05 October 2020

1000 Days of Adventure and Stories

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

 "Still around the corner, there may wait a new road or a secret gate."

~ John Ronald Reuel  Tolkien

This past month, I hit a benchmark that I wasn't even aware of until I was downloading some files from my online backup. It told me that my desktop computer (in storage in Las Vegas) had been out sync from continuous backup for 1004 days, which is the time I unplugged it, packed it, and locked it up on December 21st, 2017. It has been that long since I've had a home where I have all my stuff and lay my head down every night. Since then, it's been hotels, hostels, and apartment rentals... the longest stay in one place being close to 6 months in Xela, Guatemala

I know some people thought I'd be back after only a few months. Two and a half years later, I'm still rollin' and no where near finished. Delayed! Halted! Holed up! But not finished. A global pandemic and the current reduced status of the US passport has me unable to move around as freely as I might desire. The Global Passport and Power Index has the US ranked tied for 23rd, but there are 53 countries ahead of us. Bosnia/Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, and even Ukraine are ahead of us. Japan and New Zealand tie for the strongest passport in the world for 2020.  

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

Less countries are admitting US citizens and even here in Vietnam, people still ask me when I got here before they let their guard down with me. I have to make sure they know I was here PRE-Pandemic! This should be obvious, because the borders have been closed and no new tourist visas have been granted since March. But given the recent smuggling incident where some Chinese immigrants snuck in some illegal Chinese citizens and then coincidentally we got a second wave... I guess I can understand.

So how did all this start for me? Well, I've already told you about people who have been influential in my life regarding international travel... The Army showed me new lands and new people. An ex-girlfriend showed me it's not as expensive as I thought to go someplace. My friend Heather convinced me to go with her to Central America and that started me to traveling the way I do now. But there have also been a number of other factors while I was growing up that also heavily influenced my wanderlust. 

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

I think I've always been an explorer by nature. Where I grew up in Texas, there are woods behind my house. I used to venture into those woods with my little brother, Greg just to see where they led and what was within them. We didn't have Google Maps back then. I was always interested in what was around the corner, over the bend, and beyond the horizon. 

I also read books. Who doesn't remember "Where the Wild Things Are"? It's a story about adventure! And I read countless adventure books like this. None was more influential to me than J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and Bilbo's adventure with Gandalf and the Dwarfs. I actually saw the 1977 animated version in the 4th grade during an assembly. All of my 4th grade class saw it. I was mesmerized the whole time. 

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

It was only later on, while I was in high school that I accidentally came across The Lord of the Rings series. Discovering, after all this time, that there was a continuation! Crazy! 

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” - J.R.R. Tolkien "The Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring"

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

I think that one quote stuck with me best. Along with, "Not all those who wander are lost..." which is part of a poem in The Fellowship of the Ring. Then a year AFTER high school, I learn that there is yet another continuation... or rather a preceding book to the series called, "The Silmarillion". I listened to that one on audio CD's when I found it at a bookstore. I had to have it! I actually first looked at the box and thought, "They are just copying LOTRs!

But all throughout my childhood and adult life, I've had stories of adventure surround me or I was on them myself in the Army. How could I keep still? I had to seek out the horizon. Initially, that was moving out west into the unknown deserts surrounding Las Vegas. That sufficed for a while. But adventure called again and I headed off to Central America 3 or 4 times. Sometimes solo... sometimes with company

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

But there was one nagging feeling that gnawed at a spot in the back of my brain since the first time I met someone on my first trip to Guatemala. They had been traveling for a 13 months by the time I met them. I thought I was big-timing it being gone 6 weeks. It pestered me! What is that like to be traveling for years at a time? That was back in 2012. It took me until 2019 to actually find out after crossing my first year of travel. Three more months and I'll be on year THREE! And I feel like I'm just getting started. 

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

Thanks again, Jenny for coming out to meet me in Peru, despite NEVER having met before! That was a FABULOUS THREE WEEKS! Good times, tough times... we made it through blistering heat on the beach and freezing cold nights on the lake. Those are the things that makes the story.

28 September 2020

Don't Be Afraid (REPOST FROM 2016)

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." 
~ Nelson Mandela

Don't be afraid.

You know I can honestly leave this post at just those 3 words, but anybody who knows me, knows I am never that succinct. I like to use my words, so let me articulate my meaning here. Elocution would serve better, but since I have not as of yet published my work via podcasts, the written word will suffice. As a former Staff Sergeant in the Army, my voice can deliver the intended affect with inflection and tone that deliver my meaning more accurately, but I will try to get my point across, nonetheless. Maybe one day I'll do a speech on the matter. For now...the written word.

Art Model, Samantha ©2011 Terrell Neasley

We all fear. Its inevitable that something will arise that will cause fear at some point in our lives. However, as you may already know, its how we respond to the fear that makes the difference. As a kid, I used to get my ass kicked just about daily, until I decided to make some changes. Since I was already taking a beating, how would striking back and defending myself make matters worse? So I learned to hit back...hard. Interestingly enough, the beatings stopped. Correlation? You tell me.

