lifewithjson – Where do we go now?

Hi friends!

I’m still here and I’m doing well. I come here every day to check on things to make sure nothing has been broken and to read some of the friendly comments that are still left once in a while. I thought I’d drop a post because I haven’t really been updating this and it feels like I’m just letting it die a slow – maybe painful – death.

This blog has been a big part of me since 2011 – 8 long years of my journey through photography and cars and milestones in my life that I’ve shared with you – the random stranger that I don’t even know that might live a thousand miles away, or the neighbour/friend that I see every day. I remember when I posted my first entry here, I was so excited to just share my passion and my art with anyone who cared to look at it. When you first start a blog like this – as a nobody and as someone who doesn’t have millions of dollars or something special to their name – it feels empty and depressingly useless to continue. The first few months are tough – because no matter how great your content is, nobody has noticed you yet. Your visitor count hits maybe 5-10 people per day and you’re sure those are all just from yourself checking your own site from different devices.

Over time though, things will pick up. You know how every successful person (and I’m not claiming to be one) always eventually gets their limelight and is always asked the same question? “How does it feel to be here?” or “what’s it like to be standing in this position now?” Their answer is always “just work hard and follow your dreams”… And I finally understand it. Every dream requires a certain type of passion and if you’re truly dedicated to what you do, the passion inherently leads you. This blog of mine is a great example of my passion – photography, cars, and just sharing the overall good and positive and sometimes sad and not so happy moments in my life. Over time, it’s been nice to see that passion grow into this small, little “following”, if you will. From people referring to my blog in person or using a #lifewithjson hashtag on social media – it’s those little things that make me appreciate this place a little more than I should. I sound like Joey from Stickdiljoe when I say this, but everything does follow if you start with passion and it sure as hell isn’t overnight. Passion is like the water that nurtures the seed of whatever you’re trying to do and without that water, you’ll never get where you’re going and you’re not going to see those fruits of labour for a while… But when those fruits start to grow, you’ll know it’s all worth it.

Of course, all of this wouldn’t be possible on my own. Sure, you could look at 8 years worth of just my own babbling but half of what you see here is all the cars I’ve photographed over the years. The friends, the strangers – they’ve helped this become what it is today. They are those fruits that grow over the years and over time, you get more and more of them. Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point – you will forever be ingrained in the lifewithjson archives and I’m thankful for that.

I’m starting to entrench myself in the next chapter in my life. I really tried to juggle both when Aria came along and as I mentioned above – passion is needed to drive this bus and now my passion has shifted to being the best Dad I can be to her. As you may already know, our second daughter is quickly approaching with 4 weeks left on the timer (it seems like it could be sooner with the way Diana is waddling around these days LOL) but with two girls, I’m going to have my hands full. Cars and photography are still very much a part of me – I just need to shift my balance for a little while. I still do car things, but I find that I’d rather spend time with the girls than sit on my computer and write about it. To be honest, I’m a little sad because there isn’t much out there in terms of blogs anymore because everyone has shifted to quick posts on Instagram or Facebook. I think blogs are still very much relevant and people still enjoy media-rich content with good, thoughtful dialogue and not dumb quotes you found underneath your Snapple lid or clickbait articles. Can someone please take the torch?

Kids truly are amazing things – they come into your life and they sweep you off your feet like you wouldn’t believe. They fill your heart with so much love that you can’t imagine anything else being much better no matter how hard you try. It’s true when they say they turn your world upside down… It gives you a new perspective on things and after a while, you almost don’t want to go right side up. A lot of what you cared about before, you don’t think about anymore and things you never gave a second look to are the only things you can dream of. That passion I keep talking about – I need to focus it on my family – I need to water those seeds to make sure they grow up to be the best damn girls I can help them to be and teach them that only with passion, can something be great, and good and everything awesome.

With that said, this post officially puts lifewithjson on hiatus. It’s not “goodbye” or “farewell”, it’s “see you soon”. I was debating shutting it down and deleting it completely, but that would be throwing everything I worked so hard for down the drain. You guys reading this – you’re a part of it and I’m not throwing you out either. I’m sure I’ll be back one day and you’ll all remember this like it was yesterday and until yesterday comes, I (Aria) leave you with brother finger.

