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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

mila | spring 2010 promo

have you gotten your mother's day gift?  given any thought to your father's day present?  what about senior photos or a gift for that fresh graduate?  can i offer a solution?

mommies, daddies N graddiesa spring 2010 photo promo from milaPhotography
these special prices are only available thru the month of june so hurry and book your session now!

$250 package inclusions:
  • 1 hour session in a location of your choice
  • your top 5 fave images edited - full resolution files good for printing included
  • private online gallery to share with friends and family
  • $50 print credit

$350 package inclusions:
  • 1 hour session in a location of your choice
  • CD of all edited images - full resolution files good for printing included
  • private online gallery to share with friends and family
  • $50 print credit

sorry but studio sessions are not available for this promo

to book your sessioncall michelle at 949.616.0105 or email at michelle@milaPhotography.com

Monday, April 26, 2010

mila | blue hormones

on the third trimester of the pregnancy i got used to rubbing the belly and always feeling kaya kicking into my ribs whenever we got into the car for long rides.  i guess that's what i get for squeezing my pregnant belly into a low profile sports car.  it's like i had a constant companion wherever i went.  when i heard about this thing called post partum depression i figured it would be about the sense of emptiness after kaya came out.  i was right and i was wrong.

post partum depression for me was all about hormones and feeling tied down.  EVERYTHING was making me cry.  the silliest, littlest things were turning me into a puddle.  and then there was the loneliness.  curtis, thankfully, had scheduled himself to be off work for 2 weeks.  because of the c-section he arranged to work from home on the third week and i had company at home for a little longer.  he went to the gym one day and i got a taste of being home alone.  in the silence of the house .. with kaya just staring at me ... it really hit.

i had stopped all activities in february even though i wasn't due to deliver till march.  i didn't line up any shoots till june to give myself enough time to adjust to the new life and schedule.  it was a good plan but i was seriously crawling the walls with cabin fever.  shoot!  i still am!  curtis was threatening to tie me down coz i just couldn't sit still when i got home.  the c-section should have slowed me down but it was a physical limitation.  my brain would NOT shut up.  there were so many things i wanted to .. and needed to do.  and when kaya was finally home i settled in ... for a lil bit.  3 days later i was crawling the walls again.

all my photog friends were lining up shoots.  fun ones!  they were busy working on their businesses, getting together, having fun, living life.  oh jealousy!  i felt sooooo left behind.  it had been so long since i did a fun shoot and i was getting bitter about being tied down.  i love kaya but i missed my life, my freedom and my sleep.  even curtis could get away for an eight hour work day.  he could hit the gym at leisure or hang out with his brother at the bar.  the boob job (milk factory work) ties me down and compels me to be around kaya or a pump every 3 hours.  and me with no consolation.  i can't even drink to get drunk still (which subsequently only takes 1.5 beers -- i'm a cheap date) or have a good cup of caffeine.  and the gym is still off limits for me.

i'm over the blue hump now.  thank god for friends and family!  my cousin camille who is a nurse has volunteered her down time to come baby sit so curtis and i (and steven) can go out on date nights.  steven is curtis' brother.  those two are inseparable.  good thing i love him (steven) so much or i'd be bitter about being the third wheel on our date nights.  *wink* 

i spread out all the visits from my friends to keep my "calendar" some kind of "busy".  i also charged a food entrance fee lol.  you could see my daughter if you brought me a treat.  and then my sister, the chef, was at the house at least 3 times a week.  she made sure we didn't resort to the evil that is jack-in-the-box except for my desperate moments.  she took over the kitchen and cooked meals for us to last days.  nevermind that she said she would never do dirty diapers.  what she did was the best gift ever those first 3 weeks.  and she kept me company.  oh and btw.. "never" is a BIG word.  kaya has already worked her magic on auntie ina.  she's melting!  she still comes over to cook.  she loves it or so she tells me.  i think it's a ploy to see the munchkin and go for walks with us.  she's even changed the diaper once!  muwahaha!

leaving you with a few more tips i forgot to share the last time and photos from the 52 weeks of kaya project.

