Thursday, May 26, 2011

Being Uncle Mike is a Pretty Cool Title

With all of my travels and being away for so long, missing family is obviously a very hard thing to cope with. Especially when new additions to the family come and I am not there to welcome them to this beautiful earth.

Back in 2009 my sister had her first son, and my first opportunity to be Uncle Mike, but at the time I was in Bangkok, and had been there for about 9 months at that point, so I didn't even have the chance to see my sister carrying my first little nephew. Like I said, it's difficult to only see pictures and hear stories over the phone and not be a part of it all. But that is the part of the "nomadic traveler's" contract, so I lived vicariously through my family as little Logan was introduced into our family.

I had the great chance to meet him at about 4 months old for about three days when I came home for a wedding, but obviously not enough time.

Now that I am back in America, I have had the chance to see Logan grow more and more. At first I was just referred to in baby blabber as "uh oh mai". Then my sister taught him how to say his new toy she bought him; a bike. So once he could say that, I was "Uh Oh Mike". Now he can hold conversations with me, mostly just "C'mon Uncle Mike!" as he holds my hand and walks me to play soccer or play with the bouncy ball-- which is a pretty awesome feeling.

As of last week, I can officially say I have a niece, as my other sister just had her first child, Ayla! And I thought since I got my first chance to see her via Skype just the other day, I would write a little post about how cool it is to be an Uncle and to see my niece and nephews firsthand (or somewhat so) grow up.

I have been photographing Logan a lot lately and I have thousands of photos of him already, but these recent ones from Easter have really made me happy, especially because he is photogenic like his "uh oh Mike". So now he is somewhat of my little model, especially since he's got piercingly deep, ocean-blue eyes like his mom and dad.

Maybe I will be able to teach Logan how to sing this song in tribute to Thailand...

Or I can try to have Ayla properly "wai" when someone says "sawa-dee ka" to her...

But enjoy these photos of my little "Logo" from Easter and check out the rest of my pictures from Easter on my site:
Logan Michael = cool guy.


You caught me doing something naughty, I can tell!

Oh hey!

Just driving the tractor like a big boy.

One of my favorites with that smile!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Get Me to South Africa!

Last year, on this date, was the start of the most frustrating, exciting, enthralling, challenging, and emotional month and/or year of my life.

On May 25th, 2010 I stood, ankle deep in water from the torrential downpour of rain, on an empty Bangkok street for over an hour trying to hail a taxi cab. I had a massive backpack on and small bag with my camera inside in my hand. I was calling the university's security guards to call for a taxi, but no cabs were in sight (which is a complete rarity in BKK). It was eerie yet frustrating.

At the time, Thailand was in a political crisis. Downtown people were protesting, Red shirts were fighting Yellow shirts, hospitals were being overtaken and evacuated as political power moves in a substantial civil war. Just two week prior, Khattiya Sawasdipol, the former army general who was leading the anti-government protesters was shot in the head and killed, which flared the fighting even more. From then on, the country was on lock down with a curfew of 9pm. (For a play-by-play of some of the Bangkok protests and another write up of my interpretation of the curfew, check this out at
Thai soldiers stand off the Red Shirt protesters. (AP Photo/Wall Santana)
Burning tires was the cause for most of the smoke within Bangkok... until they set Central World on fire. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)
(AP Photo/ Wally Santana)
I hated seeing my favorite country literally go up in smoke. To see the "Land of Smiles" have so much tension was heartbreaking and for the first time I wanted to leave Thailand... and I was.
A view of downtown Bangkok on fire from the protests and the Central World Mall.

My efforts to hail a taxi was to get to the airport for my trip to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup (and to see my friends Colin, Kelsey, Emily, Meg, and Lise of course). I just spent a month as an ordained Buddhist monk in the remote regions on Thailand and so the violence paired with my cultural shock was almost overpowering.

There were times where I felt like a brand new person, a 23-year old just dropped back into Bangkok like in the Sims or something. Music felt like it was curing my soul after being absent in my life. Wearing underwear was like a foreign feeling. Being able to eat after 12 noon was gluttonous to me. Sleeping on something other than a marble floor was like heaven for me. The stimuli was everywhere but extrapolated ten fold after being so secluded from it all for only a month. So when I had the chance to get away from all of the danger and violence and hate, I knew it would be good for me.
All images were taken by Kachorn Chiaravanont.

