Dilemma of A Photographer


Road Trip

I just took a camping trip with my husband at a remote beach to celebrate his birthday. We took back country highways most of the way. On our olden day Land McNally’s road maps, these roads we took probably would have the “dots” along indicating “scenic drive.”

We left our wooded mountain area, drove through arid rolling hills spotted by old oak trees, flat expansive fields against bare brown hills and ranches with grazing horses and cattle. It reminded me of the very first time I drove up the state highway 101 from L.A. to San Francisco more than 30 years ago. I was so awe-struck with the expansiveness and the beauty that I wanted to stop to take picture.

To this day anytime I drive through the countryside of California I am just as fascinated with the scenery I have become so familiar with. I want to stop every few minutes to take pictures.

As a photographer, I am constantly presented with pictures that I like to capture in front of my eyes. When I’m traveling on a road trip like this one, the journey is abundantly filled with imageries that I want to cut out in rectangles. Because I wanted to cherish the time I have with my husband, I was mindful of my urge to stop the car to take photos. Yet I have to be honest it is always a dilemma I have to resolve on regular basis.

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Music Heals


I met Theron a couple of weeks ago at Glenn Miller Festival in Clarinda, Iowa.  He was there to see the Japanese all-girls-high school band from Tamana, Japan, play the music he loves. [Note: Since it’s a very long story, I’m not getting into the background or history as to why these girls come here to play.] At first, he started telling me how impressed he was with the girls’ performance and how amazed by these young girls’ discipline.  Then he uttered, “But I just don’t know how they feel about me.” Puzzled, I asked “What do you mean by that?”  As I guessed he was a 91-year old WWII vet, who was assigned to the south Pacific. He flew over Japan many times then on reconnaissance missions.  I assured him those girls probably didn’t even know much about the war and unlikely to have any adverse feelings for him. I also let him know Clarinda was one of the three places in the U.S. to house Japanese POWs, yet this whole town was now hosting a big entourage of Japanese people with open arms in their homes. He was somewhat delighted to hear this but not quite convinced.  He cried as he told me the war was terrible and changed him.  The memories of the war still haunt him every day, and the only time he can forget is when he listens to the music from that time, and especially when he gets to see those Japanese girls play.
6.14.14_Clarinda-51 6.15.14_Clarinda-11 6.15.14_Clarinda-84

I was so touched by this man, who drove all the way from Wichita, Kansas, to be at the festival so he can literally get “his fix.” I made sure to take a picture of him with the Tamana girls after the concert. I made a 5×7, put it in a little photo frame and mailed it to him yesterday so he would remember every day we are all friends now.

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Through The Lens – Group Show!

I’ve been rather pre-occupied for the last couple of months preparing for the upcoming group exhibit, Through The Lens – New Photography.”  Our show is a part of a big celebration of a newly transformed Los Angeles Center for Photography (LACP), formerly known as The Julia Dean Photography Workshops.  Our group exhibit decorates the walls of LACP opening on Friday, April 25, 2014.  We, eleven photographers, have diligently worked hard to get this show together.  We call it “New Photography” because this show includes several different formats such as Polaroid, GoPro camera, toy camera, and of course my iPhone in addition to the regular 35 mm DSLR as well as medium format film.  So yesterday, we installed our photographs at last!  It was a great feeling!


This was the first time I was involved in a group exhibit. It takes a lot to put a show together. We each was assigned to some sort of responsibility such as press release, price list, bio & statement sheets, etc. My job was to create the exhibit catalogue while my fellow, Wednesday, prepared the postcard. And voila, here it is!


Then some of us wanted to make sure we have catalogues of our own images and some sort of “leave-behinds” so we can either sell or share with our guests.


