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Life Is Beautiful

I Made a Holiday Card for You – Los Angeles Fine Art Photographer

It’s the holidays.  I’ve been thinking, thinking what I can do to express my gratitude for you.  Then I decided to make a holiday card, by hand.

Didn’t someone say “it’s not the size of the gift, but how big the heart that gives the gift that matters”?  I hope you see my red little heart in this card. 🙂

Merry Christmas!  Thank you for being there and let me know that you care, for yet another year.  And have a happy New Year!


“It gets pretty cold here at night, down to sixty degrees 
There’s angel hair up in the palm trees, it sure looks like Christmas to me 
But, Santa’s been grounded, his reindeer came down with TB 
So, I bought you a plastic star for your aluminum tree. 

Merry Christmas, cold or warm! 🙂


Breast Cancer Did Not Take Away her Beauty – Los Angeles Transformational Beauty Photographer

Meet Polly.  When she felt that her life was just getting started – husband, baby son, career…, she was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer…

To say that the last 7 months have been difficult would be an extreme under-statement.  Despite the physical (and mental and spiritual) challenges, she was not defeated and stands to prove that she is still beautiful.

For her story of personal growth from the battle that’s still on-going, please visit this post with a video.  In the meantime, enjoy her beauty and the beauty of her strengths.

©Jean (Jiaying) Huang

Life has its twists and turns. So does my photography business. :-) – Los Angeles Custom Portrait Photographer

The title should be clear enough and this graph would make it even more clear as mud. 🙂

Back in the days when all I had online was baby photographs, I was hired to photograph an adult, a beautiful woman.

Skipping through the years, later, I attracted interest from body-builders.  While I’m excited at the interesting projects, I don’t want to jump the gun in assuming what kind of work that I show online got them inspired.  Do you want to give it a try by pasting the link from my blog site or website in the comment area?  More heads together is definitely better than my head. 🙂

©Jean (Jiaying) Huang

Show Thanks, Give Hope – Los Angeles Portrait Photographer

Hi all!  This is my first post after our vacation.

I could be sharing tons of beautiful images from the trip.  In fact, I just finished making a 2013 calendar with a few “hand-picked” images.  However, the day before Thanksgiving, I would like to share a story.

We were in Big Sur, California (yes, it’s kind of out-of-character for us to stay in the US for vacation, and I will explain in a separate post, if you really want to know why).  I’ve learned about the Bixby Bridge and seen it in images and videos.  In fact, it’s one of the videos with Bixby Bridge basking in the golden sunset that raised my interest in traveling the area.

As we drove along the coast, the photographer in me was looking for various angles to present “the bridge”, making stops constantly.  When we pulled into this one vista area, a colorfully decorated van caught my eyes – oh yeah, I’m a person of colors and my eyes get attracted by them.  First a cheerful lady, then the wheel chair and a gentleman rolled out of the car door.

The curious cat in me would not let me pass the opportunity to learn their stories.  So, it starts with someting like “You must be Steve…”.  Turns out Steve has been diagnosed with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.  The couple was from Georgia and traveling the West.  They’d been on the road for a week or so and was planning on getting back home for Thanksgiving.

Knowing the devastating impact of ALS on the patients and their loved ones, I was touched by the cheerfulness of the couple and offered to take a picture for them.  I wanted them to have a document of this memory at a beautiful place that they’ve spent time together.  At that moment, I knew I wanted to write about them and proceeded to get permission to take a photograph of them with my camera.

As I gave instructions to the location and the angle, the wheel chair that Steve was in (and operated by him) was moving faster than I could catch up with.  Impressive agility, Steve! 🙂

They are the perfect models for my photography!  The couple was grinning from ear to ear and did not need any instructions for smiling.  🙂
©Jean (Jiaying) Huang
We then purchased shirts from them to help raise awareness to ALS.  So the next time you see me sport a pink t-shirt with big beard on it (neither pink, nor beard is my thing under normal circumstances :-)), you’ll know it’s Steve on the shirt.

Before heading on with our trip, I had to ask the lady’s name.  You know what, her name is Hope.  Hope for Steve, what a good match!

Now, here’s my ask for all my good-hearted friends out there.  I know you’ve saved up for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Maybe a small portion can go to help Hope and Steve?  Maybe as you are sitting around dinner table with your loved ones tomorrow, you could share this post/their story and encourage them to help out as well?  On a day that we count our blessings, giving to others will complete the circle.

