5 things we've learned about moving + embracing change during COVID-19

It’s official! Coleman and I moved to San Diego this past weekend!

I moved to the Bay Area nearly a decade ago not knowing where life would take me next. It’s hard to be in one place for 10 years and not feel rooted. After all, the Bay is nothing short of inspiring. We’ve made such great friends here and leaving will be one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time. That said, Coleman and I both hear the whispers of Home calling our names and we are ready to move forward.

The past few months have been such a grind! When Coleman received his job offer in San Diego, there were so many things going on. We were smack dab in the middle of the holidays. I was closing out a crazy sales quarter, and trying to digest all sorts of information while in the middle of what felt like a mental hurricane. My brain was a mashup of details without focus. I was swaying back and forth between the insignificant decisions and the life altering ones without any distinction between the two. I was equally stressed about deciding what to wear for Coleman’s family Xmas parties as I was about gift shopping, work, being a supportive partner, rooting for Coleman, feeling sorry for myself and thinking I’d be left behind, panicking about what I would do next in my career, and figuring out how to follow my partner to a city where I know only a handful of people without feeling like doing so would be a huge risk and big mistake. Yea, I was a shit show to say the least, at least internally.

Here’s what I didn’t expect before the move:

  1. COVID-19 outbreak has become the most serious it’s ever been since we first heard of these cases, and California had announced an official Shelter in Place policy prohibiting business operations outside of critical infrastructures like food, mail, fed operations, healthcare etc. I thought I was going to be stranded, but thankfully, we were able to pack up our belongings with our movers (while social distancing), and managed to drive down to socal without any traffic, or major hiccups.
  2. Even with weather forecasts updates, nobody could foresee the unexpected raining in San Jose the day of the initial move.

Yea, you get the idea. The days leading up to the big move were stressful. Here are some key tips I learned during this experience and wanted to share with ya’ll.

  1. In the midst of unprecedented times, confirming your reservations with your movers several times is never a bad idea. Confirm, reconfirm, and then confirm again right before your move, especially during a shutdown due to national emergencies, such as COVID-19. Over-communicating will save you so much time in the long run and give you peace of mind.
  2. Come up with a plan B. One thing that made me feel at ease, was brainstorming with Coleman all our options in the event his flight was cancelled, and the movers had to cancel. You can get caught up in the rabbit hole, so don’t lose yourself. That said, it’s always better to be prepared. For instance, if Coleman’s flight was cancelled, he was prepared to drive up to the Bay. If the movers cancelled, we were prepared to work with our landlord on alternative extension options.
  3. CHECK THE WEATHER AND PREPARE FOR THE RAIN. I mentioned that we ended up unloading our apartment in San Jose during the rain. This means our white carpet took a beating. Pro Tip: prepare for the rain and before packing alway your towels, keep some out to save your carpets or floors from rainy shoes going in and out of the house.
  4. Get your car checked prior to a long road trip. I usually like to get my tires rotated and inspected, and make sure my oil is good to go before taking any long trips with my car.
  5. Start going through your stuff prior to moving out, and do this early and often! This makes such a big difference and makes the day of the move way less overwhelming. I made the mistake of only doing one pass at donating clothes and furniture prior to the move, and when the day came, I realized there were so many things I didn’t need to keep that I ended up throwing out. I could have sold those items or recycled them had I did this earlier. I did a pretty good job with throwing things out over time, and even still, felt like that wasn’t enough and could have given myself more deep cleaning sessions. You need more time than you’ll think.

This is a quick recap about what Coleman and I learned. What people don’t also realize is that we did long distance for a few months prior to us getting here, so comment or reach out if you’re interested in hearing more about how we made that work.

Hope you’re all staying in and healthy and safe. What are you doing to stay in / social distance yourself? I am submitting this blog post and decorating my new apartment.

Mixed feelings about being mixed race

I know it has been several months since I’ve written on this blog. The truth is, I have been so busy with life that I haven’t had the time to even feel inspired enough to write. I haven’t had any food for thought, nor the space to digest it if I had. With that said, something has been formulating in my mind the past couple of months and I felt the need to lay it out there.

I want to talk about RACE. I know, it’s a never-ending, controversial topic to talk about, but I think that ultimately, the heart of this blog, to some extent, is about race. My culture and my home is the cornerstone of who I am, and what I write about. Ultimately, I can’t talk about culture with out diving into discussions about race. I am mixed race. In Hawaii, it never occurred to me that this alone could define me, especially because everyone else I knew was also mixed race. That said, Hawaii is also a melting pot of diverse cultures and ethnicities. While racial tensions definitely existed in Hawaii, it was simpler for me because I was a “local”. It’s fairly easy in Hawaii; the saying goes “I grew here, you flew here.” It was that simple. You were local, or you were not.

