29 August 2018

Last Days in Central America

El Delfin Hotel and Restaurant. Salute!
Tomorrow, I leave Lake Atitlan (still in Guatemala) and head to Antigua (also still in Guatemala) for a few days. These will be my last few days in Central America for a while. To be cliche, it seems like only yesterday that I arrived in the region with my model, @Kayci.Lee in Nicaragua and explored a few countries with her in January before she left early Feb. Then, I thought I'd be in Xela for only a few months, but that turned out to be six months instead. I thought I'd head up through more of Central America and make my way down into Colombia. I chose however stay put in one spot, save some money, and fly to Colombia.

So in September, I fly to Cartagena, Colombia and start a new adventure in places I have never been. Never been to South America at all. I've been throughout Central America quite a few times. I started out in Panama (twice) in my Army days and then for the first time as a civilian for 6 weeks with my friend, Heather in 2012. I came back in 2013 for 3 months alone and then again for 3 months with my girlfriend, Tracie in 2015.  This makes my 4th civilian visit here and also by far the longest I've traveled alone. No girlfriend. No model. Just solo. Eight months and its still taking a bit to get used to that.

Many thanks to my new friend, hotel and restaurant owner, Delfin (left) who took me up the mountain for sunrise pics.

So now it's off to new places. I don't expect Colombia to be terribly different from Central America, but I know it's not the same. Culturally and climate-wise, I can only assume similarities but I've been told many things about Colombia and its beauty, so I'm excited. Even today, in a barber shop, eyes widened as I corrected some assumptions that I was headed back to the states with this being my last day here in Lake Atitlan. Stories in English and Spanish poured out in abundance at the mention of Colombia. Once guy was disheartened when I confessed that I would not see the more southwestern city of Cali on this trip. My travels will keep me more northern this time around. I won't likely get further west than Bogota. From there, it's onto boating up the Amazon River in Brazil, up through Peru, and into Ecuador.

I think I have most everything I need going forward. Most importantly having a laptop I can finally edit on was chief concern. I left my macro lens back home in Texas. If I need macro work, I can use my 55mm with the extension tubes. I'll have to wait til this December for the Sigma 20mm 1.4 for Sony cameras. It finally became available right as I left stateside because, of course it would. An option could be to replace my Sony 16-35 f/4 with that and travel only with the Sony 55mm 1.8 and the Sigma 20mm 1.4. Yes, I know I forfeit anything telephoto, but you can't bring everything when you have to carry it all on your back. I can't say I'm still sold on the drone option, but I'll likely pursue it anyway. Again, weight is of primary concern. The drones are lightweight, until you consider everything else you need with it like spare batteries, spare parts, etc. Then  combine that with all the other "spare" stuff you already have for all your other systems. Traveling as a photog gets heavy real quick.

Lake City of San Pedro la Laguna sitting at the base of the San Pedro Volcano

For now, I have been here in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan for the last 10 days and I have to get some packing done. Tomorrow afternoon, I should be in the old colonial town of Antigua. All eyes are on Colombia at this point. In the next blog post, I think I shall touch on the new Nikon Z-systems and my feelings on them and Canon picking up the mirrorless banner.

Central Park, San Pedro la Laguna Lake Atitlan

13 August 2018

When I Found Out About the Fisher House

Standing in front of The Fisher House of Las Vegas

I've been remiss on giving props to an organization that assists soldiers and their families, so let me take a post to correct that right now.

Back in October of last year, I had to get my back worked on. Radio Frequency Ablation, a procedure to kill the nerves in my lower back... L-1 through L-5 using radio frequency heat directed down through needles onto the nerve. Since those nerves can be regenerative, I was told that I might need to have the procedure done at least once...maybe two more times to where those nerves cannot regenerate. That was October of 2017. By February 2018, I was feeling that lower back pain in full force once again. So when I came back stateside from Guatemala in March for my mother's birthday, I made arrangements for the upcoming JUNE to return again and get the second procedure on my back.

The problem though was cost. I am backpacking abroad and coming back stateside to stay in hotels and renting cars for a few weeks is not cheap. Not to mention, my daughter and granddaughter were also coming to help look after me for a week. So despite the fact that I'd be there for a little over two weeks to recover and for follow-up appointments, my main concern was for the week that my kids were there.

8 injection sites to burn nerves

That's where the Fisher House comes in. I had no idea until someone at the hospital told me about them, but its an added, but private benefit for soldiers and their families separate from the VA. Surprisingly, they are located right in front of the main VA hospital of Las Vegas. I never knew what that building was. I know now.

The assistance they provide is actually not for the veteran themselves, but for the veteran's family and care providers who help take care of the veterans while they are hospitalized. My procedure entitled me for one week of stay in their facility. I say one week, but after my stay was complete they offered me to stay for the remainder of my time in Vegas, which was to be another week to 10 days. I declined the offer because my daughter had already departed and I did not want to take advantage of this benefit. I was so honored at the services they provided and already felt indebted to this organization.

Let me outline the services a little bit. We got a room, of course but it was in a state of the art facility that was merely two years old...well-kept and well-maintained. They also had kitchen facilities that were well-stocked with food. If I can recall correctly, there were 4 industrial class refrigerators and two freezers of the same quality. The cabinets and cupboards were filled and stocked with food, plates and dishes, pots and pans, snacks, fruit, etc. You could have anything you wanted. They just asked that you be respectful of others and cleaned up after yourself.

