Wednesday, January 29, 2014  |  Personal

99 thankful days

efore I begin, this is not an attempt to take over, overrun, or impede on the currently very cool social media challenge that has been around on everyone's feeds lately.... Instead, it is my own effort to remain grateful despite dents and pebbles on the road that we so often get :) You see, I have been really loving what the #100happydays instagram challenge has been producing on social media of late. I even wanted to try it myself, until I realized for me personally, being happy 100 days in a row was too hard. I think being human means embracing all sorts of emotions, and of course with life being the way it is, isn't very consistent, nor very predictable... and knowing the way I am, I tend to be rather expressive on all spectrums of the emotional scale haha... and sadly I literally cannot pretend to feel something when I don't. Oh the lovely joys of being a stubborn taurean, and female! haha :)  
So, I want to start my own 100-day challenge...ok, I was secretly contemplating a 365 day challenge, but lets not spoonfeed failure before we even begin haha... so, lets make it 99 ;)... not that it is at all innovative or original, but it will be one that forces me to recognise and acknowledge things I can be thankful for (not necessarily things that make me happy), even when I have a bad day. It allows me to feel sad if I want to feel sad, but still say, regardless, I am thankful and grateful for this... or that :) So here, goes, my #99thankfuldays attempt!! :) It'll also help me visually journal all the little and big things that have made some impact on my life/day, as I am extremely forgetful and I'm looking forward to be able to look back on 3+ months of documenting/recording, and then hopefully printing these out later :) Feel free to join me if you like :) I'd love to see what people are feeling grateful for and appreciative of over the next few months! :D I'll be on if you ever get curious. Otherwise, I'll be very happy to just peek into your own feeds to see what has been brightening your day with gratitude :)  
What are you thankful for today? :)  

Thursday, January 23, 2014  |  Engagements, Portraits

Anniversary Shoot: Amy and Harry 10 Years

ello friends!! It's ridiculously busy lately....However, as part of my goal to keep this blog active, even during the busiest times for me, here I am with a new post for the new year :)  
I love anniversary shoots... I'm not sure what it is about them, but photographing people who have been married has a greater sense of calm and depth to it. Pre-wedding/engagement shoots are beautiful and gorgeous, and I still highly recommend people do one to commemorate that special time in your lives, but having an anniversary shoot to me personally is even more special because it celebrates how love has matured, deepened, and solidified through life's ups and downs together :)  
Having done my own with Ju last year to celebrate our 5th anniversary (you can have a look {HERE}, it was photographed by my absolute favourite, Jose Villa), I really believe in photos of marriage after the wedding... because you don't really understand the depth and meaning of love, sacrifice, and your vows til they have been tested by time, life, trials, tribulations and joys together. So, getting to do Amy and Harry's 10th (woohoo!!) anniversary shoot was so very special... If you guys don't already know, Amy and Harry, make up the Amy Chan Hair and Makeup Artistry team and are one of my absolute favourites to go to for amazing hair/makeup... They have made so many of my brides gorgeous for their shoots, so it was such an honor to be able to give back these frames to them :) They even brought along their beautiful little girl for part of the shoot :)  
Thank you Amy and Harry for asking me to document these for you... you know so many photographers who are so incredibly talented, so this was an absolute honor that I cannot put into words.... Hope these frames remind you over the years of your love for each other, and help you to remember to celebrate love, life, and family in both the good and hard times together :)  
Much love :)  
ps: Thank you to the amazing Elaine from Butterfly Philosophy for styling their shoot with the beautiful props and ESPECIALLY those GORGEOUS flowers!! :D

