Black and White

Black and white photography.

Reflections From a Guy in a Mirror – Volume One • Post One

Here we go, more talk about my job. After eight years of real estate photography, I’m always looking for new ways to keep myself interested. I have become pretty routine here in Vegas. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve developed a template on just about every situation, every house. It’s good to have parameters. I like to set my boundaries and once I feel they’re solid is when I like to expand.

During this pandemic I’ve really tried to just be. A good time to try to be the person you think you are is during a crisis. If you’re not already, that is. At the beginning of this pandemic I told Feiya and Dana that it’s our time to shine. I really love it here in Las Vegas and want to really be part of the recovery process.

There’s a neighbor just downstairs next door that was parking in our spot while our place was empty. After a couple of friendly notes on his car I received a really friendly note back. He apologized and moved the car. After moving into our new place, I discovered that he likes to sit outside on the front patio. We always say hello and today he told me that he’s laid off. He’s a casino worker at Paris Las Vegas. I’ve met some really cool people in this town and I want us all to do well.

An actual room at Paris Las Vegas shot by your’s truly. A little side gig I had.

Guy in bathroom

With everything going on it’s nice to find a refuge wherever we can. I’ve been trying to break the monotony with a little project while at work. I’ve been amusing myself a lot with it. Wasn’t sure if I should post it on here or not. In the end, it brought a smile to my face and maybe it will do the same for you as well.

At first I was trying to get some selfies with my mask on. When I looked at the photos I thought I looked like an idiot. So, I thought, why not just be myself. Either way I’ll look like an idiot.

Guy in a mirror. Las Vegas real estate photographer.
This was when I started wearing a mask in occupied homes. I thought I’d get a new profile pic or something. Not so much.
Guy in a mirror. Las Vegas real estate photographer.
This is my 2nd attempt. I used a smaller bathroom at another house. Not much better, but I’m seeing something here.

Not long after I took those 1st two selfies I started to try to change things up a bit. The next phase was just trying to look stupid. It wasn’t to far of a stretch. I liked these picture much better. They made me laugh. And now there’s a danger in it as well. What would happen if one of these slipped through to the MLS? Yikes!

I think this is the one that made me smile the most. I don’t even think I was trying here.
I tried to be a little more creative here. How many times can I do this one? I’m not sure, but I plan on seeing how many.

Where will the guy go?

Is this just a pandemic thing and once things settle down I’ll move on from Guy in the Mirror? I don’t know. We’ll see where it goes. I do love doing the black and white editing. These photos have all been processed in Photomatix. I did the black and white treatment on top of the HDR process. They’ve been edited twice. One of these days I’m going to shoot a house just for black and white and process them without HDR. I don’t think it’d be too hard. Of course, it wouldn’t be real estate worthy. But, it’s something different and we like different.

I’m still waiting for a call from the Smithsonian or The Met. I can wait, because I’m still having fun.

Guy in a mirror. Las Vegas real estate photographer.
I tried to get a repeating effect with the mirror behind me. I had moderate success.
Guy in a mirror. Las Vegas real estate photographer.
This is the 2nd take on for this one. I’m glad I took the time to get it right.
Guy in a mirror. Las Vegas real estate photographer.
I shot this house yesterday. Very cool house.
A Saturday afternoon side job. Making money and having fun!
Guy in a mirror. Las Vegas real estate photographer.
Another one with 2 takes. This is the 1st take.
Guy in a mirror. Las Vegas real estate photographer.
Playing with perspective here. I think we have something here.

Listening to Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Beijing China

7th Wedding Anniversary- Part I | Las Vegas

It all started on a lark. Not something you want to say that led to a life changing decision. In June 2013 (correction was 2014) I boarded a Korean Air flight from San Francisco to Beijing. There, at the Beijing Capitol Airport I met for the first time in person, Dana. My wife to be. Dana. She was standing there smiling and waving. A little shy. Stunningly beautiful.

As soon as we started walking she frantically told me the story of her missing her train and having to catch a plane out of Wuhan at the last minute. She was scared to death that she may have missed me. I was last off the airplane and through baggage and was thinking almost the same thing.

We spent 2 days in Beijing. I had to get a single status document from the US Embassy. We stayed at a hotel in the central part of Beijing. This was my first visit to China. I learned quickly that with Dana being my guide we ate and slept in China. What that means is that the restaurants and hotels we stay in you rarely see a foreigner. One morning we ate donkey soup. Not bad.

