Seratonin Explosion! (Seattle, Again)

I just got back from my second excursion to the great Northwest city of Seattle, to visit my old friend Peter and his wife Audrey.  My previous layover was not substantial enough of a visit for me to feel satisfied with how much I’d absorbed of the city, so I decided that I had to return! (Read my last Seattle post, Coffee Jitters)

 

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My prior trip was spent exploring the downtown portions of the city.  The financial district, the coffee shops, the tourist traps.  While impressive and seemingly unique, there is just so much more to Seattle.  It has become a mecca for naturalists and creatives because of its immediate proximity to water, forests, and mountains.  I had not fully appreciated the depth of how much nature means to the people there until I experienced it first hand.

 

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Unfortunately we did not have enough time to jaunt into the deep wilderness due to time constraints, but I was able to see enough to be convinced that all modern cities should aspire to be what Seattle has become.  The city is obviously in touch with it’s presence and effect on the surrounding nature.  Public transportation uses green energy to cut down on emissions,  and I often noticed how the streets were absent of garbage and detritus.

 

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The city is built around a series of lakes and bays, so as a result there are breathtaking views everywhere.  I couldn’t help but feel relaxed just sitting in the back seat of Pete’s Subaru as he chauffeured me around town, to music that is so expertly curated by him and is such a reflection of the scene and vibe that is the Pacific Northwest.  I’m pretty sure that I caught Seattle at the best time.  It wasn’t overcast for the majority of my trip (despite how it might appear in these photos), and I can imagine how the winter months might start to feel oppressive to the uninitiated.

 

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The people there are polite but carry an edge that I could best compare with East Coasters, although not as black humored.  I found myself having to second guess my salacious comments for fear of sounding boorish, but Pete and Audrey assured me that I was not offensive 🙂

 

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The tech industry is thriving in Seattle.    I’m told that this is due to the city’s proximity to California, as well as Asia.  Amazon basically owns a portion of downtown Seattle.  Blocks and blocks!  Its pretty scary, actually.

 

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Pete and Audrey’s friend Greg blessed us with a lovely boat ride through the inner lakes of the city.  It was a pleasant surprise, and I’m so thankful that we could get on the water in a place that is so deeply maritime in culture.  We didn’t get to see Bill Gates’ (probably ridiculous) house, but we saw yacht after yacht, basically stacked on each other.  I had to ask them “Where do these people take these things?  Do they just stay docked and look pretty?”.  But of course they take them out, inspiring so many Entourage episodes.

 

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I thought to myself the entire time how its no wonder legendary musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam derived so much inspiration from the city and environment.

Shouts out to my good friend John Dstruct (alias) and his daughter Hannah, who I was fortunate enough to have lunch with after so many years of working on music with him in the supergroup, Robot Death Squad.

 

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Respect the Bagel (Montreal)

Last week my good friends and I took a trip up to Montreal, Quebec for a quick summertime getaway.  We chose Montreal because we’d heard that it’s a great place to experience in the summertime.  That it is!

Montreal is actually built on an island that was apparently formed from a volcano.  At the center of the city is a rather large hill called Mount Royal that offers a great view of the sprawling city below.

 

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Once we arrived in Montreal, my friends and I hiked up the hill after dropping off our gear at our hotel.  The hike itself was fun and challenging, and definitely worth it for the view!  There were people all over it, jogging and cycling up and down the roads and trails.  For us, the hike took about 45 minutes to an hour. I wasn’t exactly timing it because I was blinded by sweat and exertion.

 

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Montreal

 

Montreal is very pedestrian friendly, but due to its rather immense sprawl the people have taken to cycling to meet their commuting needs.  There are bikes all over the place.  I was actually really impressed by the city’s cycling accommodations.  Bike lanes get their own curb-isolated partition of the road.

Le Plateau, which is the more hip part of the city, is covered with restaurants, shops, and lovely townhouses with wrought iron staircases.  The city is covered with so much green. There are parks all over the place and lots of old trees, which really complements the beautiful row houses.

