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 Español. 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...

08 April 2018

2016 Interview with Art Model Franki Dame

Art Model, Franki Dame from an 2016 interview, © 2016 Terrell Neasley

I guess I have developed a knack for working with non-traditional models who have their own standards when it comes to size, age, shape, or whatever. These are the women who defy conventions and societal norms to blaze their own trails. I had the opportunity to work with this lovely model, known for her cosplay a few years ago who shows you don't have to be a size-two to be an art model and I absolutely loved it. The original interview was heavily edited and posted on a different blog I used to be a guest editor for. I've chosen to show you the full interview all in her words.

I feel like I still have unexplored ideas, concepts, and imaginations that I need to bring to fruition. I encourage more photogs to venture out and find some of these gems that otherwise don't make it out to the masses. I'd personally like to see more variety in our art model pool. Belly rolls... so what? Challenge your mind's eye a little and let more models challenge themselves. Win/Win. Interview with art model, Franki Dame.

Art Model, Franki Dame from an 2016 interview, © 2016 Terrell Neasley

1. Okay, first, Introduce yourself! And please include your cosplay interests!

Hi all *waving* Franki here....  I'm 37 years old,  And for the most part, I love being in front of a camera.  Now, this wasn't always so.  I liked being in front of the camera until I was about 9.  Then,  like most overly lanky-limbed, gaukish, giraffe necked, tower of a teenager, I  hated my body.  I hated my overly large chicken lips, and my gaunt overly wide, deep set eyes, which were given even more of an owl like expression with the large glasses I wore.  Imagine if you will 2 chopsticks coming together making an upside down V, then place a toothpick sticking out each side of the triangle top and a round circle on the very top.  To this day, this is how I remember thinking of myself up until I was over 20. 

My family belief had always been that if you didn't look absolutely pristine and perfect, you didn't have your picture taken, and really when would a girl like me ever see herself as perfect enough for a picture? I shake my head and smile a bit sadly thinking back.   Had you met me then, you would never have guessed I'd be a nude model. LOL   

However, being a girl that wasn't comfortable in her own skin, it was always very fun to dress up as someone else.  I enjoyed trying on different people; wearing clothing I wouldn't be comfortable wearing when I was just  "me"; wearing  more makeup or go the extreme opposite direction by painting even  MORE frown lines and etching them even deeper on my face.  I continued dressing up long after most of my friends declared themselves too big for it.

When I met my boyfriend a few years ago, I did my first AnimeCon.  I had discovered Anime cartoons in my 20's, so when my boyfriend was taking his daughter on their annual trek to AnimeCon it was just natural that I joined them and of course dressed up. It was so much fun, that we did it again this year, and I am already looking forward to next year!

Art Model, Franki Dame from an 2016 interview, © 2016 Terrell Neasley
2. What were your current views on nudity and how did you come to first model nude for someone?

My views on nudity have certainly shifted as I've gotten older, that's for sure. Having a rather fundamental upbringing, I didn't discover nude photography until college.   As I mentioned above, I had an atypical body type. However, when I signed up for the required Senior pictures in high school, the photographer was intrigued with shooting me. It was the first time I had heard a stranger call me, "pretty," and, I didn't feel like that girl who wasn't picture perfect. He saw my height as a gift, something to relish and explore as we did the pictures. It was an experience, I never forgot, and to this day, I have those pictures.

They say college is all about "finding yourself," and I guess I was no different. I was trying to become comfortable in my own skin and I really wanted to like myself from the outside in for a change. However, as we all know. professional photographers are not cheap, and so when I was up at college, I started to look into ways that I could have pictures taken without it costing me an arm and a leg. I found the phrase "Prints for Time." and looked up local photographers who used this method. I volunteered myself for a shoot, and as the session progressed, when he suggested I take off my top, I thought "why not'? I've been told, experience itself is what helps foster growth, and that was the case here. Though I wasn't entirely comfortable the first time or the second, or even the third, I was intrigued with their vision, their thoughts, the reasons for why they wanted me topless. Now I may have just been naive, but most of them had a story in their mind. For example, the first time, I was over these cement cylinders. The photographer liked the idea of the white and smoothness of my skin against the dark roughness of the cement. It was interesting. I found that many photographers liked the artistic aspect of my tall willowy form. I even returned to the "senior picture photographer" and did other more adult shoots with him.

When I think back, I notice I usually did nude modeling whenever I need a body boost.  Then after I met my boyfriend... well, that brings us to here.

