Christmas in Paradise

Christmas Eve and roasting on a 90 degree day.

I'd like to say that this year has been a whirlwind ride and I never thought I would be where I am today. From quitting my job, moving to Malaysia, and getting married. It's been non stop and the coming new year has much more in store for me and you.

Due to the lack of resources, time, and motivation, I've realized that most of this year with my intention on posting went all but still. I remember when I first started this site and what it meant to me and somewhere along the way, I lost interest. In the end, I re-discovered my true passion after re-igniting it over these past few months. And that passion right there is photography.

Nothing else in the world can capture a moment in time so purely and with full emotions. I realized once more that I wanted to share what I captured and to bring stories to the world. Once again I am heading into the new year with the goal of posting more consistently over several platforms. The start being this revamped website.

Look forward to some write-ups I have coming out about my wedding, a local group that became my family, NoEqual's Santai Sunday event, and my adventures from the past couple months.

I hope you enjoy the content to come!



2018-12-24 / Christmas in Paradise
2018-09-05 / Rushing & Arrival
2018-08-24 / Preparation and Family
2018-05-13 / Take Off X Launch
2018-04-25 / 2018 Chicago Auto Show
2018-04-18 / Can't Stop Won't Stop
2017-12-22 / Merry Christmas 2017
2017-11-04 / Camera Review - A7S Mark II
2017-10-31 / Mid Way
2017-10-30 / Taking Flight
2017-10-18 / Camera Review - PENTAX K1000
2017-10-17 / Camera Review - Pax M2
2017-10-02 / LENS REVIEW - Pentax 135mm
2017-09-14 / LENS REVIEW - Cosina 19-35mm
2017-09-09 / LENS REVIEW - Pentax 50mm
2017-08-27 / Camera Review - A7S Mark I
2017-08-25 / EQUIPMENT REVIEW - BagSmart Pack
2017-08-01 / The Beginning

Christmas in Paradise

Christmas Eve and roasting on a 90 degree day.

I'd like to say that this year has been a whirlwind ride and I never thought I would be where I am today. From quitting my job, moving to Malaysia, and getting married. It's been non stop and the coming new year has much more in store for me and you.

Due to the lack of resources, time, and motivation, I've realized that most of this year with my intention on posting went all but still. I remember when I first started this site and what it meant to me and somewhere along the way, I lost interest. In the end, I re-discovered my true passion after re-igniting it over these past few months. And that passion right there is photography.

Nothing else in the world can capture a moment in time so purely and with full emotions. I realized once more that I wanted to share what I captured and to bring stories to the world. Once again I am heading into the new year with the goal of posting more consistently over several platforms. The start being this revamped website.

Look forward to some write-ups I have coming out about my wedding, a local group that became my family, NoEqual's Santai Sunday event, and my adventures from the past couple months.

I hope you enjoy the content to come!

Rushing & Arrival

Anticipation for the wedding and the arrival of friends and family.

The closer the date of came the more anxious I was getting and the nervousness showed throughout the weeks. Paperwork submitted just in time and all documents sorted. Everything was lining up and with that, I was feeling slightly at ease. The last bit of business was getting people places and settled as well as running through our program for the last time before the real deal. Man, It's like a treadmill that never stops.

The first people to arrive was the slashMedia crew (in dormancy). Consisting of my friend Kevin (previously The Nomadic Tire), Josh, and Veronica. We took the two to motorsports-themed digs called Hype Motorsports Hotel which was a small drive away from Sepang International Circuit. Once those two were situated Kevin was set up in my own room that I was renting in Nilai. He had just left the USA with no intentions of returning and to proceed with a nomad like digital media traveller lifestyle.

The first few days were spent getting him comfortable in the non-air-conditioned room and getting some work done while waiting on the others to arrive. In that time the four of us went out to explore what Kuala Lumpur had to offer. The Central Market, Low Yat Plaza, and the Helipad Bar to name a few.

Central Market itself was built in the late '20s and was originally a wet market until the '80s where it had been turned into a sort of arts and crafts outlet. It is one of KL’s most familiar landmarks and popular tourist attraction. It is accessible by nearby public transport and is classified as a heritage site, thus having a history that interests tourists.

My own family from MN arrived during this time as well but their plans were slightly different from my own. They did spend a day with us at Central Market and enjoyed the stalls inside as well as the infamous fish spa that we came to each year we visited in the past. Just a touch on that fish spa. Its a big tub of sorts that you stick your feet in, lo-and-behold, small fish start to nibbles at your feet and toes causing a raucous time where you try to contain your laughter but at very best cause a scene where everyone looks at the giggling tourists. At the end your feet come out so smooth you'd think they weren't your own.

My fiance's friends were next to come, and the first arrived a bit early. As a way of celebrating a safe flight in, we decided to get the greatest ice cream innovation that Malaysia Mc Donalds had to offer. A giant Dinosaur Party McFlurry (pictured below) consisting of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, Milo cereal, and a choco-top layer to set it off. Dear lord was it good. A day before taking off to the Fiance's hometown, the other two of her friends arrived and crashed at the hotel near KLIA2.

The following morning I rounded up her friends and prepared for a drive while my own got on a few direct route buses. My family rented a car for themselves driving down the same day. Though the morning could have gone better, with scheduling issues and small conflicts between parties, everyone arrived soundly and in time. The two-hour road trip wasn't bad and seeing Malaysia's landscape passing by made it that much more enjoyable with the luscious green plant life and patches of red dirt scoot by as we headed south to Kluang.

Evening came and with it food and good hangs. And the realization that my best man wasn't going to be there until the day before the wedding. Enter in the most unlikely heroes to offer their help to us in this stressful time. To be continued!

Preparation & Family

Something new to come.

The past 3 months have been intense. Getting adjusted to the new environment, preparing things for the wedding, and visiting family, my plate was full. As for the lack of posts for the past couple months, I honestly thought I would have more time to post up, and the funny thing about weddings, as I came to find out, is that they take a ton of preparation to make happen with little to no issues. I'm sure that after the proceedings and after this major event in our life, I'll be posting more frequently again!

Take Off

The start to an endless journey.

Morning, May 13th, I had a feeling of elation and absolute dread. This was the day I would be leaving the US indefinitely. I knew not of what to expect and what the future may hold going forward but I knew one thing, and that was that I was prepared to start this journey.