I finally got a taxi and arrived at the airport in full sprint. Once I got to Singapore Airways' counter, I was told that I was too late and could not board my flight. I panicked. I absolutely freaked out! I was not late. I had plenty of time. They said the gate had already closed and I could not check my bags or anything. I pleaded to the woman that I had to get on that plane and she told me there was nothing I could do about it. She later told me that the flight was for 8:35. I looked at my ticket from my travel agent and it said 9pm. The flight time was changed without anyone telling me. I was crushed. All my money I spent on my tickets, housing, game tickets, etc was just blowing by me. My mind went into a tailspin and I didn't think I would be going to South Africa at all. Fortunately, the woman understood my circumstance and booked me a flight two days later (a day after my Thai visa expired). I didn't care, just knowing I had a seat was all that mattered.

After trying to plead my case two days later at the airport with customs that I am not an "illegal visitor" and that I had been living in Thailand for two years, I gave up and paid the fee once they threatened to arrest me because I was arguing my case. Not the best situation to go into just weeks out of being a Buddhist monk.

I finally boarded the plane and made my extremely long flight to Cape Town (through Singapore) to arrive in a city where I knew very little about and just hoped to find a way to survive the week before Colin, Kelsey and Emily arrived. I barely did survive, I don't know how I did, but that story will be for another post later in the week!

Black and White Wednesdays: A Collection of Other Photographer

Since a lot of my photography is based around the many colors of the world (and since I am far too busy with past photos) I enjoy looking at other photographers work and how they portray things without color. So here are some of my favorite black and white shots for this week.

This photo is from Scott Nichols Gallery and this image alone is why I aspire to take black and white photographs. It's beautiful simplicity has a slight complexity to it, like a painting. The rest of his work below is also incredible, go to his site and take a look at all!

Here are some black and white night shots...

All of these images are from the photographer Marcin Stawiarz. Check out his black and white portfolio, it's fantastic. His use of contrast and extremely white whites and dark blacks without overpowering the image is fantastic. His ISO must be quite high and probably taken on a tripod considering all of these photos are taken at night.
I have an image very similar to this (as it sort of looks like the Chao Praya River in Bangkok) that I hope to put up in the next few days.

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesdays and go to these two artist's sites, they are truly talented photographers!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Footy Kit Fridays: Another AS Roma kit

I don't know what my recent obsession with these kits are, but maybe its just that great feeling of Kappa's material on my back, or maybe its a sign that I should start caring more about Serie A again, but for whatever reason, in my slightly hung over mind this morning, I chose to throw on my white, long sleeve 2008-09 AS Roma Francesco Totti kit.

Like last week, I don't have a camera on hand to snap what I'm rocking today (and I still think it would be a little weird to show my present self every week) so I'll just attach some images of it here.

I will say that although back to back weeks of Roma, I got to rock this jersey with a Baltimore Orioles hat today and it looked quite nice with both oranges being the same-- plus it helps when living in Bmore to get some hometown respect.

Enjoy the last week of club football for awhile this weekend, hopefully Chelsea can end the season with a win, although it's not for the title.

*I promise next week I'll be posting more, I've just been extremely busy with my photography to keep up. Sorry!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Eyes of Self Exhibit Premiering in Mt. Vernon!

Just recently I was asked to showcase some of my work at a gallery in Baltimore just near where I work. Obviously, it’s a great feeling that someone with a good taste in artistic work respects my photographs to give me not only one month of an exhibit but three. I will be setting up for the next few days at Shapiro’s Café and Gallery in Mt. Vernon, Baltimore and the premiere is scheduled for Tuesday from 5-7pm.
The exhibit that I will be displaying first is my older showcase titled Eyes of Self ~ Each Young Eastern Soul Offers a Frame: Southeast Asian Life Through the Faces of the Youth. My book that I made on this exhibit is on sale here or you can preview it on the box to the left of this post. I love this exhibit as it displays pictures from my great time abroad in Thailand back in 2006. The pictures are more thematic than other projects that I work on and it was my very first photography showcase, so it obviously holds a great place in my heart.

