Machu Picchu, Peru

We agreed on many things during the train ride up to Machu Picchu.  First, we wouldn’t take “that” picture.  You know, the one that all the tourists take.  Second, we’d climb Mount Machu Picchu if there was enough time.  Third, we wouldn’t judge anyone who decided to hike the Inka Trail no matter how condescending they would sound explaining that their’s was the “true experience” where as taking the train was some sort of cop out.  

Halfway up Mount Machu Picchu felt like a good enough accomplishment and despite best efforts, I did take “that picture”.  On the really plus side, I played with Llamas and imagined for a few moments that the made up facts from the tour guides were true.

"Here’s the ceremonial room where they did important religious stuff…or it was the communal/unisex bathroom.  We’re not quite sure cause when we got here everyone had cleared out but we’re really good at guessing"

Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia

"You have to see the salt flats" she said as she pulled google images up on her phone.  "It’s one of the most amazing places on earth and in the wet season, the ground is like a mirror"

I thought about her idea and imagined that it would be a “some day” item.  How does one even get to the salt flats?  I stood in her kitchen and scrolled through the images and file it in my mind.  It would probably make for a nice surprise vacation some where down the road

……..

There’s dust coming into the car.  There seems to be dust every where.  Having carefully negotiated travel arrangements and successfully found our tour company, I was now sitting in the middle row of a Toyota Land Cruiser, traversing somewhere in middle of nowhere on the planet.  My life, is fully entrusted to Diony, our stoic tour guide, driver, cook, and my five fellow adventurers.  

I didn’t arrive in the wet season nor is this the vacation I had imagined, but I am here and view is spectacular.  I’d imagine I’d come back in the wet season though.  Now that I knew how to get here and all the secrets that go into the process, it’d be a simple matter of saying…”hey, it’s one of the most amazing places on earth”.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

I’m standing on a volcanic island formed hundreds of years ago and it occurs to me that there’s a small possibility that no one has ever stood in the exact same spot I am currently standing on.  I might as well be on another planet.

The tour group is far in the distance and I’m still standing here admiring the scenery.  Amongst the ridged ground there is ample amounts of greenery and other life.  The galapagos is teaming with life in all forms, generally undisturbed by the rest of world, and it’s all natural.

Many folks put this trip on their some day list but I wouldn’t recommend waiting.  To really experience the wonder, you want to climb the tallest hill, swim with giant sea turtles, splash around with playful sea lions, and absorb the equatorial sun.  Such beauty should not be left towards the end but grasped at the beginning.

Cartagena, Colombia

I took what would be the first of many selfies, buckled my seatbelt, and watched Chicago fade into the distance.  The idea for South America was sudden, unexpected, and much needed.  It came at time when clarity was sorely needed and ready or not I was off.

Facebook took its sweet time to load but eventually it told me that my profile picture was uploaded.  I shut off my phone and thought about what was to come.  I had no idea that what was to come would change me in so many unexpected ways.  

I sat down to my final meal in Cartagena.  After debating on whether we would go to the expensive seafood restaurant or the cafe down the street, we figured it was going to be fried fish either way so might as well do as the locals do.  Besides, the coconut rice at the cafe was chewier and I liked that.  

As I’m consuming fried plantain order 2, a musician stops by and starts strumming a song on his guitar.  I’m apprehensive and mildly annoyed to have my meal disturbed.  This was becoming a common occurrence.  He makes eye contact with me and as if drawing an insight, he starts playing…third eye blind.  

The  moment gets surreal.  His voice is actually pretty good and for some reason the song is appropriate for the moment and location.  I’m happy.

Cartagena provided a lot of brightness over the last few days.  Amongst the colorful buildings, friendly people, and tranquility of the old city, I found many slices of peace.   I would come here again in a heartbeat.   A simple cup of coffee, a few books, a quiet weekend, and all would be right with the world.

Wassup

Wassup

Dunes with bbbrad

Dunes with bbbrad

BBQ Chicken Thighs with Kale and Quinoa
Dinner for the week

BBQ Chicken Thighs with Kale and Quinoa

Dinner for the week

at ACME Hotel Company

at ACME Hotel Company

SOUS VIDE EGG & ROASTED CORN

The Sansaire Sous Vide machine sitting on my kitchen counter was begging to be used.

