Lassen National Park

It's called Lassen National Park. A smaller National Park with barely 50 thousand projected visitors this year, while Yosemite is projected to hit more than 4 million. With the likes of Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, it's difficult to really stand out. And for Lassen it isn't for lack of trying, it literally blew it's top off.

The Lassen Peak trail starts above 8,000ft and is only 2.5 miles one way. But it climbs 2,000 ft within those 2.5 miles. The peak itself sits atop 10,400 ft at which point you can feel the thin air. The peak trail is now reopened just in time for the 100 year anniversary of the explosion in 1915.

The summit trail itself has been closed for the past six years.  I has been almost that exact amount of time since a two-foot wall on the trail gave way to a rockslide and killed 9 year old Tommy Botell. Since then the trail has gone through an intense reconstruction, making sure it is stable and safe for visitors.  

Lassen National Park is a definite visit even amongst the plethora of natural beauties within California. More untouched than the likes of Yosemite or Kings Canyon you are able to experience the likes of these beautiful extinct volcanic giants. There are still miles of devastation since lava wreaked havoc upon the land some 100 years ago. And the scars are still there to prove it.

Zion National Park, Southern Utah

There will come a time when the road is unknown, the path is not straight, and snow covers your trail. Look to the birds of the air, they do not store up for the winter and yet they sing merrily. Are you not more valuable than they?

What happens when you get away for an extended period of time? When you retreat into the wilderness, away from the everyday responsibilities pushing and shoving for your attention? A quiet confidence will grow as you venture into the wild. You begin to move in any direction your heart desires and an appreciation grows for what you already have and less desire what what you don't.

Less than 24 hours in Amsterdam..

As a cyclist in San Francisco, I feel as if the city breathes a distinct biking culture. As long as you stay away from the "highways" of the city in Pine, Bush, Gough, etc, you find out fairly quickly what streets are safe and you stick religiously to them. It's a necessity to oftentimes be a jerk in order to make sure a car can see you and not run you over. And maybe if you're on your bike long enough, you'll find that your jeans becoming tighter and tighter. 

Not until I visited Amsterdam did I realize what biking could look like in a city, a utopia for cyclists in an urban environment. Designated bike lanes with protected right turns. Racks and racks of bikes locked along sidewalks. Bike bells filling the city, politely asking pedestrians to move out of the way. On the totem pole of vehicles in Amsterdam, bikes are at the top, followed closely by scooters and cars, and finally pedestrians. One of the most bike friendly cities in the world, I envy the support that the city puts behinds it's bicycling community. It is the beginning winter and people have still been riding their bikes to get where they need to go.

Amy & Mike Wedding Highlights

About a month ago I was invited to a wedding for my friends Amy & Mike. Mike is someone who I have known since birth and I have been blessed having him as a friend. Before the wedding he asked me to record his wedding ceremony. Simply set up a camera, a tripod and press record. Simple enough. But being a friend for more than 28 years I could not just "press record" at his wedding, I had to do more. Having stuck to the photography side of the business, I never really delved into shooting video. I had a decision to make, either take the easy way out, or challenge myself in a new area with my camera. I sprung at the chance to create something (hopefully great) for the both of them.

What an amazing day with friends and family. Congrats to Amy & Mike!

"not all who wander are lost" - tolkien

Backpacking in Kings Canyon

We were about to become disconnected, about to be pushed into the wildness that is King’s Canyon. It’s overwhelming once you arrive with it's deep canyons and rushing river. I took the first few steps out on the trail with the expectation of being physically exhausted carrying everything we needed to survive on our backs. Little did I know of how much emotion would outflow from the mountain. A great deal of exhaustion would come from climbing up to a summit of 11,400 feet and at the same time joy would come overflowing once we reached it.

"Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." - John Muir

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

It is difficult living in San Francisco. Sure, it's an amazing city where you can take weekend trips to the world famous Napa Valley or take a day trip to ski in Lake Tahoe. Travel just north of the Golden Gate and you're hiking in the dense Muir Woods made dramatic by the fog. Choose to stay in the city and you have your pick of amazing restaurants featuring cuisines ranging from Afghani to Peruvian; walk a couple blocks and you can enjoy coffee from Blue Bottle, Stumptown, Philz or Four Barrel. Name it and it's yours.

But take all of those away and what do you get? Like any metropolitan city, this city is filled with young professionals trying to make a name for themselves. There's a new startup sprouting up on a Soma street corner more often than the number of days you've taken off to go snowboarding in Tahoe. There is unique energy in this city, maybe it's an energy in any large city. If we feel like we haven't been doing something amazing for one day out of the week, we feel like we've been left behind. If we're not getting a promotion at our current job, we're looking at the next company that can give us what we want to get ahead of others. There's a feeling that has elevated itself into a sort of pop-culture phenomenon; FOMO. This fear of missing out on what your friends are doing isn't just about how you want to be the one experiencing these events, but there is a small voice in your heart wanting to shout out to the rest of world that your life is one worth desiring. You want to be the one telling everyone how amazing you are at your work or the one taking all these amazing trips. You fear missing out on opportunities in life because you crave for others to desire your life.

