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There are a lots of reasons for taking pictures. One of the most important is to remember. Not just for you to remember but for your children to remember and your children's children to remember.

We recently had a friend of Paul's Photo, Stephanie, come by with some old negatives. She was cleaning out a shoe box of photos she had stowed away during college 30 years ago. As she flipped through the pictures she found some old Brownie negatives. She couldn't remember how they got in there and she couldn't tell what was on them.

Stephanie brought her negatives by The Lab at Paul's Photo and asked us what she should do. Of course we thought she should scan them (negatives hold so much information even if it looks like they're too clear, too dark, too scratched, too dusty; there's probably something there). Well, it turns out there sure was something there. The negatives were family pictures from 1930 to 1936. There were pictures of her mother at three years old with her grandma, pictures of her uncles playing together and family pictures of the family during Easter. Stephanie told us about how her mom was always the princess of the family and now she actually has proof. And she shared about how her uncles have always been best friends, even today when they're in their 80's and living a continent apart.

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The pictures also brought up new stories about her family. When she showed the prints to her aunt and uncles they started tearing up. They shared about their neighbors. She found out they where living in East LA in a Japanese neighborhood as the only Mexican family. She learned that her aunt ,who had a career in the fashion industry, was a tomboy growing up and hated cats.

What strikes me about Stephanie's experience is that these pictures weren't really for her. They were made by relatives two generations before Stephanie. But the pictures her grandparents made have become a part of her story and they inform the stories that her kids learn about who they are. These pictures have power, a kind of power that I don't normally think about when I'm photographing my family: we are writing the history of our family.

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I asked Stephanie about her experience at The Lab at Paul's Photo. She said the staff were kind and interested in her negatives. They were more than willing to put the pictures on a flash drive and made two sets of prints (her aunts and uncles took all of the prints so it's a good thing she has that flash drive). I'm was glad to hear that because we feel like we're doing something pretty special at Paul's Photo and we want you to know we will care for your families' photographs.

I asked if there's anything she would tell herself or you for that matter. Stephanie said she feels lucky that her mother is the only one of that generations that's passed away but she said it's important to take the time to sit down with relatives and write the stories on the back of the pictures. And make sure to print an extra set for yourself.

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There's a flood of pictures being made today like no other time in history. We hope you'll take the time to thinking about what they mean to you, to tell your story and to write your families history. If you need help, we're here for you.

 

Dina is our student of the month for April, 2016. Her macro photographs have a calm familiarity combined with an engaging sense of discovery. I feel like I'm exploring the unknown through the known. From a compositional standpoint she has a great sense of color, utilization of bokeh and refreshing frankness of design. Come see her work through April.

We had an interview by Creative Photo Academy's Ryan Chambers with Dina Lauro to hear about her work and what inspires her:

If you could sum up this work in one word what would it be?
Colorful

Which photograph has meant the most to you?
They all mean a lot to me. I put so much thought, sometimes too much, into each one of them.

Where have you found inspiration photographically?
In my yard and on photo walks. I also like to look at other photographers work. Sometimes I'll see a picture and think, "Wow, I never thought to take that picture in that way or from that perspective". I learn from that.

Who do you feel like you were making this work for?
Me

Was there anything about yourself or something else that you discovered making these pictures?
If I think too much about how I'm going to take a picture, I affects my creativity. I just have to relax and let it happen.

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Was there a class, instructor, Pro Talk or Adventure that really helped you connect with photography?
Definitely Boot Camp! I originally took the class just so I could take better pictures of my kids. Then once I learned what my camera was capable of, I wanted to put that knowledge to the test and discover what I was able to do. I love the challenge. Also, Mark's infectious enthusiasm for photography pulled me in. I've learned that it's so much more than just taking a picture.

Is there a piece of equipment that you really love?
I love my 105mm macro lens. It's one of the first lenses I bought.

What thread do you feel ties these pictures together besides you taking them?
They are filled with so much detail. You see things that you can't see with the naked eye.