65 degrees Celsius and one hour later…deliciousness.  

Sunset over the West Lake, Hangzhou China

Sunset over the West Lake, Hangzhou China

Why I Love Top Lists and Life Hacks

I have a confession to make. I love top lists and life hacks. Do you read likehacker.com? Pretty much the first thing I do every day - besides coffee and an omelet. The transition to adulthood has resulted in a full stop on learning in a formalize way. If I can learn something new every day, it scratches the itch of accomplishment. That’s why buzzfeed is so popular just like “fact of the day” and “word of the day calendars” were back when I was a kid. Small doses of knowledge. It’s heroin.

There are plenty of life hacks that will never get used. No one dispenses one tic tac at a time (who eats only one tic-tac?). But gosh darn it if I don’t open a banana from the other end every single time. Those hacks are the silly utilitarian short cuts that may or may not change your life. Then, there are life changing habits, tricks, and lessons that fundamentally change behaviours.

Here are my top 5 simple habits, tricks, and lessons.

  1. Wake up in the morning - Snoozing is not physical, it’s mental. When I wake up, my mind automatically thinks of reasons why I should stay in bed culminating in a decision for “five more minutes”. Now, I wake up with one singular thought. “STOP THINKING, GET UP”. Well, that and I really need to pee. That’s it. Focus on one singular thought, throw the covers off the bed, turn on the shower and it’s off to the races.
  2. Never pay a late fee - The long term trick is automate your finances but that’s a much longer topic. A much easier way is to call up the customer service line and ask for forgiveness. Most companies, especially credit card companies empower their phone reps to issue small credits without additional approval. Just give them a call, tell them it’s your first time, and ask for forgiveness. Works every time.
  3. How to avoid fees for missing your flight - This may be a myth or an old wives tale but I’ve done it and it works. Typically, if you miss your flight because you didn’t plan appropriately it’ll cost you a change fee or late fee or I was stupid fee, any number of fees. But, there is a secret special sauce list of excuses that when spoken and only when spoken will get that fee waived. I got a flat tire is one of them. Use it.
  4. You don’t need that many cards - Have you heard of the Constanza wallet? As you accumulate receipts, discount cards, credit cards, ids, business cards, and any other small 2x3 sheet of material, you just shove it into your wallet because you might need it. Pretty soon, that thing has balloon so big, your spine is misalign because one butt cheek sits higher than the other all day long. All you really need is a credit card, a debit card (to get cash), and your ID. Everything else, put in a backup wallet.
  5. Fold your socks - That’s right, my number one life changing trick is about socks. Do you lose your socks in the dryer? Do the elastics wear out over time and they stop staying on your legs. Go into Cole Hahn and check out the wall of socks and you’ll see that the proper way to store socks is to fold them. Not only do your socks stay organized, they also take up less space in the drawer.

For some “real” life hacks, check out Ramit Sethi’s Life Hack Experiments 

truth

The Story Behind that Portrait

The Story Behind that Portrait

Recently, @nickgerber introduced me to the work of photographer Marco Grob and I’ve been hooked on understanding his style since.

There are many different ways to light a portrait and diving into the mind of another photographer and breaking down the process is a great photographic exercise.

Nick and I sat down last week to recreate one of my favorite shots of RDJ and this was our result.  We didn’t use the same modifiers as MG which is apparent from the differences in the catch light but the essence of the dramatic lighting was captured.

Two gridded beauty dishes slightly behind subject with one diffused beauty dish camera left through a white card with a hole cut through it.  Post processing in Adobe Lightroom, vsco film.

Happy Monday, Here is Zooey

It’s still cold in Chicago which means me continuing to hit up the summer archives.  Late last summer, my friend Doug who runs a awesome dog walking service in Chicago needed some promo pics.  We went out to the park with Zooey and had a fun afternoon.  

NYC is Always a Bad Ass Town

Early last summer, @nickgerber, @timmyjyo, and I headed to NYC on a photography field trip.  Each day we each picked out own themes and just went out and shot.  

I know it’s cliche to shoot street art but NYC is just full of amazing art.   I shot so many images and here are some of my favorites.

I have enough material for at least two more NYC posts. Keep and eye out!