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Nikki Tran Blog | Designer. Artist. Photographer bio picture
  • Hello Friend…

    and welcome to the blog! I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves the romantic things in life. Tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, old and worn books, slow-dancing to records, painting by candelight, lakeside walks with Rusty, and starry-night picnics with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just the two of us - I hope it brings you smiles and happiness as you snuggle in with your cup of tea and begin reading. Enjoy, friends! (Latest posts on the right!) --->

Hello, sweet friends. :)

Did you get to enjoy the bits and pieces of sunshine earlier today? I woke up early (or earlier than usual) and managed to get myself out of bed to see where the gorgeous beams of light were coming from in the hallway. Oh, the brilliant blue!! It was such a treat to see after so many days (or at least it feels like so many days) of rain and clouds. I even took photos while letting Rusty outside. I bundled up in my big, fluffy, rose-printed bathrobe – bedhead and all – and perused around the garden all while listening to the sweet song of birds. Sometimes it’s almost like they’re bombarding my ears when I come from my quiet, still house into a loud chorus of singing. But I forgive them.

So, today’s post is going to be something that I’m adjusting to both on the blog and mentally (first music, yes?). I’m sharing my little world of painting, and to be honest, it’s not easy. Sharing my process or steps to my work is like I’m officially saying, Hey! I call myself an artist!

Ahhh!! Just the thought of saying that makes me feel so exposed!

And I say this because it is very hard for me to accept that I may have talent. I know I’m not alone – you’re out there, too. Shying away from your beautiful gift and squirming when people compliment you. It’s an epidemic! Even after playing the piano for 23 years, I’m still uncomfortable when people ask me to play for them. And even photography! If someone compliments me, I try to pass it off as “Oh yea, well the lighting was really great that day.” My goodness. (Shaking my head at deliberate talent sabotaging.)

Just like it was hard to actually tell people, Hey! I’m a photographer!, so will it be difficult to acknowledge the fact that although I’m not Van Gogh or remotely close to,

I am, I suppose, a bit of an artist.

Alright – it’s out there! So, moving on!

If you don’t already know the story, I had been wanting to learn how to paint for years. I wish I had taken painting classes in high-school or even college, but I did not. I did paint a “mural” on my bedroom wall when I was 16 that will go down in infamy with my family; I saw it as a gorgeous sunset on the beach and they saw it as a bunch of blues and oranges with random v’s (for the flying birds of course!) Oh well. :) I have loved the idea of “being an artist” for as long as I can remember. When I was little I would go upstairs to me and my sister’s bedroom, pull out a bunch of papers and notebooks and crayons and pencils, turn on the Beatles records, and just draw (I wonder if my own family knows that’s what I was getting up to way back then). I’d draw wedding dresses, people I knew, things from my future life, potential husbands (I was very much into being married), and more dresses and shoes (shoes were always tough for me). My mother likes to remind me that in pre-school my teacher would show her how detailed and carefully colored my artwork was. Instead of just coloring the entire Christmas tree green like most 3-year-olds do, I was paying more attention to the patterns on the small ornaments on the tree, making sure to color them first and then color in the rest of the tree, always staying in the lines.

While I had always loved the idea of being an artist, I had no future goals for it and didn’t think I had a talent for it whatsoever. Although I did have one thing I held onto throughout the years – I wanted to write a book of some sort and illustrate it myself. That was it. Something simple. I focused more on being a writer than I ever did of being an artist.

And then in 2014 on one random day when I was 25, I was telling Paul my lovely bedroom wall story and that I wished I had taken some sort of art classes in school. My great-great-uncle was an artist you know. Maybe I have some of his genes in me. Paul, being the ever-supportive and wonderful person that he is, told me to just go for it! Go for it? I don’t know how! Why can’t you teach yourself, Paul would say. You’ve taught yourself photography, Photoshop, web design…I could teach myself! (It’s important to have a significant other who doubles as a fairy godmother/father). So I went to Michaels on a rainy morning while Paul was at work and picked myself up a bunch of stuff that I had no clue about. There’s different kinds of paper? What in the world is cold-pressed? Why are there so many brands of paint?! I wish I had a magic wand that would spin and just point to things I needed, like a fairy godmother compass. But, I managed and I went back home delighted with my new purchases. I laid them out all nicely on my desk table, organizing it so I would truly look like an artist.

Well, you and I both know that no matter how something might appear, that’s just not always the case. My desk looked lovely, but then I attempted to draw a vase of flowers. Friends, I didn’t even watercolor the right way! I didn’t even buy the right paints! At the time I thought I was doing it so well, I’m so clever, I thought. No, no I was not. But, as time moves on so does our skills. Now I can safely say that I love the brushes I use, I can tell good paint from not-so-great paint, I can tell the difference between different paper, and the most important piece, I now use water when I paint. (Yes, yours truly didn’t mix the colors with water on my first official attempt of being a watercolor artist. I’m still shaking my head at myself.) The best part is looking back at my work from even just a few months ago and being so proud at how much better I’ve gotten. It was the same with photography, looking back at weddings in prior years and realizing how far I/Paul had come.

