Sunset over the West Lake, Hangzhou China
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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!
One of my favorite things about Etsy is discovering new artists. This art print of Batman is badass. Check out Art Prints by Digital Theory
This morning on Clark and Waker
Most of my followers probably already follow nickgerber but if you don’t you definitely should. In the dead of Chicago Winter, this man gets up at 5am to shoot almost every day. Dedication supreme.
Last week I posted about my general experience with the Fitbit Force. Today, I read this article. When I shoot weddings, I am on my feet all day. I am curious to see how many steps I take once the season starts.
I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping waking up. Ever since I came back from Hong Kong in January, I’ve had my alarm set to 5:30am. For the first few weeks back due in large part to jetlag, I was a morning person. It was fantastic.
I love being a morning person. At 5:30am, the world is quiet and peaceful. It’s the start of day so will power is strong and motivation is high. Unlike 12am, where I’m desperately trying to not give into the night. Yet, as the days go by, I find it harder and harder to wake up refreshed.
I thought it was not enough sleep so I did some experiments. Bed at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, etc and still at 5:30am, I was dead tired. The “hit the snooze button and throw the alarm across the room” tired.
So why is it that when I’m on vacation getting 6hrs of sleep and waking at 5:30am is not an issue but when I’m working it’s such an issue? There were lots of theories:
- Sit too much during the day (I switched to standing)
- Not getting enough sleep (I slept more)
- Not enough exercise (I work out 5 times a week)
- Diet (I eat the same foods generally)
Then, I read this How Drinking 3 Liters of Water a Day Took 10 years off my Face
And I thought, could that be the issue? Was not drinking enough water the reason I was so tired?
It occurred to me that I do drink a lot of water when I’m on vacation. I’m active and usually carry a water bottle with me. When I’m at work, I sometimes drink a lot of water. Most days, I drink coffee in the morning, water with lunch, and then coffee in the afternoon, water with dinner, and that’s about it.
So I’m doing another experiment. 3 liters of water a day for 6 weeks. Let’s see if this fixes my being tired issue.
On this edition of #howtotuesdays, I share my secret of how to eat cookies every day and lose weight. If you haven’t read my initial thoughts on weight loss I suggest you start there.
Earlier last week I pontificated on changing your perspective in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Changing your perspective is step 1 in a series of systematic changes that I implemented in order to change my behavior. As part of this process I looked at every single diet plan that I have ever read about, South Beach, Mediterranean, Atkins, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem and I asked myself do these plans have anything in common? I’m sure you know someone who knows someone who is an evangelist for one of these plans because it worked for them. But I’m sure you also know plenty of people who are no longer on a “system” because it wasn’t sustainable.
I discovered only one real common trait. Each plan specifies what to eat, good foods, bad food, low glycemic index, meat only, berries and twigs only etc. Each plan also specifies how much you eat. Now the “what” part varies from plan to plan, but the “how” part doesn’t. All plans tell you to eat less. That makes sense right? Eat less, lose weight.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight you’ve probably heard the phrase “it’s not about the diet, it’s about changing your lifestyle”. What does that actually mean? If you love cookies and I told you could never eat them again, would that be worth it to you? I hear the phrase “it’s not worth it” a lot. Creating a lifestyle change doesn’t have to mean total eradication and complete sacrifice. There might be short term ones but a good plan means not having to give up the things you love.
I love to eat. You put food in front of me and I’ll eat it. A good friend of mine who I’ll call Janey had this to say “I’m an emotional eater. When I am stressed, I eat. When I am bored, I eat. I have a very bad relationship with food.” Sound familiar?
So if I fail because controlling what I eat and when I eat doesn’t work, well then what am I going to do? What if I didn’t have to? What if the only thing I had to control was how much I eat in one sitting? That’s Zero Will Power Eating.
Now this doesn’t work for everyone because it requires a lot of work but if you aren’t going to work hard for it then there is no point is there? The idea is simple. I precook 30 portions of food based on my favorite foods and recipes. pide it into containers so that each one is roughly 300 calories. Freeze it. Eat when hungry.
The key is that I cook my favorite foods so I don’t sacrifice. The original system by Mike Chang is boring and sterile. Eat the foods you love, just eat less.
Aim to eat 500 calories less than your BMR. My BMR is 2000 calories. I eat 5 containers a day for 1500 calories plus a cookie 150 calories. I did this for four months and lost 25lbs. After 6 months I am down 35lbs.
That’s it. I’m eating what I want to, I’m eating whenever I want to, and because I have a constant awareness of how much I’m eating…honesty keeps me in check. Oh, throw in a cookie every day for good measure.
Now does this mean that I don’t ever eat out? Absolutely not. What this does is change your perspective on how much to eat. By eating small portions, you start consuming less food. All of a sudden, you’ll see that restaurant salad and without thinking too much about it you’ll realize that it’s three meals worth of food.
So that’s the food part. Next time I’ll share the exercise secrets.
Controlling GAS and the Fuji X100s
On this edition of #memorymondays, I look back at the Fuji X100s and the glorious fling we had together during the summer of 2013. She was a hottie but I had to let her go. Also, how to control GAS after too much conspicuous consumption.
I still remember seeing that body. The silver curves and the allure of “retro”. Just because she had a fixed lens didn’t mean that she wasn’t flexible. What I really needed was that travel camera that wasn’t a DSLR, something to push me to “slow it down” and embrace my inner “real” photographer. Sorry, lots of air quotes today.
All of the net was raving about this camera and if Zach Arias can declare that it’s the end of the DSLR then gosh I was going to need to see for myself.
As I brought her out to meet my friends, most everyone had the similar reaction. How much did you pay? It has a fixed lens? What? That’s cool man…I guess. I received looks of mild disdain, gentle head shakes that was a reminder that I was in the throes of GAS and my friends disapproved. It’s difficult when your friends don’t like what you bring to the table.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone wanted a chance to play with the X100s but it didn’t change anyone’s lives and unfortunately it didn’t change mine either. I really enjoyed the buying spree that came along with the X100s though. I mean, who knew you could spend $40 on little caps with screws (Soft Release Button) or hundreds of dollars on thumb grips so you can hold the camera a little bit more like an SLR. There were leather half body cases in the range of $200 - $300 and hand straps that shot northward of $50. Oh, don’t forget the metal babyonett lens hood that not only protects the “fragile” 35mm lens but oh so complete the look.
She wasn’t all bad though. For all her shortcomings, she produced some amazing images. When she wasn’t moody and decided to focus correctly, she would nail the shot. 60% of the time she worked every time. Now, for all you haters who say it’s user error, I will say this…you are probably right. But I’m an honest person so I will honestly tell you that she didn’t work for me. I let her go and I’m pretty sure she is completely happy with how her new owner handles her.
Here are a selection of fine images produced during our time together. Enjoy.
Oh, and about controlling GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), here’s my advice. Give in and have an escape plan.