Our Money Issues

Unless you've had your head in a hole for the past few months, you know we're collectively in a bit of financial trouble. To sum it up: a lot (A LOT!) of people (Americans) have been spending way, way, way, wayyyyyy more money than we actually, you know, have. And they let us. They even encouraged us! I mean, I guess it's OK to have that 50" plasma HDTV, but when a ton of people who otherwise couldn't afford it put their name down to borrow two-, three-, five-, or nine-HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS to buy homes that were way overpriced? Well, that just spells trouble, doesn't it?

Let's just preface this with the fact that I am a renter. Unless housing prices in the Bay Area start around 3x my salary - which I doubt, even with the crash and all - I will probably always be a renter. I've read many finance books (note: I did not buy the books!) and after reading every single one, I always walk away and think briefly - just for a quick moment - I SHOULD BUY A HOUSE! IT'S SUCH A GREAT INVESTMENT! For many, it could be. Unfortunately, the value of your house can diminish in an instant. Neighborhood goes bad? Earthquake? Fire? Yeah, no matter impossibly well-prepared you are, your home is still a six- or sometimes seven-figure thing that can be lost in an instant. That's more money than I've seen in my 26 years of life.

I'm not writing this to be a jerk. I really feel for people who are trapped in a totally shitty predicament. Trust me - I'm very sympathetic. I know that you and I were both heavily bombarded with the idea that homeownership is the way - the only way - to go toward building equity and consequently wealth. I guess I lucked out because my personality (move-happy and hate big debts) and income (not that high) have made it impossible for me to afford anything within 500 miles of where I'm sitting right now.

I don't think a lot of us were prepared for this at all and we placed too much trust in the system. Whatever the system is. It's failed us and I just recommend that you get informed so you can best take care of yourself and your loved ones.

Some interesting reading and viewing and listening for you.

Julia & Oscar : A few portraits

{ Photo by Chung Nguyen | Shot for Ziba Studio }

This wedding was photographed on 6/28/08, but I have yet to blog it! More photos to come. (:

Destination : Anywhere

I love to travel. I personally feel like a life without wandering here and there is not a life well-lived to me. I also happen to love photography. Thankfully, those two things complement each other incredibly well. And that's what I aspire and strive to do: travel while doing photography. As a wedding photographer, this is not a far stretch.

But as someone who's just starting out, I know it'll take a little more time and effort to inspire a couple who's getting married in a faraway land to fly me out and photograph their wedding. But whatever it takes, I'm determined to make it a reality!

And today's inspiration? Jonathan Canlas Photography. He even has my most favorite boy-name ever (yep, I think John is super boring, but Jonathan is sublime!). A Cambodian wedding in France? <3!


Motivational Ramblings

  • It's easy to believe that successful people got to where they're at overnight and without any effort or any set-backs. Get real!
  • To paraphrase: Nothing worth having in life comes easy.
  • Two steps forward, one step back. It's still much, much better than simply standing still.
  • I don't like looking back and think, "Why didn't I [fill in the blank] when I had the chance?" You should always fill in the blank now while you have the chance. (;

Linked! # 2 - Postsecret & Storycorps

One of the best things about the Internet is its ability to cheaply disseminate information to the masses. In that vein, it's nice that people are able to share private information to one another anonymously. Or not. This week's links are near and dear to my heart, because sometimes (oftentimes), I find myself very emotional over the content of these sites.

Postsecret - People, you can send in your secret, no matter how painful, hilarious, or seemingly unrelatable they are to Frank, who may just post them online:
13345 Cooper Ridge Rd
Germantown MD 20874
It's kind of crazy how raw a lot of these cards are and they make me stop and think who, amongst my group of friends and acquaintances, may be feeling this way at this very moment without my knowledge. It's so painful to carry burdens all by yourself sometimes, and it's nice to let it out. Even if it's to a group of strangers who don't know you.

Something relatively lighthearted:

Whereas this one made me pause and think hard:

Storycorps - This is an initiative to record the stories of a wide group of people across this great country of ours. I discovered it as a podcast through NPR. It's kind of hard to listen to some of these stories without tearing up sometimes. Two of my favorites thus far:
And I'm sorry for making you cry.