 My next exhibit that will replace the Eyes of Self one is still to be determined but I know that most of the photographs will be from my past three years traveling and taking even more photographs with new equipment and experiences to help improve my work. This exhibit will premiere the second week of June and will stay up until around August.

If you are going to be in the Baltimore area during the next few months, I would love for you to come by the gallery and take a look around. Also if you are free for our premiere next Thursday, May 19th, we are going to have free drinks, food provided by Shapiro’s amazing menu and hopefully some live music or at least some good times to be had.
The gallery right now looks amazing with the set up of the café. There are two separate areas in the café and two very different vibes from the front and back rooms but they all come together perfectly. We’ll have a comment book and my coffee table photography book on the Eyes of Self exhibit where you can read my Artist’s Statement and see even more photographs from my project.
I hope to see you all there on Thursday and stopping in on occasion to take a look at my work—or the other great artists’—at Shapiro’s.

Here are a few photos from the exhibit being displayed. (Pictures from the Premiere will be posted later.)

Footy Kit Fridays

So now that I am on somewhat of a normal schedule, I have become a creature of habit, which is nice. Typically, I'm all over the place. Recently I have noticed that on Friday, I am subconsciously creating my own "casual Friday" at work. Considering everyday is casual attire day, I have decided to wear one of my many soccer jerseys each week.

And I figured, why not make this a thing. So every Friday, I'll have a different kit that I will have worn that day.

Today: The unlucky Friday the 13th: I decided to wear the kit of a player who has been quite unlucky in honor of the date, Alberto Aquilani (well at least in the English Premiership). Since I don't have photo capabilities today, I'll just throw up some older ones to give you an idea of what I'm rocking today and if you like soccer jerseys, than you will enjoy these Footy Kit Fridays. If you don't, well, I'm sorry.

These pictures are when Eli, Christina, and Jay came out to visit me in Thailand and their first night in Bangkok, enjoy the hot weather, hot food, and cold beers on the streets of Sukhomvit.
 And one more for you to enjoy. Gotta love the Kappa kits, they are so kushy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Finding the Extremes and Just Taking the Middle Path Instead... with an ice cream cone.

Recently I have been experiencing a lot of small tests in my life. Troubles and challenges that I have to get by, but if there was anything I learned while ordained as a Buddhist monk last year, it is that life’s tests only dictate your life by the decisions you make in response to those challenges or stimuli.
As we all know, life comes with ups and downs. We have our goods and bads, but it’s how you treat either extreme that determines your character. I consider myself someone who takes the positives and accentuates from them much more than the negatives. When good times happen, I take advantage of them and highlight them each and every day, sometimes subconsciously. But I also reject the bad times. I can learn from them, but I don't like them controlling my attitude and personality.
Much of Buddhism is based upon balance and being content. Being level-minded and even tempered. I look at all situations in my life as the world balancing around me. When very bad things occur, it’s up to you to see the very good things that happen just afterward. It’s natural that they will happen, you just have to distinguish them.
As a small example, I’ll take an experience I had this weekend while in the New York City.
I had just gotten off the bus from Baltimore and got dropped off right outside of Madison Square Garden. I began to walk toward the PATH train to go to Hoboken to stay with my friend Drew. On my walk over to 6th Avenue, what do I see but an old-fashioned Ice Cream Truck, parked right outside of one of the most famous arenas in the world, in one of the busiest cities in the world. 

There are very few negative connotations with Ice Cream trucks (in my eyes at least) and with its boxy shape, its loud, scratchy music and all the bells and whistles to it, the juxtaposition next to MSG was pretty interesting to me. So I decided to take my camera out and take a few shots, no big deal. I asked the driver at his side window if I could take his picture and I gave him my card and showed him my photos. He loved them. I told him to give me his email address and I would send him some of the pictures. His smile lit up the already bright-light of a truck. He was ecstatic. 

He rushed over and scribbled his email on a napkin and handed it to me.
“Thank you, thank you so much! They are such great photos,” he proclaimed in vaguely broken English. “Here, let me get you ice cream! What kind do you like?”
I told him it’s okay, I just enjoyed taking his photo and no worries. But he kept insisting, already putting the cone under the soft serve machine.

