Author: sophiahsin

Hello and welcome. I'm glad you're here. I am a freelance commercial and lifestyle photographer based in Vancouver. I am known for creating minimalist and clean imagery accompanied by good light and creative storytelling. On top of being a photographer, I am also many other things — an artist, a med school graduate, an educator, designer, accidental writer, a lover of em dashes and an unapologetic library nerd. For project inquiries, creative ideas or just to say hi, drop me a line at hello@sophiahsin.com.

Say Hello to A Hog Named Bob

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Hello!

A little update from Taiwan. Today was a very special day. I traveled out of Taipei into Keelung and came home with a new friend — Bob the Hedgehog!

I realized there will never a time when I feel ready enough for many things. Things like new cities, new beginnings or new pets. But the beauty of life is to make up your mind and move forward with complete courage while expecting the very best.

Taipei will be the eighth city I call home in my many years of life. I have never known where I am heading next and I figured that’s the way it will always be. Moving around so much also made me realize the importance of being present, of making home wherever I am, and to accept every challenge that comes up with a fully committed heart. Sometimes those decisions involve hedgehogs.

So now, I am excited to call this city home and look forward to what I can create here. I know there will always be limits that come with each place like geographic location, industry, and culture. But right now, I look forward to growing lots in this season — in boldness, in creativity, in kindness, and to believe that there is nowhere in the universe to be now but here.

With that being said, here are photos documenting this special day with Bob.

keelung_harbour_taiwan_基隆港_sophia_hsin-5A rainy day at Keelung Harbour. This was the city where I lived and attended music school. The concrete building on the right was where I held my elementary graduation concert.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-4.jpg
Meeting Bob — the lightest colored hog among his siblings. Basically love at first sight.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-2.jpgTiny Bob. Born December 12, 2017. Two days after Amelia left for heaven and a week away from my birthday. His hedgehog coloring is classified as “milk tea” or “white chocolate”. Both delicious.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-3.jpgTo new amigos!

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Hello 2018

Hello 2018

Oh my. It feels like yesterday that I got home from my backpacking trip in India and sat down to write Hello 2017.

What a year. 2017 has been a year of gain, loss, refinement, changes, and celebration.

There have been highlights like working with amazing people, seeing creative ideas come to life, and feeling more content with my creative self. There have been lows like moving countries, redefining home, losing my pet hedgehog/creative partner, but learning and discovering a lot about myself in the process.

This year, I want it to be a year less focused on achievements and goals but people and home. After all, I have to realize that the best art is art that is created from a place of contentment, a place where you are surrounded by friends and family. And a place where you can be quiet, to come to oneself and inspired by the water.

This year, I want to create art that is not the best art but art that welcomes imperfection, art that celebrates connection over perfection, and most of all — to create from a place of wonder, beauty, and deep hope that motivated me to make art in the first place.

Here is to the new year. To a year of celebrating more and celebrating better. To days off, cups of tea, conversations, journaling, collaborating, to dreaming and executing ideas, newness, intentional art, creativity, and furry friends.

Happy New Year!

Postcards from New York II

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A quiet moment from Washington Square Park, NYC

Hello from Taipei, Taiwan!

I have this funny feeling that I have to be in a new city before I can process and write about the previous one. It is wonderful being back in Taipei. There is much inspiration in revisiting old places and some days it feels like I never left. Although it is interesting living in the grey area between a local and a foreigner — I have never felt more clarity that I am in the right city at this time of my life.

This season will be spent working on a personal projects (hint: hedgehog book) while taking on freelance photo shoots. Between jet lag, stuffing my face with Taiwanese eats, waking up super early and navigating this familiar and unfamiliar city — I am slowly discovering a handful of local and international creatives. Excited for the next season and trying not to book a flight to Japan anytime soon.

