I think this is the fourth or fifth consecutive year my wife and I have traveled to Hawaii, but its our first time in Maui. The previous years, we've always gone to Honolulu but this time around, we really wanted to escape the madness of Waikiki. Hyatt Regency in Maui was kind enough to let us crash at their resort. Did I mention that also had some kick ass views of the Milky Way right in their backyard?
... & a little bit of Page, AZ!
When a friend hands you a voucher for Alaska Airlines, allowing you to get half-off on round-trip flights to certain airports (from SFO) on certain days, you most definitely don't want to take that voucher for granted. I was fortunate enough to find a round-trip to SLC for less than $90, and as soon as I found out that my good friend Braden (@imbradenolsen) was able to take work off on the days I had selected, I immediately hopped on the opportunity and booked my flight.
It's always fun and exciting to explore new states, but the deserts of Southern Utah were definitely something else. As a Chemistry student (USF c/o '15, represent!), I often found myself geeking out at the orange/red colors of the desert thanks to the manganese, iron oxide, etc. that was so abundant in the rock formations throughout. Having been only exposed to the shiny, golden deserts of Southern California, this was surely a treat. In just 4 days, Braden & I were able to drive through and explore Zion National Park, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend & Upper Antelope Canyon (which are both located in Page, AZ -- pretty much along the border of Utah and Arizona), Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. We were also able to meet up with our good buddy, Zac (@seahola), on our first day in Zion, and upon heading back to SLC when all was said and done, meet up with Kyle, Zack, and Jacki.
Despite the rain and insane amount of cloud coverage we had during the entire trip (the only time we really saw sun was when we left and came back to Salt Lake City, as well as during some brief moments in Zion National Park), which made for some truly moody captures, Southern Utah did not disappoint. This gives me a reason to come back however, albeit soon, and experience these things over again -- hopefully next time, with more sunshine! There's nothing like catching the sun as it rises over Mesa Arch or Monument Valley, and likewise with watching the sun set of Horseshoe Bend... And let's not forget about the noon light shafts that you can only catch at Upper Antelope Canyon. Nevertheless, I'd like to give Braden a huge thanks for the hospitality, good laughs and conversations, and for simply being down to hang out and show me all of these beautiful places that Southern Utah has to offer. If you told me a year and a half ago that I'd have the opportunity to visit most of the photo-relevant spots of Southern Utah, I'd think you were crazy -- merely because I was so ignorant and uninformed of the beauty it contained. This weekend was a brilliant reminder of how nature can humble us all in ways unexplainable, and has left me nothing shy of inspired for what's to come.
Our very first GET/TOGETHER meet was by far one of our favorite events we've organized. It definitely wasn't the biggest nor did we make any sort of profit, but that is part of the reason why it was as successful as it was. We went into planning this event without the intention of bringing in the largest crowd or trying to make as much money as possible through sponsors. It was just us, and a small group of people getting together and connecting through a shared passion; photography. We were blown away at the amount of commitment these individuals showed for hanging out with us all evening. Even though we hit some dead ends along the way, we hit them together. When something came up, we made decisions together. When we were freezing our asses off on top of Mt. Tam, we froze together. No one voice was left unheard, and that's what makes this easily one of our favorite times. We really got to bond with everyone there and just chill. We've learned so much about others and we were hella lucky to have randomly chosen such a diverse crowd. From all over the Bay Area, and even ones from Los Angeles, from different backgrounds and personalities, and of course, all different types of shooters. It was just a dope melting pot of a evening. We are definitely looking forward to our next GET/TOGETHER and you should be on the look out. Here is a compilation of images taken by our team.
You can see more images from the evening here.
I've learned so much through photography just based off of my on-going personal experience with it. I almost never ask anyone how they shot something, how they edit or anything along those lines. I feel like the best part of doing any sort of art is figuring things out on your own. No tutorials, no instructors, no advice or tips. Just gun for it and see what happens. One of the things I've been most stoked about is finding out what hides in the blacks in a photo when you first shoot it. Of course, as soon as you take that picture and look at your screen, you think that the photo is super underexposed so you end up knocking up the exposure more, and more, and more until you feel like its correctly exposed based off your screen but find out when you get home to edit it, you've lost so much of the photo that can't be saved. This is different for all shooters, and all cameras. For me, I've really pushed the manual settings on my Sony a7ii to its limits so that I could really make the camera the tool of my vision and creativity. Once you know your camera, and trust it, magic happens. This is a shot that I took at Monument Valley right before the sun peaked over the horizon. The silhouettes of the the monuments were what I really wanted to capture and to really bring out the perfect gradient of a clear morning sky so I did just that. Even though that the other half of my other was completely black on screen, I knew what was hiding in the dark. Check out images in comparison side by side.
