Life/Travel Updates from New Orleans and Berkeley

New Orleans, 2015. Shot on Ricoh GR II
New Orleans, 2015. Shot on Ricoh GR II

(This was initially sent to my newsletter)

Dear friend,

Long time no talk! I am excited to share that I just got back safely from New Orleans after an epic two-week trip there. I have to admit; it is my new favorite city in America (top 3 cities in the world, the other two being Saigon (Vietnam) and Beirut, Lebanon.

Why? It is the only city in the US where you feel like you’re not there. Also, southern hospitality is real— seriously some of the nicest human beings I have ever met.

Anyways, I am excited to share that I am working on a new ePub (iPad/iPhone/Android/e-reader) version of the “Learn From the Masters” book I recently put out. Why? I personally read most of my e-books on a Kindle or my smartphone, and I think it will make your reading experience more enjoyable.

Furthermore, using the “iBooks” author tool by Apple is awesome; I am integrating new stuff like galleries, videos, and other goodies. I am also editing the writing in the book, and shuffling around some things. It will be a newer, fresher, better edited version of the “Learn From the Masters” book.

Why do I do this? To make a ton of money. Haha just kidding, because I love you guys and I want to share this information and knowledge. I am always tempted to charge a ton of money and go out and buy a BMW, but I know the purpose of my life is to contribute to the street photography community and mankind at large.

I am still drinking a crapload of coffee (it is screwing up my sleep but helps power me through the day). Today I woke up at 3:30am (slept at 11:30pm) and took around 4 30-minute naps to get me through today. Went to “Philz Coffee” (their coffee is like liquid crack) and had 2 big cups. Don’t even feel the caffeine anymore unfortunately.

Anyways, I am back home for a few more weeks, doing a workshop in SF soon, a few in LA, and going to enjoy the rest of the time at home with my family. Going to Yosemite for Thanksgiving with my family, and January gonna spend more time at home (I’m turning 28 on Jan 31st), going to Dubai in late Feb for Gulf Photo Plus (might sneak in a workshop in Amsterdam), and am contemplating doing a Mardi Gras workshop in New Orleans, and another in NYC or Chicago.

Life home is wonderful; small things I appreciate like doing the laundry, washing dishes for Cindy (and cooking), doing yoga with Cindy (gonna go in about 30 minutes with her), talking with my friends Josh White and Neil Ta (also my manager), and reflecting on how appreciate I am to have my simple yet humble life here in Berkeley.

Cindy and I recently gave away our car to her younger sister (who got in an accident and needed a car); and being car-less has been awesome. I walk a lot more, shoot a lot more, and just enjoy the nature of Berkeley. Don’t get me wrong; I am always tempted to buy new cars (I love the Fiat Abarth, the 1990 Miata which was my college car) but I need to stop looking at Craigslist. We’re leaving to Vietnam in the summer for a year (6 months in Hanoi, 4 months in Saigon) so I can’t buy extra crap I can’t bring with me. Riding uber has been a lot better (benefit; I can take naps while going from point A to B).

A book I recently re-read was “The Paradox of Choice” which I highly recommend; it has taught me that “good enough” is “good enough” (don’t seek to be a perfectionist).

Also every morning I have been reading 2 hours or so of Stoic philosophy (Seneca, “Letters From a Stoic — you can get a .99 kindle edition too” is my favorite) and also in the evening. Helps me build more emotional resilience in life.

I have also tried to become less addicted to my smartphone; the thing is seriously worse than crack cocaine in terms of addictiveness. It prevents me from being present with my friends, family, and loved one. Something that has helped me; turning off my phone or switching it to airplane more when I’m at dinner. Also another tip; trying to uninstall one app a day (until you are left with the essentials).

In terms of music, I love the new “Compton” album by Dr Dre — I’ve always loved hip hop growing up (I loved to breakdance and freestyle rap in high school, although I wasn’t very good). Jamming away to his new beats is always a good way to get pumped up in the morning.

Also been publishing some new photos shot this summer on black and white film (Tri-X pushed to 1600 on the Leica MP). Honestly I loved the process, but it is so damn expensive (cost me $1500+ for 100 rolls for develop+scan). I am sticking to the Ricoh GR at the moment (the original).

Speaking about the Ricoh GR, I reviewed the new Ricoh GR II on the blog (borrowed one for a week in New Orleans). Long story short: it is the same thing, but has wifi. But the price is about the same as the older one; so if you want a smaller camera, just get the newer one.

Lastly; I have installed the “Freedom” app on my Macbook which turns off my internet to prevent me from being distracted. Best app ever. Also I am typing this in “iA Writer” — the ultimate minimalist typing app. Pure zen.

At this point; I’m not sure what I want out of life. I don’t want fancy cars, expensive Leicas, or a shitload of money in the bank. I just want to be happy, enjoy nice meals with friends and family, give high-fives to strangers, enjoy nice coffee, and do meaningful work (creating free and open-source information). It is a constant struggle though; I am always dissatisfied, comparing myself to others, and get easily hurt by negative feedback on social media.

Last thing; I am trying to figure out ways to monetize the blog in ways where I don’t always have to travel 24/7. One day when I have kids and a family; I don’t want to be away from my kids and on the road, sleeping on friends couches, and being away from family. I have no idea how I can do this.

I currently make ~$900 a month off Amazon affiliate links on the blog (which links to cameras/photo books) which is almost enough to pay rent ($1300 a month in Berkeley for a 1-bedroom). I figure if I can make that closer to $3,000 a month, that is enough to cover a modest lifestyle. So I have reintroduced some street photography shirts I designed a while back, and also am accepting donations on Paypal. If you have gained value from the blog, you can help me pay my rent and caffeine addiction — every dollar helps, and I appreciate your generosity so much.

The next step for my photography? Less “street photography” and more personal photography. I want to continue to photograph Cindy, my loved ones, friends, and those close to me. I also love doing the close-up macro portraits of strangers in color, flash, in “P” mode, with the Ricoh GR. I love Bruce Gilden’s new “Face” book — he is my hero, and his longevity as a photographer is inspirational.

I guess I’m just blabbing on now. I appreciate your ear, your time, love, and constant encouragement. I couldn’t do anything without you (and coffee).

Love always,

Thursday, 3:49pm, @ Artis Coffee in Berkeley

Oh yeah, here are two new articles you might like (in-case you missed them):

  1. Enjoy life, not photography
  2. More megapixels, more problems.