Sunday, January 5, 2014  |  Personal

Hello 2014 :)

t's way past midnight, and I'm trying my best to avoid looking at the pile of work awaiting us when we re-open JSP for 2014 next weekend. Instead, I'm sitting on my bed, gathering thoughts. It's my favourite kind of place to be in to allow my writing to come to fruition. I know I haven't written much this year on a personal front, not because I didn't have much to say, but rather because 2013 has just been this never ending constant state of buzzing, and myself like most other writers need quiet, in complete solitude to allow the words to slowly come out of hiding, and start playing with the pages in front of us. I guess I've just not had a lot of that. Perhaps you will understand more why, by the end of this post. 
So, as you can see my NYE post has become somewhat of a hello 2014 post already...And as you all know, if you have been a follower of my work and my writings for the past few years, you will know I do not follow the majority in the blogging of a billion frames in one post to show what I have done in terms of pictures over the last 12 months - you all would have seen more than your fair share via my facebook and my instagram feeds, so I'll save all the still unseen frames for this coming year of blogging :) Instead, you will all know that I am a writer first and foremost (more so than a photographer, even) and that I usually will recap the year with a reflective post, so you can all truly understand what my life has been like the past year. Because, while I believe that photos are absolutely beautiful (it's why I have been doing this full time for the past 7 years), they are often only just a window into the heart of what something truly is or really means. I find that words, when expressed perfectly, fill in all those gaps. And that is where I hope to take all of you in this post :) 
So... 2013. I can't believe the past year flew by SO FAST. You know a year went by way too quickly when you don't remember any specific milestones bookmarking it, until you force yourself to really think. That was me... on reflection, I realized I celebrated my 5 year marriage anniversary, we travelled to unexplored territory in the USA and made new memories together, I gained a new niece, I learned to make red velvet cupcakes (something I need to work on haha), I lost 8kg and returned to my wedding day weight, I got very sick for a long period of time but then realized my body needed a new lifestyle and not medication to get well and when I did that my long term health improved for the better, and on the work front I learned to say no more frequently AND more firmly.  
I know that doesn't sound like much, but if I ever gave you a magnifying glass to look at the past 365 days at JSP behind the scenes, you will then see why I had no time to exercise, to blog, to sleep more, to just live more - it wasn't that the number of our shoots increased, as we stayed strict to our work/life balance quota for the year, but I learned to see and realize that it was that the demands from clients increased what felt almost like 50 fold. That, and I couldn't help but say yes to everything they wanted. By October of 2013, it nearly killed me emotionally and mentally. And that made me extremely unhappy turning up to shoots, resentful looking at my inbox, and hating it every time my phone rang. It was at that point that my team had to step in, and sit me down and give me the whole hard truth, that I needed to set boundaries (something I'm very bad at doing), and not just say no, but to mean it and do it consistently every time where those boundaries are crossed (another thing I am terrible at, because by nature, I just want to keep everyone happy). You know it gets bad when you end up having to switch off your phone because you are just inundated with the same "I want", "I need", and "now now now" messages, when you end up doing more than the photography side of a wedding, and when brides blame you or point the finger at you for having time to instagram, facebook, or even blog on your WORK blog when you should be editing their photos. It broke my heart, as it meant that living my life felt like a chain of guilt for just doing things that I believe everyone is entitled to (be it dinner with their family, a day off because you had a fight with your spouse, getting to turn your computer or phone off after hours, even blogging WORK!!)...I felt handcuffed and a girl trapped alone in a glass room and not knowing who was looking from the outside in.  
So, what happened after that was that we sat down and drafted a whole list of boundaries for not just the sake of my sanity, but also for the sake of preserving the high quality of JSP that I know most of you have come to expect (a burden and a joy that I live with every day)... these would be things I would be more strict about in terms of how we ran the business, the things I'd be willing to do for our clients, and the things I wasn't, and learning to prioritize all the things that were important to me and THEN putting my work around that. This included being able to blog even when I was up to my neck in deadlines - to us at JSP, blogging is JUST AS IMPORTANT as shooting, and editing as it is our entire window into what you have come to love about us... when the blog gets dead and quiet, JSP becomes a rather sad and hollow place, and I know from the people I talk to and messages I get from you, that you all have missed it in my absence - you see, somewhere along the dotted line of 2013, that need somehow died in between all the extra work and emailing that we shouldn't have needed to do, but was asked to do. That need, along with a lot of others, suffered. Which in turn killed me little bit by little bit til I myself felt empty. To some reading this, I know you will scoff and think - OMG, that's terrible customer service. But trust me, saying no and setting boundaries so you don't burn out, so you don't turn up to shoots exhausted, so you don't work on autopilot mode when it comes to your own creativity, so we are not working for you with resentment but rather JOY, is SO needed - we photographers are NO GOOD to anyone when we are tired, stressed, and anxious. Our natural instinct is really, wanting to do our very best for you, but you'll hardly get anywhere near our very best if our tanks have been drained and emptied to bleed dry. You really get the best of us when we are at our most happy as it means we are 100% invested, and we just photograph better as a result (and seriously, who doesn't want even more awesome photos? :D).  