Beijing China
Our first morning together in our room in Beijing.

Our first day we went to the embassy and were turned away on the account I didn’t have an appointment. We had a train ticket leaving for Wuhan the following night, time was an issue. We found an internet cafe not far from the embassy. The embassy gave me instructions on how to make an appointment online so, we popped online and made an appointment for the next day at 10am. Easy peesey. We spent the rest of the day going to art museums in Beijing. I got to see an exhibit by one of China’s most famous artists, Wai Wai.

The next day we made our appointment at the embassy. I was able to obtain my documents and off we went. We spent the day sight seeing around Beijing. We went to Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden Palace, some the Olympic venues, and other sights of Beijing. I loved being guided around by Dana. She was beautiful, composed, and was able to communicate with the locals to get us anywhere we needed to go.

China is awesome and the real adventure is just getting around. I’ve traveled by all modes of transportation in China over the years visiting there. But, 90% of the methods I experienced on that first trip to Beijing and Wuhan. We rode bicycle rickshaws, taxis, subways, ferries, domestic flights, a sleeping train and my personal favorite⚊ high speed trains. One train we rode from the Shanghai airport to downtown Shanghai was a maglev train. The train was suspended by magnetic levitation. Smoothest ride I’ve ever had at 193kph or 120mph.

We took an overnight train to Wuhan 2 days after I arrived in Beijing. The car we slept in had 4 bunks. Dana and I slept on the bottom 2 and 2 strangers slept in the top bunks. I slept like a baby because I was exhausted from all the running around we did in Beijing the prior 2 days. Dana said she didn’t sleep well because some Chines soldiers were in the next compartment and they talked all night long. We left around 10pm from Beijing and arrived in Wuhan sometime around 7am. I woke up around 5am and had a couple of hours to watch the China countryside pass us by.

Wuhan is a big city and just getting bigger. There were sky cranes everywhere. When we arrived we ate at the train station and caught a taxi to Dana’s home. She lived with Feiya and her parents on the top floor of a 30 story high rise. You had to drive down a small alley to get to it from the main street. There was one elevator that served the whole building. When it breaks you use the stairs.

Dana’s apartment was cool. It had 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. The living room was spacious and the view was to die for. Her parents prepared a large meal for us. I met Feiya for the first time. I gave her a stuffed cookie monster and a stuffed Elmo. She had a lukewarm reception to the red and blue monsters I brought from America. The next day at Starbuck’s she asked me if she could call me Daddy. I didn’t hesitate and said “of course you can!”

While staying in Wuhan, Dana and I stayed at a very nice hotel not far from her apartment. It was a 1 bedroom suite and overlooked one of Wuhan’s landmarks (I can’t remember what it was). I spent my morning drinking oolong tea watching Wuhan come alive from the balcony. I don’t think I could ever tire of watching a city in China from a balcony above.

The day after we arrived in Wuhan Dana and I were married. I’d been in China for 4 days and married a single mom which of whom I met for the first time 4 days ago. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Dana and I corresponded online for almost 2 years leading up to this. When I moved to California I was talking to Dana via Skype twice a day. We were pretty familiar with each others lives.

Chinese wedding photos.
Very corny indeed. It was kinda fun. I made a lot of friends that worked there. They were all fascinated by me.
Chinese wedding photos.
These are our actual wedding clothes. This is what we wore to the party Dana’s family gave us that night.

Getting married was nothing more than visiting several government offices, presenting our paperwork we received from the previous office, and signing more documents. Our last stop, the office was closed for lunch and wouldn’t be back until 3pm. It was noon. All of us, Dana, her parents, Feiya, and myself sat for 3 hours in a restaurant.

Wedding day, Wuhan, China.
We sat there for 3 hours and Feiya demanded her attention most of the time. I think her grandma put that shirt on her to show her appreciation for my gifts the day before.

The following day we went to a wedding photo studio and had the wedding photos that you see in the gallery below. The studio was actually a large storefront with several floors with countless staged rooms within the floors. You could sit in a ballroom, a library, cafe, or any of the many other options they offered you.

When you first arrive at the studio you are put in a waiting room with 4-5 other couples. Of course, I was the only gringo. Once the time comes for our appointment all of us are herded into the dressing rooms. Here we’re assigned a personal assistant who helps us pick out our costumes. This where the fun starts. They had a really hard time finding clothes that would fit me. Before the day was over all the assistants stood in a group and had their picture taken with me. Some even took individual selfies with me.

