Rebecca Li Photography: Blog en-us (C) 2016-2024 Rebecca Li. All rights reserved. (Rebecca Li Photography) Thu, 22 Sep 2022 07:27:00 GMT Thu, 22 Sep 2022 07:27:00 GMT Rebecca Li Photography: Blog 86 120 PPA Super 1 Day on Travel Photography I am so excited and honored that I will be conducting a travel photography class on October 19, 2019, with my fellow photographer John E. Powers of Applesauce Photography. John recently published his first photography book on the beautiful people and landscapes of Vietnam.

We look forward to sharing and discussing all things travel-related: research, logistics, how to overcome cultural and language barriers... basically, all the tricks in our bags to get the most impactful images.

The class is among the hundreds of Super 1 Day classes offered during a 2-week nationwide educational event by Professional Photographers of America (PPA). It is open to PPA members and also everyone who is interested. PPA collects the fees; John and I are doing this to get merits toward our Master Craftsman degrees within the association, basically in the spirit of contributing back to our profession. We do receive a portion of the fees after the 7th attendee, but we are keeping this class small to only 15 participants for the best experience.

Click here for class details. Register before September 30 to save!


Let me thank our fellow photographer and friend David LaNeve for letting us use California Center for Digital Arts (CCDA) as a venue for this workshop! CCDA offers a wide range of photography classes taught by highly qualified instructors. Check it out!


About Professional Photographers of America (PPA)

It is a worldwide non-profit association that assists more than 30,000+ members in achieving their professional, artistic, and fraternal goals; to promote public awareness of the profession; and to advance the making of images in all of its disciplines as an art, a science and a visual recorder of history.

(Rebecca Li Photography) professional photographers of america workshop Wed, 31 Jul 2019 10:13:07 GMT
PPA CPP Liaison 2019 I am very excited to be selected as a CPP Liaison! Since March 2016, I have been a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) Beginning January 1, 2019, I will be an official resource to assist candidates and CPPs as subject matter experts and sources of information. 

The CPP certification program is under the direction of the Certification Committee at Professional Photographers of America (PPA), which meets on a regular basis to make sure that the certification process always reflects the new advances in the photography industry.

The certification is established following the standards of National Organization for Competency Assurance. Previously known as the Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE), the organization sets the guidelines for creating the written test for certification, ensuring the questions are relevant to professional photography today. The Institute of Credentialing Excellence also provides support and information for maintaining the certification process to the certification Committee.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions. For more information, please visit

PPA CPP Liaison 2019PPA CPP Liaison 2019

(Rebecca Li Photography) CPP PPA Professional Photographers of America Thu, 13 Sep 2018 20:00:00 GMT
Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor @ Norton Simon After writing my last blog on Edgar Degas’s Little Dancer statue, I just couldn’t put her out of my mind. So, I decided to pay her a little visit at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, especially since there was a special Degas exhibition that was to end soon. (Ended as of April 9)

Degas's statuettes are already well known and usually on prominent display at Norton Simon. What was special this time was that they were showcased in much closer proximity with the artists’ famed paintings and drawings. Together with an informative guided tour, the exhibition provided a wonderful opportunity to learn of the artist’s interests and work processes. The theme “taking shape” refers to both Degas’s own development as well as his role in the history of modern art.

I am no art history buff, but I can't help sharing the interesting "facts" that I *think* I learned. Beware, I have not done any fact check!


Paintings, Drawings, and Sculptures

Despite his training in classical art techniques, Degas was quite forward in his times, in mixing media and exploring non-traditional, daily facets of life. Do you see how the sculptures, drawings, and paintings go hand in hand?

Most people would know Degas as a painter, as he only showed one sculpture - the original "Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen" - in public in his life time. (and he managed to stir up a major controversy in the art world!) However, it was not a secret that he sculpted: apparently, his families and friends who frequented his studio would see his sculpture projects on prominent display!

Sculpture is really an integrated part of Degas's creative process. He studied his subject well before making his final artwork. Most of the statues Degas made are nudes. That reminds me of Michelangelo's unconventional practice to study the human body. Realistic depiction was one characteristics of the Renaissance.

Although bronzes were popular and relatively affordable n Paris at the time, Degas made his statues in beeswax and clay. He was known to think that the more transient materials carried less expectations and responsibilities as "experiments", and it was his preferred way to study shapes and forms of his subjects.



It has been over a century since the artist's death in 1917. Majority of the original statues in beeswax and clay did not survive the test of time. Degas's heirs, prompted by right intentions or not, commissioned bronzes cast from whatever they could salvage in Degas's studio. The result is multiple copies of Degas's priceless statuettes on exhibit in top museums around the world. The set of "modèles" at the Norton Simon Museum is of significance over the other bronzes at other venues: it is the first (and of course, only) collection of bronzes cast from the original wax and plaster statuettes. It uniquely shows the handiwork of the artist, as subsequent serial casts were made from this set, and in most cases, "fixes" were made that were not part of the wax originals.


Marie, the Little Dancer

Marie van Goethem, from a poor Belgian family living in Paris, was the model for his famous “La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans,” shown at the at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition of 1881. (Learn more from my last blog.)

I think the statuettes pictured below have been permanently on view at the museum, but this is the first time I realize that they are related.

By the way, the tour guide remarked that it is a very sloppy fourth position Marie is immortalized in. I guess I am now more in sync with Degas's claiming to be a "realist" at Impressionist times.



Dancers, Horses & Bathers

In addition to dancers, Degas's favorite subjects included horses and bathers. I have yet to fall in love with the horses. His obsession with bathers was a little more interesting. There were also many beautiful sketches, paintings, and sculptures on the subject at the museum. Two pieces caught my eye.

"The Tub". Careful planning. Incredible attention to details. (Look at the placement of the right foot on the tub!) Creative use of materials (the original had white, murky "water" from a thin piece of plaster, and coated rag as "towel" at the base of the tub)

"Woman Drying Herself after the Bath". The lighting wasn't ideal, so I didn't take a picture of the painting. Click here for the image. It is said to be Degas's first experiments in monotype -- drawing on copper plates in hopes to make multiple copies. Degas very much painted over the blacks with pastels, with only small parts of the ink visible. This piece is also special because it was once owned by Claude Monet!!


Foreign Influence

With leaps in information, internet, and mobile technologies the last few decades, it is easy to forget that the 19th century was not too shabby at all either. After all, it was 500 years after Marco Polo accomplished his transcontinental Silk Road journeys, and at least 300 years since explorers started sailing around the world. International travel brought foreign trade and exchange of ideas.

Degas's adoption of fan motif and Spanish dance poses clearly reflected the foreign influence on western art. In fact, the 1879 Indépendents exhibition had a room dedicated entirely to fans. Degas and many other Impressionist painters put their own spins to capitalize on the latest fad to make more sales.

19th Century Photoshop!

The most fascinating tidbit I learnt about Degas was how he expanded his paintings... physically!

Degas loved framing his primary subjects with secondary subjects. In this case, the dancer in front was intended to provide contrast and context to the one in pink. If you look carefully, the original drawing ended in between the eye and the ear of the partial dancer.

At some point, Degas changed his mind and decided to give his secondary subject a bit more presence. He added an extra inch of paper to the right. Actually, there was another expansion at the bottom of the drawing, and the seams were visible to the naked eye upon close examination.

With his abilities to create scenes from his various studies and observations as well as add vibrance using pastels, he was literally the master of composites, like skilled digital artists who would do these digitally in Photoshop today.
















I learnt much more than expected about Edgar Degas, his life, his work, and, in particular, his relentless study of his subjects in preparation for his ultimate masterpieces. Given Norton Simon’s large collection of Degas’s work, I wish the museum would have a room dedicated to the artist, just like this exhibition. I look forward to visiting the museum again soon to get more inspirations!

