lifestyle

Postcards from Taipei + A Playlist for Asia

taipei_danshui_fishermans_wharf_sophia_hsin-5.jpgSunset at Fisherman’s Wharf in Tamshui, Taipei

It is so weird being back in Canada after a month in Asia.

While I feel that my soul will forever be stuck somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between North America and Asia, I am glad for photos and stories to linger over these trips and memories.

When I think of Taipei, I think of the scorching tropics, the smell of pineapples, scooter exhaust and a city vibrant with the best selection of night markets, alleyways and temples that take you back in time.

Here you will find the perfect mix of western influence and Chinese tradition with traces of Japan. But the best thing about Taipei is always the hospitality of people who are ready to make a tourist feel like local.

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Huashan 1914 Creative Park: One of my favourite places with ongoing exhibitions of Asian designers and creatives, music festivals and coffee shops to sit in and watch Taipei go by.

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Taipei Main Station. Taken in 2014

So if you ever find yourself in Taipei, be prepared to let go of your western politeness, go all out with the best food, island scooter adventures and a warm experience of Asia you will not too soon forget.

A playlist for your trip: 

1. Crowd Lu – 100 Ways of Living (盧廣仲 – 100種生活)
If you are on the hunt for Taiwanese musicians this guy is such a good place to start. I love his humble lyrics like buying breakfast with homies (soy milk and salty donuts all day every day), wise words from his grandmother to the pursuit of his musical journey. He also works often with my favourite photographer Hideaki Hamada.

2. Nujabes – Aruarian Dance
Trust me. So good.

3. Ryuichi Sakamoto – Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence
I found out about Mr. Sakamoto during my college years and my ears have been in love since. A pianist and slightly moodier composer (much like Studio Ghibli for adults), you will find yourself moved with his soft and deep pieces like Energy Flow and Rain.

4. Deserts Chang – Bao Bei (張懸 – 寶貝)
This lady is an inspo with her soft vocals, rich cadenzas and creating music for deeply sentimental people.

5. Shanghai Restoration Project – Jade Buddha Temple w/ Di Johnston
I found out about Dave Liang during my years living in China. It has been a treat following this Asian American producer turn Chinese folk songs into modern tunes. Shanghai Restoration Project brings me back to Shanghainese streets, steamed dumplings and music theatres with women clad in silk gowns and jade bracelets.

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Taipei has a pace that is surprisingly laid back for a popular Asian city. I love watching the locals stop for photos of flowers, trees, boats and anything that catches their fancy.
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Exploring old alley ways around Gongguan. Many of these apartments used to be air raid hidings from the Taiwan/Japan War in the 1900s.
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Monster shaved ice at Roji, Taipei – Are they not cute? I died a sweet death

If there was a time I grew up not knowing whether I was Taiwanese or Canadian, I am grateful for this city where I learn about my heritage every time I visit. Taipei will forever be my home away from home and hold a special place in my heart.

I leave you with a favourite quote from Ansel Adams:

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

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Till next time.

Three tips on Photography and Styling

scanteak_canada_gastown-17.jpgI get many questions on photography and styling so I thought I will share some tips here along with photos from a recent shoot for Scanteak.

There is no greater joy than the moments on set where you get to be behind the camera, working with your hands and finishing a project with a feeling of great contentment.

Here they are: scanteak_purebread_gastown-5.jpg

1. Keep it simple, work on composition and utilize white space
I am guilty of over-preparing for every set even now but I am always surprised how a good space, ample planning and fresh beautiful props go a very long way. As Phil Hansen says ” “We need to first be limited in order to become limitless.” You don’t need a lot to create magic but it does take some practice and honing to create a refined look. Remember that imperfection is beautiful too.

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2. Choose your light carefully
Lighting, lighting, lighting! Photography is all about lighting. You can shoot the most wonderful set in bad light and it will be 😦
I love working with natural light, by a large window and preferably during a time when there is no direct sunlight hitting the subject. If I am shooting indoors I always ask  to turn off  certain lights as multiple light sources can distract and change the tone of your photos.