I went to Moanalua High School, which at the time, was the best public school in our state. Moanalua was close to a military base, and our school population was split between local kids and military kids. In fact, there was even a long hallway in our campus called “Black Street,” where many of the black military students hung out. Let me pause here. When I moved to California, and mentioned this statement to my new friends in college, who were predominately white, they freaked. They were taken back at the outright racism. “Your school had a hang out spot called black street?” they would ask in disbelief. “Yes” I would reply.

Hawaii has always been racially tense. So, I want to amend my former statement. When I said that it “was simpler” in Hawaii, I meant to say that it was simpler for me. When you are the status quo, the norm, the socially accepted, it is hard to walk around with your eyes open. It is hard to challenge the existing structures that keep you safe. Oddly enough in Hawaii, being brown and Asian, made me safe. Being Filipino, Japanese, and BORN in Hawaii, made me safe in Hawaii. I was for the most part, like everyone else who was from the island. It didn’t even occur to me how racially divided we were. Of course, this is just because of our history, you see. Like any other land that was colonized by white invaders, Hawaii has a scar. This scar, has left our ancestors with a resentment towards all outsiders, especially white people. But, to be clear, Japanese Americans were also considered outsiders during my Grandparents time (WWII). Back then, even local Japanese kids would be beaten or bullied due to fear, ignorance, and history. My grandparents didn’t really speak Japanese outside the house after the war. Because of this, I didn’t speak Japanese, like many of my other Japanese American friends and relatives. Much time has passed, and my experience is much different from that of my Grandparents, but my point is that I was cultivated, maybe inadvertently, with this mindset. I was raised to think that White people were outsiders, unless they were from here, or lived in our shoes long enough (usually expats that adopted Hawaii culture and were often mixed race). It wasn’t until I moved to California, when I had the rude awakening of realizing that I was now the minority. I was now even considered “exotic.” I once heard an older white woman use this word to describe me at a check out in a Safeway in Menlo Park, and I cringed.

What’s my point? My point is that no matter where you go, we are conditioned to define people by their race. I’m not saying this is bad. I find myself sometimes curious about other cultures, and I find it intriguing when people I’ve gotten to know share their cultural backgrounds with me. In some ways, I think conversations about our race, and defining our ethnicities, and the culture we choose to identify with, bring us together. We identify, learn, and respect.

I battle with my feelings on being mixed race all the time now. I can’t run an errand or go to a store with out someone asking me “what are you?” I’m talking complete strangers asking me this. A question I was never confronted with when I lived in Hawaii and now, it seems to be a trend. I know people here (the rest of the continental US not just CA) don’t mean to be offensive, and honestly, I’m not offended. I take pride in my culture. I take pride in looking unique. Some days, I quickly respond and say “I’m Filipino, Japanese.” But, then I have to respond to follow up questions and say “no, I don’t speak Japanese or Tagolog.” When people ask why, I then say “I’m from Hawaii” and then there is this long conversation that I wasn’t planning to have. From here, the conversation usually evolves to Hawaii being paradise, and how lucky I am to be able to call that island home. Then this person usually ends up asking “Why on earth did you move away from Hawaii?” Some times I laugh and avoid answering so this conversation can come to an end.

I battle with this question because it’s annoying. Sometimes, ya girl just wants to go to the post office and pick up a package with out having to explain my family tree, and my cultural background. Sometimes, I get the occasional, “oh you’re Filipina, yea my girlfriend is Filipina.” As if I’m supposed to instantly bond with this man just because his girlfriend is also pacific islander. I think it’s strange. I wouldn’t walk up to a light skinned black girl and ask her what her ethnicity is. And, most people wouldn’t ask another white person this question. In all the years Coleman and I have dated, not a single person has gone up to him and asked him what his ethnicity was. And- in all honesty, I sometimes get asked this in the most rude ways. I’ve literally been asked “what are you?” countless times. Part of me wants to respond with “part labordoodle” just for the fuck of it, but my knee jerk reaction to stay polite even when I’m annoyed or offended always overrides my need to be blunt.

The annoyance also comes from not knowing how to articulate why I’m sometimes offended by this question from complete strangers, and sometimes flattered on other days. I can’t articulate to a stranger how unnecessary their question is, because they wouldn’t understand and that is why they are even asking me in the first place. And, I don’t want to say I’m offended, and then have people feel like they can never ask me questions about my culture or talk about race, when that’s not really the case. I’m not trying to be overly sensitive, I just don’t understand why complete strangers need to ask me something that doesn’t matter to them. It’s almost like they saw me, and had to categorize me right away. So much so, that they couldn’t resist asking a complete stranger their ethnic background.