P.S. I found out that Degas was a photographer too. He took pictures of friends, family, and models, and even selfies! It'd be interesting to add his photographs in the examination of his paintings and sculptures.

Note: The artwork shown are properties of Norton Simon Art Foundation, and the images taken are not intended for reproduction. You can find more information about each piece on the museum’s website.



Norton Simon Museum Pasadena, CA

Exhibition: Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor

(Rebecca Li Photography) art event museum Wed, 11 Apr 2018 14:09:02 GMT
Finalist in International B&W Photo Contest 2018

One Eyeland has named me one of the finalists in the Travel category in its annual World's Top 10 Black & White Photo Contest for 2018. The selection was made by a 7-judge panel, and world-renowned photographers, such as Peter Lik, are among the award recipients.

I was honored and truly humbled by the recognition, as I can see that I still have tons to work on to belong to that group of sophisticated, talented photographers showcased in this competition. Thank you, One Eyeland, for giving me an opportunity to show my work among my esteemed peers.

Follow these links for the images:

My winning image: Hiroshima Standing Proud

One Eyeland World's Top 10 Black & White Photo Contest 2018


(Rebecca Li Photography) awards Wed, 11 Apr 2018 00:00:00 GMT
Degas’s “Little Dancer” Sculpture As I was digging through my older pictures for a project, I came across some taken at the Norton Simon Museum, featuring bronze statuettes of Edgar Degas, who was better known for his paintings of ballerinas. It was at Norton Simon that I first learnt of Degas as a sculptor. Apparently, I am not the only one who only knew Degas as a painter, so I decided to do a bit of (non-scholarly) research on the Internet.

One of the most captivating pieces is named “Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen.” It turns out that there are a total of 28 (!) casts of this “Little Dancer” in museums and galleries worldwide, and possibly a few more in private collection.

Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen by Edgar DegasNorton Simon Museum
"Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen" by Edgar Degas

It would appear that Degas was a mass manufacturer, but that was not the case. After a long career in painting and drawing, Degas began to teach himself sculpture in the late 1870s. He considered himself a realist although he was very much part of Impressionism. He studied the human body and embraced it in his artwork. The “Little Dancer” was born out of his fascination with ballerinas and was a controversial piece depicting the working class of poor, indecent women. In Victorian times, dancing was not a well-respected career. Ballerinas were “women of the night” -- women who were willing to show off their bodies in tight-fitting costumes for money. Many also became mistresses of wealthy men.

The model for this “Little Dancer” is believed to be Marie Geneviève van Goethem, who was born into a poor Belgian family. She was a student at the Ballet de l’Opera (Paris Opera Ballet School) and first modeled for Degas at the age of 11, probably for extra money. The statuette above was from the time she posed at 14 when she did so both in the nude and in a ballet costume. Although Marie was since immortalized in Degas’s drawings and sculptures, little else was known except that she was dismissed from Paris Opera, either from being late to rehearsals or from missing too many classes. Some believed that Marie’s mother was prostituting her daughters to the Opera’s regular visitors, and Marie might have become a prostitute full-time after being fired at 17. No marriage or death record was found; Marie probably died in poverty and was buried in an unmarked grave.

The original “Little Dancer” sculpture Degas made was in fragile pigmented beeswax, clay and plastiline. It was said to wear real human hair (wig), tied back with a silk and linen ribbon bow, dressed in a silk bodice and a gauze tutu, fitted with fabric slippers, and placed on a wooden base. The tights on her legs were lumpy, showing poor quality or poor fit. As Marie was still training to be a ballerina, she was depicted in a moment in a routine practice instead of performing on stage. She stood in the fourth position with arms stretched back uncomfortably, head and chin held as far back as humanly possible; the unnatural, awkward pose showed utmost determination and forced confidence of a teenager trying her best to get herself out of poverty.

The multiple bronze casts were not made until Degas’s death in 1917. More than 150 figure studies were found in his studio, and many were already deteriorating, as Degas had not favored reproducing his sculptures in more permanent materials. His heirs commissioned sculptor Paul-Albert Bartholomé, Degas's longtime friend, and the distinguished Paris foundry A.-A. Hébrard et Cie to cast copies in bronze to preserve the compositions and to sell them as finished artwork. For “Little Dancer”, the bronze statuettes were partially tinted and then dressed in cotton skirts and satin hair ribbons.

This “Little Dancer” would stand out in art history and Degas’s career over the rest of his work: the wax original, now in National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., is the first and only sculpture Degas ever exhibited in public during his lifetime. Called “La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans” when it was first exhibited in Paris at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition of 1881, it was not as warmly received as it is today. Although many critics proclaimed it a true masterpiece of modern art with incredible realism, the majority considered it “ugly”, “simply hideous”. Apart from the unwelcomed representation of the working class, the dancer’s face attracted intense criticism and wild, controversial speculations. The dancer was described as looking like a monkey; many even speculated that Degas was making a statement about dancers being criminals! The claim was based on the popular “scientific” study of phrenology at the time: the relatively big skull and other prominent facial features Degas gave the “Little Dancer” suggested a character of wrongdoings. In the end, the wax figure was not sold and thus remained in Degas’s studio until his death.


Close up of "Little Dancer, Aged 14" by Edgar DegasNorton Simon Museum   Real Ribbon of "Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen" by Edgar DegasNorton Simon Museum
Close-up and Back of "Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen" at the Norton Simon Museum


What a story behind just one little dancer! I wonder if Degas may be turning in his grave for his family casting so many copies of his wax statuette into bronze. He may be even more horrified to learn that everyone can now own a piece of his work, from posters, postcards to small replicas, t-shirts, and mobile phone cases! On the other hand, he may be glad to know that ballet dancing is now perceived in more positive lights. He may or may not like that we can now “visit” his dancers from our computers in the comfort of our homes without even setting foot in any museums. Despite the many benefits and perils of technology, I am grateful to gain new insights on a piece that I already found inspiring in the first place. Perhaps one day I would create a significant “Little Dancer” of my own!

P.S. By coincidence, I found out that the Norton Simon Museum is hosting an exhibition titled "Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor" until April 9, 2018. Time to pay a visit, anyone?



Norton Simon Museum Pasadena, CA

National Gallery of Art Washington D.C.


(Rebecca Li Photography) art event museum travel Fri, 30 Mar 2018 16:47:53 GMT
First PPA Super 1 Day I will be conducting a photographic workshop on focus stacking on May 20, 2018. It is among the 200+ Super 1 Day classes offered during a 2-week nationwide educational event by Professional Photographers of America (PPA). The classes have been a huge success each year.

This is my first time teaching for PPA — I am so excited that I will be hosting the class with my fellow photographer Nick Seth-Smith of Images by Nick.

Focus stacking is a digital image manipulation technique that helps photographers overcome the limits of their lenses in obtaining the desired depth of field (DOF). It is made possible by new computer software to blend multiple pictures together to create an image with more in focus.

The class is open to PPA members and all who are interested. PPA collects the fees; Nick and I are doing this to get merits toward our Master Craftsman degrees within the association, basically in the spirit of contributing back to our profession. We do receive a portion of the fees after the 7th attendee, but we are keeping this class small to only 15 participants for best experience.

Click here for event details. Register before April 30 to save!

Let me thank our fellow photographer and friend Ramiro Gaytan for letting us use California Photography Center as a venue for this workshop! Ramiro is also teaching a Super 1 Day this May; he will be sharing his wisdom on lighting for portraits. Don't miss it!


About Professional Photographers of America (PPA)

It is a worldwide non-profit association that assists more than 30,000+ members in achieveing their professional, artistic, and fraternal goals; to promote public awareness of the profession; and to advance the making of images in all of its disciplines as an art, a science and a visual recorder of history.

(Rebecca Li Photography) professional photographers of america workshop Tue, 06 Mar 2018 10:10:16 GMT
Straight Out of Camera Photographer of the Year I am humbled and honored to have won the best of category in "Straight Out of Camera" in the annual print competition of Professional Photographers of California this year. It's one of my favorite abstract pieces and it's 100% created in camera!

