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.
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.
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.
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.
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 was flattered when another wedding photographer Lawrence Ha from the West coast wanted to hire me to shoot his wedding down in Cancun, Mexico. It was a great to meet him and his wife for the first time, especially knowing him through Facebook over the years. It’s natural to feel pressure to shoot for another fellow photographer, but all the photographers who I’ve worked for understand the stresses of wedding photography, which make them more easy going as a client. If I ever hire someone for my unlikely wedding, I would give him or her plenty of slack and try to not make it feel like work. For your information, working at a destination wedding is way more difficult than a local wedding, so you can all stop telling us how lucky we are to work on a non-equipment-friendly environment!
What can I say about this awesome couple? I met Tingting years ago when she was a bridesmaid since she recommended me as the photographer. I soon reached out to her for modeling shoots since she has a lot of experience in it, and we’ve had many amazing sessions since then. We built a great professional relationship and she didn’t want anyone else but me to be her photographer, and I was excited to hear that she wanted photos in Germany! I had the pleasure of meeting Elmar who is simply chill, smart and funny. We booked our trip to Munich during Oktoberfest to celebrate with the entire city, and boy was it an experience. We were also able to get out of town and see some beautiful scenery including the Nymphenburg Palace. When you have a good looking couple, your job doesn’t feel like a job – and when you’re flown to a beautiful location, now you’re just enjoying your hobby on a expense paid trip!
Puerto Rico truly felt like paradise being far away from everyone we know, no plans, no agenda, just exploring together with a tote full of new outfits, few camera lens, and a rental car with no destination. I planned for weeks on outfits and matching accessories and couldn’t wait to put them on the model and photograph her somewhere exotic! Our adventures started at the amazing bed and breakfast in San Juan by the ocean. It was a mini paradise by itself, with open arches and gates, foliage, plenty of natural light, and two adorable golden retrievers. The decor of the bedroom also lent itself to some very sexy photos. We ended the day with an evening shoot at Luquillo beach. What an exciting feeling to be alone in the quiet and calm bay as the sun sets, like a giant bathtub for the model and I to play in.
The next morning would start before the sun came back up as we walked down to the beach waiting for the sky to wake up right behind us. Later in the day while driving to Fajardo for our ferry ride to Vieques, we spotted a pony ranch on the side of the road. I always love random detours that give us unexpected photo opportunities. The owner of the ranch was extremely helpful, making sure we got the ponies to do the poses we want and standing where we want. When we were done, he gave us a phone number for a friend of his in Vieques, just in case we needed anything – this would practically save us later in the day.
Upon taking the last ferry from Fajardo to Vieques, it was already evening when we arrived at the island, and due to low tourist season, there wasn’t a taxi in sight. I had no choice but to call the phone number given to me and see what he could do for us. Amazingly, this friend, Luis, is a driver for tourists and just happened to be a few minutes away and saved our evening by taking us to our B&B. We enjoyed his company and knowledge of the island so much we decided to cancel our rental car and hire him as our driver for the next day on the island while we shoot. He took us to all the best locations we might have never been able to find on our own, so I credit the Vieques photos to Luis. We visited the island’s four hundred year old tree, complete with vicious fire ants, secluded beaches, and access to a fort museum. Our last spot was a black sand beach. It would be a grueling hike to reach this secluded cove. I would have loved to spend more than just the quick forty five minutes we had there. Our amazing three day shoot would end here, as we packed up and took our redeye flight home the next morning. It was a trip I will never forget, and the photos will always remind me of these moments.
El Bob’s first official meal in Puerto Rico was a delicious empanada.
My best vacations require a long scenic drive, whether my own car or a rental car (manual preferred), with lots of random side stops along the undetermined route to explore deeper and get a more authentic experience of the town, state, or country. It’s important to try the local roads over the highways, because you’ll just miss all the architecture, local shops, food and people. The trick is not to have a set itinerary, be flexible with your time and what activities you want to do, this will open up plenty of options when you discover them on the road, with no time restrictions.
What makes a great drive? I am always looking for well paved roads that have a lot of twists and bends with elevation changes, either along the coast line, a cliff, or a mountain side. Being able to scale a mountain and look down 3,000 feet is awe inspiring, while driving along a cliff knowing if you don’t pay attention, you could easily be at the bottom of the cliff in a mangled wreckage, will keep your heart at a high pace. The speed of the drive is relative to the contours of the landscape. It’s more fun to take a slower car and pushing it to the limit, than having to take a fast sports car and idling around a bend. If you really want to experience full control, either drive your own manual car or rent a manual car outside the States.
I will try my best to describe my top favorite drives around the world in order starting from the best. I will be available for hire as an international driver if anyone is interested!