There was a family room that had board games, videos, an X-Box, cable TV, and a back patio. There as a front seating area with plenty of books and magazines, and a large dinning room. I could tell that there was a mutual respect of all those that were guests at the Fisher House. Everyone that we met when we got there greeted us, introduced themselves, and showed us around. They asked me about my procedure and told me of theirs. Some had been there for months, while a husband and in one case a wife was being treated across the way at the VA Hospital. Incidentally, I found myself doing the same exact thing toward the end of my stay, now that I was a veteran of the Fisher House. I greeted the new guests coming, showed them around, told them how awesome the place was. My daughter helped with demonstrating how some of the appliances worked.

Not trying to look mean. Just got a mouthful of sunflower seeds.

Many of the guests were much more senior than myself. Everyone marveled at my granddaughter's hair. I actually think she was getting fatigued on being told how cute she was. It was especially hard on her being the only child there and having to "keep it down" all the time. So after our stay, I took her camping up in Utah to let off some of that energy. Granted, a kangaroo rat brought everything to an halt around mid-night, so we didn't get to actually sleep camp, but the hiking as fun. I may have challenged my back a little more than I expected. This procedure was much more painful and it took much longer to recover than before. The last time was mere days and I was good to go. This go around had me still feeling pain for weeks after. Its been a month and a half and I'm still making adjustments. I sincerely hope it takes this time and I don't require a third.

At any rate, I definitely give props to the Fisher House for being there for myself and my family. They saved me a ton of money and helped me feel at home. All I had to worry about was my recovery and not financial strain or anything else. So, my thanks to the Fisher House for all of that. I'm back in Guatemala and ready for my next venture in a couple weeks in Colombia.

30 July 2018

More About Planning My Trip Up the Amazon River

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” 
– Sir Richard Burton

In March, I wrote about traveling up the Amazon River and at the time, I had no real knowledge on how I was going to do it. I'm happy to report I've come closer to some solutions for the "planning stage" that are viable, practical, and a most-likely scenario.

So I'll start this South America venture, early September in Colombia, flying into Cartagena, playing around there and up north, before coming back through Medellin and Bogota. The plan is to be there for about a month. Now my previous problem was figuring out where I'd begin the Amazon trip and here is what I have figured out.

1. I'm not going to do ALL of the Amazon River. Just half of it.
2. I'm starting in the heart of the Amazon Rain Forest in Manaus.
3. I'm going UP the Amazon instead of DOWN.
4. October is a good time to do it, just before the heavy rains hit.

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

So here's the theory on all that. Once you get past Manaus, the Amazon really opens up when it merges with the Rio Negro. You're talking 5 miles or more across and when you're going downstream, the boats tend to stay in the center to save fuel. Its hard to tell the difference from being out at sea when you've got a couple miles between you and the shoreline. Conversely, going upstream, they stay closer to the banks to avoid the faster moving opposing currents in the center. Starting in Manaus and going upstream is still a 1500 mile trip over close to 10 days depending on the boat. Manaus is a million population strong city in the heart of the rainforest. I think it'll be a good decision to explore it for a week and find my boat there.

My initial plan was to fly there from Cartagena, but that's an $800 one way ticket that can take up to 30 hours. I've found another route that splits that cost to less than half that, by flying out of Bogota to either Rio de Janeiro or Sau Paulo first. I can stay a few days there and then fly from either of those cities to Manaus. Flight time is greatly reduced to maybe 5 hours total direct flight time. I like this option way better. Point goes to "Research"!

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” 
– Ibn Battuta

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

From Manaus, is where it gets a bit tricky. The boat ride itself does not seem very fun. I think you have to MAKE it fun. Hopefully, I'll have a model with me to shoot to help with that. Don't ask me who or how, cuz I have no clue at this point. On top of that, the plan was to boat to Iquitos, Peru and stay in a that treehouse resort they have for a few nights and proceed on upriver into Ecuador. However, I just realized, that price for $700 double occupancy for 3 days/2 nights is PER PERSON, which is ridiculous.  $900 for that same deal if you are by yourself. I can't see it. Not as I presently understand it, anyways. I have to check into that a little more. Interestingly enough, at that point, I will have traversed borders via plane, bus, walking, and then by boat. Nope...nope...I've done boat before. Forgot about Belize to Guatemala. So now I have yet to cross a border by...um, subway? No, HORSE!

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

21 July 2018

Finally Editing Again

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley
"Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world."
~ Gustave Flaubert

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley
I'm grateful that I'm finally able to edit photos and work on a decent laptop. As I mentioned in the last blog post, I ordered the Gigabyte Aero 15X. Its beautiful, lightweight, fast, and I'm very happy with it. I've almost finished with customizing it to the way I like a laptop to work. I've got Adobe loaded on it, but I've only installed a single Plugin of the usual ones I normally work with. If I'm going to have anything, it's gotta be the Nik Collection that is now being distributed under DxO Labs, who took it over from Google. I still wonder if DxO Labs will really continue to develop this plugin or just roll it into their own PhotoLab editing software. They have already incorporated the Nik U-Point technology into PhotoLab. Nik is now available for $70.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Of course, that also means I have a lot of edits to catch up on. I can tell you the feeling of 8 months worth of shots to even look through feels daunting and slightly overwhelming. At the same time though, there are some that I've eagerly been awaiting to get to work on. Namely, these shots you see here of @kayci.lee from January as she traveled with me from Nicaragua up to Guatemala. The horse ranch shoot was definitely my favorite time of her entire visit. It was quite remarkable to get her up on those Andalusian horses and get some shots. @kayci.lee 's efforts paid off handsomely to make that contact to get us access to that ranch.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
~ Mark Twain