 

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After about half a day I really started to notice the street art.  Graffiti is unashamedly present on every street, and its beautiful.  It’s a lovely contrast with the European vibe that you get from the architecture.  The murals that cover entire building sides are so impressive, and its obvious that the city allows their local artists to thrive and expand in their element here.

 

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Montreal

 

My friends and I spent a chunk of time downtown in the financial district.  Montreal’s economy is obviously healthy and strong, as there was no shortage of looming skyscrapers to block your sunlight.  The streets are all well manicured and kept tidy, and the indoor public spaces like the Underground City are meticulous and gorgeously lit.

 

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The thing that impressed me the most about Montreal is how friendly and patient the people are.  Even if you’re a tourist or outsider, you’ll be treated with tremendous politeness and grace in every store and eatery.  Every sign in the city is in French and the first thing you’ll hear when you walk into any establishment is a greeting in French.  Of course once they realize you don’t speak French, the English comes at you naturally. My mom said it best, that she’d never been to a city where the people were so fluently bilingual.

 

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I made an effort to smile at everybody, try and dispel the American stigma that I’ve been aware of since I was younger and living overseas.  I did notice that the smile-backs are a little guarded, but there is absolutely no lack of friendly reciprocation.  I don’t think the Montrealites were appreciative of my raucous disposition after a few drinks (our poor Uber driver), but they’ll survive.

 

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I got to spend some time by the water.  Not exactly the best views, but flooded with tourists and their DSLRs.  I felt like I did a tremendous amount of walking to experience what every other big city with a waterfront has to offer.  At least I found a bangin’ pizza spot that appreciated my propensity for tipping.

 

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If you go, don’t forget to try a bagel.  I scoffed, but man…respect to the Montreal bagel.

Also shouts to my buddies’ Hyun and Eric for not throwing their hands up in front of their faces every time I took a picture of them.

Baby Kay for a Day!

Took some newborn baby pictures for my friends Stephanie & Harry a few weekends ago.  First time for me!

It was fun.  I realize now that so much is involved with photographing newborn babies. Mainly, how is the baby feeling in each moment.

We had to make sure little Kay was asleep so we could pose her, basically rushing each scene so we could get some quality shots in before she woke up.  She was a great sport!  Didn’t even give me any dirty looks.

Anyways, here are a few of my favorites from the shoot.

 

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Night Shots With the Zeiss Batis 25/2

Just trying out the new Zeiss Batis 25mm F 2.0 on my Sony A7II.  Wonderful performance!! Really pleased with this lens. Distortion in virtually nonexistent (and even less so with some Lightroom adjustments).

So happy with this lens. Can’t wait to take it out into nature in the daytime.

 

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Night Shot with Zeiss 25/2

 

Night Shot with Zeiss 25/2

 

Night Shot with Zeiss 25/2

 

Night Shot with Zeiss 25/2

Richmond

Just a quick post on some photos I took of Richmond.  This was my first time seeing the city’s core, and I really enjoyed it.  The vibe there is laid back, with lots of breweries and young people bouncing around with their young people enthusiasm.

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My favorite aspect of Richmond is that it’s still in it’s early stages of gentrification, so you have a lot of old industry peppering the city.  Lots of exploration potential!

My good friend Carter, also known as Alcrani in the Drum & Bass community, was gracious enough to host my visit.

Carter Alcrani

 

Carter’s kitten, Funyons, is the sweetest cat I’ve ever experienced.  Such an intuitive little girl.  Something about Drum & Bass producers and their cats.

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Photos taken with:

Sony A7II
Sony Sonnar 55mm/1.8 FE ZA

Beyond the Ripcurl (Hawaii Pt. 2)

(Part 1 of this trip can be found in my prior post, Don’t Be Salty, Brah.)