I think my annoyance also stems from not knowing how to identify and feel accepted, while being identified and categorized by others. I’ll elaborate. When I lived in Hawaii, my friends and teachers made fun of me because of the way I spoke (proper english and lack of Pigeon). My 8th grade social studies teacher once asked me if I was from Hawaii. I was offended. When I told him that I was local, he told me that I sounded like a “valley girl from California.” All my friends laughed. I’ll pause- Pigeon is a slang and way of speaking in Hawaii. I did not speak like this, although, I went through a phase when I tried and it didn’t work for me.

In the Bay Area, a true melting pot with a thriving asian community, I feel like I’m not asian enough. I’m not bilingual, and my culture is fused with Hawaiian culture as well. Many of my mixed race and asian friends are bilingual here, and while none of them judge me, I do hear it in their voice sometimes that they wish I could speak in my ancestors’ native tongues.

For New Years, Coleman and I went to Tahoe with a bunch of our friends. When we entered the casino, we came across a woman who worked at the craps table. She took our ID’s before we placed our bets and ordered drinks. Without missing a beat, she recognized a Filipino last name and asked me “Are you Filipina?” I nodded in reply and she instantly followed up with “Do you speak Tagalog?” When I responded with “No”, I almost instantly felt the words “I’m sorry” slip across my tongue. Her smile faded as she handed back my drivers license. I could see the disappointed look in her face. Another young Filipina girl who can’t speak Tagalog. I tried to explain this feeling to Coleman and of course, he thought I was just imagining it in my head and overreacting out of insecurity. Perhaps he’s right. There is a good chance she wasn’t judging me. Then again, it’s hard to explain these experiences to someone who, well… lacks color. I love Coleman, but no matter how compassionate or understanding he is, he will never see the world through my eyes because he will never have to.

Race is something we talk about in our relationship; not often, but it does come up occasionally. We talk about addressing this with our future kids, who will also be mixed race. We talk about how we want to raise them with some of their Hawaii roots intact and cultivating safe spaces for them and ourselves. Ultimately, I don’t think Coleman cares about race or ethnicity as much as I do. I think he’s had the privilege of not having to care, and most times this privilege is refreshing. I enjoy seeing the world through his lens. We are all just people. This of course lasts until the next stranger walks up to me and asks “what are you?”

Artisan Feature: JJ Parkz “Never fall out of love with creating”

As I close out the month of April, I wanted to take a moment to feature one of the most inspiring artists I’ve met. I have known Jared Johnston, also known as JJ Parkz, for several years now and in the the time that I’ve known him, I was able to experience his creativity and constant pursuit of refinement in all things apparel and consumer goods. Jared, like many artists see the world differently than most, and it is an honor to tap into his inspiration and perspective.

This is his story.


“Known as JJ Parkz to most; born and raised in paradise, Hawai’i. I love experiencing new skills, traveling, design with solution-based purpose, sharing good meals with loved ones, and working towards self-accomplishments.”


Okay- now the good stuff; questions:

 Tell us a little bit about what you do for a living/your profession?
I’m currently the Production Manager at FITTED HAWAI’I, but also do a lot of logistics coordinating, marketing strategies, team management (more of a bridge between the office, shop, and online store), and design.
 How long have you been designing apparel? Did you know that someday you’d be doing this?
I’ve been designing for about 10 years now; all 10 spent at FITTED HAWAI’I. Never knew I’d end up where I’m at, but it seemed to be a natural progression that started after a long introduction into the industry. I’m an 80’s born, but shout out to growing up in the 90’s; I feel it gave me an identity platform of some sort.
Why did you choose to be in this industry? what influenced you? what continues to influence you and your work today? what inspires you?
It really just chose me to be honest. Shouts again to the 90’s… Music, skating, cars, individuality, analog living, problem solving (very much different than today’s lifestyle), doing hands on things for yourself instead of calling a specialist, and the evolution of social media; just plain old school shit… These are my roots. My influences today kind of bridge all that with almost any positive learning experiences within my studies, travels, or just daily life. 
 Does your work influence your life, or do your life experiences influence your work?
Both ways, always. I try my best to never self-limit any influences or resources, simply because knowledge of anything will always help something within me. Work and life have become quite seamless, and I feel like it was an unforced, natural occurrence that’s a great personal step toward mastering life (to my own definition), if there is such a thing.
 What lessons have you learned in your career today, both from a creative standpoint and in business?
Way too many to list. My work is a constant learning experience and I don’t believe there’s ever a point where it stops. My creative standpoint to always produce the best possible work will always be my overall intention, but I’ve embraced that my outlooks beyond that should always change/evolve. As far as specifics dealing with business, I’ve went through nearly all aspects… I’ve been the kid that dusts and sweeps, provides customer service, and counts the cash in the shop for many years, as well as hand-drawing designs to computer design and tech work, handling shipments, e-mails, logistics, and production in the office. The beauty of a small business is that it’s shaped by how well the team weathers growing pains. This includes opportunities to step up and handle whatever needs to be done, as there’s always room for growth!
Where do you want to go from here? (answer this question in any way that you interpret. This could be professionally, emotionally, spiritually, etc.)
I think my mind is constantly progressing towards peace as far as my every day living habits, so it’s more of the normal life goals that are starting haunt me. Hopefully I’ll be able to start a family and afford a house some time soon… Just adult shit. haha
 Being a creator is difficult as much as it is rewarding. As a designer, what advice can you give to those aspiring to create?
It’s one thing to dream and another to actually work towards it. Just do both and really give it your all. Designing and creating is amazing because it has no limits. Always have an open mind, learn from mistakes, and keep it moving!
 What is your favorite project/ design? This could be either apparel, or anything else that you’ve created.
This is an impossible question for me to answer, only because I really do try and love everything I produce. Just to name a few projects that I’ve been very fortunate to help with, there’s Hawaiian Airlines, beverage companies including Hawaiian Sun, Primo Beer, Miller Light, a few artists from both local and afar, sports athletes/organizations (on professional, college, and high school levels), major footwear brands such as Vans and Element, various clothing brands such as Hurley and Tori Richard, and restaurants such as Zippy’s, Herringbone, and Nobu. In the end, design should always be coming from a good place within you, and integrity is so important. Creating for the sole purpose of making money at the expense of self-integrity can simply be defined as a shitty job; I’ll never have one of those as long as I’m in my design career. 
 If you could sum up your artwork in one word, what would it be?
Calculated. I’m my biggest critic and constantly struggle with finding excuses to change things. It’s been very tough at times.
 What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
“Never fall out of love with creating.”