Dana had her hair and makeup done and off we went to the many galleries. We were assigned a photographer and Dana had to interpret his instructions to me. It was a weird experience, but an experience I’ll never forget. The photos speak for themselves.

That night we had a big celebration at the hotel Dana and I were staying at. Dana’s family rented a banquet room and had the hotel cater the soiree. There was tons of food and wine and alcohol. 50 people must have been there from the families of both Dana’s mom and dad. One of the dishes was made of fish from the Yangtze River which ran through Wuhan. I just took a bite or 2 of it, remembering seeing that river earlier in the day. Yikes!

I spent a few more days in Wuhan before heading back to Beijing and then home. Talk about a whirlwind trip. I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s a memory I treasure. It was an adventure, roller coaster, mystery, and thriller all rolled into one crazy trip. Flying home I felt empty inside. I felt lost and really wasn’t looking forward to returning to my life in San Mateo.

Wuhan, China
This was in Dana’s apartment. I think this was taken the night before we left to head back to Beijing.

There was another family sitting next to me on the flight home. It was a Caucasian American who married a woman from Vietnam and their 2 kids, aged 1 and 3. The 3 year old slept in the seat next to me and occasional kicked me throughout the flight. No worries, I never sleep on airplanes and little kick in the thigh now and then kept me alert. He told me that they lived in Santa Cruz and were coming back from Vietnam where her parents met their grandchildren for the 1st time. I really wanted to that to be Dana, Feiya, and myself. Well, here are 7 years later and that wish has come true many times over.

Here we are 7 years later living in Las Vegas. The three of us are flourishing in a desert. Sure, the coronavirus pandemic is still in full swing as I write this, but I’m pretty optimistic about the future. I am, as always, very grateful that I took that leap of fate 7 years ago and married the love of my life and took her daughter as my own. No matter what happens in the uncertain future, I will have the best 2 things to ever come out of Wuhan, Dan and Feiya.

Pine Glen Condo Part I

Pine Glen Condo Part I | Summerlin

Here we are smack dab in the middle of pandemic. I’ve never experienced a crisis this directly before. The weird thing is, EVERYBODY is experiencing it. This is not one of those “That only happens somewhere else.” situations. This is happening worldwide simultaneously. Never before has the world been so connected by a common effort, to defeat the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

I’m staying optimistic throughout this ordeal as long as I possibly can. We all know the economic hardships that are coming down the pipe. Will the worse case scenarios come to fruition? Sure, there’s a very real possibility that my job is on the line. Vegas doesn’t do well in downturns. And, man do we have a downturn coming! Right now every casino in Las Vegas is closed! The bigger casinos are taking care of their people, for now. The smaller one’s, not so much. This will take awhile to dig out of this hole.

The last recession Las Vegas had was in 2008. Home prices finally reached their pre-recession prices in the last two years. That’s nearly ten years of recovery! So, what did we do? We bought a f*****g condo, in FEBRUARY! I’m not sitting here shitting the proverbial brick, yet. Besides, there’s no toilet paper anyway.

I’m cautiously optimistic, however. I have some skills to offer in the digital world. I’m not going to create the next Twitter. But, I can compete graphically and I have my real estate photography thing. I also believe this downturn is going to rebound much faster than previous recessions. This isn’t an isolated dip where another market or economy can step in and fill the gap. This is a lowering of all markets on the same level, more or less. Sure, some markets will gain faster than others, but everyone is in the same bucket on this one. Every market will have demands and surpluses once the coronavirus clouds part ways.

Instead of a time looking outward into the darkness, it’s time to take a look at the light within. We have nothing in this world except the love of those within our little bubbles. I’m loving every single moment of this home buying journey with Dana and Feiya. I’m being real conscious of how we, as a family, make decisions and contribute to our new home. We do pretty damn well together. I’m so fortunate.

It’s not always sunshine and unicorns. We have our moments. But we’re always aware we’re three individuals working together for one common goal. Living in peace and happiness. We except each other for who we are and we elevate each other with our little quirks and nuances. Always seeking calm waters.

If these times have shone me anything, it’s to pause, breath, and enjoy the moment. I am so grateful for having these two humans in my bubble.

This is a song Feiya and I listen to in the car. It just seams to be a good song for a day like today.

The camera I used today was my Ricoh GRII. I should have used my A6000. Next time.