October Editorials: SF Magazine, Refinery 29 and Design Mind

October has been a very giving month, having photos published in three magazines, both online and in print. I love shooting lifestyle and portraits for editorial content, and looking forward to be doing more of that. For inquiries, email me at hello@monicasemergiu.com

First off, I was interviewed for a travel story that got published in the October issue of San Francisco magazine. I am talking about battling anxiety, taking long solo road trips, camping alone as a woman. To see the photos and read the story, click here.

Design Mind is the prestigious design blog and magazine published by Frog Design. In October they published an article about connected motorcycle riders, and how to embed technology in designing for the motorcyclists lifestyle. To read the entire article and see which of my images they used, click here

Last but not least, Refinery 29 released an online article profiling some of the best known San Francisco baristas and I have two portraits in the slideshow. To read the entire article and see the photos, click here.

Really excited for these great exposure opportunities, as well as for what the rest of October has in store, photoshoot-wise.

Interview with Discovery Seeker Network

Hello everyone! I haven't blogged on my website in almost a whole year, mostly because I published content on other social channels and because I focused my efforts on other areas of my business. Starting today, blogging is back and I will try to do one post every week, to keep you updated with both commissioned work and personal projects. I've been working on a lot of interesting things lately, yet I've lacked the discipline (and let's face it, time primarily) to show them to the world. 

A couple of months ago, the Seeker Network, a new channel launched by Discovery Digital Networks earlier this year to cater to those adventurous at heart, featured some of the photos I took at Babes Rideout last year. They turned the interview into a rad video, which you can watch here. I am honored to be one of the first photographers featured in their series, and very excited to go back to and document Babes Rideout again this year. 

Beach Portrait Session with Cristina

Last Sunday my friend Cristina and I went to the beach in the city. It was a last minute decision and we arrived there around 4pm,  just in time for some golden hour photography. We didn't plan to take any photos, but I had my camera with me, and a white dress that I recently purchased for a few dollars at a thrift store.  We took a few snaps for about 30 minutes, all natural light, 50mm lens, wide lens aperture (thus some blurry images), and this is what came out. 


Inner City Exploring with Gritchelle

One of the things I love about learning to get better at making photos is meeting and shooting together with people who have the same passion for the same thing as you do. You feed off each other's energy, time has no meaning anymore, and freezing in the cold at odd hours to get the right shot is expected and understood. Yesterday I had the pleasure to shoot together with Gritchelle, a super talented photographer and graphic designer, avid cyclist, and patient subject of my photo endeavors below. I modified the images in Lightroom, as the grass and trees around us were too vividly green for my taste. So I muted the greens and lowered the contrast a bit. The fog and the trees were already so dramatic, that there was barely need for any other adjustments. 


The Eastern Sierras Dream

A 3-day trip over Memorial Day weekend to Bishop, Bodie, Owen's River Gorge, some hot springs in the desert, and then back to SF via Yosemite. Climbing, off-roading, driving long hours, getting car-sick, star gazing, skinny dipping in hot springs at night, drinking beer in hot springs during the day, primitive camping in the middle of nowhere, karaoke-ing in the car, photographing, loving life. 


A Day With Ed Sharpe

Not really, but the title sounded good. One of the perks of my recent anointment as Community Manager at 8tracks is that sometimes I get to go to shows as part of various partnerships and cross-promotions we do with labels and brands. We recently did a giveaway with San Francisco Oysterfest, so they kindly gave us a couple of comp tickets. Now, I'm not a fan of big festivals, but for the right artist I will suffer through the 20 minute lines for ATM, ID-check, beer, food and port-potties. Plus, it's always a good excuse to people-watch, make "in-line" acquaintances, and snap some photos. 

This year's festival had a great lineup, including Poolside and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. I elbowed my way to the front row for the Ed Sharpe performance and it did not disappoint. Here are some of the photos I took: 

In terms of gear, I only had my 50mm 1.4 L lens, so no flexibility at all in terms of zooming in or zeroing out distracting background. I had to be in the front, it was the only way to get some decent closeup shots. 