What is your advice to someone starting in photography?
Take Boot Camp! Also, just go outside and shoot. You can take all the classes you want but the real learning comes from taking as many pictures as you can. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. You will make lots of them. Then all of a sudden you take one photograph that makes you say, "Wow, I did that!". That's a good feeling.

Do you have any projects you're planning to do next?
My project is to improve myself as a photographer. I guess you can say that my project is never ending.

What's your favorite color?
Sage green! I have a large wall in my house painted this color. It's very relaxing to me.

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See her work at our First Tuesday Art Opening on April 5th from 5:30-7:00pm. Learn More: HERE.

We love Death Valley.

It's one of the most interesting landscapes a photographer can explore.

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But aside from the beautiful, stark qualities that accompany a normal exploration to Death Valley, there's something very special happening right now. Death Valley is experiencing a rare wildflower super bloom. The dessert landscape is carpeted by flowers. Super Blooms happen once about every ten years and it's caused by incredibly high rainfall (about 3 inches).

So unless you want to wait ten years, when you'll be.... nevermind, it's time to get out to the desert. If you want to learn more check our friends at the Daily Breeze's article, "Death Valley wildflower ‘super bloom’ may peak soon"

But if you do miss it, or Death Valley just isn't your thing, we're heading out to shoot the flowers in May. Join us on the Wildflower Photo Bus Tour to Antelope Valley in May.

 

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This post comes from our Vice President of PAUL'S PHOTO and Founder of Creative Photo Academy, Mark Comon. We asked Mark to share about what's in his camera bag. Feel free to ask questions or share thoughts in the comments.

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What camera bag do you use?
LowePro ProTrekker 450AW-II

What do you use it for?
Safaris, Wild Animals & Sports

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Alaska, 2015

Tell us about your set up and how you use it.
This is my action kit...
If I am on the sidelines of a soccer match, football field or in the dugout at a baseball game this is my go to kit.
When I am on safari in Africa, Alaska or Yellowstone this is the kit...
When I am at the Zoo or Bolsa Chica capturing wildlife this is the kit

What cameras, lenses and flashes do you bring?
Nikon D810 and D750 (for now)
400mm 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8, 24-70mm 2.8, 14-24mm 2.8 and 1.4 extender

Why is it awesome for what you do?
'Cause it capture the pictures the way I like it.

What's one piece of gear you think people should have?
For action... a 400mm lens! For remote adventures... I always carry one card and one battery for each day I'm on the trip. I use a separate card so if anything happens to my equipment or the card gets corrupted I don't lose everything I shot. And I bring a battery for each day because I can't be sure I'll always have access to power and it's the most frustrating thing in the world for me to have a battery being what's separating me from the shot of a lifetime! It's not worth the risk when I've spent big bucks to be out there.

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What's one thing you carry with you that you wish you didn't have to bring?
A big lens... 400mm big!

Is there anything you would change for this to be your dream bag?
No, I love the gear and the pictures it produces.

Yellowstone, Wy
Yellowstone, Wy
You can see more of Mark's Photographs on his Facebook Page.
Questions or comments for Mark? Share them below...

your-biz

MSNBC's selected us as their 'Entrepreneur of the week'! Check out the feature they put together about us. It really captures what we're about as a company, building a community. Come be a part of what's happening!

 

Julie is our student of the month for March, 2016. Her landscape photographs have a great sense of form with use of foreground, middle ground and background. I enjoy how she utilizes color and a variety of lighting to create depth and separation through the photographs. Come see her work throughout March!

We had an interview by Creative Photo Academy's Ryan Chambers with Julie Kohus to hear about her work and what inspires her:

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If you could sum up this work in one word what would it be?
Grandeur

Which photograph has meant the most to you?
I don't think there's been a particular one, but I do I love looking at landscape photographs - particularly ones taken from the National Parks. I follow @usinterior on Instagram and the pictures they post are just absolutely stunning. I'm even more excited when they feature a picture of a place that I've been!

