A lot changes in a decade…

Before I actually lived in downtown Sacramento I would visit it and just explore as a teenager. Between classes or when I had a night off and nothing to do, I would roam the streets of downtown and just take it all in. Having been dragged off to suburbia as a child and raised in what felt like the middle of nowhere, being downtown was an exciting cultural adventure for me. I remember one afternoon,  while going around and experimenting with my camera, I stumbled upon an empty parking lot that backed up to a cool abandoned warehouse. I took some photos around the empty lot and its building, which probably hadn’t been painted since the 50s, and then took a couple snaps of the top of that beautiful old warehouse.

The Historic Lawrence Warehouse, 11th & R streets, Circa 2004-2005
The Historic Lawrence Warehouse, 11th & R streets, Circa 2004-2005

Its 10 years later and I now live in that warehouse. I knew this warehouse looked familiar the second I saw the rooftop structure for the old water tanks. Somewhere deep in my very unorganized basket of negatives and their photos, I knew I had a photo of this building, which is now called the Warehouse Artists Lofts. I’m not sure if its kismet, coincidence, or just meant to be, but so many things lined up perfectly for me and this move. I literally found out about the opportunity to live here for cheap the night before the applications were due. The logo for the building is almost identical to something I made up for my own name when I was like 9, I used to sign all my art and stuff with that damn logo which was basically inspired by the FILA logo where all the letters were connected. That was the most embarrass thing I’ve ever typed, by the way. The final thing that makes me think this was totally meant to be, is this photo. There is something so weirdly historically awesome about living in a random warehouse I photographed a decade ago. I didn’t know that 10 years later that building would be dedicated to the artists of this town and become a historical landmark. I didn’t know that I would be a part of one of the biggest accomplishments for the Sacramento local arts scene. I am so in love with the history of this town and now I get to be a part of it. I get to experience it. I get to leave my mark on this city in one of the coolest ways ever.

Now my real work begins, I need to live up to what is expected of me here and I am terrified, because success is scary as hell, but I am also seriously excited to challenge myself and see what I come up with.

the chicken or the egg?

Krystal & Vic (Miniatures Effect, edited to B&W)
Krystal & Vic (Miniatures Effect, edited to B&W)

Its a well known fact that I am NOT a portrait photographer. Its just not my thing or my specialty and I will be the first to admit that there are way better people out there to do your wedding, baby shoot, family portrait- whatever involving humans. Sometimes I wonder if I am not good at portraits because I hate them or if I hate them because I am not good at them. What came first the chicken or the egg? Either way I have no problem admitting my faults in this area of my life. I give so much respect to portrait photographers because their job is infinitely more difficult than any other photographers’. Portraiture is not only about composition and lighting, but you also have wild cards which are the very much alive and constantly moving, breathing, and blinking subjects. Throwing kids into the mix? Screw it, better say your prayers.

Out of the many and many photos I snapped of my godson and his family up at Apple Hill a couple weekends ago, the only ones that were acceptable were the ones of the adults. I wasn’t really trying to do portraits, I was really just there to help my best friend get an acceptable shot for her annual Christmas card portrait and I was vlogging the whole trip. I didn’t even bring my cameras (big mistake). Luckily for me my vlog camera, a Canon PowerShot ELPH 340 HS, has some fun settings (Toy Camera Effect, and Tilt Shift aka Miniatures Effect). For the record I am very much against copping out of taking real honest to god photographs and overusing filters or heavily photo-shopping your work. But if you aren’t doing it seriously or proclaiming it as art- I am totally fine with that. Anyway, I was able to snag a couple photos I liked using these in-camera filter settings which were fun to mess around with.

The Toy Camera Effect gave the photos a really strong vignette, a cool hue, and some minor blurring. The Miniatures Effect aims to achieve that tilt-shift effect everyone so loves that creates the illusion that regular sized objects on the horizon are miniature. In reality its an in-camera digital filter that just blurs out the top and bottom very heavily- but it was still pretty fun to play around with especially considering when I actually use my real cameras to shoot I always play with the depth of focus, sometimes annoyingly so.

Long story short, I ended up with a couple of fun photos and I hope you like them too.

The Calderons (Toy Camera Effect)
The Calderons (Toy Camera Effect)
Victor Thomas (Miniatures Effect)
Victor Thomas (Miniatures Effect)

late to the youtube party

So recently I took up vlogging. For those of you who live under a rock, vlogging is a video blog- or vlog for short. Basically I’ve been binge watching my favorite youtubers like BF vs GF, the CTFxC, and the most inspirational Fun For Louis. They’ve totally inspired me to document what the heck I’ve been going through, because for me at least, its totally life changing what I’ve been going through the past few weeks and I feel like things are going in a fun and positive direction. I want evidence of me living my life to the fullest, who wouldn’t? So basically I went to Texas with a lot of footage and only added to my pile. So far I’ve only had a change to edit videos from my vacation because I realized when I got here I uploaded the first two weeks of videos on my computer at home so… whoops? So here are my videos from vacation day and onward, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did making them.