You can find some of Jared’s most prominent clothing designs at Fitted Hawaii located on Kona St. across of Ala Moana Shopping Center in O’ahu, HI. Like Jared, I view this place as a second home as well.

I asked Jared to finish these sentences:

I am an eclectic, eccentric, very particular, complicated thinker, who enjoys learning, loving, and being my personal best at all times. 
Design is amazing. I believe it to be one of the most important, underrated, and under-appreciated aspects of life, that directly contributes to the growth and evolution of any culture or society. Good design equals better quality of life on all levels, which in turn will result in higher refinement of individuality.
The world needs refinement. There are so many things the human race can improve on, not only for ourselves, but for the world itself. Whether it’s together in unity or within individuals, I don’t think it matters much… We can all just strive toward getting better in any small or big way possible. I know it’s a broad statement, but it really couldn’t be more simple in my mind. 
I believe in energies. Each person has the ability to determine their way of life to a realistic extent. I always try my best to pick the positive route through any thought or decision. Happiness emanates from good vibes.
Fitted is my vessel for learning and growth… It’s tied for being my first home.
My job is a blessing. It’s truly not often that someone gets to do what they love and meet amazing individuals along the way. I’ve been here for nearly 13 years and don’t regret a single day, despite having many learning experiences and hard times along the way. 
Hawaii is one of a kind. It’s beauty is arguably unmatched, the food is amazing, people are loving if you show them mutual respect, you can go to the top of a mountain or into the ocean and anywhere in between on any given day, and not to mention our rich history and culture that the rest of the world absolutely loves to exploit. 

More about Fitted

*Majority, if not all photos were taken by Jason Ko. Other photographers are unknown, but I do not own these images nor do I intend to take credit for the beautiful photographs portrayed in this feature.
Photography by
twitter @Jasonjko 
Courtney Reiko Calicdan
Jared Johnston

Up Next:

You may have noticed the first video, Water is LIFE, produced and filmed by Andrew Tran. I attended high school with Andrew at Moanalua High School where we had the privilege of being a part of the Mene Mac TV Production community. In those four years, I studied Andrew’s work, admired his cinematography and photography, and have been following his creative work since. Stay tuned for more on his process, life, and future projects.

Artisan Feature: Meet Bree Poort

**Disclaimer: I did not take the photos featured in this post.

I have been wanting to feature inspiring people and artists on this blog for some time now. In fact, the foundation of this blog and its content is built primarily on the inspiring people I meet on this wonderful planet. A huge inspiration for me is my home, so there is no better artist to feature this month than Bree Poort, a resin artist residing in O’ahu, HI.

I came across Bree’s work through social media and fell in love with each piece she created ever since. After following her the last year and a half, I wanted to introduce Bree to my readers in hopes that her work will inspire others to create as well.

This is her story.


