Friday, January 15, 2016

The 1 and Only Secret to a Great Photoshoot with Kids

Ever since Noah came along, we have made it a point to capture some precious memories of our family with random photoshoots, timed over certain milestones of our kids' development.

Looking back at this journey, I cannot help but feel blessed to have met many talented photographers and make-up artists along the way, who have not only frozen many priceless moments into beautiful pictures, but made the process of shooting with our little kids extremely enjoyable.

After 6 separate shoots over the course of 4 years and 2 kids, I realised the key to having a successful photoshoot with little kids is really very simple: 

LET YOUR KIDS DICTATE EVERYTHING

Yes, your clothes are important, the mum's make-up is also crucial, but you and I both know that this is really about the kids. If they need to laugh, they laugh, if they need to cry or sleep, or even fight, there is basically nothing much you can do about it. Rather than be stressed over not being able to coax a smile out of your kid, why not go with the flow?

Let me show you a personal favourite from every one of my shoots in chronological order to illustrate my point (disclaimer: these might not necessarily be crowd favourites, but I personally LOVE them to bits).

Noah obviously tiring towards the end of his 5-month shoot. Photo credit: Ohtography

 A priceless expression from Noah at 8 months caught by the camera of Michel Tay.

Noah just being himself with his favourite toy and books at 15 months. Photo credit: Ohtography

Ellie stealing a yawn 2 weeks after her birth. Photo credit: Ohtography

3 months later, Ellie obviously still hasn't had enough sleep. Photo credit: One Eye Click

During Ellie's birthday shoot, Noah basically controlled the entire outdoor shoot with his refusal to let the bubble toy go. Photo credit: Ohtography

Ellie littered her 1st birthday party with her laughters and cries, this was one of her happier moments.
Photo credit: Romans Wong

So as you can see, it's perfectly fine that they do not sport the cute smile they are capable of, or refuses to let go of an overused prop. Every other expression comes from them too. 

The best pictures are not the ones you planned to take, but ones that are the most real.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Totti Coffee Shop@Tops Marketplace Udomsuk: My favourite cafe in Bangkok

Bangkok is a city growing with cafes sprawling all over the metropolis. Big boys like Starbucks, CBTL and Au Bon Pain aside, local names like Casa Lapin, Rocket, Amatissimo and Roast (to name a few) are also impressing locals, expats and tourists with their coffee and execution of their interior decoration.

I am no coffee connoisseur. Even though I think I can differentiate a good cup of coffee from a bad one, there is still a long way to go before I can sieve out different tones in a cuppa with a single sip, or identify the type and source of beans with a whiff of the aroma. However, I am so pleased in finding the humble-looking Totti Coffee Shop on my way to work that I am officially declaring here that it is my favourite cafe in Bangkok.

Totti Coffee Shop on the outside

Tops Marketplace Udomsuk has always been a peculiar little neighbourhood community mall for me. Firstly, it's not even along Udomsuk Road. It's actually along Suan Luang R.9 Road slightly beyond Udomsuk (after crossing an overpass). Secondly, Tops Supermarket aside, nothing seemed to work there. Shops opened and closed over the years, until Totti trotted along.

Comfortable interior

I got the opportunity to enjoy their coffee more regularly after they changed their operating hours a few months ago to 7am-6pm in order to cater for the morning working crowd. It was actually pretty difficult for me to initially to point a finger to why Totti attracted me so much. Maybe it's the cosy feel, the good-looking baristas (lol), the proximity, and the extremely satisfying coffee almost everytime.

Another shot of the interior

Latte brewed with a blend of beans from Brazil, Ethiopia and Thailand

However, after a chat with owners Nueng and Thor yesterday, I have a clearer picture now. Thor was born in a family of coffee roasters, and his family runs an older style coffee joint in a local market downtown (also called Totti coffee). That's why even in his busy schedule as a national ice hockey player and coach, his love for coffee did not deter him from opening 2 of his own branches outside town. Unlike his family's coffee joint, which serves stronger coffee (more similar to those you get at Amazon and Inthanin at the petrol kiosks) that will give you a slap in the face with a sip, Thor uses his own blend of beans carefully chosen to give his customers a aromatic but lighter, smoother cuppa.

Thor's wife Nueng, a proper barista herself, in action
Tadaa.... done!

What I like most about Totti is the fact that it has not forgotten its Thai origins. Aside of using Thai coffee beans for many of his concoctions, he is still incorporating condensed milk into his sweetened iced coffee selections in order to maintain a touch of tradition in his otherwise premium cup of coffee. Tell international chains to give you condensed milk and you are more likely to be eyeballed by the baristas as if you committed a crime. If you are not into condensed milk, just let them know and they are more than happy to cater to your needs (note: all hot coffee will be made with fresh milk unless otherwise requested). They are even ready to make a unique blend specially for you on the spot if exclusivity is what you crave.

Another variation of their Latte made with only beans from Doi Chang. I prefer this version as it's less acidic.

If there is anything insufficient, I guess it will be the lack of excellent food choices currently at Totti Coffee. They do have some croissants and puffs but none leave an impression. Thor and Nueng told me that this is something they are going to rectify in the near future, so let's see what they can come up with.

Thor and me, in front of the first cafe that welcomes my "Wah Lau Eh!" Stamp of Approval

So there you go, my favourite cafe in Bangkok, hands down. It is a little out of the way, but if you are already in the Udomsuk (aka Sukhumvit 103) or the King Rama 9 Park area, it is probably worth it to pop over to grab a cuppa to know what I am talking about.

My personal recommendations will be the Latte for hot coffee, and the Bangkok Blend (sweetened with condensed milk, you could ask them to make it less sweet) for a really satisfying iced coffee.


stranger in bangkok
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