2016 Retrospective

A Look Back to 2016

Each year passes in the blink of an eye. And every year for the past 4 years I’ve been incredibly grateful to be solely doing what I do for a living–the life of a photographer grants me a lifestyle that takes me all over the world, meeting all sorts of people from all walks of life. Taking on about 140 commissions and personal projects, spending 77 days traveling, delivering over 45,000 photographs, and taking roughly three times as many images, 2016 has been the most diverse body of work I’ve created of any year. I can’t thank all of the people photographed below enough. You are all part of my American dream. Thank you!

In the past I’ve produced a slideshow or made a post of my favorite engagement and wedding photos of the year, but as my passion in photography spreads into other genres, I find myself always eager to experiment, explore, and create. As I began pouring through my images I felt the need to do something different. I wanted to give you a glimpse of a year in my life as a photographer. So here is practically every photography commission and project I took on this year. Be warned, this is an extremely long post with a couple hundred photographs–but if you’re curious what a year in the life of a photographer looks like, well here’s my 2016.

JANUARY 8, 2016 | Victoria Chuburkova | San Francisco

JANUARY 8, 2016 | Ennie Lim | San Francisco

I’ve always used fashion and model shoots as a way to explore locations and light. One of my goals in 2016 was to do more and establish connections with local agencies, while honing my own skills of photography and commercial retouching. In the beginning of the year I reconnected with my good friends Ennie Lim and makeup-artist Fiona Tsang (Urban Beauty Loft), as well as Victoria Chuburkova to kickstart this process.

JANUARY 12, 2016 | Light Exploration, Ellen | San Francisco

I wanted to work both with softer natural light as well as get more proficient in my home “studio” (which, admittedly, is more my home than a studio). I played with basic portrait lighting and experimented a bit with colored gels.

JANUARY 14, 2016 | Welcome Home SFMOMA | San Francisco

SF MOMA held a reception for their staff as they welcomed them back to the museum slated to re-open in May 2016 and celebrated the completion of the new addition.

JANUARY 17, 2016 | Light Exploration, Zuzana | San Francisco

JANUARY 18, 2016 | Colored Light Studies, Jaclyn | San Francisco

JANUARY 21-23, 2016 | Deepa & Vijay | Sacramento

I photographed Deepa and Vijay’s Indian Wedding over the course of three days. The events would span multiple venues and a total of about 25 total hours of photography. It was fun–maybe a little tiring…In the Chura ritual, a man from the maternal side (usually the eldest uncle) places bangles onto the bride’s wrists. Other guests touch the bangles and give her heartfelt well-wishes on her future marriage.

JANUARY 26-FEBRUARY 1, 2016 | Foundation Workshop | Glen Rose, Texas

When my emotional, physical, and mental endurance weren’t being tested, I made some great friends and met some amazing photographers. I spent a significant amount of time at a local diner on assignment to photograph a slice of life (and had a couple slices of pie while I was at it). We also partied. Hard.

FEBRUARY 12, 2016 | A portfolio for Kendra | San Francisco

Fiona and I put together a lifestyle & fitness portfolio for my good friend Kendra–who I would work with sporadically throughout the year whenever our schedules would allow it. Kendra @ kendra.mcphee | Stylist & Makeup by Fiona Tsang @urbanbeautyloft.fiona | @jemodels

FEBRUARY 13, 2016 | Kristina & Aaron | San Francisco

FEBRUARY 15, 2016 | Sharon & Linh | San Francisco

FEBRUARY 16, 2016 | Katelyn & Salam | San Francisco

In five days, I did four shoots. After the City Hall wedding on the 16th, I packed and was ready to head to the first of two trips to Europe. Insane.

FEBRUARY 18-23 | Travel Photography | Prague

My good friend Adrienne found a sweet deal on flight, hotel and trains and spent 11 days exploring Prague, Vienna and Budapest. It was an amazing trip and one where I was incredibly inspired by the architecture and atmosphere.

We indulged in Prague’s signature dessert (maybe more than once).

And wandered the streets and museums until our legs could carry us no further.