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A few my favourite creatives: @verdenius, @cafe_no_ma, MUJI and Azuma Makoto

3. Put together a mood/vision board
If you are an indecisive person like me (I can never decide on pho or sushi, too hard!), a good trick is sketch your concepts, put together a mood or vision board, print it and take it to the shoot. It’s very helpful having a visual guide on set and you also save time communicating to people(example: bring me a chair that looks like this!).

Other than that, planning, creating a shot list, getting inspiration and getting hands on practice is always a good thing. And of course, rules are meant to be broken so take these tips with a grain of salt and trust your gut. As the wonderful Rumi says:

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.

scanteak_canada-6.jpgLeave any questions here and I’ll get back to you!

Photography, art direction and styling by me

Gratitude

FullSizeRenderSunset at Lions Bay – moments before I jumped off a 50 feet cliff and got covered in barnacles scratches and a heart filled with adrenaline. We stayed out till midnight and watched the water light up with bioluminescent plankton. It was one of those moments where you feel really alive and actually want to tuck away your camera to enjoy the moment.

Tonight as I’m typing out this post I’ve just moved into a new apartment, picked up my visa for India, sent off prints to the print shop and I’m eating fresh mochi from a friend that dropped me off to my new home. It’s beautiful, bright and everything I ever imagined in one of the nicest places in the world.

I can look back on this week and think of all the friends that I have around me, people I got to meet, events I attended and the satisfaction I have everyday from working for something I’m passionate about and believe in.

I’m so excited thinking of the next few months of travel. Places I go and things I see that break my heart a little and make me appreciate how human I am. I can’t wait to see the photos I’m going to take, people that will leave footprints in my life and pieces of history that’s bound to make me small and powerful at the same time.

At the end of the day, I am just thankful—for work, an education, things that kick my bum and motivate to learn and be a better human, opportunities to be more authentic and fearless and days to look forward to. I don’t know where I’ll be without my community. And of course the little things that make the days sweet and beautiful.

Here is to the next season of exploring the unknown and moving onward. 38 days till India!

Blueberry arugula salad recipe and llamas

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The wonderful thing about growing up is having a lot of your childhood wishes come true, like photographing llamas or picking fresh berries on a blueberry farm.

I took the liberty of the weekend and drove out to the unknown territory of Maple Ridge, known for it’s fruit, vegetable farms and llamas.

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I have always wanted to photograph a llama. The small black one is only two days old.

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I’ve never seen a blueberry bush growing up in Asia and I’m proud to admit that I must have ingested a couple pounds of blueberries that day. It’s safe to say that you can never get enough of the good things and berries are one of them.

There is not better way to end a blueberry picking day than visiting llamas on a farm. The owners were so kind to show us around and I got to pet a few that were being trained. It was an extraordinary experience.

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Llama with a very attractive backside

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Llamas are like large fluffy dogs with very long necks

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Mama llama with baby llama. She was so protective I couldn’t get too close but this is one of my favourites.

Without further ado, here is the salad recipe with photos. Tastier when you pick the blueberries yourself.

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Blueberry Arugula Salad with Lemon Honey Dressing:

*Serves 4
SALAD:
5 ounces baby arugula
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup roasted almonds

1/2 cup crumbled feta

LEMON HONEY DRESSING:

3 tablespoons lemon juice (half a lemon)
squeeze of honey
4 tablespoons evo
sprinkle of salt & pepper
 
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You know you’re cool when you mix your salad in a beer bucket.

Directions:

  1. Whisk together dressing ingredients.
  2. Combine the arugula, blueberries and dressing  in a large bowl.
  3. When ready to serve, sprinkle almonds and feta on top

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*Serve with chilled sweet tea

I will leave you with my new favourite quote from Edward Abbey:

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

Till next time.

Summer in Vancouver

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English Bay, the place of pretty sunsets

This coming month marks three years of me being in Canada. Three crazy years of going down this creative journey that’s often crazy but always fun.

I’m at this season where I feel happily overwhelmed by life and work and it’s kind of amazing. If you ask me a thousand times why I take photos I will say it’s because the world is beautiful and that there are many stories waiting to be told.