PS – I am still very much available for contact as well if you have any questions or want to chat! I still get some here and there, so just because I’m not updating this doesn’t mean I’m not able to be reached either!

FS: 2014 Scion FR-S – Own The Black Swan

My first post of 2019 and it’s to sell my 2014 Scion FR-S…

39,285 KM
Asking price: $31,000. Pretty firm but willing to negotiate if you’re serious. No part out – I am selling as a whole with everything you see and that’s listed – including all stock parts if you ever wanted to revert it back.

Reason for selling: Another kid is on the way and as much as I love what this car has become, it’s not something I can enjoy enough to make it worth keeping and it would be a waste to just have it sit in my garage rather than let someone else enjoy it as I have.

Mod List:

Wheels/Suspension
ST Coilovers
Cusco Rear Control Arms
Volk TE37SL powder coated in gloss black with OG TE37 stickers
Brembo GT Big Brake kit painted yellow
Brembo Slotted Discs
Brembo Front Brake Pads
Endless RF-650 Brake Fluid
Project Mu rear brake pads
TiBurnt Titanium Valve Stem Caps
Project Mu Lug Nuts
Michelin Pilot Super Sport Tires

Engine
T1R Power Header
T1R Dual Sparrow 70mm
T1R Overpipe

Interior
Recaro RS-G bucket seat with black Kamui fabric
Bride Rails
WC Lathewerks Titanium Sphere Shiftknob
WORKS Bell Short Hub
Vertex USA KING of VERTEX Steering Wheel
Gold Vertex Horn Button
TiBurnt Titanium Steering wheel bolts
OEM Black Toyota button set
OEM JDM frameless rear view mirror

Exterior
Voltex Type 7 Swan Neck GT Wing – 1700mm
Titanium bolts for GT wing
Arise Sport Body Kit (Bumper and Side Skirts)
AJRC OEM-type Rear Diffuser
Craft Square Carbon GT Mirrors
TiBurnt Titanium Washer and Bolts for Craft Square Mirrors
TRD Carbon Fiber Fender Fins
TOM’S USDM LED Tail Lights (All Red)
RS1.0/GT86 Headlight conversion with DRL mod and OEM HID’s
OEM JDM Toyota Badges
OEM JDM Clear sidemarkers
Beat Sonic Shark Fin Antenna
TiBurnt License Plate Bolts
Philips License Plate LED’s
Philips Interior LED’s
Reverse Cree LED’s

Some basic info: I bought the car new from South Pointe Toyota and I am the only owner. The car has been babied it’s whole life and only ever driven in the summer. It’s never been on the track (sadly) but that’s where you come in! The engine bay has pretty much been left alone with the exception of the exhaust components. The interior is more or less mint – the carpets are in pristine condition and is shampooed and vacuumed at least once a month during the summer.

The paint condition of the car has been kept up in the best way that I know how – polished, sealed and waxed several times during summer. You won’t see swirls on this black paint if I had anything to do with it. The car gets an oil change every 5000km at Balance Auto Garage with OEM Toyota Synthetic Oil and if it doesn’t hit 5000km before I park it for winter, it gets one after I wake it up the next summer. Both keys are in good working order.

The car – in my opinion – is extremely fun to drive. It’s balanced and feels planted – there’s no rubbing and has almost the perfect setup to drive aggressively without breaking or scraping anything.

The cons: The passenger side sidemarker is loose – a common issue on the first gen FR-S/BR-Z and I’ve done my best to keep it intact. The trunk is the OEM trunk – this is the only piece that you’d either have to get new or re-weld and re-paint if you decide to take the wing off. The sideskirts have some spider-webbing cracks along the bottom but generally not too noticeable.

As stated above – the price is pretty firm and I’m generally open for serious buyers to come see it. No test drives during the winter though for obvious reasons. I know you will have seen/heard this a lot but please only reach out if you’re serious about buying this as a whole and truly want to own a car like this. I will not part the car out and you will need another car to bring all the stock parts home. This includes stock wheels/tires, bumper, headlights, exhaust components, seat, brakes, etc. If you have all the cash in hand, you can drive it or trailer it home whenever you want. I’ve thought about the price for a long time and I think it’s fair given the quality and the price of these parts if you were to build it all from scratch using a used, stock FR-S. I’m not looking to make extra coin on this – simply wanting a good deal for both the buyer and myself. Drive away with a car you literally need to do nothing on or make it better than what I’ve done.