The Na Pali coast, which is on the north end of Kauai island, is very mountainous and very beautiful.  Tourists just flock to the area for the big waves and the trail hiking.  The hike around the edge of the mountain range right along the coast goes for miles, with many lookouts that pepper the trail.  Initially I had a hard time challenging the trail as I get some vertigo with heights, but after forcing myself to face the problem I was able to get through our hike with some conviction.

 

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It was impossible to not get a good shot in this area.  The waves hit the mountains so aggressively that it created a huge mist spray.  What I failed to capture was some of the more intense parts of the trail, where little mountain streams and dense canopies would sop layers of smooth rock.  Had to channel our inner billy goats for those situations.

 

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Post trail, my buddy took us to an overlook that was much closer to the crags and crashing waves.  We thought that we were at a safe enough height to look over the maelstrom, but soon the waves were kissing our shoes.

You can imagine how dangerous it can be there if you’re not careful.

The picture below is of the bottom of an uprooted tree, with a crashing wave in the background.

 

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This trip would not be complete without some camping.  My friends took me to Waimea on the west side of the island, which is known for it’s giant canyons.  The Waimea canyons are known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  The canyons were carved into the land through volcanic lava.  That’s a LOT of lava.

 

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As somebody who has never seen the Grand Canyon in person, I was absolutely stunned with how vast the view was.  We spent half of our time at the lookouts trying to spot goats bouncing around, 500 meters below us.

Exposure was tough.  Lots of shadows, lots of light extremes.  I was fortunate enough to nail the panorama above with balanced exposure, sun somewhat behind me.

Camping was another amazing experience.  I was curious at how camping would be on a tropical island.

 

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What I (and perhaps we) didn’t expect were rats and boars. We encountered rats inspecting our food, who were not perturbed by our presence whatsoever.  Once we went to bed, we heard boars roll into our campsite, snorting all around our tent.

 

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The last experience I documented below are from the last day of my visit, where we drove up the east side of the island for one last day trip.  We spent some time at Kalihiwai Beach, which was rather choppy that day.  The waves were so extreme that the tide snuck up on us so quickly that Mike nearly lost his slippers.

 

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Lots of tourists were there with 500mm lenses.  I don’t understand (I don’t think they do either).

Anyways, the atmosphere was very cinematic.  Absolutely one of my favorite parts of the trip.

The shot below is from Tahiti Nui, the famous bar/restaurant that was included in The Descendants with George Clooney.  The Mai Tais ARE amazing.

 

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Don’t Be Salty, Brah (Hawaii Pt. 1)

After a very long year, I decided I needed a vacation to shake off some bad energy.

Some close friends of mine had recently decided that they would relocate themselves to the beautiful island of Kauai, the western most (and least developed) island of Hawaii.  Ali and Mike had moved last summer, so the timing to visit them was perfect since they had had some time to settle in and get the lei of the land (probably not the first to make that joke).

 

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I landed in Lihue Airport, who’s small size is complemented by the friendliest people I’ve ever experienced at an airport.  And after a 12 hour flight from DC, I took what I could get.

After a decent night’s rest, we ventured out to the coast to the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail for a hike and some beach time.  The weather, perfect.  The beer, Hawaiian (I love it).

My pictures really do not do the island justice.  There is a level of grandeur there that is really unmatched by any other location in the world.

 

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For me, Kauai wasn’t about the beaches, which I think is what people might think first when they hear “Hawaii”.  It’s really about the juxtaposition of clear-watered coasts, very lush vegetation, and stark mountains that jut out of no where.  Just think Jurassic Park (which was filmed in Kauai).

 

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The locals there are very adamant about keeping their last semblance of culture and natural environment in tact.  Of course, it’s an island in a US State, so the push to develop over the land is very high.  It’s a sad thing.

I thought to myself how great it was that there was only one or two Mcdonalds across the entire island.

Civilization lies on the fringes of the island, with the majority of the center being nature reserves.  There is one main road that takes you around the perimeter of the island, with beautiful beaches and novel (and old) little towns that have a lot of heart and soul.