Today, I live differently. I don't have to fight like that so much. There are other things in life that make me afraid, but those early years, along with some military refining has helped me control fears better, (but not eliminate them, however). Now, I almost have fun with it. Fear lets me take on life challenges that can be rewarding times ten more when you overcome them. I tend to run towards things I fear, which may not be wise at times, but I'm not altogether stupid either.

Art Model, Leslie  Copyright 2016 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid of the opinion of others. This is especially so, concerning those who should have little influence on your well-being, income, or health.

Don't be afraid of being the only one. It can be lonely to go it alone but you will find out more about yourself, your capabilities, and thereby boosting your confidence. Not everyone has your vision or wants to do what you want to do. That doesn't mean you have to flow with the status quo. Do you.

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. It's where all the fruit is." 
~Shirley MacLaine

Don't be afraid to lose things, people, or money. It's bound to happen and you'll have to accept that fact. Its supposed to be that way when you think about it. People will come and go, but that's not always a bad thing. Things are temporary and you'll always be getting more stuff.

Don't be afraid to try new things. This is how you learn and experience the world.

Art Model, Anne ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid to fail. I've heard is said, "Failure is not the opposite of Success. It is PART of it." You'll make mistakes. Get up and learn from it.

Don't be afraid of the unknown. You don't know everything. In fact, you know very little. Hence, most of the universe is unknown to you. Think about how much you didn't know 5 years ago. The things you know today were unknown to you then. You don't always need to play it safe. Be smart. Get outside the lines a little bit. You'll thank me.

Don't be afraid to start that adventure. JUST GO! Old people don't brag about how many overtime hours they clocked. Or how many consecutive years they were able to stay under budget at Corporation XYZ.  That shit doesn't make for good stories.

Art Model Chloe Ann Copyright 2017 Terrell Neasley

"An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose."
~ Langston Hughes

Don't be afraid to be hated. Not everyone will like you, especially when you start getting good and succeeding. That's just a fact. It means you're likely enjoying yourself. Don't sabotage your own happiness worrying about somebody hating on you. Katt Williams says the more haters you have the happier you likely are.

Don't be afraid of bad circumstances. It happens. It's going to happen again. How you respond to bad circumstances is what makes the bad circumstances permanent or not. And if they are not permanent...why worry?

Don't be afraid to trust yourself. In all actuality, you can't trust yourself, but you should. You're going to fail. You're going to let yourself down. However all that matters is the fact that you still control you. You 100% can't control anyone else. You CAN control you. So that makes you the most trustworthy person alive. Having some self control issues? Well, stop that shit.

Art Model, Melissa ©2009 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid to keep learning...from anybody. I have learned so much from people 80 years old as well as from an 18 year old. I can't say what I might learn from an 8 year old, but I'm sure its possible, somehow. You won't know it all. Ever. So keep soaking up information and tidbits of wisdom where you find it. Keep your mind open because you'll likely come across it in some of the most unlikely places. Age, social status, economic class, race... if you limit where you can accept learning because of these dividing lines, you limit the potential you can evolve to. Cut that shit out.

Now go handle your business.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

12 September 2020

TEN Reasons Solo Travel Sucks


Athena and I after trying the poop coffee in Peru, near Cusco.

"One day you will wake up and there will be no more time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now."

~ Paulo Coelho

Yes, of course I talked about the reasons why SOLO travel is a MUST-DO in my last blog post. Well, there are two sides to every coin and story. The idea is that, like many things in life, you have to take the good with the bad and keep things in perspective. It's not always about a brighter side or sunny days. There is magic in the storms as well. Solo travel is indeed a must-do, but when you do it, keep these ten things in mind, too:

My friends, Osmany, Jader and his son. We traveled around Esteli and Somoto in Nicaragua. I got some of my best shots of Nica with them. And a new nickname... Mecha Corta or Short Fuse from my first experience with Nicaraguan police who wanted my camera. Not happening. 

1. You have to do EVERYTHING yourself

There are definitely advantages to doing it yourself, but after a while, it gets old. When you are doing extended travel, like I am, it's easy to get frustrated when you have to find the next hotel to book, select your route to the next destination, or even just figure out where to eat. Sometimes you just want to look over to your imaginary friend and say, "You take this one."

2. We all need somebody to lean on sometimes

This is no joke... and it's inevitable. You can bet your bananas there will come a time when the best thing for you is human companionship, camaraderie, and contact. You will be the lesser for the lack of it, but that doesn't mean you can't overcome what ails you. You might sink into a state of depression, for whatever reason or maybe you are just homesick. Nothing goes as planned all the time and that doesn't change when you are traveling. Why should it? How perfect is your life at home? Why would you expect it to be any different on the road. You just deal with it. But shouldering the burden by yourself can really suck.