Apple iPhone XS vs Google Pixel 3XL – My Unbiased Search for the Best Phone Camera

I’ve been getting a ton of questions and DM’s lately about the Pixel 3 and how I’ve been liking it since I’ve been posting some pics from it and I thought since I have some time, I’d write up my personal thoughts. This is not meant to be click bait or anything like that – trust me, I’ve watched enough video “reviews” and read enough “articles”to know that they’re either paid to say what they’re saying or they are fanboys of a product that tend to be more biased than you’d like. Two things: 1) I’m not paid to write this even though I wish I was and 2) I’m not a fanboy of any product. I’m a fan of the best product. Most people know I’ve switched between Apple and Android multiple times because each time, one or the other has met my expectations of what I want in a phone.

The Pixel 3XL in this moment in time is what I feel to be the “best” phone right now. I’ll try to lay it out in sections and then provide some sample shots between the Pixel 3XL and iPhone XS. Real world shots taken by me with my own device and Diana’s iPhone. No gimmicks, no trick shots and no photoshop.

Physical Device/Feel/Aesthetics

The Pixel 3XL is not a looker. In fact, the only aesthetically pleasing thing to me is the use of an accented colour power button. In my case, I bought the Clearly White model with the light green power button. Other than that, it’s got a larger chin than it should and the notch is just a notch to me. People call it notch city, I call it extra real estate at the top of my phone – regardless of how big it is. The screen is nice and vibrant, it’s a little cooler in temperature than the iPhone XS but still pleasant to look at.

The iPhone XS in every sense is one of the nicest phones I’ve ever seen and held. It’s like holding a piece of expensive jewelry – the weight and the stainless steel – beautiful. If any phone should aspire to look like something, it should be the iPhone XS. The screen is beautiful – it’s pleasing to look at whether it’s on or off. It feels solid and not plastic-y. It’s nice to have practically no bottom chin, and the notch – well it’s just a notch to me just like the Pixel 3’s. It’d be nice to see a phone without it like a few of the Oppo phones, but still not a deal breaker for me.

Overall – iPhone XS wins this and it’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go with the XS. It’s great to hold and use.

OS/UI/Usability/Touchscreen 

The number 1 thing that separates the iOS users from the Android users. Honestly – the Android UI is something even I had to get used to. It was exciting for me though because I loved the idea of customizing my phone exactly how I wanted. I could use icon packs, I could change how my weather is displayed, I could put whatever I wanted on the homescreen. I could get away from the rows of icons and folders that had strapped iOS down so tightly. But at the same time… The simplicity of iOS is what makes it so great. It’s easy to use, you know where your icons all are and everything just “works” in the Apple ecosystem. I could live with both and I’d be content because I love customization but I also favour simplicity.

Google’s phones uses simple and bloatware-free versions of Android. There isn’t a bunch of apps installed that you’ll never use. It’s just the basics and it’s fast and effective. It’s very difference experience than a phone like the S8 (which was my daily driver previous to the Pixel). It’s fast and snappy – it does what you want and when you want it. There were a few RAM management issues that have just been addressed otherwise, it’s nice. The gesture system isn’t nearly as refined as Apple’s iOS although I wish it were. I just want to be clear though – this does not translate to a phone that is clunky or terrible in any way. Everything works as it should – gestures and motions just aren’t as fluid as iOS – but if you’ve never used iOS you wouldn’t notice any issues at all and even after migrating away from iOS – everything begins to feel right.

iOS’s button-free gestures are so perfectly designed that it feels like the your thumb and the images/icons/pages beneath it are one and you wonder why Apple didn’t do this sooner. The UI is the same familiar UI you’ve been familiar with ever since the iPhone 3G with a few additions here and there but why fix what ain’t broke, right? The one thing Apple lacks – and has always lacked – is the ability to customize the phone to your liking. It stays how it is out of the box until the day you decide to part ways with it.