In this submission of work, I'm particularly fond of the photo from the Narrows in Zion National Park. It's my favorite picture I've ever taken. I went to Zion and Bryce Canyon last summer with two of my friends, Rosemary and Rukku, and none of us are "hike up a river in a slot canyon" adventurous. We did it, though, and not only was it a personal triumph to get up the courage to do something like that, but it was honestly one of the best days I've ever spent outside. There was something so incredible about walking up the Virgin River in this great big canyon with two of my best friends.

Where have you found inspiration photographically?
I love taking photos of nature and animals, but I'm also a semi-permanent fixture of the Night Hawks! I went on a whim almost two years ago and absolutely loved it! There's something about capturing reflections at night that really inspires me. I'm from a small town in Ohio originally, so getting out at night and seeing so many lights and so much activity is always a bit thrilling.

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Who do you feel like you were making this work for?
I think I made this work mostly for myself, but also for my friends, family, and my husband. I like to document the places I've been, and I like to travel with someone! I love that each photograph brings back memories of the trips I've taken. From Hawaii for my honeymoon to a trip home to Ohio for Christmas, they all bring happiness!

Was there anything about yourself or something else that you discovered making these pictures?
I have a tendency to be my own harshest critic, and as I progress as a photographer, I've learned to let go of some of that criticism. Maybe I could have composed a little better, or waited a little longer for that person to move, or maybe I should have been more patient with the sunlight, but the pictures are mine and they are something I've created. They make me happy to look at and share with friends and family, and I believe that's really all that matters.

Was there a class, instructor, pro talk or trip that really helped you connect with photography?
My dad has always been into photography and I always really loved looking at his pictures. He's the one who helped my husband, Mike, buy me a camera! Once I got my camera, I signed up for Photo Boot Camp because I figured that I should probably learn how to use it! After that, I was hooked. I love constantly being around other people who are making pictures and learning. I love seeing how others capture a scene, especially during the Night Hawks excursions! It's always amazing to me that 10 people can be set up in the same spot and you'll end up seeing 10 different interpretations of the same scene.

I have learned so much from Mark Comon, Mark Crase, and Dave Bever - it's really amazing to be learning from people who not only have the technical knowledge, but also a contagious passion for photography!

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Is there a piece of equipment that you really love?
I have a Nikon D7100 which I'm obsessed with, and I'm also very fond of my dad's 24-70mm lens, which he let me borrow for a few months last year! Thanks dad!

What thread do you feel ties these pictures together besides you taking them?
They are all pictures of the great outdoors! To me, there is something so reinvigorating about being outside and experiencing nature. Whether it's in a forest, a desert, a national park, an island, or your backyard, I always like to stop and really experience the scenery!

What is your advice to someone starting in photography?
You will take SO MANY embarrassingly bad pictures and it can be so frustrating sometimes! One of the best pieces of advice I got was in regards to keeping pictures. If I go on a trip to, say, Zion National Park, I might take 500 pictures a day. The reality is that probably 5-10 of them are really good. So I delete the rest. I think this has really helped focus my work to what's really great instead of having so many pictures of the same scene. You might have 25 pictures of the same mountain, but trust me, if you really look at them next to each other, one or two will stand out. Keep those. Get rid of the rest.

Do you have any projects you're planning to do next?
My project is always an ongoing one - take as many trips and see as many different things as I can!

What's your favorite color?
Blue - I love a really nice deep blue sky!

See her work at our First Tuesday Art Opening on March 1st from 5:30-7:00pm. Learn More: HERE.

