later and 5 pages of "Life on Your Terms" shares the story of how I became an entrepreneur. But my experience is just a very small part of a very large story about Shann's own experiences and the 39 other entrepreneurs who have also sought life on their terms.

That would be author Shann Vander Leeks autograph, not mine LOL

The one thing I'd like anyone reading this post to understand is that it's never too late to change! Even if your dream isn't to become an entrepreneur it's never too late to pursue trying something new or being a different way.

Recently I attended a bridal showcase event. At the end of the evening I was chatting with my friends Amy and Andrew explaining to them how particularly in junior high, high school and part of college, I became an excruciatingly, painfully, shy art nerd. Thanks to some new friends in college (that two of my girlfriends had made) point blank telling me they wanted me to talk more (or at all) I finally overcame my shyness. Having people tell me they wanted to hear what I was thinking was an incredible gift. It created an opportunity and I changed. It was pretty much instantaneous. Just like that I overcame my fear of speaking my mind, making new friends and sharing my thoughts and feelings with others. Within weeks they were laughing at me that they couldn't shut me up. LOL. The point is, it's never too late to reinvent yourself.

You can live in fear and still experience moments of happiness, success at your job, make friends and achieve great monetary wealth. But living with fear while working at a job you despise will hold you back and deprive you of ever experiencing true contentment. If you decide to tackle your fears just remember that with each step you are moving further away from fear and closer towards contentment. Contentment isn't wholly created by the success of your endeavor, it's also created by leaving the fear behind :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Priscilla of Boston • A New Bridal Salon at Santana Row

This store will be closing December 31, 2011

Recently Santana Row welcomed the Priscilla of Boston Bridal Salon to their new San Jose location. Crystal Lequang of Amazáe Special Events successfully created another lush and stunning showcase! Yes, that's the same Crystal who (along with Nicole Ha) designs the Una Bella Sera showcase each year.

Click on any photos to view enlargements.

A live model poses in the front display window at the Priscila of Boston Bridal Salon in Santana Row, Santa Clara, CA.

I felt very fortunate to have been invited to experience the new salon.

At street level the salon appears to be a small and cozy space tucked between Anthropologie and Anteo Home. Just inside you'll spot a welcome desk, a flat screen tv running a video of beautiful wedding gowns, sparkling crystal chandeliers, an elevator and a flight of stairs. That's it. No racks of gowns.

When I got to the top of the staircase was when I said "WOW!"

The upstairs space was huge!

I'd imagined the upstairs would be only slightly larger than the downstairs but it actually spans over the top of the entire Anthropologie store! There were so many wedding gowns, rooms and nooks I was quite shocked!

Lines included the Platinum and Jewel Vineyard Collections by Priscilla of Boston, and the Reverie Collection by Melissa Sweet.

The lace, beadwork and embellishments on some of the gowns were exquisite! The beaded bodices in particular were so pretty I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you along with one lace bodice that caught my eye because it was so clean and simple yet delicate.

This was my favorite gown. Of course I could never wear this gown because I'm waaaaaaaaaay too short. But if you're 5'8" or taller, it would probably look incredible on you!

There were also accessories of all types: Bridal Jewelry, hair ornaments, veils and cute and sassy wedding shoes.

Another room held two displays of bridesmaids gowns (that's one pictured above) and flower and some adorable flower girl dresses.

The appetizers were from LB Steak in Santana Row. I loved the cheese and fresh apricot platter and made several visits back for more :) Also my thanks to the Vintage Wine Bar, which has not one but two locations in Santana Row, for the complimentary Pellegrino I enjoyed that evening.

This room was so beautiful! The elegant draping, plush blue velvet furniture and beautiful wedding flowers, both topiaries and cascading centerpieces, of peonies, roses and green hydrangea by Nicole Ha adorned the table top.

This photo doesn't begin to do justice to Nicole's romantic, cascading centerpiece.

The upper photo is the viewing room where brides can step in front of the huge mirror to see the gown they're trying on. Menu card by: Marizette Paperie, bridal bouquet by: Nicole Ha Designs.