This section is 49/51 for me. Both use such a different way of navigating and operating. The 51 going to Apple because of how refined the UI is and just how nice it is to use. Bravo, Apple.

Apps/Integration

This section is important to me and I don’t see many people talking about it – not even the big tech guys. The first step to deciding you like a phone is whether you like how it looks (covered), the next is how does the phone feel when you use it (covered), and the most overlooked part is how well do the apps you use work on the device you chose.

The app selection between both OS’s (for my use and most of the public’s general use) is pretty much identical. You want instagram and facebook? You got it. You want home automation? You got it. You want an assistant? Siri and Google Assistant are there (albeit, Google assistant is a lot more versatile than Siri). Getting the apps themselves is not typically the problem – it’s how well do those apps work with the OS and while you might not think it’s a big issue, it actually is. This is one of the main reasons I was very close to getting an iPhone XS and we’ll talk about why I didn’t soon.

For a social media junky like myself and many others – the social media apps I use should work exactly as intended. Instagram – one of my main social media apps does not work the same on Android versus iOS – change my mind. Instagram has been refined and optimized for iOS and works flawlessly. From things like story highlights, to the way you get and see notifications.

For example, Instagram stories on iOS will show everything at perfect ratios – but on Android, the stories have a slightly larger aspect ratio resulting in stories to be cut off on the outer edges. Did someone put text right to the edge of their story? Sorry, Android – you’re not going to be able to read it all. The upload processing of Android versus iOS is also different – upload one picture from iOS and most of the quality is retained as long as it isn’t an incredibly high resolution picture. Upload that same picture from Android and the results are clear – there is degradation in the photo quality and I’m not entirely sure why after many tests between my previous S8+ and Diana’s iPhone XS. Important to note: the issue does not seem to exist when uploading from the Pixel so it seems to maybe be device specific or even Android version specific?

Most other apps work as intended – Facebook, Twitter – simple platforms such as those show no difference in performance to me. My personal biggest gripe was the “lack of performance and refinement” in Instagram and it might not be yours but it’s worth noting.

The issue with stories still exists – ratios are off – and this is confirmed on the S8+, the Pixel, and the new Mate 20 Pro so I’m concluding it’s an Android thing. Is it a deal breaker? It could be for some – was it for me? Almost… But we’ll talk about why it wasn’t in the next section.

Camera

Maybe the most important section for some – it certainly is for me – and maybe the least important for others. Surely you all know by now that I like to take pictures and my camera – whether it be my SLR or my phone or any other medium that I’m using – has to be able to provide better than average results. It needs to have 3 things:

  1. Clarity
  2. Sharpness
  3. Good/Great Autofocus

Now before you go on and start talking about DxO scores and ratings of every cellphone camera, I don’t care. The tried and true method of determining whether a picture “looks good” is my eye. DxO score of 90 vs 110 doesn’t mean anything to any regular person so we’ll use our eyes instead. I’m sure you’ve heard it before but there’s a reason the Pixel has had the best camera year after year since the original Pixel came out and it’s hard to believe how good it is until you see it because up until now – DxO has marked the iPhone almost consistently at the top until the P20 pro and Mate 20 pro came out. It’s also something that we’ve been conditioned to believe – the iPhone in all it’s glory and somehow justified high price and dual camera system is the best in the business. I mean, you’d think that’s true based on my whole novel up above – Apple (the iPhone) creates an important sense of pride in both the product and the brand. It’s great to hold, it’s nice to use, it combines everything so perfectly.

Prior to seeing Pixel-quality photos in person, I, too believed that the iPhone captured great photos. It still does but they aren’t amazing. I like to think that “they are great for photos captured on a phone”. If you look at an iPhone photo, you know it’s from a phone. Something is just missing. Let’s talk about portrait mode – the mode that seems to be taking the world by storm. Really quick – if you don’t already know – portrait mode aims to focus on  a subject while creating blur (bokeh) behind the subject to create a visually pleasing separation between the two. Often seen in pictures where there’s a large aperture (f1.4, f1.8).