Thank you for the judges and everyone who competed at the state competition; you are making me a better photographer every year. Thanks to BayPhoto for the beautiful plaque.

2017 SOOC Photographer of the Year2017 SOOC Photographer of the Year by PPC2017 SOOC Photographer of the Year by PPC


If you are a serious photographer and you are not competing, I highly encourage you to consider. It's good way to motivate yourself and to get feedback for your work. There are many competitions around the world; just search on the Internet and find one that works for you!

(Rebecca Li Photography) PPC Professional Photographers of California awards Tue, 13 Jun 2017 07:00:00 GMT
PPC Awards 2017 I am thrilled to report that I am receiving two awards from Professional Photographers of California's annual print competition this year. The ceremony will be held next week.

2017 PPC Award2017 PPC Award notification

(Rebecca Li Photography) PPC Professional Photographers of California awards event Mon, 05 Jun 2017 08:30:00 GMT
Judging for AVPP Competition I was honored to have been invited to be one of the three judges at the digital photo competition of All Valley Professional Photographers (AVPP) last night. The caliber of talents was impressive; although there were only 38 entries in this first competition of the year, the photographers collectively demonstrated an eye for details, color harmony, composition, and some more than others, originality and creativity in a wide range of categories from nature, portraits, wedding, to digital art.

In the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) family of organizations, photographers are encouraged to enter local and state-level competitions to get initial feedback on their work in preparation for the annual district/national competition. These local competitions also represent opportunities to earn recognition. So, last night at AVPP, the competing photographers are testing the waters, so to speak, to see how well their images may be perceived by a panel of judges. 31 out of 38 images merited; that was an unusually high percentage, but it can be explained by immense creative skills and practical experience of the entrants. Most images were scored between 80-84, indicating a level of “deserving of a merit”, one category up from “above average”, but just short of being “excellent”, the next category up. I was happy that the panel of judges amply rewarded the image makers for their concepts and efforts, and the images demonstrated a lot of potential for next levels of competitions. Unfortunately, there wasn't sufficient time for all judges to share their comments for each image, as it would have been enlightening for me too. 

As I reflect on the night, I feel obligated to point out to the group that they should strive to perfect their entries for the next rounds. Who wouldn’t, right? Well, sometimes we are too proud or blinded or emotionally invested to evaluate our own work objectively. While the competing photographers presented many brilliant ideas last night, execution was not without problems: sensor spots, banding, over-dodging / burning / sharpening, subjects being out-of-focus, distracting highlights or objects, a lack of details in prominent black or white areas, and awkward composition or posing. At the state level and up, technical deficiencies are considered sloppy and inexcusable, and I have seen superior images stripped of their merits, at original scoring or after a judge’s challenge. 

In my scoring for the night, to show the makers my vote of confidence, I awarded merits to images that impressed me with their impact, storytelling, technique, and artistic values, despite minor, fixable technical issues. On the other hand, I equally denied images from merits for major or overwhelming number of visible issues. Sloppy burning and dodging is like not coloring enough or coloring out of the line, obvious even to untrained eyes. Hiding imperfections, such as unsharp subjects, behind artistic filters may be the solution to deliver an otherwise beautiful image; nevertheless, the flaws will not escape the judges in PPA competitions. Perfecting an image involves being detail-oriented as well as learning when to stop, knowing "when enough is enough". Also, remember, sometimes less is more; you may find a frame within the frame, a story within the big story. Do not forget that a big part of photography is “photo-”, i.e. Lighting. "Light" shapes forms and textures and induces dimensions and drama into an otherwise flat image. I made the same mistakes in the past, and I now try my best not to repeat them.

An image's final score was calculated by averaging the scores of the three judges. If you were one of the competitors last night and your image scored in the low 80s (or any score, really), I’d highly recommend you seek advice on how to resolve and remove technical issues in the image and improve on presentation. Doing so will improve your chances of meriting in the next competitions. Reach out to other photographers whom you trust and make it an educational experience for both of you. It is going to be a win-win situation. Besides, who wouldn’t want their images to go "Loan" at the International Photographic Competition (IPC)?!?* <smirk>

As one of the three judges, I gave my best and fairest judgement and opinions at the competition. It was a tremendous learning experience for me, and I hope the entrants and the audience felt the same. Being able to explain something clearly to other people (especially in multiple ways) means true mastery. Honestly, I am still learning, and my opinions do not represent the absolute truth. The system is not free of subjectivity, but I believe this is the best continuous education available for working photographers. 

In the end, photography is as much an art as it is a science. Artists are notorious for being persistent or stubborn; many have become icons of their times because they have defied traditions. As Jerry Stevenson, the 1st place winner last night, said, “Stay true to yourself / your heart.” I couldn’t agree more. The more I learn, the more risks I take, and the more confident I feel as an artist: by the way, a relatively new identity for me! Don’t get discouraged -- I have my fair share of my “best” images not meriting. (Note the present tense!) Not everyone likes my images, and that’s ok. My art is not for everyone, including PPA / IPC judges. PPA has to set some rules for its game, but that should not preclude us from creating for ourselves.

If you are still not convinced, come see the print comp of Inland Empire Professional Photographers & Videographers (IEPPV) on Wednesday, March 15. Your dear judges Jose Quintanilla and I will be in your seats, having our images judged. Jose was among a few people who inspired me to compete at PPA. My first time was a total disaster, as I pretty much went in blind, but I was proud to tell my family and friends (and I am telling you now) that I competed with Peter Lik!! He was listed just below me alphabetically! *grin*

Congratulations again to everyone who entered last night! You are doing the right thing to become a better photographer. I look forward to competing with you at PPA Western District and at IPC!



* For those of you unfamiliar with the PPA family of organizations -- Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest non-profit organization of professional photographers in the United States. It has affiliates at the state and local levels (sometimes called “local guilds”) that maintain their own autonomy but mostly abide with PPA guidelines. AVPP is one of these local guilds in the Los Angeles area. It holds its monthly meetings at the La Canada Flintridge Country Club overlooking breathtaking valleys with a distant view of downtown Los Angeles.

Print competition is at the heart of the PPA system of education and recognition. While inevitably there are some aggressive competitors and emotions can run high, the competition system mainly sets a standard and encourages members to "up their game" and beat themselves. It is not all about who is no. 1, 2, 3, but how an image measures up according to the 12 Elements, a guideline to provide an objective look at a very much subjective art. Each image is scored against a predefined scale, and any entry with a score of 80 or above receives a merit. Most state and local affiliates have adopted this system and offer regular competitions throughout the year. This enables their members to prepare for the annual PPA/IPC competition, in which a merit counts towards the three Masters degrees -- Master of Photography, Master Artist, and Photographic Craftsman -- offered by PPA as incentives to working professional photographers in the field to improve their crafts. Furthermore, the best of the best entries each year are included in the exclusive Loan collection that is published as a book and may tour around the world. Image entries are judged by a panel of trained judges, all working or retired professional photographers who have earned at least one Master’s degree and who have been through many hours of judging at state, national, and international levels. Competitions are taken very seriously, and I find it a very rewarding experience. Feel free to contact me at rebeccaliphotography[AT] or 781-281-8885 if you’d like to know more.


Professional Photographers of America (PPA)

Professional Photographers of California (PPC)

All Valley Professional Photographers (AVPP)


(Rebecca Li Photography) PPA PPC Professional Photographers of America judging Fri, 10 Mar 2017 06:00:00 GMT
Unplug Your Wedding and Enjoy Every Moment So, you have decided to hire a professional photographer for your wedding to preserve the precious moments of your big day. Good for you!

I am sure you have done your research -- you love the style of the photographer, and his/her/their package fits your needs and budget. You may have checked out the references from past clients and even asked about the equipment.