Building a brand in photography, I am not immune to such thoughts and desires. There are times when you begin to look at other photographers and you see how talented they are. You look at their work and try to imagine if you're capable of taking the same pictures. I might critique the way that this photographer has composed the photo, how the subject is lighted, and begin to think of how I might be able to do better. I look at how many photography jobs these photographers get, and I look at how many photography jobs I get. It's only natural as humans to begin comparing our talents with the talents of others, to gauge if we've done better or worse. 

Teddy Roosevelt said that "Comparison is the thief of all Joy." This could not be more true. I ran into a post from an aspiring photographer a few weeks ago and it has stuck with me.

As a young photographer you're tasked with knowing how well you're doing. If I could tell other young photographers one thing, it's to stop looking over your shoulder at the person next to you. Stop psyching yourself out out of shooting because you think you aren't good enough. I spent years doing that, and it's as absurd as it is common. Try comparing your work to itself...look at how you progress from one year to the next, and use that technique to discover where you've improved, what areas you need to work on, and which subjects excite you. Learn to identify what blows up your skirt up in the back, and understand that it's a process, and a long one at that. You don't have to be the brightest shining start in your junior year of college. Tons of amazing photographers don't hit their stride until their 30s, 40s, sometimes 50s.

Comparison is easy and I've found myself comparing my work to other photographers in this city who make more money than I. Heck I've even compared my work with people I've never met on the other side of the globe. But rather than that, I must look to my own work. I think back to one of the first photos that I ever took in high school (below) which I am now selling for the first time. It is during high school where I first learned to develop film and develop on actual photo paper. Like a muscle I must exercise this muscle that looks at my own work to see how far I've come rather than compare myself to others around me.

It is difficult living in San Francisco. If critiquing others is all that you do, all that you're left with is your own critique. You haven't produced anything of value for anyone, least of all yourself.

*50% of proceeds donated to Because Justice Matters

Jessica + Ganesh - Save the Date

A few weeks ago a friend of mine connected me  with a couple that was in need of some photos for their "Save the Date" invitations. What made this photo shoot so fun was not how much I love taking photos, but how both Jessica and Ganesh made time fly. I met them that afternoon and before I knew it, the sun was setting. The two of them had had such warm personalities and I barely had to ask them to pose before they started throwing in suggestions of their own. They were just fun to be around and I love it when that happens. It made for an amazingly fun photo session!


The Leung Family

Photos from the Leung family portrait session! Such a fun family to shoot photos with and I'm so glad to have spent some time with them last weekend.

I've learned so much from my friendship with this family. Wilson has done so much to show me what it means to be a man and a father. I really saw the love for his sons throughout the night as we not only took photos but had dinner together and played board games.

If you haven't played Legendary the board game with this family you should.

norman & eve

In 2013 I attended the wedding of a friend whom I've known my whole life. We were born into the same church where our mother's were friends which led to our friendship. It's been more than 25 years as friends and I'm so glad to have been a part of his wedding. 

Kaepernick Still Meets Expectations

Colin Kaepernick entered the 2013 NFL season with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Starting the 2012 football season with a bang, it ended suddenly with an incredibly close loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens. One year late, Niner Nation had sky high expectations for him to be bigger and better. Not only were 49er fans expecting him to be a Super Bowl winning quarterback, but he needed to do so with flair. Besides, thats how we are accustomed to 49er quarterbacks to be.

When we get a taste of success, our expectations for continued success grow even larger. We want more of it, and we want it now. Kaepernick started off this year right where he left off. Slaying the hated Packers just like he did in last year's NFC divisional playoff game. But the rest of the year was up and down. The team struggled with injuries, particularly with Michael Crabtree out for a majority of the year. Even Vernon Davis sat out of a few games. The Niners started off 1-2 and there were two stretches this season where they lost consecutive games. Fans and sports talk shows wanted more out of Colin Kaepernick, they wanted him to be perfect. And it had all been magnified that our most fierce rival the Seahawks finished the year one game better in the standings. We needed to catch up.

We have all been so caught up this season with both how Kaepernick is preforming and besting our rivals that we've failed to realize that Kaepernick has given the 49ers their best QB production in over 10 years. The most telling stat being that his passer rating of 91.6 for the season has been the highest for a full-time 49ers quarterback since Jeff Garcia in 2001 where Garcia had a 94.8 QB rating. 

Kaepernick won't be the NFL MVP this year and wasn't selected to the Pro Bowl. He may not have met every single expectation we all had for him. But he has brought the team back to the NFC Championship game to play the Seahawks. A game which figures to be similar to a boxing match on HBO. Teams who have been in the Super Bowl the previous year struggle the next year to make the playoffs, let alone to the NFC Championship game. Kaepernick has helped the team breakthrough that statistic. And we'll see after this Sunday if he has the ability to bring the team back to the Super Bowl. But whatever the outcome, he has not failed the expectations we have placed on him. If he has, we may have just missed the amazing year that Kaepernick has had. 


sfBig Holiday Party

It's the end of the year and December is filled with parties with family, parties with friends, parties with co-workers, and sometimes even parties with strangers. I am privileged enough to be the photographer for sfBig and took a few photos of their holiday party. sfBig is a San Francisco based non-profit organization that connects those in the advertising industry together. Here are some photos from the night's festivities!

50% of the proceeds have gone towards City Impact.