The Unfamiliar Road

Traveling to a new country alone without learning the language can be quite daunting. "What if I get lost?", "What if someone asks me a question and I'm not able to answer?", "What will I do if I ever got into trouble?". These are the types of question that pops into people's heads if they were to travel solo.

I had the same fears too. The fear of the unknown, fear of humiliation, fear of not being able to communicate. Given, these are legitimate doubts that all solo travelers must face. It had stopped me from visiting other great countries around the world many times. This time however, I refused to give in. I wanted to challenge myself, to break free from all the worries and finally stepping out of my comfort zone. Thus the journey began!

Along the way in Barcelona and Madrid, I've gotten lost more than I'd like to admit. Some were intentional, some were... inevitable. Along the way, I found the cities' hidden gems. As I wandered through the streets I've came across unknown alleyways, friendly locals to play table tennis with, spoken completely broken spanish with a heavy accent, drank at bars that were friendly and not so friendly to travelers. Most important of all, I got to capture some of views and cultures that really took my breath away. 

So would I travel alone again? Or recommend others to do the same? ABSOLUTELY! I've found that I was able to take in so much more when I walked the streets alone. No one to hold me back or tell me what to do or where to go. Just the city, myself, my camera, and the winding streets; taking one step at a time. All the steps eventually leads me back home; where I'm already planning my next escape and adventure.

A Dream

Many people have wondered or still wondering what their purpose is in life. What makes them happy? What's their dream career? These are big questions that aren't exactly easy to answer. I've always struggled with these questions, but since 2014, I've been slowly revealing that answer. My goal and dream is to become a destination wedding photographer in the near future. I will explain why, but first, let's rewind the clock back to September of 2014...

Man in Athens

It was a year of discovery and adventures for me. I had traveled to Greece for the very first time. Those who know me in person would most likely have guessed that I don't usually travel anywhere without a camera. The trip started out with some inconveniences. Mainly due to some mishaps involving a speed boat, rough waves, tight confinement, and lots of barf bags for four long hours; I was left alone to explore Mykonos and Santorini on two separate days as my travel partner was incapacitated from the above events. However, those two days played a vital role in my search to find my calling.

My solo exploration in Mykonos was a bliss. Tourists typically travel there in the summer. I arrived just in time when most of them had left. The streets of the beautiful little town/city would've been fill with tourist during peak season. However, what I got to explore was void of the crowdedness. The sun reflecting off of endless white walls created a bright but diffused light and no one was around to block it. At times it was too difficult to open my eyes fully. I had walked for a couple hours, through small alleyways, to narrow stone roads that leads to small hills. Countless zig zags and turns after, I finally realized I was completely lost. However, every turn felt like the right one. I was at ease, too busy capturing the light illuminated all the architecture. As the saying goes "not all who wanders are lost".

Santorini was not so empty. It was a workout to climb up and down all the winding steps, but I LOVED it! As I was traveling down a long path, I caught up to a couple on their wedding photo shoot. At first I thought nothing of it and carried on. As I climbed higher and higher, I encountered more and more newly weds along the way. I can clearly remember how the light falls on the brides as they walked from the shade into the sun. The way their dresses flowed with the breeze and the way their hair brushed their faces. I remember thinking to myself "Wow, I would love to be that photographer". It was that moment, a little glimmer of light lit up in the back of my head. I didn't realize it then, but it lingered and grew brighter.

Bride on the Path

True is, the path from a graphic designer to a wedding photographer isn't exactly as linear as most would think. It's the little influences along the way that brought me here today. The influences can be something so minuscule or it can be something grand. For me, seeing those brides in Santorini provided the right stimuli for my subconscious. As time passed, this outside stimuli had only grown clearer and clearer.

Ever since I learned to use a camera, my on-going goal has been to improve and refine. Over the years I've done nothing but that. What's kept me going are the people I meet and how they influenced me. As I've always mentioned that every wedding I photograph, I bring home a piece of that big day. Whether it be the beautiful experience, the view, new conversations, or new friends; I know it's something I will cherish for the rest of my life. With every photograph I take, it brings me to a much bigger picture. It's like a jigsaw puzzle, slowly putting together the pieces that would eventually decipher my purpose in life.

Night Fall

So that is my goal, a dream job of mine. Destination Wedding Photographer, it sure has a ring to it! I want to tell love stories from all over the world. It started out with nothing but a mere thought and an idea. People don't realize that small ideas can sometimes take you to new heights. To all my friends out there, never stop following your heart. With all that said, what is your goal or dream? What do you want to achieve in life? Leave a comment below!

Timelessness

For the past two decades, the advancement of digital cameras marked the near extinction of film photography. During these years, the obsessions were of mega pixels, high iso performance, and frames per second. I, myself am guilty for being one of those people. With the availability of affordable crop sensor cameras, nearly everyone who can hold and operate a camera can become a photographer.

I remember the first time I held a digital camera that I called my own was a Nikon D3000. I can almost count the numerous hours I spent exploring train tracks, parks, and using it on school projects. Although it only had a 10MP crop sensor, it was more than what I needed. The limitation came very fast with my first digital camera as I grew tired of its low light performance. Before I knew it I was onto the D7000 and then finally to the D750.

