Winter Trips & Some Orb Spinning

I went all out during Christmas and spent many sleepless nights chasing after the stars and getting used to the cold Edmonton winter! A buddy also brought me to a “secret” spot in Airdrie on my way back to Calgary. I got to see some pretty amazing scenery out in the rangeroads of Airdrie close to Calgary!

While out chasing the northern lights and getting to know more about stars. I realize there is a lot of extra traveling and time wasted when you arrive to a cloudy day! There is certainly a level of dedication and commitment (like everything else) when it comes to landscape photography. The weather is not always on your side, and you may not be ready physically or mentally whenever the opportunity arises. The moon may be too bright, the aurora may not be that strong, or it may be too cloudy! Never mind the road conditions and your personal schedule!

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Since a nice winter break is all the time I’m allowed to get out there and shoot, I have learned to make the most out of my time. I continued to play with light painting and recently began to spin light orbs.

It took a little bit of time to get used to, and the tool I built has also changed since the first time I started! I hope you enjoy this post of my journey photographing the winter in Edmonton and Calgary! If you guys have any questions about my light painting adventure, don’t hesitate to give me a shout! I’d love to talk to you!

a beautiful grad dress taken in edmonton ice castles

Ice Castles Fashion Shoot in Edmonton

Just as you thought i’d be done with the Ice Castles in Edmonton, I went down and arranged a super last minute shoot with the beautiful model Justina Green and her amazing dress. Everything was very last minute. As much as I should be out shooting I could not resist the urge to visit again because of a little lighting idea I had in my head. As a hindsight, I really wish I’d focus more on the model and shoot more close ups, but the lighting and doing posing with Justina in this short 20 minutes shoot was plenty of work to complete on its own. So I picked my battle and came out with these results!

Justina was such a trooper! We communicated and I talked about possible poses and samples before we met up. Once we are there it’s all a lot of shooting. How do you like the details on the dress? I thought the lighting did a great job capturing her beautiful gown! That also reminds me… Grad season is coming up in Edmonton, and it would be super cool to shoot some high school seniors in Calgary or Edmonton!

If you followed my last blog post shooting these ice structures that has LED illuminating from within, you would know that it’s a huge challenge to shoot these using a fast shutter speed!  It was definitely a challenge to keep all the details of the castle and capture the model at the same time. Although I didn’t get all the shots I wanted, I figured I have used my 20-30 minutes pretty wisely! If you’re interested in a shoot or knowing how it’s done, feel free to reach out to me! Meanwhile, feel free to check out my day time session at the Ice Castles as well!

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The beautiful grad dress steals the spotlight at the Edmonton Ice Castles tonight
The beautiful grad dress steals the spotlight at the Edmonton Ice Castles tonight!

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The temporary Edmonton's attraction Ice Castles at Hawrelak Park

Ice Castles Edmonton & Ice Castles Photography Shooting Tips

I really did contemplate whether driving down from Calgary back home to the Edmonton Ice Castles was worth it. I mean it was -30C that weekend! But who would have thought I ended up getting the staff there to join me with the photo shoot in this winter wonderland at Hawrelak Park?! Did I also mention I met the master builder there, and they closed the place down later just because of me? (sorry haha) That in itself was definitely worth all the sacrifice I made to go. Come to think of it, we were all just passionate big people playing in an adult sized sand box in a playground at our own natural habitat. I began my Ice Castle shooting with the University of Alberta Photography Club as a photowalk right at sunset. My plan was to go once with the group and another time at night with my family. The line didn’t actually take that long, and there are lots of staff there who came around the line to make us sign waivers. Yes, the possibility of slipping on ice and us breaking icicles and stabbing people is indeed possible.