What else can you do to ensure you get what you pay for? Here's an idea -- unplug your wedding! Have your guests put down their cameras, smart phones, tablets, and any other image-capturing device and be present during those sacred moments. Here's a parody if you are not convinced: (great job, SLF Weddings!)

Unplugged from SLF Weddings on Vimeo.

A special note to the Faux-tographers: I understand how you'd like to help your friend(s) while beefing up your portfolio. Go find your own gig! Leave your cameras at home when you are invited as a guest. The fact that you were not hired by your friends does not mean that they don't love your pictures; they'd rather you be witness to their holy matrimony. (Ok, maybe they don't like your work, and all the more reasons that you shouldn't shoot at their wedding.)

As courtesy and my preference not to mix work with personal engagements, I have stopped bringing cameras to weddings when I am a guest. I do have my iPhone with me, but it mostly stays in my purse, especially during the ceremony. I want the wedding party to see my face and not the back of my phone. I want to be in the joyous moment and be moved by the beautiful union. The only times I would take out my phone would be when guests are free to roam around, and I see (1) impressive decorations worth sharing on Instagram; or (2) moments that are too funny to pass, like this one:

Paparazzi at the weddingPaparazzi at the wedding?Paparazzi at the wedding, not counting the people behind me!!

See the 2nd person on the left (in black) behind the flowers? He wasn't even shooting the couple! I happened to be in the front row, but I swear there were another 50 phones and cameras behind me! So, I didn't see my friends signing their marriage license, but I sincerely hope that the professional photographer captured the moment properly. (I just assumed that the one on ladder was the hired pro!??)

Unplug your wedding. I know it's difficult to implement. After all, some people get separation anxiety for not looking at their phones every 15 seconds. Try to follow the principal; ask your guests to refrain from taking pictures (esp. with flash) and videos during important moments. Tell them that the professional photographer will take a picture of the whole crowd and put down the phone if they want their faces in it.

While it's frustrating to be blocked by guests, I also find it amusing as the wedding photographer -- see this aunt photo-bombing the couple at their first dance. I am sure she got a picture of me shooting her too, and I hope she too found it amusing. Ultimately, it's your choice and your photographer would shoot to the best of his/her abilities. I can assure you that it's still better than relying on Uncle Bob... LOL.

Photo bomb at the First DancePhoto bomb at the First Dance


(Rebecca Li Photography) ideas wedding Wed, 01 Feb 2017 16:00:00 GMT
Don't Lose Your Valuable Memories. PRINT. The Movement Article adapted from Print. The Movement.

We Have Entered the Era of the Photographic Lost Generation

We are taking photos more than ever, but they’re nearly all digital files with very few tangible prints being produced. By now we know that digital never means safe, yet millions of memories are currently being entrusted to servers, clouds and phones. The risk could be felt by our entire generation, as we grow up without a printed, photographic record of our lives. The most photographed generation of all time could wind up being the next Lost Generation.


The Need for a Movement 

It’s not just affecting today’s youth. 42% of people between the ages of 30 and 44 will likely look back and wonder where photos of their childhood, holiday get-togethers, relatives and friends have gone decades from now1, and, reportedly, 67% store their photos solely on a computer or phone. Statistics show that a staggering 53% of consumers have not printed a photo in more than 12 months, 70% don’t have photo albums, and 42% no longer print photos at all.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We know that everything from candles, bicycles and vinyl albums have survived the “disruption” caused by technological advancements. We have to remember the value and importance of printed, framed, and mounted photographs in our lives and for the generations after us. Children love to see images of themselves around the house, newlyweds have fond moments when they see their wedding photo on the mantle or walls, and our most beloved pets are sealed in time…all thanks to the power of print.              

Print. The Movement 

That’s why PPA, along with leading photography industry partners, has created PRINT. The Movement. The movement’s mission is to educate photographers and consumers alike on the value and importance of printed photographs. For consumers, it’s an awareness campaign designed to help consumers see the value in showcasing and preserving their lives or their families’ lives with high-quality prints, albums, and all types of displays from professional photographers and photographic suppliers. For photographers, it’s a chance to show their community and their clients that they know what it takes to create a finished product that speaks much louder than a digital file and that will withstand the test of time.


Be More Proactive

How can you ensure your memories last for generations? Start by finding the right photographer. PPA photographers spend endless amounts of time and effort perfecting their craft and working harmoniously with their clients. When you need a photographer for that special day or special time in your lives, finding the right one can make all the difference. Once you find him or her, then it’s time to find out about their expertise with print art. Here are a few questions to guide you through:

Does the photographer offer print art?

Does the photographer have examples of their print art you can review?

Does the photographer use quality paper?

Can the photographer offer quality options within your price range?

Can the photographer show you how the art would look in your very own home?

If you do the right research, you’ll be glad you made the effort. The perfect photographer will also be glad that you are interested in quality work and print art. Together, you and your photographer can create beautiful pieces for your home and for your family.

1 2015 nationwide survey conducted by Professional Photographers of America (PPA)


(Rebecca Li Photography) Professional Photographers of America art print Thu, 01 Dec 2016 17:00:00 GMT
Arthur Levi Rainville -- Art, Heart & Soul Arthur RainvilleArthur Rainville

Arthur Levi Rainville is a true artist and teacher of the life and business of “Art, Heart & Soul.” He prides himself in saving lives (memories) through photography. He captures his clients’ little moments to help them remember their great lifestyle. It was my honor and pleasure to spend last weekend with him at a retreat organized by Professional Photographers of California (PPC). 

The two-day session with Arthur was closer to a Yoga or religious retreat than a photography workshop; the latter tends to focus on the technical (equipment, software, posing) or informational (business, regulations) aspects of photography. Arthur led us through a presentation of inspirational quotes as well as beautiful music, images, and videos to explore how to grow as an artist and what it means to be an artistic photographer who takes advantage of technology to create emotional imagery. He also walked the walk and demonstrated his art of capturing and engaging the people on the other side of the camera.

Without giving away Arthur’s secret sauce, I’d just say that my analytical self has finally acknowledged the artist within me. I am inspired to let go of cynicism and allow myself to be creative. Arthur’s teachings resonate with me and confirm that I have been on the right track: study, play, and practice. In time, I’d be able to imprint more of my heart and soul into my creations. This is also going to be why my photos, even those that appear to be snapshots, are always going to be just more professional and poetic than amateur shots.

Big Hug to you, Arthur! You are my inspiration.

P.S. Part of my letting go of cynicism -- at the workshop, I had my first experience in photographing "human" models, paparazzi style! The last time I did any paparazzi shooting was taking pictures of a big group of hammerhead sharks in the depths of Cocos Island in Costa Rica; the divers could at least spread out horizontally as well as vertically. I apologize to any photographers whom I might have elbowed, bumped into, or stepped on.

P.P.S. Arthur will be teaching a 5-day version of this workshop at the West Coast School next June. Don’t miss it!

Arthur Levi Rainville

West Coast School of Photography

(Rebecca Li Photography) art event PPC Professional Photographers of California Mon, 12 Sep 2016 15:00:00 GMT
Being Part of the Artwork @ The Broad In Greek roots, "to photograph" means "to draw in light". As a photographer, I create images and artwork through what I can see and capture with light-sensitive media and/or devices.

However, at the Broad, world-renowned artist Yayoi Kusama "draws in light" in a different dimension -- the Infinity Mirrored Room -- The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013) allows the viewer to become part of the artwork. Made with wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls and water, the room houses a unique experience: as lights reflect off the mirrors and water, the space multiplies and expands infinitely. 


Rebecca in Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room -- The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013Rebecca in Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room -- The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013The Broad
INSIDE Yayoi Kusama's Infinity MIrrored Room -- The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013


It is a very personal experience; a guest can decide to be in the room alone or with another person (up to 2 people). As I stepped into the room, I felt peace, as if I was standing under a canopy of stars at night or viewing a city's skyline at a distance. Yet, when some bright lights flashed from above, I was invigorated and was transported to a cosmic dimension, in which I felt how little I was among "all the souls light years away", in time and in space. The museum's website says it best, "[Inside the exhibit], Kusama's world is the viewer's world."

