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Pinnochio nose. Downtown LA, 2015

A fun creative photography challenge: shadow photography.

Why shadows? Contact sheet: Pinnochio nose / Downtown La, 2015

Why shoot shadows?

For me, I like to shoot shadows because they are more mysterious, and this more open-ended to interpretation, and thus more interesting to look at.

I’m a huge fan of film noir cinema, and they employ heavy use of shadows to add more drama, mystery, and danger to the movies and scenes.

1. Shoot shadows that are on the edges of a wall or surface Pinnochio nose. Downtown LA, 2015

If you want a more dramatic shadow, place the shadow at the edge of a surface or a wall. This will make the shadow appear longer. This is what I did for my “Pinnochio nose” street photograph above. I saw a woman and the shadow behind her during sunset. I shot a bunch of photos by “working the scene”— changing my framing, composition, and distance.

Contact sheet: Pinnochio nose / Downtown La, 2015

Why does the photograph work, and why is it interesting?

It is all about the “pinnochio nose” shadow. Pinnochio nose is a symbol of lying. Thus, it begs the question to the viewer:

“What is the woman hiding or lying about?”

Lesson: Use shadows to make more open-ended photos, which allow the viewer to pose their own questions about a photograph, and thus become more engaged and mentally invested in order to analyze and come up with their own story in a photo.

2. -1 or -2 exposure compensation

To make more dramatic shadow photos, put your subject into the bright light, and shoot with -1 or -2 exposure compensation (or even some cameras, -3 exposure compensation). I usually do -1 exposure compensation on my Ricoh GR II, shooting in program mode.

Note how I worked the scene, to get the man to have the dramatic light on his face. Why is this photograph interesting? Golden triangle analysis for Downtown LA, side face tattoo.

First of all, it follows the Golden triangle composition. I didn’t intend to do this when I was shooting it, but I discovered the composition afterwards. The Golden triangle compositional grid shows me: the photograph has good balance, proportions, and good placement of his eye (at the intersection of the two diagonal lines).

Downtown LA side shadow tattoo abstract. Note that visually, he doesn’t have a neck or the top of his head — which makes the photograph more mysterious.

Secondly, by using -1 exposure compensation, the shadows causes his neck and the top of his head to disappear — making the photograph more mysterious.

Lastly, I like the side profile of his face, which reminds me of traditional portrait/paintings. In real life, you don’t see the side profile of someone’s face. You normally look at people face-on/head-on. Therefore, the perspective of his face is novel (humans like novelty of visual view/perspective).

3. Multiple light bulbs Shadow selfie. Boston, 2018

This is a selfie I shot with the light source being a chandelier with multiple light bulbs. This allowed my selfie shadow to have multiple layers.

4. Tree shadows
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Mazda Miata hardtop. Osaka, 2018

Dear friend,

A thought: it is better to do things poorly than not to do them at all!

We are happiest when we make stuff Lights at night. Osaka, 2018

As humans, we are the happiest when we are in the active mode of creation. When we are creating poetry, when we are creating songs, creating pictures or photos, creating dance movements, etc.

However in the modern world, a lot of us are intimidated to create, because we look at all this awesome stuff on YouTube and the internet and think,

“No matter how hard I try, I will never be as good as [X].”

Let me give you an example: a lot of people who want to start their own YouTube channels are intimidated, because nowadays all of the popular YouTubers have insanely high productions in their videos — high resolution video quality, professional-grade microphone and sound quality, and fancy editing. Thus to the beginner or newbie, they become too overwhelmed with all the technical details, and never start.

Street Photography With the Leica M9 and GoPro HD 960 in Los Angeles - YouTube

This is funny because when I started YouTube in 2011, it was just full of dumb stuff, and cheap quality videos. I started my YouTube channel with no experience in video or editing. I just had a crappy laptop webcam, and a basic GoPro to do videos. To me, because I was a beginner and ignorant and naive, I had fun. I had no concept of what “good editing” was, or how to do a “proper interview”. I was totally ignorant of all of these “film school” principles, and I’m glad. This prevented me from falling victim to “paralysis by analysis”. I just made fun and random videos of whatever interested me, or whatever was fun to me, and from 2011-2018 I was able to gain 50,000+ subscribers on YouTube with zero video or editing skills.