The temporary Edmonton's attraction Ice Castles at Hawrelak ParkThe Terrain & Line Ups

We were told that we should not be late for our booked time slots, and we are allowed to stay there as long as want before leaving the exit. No matter what time you book it for, you are still expected to line up at the door. The Ice Castles in Edmonton is basically a large fenced up ice land with different paths. It has a “lobby type” area which contains mainly the entrance and exit. It also has a very fire pit area where a staff sits on the top to manage a fire that I’d say is enough to fit 7 people around this fireplace. This area is rather large and that’s where most people congregate. (See photo of staff ). Once you walk in, there are also a few pathways that leads you to different areas. There you will see a large open area that leads you into smaller narrow pathways. I didn’t find the ground to be slippery at all, but definitely watch out for running children and crowd in these narrow areas. Although there are strict rules against sitting on ice and touching the icicles, I find numerous children attempting to break the icicles, and many adults grabbing snapshots while sitting on icy surfaces as thrones.  What do I think? It’s basically picture worthy everywhere, so I could understand their urges. But a well trained photographer like myself obviously obeyed the rules fully.    🙂

The temporary Edmonton's attraction Ice Castles at Hawrelak Park

Photographing the Ice Castles

I don’t know how many people actually care, but I get support from this i’ll definitely continue to add depth and content into this! (So here is an unpaid advertisement… like, comment, subscribe my facebook, instagram, twitter, YouTube! It’s the only way I could keep this alive you know!) ALRIHGT ALRIGHT here it goes. The Ice Castles are basically LED lit ice structures that emits light from the inside. It is also very “maze like” and stretches down the path. So creatives out there can get very creative with their angles, but it is definitely ESSENTIAL to be mindful of the colour and lighting in this place. Most importantly, staying warm and keeping your camera gears light could save you from a lot of hassles!

Staying Warm (and treat your gears properly!)

Yes the official website said it and i’m going to go more in depth with this. Keeping your body in check will probably help you get sharp photos and longer shooting time! It’s also important to mention that camera gears are also affected by the cold! Let’s start with our bodies first! I usually go with slim cotton gloves so I have a good balance of grip to press buttons and keep my fingers from getting a frost bite! Boots and double(triple) layering your socks will also really help! At the end of the day, it’s your toes, fingers, ears that are going to keep you from staying if anything!

Now let’s talk camera gears. The cold generally does not affect the mechanics of modern day digital cameras, but the memory cards, batteries, and fogging is our main concern here. My biggest life saver I learned by experience (painfully) is that covering your tripods and metal gears up with foam or hockey tape will help get yourself our of a freezing burn. One of my friend’s iPhone actually shut off after being taken out that day lol (yeah she was REALLY when that happened), so how do we keep our camera/phone batteries strong? You can bring in external heat source, or simply bring a spare battery in your pocket to swap out throughout the shoot.  Fun facts!! AA batteries can actually operate in extreme cold temperature, so if you have a battery grip that takes AA batteries, that’d be another option for you. As for myself, my Nikon EN-EL15 batteries did pretty well, and I only notice batteries depleting faster than usual. As for fogging, a rule of thumb is to avoid bringing your gears from extreme low temperature to room temperature. There are lots of ways I can go in depth with, like use of ziplock bags and stuff like that, but perhaps another time…


The temporary Edmonton's attraction Ice Castles at Hawrelak Park

Photographing Ice Castles at night / Tips on low light photography

So it was dark, and the ice cave turned into an amazing light show. While my family stayed there for about 15 minutes and their happy faces began to turn into a sour shivering look. That’s when I know it’s a green light for me to stay alone and get down to business!! It’s my favourite low light photography sessions! When you are in low light, your camera’s focus and metering system is no longer accurate or even disabled. Luckily, the LED lit ice structures could light your way out of a sticky situation. I would definitely double check each frame to see if it’s sharp and in focus. When focusing on a human subject, you may be able to rely on reflected highlights of the subject to gain focus, but I would put my cellphone flashlights and a torch handle if I can for sure! I will try my best to update everyone with more tips on low light shooting if more people find this helpful.