2013 also saw the return of self doubt - for the first time in years, I dared to look around me. Something I said I would never do again (since 2009) for the sake of being able to just better concentrate on bettering myself and my work, instead of feeling sorry for myself because I felt like the grass was greener on the other side. This is still a work in progress as I've opened up pandora's box this year, and it will take time to clean up the mess, but this is another boundary I have realigned for myself in 2014, as I have been reminded that social media while it has been one of my greatest allies to share my work, it is a double edged sword and the other side is that I see everyone else's stuff with little or no filter. My heart is a little sensitive in this area (something I wish it wasn't, but it appears to just be a side effect of being a perfectionist), so while I am in the process of reconnecting more with all of you over facebook, and the blog, I've gone back to turning off certain feeds as well...sadly this has also meant some friends too, but it's nothing personal. I'd rather see you all face to face to encourage each other and chat about life (which we all know is the more important thing for our souls) over work, in person anyway :) Theodore Roosevelt said "Comparison is the thief of joy" and that is the why behind my rule, because let's be honest, we all compare ourselves to others, even our closest.... Plus, I just want to preserve that corner within me that continues to allow me to put out work with delight, excitement, and passion without the dampen of another's shadow over me :) 
To all my beautiful brides, the ones who have made me smile the past 12 months, you will all know that we always reward patience and the relationships that have been a joy and not a burden to us - for you have allowed us to just do our job, do it in peace, and you have trusted us the whole way from beginning to end. You have no idea how much I have needed that for my art, and my personal sanity this past year. Thank you thank you thank you. Words can never express how much gratitude I have for how much you have blessed our time together. I always pray there are more souls like you along my journey at JSP :)  
To all the loyal readers and followers - thank you for sticking around. Your faithfulness is such a blessing, and something I don't think I deserve, but one I thank God for all the time. You truly are the best :) 
To my husband, who continues to endeavour in understanding and loving me (I know it's not an easy task! Haha) in all your funny and challenging ways, I have loved doing life with you even more in 2013 than 2012, and that makes me happy, to know that despite hiccups here and there, we are always always moving forward. I am so thankful to God for His grace in this area of life we share together.  
And since we are all looking forward, I want to end with where my mind is currently...I've been extremely restless of late. I'm not sure why - I can be alone doing my favourite things, or in a room full of people and having a good time being surrounded by friends or family and my mind has just been wandering. I smell the winds of change coming, and it feels like I am standing on the very edge of something - of which, I do not know what. My mind has been in this constant state of flux rapidly darting in all sorts of directions, places, dreams, ideas, and pretty much everywhere except where I am right now - it's a little scary because the dreams are huge, and I am a perfectionist. Meaning I hate even ADMITTING I want something for fear of disappointment or failure - the bigger the desire, the bigger the fall of discouragement. So, often, I shelve these dreams, in safe corners to collect dust so that I may continue floating on the continuum of what I call present living where it is comfortable, easy, and dare I from let down. However, there's been a burning itch growing the past year or so.... Reaching an almost effervescent height in the past couple of months, whereby this restlessness and want for change is almost screaming for a release. I have only felt like this twice in my adult life - once when I decided to launch my photography career, and 4 years later when I decided to overhaul my entire brand from the ground up. To be honest, I don't know where this next wave will take me, but I am praying fear doesn't paralyze me from at least exploring it. Hopefully though, that along the way, you can see my growth, and my journey, in pretty frames as I take each step forward.  
Pray for me friends... I am not one to love change. I ,99.9% of the time run from it like a plague, so this craving of the different is very strange, but Cheryl Jacobs Nicolai once said "Embrace frustration. It pushes you to learn and grow, broadens your horizons, and lights a fire under you when your work has gone cold. Nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacency" - and that is where I stand at the cusp of 2014. Frustrated, but being propelled forward with a burning fire to hopefully broaden my horizons (while still capturing love and joy for some amazing couples in the year ahead hehe). Hopefully, in the next 12 months, while I may not have achieved this massively long list on my goals post-it in full, I will at least be further along and ahead of where I am right now. The perfectionist in me is freaking out at the non-finishing of something before its alotted time, but I hope to temper that with trust in God's sovereignty, wisdom and the training myself of looking at things with the glass being half full, not empty. And that is what they say right? It's not the destination, but the journey :)  
So... here's to hoping your 2014 is filled with an abundance of love, joy, hope, new possibilities, and the moving forward in the chasing of your untried dreams. 
Lastly, in my own personal tradition, I always end this post with a single photo of my favourite memory from the year that has gone. It is a snapshot of my last memory of Los Angeles. September 2013. Sunset. - while there were SO MANY beautiful memories created on this trip to the states, I love this one in particular, because it was calm, uninterrupted by stress or life, and represented the start of an amazing time together for Ju and I - these times are usually always my most treasured as they are just long undisturbed periods of getting to enjoy each other, and God's creation at the same time. What a wonderful combination. Happy 2014 everyone :)