The iPhone uses two lenses to create the effect. One lens to capture your subject and another to capture the rest of the scenery and then AI/processing to put the two together and make a best computational guess at the edges on where to create the separation. The Pixel on the other hand has only one lens to rely on and the rest is handed over to AI/processing to determine where the edges start and where separation begins. One would think that capturing two images and merging them would be the best option and I think where the iPhone fails is the lack of proper processing. Queue the entrance of the Pixel – where it is literally the opposite. Google’s AI/processing is superior to the iPhone in every way as far as my eyes can tell and pictures don’t lie. 9 times out of 10, the Pixel’s edge detection and separation beats the iPhone and not by a smidgen – by a lot and for every portrait mode photo that Diana’s iPhone XS takes, my heart breaks a little more and my faith dwindles into a darker hole than before.

Now, I want to be clear – I’m only talking about portrait mode because as I said – I want something in my pocket that can attempt to recreate the same photos I take using my Sony A7II as much as possible and many of those photos are done with a larger aperture AKA portrait mode. For regular pictures – between the iPhone and Pixel – I can hardly tell the difference besides some saturation and highlight/shadow differences and that’s only if I’m looking at them side by side. Anyway, I’ve said enough – we can let the pictures do the talking. Please note – I did my very best to ensure that both phones were capturing the best image that they could. Using manual press-to-focus on the subject and taking the best of the bunch. I’m not butchering one phone in favour of the other – if the Pixel fails, it fails and if the iPhone fails, it fails. As a bonus, I’ll also take the same photo with my A7II and 35mm f1.4 – you’ll have 3 comparisons to make your judgement.

First Example – Pixel/iPhone/A7II (non-edited, RAW, no HDR, 35mm F1.4) Note – the 1.4 aperture is probably gonna be a little unfair here and it’s also going to produce a very different type of bokeh but I still just want to include it for comparison.

PIXEL 3 – I really wanted to just take pictures where edge detection was important for overall quality comparison. The Pixel does a pretty good job and only missed in 3 spots overall. The left leaf is mistaken for the background, and the two leaves on the right near the bottom. These two are easier to forget about but the left leaf –  not so much. It almost did a good job in between the botton middle leaves and the chair behind it. Sharpness is a little high and more evident on the very top of the plant, but not terrible.

It does a good job of using HDR to keep detail in both the leaves and the light behind it.

iPhone XS – A little better on the edge detection here – still kind of blew out the left leaf but not noticeably as much. The two right leaves were captured properly too. It did about the same thing to the chairs behind it between the leaves at the bottom – a bit too much but still minor.

I’m not sure why the iPhone failed me here – it kind of blew out exposure even though exposure point was on the middle of the green for all photos. It just looks a bit fuzzy and soft –  not enough sharpness here.

A7II – I’m not sure if there’s much to say for the A7II because it’s in its own league. But just here for comparison.

PIXEL 3 – lots of detail here – the important spots to look at are the right edge of the Christmas tree trailing down and to see where did edge detection fail. I’m surprised because this was extremely sharp. I could be nit picky about the bottom part of the bristles but pretty good.

iPhone XS – Sorry – slightly different spot but I’m still just looking for edge detection here. Again, I could be nitpicky about the area by the bottom right rose gold ornament but still good. A little soft again compared to the Pixel.

A7II.

PIXEL 3 – Easier edge detection but I wanted to try and meld dark foreground with a dark background (so the top of the black hat). You’ll see it faded it together here – noticeable if you’re looking for it. Overall edge detection though is pretty clean – especially to the left of the black hat and the separation with the scissors. Again, good HDR work here.

iPhone XS – again, I just feel the XS is softening and neutralizing the pictures. Side note – I did notice that the “beauty gate” issue is still slightly apparent. It was Apple’s take on trying to decrease noise – but when you apply too much noise reduction it textures start to look airbrushed. The separation is not bad but not sharp either – it still works because it creates a very soft edging and convince most people.

A7II.

PIXEL 3 – more textures around fuzzy-type objects – another enemy to portrait mode. The Pixel 3 nailed it here – all the way around lucky cat. Note the quality of the bokeh here – a very smooth and well spread bokeh.

iPhone XS – Not terrible but not better either. Edge detection failed a bit on the right ear at the top causing almost a halo effect because of the colour of the cat. AGAIN, it’s just too soft for me and it creates this artificial fuzziness around the cat – most notably on the left of the cat. Note the bokeh in this one now – a little less smoothness but still passable.