Art Model, Franki Dame from an 2016 interview, © 2016 Terrell Neasley
3. I shot a model who was also into cos and role play. She told me that modeling nude was a different experience altogether. She felt more vulnerable being nude. Would you share her sentiments or how is it different for you?

I agree about the vulnerability, but I like to push myself; like the challenge.  For me,  cos and role play is about NOT being yourself, but rather trying someone else on or even hiding yourself.  When I model nude, I can't hide.... well, anything.  *HAH* It's about the challenge.

4.  What have you learned about yourself from these experiences? What do you get out of modeling?

I have learned that I am beautiful.  I have learned that I am as unique and special as everyone else.  That we are all imperfect, and that is a GOOD thing.  That underneath our clothes we are all naked.  That vulnerability is that thing that makes us beautiful, though good lighting helps.  I have also learned to take a compliment.

From modeling, I get reminded that I'm beautiful.  We all have days where we only see the negatives of ourselves, it's nice to remind myself that just last week, I looked amazing, and I couldn't have gained that much weight or gotten that many more wrinkles, in just one week.    I showed a few of the pictures you had taken to one of my friends, that one highlighting all the lumps and bumps, and she tells me, "Wow! you have great breasts!"  "Thank you." I replied.   

Art Model, Franki Dame from an 2016 interview, © 2016 Terrell Neasley
5. Excluding being comfortable in one's own skin/bodies, what do you believe would be some other essential elements or qualities that art nude models should possess? And then also, what helped you acquire these assets?

It would seem to me that the ability to see past the awkwardness of the moment; to be willing to go on a journey with the photographer - understanding the outcome completely eclipses the present. Even if someone wasn't "comfortable in their skin" probably having a carefree nature helps you get past that hick-u.p. As for myself, I never questioned the why.

6. Here's a big one. Tell me what your opinion is as to the difference between artistic nudity and pornography.

Probably just depends on the eye of the beholder.  Depending on your upbringing and personal beliefs, I think some people will call any nude photography pornographic,  For me, I think if there's 70's stripper music or a fluffer in the background, it's probably pornography.     

Art Model, Franki Dame from an 2016 interview, © 2016 Terrell Neasley
7. Is there anything hard or difficult about art nude modeling and posing? Do you have to deal with any scrutiny from people around you at all?

It's cold.  I really hate being cold.  And the poses get tiresome sometimes.  It takes energy and some days that's hard too.  I admit, doing nude photography for me is an adrenaline rush, but still, sometimes, that lack of sleep the night before still wants to come out.  Also, with many poses, it's about getting that perfect line or having the light hit you in a certain spot, so you hang out in one position unmoving for quite a while.

So.... most people around here don't know about my nude modeling.  With my profession, let's just say it wouldn't sit well with most people.  I hope some day to be able to bare it all, but for now, most only know me with my clothes on. 

Art Model, Franki Dame from an 2016 interview, © 2016 Terrell Neasley
8.  Tell us about other art models who's work you enjoy. How do they influence your own work and style?

When you find something on Pinterest, or Tumblr that piques your interest, I tend to find things that I want to create in my own way.  Most of the pictures though are anonymous, so you tend to follow blogs or boards more than artists. I've kind of fallen out of following anyone recently, spending my free time doing more personal modeling. 

Art Model, Franki Dame from an 2016 interview, © 2016 Terrell Neasley
9. Same question, but this time with reference to photographers.

My main photographer is my boyfriend.  The only other people who I've allowed to shoot me recently are people he has a close personal relationship with.  This has included most recently, you and Miss Julian Grey. 

10. What's next? What projects are coming up and how do we follow you?

In 4 years, I have plans to move to Vegas.  I should be easier to find then. Maybe I'll talk to my guy about setting up a Pinterest board or Tumblr blog sometime next year. 

Art Model, Franki Dame from an 2016 interview, © 2016 Terrell Neasley

29 March 2018

Planning for the Amazon Later this Year

Art Model Viki-Vegas back in 2011
The rainy season is about to get under way here in Central America. Just had some of our first rains that I've experienced this past night. This will present challenges and opportunities for the next few months. I've never done much photography during rainy season in the mountains and I'd like to see what can be accomplished here. Challenges are that way the hell up in the mountains it can still get really cold at night. Trying to be outdoors doing night time photography can be challenging as I'll have to secure some camping and cold weather gear as well as wet weather gear. I'm not interested in buying all that. I won't need it after Xela and I am doing what I can to REDUCE the weight on my back. (As it stands, I have to redo the back procedure I had done this past October!)