  • if you live on a split level home then have 2 of everything.  unless you want to get extra excercise going up and down stairs i suggest having a diaper station on each floor and a bouncy chair on each floor too.
  • save money.  look up swings, bouncers, infant car seats and strollers on craig's list.  i got our infant car seat w 2 bases and the click in stroller for $200!
  • the swapmeet has dollar stalls.  at the OC swapmeet i found piles of batteries for $1 a pack.  load up.  kiddie stuff gobbles up batteries.  keep a stock of AA, AAA & C.
  • i used to laugh at my aunts and mom when they busted out the girdle.  joke's on me.  i'm cinched up with squeem.
  • diapers.com has amazing prices on all things baby AND diapers.  3 thumbs up for their free shipping feature.
  • we tried a bunch of products to see which we (kaya included) liked and here's the short list
    • pampers swaddlers - best diaper.  you'll be using 6-10 a day so buy em by the case
    • costco (kirkland) unscented wipes - buy it in bulk you'll use em all
    • playtex ortho-pro - the only binkie kaya didn't reject
  • i'm still on a hunt for a good car infant mirror.  i'm about to try the sunshine kids one from bed bath & beyond
week 4

this is how me n dad work from home

yes... we're all melting for kaya

week 5: every morning i look at her and think... who are you???  yesterday's kaya was much smaller!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

mila | learning photography on a budget

i've been teaching basic photography classes (at seed market in costa mesa ) and lightroom (at the irvine fine arts center) these last few months and have been asked about what workshops and classes i recommend for new photographers.  i always approach this question with caution.  learning can be expensive.  in my world i measure the amount of expense not just in monetary terms but also in time and effort.  sometimes even free can be viewed as a waste.  with only so much of myself to give and a limited budget to support my choices selecting the places to be, the things to do and the people to see becomes a tactical maneuver.  each selection has to be carefully weighed and scrutinized for return on investment.  value is a personal choice and so very highly subjective.  everyone has a different knowledge foundation so it only makes sense that what i view as a lesson worth learning maybe considered useless to someone who already has that information. 

as a general rule i want to suggest that for the 101 courses like photography 101 don't spend your cash.  even $200 sounds like a lot to me for this lesson but it's your money go for it (as i cringe) if you want but don't spend more than that.  i believe that you can go the cheaper route for these lessons like shadowing a photog friend, enlisting some buddies, reading books, looking online, signing up for a class at a community college or adult ed classes hosted by the city.  the 101 information is readily available everywhere.  save your cash for the more advanced courses or the lessons on software like photoshop, in design and lightroom which are necessary tools in the growing photography industry.

anywayz... here's some suggestions on where you can go:
  1. PHOTOGRAPHY 101 - be the master of your camera not the other way around. 
    • BOOKS - not everyone's cup of tea but great for reference!
      • i read my camera's manual cover to cover coz i'm a nerd like that.  
      • understanding exposure by peterson - excellent book!  i would read a chapter and then practice that chapter.  one chapter a day / week.
      • scott kelby's 3 volume set called digital photography - i'm a cut-to-the-chase kinda person.  limited on time i don't have a lot of patience for fluff.  well, maybe i'm just short on patience but whatev.  scott kelby's books are almost bullet points.  each page is a lesson and concise.  i LOVE it!
    • ONLINE
      • have you heard of digital photography school?  it's a website choc full of photog tips and it's awesome!  sign up for their newsletter and get a regular email with some really awesome information
      • strobist is another website that is ah-ma-zing and it's all about lighting
      • forums like [b] school and open source photo are excellent places to learn.  it's a place to go with any questions you may have and sometimes you don't know enough to ask a question.  this is a great way to learn from other people's experiences, mistakes and quandaries.  note that [b] school charges a nominal fee to join the community.
    • WORKSHOPS / CLASSES - some of the places in my hood
      • the school of continuing education in orange county - i attended a series of classes with dave rosenberg who has a 20 year history of working with canon.  it was a great intro class and totally affordable for an 8 week course.
      • irvine fine arts center - dave also teaches here and so do some other really nice people with some really fun photog classes... oh and then there's me.  i teach LR 2.
      • calumet
      • orange coast college - this school has one of the best photog departments in socal.  i attended this college for a handful of semesters.
      • seed market - you get me (shameless plug).  i teach on occassion a 3 hour crash course on photog fundamentals thru craft kitchen.  i'm told i'm pretty good ;)
    • SOFTWARE - this is where it starts to get expensive.  as if it wasn't enough to dish out the dough on the equipment you need or to have a good computer and buy software too!  and what do you mean the software doesn't automatically do everything?!?!  groan.  i do believe that the money spent in learning the software is money well spent.  if i can use the lessons immediately and see results in my time management and in my work then it's 3 thumbs up and i'll borrow kaya's thumb to give it that extra OK.  
      • BOOKS
        • kevin kubota's digital photography bootcamp - oh i love this book!  he is the photoshop master and i bow to him.  this book tells you just what you need to know without overwhelming you
        • martin evening's lightroom 2 - my bible.  i read this one cover to cover while i was in the philippines and it now rests permanently by my computer.  note that LR 3 will be coming out soon (dunno when) so think about that before buying the book.
        • PS classroom in a book - i took a beginner photoshop class once and was waaaaay pissed off when the instructor simply read to us from this book.  i can read.  i don't need help with that.  and when i asked for more information on certain functions she couldn't even answer them.  seriously, what a waste of cash.  i suggest just buying the book and following along.  when you get past this phase and you still want to know more and can't find the answer on the internet then it's time to sign up for a more advanced class.
        • i took a lightroom class through PPOC who sponsored some classes by Jack Davis.  best money spent!  they also have a meetup group you can join for info on future workshops.
        • irvine fine arts center offers classes on photoshop and lightroom (i teach that one ;))
    there are soooooo many workshops out there right now given by a host of photographers on a million different topics.  you've got everything from the business aspect of photography to the technical side, style vs function, niche specific lessons like boudior, wedding or children's photography.  with so many to pick from it gets overwhelming.  here's some pointers i like to consider:
    • what is my ROI (return on investment)?  will i make the money back by applying the lessons i learned?  this is my number one question for any of my expenditures.  this business is expensive enough as it is without me adding to it.
    • do i admire the work of the instructor?  actually, more than that... am i blown away by this person's work?  it wouldn't make sense for me to spend money trying to learn from someone who's work i don't even like.
    • does this person make their information available for free?  most photographers have a blog and are very helpful with tips and tricks on their blog.  if i can get that information for free why not just stick to that route unless i really believe that the workshop they are hosting will give me even MORE insight.  again... ROI.
    • am i going to be learning style, technique or anything useful?  i personally don't believe that i can "learn" someone's style.  i can emulate but i cannot be that person.  if i want to know about their style then i can just look at their photos to figure that out.  i also don't want to attend a workshop that only gives me insight on who the person is or how they got to where they are today.  i can read a blog for that and i'm past paying for inspiration and/or a cheering squad type workshop.   but if they are teaching posing techniques, lighting techniques, tips on working with clients, etc. then that totally works for me.  again... ROI.
    • how much is it?  this is sometimes the make it or break it question and to me the duration and location of the workshop feeds into the answer.  is it a 3 day, 5 day or just a quickie?  do i have to travel?  do i even like the location?  so many questions...  but something to ponder over. 
    i hope this helps and feel free to add your own 5 cents in the comments.  i'm sure there's more things that i should consider and i'd love to pass the information on.

