Our Battlestation

The most exciting home project for me is dedicating a room for our home office and our battlestation. My computer used to occupy my dining space at the old apartment. Now all our gear and gadgets can reside in a neat little home. While it’s still a work in progress, it’s an efficient and incredibly enjoyable space that we can spend all day in. All of the furniture is IKEA, half of it being installed per instructions, and the other half were hacks thanks to my wife’s incredible talent for sniffing out good deals.

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Ukraine Round Two

We went to Ukraine for the second time to celebrate the 80th birthday of my grandfather-in-law, or “dido” (dee-doh) in Ukraine. I was even more excited this time because of my high anticipation for cheap delicious food, and experiencing the Summer weather instead of Winter. It was a very special trip, being Olya’s husband, I am also family now. We had a full house of everyone from the States visiting and staying together, there was never a dull moment.

This time we would arrive in the capital Kiev, over 8 hours away from Olya’s home village. The highway was fast and easy, perfectly paved surfaces that looked like any other European highway with English translation of city names. However once you got closer to the village, the local roads start looking like swiss cheese, pot hole filled craters that slow downed the driving to a crawl. Once we got to settle in the house, it was family visits, enjoying food from family or eating out for dirt cheap, shopping, and oh… rescuing a puppy too.

Don’t you wish your home far away from home is just a drive away behind an imaginary border that you can visit whenever you miss it? I would replace New York State with Taiwan, and Pennsylvania with Ukraine.

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France Honeymoon

Is there a rule where one shouldn’t share their honeymoon photos? Well what do you expect from two photographers who just got married and both want their own cameras? We planned our trip to France pretty much last minute after our wedding since it was a convenient stop on the way to Ukraine to celebrate Olya’s grandfather’s 80th birthday. We booked one week in France with a car and was excited to drive outside of Paris. Perhaps France is overhyped by those who are already biased to their culture or food, or the perception that it’s the most romantic place to be, I’d have to say it was by far our least favorite country to visit. I will admit that we didn’t know a lick of French, but this is just my opinion coming from an American tourist. We usually prefer the smaller towns and countryside far away from major cities to visit, but surprisingly in Europe, the closer in the city with tourists, the easier it is. Yes, we need English to help us get around. We did our best to enjoy what France had to offer and took photos of things we loved, and even some things we didn’t. In the end, I am happy we can say as a married couple that we went to Paris together. My favorite part of Paris was taking photos of my wife in her wedding dress. Yes, we lugged that thing in a dedicated suitcase.

One important advice when visiting France, they are extremely strict with their eating schedule. If you are not the type to follow such schedule, you may find yourself going hungry as most restaurants close in between meals and you’ll have to find a brasserie for a light meal or snack.

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Mount Washington

One of my favorite annual traditions is to organize a seasonal drive, either Spring or Fall (Summer is too hot for convertibles, and winter does not cater to summer tires). The drives have always been a short 2 hour drive at most, take some photos, grab a meal, and head home. We took a gamble this past Fall with a 6 hour drive to Mount Washington in New Hampshire, along with our puppies! The Mount Washington Auto Road is famous for its beautiful drive up 4,600 feet in elevation. Our group planned for the best foliage time, booked a beautiful cabin from Airbnb, and planned to bring some of our own food for sandwiches, among planning to eat some lobsters. This was the first time our group made a weekend trip together and it was nice to know that we could hang out all weekend and not want to kill each other. The advantage of going on a road trip in our group is the amount of time we cut from our trip with our spirited, maybe competitive driving. Our initial planned day to drive up the mountain was met with ice cold rain and overcast, so the tour was closed. We had one day left and we got really lucky with clear blue skies. As you ascend up the mountain the climate changes into a winter frost, and eventually snow. I had a fear that my summer tires would slide us off the cliff, but we made it to the top to a breathtaking view. This was my favorite group drive ever, I’m not sure how we’re going to top it this year!

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Eureka! Our Second West Coast Trip

Our first trip to California was a long drive from San Francisco down to San Diego. This second time around we decided to go north, with no itinerary, no spreadsheet, just drive. As we learned in previous trips, we like to see where the day takes us, and find a hotel last minute. This time our photos are taken with Canon DSLRs since we brought them for the wedding. I don’t think you’ll notice any difference from the other travel photos taken with a micro four third.

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Iceland

Iceland is one of those destinations that everyone wants to and should go at least once, even if you’ve been to other wintery locations around the world, this one is unique in many ways, from the culture to the livestock, to the gorgeous scenery. We decided to go on a whim with our long time friends James and Frances, who are also talented wedding videographers. Thanks to the internet, we were able to do our research in a short amount of time on places we wanted to see, cheapest car to rent, and best place to stay. I love creating Google Sheets so we can be prepared with some expectations of what we will experience on our trip.

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Bring Back The Summer

From creating a playlist for our trip, to listening to our soundtrack while driving 1,700 miles, to coming home and editing the videos, I always have a vision already seared into my mind as to what the final story will look like. I am full of visual stories when I listen to good music, and thankfully I have photography or video to help me express them. I produce videos for myself simply because I want to express what I feel when I am driving spirited through amazing roads with my wife and always looking for new adventures. Listening to these songs again will always remind us of our past experiences.