The Light Painting

As I walked around taking snapshots of this ice palace, I used long exposure to get rid of some crowd and people walking in my shot. There may be some ghosting happening, but it is safe to say that long exposure can drastically remove many people walking when done right. I am also noticing more and more people leaving, I found a quiet corner and parked all my gears on the ground. I took out my metal chain like a thief in the corner and flicked the light switch on. YES it’s light painting time! Obviously clicking the camera shutter and running around like a maniac attracted some attention, but all in good hands. Some of the staff also came to watch, and I confidently executed some shots thinking “yup this may be last shot before these guys kick me out”. I was very careful about not blocking anyone’s path, and waited most of my shots when people weren’t around. Fortunately, the staff stayed to watch with a smile of approval. Light painting at the Ice Castle is completely possible, and I even moved to different places and approached some strangers and talked them into getting some shots done. It’s almost certain that human subjects will be darker than the environment, so be sure to leave enough highlight in both the subject as well as the ice structures. Remember! Darkness and shadows are better to keep around than blown out highlights!

After some time, a staff came to me and suggested a few spots and we began to chat. I knew my time was near and i’m really limited in time. So I toughed it up and asked the staff for his axe and shovel LOL ! What happened next was pretty magical. Not only did he gave me the axe to shoot with, I got more staff to join in with the fun and they were excited about my orb light painting. These shots were a collection of  6 seconds exposures that needed stitching before turning into a panorama. I had to be extremely careful with the amount of light the ice structures emits and what color it was turning into. Be very mindful of the volume and tempo of the song, as it is what triggers the LED lights at the Ice Castles!

Exposure/Camera Settings (iPhones, SmartPhone Photography, dSLR alike!)

You may notice in my photos that there are “bright spots” inside these ice structures Many people don’t realize that the huge amount of white in this beautiful ice cave will trick your camera into thinking that your photo is too bright and attempts to darken it. So it is recommended that you should set your captures/exposure “brighter” than what your camera would like it to. A rule of thumb would be to increase exposure compensation by +0.3 to +0.7 EV. [Read More]

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Photographer takes a photo of himself on the ice throne at the Edmonton Ice Castles
There is always a line in front of this ice throne at the ice castles.

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The temporary Edmonton's attraction Ice Castles at Hawrelak Park
The temporary Edmonton's attraction Ice Castles at Hawrelak Park


#IceCastles #lightpaintingphotography #lightpainting #ExploreAlberta #yeg #yyc #hkig #hkiger #photooftheday #yegweekend #ExploreEdmonton #IceCastlesYeg #Frozen #WinterWonderland #Nikon #NikonD750 #D750 #abWinter #weddingphotographer #yeggers #Edmonton #winterfun #icecastlesmidway #midwayicecastles  #icecastles2016#IceCastlesmn #longexposure  #nikon_photography #nightphotography #beautiful

A couple posed in front of a spinning merry go round carousel

Merry Go Around Carnival Themed Engagement Photoshoot

So K-Days have began and I have since made lots of plans to shoot a whole lot of things that I envisioned. The day before I worked with a girl and my assistant while planning my route for the couples scheduled to shoot this week. It was seriously a whole lot of work! The crowd and noise was definitely a major issue I had to overcome for my client. I tested this shot in the Merry-Go-Around many times on my own before going for this final product. This couple was super cute and definitely very photogenic! While we were photographing the carousel thunder clouds began to roll in right behind me. At first I thought it was only the fireworks but it turned out to be a full on thunder storm! We finished a few final shots with their friends and the rain began to pour!Calgary Stampede Carnival Themed Photoshoot_0010Calgary Stampede Carnival Themed Photoshoot_0013Calgary Stampede Carnival Themed Photoshoot_0012Calgary Stampede Carnival Themed Photoshoot_0015 Calgary Stampede Carnival Themed Photoshoot_0011Calgary Stampede Carnival Themed Photoshoot_0009 A couple posed in front of a spinning merry go round carousel

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West Edmonton Mall Family Portrait Session in Europa Boulevard and Santa Maria

