hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Friday, December 19, 2008

carmen rosello aenlle

i wonder if she knew what an impact she made.  i wonder if she even thought of how many lives she would affect.

carmen rosello aenlle, married at 18 and mother to us all.  at 83 her life is coming to a close.

my dear grandmother who accepted each of us as we were.  we would squabble amongst ourselves.  we would love and hate alternately.  we would ride the waves of life.  she took no sides ... she was our constant.  she loved us.  she loved our flaws.  she accepted us and took nothing in return.

when i would get sick, it was her attention that would soothe me.  when i got a delightful new toy, it was her child-like appreciation that i would seek out.  when i was stuck on a puzzle it was her help i sought.  the story is the same for each of us -- her children, her grandchildren, her legacy.  

we are selfish in our needs to hang on to her and all our memories of her.  but it is time.  and now she gives us one last present.  it's almost christmas and she is drawing her last breaths.  for her, the family is coming home.  we'll be together again.  one house with all of us.  a united front to face another one of life's moments.  it's sad and happy.  we'll be together to see her transition to another life, one free of physical pain.  for us, it will be a merry christmas.   over dinner we'll be sharing stories and lots of happy tears.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

her last breath ... i was there

4th of july 2006, i walked into the room, heard the raspy breathing and i knew... this was it.  my mom was drawing her last breath.  i could have called out for help, but i chose not to.  it was time.  i was eerily calm.  i took her hand, looked into her eyes and told her it was ok for her to go.  i think she was waiting for me.  she silently told me she loved me and i gave her a kiss good bye ... that's when the tears started to roll.  a few minutes later she was gone.  i must have sat there for a couple-three hours before i told anyone that the ordeal was finally over.

i was 25 when i first lost my mom.  she had gone in for elective surgery.  a tummy tuck of all things.  anyone who knew my mom would be wondering what the hell for?  she was tiny.  she was gorgeous.  i'm not being biased... you can ask anyone.  there really was no need for enhancements.  but everyone has their vanities and her tummy was her weakness.  the surgery itself was quite successful.  the doctor did a great job,  disaster struck when the nurse made a mistake on the dosage for the pain meds post surgery.  that was the day my mom really died.

what happened after that was a chaotic whirlwind of medical guesses in the grayest of areas.  brain damage.  the doctors were able to revive my mom but the extent of the damage was costly.  she was bed ridden with large chunks of her memory missing, atrophied muscles and paralysis.  the results of a 2 week coma.  it was a rollercoaster of emotions for all of us.  eight years and she never recovered. 

life has a funny way of testing your strength.  we've had our share of loss and tragedy in our family, the most recent being my grandmother.  she had a stroke a couple of years ago and hasn't been the same since.  ah but my she's strong and so she hangs on.  i think being at home surrounded by people that love her and care for her makes a huge difference.  i've been living at her house these last few weeks, right next door to a house full of memories.  the house i grew up in.  the combination pulls a powerful punch in my gut.  just when i think i'm immune to it all in a blink melt into a puddle.  the emotions have a nasty habit of sneaking up in the middle of the night.  it's in the quiet time.  always in the silence.

life is so short but love is the tie that binds.  our family remains strong because we have each other.  i truly truly believe that everything happens for a reason.  i regret nothing.  there are no mistakes... just decisions made.  sometimes the world has to collapse for a better one to grow in its place.  

keep the faith, live simply, love a lot.  throw out the idea of christmas gifts this year... instead, cherish the memories, surround yourselves with friends and family and share the laughter over a christmas meal.  these are the things that last forever... these are the twinkling lights in the darkness.

my grandmother started a christmas tradition when she married my grandfather.  she started a belen (nativity scene).  she added pieces to it every year.  all the kids and grandkids have contributed to it since.  the thing is huge now consisting of towns and a variety of generations.  my aunt keeps the tradition alive for us.  i thought i'd commit some of the scenes on "film".

Sunday, December 7, 2008

batch 90 reunion

30 girls ... 30 cameras.  everywhere i looked, a bulb was flashing and someone was posing.  craziness!  there was more paparazzi than a busload of tourists heading to hollywood.  

i was on facebook a few weeks ago getting messages from old high school classmates saying ... "we should get together sometime", "i miss you", blah blah.. you know.. the usual.  all these messages but no action and there was so much to catch up on with so many people.  18 years is a looooong time.  so we did it.  i took a poll for a date, kat recruited the class, maja provided the venue and there we were.  30 girls (and 3 boys) showed up for an evening full of laughter, hugs, camera moments and stories.  every section was represented and the 3 boys that showed up declared their own section. 