“OK, just a little vanilla would be fine, ha! Thank you, my friend.”
“No, thank you, sir. You have a great night!”
I turned away from the truck with a big smile, like I was four years old again eating some black raspberry from South Main St. Ice Cream shop with my dad. The feeling was so interesting. The excitement of a free ice cream cone brought me back to my small town in New Hampshire and my youthful, “little victories” all while knowing the man on the other side of that truck’s window was happy as well. Only then did I look around me and see anything but a small town, but rather the world’s most famous town.
Some excited ice cream customers.
Another satisfied sprinkles lover.
As I am happily walking away I see the same reactions from everyone else in an eye-shot of the Ice Cream Truck… pure adolescent joy. Elderly men were jumping at the sight of ice cream and then even more excited to hop in front of my camera lens to take a picture beside it with big smiles on their faces and extra sprinkled vanilla cones in their hands. Who knew just standing by a truck outside of Madison Square Garden would bring such infectious joy? I was quite surprised that such a simple vehicle could do so, but as I walked away, I was happy.
I wasn't the only one take pictures of this great gig.
That was my high moment at the time. And I carried it on through to the train, and into Hoboken. I had my headphones on with a skip in my step thinking about how I was going to write such a “fun, upbeat post on my blog." Just as I was about to get to Drew’s apartment, I cross the small side street only to have a car lay on their horn and scream out their window to me, “Yea, you F***ing idiot, just walk in front of a moving car, SH**head!”
Their sarcastic yelling barely even phased me. I literally laughed as I made it to the other side of the street and thought about how I would have taken that comment if it were not for my previous 'high'. I felt bad for the man’s high temper but kept walking as I wiped my hands dry from my sticky, melted ice-cream fingers.
My mind works in ways like this all of the time, so typically these “balancing events” occur dozens of times daily and I consciously think about them. I feel that is how I can stay level-headed.
That was my balance and instead of walking into Drew’s apartment saying, “wow I just had some prick scream at me for crossing the street!” instead I said, “I just had an awesome, FREE, ice cream cone outside of MSG. I took some photos, had a nice conversation with the driver, and went on my way. It was awesome.”
Drew and his roommates thought it was a pretty cool story. I thought it was very cool, and still do. Now I can keep that 'high' for an even longer time with my photographs and story.

As for the guy yelling at me? He might be right, maybe I should have paid more attention to crossing the street, but I’d rather happily skip across the street than concern myself with his short fuse. It’s just about balancing it out. And in the end, having a cone of ice cream and forgetting about the troubles in life for a moment are things that everyone needs once in awhile.
What a sweet life is it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monday Morning Captures: My weekly photo obsessions

Like any good artist should know, appreciating other's work is just as important as producing your own good work. So every now and then I stumble upon some great shots and I cannot help but give credit when it's due. Here are some amazing photographs that I've been infatuated with lately. Enjoy!

  ... from National Geographic's Photo of the Day
This picture obviously comes from National Geographic and was taken at Yosemite National Park of these four BASE jumpers leaping off of the Half Dome. It was their Photo of the Day and the caption read, "Leaping from Half Dome is illegal, but in Yosemite the sport of BASE jumping is soaring in popularity anyway."

"The spectacular view from a hot air balloon at sunrise over the Cappadocia Valley in Turkey. The morning light over the valley made the view appear surreal"

"The glowing hues of dusk bathe a mud-splattered gold miner in the border province of Manica. The area draws scores of workers from neighboring Zimbabwe who pan for traces of the precious metal in turbid waters."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Black and White Wednesdays: Barack Obama

Since I am still experiencing some problems with my computer, I do not have access to my personal photographs, but my friend Russell, pointing me in the direction of some oldie- but goodie- black and white shots that I saw in Rolling Stone a couple years back. So enjoy these black and white ones while next week I'll get you back on track with my black and white photographs.
Barack Obama, 1980. Pho­tos by Lisa Jack /​ M+B Gallery. 
My favorite of all of these. Such a great candid photo with interesting lighting.
This is a very close second favorite. Great emotion from this picture and it seems like I've seen a similar pose from our President many times in recent photographs. Perfection.

Head over to the website I grabbed these from to see the rest of the photos.