I tell you this story for a couple of reasons:

a. My blog and business will become more intertwined with my art and so I thought it deserved a proper introduction. :)

b. This stuff gives me butterflies constantly. Sometimes I take things for granted when I talk to myself all day and I don’t realize how much of a gift something simple like watercoloring can be.

c. Maybe you’re someone who thinks it’s too late to discover a talent or to live out a dream.

FALSE.

You’re never too old for either of those wonderful things. 

So friends, now that you’ve been properly introduced to my beloved interest, you will be seeing more posts relating to watercolors, designing, as well as photography. I hope you like what’s to come – I’m pretty excited with how this blog is going to be transforming and I can’t wait to keep sharing it with you. :)

Have a wonderful weekend! We’re shooting our LAST OFFICIAL WEDDING ON FRIDAY!!! Can you believe it?! But don’t worry – since it’s our last wedding and since I forgot to post my favorites and behind the scenes from last year, there will definitely be some of those favorites coming soon on the blog. :) xoxoxoxo

  • NanaMay 25, 2017 - 7:15 pm

    My dear girl you have so much talent wheather it is writing your blog,taking pictures or painting. I do think you should consider doing cards like Penny suggest.Love you more.???ReplyCancel

    • NikkiMay 31, 2017 - 7:39 pm

      Oh Nana, you’re always so kind. :) Love you more – I’ve got to still come see you. Miss you both. :)ReplyCancel

  • Penny PlaceMay 25, 2017 - 12:18 pm

    Nikki,

    Just read your blog and loved it….just a thought.

    I need birthday an anniversary cards….would that be something up your alley?

    PennyReplyCancel

    • NikkiMay 31, 2017 - 7:38 pm

      Welcome, Penny! So glad you stopped by!! :) And that sounds lovely. Sending you an email right now. :)ReplyCancel

Hello, dear friends. Grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat, shall we?

I’ve been quite a flake this past year (for lack of a better word). Or at least I’ve certainly felt flakey. I announced my decision to quit my photography business a little over a year ago (our last official Nikki Tran Photography wedding is this Friday!) and have been flitting between ideas for so long I feel like I’m a little kid deciding which toy I want more on the shelf at Toys ‘R’ Us. I’m the poster child for Changing My Mind. And for the last year I’ve felt like something’s missing, like my life wasn’t being fulfilled enough. And when that thought started to creep in my mind, I began to downplay that thought by telling myself I’m just being entitled, or something like that.

Who was I to want more than what I already had?

I had a beautiful home, a perfect husband, a darling puppy, enough nieces and nephews to make my heart burst, and we were/are financially stable.

And then I began to think that maybe I had made a huge decision too quickly. Was I a failure for quitting photography, something I was actually good at it?? I had poured nearly 5 years of my life into it and now it seemed it was all gone. Earlier this year I cleaned my office out and I saw my old gift boxes and business cards, welcome packet materials and notebooks, all fall into the garbage. A slight panic ensued.

I tried to get passionate about something, anything really. I opened the Etsy shop thinking my energy would come back and I’d be awake until 2am painting away. I tried to resuscitate my Photoshop actions, holding onto any little strand of hope that it would ignite some passion back in my heart. I even began trying to write my book – the book I’ve been dreaming I would write/illustrate since I was in high-school. Nothing lasted, it was like dry sticky tape. Nothing stuck and I began to feel slightly hopeless, like I would soon just be pulled away with the current, never able to accomplish my big dreams and never able to say I own my own small business again (something I was incredibly proud of during those years). I would be lying if I said I had no regrets at all during this past year, but then something fabulous happened.

I got my spark back.

I don’t know why it happened, or why it took so long to happen, but I feel like I did back when I was in school and cramming my study hours with photography and contracts and website design. Maybe it’s because I’m combining all my talents and loves into one funnel – there’s no shortage of creative outlets to supply. I can switch from painting to Photoshop to writing to designing to business tasks.

It consumes me, friends. I go to bed at night (not yet able to stay up until 2am – I was younger then :)), reading business books, jotting down notes, smiling to myself, and sometimes even shedding a single tear from complete joy. I keep my notebook and books with me at all times because I really cannot get enough of it. I listen to podcasts and webinars on creative businesses whenever I have a spare moment, and I can talk Paul’s ear off about new things I’ve learned or ideas that have popped in my head or tasks I’ve accomplished.