Photographing the busy West Edmonton Mall? Yup! I was doing some commercial work and added a quick little family session with it. I must say, taking photos in the mall is actually a great idea! Europa Boulevard has one of the best lighting and beautiful structures built in under their roof! We were originally walking to Galaxy Land but they were closed, so we decided to venture into the Santa Maria. It was definitely a fun time! West Edmonton Mall Santa Maria Family Portrait Photography SessionWest Edmonton Mall Europa Boulevard family portrait photography session001-West Edmonton Mall Santa Maria Family Portraits- 000-West Edmonton Mall Santa Maria Family Portraits- 002-West Edmonton Mall Santa Maria Family Portraits- 003-West Edmonton Mall Santa Maria Family Portraits- 004-West Edmonton Mall Santa Maria Family Portraits- Family walking down West Edmonton Mall in Europa Boulevard

Winter Family Portrait Session

I have anticipated this shoot with the family for a whole month!After 2 extremely cold weekend, Edmonton finally got warmer! Having taught one of the girls from a former teaching job,  we were reconnected after a friend referred them to me.

I have to say, I was a bit nervous about this whole thing because I had to put my teacher hat away for a day and order the family around for poses and instruction to get good pictures. Oddly enough, the friend who reconnected us thinks that I was perfect for the job because I know just the trick to make everyone smile and get them to look their best. Well… here are some of the highlights =D  What do you think?

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Friends Portrait Session

In the year of 2015, what better way to celebrate it then to hang out with your friends have your photo taken? Got a chance to work with these lovely ladies for some candid portraits on a warmer Edmonton winter weather, and it was a total blast! These girls have been friends since elementary and is a real example of BFFs! Makes me wonder if I should call up some long lost friends from childhood haha.

We started off at this beautiful park where I have found while location scouting, and we even tried out some last minute light painting in day time! While that wasn’t enough, we decided to go even further and went down to the University Telus building and ended our day with some large scale light painting?


A huge thank you for these girls for being so willing to learn light painting as well as posing for all these photos! Thanks for the opportunity! =DWhitemud-Park-Edmonton-Creek-trail-008 Whitemud-Park-Edmonton-Creek-trail-009 Whitemud-Park-Edmonton-Creek-trail-010 Whitemud-Park-Edmonton-Creek-trail-011 Whitemud-Park-Edmonton-Creek-trail-012 Whitemud-Park-Edmonton-Creek-trail-013 Whitemud-Park-Edmonton-Creek-trail-014 Whitemud-Park-Edmonton-Creek-trail-015 Whitemud_Ravine_Creek_Park_Portrait-008_ Whitemud_Ravine_Creek_Park-Portrait-007 Whitemud_Ravine_Creek_Park-Portrait-018 Whitemud_Ravine_Creek_Park-Portrait-020 Whitemud_Ravine_Creek_Park-Portrait-013 Whitemud_Ravine_Creek_Park-Portrait-034 Whitemud_Ravine_Creek_Park-Portrait-000 Whitemud_Ravine_Creek_Park-Portrait-009

Calgary model CoCo

Calgary Trip Fashion Photography

I’ve had the opportunity to travel down to Calgary with a buddy a while ago, and I met up with an old friend who happens to be super talented and had some modeling experiences. for more info on CoCo you can visit her page here.

This shoot was totally unplanned and uncalled for! We drove down with all the equipment I own simply because we don’t know what location and how everything will be! I almost always plan my shoots, but this time I decided to let the shoot take its course, and see what the wardrobe, model, environment, and equipment takes me!

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Does the whole blindfold theme remind you of 15 shades of grey?



Fall Portrait Session at St-Albert Ravine

Another Fall photo shoot and this time at the beautiful ravine of St-Albert just 20 minutes outside of Edmonton. The leaves are fresh and the weather is great, got myself a very hard to handle 85mm lens from Vistek rental, and Dani and I are ready for some photo fun! St-Albert is a small town known for their huge green house store called Hole’s but very little people know  that St-Albert is fall of beautiful ravines and parks! I was lucky to know a friend who I play music with and lives in St-Albert, so she knows all the hidden gems of St-Albert.

This photo shoot was all fun, but there was a small episode… With all the growing gears comes growing responsibility and organization skills! I’ve recently struggled with what choice of weapon to bring to each photo shoot especially weekends when I have a full day of chores and errands to run. So today, I finally hit an oopsies. I dropped my keys at the back of my car and locked myself out of my own car!!!! I was super lucky to have my friend Virginia come out personally and called the toll truck company and break into my car in order to return to Edmonton in time after the photo shoot! What an embarrassing day in front of these beautiful ladies. =/

Here are the pictures in batch, I have the full sized photos at the end. Enjoy!