oh it was so fun!  everyone seriously looks the same.  just take the makeup off, put the high heels aside and we're still the same set of girls.  i'm still love love despite the short hair, therese will always be class prez in our hearts no matter how much she denies it, sheba still carries a fan, jerrie and issa still sit next to each other and we're all still loud and happy.  after dinner the group migrated to the bar and after that we migrated to a club (thanks so much to sheba and her hubby) and after that... we would have kept going.  but i for one am too old to stay up past 4am so i dragged my sorry butt home.

i wish i could pick a day that would work for everyone and a venue that would be accessible for all the girls including the ones abroad.  we could have had a larger group (after all our graduating class was over 250 girls) but as it was ... for the batch of 1990, 30 was an excellent turn out.  i would love to do this all again.  there are still so many people i want to catch up with... cribay, chona, denise, berna, barb, jb (although she's from grade school) to name a few.    it's too bad tetang couldn't stay long but we're glad christine and michelle (baretto) were able to trail in.  but there were still so many people we missed!  ah well, there's always next time...

here's a slideshow from that night -- sorry girls there is no way i'm posting 81 pictures.  too much work!  but i hope you enjoy this.  i spent a few hours this morning reaching into my grab bag of music .. digging deep in the heart of the 80s for the perfect song.

Friday, December 5, 2008

shooting in BULB

ok... so how do you shoot using BULB....

the idea of shooting in BULB is that the shutter is left wide open the whole time until you manually shut it.  it records everything within that time frame.  that is... everything the camera can see.  this is how photographers capture the stars moving at night and how i did that last picture in the previous blog.  to use BULB you click the shutter once and this opens the shutter.  it remains open until you click it again (to close it).

you will need:
  • a dark place to take  your pictures (try not to wear light clothes)
  • a flashlight or some source of light
  • a tripod -- or somewhere to set your camera
  • if you have a remote for your camera it would be very handy for this project
what to do:
  • on my camera i can get to this setting via manual mode.  on manual mode you can control both the aperture and the shutter speed.  
  • set the aperture to the desired number (you want something high so that everything is in focus)
  • set the shutter all the way to the lowest setting --- after you get past all the numbers the lowest setting is BULB.
  • place your camera on a tripod or something steady (i set it on a wall).  
  • select an area that is DARK.  have a flashlight or some form of light handy.
  • with your camera setup you can go ahead and click the camera
  • take your first pose and using your flashlight PAINT yourself with the light.  take it slow or make it fast.  but turn it off before you strike another pose then turn the light on again.  you can have someone flash the light at you with each pose so you don't have to paint yourself.  
  • when you are done with all the poses... click the camera again to close the shutter.
the camera only records what it sees which are the poses where you were lit up.  this is why you need to be in the dark and preferably in dark clothes so the camera can't detect you as you move.  dark beaches with no moon is perfect for this.

there you have it!  have fun and show me what you end up with!

just wanted to share with you the project i worked on for my inner vision photography class.  i took the class to push the envelope on creativity.  i actually story boarded this whole photo session before setting out for the shoot.  it turned out pretty well i think.  

miela and JC are my cousin's theater friends.  thanks guys for helping me in this shoot.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

lightly treading out of auto

someone asked me recently what mode i like to shoot in.  personally, i favor aperture priority (Av) but every now and then i like to play with capturing motion and i'll move to shutter priority (Tv).    

the sun was going down so i didn't have to drag the shutter too much.  the ISO was at about 400.  i was sitting in the sand or leaning forward on my legs to hold the cam steady.  just focused on curtis and let the water do the rest.

it was our last day in la union and curtis happily frolicked in the water for this super fun shoot.

 curtis saved this little guy from an atrium life

we discovered BULB mode some weeks before.  i had never done this before.  i kept reading about it but never really tried.  so fun!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

old friends

seriously.. thank god for facebook.  i haven't connected with so many people since ... i don't know when.  i met up with my high school class a couple of days ago.  i haven't seen some of these people in 18 years!  to me, they still look exactly the same.  if you threw on the uniform it would be a time warp.  the only difference is that some of them are toting little (and big) kids rather than bags and brushes.

the school setup in the philippines is very different from the US.  here each grade is referred to as a batch of a certain year, ours was batch 90. we were the 150th jubilee batch of our school.  200+ girls graduated with me our senior year.  each batch is divided into several sections (with approximately 40-45 girls in a section) i belonged to 4-1.  each section is assigned a room and the teachers came to us.  in other words, we were sharing classes throughout the school year.  it's quite the bonding experience. 

over dinner 8 of us passed around a list that roxanne was trying to put together.  it was a list of the girls in our senior year section.  struggling to get our minds to recall each girl in our class.  we couldn't even agree on the number to begin with.  was it 41?  42?  or 44?  with each name that got added the question marks multiplied.  someone should have brought the yearbook (or at least the class picture).

this coming saturday i'm meeting up with other batch mates for another reunion.  the holidays are the best time for get togethers it seems.  a lot of us come back to the motherland from far away strange places lured by family, friends, and the filipino christmas.  

angel -- our party crasher.  not 4-1 but still our batch mate... always welcome to our party.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

hello...is this thing on?

this following post is a snippet from an email that curtis wrote to one of our friends talking about the road trip north before i got sick.