Shooting on Nicaragua's Little Corn Island didn't work out as well as we had hoped. Despite being there during the peak of the dry season, somehow a weather phenomenon caused a deluge to drench us during our entire 5-day stay. Our clothes never dried out even a bit and actually began to mildew by the time we left. A few days in the hot El Salvadorean sun fixed that problem. These things happen and sometimes seemingly often. We stayed in 10 different hotels/hostels over almost 5 weeks. Something is bound to go wrong at some point. We ran into a 5 day storm during dry season. This is where they say you have to take the good with the bad. You can plan all you want but sometimes things are out of your control and you either roll with the punches or you'll spend your days frustrated and a great trip can end up fraught with mishaps because you're not flexible enough to maintain a good attitude. Plan as best you can and then just do your best. After that, deal with what's before you and make the best of things. The world is not obligated to be considerate of your itinerary.

Yes, we are watching Ice Age 3 in the last photo. You can't tell me you wouldn't have also taken that shot.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

11 July 2018

Five Older Cameras that are Still Worth a Look

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley
I've been saying I was going to write about this for months. There are a few good cameras out there that have been UP-dated, but not quite OUT-dated. Know what I mean? Wanna find a good used camera but not sure on where to start? Or maybe you already have ONE good camera but need a good deal on a second body. Then again, you could be like me and already have TWO good bodies, but you keep running into situations where you need a good camera that you don't mind so much if it gets beat up or wet.

Canon 7D

The Canon 7D came out in the fall of 2009 and remained in production for 5 years. I can't recall exactly when I bought mine,  but I'll speculate sometime around 2010, which sounds about right. This camera was built like a tank and like a tank, it was hard to kill, short of dropping it in the pool or actually running it over...both of which I've seen done.

The main reason you'll still enjoy this thing is that it takes a great picture with its 18mp APS-C sensor and could shoot at 8 frames per second. Even in 2018, this camera will still be more than most people will ever need in a camera. The shutter on this thing is rated at 150,000 actuations. You can do a shutter count on a perspective camera and you'll likely see you still have a long shutter life remaining.

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Canon 60D

This camera has gotten a lot of use, so make sure you get it checked out or ensure it comes with some sort of certification/warranty with your purchase. Just about every 60D I have ever seen looks worn and used and that's why if you can find one and its working...get it. This camera hold up to a beating. This is an especially good camera if you're looking to video. It can do 1080p at 30fps or 720 at 60. The LCD rotates out to help you get your shot at low or high angles.

Sony a6000

Now this is the first mirrorless camera on this list and it came out mid-2014, so its 4 years old. Get this, though. Its STILL in production! Yes. Sony has upgraded this model twice and the 3rd model release is expected any month now. I'd say its the best bet on this entire list. Incredibly light-weight, with a 24mp cropped sensor and blasting at 11 frames per second. And the price is around $600 new. Find a used one for half that.

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Nikon D7000

A close 2nd to the Canon 7D, the Nikon D7000 is a very capable system to work with. I love the dual memory card slots and the battery lasts forever, seems like. At 16mp, you can get some great astrophotography with an ISO as high as 6400. I don't recommend the expanded ISO modes so much though. It also has a built in Intervelometer which Nikon started adding in to several camera bodies at this point. It takes a picture just as good as the Canon 7D.

Nikon D3400

Now, the above recommended cameras are all what you might call, prosumer-level positioned for photo-enthusiasts. The D3400 was made inexpensively for photo beginners and is a consumer-level product. What sets this camera apart is the sensor. At this point in 2016, Nikon came out like mad with a well-made 24mp sensor. No one had ever delivered something with that kind or resolution on a consumer level product. New, this camera was about $600 with up to a $100 off around the holidays. You can find them for $200 used and the camera is only 2 years old.

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Bonus: Fujifilm X-E2

The X-E2 is another mirrorless camera that made its debut late 2013. Its uses more dials than buttons and switches. There's a dial for shutter speed and the aperture dial is usually on the lens, depending on the lens. It is my most favorite camera on this entire list. Mine was submerged in the Pacific. THE PACIFIC!! And it still came back to life. You can't do that with a Canon 7D. Fuji uses a totally different sensor technology that most other manufacturers, so the overall look is different. It actually has more of a film personality and feel.

Its built like a Rangefinder style camera and the silver edition is terribly beautiful with a retro Leica kind of style. For a cropped 16mp sensor, I was stunned when I did a fashion shoot with it and compared some of my images to my 36mp Nikon D800E. Amazingly, I would have had zero added benefit had I done that shoot with the Nikon instead of the X-E2. I know. It makes no sense, but the results proved the worth of that Fuji to me.

12 June 2018

Why You Don't Need to Take a Picture of EVERYTHING!!