    here's a photo that i took of curtis n me while we were in the philippines last year.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    mila | baby stuffs we love

    i took a poll on facebook of some must have items for lil kaya and i got some really great tips.  i've also picked up a few of my own favorites along the way.  paying it forward and sharing...

    kaya loves:

    • kangaroo korner solarveil pouch - this is the sling i use to carry kaya around.  it's UV protected.  it's mesh so i'm not worried about her suffocating or over heating.  it's adjustable.  it can also be used in the water when we go swimming!  she loves that closeness and it lulls her to sleep everytime she's in it.  bestest gift from my friend k-woo.
    • bouncy chair - we actually have 2 different ones that were handed down to us.  one of them vibrates and bounces and she loves that one.  the other one is the fisher price baby papasan chair that vibrates and has music (it doesn't bounce) but it puts her to sleep everytime.  it has an auto shut off which is great for the batteries but sometimes she's not ready for the music to end and she gives me the grumpy eye.
    • aden + anais swaddling blankets.  they are the only swaddling blankets that are large enough for a really good swaddle.  oh and they're really cute too.  thank you beth bean for turning me on to them!
    • crib night light - kaya seems to hate sleeping in complete darkness.  someone gave us a lil night light that attaches to the crib.  it's perfect for her.  i can't seem to find it online though :(
    • wiper warmer - kaya's best friend when we're doing early morning cleanups.  it's cold enough at 4 am without having to get a cold swipe.
    • mylicon - it's our ultimate solution to baby gas.  not that it eliminates the smell or the loud unladylike sound but it defintely helps her thru tummy owies.  and it's safe to administer with every feeding!