Working on Layers: Manila Street Photography GoPro POV with the Fujifilm x100s - YouTube

However after a while, I started to get pressured to make more “professional” quality videos, with fancy lighting setups, fancy microphone and audio setups, and I started to fall victim to “paralysis by analysis”. Rather than focusing on what was the most important (the content of the video), I started to focus too much on the technical aspects. This hurt me — I lost that child-like naïveté for making fun and random videos, and thus I became less prolific in making videos.

3 TIPS HOW TO SHOOT STREET PHOTOGRAPHY // GOPRO on the Streets of Hanoi - YouTube

Make stuff that pleases you!

Osaka AirBnB Apartment GoPro POV Tour VLOG - YouTube

Recently, I dusted off my old GoPro Hero 3 and have been making fun videos again for myself. Just random videos of my travels and living arrangements. Here are my new rules:

  1. Only make videos or stuff that interests me: I don’t want to make videos which might be “popular” or “go viral”. It’s pretty obvious what kinds of videos are popular (gear review videos, etc) but doing these videos are mostly boring to me. By making videos and stuff that’s first interesting to me, I naturally have more excitement, enthusiasm, and authenticity in my videos. And to me, authenticity is the only judge of whether a piece of art is good or bad.
  2. Don’t worry too much about the editing or audio-visual quality: Focus on the content, that the content is inspiring, motivational, or empowering. Basic “good enough” audio-visual is sufficient for me.
  3. Just do it: Don’t overthink making videos, just have fun and do it.

Osaka Japanese Grocery Store GoPro POV Tour VLOG - YouTube

Play like a child Cindy going down stairs. Osaka, 2018

I’ve been super inspired by my 2.5 year old niece Amelia, who makes her own songs and dances without caring whether they are “good” or not. Amelia doesn’t care whether “it has been done before” or not. She just plays and has fun.

Cindy on escalator. Osaka, 2018

I feel as creators, we must do the same. Let us disregard whether something has been done before or not — if you haven’t done it before (yet want to do it), it is worth doing!

Why do things poorly? Low rider. Osaka, 2018

Also, this is my new philosophical belief:

Doing something poorly is better than never doing it.

This is my rationale:

  1. If you’re a beginner or newbie, of course the quality of whatever you produce won’t be as good as a professional or expert who has been doing it for a decade or longer. You must go through the baby steps in order to get really good in any field.
  2. Discouragement is death to the beginner. If you’re starting off in anything new, avoid discouragement and “nay saying” at all costs! If you’re a seedling, you need encouragement and protection from the cruel outside elements in order to grow into a redwood tree. Baby lions need to be protected from predators in order to grow to become big and strong. When we are baby artist lion-cubs, we also need to be protected from “haters”/predators from the outside to grow and evolve.
  3. You will never have the opportunity to innovate or create something new without attempting it. Thus, allow yourself to be foolish and try new things. Also when you’re starting something new, don’t follow the manual. Try learning via trial and error, and just experimenting by yourself. This will prevent you from just following the beaten (and boring) path. Pave your own path and self-experiment— you might discover a new technique or approach that experts didn’t even know was possible! This is the benefit of the beginner (beginner’s mind)—you see opportunities, rather than restrictions (expert’s mind).
Triangle building. Osaka, 2018 Never stop growing, innovating, and making new stuff!
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Dear friend,

I don’t think there are “good” or “bad” emotions. To become the fullest developed human, we must feel the furthest extents of our human emotions. What matters to succeed and thrive in life: harness all of your emotions, desires, and dissatisfactions in a positive way— to propel you forward, and to the highest summits of life!

DOWNLOAD PDF: Let dissatisfaction drive you forward

Dissatisfaction as a source of innovation

We often think that dissatisfaction is a bad thing that we must “cure”. The point of Buddhism and zen is to eradicate “cravings” and desires.

However to me, I think that having dissatisfaction is good for us. If we were satisfied with the horse and carriage, we would have never invented cars, or spaceships. If we were satisfied with letter writing and snail mail, we would never have invented the Internet.

Don’t complain; figure out solutions!

With the dissatisfactions we experience in life, we can either sit on our butts, complain, mope, and do nothing about it.