"Art is the elimination of the unnecessary."
 –Pablo Picasso
Absolutely nothing fast about 12 shots per roll, Hasselblad 501c film camera with prism viewfinder
There is this one scene in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" between actors Sean Penn and Ben Stiller that epitomizes a concept that I think is often forgotten among photographers as well as people just taking pics. Not every memory needs to be captured by a camera. Not every moment needs to be immortalized on a "memory" stick. There are some instances when the camera does more harm than good. To paraphrase Sean Penn's character in the embedded video, "The camera can be a distraction." And that's what I want to talk about a little bit here.

I've had a few moments like this when I chose not to bring my camera on a trip. I actually got vilified mainly because, "I was wasting opportunities..." and "I may never get to return to this place..." and so forth. That's not the way I looked at it. There have been more than one occasion of these instances, but in this particular situation, I wanted to enjoy my time with a friend who wasn't a photographer and I didn't want to spend all my time "needing to get the shot". Otherwise, I would have ended up neglecting the companionship for which I traveled there for in the first place.

Simplicity, Copyright 2010 Terrell Neasley

Here's another reason you don't need to take a picture of everything. Petapixel.com recently posted on their popular blog an article by the British Psychological Society that they titled, "Simply Snapping a Photo Harms Your Memories of Things, Study Finds". Now their study requires a bit more research, I'm sure. They use a base their finding, per the article, based on a sample size of 50 undergraduate students. 5000 students would have been more convincing, but the findings are nonetheless comparable to my own experiences, albeit not as measurable scientifically.

Put the damn camera down! I've talked about this before. Look around yourself and just enjoy the moment for what it is. At the very least, slow down. Get a few shots and stop. Blasting on rapid fire mode trying to capture everything tends to make you lose the gift of the memory and here are two reasons why this makes sense:

1. Repetitively speaking, your mind won't feel the need to remember something you know is already recorded when you establish this as a habit. It takes the work away from the brain. No need to commit a visual to long term memory when you think you've captured every aspect of it with 312 shots of one friggin' scene.

2. Odds are, you're never gonna go back and look at those pics. They'll stay on your SD card or computer hard drive. And there's a stronger propensity that nobody else is going to want to look at those pics even if you did pull them out. Think about it. NOBODY CARES! Who wants to sit and mull through all 1,538 of your vacation photos. After a while, even you'll get tired of the 11th image of the same scene and start fast forwarding through to find the good ones. And if you look like you're bored, why should anybody else sit through them.

Copyright 2012 Terrell Neasley

"It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential."
 –Bruce Lee

Here is one more reason why you won't remember so well and why the camera can be a distraction. When the camera comes between you and a memory, think about why you actually see versus what the camera sees. When you take in a moment without the camera, you have almost a 180 hemisphere of sight in front of you. Not only that, but ALL of your senses can become engaged in that moment. You remember the aroma of the honeysuckle that has completely engulfed the fence that your kids are playing in a mud puddle by. You can hear the low hum of all the bees and wonder if you should have the kids play elsewhere, but rationalize that you are being over-protective until the youngest one grabs a bee and is stung.

Copyright 2012 Terrell Neasley

All that makes for a story and engraves that memory in your brain forever. You are totally engrossed in that moment and are capturing information using all your senses. Now try to think of that same scene but now, close off all your senses except for your sight, because that's the only one you are paying attention to. Then take an empty paper towel roll and cut it in half. Now use each half to see through. Can you visualize that? How much information is actually being recorded to your brain? Not much! You've limited yourself to tunnel vision and sounds and smells have no relevancy any more.

And show some respect, like my friend Marci in a museum. Do you really need to take pics of someone else's art? Put the camera down. Use your eyes. Record it to your brain. Its not your responsibility to have something to show the next guy. Let them come to the museum on their own and experience it in person. Your job isn't to record and share with the world for sake of posterity. If anything, come back with a story! Tell that! Motivate others to visit that museum!

Shoot less. Otherwise you cheat yourself.

04 June 2018

Kicked Off Instagram AND The Gigabyte Aero 15X

Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley
So, Instagram didn't like my last post. My profile on there does not exist anymore. Can't access my account. Nothing. Just gone. Well, that's their game and as a private entity, they have the right to do just that. And I have every right to say Fuck'em. They have 100% lost my respect, because respect would have been, "Hey we're sorry you feel this way. What can we do to help make your Instagram experience better?" At that point, we can still talk and I get to feel like a citizen consumer of their product. And if we don't reach a conclusive mutual agreement, then OK. Part and go separate ways. No harm. No foul.

But that's not what they did. I was dictated to without the ability to question a thing or even get clarification to better understand. Shadow Banning my images isn't in their Community Guidelines either. I can't work with anybody like that and simply won't. For the future, I'll move on without Instagram in my life and I'm absolutely cool with that. I still have my goals and I will achieve them in a different manner. I'm just getting off that platform earlier than expected. This will give me time to research my options more thoroughly, so I'm good with having that bridge burned.

Moving on...

Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Yeah, so I ordered my laptop yesterday. Going with the $2300, 15.6" Gigabyte Aero 15X, with the 6-core i7-8750 processor, 16GB of RAM, half a TB of NVMe SSD, Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU, and a 1080p display. I wanted to wait another week or two for it, but inventory everywhere is low. Other versions/variations of this laptop model suddenly were not available any longer so when I saw this one with a much sooner date of arrival, I jumped. The 15X is the middle version of this model. There's a 15W for $2000 which is the one I wanted. Its the exact specs of the 15X only with a GTX 1060 graphics card. No date on when it gets in...only "soon". Then there's the 15X, but with a 4k display for $2500...mid-July expected delivery for that one. Nope...had to jump on what was available. If the 4k version was what was available, I'd have pulled the trigger on that one.

Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley

The MS Surface Book 2 was less power but still more money. It was a whole grand more money for a lesser processor AND lessor GPU. I didn't need the removable screen. I hated the fulcrum hinge and I just couldn't see that it was a better deal. Its hard to believe the Surface is charging a thousand dollars more...and for what? If it was worth it, I could see it. Maybe it is for you, you should check it out. I need a laptop to edit photos and videos on and I think the Gigabyte Aero 15X best suited my needs.

Now we'll see after I get my hands on it as to whether it was a good decision or not, but I feel good about it. But that won't be for a while yet. I'll definitely be doing a review on it, but I won't have it til sometime late June. Then I'll load it up with my much needed software and get to work. Adobe for sure will get loaded, but what else? I used a ton of plug-ins on my desktop and I'm not looking for the same 'ol, same ol'. Its been years and I'd love to change it up a bit. Capture One, maybe...? I love the fact that its easily upgradeble, but I'll wait til around Christmas to add another 16GB of RAM (2 slots for max 32GB) and another 2TB SSD for a total of 2.5TBs, since there's one more slot for another SSD.

And with that, Papa's gotta get a brand new bag. My current Thinktank Retrospective 30 won't hold a 15.6" laptop. So I'm going with the biggest messenger shoulder bag that gets the job done. I don't need anything that looks like I got a boat load of cameras in it, so I'm sticking with Thinktank again and getting the Urban Disguise 60 v3.0. I'll be doing a review on it as well when I pick it up at B&C Camera in Las Vegas. This along with the Sennheiser AVX and the Osmo Plus will be my main purchases for now. Waiting til the end of the year will be the Mavik Air. Gotta pace myself! The only thing that is also still questionable is the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 E-Mount for Sony lens. There is still no word yet on if it will be available and in stores during my visit back stateside.

Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley

30 May 2018

Instagram and the Art Nude

Art Model, Susan ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." Well, that's what they say. Is it true? Hell, naw. When you love something you'd better work your ass of at it or you won't be loving it for long. So the work continues. You get better or you stagnate and if you stagnate you die. So what is it that I love. I love the art nude and I love travel. Its pretty much all I ever want to shoot. Making a living at just that can be challenging. How do you make a living with nudes outside of porn? And there is no shortage of travel photogs out there. In fact, I'd say there is a stark surplus of shooters traveling all over the world and returning with highly interesting imagery.

When I first turned professional after losing my job at the Nevada State Treasurer's Office, I did so after a long deliberation. For the first month I was unemployed, I did absolutely nothing related to job hunting or planning for my future. I enjoyed myself and relaxed. On day 32, I decided I'd turn pro in photo. I had all the gear I needed already and I was definitely good enough. One thing I knew for sure was that I did not want to be like every other photog swinging a lens. So I spent Month 2, five days a week, bending my brain on all the possibilities of what niche I'd carve for myself. By the end of that month, I only needed to begin my work and  execute my plan.

Anonymous Art Model, ©2014 Terrell Neasley 

And so this is where I find myself once again. Travel and Art Nude photography is the WHAT. And that's why I sit here in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala in my "penthouse" apartment that I've been renting for the last 3 months figuring out the HOW. My plan is to use this as a staging point til September and at that time,  I'll be ready to continue my adventure as I fly to Colombia. I should have the rest of the gear I need by then with a plan on execution. One of my considerations deals with platforms and that's where Instagram comes in.

I am so pissed with IG. I can't stand the censorship. Actually, there are a lot of things with which I take issue with them, but for now, lets stick to the censoring of my work. I don't know how some pages get away with it, but my profile is constantly getting censored images taken down and I have no clue as to what Community Guidelines were violated. No clue even which pics were deleted at times. No recourse to understand anything. They don't let you contact them so you can't ask questions. No clue if an algorithm is incorrectly targeting my already censored edits. OR, if an anonymous person is reporting my images and they get deleted without due scrutiny. And apparently, after a quick check, I discovered that some of my images have been SHADOW BANNED! They still appear on my profile page where I can see them, but YOU can not see them. You can check to see your's on INSTAGRAM SHADOW BAN TESTER. So I'm not sure if this is the right platform for me anymore.

Art Model, Samantha ©2010 Terrell Neasley

I can't stand being beholden to someone else's sensibilities on what is obscene or offensive to other viewers. I do my work and my art and believe you, me...I plan to misbehave. Some of my artwork leans towards the explicit and I don't know what to tell you... you can simply not look at it if you don;t like it. I won't be offended. Ergo, I need a new platform to display and exhibit my work. VERO, is a possibility but I still have time to search this out. Maybe I'll keep IG solely for the Travel work. I won't make this call until later this fall.