Having packed late into the night, I made sure to have everything ready so that I could wake up without having to run around finding something I forgot. I'm not too sure of what others have done when deciding to pack their lives into a few bags but I can tell you this. It's not easy. Going through all of my things it's surprising how many memories things can hold and not only that but sentimental value as well. Condensing 25 years of your life into one suitcase, one backpack, and a laptop bag makes one realize that all these things that makeup who you are can now be who you were.

This was my chance to start anew and to minimalize what encircled my daily life and routines. Bidding farewell to my old Pioneer record player (and vinyls). And to the TV I never used enough of, the old things that I've forgotten about. Saying hello and welcome to the next chapter of my life.

Aside from the shedding of material bits and pieces I was ready to roll. I did my daily morning routine per usual not even thinking of the fact that it'd be my last time with my ritualistic mornings. Making my way downstairs and toasted a Thomas's english muffin (good god are these tasty) and buttered it. Paired with a cup of Nescafe instant coffee and some anticipation and anxiety, it was pretty surreal. Like that feeling of experiencing yourself in the third person.

I proceeded to collect my bags and say my goodbyes to the fur family. I hopped in the van and we backed out of the driveway. Watching my house disappear and the street I had grown up on for 18 years. Driving through Saint Paul on a quiet Sunday morning was calming and not worrying about traffic made it that much better. I will miss this city but it won't be forever.

I arrived at Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport and my family sent me off. We headed into the departure hall and said our "I love yous" and goodbyes. I headed to the ticket kiosk, scanned my passport, printed the tickets, and checked my luggage. This was it! No turning back now. I walked with them to the security gate and said our nth goodbyes. Hard not to cry I'll admit and damn hard not to think of as I type this.

Security was a breeze and now the wait for the gate to open and the flight itself to board. Feeling a bit hungrier then this morning, I HAD to have some french toast sticks from Burger King and an OJ before potentially never having it again(oh the horror). Delta flight 121 to Haneda Japan at 11:20 AM, this was it, time to go. Passport out and ready, I made my way through the queue and boarded. The Boeing 777-200 I found myself on was very nice and a bit more comfortable then other flights I've been on. Leg room and seemingly cleaner seats.

Enter hours of movie watching, sleeping, eating, and more sleeping. I had grown accustomed to adjusting my hours of sleep mid-flight as to avoid potential jet lag and exhaustion once landing. The secret is really simple and it's taking into account on the time when you land rather than when you leave. If you land at your destination at 8 pm stay awake for 8 hours prior. You will be tired but it won't be as bad in the long run and you'll have a bit more energy to function. Basically work backwards from your time and set vibrating alarms for when you are in flight (can't exactly blast your music on a flight).

Noise cancelling headphones make it easier too if that's the only way. And as others have mentioned, drink water and tons of it! The number one thing to prevent feeling groggy and weird is drinking at least 4 bottles of water for long-haul flights. Not only will you feel good getting off but it'll keep you from feeling and getting sick. These aren't things I mandate but rather a friendly tip that has always worked for me.

Enter a very sore but wide awake me hopping off the plane. I've made it to Haneda Airport without issue and without much hesitation or thought I headed to customs. Upon entry to Japan, I had a very good idea. I had a 10-hour layover and it was late morning....hmmm. I thought of the best thing I could do at that moment. A shower. A nice hot relaxing shower. After being stuck on that plane for as long as I was I wanted to get the gross feeling off of myself and to take a few minutes to settle.

After the lovely shower I grabbed all my stuff and headed out into the arrivals hall of Haneda Airport. With a suitcase and a couple bags, I thought about what to do in my remaining time. I had 8hrs + and nothing else to do. I headed up to departures and checked my bags into a luggage storage kiosk. This allowed me to freely explore without the hassle of carrying my stuff everywhere. If you've made it this far through the article then you have seen and followed me in my exploration of Shinjuku and the surrounding area. Let me say that every time I've come to Japan I have never been disappointed with the abundance of things to shoot there. By the time you read this, I'll have made it to my final destination of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Where I go from here is a mystery (besides the marriage bit) and I hope you'll join in my adventures to come!

2018 Chicago Auto Show

A Smorgasborg of Automotive Excellency.

The venue, McCormick Place, houses two halls and encompasses over one million square feet of space and is crammed full of every automotive brand in the country for an entirety of two weeks. Thousands of visitors attend to look at 1,000 plus vehicles on display and interactive exhibits from multiple brands.

Before the public is admitted the show welcomes the media and press. Hundreds if not more of us make our way through the two halls to see in a more open space what the public will a few hours after we leave.

The show caters to any and all that are interested in the growing world of the automotive industry. Innovations and exciting designs come together to make the show what it is and it did not dissapoint.

For me, this was my first time attending the show as a member of the automotive media and with credentials to suit. Albeit being nervous and excited I kept my cool throughout and tried my absolute best to see what was new and buzzing in the automotive world and to capture and share it with the rest of the world. The opportunity was by chance and involved collaboration with a few local outfits.

It began with some discussions with Randy from Victory & Reseda, a friend I met through the MN car community and got to know through attending several local events in the cities. Our newly formed slashMedia group decided to go forward with covering the event with Randy and to provide photo and video media to that effect. The aim was to not only provide Randy with content but to also expand slashMedia's portfolio and to gain new skills and insight into our automotive passions.

Our collective effort was in full effect shortly thereafter. We of slashMedia drove through the night into Chicago the day of and Randy flew in that morning as well. The mistake we made was not getting enough rest in preperation for the first day, there were a few bumps in the road in terms of our overall performance. Even so, we pulled through and got what we came for bang on for the day.

Media Day was brutal with exhaustion and complications with scheduling and issues plaguing us for the day. It just was not a good day for us. Putting aside the negative events that unfolded, there were positive contributions and work put out.

The Volvo XC40 that was introduced at the show was a great thing to cover with us pulling some great video with an interview as well.

The end of the first day put us on our asses and we spent the night having dinner at the bar and passing out from sheer exhaustion afterwards. The hotel room layout involved 2 beds and 1 couple and 2 individuals. I decided that the window seat was large and comfy enough to last the few nights we'd be staying. Gotta say that downtown at night looked lovely and was thoroughly pleased with the sleeping situation.

