Welcome to our third trip to the West Coast together! We “planned” a trip in early December of 2017 to photograph Yoom and Jeff’s beautiful wedding in San Jose. We usually extend our stay in the West Coast because we really enjoy traveling, new sights and new food. I quote the word planned because we decided to try something different this time around. While I usually plan a detailed spreadsheet for our trips, we decided this time around to rent a campervan and just see where the road takes us day to day. Always having somewhere to sleep allowed us maximum freedom in exploring outside the city area.
This is a story of how I could’ve prevented this “adventure” of ours if I had just followed the warnings and RTFM.
If any of you really knew me, you would know that I am a late adopter of technology for many reasons. I prefer to wait for the prices to go down on the novelty of the item and the competition driving the prices down. I also like to wait until it’s been tried and tested so the kinks have been worked out or there are enough firmware updates to solve any major issues. I’ve always been curious with drones, but not being a professional videographer did not justify an expensive toy for me where I couldn’t make the money back. It was with the encouragement of my wife to make more recreational videos that I decided rent the DJI Mavic Pro from Unique Photo for a weekend at the Poconos. After a successful and very fun first weekend with the drone, I decided to jump the gun and make the purchase. To feel more comfortable about flying an expensive wonder of technology around in the real world, I decided to spend hours flying simulations to get acquainted with the controls before I ever touched my first drone controller.
It’s that time of year again when I dress up my Chai Latte in a ridiculous outfit that she just loves. This year instead of buying a pre-made outfit, I’ve decided to learn to hand sew a costume just for her. I learned the basic backstitch for the overall jumpsuit, and fabric glue for the accents.
This year, Chai Latte is a Starfleet Doggo on the USS Shenzhou. Since Chai is a Shih Tzu, it would only be fitting that she accompanies a Chinese ship and captain. Her outfit is my interpretation of what an official attire for a doggo officer would look like, following accurate cues from the show’s outfit. Unfortunately the Shenzhou was destroyed in the very first episode, it turns out NCO Chai Latte escaped on a pod and will continue to serve on the Discovery. I can’t wait for the next costume and improved sewing skills!
As my NAS (network attached storage) drives are getting full from RAW photos, I need to offload the files onto multiple external drives for safe storage. I purchased a few Seagate Expansion drives in 2TB and 4TB variants for different backups, making two copies each for redundancy. The first decision when getting the new drives was how to format them. I decided to use exFAT table for maximum compatibility for read and write on Windows and Mac systems. The default NTFS table is read-only for Macs. The second decision was harder, what file allocation unit size? Most searches on Google just recommended the default size, which would be 4096kb on the 4TB drive. That was a bad idea and a waste of valuable disk space. I was able to recover a lot more with a simple calculation.
While not the fastest car on paper, the BMW i8 is one of the most futuristic production cars in my opinion. Perhaps it’s more of a proof of concept in production, and is only the first generation from BMW. I didn’t think I would get a chance to actually test drive one anytime soon, but luckily we found one to play with for an hour so we made a run to Starbucks. Olya and I took turns on each leg of the trip, she being the fearless one pushed it harder while I did more inspection on the build of the electric hybrid sports car.
When we found out that the Solar Eclipse was going to be partially visible in NJ/NY area, I thought it would be a great excuse to have a picnic and check out the first eclipse in my life! Even a partial one would be good enough for starters. I brought three tripods, four camera bodies and one telescope. A bit overkill but better prepared than not. I decided not to use the telescope for my DSLR at the fear that my stacked ND filters weren’t strong enough to prevent my sensor from burning up. I opted to just use my handheld Canon 70-200mm L at f16 with three stacked ND filters. It was definitely cool to see this for the first time in person. We might go chase the next total eclipse the next time around!
We recently got our hands on Chai Latte’s first handmade hoodie by Bubble Brint. We have tried many generic outfits from Petco, but this luxury stretchy hoodie fit our Chai like a glove and she looks so cute in it. We need to get more of these for her! Please support our friends at Bubble Brint!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Phoebe Ryan – Mine
Rain Man – Bring Back The Summer
Gareth Emery & Alastor – Hands
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.