The experience is also short-lived. Each group is allowed 45 seconds to a minute. (Yes, the staff at the door has a stop-watch in hand.) I had preset my camera and video settings before getting into the room. I decided ahead of time that I would concentrate on enjoying the experience, and any pictures or video would be a bonus. In the end, I did have some minor hiccups, but I fully enjoyed Kusama's work, which made the long wait worthwhile. I am looking forward to Kusama's special exhibition at the Broad coming Fall 2017!


The Broad
Free general admission. Advanced tickets available online (recommended), or same-day standby at the museum.

Please note that the queue for this mirrored room is separate from general admission and paid special exhibition. Last time, it was a 6-hour wait, and this time, the queue was closed but eventually opened up when people cancelled or the queue moved faster than expected. It is a free, timed, same-day reservation available at a kiosk outside the exhibit and cannot be reserved in advance of your visit. By entering your phone number, you get an SMS with a reservation confirmation with a link to view queue status and another SMS when it is time. Since ticket to the museum is also timed (a 3pm ticket can only enter at 3pm or later), I would suggest book a ticket for early in the day, so that you can get into the museum early to get into the queue for the mirror room early. After that, you can have unlimited re-entries into the museum within the day. That gives you flexibility to visit other landmarks in the area or have lunch or tea in nearby restaurants while waiting for your turn into the mirror room. Also beware: parking at the museum is $15 with validation; however, that's limited to 3 hours. The daily maximum is $22. 

Note: All photos on this page are for personal enjoyment only.

(Rebecca Li Photography) art museum travel Sat, 27 Aug 2016 15:00:00 GMT
Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes 敦煌莫高窟 Replica Caves @ Getty Center

Cave 275Cave 275Cave Temples of Dunhuang - Mogao Grottoes 敦煌莫高窟
Cave 275

The current "Cave Temples of Dunhuang" exhibit at the Getty Center offers a rare glimpse into Buddhist art on China's Silk Road. Considered relatively well-preserved but still suffering from damages from the elements for 1,500 years, the Mogao Grottoes (敦煌莫高窟) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that witnessed the intense religious, commercial, and cultural exchange along the trade routes linking the East and the West. This exhibition highlights the more than 25 years of collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute and the Dunhuang Academy to protect and conserve an important part of history.

There are many reasons that this exhibition is not to be missed. First, the Mogao Grottoes are located on the faraway, western edge of the Gobi Desert. When my mother made the trip last year, she started her trip in Shenzhen in southern part of China, flew to Urumqi via Wuhan, transferred to the high speed train, and then took a very long car ride across the desert. It was not exactly pleasant. Secondly, since the grottoes are one of the most popular sightseeing destinations, the authorities are doing the best to balance tourism and conservation. Each cave is barely lit and its carbon dioxide level is carefully monitored. Tourists can visit many caves; however, they can only see as much as the tour guide's flashlight reveals, let alone doing any kind of photography. Also, the bigger the group, the shorter the visit (only minutes per cave) because of the accumulation of carbon dioxide. 

This exhibit at Getty Center includes the replicas of Caves 275, 285, and 320 representing different time periods. The caves were re-created and replicated by master artists, using organic materials similar to those of the original and matching the current colors, as you would see if you had travelled to the real site. Since the replica paintings are also light-sensitive, the replica caves are still only dimly lit, but you can see the entire room perfectly. The visit is still limited to a few minutes, not for conservation, but to get big crowds through.

Obviously, no flash photography is allowed. Do not despair; with the available lighting, you can still take pictures with a smartphone or a camera, provided you have stable enough hands. For a real camera (point-and-shoot, DSLRs and MILCs alike), crank up your ISO to a level that you feel comfortable handholding without introducing too much noise in the image (Note: High ISO = noise in image = sacrificing quality. The amount of noise depends on the size as well as quality of the sensor.) The real challenge is to avoid your fellow visitors.

Cave 275Cave 275Cave Temples of Dunhuang - Mogao Grottoes 敦煌莫高窟   Cave 275Cave 275Cave Temples of Dunhuang - Mogao Grottoes 敦煌莫高窟
- Buddha of the Future in Cave 275 taken with an iPhone 6Plus (left) and a DSLR - Canon 5D Mark III (right)

One solution is to take pictures of a smaller area to focus on the details. Each cave is filled with intricate drawings of buddhas, deities of various origins, characters of captivating stories, and dancers and musicians of Pure Lands.

Cave 320Cave 320Cave Temples of Dunhuang - Mogao Grottoes 敦煌莫高窟 Cave 320Cave 320Cave Temples of Dunhuang - Mogao Grottoes 敦煌莫高窟 Cave 275Cave 275Cave Temples of Dunhuang - Mogao Grottoes 敦煌莫高窟

Another solution is to look up above the crowd and capture the just as exquisite ceiling canopies. Lighting is a little dimmer, which means longer exposure, but it is very doable. For best results, hold your device parallel / square to the surface to prevent horizontal or vertical distortions.

Cave 285Cave 285Cave Temples of Dunhuang - Mogao Grottoes 敦煌莫高窟 Cave 320Cave 320Cave Temples of Dunhuang - Mogao Grottoes 敦煌莫高窟

By luck, I had tickets for two time slots, and the crowd was manageable. The replica cave walk-in's require a timed ticket, which is distributed for free under a canopy near the entrance to the main building. For my first round, I only used my smartphone to scout out the interesting pieces and ideal angles. In the first cave (Cave 275), I hang behind until other visitors in my group had left for the next cave to snap a clear shot of the Buddha before the next group was called in. I learned by mistake that it would be too late when the front door opens for the next group, as sunlight washes over everything and casts my shadow into the cave. So, work fast! I suggest that you be nice to the guide and chat him/her up to give you a few more seconds. Alternatively, if you go on a less busy day, get a few tickets and walk through caves a few times.

The replica caves are just part of the exhibit. There is also an impressive virtual tour of Cave 45, the best 3D experience I have had in terms of high resolution. Then at the Getty Research Institute Galleries, there are artworks and buddhist treasures, including manuscripts, paintings on silk, embroideries, and many other precious objects on loan from British Museum and other institutes in UK and France. The highlight includes the Diamond Sutra, the world's oldest dated and complete printed book. Unfortunately, since these are loan items, photography is not allowed.

The exhibit has already started since May and is ending in two weeks on September 4. Admission is free (parking is $15). Don't miss this excellent opportunity to get close and personal with these artifacts without traveling across the globe!



Getty Center 
Open Tuesday-Sunday. Extended hours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in the summer.


(Rebecca Li Photography) art museum travel Mon, 22 Aug 2016 11:51:15 GMT
Rebecca Li's Work Goes to International Photographic Exhibition Rebecca Li of Rebecca Li Photography is honored by peers and jurors for her high-quality photography.

Los Angeles, California. August 8, 2016 -- Three photographs created by Rebecca Li of Rebecca Li Photography have recently been accepted into the General Collection of Professional Photographers of America's 2016 International Photographic Competition. Li's work will be on display at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, TX, Jan. 8-10, 2017. This International Photographic Exhibition is held in conjunction with Imaging USA, an annual convention and expo for professional photographers.

A panel of 46 eminent jurors from across the United States selected the top photographs from nearly 5,700 total submitted entries at Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia. Judged against a standard of excellence, just over 2,428 images were selected for the General Collection.

Titled "Charisma", "Spring's Paint Strokes", and "Nature in an Art Gallery", Li's photographs will be in the International Photographic Exhibition alongside other top photographic works from the competition and traveling and special invitational displays. These images constitute one of the world's largest annual exhibits of professional photography gathered simultaneously under one roof.