Everyone knows that the heart of Tokyo is often a city that most believe never sleeps; but it does. If you stay up late enough, streets are deserted, and a place that was so full of life just a few hours ago is now seen as a pretty lonely place. The amount of unique lights spread across all over Tokyo makes it easily one of my favorite places to photograph at night. Our first night in Tokyo, we were pretty whooped from all the traveling so we decided to just take it easy, roam around a bit then call it a night.
Going to sleep early and waking up even earlier has been rough but it's had its advantages of catching Tokyo dead silent and watching the sunrise. Was up and out at sunrise yesterday and decided to get some time-lapse shots outside of our room. It was pretty damn cold. I didn't expect it to be in the 30's and 40's here but which means I definitely didn't pack for cold conditions like this.
Wasn't the smartest move to stay awake on a 12.5 hour flight to Shanghai. I figured since we land in the evening, it was a good idea to stay awake so that I can fall asleep easy and counter the jet lag and I guess it sort of worked but I was dead ass tired by 8:00PM in Shanghai. Didn't spend anytime out exploring at all. Just checked in and slept. Much needed.
"Arigato gozaimasu" ("thank you very much"). This was probably the most-used phrase during the entirety of our Japan trip, and also happens to be the phrase that embodies the idea to which I believe any great personality and mindset would be centered around -- the showing of thanks and appreciation towards others. This Japan trip not only allowed me to realize just how big our world is (and how little of it I have seen), but also that the universal language, comprised of kindness and thankfulness, was enough to break the imminent language barrier that we faced during our whole trip, for none of us knew how to speak Japanese. Yes, maybe the fact that I had been reading "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho during the downtime moments (plane, metro, and bullet train "shinkansen" rides, etc.) of our trip played a role in me being more open to discovering this supposed universal language, but I firmly believe that smiles and positive interactions from anyone and everyone can go a longer way than we'd normally expect.
One thing that I was able to take from Japan was how clean the country was. Tokyo, for starters, was ridiculous. It's no joke when people say that it's the cleanest city, among major cities, in the world. When you take pollution and size ratios into consideration with all of the world's major cities, it's no surprise that Tokyo takes the cake. I honestly don't know what they do, or how they do it, to keep the city so clean... But whatever it is, it's definitely working! The people were also extremely friendly, as well. Everyone there was courteous and respectful, despite us not really being able to respectively understand each others' words.
Japan undeniably humbled me in many ways, but the most prime way that I feel it humbled me was reminding me about how it's okay to make mistakes. Being the person I am, I'm not the biggest fan of making mistakes, but after taking all of those incorrect turns during navigation, getting off at the wrong train stops, and making inaccurate time calculations that would cause us to stray away from our planned itinerary, it was apparent that Japan was trying to teach me something. Mistakes are a part of who we are, as people, and are definitely a big part of vacations or any normal outing in general. They're what remind us that we are human, and they're the kind of things make us feel alive -- and I'm a big fan of anyone or anything that makes me feel alive.
Travel often, for it will humble you in ways unimaginable. When you spend that hefty amount of cash for a plane ticket and place to stay, you don't only pay for the air travel from point A to B, ultimately back to A. You also pay for the unknown experiences and life-lessons that await you, allowing the ends to justify the means.
Check out more of my personal work at - www.eluisphoto.com
I remember years ago, I came across some photos of these guys hiking through a set of abandoned train tunnels but what interested me most was the huge icicles that towered from the ground to the ceiling. About 4 years ago, I set out looking for these tunnels in near Truckee. Sadly, there wasn't any icicles or heavy snow that time but it was still dope to explore them. I decided to revisit these tunnels this year and was so stoked to see and have a chance to shoot the tunnels again, this time with a crazy ice sculpture at the entrance of the tunnels.