Art Model Viki-Vegas back in 2011
Most days have been slow. Especially the last two days where I've had to stay off my feet a bit. I'm pretty sure the change in the weather is having a big affect on my knee. I've experienced abnormal pain that hasn't been attributed to anything physically taxing. So I can only blame the weather. I've used this time write and look at some of my planning for later this summer. I'm pretty sure that when I leave Xela, I'm heading to Colombia. So I've been looking at opportunities there. Primarily, I'm looking at spend considerable time in Cartagena and Medellin.

Art Model Viki-Vegas back in 2011
And then I'll keep pushing south along the South American west coast. But the PRIMARY research gig that's got me occupied so much is how to travel down the Amazon River. My only options to reach the Amazon are from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and of course Brazil. So what's the best place to do this from? My best research so far says Peru. But I can't miss Bolivia. I got stuff I want to do there! So, yeah...I gotta work those details out. I'll be getting down there during the low river part of the season so its a great time to do it. And I want to do the full length. Practical? Who knows. I'm telling you I want to do it. I was reading a post on it that you can boat it in 5 days. I'm think of doing it much slower to stop off at different places and get some shots. Wanna know what'll be really good to shoot...A MODEL! I'm definitely going to see about making that happen. In fact, I'm pretty certain I can not do that excursion without shooting somebody.

Art Model Viki-Vegas back in 2016...five years after out first shoot
After that part of the Amazon, I guess I'll have to make my way down to Rio de Janiero,  São Paulo, and on to Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. So those are all doable destinations. I just have to figure out how to best go about it and when. Where it gets interesting for me is the next big excursion. So yeah...from Chile, this is what I'd like to do... Find a sailing crew heading out to Easter Island and then onto cruising the South Pacific islands like Tonga, Bora Bora, Tahiti, etc. I think getting dropped off in Tonga would be another ideal place to stay for the full length allowable for a visa, which is 30 days unless you get approved or an extension. Afterwards, I'd just island hop all the way to New Zealand and Australia, then head North.

Art Model Viki-Vegas back in 2016...five years after out first shoot

I don't know anything about sailing. I don't know anything about getting on board a sailing vessel or anybody who's going that way willing to let me ride along for some great pics. All I know is that I have to figure it out or go to Plan B which is to fly to Vietnam and pick things up there. I'd rather do Southeast Asia AFTER I have conquered the South Seas! It all sounds like a beautiful adventure and I want to make it all happen. I'm GOING to make it all happen. Oh! Thanks for those tips, John Kompare!

07 March 2018

Making Choices and Being Flexible

Art Model Covenant, Belize 2015
Its been almost two months since I've started out on this adventure. Month 2 has been one of a more slowed pace. Over the first month, I stayed in 9 different places moving through Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In this second month, I've only been in two places. I moved from Antigua, Guatemala 3 hours west up into the mountain highlands of Quetzaltenango, more locally known as Xela (Shay'-la).

Art Model Covenant, Belize 2015
I stayed 3 weeks at Kasa Kamelot Hotel, even though I had it booked for 4. Then I found an ad on a Xela Facebook Group (Thanks, Lani!) for an apartment on the other side of the city. I went to see it and jumped on it. I'm not the greatest at shopping around for a good deal on certain things. It was the only one I looked at and I knew I wanted it, though I knew I could find something cheaper and closer to where I was. This deciding factor for me was the fact that it was on the outskirts of town and has an amazing panoramic view of an active volcano. That spelled good for my peace of mind. And right now, that's quite important.

Art Model Covenant on Little Corn Island 2015 

For the moment, things have been slow and that's just how I want it for now. I'm going to sit tight here and explore this place until June when I head back for two or three weeks for that Surface Book 2 and the Sigma 20mm 1.4. I'll use the time to just breathe, you know? I'm working on some "In My Bag" videos as well as some that explain WHY I chose to bring the tools I have. So namely camera gear of course, but also the periphery accessories like grips, lighting, extra chargers, etc. I'm also doing vids on why I travel, why I think its important, and maybe even I can give you some ideas on how it could benefit you in what you're doing EVEN if you won't do extended travel like myself. But of course NONE of these videos will get edited and done til I get that friggin' laptop. This will be new to me because I have NEVER edited ANYTHING on the road. But with a powered up laptop like the Surface Book 2, I don't think I'll have to deal with many of the hang-ups I have with doing edits on most laptops. (Got my eye on a drone as well, but we'll see.)
Art Model Covenant, 2015 traveling throughout Central America 

Speaking of Sigma...they just announced last week 9 new FE mount lenses for Sony, which means I won't need an adapter for my camera. In the meantime, I'm going to utilize the time til June to work on how I plan to do a restructure of my blog and website to reflect the work I'm doing while traveling. I'm making videos to accompany them but of course I can't edit them just yet. Over the course of this journey, these videos will document my travels, talk about photo technique and ideas, explain my processes, review products and talk about gear (of course), and overall keep you updated on this adventure.