 

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My friends took me to a secret beach off of the Manaulepu Trail. It required descending from a gnarly little cliff, which made it all the more worthwhile.

Absolutely nobody around!  Again, such beauty.

After that we decided to head to one of their favorite beaches called Poipu, and its neighboring beach Brennecke.  Although it was populated, it was definitely bearable.  One thing that I have to mention is that the island is full of hens and roosters.

 

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They’ve basically become the island pests.  Of course they’re beautiful, beautiful creatures, but they’ll definitely come right up to you and try to peck food right out of your hands.

Chickens, along with goats and rats, were brought to the islands with Captain Cook and his band of burly buccaneers. Before his untimely demise of course.

I have about 30 shots of just chickens.

My friend Ali also took me to another beach on the southwestern side of the island called Salt Pond, which became my favorite beach both because of the tame surf and beautiful rocky outcroppings,  but also because of the friggin ridiculous caramel salt gelato that they named after it.  I crushed two of those puppies so fast, I nearly bit my hand.

 

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On the fringes of these beaches, one can find tents and little pop up homes.  I guess people don’t really tell you much about the homeless population in Hawaii, but there is definitely a contingent of people without homes.  Well, without solid, immovable structures.

 

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The way of life there is carefree and lackadaisical.  People don’t care about what they’re wearing when they leave their houses.  They are more concerned with other matters, and also, enjoying life around them.  Its a value that many people seem to forget in their bustling city lives. Enjoying what’s around you and not be as concerned about your destination.

 

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There isn’t much of a night life on Kauai.  Everything happens when the sun is up, and people shut down at around 7 pm.  But on some nights, you can hit ol’ Hanapepe for an art walk, which is exactly what we ended up doing.  Food trucks, knick knacks, and art are sold until 9 or 10 in the evening (I think).

 

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It was great to see some live musical performances set up along the road, ranging from traditional to modern.  The island is such a melting pot of cultures that it reflects in absolutely everything.  So although many of the natives are averse to major developmental change, they are at the same time a product of multicultural amalgamation.

 

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My friends were kind enough to drive me around the eastern side of the island to the north shore, which is where more of the tourist traps and affluent mainlanders own houses.  The notable beaches where I captured these shots are Moloa’a Beach, Anini Beach, Hanalei, and Ke’e Beach.

 

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We noticed these really peculiar and interesting spiders at Moloa beach that wove zig-zags into their webs.  They were beautiful and terrifying!  All over the place.

 

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The weather at the north shore is much wetter than the rest of the island.  I believe this is due to the geography and topography, but not sure of why exactly.  Plus, my visit was at a time of year that is particularly tumultuous and rainy.  The waves up there are choppy and can get very large, which draws surfers.

 

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The mountain cliffs at the north shore are very popular for hiking, with a massive (and somewhat dangerous) trail called the Kalalau trail.  Documentation of our hike on that trail will be in the next post. 🙂

The last picture is from Shipwreck Beach, where my friends and I had a bonfire and stared at the beautiful night sky over some beers and tunes.  Unfortunately, that night was the night we heard David Bowie had passed, so the evening ended on a somber note.

 

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More to come in Part 2!!!

Coffee Jitters (My Trip to Seattle)

Last week I had the opportunity of seeing a little bit of Seattle on a 6 hour layover to visiting some close friends in Kuaui, Hawaii (pictures and write up forthcoming).

This was my first live encounter with the city.  My old friend Peter, who has lived in Seattle for much of his life, was my champion and guide for the duration of my stay.

Preconceived notions of a moody, emo inspiring grunge town quickly flew out the window.  Seattle is lively, diverse, and well manicured.  The people do carry that large city edge with an underlying friendliness and appreciation for the place they live in.

 

Seattle Trip - Bryan Johns Photography

 

The skyline is beautiful, despite the peppering of freight facilities that line the waterfront.  Lots of snow capped mountains are visible, when it’s not raining of course.