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My New BFF: Honeybee Trio




It’s been more than two weeks since I parted with Honeybee Trio at Fukuoka Airport after a week of whirlwind trip through Japan: 4 performances in 3 cities. The girls were not only talented singers but also very professional delivering their art. So it was such a delightful privilege for me to see how they are fairly “normal” giggly teenagers off stage. Having traveled with them, my conclusion about the secret of their success was their families’ devotion. Not just the moms but also the dads’ consistent support kept these gifted girls together and kept them focused on their gift. Moms told me the girls never fought during the six years of performing together. It was the adults who got to work out some kinks within the dynamics of this group. I find that so impressive. My colleagues in Japan were quite impressed about how well the families were getting along. I guess it didn’t come naturally, but I give lots of kudos to the three families for having perfected their dynamics.

The concert in Tamana City was the very last performance for Honeybee Trio for the time being. Now that they’re graduated from high school (Sarah will in June), they’re all going on their own path. Karli is off to Hong Kong for a mission for 2 years; Natalie is now an exclusive singer for the renown Glenn Miller Orchestra traveling around the world; and Sarah off to study music at Cal State Northridge. They may miss each other and performing together so much they just may come back together in 2 years, which a lot of us including the families, are hoping for. Then again, they are all spreading their wings onto their bright future. I only have the best of the best wishes for them.


The best part of this trip for me, though, was that I came home with 10 new great friends! We, the “girls,” especially bonded soaking in the hot spring and getting pruned for two hours. There’s an expression in Japanese, “Naked Relationships” (Hadaka no Tsukiai), meaning it’s an intimate friendship. It’s so special!

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Akiko Makes Me a First Place Winner!


So while I was traveling the remote city of Kumamoto in Japan, I received a voice message from the Council on Aging in Orange County informing me it was important that I called them back. Thank God to Skype calls, I was able to make an international call using the hotel’s WiFi signal without incurring a big charge on my AT&T Wireless bill. When I got this woman, Charlotte, on the phone, she told me I was the first place winner in the juried photo exhibit called, “Aging as Art” contest! I had even forgot about my submission I made before I left for Japan.

The reception will be held on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at Bower Museum in Santa Ana. The image along with other winners’ images will be displayed there for a few days, then will move to New Port Beach Public Library.

The images of Akiko have become so close to my heart since I shot them. I use them for my marketing materials. I am grateful to Greg Miller, who was my instructor in a workshop called, “Documentary Portraiture” and prompted me to go find a “Japanese mom” to photograph for the class assignment. Of course, I am grateful for my dear friend, Janet Mitsui-Brown, for allowing me to photograph her mother with a last minute notice on that weekend last year.

This is the image that won the first place! Akiko in her element!

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Accidental Tourist


I am currently traveling in Japan with a group of very talented young singers from Vacaville, California, named, Honeybee Trio for their performing tour.  We just spent a busy few days in Tokyo, got two great performances done, and now on a bullet train heading south for a couple more shows.

On the first day, we were lucky enough to have a little sightseeing tour of Tokyo visiting Meiji Shrine, Imperial Palace, Asakusa Sensoji Temple on the classic Hato Bus, which is like the Starline Tour buses in Los Angeles.   First we visited Meiji Shrine where there was a Shinto ritual happening for “agricultural fertility.” This is one place I had never been to even though all the surrounding area of this property was my stomping ground when I was still living in Japan. The girls of Honeybee Trio and their families got a little sample of purification water and see all the men in the Shinto robes gracefully entering the shrine and uttering the undiscernible (even to me) yet somewhat melodic “sound. 2.17.14_Tokyo-37

Our tour guide on the bus, Keiko, was cute and funny, and I got a review of some historical facts that I had forgotten and learned something new, like this was the 100th anniversary of the passing of Empress Meiji this year. (Who would have known!) 2.17.14_Tokyo-59


Needless to say, they all enjoyed riding the commuter trains and subways. And I am just as much a tourist as they are by accident. I just happen to know my way around and speak the language, but being in Tokyo with “gains (foreigners)” always gives me a whole new perspective on this giant city.