Cascades Siete jungle tour, El Salvador. I traveled with Tracie through 5 countries in Central America for 3 months. 20 minutes after this shot is when I had my thumb incident.

3. Second Pair of Eyes

All your stuff has to come into the bathroom with you! Okay, you got that one solved. But what happens when you go to the beach. You can't bring all your stuff with you in the water! And as a photographer, it's good to have someone watching your back while you get those late evening shots or those urban scenes. You never know who else has eyes on YOU! Besides that, I guarantee you that you'll try to follow directions looking for street numbers or landmarks. Having a second pair of eyes to help find the right corner where your bus lets you off might be the crucial element between you getting to your hostel or winding up across town. 

4. Who takes great pics of YOU? (Particularly when you're doing something stupid.)

Self-explanatory. Get used to those handheld selfies!

The Black Souls of Esteli, Nicaragua asked if I wanted to take a ride. I couldn't see a reason not to run off with a biker group I just met.

5. When you absolutely MUST get up in the morning

You know there are those moments when you cannot depend on yourself to get up early in the morning. You need that other person to say, "Hey! We got a plane to catch. Get your ass up!"

6. You can read only so many books

I'd call myself an avid reader

. When you travel long term like I do, books go only so far. There will be some boring ass days when all you have on your to-do list is... NOT A DAMN THING! Well, I guess you could right that book. HA! Right...

"Some beautiful paths cannot be discovered without getting lost.'

~ Erol Ozan

Art Model Kristi and I catching a ride on a fishing boat to Little Corn Island during bad weather. A 30-minute fast boat trip turned into 3 hours on this sea crawler!

7. When you REALLY need that 2nd opinion

Can't tell you how many times I've been in this situation. You don't know what you're missing, not seeing, or forgetting about the directions on where you are supposed to go, which bus to take, or what that sign says. Having that second person to overlap your gaps keeps you from looking stupid or making big mistakes.

8. Going to a nice restaurant by yourself? PASS!

Table for 1? I don't think so. I'm not doing it. I'll get something to go, but I'm not eating at a fine dining spot by myself. You just look stupid and desperate. But that could just be my own insecurities. I get that, and will own it. 

9. Unwanted advances

Ladies...? You know what I'm talking about right? Just because you're single and solo, doesn't mean you are available to every bolo that comes a-callin'. I've been hit on by other men, as well. I'm not sure what signals I'm giving off, but I need to figure it out. I actually got physically assaulted by a dude who's advances I rebuffed. He got dealt with. I emerged from that incident with all my teeth and consciousness. He did not. Watch yourself. 

Lake Titicaca. Jenny and I traveled together for 3 weeks in Peru from the northern edge to the southern border.

10. Sharing those special moments and memories.

I have some travel buddies and it's always a beautiful thing to reminisce about that time spent together enjoying a travel moment. I have many fond memories having been with a significant other as well as someone platonic. Having someone with you, even as a witness, who recounts the same cherished experience is a blessing.

11. Bonus! Having to laugh BY yourself!

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. You hear something funny on TV, Facebook, or Netflix and the only one available to laugh with you is the person in the mirror. The cool thing is that they will laugh back if they are all you have. 

Oh... and I have no idea where "bet your bananas" came from. I just... I'm sorry. 

My baby brother and I on a road trip traveling to Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas. 

01 September 2020

TEN Reasons Solo Travel Is a Must-Do at Some Point in Your Life

 "The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt


Traveling of any kind is not the easiest thing to do right now, especially if you are from the US. That being said, we can still at least talk about travel, right? Traveling through Central America, South America, and now Southeast Asia has been a definite highlight of my life. Fear has gripped me at times, but I have a tendency to want to do the things I fear. I grew up afraid a lot and had to learn to master many different aspects of fearful things in my life. I got bullied. My cousin taught me to fight back. 

To do that, he taught me getting hit in the face wasn't the worst thing in the world. Then I began to stand my ground and give hits as well as I took them. That moment was the beginning of my observation of the fear in myself and my desire to not let it conquer me. Vietnam scared me. That's even the title of a blog post. Now I'm here in Vietnam and don't want to leave. These are my 10 reasons solo travel is a must-do for you at some point in your life. By the way, all the women in these portraits are world travelers doing their own thing, whom I've met along the way. The first one, Heather, is a dear friend who is likely the biggest influence on my travel habits today. 


If it's just you, you can eat someplace cheap or skip meals. If it's you and a buddy, partner, or spouse, you will likely feel obligated to eat somewhere where you both can agree and you're more likely to eat someplace that is more upscale than had you been by yourself. I can skip breakfast, (usually because I sleep in and miss it.) and I do not feel some sense of obligation to get breakfast so the other person doesn't eat alone. This isn't with just food. You are more likely to take cheaper transportation if you are by yourself. You can get a smaller, thus cheaper room. Now you can save your money for the things that really matter, like experiences, tours, etc.