FEBRUARY 23-26 | Travel Photography | Vienna

FEBRUARY 26-MARCH 1 | Travel Photography | Prague

MARCH 8, 2016 | Studio Studies | San Francisco

When I returned I had a shoot scheduled with another amazing model, Maria, who brought a raw energy, and was integral in helping me produce a stellar series of photographs. It had been a while since I had explored any fine art nude work but Maria was elegant and inspiring.

MARCH 12, 2016 | Leslie & David | San Francisco

I would be heading back to Europe soon, but first I did an engagement session with Leslie & David, and had a few consultations (which I didn’t photograph…). Then before I knew it, I was on a flight to Madrid.

MARCH 15-18, 2016 | Travel Photography | Madrid, Spain

On this second stint, I’d be traveling with my good friend Lisa Stone, an excellent photographer in San Jose who I bring on as my second photographer as much as I possibly can. We were attending the Foundation Conference in Porto, but had a few stops scheduled before and after. All told we visited Madrid, Barcelona, Porto, Lisbon, and Paris.

MARCH 18-21, 2016 |Travel Photography |Barcelona, Spain

One of my personal highlights is seeing La Sagrada Familia, an architectural marvel that has been under construction since the early 1880s, and is scheduled to be complete in 2026.

I’d subject Lisa to the lens fairly frequently, but she was a good sport about it. Mostly choosing to go for the cool and pensive look. Whenever she was showing her face for the camera, anyway.

MARCH 21-24, 2016 | Fearless Conference | Porto, Portugal

While in Porto I stepped into the workshop of an old craftsman who invited me in. We didn’t speak the same language so we communicated through gestures and pointing. I shrugged my shoulders and pointed at my camera asking permission to document his process. Later he would show me what he was making: a little wooden ring that is used in a game that involves tossing them onto the necks of wine bottles. 

Lauren would be one of the many friends I’d make at the conference. On the last day Lisa and I were in Porto, we walked with a small group around and I snapped this portrait when seeing some awesome light streaming through the streets. She was also a good sport about it.

MARCH 24-27, 2016 |Travel Photography| Lisbon, Portugal

We arrived by night at the famous Oriente Station. In the morning we’d head out to check out the sights of Alfalma.

Inspired by the talks at the conference and the colorful setting of Lisbon, Lisa and I decided it would be fun to try to do an impromptu photoshoot. We happened upon a vacationing couple and, after convinced them we weren’t weirdos, offered to do a free session for them. We spent maybe a half a hour chatting with Jessica and Andrew as we walked around–turns out they were recently engaged. So we basically just gave them a free engagement session in Lisbon.

They say if you want to go where the locals go, ask the locals where to go. We were enjoying wine one evening in a small open air cafe and asked the server where to go for dinner. He pointed us to a friend’s joint where we enjoyed an incredible meal. When asked where we should grab a drink, the owner pointed us in the direction of a bar–a bar with no name, no sign, and looked like an apartment. And that’s where we met this bartender who apparently used to teach arts and crafts to prison inmates.

MARCH 27-30, 2016 | Travel Photography | Paris, France

We continued on to Paris where we were met with rain. But it was still an incredible visit, hitting up a lot of popular touristy spots, while also just meandering aimlessly.

On our last day in Paris, we entered the Louvre….

And “experienced” the Mona Lisa.

APRIL 2, 2016 | Chrisman Studios | Elk Grove

Two days after landing, I had the honor of second shooting for Joseph Victor Stefanchik at his last wedding with the legendary Chrisman Studios. They even used some of my work on the blog. Pretty cool!

APRIL 6, 2016 | Sarah Rose, Fire Goddess | San Francisco

I met up for an impromptu shoot with my good friend Sarah Rose, who I’ve known for the better part of three years now.

APRIL 7-8, 2016 | Leslie & David | San Francisco

The major wedding season began with Leslie & David, the first of  31 weddings (not including the Indian wedding and City Hall ceremony I photographed earlier in the year).

APRIL 10, 2016 | AFSF High School Design Awards | San Francisco

Between weddings and other events, I volunteered to document the awards ceremony for my friend and former colleague, Ryan Lee, who volunteers with a non profit organization for high school students interested in architecture. 