Or, we can do something much more positive: seek to find solutions to our dissatisfactions in life, in order to improve our lives, and the lives of others (who experience the same dissatisfactions as we do).

For example when I started street photography, I was dissatisfied that there wasn’t much information online how to shoot street photography. Rather than simply complaining about it, I decided to be the “change which I wished to see in the world” (inspired by Gandhi). I started this blog, and started to share my experimentations, learnings, and lessons in shooting street photography.

I also think when it comes to philosophy and science, it is our hunger for truth, knowledge, and wisdom which drives us. It is our dissatisfaction with our lack of knowledge which drives us.

How I discovered philosophy Osaka, 2018 #cindyproject

For example, in my life, I have always been hungry to discover the secret of “happiness” in life, because I was dissatisfied and unconvinced by modern American solutions to being happy through mindless consumerism and consumption.

This dissatisfaction drove me to discovering philosophy, to find more direction, purpose, and meaning in my life.

My personal dissatisfactions Osaka urban landscape. Red, yellow, blue. 2018

Even with photography, I am very dissatisfied with the whole field. I’m dissatisfied with all the new cameras that are coming out —I don’t feel like there is enough revolutionary innovations. Thus I’ve been trying to philosophize what we truly need in new cameras, or what is the most exciting. So far my answer is in the field of mobile phone photography, computational photography, and digital medium format photography. Everything else seems lame to me.

Osaka, 2018

I’m dissatisfied with social media, Instagram and Facebook, thus I got inspired and motivated to make ARS (photography feedback startup platform). This dissatisfaction also motivated me to delete my Instagram, which has been the best thing I’ve ever done as a photographer —feeling less distracted with my photography, and finding new ways to sharing my work (YouTube photography slideshows, uploading photo diaries to this blog).

How to Make a Photography Slideshow in iMovie - YouTube

How to Make Beats in GarageBand and iMovie Photography Slideshow - YouTube

Find solutions to your sources of dissatisfaction to create new wealth
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Fresh from HAPTIC DIGITAL: Annette Kim presents an awesome new visualization on 10 visualization challenges to boost your creative photography:

Download PDF

Download the free and full-resolution PDF by Annette below:

Download PDF Visualization: 10 Visual Challenges to Boost Your Creative Photography

Support Annette Kim Buy HOW TO SEE in HAPTIC SHOP

To support ANNETTE KIM, buy a copy of HOW TO SEE: Visual Acuity Manual. Every purchase helps support ANNETTE to keep producing these awesome free visualizations for you and the community.

Also make sure to check out all the FREE PDF VISUALIZATIONS by ANNETTE KIM.

1. Visual detox

For one week avoid using your phone. Rather, slow down and look around yourself to cultivate a more curious eye.

How to Make Artistic Photographs - YouTube

Learn more: How to make more artistic photos (YouTube)

2. Beauty in the mundane

You don’t need to live in an exotic location to make beautiful photos.

Assignment: For one week, only photograph everyday or commonly found objects, but in an artistic way.

Experiment using a flash, different angles, and unique perspectives.

Learn more: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Street Photography

3. Be like a kid and have fun!

Tap into your inner child and treat photography as playtime.

Assignment: For the day, take your child, young family member, or your friends’ kid to share a photography adventure day together.


  • Give the child a camera to shoot with.
  • Photograph like the child. Only shoot what you find exciting or interesting.

  • Practice building your childlike curiosity, by showing the child interesting things to photograph.

Learn more: How to shoot like a child

4. Creative constraints

Limitations will boost your creativity!

Make a list of 3 commonly photographic habits you would like to change.

Assignment: For one month, do the opposite of your 3 “bad” common habits in photography.

This challenge will help you get outside of your comfort zone, to identify and maximize photography opportunities you might not normally take.


  • If you only shoot in black and white, shoot only in color.
  • Don’t just shoot traditional compositions, shoot nontraditional and dynamic compositions.

  • Don’t only shoot during the day, experiment shooting at night.

  • Don’t only shoot from a distance, shoot closer!

Learn more: The beauty of creative constraints in photography

5. Analyzing through drawing

Sketch photos to deconstruct them. Use this to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your photos.