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“My name is Bree Poort and I am a resin artist based out of Southern California & Hawaii. I like to explore different beaches and use them as inspiration for my pieces.  I have a drone that I use to capture the beauty of the ocean as well as mixing acrylic with resin to do the same. My love for the ocean came from growing up near it and surfing all my life. I find my pieces to be very calming and peaceful and evoking those emotions in an art lover is one of my favorite things to do.”
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Q: How long have you been creating resin art and what led you here?
A: I have been painting in the resin medium since the beginning of 2016. I wanted to paint a photo of the ocean from above and my background in oil paints wasn’t helping me create the idea I had in my head.
Q: Clearly the ocean influences you and your work. What else continues to influence you and your work today? what inspires you? What is it about the ocean that draws you to it?
A: My work is influenced by conversations I have with people, understanding their perspective and love for the ocean makes me curious to try new avenues with my art. I often feel inspired by music or photographs or even just color combinations I see out in the world. I think I am a pretty mellow person every day and with my background as a yoga teacher, I try to find moments of peace. The ocean brings that into my life almost instantly so that would be the biggest draw.
Q: What lessons have you learned in your career today, both from a creative standpoint and in business?
A: There are many lessons I have learned from my work and from a creative perspective it would be that inspiration is not always just sitting there waiting to be used. I can go months without feeling majorly inspired but I work through it and get little sparks here and there. In business, it is to be fair to everyone I work with and myself. I have stopped working myself to the bone and let the artwork sell on its own time without pushing it. I enjoy it more that way. I am more artist than I am business so I know there is so much for me to learn in the business side of my art.
Q: Where do you want to go from here? (answer this question in any way that you interpret. This could be professional, emotionally, spiritually, etc.)
A: I want to progress in my life. As 2018 is starting I want it to be the start of new adventures and opportunities to grow and progress in all aspects. I want to grow my relationships with others, I want to understand myself better and progress in my art form experimenting with other styles.
Q: Being a creator is difficult as much as it is rewarding. As an artist, what advice can you give to those aspiring to create?
A:  I would say just do it. Whatever is it big or small, just try for that one thing you want to create. You might find you love it or it might spark a new idea in you. Nothing is as rewarding as creating something and seeing the final product of your creation. 
Q: How did you get started when you decided this was your career? How were you able to get your work out there?
A:  I started by giving away a lot of my first pieces. I didn’t have the confidence to sell just yet and I wanted to work out all the kinks of the sides to the art I didn’t know yet. As I built my confidence and became broke from all the supplies I knew it was time to start selling so I could keep my passion alive. I used Instagram as my main source of marketing and word of mouth got me a lot of my first clients. It is not always easy, there are some months that are all painting and no selling and other months where you just want to sell but nothing is getting picked up. So even tho this is my career I have another source of income when I can’t just rely on art.
Q: What is your favorite project/ design?
A:  My favorite project was my biggest piece I have ever made. It was for my brother and I think that’s why it is still special to me. It was my first massive piece and I had support all along the way. It turned out to be on of my favorite pieces I have done thus far.
Q: If you could sum up your artwork in one word, what would it be?
A: Peacemaker 
Q: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
A: If you love it, go for it.
Q: What brought you to Hawaii? What keeps you in Hawaii?
A: I went out there to go to school ( where I studied Graphic Design). Now I just can’t leave. My husband and I have created a life together here that I never want to let go of. Hawaii is home.
Q: What has your art taught you? (about yourself, life, love, perspective, your talent etc.)
A:  It has taught me patience and hard work. It showed another side to me I didn’t think I would find this early in my life. I am so grateful for my art as it keeps me grounded and creative but also has led me to meet so many amazing people and make so many awesome connections.
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I asked Bree to complete these sentences. Here are her following answers:

I am a _____ . Creator

Design is ____. What helps make this world we create for ourselves beautiful.

the world needs ___. More kindness and selflessness.

I believe in ____. The power of doing what you love.

my job is ____. Painting.

Hawaii is ____. My home

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Follow Bree’s work on IG:@justbree
Check out her website to purchase her work or follow up on new pieces: Bree’s Website
Author wrap up and closing thoughts:
Big mahalo to Bree for agreeing to participate in this feature and taking the time to answer my interview questions! I often think that art grounds us as human beings and tethers us to something beyond ourselves. I chose to feature Bree because her art spoke to me and spoke to the root of my inspiration as a photo artist and content creator; the ocean. The ocean is a huge piece of home that I carry with me everywhere I go. When all else fails, I always turn to the ocean for inspiration and guidance. Bree’s artwork has been an awe for me, and her pieces continue to inspire me. I hope by sharing her story with you, you are all also inspired. If you are in O’ahu, be sure to look out for her pieces.
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2018- Where the hell have I been?

I know, I know. It’s been ages since I wrote a blog post. I’m sorry! A LOT has been going on. Now that the dust has somewhat settled, I wanted to take the time to create some content and fill you Coconuts in on what has happened the last couple of months.