Friday, December 27, 2013  |  Personal

For all the Misfits and Rejects

...God loves the rejects, and the lowly. .. 
It is the page after Christmas. The presents have been unwrapped. The feasts have been cooked and consumed with zealousness. The lights on the tree dim less brightly, now that the twinkle of excitement that Christmas eve brings has passed. And there are so many things I could write about... presents, Christmas trees, family, egg nog, love...SO many things. But my mind keeps drifting back to the one truth that changed my life in 2000. It was the year I accepted Jesus into my heart. 
So, this post will be a little different from the usual... I am by nature, a writer first and foremost at heart. Even more so than a photographer. So, there won't be any photos as it is purely an honest journal from my heart, and like the purist writer in me, I'd like to let the words flow and do the talking tonight. This is a hard post to put together... it has taken me the better part of a month, and there have been tears and tissues shed and used in the process... but I felt it necessary to share it, because it has been so persistently on my mind. God is such a big part of my life... I know a lot of you don't see that, because I don't write about Him often, but He is the very very best piece of my existence, and I wanted to share with you partly in this post, why...  
You see, I have been feeling very down about myself of late. On the work and the personal front for so many reasons I can't quite detail in full now. But to understand how I have been feeling, I need to rewind a full decade and some more. When I do that, you will see that I was not a popular kid in school. In fact, I had very few friends growing up. I never got invited to sleepovers, or parties, no boys ever asked me out, I never got valentine roses from secret admirers, and I often floated through my school days just dreaming of the time I could leave because while I wasn't hated by people, there was the occasional teasing for being a nerd, the odd racist comment thrown at my face for being Chinese, and then there was just being ignored by my own group of friends from time to time as they found cooler people to hang out with - I never felt completely accepted or loved by my peers. And it was a somewhat lonely existence, growing up where I was feeling mostly unworthy - for example, it would be a common thing for people to judge me as a cold and snobby person because of the way my face looked. Just like that, the way my face was made, already made me an outcast. Little did they know that deep down, I was just really shy. That I am naturally an introvert, and that I was really craving for their friendship, if they would only give me the chance... Maybe I wasn't likeable enough, perhaps I wasn't pretty enough, what was wrong with me? Were some of the questions I would ask myself time and time again.  
Then, one year, I heard this message from Romans 8: "God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And my life completely changed. It was then that I accept Christ in my heart - to this day, it was the best decision I have ever made. It hasn't been the easiest decision to live with, but it has definitely been the best thing I have ever done. I was so awestruck and humbled by these words because it meant that even when I was at my very worst, and when I was God's enemy and had rejected God himself, He died on my behalf so that I may live and have eternal life in Him. It gave me so much hope and encouragement because it meant that I was wholly and completely loved and accepted for who I was - even at my very very ugliest and blackest. They say a good man may die for you if you are on good standing with him, but no one will die for you if you are their enemy. But God did. And that is why I love Him so much... no matter what is going on in my life, no matter who hates me, or what scum I am being put through on a work or personal front, I know I have a God that stands behind me, and takes me with open arms, and lifts me up under His wing each and every time without fail.  
"... Though the Lord is high, He regards the lowly..." [Psalm 138] 