Assignment: Pick a photograph you like that was shot by yourself, or from another photographer. Sketch the photo with the lines, shapes, and forms.

Use this challenge to discover the elements which stand out to you in order to make better photos in the future.

How to Trace Your Pictures with iPad and ProCreate App - YouTube

6. Picture perfect

Draw your idea of a “perfect” photograph.

Choose your ideal compositional lines, subject spacing, perspective, and any other elements which are interesting or important to you.

After you finish your drawing, walk on the streets and try to identify and photograph a similar scene.

Learn more: Deconstructed: Saigon ERIC KIM Photography Compositions

7. Artistic purpose

You are not just a photographer; you are a visual artist with a goal.

Revitalize your artistic passion by reminding yourself why you make art.

  • Identify your reason for why you make visual art.
  • Reflect: What are the goals you would like to reach through your art?

  • Proudly share your answers by writing your..

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Selfie in the mirror with Cindy at conveyer belt sushi. Osaka, 2018

To me, I think the opposite of happiness is boredom. To be happy, simply avoid being bored.

Alleviate your boredom in a meaningful and creative way! ERIC KIM Cartoon with camera // from ZEN OF ERIC

This is my idea:

Whenever you feel bored, seek to alleviate your boredom as quickly as possible.

To be clear, I don’t mean to say to fill up your day simply watching Netflix, playing games, or distracting yourself on social media or the internet.

Rather, I think the best way to alleviate boredom is to challenge ourselves, to do something creative, to make something, to read difficult books, to workout our muscles, or to workout our minds.

To me, boredom is the lack of challenge, danger, novelty, randomness, chance, and difficulty in our lives. To me, boredom is the worst evil — far worse than suffering, pain, or despair.

I would rather be suffering and in pain, rather than be bored.

Zen aesthetics. Kyoto, 2017

Boredom is the worst existential dread —you lose all zest for living and life, and you want to just kill time, to distract yourself, and take away that horrible beast of ennui. I think boredom is the worst modern suffering. I think this is why many of us moderns try to alleviate boredom by “distracting ourselves to death”— through mindless entertainment, games, sex, drugs, alcohol, and other forms of passive self-medication.

Kyoto Zen temple, 2017

What I think we desire as humans is to work on difficult, challenging, fun, creative, and meaningful things.

In practical terms, alleviate your boredom by seeking more difficult challenges in your life.

At the gym, don’t do the same boring exercise and pointless repetitions. Do challenging (and fun) movements, like heavy 1-rep max deadlifts, squats, or heavy dumbbell presses.

Or join exercise classes which are actually fun to you — which allow you to dance, roll around on the ground like a child, and movements you actually enjoy. Exercise which is boring, monotonous, and not fun is like slavery.

“Artist Eric” by Annette Kim from “Zen of Eric” Visualization

As a photographer, make photos that are fun for you, and photos you enjoy shooting. Don’t put unnecesssry pressure on yourself to make the world’s best photos, and don’t feel like you must upload all your photos. Make photos for yourself for the sake of making photos, and allow yourself to be a bit silly when taking photos.


How to alleviate boredom in a creative way Sketching one another in Kyoto Zen Photography Experience workshop, 2016

Other ideas:

  1. Learn how to sketch, draw, or paint. Find inspiration from CREATIVE EVERYDAY.
  2. Go on a street photography adventure with STREET HUNT! Put yourself in novel and random situations, to find more inspiration to shoot photos of your everyday life.
  3. Make your own photo slideshows in iMovie, or make your own beats in garangeband. If you need music to add to your own slideshows, download my beats for free.
  4. Go on a walk. When you’re bored, take your camera for a walk. Walk for the sake of walking and clearing your mind. Treat your walking as a “zen meditation”, and take photos of interesting stuff you encounter.
  5. Watch great films or cinema on your laptop, and take screenshots of any cinema compositions which inspire you. Start with Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon and 7 Samurai).
Make more art! Cindy going down stairs. Osaka, 2018

Your life is too short to be bored. Always strive to work on fun, creative, and personally meaningful projects. When in doubt, make more art!

Never stop playing and making,


Find more meaning and purpose in your life:

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Laundry machines shot with a flash. Osaka, 2018

Dear friend,

For the last 10+ years, I’ve been living on the road, living abroad, and traveling the globe. But why?