Instagram is only part of my challenge. I've still got to find favorable venues and platforms that won't limit or censor my work. And that means I have to tap into a demographic that appreciates and purchases my art which leaves me with with the task of finding my real audience. Plenty of people are interested in travel photography, visiting places around the world, and living vicariously through those that do in the form of instant access social media. That demographic is easy. A smaller portion of that demographic is interested in seeing a nipple exposed anywhere near a waterfall. And even less want a full frontal nude body "desecrating", what would have otherwise been appropriate imagery to hang on a family wall. I can be a bit obstinate, I know. Because the easy solution is to just stick to the travel landscape and make everybody happy. And that would be great, but it would come at the cost of my own happiness. I can not do that.

Multiple Art Models, ©2013 Terrell Neasley

So for the time being, I keep shooting. Get my gear. (I'll be ordering my laptop soon!) And keep researching, learning, and planning. I'll make my call this fall.

16 May 2018

Why Traveling (Internationally) Seems So Hard - REPOST

**** Originally published July 17, 2015 ****
I thought this was definitely worth a REPOST! Enjoy!!
Couple traveling in Guatemala
"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

I get asked often about why I travel, what its like, and how I do it more times than I'd care to count. I'm amazed at how mysterious so many people think it is. But then again, I'm reminded of the fact that I used to be the exact same way. It's not easy when you can't speak the language. Its too expensive. I have kids or a job that won't let me take the time off. Trust me. I had the exact same thoughts and had a few events and people in my life not helped me change that mentality, I'd still be in the same mindset.

German Art Model traveling through out Central and South America
For me, the military set the ball in motion. My first duty assignment was in Germany. I hail from Texas where being 200 miles or more from home was a rarity and most of those times I exceeded 200 miles, I was still in Texas. I turned 20 in Germany if memory serves. It was a wake-up call and was the first thing or event in my life that let me know people did things differently. During time off, I got to travel around Europe. Eventually other assignments took me to more places and I learned to be in the habit of moving a lot.

German Art Model traveling through out Central and South America
Towards the end of my military career, I stabilized in the city of my last duty station in Tennessee which is where my kids call home. I got to travel from there to Lake Tahoe with a former friend of mine who travels domestically often. I got to see that its not as expensive as I had been lead to believe to arrange flights, hotels, and car rentals if you do it wisely. The advent of the internet and online booking options really aided me in those efforts. And yet, I gradually lost the calling to seek out new life and civilizations. I got bogged down in work and making money.

Through some hiking associations, I met fellow traveler, @Heather Rae Murphy  (www.heatherraemurphy.com/) who took off on her own to Southeast Asia for two months one summer. I couldn't wait til she got back to talk to her about her trip. It was at this point that I realized a few things. Excuses were just that...excuses. I had already been through enough life events to realize I wasn't going out of this life with thoughts of making more money for my employer. I was on the road WITH Heather that next following Summer in Guatemala and Belize. There was one thing in particular that I had to change in my life in order to make these things happen.

Art Model Covenant on Little Corn Island traveling throughout Central America 

Yes. Prioritizing travel was all it took really. Just making the decision to go. Go anywhere! But don't be deluded. You ain't going anywhere til you get that ticket. All the plans you make. All the good intentions and mean-wells do you absolutely no good until you GET THAT TICKET AND PASSPORT! So booking the flight is first. Well at some point before you go, you're gonna have to get a passport if you don't already have one. Plan a trip that is several months away to give yourself some time to make the arrangements. Central America has been the perfect proving grounds. One, its close. Two, its cheap. Three, it eliminates any and every excuse you might have to not travel. As many times as you've flown across the US for the holidays or other family events, you'll pay less in many cases flying internationally to the Central America. So what you can't speak the language. I'm still alive after several trips of being down there. My Spanish is getting better. But I didn't remember much of anything outside of counting to twenty-nine in EspaƱol. Don't be scared of that. I'd wager that 80% of all the travelers I meet do not speak the native language and yet you don't hear of news reports of people dying because of it. But chances are your priorities are probably getting those new J's on your feet. Or maybe trying to find a way to keep those $500 a month car payments up. Or its probably more important to have your Starbucks in the morning. You spend your money on what you are about most. If you cared about traveling, odds are you would be or will soon be traveling.

Art Model Covenant on Little Corn Island
traveling throughout Central America 
"There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million."
~ Walt Streightiff

So you got kids

Children playing in Belize ©2012 Terrell Neasley
Yeah, my kids are grown. Is that an advantage? I won't lie. Yes it is. However... So what?? Bring the kids!! Why not raise 'em on a good wholesome diet of culture variety? You can't tell me how this would be a bad thing unless you are planning a trip to Syria. More likely than not, your kids will also become travelers. Why? Because they'll be used to it and will ALREADY have passports. Many people stay put because they have never applied for a passport. I see kids on the road with their families all the time. Many get raised on sailboats with parents who circumnavigate the world. You know who I meet on the road from other countries traveling by themselves? 18 to 23 year old kids doing extended travel for a few months before they get locked down in jobs and careers. Do you think your 18 year old is ready to cross the Pacific on their own? Well they would be if you took them there before they leave home.

Is it the job?

This is probably a tough one. But then I gotta ask. How important is traveling to you? If your job doesn't understand your need to be off more than a week a year, then...damn. I don't want to tell you you need to find a new job. YOU need to tell you that you need to find a new job. America is one of the few countries that still don't understand the value of time off and burn-out prevention. Traveling or not, a well-rounded lifestyle is more beneficial to your health and longevity. Expense reports are not. But honestly, who can tell you to change careers. I follow travel blogs all the time and often hear about husbands/wives, or single people quitting their jobs to follow their hearts.