The following day we proceeded to shoot the second hall which housed Honda, Hyundai, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and a few other manufacturers. This was a bit calmer than the last few days of adjusting and getting into the flow of things. The new Civic Type R from Honda was put on display with a few OEM add-ons in a case nearby. I found it to be very appealing especially with its price point and options from the get-go. Subaru nearby had a BRZ TS and the new Ascent on the floor. I must say the new SUV offering was massive in size and definitely fits in with the current SUV trend sweeping across the country.

Mazda had its newly redesigned models up and man they are sophisticated yet sexy looking. Not something that an affordable car option can emulate easily. Across the way, Hyundai had the new Kona which was quite a funky departure from their usual designs and kind of reminds me of how the Jeep Cherokee has goofy lights in the front fascia as well. Walking a bit further was the dreaded and underwhelming Eclipse Cross from Mitsubishi. This vehicle was certainly a let down to the diehard Mitsu community and even pulled the Eclipse moniker and turned it into this...thing. As bad as it is and how easy it is to rip on it, the SUV itself wasn't bad and actually offered decent features that were more centred for family type audiences.

Chevrolet's Trail Boss was indeed a looker and had quite a gathering of people surrounding it. Unfortunatley I didn't have the time to enquire on it but it certainly maintained a presence. Not too far from them was Toyota had several TRD Camrys on the floor and a few were kitted out with aftermarket goodies. It was nice to see enthusiast type builds at an OE show. Not only did they have a display they also provided ride alongs in their new Camry. From what I noticed only a few manufacturers really tried to connect with the indivuality of their enthusiast communities. Even if they tried a little I am sure some of the more generic models would sell with the younger audiences (the millenial thing is a myth).

After the third day of photo shooting, I spent the evening wandering the streets of Chicago just as a massive blizzard came in. When such a busy and well-populated city becomes empty I find this to be the best chance for some great street photography. I walked from the hotel to several popular tourist spots and even got a banger of the Balaban & Katz Theater.

I was unsure of where my colleagues ended up but I did enjoy the brisk adventure and stopped in a Dunkin Donuts to escape the frigid air outside and to warm up over a strong coffee and doughnuts. There was no one but me, the snow, and the city.

The next morning we headed to a nice breakfast joint down the road from our hotel and proceeded to stuff our faces. Chatting around the table about our failures and successes through the event and how we had learned a lot was a nice way to cap off our trip. The only other thing I remember of that morning was how the eggs-benedict that the restaurant served was hands down the most delicious food I have had in quite a while.

While editing some of the photos that I took during the show, it turns out that I yielded some decent images to my surprise. I'm pleased to be sharing a select few in this very article. Being the first auto show coverage together as a group as well as individually, considering all the circumstances of what we all dealt with(professionally and personally) we still had a great time and were productive.

One thing that I took away from the trip. Even if things go wrong in all that the world offers — there is always a silver lining when you look past the problems and provide yourself with the motivation to carry onwards. Maybe I'll cover another show but for now, this will be my one and only of this kind on this scale. Thank you to Randy of Victory & Reseda and thank you to my friends at slashMedia for doing what we do best and looking past disagreements and issues and pushing forward to deliver. Teamwork makes the dream work and we certainly dished it out!

Can't Stop Won't Stop

Trials and tribulations before the actual trials and tribulations.

A brief overview of the same bits on the main page. Well, the holidays came and went and now it's April! I haven't had a moment to update anything on here so now that it's been a quick minute I will get some more frequent updates in. Who doesn't love consistent content? I have scheduled weekly updates coming in every Friday going forward starting with this post.

So what've I been up to since disappearing? Planning a wedding, working non-stop, saving all the money, doing more work on the side, establishing a plan of action for when I move. The list feels endless and it seems daunting but I've gotten it all worked out (to an extent) and balanced enough so that I'm not on the verge of banging my head on a wall.

Last January was packed full of planning, and paperwork. And even now it’s not all complete! I have had to settle all of my financial obligations and also any outstanding bits requiring attention. Let’s just say that preparing for a move like this takes far longer than I had first thought. My suggestion to anyone who plans to do similar would be to start this process as early as you can.

Enter February and I was focused on my coursework as well as getting ready to work the 2018 Chicago Auto Show. I was asked by a good friend Randy Stern of Victory & Reseda (pictured above) if I wanted to shoot the show earlier the prior month. Never having had an opportunity like this, I decided to jump on the offer and get myself prepared along with my affiliates at /Media. On February 8th The Nomadic Tire(below), Flecsmedia(above on the left), and I Gojirars headed to the show road-trip style. I’ll expand on the event in the next article. Let’s just say it was exhausting but very rewarding. After returning to Minnesota once our work was done I dug in to my work and my school head on. No more wasted time and no more opportunities to take my time as time was not a luxury.

February turned to March and I was still in the same mindset and pumped to get outta the states. I've halted all of my creative efforts for the purpose of getting all my work sorted and to leave a standing impression with current employers. Sorry for the delay in content but all is not lost! My current work situation is stressing me out but hey when you got deadlines all over the place it kinda creeps up on ya, like a cat and those fries you left on the coffee table. Thankfully I started keeping track of my schedule and commitments, and my god! Why did I never do this to begin with? After getting my Dell XPS 15 to replace my old Samsung RF711 I have been a lot more productive thanks to the Mail and Calendar apps that Windows 10 provides. So being on the ball is a bonus, now it’s just keeping up with it.

That leaves me with now. April is here and passing fast. I have 3 weeks left to go before I take the leap. I hope those of you reading look forward to joining me on my adventures into the unknown! It’s gonna be a wild 2018 and I hope between the technical articles and stories I can include you all in what I do.

Cheers and see ya soon!


A fantastic travel bag created by Douchebags...odd name, I know.

Aside from the unique name that these brilliant bastards came up with, Douchebags is more than a fancy bag with an unobtrusive name. And I am absolutely spouting the truth on this one. When it comes to travel bags there is always a purpose and a compromise. Why not achieve both?

A brief overview, founded in 2012, a renowned freestyle ski legend Jon Olsson and Norwegian product designer Truls Brataas came to establish Douchebags. A now globally recognized brand that has been awarded for their design and functionality. Jon Olsson is an exceptional athlete and YouTuber that many follow in his day-in-life vlogs. He and Truls have not only considered what entails with travelling, but also came up with quirky efficient solutions to even the most minute of annoyances in travelling gear.