A little more tid bits about Hope and Steve (click here to learn more of their stories):
– Hope and Steve got married after Steve was diagnosed with ALS.
– Hope recently quit her job since leaving Steve at home to take care of himself when she had to travel for work was too painful for her.
– One admirable quality of the couple – they do not let the difficulties in life stop them from living their lives.

So, please, give hope this Thanksgiving by clicking on this van below:

©Jean (Jiaying) Huang 

Retain the Memory Before It’s Gone Forever – Los Angeles Portraiture Photographer

©Jean (Jiaying) HuangI was one second too late.  She’s gone.  And I don’t have a single image to commemorate her life.   

In the 2 years that our paths crossed, I learned that her husband had just passed away and she misses him with great pain every day.  I learned that she struggles health-wise and yet always manages to show up with a graceful demeanor.  And I also learned that she’s an extremely gentle soul – she always tells me that she likes my smiles because she sees sparkles in my eyes.  She says it with a smile on her face, as always.

The last time that I saw her, I told her what had always been on my mind – I wanted to photograph her.  To me, documenting a life with portraiture and listening to their life-long stories is a beautiful thing.

She was so excited and said would call me to arrange a time for the photo shoot as she’d have company soon.

Then, she left us.

Would her family have memories of her to hold on to when she’s gone?

I thought I’m on a mission as a photographer.  I feel that I’ve failed in this case …   

What would YOU do to retain memories of the loved ones in your life?

Happy Father’s Day – Los Angeles Fine Art Photographer

OK, I admit that this flower is a little too “feminine” for guys.  But hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?  Plus, I don’t think anybody would mind beauty, when it is intrinsically beautiful.

So, you know you won’t receive a tool box from me as a Father’s Day gift.  And here’s my wish to all the guys out there for a happy Father’s Day!

©Jean (Jiaying) Huang

An Authentic Japanese Portrait – Los Angeles Custom Portrait Photographer

Many of you know that I’ve just had a trip to Japan.  As exciting as it is to share the experience, it can be overwhelming when you try to tell the stories through photography.  Especially when you visit many unique and vastly different cities, the question that begs to jump out is “where do you start”?

Well, hulling through all images and process and edit to make a 2012 calendar in itself can feel like a paramount project.  And yet, the remaining tasks seem a bigger mountain to climb.  (Side note: for those that know me or will get to know me, I do not like climbing mountains. :-))  And of course, I never forget my mission in this photographic journey – it’s a beautiful world and I’m here to share the beauty the way I see it.  So, I decide to pick an image from an encounter that leaves the most impression to me on the trip.

This started when we ran into a real beauty while visiting the Ritsurin Park in Takamatsu.

Ritsurin Park is among the many beautiful parks/gardens that we’ve visited in Japan and is one of my favorites.  As I always say, people make part of the scenery anywhere you go.  When you have  great interaction with people at any locale, you end up liking this place for the fond memories.  I won’t digress into too much details of what this Park is about as this will be the subject of my travel blog.  I just feel that it was my lucky day to have met Arisa with her hair dresser/make-up artist Doiko (I hope I didn’t butcher her name. :P).

They were so nice to allow me to take portraits of Arisa while they were there for business.  Arisa was a natural and with little directions, she looks really good in this image.  A Japanese girl, in the beautiful kimono, with a real Japanese setting.  What an authentic experience! 

What do you think?
©Jean (Jiaying) Huang

Bob, see you later! – Los Angeles Photographer

I have to prefix that this is not my normal post.

I was reading an article about traveling in Ireland and it reminded me of Bob, an Irish descend.

Bob was my professor in graduate school.  He gave me a few “A”s and I hated it when he gave me a “B”.  I was in a few of his classes and he would normally not say much.  He’d ask questions to “probe” around and see if he would hit a sparkle from someone in his class.

Bob was a cancer survivor.  From all I could see, he looked normal.  He said he had cut down on red meat.

A few of us students grew close to him.  We would share aspirations with him and ask questions about our career.  As usual, Bob would not say much.  He’d listen and smile.

After graduation, life took us in a wind-swirl.  But we kept in touch with Bob.  I’d get an e-mail from him once every few months or years.  I’d be so happy to reply right away and to only hear from him again months or years later.  Every time I changed job, Bob would be happy to be my reference and not ask or say much.

Last summer, a friend mentioned that she got an e-mail about keeping Bob in the prayer at the end of 2009.  I said to myself, if anything happened to Bob, it’d be so significant that I’d know about it.

So today, when I realized that it’s been a really long time since I heard from Bob, I went and searched for Bob’s e-mail.  The last that I heard from him was an e-mail forward in June 2009.   I decided to take one step further and Google searched him.