    curtis and i love:
    • dr. harvey karp and his happiest baby video.  thank god for this guy and his awesome swaddling technique.  you gotta check it out.  life saver!!!  it's the one move that makes sure kaya gets quality and quantity sleep.  my girlfriend jenny kim (lee) sat me down and made me watch this video.  i'm so glad she did.  i turned around and made curtis watch it.  he's a swaddle expert now!
    • babywise - it's a book with tips on helping get munchie on a sleep schedule.  i actually used it as a guideline but i think i may have been simply lucky that lil pop is a good sleeper.   thanks to hanssie for this one.
    • airflow sleep positioner - all the talk of SIDS had us constantly worrying about kaya turning over or scootching into a suffocating position.  this lil helper let US sleep in peace.
    • summer video monitor - best way for us to check up on kaya without having to get out of bed.  coz sometimes the soundbites from her room are just her fighting bad guys in her sleep.  she doesn't always need our help.  our daughter kicks ass!  best part... it can see in the dark!
    • medela freestyle breast pump - ok so at one point curtis and i were laughing at this hands free breast pump contraption coz it looks ridiculous on!  i choked on my laugh and i laugh no more.  this thing is awesome!  first off the soft sheilds that it comes with is hella more comfy and more efficient than the ones that they let you use in the hospital.  then of course the hands free part is just great for pumping and blogging at the same time.  hahahhaha!
    • boogie snot bulb - kaya HATES it but i love the one the hospital sends you home with.  i bought one from target but it doesn't seem to work as well.  
    hope this helps all my new mommy friends and all the ones that are about to be.  feel free to add to the list by commenting with your personal favorites and must haves.

    and now to share kaya's official baby photos care of regis chen.  these were taken when she was a week and a half old.  

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    mila | in the calendar for photographers

    just a reminder that the orange county smug meets regularly on the 4th thursday of each month (7pm) at the mesa verde country club.  for this month's gathering (on april 22) we will have lawrence chan of tofurious as a guest speaker.  the topic is "Understanding Your Target Audience" and touching on social media.

    and for my friends who don't know what this thing called smug is .... this is straight out of smug mug

    what is SMUG?

    A SMUG is a place where you can learn, teach and meet up with other photographers who share your passion. It's also how we (smug mug) can tell you what's happening in our world and discover what's happening in yours. SMUGs are a great way to connect with other photographers and add a few weapons to your creative arsenal.

    Things to Expect at a SMUG

    We Talk: You'll get the naked truth straight from the source. We'll preview stuff in the pipeline like new features, bug fixes, and promotions.
    You Talk: Guest speakers will light up the room with their wisdom for shooting great images and making money with photography.
    We Listen: We hear your opinions about features and potential business deals we're considering. It's a bulletproof way to know we actually get your message, the way you wanted us to hear it, unfiltered and face-to-face.

    Things You Will Never Do

    • Open your wallet: Save your money for new gear. SMUGs are free.
    • Sign up for anything: There are no commitments, no requirements and no vacation timeshare offers here.
    • Hold hands and sing Kumbayah: We love ya... but not that much.

    to find a smug near you or to get the email reminders for your smug just sign up here.

    speaking of mugs ...  here's kaya's

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    mila | random nuggets . scars

    ... a scar is never ugly
    ... we must see all scars as beauty
    ... a scar does not form on the dying.  a scar means, i survived.

                                                                       little bee by chris cleave

    i love this book (little bee).  curtis is reading it now.  it's the kind that left so many impressions i had to write some of them down in my journal.  yes, i keep a journal.  i started writing when i moved to this country almost 20 years ago.  it was my only way to cope with the depression of being uprooted from my home.  to date i have eight books that hold my thoughts, my stories, my triumphs and my scars.  i still write in them today albeit less frequently since i started the blog.  

    the quote above reminded me of a self portrait i took in 2007 when i was doing my 365 project.  i was supposed to take a self portrait everyday for 365 days.  i got as far as day 170.  on day 171 i hit a rut.  curtis and i broke up and i couldn't really function for a while so i quit the project.

    this photo shows 2 of my scars.  i have many.  the one on my lip marks the spot where a dog bit me at age 2.  he ripped my lip open.  rumor is that i started the fight.  not that i was being bratty or intentional.  i don't remember.  anyway ... apparently dogs don't take kindly to getting their food bowl kicked by toddlers. i shoulda known.  

    the scar on my neck is from surgery when i was 14.  they found a cyst on my left thyroid and surgery was my only way out.  unfortunately i developed a keloid on this part of my body.  the scar was huge and as thick as an earthworm.  several rounds of steroid shots were required to tame it down.  that pain i DO remember.  i also remember that people used to stare.  and as mean as kids can be, adults can be much worse.  these are my battle wounds, life scars and my stories.  it's what makes me interesting.

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    mila | beauty and the boob

    there is a LOT of information out there about pregnancy and parenting.  you don't even need to buy any books because the clinics, doctors and hospitals give you just about everything you need as far as information and then some.  you can enroll in free classes, take home pamphlets, download info, sign up for daily newsletters, ask any of your mommy friends for information  and if you still really want to buy more books on any of it get the fun ones and laugh along with the hilarious realities.  despite all this, there are some things that still were kinda left out.  luckily, like most people, when push comes to shove i'm pretty good at adapting.

    today's topic is breastfeeding.  i took the class, i read the pamphlets, i talked to people.  but my learning style is such that i require hands on practice.  ummmm that doesn't work for breastfeeding.  it's not like i could borrow or rent a baby and practice the theory before kaya showed up.  you know what i mean?  nevertheless, i felt prepared for the task.  i knew that i wanted to try this out for at least 6 months.  i knew that it could take a while to get the rhythm going.  i knew that it may not work out.  i also knew that i excel at anything i set my mind to.  