2. Time is on Your Side

You can set your own clock now and chose to delay or ignore it entirely. When you want to move, go somewhere, or do anything, you can wait or do it earlier and not have to worry about breaking an agreed upon timetable with someone else. I did a 6-hour cave tour once. I can tell you for fact, I would never have been able to say that had I waited for all the people who told me they would gladly do it with me. Instead, I jumped in my car, drove the two and a half hours to Mammoth Caves, signed up with a tour group, and just did it. 


3. Freedom to Chart Your Own Course

Trying to decide on where to go? Now you can make that trip that you've always wanted when nobody else wanted to. You are the decision maker of your own course. Try it!

4. Freedom to Change Your Mind

At your leisure, you can choose to stay at one spot longer than intended or leave early. You can cancel a certain part of a trip or add onto your itinerary as you like. It's up to you. 


5. The Things You Learn About Yourself

Not everything is going to go as planned. Things happen. You will learn much more self-reliance and self-confidence that will benefit you in so many other ways in life. You will absolutely be able to check the block on Personal Growth. I'm here on my own in Vietnam during a GLOBAL pandemic. I can tell you it has not been the easiest choice to make to stay and not run home. And I am so glad I chose to stay.

“The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends” 

~ Shirley MacLaine


6. Meeting New People 

Lots of people you meet on the road while traveling will chose not to engage you if you are already with someone else, mostly locals. If you are alone, I think you are much more approachable and they will be more apt to help you with food selections, directions, reading menus, etc. Next thing you know, you're having beers together, playing pool, or going on trips. Now you have a local guide!

7. New Experiences Will Build You Up

Right in line with learning about yourself and meeting new people, you will encounter these new experiences that will become the stories of your life. This is what living is all about. It is a process of learning and these are experiences that you bring back home will encourage others to follow your path. 


8. Facing Challenges When Plans Fall Apart

Not all these experiences have positive outcomes, but you learn how to deal with them and overcome them. And these are character building exercises that help you grow as a person. Becoming a traveler helps you grow as a person and a human being. But that only works if you learn to take each negative experience and learn from them. That's just life. But here's the real gem. Sometimes when things don't go according to plan, it's a good thing. They will often go better than you could ever have imagined.


9. Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

This is the greatest thing you can do for yourself. It is impossible to grow as a person unless you remove yourself from your own fishbowl. Swim in new waters. See how other cultures have lived their lives and learn what you can from them. 

10. More Thorough Reflection of It All

Solo travel is a special thing. And when you look back through it all, you see how tough, smart, and resourceful you really are. It may inspire you to write a book or a blog post, but you will inevitably contemplate why you hadn't done it sooner AND why everyone doesn't do solo travel from time to time. 

“Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance out how much of ourselves we give away.” 

~ Barbara De Angelis

I am no where near done and, God willing, I'll continue this adventure for several more years. As I look back on the 32 months I've been traveling like this, I see all the faces of the people whom I've met that have helped me, took care of me, and entertained me along the way. I have learned so much in this time and I want to experience so much more. There is a whole lot of unseen world yet for me to explore and I can't wait. Well, I am willing to wait here in Vietnam for a while and let the world settled back down a little. I figure another year here will suffice... hopefully. 

Be sure to catch me next time when I tell you about why Solo Travel sucks. 


22 August 2020

Believe It or Not, The Sony A7SIII is Not for Me


Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world.” 

~ Freya Stark

Sony recently announced the new and long awaited, A7SIII and it's expected to be in stores sometime in September. I just can't do it. Great camera. Can't do it. Why? Okay...but first, some background.

At one point, I owned all THREE of Sony's full frame line-up of cameras. I had the A7II, the A7S, and the A7RII. Via a twist of misfortune, I sold my A7S to get the A7SII, only to find out they sold out and the camera was not available to me for quite a while. Otherwise, I would have had all three number 2 versions of each model. This was during a time, when I had everything. I even upgraded my ex-girlfriend's camera from the a6000 to the a6100, so I had that available to me, if I needed it.  

This was my all-in investment into mirrorless systems and leaving DSLRs for good and I have not looked back. I said a long time ago that mirrorless was the future and that Canon and Nikon would eventually make a change as well. Now you can see both companies coming out with their R and Zed systems, respectively. The Canon 5D model has been discontinued, but Nikon is still trying to play both sides promising a new Mirrorless AND a DSLR update to the D850. I think this will be another costly mistake that Nikon can't really afford.The DSLR is done. You can bet this will be the last run of their big sports cameras, the 1DX-series and the D6,  to go full on head to head with Sony's A9 series

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

So yeah. I'm all in on Mirrorless. BUT, that was then. This is now. The main difference: SHELVES! Back then, I had a house with shelves that I could put my cameras on. I had no less than 10 different bags and Pelican cases that I could carry them around in. In addition, I had a CAR to transport them from home to gig and back. 