A7II.

PIXEL 3 – Probably the worst nightmare for portrait mode is hair – more specifically – single strands of hair. More often than not, the Pixel 3 is able to capture a great amount of detail in the strands of hair in portrait pictures. This is a good example because I would say almost 95% of this photo has accurate edge separation between strands of hairs.

iPhone XS – this is where I find that the iPhone fails me the most. This is not the most extreme example but it does show where it almost creates holes in the picture and blurry gobs on the edges of the hair.

No A7II here.

PIXEL 3 – Perfect separation especially on the points of the leaves. Good HDR between the monitor and the dark plant.

iPhone XS – ALMOST perfect separation except on the points of the left blades. HDR not so great here, and a bit soft but no comparison here to the Pixel 3.

No A7II here.

PIXEL 3 – The final test. Multiple edges on different subjects with a pretty neutral but complicated background with conflicting horizontal lines to the plants. I would say that this is a good example of near perfect edge separation with the only fault being in-between the twigs of the middle plant. No edge separation between the plant and the chair as it is assuming the chair is part of the plant.

iPhone XS – Poor edge separation here throughout the whole picture. Most notably on the middle plant tips, the chair behind it and on the right plant tips and the string on the stick. Even the separation of the plant pots from the table is a little poor to me. This would be a deal breaker for me at this point.

A7II.

At the end of the day – here’s what I’ve concluded: the iPhone overall is the better phone. Aesthetics, feel, UI, dual camera system – it is the well-rounded phone you’re looking for and it’s damn beautiful. I love holding and using Diana’s and I wish that I could somehow merge the iPhone and Pixel together to create the ultimate phone for myself. The Pixel is also a great phone but falls short on all aspects listed above. Androids in particular have some work to do on the aesthetics and feel of their phones but maybe that’s why the cost is significantly less (besides the point). However, for someone like me that has “camera” at the top of their list, the Pixel 3 wins – by a long shot. I can handle non-apple smoothness – Android Pie is not terrible either – it’s great. It’s not a fancy stainless steel in gold, but I can live. Do I want a dual camera? Yes because why not? But at the end of the day – the Pixel 3 captures exactly what I need it to capture every single time and brilliantly at that. When Apple and Google decide to combine two of their best products into one – then I’ll pay $2,000 for it. Until then, I don’t think I can move away from the Pixel until Apple or any other Android device can top it.

What do you think?

ArtWithJson?

This winter, lifewithjson turns into artwithjson lol. Like I mentioned in the previous post – I’ve been spending a ton of time on my iPad practicing my drawing/painting/creative skills. I’ve really been on a good roll lately – some days I’ll be doing something that will inspire me and some days I’ll sit there with a blank canvas. On those days, I just draw things that I enjoy because that’s what comes easy to me. Creating “new” art is difficult because composition and colours and lines all have to come together perfectly to eventually become something awesome.

The last few days I’ve spent my time drawing Sephiroth. For those of you that don’t know – he’s the main antagonist from the original Playstation game – Final Fantasy 7. Literally one of the most iconic games that has ever been released, in my opinion and 15 years later – still has a big impact on my vision of what a great game should be. Sephiroth and Cloud are two of my most favourite fictional characters because their stories and the lore behind them is so deep and entangled with detail and complexity.

Anyway, I could talk about how FF7 is the best game endlessly but I’ll stop. The piece below is kind of a combination of everything that I’ve been learning for the last few weeks and I’m pretty proud of it. I know in a year from now, I’ll look back and laugh at it but for now, I am content. It helped me bring together my inking and painting skills and the use of background and foreground (as simple as it is). I’m still working on creating faces that trigger specific feelings and emotions and painting them properly to give depth with light and shadows.

I know most of you probably aren’t as interested in art as you are with cars but this is “life”withjson after all. LOL
Hoping I can create more this year…

Feedback? Tips? I’m open! Diana just says it looks good. She would say that if I drew a stickman. So sidenote: your wife/SO is not a good form of criticism because they love you too much to hurt your feelings.