For starters, I spent my first Christmas break with Coleman’s family, which was amazing! Can you believe in the five years we’ve been together, we haven’t spent a single Christmas together?! Now that we are back into the full swing of things, I’ve had to re-acquaint myself with early morning awakenings and Yoga Sculpt, and Teacher Training, which consumed my life the past couple months before the holidays. All of that in week 1 of the new year has put my body into a weak state, which made me susceptible to colds (thanks a lot, Coleman). I have been out on my ass this week, trying to work from home between the body aches and the fever. Thankfully, recovery is on the horizon.

To continue with my content creation in 2018, I’ve committed to starting my own YouTube Channel. If you haven’t seen my first video, go check it out.

This was an extremely off the cuff and vulnerable experience, but I think I enjoyed this process and will continue to create more content for you all. I’ve also committed to taking more photos this year, so I’m excited to share my art with all of you!


Here are a few fun images I took in the last couple weeks. Inspired by the holidays, twinkly lights, and the sunset.

a sunset in San Diego, a place I can’t wait to call Home.






Thanks for tuning in on my journey!







How to achieve “soft lighting” in photos under HARSH lighting conditions

Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone! Speaking of giving thanks, I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to shoot a pre-senior portrait for the beautiful Bailey Gomez. Bailey is graduating from Menlo College this year, and we were so eager to take some beautiful portraits in the Fall season. That being said, there will be another shoot when she gets her official cap and gown, so stay tuned for that.

Before the holiday festivities officially start, I wanted to write a brief post showing you guys how to work under harsh lighting conditions based on my experience. The truth is, it’s always preferable to shoot during GOLDEN HOUR. Golden hour is shortly after sunrise, or before sunset, when the sun is softer and slightly more red. This window of time changes during the seasons, but the prettiest hues when shooting with natural light, in my experience, can be found in the Fall (I’ll explain why in a bit). Here’s where it gets tricky. You might be asking “what if my client can’t make that time frame work?” Also, shooting during golden hours doesn’t automatically translate into a good shot with quality lighting. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION, is everything. Even the harshest light can be saved by the surrounding environment if it is a good location.

What’s a good location? Here are a few things I look for:

  1. What does the scenery look like when my client is backlit? This is important. You need to be able to get the right scenery where the sun is behind your subject for the best “glowing” effects/ light, or at least this is the ideal condition to work under. Just because you pick a pretty location, it doesn’t mean your client will get to use up that space. For instance, I want to shoot in a garden where there is water and a bridge and I want to shoot here specifically to capture the water and the bridge. If I don’t do some upfront planning, this might not pan out based on where the sun is at a particular time of day. That location could look great after sunrise, but by 3:00pm or 4:00pm when the sun is ideal and lower in the sky (in the Fall), the sun might be facing towards my client in the opposite direction, which can cause them to squint, or create additional shadows on their faces. This isn’t a complete lost though, it just might mean some additional time in post processing if those images aren’t coming out the way it would if the subjects were backlit. You with me so far?
  2. What in the location can I use to reflect light naturally? I ask myself this all the time because I hardly work with studio lights and flash when I’m in the outdoors. There’s nothing wrong with using flash, but my aesthetic is typically something softer. Not to mention, I am a one man show and prefer not to lug heavy equipment around if I don’t have to. This is important to consider because if the sun is too bright or high in the sky during a shoot, I look for shade, and I look for reflectors. What are reflectors? Anything in nature that can reflect light back to my subject. For instance, water, tree leaves, white brick walls, lightly paved roads, even stones and rocks. If I can find shade, I’m in good hands. Why? It’s better to photograph images that are slightly dim and most photographers do this any way and then later bring the image up in post processing. I like to do this myself to eliminate any washed out photos. It’s easier to brighten and expose an image than it is to gain back highlights and washed out details. trust me.

In parallel to finding a good location, it’s important to consider a color theme. This helps me “save” or work with harsh lighting when I’m editing my photos because I can focus on bringing out certain colors, toning some down, toning the entire image altogether, playing with hues and saturation etc. All of these things come into play and trick the eye to seeing a much softer image than it actually is. Here is an example of using a color pallet:

A. Harsh lighting, raw image. Color pallet: blue, orange, orange/red, green, white. Fall hues. Mood: autumn, warm, happy.

In this photo, we wanted to get the shadows on the ground to indicate trees overhead. We loved the pathway and the leaves so I decided I would make this work. If I had turned Bailey’s back to the sun, that would be better, but the background wouldn’t have been as pretty and with a lot of people. Sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles.

IMG_1098 (1)

B. Post Processing. Yes, this is a different photo I realized, but she was in the exact same spot, so you get the idea. I played off the trees and extended the leaves down to the fence. Blurring the background further helps soften harsh lines and details that you can easily manipulate later. For instance, I used my paintbrush to add softer hues to the trees and background. I even added blush tones to the ground and her face to soften the shadows. we’re playing off the hues in her shirt, so everything is cohesive.