Pete (picture below) took us to some great eats, and three coffee houses that subsequently blew my over-caffeinated brain. It’s amusing that Seattleites love their coffee so much, that coffee shops will set up right next to each other.  But coffee is so integral as a social tool there, much like alcohol, so I completely understand.


Seattle Trip - Bryan Johns Photography

 

We also had a chance to visit the Pike Place Market, which was jammed with fresh produce and ethnic food spots. We destroyed some great bao buns and perogies with our…never ending supply of coffee.

 

Seattle Trip - Bryan Johns Photography

 

As a photographer, I’m a big fan of alleyways.  Alleys are where a city hides it’s trash, secrets, and afterthoughts. Seattle’s alleys are often beautiful, green, and clean.  Impressive!

(Of course, I chose to represent that with a black & white picture.)

 

Seattle Trip - Bryan Johns Photography

 

Thanks, gentrification!

Seattle’s rapid evolution to attract new blood and revitalize itself is inevitably killing some of its old character and culture. Twice I overheard conversations of the disquieted, expressing agitation at being edged out by the bourgeois.

I was having a hard time trying to find some of the old inspiration that fueled so much music that came from there.  I guess I shouldn’t expect to see any gutter punks or flannel wearing post-surfers throwing their cigarettes all over the place.

(Penn Station below)

Seattle Trip - Bryan Johns Photography

 

 

Seattle Trip - Bryan Johns Photography

 

Anyways, great city.  I plan on heading back there this year and breaking some bars with some buddies.  I’m sure the night life is thriving and sparkly.

 

 

Rehoboth Beach

My mother and I decided to visit the American east coast for the holiday season. We decided that we needed a get away, since we both had a pretty rough year.  Fortunately the weather was unseasonably warm for December.

Our destination was Rehoboth Beach, a small seaside town on the Delaware coast.

 

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The forecast for the duration of our trip called for humid, temperate, rainy days, with short breaks of sunshine.  This made for some great conditions for photography, since the temperate rain created some seriously dense and foggy sea air.  Although the majority of the trip was gray, we enjoyed the moodiness that the weather provided us.

 

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Rehoboth Beach is a beautiful, well manicured little town.  Lots of great restaurants and bars. A great place for families and couples.  Obviously the town was pretty empty when we were there, but there is a contingent of people that live there the entire year.  The neighboring beaches do not seem to have as much of an established base of life throughout the entire year.

Some of the restaurants that we dined in were almost full!

 

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My camera had no problems getting great light exposure.  Everything was gray, gray, gray, with soft light spread out through the mists.  Once the clouds broke, we got some pretty dramatic clouds. I brought my Sony A7II with my Zeiss 55mm 1.8ZA.  Although it’s not the wide angle that most would bring for the situation, it was perfect for capturing everything.

I chose to use black & white to convey a lot of the scenes, since there wasn’t much color to work with because of the autumnal feeling weather.

 

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My mother and I spent a day driving down the coast to the neighboring beach towns.  The road was empty, and the wind was whipping at times.  There were lots of little turnoffs to hidden beaches. Glimpses of beauty and nature.

 

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We stayed at the Atlantic Sands hotel, a humble place right on the water.  What the hotel lacks in comfort, it more than makes up for with location.  The bare bones staff on duty Christmas Eve were very friendly and helpful.

 

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I’ll definitely plan on returning to this great beach.  It’s only a 2 hour drive from Baltimore, which isn’t even half a tank of gas.

 

Johns Hopkins

Recently I’ve had to visit the hospital of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for some family health issues.  I usually carry around a small digital camera with me wherever I go, on the off chance that I’ll encounter random inspiration while on the move.  So yesterday, the afternoon sun was painting some beautiful long shadows throughout the hospital space I was in.

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The Fujifilm X100s is a great little camera.

Johns Hopkins

 

Obviously the hospital is not this empty normally.  These were taken on a Saturday, when it was particularly sparse.

Johns Hopkins

 

Ocean Pines

Summer time near Ocean City, MD.  The mosquitos were formidable, but I prevailed.

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