It was Crystal's idea to drop fresh peonies on and into the crystal chandelier. What a unique wedding idea! Such a simple idea but I'd never seen it done before.

Crystal Lequang of Amazáe Special Events and Rekha Sachania of My Event Designer. Both are ACPWC Professional Wedding/Event Consultants.

Nicole Ha of Nicole Ha Designs and Jen Kwapinski of Jen's Cakes

Armando Sarabia of Get Your Do Up and I having a great time!

Maria Chang's of PMA styled the models that evening. Here Maria plays photographer catching a snapshot of Priscilla of Boston's San Jose store managers: Krista Neighbours, Salon Manager and Emily Wurtz, Assistant Salon Manager.

Years ago when I first began working in the bridal industry the South Bay had two exceptional couture designers who used to make custom gowns to order. Both have since retired and moved on to other endeavors and options had waned over the years as more of the other small salons had closed. But now there seems to be a resurgence of gowns with the opening of several boutiques in the Greater San Jose area that rival some of them gowns that before, were only offered up the Peninsula and in San Francisco.

And a party isn't a party without fantastic desserts! Jen Kwapinski of Jen's Cakes didn't disappoint with this lavish display of mini-cupcakes, cream puffs and white chocolate raspeberry bars that she continually replenished throughout the evening. Best of all there were two chairs on either side of the display so you could just sit there and eat her treats, one after the other. LOL

Armando enjoying a cream puff.

Hey! Armando what's in the bag?

HA! An impromptu "to-go" bag of Jen's goodies!

For South Bay brides a trip to Santana Row should be on your list of salons to visit when selecting your wedding gown. The salon is so beautiful inside and Armando and I spent the latter part of the evening chatting with some of the women who work there. They were all so nice and fun!

My thanks again to Crystal for the invitation. It was a really fun evening!

I think you'll have a great experience if you go and Santana Row has many great restaurants so you can make a girl's day of it and go grab a bite to eat after at The Left Bank, or Pizza Antiqa or The Counter (a burger bar)...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

TMI on Facebook & Twitter - Can Professionalism Survive Social Media?

Lately I can't help but feel that we are slowly but surely witnessing the death of professionalism on social media websites. More and more often the comments I'm reading in status updates, tweets, forums and blogs leave me to wonder: Can professionalism survive social media?

Are you aware that everything you post online is just a copy and paste or screenshot away from going public no matter how private the place you posted it is supposed to be?

We all need to vent but here's the thing: Is a semi-private forum like Facebook (assuming you've set your privacy settings correctly) the best place to do this? Is it just me or does anyone else think that a lot of what professionals post online these days would be more appropriate to share in a private group message with a few discreet and empathetic industry colleagues or with personal friends who don't work in the same industry?

Social media sites like Facebook (because they offer a layer of perceived privacy) can lull you into feeling like you're sitting in your living room in a t-shirt and shorts chatting with friends instead of being onstage in front of thousands of colleagues and potential clients with a microphone in your hand. You can do both on Facebook, the problem is that you can never be 100% certain which audience you're talking to at any given moment

Why does this matter? Because if you're an entrepreneur your professional reputation and the reputation of your company could be at stake. If you're "sharing" TMI all over the internet you could lose potential clients or give your competition something to use against you to damage your credibility.

Professionalism is defined as the positive way you conduct yourself in business. It's how people perceive your competence to do your job with integrity following a code of conduct that sets you apart, elevating you, above the rest of your industry. IMO one of its main components is discretion. Seriously, what you say online matters. Words either reinforce your professional image or can damage or destroy it.

My personal rule of thumb is this: Would I add what I'm about to post (on Facebook or Twitter) to the home page of my company website or say it to a client during our first consultation? (Those of you who have synced your RSS feed to republish your Tweets or status updates on your website are doing exactly that.) If the answer is no, don't do it.

Who are your "friends, friends?" Unless you and your 500 Facebook friends have ALL set your Facebook wall settings to "Friends Only" AND actually "know" the people you have friended, anything you post, both status updates and comments, can be read and shared by people you don't know.

Some of you may be surprised to learn that your colleagues have friended some of their current clients on Facebook. Are you comfortable with them reading your venting and off color humor? If you are, post away. If you aren't, just tone it down a bit.