April 13, 2016 | Farewell, Ennie Lim | San Francisco

I also learned that my friend Ennie would be moving to Montreal, so we set up a shoot before she left. Hair, makeup, and styling by the multi-faceted Fiona Tsang. 

APRIL 15, 2016 | Shannon & Travis | San Francisco

By mid April, the wedding season had picked up greatly with several engagement sessions and weddings on the calendar.

APRIL 15-16, 2016 | Olivia & Ryan | San Francisco

APRIL 17, 2016 | Kimberlyn & David | San Francisco

APRIL 24 | Kavitha & Michael | Livermore

APRIL 25, 2016 | Lindsay & Ben | San Francisco

APRIL 27, 2016 | RAW Artists present SIGNATURE | San Francisco 

During 2016 I was also the Lead Photographer for the RAW Artists San Francisco showcases–delivering head shots and event photography to local artists who were sharing and selling their work. I missed the first one due to the conference but was able to cover the remaining three throughout the year. Along the way, I’ve met even more artists and made new friends, further broadening my creative circle. Below is aerialist Sophia Godwin.

APRIL 30, 2016 | Chris & Nick | San Francisco

APRIL 30, 2016 | Reunion BBQ | San Francisco

Occasionally I’d have the wedding-free weekend to hang out with my good friends, many of whom were former co-workers from my days at Woods Bagot Architecture. Sometimes that meant taking care of business in the mornings before spending the rest of the afternoon among old friends.

MAY 1, 2016 | Reunion Hike | San Francisco

MAY 3, 2016 | Architectural Tourism | Chicago

My eldest nephew would be celebrating his Confirmation in Tampa and my brother invited me to attend if I had the date free. On my way I made a stop in Chicago to check out some architecture, more museums, and just a way to break up the long flight across the country. The last time I was here was in 2003, when I was one of two finalists for an Architectural fellowship. Ultimately I didn’t win, but I think it’s because I was destined to become a photographer anyway. At least that’s what I tell myself now.

May 6-9, 2016 | Family Time | St Petersburg

After getting a bit of architectural admiration out of my system, I landed in Tampa and enjoyed some family time.

May 12-16, 2016 | Destination Wedding | San Diego-ish

I had just a couple days in San Francisco after Florida to pack up for a wedding that would take me to Fallbrook, CA–about an hour and a half north of San Diego. Obviously I was going to check out La Jolla and the Salk Institute along the way.

During this trip I also made sure to visit the U.S.S. Midway. This was the carrier that my parents began their journey on as refugees from a war-torn Vietnam to the States. It was a solemn moment of reflection for me to think back and imagine what my parents must have gone through and sacrificed to allow me to live the life I now lead. It was a wonderful little mini-vacation before getting back into the wedding and portrait work.

MAY 14, 2016 | Stacy & Allen | Fallbrook

May 21, 2016 | Frances & David | San Francisco

MAY 22 | Wenfei & David | San Francisco

MAY 27, 2016 | Fitness | San Francisco

One of the thoughts I had when working with Kendra was to focus more on lifestyle and fitness–not necessarily my own, but rather others’… through photography. I managed to book a couple shoots through connections and explored this genre a bit more. Hair and makeup was done by Victoria Tado.

MAY 29, 2016 | Lisa & Michael | San Francisco

MAY 30, 2016 | Crystal & Ben | San Francisco

JUNE 1-2, 2016 | Salesforce | San Francisco

My friend Nick (whom I met at Foundation) brought me along help photograph a corporate event for Salesforce. Both a celebration for long-time employees that also included some volunteer work. It was a pretty amazing party for long-time employees and really showed how much they value their committed work force. 

JUNE 5, 2016 | Nina & David | San Francisco

JUNE 6, 2016 | Bernie Sanders Rally | San Francisco

It was in the midst of the heated primaries, and California was the last state to vote. I decided to check out the Bernie rally when I found out he was making an appearance to San Francisco.

JUNE 10, 2016 | Three days to departure | San Francisco

Wedding season in June was actually unusually slow for me, so I found other means to keep busy. I reconnected with Amber, a model I first worked with almost 6 years ago, who happened to be in town.