    UCI medical gave me such a positive experience as far as my stay there.  i would seriously recommend them to everyone.  they had lactation specialists (3 of them actually), stopping by and educating me and encouraging me in the quest to breastfeed kaya.  

    kaya had to stay in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) for a week after delivery because of all the complications from the delivery.  she had a team of doctors and nurses watching over her 24/7 and taking care of all her needs.  this round the clock care included her feeding needs.  she wasn't allowed to come to me (in the maternity ward) to feed.  i had to pump the milk and bring it to her.  the nurses and lactation specialists showed me how to collect the precious droplets of colostrum i pumped.  it was like siphoning specs of gold from my body.  every drop (literally) counted.  the first time i pumped (one hour after delivery) we collected 4 milliliters of this precious liquid.  the nurses were in shock.  apparently that was a lot.  i was so proud.  4 mL!  that's like a water bottle capful.  but i was so drugged up that i spent the next 2 days in and out of consciousness.  sleeping off the exhaustion and pain.  i was supposed to be pumping more gold out every 3 hours and instead got around to it like every 6 hours if i was lucky.  the quantity i extracted slowly dwindled to 2 mLs and then eventually i was just dry.  i felt awful.  i was letting my little girl down.  ohmigosh i just wanted to cry.  in the meantime, kaya was getting formula supplements while in the NICU.  she was ok.  it didn't matter, i was beating myself up over it anyway.  i decided to lessen the amount of pain killers i was taking (since it made me sleepy), set my alarm on my phone to go off every 3 hours and made a decision to pump no matter what.  eventually the milk came back.  slooooooowly.  

    it was the end of the 4th day when one of the nurses in the NICU suggested that i try to take kaya to breast instead of pumping.  she called in the lactation specialist to supervise and we tried for a half hour.  we failed.  i felt like such a loser.  i felt so small and so inadequate and so rejected.  i was surrounded by all these experts and this was my child and i didn't know how to do this... AND i still wasn't producing enough milk to feed her needs.  the little i produced (by pumping) the nurses would add to the formula they fed kaya.  it did little to console me to know that my milk was more nutritious and beneficial to her than all the formula they provided. everyone was being so positive, supportive and encouraging.  i still hated myself.  eventually kaya latched on (with more help and encouragement from the staff at UCI), the supply caught up to her needs and she's 100% breastfed now.  one of the nurses had told me (on the last day) that the IV bag they had me on for the surgery interrupted my milk flow.  it was part of the reason why my milk production dropped to zero.  wow!  i wish i knew that from the get go!  the irregular pumping definitely affected the production process too and so did waiting too long to get kaya latched on.  i felt like less of a loser.  i also should have had the balls to make sure that the nurses were using a "slow flow" nipple on the bottles they were using to feed kaya.  it was one of the things they taught you in lactation class.  don't teach your child to have it the easy way coz your body can't compete with that.  i was just too busy feeling inadequate and intimidated by all the expertise around me.  the well meaning staff at the NICU were doing their primary function which was to take care of the baby and they did an amazing job!  but i've since sent in a recommendation note regarding the slow flow nipples.  nature has an amazing way of working things out thankfully.  

    a last note on nature having an amazing way of working things out.... 

    all the women in my family are C and D cups.  they used to look at me (and my lil A cupper) and wonder what happened.  my mom, who worked at maidenform at one point, would bring home bras for me that could give a wall cleavage.  my aunt had laughingly told me at one point that she would pay for a boob job when i graduated college.  that day came and i nudged her about it (jokingly).  she said she would cover for one boob.  not desiring any uneven results i politely declined the offer.  well, apparently i'm a late bloomer.  now finally, at 37 and one child in, i've caught up to the rest of the women in my fam.  crossing my fingers and hoping they are here to stay.  if not... i'm starting a re-inflation fund.  

    all that said, today i can title this entry "beauty and the boob".  had i written this 3 weeks ago it would have been "boobie and the beast".  

    i've started to get serious about taking kaya's picture.  going to attempt a "52 weeks of kaya" project.  this is kaya at 3 weeks old.  i can't believe how much her face has changed already!  all that milk she's getting is filling in her cheeks.