To be honest this was a spur of the moment purchase with good intentions. Me and my friend Kevin (The Nomadic Tire) were working and the topic of travel gear came up. As a subscriber to Jon Olsson’s channel I suggested taking a look at the brand Douchebags. After some deliberation we came to a consensus that the 40L Carryall would be the best choice for what both of us needed. Just before committing to our purchases we noticed that there was an option for the limited edition Black Camo. In comparison to the regular black and white options, this limited design is so so much more fitting and gives the overall appearance a nice edgy aesthetic.

Starting with the front of the bag the most noticeable, and in my humblest opinion best, feature of this bag is that there are no accessible zippers on the front of the bag. There are only two compartments accessible when it’s on your back. The top compartment for cables and small items, and the bottom for shoes or sandals. The effort to open either will still deter would be pickpockets. So any valuables that you will have will be located within the main compartment which is inaccessible and makes it impossible to get to. Definitely a bonus for when you’re traveling and much more so in densely populated destinations.

The overall attraction to the bag was the fact that you could stuff forty litres worth of gear inside a carry-on approved bag. That is insane for a piece of carry-on luggage and it certainly maximizes space for the traveller who does not have a need or use to check their baggage. It can hold enough clothes for a solid week as well as a laptop and any associated gear. A great and worry free bit of info that comes along with is the fact that the bag itself is IATA (International Air Transport Association) certified. This means that the outward dimensions of the bag are approved to be within the size regulations for carry-on luggage. This paired with a usual allowance of one personal item and you’re set for any destination you take off to.

The interior provides a mesh section within the opening flap for dirty laundry and larger items as well. On both sides there is another mesh section for smaller belongings and charging peripherals or really anything you need to be organized. Also enclosed within the aforementioned side mesh pockets there are the outside handle adjustments. To either retract or extend the bags handles. A clever design that works well in the instance that you need some top down grips.

On the back there is a massive padded section so large weight loads shouldn’t be too taxing. The backpack straps can be tucked away in a compartment on the outside and makes it easy to store the bag or if you don’t need the straps it’s nice to tuck them out and away. Only one caveat that I noticed and that is there is no sling strap for this bag, but that is really the only bit I could find as a negative. Aside from that, versatility was kept in mind and allows the bag to function as a duffel bag or backpack at a moment's notice. My guess is that the primary use for my own bag will be left in the backpack configuration. Allowing me to toss it over my shoulders and go very quickly. The overall quality is fantastic and even the zippers follow suit. This is made with abuse in mind and definitely fits its asking price.

If 40 litres isn’t enough they also make a 65 litre in the same design (not IATA certified) as well as the intriguing 90 litre “Big Bastard” rolling luggage piece. The selection that Douchebags offers is broad enough for almost any purpose and the quality will not leave you with a bad taste. Something I may be purchasing in the near future to pair with my bag is the pack bags that they offer. Definitely helps when your belongings are organized and quickly accessible. Whatever you go with it’s well worth the investment and surely won’t disappoint.


In summary this bag is a perfect travel companion and does its job well while looking stunningly sharp. The practicality it adheres to and the carry-on specs it fits makes this a solid bag. Albeit the high price at $219 USD for the limited edition, we could have opted for the normal price of $179 but hey the design makes it worth it as does its utility. A fantastic investment if you want to travel smart and efficiently while looking great.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

To all the memories made in the year.

As we starting closing in on the end of the year I would just like to thank you for reading my content, whether you agree or disagree, I look forward to sharing more with all of you. If you have any suggestions or questions please feel free to contact me as I am always looking for feedback.

The age of digital media is thriving and I hope to contribute towards the consatant growth of online media. I never considered myself one to put things online but thanks to a few friends I was urged (more like shoved off a cliff) into trying this out. Here's looking at you my dear and to /Media and The Nomadic Tire. Without their support and yours I don't think I would have all the drive and content that I have now.

Something to look forward to is more technical articles and how-to's. I've always liked documenting my projects and assisting others with their own. Not only am I aiming for this but I also have a wealth of knowledge to tap into and share. Not with only travel but also in terms of programming , photo editing, and also with the modification of cars. But past that I hope we can see some cool things coming to the site soon!

As we sit with our friends and family never forget that your time with them is the most precious no matter where you are this holiday season. Have a great Christmas and finish off the year with a bang. Here's to seeing you all next year and I hope you look forward to my content in the new year! Cheers!

/Camera Review - Sony's A7S MARK II -

This glowing icon in the mirrorless world adds more to its punch.

Just like the A7S Mark I, which was designed for 4K video but only able to externally record it, the A7SII quickly earned a following from videographers for its ability to internally record 4K. Finally. Not only did they add the ability to do so but they also included IBIS (Internal Body Image Stabilization) which in turn made a great camera into an amazing camera.

The updates to the A7S are long overdue and welcome. As with the previous iteration the main user group for this camera is for videographers. It shares the same sensor and general functionality of the original A7S but with a few tweaks that help overall. The problem is, for the price point is it worth it? Comparing the old and new style that I have I would say it most certainly is worth the added cost. The IBIS and 4K recording abilities are why it is for obvious reasons. For those that use manual lenses the IBIS makes a huge difference in the final outcome of a shot. Less chance of having a blurry picture and makes video just a hair smoother. Even with the two obvious features there are some little changes to improve functionality.

In comparison to the old body style of the A7S there are some smaller changes that stuck out to me. As everyone who has used an A7S can say, the placement of the shutter button is a bit awkward. Sony has moved it to a more natural location and it makes the old body feel even more awkward to use. Not something unknown at this point but definitely the one bit that made an impact when using it. Another small feature I noticed is the screen when flipped out is not blocked by the viewfinder anymore. The articulating arm pulls it a bit further away and makes the screen more useable for those lower shots. Having another customizable button does and having it located on top allows you to use an on the fly feature much easier.

Autofocusing seems a touch faster and it appears to do well even in the dark. In the previous A7 lineup the A7S was pretty quick already and I'm glad that it still shows. For those that process videos the specs are much improved on and provides S-Log3 which purportedly has an extended dynamic range.

In terms of build quality it still holds true to Sony's standards. It feels solid and is ergonomic. The body is magnesium alloy just like the previous version albeit a bit fatter. The weight is not noticeable when comparing it to the old body and it supposedly has better sealing as well. Not much to say as it feels right to hold and can take some abuse while you're out in some tough conditions.