Why I enjoy traveling

Osaka Japanese Grocery Store GoPro POV Tour VLOG - YouTube

First of all, I like that traveling makes me uncomfortable, prevents me from becoming complacent, and prevents me from acquiring crap I don’t need.

Living on the road has forced me to travel light. Traveling has opened up my eyes to foreign cultures, and has helped me realize that humanity is more similar than dissimilar. Traveling has made me more tolerant and open minded to the customs, religions, and beliefs of others.

Osaka AirBnB Apartment GoPro POV Tour VLOG - YouTube

Traveling has also helped me have more solitude, quiet, and creative isolation in order to think, philosophize, reflect, meditate in order to create, come up with new ideas, and innovate.

Don’t get attached to anything

OSAKA II // BEATS by KIM - YouTube

Now the tricky thing is this:

I don’t think you need to travel in order to innovate, find inspiration, reflect, meditate, or be “happy”. Traveling is beneficial and helpful, but not absolutely necessary.

So for myself, this is the practical takeaway:

Whenever possible, travel. When not possible to travel, don’t be sad and always seek to make the best out of any situation I have in my life.

For example, when I’m back in “boring” suburban Orange County (staying with Cindy’s family), I force myself to find the benefits and joys of being in the suburbs. I enjoy the cheap and delicious food, the presence of family, and going to the gym and walking around at the local park.

Make the best out of every situation in your life

How to Stay Inspired and Motivated as a Photographer in the Suburbs - YouTube

Thus another lesson I’ve learned:

Regardless of your living or life situation, always extract the maximum benefits of your situation.

That means, be grateful for your upsides, benefits, and positive aspects. Disregard or ignore what you perceive to be a downside or negative.

The benefits of living at home

How to Live a Happier Life: Live a More Active Life - YouTube

Funny enough, one of the things I enjoy most about being “settled down” in a more suburban environment is the ability to having access to a gym, with a squat rack, and the ability to do deadlifts. If I had my choice, I would always have convenient access to a gym.

But when I’m traveling or on the road, I don’t have access to a gym. So instead, I force myself to innovate and make the best out of my situation. I do more pushups, find parks to do chin-ups, and more lunges and one legged squats. I find new stretches and dynamic calisthenics to keep my muscles and mind fit.

Sometimes when traveling, I find myself longing for a gym. Now, I desire to always think to myself:

Right now, this present moment, is the best possible life and situation. Rather than longing for something I don’t have access to right now, I’m going to make the best out of my situation right now.

That means regardless if you’re stuck at home, or traveling abroad — always find joy in your present situation.

If you’re stuck in the office or at home

Practical ideas:

  1. If you’re bored at work, don’t desire to travel or be somewhere else. Rather than feeling miserable, figure out how to use that downtime to your best advantage. Use that time when you’re bored at work to blog, research, come up with new ideas, learn how to program, or even write poetry in a text editor (for your boss not to catch you). Be sneaky and sly; use Microsoft Excel or your email client to write your novel, in bits and pieces.
  2. Use your commute to take street photos. If stuck in a car, take photos when you’re at a red light (safely). Or use your commuting time to come up with ideas (audio dictate them as voice recordings, or write them in your phone on Evernote). Or listen to empowering podcasts or music.
  3. Use the best time you have in the morning (before work) to do your creative work. To start waking up early, force yourself to sleep early. In the evenings, take really hot baths (finishing with an icy cold shower) to pass out. Or take melatonin if you have trouble sleeping.
Traveling is more fun when it is cheap.

KYOTO-UJI to OSAKA Photography Diary v1 - YouTube

When it comes to traveling, it doesn’t have to be expensive, and you don’t need to go far.

For example, in Southern California, a simple southwest flight to Mexico City was phenomenal. I loved going to Portland, Seattle on the west coast. For Americans, go to New Orleans —one of the most underrated places to travel to in the world (I prefer NOLA over Paris).

New Orleans, 2015

Or you can just take your car, and drive to the neighboring city. The purpose isn’t to go really really far in traveling —the opportunity of traveling is to reset your brain, to explore novelty and variation, randomness and chance, in order to find new sources of inspiration, ideas, and concepts.

