The little butcher shop and restaurant down Main Street in Fort Lee has a tiny parking lot and a minuscule sign that most passerby would miss completely unless they were trying to look for this hole in the wall. Prime and Beyond has been here since 2003, and easily rated one of the best steak houses in the area. With all the new commercial and residential development in town the past year, Fort Lee started their own little Restaurant Week to promote old and new restaurants. My wife and I made a reservation for a prix fixe dinner for two, at $30 each. My first worry about a low cost prix fixe from such a high end restaurant would be the small portions they would provide. Some of the best places serve an 8oz or less steak for over $45. Considering what we got on the menu, this was an incredible bargain.
Over the past few months we’ve been doing photo shoots for Hardly Dangerous, a couture Pin Up designer out in LA. She sends us beautiful dresses, and Olya models in them! You will also spot some of her outfits in our travel blogs. Our latest session included our Shih Tzu, Chai Latte. She’s a pretty good model even as a puppy, as long as snack are involved!
It was April of 2011 when I opened up my daily news feed and saw Jalopnik.com asking for volunteer photographers to cover the New York Auto Show at the Javits Center. Being a typical car guy, and a pretty good photographer, I figured it couldn’t hurt to send them an email with my website (filled with wedding and model photography). I assumed they would’ve gotten dozens if not hundreds of email requests so I wasn’t expecting any replies. Soon after I got a reply from Ray Wert from Jalopnik and I signed up to cover the two press days.
I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time but my life has never given me the opportunity to do so until now. This is my story of how I became one of the most popular model photographer among the Asian community to how I’ve completely removed myself from my past indulgent and destructive lifestyle.
Growing up I was never popular for my social skills or fashion sense, in fact I was the most awkward kid. I wore ugly clothes carried over from Taiwan or over sized Costco selections, and had little knowledge of good hygiene. I was always the wallflower at parties with extremely low self esteem that would drive me to the corner and wish someone would say hi to me. On the flip side, I was gifted with an artistic talent, most likely passed down by my grandfather. Everyone at school knew I was the best artist, and I embraced that title with open arms.
From elementary school through college, everyone appreciated me for my talent, and wanted what I could offer them, from drawing to websites and eventually photography in college. As I got more into taking photos of people, the attention that I got from photographing attractive women either from the models themselves or from all of my audiences that praised me became a social drug/addiction. Talk about kids who are obsessed with “likes,” I was just as guilty of obsessing over “eprops” back in 2003.
Taking portraits of pretty women isn’t a bad thing to be great at, however as my insecurities continued behind the camera, I wanted to prove more of myself and show everyone else that I was better than them. This intensity to be the best came from a bad source, a place of wanting to be envied. It was easy to hide behind a great picture and let everyone send me praise. After a while, a pretty portrait became boring and I needed more intensity that got me more attention and notoriety. Making photos more sexy was the easiest way, after all, sexy sells right?
I started taking sexy photos not much later than I had started modeling photography, and the more I looked at women the more I became desensitized to it, which meant wanting more erotic and perverse poses and content. I started doing everything for my own pleasure, not truly respecting the women I photographed, nor did I care about any relationships they were in or if their family might run into the photos. I selfishly wanted to post everything for the world to see what I was capable of. I posted many photos out of spite to the world which I felt displaced in. I was fueled by a lot of anger and resentment. Maybe these feelings weren’t so far from those who commit gun violence today.
This addiction I had was easily fueled thanks to the Internet and social media, which I consumed for over 12 years without any consequences to my actions. I was free as a bird, no significant other to please or feelings to worry about. When others look at my life on social media, it really did look like the ultimate bachelor’s lifestyle. Women, travel, and cars. That was exactly what I wanted other people to see. In reality, it was lonely and I was always wondering who was the next hottest girl that could fulfill my desire to be liked or envied. They were transactions, splurging on the women so they can model for me. Money for sex, basically. It was a never ending cycle that did more harm than good in terms of my relationship with women. I would argue that a lot of women desire sexy photos of themselves for the exact same reason, self reassurance and needing to be fulfilled somehow, unfortunately it just isn’t the healthiest way to gain it.
Later in my years through a few roadblocks in my life I realized I needed to stop this addiction of surviving on social media attention and women wanting me for my photography skills. I had always promised myself that one day I would only photograph my wife when I got married. I was still a hopeless romantic at heart, however I never felt like I had a chance or reason to stop, so I kept doing what I was good at. The tug in my soul wasn’t strong enough to break me free. There was nobody to fight for. Addictions are impossible to tackle alone.
I am thankful for all of my true friends who weren’t drawn to me because of the women I photographed, rather because they enjoyed my time and personality and never needed to have conversations about who the next model I would be shooting or where I would be flying to. They lived in the moment with me. One day I met a beautiful girl who I could truly feel wanting to spend time with a nerd like me, listen to my life stories and wanted to always make me feel better. A long journey started with her and the Universe made it inevitable for us to be together through all the ups and downs. Throughout our friendship and through our recent marriage, most of the issues that were fought over were about my past. Being single for my entire life didn’t help when dealing with the first girlfriend that I also fell in love with. While the intimate photography wasn’t easy to give up, it took some significant arguments for me to realize how much these photos can hurt someone and the relationships they’re in. I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place, not the other way around.
