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Life as a Photographer

Traveling to San Francisco to photography for San Francisco Conservatory of Music feels almost like a storm chase: a thrill that rides on the edge of sanity with the marathon days. It’s meaningful to capture my alma mater’s creative, joyful spirit for their marketing materials. Trips are always super dense and exciting, as I meet new and old friends, while exploring new corners of the city.

Here’s a time-lapse of my December 2017 4-day trip, documenting all the adventures. Buckle-up your seat belts and enjoy!

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Sleeklens Lightroom Presets

In my years of photography, I've learned that post-processing is sometimes half the artistic voice of a photographer, so more of my learning curve in past years have been with understanding color and post-processing.

Sleeklens recently kindly offered me their "Strike a Pose" workflow in exchange for an honest review.  It has some general "all purpose" automated presets in addition to a "build your own" workflow steps.  (See below for example.)  In addition, there's brush presets that allow for you to localize changes.

It's perfect for one who's starting out and wanting to understand the workflow a portrait photographer goes through.  They're also super useful if you're in a real time crunch and want some favorite "go to" looks.  Their "All-in-One" offers some interesting ideas, although I only find a few of them useful for my personal "color voice."

Since I'm a perfectionist and experimenter, I will only use select presets as a spring board before fine-tuning, and the entire library holds interesting ideas for me to deconstruct.  For the brushes, I typically take that specific level of editing to Photoshop.  I believe in understanding tools and wielding them to your vision, rather than letting an automation dictate your voice.  However, they offer good ideas (especially to beginners) of how to build one's voice with their workflow.

Check out their preset library!   https://sleeklens.com/product/professional-photo-editing-service/ and https://www.pinterest.com/sleeklens/lightroom-presets/)

Below is an example of their All-in-One "Crisp Dawn" preset, turning my black/white photo into this beautiful result.


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Instagram and 500px Diary!

For a long time, I've struggled with finding the time to make a proper gallery of photos that tell the story behind each, not just posting without sharing the associated adventure.  Finally, I started a 500px and Instagram account, where I'll start posting my most favorite works.  With each photo, I will have captions and with some, longer stories.  Feel free to check them out for more updates!

https://500px.com/chopinsings  (Fine Art)

https://www.instagram.com/carlinma_/ (Fine Art + photo gigs)



Hawaii International Music Festival launch!

I'm exhilarated to announce the launch of Hawaii International Music Festival, thrill of the senses!  I have been closely collaborating with Co-Founders Eric Silberger (prize-winning violinist of Tchaikovsky International Competition XIV) and Amy Shoremount-Obra (Metropolitan Opera soprano), spearheading a series of unique, experiential concerts, entwining classical music with Hawaiian culture, food, and coffee.  I'll be photoblogging and curating the journey, from Volcano National Park, Morimoto Waikiki Restaurant, Pahala Plantation House (coffee farm), and more!

This festival is a dream come true, combining my love of photography, music, nature, and interdisciplinary discovery together.  I can't wait to share more, once it begins in August!  Check out our website for more info - www.himusicfestival.com.

Here's a shout out to our talented musicians/artists yet to be mentioned above - Daniel Lelchuk (cellist), Kwan Yi (pianist), Mikayla Sager (our young artist in residence), and Rusty's Hawaiian 100% Ka'u Coffee!



Sunrise at Bedwell Bayront Park

Sunrise is a time when we witness the birth of a day, which always fills me with deep gratitude of being alive.

On the last day at Music@Menlo last year, I stayed up really late working for the morning press deadline.  At 4:30 am, I faced the decision; go to sleep or witness the morning miracle... and I chose the latter.  This decision, I've never regretted.

I look forward to returning to Music@Menlo as their photographer, and hopefully to return to this beautiful park ... having taken a nap before sunrise next time....


As the sun cracked above the clouds, I found myself running to get to the perfect viewing point....

*cue heaven music*  I made it!

morning companions... Abbey Road?



Engagement Session with Stephanie and Brian

Here's a throwback to a special engagement session one year ago,  with two incredibly fun and loving people... my sister Stephanie and Brian (who's now married, one year later!).  We had so much fun shooting together exploring different ideas spanning two cities and three days.  They have such quirky, loving spirits, and I couldn't be happier to share their joy to the world.




Spring and Summer - Time of Blossoming Projects!

With summer around the corner and spring blossoms floating off, I look forward to sharing projects that have taken fruit this last busy year in Seattle!  From a wedding shoot at Safeco Field to beautiful autumn family shoots to photograpy-music concerts (including a bird themed one!), this year has been a complete blur, being welcomed into the Seattle community as a photographer and pianist.  After I perform (on piano) this week for a Nepal Benefit concert, I'll start compiling more stories and thoughts to share.

In the meanwhile, let me share a few of my photo/quote projects.  Prose and Photos blend strongly, for one speaks directly at the mind while the other evokes the senses, combining the pointed and the infinite together.



New Start in Seattle!

Rain rain, comes and goes,

Always making flowers grow.

Breathing life to Earth’s vitality,

Giving me visions of greater clarity.


Seattle!  I just moved here to this famously rainy city a few weeks ago, and I can’t wait to explore the artistic possibilities between music and photography.  Check back soon with major website updates, including a reel of photos from a few wedding shoots and a perfect weekend at Mt. Rainier!

Nature inspires us to remember that we are all one and connected.  It is vital that we take the time to reconnect with Nature in our Digital Age, to remember that our actions have consequences to our natural physical environment, not just our careers and human relationships.  Our relationship with the environment is just as important; it feeds our bodies food and our minds peace.  For this, I am most thankful that the Seattle area offers such fantastic Nature possibilities.

I can’t wait to share with you my photos of Mt. Rainier, which will be posted up soon.  There are some special moments in the collection, since I finally achieved two of my personal photography dreams: 1) staying up late to photograph the stars and 2) waking up early to catch sunrise at the mountain top.  When inspiration hits, who has time for sleep…. Below are a few sneak peek pictures!