CharismaCharismaProfessional Photographers of California (PPC) Judge's Choice Award 2016. Merited print in International Photographic Competition (IPC) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA) Western District print competition 2016.   Painted in SpringPainted in SpringReceived merits from Professional Photographers of California (PPC), Professional Photographers of America (PPA) Southwest District, and International Photographic Competition (IPC). Gallery of NatureGallery of NatureReceived merits from Professional Photographers of California (PPC), Professional Photographers of America (PPA) Western & Southwest Districts, and International Photographic Competition (IPC).

About PPA: 
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international non-profit association created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA has roots that date back to 1869. It assists nearly 30,000 members through protection, education and resources for their continued success. See how PPA helps photographers be more at




(Rebecca Li Photography) PPA Professional Photographers of America awards Mon, 08 Aug 2016 19:00:00 GMT
Summer Art Walk @ Monrovia ArtWalk-postcard veersion-2016ArtWalk-postcard veersion-2016Monrovia, CA.

Come join me for an evening of live music and art at the Summer Art Walk in Monrovia tonight!

  • Art for Sale
  • Art Demonstrations
  • Live Music
  • Adult Canvas Art Workshop

Event Date & Venue

Saturday, July 30, 2016.

400 & 500 block of S. Myrtle Avenue, Old Town Monrovia

Organized by Monrovia Association of Fine Arts (MAFA).

(Rebecca Li Photography) event Sat, 30 Jul 2016 07:15:00 GMT
Nature Photo Challenge <Day 7> : White Sands National Monument White Sands National MonumentWhite Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument in New Mexico is the largest gypsum dune fields in the world. Its geology is analog to that of Mars. The site is biologically rich and diverse, with endemic species of animals which evolved over eons with limited impact from agriculture, grazing, and military use. With enormous potential for scientific research into evolution, it has been placed on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites along with many of the national natural wonders in the U.S., but the nomination faces domestic political opposition, as some politicians believe that once the site is named a world heritage site, the nearby military operations will face international pressure to close down.

I have heard that a few tours for foreign visitors do stop over for sightseeing. On the day of my visit, it was far from being crowded, compared to the more popular national parks. Do remember to bring your passport, as the site is near the Mexican border and some military operations. Also, strangely enough, my camera and my friend's started to malfunction after our visit. The repairman said it wasn't sand but a mechanical failure. Anyway, let me warn you beforehand in case there were some unseen, less documented forces at work...

This is the last day of my 7-day nature photo challenge. Hope you have enjoyed my customized tour for you around the world!

White Sands National Monument

UNESCO Word Heritage Sites Tentative List for White Sands National Monument

(Rebecca Li Photography) bw landscape nature photo challenge travel Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:15:00 GMT
Nature Photo Challenge <Day 5> : Christmas Island Red Crab Christmas Island Red CrabChristmas Island Red CrabChristmas Island, Australia

Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, Australia. Not to be confused with Easter Island or Kiritimati of the Kiribati in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Far away from other land masses and uninhabited until the late 19th century, the island is home to many species that had evolved without human interference. Due to its unique, endemic flora and fauna, two-thirds of the island has been declared a National Park. There are steep fines for violations, so most residents and visitors alike stay clear of breaking any rules or doing anything harmful on purpose. As a result, the environment remains relatively pristine (minus the excessive phosphate mining and some WWII damages); the island is popular among bird-watching enthusiasts, scuba divers, and nature lovers in general.

While the endemic species are all interesting (I bet Charles Darwin wished to have studied this island in addition to the Galapagos), the most spectacular event takes place October - December every year (sometimes into January): the red crab migration. The Christmas Island red crab (in the picture) is a land species, but the crabs need the moisture during breeding and spawning. So, when the rainy season starts, the papa-crabs-to-be lead the way from inland towards the coast, followed by mama-crabs-to-be. The red wave begins, covering every inch they can conquer. After spawning, if not drowned by getting too close to the water, the adults return inland as another wave of the red sea. Then, hopefully, baby larvae survive their adventures out in the sea and the resulting little crabs create yet another red wave and join their parents inland. The little ones could return safely only if they were not eaten by whale sharks, manta rays, and other plankton-eaters, or trapped in caves and similar situations. During those crazy months, the human residents have to build special fences, blocks, and bridges for these crabs so that the roads will be clear for human activities and minimize any killing of these crustacean natives. Yes, the crabs have the right of way! :)

My friends and I visited the island in January/February 2009, and it was too late for the migration. However, there was no shortage of opportunities to see these red "devils"; I saw a horned, black head that could easily be Darth Vader on every single one of them! The crabs supposedly lived in the shades inland, but they were practically everywhere away from the sea. In addition, we saw an abundance of coconut crabs, red-footed boobies, brown boobies, and great frigatebirds. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the untouched coral reefs and hybrid fishes that we enjoyed on our scuba diving excursions. I didn't have much to show because my underwater housing broke as I was packing my luggage, literally three hours before my plane's departure. C'est la vie.

The unexpected part of the trip was learning about the people and the history of the island. Currently, Christmas Island is Australian territory, and its population is only 1500-2000, of which 65% is Chinese and 20% Malay. I didn't know this until right before I left for the trip. On arrival, we easily found "the" Chinese restaurant and made friends with the head of Chinese community, who invited my friends and me to sing Karaoke with the locals, all eager to show off their mastery of the oldies from the 70s. We also met the owners of supermarkets, inns, and dive shops who were very friendly non-Chinese. As far as I know, no one is native to the island, as child birth is prohibited in the local hospital because there is no insurance coverage. All expecting families are flown back to the mainland (e.g. Perth) for the baby to be born. Everyone I have met had their own stories of how they had come to live on the island. The ethnicity groups did tend to stick together, but almost everyone knew everyone else from work or other social occasions. 

If I remember correctly, 400-500 of the residents were actually children, who all went to the same school. Contract jobs were paid handsomely, and most included family benefits that induced young professionals to come and start families while working on projects. On the other hand, the older Chinese locals told us that their children attended universities in mainland and stayed there for better job prospects. The non-seasonal locals usually held several jobs; after all, there were only 1000 adults, and every function of society needed to be filled. The most intriguing person we met at the time worked in both customs and baggage claim at the airport, sea rescue, boat rental, recreational fishing, and car/boat dealership, and probably more. That was seven years ago, and the locals were excited to upgrade their businesses to handle the influx of visitors expected December that year, when a cruise ship was to make its stopover on the island for the first time.

There was so much more to tell, like there were more Chinese temples than churches, or that expect everything to be frozen and beyond its expiry date as shipments were irregular and unpredictable, or that it's one of the few places that allow food in your luggage. Of course, history was interesting and played a big part in shaping the island. It was annexed by the British Crown in 1888 after the discovery of rich phosphate mines and was ruled by the Crown Colony of Singapore for a while. It was a target for Japanese occupation during World War II for the same reason. At the end, with independence of Singapore, etc etc, U.K. transferred the sovereignty to Australia after paying considerable compensation to Singapore. The mining business had dwindled, but tourism made up for part of the loss. Many residents were descendants of the indentured workers from Singapore, China, and Malaya from 1890s to early 1900s. The older generations were quite "endemic" themselves and preferred to stay put and live peaceful lives. The island had also seen its fair share of asylum seekers; today, it is still home to several immigration detention centers. While the centers are quite separate from the day-to-day lives of the islanders, they are quite a headache for the Australian government.

Well, I don't mean to write a Wikipedia page for the island, so I am going to stop here. If you are intrigued, you should plan a trip and see for yourself! Better yet, contact me and perhaps I could arrange a photography / scuba diving tour!