The stage seen from the little hill at the back of the Sharon meadow, with the iconic San Francisco Sutro tower in the background. I decided to edit some of the images in grayscale, as to remove some of the distraction from people's colorful attire, flags, tents and everything else that makes a festival so visually stimulating. 

Ed Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes are one of my favorite artists, and I cannot begin to describe how thrilled I was to be there, so close to them. The ten-plus member group is known for their vibrant live performances, where Alex jumps into the crowd, invites people on the stage, making the whole show a very interactive experience. 

Alex Ebert is my celebrity crush, and somewhat reminding me of the man I am presently in love with. Magnetic eyes, intense stare, charismatic and playful, with a Jesus-like appearance.  

The show got more emotional and personal when he invited a girl from the audience to sing a duet of "Life is Hard" with him on the stage. I don't remember her name, but she had an amazing voice, so Alex asked her to stick around and do another song with him. 

He is looking straight into my camera!! Total babe, this one. 

When time came to sing "Home" he also asked a boy from the audience up on the stage. The girl next to me wanted to go up too, so Alex made them Rochambo the winner. The boy won, and he was the happiest person I've ever seen in my life. Even I started crying seeing so much happiness. 


The 3 of them sang "Home" together. At the end I gave my card to the boy (his name is Dashiell) and sadly I couldn't find the girl anymore - as I wanted them to see these photos of their special moment. 


Escape Plan Part 3: The Ocean

The 3rd part of this blog series finds us driving along the Pacific coast, stopping frequently to perform the following activities: walk around tiny beaches and coves, collect rocks and drift wood, eat, pee and make out, take a million photos and just as many memories. 

About half of the photos in this post have been taken by Ben. We passed the camera back and forth frequently over the day. Basically if I'm in the photo - he took it. We also managed to acquire a couple of images of us together courtesy of a nice family we met at the lighthouse. All photos were taken with a borrowed 16-35mm camera, mostly shot at 16, except for a few portraits that were shot at 35. I am absolutely in love with this lens, and saving for one of my own soon. 


I really love the image above. Probably my favorite one in the series. I'd like to say a few words about the editing process. I don't know how others do it, but I get in a 5 hour trance when I start editing. It is now 2am and I have been working on this batch of 20-ish images for the last 5 hours. I feel like it takes me forever to edit out images, narrow down the selection and settle on the final light exposure adjustment. Some days I go for warmer tones and lighter images, other days I am more attracted to darker and higher-contrasty treatments. I feel like the treatment I apply should be dictated by the subject matter and some predefined color correction rules, but I often end up choosing it based on my mood that day. Good or bad? I don't know... 


Ben is a very talented photographer himself, really good at candid and action shots. We talked about our different styles of shooting: me, being trained on film and having shot a lot of medium format, am more reserved with pressing the shutter, carefully framing first and being a bit stingy with my shots. He, on the other hand, is trigger happy, which enables him to capture spontaneous moments like the one of me above, dancing on the beach. I have to constantly remind myself to be more like that, since with digital you can take as many shots as you want, and pick the best one later. 


Now here's an example of the opposite side of the spectrum, my carefully composed shot and calculated angle, after I told Ben to sit still, so I can climb on some rocks and get the perspective I wanted. 

That open expanse did something to our minds and bodies. It was like an instant high and a desire to roll around in it, run all over it, scream, jump, lie down and be one with it. 


Escape Plan Part 2: The Woods

Two weeks ago I started a series of blog posts based on a 4 day trip that Ben and I took up north. (Digression: just thought of how "up north" has a very different and specific implied meaning for anyone using it, depending on their geographic location. For us San Franciscans, "up north" would invoke imagery of towering redwood trees, wine tasting, windy roads and foggy coastal landscapes.) I've been very busy lately, so barely time for editing photos from that trip - which led me to another realization: when, as photographer, you distance yourself in time from the physical subject matter of your photos, editing becomes much clearer. 