JUNE 13-18, 2016 | Canadian Summer | Montreal

I planned a trip to Montreal to visit my friend Ennie. I spent a couple days sightseeing and walking along the waterfront. Had my fill of poutine, and ended up doing a shoot with Ennie before I continued on to New York City. (Pro-tip, winter-styled shoots in Montreal summers are not so comfy).

JUNE 18-21, 2016 | Big Apple Weekend | New York City

I had scheduled an engagement session for clients in New York, so I got to explore central park and Brooklyn Bridge, while experiencing “limited weekend service” on the NYC Metro. The Metro sucked, but the shoot was awesome.

JUNE 25, 2016 | Alina & Nick | San Francisco

The end of June marked the beginning of a period that would ramp up into my busiest time of the year. But I still had a couple weeks of relative calm before the surge of weddings and portraits to follow.

JUNE 26, 2016 | The L Family | San Francisco

JULY 2, 2016 | The (belated) Birthday of Valentino | San Francisco

I still made a little time for the birthday celebration of an old friend. Because cake.

JULY 6, 2016 | Mari | San Francisco

And continue to my journey and exploration of fitness photography. I was particularly proud of the series we got from this session. Victoria Tado, again did hair and makeup.

JULY 6, 2016 | Portrait Studies | San Francisco

Later that day, since I had my lights set up, Sarah Rose stopped by to play “Let’s make a book-jacket portrait” and “How’d they light that” (where we would study a photograph of an actor headshot and try to replicate the lighting).

JULY 10, 2016 | Kelly & Chris | Saratoga

July was when things really got churning. For the next 18 weeks, I’d photograph over 20 weddings. I’d also help out a couple of times for my friends and second shoot. All while juggling some portrait sessions in the mix.

JULY 16, 2016 | Ellen & Zach | Woodside

JULY 17, 2016 | Wenfei & David | Hayward

JULY 21, 2016 | Maura | San Francisco

During the weeks I’d still try to schedule personal work to feed my hunger to elevate my craft in a multitude of genre. A traveling model, Maura Evelyn, helped me as I delved into more fine art nude photography.

JULY 26, 2016 | LEAP Fundraiser | San Francisco

When possible, I reunited with my friend Ryan Lee and his band of merry co-workers for a fundraising event for the LEAP Arts in Education, yet another non-profit organization that he’s volunteers with. He’d pay me with free beer. And if I did an extra good job, maybe an old-fashioned.

JULY 27, 2016 | RAW Artists present “REVEAL” | San Francisco

The models below were wearing designs from first-time exhibitor, Johnna Ward.

JULY 29, 2016 | Lane + Chris | Costanoa

Among the many weddings I photographed was this intimate ceremony of Lane and Chris where just the two of them and their sons headed out to a stretch of beach across from Costanoa with their good friend who officiated. 

JULY 29, 2016 | Shaunte | San Francisco

That same afternoon, Shaunte Dittmar, one of the photographers I met at the Porto Conference who happened to live down the road in Tahoe arrived to help me out with a wedding. This was the first of several weddings she would second shoot with me. But first and we walked around with our cameras…

JULY 30, 2016 | Kimberlyn & David | San Francisco

AUGUST 3, 2016 | Introduction of Fan-Pei | San Francisco

One of the artists I met at the RAW SF showcases was Fan-Pei, a model for one of the shows. We ended up connecting to do some shoots outside the event. 

AUGUST 4, 2016 | Light Exploration, Eliza | San Francisco

AUGUST 6, 2016 | Kristina & Aaron | San Jose

Throughout all this I was still staying in touch with my clients and giving them the attention they needed in the form of phone calls and emails. Keeping track of timelines and lists of formal photos and locations for each wedding is all part of the job.

AUGUST 10, 2016 | 500 Tremont | Richmond

I even got back to my roots a little bit, diving into a little architectural photography for a local architect: Tuan Le. It was a fun experience, and one that I’d be down to do more often. Hint, hint.