Our plans as soon as we landed in Anchorage was to grab our bags, hop into our rental, and strike 9 hours straight up to Fairbanks. We didn't get far before we came across some views we just had to pull over for. I've mentioned before, we tend to stop a lot during our trips. I mean yea, having a location A, B, and C mapped out is cool and all but there is always A.1, A.2, A.3, A.4 before getting to B. Then there is always B.1, B.2, B.3 before getting to C. It goes on... That's always half the fun and excitement about traveling. You are expecting to get to location A, B, and C but the surprises of the unexpected finds that come along with the journey is what makes the adventure, an adventure. We exited Glen Hwy 1 and climbed down under the highway and here we glided across thick translucent turquoise ice of the Matanuska River. Wish I could just live in a huge house made of ice like this. That would be awesome.
The weather in Alaska was something we were definitely not used to. I mean, we have dealt with single digit weather in Glacier National Park but heading far up north in up to Fairbanks, Alaska was a whole new ball park for us. We went from 30˚ landing in Anchorage and it quickly dropped to 9˚ heading up to Denali then when night came around when we got into Fairbanks, it was a painful -11˚. If you have ever been out in this type of weather with electronics, then you know what it could do to your equipment. Batteries were fully charged and after about 15 minutes out in the cold, things just die. Packing light and keeping things warm were definitely priority. Here's just a quick In The Bag shot we put together while shooting sunrise at Harding Lake in Alaska.
- Dust Blower
- Leica XU + DSPTCH Neck Strap
- Leica M240 mounted w. Leica 21mm ASPH Summilux + Artist & Artisan Strap
- Leica 50mm ASPH Summilux
- Leica 90mm ASPH Summicron
- Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6
- MIGHTYKILLERS x Mophie Powerstation x 2
- Leica F26 Flash
- RED Dragon mounted w. Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 21mm/T2.9 Cine Lens
- RED Touch LCD
- Fotodiox E to V adapter
- Canon 5DM3 + Canon 24mm f/1.4L II
- Tiffen Gradual ND Filter + Pouch
- iPhone 6
- Spam Musubi
- Sony a7ii + Sony Vertical Grip + CV 21mm f/1.8 + Incase Wrist Strap
- Incase Leather Wallet + MIGHTYKILLERS Mophie New Powerstation
- Klipsch R6i Earbuds
- Sony 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye A Mount
- Starbucks + Cherry Cheese Danish
- Sony 70-200mm f/2.8G SSM II A Mount
- Sony NP-FW50 Batteries x6
- Incase Leather Wallet (Brown)
- Sony a7ii + Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon
- SanDisk 64FB Extremem SD
- CLIF Bar
- QUIP Electric toothbrush
Although having the main road through Glacier closed really did suck, one good did come out of it. Driving on the outskirts of the park gave us some pretty amazing views of the snowcapped mountains from a distance. It was an awesome opportunity for a challenge to capture them with different foregrounds. It really allows you the chance to test your eye as a photographer on how creatively you can frame a subject. Next time you go out and shoot, take only a telephoto lens with you and see what you can get. Shooting wide is awesome but it definitely limits you on the range of opportunities for creative framing. Shooting telephoto is pretty challenging but the end results of a well framed shot is in comparison to no other. I shot these with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L V2 mounted on my Sony a7ii (adapter needed). Don't have a tele-lens? Make sure to head on over to BorrowLenses and rent one to try one out. Use code "MIGHTYKILLS10OFF" for 10% off your rental purchase.
And then there was blue hour. Soon after the sun sets and all that vibrant warm colors start to fade away, a completely new mood sets in, of which many call blue hour. Typically when the sun is far below the horizon, indirect sunlight explodes in hues of blue. If you’re looking for very cool tones then this is your time moment. In fact, only a couple of minutes is all you got. Blue hour usually doesn’t stick around for long. Blue wavelengths are significantly shorter than of red wavelengths, the reason why it darks so quickly once you lose sight of the sun. If you’re not quick, it can definitely pass you by but it’s not always a bad thing. What happens when the sun is gone? Stars come out.
The California coast line is something else...
Throughout all my years of living on the west coast, I can’t seem to get enough of what it has to offer. From the mystical Redwood forest to the scenic HWY 1 shoreline, the west coast has it all. And Point Reyes is no exception to that.