Red shirt and green background. Low perspective shot. New Orleans, woman and deer. Shot at -1 exposure compensation on RICOH GR II When possible, live abroad

Another idea:

Traveling can be tiring. Whenever possible, live abroad instead of just traveling from one destination to another. For example, living in Vietnam for a year was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had. I was able to learn how to speak Vietnamese, live a new lifestyle, and truly soak in the culture.

Cindy with kiss on eye. Shot inside hotel room. Saigon, 2017

If you desire to live abroad, realize you can always quit your job for a year or so, live abroad, then probably just get another job when you’re back home. Places I’d recommend include Saigon, Hanoi, Bangkok, which all have great coffee shops, great food, and are affordable to live in.

Create stuff while you’re traveling

JAPAN Street Photography by ERIC KIM - YouTube

Ultimately for me, when you’re traveling, the point isn’t to just have novel experiences, eat good food, and go sight seeing. Rather, traveling is a chance for you to reflect, meditate, and ultimately CREATE!

When you travel, bring your iPad, tablet, camera, phone, or laptop. Whatever tools you need to write, draw, sketch, reflect, program, photograph, come up with ideas, and make stuff. This is why making photos while you’re traveling is much more rewarding than just eating good food and shopping (passive activities).


Bring along a journal or diary during your travels, to reflect on your life— if you’re happy what direction your life is going, etc.

Start a blog when you’re abroad to record, document, and capture your experiences, thoughts, and photos. Publish your ideas publicly, rather than just letting them die on your hard drive, or evaporating into the digital ether on the cloud.

Don’t delay traveling Osaka, 2018 #cindyproject

So my thoughts summed up:

  1. Travel to open up your mind, come up with new ideas, and ultimately to make more stuff, and create more stuff.
  2. Traveling doesn’t need to be expensive. Find cheap flights on kayak.com and stay at cheap Airbnb apartments, cook at home, or buy discounted food. Eating expensive food and staying at fancy hotels is overrated and gets boring.
  3. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to travel, always make the best use of whatever situation you have in life.

Be bold, be brave. Don’t be afraid of traveling. To be honest, most of the world speaks English now. If you have a smartphone, you got google maps, google translate, etc. It is so easy to travel now.

Laundry machines urban landscape. Osaka, 2018

Also don’t delay your travels. Don’t wait until you’re 65+ and retired. You might not be in good mental or physical health then.

Never stop exploring!

Travel Photography
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POLITE. Osaka, 2018

To me, true joy in photography isn’t finding inspiration when you’re traveling or in exotic places. Rather, it is about finding joy all around you — finding inspiration to shoot in your everyday life, regardless of how ordinary or mundane your everyday life may be.

1. Shoot colors Blue cardboard. Osaka, 2018

You don’t need to shoot exotic subject matter. Just find interesting colors to shoot.

Look for simple color combinations, hues which attract your eyes, or any vibrant colors which you want to shoot.

Blue Nike shoe

Look for colorful things, like colorful objects, colorful shoes, colorful signs. Manmade colors, or colors in nature.

Green and red veggies, against a red background.

Red and green (Gucci colors) are a nice color combination.

Shoot colors at night:

Orange and green at night.

Look for colorful things when shooting urban landscapes:

Blue and red colors. Osaka. 2018 Blue and yellow urban landscape. Osaka, 2018 Red, yellow, blue signage. Osaka, 2018

Or look for colorful gritty textures:

Red and yellow texture. Osaka, 2018 2. Leading lines
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As of 2018, here is my favorite travel street photography equipment:


I think the best travel photography camera is the RICOH GR II. My rationale: the smaller, lighter, and more compact your camera, the easier it is to carry with you everywhere you go, and thus you will take more photos. And the more photos you shoot, the more prolific and productive you will be as a photographer, and the happier you will be.

Make sure to get an ERIC KIM Neck Strap for the RICOH GR II, and always carry your RICOH with you everywhere you go, around your neck, to never miss another ‘decisive moment‘ in your photography,

Read my RICOH GR II Review >

Camera Backpack: Think Tank Photo Perception 15

I’ve gone through dozens of camera bags and backpacks, and I’ve found the best bag for travel is the ThinkTank Perception 15. I’ve had mine for around 2-3 years, and everything is just perfect. The size (fits under the seat of an airplane), there is room for my laptop and iPad Pro 10.5, compartments for my RICOH GR II and GoPro, room for clothes, and compartments for my chargers, and other equipment.