And you know what makes me so entirely happy? You guys are with me through this, too. You’ve been there since I started photography in 2012, you’ve been there when I was so excited about new weddings and trying to create this blog, you’ve been there for my family get-togethers and garden projects, you’ve been there during my “retirement” announcement, and you’re still here for this new adventure. I wish I could squeeze you through the computer screen and give you the biggest hug. And I wish instead of me just talking to you, we could talk about what’s going on with you. Are you chasing dreams? Do you have something exciting that you’re working on? Is your garden blooming and you’re just bursting with happiness? Even if I can’t see you, just know I appreciate you. And thank you for riding along all these years. :)

Xoxo times a million.

Hello dear friends! If you read my last post about our little trip to San Diego, then you’ll know this post was coming up. If you missed it, that’s okay! Go ahead and take a look. I shall wait…:)

……………..

Annnnnnnnd we’re back! So, as you know, I did not bring my huge Canon camera to our trip to California. I had brought it on our last trip to Jamaica, to California in 2015, and even to Mexico for our anniversary. It was such a burden on our trips. Besides being heavy and bulky in our luggage (I kept it in my purse because I was paranoid about it breaking), I would worry about carrying it around everywhere we went. What if it broke? What if it gets wet? Why oh why are they so stinkin’ heavy?!

For this trip, I decided to do it differently; I would only use my camera for photos. I’ll be honest, I was a little terrified. But then I remembered that I’m a photographer – I know the skills needed for a good photo and I could transfer that when using a phone! (Silly me.) After being so pleased with the photos from our trip to San Diego I thought to myself that everyone could take great photos with their phone! All they needed was a few simple (and hopefully helpful!) tips. (I promise, these are literally the 4 things I do when taking photos with my phone – it doesn’t have to be crazy and complex.)

1. Frame your photo.

Although it’s easy to just quick stop, snap a photo (half the time while still walking), try to stop and really see the photo before snapping away. Look at the photo as a full scene. If you’re taking a photo of a beautiful tree don’t cut off it’s elaborate, windy, twisted trunk. Get the full picture. If there’s a building that has you by the heart, take a few steps back to get all the intricate details in the frame of your photo. If there’s a beautiful field of wildflowers, get down on its level for the photo. Not every photo has to be taken at eye level. Be creative – you can always take more. :)  (Can you imagine shooting film again?!)

2. Expose and focus.

It might not be the same depending on which phone you use, but with my Android I can simply tap on the object or person I’m trying to photograph and my camera will automatically properly expose and focus my photo. By tapping on something specific, it will adjust its settings the best it can and for the most part, expose and focus the photo properly. Be aware that if you’re shooting facing the sun, it might be harder for your camera to focus on the subject (which in my case will be Rusty for the rest of this post, it’s easier :)). Just keep trying to tap and even try hiding some of the sunlight with your hand so your camera can get a better grasp on Rusty’s adorable, fluffy face.

3. Use natural light.

This is not always the case when you’re out and about, however, if you can help it, try not to use a flash. If it’s during the day and you’re outside under harsh afternoon light, find a shady spot to snap a photo. If there’s no shade to be found (it happens, even at weddings) simply have the sun be behind Rusty. Even if it’s 1PM, there’s still a tiny tilt to the sun and it can be behind your subject. Not only will Rusty’s little eyes thank you for not having the sun right in his face, but your photo will have a bit of a glow. (That photo of Paul and his ice-cream? That was taken mid-day with zero shade around. I stood facing the sun and Paul had his back to it. Easy peezy.)

If you’re taking a photograph at sunset (best. time. ever.), the sun can be behind him (dreamy, dreamy lighting) and if late enough, can even be in front of him. If you’re inside, find a window or a doorway – having Rusty face the window or wherever the light is coming in. If you’re inside and it’s dark and there’s zilch lighting around, then clearly now is the time to use a flash. But even if there’s a lamp, use that first. Flashes that are pointed directly at someone is a. blinding and b. quite harsh.

4. Use a simple photo editor for minor enhancements.

I use VSCO Cam for my editing program and it. is. so. easy. It’s a downloadable app and I just import the photos I want to edit, edit them, and save! Easy peezy! Although I don’t use the filters, you can certainly use them! They have a great variety of matte and light, and bright and colorful. However, I manually edit each photo and literally friends, it takes about 10 seconds. It’s nothing over the top, nothing too fancy, but it just makes me sad that sometimes the color I see with my eyes isn’t quite there in the photo. So I give it a little boost.

And that’s it! Try one or two (or even all 4 if you’re feeling adventurous!) of these tips the next time you pull out your phone. I’ll be honest with you, I’m so stinkin’ excited that I don’t have to bring my camera to DISNEYWORLD next year. It was a bear to bring to Disneyland last year and so this will be absolutely lov-a-ly.

Anyways! I hope this post was helpful, friends!! You deserve to have beautiful photos of your family and adventures hanging proudly on your wall. Cameras on phones are made so well now, it’s time to take advantage of them. :) Enjoy!! xoxoxo