My heart started wrenching and my stomach churning.  I so hoped that the obituary on the top was not you, Bob.  When I saw your picture, I was so not ready for the emotions that follow.

Bob, you’ve always known me better than I do.  Through years of growth, I now finally understand the wisdom that you so casually uttered.

I remember, one time, when I so excitedly told you about the offers that I got from two of the “Big 4”.  You replied, “go to the one with the higher signing bonus”.  At the time, it seemed such an inappropriate attitude to such a serious decision.  But, seeing me putting myself through the wild chase in the rat race, did you know that I was meant for something else?  And yet, you watched and let me go through life in my chosen path.

Bob, I am finally where my heart is and, seriously, I don’t take myself that seriously anymore.  But Bob, all the learning in life did not prepare me for this moment.   

I’m confused.  How can I still have years of e-mails from you when you are not with us anymore?  How can you check out early when you are one of the influences that shaped me into who I am today?

Bob, I know it will be hard to accept for a long time that you are somewhere else now.  And I want to thank you for being there all these years.

I know you loved horses.  Do you have horses up there?  Here’s one for you, captured and processed with my new found talent/passion (and hope that you have internet up there too):


©Jean (Jiaying) Huang


P.S. Had it been an article for our class, how would you grade it? 😉  Thanks for teaching me how to write!

The sign of any fresh start is exciting – Los Angeles Photographer

I’m a big believer in maximizing the utility of anything before putting it back to the environment.  Needless to say, I recycle papers and reuse plastic bags, etc.  Once in a while, when I use vegetables in the kitchen, I’d imagine the possibilities of growing them in my garden.  Therefore, I save seeds.

©Jean (Jiaying) Huang

The other day, I remembered some that I kept since last year.  Not thinking much of the season, I planted them and was instantly rewarded with the nice little faces of these sprouts.  How cute they are (remember, I’m a photographer that sees cuteness or beauty in most anything)?  

Do I remember what I planted?  No.  Would I worry if I’d get fruits from them?  Not really, although it’ll be nice.  I don’t worry about the end results as much as I want to enjoy the process and make sure to put in the due effort (Hey, I “single-handedly” brought these lives into this world.  I’d need to be responsible.).  With anything, I believe that if I do enough of right things, the positive energy will go around and eventually come as rewards as I least expect it.

What do you think?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. I am curious though how this plant will turn out to be.  I know it’s a squash type.  So, would it be a pumpkin, a cucumber, a winter melon or something else that I happened to stash the seeds away last year?  Anybody with a green thumb can tell? 🙂

Do you know your lifetime dream(s)? – Los Angeles Portrait and Fine-Art Photographer

I still remember in the days of my corporate life, I’d say things like “when I retire, I would …”.  It seemed that I was saving the best things in life until my “golden years”.  It seemed as if the life before retirement was supposed to be lacking, and suffering through it was part of the “package” that came with life.

©Jean (Jiaying) HuangWell, things do not always go with plans and who would have known that I could change?  I changed, way before I reached retirement age.  Somewhere along the line, I started looking within to search for happiness and contentment.  So today, when I read the blog post “Before I Die – What is Important to You” by public installation artist, designer, urban planner, and co-founder of Civic Center  Candy Chang, I felt a sense of relief.  As I tried to reflect on the things that I wanted to achieve over the years, I am happy that I did not wait for a “perfect time” to act on them.

We may be able to plan our retirement; we won’t know when our last day is in this world.  So what’s on your list the things that you always wanted to do and yet life gets in the way?  Since waiting does not seem to be a good option, make plans to start allowing room to act on your “dreams”.  

So what my dream life was like years ago, you may ask.  I wanted to lead a creative life and travel around the world.  And today, far ahead of my supposed “retirement age”, I am creating as a photographer and oil painter (and many other ways of creating to come), and my passion for travel has taken me to many corners of the world.  And yet, what’s more fulfilling is that I’m able to contribute to a positive life experience to my clients by bringing beauty to their lives or reminding them of such beauty.  I wouldn’t have asked for my life any other way.

So today, allow yourself 5 minutes of your busy life to sit down and complete this sentence: “Before I die, I want to ____________”.  Look forward to your sharing!

P.S. As I was deep in the drafting of this post, a friend that hasn’t called for years rang.  As you would’ve expected, she was shocked (to say the least) at my changes.  It’ll be interesting to find out her husband’s reaction when she tells him first thing back home.  Hehe…