All I'm saying is this: There are options out there if you look. Plenty of them. But none of them will do you a bit of good until you make the call to prioritize travel with your money and your time. Get the ticket!

Locals in Antigua, Guatemala ©2014 Terrell Neasley

27 April 2018

My Travel Tech Gear... Mainly Sony

Anonymous Art Model, Copyright 2014 Terrell Neasley
I've often been asked lots of questions about my travels and I've run into several amateur and 2 professional photographers in these four months so far. Three or four questions just about always come up and the most persistent ones have to do with my travel photo and tech gear. So I'll take a blog post to detail what I carry and why.


I shoot Sony and I rock with two camera bodies and currently 3 lenses. The body that is pretty much my workhorse is the Sony a6500. It does everything I need. I like the smaller body-style, yet the thing is a powerful beast of a camera. Here...click the hyperlink to check ==> THE SPECS <==. I've got images stabilization and 11 frames per second when I need it. Its weather sealed with a great 24mp sensor. I actually turn off the touch screen functions. Paired with the 16-35mm f/4, it gives me a crop sensored normal perspective zoom.

Art Model Mary, Copyright 2007 Terrell Neasley

My second body is the Sony a7R2. ( ==> THE SPECS <==) Why is this body not my primary, you ask? Its because the majority of the work I'm doing doesn't require the 42 megapixels this camera uses. I save this for the work that will capture my fine art images while the a6500 will take care of my documentary work, which is about 70% of all the shots I take. I almost upgraded this body to the a7R3, but I'm glad that I didn't. At least not yet. Tempting, for sure! But here's the deal. I don't want to upgrade until I also get two new bodies. I don't want to upgrade this camera and then have to carry another battery size. Right now, both my cameras use the same battery so I can interchange them. Upgrading to the a7R3 would mean another set of 6 batteries, minimum, plus two more chargers. Can't say that's a good fit for me at the moment.

Now if I also upgraded my a6500, (which I'm not sure I'd do), the a7III uses the same battery as the a7R3. That's plausible. But even so, I'm STILL not sold on  selling my a6500. That's how much I love this camera. So basically, I'd likely carry THREE bodies, even though that's not a goal. But here's the deal. I'm not entirely sure I'd want the a7III. Its selling like hotcakes, but I think I'd rather hold off to see what Sony does with the a7S3 which is likely due soon. That would suit me better than the a7III. So I wait and practice my patience lessons. At that point, I'll decide what to do with the a6500, especially if the a7s3 is pushing 10fps at a minimum.

Anonymous Art Model, Copyright 2010 Terrell Neasley

As for glass, I'm primarily a prime guy. I mentioned having one zoom, the 16-35mm f/4 already. I'm not upgrading to the 2.8 version because I already get killer shots with this lens. For my purposes, the G-Master version gives me no added benefit. With that, the Sony 55mm f/1.8 is super bad for my portraiture work. The smaller size is more conducive to my travel work. I did not find the 85mm G-Master to be a better lens. The 55 is the best portrait lens I have ever owned even over my Canon 85mm 1.2.

Finally, I have Sony's 90mm f/2.8 Macro lens. There is not a better one on the market, in my opinion. Its one of the sharpest lenses made for DSLR or Mirrorless. And yes, I say that knowing that I've been quoted as saying Sharpness is over-rated. Here's the deal. I needed a macro lens and Sony made one. Its not my fault that it happens to be one of the sharpest optical instruments to ever don a camera mount. I will likely also add the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 if I can make that happen when make another trip stateside. This will be my primary astro-photography, night time, and landscape lens. So I'll have 4 lenses that I travel with. Notice, there's nothing on the super telephoto front. That means that the longest lens I'll have is the 90 on my a6500 which will make it effectively a 135mm 2.8. This is purposeful. My primary perspective is wide to normal. I don't really work in the super-tele range as much.

Art Model Katherine, Copyright 2008 Terrell Neasley

Along with those, I pack two Sony HDR-AS100V Action Cams. I use these also for documentary purposes as well as time-lapse. These are older systems, but again...no need to upgrade. These things work great for what I need them for. I use them on a table top tripod, a clamp-style grip, and a regular-size travel tripod. Its the only other battery/charger system I have and I carry six batteries for them. My iPhone 7 Plus gets a lot of work as well, both handheld and with a cellphone holder that I can mount onto a tripod. I'm still doing snap shots and video for social media with it. I have one speedlight with me. Its a Canon 430EX II that I mount with Phottix Ares wireless transmitters.

Art Model Jacinda, Copyright 2007 Terrell Neasley
I currently have no laptop I can edit on. I have never edited on one...ever. Since this is an extended travel, I don't have the choice of waiting until I return. So...I'm wracking my brain on what to get later when I come back stateside this summer (just for a few weeks). The lead candidate is the MS Surface Book 2, (maxed out 15" version) but DAMN! I do not want to pay $3500 for that thing (and accessories). Runner up is the Gigabyte Aero 15x. A bit more reasonable, but still over the $2K I'd much rather spend. Hell, maybe even that's too much. So I'll have all that sorted out by the time I return. Maybe something else will come out that meets the spec sheet and features I'm interested in. The main thing...speed. I don't want to have to wait forever rendering videos, images, or anything. Speed, but versatility, future-proof, and battery longevity.