Raw image below: Same color pallet, same mood. In this photo, it’s pretty good to start because my subject is backlit. But notice I didn’t place her in an area with too many flowers or overly bright plants. I kept the hues along the lines of her color pallet. Everything either has a blue undertone (lavender), or an orange red (the autumn colors we were talking about earlier, which ties back to her shirt).


Finished Edit: I can use my paint brush to bring dial up the orange hues around her. This is the soft aesthetic we both wanted to achieve and playing with colors that intentionally existed in this photo, helps us achieve that look. I like more depth in my images so I blurred the background further. At first, I liked the rusty rod that ran across the plants behind her. I liked the texture and color, but when I was editing, I decided to remove that from the image because it was too distracting. As a rule of thumb, try not to have anything in the background that cuts through your subject unless it’s directly at the joints. For instance, if the rod was directly in line with her neck, it would have been easier for my eyes to digest, but since it runs through her temples, and isn’t straight, it makes me feel like the photo is crooked. This is just personal preference, but it’s important to consider.



Raw image: HARSH LIGHTING. What did we do to fix this? Look for open shade. It’s okay to switch up the scenery. You and your client will appreciate this.


Solution/final product: Below are examples of open shade with tons of natural reflectors. Even the ground helped reflect light back to my subject’s face.


Tip: If you like a particular area and it’s overly shaded or dark, try to get a few frames there anyway. We thought this part of the garden would be too dark, but it ended up working fine! You can always add light in post processing like I have done here.

thumb_IMG_1298_1024 FINAL2


Welp, there ya have it folks, as promised. Hope this helps and have a festive Thanksgiving coconuts!


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Life Updates, Owning a business (or trying to)

Hey my faithful readers, avid listeners, and fellow coconuts.

I must confess that it’s been a little while since I’ve written a new blog post, or published any new, interesting content in the last couple months. Let me update you on life real quick. Here is what I have been up to:

In August, I was rear ended on the freeway. I’m glad to be alive and well, however, I have been dealing with some very inconvenient, and annoying back pains. This has been a prolonged injury since the accident and I can’t seem to recover fully this time around. (I was out the whole week when the accident initially happened and now 3 months later, I’m experiencing more pain.) In addition to discovering that I now have issues with my back, my doctor has recommended that I stay away from any physical activities for the next two weeks. As many of you know, I work out and go to the yoga studio almost every morning. It’s my routine, and I love it. Not only that, but I’m also studying to become a yoga instructor at my favorite studio in my part time. I  know right, like I need any more jobs or part time gigs, but I am who I am; a busy woman who loves to be busy.  Timing of a bad back couldn’t be worse (not that there is ever a good time to be injured). I just want the whole thing to go away.

On a more positive note, I have been trying to make more time for my photography. It’s hard to balance this with a full time job, but I aim to make it all work. That being said, I have a cool photoshoot coming up this weekend and I’m so excited to share the results with everyone following this journey.

For more positive news, I just finished collaborating on my new logo for my freelance photography business. Yay! I’m on a long journey, but progress is always exciting. For more collaborations visit the comment section of my blog or write me here at courtney.reiko@gmail.com.



A Photoshoot in Davenport

IMG_4128IMG_4129As you all may already know, one of my best friends in the entire world finally moved back to the area. It was a sunny day over the hill this past Sunday and we couldn’t waste an opportunity to do some conceptual shooting.

I’m hoping to feature this goddess in an interview at some point. I’ve always wanted to host interviews on this blog, but never found the capacity to do so.  Any who, I took it upon myself to create some digital content for this yogi’s social accounts. If any of you are ever in Santa Cruz, please look her up and take her class. She is an awesome facilitator and instructor. We have so many cool projects and ideas in the works so stay tuned! So happy and blessed to have my creative soul sister back in this area. The inspiration is in full throttle!

Here are some frames from the day as well as some  “conceptual” pieces and edits.

Bayley’s Information Below:

Bayley Blackney IG handle: @earthchildbay

Studio Affiliates: Divinitree Yoga, Breath and Oneness





Being Alive

Whoa, remember when I tried to stick to my editorial schedule? Hah! yea, me either. For those of you new to my blog, I was once on a “kick” where every week, I would write about something that inspired me, or something that could inspire others. I called this “kick” Wednesday Inspo days. Why on Wednesday? It’s the hump in the week- once you get through it, it’s a downhill ride to the weekend, which for me, is always something I look forward to.

I haven’t been posting in a while and that’s not because I haven’t been inspired, it’s because I’ve been SO inspired, that I’ve been traveling, exploring, and out in the world just “doing the damn thing” (as I like to say). So why am I posting now? Because I feel like it. Because I can. Because I am alive and truly living.