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Sunset with Lady Liberty from Brooklyn Bridge Park
Now, back to New York City — the city of creativity, art, thunderstorms, scorching metro systems, and galleries you can spend a lifetime exploring with crowds as dense as any major Asian city.sophia_hsin_new_york_yoko_kato_long_island_city-8sophia_hsin_new_york_yoko_kato_yokocca-9Studio visits with @yokocca
I love a social media friendship turned into an afternoon of conversation with homemade jam and chiffon cake. It was a delight being able to visit Yoko’s studio tucked away across the water in the quiet of Long Island City. yoko_kato_japan_new_york_city_family_portrait-1Akari and Kaisei are the most adorable active kids. I could have spent a long time taking photos of them.della_orrey_c3_brooklyn_new_york_portraits_photography-1Portraits with Della
Della Orrey — my boo, talented musician friend and sister in Christ. It was inspiring getting to see her work at C3 Brooklyn. Getting to experience New York from a local’s perspective was also an eye opening experience though I got reprimanded a couple of times for being too much of a tourist 🙂Hanging with the talented Mark Leubbers at Le Labo in Williamsburgsophia_hsin_new_york_queens_-6Chasing light on the streets of New York. The light and shadow on fire escapes get me every. single. timesophia_hsin_new_york_ineriors_guggenheim-1Interiors from the Guggenheim. I love you Frank Lloyd.sophia_hsin_new_york_nalata_nalata_photographer-7
Shop visits with Natala Nalata
It was wonderful meeting the shop owner and fellow Canadian in the city. The ceramic exhibition from husband and wife — Momoko and Tetsuya Otani was also a pleasure to experience.sophia_hsin_new_york_matcha_shop-10ichiyos_matcha_vancouver_bc_styling_photography-1Matcha Matcha
I am really getting into matcha these days and New York had so many matcha shops to offer. My favourites — Cha Cha Matcha and Ippudo New York. Here is a set of new photos I shot for Ichiyo Matcha in Vancouver too.

Next week I will be heading down South to tropical Kenting for a creative retreat. I look forward to spending time by the ocean, getting my feet in some white sand and unwind from the last season of work and travel.

Till next time x

Postcards from Virginia: A Holiday With my Irish Family

washington_dc_ Shenandoah_National_Park-3The wonderful view from Shenandoah Park, Washington, DC

Hello from Virginia.

I have been spending the last week in our cottage in the mountains with my Irish family, whom I met in China a few years ago and it’s been a jolly time. I feel fortunate to see to new places surrounded by family, and am learning lots about British culture and Irish tradition.

A few curious things I have learned about the Irish:

• Tea and biscuits are to be had at least three times a day
• The Irish find humour in everything
• Peanut butter is deemed a North American evil. The smell — just as rotten as veggie mite
• To be Irish you must have a love for potatoes and butter
• Every kind of fabric in the house goes under the iron. Towels, jeans, socks, sheets, ties, you name it

madison_county_usa_1Mornings around the breakfast table. Toast with butter and jam are staples.

Virginia is a peaceful county, it is a land filled with blue skies, sweet corn, and rolling hills dotted with animals. It is a nice change of pace from my previous week in New York. It is one of the first places in North America where I can hear summer cicadas that remind me of Asia — an unfamiliar yet peaceful place.

washington_dc_ Shenandoah_National_Park-4washington_dc_ Shenandoah_National_Park-10My Irish family. All three generations

We will spend the next few days visiting historical places, civil war monuments and local towns that hold much Southern charm. Most of the time it feels like I am taking a crash course in American history and but I am gaining an insight into a culture that is different than what I have learned from Hollywood films. It is an educational and eye opening experience.

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Chatham Manor in Fredericksburg. This place has the loveliest gardenscharlottesville_virginia_usa.jpgA little corner from Charlottesville, Virginia. A beautiful little town despite the recent riot

With all the negative news that comes from the media these days, I find myself especially thankful to be here. I am reminded that even though the world is not always a peaceful place, there is much good and beauty to be captured and look forward to.

Till next time.

En Route II

The end of August brings to the day a slight chill in the air, a change of pace and the quiet announcement of fall just around the corner.

I love these moments before making a big trip — days of madness where you scramble to make last minute errands, work on that last minute project and pack your worldly belongings in a travel friendly box.

There are those precious mornings where you wake to the quiet of the day and sit to watch your city wake up with the light glinting off windows, take in the hum of traffic and cries of the birds heading south.

With each trip I make and home I move I feel a shift in the idea of home. Home — really is a place to sit on your sofa and contemplate a city, a place to make food for people in your life, a shelf to store your books, and a place to shut out the world and leave and to return again.

I am excited for the next season of adventure that awaits.

new_york_city_the_met_museum_sophiahsin.jpgYesterday morning at The Met in New York City. The moment — the light, the music, the colour — was perfect.

Pender Grocery: An Interview + Pan Con Tomate Recipe

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With it’s colourful interiors and sun-lit space—it is hard to miss this charming grocery store on Pender street. The smell of fresh baked goods beckons you in to admire the shelves and tables that are wonderfully stocked with Spanish goods, everyday necessities and organic produce.

Today, I sit down with Shawn, one of the three founders of Pender Grocery. Shawn tells stories of food and travel in the Basque region, how he discovered his passion for food, and their vision to cultivate slow living in a busy city. For a moment, my mind is teleported to apple fields, farmer markets, old towns and a relaxed and pleasant ambience that the store seems to emit.