Athens, Greece - D7000

Athens, Greece - D7000

Throughout the years I've shot digital, I have developed a wide range of skills and styles. I would be excited to have created a new stylistic look to my images but I was never happy with them. Was it the images themselves, or maybe the overall look? I didn't figure out why that is until one day, I saw the works that came from Richard Photo Lab. I had no idea such form of art still existed. That's when I decided to pick up a film camera.

I knew that it would be an expensive addition to my already expensive arsenal of cameras and lenses. Maybe not from the film cameras (well the Contax 645 was expensive though), but from developing and scanning the films professionally. It's just such a shame that professional film labs are now a rare thing and far from where I live. 

I was so nervous when I first started shooting film. It felt like a total different animal. The agonizing week or two wait time for the films scans to come back to me had me on edge. Often than not the scans would come back unacceptably bad. I thought to myself "this is a load of crap! It must've been photoshop!". Not until I've met Paul from The Find Lab, that I finally started to understand how to properly shoot film. 

Webster, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2  Film Stock: Kodak Portra 400 rated 200

Webster, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2
Film Stock: Kodak Portra 400 rated 200

Webster, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2  Film Stock: Kodak Portra 400 rated 200

Webster, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2
Film Stock: Kodak Portra 400 rated 200

As soon as I started getting results back from the lab I knew I had discovered or rediscovered something that I had been yearning for. The look of the images are so vastly different from everything else I've ever shot on digital camera. The color, soft focus, and the smooth bokeh took me by surprise. I had tried numerous times to replicate the look but to no avail. I knew that there's no turning back. And from that moment on, I realized why I was never fully satisfied with digital photography.

East Aurora, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2 Film Stock: Fuji 400H rated at 200

East Aurora, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2
Film Stock: Fuji 400H rated at 200

East Aurora, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2 Film Stock: Fuji 400H rated at 200

East Aurora, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2
Film Stock: Fuji 400H rated at 200

East Aurora, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2 Film Stock: Fuji 400H rated at 200

East Aurora, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2
Film Stock: Fuji 400H rated at 200

East Aurora, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2 Film Stock: Fuji 400H rated at 200

East Aurora, New York - Contax 645 @ 80mm F2
Film Stock: Fuji 400H rated at 200

With digital cameras, I was constantly chasing a look, a feel to the photographs and finding myself struggling with technological limitations. Not until film came into my life once again did I realize that it wasn't the limitations of the camera's technology, rather I was struggling with my own limitations as a photographer.

I spent way too much time with my finger on the shutter hoping to catch the right moment; while film has taught me to patiently wait for the perfect moment.  

Digital photography is phenomenal, but it can also be distracting because one photo can look thousands of different ways in post processing. Meanwhile, film works the opposite. The specific film stock will give you a specific characteristic with small variations depending on development and scans. It forced me to finally slow down and improve myself as a photographer.

From shooting film, I've rediscovered how timeless it can be. The results that each film stock creates was relevant decades ago, and will still be decades from now. As expensive as it is, I know in the end I would be happy with the results. Every time my Contax 645 comes out to play, time seems to slow down. In those moments, I'm waiting, free of distractions on what the photo should and would look like on a LCD screen. All I know is that the moment I click the shutter, the photo will be as I always wanted it to be... timeless.

Film

Ashlee & Kyle's Wedding

Kyle and I attended the same college together. It's through those years that I really got to know the incredible guy that he is. I remember clearly when him and Ashlee both said that marriage might not be their thing. I doubted them on it then, but now my doubts are proven right and I can't be happier. I'm honored to be a part of his big day and hanging out with him throughout the wedding. It's these transformations in life that inspired me to become a wedding photographer.

I know that a person can change and that Love can change a person. Each wedding is a complete different experience for me that's full of details and stories to be told. There's no better way for me to experience it than being in the middle of it all with just my camera and a few rolls of film. 

Few of my friends and relatives had asked me why I wanted to be a wedding photographer. They're under the impression that it's a high stress career. I didn't agree nor disagree with them. It's because I couldn't really answer them earlier on. Now after this wedding season, I'm finally starting to see the bigger picture. I realized that I've always loved a good story. Even during a ceremony where I have to weave in and out of people's way to get a shot, I was able to find peace. I found myself listening in and taking in every bits and pieces of their body language and emotions. All of those pieces together make the photos much more meaningful to me. A beautiful picture with no story behind it is nothing more than a beautiful picture. 

With every wedding I photograph, I take something from it all. Be it experience, a new friend, or a new story to tell my grandkids in the future. All it matters to me is I got to live in someone's perfect day, and that I can pass on their story. Thank you Ashlee and Kyle for the great day.

Lisa & Tom's Engagement

It was an early morning when the shoot began. It's always a pleasure spending quality time with these two great couple. Can't wait for your wedding next year!

I'm also slowly and steadily falling in love with film. It just gives me chills when the lighting condition is just right.