Sometimes you forget how beautiful the South Bay is. For years we've been leading star trails trips around California from Joshua Tree to the Eastern Sierra. But this year it hit us, we're missing out on the beauty in our own backyard. So Mark and Duane went on a scouting shoot after work and it was awesome! We immediately added the Palos Verdes Nightscapes shoot to our NightHawks agenda.
I'm excited to share how our new NightHawks shoot in Palos Verdes went through an article by one of our students, Julie Kohus. She's an avid photographer and lover of the NightHawks. Julie documents her work on Life in Pictures. Here's what it was like in her words and photographs!

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This month’s Night Hawks excursion was brand new!  We went to Terranea (aka my favorite place EVER) in Palos Verdes to take pictures of static stars and star trails.  Ever since I started taking nighttime photos, I’ve always been intrigued by the star and star trail pictures, so I was totally pumped when I saw this excursion on the calendar this year!  It was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be, which was, at times, frustrating.  Living in LA, it’s not too often that you are faced with almost complete darkness, but on the back side of PV, it’s DARK!  This led to challenges with manual focus – like, how do you focus on something when there’s not really anything to focus on!?  All things considered, I was happy with the pictures I got and I can only hope that my manual focusing skills improved as well!

dsc_1687-smThe one thing that really blew my mind was how fast the Earth really moves.  There is a picture below that was on a two minute exposure and shows little star trails.  It is crazy to think that in just TWO MINUTES the Earth moves enough that you can actually see it!

Head over to Life in Pictures to see the rest of her images and read about her other adventures. And come join the fun at to our next NightHawks.

Bonnie is our student of the month for February, 2016. I love the way she uses light to sculpt the worlds she's photographing. I'm also drawn to how she uses color to create balance in her images. This series is all centered around her discovery of a place. Come see her work throughout February!

We had an interview by Creative Photo Academy's Ryan Chambers with Bonnie Stoeppelman  to hear about her work and what inspires her:

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If you could sum up this work in two words what would it be?
Mediterranean Holiday

Which photograph has meant the most to you?
I think the one with the Obelisk at the Vatican. It was a balmy, Roman night. We just had dinner and a nice bottle of wine. We walked back along the winding Tiber River. Our hotel was next to the Vatican Center. I saw the moon, the columns and the oldest item in Rome...taken by the Romans from the Egyptians. My husband was wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt, called "Divine Intervention" so it was perfect.

Where have you found inspiration photographically?
I love nature and animals. That is my inspiration. I grew up in the Northwest with a mountain in our backyard. I love going outside and seeing the sky, be it sunrise, daytime, sunset or the moon & stars. I have learned to like to take pictures of people but that has not been natural for me. But, that has been interesting, since I love to see people happy over photos I have taken of them or their loved ones. A couple of my photos have made people happy even if they don't know the person and that has been the greatest surprise or honor.

Was there anything about yourself or something else that you discovered making these pictures?
By taking photos, I felt another dimension in the places I visited, since, I had to look at details. Also, sometimes it gets boring just visiting places without taking photos. I feel naked without my camera recording all the wonderful things I see on vacation. I want to remember what I saw and share it! I have always loved talking photos since I was a kid. My dad loves to take photos. My brother and sister also love it.

Was there a class, instructor, Pro Talk or Adventure that really helped you connect with photography?
First, my dad who is about 88. He always took the family photos. Our evenings were spent watching our home movies. We even tried developing photos in the attic. I have learned a lot from the Intermediate Photography classes from Mark Crase and Dave Bever. Of course, Mark Comon has also been very inspiring. I would never "subject myself" to sharing my photos with strangers if it was not for his talks. I guess I can't just eat the cookie dough...you have to cook a few for others.

My first trip with Creative Photo Academy was the wine trip with models. I had never taken photos of models, and that was pretty cool. Next, I did the shoot on the U.S.S. Iowa, and I was hooked!

Finally, there have been several speakers that have talked at Creative Photo Academy that I really enjoyed. Finally, finally, I have sibling rivalry with my bro, Brian, who is an awesome photographer!

Is there a piece of equipment that you really love?
Nikon 5500...totally love it. Light, quick and great for traveling. I also love the 18-200 lens.