Nikon D5100 35mm f1.8 1/1250 ISO100

“This sleeping beauty did not want to wake up from her long sleep. The scent, the color, and temperature was just too perfect to wake up to. 















Banff Johnston Canyon Creek Trail and Two Jack Lake

The whole camping trip was actually spent without much planning. After having brunch we knew we had to at least get fishing licenses for those who wanted to fish. A group of us went off to two jack lake to look for fishing spots while the other group went to Banff to get the license. Once everyone settled down, a bunch of us decided to check out other places since we weren’t planning to fish.

I visited Johnston Canyon last year and had some great memories there in the midst of the great Alberta flood. The view is totally worth another visit and this time I wanted to visit the long trail instead of the quick half an hour lower falls. Surprisingly a bunch of us were up for the idea so we quickly drove there from Two Jack Lake in hopes of finishing the walk right around sunset.

You can check out my last trip to Johnston Canyon, perhaps you will see how my photos have evolved in style with my landscapes =)
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With my days shooting with my D7000 and D5100 bodies, I find it to be an advantage to shoot with crop frame bodies. Mainly because it’s cheaper and lighter especially on hikes like this. Taking stars would make me wish I had something with even better ISO performance such as a Nikon D3s though… Perhaps one day I could rent!
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Banff Tunnel Mountain

Traveling down from Edmonton to Banff in a group of 8 in hope to get away and do some hiking, fishing, and great camping experience. We booked our camp site with the Alberta camping reservation system online. At first we wanted to be close to two jack lake, but all their sites were already booked, so we went with the neighbouring camp site at Tunnel Mountain Village II. They have very well facilitated washrooms and sink area for us to wash things and take showers, which was good for some of us who were first time campers.

The Tunnel Mountain Village is extremely near Banff town and we are literally camping in the middle of all the trees and serenity of Banff. We arrived really late and thanks to all the flashlights we have, we were able to build our tents and set up while setting up a fire, as the temperature was dropping down to 5-8 degrees! The whether forecast promised us that it was going to rain throughout the weekend starting tomorrow morning. After setting up our tents around 10, we only had an hour before quiet time, and actually had rangers visit us and warned us of to put our the fire earlier… Anyway, we spent the night playing cards and staying awake, knowing that the next day may be spent in the rain.




Having had about 5 hours of sleep, I woke up and noticed that there was no rain and it doesn’t look like it’ll rain for another couple of hours! So i set on a solo trip down Tunnel Mountain for a hike while everyone was still asleep. I quickly stuffed a slice of bread down my mouth and looked at the map for the entrance to the trail. You can choose to skip a part of the trail and park at the upper parking lot. I’ll provide a map to the trail later on and where you could park.

Although it’s not raining, the fog was definitely giving me some pretty unique environment to hike in! By the time I got here (8:30am) many early birds have already began their hikes.
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I took many stops and really took my time. My friends have already eaten lunch by the time I came back. Just then, a male and female deer appeared at our camp site! This makes for the second animal encounter I had haha!

A campsite in Tunnel Mountain Banff
Tunnel Mountain Village Campsites


A collage of a deer sighting in a camp site at banff






Please stay tune for my second post on my trip to Banff at Two Jake Lake and Johnston Canyon! Meanwhile, feel free to check out some highlights and larger format photos of my Tunnel Mountain Hike, I hope this will be useful for future hikers and campers alike going to Banff National Park in Canada. =)  Chao~
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Portrait Session in University CCIS in Edmonton I mpStudio

What an amazing photo day with my two dear old friends and the amazing Sara! I met Sara through Dani who is also assisting for me in this photo shoot. Sara is a young lady just finishing up junior high, but already has a contract with a modeling management company. She’s had some shoots and agreed to do a shoot with me for learning experience. Today marks the first day of me shooting with assistants, who by the way had no training so extra points to them for being awesome!So here, we have four very eager to learn people trying to bounce some knowledge from each other and ready for a fun day!