Recently, I took a trip through this national park to just get out of the house. I didn't have any where in particular that I wanted to go, nor did I have a time schedule I needed to meet. It was relaxing to wander around with no agenda on what would end up being an epic day. The afternoon sky was bright blue without a cloud in sight, this might sound like a picnic in the park, but for a photographer it’s exactly the opposite. Shitty light conditions like this tend to make pictures blown out and boring, but these are the challenges I always look for. Always testing yourself in a multitude of different environments is what pushes you past your comfort zone.
But sometimes even I get frustrated and stop shooting. I think its natural to take a break and even refreshing at times. Always stressing about getting that perfect shot is not what shooting means to me. When I’m able to put down the camera and soak in the views is when I can truly begin to appreciate everything. You begin to reflect on everything thats going on in your life; all the good and the bad. You appreciate all of the positive things you may have otherwise overlooked when something has you down. It’s these moments that I remember the most when I look back on all my adventures. The pictures are always an added bonus.
As we approach the end of this year, I always like to go back to the very beginning of the year in my archive and just relive some of the moments. Moments that took my breath away. Moments that I forgot even existed. Moments that continue to inspire me everyday. Moments with old and new friends. Moments with my family. Moments that changed my life. The fact that I am able to do this makes me appreciate what I do and what I’ve done a million times more. Photography has been a huge part of my life and I seem to get caught up with everything that’s going on that I tend to easily forget what it is about photography that I love so much. However, when the years end nears; I’m reminded. That there are so many precious moments in your lifetime that slip away. Regardless of how good you think your memory is, you can’t deny the fact that when you look through an old photo album, there are always a few photos that make you relive a moment that you had forgotten existed. 2015 has been nothing but a blessing. I had the opportunity to travel the world, meet a ton of cool ass people, shoot non-stop with good company and best of all, I got married to my number one. I can’t help but to feel as if I’m on top of the world… I’m living a dream. But for me, the dream resets every time that new year ball drops. We always want to top the previous year; in health, in wealth and in happiness. Seemingly very hard to top but that’s when ambition kicks in. I can’t wait to bring on 2016 and see how it unfolds.
I’ve put together a collection of photos all taken from this year that are my favorites. Reasons being that they hold some sort of sentimental value or for that moment in time, I realized exactly how blessed I am. What a time to be alive.
Back in October, we hosted one of our Explore Instagram meets in Shanghai with InstaMeet Shanghai. I finally got the chance to sit down with Leon, founder and organizer of InstaMeet Shanghai, and talk about his story and to share his experience with us on the collaborative Instagram meet-up in his hometown. Here's what Leon had to say:
"We started InstaMeet Shanghai in January 2014, when we all first met in Laoximen and the Bund for a WWIM. Before that meet, there wasn't a network of Instagram users in Shanghai. Part of the reason why I wanted to organize that first one was to see who else was out there and because I felt a city as big as Shanghai needed something to help connect this talented community. Ever since then we’ve been organising meets nearly every month. The thing I probably like most about the meets is the social aspect. We’ve tried to keep the events very casual, cool and non-commercial - it’s mostly about meeting new people, exploring new places in Shanghai and improving your shooting by meeting up with other photographers. Every month it’s interesting to see how different people can shoot the same location but in very different ways. This particular meet we did with MIGHTYKILLERS at 1933 was a great one because we got to catch up with Kevin Mao who came to represent MK. Also the location at 1933 is incredible for exploring. For many years this was an abandoned and disused slaughterhouse from the 1930s. The structure is full of winding paths, ramps, and air bridges that go up and down. It's a great spot for meeting up and shooting."
We couldn't be more stoked on the turn out of the meet and we are grateful to be apart of such a dope community of creatives. Every event we have put together, we have been blow away with the support and the amount of talent in every crowd; time after time. We have put together a handful of contributed photos from the meet by:
@k_mao / @instameetshanghai / @danieullec / @hx1125 / @movable / @panvelvet / @sleepingforest1226 / @tuki6
What's your goal each year?
You may have a resolution that you've set to accomplish or you may just want to live each year to the fullest. Whatever the objective is the end result is always the same, to be better than the previous year.