There are a couple things that I am truly grateful for, well more than a couple things, but just a few that I will share in hopes that this is inspiring.

One- I am thankful, and proud to have been born and raised in Hawaii. There’s no surprise there- Hawaii people are always proud to say where they are from. In fact, if you’ve ever been anywhere else in the U.S. and you come across Hawaii Natives, that’s the first thing they’ll tell you right off the bat. It’s more than that though- I have a unique perspective in the world I live in BECAUSE I’m from such a unique cultural background. I suppose it’s the way foreign exchange students feel when they come to the U.S. I suppose for all intents and purposes, it’s the same feeling anyone else would feel if they chose to live somewhere they weren’t originally from. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to thrive in my community, and to take that context and thrive somewhere else entirely. I’m grateful because most people don’t get to do that in a lifetime. Some people stay in one place their entire lives. I could have stayed in Hawaii and there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with that, but I’m glad I didn’t. I miss home, A LOT, but moving pushed me to grow and forced me to figure shit out. If I hadn’t moved, I wouldn’t have met Coleman.

Secondly, I’ve had mentors to guide me along at every stage in my life. NO JOKE. I was an athlete, which meant I had coaches. Once in a blue moon, when the stars align, the world comes across a player-coach relationship that goes beyond the perimeters of the volleyball court. This was the relationship I had with Coach Daryl. He’s taught me so much about tenacity, and how far that could take me in life. When I was twelve years old, Daryl introduced me to my first physical trainer, Steve Lee. My workout regimen changed forever, but it wasn’t just that, it was all the life lessons that came with it; I just didn’t know it at the time. If it weren’t for Steve, I wouldn’t be 5’6″ with a career as an outside hitter. We spent countless hours in the gym maximizing my strength, speed, endurance, explosiveness, and vertical. We did this for a number of consecutive years too. It wasn’t just physical workouts either. Steve used to push me to my absolute limits, and whenever I thought I was about to give up, or quit, or take a break, I would keep going because he would suddenly give me ten more reps, or a few more parachute runs. When you’re an athlete, physical and mental strength are sometimes intertwined with each other and this was a ritual at Steve’s gym.  There were no compliments with Steve or Daryl. It was always “that’s better, do it again” or “keep going” or “this could be better.” There was no hand holding, and whenever I thought too highly of myself, they were the first to humble me. It was always about the work, and whatever I put in to my training, I always got back in my results. I always wanted to be better because that was the culture they instilled in me. There was never an end goal with Daryl and Steve; it was always about moving the needle forward. I’m grateful for this. I’m grateful because I have gone my whole life never expecting a pat on the back for the work that I do and this has made my life easier than most in both my volleyball career and my professional career now. Even though my competitive volleyball days are somewhat over, I still talk to Daryl and Steve and see them every time I come home. When I need advice, they are the first two people that come to mind. I don’t know where I would be in life if it weren’t for their constant guidance.

I am grateful to have the means to travel. More importantly, I’m just grateful to be alive. Having a tough Thursday? Well, perhaps that’s why I wrote this. To make you think about the people that got you to where you are today. Are you on the grind? So is everyone else in Silicon Valley, and hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Are you tired? Good. If you aren’t, you’re not working hard enough. There’s a tiny voice in the back of your head that wants to complain, we all have it. For today, tell it to shut the fuck up. Get your head out of your ass and keep going because you’re alive.

So, stop bitching and go live.

Wednesday Inspo: Must Read Travel Blogs

I’ve been inspired by other bloggers out there this week; particularly travel blogs- no surprise there. It seems that travel blogs are all the rage these days, but it’s the only investment that will never go out of style, in my opinion. What could be better than investing in your experiences?

The following blogs are my current faves this week and have been getting me through this funky week; enjoy!

Also, personal life update- there’s a new IG feed called @thedscvrr that has also inspired me this week.  Check out their feed; it’s incredible! They recently reached out and asked me to join the community as an influencer in the travel and lifestyle space. The timing couldn’t be more perfect seeing as I have a couple trips coming up in the next few months. If anyone is looking for a contributed writer, or some free lance writing for blogs in this space, please contact me! email: courtney.reiko@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

ok- back to the good stuff. (images are hyperlinked and will lead you to each blog)

  1. Local Wanderer Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 10.31.07 AM.png
  2. Bridges and BalloonsScreen Shot 2017-06-06 at 10.35.25 AM.png
  3. Alex in Wanderland Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 10.37.54 AM.png
  4. Haylsa and her beautiful IG feedScreen Shot 2017-06-06 at 10.44.06 AM.png
  5. Free Candie – This woman completely inspires meScreen Shot 2017-06-06 at 10.47.31 AM.png