I like about how nice it is to be alive and living in a place where I have the liberty to create and write about things that matter. I hope to never take these things for granted.

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The summer is being very wonderful and I am loving all the light it brings. So much colour and time to shoot and see. And you know it’s precious because it doesn’t stick around 🙂
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Here are a few shots from my neighbourhood, city and portraits of lovley people.

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Light and shadows – this is my favourite balcony in Vancouver
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And because it is nice to share  – here are a few books I’m currently loving:  Rework by Jason Fried(great left brain strategy for creatives), A Wilder Life (Good book with plant solutions for daily life) and Miss Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I’ve always been inspired by children books and writers since I’m making my own. I’m trying read every book I can get my hands on—they’re great. Miss Peregrine will be coming out in theatre and of course anything directed by Tim Burton is a must see.
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If you’re looking for me – I will be by the beach.english_bay
Here’s to a wonderful summer!

Photo of me by Michiko
Pants and Black Lace Espadrilles from Zara
Stripe Top from Joe Fresh
Beach Blanket from Scout and Catalogue

Lorraine Sui – A Photo Shoot

One of the best feelings in the world are those moments of serendipity where you find yourself working with people you met years ago in coffee shops.

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This campaign was shot with Flowmarq for Lorraine Sui – a mom and daughter team who came together through their love for fashion and designed this adorable collection of bags for the everyday girl.

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 I got to meet the mother and daughter Judy and Natalie on the day of the shoot and learned that the bags are actually a creative result of Natalie’s journey with Autism.
Despite their challenges – Judy fully embraces her daughter’s neurodiversity and believes in her ability to create and come up with practical solutions for daily life. The bags are designed practically but meant to inspire and encourage you to live colourfully and to live out loud.
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This project was themed around color and playfulness and we had a lot of fun putting together ideas, location scouting, prop shopping, juice drinking and working with models in crazy hot weather even for Vancouver.

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 It’s those moments you have in your career where you plan and edit way into the night with too many glasses of wine but there’s no other work you’d rather be doing even though you’re always sleep deprived. It was fun.
I might have taken too many selfies during the day but I’m glad to step out the comfort of a studio and work with a team that puts much effort into executing a creative vision. It’s really rewarding watching your creative ability expand as you work with other people. Judy and Natalie are looking to open a shop in Gastown, Vancouver and I am stoked for them every step of the way.
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 Till next time.
Models: Kirstyn and Caylene
Art direction + photography: Me
Makeup: Winnie wu
In partnership with: Flowmarq
Special thanks to our friends at: The Juice Truck

Postcards from New York

brooklyn_bridge_nyc_sophia_hsin (1 of 1)Hai Brooklyn Bridge

Remember when you were little and read all the E.B.White books and watched the sailboat race in Stuart Little and decided that you wanted to go to Central Park and visit New York for yourself?

The New York I met this winter was crowded, incredibly hot (I’m talking about 20 Celsius in December here) and a few shades grittier than I imagined. But the moment you find yourself in a city you’ve had on your travel list for so long is the moment you believe you can do anything you put your mind to. It’s a girl boss moment.

I love waking up in a new city to the twitchy feeling in your stomach because you know there are so many new things to try and places to explore.

Here are a few favourite photos from this trip.

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The Egyptian exhibition was beyond cool and I stood here and took like 10,000 photos.

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Eats with the lovely Nana. Yes, the food is as good as it looks and Whyte Hotel is probably my favourite non-minimal hotel ever.

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Brooklyn Bridge

Tourist check.

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Not going to lie, I can live off coffee and milk bar ice cream.

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Totokaelo 

Cooler than the one in Seattle. Unrealistic wardrobe goals check.

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Came here for marbled tables and photogenic matches lattes.

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Bakeri
My future home is going to have this lightning. Plus Williamsburg is the neatest hood for shops and coffee ever.

Thanks to Justin for showing me around. Too bad we came on a cloudy day and missed the window light. The sculpture with the creepy dead cat is worth checking out though.

That’s all for now. And for what I haven’t photographed here’s to more future trips.

Till next time New York City, you were a dream.

Shirt from COS, ZARA. Photo 1 of me by Nana. Everything else by me.