I’ve traveled the world with this bag, and can fit everything I need in just this one bag, and so can you.

What's in My Bag for Japan for 2 Weeks - YouTube

Clothing Doing yoga // Outlier Men’s Merino Wool Shirt, Merino Wool Leggings

For clothing, just wear ‘all black everything’– less stress, and less worrying about matching. Also black shows less dirt (or in-case you spill coffee on yourself).

I also am a huge proponent of merino wool — which stays dry, warm, and cool when you need it to. It is more expensive, but totally worth it. And you don’t need more than 2x of anything.

Also when your clothes are dirty, just wash them in the sink/shower with shampoo, wring them, and hang-dry them.

Shirt: OUTLIER NYC Merino Wool T-Shirt (Crew Neck)

My friend Kevin bought me the OUTLIER NYC Merino Wool T-Shirt (Crew Neck) and I have literally worn it everyday for the last year. Because it is merino wool, it wicks sweat (doesn’t smell), and also is quite warm when it is cold. Merino wool is my favorite new discovery– it is the ultimate material for almost all clothing. The cut, size, and length of the shirt is perfect. Generally the downside of using wool is that it is itchy, but merino wool isn’t. The finer the merino wool, the less itchy.

Another good option: the Minus33 Merino Wool Men’s T-Shirt.

If you plan on traveling, you can literally get by with just 1 merino wool t-shirt.

Pants: Merino Wool Leggings + gym shorts (black)

For pants, I just wear Merino Wool Leggings (imagine yoga pants for men), paired with black athletic gym shorts (to hide your junk). To me it is the ultimate: super flexible, lightweight, and super comfortable. After discovering this is an option — I don’t think I will ever wear jeans again when traveling (too heavy, inflexible, and uncomfortable). The leggings are good for winter/summer.

I currently wear the MERIWOOL Men’s Merino Wool Midweight Baselayer Bottom.

Socks: Merino Wool ‘Darn Tough Socks’

Socks are essential when traveling– I recommend the ‘Darn Tough’ brand, and merino wool (they stink a lot less, and are warm in cold weather, and cool in warm weather).

For a shorter cut in warmer weather, I wear the Darn Tough Men’s No Show light, or the hiking version.

Underwear: ExOfficio Boxer Brief

I’ve been wearing the ExOfficio Boxer Briefs the last 5+ years. Comfortable, good fit, durable, and quick-dry. Highly highly recommended.

Shoes: Nike Freerun Flyknit RN

Review of the Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit for Street Photography - YouTube

The Nike Freerun Flyknit RN: Super light, flexible, and they look cool. My favorite shoe for photography and travel.

Related article: What is the best shoe for photography? >

Nike Freerun Flyknit RN Devices

Typically the fewer devices you travel with, the better.

Tablet: iPad Pro 10.5 Inch FREE Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Street Photography: How to Overcome Fears of Photographing Strangers

The iPad Pro 10.5 Inch is definitely worth it, and a worthy update if you have an iPad Air (or older tablet). I’ve been using it with Lightroom CC iPad App and the Apple Lightning SD card reader with huge success. Super fast, light, and has helped simplify and speed up my photography workflow.

Review of new iPad Adobe Lightroom CC - YouTube

How to Import Photos to iPad - Lightning SD Card Camera - YouTube

Laptop: Any Apple MacBook Laptop

If possible, don’t travel with a laptop. Just stick with your phone, tablet– lighter is better.

If you are gonna travel with a laptop, just travel with a MacBook Air or the new (thin) MacBook Pro. Lighter is always better.

Headphones: Beats X

To travel light, I am starting to recommend traveling with light in-ear and noise isolating headphones. Why? Less weight, less bulk, and easier.

I like the Beats X headphones: they have good bass, are comfortable, bluetooth/wireless is convenient, and they have really good noise isolation (just like wearing earplugs). Battery life is pretty good, and you can charge them using the Apple lightning cable.