Art Model Covenant, 2015 traveling throughout Central America 

I will also utilize this time to hone in on my whole purpose for being here as well as contemplating ideas and travel concepts. After talking to several people just since I've been on this journey, I've come to give heavy consideration to traveling abroad vs living abroad. There are benefits to both and I have to consider each of these concepts. I'm not saying to live permanently in one place. I've talked to expats that stayed two years in Costa Rica before moving to Vietnam for two years. People like this prefer that lifestyle over traveling through from place to place every few weeks. For me, I'm pretty sure its going to be a balance. Case in point, I just spent a month in 9 places, but right now, I'm renting an apt for 3 months. If an opportunity strikes me to stay put longer, I'll consider that. I may get to Colombia and stay there a year.

Art Model Covenant, Juayua, El Salvador 2015
Regardless, however I choose to roll, it's got to fit into my mission, objectives, and opportunities. Staying in Xela does just that and I think 3 months will be long enough. Where will I go from there? Not sure. I initially planned to head up into Mexico, come around the Yucatan, back down into Belize and start southwards again. But now, I'm thinking of heading straight to Colombia when I return from the States after my June visit. For now, I've got time to weigh all those options. I'm excited about it.

21 February 2018

Getting Passionate About Coffee

Javier out with the coffee plants
"I have measured my life out in coffee spoons."
~ T.S. Eliot

I had no clue so much went into making a cup of coffee until my visit to Juayua in western El Salvador last month. It was my second visit to Hotel Anahuac but on this visit, I took a tour of a coffee farm after witnessing what was going on in the hotel between resident coffee roasters, Markus (IG @the_flyingbean) and Javier (IG @javi_magnap). Meeting those guys and getting educated on the "cold brew" process got me really interested in what they were into. 

Javier teaching about roasting coffee
I've had a semi-interest in several beverages that began when I worked at a Budweiser distribution company in Tennessee. I visited a Budweiser brewing plant in St. Louis and the immensity of the place was quite overwhelming. Later on in college, I did case studies in business classes on more beers and wines. I was far more attracted to the wines and the time and craftsmanship that went into it. These are centuries old practices that have been cultivated and improved upon over thousands of years. 

These guys in Juayua got me thinking about coffee differently. Its not just a job to Javier, a local of Juayua. Its a passion. To the surprise of his family, he gave up his work in pharmaceuticals to pursue his love as a coffee roaster. Markus, an Austrian is not even 25 yet, but has been traveling around the world pursuing his passion in coffee becoming an expert in the field as, opposed to simply an aficionado. I could identify and relate to this passion because I share the same thing with photography. Passion breeds respect, regardless of the chosen field. Javier and Markus take the growing and roasting of coffee into an art form no different than my own work.

"When life gives you lemons, trade them for coffee beans!"

Markus lectures on Chemex brewing
I was forced to look at my own relationship with coffee. Both my grandmother and her sister would give me coffee in the mornings starting maybe when I was between 5 and 7. It was either Folgers, Maxwell House, or Sanka instant. Either way, it was sweet with a ample serving of Carnation condensed milk. We got it served in cups with saucers. They taught me to drink it by pouring from the cup into the saucer and sipping it. That cooled it down much more quickly.
So I've always had my coffee sweet with cream. If there was no sugar, I wasn't drinking it. The only exception to this was during some days during my military career where we were so cold, to get anything hot in our bodies was much welcomed and we were grateful for it. Not so with anytime other than that. Markus' passion made me rethink that notion as he, still being a young man, preferred his coffee black and maybe warm, as opposed to pipping hot. He explained that this allowed him to better appreciate the flavors of whatever coffee he was tasting.

Markus demonstrates techniques of Chemex brewing
And, of courser there are several different ways of brewing coffee. I first found out about a french press from Art Model, Melissa (miss her btw). During one of our shooting breaks she offered coffee and she familiarized me with the french press for the first time. Javier introduced me to the Chemex and the V60. Markus taught me about cold brew that can take up to 12 hours! And until now, I never really knew what espresso was. These guys ensured the water was a specific temperature, used a timer, and used circular pours to ensure even extraction of flavor. I'm telling you. It reminded me of being in the darkroom. Only instead of manipulating light over silver halide grains on photo paper to make images, these guys were manipulating water over coffee grains to get complex flavors. 

