The San Francisco Bay Area has an abundance of astounding hikes that showcase magical forests and dramatic coastline views. As a child, I was somewhat oblivious to the scenes around me. Just about every walk I went on, I would give up halfway through and lay in the middle of the path, refusing to budge. When I became obsessed with photography, I fell in love with hiking. Taking pictures of the views around kept me interested in my surroundings. I started seeing all the extraordinary features around me that I never appreciated before. I studied how clouds change the light of an entire landscape, or the way water reflects the scenery. Over the years, I would become fixated with a particular subject, and I would spend the majority of the season focusing on their essence. I once spent the entire winter locating and photographing every waterfall in Marin. During a visit to the California Academy of Science in San Francisco, I saw the “Big Picture” award winners. These photographers had taken stunning images of nature at its absolute finest. I began to think of my photos, and assessed the difference between my work and theirs, trying to figure out how their photos were so breathtaking. Looking at those photos, I realized the key was a passion. Each photographer had a story to tell that you could see in their images. These artists had spent years studying their subjects, shooting thousands of photos attempting to perfect their craft. They are masters of their field because they live and breathe photography. At the time, I was photographing all sorts of different subjects jumping from one to the next, but I had nothing I specialized in, nothing I had achieved mastery of. I needed to put everything into a specific niche in photography. I found that passion a few months later.
I first got into photography when I was 14 years old. My sister was working on her photography homework for college. The assignment was to shoot a still life subject with two different colored lights. Immediately after seeing her photo, I knew I could produce a better image. My sister and I are incredibly competitive with each other. So, of course, my first photo couldn’t be a subject shot with two different colored lights. I had to one-up her. I decided to capture the moment a piece of fruit falls into a bowl of water. This was no easy task. There is an incredibly short window of time for capturing that moment. If you are too early or late, it is gone forever. During my first shoot, I did not end up taking the image I had intended. Instead, I became fascinated with photographing the crown of water that appears right after the fruit crashes into the water. Something was incredibly fascinating about the way the liquid reacts with obstacles. I repeated the same process over and over again, trying to capture the water crowns. I began seeing patterns within the images. Every single photo had a similar structure but different details. I started photographing liquids in its various forms. Some examples of my early projects were capturing images of water balloons popping, water drops colliding, and inks mixing. I am continuously competing with myself, trying to create images that have more of a technical challenge than the last one. Shooting liquids taught me that patience and determination are critical factors in photography. The perfect shot is out there, and all you need is the perseverance to capture it. It is immensely satisfying to finally get the shot you were working towards. It makes all the fits and starts leading up to that point worth it.
Everything changed the day my dad brought me magazine clippings of John Hallmén's “Bugs up Close” extreme macro photographs of insects. I was shocked when I saw the images. I had never seen such detailed pictures of insects before. I had no idea that it was physically possible to capture so much from such a small creature. Staring down at those photos something sparked in me, I was drawn to the images, and I wanted to test my hand at them. A few weeks later, I built a set up for photographing subjects at a microscopic level. The first subject I photographed was a dead bee I found in my house. A very ordinary-looking bee at first glance, but under a microscope, all the hidden details were revealed; the yellow hairs, pollen covering the body, and the tiny spikes on its legs. It was genuinely wondrous. I could not believe what I was seeing; the texture and detail on that bee was out of this world. I began to wonder about other insects and what features they might be hiding. From that point, I photographed every insect I could find while expanding my techniques and knowledge. Just as a camera opened up the landscapes around me, shooting insects at a microscopic level opened up the hidden micro-worlds. To me, hiking now, I don’t just observe the beautiful trees or breathtaking mountains. I study the intersecting lines in a leaf or the way a dragonfly’s wings refract the light. As I continue photographing the various micro-worlds around me, the world seems to open up a little more with every photo. The exploration of microscopic photography proves the tiniest creature holds texture that rivals any glacier, or vibrancy matching any sunset. I hope my work allows you to enjoy the beauty this world has to offer. Sometimes you have to take a closer look to appreciate everything around us.
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