That's it for camera tech in my bag. Looking forward to the additional gear this summer. I'll post on the new additions and eventually post on their performance.

Art Model Covenant, Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley

21 April 2018

Top 3 Things I Miss about Las Vegas

Art Model Susan, © 2013 Terrell Neasley
So its been 4 months to the day since I've been in Las Vegas. As much as I like traveling and exploring strange new worlds and new civilizations, I actually have a heart for home. I used to be able to take home for granted...that it will always be there. Not this time. Las Vegas yes...but I don't currently have a place I can call home there right now. When I get done with this road trip, chances are I'll be settling back in Vegas. Its not my hometown. That's Terrell, Texas. I count Vegas as my home city.

What do I miss about being back in my home city? Lets see. Here are some of the spots I frequented most. So its my habit to be in these places. Naturally, I miss not being able to hit these spots.

Art Model Covenant, © 2015 Terrell Neasley
1. B&C Camera
If you put a tracker on my car, it would show that I spent a chunk of time at 4511 West Sahara. And I only work there sparingly. Most of the rest of the time, I'm there picking up some camera accessory, renting some gear, or coming in to check out the latest and greatest piece of glass. And THEN while I'm shooting the breeze, I inevitably end up helping a customer find something, narrow down a selection, product comparison, or how-to photo techniques.

Because everybody comes to Las Vegas. Sooner or later, you're gonna make that vaca happen and you'll hit the strip. Then you're gonna realize you left your charger at home, drop your camera off the Hoover Dam bridge, or back over it with your SUV. Yes...I have seen this happen. If you are a Vegas local, then mosey on over there and check it out. You're on Sahara Ave, by "Egg and I" at some point, anyway. You may as well see what a real camera store looks like. This is a newly remodeled joint that will make you wonder why you hadn't visited before. Go holla at Rob or Ron and tell'em Terrell sent ya and I promise you'll get the VIP treatment. Just drop my name like you know me.

Art Model Covenant, © 2015 Terrell Neasley
2. Waffles Cafe
December 2013, I moved to the North west side of Vegas. The first thing I did was Google "breakfast near me". Waffle Cafe was the first choice that was a few miles away. Been going there on the regular every since. Now the owners Jeffery and Isaac are good friends of mine.

I've been taking friends, models, and business prospects there since I started going there. Everybody loves it. My mom came to visit and she's not even a waffle fan. Its the best she's ever tasted. Their waffles are very light. Nothing heavy and they are gluten free. That didn't matter to me so much til I brought a model there who only ate gluten-free and she loved them as well. You can even get them with ice cream on them or a waffle pizza. I personally think you're a deranged individual, but I respect your choice. Maple syrup and butter are the only things that belongs on a waffle. Or bacon! I recommend the Terrell Special. You gotta ask for it. Its not on the wall menu. I promise you'll love it.

Art Model Liz, © 2015 Terrell Neasley

3. Hiking Trails
The very first thing I did when I got to Vegas was to genuinely explore the place. NO, NOT THE STRIP! When you get that out of your system, you'll come to realize, there's a desert out there! And likely different from what you're imagining. I joined the Vegas Hikers Meetup group when there were only 200 some odd people. Now there are almost 20,000 people. The group is run by my good friends, Alan Gegax and Paul Dicianno. These hikes have been my serenity and sanctuary to some extent. At times, it helped me to go out on one of Alan's or Paul's treks. Camping with them is the best, though. The group sites at Valley of Fire are prob my fave spots, but I've gone back to Spring Valley a time or two as well, it was so glorious.

And then there are other times when I just want to be alone. Most times, I'm scouting new locations for a client shoot or for one of my own model shoots. I've gone out at times and have fallen asleep on a high rock only to wake up and its dark enough to believe your eyes are sealed shut. That's when you know you've needed the rest! But sometimes, you can't wait on someone to go with you. People have their own lives and priorities. You'll eventually begin to have other like-minded people join your orbit or you'll join theirs and get plugged into that network.

Art Model Alethea, © 2013 Terrell Neasley

Damn. Where do I start? Valley of Fire. Red Rock. Lake Mead. Goldstrike or Arizona Hot Springs. Those are the more popular ones. But you likely don't know as much about Wetland Park. Or Lone Mountain, Black Mountain Trail, Nelson Ghost town, or the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. These are all spots that will blow you away and exceed all your expectations. And that's prob about 1% of the possible spots you can choose to visit. Snap! Mt Charleston! Yeah...too many. You don't haven't visited Las Vegas if you don't get off the Strip. And that doesn't even get into the other day trips you can make. Cathedral Gorge, Zion National Park. Death Valley! I can't do it...its too much! I could make a blog post just on hiking spots alone! No way I'm taking on that responsibility though. I've given you a good start. Get to researching what works best for you and your family. I believe in you. You can do this. Did you even know there's a 35 mile paved bike trial? Yep...River Mountain Loop Trail.

So yeah... Off the top of my head, those are my top 3 things that come to mind. Its gonna take me forever to link all these spots!


Art Model Susan, © 2013 Terrell Neasley
Happy Birthday tomorrow, Jerry...