After West Point Inn, we continued our trip to Orr Hot Springs, one of my all-time favorite places in Northern California. At Orr we stayed in a wooden yurt with a round skyline in the middle of the ceiling, right above our bed. It rained non-stop the entire time we were there, which made for an explosion of all senses. The humidity in the air elevated scents from all the greenery surrounding us. The raindrops falling on our roof at night made the soundtrack, and from a tactile standpoint... well, just look at my hand touching that moss-covered tree and you'll understand. 


One of the yurts at Orr, covered in moss. 

 The yurt that we slept in, surrounded by ferns, redwoods and moss. 

The yurt that we slept in, surrounded by ferns, moss and redwood trees. 

In the morning, we found the creek on the property completely swollen and raging, carrying all the water from the overnight rain. The hot spring is located at the bottom of a deep valley, so the hillsides were covered with little streams of water, all eventually flowing into this creek. 

Photo of me by Ben. Since Orr is a clothing-optional place, we did not take too many photos on the property, and left the camera in the room most of the time. One of my favorite moments was soaking in a lukewarm bath (body temperature), while rain was pouring down on us. 

Selfie with a 16mm lens. Also, I love this man. There, I said it publicly. 

The show must go on! The next day, we (reluctantly) left Orr after one last long soaking sesh, and continued for a long hour on the windy and narrow Ukiah-Comptche road until we reached the coast right below Fort Bragg. 

We stopped in the quiet town of Comptche and walked around. This name reminds me of Nepal and Tibet, and the village is full of hippie markings, but the name actually comes from a local native American tribe. The owner of the house above came outside and told us the house has been in his family for four generations, and that his grand grand-father built it. 

Upon reaching the coast, we made another stop at the Little River cemetery. Behind the cemetery there is a blowhole, which fills up with water during high tide. You can hike down to the bottom with the aid of a rope, but we didn't because of the heavy recent rains and all the recently fallen trees. It's a magical place, and definitely a must-stop for everyone driving down the coast. 

Escape Plan Part 1: West Point Inn

This past week-end Ben and I went on a four-day trip to a few hidden nooks of Northern California, only to return back to the city via an epic drive down Highway 1 . The trip represented some sort of escape plan or celebration for both of us, an occasion to reconnect with nature, meditate, cleanse and recharge batteries. For me, it was a celebration of ending my previous full-time job, starting a new, exciting and creative job, and committing myself to working as a photographer.  For the most part we didn't have any cell phone reception, nor any wifi or even electricity. We were really truly blessed to also travel right after and during heavy rains, experiencing a ferociously lush California that is only to be seen in spring. Ben mentioned at some point that he felt like being in a foreign country.  We took hundreds of photos in completely different and equally majestic locations, so I've decided to split them up in 4 different blog posts, each of them representing a different day of the road trip. 

On the first day of the trip we went to West Point Inn, a lodge built at the top of Mt. Tam in 1904 that is accessible only via hiking. Since you can't drive up there, and since there's no electricity at the inn, and you have to hike with all your gear and food, it's not a crowded place despite the proximity to the city. We also went on a Thursday night, so we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves, aside from the inn keeper and her friends. 

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Secluded among the trees on the upper south slope of Mt. Tamalpais, the Inn was once a stopover for passengers who rode the “Crookedest Railroad in the World” up from Mill Valley to the top of the mountain. The railroad is gone now, but the Inn remains as a haven for hikers and a monument to the rich historic heritage of the region. 

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 Photo by Ben Lotan

Photo by Ben Lotan

 Photo by Ben Lotan

Photo by Ben Lotan

The main building of the inn is lit with propane lamps, while the cabins nearby have no electricity. I brought a few battery operated candles, and Ben brought a beautiful Lumio lamp. It was the first time I saw one in person, and immediately fell in love with the exquisite design. That thing is a jewel, not to mention that it's a practical lamp as well. It completely lit our cute little mountain cabin. 

 Photo by Ben Lotan

Photo by Ben Lotan

We were very lucky that it only rained at night, and not while we had to hike up to the inn and back to where we left the car.  Night rain also made our stay even more romantic. :) We didn't however get to see any of the view, as everything was covered in a dense fog.  A photographer's dream I suppose. 

 Photo by Ben Lotan

Photo by Ben Lotan

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