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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


i started back up on my 365 project. it's on flickr. i have to take a self portrait everyday for 365 days. the last time i tried it i got as far as 170 days.

this one is called over the top. sometimes i like to sing out loud and curtis likes to reach over and hit the mute button.

Monday, September 29, 2008

esther albano

esther albano, who knew she even had a last name? to me, she's always been plain ol' esther, love of my life (curtis pouts), love of my tummy. she's our family cook, a pillar, a foundation, a corner stone in our home. she was all of 25 when she opted to become part of us and 53 years later she's still here cooking away. her recipes are the stuff of legends! my sister (the new generation of family chefs) made me drill dear esther last year for all the family recipes she has in her head. the woman doesn't even open a cookbook anymore! all the measurements are to taste and from memory. i can't even cook rice properly.
i have a few distinct moments seared into my head about esther, moments dug up from my youth. one is of that ever present pearl earring, the other is seeing her hands at work. rough and calloused from constant use, i remember wanting my hands to feel that way. they were so accomplished in my eyes. i admired their texture and sure movements.
she used to shoo me out of the kitchen, her domain and me the lil brat. the only child in a household of tall people. occassionally i was allowed to help. i could pick the rocks out of the grains of rice before it was cooked or grate the coconut using the fun grater system that was shaped like a stool. anything to keep me out of her hair i guess.
for my bday she would make all my favorite dishes -- a task that has since been relegated to my loving sister. and these days she's pulling the favs out of her arsenal and adding more to the list just coz i'm home again.
i love coming home and one of the compelling reasons is dear dear esther.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

cai cortez

carizza, my cousin, had a pictorial scheduled for the new TV show in manila that she's been casted for. it's called "Humiling ako sa langit" -- translated, "I pleaded with the Heavens". it's manila's version of Gray's anatomy. they were doing the PR photos in preparation for the show's launch this october.

lil ol me tagged along to see the professionals at work. between breaks carizza and i had our own lil pictorial in the dressing room... just messing around. nothing serious. her makeup was done so well we had to document it. ramil, the makeup artist, is my new make up god. i LOVE his work! see for yourself the magic he created. carizza's two other castmates ina feleo and maxine eigenmann couldn't help but join in on the fun.

Friday, September 26, 2008

basketball diaries

my uncle (res cortez) is a well known actor and director out here in the philippines. he invited curtis to play a game of basketball with him and his "buddies" today while my aunt and i hit the grocery. little did curtis know that it was a celebrity bball game. apparently, while i was away, curtis rose to stardom in a blink. the audience thought he was some import player and people were taking pictures w him and having him sign autographs. at one point some lady asked for his jersey which he grinningly handed over. the best part was that his game was on despite the last few days of laziness and over eating... heheheh

shown in the picture above (courtesy of my cousin carizza) are curtis' star studded bball team mates....

L-R. mandy ochoa, res cortez, tirso cruz III, bembol rocco, ronnie rickets, jestoni alarcon, tyron perez, baron geisler, jimwel, ian veneracion, curtis ford, onyok velasco

a view into my memory

this is how i remember the party we had at jodi's house to say bye to our friends. this and too much food. unfortunately i forgot to tell everyone that the TV would be on for the football fans so we didn't get to see everyone. bummy... but it's all good. i don't have pictures of everyone so all of you with shots from this day... do me a favor and send them to me??? pretty please?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

our first week in the philippines

here's the picture i've been promising everyone. curtis with hair! we were at the mall shopping. i turned my back for one second and my aunt encourages him to put this wig on. i stopped laughing long enough to take the picture. yikes! he so strikingly resembles the girl in the ring. don't you think? it was disconcerting.. i had to add the picture of him normal to the set just to remind me that he's just my curtis.

there are a few things i look forward to whenever i come home. laughter in my family is infectious. ours is a warm, welcoming, loving and laughing family. i could stay up with them for days just enjoying the company. when my grand parents celebrated their 60th anniversary, the whole clan flocked home to gather. 32 people around the table for meals was a blast.

the family cook has been with us since my dad's little days over 50 years ago and her recipes in my heart (and in my tummy) are still unparalleled. i come home looking forward to her spoiling me and my palate.