Today, I have my Osprey Aether AG 70, a Thinktank Urban Disguise 60v2, and the lumbar spine of my BACK! That's it. I'm limited to two camera bodies and I prefer a particular complimentary system. Every since I was a Canon shooter with the 5DM2 and the 7D, I have preferred having a full frame body and a crop to compliment it. For my shooting style, it has always been the best situation for me. I, sort of, stumbled on that when I purchased the 5D2 and then could not keep my hands off the 7D when it came out. I gave my Canon 40D to my daughter. To me, the 7D would be the prefect back-up camera because that's what you always heard about shooting gigs. You always need a back-up. And I agree with that. The 7D was good enough to be the perfect back-up without having to invest into another expensive full-frame camera. 

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

I have never wanted DUPLICATE cameras. Having two 5DMarkII's was not anything I desired. I wanted them to be complimentary, not just a duplicate back-up. This is why I said, I stumbled into it. I was shooting with my good friend John Kompare in Las Vegas. He had invited me to go shoot with him at a bird sanctuary. I brought both my cameras and had my 70-200mm lens on the Canon 5DMarkII. I was trying to get a shot overhead at 200mm. I looked at the photo I took on the LCD screen. I wasn't pleased and said something aloud about it. The conversation when something like this:

Me: Dang. I like it, but 200mm is the closest I can get. If only I had like... maybe a 300mm, instead. I guess I can crop in on this. 

John: Yeah... Or you can pop that 70-200 onto your Canon 7D and take advantage of the 1.6 crop factor.

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

“This is the journey of your life. Don’t try to explain it to others, because only you can see it.” 

~ Nitin Namdeo

And just like that... Complimentary! I have loved that style of shooting every since. It was more than just a back up system. It was a complimentary system. Even now, I shoot with a Sony A7R2 and the Sony a6500. I have limited myself to 2 lenses... the Sony 55mm f/1.8 and the Tamron 24mm f/2.8 (thanks Lucy!). I can shoot portraits with the 55mm on the full frame OR I can also pop it on the a6500 crop sensor camera and shoot the same shot at near 85mm. I can put the Tamron on the full-frame for a 24mm perspective OR I can pop it on the crop for a near 35mm perspective. I have 4 lens perspectives available to me right now, limited only by resolution and maybe ISO qualities. 

Now let's get back to the A7Siii. The "S" is for Sensitivity. This thing is a beast that will shoot in the dark and has a killer dynamic range on a 12MP sensor, as it's always had. A 16MP... maybe even a 20MP sensor would have been a worthwhile upgrade, however. Regardless, this is obviously a video camera. Everything about this screams film-making and while I WISH I could have it, I can't say it's a priority right now, and here's why.

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

I already mentioned I prefer the full-frame/crop complementary systems. If I'm doing that, the A7R4  is a must. "R" is for Resolution. If I'm going to upgrade from my A7R2, then the 4 is the most logical choice for me. (And yes... I want that.) The A7R3 was not a viable upgrade option for me. The 4 is. That being said, IF I were to upgrade, I'd have to upgrade my crop as well since the A7R4 takes a different battery than the a6500. I'm not packing TWO DIFFERENT battery and charger types for my main camera systems. THIS MEANS... I have to upgrade to the a6600 along with the A7R4. Savvy?

That keeps me in the complimentary line-up I prefer and enjoy. As it stands, I can get neither of the cameras here in Vietnam. I haven't looked at purchasing them in the US and having them shipped (and likely taxed) here, but the truth is the travel business is like slow AF! Meaning, Autofocus... get your head out of the gutter. I'm doing quite well with my current two bodies and from a business perspective, the upgrade doesn't make sense. Were I stateside and able to control my income better, I'd do it whether it made sense or not! I'd make up the expense somehow and rather quickly. But this is not the case at the moment. I'll look at an upgrade, when I either absolutely NEED it, or possibly when I get back stateside. Instead of going all in, I'm going to hold.

Art Model, Safia Sarai by Terrell Neasley

08 August 2020

New Laptop and the Current Vietnam Covid Situation

Art Model Elizabeth, 2006 Terrell Neasley
Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

"The muse drags me down many different roads often at the same time." 
~ Colin Poole

My Gigabyte Aero 15x suddenly failed on me and it picked a most inopportune time to do it. I was traveling and extended my stay in a beachfront property down South for an additional week with the specific purpose of writing and editing photos. The next morning after that extension, I woke up and tried to get to work at breakfast only to have my laptop not turn on at all. It just wouldn't power up. Thinking that the power cord came loose, which it was wont to often do, I retrieved it only to find no different result. 

An IT guy from the hotel tried working on it, but to no avail. Therefore I went that whole week just chilling with no ability to work. When I arrived back in Hanoi, two different repair places gave me the same result. Busted chip and no way to get parts. I'd have to replace the motherboard and for whatever reason, nobody had any confidence to get Gigabyte parts. Despite the fact that Gigabyte laptops are made in Taiwan, they said it was a no-go.
Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

I jumped back on with my Grab-bike driver... like a motorbike Uber, and headed to the computer store for a new laptop. I did not enjoy having to drop another $2K unexpectedly, but sheesh... I can't go without having a laptop.