Hope you enjoyed these links. More to come in the future!

I'm a Blogger...

I really am. In an effort to keep this blog more photography-focused at its start, I've ignored an equally important part of me: I love to write about random stuff. And while when we meet and speak in person, I may not seem like it at first, I am, in fact, pretty opinionated. (Luckily, also pretty open-minded. I hope.)

So I think I've opened the floodgates to whatever may spout out from my fingertips onto my IBM Thinkpad laptop. Let's see what happens....



{ Photo by Chung Nguyen | Shot for Ziba Studio }

A little collage from Sara & Jeff's wedding. Nothing like giving "grown-up" people bubbles to turn them into kids again. (:


Completely Impractical Idea, But Nice Nonetheless : Surprise Lunchbox

A super-small hole-in-the-wall or cart-based enterprise that provides surprise lunchboxes for $5. Everyday is something new and no one knows in advance until they buy the lunchbox and open it up. It's quick, it's convenient, and it's relatively cheap. But most importantly, no matter what it is, it's YUMMY! And surprising.

Caveat: No picky eaters. No vegetarians. No vegans. No dieters. No whining about how you don't like {insert common ingredient here}. (I know that's a lot of caveats. That's why this idea is classified as completely impractical - but nice nonetheless.)

Not so random product plug - have you heard of the Something Store? I absolutely love the concept. I think I will buy a few surprise presents for myself when my birthday rolls around this year!


Night Vision...

Fi does not has it. This is awesome because it makes it really easy to scare her in the dark or jump out of the closet and really, really surprise her. I did it tonight and as she fled, she dropped her precious mini-sized tennis ball. But don't worry, even in her panic she turned back quickly to fetch it to take with her to run away from the Scary Closet Monster That Comes Out When Lights Are Out (because who knows what the monster will do to her precious ball!).

She's not my best friend yet (it takes a while to acquire that penultimate status), but she's definitely got potential to be. (:


"Learn your car, girl!"

The high school rite of passage: participating in the car wash for fundraising purposes. I believe I was a freshman when I volunteered at one such event (no, it's nothing like Bring It On).

A car was pulling up and I misidentified the Toyota MR2 to be something else and the Junior-at-the-time boy standing next to me said, "That's an MR2. Learn your car, girl!"

I don't know why I still remember that since the moment was so completely unimportant at the time and exponentially moreso now. Maybe if it were to happen now, I'd be confident enough to finally come back with, "Learn what's important in life, boy! Hint: cars ain't it."


Flickr! - We're Together Because He is HOT!

Stand Tall
But hey, why take my why take my word for it when you can see for yourselves?

I've Been Yelped!

I've put off making a Chung Nguyen, Photographer Yelp page for the longest time because, well, because I'm a lazy bum. (Laziness and the little bit of personal insecurity a la Sally Fields you-like-me-you-really-like-me ... let's face it, I'm not necessarily strong enough to withstand such public and permanent negative feedback ... I mean, my eBay account feedback is FLAWLESS!) I digress. Regardless of my personal insecurities, Yelp is awesome. I mean, I use it all the time to find places to dine at that I otherwise would not know about. So why not let others use it to find my photography business, especially if I'm someone they otherwise might not know about, right?

I really have to thank Jennifer (wedding | portraits) for making the page on my behalf, actually. The feedback that she left is just so awesome to hear, let alone see forever immortalized on the Internet. (:

My friend, Cat, said that she doesn't seriously consider patronizing any establishment that has less than a hundred reviews above a certain star-rating. Needless to say, I've got a ways to go before I hit the magic three-digit feedback mark. But I just wanted to open it up here if any previous clients loved my work and have a Yelp account all ready to go, please feel free to upload your favorite photos and leave a few kind words. I'd greatly appreciate it! (; Thank you!