Lightweight photography travel principles
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Dear friend,

I just wanted to give you a life update from Osaka, Japan (where we are living the next month or so):

Why are you in Osaka? Cindy and Osaka river in background.

The first question:

“What are you doing in Osaka?”

Currently Cindy is working on her Ph.D in Vietnamese History (the history of the Vietnamese-French Library) and is in her intense writing phase of her dissertation. When we were living in Vietnam, she was doing the research phase of her Ph.D. — gathering materials, photocopying/scanning documents, and coming up with ideas.

Cindy at work inside our Osaka AirBnb apartment

For the next year or so, she is going to write her dissertation, and the great thing is that she can write from anywhere. We personally love being in Japan, because it helps us focus to work. We spent about two weeks with her family in Orange County, which was great (eating great food, spending quality time with the family, and producing a new video course on Photography Entrepreneurship which will launch in May). But the downside of living at home is that it is hard to focus on doing work (spending time with family is too much fun).

How to Stay Inspired and Motivated as a Photographer in the Suburbs - YouTube

Why work in Japan? Cindy sitting down inside our Osaka AirBnb Apartment

Reasons for living/working in Japan:

  1. Quiet: Compared to Vietnam, where construction is loud everywhere, Japan is a quiet paradise.
  2. Convenient: Family marts (convenient stores) everywhere, day-to-day living is simple. Living in the suburbs, it is difficult to even get groceries without having to drive somewhere.
  3. Very walkable: We love walking — it is one of my favorite joys, which is also conducive to street photography.
  4. Novelty: The culture is very different in Japan compared to the rest of the world.
  5. Food: We love Japanese food (ramen, yakitori, sushi, etc). Also buying meats at the local grocery stores are very cheap, high quality– which makes it easy to cook at home.
  6. Drinks: We love Japanese beverages (green tea/matcha) which is very cheap here.

OSAKA II // BEATS by KIM - YouTube

Airbnb in Osaka

Osaka AirBnB Apartment GoPro POV Tour VLOG - YouTube

Currently we are staying in an airbnb apartment in Osaka, and while it is small, we have everything we need here.

We have our coffee (we travel with a ‘Clever‘ dripper), green matcha tea, cacao powder for hot cocoa (highly recommend the ‘Navitas Cacao Powder‘ on Amazon), and our devices to do work.

It is pretty amazing– I am super inspired by how effective the Japanese use small spaces.

For example, the kitchen is tiny, yet you can fit everything in there. All you need is a microwave, an electric hot plate for cooking, a tiny fridge, and a hot water kettle and you’re good.

Even for their bathroom, the faucet for the sink is connected with the shower, which saves so much space.

For sleeping, we have fold-up futon mattresses, which we sleep on in the evening. When we wake up, we fold it up and put the blankets in a corner, which gives us more free space.

Which makes me wonder– how much space do you really need in a home?

I actually prefer living in smaller quarters, and in a small apartment. Everyday life is easier. We wake up, and we don’t need to move very far to make our morning coffee. I actually have discovered I quite like being able to live close to the ground, which allows me to do lots of stretching, yoga, and pushups on the floor.

Also the cool thing about our AirBnb in Osaka, we are right next to the fish market (Kuromon Ichiba Market), which allows us to get fresh sushi everyday (everyday at around 6pm, there are lots of sushi that we can buy for 50% off!)


KYOTO-UJI to OSAKA Photography Diary v1 - YouTube

Our first week we stayed at a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn/bed and breakfast) in Uji, Kyoto (one of our favorite places).

Ryokan. Uji, 2018

Why do we love Uji so much?

Cindy inside our Ryokan, looking out towards the water.

Well first of all, the green tea/matcha is amazing there, and we love the quiet-zen of the area. It is a super small town, and walking by the river is such a blissful experience. Words cannot describe the amazing sound of the rushing water, and the peace of just looking at the mountains and the greenery there. If you ever have a chance to visit Japan, definitely stay in Uji for a few days, and make sure to stay at a ‘Ryokan’ (where you can also enjoy the ‘onsen’– the traditional Japanese bath, which is the best way to relax and fall asleep at night).

Uji Diary Pictures >

Our future itinerary

Anyways, this is the basic blueprint of our next few months:

Current/Future Projects here in Osaka

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