The actual photos weren’t the only hurtful reminders of my past life. The stories behind the photos were just as significant. All the gifts, dinners, flights that I offered to women would make any one person feel insignificant, small and unimportant. There lies the deeper issues than just some sexy photos, and I never felt them until I lived through someone else’s shoes. I never want her to feel second place ever again.
Once I began to realize how a decade of my actions were destructive to me and my relationship, I started taking steps to move forward and start a new and healthy lifestyle. It was only possible with the encouragement of my significant other who loved me enough to tell me I can be strong. I had to learn that her feelings were more important than that of the women I’ve photographed and the rest of the world. I removed my Instagram account of 15,000 followers. I removed all previous model blog posts. I deleted my Facebook modeling page, and I deleted my archive of all women I’ve photographed intimately. I can just hear thousands of male hearts melting. I did all of this with no regrets because I am filled so deep with the true love and affection from the only woman that I will ever want it from, my wife Olya.
I write this to all of my readers proudly and encouragingly. Please learn to respect everyone around you, be kind and have courage. Now I can truly move forward and make the world a better place.
A final note to the women in my past: May your current and future relationships be genuine, healthy, and honest. While I will no longer contact you or provide professional services to you, I will still give you my respect and I urge you to do the same for me, my wife, and my relationship.
It was that time of year again when the foliage fills my eyes with beautiful fiery reds, oranges, and yellows, the cold crisp air wakes me up early in the morning, and all I want to do is grab the steering wheel and whip my car around mountain roads, climb some hills, and kick up some fallen leaves behind me. Of course it wouldn’t be as fun to do a cruise by myself, which is why I always organize a small drive with my buddies, old and new faces, so we can chase each other around, get some good rolling shots of their rides, and enjoy good food.
This year I took out my 2016 Mazda6 as the chase/camera car, and our group line up included a 2016 BMW 328i XDrive, Subaru BRZ, BMW Z3M, BMW E46 M3, BMW E36 M3, Infinity Q50, and BMW Z4M Coupe. Our first stop was at Croton Point Park in New York, with plenty of parking space, and we found a gorgeous RV park with a rows of trees that were glowing orange and red. It was a perfect photo op for everyone’s car. Can you say Facebook cover photo? Our food stops were Billy Joe’s Ribworks, and Pie Lady & Son for the best pie I’ve ever had.
All photos were captured with my new favorite gadget, the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II and OMD E-M1.
After buying tickets for the first time to Comic-Con New York 2015, I’ve been thinking about what cosplay would be best for Olivia. While watching the movie Minions, it was obvious that Scarlet Overkill, the glamorous villain with a simple red dress, black choker and gloves, hosiery and stilettos, would be perfect for a beautiful girl like her. Scarlet’s pinup look she wore to Villain-Con would also be perfect for Comic-Con.
The dress was designed by Hardley Dangerous on Etsy. The rest of the accessories were ordered on Amazon. Scarlet tries to take over London in the movie, so it is only natural her next target would be the great New York City. We imagine where Scarlet would visit on her trip to the Big Apple, from the iconic Flat Iron building to the Empire State Building, and finally Times Square. Every villain needs to take a food break, so in comes Shake Shack. By the end of the tiring day of taking over the city, Scarlet sips on a Starbucks before taking her cute little red ride back to read her favorite Minion a bed time story.
The photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M1, with Canon Speedlites in a Westcott Apollo softbox with Pocket Wizard triggers. A lot of post processing done to make sure our villainous Scarlet is the center of attention. Bonus behind the scene shot at the end!
To see a before and after, click here.
This weekend was my second annual New York Air Show event. While I only had my Canon 70-200mm to capture planes far up in the sky, the 21 megapixel sensor from the Canon 5D Mark III allowed some safe cropping buffer. My favorite part of the show was the F-22 Raptor, showing off the most advanced flight maneuver capabilities in the world. The thrust vector engine allowed impressive low speed turns that would otherwise stall any other jet. I’m pretty sure it could out maneuver a lot of stunt planes too. The most exciting part was hearing just how loud the engines were, which also translates to how much power 70,000 pounds of thrust feels like from the ground. Fighter jets have always been awe inspiring to me, and will never get old even as an adult. Maybe next year I will try low shutter speeds with tracking, and rent a super telephoto lens!
One of the best days this summer was going on a top-down spirited drive on windy mountain roads in perfect weather with your buddies, enjoying multiple scenic and food stops along the way. Imagine your own Top Gear challenge not without the close calls with police that usually comes with a car chase as you can see in the video screenshot below. The photos taken are one of my favorites with just the right lighting, ND filters on an Olympus OMD E-M1 camera at low shutter speeds and a steady hand.
Our destination was Perkins Memorial Observatory in Bear Mountain, followed by a hearty brunch at Billy Joe’s Ribworks. Our mid-day dessert for some extra driving boost was amazing pie from my favorite place, Pie Lady & Son. That was only our first half of the day, as we later carpooled to Brooklyn for the evening to enjoy the amazing weather.
