Behind-The-Scenes of a Boat Shoot

I love tight shots of people because, as a viewer, you get a sense that you’re sharing in a private moment.


In every shoot, I also like to step back once in awhile to get an environmental shot because these images give context to a story.

Some locations, however, provide movement limitations, like a small room, a crowded location, or a sailboat in the middle of the San Francisco Bay!

So during my September boat shoot, Rachad carefully coordinated with a good friend to meet us in the middle of the bay.  His rescue boat was small and fast, so we could maneuver around my clients’ large sailboat.  It was thrilling FO SHO because — and I’m only spelling this out because I didn’t know this myself — the boat engines can’t be turned off on the water; the boats are always moving.

All this excitement brought me back to the days I jumped out of airplanes, dove into pitch-black caves underwater, backpacked in remote areas of Southeast Asia, and trekked through rainforests at night to find noctural wildlife.

Behind-the-Scenes #1

Getting on the rescue boat and back on the sailboat while both boats were moving was the most daring part of the whole shoot because there was nothing stable to hold onto, no area to step in the rescue boat, and the boats were at different heights.

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We zipped in front of my client’s moving sailboat, along side it, and all around it.  Salt water, wind, and my hair whipped against my face while I tried not to fall out of the boat whenever we hit a wave.  All the while, I was scrunched in the front of the boat and had to twist my body to get the angles I needed.

Think:  human pretzel!Annie-Tao-photographing-from-rescue-boat-BTS-instax-film

What I Shot #1



Behind-the-Scenes #2

Here we were along side the sailboat while Rachad’s family was getting into position.  We had to maintain the same speed and race around to get the perspective I needed.

You can see the waves we generated from zipping around, and also the smiles!


What I Shot #2

Rachad tilted his boat intentionally to show off the sleek lines of his new boat.


This is what it looked like on-board!


Behind-the-Scenes #3

Returning to the sailboat meant I was dryer and warmer.  Ahhhhh!

I stayed low to the boat — either sitting or squatting — as to not fall out when there was turbulence.  Here I am with little Maya, whom I’ve known since she was a baby.


What I Shot #3

Being at the boat’s nose, I could capture multiple layers of imagery when facing backwards.


I also walked towards the middle to get closer shots, making sure to shoot through things in order to get cool foreground bokeh.


[If you want to see more Behind-The-Scenes (BTS) action, check out:  BTS of a Maternity Shoot, BTS of a Senior Shoot – Jalin, BTS of a Styled Shoot – Crystal, BTS of a Children’s Shoot – Little Princess.]

That’s all the Behind-the-Scenes I have for now!  Wishing you all a great week.  xo ~annie

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Festival of Lights

{Diwali:  A holiday known as the Festival of Lights to celebrate victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance.}

From planning this shoot with Renuka a year ago, I’ve learned so much about Diwali; and the more I learned, the more emotional I became.  This holiday spans beyond ethnicity, religion, or culture.  It’s about human kindness, community, our connection to one another, and standing together for what is right.

Photographing Renuka and Sandeep’s Diwali celebration was nourishing to my soul.  It’s something I will never forget.

I could feel the boundless energy as guests arrived.  Throughout the evening, one by one, candles were lit on the diyas, rangolis, and alter.  They provided a feeling of peace and hopefulness for our future and the future of our children. ❤️


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With You

Sure, some things I may ask you to do during your shoot may feel strange or even downright goofy.  To some.  Maaaaaybe:)

That’s where trust comes into play because I promise, there’s a reason for all of that.  During a photoshoot, images pop into my head based on what I see in front of me — the quality of light, patterns and textures in the environment, and the people I am photographing.  The best “directing” is when they feel more like spontaneous ideas between friends than directions.

Plus, it helps to know I am right there with you.  Through it all.  Laughing… being silly… being serious.

All of it.  ❤️


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Leaping into the Clouds

We loved last year’s pink unicorns, rainbow light, sounds of waves crashing against the shore, overly friendly bees, and the hot sun.  But this year, we threw caution to the wind and went for the opposite…

We hung out in a garden surrounded by a concrete jungle, thick fog, nagging gnats (ooh that is fun to say), sounds of people protesting in the streets, and the cold brisk air.