Christmas Island Tourism Association

(Rebecca Li Photography) nature photo challenge travel wildlife Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:00:00 GMT
Nature Photo Challenge <Day 2> : Underwater in Papua New Guinea Rich colors of the underwater worldRich colors of the underwater worldKimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea

For the second day of the Nature Photo Challenge, I am sharing one of my first shoot underwater in Kimbe Bay, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea. I took a PADI underwater photography specialty class with instructor Tammy Peluso, the resident photographer at Walindi Plantation Resort at the time. The pristine reefs were alive with the most spectacular marine creatures. It was the first time I truly enjoyed the colors in the depths of the sea. Why? In simple terms, the seawater and the planktons absorb red, orange, and yellow wavelengths of light quickly and reflect the shorter wavelength blues and violets. Not only you see the ocean as blue above water, but you also see bluish green world underwater in ambient light with your naked eye. To take good pictures underwater, you will need a strobe light (basically a flash) that emits light close to sunlight. Since you are now close to the subject, less light is lost and the true colors reveal themselves. The strobe light made a world of difference. Now you know why your pictures and videos taken with your iPhone, GoPro, and point-and-shoot cameras while snorkeling have the blue-green tint. (I have seen some relatively inexpensive, portable lights which may help solve the problem. I will write a review later when I get my hands on them.)

This picture above was taken with a film camera, the de facto Nikonos V. It was a mechanical camera that had proper waterproof seals, such that the camera did not require an external housing, which is the usual solution to our digital cameras these days. In the old days, photographers faced two major problems: the limitation of 24/36 frames and the type (speed, color, brand, etc) of film loaded, and no way to tell what the shot looked like until the film was developed. That meant the photographers had better known what they were doing in terms of exposure and composition and had to count on their luck that no fantastic creatures were to show up when they were out of film. LOL. Actually, there was even a time when flash was disposable, one-time use only. Imagine someone with a big bag of flash bulbs that needed to be changed every frame...yikes!

You may ask: why don't you just ascend and change film? Scuba divers have to follow a dive table to manage nitrogen consumption and ensure safety. Basically, it's not like you can just ride an elevator up and down from your parking to your apartment should you forget something. Professional photographers have assistants to bring multiple camera set-ups to overcome the limit on number on frames as well as the lens, wide-angle vs. macro, etc. Another problem is that opening the camera to change film is a meticulous process; the photographer needs to make sure that nothing, not even a grain of sand or a strand of hair gets trapped in the seal, or that's how water leaks into the camera. It's not a task you'd like to rush. This still applies to any modern-day underwater housing, and photographers still need to change lens, batteries, and memory cards. Just remember, water and electronics don't get along. You'd better do your best in preparing your housing for use underwater. 

Underwater photography is as much an art as a science.  I just love watching marine life in peace and quiet. Traveling underwater is definitely out of the elements for human, but thanks to all the technologies available, it is now a very popular pastime, and underwater photography has become simpler. Please remember, we are visitors. Take nothing but memories and pictures, and respect marine life. Take care of your own safety.

For scuba diving certification, you may consider:




(Rebecca Li Photography) nature photo challenge scuba diving travel underwater underwater photography Fri, 22 Jul 2016 13:00:00 GMT
Nature Photo Challenge <Day 1> : Ashura-no-nagare in Japan Oirase Ashura-no-nagareOirase Ashura-no-nagareOirase Ashura-no-nagare

A friend nominated me for a 7-day Nature Photo Challenge on Facebook, and I thought I might as well share my pictures here on my blog!

Today's picture was taken at Ashura-no-nagare (阿修羅の流れ) of the Oirase Stream (奥入瀬渓流) in Aomori Prefecture (青森県) in the northern part of Honshu (本州) in Japan. Oirase is near Lake Towada (十和田湖) and is a picturesque mountain stream with cascading waterfalls. It is one of Japan's most popular destination for fall foliage from late October through early November, although I also love the lush green in the summer, as seen in the picture.

The name "Ashura" here was derived from Buddhism and Hinduism: the lowest ranks of deities or demigods who tend to be wicked and evil. This famous spot was so named for its torrents and rapids.

The travel bug is definitely biting. Who wants to join me on a trip?

(Rebecca Li Photography) Japan landscape nature photo challenge travel Fri, 22 Jul 2016 02:23:05 GMT
Inspiration Outing @ The Broad I am "classical" by training: my formal education, literature, drawing and painting, music (vocal, instruments, theory)... even science, as I knew it, was classical, or some called it "old school". I even joked with a friend that I was suited to live in the Renaissance or the Industrial Revolution periods. Don't get me wrong -- I do have a degree in Computer Science. Hm... even that sounded last century! LOL.

I must confess that my knowledge of "contemporary art" needs some serious updating; after all, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Ansel Adams cannot still be considered "present-day". I can sort of recognize Keith Haring and Andy Warhol's work, and that's about it. 

Thanks to Eli and Edythe Broad, I can now enjoy their private collection of postwar and contemporary art at The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles. I was introduced to the creations of Jeff Koons, Robert Therrien, and Roy Lichtenstein. It was also my first time to see Takashi Murakami's work other than a Louis Vuitton bag. The building itself is definitely a work of art, with curved surfaces inside and a geometric "veil" outside.

Lobby of the BroadLobby of the Broad Elevator Shaft of the BroadElevator Shaft of the Broad

The Broad's lobby and shaft of the cylindrical glass elevator


Jeff Koon's Balloon DogJeff Koon's Balloon Dog (Blue) Jeff Koon's TulipsJeff Koon's Tulips

Jeff Koon's Balloon Dog (Blue) and Tulips


No Title by Robert TherrienNo Title by Robert Therrien Under the Table by Robert TherrienUnder the Table by Robert Therrien

Robert Therrien's Untitled (plates) and Under The Table


Goldfish Bowl by Roy LichtensteinGoldfish Bowl by Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein's Goldfish Bowl


The diversity of subjects and media was mind-blowing. (There was even a glass case of skeletons of birds. Yes, different aviary friends and more.) I have yet to explore the ideas and historical context behind each piece, but I do have a conclusion: art is a very subjective and fluid notion. It transcends gender, race, culture, age, religion, political view, and whatever other ways a person may be defined by. It has evolved across media and influenced (and been influenced by) our way of life. I should seek to imprint my beliefs and my world onto my photographic pieces. 

By the way, don't be deceived by the relatively empty space in my photos. They are the direct results of selective angles and incredible patience in the midst of summer crowds. I have yet to see Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room, which was a six-hour wait!!! There are multiple audio tours if you download the mobile app. I am sure I'd be back soon. Wouldn't it be great if I ever get an opportunity to shoot for the museum?!?



The Broad
Free Admission. Advanced tickets available online (recommended), or same-day standby at the museum.

Note: All photos on this page are for personal enjoyment only. Taken with an iPhone 6Plus. 

(Rebecca Li Photography) architecture art museum Fri, 08 Jul 2016 14:30:00 GMT
Shooting macro using a cell phone GlowGlow

"Wow, this is a great picture. What camera do you use?" is probably the biggest (and not uncommon) insult to a photographer who is proud of his/her skills and creativity. Expensive cameras do have distinguished features that make many photographers drool, but a camera does not take a picture by itself. "Did anyone ask Hemingway what brand of typewriter he used for writing?" said Frank Peele, my instructor at West Coast School this week. That is absolutely a brilliant analogy; an artist's skills are more important than his/her tools.

Now, I am not about to argue that there is no need for quality equipment that tends to be pricy; after all, I have done my fair share of investment. However, when I passed by some beautiful flowers today and I only had my iPhone in hand, I realized that after all, "the best camera is the one you have on hand".

Anyway, I gave it a shot and used my mobile phone for a macro shot of the small, red flowers, back-lit by the setting sun. With some minor touch-up in an app, the results were actually more than pleasing.

When taking macro pictures using a cell phone, there are a few things you can do to maximize quality:

  1. Walk as close to your subject as possible, instead of using the digital zoom;
  2. Look for optimal lighting; avoid low light which makes your image grainy;
  3. Stable your phone: any movement may result in the loss of focus;
  4. Touch the screen to focus on the subject;
  5. Adjust brightness: with auto-brightness, if your focus lands on a dark spot, your image may end up overexposed; the opposite is true: if your focus lands on a bright spot, your image may be underexposed.