What thread do you feel ties these pictures together besides you taking them?
I think just traveling and seeing local people. I was enamored with how people smoked in Europe. I don't smoke but I just loved watching the Europeans smoke so two of these photos are connected that way. All of the photos make me feel good and remind me of my holiday.

What is your advice to someone starting in photography?
Take classes and get a good camera and zoom lens. Also, learn Lightroom, Photoshop, etc. (yeah, that learning never stops!). Download your photos as soon as you take them and then sort them.

Do you have any projects you're planning to do next?
I guess I need to work on "people". I am surprised how much enjoyment I get from taking photos of people. It is another form of entertainment.

What's your favorite color?
Red

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See her work at our First Tuesday Art Opening on February 2nd from 5:30-7:00pm. Learn More: HERE.

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your-biz

We've been selected as MSNBC's 'Entrepreneur of the week'! The fine folks at MSNBC came down to PAUL'S PHOTO for a day to hangout with our staff, meet our customers and even joined us for a Night Hawks photo walk. It's so fun to be recognized for what we're doing. We hope you'll check it out... We're pretty sure you won't be busy when it airs...

On MNSBC’s “Your Business” feature
Airing January 24th 2016 at 7:30am (EST), 4:30am (PST)

Discoveries of a Watercolorist

We’re a camera store and a photo academy. Through our doors walk teachers, astro physicists, doctors, architects, stay at home parents and adventurers; that is to say, we sit at a place of intersections. Today we’re excited to bring you a story about a special person in our midst. She’s special for a lot of reasons but one of them is that she’s not a photographer. Teri is a watercolorist. What feels really important about her story for me is that it builds the sort of connections that I dream of photography building. So let’s jump in…

Teri started watercoloring in college. She fell in love. It planted a seed. But painting didn’t last long. Her parents wanted her to have a better life. And they wanted her doing something more practical. So she did. She got an undergraduate degree. Then she went on grad school at USC. She graduated, got a great job. She started a family. Her family grew up. And 40 years later, the seed started to grow.

Teri began taking classes at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. She moved on to take classes at Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia. Now she’s also the American Society of Botanical Artists and the Botanical Artist Guild of Southern California where she learns from artists from around the world.

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Teri Kuwahara (c) 2015

Teri started watercoloring because it scared her, "as you lay down each stroke you can’t remove them." There’s a precision involved. She was drawn to the structure of plants using tiny brushes, each one containing just a few hairs.

I asked Teri why she felt drawn to doing watercolor paintings of plants. She paused for a long moment. She told me it makes sense of lives past. Her father was a nursery man. Her grandfather grew strawberries in Torrance after the war. Her husband’s family were florists. So when she lays down delicate brushstrokes, describing in minute detail the infinite beauty of a single stem; Teri is not just communicating her awe of the growing world, she is standing among generations of her family in a collective relationship with nature.

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Teri Kuwahara (c) 2015

Teri’s painting are beautiful. She recently partnered with the Learning Garden at Torrance Memorial Hospital to make greeting cards from her paintings. That’s what brought her through our doors. Teri needed art reproduction photographs and a way to print the cards in a way that would honor the craftsmanship of the paintings. Teri worked with Jeff in The Lab at PAUL'S PHOTO to explore how to adjust the digitized images, what types of paper she could print on and how to best layout the cards. We had a representative from Moab in and he reproduced her painting on five different kinds of paper so she could feel the difference and see how each one had a slightly different look to it. Teri now has the tools to make her paintings accessible to more people.

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Teri Kuwahara (c) 2015

I asked her if there’s anything she wanted to share after looking back at her experiences. Teri took another moment. She told me to use her as an example for why you should follow your passions. "It's never to late to start something new or tackle something from your past. But maybe your circle doesn’t need to be so wide."

Teri, thank you for sharing your story with us. It's incredible to see how following the the threads of our passions in life seem to connect us more deeply and more broadly to our history and those around us.