and most of all it's just relaxing. enjoying the time and resting. that's what we've been up to these last few days. sleep, eat and be happy. this weekend the family is trekking to san juan, la union to check out our new home weather permitting.
the pictures above are just a small representation of my family taken at my sister's birthday. happy birthday mariles!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


it's all too often that my camera buddies and i will get together and discuss gear at length. curtis rolls his eyes at this quite often. i guess... we're just geeks at heart :)

trial and error on camera equipment can be so expensive and time consuming that it's such a benefit to know and hear what everyone else is using. i know that when i browse thru blogs and sites of the pros i love taking a peek at their gear list.
sara france came up with a neat way to share what equipment she's got in her pack. she added a link to amazon that shows you exactly what she's got. i loved the idea so much i thought i would do the same.

check out the link on the left margin for "in the bag" or on the bottom of the page showing sample items. gone are the days of providing obscure model numbers that i can't ever seem to get right. there are 3 categories in the store.
  1. what i've got in the bag
  2. what i "NEED" to add to the bag
  3. the books that have helped me thus far

isn't it neat?

Monday, September 22, 2008

destination unknown

it's still very surreal to me that curtis and i just packed up and whisked our way off to destinations unknown. by that i mean it's an unsure future. sure we know that we'll be staying in the philippines. we also know that we have 6 months to experiment. we needed to set some guidelines so 6 months is the amount of time we've allotted ourselves for discovery. there are some ideas we want to work on, some more feasible than others. i still want to pursue my photography out here. there is tremendous opportunity to break into the wedding and fashion industry out here. but first, it really is just a break from life. a time to take a moment and re-evaluate our priorities and life direction. the world is changing and we're missing a lot of it.

anyway....thought i'd clue you guys in on some fun facts comparing the philippines and california..
  • the philippines is comprised of 7,100 islands totalling a span of 300k sq km (115.8 sq mi). population is estimated at 91M
  • california on the other hand spans 411k sq km (158.7 sq mi) with a population estimate of 36.5M

.... interesting. till next time!


the girl knows her hip hop. meet kari, my hip hop teacher from OCC. i dragged curtis to one of her classes last semester. he couldn't keep up coz she kicks ass... he went back to surfing.

she needed some new pix for her portfolio so we headed off to orange circle with her roomie maribeth and flashed some smiles on the street. this is just a few of the things we came up with.

anyway... she just finished an intesive masters program this summer and she's got all new material and inspiration to work from. so intensly jealous that i can't be there this semester to reap the benefits of all that new fun :(. next time!

Friday, September 12, 2008

balikbayan boxes and stinky limits

ack! boxes, boxes and more boxes. i've been going thru my closet for the last few days. it's not enough that i took out 32.5% of my closet and handed it over to buffalo exchange and goodwill. curtis says i can't take everything that's left. somehow i have to fit what i own into 2 balikbayan boxes. phooey! --- for my non-flip friends, a balikbayan box is a standard size box that filipinos use to haul all kinds of goodies back to the motherland. it's very TSA and FAA compliant.

well, with renewed vigor i thought i would show curtis that i'm more than capable of flashing fashion with a limited closet. i set my goal for 1.5 boxes... i got close. after 3 passes thru what was left of my closet, i selected 40% of what i had left (because i'm a math nerd, i worked out that it was 27% of my original closet). i got it to fit in 1.75 boxes. now i just need to go thru my shoe closet and hope to god that i don't exceed the 50lb per box limit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

wide angle lens

which lens do i spend my money on? this seems to always be a nailbiting decision up until the point i hit the BUY button (i shop online for just about everything camera related).

i've been wanting an extra wide lens. it's such a challenge when i've got an EF-S mount camera currently and i want to graduate to a full size sensor. it makes the lens picking decision twice as hard. well no more! i've decided that i will always have an EF-S mount as a backup. i'll get that full size sensor eventually but i can happily purchase EF-S mounts with peace of mind.

that said, my new baby is the tokina 11 - 16 f2.8. it had awesome reviews and i couldn't wait to get my greedy lil hands on it.