We had a brief conversation and decided that we would like to shoot in the beautiful canola field in Edmonton again, but the force was not with us and an unexpected storm rolled in an hour before the shoot started, even after the weather man promised it won’t rain. What would a professional photographer do? Certainly not bail! So I suggested a couple of locations we could try out, hoping no one was going to bail on the shoot. I was scared to drop the “we could reschedule” bomb out but I had to, since the plan was totally off tangent today. To my surprise, everyone was as excited as I was to do this shoot, so what are we waiting for?!

While driving to the University of Alberta, our chosen location, we were deciding between the new CCIS building and the Telus building. Both locations are very modern and are both beautiful architecturally, so could you guess where we ended in? If you have been studying there, you would know! Dani was leaning towards the CCIS building since it is brand new, and she has been there quite often. I have graduated a little early so was more familiar to the Telus building. By then it’s already 7 and we weren’t sure what’s open and what’s not, but the outside of the building would be our next fallback plan!

The goal for me is clear today, I was going to try any lighting I could possibly do with two speed lights and I will be executing something unique and somewhere close to my idea of “on location high fashion” sort of deal. So… other then running everywhere, I need to nail the hair light, the location lighting, and make room for some unique editing! Well when I say “unique” I mean something totally new to me, and hopefully something fresh and tastefully good for viewers as well. So? Here are the results 🙂

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We took this light painting photo at the end of the day. This one was a one take sort of deal as it was getting way too late! I can’t believe how talented she is at light painting. I didn’t even help or anything! I told her how it works and she just did it… Perfect hand writing and all… Looks like somebody’s a natural at light painting! 
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Portrait Session around University Area in Edmonton I mpStudio

Another portrait photography day in Edmonton! So Iris and I have been friends for quite some time now, and we would have dinner talks periodically to catch up, but today I’ve decided to talk her into a photo session. *Evil laughter* Iris has always been a pretty chill person so I already knew she would agree to be in my photos. I’m practicing for an upcoming wedding gig, so finding anyone with no modeling experience would obviously be a no brainer right?  Iris got off work and was dressed in business casual attire, so I needed something with a tint of city living right?  I was so glad I chose this location as it was an area with an urban vibe. It’s just outside of the University of Alberta at Saskatchewan Dr overlooking the main building in the city like the Legislature building and the huge red Canada place. There were quite a bit of people but the sun was just setting and we totally engaged to your subject who happens to be your friend certainly did the trick! No vibe was killed In the scene and we enjoyed our session. Iris definitely rocked that location like it was her stage!

Lugging around a tripod, flashes, and gears during these past few weeks meant nothing, but the patience of sitting through tutorial videos and sleepless nights on the computer trying to find the fastest and cleanest way to edit and organize photo definitely requires a few glass of wine! Stay tune for more to come!

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A girl jumping with joy in a beautiful canola field during sunset.

Portrait Session in Edmonton Canola Field

So here in Edmonton, July is finally snow and cold free! There are canola fields in full bloom all over highways in Edmonton right in the city! This is the beginning of my serious journey to get into shooting portraits. I’ve spent lots of time scouting for locations to do photo sessions and try out loads of different lighting techniques and force myself to survive in harsh lighting conditions too! I’d carry my gears to work to save travel and time. Having looked forward everyday, I shot in the rain, overcast days, gloomy cloudy days. Any serious photographer would tell you how much they enjoy shooting, but I think most of us are forced to put down the camera and flex our leg muscles, the car engine, and powerful internet search engine to look for unique and beautiful locations for photo sessions.

On a side note, today is the first Edmonton #yeg post since the summer, trying really hard to catch up on my past sessions! I’m also offering free photography sessions to people in my friend pool on facebook, so hopefully I get a good response. The awesome Alison H has been extremely kind and designed a cool logo for me to use from now on! So a huge thank you to her support and selflessness! I know she is super busy with her work at a media firm, but feel free to check out her work here.


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