When I got mine I planned on extended use and needed a bit more power. The A7 line of cameras are notorious for cruddy battery life and with the IBIS the newer versions suffer quite a bit more. I needed a battery grip so that the longevity of a shoot would be double. Not only that but with a grip, portrait framed shoots are much easier to manage. After a bit of searching I ended up going with the same brand that I used on my older A7S. Meike makes some decent supporting accessories and their grip is exceptionally good for the money.

10/10 a great camera with proven technology that lives up to the legendary status of its predecessor. Unless if cost is no problem I would recommend buying this only if you don't own an A7S from the previous generation. Now if only the A7SIII could be released soon.

Mid Way

The continuation of my month long escape from reality.

Long haul flights and red eye aren't the best for those that are unprepared. Most think it's long, boring, and of all nightmares... may involve a screaming and overly active child behind you. Fear not, in most cases it's you sitting there watching the latest movies and proceeding to sleep over half the time you are up in the air, oblivious to your neighbor. Mind the usual bathroom request and passing of food.

My 18 hour flight was spent watching a lot of recent movie releases and some Japanese yakuza flicks. I can go into details but it's mostly me eating, sleeping, and watching films. Side note, as with most flights my suggestion is to drink a ton of water for the duration of your flight, the air is SO dry. Anyways, enter me finally landing in Narita mid morning tired as hell and insanely thirsty. What to do in the 2 hours before I fly to my final destination?

After being on such a long flight you feel a bit gross once landed. Lucky for me I had a set of clothes on hand. One of the most interesting and frankly great features of Narita's airport is that they have full blown showers. You can pay a measly ¥1000 or roughly $10 USD to use for a half hour or more for some extra change and it will come with a towel and a giant bottle of shampoo, conditioner, and soap. This I discovered a year prior with my trip to Japan in 2016 and was something I look forward to midway.

After my brief moment of relaxation I made my way to the my final point of departure. Grabbing a quick burger and some food to munch on while counting down. Tick tock, take a bite, rinse and repeat. If I could recommend any airline to use when flying from the US to Japan and/or Southeast Asia then I would highly consider ANA - All Nipon Air. Excellent service, great price, and just all around professional yet comfortable for economy. I hopped on to my final connection and off we went, Japan dissappearing under the clouds and the ocean peaking out of the clouds the higher we went. My excitement growing as I was only a few more hours from my destination.

Taking Flight

The start of my month long escape from reality.

One of the first things I've learned when it comes to the mind's health is that you need to escape. Your mind and fingers keep going back to the keyboard searching for a faraway place in a longing hope. Kayak, Cheapo Air, Expedia, and etc. After hours of debate and consideration you have it. Your escape. Eventually you set your destination, date, and plans. Throw in that PTO and just before the day you take off you get that feeling. The rush of excitement and uncertainty of going to this destination that took hours days and months to plan. The journey starts at this point.

Your alarm goes off and you know what you've got to do, usually. Waking up at 5 AM on a Thursday isn't exactly what most would consider exciting. But it is when it doesn't involve an hour long journey to work and standing idle around the coffeepot. Instead it involves double checking you've got your clothes, toiletries, laptop, essentials, and most importantly travel documents ready to go. Once all is in order and you've gotten ready it's time to leave. Opening the door and breathing a different air.

I left the house at 6AM Thursday, hopped into my buddies Camry being greeted with a cup of joe, and did small talk of my plans once I arrived overseas. It was cold for late July morning, watching the suburbs shrink and the bustle of Saint Paul disappear in the mirrors, I was anxious to take off. It was a brisk 30 minute ride and I was ready once I heard the rumble of a 747 overhead. We stopped outside the terminal and said my farewell.

If there is anything I don't enjoy about an airport it's the time you have to stand in lines, lines, and more lines. If you like baggage fees and getting harassed by the TSA this may be a challenge for some. Once I was through I made my way eventually to Burger King for some much needed breakfast, and to get in some writing while munching on their french toast sticks (an unhealthy addiction might I add). A short period of time passed until I found myself at the gate and then looking out of a plane bound for Chicago.

As short as a trip it was from MSP International to O'Hare International I came to find that my outbound flight would be delayed due to inclement weather. Go figure. Much to my dismay I was forced to stay at a hotel or suffer 12+ hours in purgatory. Headed to the hotel and made myself at home. Insert the next morning with me heading back to the airport and standing in lines, lines, and more lines. After all of the shuffling and disgruntled sighs I made it through and proceeded to my outbound gate to Tokyo Narita International Airport.


A cheap entry-level camera with solid results.

Plain and simple, a beautifully made camera. Fun and easy to use especially for beginners or those who want to try stepping out into the world of film. It is very very basic and is always a great casual shooting tool to have around for those that are more familiar with cameras. Using this camera that only relies on the individual to make decisions not only makes for a great tool for learning with, but it also doesn't hold one back when you know what you're doing. It allows you to be creative and think more for your perfect shot.

Not only does it force you to work hard for an image, but it's simply offering no added bells and whistles to consider while doing it.

I'd like to think that this is a great camera for the professional photographer as well. Honestly it does not take a million dollar camera to capture a million dollar shot. What this camera does it does well and it does it every single time without fail. Pair this with an excellent lens and you have your potential million dollar shot. And for $50 or thereabouts you can't argue the pros vs. cons on owning one.

The build is rugged and can take quite a lot of abuse. So don't be afraid to take this where you normally wouldn't. Whether it be humid, raining, snow, gale force winds, or any combination of conditions it can handle it. They are everywhere and because of its simple construction it makes it easy to repair or replace.

A nice feature I'd like to point out is the built in metering to determine exposure. A very powerful tool for someone who has only used automatic cameras, or has never used a camera at all even. And the placement and setting of the aperture and shutter speeds eventually makes certain combinations feel more familiar in comparison to automatic camera. Once you get the hang of it setting exposure becomes almost second nature.

Most professionals may want something more advanced with added functions to simplify and speed up the initial process of taking a picture but, don't forget, time is what pays bills. This means no time for manual rewinding, manual focusing, and things that take just that bit of more time. But will they ever feel the satisfaction of that undeniably loud and satisfying click?


What you learn from this camera will make you a better photographer, and continuing to use it will only make you a more capable and talented one at that. I like this camera and I highly suggest you get your hands on one. If you're like me and shoot cameras with a lot more features, you still feel a sort of joy when you pick up an old 35MM like the K1000.