Linked! # 1 - Dooce, Cute Overload, and I Can Has Cheezburger

This series of entries is dedicated to both of my friends, Iris and Cat. Iris needs (term used loosely) recommendations for photography sites; whereas Cat needs to be kept in the loop as to why I'm the weirdo that I am whenever we talk. I am, after all, the sum of all the numerous (NUMEROUS) websites and blogs that I subscribe to. Without further ado:

dooce.com - A blog written by the most badass woman to reside in the least badass state (Utah). She's got stylish product photos (of things she likes), random tales of horror from the land of motherhood, and my favorite, photos of her dogs. This is Chuck:

For me, dooce.com is like watching a reality TV show with really well-developed characters, funny anecdotes, AMAZING IMAGES, and none of the guilt and headache that comes with, like, putting up with, like, five minutes of, like, The Hills.

I love that Heather has blogged several times on how sometimes peoples' comments can have a negative effect on her. The Internet can be so cruel. She's very relatable for me. You'll enjoy her site for so many reasons, it's ridiculous. (BTW, I went to her site because Jasmine Star mentioned it on her blog. See how the Internet works? Oh, and yet another BTW - Jasmine Star's photography is a-may-zing. Nay, GOOOOOOORGEOUS! Check out her blog!)

Cute Overload - I don't know anyone who doesn't know about this site, but that's possibly a reflection of how small my circle of friends is. (: This site puts a smile on my face. So much so that the last email I check every night is the one from Cute Overload with the blog entries from the day.

From Cute Overload, photo by ohleah.

Cute animal pictures. What more do you need?

Unless you also need super-funny captions to go along with the cute pictures! In comes...

I Can Has Cheezburger - The site that launched bad grammar around the Internet. Well, moreso than before. Even as a grammar-fascist (curse you, B.A. in English), I love, love, love, love, luv dis site. Iz 2 gud! (If you're having trouble, please refer to the lolcat dictionary. It's a gem!)

There are so many files in my "My Pictures" folder that are genius icanhas moments. I'll just share a few random ones here:

This is Dima's favorite. (:

And if you're more of a dog person, check out ihasahotdog.com.


Lipstick Jungle

The season premiere of Lipstick Jungle actually made me gasp out loud. It's so juicy and heartbreaking. You can watch that episode (aptly named Pandora's Box) along with all the other episodes from the first season at Hulu.com.

Generally speaking, the show does a great job of filling the void that Sex and the City left behind (yes, people, that void needed to be filled!). The show is about friendship in spite of all that questionable things that we may do in our lives. Unfortunately, its view of love is bleak, and marriage even bleaker. But through it all, we'll still have our fabulous outfits and fabulous friends.


Flickr! - Sim City

Sim City
I was surprised with a hot air balloon trip last year for my birthday. This was one of the many (MANY) shots. Things to note:
(1) Those balloons are very noisy, even for people who are hundreds of feet below. Sucks to be them because we were up and about very early in the morning. (Note to self: do not buy a home in Yountville.)
(2) Yeah, so I dangled my camera over the side a little to get a straighter shot of the landscape below. That's what camera straps for. Plus, let's face it, I'm far too short to fall over the side of any railings.


I'm Agile!

Got this from Natalie's blog.

My Colorstrology says a lot of nice things about me ("nice blend of wit and sensitivity"). The thing about this - and about astrology in general - is I know a handful of people who have the same birthday as me and to be perfectly honest, the description does not match them at all. Or worse, am I supposed to be JUST LIKE THEM just because we have the same birthday!?! No, thanks!

I don't want to spoil this for you, my gentle readers, but when I was in high school, I took journalism class and learned first hand how the weekly horoscopes were written (i.e. SOMEONE MADE THEM ALL UP!). And while we're crushing dreams, Santa Claus is not real. I'm sorry I had to be the one to break the news to you.


Toys vs. Play-time

A few weeks ago I was walking through the toys aisle of a pet store. I was so excited about all the different doggie toys they had and felt like I should get a ton of stuff for Fiona to play with when it dawned on me: she doesn't want toys, she wants to play with me. Sure, it would be nice to have a rope to play tug-of-war with (as opposed to, say, using my arm), but I'm wasting time walking the aisles of PetSmart when I should be spending my time with her.