God loves the rejects, and the lowly. I see it time and time again in the bible, how the Lord Jesus gravitated towards the scum of society, the people that were outcasts, hated by their people, and rejected by their own family. And it always amazed me that our God, would associate with and even love the lowliest of the lowliest. He doesn't have to, but he CHOOSES to. And that's what gets me every time. God loves the lowly. I have kept coming back to this truth over and over again of late... I'm not even sure why it even surfaced in my mind, but I do know that I have been thinking a lot of the souls out there who are having it hard, the misfits, the outcasts, those who have been suffering, or have hit rock mind has thought much of you and for you lately...maybe because I consider myself as one of you. A little lost at times. Wondering where we really fit in. And just misunderstood.  
Because in truth, and I am not sure why, I have been completely overwhelmed with the emotions of being in a competitive industry matter how many clients I have, or how many smiles we manage to capture, or people we make happy with the work I churn out, all I need to do is take one look around me and I am left feeling so small. Invisible on some days. Like I am not hip enough to hang with the cool kids. It's why I am so fearful of opportunists - my husband who deals with sales and people on a daily basis has taught me so much about people over the years and I am learning to see more and more intuitively how shallow some people are, how they have appeared so warm, friendly and interested on the surface, but have used me to just get ahead or are doing the same with others - if you aren't famous or well known, you'd never otherwise hear from them. It makes me sad that there are people like that in this world. They say what comes around goes around, but I don't like to wish bad or evil on people - I only hope that they come to realize that a life made up of relationships on that thin a premise will be a very lonely and sad one, especially when work fades, your health fades, and there is nothing else left but the seeds you have sown. I only hope they have sown it in grounds that produce harvests of love, family, and deep friendships. These kind of people have no idea how much they poison my happiness, and how much they make me feel like that girl from my younger days... that girl looking in from outside, feeling like I am not good enough because the world around me tells me so.  
So this post is for all the misfits, the outcasts, the rejects, the misunderstood, the abandoned ones, the ones left out, or have hit rock bottom, the outsiders, the lonely ones, the oddballs, or even if you are just hurting and aching inside. I believe there is a place for all of you. And while we may be from different backgrounds and beliefs, my heart, love and prayers go out to you anyway, and know that I am cheering for you. I hope you conquer the world. Show them that the underdogs do win. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't, or make you feel that you aren't good enough, smart enough, or beautiful enough because someone once told me that stars can't shine without darkness....and finally remember to stay strong - make them wonder how you suddenly shone so brightly one day. I know I plan (and hope) to charge ahead with my head held high in the new year, because I have a God that accepts me wholly for who I am, faults and all, and that kind of fire and hope goes all the way through to eternity and beyond.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013  |  JSP In The Press

Featured: Style Me Pretty Nov 2013

It's always SO special to see my work in either print or online publications - to us photographers, its almost like getting a 'gold star sticker' at school :) So imagine my excitement when Style Me Pretty said they were going to run our "Mad For Mod" Editorial Styled Shoot, I just about died!!! :) During crazy peak season when I was inundated with emails that were just all about 'i want this, or i want that", it was SUCH a gorgeous refreshing change to receive an email that made me happy and smile :D  
So, THANK YOU Style Me Pretty for the incredible honor. Please know how much this means to little artists like myself, and just how special this sits with me :) And not forgetting Lina, from Chanele Rose Flowers & Styling for asking me to be her photographer for this incredible project. You bless me :)  
Anyhow, the link to the feature is {HERE

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