 

Note: I’m really sorry for the crap video quality. I’m still using my very old camera from like 2007, I haven’t really had a chance to order a new one that has full HD video yet.

Portrait Practice

You might be tired of my posts about my best friend Krystal and her kids by now, but I’m not. I went down to Hantucky last weekend for a quick two day visit and to shoot some pictures for their family christmas card.  I’ve been needing to practice my portrait skills because I want to be a well rounded photographer and I hadn’t really shot anything in a while so taking their family portraits was a good little leg-stretcher for me. We scoped out a few orchards on our way to get a christmas tree and finally landed on one right in time because the sun was going down, and fast. I immediately regretted not bringing my reflector because of the weird leaf shaped shadows and the fact that we were shooting into the sun at some angles. We made do with what I had and tried to keep all the kids sane and happy. Krystals sister-in-law Vienna was there to help with the kids and kept them pretty entertained. I loved a few of the shots but I realized after developing these how much I still had to learn about shooting not only portraits, but family portraits. Kids are difficult, and getting everyone to smile, without looking constipated or blinking, is a task in itself. Now I fully understand why portrait photographers go digital. It just makes more sense. I loved a few of the pictures that came out even though Krystal probably won’t use them (I can’t blame her), so I decided I’d post them here. The last two were candid shots but ended up being some of my favorites.  Enjoy!

Krys & Emery
Krys & Emery
Victor Thomas & Carlos
Victor Thomas & Carlos
Vic & Carlos
Vic & Carlos

13,000 ft in the air with nothing but a hot veteran strapped to my back

So that definitely happened last month.

I’ve been talking about crossing skydiving off of my bucket list for AT LEAST 10 years now and I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it felt to cross that one off finally! I had purchased a Groupon in May on a whim when I had some extra money, otherwise I’m positive I would have put this off til my 30th birthday.  The day before my twentyCOUGHeighthCOUGH birthday I loaded up my extremely hungover BFFL Diana and we headed out to Lincoln (about 40 minutes from Sacramento) to Skydive Sacramento. I’m actually really surprised that I wasn’t more nervous because looking back on that video my palms get all sweaty and my heart races a bit. I was absolutely fine right up until the moment I realized I was about to leap out of an airplane 13,000 feet up…which was about 3 seconds before we actually jumped out, and by then it was too late for regrets. I’m so glad I upgraded to the higher elevation because I actually had time to process what the heck was going on as we were falling at 120+mph for a good 60 seconds.

Kurt, my jump instructor was a really cool guy, he is in the military (where he started skydiving) so this must be a cake walk compared to his day job I’m sure, by the time he had gotten to me he was on his 8th jump for the day. As soon as he pulled the cord and we could actually have a conversation all I could say for the first few minutes was “HOLY SHIT, YOU DO THIS EVERYDAY?!” I’m pretty sure I said that repeatedly because the adrenaline rush is like no other, not to mention the force of deploying that parachute on your body (if you could only see the bruises). I can see why he would do it, adventure aside, the ride down is absolutely beautiful. We could see pretty much all of the Sacramento area and you could see the Sutter Buttes, the Sierras, some distant clouds, and we were floating higher than birds. It was pretty breathtaking, I wish I could have taken my camera up there.  Next time I’m definitely strapping a GoPro to my head!

I’m already looking forward to my next dive, and I’m legitimately considering going through their “Accelerated Freefall” program where you do a jump school and learn to dive alone and become certified.  Now that I know what to expect I think I could have a lot more fun with it. I definitely made a couple mistakes that I won’t be repeating. Lucky for you all you can benefit from my missteps!

Val’s DO’s & DON’Ts for your first skydive:

DO eat a meal before because you will be STARVING after all that adrenaline runs its course

DON’T pig out- just in case

DO wear comfortable clothes

DON’T wear yoga pants and a v-neck if you’re busty like me. the yoga pants offered ABSOLUTELY no protection from those bruises and my boobs practically flew out of my shirt

DO bring a friend to root you on

DON’T forget to tip!!

DO upgrade to the higher elevation jumps and get the video & photo packages!!

DON’T be scared and silent, there was a quiet girl on my plane and she practically got punted out of the plane without warning probably because she was so freaked out already, I gasped when they jumped because no one expected it so fast, normally you count down lol

DO remember that as long as you follow the rules and follow the instructions your instructor gives you are  SAFE. you have a better chance of dying driving to the jump zone than you do jumping out of an airplane with a certified instructor strapped to you and 2 parachutes.

DON’T let the waivers of liability and the video they make you watch scare you off.

DO GO!!! Just do it!! It’ll be the craziest thing you do all year and everyone will think you’re a total badass even though all you did was let someone throw you out of a plane.  :)

13000feet