Enter the MSi GS-66. They didn't have the top tier of this model, but I was able to pull my 32GB of  DDR4 out of the old laptop and install it in the new, which came with 16gigs. I would have much preferred the better graphics card, but the Nvidia RTX 2060 is nothing to sneeze at. I'm back in business and all seems to work fine. The thing does not have an overheating problem having THREE fans and unlike last year's version, the GS-65, the motherboard is easy to get to. It doesn't have the independent number key pad, but other than that, I'm adjusted to it well enough. 

Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

Currently, I'm waiting on my next visa extension approval. That should be in in another week. On a more aggravating note, we were Covid-free for right at 100 days. Now, it's back! Three times as strong. They are still investigating how the outbreak began, but it coincides with illegal Chinese immigrants who were smuggled into the country in Da Nang. Da Nang is in Central Vietnam and is a hotspot for tourists due to the attraction of it's beautiful beaches. There was not really any international tourism, but domestic tourism has been promoted widely since April to encourage economic growth. It was working. 80,000 local tourists had to be evacuated out of the city, but more than 95,000 departed Da Nang to get out of the epicenter. 

That means the infection also came with it and Vietnam has experienced it's first deaths due to Covid-19 related issues. I believe 10, as of this date. As I mentioned, this strain is faster and more deadly. BUT, it looks like the Vietnamese government is on top of this one too. Quarantines have taken effect again. Masks have been mandated once more. Bars and local gathering spots are off limits as before. I can only trust that we acquire the same results as before and eradicate the Coronavirus again. Stay tuned. 

Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

This model featured in this post is Art Model, Elizabeth. I've often called our collaboration my first great work. The shots we got were some of my first shots I ever did that I might actually call art, and not just photographs of a naked girl. Beyond that, I'd say she was one of my top 3 original models that taught me about photographing the nude. What she brought to the table to teach me was about model movement and being able to SEE my shot within each shot. I moved in closer and began doing bodyscapes. She would continually move and pose in a manner that helped me learn to direct a model. 

Of course she is a beautiful woman with a great body, but her gift to me was definitely in her movement. For never having done this before, she continued to give me unique looks and shapes. That's what I remember most. We shot twice, I think, against a white backdrop in a studio and later against a black one... all under continuous HOT LIGHTS! I was able to see how to light a subject in both cases. I call her my Godsend Number 1, due to the circumstances in which we first began shooting. A direct, and sudden answer to prayer. It was quite the unique experience. Not even sure she knows that. Anyway, these are negative scans, mainly unedited and Raw. But pure magic, nonetheless.

Art Model Elizabeth, Copyright 2006 Terrell Neasley

05 July 2020

Ode to Faerie AND What Comes Next

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley
"A muse comes down from Mount Olympus and changes my attitude, cheering me up - it's an inner intuition, suddenly giving a breakthrough to be able to move ahead."
~Robert Bateman

Man. Yesterday was my country's Independence Day. In all my years, never has there been one this... somber and impotent. I don't know a damn thing right now worth celebrating. Divisions across the country extend beyond the pugilistic politics and has invaded neighbors, friends, and even family. Racial tensions are on the rise like it was back in 1968. People find it difficult to say simply that Black Lives Matter, because somehow that notion has been turned into a peculiarly negative phrase. Even if that were the belief, shit... change it around. For instance, I could still respect a white person saying,

"I don't fully understand, 'Black Lives Matter', but I will say that I believe that the lives of Black people are just as important as anybody else's in this country and should be afforded the same equality as I would expect for myself!"

Instead... Nope, all we get is "ALL lives matter". No clarification, no elaboration... just a period after MATTER. Somehow, I would have thought that a country that values INDEPENDENCE so much would be the last of any people in the world that would rob those same liberties it fought so desperately for from another human being or group of people. The US, if it were true to that Declaration of Independence, should be the poster nation of countries that refuse to let anything resembling slavery or inequality from every being part of its historical record. In Germany, you can't spout out Nazi rhetoric and not expect to go to jail. Yet we give neo nazi, white supremacists, white nationalists, and the KKK, a major platforms to voice their hate.

"If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves."
~ Thomas Day, British Abolitionist, 1776 after the publication of the US Declaration of Independence

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

In the midst of a pandemic, the United States still remains oblivious to what the country is suffering, compared to the rest of the world. I don't know of another democratic country this wealthy still trending skywards with almost 3 million infections and 130,000 dead, with 50,000 new cases a day and 40 million unemployed... with an administration that thinks it's doing a good job.