For MIGHTYKILLLERS, 2015 was HUGE. The #MKEXPLORE hash tag grew from 50,000 posts in the beginning of the year to 777,000 as of today! We even had the opportunity to connect with people from around the world through our MKEXPLORE meets. As we made stops all over from Mumbai, Tokyo, Shanghai, Pacific Northwest, Sacramento, Boston, Toronto, and the list goes on and the support grows with it. Being able to host meets across the U.S. and internationally has always been a shared dream by everyone in the company. This wouldn't of been possible if it weren't for the community and the support you've shown.
Not only did we get to connect with individuals, but with companies as well. Collaborating has always been a huge part of our core beliefs, so it was exciting to work with many industry leaders from Jaguar Land Rover Motors to SanDisk, and even other creatives such as Duarte Inc. We can’t thank them enough for letting us bring our own sense of style and touch to each project, and we look forward to any new projects in the future.
Many may not know, but MIGHTYKILLLERS first started out as a clothing brand. We may have evolved a bit from a basic clothing brand, but our roots are still very much in fashion. We believe that everything is connected from fashion and styling to photography and travel. This year, we pushed out even more product while designing each piece with high quality materials that we wear everyday. The amount of support we’ve received from each drop has been incredible. For the next year, you’ll be sure to see more releases with the same dope designs.
Now for me personally 2015 is probably best summed up into one word, unexpected. If you told me in the beginning of the year that all of these things would happen I probably wouldn’t believe you. That’s not to say that I live a boring life with no excitement, but rather it’s a justification as to how amazing the year was. It definitely had some rocky times and moments of uncertainty but honestly would life be any fun if it didn’t?
One thing that stayed pretty consistent was my group of friends who've stuck with me for sometime now. Year in and year out they have always been there for me, and always continue to push me to do better. Whenever I see my friends/family succeed it always fills me with a sense of pride, and this year was a testament to that. From passing the California attorney bar exam to getting married, I’m pretty sure all of them had it covered. It was a big honor to not only see two of my best friends get married this year, but also be apart of their special day.
I had the opportunity to travel a lot this year; not just with a group of friends but also by myself. Up until this point I never realized how life changing traveling alone can be. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest just taking a trip by yourself somewhere. It doesn’t have to be far or expensive; just get out of a familiar surrounding. Every time I went away, I found out something new about myself, and improved on something old.
Within these last few months, it really started to hit me that I'm getting older. I realized that people come and go in your life, but when some people come in they really make an impression and help you see things in a whole new perspective. Those are the people you really have to thank because a fresh new perspective will always give you a whole new outlook. So with that, I'm excited to be looking towards whats in store for 2016.
Our first stop heading into Glacier was this lake that I had come across while researching this destination, Lake McDonald. I saw plenty of photos of this place, in all different seasons and none of them came short of breath-taking so it was definitely a must. I didn’t know what to expect getting to this place, which is all the reason for me becoming completely speechless when I turned the corner from the parking lot and saw this expansive view of the lake. The water was clear as glass and super calm. The sky was blue with clouds full of character. It was going to be one hell of a sunset, this we knew.
to be continued...
Creativity is a strange concept.
If I'm honest, I've been in a huge rut. The past 4 months have been draining. While I've spent the majority of my time in classrooms and studios on campus, my mind has been elsewhere. Sure, there are some people/professors who have served as inspiration - People who are focused and on task; however, the college culture of procrastination is killing me. Being surrounded by people who are dodging deadlines and cramming sub-par efforts into projects is tough. Classrooms can teach technique, but they can't teach passion; and passion is necessary to fuel your creative processes.
I've begun to see the importance in surrounding yourselves with people who are passionate; the importance of surrounding yourself with people who are striving for excellence. It reminds me of the old "if your friends jumped of a bridge, would you?" I want to be surrounded by people who are jumping headfirst off the bridge into the unknown, people who are following their dreams so heavily that failures not an option. People that aren't fueled by deadlines and obligations, but fueled by a burning desire to create and progress. My friend Micheal said something that stuck out to me today. He told me when he was 18, he figured out what he wanted to do, made a plan and gave himself no outs. He said he was either "going to make it, or end up homeless"; and years later, that commitment shows in his work and his success.
These past few days I've been surrounded by two of the heaviest hitting photographers in the state of Colorado - Garret (@short_stache) and Luke (@victorofvalencia) - guys who's work is constantly pushing me to refine my own craft.
You'll never be in a creative rut if you surround yourself with the right people - This last semester is going to be lit