Set aperture. Set shutter. Compose. Click.


A little known yet fantastic rangefinder.

I'll dip into a brief history of this unique little guy. Built in the mid 50's by, presumably, Yamato Kōki Kōgyō K.K. (大和光機工業㈱), the Pax M2 was a successor to the original Pax 35 rangefinder. The company itself was established after WWII and lasted through the early 60's.

What is a rangefinder you ask? I'll attempt a brief explanation. The most common example is a split-image rangefinder. Basically a range-finding and focusing mechanism that allows the photographer to measure the distance of the subject and bring it within focus. By having two planes visible in the viewfinder the focus ring brings the image in to focus while the other is a fixed distance. Once aligned together the image taken will be sharp and in focus. It's much easier to grasp once you experience the rangefinder yourself.

Taking similar queues from Leica, the design shares some characteristics but is in a much smaller package. The lens that it comes with is fixed and is not interchangeable. The lens incorporates the following starting with closest to the body: focus, diaphragm, and shutter speed. Labelled as a Luminor Anastigmat 1:3.5 F=45 mm, the lens is a perfect day lens and for overcast conditions. Relatively sharp and has a nice bokeh to go along with it.

In terms of overall build quality the body is entirely metal in construction with zero instances of moving plastic parts. Knurled finger-knob on lens and a knurled focus ring follows suit. Everything is made with precision and has a unique feel especially when out using it. The weight is surprisingly noticeable despite its compact size. A feature they included that definitely signifies it as the successor is that the film advance engages and primes the shutter, rather than having a lever do it. In turn it helps reduce the time needed to setup the shot. At $65 it was worth it and has brought me into the realm of rangefinders.


A unique and relatively easy to use 35mm rangefinder. The Pax M2 rangefinder might not be the best camera available when compared to more expensive options during that time, such as Leica’s offering, but for the street photographer on the move it is still a great camera for shooting thanks in part to its small footprint.



For those of you that are new to travel photography or are curious to see what I travel with please read on. I am going to focus on the essentials that will help you before you take off to your destination.

The first things to consider is the duration of your trip. Will it be a couple weeks or a couple months? And the second question is where will you be staying? My trip and the following example will be a month long journey, and I planned on staying at secure Airbnb locations as well as affordable hotels.


For a short trip When travelling the most important asset that you have and can utilize is weight. The lighter the better, not only is it good for your back but it also helps with carry on restrictions. Do you really need 5 pairs of jeans or your entire collection of lenses? With any airline, fees can dampen the start of your adventure and the money you set aside may be dipped into unwillingly.

I brought along a camera backpack and one suitcase for clothes and souvenirs. I knew that where I was going I could leave the suitcase behind when I would leave for the day. In terms of the camera backpack, that was what I used during my days out and about so I kept it light.


For what I wanted to bring and how much stuff I had I chose a Bagsmart camera bag. The price was fair at $99 and it has split sections for gear and general contents. It held my Sony A7S, 15" laptop, lenses, chargers, cables, lens hoods, and a variety of misc. items. Not only was the capacity great but it also has some nice features. A side pocket to access your camera on the fly and plenty of room at the top of the backpack for clothes and other items. Constructed very well and plenty of padding for all the camera equipment as well as your back. Worth every penny.

For a laptop I would suggest a 14" or 15" laptop. Super useful to have and even more so if you need to upload or make content to share on the go. Compared to looking at your camera's screen you can view it in full and make your edits. Wifi is everywhere now and not only is it useful to have a laptop as a tool it's also useful as a backup storage solution.


When you plan to travel consider what you want to shoot and what will get you that shot. If you have a mirrorless camera then congratulations. Not only is it light but its compact to boot. I brought along my Sony A7S and it did an outstanding job in all conditions wet or cold, day and night. If you don't have a mirrorless then worry not, as most DSLR cameras are just a hair larger in size and weight. If you are considering bringing more than one camera ... don't. I would not suggest it unless if it's a GoPro or similar as most situations will not require two.

With lenses the combinations are seemingly endless and can get confusing if you don't have a clue on where to start. You don't need many to cover everything you see. I did bring more then I needed on a recent trip but if I had a choice out of what I have I could trickle it down to just four specific lenses in my stable. Next time I go I'll bring along the following :

  • Sony Zeiss 24-70mm (The most versatile in the bunch.)
  • Pentax 50mm (Excellent daytime lens - street shooting/portraits)
  • Pentax 135mm (For when you need to close the gap on a subject)
  • Cosina 19-35mm (Wide angle - need I say more?)
  • Now the above are what I consider a solid ensemble and I used each for a variety of situations. If I could live with two for maximum efficiency it would be the 24-70mm and the 50mm. One for landscape and all purpose (24-70mm) and one for street shooting on a compact level (50mm).


    Anyone who is a travel photographer will say that a tripod is one of their favorite accessories to have. The one I travelled with was a Manfrotto Compact Advanced Aluminum Tripod which came with a quick release. A great compact pan and tilt option. Without a tripod, you would not be able to take photos that require slow shutter speeds. A tripod is so much more useful than just for photographing low light conditions. Using a tripod often means you spend a time thinking and composing your image rather than just shooting away. And who wouldn't want the ability to document themselves while on an adventure?

    Camera batteries, memory cards, filters, and a lens cleaning kit are some basic additions to the lot. Even though your camera came with a battery or two it may be a better idea to invest in a couple more. The last thing you would want while out in the middle of nowhere is to be away somewhere when your battery fails and you can’t charge it. A few spares will always come in handy when you're out of options.

    The other essential that you will need is a decent size memory card. Shooting in RAW takes up more space so if you are planning on shooting in that format you will need extra memory card space. I would suggest a couple 32GB or larger memory cards. That way you have plenty of storage for photos as well as videos.

    I'll briefly touch on filters. They aren't necessary but they definitely help make things pop more and expands your ability to get more creative shots. A CPL filter (Circular Polarizing Filter) is one of my top ones to include. It removes unwanted reflections and brings out your blues and greens. The next one would be an ND filter (Neutral Density) which limits the amount of light entering the camera. When tied to a long exposure shot it allows for running water to look smooth as an example. Graduated filters are useful for landscapes, they have a gradient that brings down the brightness of the sky and leaves your foreground as is.

    A basic cleaning kit for your lens and sensor will suffice and there's not much more to say. The care you put into your equipment reflects on its longevity!