Comparatively, Vietnam sits right next to China with one-third the population of the U.S. (and much more densely populated), has 355 TOTAL cases and ZERO DEATHS from Covid-19. In case that didn't make sense, I'll say it another way, because it is work the repetition. NO ONE HAS DIED FROM COVID-19 IN VIETNAM. Only 271 of those were community spread. The rest were repatriated citizens who were infected in other countries. As of two days ago, only 15 active cases remain in the country of 100 million. Do you see what I am saying. That means 130,000 people did not have to die. 3 million people did not have to get infected. Argue about masks, all you want. Vietnam is back to normal now as a country with only one exception... no new tourists. Outside of that, business is back and the economy is already trending upwards. Go ahead and check it out for yourself! You got Google. Argue about Dr. Fauci as you like. Vietnam did the SAME THING this dude has been trying to tell the powers that be in the US. Whatever argument you want to make, the fact remains that there are Americans that are dead right now that didn't have to die. Texas is trending high as a MF right now and that bothers the shit out of me. Most of my family and everybody I know is there.

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

What's the difference, you ask? It's simple. Vietnam took this pandemic seriously before it was even called a pandemic. They had everyone wear masks, which the citizens did gladly. They didn't have a bunch of test kits to start with so they used quarantines and contact tracing. If you tested positive, they wanted to know everyone you were in contact with and then they monitored those people or put them in quarantine, just in case. I watched it all play out. I was connected to Patient 237, from Sweden. I had to go into quarantine, myself and was glad to do it. Scary? Hell, yes. I'm here alone and I knew of no other tourists who had decided to stay like I did.

Of course, as per my last blog post, I learned that there are yet a few more who did. I am not as alone as I thought. Nonetheless, I was happy to do as I was told. I could only communicate with the people around me and I had questions EVERY SINGLE DAY! These Vietnamese locals told me flat out that they were afraid, but that they had faith in the government and it was part of their culture to pull together as a country and do their part. If the government says wear masks, but the citizens refuse to do it, we fail and everyone gets sick. If we don't have good leadership, we fail and everyone gets sick. And that usually followed a story about pride in the country and achievements they've made to justify it.

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

There were no protests of rights violation. It's a fuckin' mask. How's that any different from a seat belt, or a helmet if you drive a motorcycle? There were no mixed messages here. Nobody listened to 5G conspiracy theories . There were no armed rioters at the capitol building. There was no run on toilet paper or hand sanitizer. Everything was done lo-tech in the beginning. There was trust in the government. Why? Because Vietnam has experience in this. When SARS broke out globally, Vietnam was the first country in the world to eradicate it back in 2003, I think it was. They didn't foolishly ignore the country's infectious disease plan because the previous administration designed it. They don't have the monetary or medical resources they have in the U.S. It would be devastating if they lose control in a pandemic. 

Vietnam lost big money on tourism which is about 8% of it's GDP... about $7 billion from January to April. Well, they made up for it making three times that selling masks, PPE, ventilators, etc. to the US, Europe, and the rest of the world. They didn't need everything they made! What's the biggest take-away from that? They did not hesitate to kill off a viable money-making part of their national income for the sake of public health. There was NO hesitation. No argument over the economy. No considerations of what it might do to the leaders politically. No weaponizing a friggin' pandemic or dividing up a country. Just LEADERSHIP!

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

So where does that put me? I'm a traveler trying to backpack around the world. Frankly, I do not know. Many countries are handling things so differently and it all changes every day. But this is one thing I know. Because of the way the U.S. has mismanaged this health crisis, I can't come home and expect to leave again. I've been traveling for 2 years like this and have gone back Stateside 4 times, I think. I return, stay a month or two, and then leave again.

I can't do that anymore. My US passport is almost worthless right now. The US is the presently the pariah and scourge of the world when it comes to travel. You either can't get in or if you do, you must quarantine for two weeks. But even around here, people see me for the first time and I get the inevitable question. "Are you from the US? How did you get here? WHEN did you get here?" They fear me until I tell them I've been here since February. I can't imagine trying to get into another country right now. If I return to the US, I won't be able to leave. So I'm trying to get a year long visa here in Vietnam. I'll be content and incredibly grateful to explore this country for a year while this thing settles, and then resume my travels thereafter.

In the meantime, I needed something to pick my spirits up and few things do that quite like a nude model. The other day I came across one of my favorite models that helped guide me and develop my craft. As a muse, she's untouchable. I had the privilege of meeting and photographing Art Model Faerie early on as a beginning art nude photographer. Not long after moving to Las Vegas, I had her in my viewfinder honing my skills and improving my craft. She let me practice, experiment, and try out different ideas, techniques, and even bad attempts at art with never a discouraging word. She just kept coming back and offering to help some more. Trust me. Everything did not always go as I planned. Sometimes, I tried some things and they failed. She still came back.

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

Life got too busy. We both began traveling a lot in different directions. I was going outside the country and she was going across the country. I wish I had tracked her down and followed her to shoot her some more. Yes, that sounded a tad bit creepy but not if you know our world. Aside from how pretty she is and how easy she is to shoot, she's got those smiley eyes that make you smile even if you don't get the joke.