Hello... is this thing on? Testing....This is obviously Curtis right... (note the varied use of capitalization ;O) and the big nose! he he!).  We took a little 3 day road trip to a town callled Vigan (a few weeks ago) and on to what should have been another good surf spot Pugudpud but no such luck on the latter, surfwise at least. Beautiful though, think Siargao but quieter and mas mahal (too expensive) for what you really get. Vigan was great! It's about 4 hours by bus north of us (A story in itself...) and has the oldest architecture I think in the Philippines, circa 1500s Spanish style brick. There was this little street called Calle Crisologo that was made of bricks and all of these old buildings on either side somewhat reminiscent of London or old Spain more likely. Really neat. We took a Calesa around town which is just a horse-drawn carriage and stopped at a couple of heritage sites, museums and a zoo of sorts. They had tigers, ostriches, birds, deer and this butterfly sanctuary where you could walk through with hundreds of butterflies flitting here and there, sometimes landing on you. 

Pugudpud was another 4 hours past Vigan but when we got there it was late and dark and the tricycle drivers weren't sure where this resort at the surf was called Mike's Place. Tito Res (Michelle's uncle) had a friend who owned a resort in the town as well but not near the surfing area so we opted for that. So we tell the tricycle driver who takes us to some 
small little place that appears to be closed. We start talking to the neighbors who are a bit confused and so Michelle calls up her uncle who gets us the number to the the lady with the place. Michelle proceeds to call her up and she asks to talk to the tricycle driver. So imagine his face as he realizes he's on the phone with the Vice Mayor of the town! bahahahaha as Michelle would say! It was funny to say the least. So the tricycle driver turns us around and back we go to Saud Beach Resort.  (this is michelle: it was a nice looking resort but over our budget.  we had just enough to pay for the one night and bus fees home.)  And therein lay the problem. Pugudpud has no bank, no ATM, and the resort has no phones, so no credit cards..... cash only, of which we were short. The closest bank was 2 hours back at a town called Laoag. Translation: 8 hours by bus for 1 night in an expensive resort and we didn't even get to see the surf which is why we went there to begin with.  We went back in La Union and still no surf. However there's something to be said about feeling home sort of. 

{end of curtis entry.  back to michelle sans caps}

so it was a long road trip but a beautiful one.  the biggest lesson we learned... as much as we would like to wing it during our spontaneous road trips, that doesn't always work.  the least we could do is check for accommodations and have cash.  tee hee.  

an hour away from us (just around the coast) past the cement factory HOLCIM is a mind blowing sight.  it's an entire coast of rocks in every color, shape and size.  most of them smooth from the sea's constant tumbling.  people have been "mining" this mountain by the sea for the last 50 years.  they hand pick each rock and create piles by colors and sizes.

some of the faces that greeted us as we walked around town.

this is a shot for my 365.  the calesa (horse-drawn carriage that curtis was talking about)

this is what i call walking the cat ...

shots from the butterfly sanctuary.  check out the butterflies just coming out of their cocoon.  so it turns out that they "hatch" the most between 10am - 1pm. also see the caterpillar below, notice the similarity in it's color pattern which emerges in the wing colors of the butterfly it becomes.

the philippine carabao (water buffalo) is the national animal.  it is the work horse of this country.  used to till the rice fields, pull carts and produce milk and meat.

father burgos was a philippine national hero.  charged with having incited the revolution against the spaniards in 1872, he was sentenced to die along with 2 other priests.  father burgos is on my family tree.  this was shot at his home in vigan.

i don't know why these were at fr. burgos' house but they are coffins used by the igorots.  igorots are one of the native tribes found in the philippines.  these coffins are old.  shame on me for not getting the date.  but they were so short!  and these were intended for full grown adults.  filipinos are naturally smaller in stature but with time and mixed race, they have gotten taller.  i made curtis lie down next to them to get an idea of the difference.

vigan with its old architecture has cobble stoned streets that make you think you are in old europe.

this is pagudpud.  found at the tip of the country where the pacific meets south china sea.  miles of clear blue ocean, white powdery sands, sky and no phones.  see just clear the water is, i had to take a picture of curtis in the water.  doesn't he look like he's just sitting in a swimming pool???? 

by the way this crab scared me as we were walking.  i nearly ran into him.  he's as big as my foot (minus my toes)!