Posted in Away From Home, blog, Documentary Tagged , , , , |

80-Years Young


Ralph Michiel turned 80 late January. His wife, Lori, threw him a big party to celebrate this big birthday, and Lori’s birthday present for him was to get his “A-day-in-a-life-of” portraits taken. And what an honor it was for me to have such an opportunity! Ralph certainly has the advantage of having a wife who is a personal trainer by profession, and he’s certainly in a GREAT shape – much better than my husband, who is barely 60.


Ralph was a school teacher until he retired 20 years ago. Only several years ago in his 70s, he picked up a brand new career as an actor, and he’s working!  He was recently in a beautiful music video of Goo Goo Dolls.  It’s so inspiring to see someone that age with such zest and grace. What was more inspiring for me was the fact that Ralph and Lori have been married for 30 years this year. Their love for each other was so palpable.   I told them I will be married for 10 years this coming September, and I have to admit, sometimes it feels like a lot of work and 30 years seem like a long time!  Yet it’s something I would aspire for.  Thank you, Ralph & Lori!MIchiels10 MIchiels11

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My First Solo Exhibit


The new year started rather slowly for me. I took some time off to reflect on the year past and the year ahead between the holidays. As the activities of 2014 started to roll in, I’ve been conscious about not getting back into a hectic life.  Fortunately, it seems that 2014 is on a good start for me as I received a message in the beginning of the month that my very first appearance in a group gallery exhibit at the Kiernan Gallery in Virginia concluded with a sale of my piece.

And today I’m excited that my very first solo exhibit is going to be up next weekend! Thanks to my client and friend, Jane Srebnik of Jane Srebnik Landscape Design, who also owns a well established restaurant on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, Jack’s On Montana, we are able to realize my long time dream of having a solo show titled, “Forest and the Sea“. These images are from the places I love to go for contemplation and solace.


The above image is from the area in Japan my father used to love to hike in. It is a very sentimental piece for me as I shot this image when I went to sprinkle his ashes in the forest where he used to rest during his hikes a year after he passed away. It was particularly beautiful as the wild cherry blossoms were in full bloom. The images below are shot with my iPhone on my regular morning bike ride to the beach from the same spot at Will Rogers Beach.

The show will be up from Friday, January 31 through the end of February. Unfortunately, we are not able to have a reception as the restaurant stays open from breakfast through dinner. I hope you can stop by for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even coffee.

Jack’s is located at 1610 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90403. They are open every day from 8AM through closing at night.



Posted in blog, iPhone, Seasons & Scenes Tagged , , , , , |

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year!

I experienced some painful losses earlier in 2013, but I find myself in a very inspired place as we greeted this new year. Wishing you many blessings and looking forward to sharing them with you in 2014!



Sunrise, January 1, 2014
From Questhaven Retreat Center


Izumi Tanaka
田中 泉

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Absolute Eye Candy: Stunning Mid-Century Home Renovation


As the year draws near the end, I’m looking back at all the different projects I worked on this year. In the realm of architecture and interior photo shoots, this was one of the most exciting projects.


This is a house in Santa Monica Canyon originally designed by Robert Alexander, a contemporary of Richard Neutra, and built in 1954. The current owner purchased this house in 2000, and by then the house had been slightly renovated but the original structure hadn’t been changed yet. It sits in the canyon surrounded by enchanting nature with tall eucalyptus trees and a creek. The owner had a vision to create something truly great – retaining the original mid-century modern design. It took three phases of renovation concluding with the most expansive work around 2008.



For me it was like eye candy. Everywhere I turned, there was a picture. I was particularly resonating to the simplicity of overall design. No surprise, the owner had spent some time in Japan and was greatly influenced by Japanese aesthetics. His collection of furniture, art pieces, books and objects all played in the harmony of this space. What a treat to have an opportunity to photograph a home like this.

Posted in blog, Homes & Interiors Tagged , , , , |