Javier took us to the farm where he works and roasted some new coffee for us and let us compare that taste with coffee that was a few days older. My taste buds are not so trained to detect the minute subtitles from such a comparison. Javier roasted the coffee beans according to a specific roasting profile that he designed depending on which ever type of coffee bean he was roasting. Watching masters at work is always fascinating whether you are roasting coffee or laying brick. 

Picking out inferior beans
I won't make it back down there before the coffee season ends. When the rain starts, the coffee season stops. But I'll be back down there to see Javier again and get some more insight into his passion. In the meantime, I'm going to continue my own exploration in coffee. I think its going to be the French Press for me. Check my Instagram, @PhotoAnthems for a few vids!

13 February 2018

Month ONE - Central America

Art Model Kristi C., Nicaragua Copyright 2018 Terrell Neasley

Yeah, everything changed after October. October happened to be one of the most challenging and weirdest months that has hit me in quite some time, as I stated in the previous blog post.

So after going through a few interesting life events and situations, I decided to delay Southeast Asia for a little bit. I moved all my things in storage and sold the rest. I needed a life "re-calibration", of sorts. Over the last few months, I've lost some people that were dear to me and as close to family as you can get without sharing the same blood. Rest in Peace, Jerry Brady!!

L to R, Susan, Jerry, Tracie, and Me! RIP, my friend

I'm in Guatemala right now. I've already been through Nicaragua and El Salvador. So for something a little bit different, I'm doing something I've always wanted to do... extended travel... quite a bit longer than the usual 3 or 4 months that I usually do. I've been gone just a little over a month. I chose to start this venture in Central America because it's familiar. I was accompanied by my good friend and art model, Kristi C., but she left last week. We traveled to several places and tried to shoot where we could, but sometimes situations didn't lend itself to doing our best work. That happens. You try again or do something else. Little Corn Island was such an adventure. It rained on us every single day for five days. We saw the sun once as it peeked through the clouds and set over the horizon. Our clothes smelled of mildew and I became concerned for our camera sensors with the heavy humidity and salt in the air. So, I cleaned our sensors when we got back to dry mainland.

Art Model Kristi C., Nicaragua Copyright 2018 Terrell Neasley
I've met some very interesting people along the way and saw some old acquaintances from previous visits. I learned a ton about coffee and now I appreciate everything that goes into it so much more from my time in Juayua, El Salvador. A Canadian girl has given me some things to think about as it relates to depression. I had a great night in El Salvador with some guys drinking a few beers as we talked of our perspectives on cultural differences. An Austrian, a Salvadorian, a Canadian (who showed me a tat on his butt of another dude's name who did the same while they were drunk), a Belgian dude, and another cool guy from Norway. A Finnish guy joined later. No arguments. No judgments. Just 6 adults from different countries sharing opinions and experiences.

Art Model Kristi C., Nicaragua Copyright 2018 Terrell Neasley
Presently, I've got a room in a hostel in Quetzaltenago, Guatemala. I'm pretty sure I'm going to find a place to rent, chill for a few months and figure some things out. Quetzaltenango, also called Xela, is the second largest city in Guatemala. Its got a nice feel to it. Its got a good blend of the modern Guate City and the old colonial Antigua. There's something here and I want to find it. Ever get that feeling? I'm going to see if I can teach some photography as well as capture this city from my own perspective. Its a little cold here. Wasn't expecting that. I'm the only fool around here still walking the city in shorts and flip flops. At more than 7500 ft ASL in these mountains, it can still get quite chilled. And I still like it here.

Art Model Kristi C., Nicaragua Copyright 2018 Terrell Neasley
I'll have to head back stateside in May/June because I need to buy a laptop that I can edit on, likely that Surface Book 2. And maybe pick up that sweet glass Sigma 20mm 1.4, with the MC-11 adapter, of course to fit on my Sony gear. I'll only be there for a few weeks before coming right back down here and continuing with my adventure. I've been warned that many come here and don't leave. I can see why.

More updates to come. All these images are unedited. Til I get my new laptop, I don't have the photoshop tools I usually use. I rarely edit on the road. But I'll have to now tho. Soon tho! Til then...I'll manage with the likes of these.

Art Model Kristi C., Nicaragua Copyright 2018 Terrell Neasley

Art Model Kristi C., Nicaragua Copyright 2018 Terrell Neasley

Art Model Kristi C., Nicaragua Copyright 2018 Terrell Neasley