What’s in the birthday box?

Who doesn’t love getting presents on their birthday? When I was a kid, it was all about quantity—the thrill of seeing a pile (the bigger the better) of gifts waiting to be opened, the sheer delight of ripping through present after present.

That’s changed a bit over the years. I’m happy to open just one present on my birthday, knowing it’s been selected with care by someone who knows me well. Being the person who knows me better than anyone, my husband always hits it out of the park.

Birthday gift sketches on kraft paper

This year, Marlon had me at hello. It was impossible not to cry upon the sight of these doodles on kraft paper, and I almost didn’t want to open the package. Our family, our journey, our story so far…

Marlon's sketches on kraft paper1

 

… our dreams, our future and all the stories to come.

Marlon's sketches on kraft paper2

Stories of which I am clearly, and happily, this family’s designated documentarian.

Sony RX100 II

As much as I love my DSLR and lenses, I’ve been dying for a point-and-shoot ever since Tala was born. As the pack mule for my and Tala’s stuff, I really feel the added bulk and weight of a DSLR and one or more lenses. Digging in my bag for the camera, not to mention changing lenses, seems to take forever, like Tala’s moving at warp speed and I’m underwater.

I wasn’t satisfied with my iPhone 4 camera, but needed something small, light, and fast. Having lived in the land of manual settings for the last three years, I couldn’t go back to just any old point-and-shoot.

Enter the Sony RX100 Mark II. I first heard about its predecessor, the Sony RX100, from The Diplomatic Wife, a conscientious shopper who did her research and found it a consistent favorite on lists of top digital compact cameras. Marlon took a big risk buying me a camera without any involvement or research from me, but he nailed it with this choice.

 

The Sony RX 100 MII gets raves on most reputable tech sites, such as Digital Photography Review and Gizmodo. What I’m loving about this camera: small size, big sensor. “How many megapixels?” is for noobs; it’s the people who ask about sensor size who know where it’s at. Simply put: the bigger the sensor, the more light and thus information a camera can capture, which translates into better images (for a more detailed, well-written explanation, check out this article).

This camera also has the all-important shallow depth of field (two words: blurry background) I just can’t live without, plus the option to shoot on manual, shutter speed priority and, my personal go-to mode, aperture priority.

Best of all, it slips into a coat pocket, making it discreet (for those times when I want to be a stealthy blogger ninja), convenient and easy to whip out for split-second flashes of brilliance/activity/cuteness. A great compact camera for me, more pictures and videos of Tala for everyone. Win-win for all!

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JR’s Inside Out Project in Amsterdam

I discovered the street art of JR a few months ago while visiting Berlin. After seeing his large-scale paper pastings in Berlin, I became interested in his work and hoped that one day I might be able to participate in one of his art projects. So this weekend I was thrilled to find JR’s Inside Out Project in Amsterdam, right in my own neighborhood!

The Inside Out Project is a global participatory art project launched by JR when he won the TED Prize in 2011. Instead of taking photographs of people and pasting them in different location all over the world, as he normally would, JR invited the public to share their portraits as a way of standing up for something they cared about.

Since then, more than 130,000 people in over 108 countries have taken their own portraits, sent them to JR via the Inside Out website, and received large format posters to paste in their own communities. Most of them are groups that have used the Inside Out Project to make statements on everything from LBGT rights and violence, to dreams and memories. The Inside Out Project has also sent traveling photobooth trucks all over the world, most notably this year at Times Square in New York.

This weekend, the Inside Out Project came to the Unseen Photo Fair at the Westergasfabriek in my neighborhood park.

Inside Out Project by JR at Unseen Amsterdam

So cool! How could I not participate?! So on Saturday afternoon, Marlon, Tala and I queued up at the Inside Out photo truck to have our portraits taken.

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Newborn photo session

The photos from Tala’s newborn photography session arrived yesterday… and I can’t stop looking at them! These were taken when Tala was a little over three weeks old, and already I can’t believe how small she was just two short weeks ago.

Not only did lifestyle photographer Melody Rae do a wonderful job capturing our home and our family in these images, but she was also generous with them—we received over a hundred post-processed photos, with color and black-and-white versions of each. That way we can just choose which ones we want to print, without having to pay a set price for prints.

I love the way the photos all feel so relaxed, like it would be on a regular Sunday at home. We couldn’t have gotten this same vibe at a studio. It’s hard to choose favorites, but here are some of mine.

Family photo black & white

Family photo shutters black & white

Tala and Daddy black & white

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Behind the scenes: Newborn photo session

Wow, this week was tough. Marlon went on a business trip for two days, the first time he’s traveled since Tala was born. Though I had babysitting help for a few hours in the evenings, flying solo in the wee hours left me completely exhausted.

So I’m looking forward to this weekend to catch a break, enjoy having Marlon at home, and spend time together as a family. Spring sunshine and warmer temperatures—as the forecast promises—will be a big plus!

I’m also looking forward to sharing the photos from Tala’s newborn session. We booked lifestyle photographer Melody Rae for a photo shoot right here at home before my  mom and my sister returned to Manila. My sister took some behind-the-scenes photos of Melody in action, so here’s a little sneak peek until I get my hands on the goods.

Posing parents

Newborn session with daddy and lola

Newborn session behind the scenes

Newborn photo shoot with duyan

And yes, it’s the duyan! We gave our traditional Filipino bassinet a modern makeover in the last few weeks of my pregnancy. Then Marlon rigged it up on the balcony to welcome the arrival of sunny spring weather, and just in time for the photo session with Melody.

But more on that next week… till then, have a wonderful weekend!

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My maternity photo shoot

I knew from the start of my pregnancy that I wanted to do a maternity photo session. I thought I’d wait until I was ready to pop to capture my body in its full pregnant glory, but I changed my mind during a Skype date with a friend who was then in her eighth month of pregnancy.

When I asked if she was going to have maternity photos taken, the ferocity of her response surprised me. “Oh my God! No! Ayoko! Feeling ko ang laki-laki ko! Wala ako sa mood mag-posing posing!” Basically, she felt ugly and huge, and the last thing she wanted was to get her glam on in front of a camera. I thought she had some kind of hormonal goggles on, because to me she looked great.

But her response also made me think. If my gorgeous, tiny, delicate friend felt like a grossly ugly blimp in her last month, then there was no hope for me! So, my maternity photos had to be taken when my baby bump was a respectable size, but while I could still feel… cute.

I got in touch with our wedding godmother Dada, whose doctor/photographer husband Raul took some great portraits for the Ateneo Chamber Singers’ most recent album. Raul was game, and booked some studio time for our first weekend back home, two weeks into my final trimester. And this is what came out of those two hours in the studio.

Ever wondered what couples mean when they say “we’re pregnant?” Wonder no more. Sympathetic pregnancy is not a myth!

Can you tell Marlon and I had a blast with this photo shoot?

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