Publicly isn't the best place to sort out conflicts: When you're frustrated with a client, colleague or family member do you head online to vent? When you're in the midst of trying to resolve an issue (personal or professional) and don't know how, yet feel compelled to post about it on online, why not ask for suggestions that might help you to find a constructive solution? IMO it's a far better approach than venting your frustrations amidst a flurry of WTF's or worse...

Take the recent case of a bakery that went over the proverbial line. When a woman was offended by their intentionally provocative tagline she commented her displeasure on their blog threatening to start a Facebook group to boycott them and contact local news outlets until they changed or removed said tagline. Their public reply:
"We offend everybody equally. You are the one with hate in your heart not us. Since we are fortunate enough to live in America you can do whatever you want."

The bakery didn't get that exercising their freedom of speech wasn't a good marketing strategy or conducive to selling, among other things, $8 cupcakes. After more readers agreed the tagline was offensive the bakery posted again saying they had removed the tagline. The woman thanked them for their sensitivity... End of story? Should have been. Instead, one of the two bakery owners took to a personal (but set to public) Twitter account and called the woman a "F@# C%&#."

Whoa. Seriously.

When the woman's friend saw the tweet all hell broke loose.

When they realized the tweet was seen by others, the company removed it and made a public apology in their blog. But the damage had been done. As word spread their Yelp reviews and brand took a beating in multiple, national, highly trafficked blogs that detailed the saga, many times word for unconscionable word.

Things continued to blow up for several days until the woman the insult was about, finally put an end to it by publicly accepting the bakers apology. She didn't want their business to suffer. In the end the bakery chalked it up to a learning experience.
"Things we learned on Tuesday: Apparently we do not have private Twitter accounts anymore. Everything is business. Lesson learned."
That's an extreme case I wanted to share with you as a cautionary tale. The truth is you don't have to be nearly that offensive to do serious damage to your own reputation and brand.

Self Sabotage: Can the things you post damage your relationship with other professionals? Can they cause a colleague to become reluctant to recommend you because gauging by what you're saying on Facebook, they're not sure if you know where "the line" is? Will you say inappropriate things to a client they recommend to you and embarrass them?

It's Already Out There: Keep in mind, once you post, publish, submit information onto the internet it is impossible to ever take it back 100% so you need to be sure that you're not just comfortable posting that comment today, will you be comfortable seeing that same comment months, years or decades from now? Even if you remove a comment, post, web page, or photo it can be indexed in an archive website or a single screenshot can go viral within minutes and the next thing you know it's everywhere, forever.

You may think you don't care if something you say or do goes viral, until it does. Then all you can do is apologize, deal with the fallout and try to earn back the respect and trust you once had: The reputation you probably invested years or decades earning the first time around.

As Pee Wee Herman said in Pee Wee's Big Adventure:
"There's a lotta things about me you don't know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn't understand. Things you couldn't understand. Things you shouldn't understand."
Do you really want Dottie, or in this case strangers who could become potential customers (if you don't frightened them away) and your colleagues (who you hope will recommend you to their clients), to know about your bowel movements, the last time you threw up and that you gossip and bash people (clients, family, friends and colleagues alike) behind (what you mistakenly believe are) closed doors?

So I post this in the hopes that at least some of you may be less public with information that can scare away potential clients or damage your professional reputations. If you see a friend update, comment or tweet something that you think could be damaging and they may not have realized it, why not send the person a private message and share your concern? I've done it a handful of times on Facebook and so far nobody has told me to mind my own business. Some have taken comments down and even when one chose to leave a comment up, they told me they appreciated that I was concerned for them. If you ever see me do it, PLEASE let me know! It's always nice to know someone has your back :)

Suggested Topics to Avoid:

BM’s, Vomit and other Body Secretions 
(kid and pet poop included)
Bashing Clients
Bashing Competitors
Bashing Family Members
Making Fun of the Homeless, Mentally Ill and Handicapped
Avoid Controversial Topics: Religion, Politics, etc.
Road Rage Incidents
Financial Problems