Tell me how you started from importing cider to opening a grocery store in downtown Vancouver.
A few years ago, my wife and I travelled to Spain to visit our friend Michael, who was the chef of a restaurant in San Sebastian, a city known for Michelin restaurants. Michael introduced us to Basque cuisine—we experienced the pintxo culture, and ate our way through restaurants, each more interesting than the last. The experience shook me and there I discovered that I had a deep passion for food. It was a lightbulb moment. After Michael moved back to Vancouver, the three of us started importing wine and cider from the region and it led to importing goods, and the opening of this store.

Opening a store was actually a plan for us in the next three-five years. Luckily, we came across this space at the perfect time, and the landlord, who was hugely supportive of our idea, made us an offer we couldn’t resist.

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The sign on the wall and decorations in the store caught my attention the moment I walked in, how did the look and design for the store come to be?
We are actually sitting in a space that used to be parking lot 100 years ago. The sign on the wall is something really special—we uncovered it when we were tearing down the walls to reconstruct the space. It is a ghost sign from 1906 that was covered up in 1908. We decided to keep it to lead the look of the space. After that, everything seemed to fall into place. Many of the vintage pieces here are collected from friends and family as well as passed down from Kelly’s late grandmother.

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This is a very interesting location to open a grocery store, what is it that you hope to bring to the community here?
Living in the city, we are disconnected from farmlands and we don’t get to see how food is grown and made. We felt that the area was lacking a grocery store, and the idea was to create a Bodega—a grocery store for the neighbourhood.

Our customers consists of working professionals, and residents form the local community. We want to cater to everyone but also want people to come in not knowing what to expect. We want to invite shoppers to take their time to browse, and to be inspired to cook.

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Using ingredients from your shop, what is a simple and delicious recipe that anyone can make?
I love a good Pan Con Tomate—a humble recipe with few ingredients. Slice a fresh tomato, place on traditional crusty bread, drizzle with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt. A simple snack can be a good can of conservas from the store—sardines, squid or mussels marinated in Galician sauce. Simply open a can, dip with bread, and eat with gusto with a glass of wine. It is a tasty high end treat.

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Pan Con Tomate Directions

In a small bowl combine sliced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Whisk until combined

Toast the bread slices individually until golden warm and crispy

Set on plate and sprinkle with sea salt

Top with fresh basil

Serve

How to Make Totoro Rice Cakes — A Tutorial

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Before I go off into the fascinating world of Totoro Rice Cake’s, there are lyrics from The Cinematic Orchestra – To Build a Home I must share.

It goes:

Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree as old as me
Branches were sewn by the colour of green
Ground had arose and passed it’s knees
By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top

I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me

Combining these lyrics along with my favourite Hayao Miyaziki film hero—Totoro—I can just about envision the furry beast standing beside his acorn seeds, climbing on tree tops, and roaring his head off in ferocious grace for all that have ears to hear.

It is incredible to think that someone thought of stringing these words together into a song that is a perfect soundtrack for making Totoro rice cakes.

I think these things lead to a certain kind of excitement in being a creative. Knowing that you possess a skill or ability to create something that resonates with the rest of the world. For this season, that being me, in my studio where I dream of ideas and set about creating them.

To know that I have at the tip of my fingertips the ability to command to life an army of Totoro’s is quite empowering. While this post is to share my love for rice cakes, I hope that we all find and pursue diligently that medium where we bring much joy to ourselves and to the world.

Without further ado, here are steps to making your own Totoro rice cake, for you and for me.

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You will need:
Ground sesame powder
Cooked sushi rice
Piece of sliced cheese
Sheets of nori
Clean boba straw
Toothpicks
Leaves to decorate

totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-13.jpg1. Mix sesame powder into rice for desired shade of grey. Puncture cheese with boba straw for Totoro eyes.totoro_rice_cakes_sophia_hsin_tutorial-14.jpg2. Use plastic wrap to mold grey and white rice into appropriate size for torso, abdomen and ears.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_Sophia_Hsin-4.jpg3. Trim circles of nori for eyes, nose, and half moons for belly. Insert ears into Totoro torso and secure with toothpicks.Soot_Sprites_Totoro_Rice_Cake_Sophia_Hsin-12.jpg4. For Susuwatari (Soot Sprites) — roll rice ball onto nori sheet, soften edges of nori with water to shape. Decorate with eyes.
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5. There you have it, Totoro and soot sprite rice cakes. Better when they match your socks.
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Photograph them on black.yay-5.jpgGift them to a friend.Totoro_Rice_Cake_Tutorial_amelia_hedgehog-5.jpgIntroduce them to your hedgehog.

Do enjoy.

The end.

Find tutorials to Alpaca Rice Cakes here & Panda Rice Cakes here.