This was shot handheld with the Olympus OMD mirrorless camera. Please turn up your speakers, or put on your best headphones, and enjoy!

Music credits:
Phoebe Ryan – Mine
Rain Man – Bring Back The Summer
Gareth Emery & Alastor – Hands

1,700 Miles Through California

It was almost a year ago when I took my (then) girlfriend, Olya, to the West Coast for the first time. Wanting to make it special, I didn’t want to spare any expenses, time, or experience to make it one of the most memorable trips we will both ever have together. Our relationship was already serious and discussions about eloping wasn’t unusual. She had no idea that I would use this opportunity to propose to her, and she wouldn’t suspect a thing when the camera comes out to record our whole trip because that’s what we do anyways. More details on the proposal in the story.

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Chai Latte’s First Halloween

Our puppy had her first Halloween costume photo shoot, it didn’t take much work since we’ve been training her since day one to pose for the camera, basically sitting still and looking at the person with the treat. We took her out to the park covered in fall leaves and let her run around until she calmed down, which allowed her to sit more patiently while we tortured her with the outfits from PetSmart. The portraits were shot with a telephoto lens on the Olympus mirrorless body. Having a smaller body with pop-out LCD really helps with the low angles without having to get down and dirty on the ground. The fun part was the Photoshopping, even though selecting the hair was a challenge. We hope you enjoy our little Chai Latte’s dress up!

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M.2 SSD Drive Review

I have always loved building custom PC rigs since I was young. My need for performance changed from gaming to photo processing over the years. Getting a CPU, GPU, and RAM that makes the rig game worthy is somewhat of a simple task, just look at a bunch of benchmarks and pick the right balance between budget and performance I would be happy with. However, when building a rig that would satisfy photo editing specs, that becomes much harder. There are plenty of gaming benchmark softwares out there, as well as office suite benchmarks, but none really for intensive Photoshop or Lightroom benchmarks. Each graphics software utilize different parts of the PC. Of course if I had an unlimited budget, I would just get the newest and fastest hardware, but that is not reasonable.

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Eating at Jiro’s

The biggest moment of our trip to Japan was to eat at the three-star Michelin restaurant Jiro. Thanks to Gregg, we got lucky and got a last minute reservation for four. While it wasn’t Jiro himself serving us, it was his eldest son, the next best thing. Just like the documentary, he serves us one at a time with great care, quality, and attention to detail. It was both amusing and awkward to watch the chef scold and even kick his apprentices if they made any mistakes. It was a great experience not only for the sushi, but the hospitality of the chef towards us as international guests.

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Japan

Japan was always on our list of places to visit, since we love technology, cute things, anime, food, and scenery, it has it all. We went as a group of four on this two week adventure, with a detailed Google Sheet itinerary and pre-purchased Japan Rail Pass, ready to travel across the big island during the Spring seasons when Cherry Blossoms are at full bloom.

Our layover was in Shanghai. The cuteness starts. The snacks were adorable and delicious, and pretty cheap too, especially being inside an airport. This begins the journey of Asians putting eyes on everything they can. Honestly, it makes us want it more too.

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Our First Ukraine Trip

Being married to a Ukrainian woman, I’ve always heard many stories she’s had growing up there in a village. I grew up in the city so the images of being in a village was foreign to me, with only images from movies in my head. I’ve at least had some preparation for Ukrainian cuisine thanks to her family’s wonderful cooking, I was ready for even more in Ukraine.

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WizGear Phone Mount Review

If you travel as often or more like me, and always rent a car abroad, you’ll know how invaluable a GPS and music is. Luckily you have both of those and more in one device, your smartphone. As I’m sure you have a phone holder in your vehicle at home for safety, and more so convenience reasons, why wouldn’t you have the same for a rental car if it’s more than a day? Back in the day when suction cup phone mounts were the only option, it was a cumbersome solution. The suction cup would get dirty or dusty while packed in your travel bag, the universal mount was also large and bulky.

Magnetic mount are here to rescue all of us! The solution is very simple but very effective, a small device that fits in your pocket. The magnetic vent mount clips to almost all car vents, I’ve had pretty good luck from Chevys, to Hyundais, to Mercedes (although Mercedes’ circular vents are really annoying). It doesn’t block your view with extra arms or brackets, it’s just a few strong neodymium magnets under a soft touch surface. With a metal plate hidden inside your phone case, the phone snaps easily and securely to the mount. It easily rotates to any orientation you want and holds in place even while driving aggressively.

I don’t think there are any better solutions to how you place your phone on and off the mount. It’s just a simple grab and go. The only disadvantage to the vent mount is, you do block half of a vent and lose the ability to direct where the air goes. On the plus side, the vent can cool off your phone when you have the AC on. A small price to pay for ultra convenience especially when renting a car.

The prices of these mounts range from $10 at Walmart, to $35+ for the name brands. I’ve owned both and both work well. I would recommend the $10 version for travel, in case you lose it.

Prime and Beyond

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.

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Puppy Pin Up

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!

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The Story Of Us

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.

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Why I’ve Stopped Photographing Models

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.

Fall Drive 2015

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.

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Scarlet Overkill in New York

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.

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