    A portable hard drive is useful if you need to backup your photos. Not only can you transfer your photos over but it's also useful as a back up in case something happens to your memory cards. My Seagate 1TB was perfect for this and saved me when I lost a loose card at a security checkpoint flying home.

    A portable Bluetooth speaker for the moments you gotta jam out. Before taking off I bought Anker's SoundCore 2 Bluetooth speaker. It stated that it could last 24 hrs. on a single charge and was waterproof. Both claims were indeed true. On the latter half of my New Zealand trip we came to find that our rental was a dud without a radio. Thankfully we had this Bluetooth speaker to drown out the monotonous sound of tire meeting road. Driving any distance in near silence is maddening and this saved us.

    My last physical suggestion would be a power bank that's 8000mah or higher. I've used one that I picked up a year prior in a shop called Yubiso. It's similar to Daiso in Japan and has a lot of items going for very very affordable prices much like the dollar store here in the states. Back to the power's extremely useful when in need of some juice for your phone, camera, the speaker above, and a variety of battery dependent devices. Not much more to explain on that.

    Not exactly an accessory but something I would definitely get for extended trips. Camera or trip insurance. In case of your gear getting stolen or accident occurring this will save you from headaches and definitely a lot less of things to worry about when on your adventure.


    Buying your first camera and all the accessories therein can be a daunting task. As long as you do your research and only buy the absolute essentials you will be fine. Over time you can always add more equipment to your ever growing collection. The above information is my basic recommendation for a travel photographer and should have everything you need to get you out into the world. Cheers!

    B A C K
    /LENS REVIEW - Pentax 135mm

    A sharp and cheap fixed zoom lens.

    The SMC Pentax 135mm f3.5 is a strong performer. For the cost it's not bad and in terms of the build quality and mechanical operation of the lens are excellent. I picked up my example for around $20 and it's been a decent lens since then.

    This lens is certainly capable of some very good results on a modern mirrorless cameras. Smooth bokeh and very sharp in the center, as well as the corners surprisingly. I did not use this much on my last trip but for those moments that I needed that extra distance this lens definitely exceeds expectations.

    It has an all-metal construction that feels solid and well put together. The focus ring, which has a long throw, is wide and very smooth and is quite enjoyable. The aperture ring is metal and has well-defined, precise clicks. It also comes with a built in metal hood that does help reduce any major flaring. With an adapter the Pentax is on the long side. It also becomes very front-heavy when attached to my A7s.

    Overall, the SMC Pentax 135mm f3.5 is a strong performer but not the greatest. It has decent sharpness, great bokeh and good coatings. A beautifully put together lens with a mechanical quality that makes it feel rock solid. The Canon FD 135mm f2 and Pentax 135mm f2.8 are the only other lens I would suggest that would perform far better. Both offer shallower depth of field, closer focusing, slightly smoother bokeh, and appear to be sharper. The only advantage the Pentax 135mm f3.5 has is a slightly lower weight, but the difference is not very noticeable if at all in the slightest. Of course, the recommended lens I mentioned both cost twice as much, so for those looking for a high quality built mid quality producing short telephoto at a cheap price, the Pentax 135mm f3.5 is certainly a good choice.

    B A C K
    /LENS REVIEW - Cosina 19-35mm

    Wide angle on the low.

    First thing I'd like to point out, I paid $40 shipped for this lens from an auction site. For the money one would think eh it's just a cheap ok quality lens. On the contrary, it's an absolute bargain and performs outstandingly: balanced contrast, good colors, and decent build quality. Judging by the following this lens has online and who it was marketed to it was obvious that it was destined to be an affordable entry into the ultra-wide angle market for film cameras and into the future. But due to the development of APS-C cameras and the availability of smaller similar performing kit lens' it most likely was forgotten in favor of a more compact and newer systems.

    Contrast is about average; lower wide open, higher when stopped down. It does well and responds nicely to post processing in Lightroom with highlights and shadows. The focusing ring is rather short on travel and is what I consider a bit touchy so when using it I would take some care in not bumping it. Another note is that the front element rotates with the focusing ring so gradient filters and the like are a bit of an annoyance.

    On a film or full frame mirrorless body, however, this lens shows its full potential. It's sharp in the center of the image from maximum apertures throughout the range. Corners are reasonably sharp at f/5.6 (19mm) or f/8 (35mm). Flare is a weak point of this lens. When the lens is pointed to the sun, the picture starts looking washed out with huge flare artifacts present throughout the image. Even with the included hood it still wasn't enough. Build quality is decent. The housing is made of polycarbonate while the mount is metallic. The hood that's included is a cheaper plastic and is my only gripe. Both zooming and focusing rings are dry and feel plastic smooth when rotated. Chromatic aberration is reasonably controlled, and can be corrected in the post. Geometric distortion is pronounced, especially at the wide end. Fortunately, there's little to no purple fringing to see.


    For the cost this lens is an excellent choice for wide angle on a budget. With a full frame mirrorless or film camera this is an incredible option at the cost of build quality but only slightly. I would not suggest this lens on a crop sensor camera. If you had a bit more cash to spare I would suggest the Canon FD 17mm SSC or the Pentax 18-35mm and these will provide a little bit better results. But then again this is all about getting the most out of your budget. As such, definitely worth it.

    B A C K
    /LENS REVIEW - Pentax 50mm

    An iconic legacy lens.

    Old Pentax 50s seem to have a big following within known legacy 50s from other manufacturers. Great things are generally said about the contrast, sharpness, and bokeh produced and I plan to expand a little on that going forward.

    This is a low cost lens from the get go and usually came with the Pentax K1000 as did my example for around 50$. It's compact, light, cheap, but it's an ok minimum aperture at f2. The center sharpness is exceptionally good and is very good from f2.8 onwards. It has a simple cheap and compact optical design. Basically solid and ergonomic.

    At f2, it's not as sharp as the Pentax 50mm f1.7 at f2, but from f2.8 they are quite similar in sharpness, identical from f4 and up. This lens is perfect to take portraits at f2 especially when paired with a mirrorless full frame camera.

    It retains the fantastic Pentax SMC colors thanks to the factory coating. It handles flare and chromatic aberration well and is not as prevalent in direct sunlight. This makes it a solid performer in terms of ghosting and harsh flare.