Nothing puts a smile on my face like the freedom of being on the road with good music, good company, and speed! Like I always said, who else can buy bliss at $2.22 per gallon?
It was a beautiful Saturday morning driving in various formations with Greg in a Ferrari 458 with my BMW Z4 M Roadster as the chase camera car. Maintained speed, a steady hand, and low shutter speed makes for some great car photography that helps make the car pop, but a little extra filter and editing makes it polished. I just wish we could close down the entire highway for my own photo projects.
Laura and Robert got married at the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort on the beautiful island of Curacao, just a skip away from Aruba. The ceremony was on a cute grassy cliff overlooking the ocean right at sunset. The reception was right by the beach where you could hear the ocean waves crashing. The next day we went out to the other end of the island to get some beautiful landscape shots with the newlyweds, ending in the town for some evening city shots.
If princes are frogs, then all princesses are bunnies. If you are ever lucky enough to catch one, don’t let it go and make sure you give it a kiss before it has a chance to run away, it might just turn into a princess.
All photos taken with Olympus OMD EM1
The unusual east coast weather this summer has caused some amazing skies lately. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos with my Olympus OMD E-M1 with ND filters, and did some post processing through Lightroom 5, then Photoshop CS6. Shooting in RAW helped enhance the shadow details from the car, and highlight details from the sky. It’s always safer to shoot a slightly darker exposure since you can always retrieve more shadow detail than you can from blown highlights.
It’s normal to get all kinds of ambient color reflections from the environment onto the car, so I desaturated the car and pavement to a neutral gray (don’t forget to keep the turn signal colors intact), but left the windows slightly tinted from the sky. The final steps included sharpening, more Shadow/Highlights to bring out some more details, and final highlight dodging of the car to make it pop.
I recently took a strictly vacation only trip to my timeshare in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. No weddings, no clients, just Olivia and I. Being on vacation is a very different experience compared to shooting on location no matter what most people might think. There is significantly less stress, no itinerary, and no post production work deadline. The only thing missing is the fact that the travel is paid for.
What do you do when you’re stuck on an island resort full of Americans? You rent a buggy and explore the island with a big appetite and your camera gear. Olivia and I found great secluded spots to just run around and take photos. I had my wedding gear, Canon 5D Mark III and an assortment of lens from 16-35mm to 70-200mm, and the nifty 50 with ND filters. I strapped my camera bag to the back trunk of the scooter and crossed my fingers that it didn’t fly off. All photos processed through Lightroom 5.
I’ve been very tempted to get a Micro Four Thirds camera for travel and day to day life photos. I like the idea of compact bodies with prime lens options, although not a big fan of how the equipment costs almost as much as DSLRs. I borrowed a friend’s Olympus OM-D E-M1, with a 12-40mm f/2.8, and a few primes. This body is on the bigger side of M4/3 bodies, but it allows it to be packed with dials and buttons easily accessible, along with a sturdy grip and flip screen. Coming from DSLRs and a 6 year old Canon S90, I was very impressed by the focusing speed and sharpness of the images. The entire kit of body and 4 lens fit in a small pouch that I can easily take anywhere, much of an improvement from my Lowepro backpacks.
Most of us love the 3D pop effect of a shallow depth of field photo. It’s practically impossible to get these effects with a phone camera, so it’s crucial to use a DSLR or a higher end compact camera to achieve these effects. Even with a prime lens at the widest for the best bokeh, it means you may not get the entire subject from front to back in focus either. Focus stacking technique lets you keep the beautiful bokeh background while having full control of what objects to keep in focus.
B&H (who takes all my money) had a sale on this Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader for $12.95 recently, and I decided to jump on it since the micro USB 3.0 connection on my previous Inland 3.0 card reader snapped off. The micro USB 3.0 connection feels weak and easily broken if not careful. The Lexar card reader has the same micro connection, so I hope it isn’t built as flimsy as the cheaper Inland brand.
While Photoshop has become a household name and even used as a common verb, the term is usually vaguely defined as fixing up an image. While Photoshop is an industry standard photo editing software, and probably one of the most powerful tools out there, not all images require a heavy duty tool just to tweak or enhance the image. It’s comparable to always rolling out your $30k Snap-on tool chest with all shelves loaded with tools just to replace the battery on a toy that needs a Philips screwdriver.
As a bachelor for most of my life, without spending much time at home and eating out with friends often, I never really got into cooking until recently, with help and support from my best friend to teach and guide me. My favorite tool in my kitchen arsenal is the cast iron skillet. I’ve begun to create some delicious steak and decided to try salmon. The recipe looked easy enough, with just four ingredients: salmon, butter, lemon, and blackening spice. The method is pretty much like making a steak, two to four minutes per side, however I did not anticipate how heavy and spicy the smoke would come from the rub at high heat. My house will smell for days! Perhaps I will photograph more cooking adventures enough to create a new category.
Just over two weeks and 1,700 miles with my new ride, I couldn’t be happier with my new investment. Here is a personal review of what I love about waiting a decade to upgrade a daily driver.