AUGUST 11, 2016 | Fitness with Tamara | San Francisco

AUGUST 13, 2016 | Stephanie & Stephen | San Francisco

AUGUST 15, 2016 | Fan-Pei | San Francisco

AUGUST 20, 2016 | Tove & Lyle | Sonoma

One of a few double-headers I took on this year brought me up to Sonoma. Naturally, In-N-Out Burger was part of the fuel that fed this machine. As summer turned to fall things were in full swing.

AUGUST 20, 2016 | Lindsey & John | Sonoma

AUGUST 24, 2016 | Supicha & Mike | San Francisco

AUGUST 27, 2016 | Nina & Will | San Francisco

SEPTEMBER 2, 2016 | Shaunte Part II | San Francisco

In September, Shaunte came back for another wedding. And we wandered the streets some more. I also did a little studio lighting show and tell, before heading into the wedding weekend.

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 | Leah & Jeff | Marin

SEPTEMBER 5, 2016 | Kendra 2.0 | San Francisco

Since that early shoot in January where Fiona and I helped build up Kendra’s portfolio, she had ended up booking a bunch of work. Her modeling chops had been flexing all year so we got together to see what we could do now in the studio. Wanting to keep it simple, I limited myself to one light.

SEPTEMBER 5, 2016 | Tutram | San Francisco

Shortly after Kendra stepped out, in walks Tutram. She had been on a makeup kick so I invited her over to play, since I already had my lights out from Kendra’s shoot.

SEPTEMBER 9, 2016 | Nina & David| Livermore

During a later portrait session at Nina and David’s wedding, I accidentally climbed a mountain with Nina and David, racing against the setting sun (and we won). I swear it didn’t look that far away.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 | Kristin & Andrew | Woodside

Then there was that time where Kristin wasn’t quite sure how close to get to Andrew. Don’t worry, she eventually got there and it was beautiful.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2016 | MLE Insights | San Francisco

Earlier in the year I met Emily who then booked me for an environmental portrait for her personal organization business, MLE Insights. She helps people get their sh*t together. And she’s pretty awesome.

SEPTEMBER 15, 2016 | She said, “Yes” | Berkeley

While I witness a lot of amazing and pure moments at weddings, it’s rare to actually see and document the actual proposal.  It was an honor to be asked to document something of this emotional magnitude.

SEPTEMBER 17, 2016 | Savi & Peter | Healdsburg

 SEPTEMBER 18, 2016 | Ann & Ed | San Francisco

SEPTEMBER 23-24, 2016 | Kristen & Will | Napa
Mont La Salle Wedding Photo

SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 | Hill Tribe | San Francisco

Fan-Pei and I collaborated with a designer (Hill Tribe) and makeup artist (Nomi Nguyen) to do a more avant-garde fashion shoot that eventually got published in Gilded Magazine.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2016 | Anastasia | San Francisco

In another collaboration that stemmed from the RAW Artist showcases, Fiona and I teamed up with Anastasia, who earlier in the year was the program host.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2016 | Laura & Tom | San Franciscogolden hour baker beach engagement session golden hour baker beach engagement session

OCTOBER 3, 2016 | Christina & Ben | San Francisco

October 4, 2016 | Jess & Nick | San Francisco

In the Fall, I’d be booking more weddings for 2017. Couples getting married in 2017 would begin scheduling their engagement sessions, which I’d stagger on the weekdays or increasingly scarce weekend dates.

OCTOBER 8, 2016 | Stephanie & Steve | Pebble Beach

OCTOBER 10, 2016 | Shannon & Enrique | San Francisco

OCTOBER 14, 2016 | Anna & Devan | Berkeley

OCTOBER 15, 2016 | Marisa & Chris | San Francisco

OCTOBER 17, 2016 | Lifestyle with Tamara | San Francisco

Tamara and I would work together again for a quick lifestyle shoot, without the expert styling of Fiona this time. But we still thought it came together all right. Right??

OCTOBER 18, 2016 | Fitness Update | San Francisco

And Kendra needed an update on her fitness portfolio.

OCTOBER 18, 2016 | Rachel | San Francisco

Rachel is Kendra’s little sister and is a trainer in San Francisco, who as it happens, also needed some fitness photos.