    If I had to suggest a solid performing and affordable 50mm this would be it. For a bit more, the Pentax f1.7 50mm has a better center sharpness at lower apertures but for the cost the f2 50mm holds its own. All around a good lens for everyday tasks.

    B A C K

    The low-light beast.

    I bought this camera prior to my trip this past August and was completely blown away at what it produced. I'm not one to tout one brand over another but I think the Sony A7S is one of the best mirrorless cameras to be made. Not only is it small in form but it packs a one-two punch with its lowlight capabilities and ability to shoot HD video. For my visits to Malaysia, Indonesia, and New Zealand it survived and put my old Sony F3K with a higher megapixel rating to shame.

    The main audience group for this camera was for videographers. Unfortunately I am not one to take videos, so I won't be touching on any of that in this short review. The main reason for getting this camera was for it's insanely high extended ISO rating. To sum it up it makes the pitch black nature of night seem like daytime. Not only does it do that but the noise is significantly less prominent than its competitors.

    My first chance to use this camera and my new lens was in Indonesia. I was afraid that the camera would succumb to the hot and humid environment but I was again surprised. It handled well and even got a little wet and survived. It's been dropped, soaked, and shaken but still shoots crispy clear photos even without image stabilization like its predecessor.

    For the price on these used you can see an average price of around $1200 for the body. With that cost and for it's abilities this is a no brainer when stacked up to a modern DSLR. Albeit the low megapixel count it has the A7S benefits as the pixels bredth is much larger and therefore collects more light in comparison to a higher megapixel sensor.

    The only thing that I did not enjoy about this camera is it's miniscule battery life. Easily solved with a purchase of 4 more batteries from Amazon. Another accessory that I included to ease my battery woes was a Meike battery grip. Holds 2 batteries and is great for portrait shots and supports remote shutter capabilities.


    Bang for buck a great camera to travel with. Not only is it small but it is versatile and does double duty in film and photo. This camera still hold it's title and continues that trend with it's updated model. A great tool for all situations.

    B A C K
    /EQUIPMENT REVIEW - BagSmart Pack

    A do-all camera centered backpack.

    One thing that almost every traveler needs is a bag that serves the user's purpose for it. For me it was this bag from Bagsmart. I needed something that could hold a decent amount of equipment and my clothes as well. Tough to find many bags that can accommodate both requirements and still be useable. The nice thing about this one in particular is that it offered both requirements.

    The entire interior can be flexibly divided over nylon velcro pads in to two levels, the top for clothing, and the bottom for one camera with 3-4 lenses. The bottom also includes velcro dividers to seperate all components safely. There is side access for both levels making it easy to grab your clothes or camera very quickly. For the bottom compartment there is front zipper to fully access your camera and accessories. On the back there is padded lumbar support and a compartment for a 14-15" laptop/notebook. An external front compartment and two side pockets for batteries, cables, lenscaps, filters, or anything small that needs quick access. On the side is a loop for a tripod and a bottom pocket for it to sit in. Going back to the top section there is enough room for two sets of clothing top to bottom. Something I wasn't expecting it to come with was a rain cover, concealed in the bottom zippered bag for any unexpected weather that could potentially harm your belongings.


    A no frills bag for a low price of $99 shipped. Simple, well thought out design that caters to both travellers and casual trekking in general. Easy to customize and easy to carry without overburdening yourself.

    Note: Please kindly know that the camera backpack in the picture is slightly different from the one in the that I am talking of. The camera backpack I got is the updated one not shown in the picture. I will update this once I get a chance to.

    B A C K

    A standard accessory everyone needs.

    Before taking off for my trip this year I came upon a brand that offered UV (Ultra Violet) and CPL (Circular Polarizer) filters that I have come to love. Going to take a step back before going into the brand and brief explain what filters do.

    If you are taking any photos outside or in rough conditions buy a filter. I like UV filters simply for the fact that they act as a barrier from debris and oils that would otherwise hit your precious lens. There are some caveats like glare and vignetting but these are near negligible.

    A CPL filter is almost a necessity for landscape photography. They reduce haze and pull more contrast out of a scene. They filter polarized light and reduces scattering of light or rather it reduces light from reflections. The great thing about CPL vs PL (or linear) filters is that you can adjust how much light you want to filter out by simply turning it till it's where you need it. It also serves a second purpose as an ND (Neutral Density) filter as it reduces exposure 1-2 stops.

    B A C K
    /The Beginning

    A new beginning towards travelling and content generating.

    Hello, Welcome to my page! Today is the day I transition from posting on facebook. This website will be the start of a more professional approach to what I considered previously as a hobby. I have never been one to blog let alone post content in general.

    Who am I you might ask? What is this site about? My name is Rezal Scharfe. I currently do freelance photographer, front-end web design, automotive activities, and traveler. I bring this site to you so that I may take you on my journey around the world and to view it through my lens. I currently reside in Minnesota but I will be moving nearly 9,000 miles to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in a few months time. During this transition I will be documenting automotive activities in and around the upper midwest as well as doing product reviews and really just anything that I think would be great to share with you.

    As I prepare for my journey ahead I set myself several goals that I can achieve prior to take-off. This includes what i am currently working on and towards things I haven't exactly understood just yet. My motivation to go abroad and create a living from said skills is challenging but not unrealistic. As a student I was never a good one and had the constant nagging of impending doom when commiting to goals I've set. I have since moved on from that mindset and want to better my knowledge with useable skills. I plan to expand my skillset and hope to do the following by the time I leave.

  • Javascript
  • JQuery
  • SQL
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • The above list is just a start to the madness and I am certain it'll be checked off and grow in time.

    In an ever expanding market creativity and unique application is what sets one apart from the standard developer. Sorry for the rambling but I hope you all stay and expect a consistent stream of content. As for this brief introduction I hope you enjoy the content and thank you for reading!

    B A C K
    Shoot me a message for any questions or inqueries.
    Phone: +60-13-610-4429 Email:

    The Man Behind the Shutter

    My name is Rezal Scharfe. I'm just a guy who plays with his camera and ends up in places far away. Originally from a small burb in Minneapolis MN and now living in Malaysia. As a kid I was gifted an old Canon Rebel that my family used for the longest time for vacations and small gatherings.

    That camera helped me grow my skills and eventually I decided to jump into photography. I saved up and bought a full frame mirrorless Sony A7SII (a few now). Since then, I haven't looked back.