Quality time versus things. I vote for the former. And you know what? I think the same thing applies to people. (;



No, I didn't jump on the bandwagon and buy a tilt shift lens. I did, however, buy (and then promptly returned) the Lensbaby 3G a few months ago. It was just too inconsistent for my taste and I lack the patience and creativity necessary to make it work. (: One of the few "successful" shots:


November 2008

I wonder what will happen in November. I still vividly recall that faithful night in 2000 when Al Gore WAS ANNOUNCED THE WINNER OF THE ELECTION. I went to bed in the wee hours thinking, "Yay, Al Gore won!" I woke up to a shitstorm that's yet to end.

Don't let it happen again. No matter how cynical you are, it doesn't hurt to get registered to vote and CAST YOUR VOTE (click here for the massive PDF file with all the info you need to get registered, yo!). If you don't vote, you can't complain. If you voted, yes, you can definitely complain about the results. (:

Bright, Vibrant Flower

Purple + Hot Pink

No idea what its name is.


Summer's End


I hate (HATE!) hot weather, but having the extra daylight hours and being able to leave work and walk the dog at a leisurely pace as opposed to the current we-better-hurry-up-because-I-won't-be-able-to-see-your-poop-in-the-dark samba that Fi and I partake in. (Yes, I have a flashlight; but have you tried to handle leash, flashlight, poop, and doggie bag at the same time?)

In the meantime, I will enjoy this photo I took months ago when the blooming flowers and beautiful light started:

Lamenting Summer's passing....

Paid-lance (Pt. 2)

Continuing the story of how I got into the photography business now, in between playing arena fetch (i.e. indoors) with Fi, the spunky terrier....

Outside of meeting Chung (Chan) of Chung Photo, I also got in contact with Sean of Ziba Studio, who I continue to do freelance work for today. Yep, I also met him on Craigslist.

The power of Craigslist never ceases to amaze me.

After numerous emails back and forth (and thank goodness for the "conversations" feature on Gmail, right!?), he wanted to meet with me to see what I was all about. I was nervous about the meeting mostly because I had no idea what went down in such meetings. More importantly, I didn't know what sort of peripherals I should bring. Should I lug along my laptop to show him my limited portraits portfolio? I had about 10 billion photos of everything, and all of 500 or so random candids of my family members, i.e. my portraits experience.

Some of my awesome, awesome (ha!) portraits in my original portfolio. Things to note: (1) I just dove head first into a little program called Photoshop and got oh-so carried away; (2) REALLY REALLY REALLY carried away! My delightful adorable and hyperactive god-daughter:And my spunky niece, who I have absolutely no doubt can kick your niece's butt (physically speaking):

This photo was also in my portfolio, but I'm still totally proud of the shot today. The composition works, the people add to the preconceived notion of a romantic city, and I mean, the Tour Eiffel is just ridiculous iconic, how do you mess it up!? Not really a "portraits" shot, though, and it made me wonder if I had it in me to become a wedding photographer!!!

Sean and I met and despite my crazy hodgepodge of a portfolio, he decided to take a chance on me. So, inevitably, I had to let him down. I received this email message after our first gig together:
Your ceremony pictures are good. But I wish had used fill flash to avoid getting the harsh shadows. For the reception next you time shoot with a lower ISO and use flash. All of your images are way too noisy and blurred out. I can hardly used any of them.
My emotions went from Yay! to Oh... to OK... to Awww, man! My newbie ego was bruised, to say the least. Given this set-back, I could just go ahead and throw in the towel and move on or resolve to improve and then move on. I chose the latter. It didn't hurt that Sean gave me another chance. (:

By this time, I had already landed a full-time job at an e-commerce company working as the "Web Content Writer" for the Customer Support department (I'm still there), so it's not like I was all that motivated to ramp up my business in order to, oh, I don't know, eat and feed the cat. On the one hand, I love my "day job" and appreciate all that I've been able to do in and outside of it, because of it. On the other hand, I honestly think that if I had to go into survival mode with my photography business, it would be much further ahead than it is now. (Friends reference: The fear would be a great motivator. Although I'm very much like Chandler Bing, so maybe I would get too afraid?) Regardless, how things worked out, I believe worked out for the best. Because a year and many weddings and shooting opportunities later, I finally have the courage to spread my wings and take a chance on myself, something I've hardly had to do in my life up until now.

To be continued....