OCTOBER 23, 2016 | Lisa & Kyle | Yountville

Lisa and Kyle’s wedding came before my first break in a string of non-stop wedding weekends. I had just a wee bit of down time to catch up on editing, and focus energy on some other projects.

OCTOBER 25, 2016 | Transformation series | San Francisco

This actually started a couple weeks earlier with Kendra, but I asked Anastasia and Sarah Rose to participate as well. Fiona Tsang used her makeup mastery to create three distinct looks for each model.

OCTOBER 27, 2016 | RAW Artists Present “VERVE” | San Francisco

OCTOBER 29, 2016 | Saadia | San Francisco

Saadia hired me to photograph her sister and her friends for her birthday in 2011 when I was first getting starting in photography. She got in contact with me to do some professional photographs for her profile. She’s a child psychologist who’s specializing in working with children who are suffering from PTSD after becoming refugees.

NOVEMBER 1, 2016 | Lifestyle | San Francisco

That one time Tamara pretended to be a fan of Pink Floyd…

And blended in with the environment a bit at the top of the San Francisco Art Institute.

NOVEMBER 3, 2016 | Katie & Grayson | San Francisco

NOVEMBER 5, 2016 | Laura & Tom | San Francisco

NOVEMBER 7 | The C Family | Burlingame

NOVEMBER 8, 2016 | Gordon Knox | San Francisco

Speaking of the San Francisco Art Institute, this is their new president, Gordon Knox.

November 11, 2016 | Annabell & Jeff | San Francisco

NOVEMBER 13, 2016 | Jaclyn Mae Boudoir | San Francisco

In November, I had one more trip planned to the Fearless Conference in Charleston. But before that I reconnected with Jaclyn for one more shoot before I headed out.

NOVEMBER 14-16 | Fearless Conference | Charleston

After the conference, Nick Otto and I spent a couple days wandering around Charleston with his non-photographer friend Tom, eating far too much barbecue, and continued on to Nashville, Tennessee. There, we’d continue to eat too much barbecue, while enjoying some local music venues over beers.

NOVEMBER 18 | Fort Sumter | Charleston

NOVEMBER 20, 2016 | The Weeks, in Concert | Nashville

NOVEMBER 21, 2016 | Some local watering hole… | Nashville

NOVEMBER 25, 2016 | Chris & Nick | San Francisco

Back to San Francisco where I had just two weddings left in the season and a small handful of other shoots scheduled…

NOVEMBER 26, 2016 | Sharon & Linh | Woodside, California

DECEMBER 3 | Lisa & Mark | San Francisco

DECEMBER 3 | Ann & Ed Part II| San Francisco

DECEMBER 11 | Sharon & Jerry | San Francisco

DECEMBER 19, 2016 | Kendra Impersonates Angel | San Francisco

And right before I took off for Florida to visit my family, I headed up to the roof of Kendra’s apartment to play with my Fujis. Without any other shoots looming ahead of me, I felt a calm rush as my working season ended. 

DECEMBER 22-31, 2016 | Holidaze | Florida

And that’s it! By the time I flew off to Florida, I had delivered the final images to all my clients. With nothing looming over me I could relax… until I started putting together this post :)
(Photo above taken by my brother, Viet)

If you’ve gotten to the end, thank you for staying with me! I wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to do to put it all together, but I realized it was just getting out of control long. But in the end, I wanted to show you what my life is like as a photographer. Working and running a business on your own means that people often don’t have a very clear idea of what I’m doing (many assume that I just sit around and eat and sleep all day between weddings). The body of work above represents just part of my life, albeit a significant part. Things that aren’t pictured are client meetings, emails, phone calls, coordination for all of these events and photo-shoots, all of the editing (I don’t currently outsource), and all of the content updates on Facebook, Instagram and this website are also handled by yours truly. It’s a whole lot of work but I admit, much of it doesn’t feel like work. I can’t really imagine doing anything else and look forward to more learning, exploring, and meeting new wonderful people in 2017!

  1. […] engagement sessions and weddings as I had done in prior years, I decided to share a chronology of my photographic adventures throughout 2016. It was a long post and hopefully some of you made it through. I certainly had a fun time putting […]

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