From beach to city, we embraced the Bay.  Olivia and Emma had smiles that made strangers take note and wave hello.  Emma climbed everything and had the ability to leap into the clouds — or so it felt.   And Olivia with her sweet face that turns silly at any given moment still makes me laugh.  ❤️


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Family Treasures

While I was cramming for midterms one ordinary College day, I received a phone call that broke a long silence.  It was a good friend who lived in the same apartment building.  She spoke so fast that her words blended together.  Huh?  Say that again?  When she repeated herself, all I heard were bits and pieces….

“Big fire”
“Coming towards you”
“Evacuated a long time ago”

In complete disbelief, my roommate walked outside “to see if she could see anything”.  She returned shaking.  The wildfire was not only in sight, close by, but also distinctly heading towards our building.

We gave ourselves one minute to grab what we could before running to my car.  Adrenaline was fueled by panic.  I will never forget what I grabbed:  my keys, wallet, a couple pieces of jewelry, and photo albums.  Every single photo album.  Those albums weighed like 10 lbs each, and I had to have them all!

What I learned from the Oakland Fire of ’91 is that I found photos to be one of the most important possessions I own.

That’s because a photo isn’t just a photo.  It’s something that makes memories permanent, so you can enjoy, share and hopefully treasure them for years to come, or even with future generations.  Each family I photograph has their own unique style, connection, and way of interacting, and I am grateful to have the important role of capturing this for them.  xoxo


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Coders are Creators

These quotes explain why this Commercial Shoot of The Coder School gets me excited every time:

“Coding is today’s language of creativity.  All our children deserve a chance to become creators instead of consumers of computer science.”
~ Maria Klawe

“I want to encourage more young women to get involved in coding, because it’s important for them to be able to help shape the future, and coding is the future.”
~ Karlie Kloss

“Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”
~ Steve Jobs





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[Click here to see my first Commercial Shoot at The Coder School in Berkeley!  This shoot was of their Fremont location.]

Annual Playdate

I know I sound like Cheesy McCheeserson, but some shoots feel more like I’m playing and hanging out with friends than a job.  Nah, let’s be real, it’s almost every shoot.

From the time Danny pulled his car into the parking lot, I hopped out of mine and saw little Rory’s excited face pressed against the window.  Then Emily drove in with Dex who looked like he grew a foot taller than the previous year.


There was no time to waste.  We all darted into the arboretum, so the playdate photoshoot could start!  :)

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Family is like a puzzle.  It can be a big puzzle with lots of pieces, a small puzzle with big pieces, or anything in-between.  The pieces can be made up of individuals who are blood-relatives or individuals who are close to your heart, but not related to.  The puzzles can be complicated or simple, serious or fun.

We are all a part of a puzzle and our puzzles are all unique.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I get to photograph a family that visually fit together like pieces of a puzzle too!  ❤️




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Mochis and Monsters

There were mochis and monsters at this shoot.  Well, more like mochi-eating monsters, which weren’t as scary as they were playful.  :)

The mochi-eating monsters and their parents also shared the lake with a couple of deer, ducks with laughter-sounding quacks, and a VERY large group of turkeys.  It was a fun and eventful morning.  It had a different feel than their Lake Shoot last year that was foggy and quiet.

The moments where the family melted into each other and laughter infected others around them required great concentration to continue shooting because what I really wanted to do was take pause and breathe it all in!  ❤️



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Sama on the Bay

Donning Mediterranean colors, Priti and Rachad with their little ones had vibrant personalities to match.  They played, laughed, hugged each other, and gave themselves bunny ears.  You’d think they’ve done this before!  ;) (SQUEEE!  This is actually their 9th shoot!)

It was obvious being on the water is their happy place.

So we climbed aboard their new boat, Sama, which they named after their children/their heart — Samir and Maya — and means “sky” in Arabic.  *swoon*

Though we’ve had photoshoots on the San Francisco Bay before, this time was different.  I climbed into another boat in the middle of the Bay, so I could capture images of the family from outside their boat.  With nothing to hold onto, except an assuring hand and Rachad’s shoulder, and my cameras dangling to my sides, I jumped.

I love a good challenge.  Shooting subjects on a moving boat while on a boat that is zipping around and flying over waves is a challenge indeed.  And loads of fun!  Check out Sama on the Bay…


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