Fi Updates & Pictures

  • She's attending obedience classes at Petsmart. I thought it was for only five weeks; it's actually for eight. D'oh!
  • (Psst! She's - HANDS DOWN - the cutest one in the class. Well, according to me, anyway. And I'll admit it, I'm a little biased.)
  • I'm more convinced now than ever that any single man who wishes to meet the ladies - all you need to do is get yourself a cute, friendly dog. No, not a fluff ball that emasculates you and your manhood (or lack thereof if you're carrying a toy dog in your "man" "bag"). But a cute, friendly dog. If all else fails, go the golden retriever route. And name him Cosmo. (;
  • We sure do have our moments, but five weeks into dog-guardianship and I don't remember what life was like before she came into it. Sure, she has doggie breath and does not know how to release the tug-of-war toy(!!!), but she's so loving and gentle and amazing in so many ways. Sometimes she leaves me speechless. In a good way. (:

My first love, Chip(topher) Nguyen, the cat, the legend.


The [b] School

Are there any aspiring wedding or portrait photographers who read my blog? No? OK, I thought as much... ): J/K J/K In case there are, check out the [b] School. I don't know what it'll be like once the doors are open, but a lot of the content I've seen so far has been incredibly helpful.

Just spreading the good word.... 10/01/2008!



One of my favorite things to do during wedding receptions is to snipe close-up candids when people aren't looking. Some might say that my close-ups are, umm, a little too close. I can't argue with that. But at the same time, it's simply ... my thing. I love the way they look, I love the intimate feeling and the consequent connection you make with the person (or people) in the photograph. And the candid aspect of it? It's just so much fun to get people when they're not paying attention because they look the most natural. It's definitely my thing. So I guess it's either a warning or an advertisement that if you hire me as your wedding photographer, you'll have all the "basics" covered, but you'll also end up with a lot of photos similar to these. Why? BECAUSE I LOVE THEM!!!!!!!! (;

This series is interesting to me, because it starts off looking sad, then gets really happy, and ends up on a neutral note:

I think she is Felicity-meets-Chelsea-Clinton-but-a-million-times-hotter. Her eyes are stunning.

Our poor ring-bearer during the reception. I'm not quite certain what he's doing, but if I had to name this photo, I would call it, "D'oh!"

And here's what Edward actually looks like. I think his ensemble, hair, and expression are all so GQ - Baby Edition. (:

And now, back to our regular programming.

* Photos were shot for Ziba Studio.

Seth & Helen - Reception

Part two of Seth & Helen's wedding mini-coverage, the reception.

Official toasters:

College friends who were truly happy that Seth and Helen have tied the knot:

She was trying to recall what they called Seth in a club that he was in during college. I believe his official title was "Video Czar" or "VCR Czar". The gentleman in this photo is DJ Anthony Patterson. He is simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G-!-!-! to work with and did such a wonderful job of coordinating the many festivities as well as providing some awesome tunes. I highly recommend contacting him if you're ever in need of a DJ!

Helen's dad - so proud of his daughter on her wedding day. And every other day. (:


We all had a great laugh at the incredible knee-height discrepancy between the groomsmen. Helen had a lopsided seat, yes, but she didn't seem to mind:

Part three features a few fun photos of the wedding guests. Hope you enjoyed these photos, and stay tuned!

* Photos shot for Ziba Studio.

Seth & Helen - Ceremony

More photos from Seth & Helen's wedding. This is part one of three, featuring the portraits and ceremony:

It's all in the details. Flowers by Dublin Floral Design:

I loved the mirrored effect in the dressing room.

The beautiful Matron of Honor and Bridesmaids - two sisters of the bride along with the groom's little sister:

The Happy Couple(TM):

Beautiful, park-like setting with the flowing willows. The venue is the Wedgewood Wedding & Banquet Center at the San Ramon Golf Club:

Seth's dad. I think his glasses are awesome(!):

Helen tried (count them) FOUR TIMES to light the candle to no avail; the backdraft wind won the day. So, exasperated, she just proclaimed, "It's a metaphorical flame," and the ceremony went on:

Come back for images of the reception!

* Photos were shot for Ziba Studio.