For several years, she worked with me for impromptu shoots and modeled for my Las Vegas Art Model's group as a model for both photography and life drawing classes. It's cool just being around her which is why I sometimes went over just to hang out with her family in the back yard around the fire pit. Yeah... those are good times I need to think about right now. Thank you, Faerie!

Model Faerie, ©Terrell Neasley

17 June 2020

Last Tourist in Hanoi

An interview with local Aspiring Photographer, Stella Nguyen, IG @JpegbyStella,  coming soon! 

“The best journeys in life are those that answer questions you never thought to ask.” 
~ Rich Ridgeway

I've been extremely grateful and impressed with Vietnam and how they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Things are just about back to normal and businesses are hustling and the people are back in the streets. I see fewer and fewer people venturing out with masks on. So much so, that I often forget to grab mine before leaving my hotel.

But the one thing that remains empty in the streets are tourists. Hanoi is still devoid of tourists. Am I the last remaining tourist here? I don't know. I haven't seen any immigration stats that prove or disprove that, but it damn sure feels like it. I have seen non-Vietnamese people from all over, but they live here. And I did meet a really great guy who arrived here about the same time I did, Char Bel from Lebanon. He's been traveling the world much like myself, but he just recently left Hanoi.

Char Bel introduced me to some of his peeps. He invited me to a comedy club where comedians excoriated the US. I couldn't say shit because everything they said was true and funny. That, and my dumb ass had to shout out something when a guy on stage said something about Texas. Now everybody knew where the US guy was and they always checked out to see how I was handling the latest joke. We've certainly giving them enough material to work with between the riots, the protests, how we're handling the pandemic, and of course everything tweeted from the White House.
Hanging out with some great peeps at Hanoi Social Club

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.” 
~ Lawrence Block

I am the trifecta here. A black tourist from the US. Everybody wants a perspective on what is going on in the United States. Did your president really mean that? Are your people really fighting over toilet paper? Is the police really killing black people? Why do the white people hate you so much? I do my best to be an ambassador for my country. I've been questioned like this EVERY where I go. I've ALWAYS had some sort of answer or explanation that either comforts or better informs. "Do you actually believe, us Canadians, are a National Security threat to the US?" That was in 2018 in Colombia speaking to Canadian tourists in a cooking class I photographed for promotional work for a restaurant.

Recently, however, I was put to shame by a question a young lady asked me, for which I had not answer. There was nothing I could say to comfort and nothing I could say that informed her of any worthwhile reasoning that she simply wasn't privy to. There was no media misinterpretations and nothing was taken out of context.

The young woman could not understand the US. She asked me how the people of Vietnam has treated me. I have been applauding the treatment I've received since I've been here. She went on to tell me that even despite the War, Vietnamese people are very nice and kind and we do not mistreat foreigners. I agreed with her. I have heard of no reports of that sort of mistreatment. Then she asked why Asian people in the US could not expect the same sort of treatment.

I was stunned into silence. I knew what she was referring to. She alluded to all the instances of racial attacks on Asian-Americans, regardless of exactly where they come from, as responsible for Covid-19.

Authorities in New York City and Los Angeles say that hate incidents against people of Asian descent have increased, while a reporting centre run by advocacy groups and San Francisco State University says it received over 1,700 reports of coronavirus-related discrimination from at least 45 US states since it launched in March.
"Coronavirus: What attacks on Asians reveal about American identity" by Helier Cheung & Zhaoyin Feng & Boer Deng, BBC News 27 May 2020

Hate crimes, Anti-Asian assaults, prejudices, and xenophobia rose significantly over the last few months and the title of that article raises a good question. What does this reveal about the American identity? What are we really? All I could say to the young lady was, "I'm sorry. I am so friggin' sorry..." I suddenly felt like I did not belong in this country or deserve to be here. Vietnam has been one of, if not the BEST country to be in, if you want to sit out the Coronavirus. I've been fortunate to be here and have been treated with the utmost respect and professionalism.

It was a heart-breaking experience and this was not long before the policemen murdered George Floyd. Can you feel me? It's like I come to your house and you give me your best room and feed me well. But when you come to my house, my people treat you with mistrust and try to run you down in the road.

I don't know everything there is to know about Vietnam. I only know what I see and what I learn from these great people here who tell me what they think about their country. Everyday, I remember Muhammad Ali when he refused the draft citing he had no quarrel with the Vietnamese people as they have never called him a nigga. My 2020 motto so far... as I find myself often saying has simply been, "Thanks, Vietnam".

I've been extended until August here and am grateful for it. Yet, I am in no hurry to leave. I am not trying to live here, but I would sincerely like to stay for another year, traveling the country and taking pictures. One good year, moving from one end to the other, traveling as slow as I want, stopping where I want, and just taking my time photographing the beauty of Vietnam. I'm doing an online photography landscape course and I want the Vietnam landscape to be the culmination of my study. No clue on how to qualify for either a year-long tourist Visa or a Business Visa. I hope to find out soon and be like the other foreigners who have figured out how to stay.