Let's all go capture life's amazing details!


(Rebecca Li Photography) macro phoneart Fri, 17 Jun 2016 00:00:00 GMT
Making art pieces from your phones and pads Lady in RedLady in RedTaken with iPhone6 Plus and edited with Snapseed   

I wouldn't be surprised if the mobile phone is now the #1 picture-taking device. Even for me as a photographer, I don't have my cameras with me 24/7, but my mobile phone is usually within my reach. So when opportunities present themselves, I find myself picking up my phone and compose. Although the quality of the pixels is still lacking (lens quality and size still matters), the high-res pictures and powerful apps available allow me to play around and make some small art pieces or proof-of-concepts on the go. Quick posting on social media is also a big plus.

So, you have been taking pictures with your phone, but they never look anything like what you saw on other people's Instagram? Well, the phone/camera is only part of the equation. Careful composition and then some post-editing could go a long way. Regardless whether you are an Apple or Android fan, there will be no shortage of editing apps in the App Stores, from Apple, Google, Adobe, and smaller developers, some free and some with fees. Most apps are quite intuitive; many include "filters" or "presets" that give you a certain effect. Play around and choose one that you are most comfortable with, or you could ask your friends whose work you admire. In any case, sharpen your tools and give it a try! Practice makes perfect!

(Rebecca Li Photography) phoneart Sat, 11 Jun 2016 15:00:00 GMT
I was published... last year?!? Collection of Work for 2014 Los Angeles Chinese Photographic Festival My work "Photographer in Wonderland" publishedLos Angeles Chinese Photographic Festival 2014-15

I was published and didn't know about it until today!

It was certainly a pleasant surprise to find that the Los Angeles Chinese Photographic Festival* has published a book with a collection of the winning entries for 2014-15. My print "Photographer in Wonderland" is on page 80 (unfortunately, with a wrong title.) What an honor!

Photojournalism round table at China Press, Alhambra, CAThe Chinese-American Photographic Festival & International Exhibition 2016

I was also honored to be at the round table of the Festival -- this time, to celebrate photojournalism at China Press in Alhambra, CA. Two collections were on show -- first, a historical collection to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles and then "Just One More", curated to showcase outstanding U.S. and China press photographers for more recent events. The work was truly inspirational, capturing invaluable historical moments and disappearing cultural traditions for many generations to see.

* also known as The Chinese-American Photographic Festival & International Exhibition

(Rebecca Li Photography) awards photo exhibition Sun, 05 Jun 2016 00:00:00 GMT
Gold medal & more! My Baby Brother - Children Portrait - Gold Medal - The Chinese-American Photographic FestivalMy Baby BrotherGold Medal, The Chinese-American Photographic Festival & International Exhibition 2016

I just received the good news that "My Baby Brother" has actually scored a Gold medal at The Chinese-American Photographic Festival & International Exhibition. Hurray!

In addition to "My Baby Brother" on display at the Nixon Library and "Frank Gehry's Boat" at Tri-Community Photography Center, two more prints were accepted into the festival and should be on show in a few weeks. These will be the debut for "Translucent Symbiosis" and "One Winter Afternoon"! Keep it coming!

Translucent Symbiosis - Wildlife Photography - The Chinese-American Photographic FestivalTranslucent SymbiosisAcceptance Award, The Chinese-American Photographic Festival & International Exhibition 2016 One Winter Afternoon - Landscape - Cityscape - The Chinese-American Photographic FestivalOne Winter AfternoonAcceptance Award, The Chinese-American Photographic Festival & International Exhibition 2016 Frank Gehry's Boat - Architecture Photography - The Chinese-American Photographic FestivalFrank Gehry's BoatAcceptance Award, The Chinese-American Photographic Festival & International Exhibition 2016

(Rebecca Li Photography) awards photo exhibition Fri, 03 Jun 2016 01:00:00 GMT
Second piece at The Chinese-American Photographic Festival 2016 I dropped by the 2nd venue for The Chinese-American Photographic Festival 2016 at the Tri-Community Photography Center in Covina, CA. Where I had "Photographer in Wonderland" last year now hang "Frank Gehry's Boat"! The same spot! What a coincidence!

Very happy to see a second piece on display for this international exhibition. Come check it out if you are in the area!

Frank Gehry's Boat, Acceptance at The Chinese-American Photographic FestivalAcceptance at The Chinese-American Photographic Festivalat Tri-Community Photo Center

(Rebecca Li Photography) awards event photo exhibition Thu, 19 May 2016 22:33:00 GMT
2016 Los Angeles-Chinese Photographic Festival The Los Angeles-Chinese Photographic Festival this year is more exciting than ever. First, there are three venues: the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, the China Press in Alhambra, and the Tri-Community Photography Center in Covina. Secondly, there are over 800 pieces of fantastic images by Chinese and American photographers, professional and recreational. They showcase daily lives, cultural values, nature, and many other photojournalistic as well as fine art subjects in China, US and around the world.

I was very honored to have been invited to and joined local and overseas guests at the opening at the Nixon Library today. More exciting was to find my photo "My Baby Brother" being accepted and on display!

* ** **


Photos courtesy of *Dr. Jose E Quintanilla, **Qian Wei Zhong, and ***Nick Seth-Smith.

(Rebecca Li Photography) awards event photo exhibition Wed, 18 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT
My first PPC awards PPC Top Ten AwardAward for Top Ten Photographer by PPC 2016 PPC Judge's Choice by Judge Pete RezacCertificate and Ribbon

I was truly humbled in joining many seasoned professional photographers (some veterans of 50-60 years!) of PPC last night at the Award dinner; I am a newbie with a long, long road ahead.

For this year's print competition, I was recognized as #7 in the Top Ten Photographers (for the State for California) and also received a Judge's Choice Award for my portrait print "Charisma".

(Rebecca Li Photography) PPC Professional Photographers of California awards Mon, 11 Apr 2016 17:00:00 GMT
My first PPA Seals of Approval My First PPA Seals of ApprovalFrom Professional Photographers of America

I earned these seals by having my prints merited at the district competition of PPA. They officially mark the start of my journey towards my Master of Photography (M.Photog.)!

(Rebecca Li Photography) PPA Professional Photographers of America awards Thu, 07 Apr 2016 19:00:00 GMT
It's official CPP certificateCPP certificate

This certificate and the pin have arrived in a golden tube! 

"Professional Photographers of America hereby attests that Rebecca B. Li having demonstrated exceptional technical knowledge and abilities as a Professional Photographer, is hereby officially recognized as a Certified Professional Photographer and is eligible for all honors and benefits accruing therefrom, and bound by all standards of personal and professional conduct accompanying this certificate."

(Rebecca Li Photography) PPA Professional Photographers of America awards Mon, 21 Mar 2016 19:00:00 GMT
Now a Certified Professional Photographer! Certified Professional Photographer

I am excited to announce that I have earned the Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation from Professional Photographers of America (PPA), after completing an intensive program that measures my artistic and technical competence. Professional Photographers of America currently recognizes fewer than 2,500 CPPs. Professional Photographers of America is the leading body for certifying imaging professionals. CPPs must complete a written examination, finish an image evaluation and adhere to a strict code of conduct. Certification must be renewed on a periodic basis, ensuring continued confidence in the professionalism of Certified Professional Photographers.

For more information on certification, visit

(Rebecca Li Photography) CPP PPA Professional Photographers of America Thu, 10 Mar 2016 20:00:00 GMT
Under Construction Giant Globe of PastelGiant Globe of PastelJellyfish. Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar. Gone diving. Will come back with fantastic pictures soon!

(Rebecca Li Photography) Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:54:50 GMT