A Thank You and a Chance to Address the Elephant in the Room

I just wanted to write a little appreciation post to everyone who has supported me over the years – whether it was through cars, my photography, or even just coming to this blog to visit – I haven’t come to appreciate it much until recently. I regret that because the only reason I still write posts and take pictures today is because of you guys. Thank you if you’ve been with me from the beginning, thank you if you’ve came half-way through, and thank you if you just got here.

I’ve been blogging for what seems like a lifetime – it’s been about 13 years since I started my first one on blogspot. Even before that, there were things like CalgaryPlanet, AsianAvenue (#TBT), and even Nexopia. The true blogging of things, cars, and my life wasn’t truly until I hit blogspot and a big part of blogging for me was being able to show exceptional photos. When I first got interested in photography, I was using a point and shoot and a bucket as a tripod. I won’t get into specifics about where I started but over the years – my friends and their cars – the ones you’ve seen posted here have been subjected to my shoots, my practicing of different techniques – good and bad. You’ve seen some of their faces in my ‘set up’ shots and over time, I was able to develop my own style of photography that many of you are familiar with and I’m grateful for that. It gives me a good feeling when people are anxious and excited to see content posted up from events or photoshoots. I enjoy the feedback and comments from people like “@jayhoang shot my car” or “great shots as usual from @jayhoang”. And I’m really not trying to toot my own horn – this is me thanking you for your support every time you tag me in your posts.

It wasn’t until recently that I really truly misjudged and/or underestimated the support that I’ve gained over the years. In my recent plea for help to upgrade my photography arsenal – the amount of DM’s and messages and emails were overwhelming.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve been doing shoots with no monetary attachment. It was for my own pleasure and experience – I’ve been the type of person that always thinks “it’s not good enough”. Every year, every shoot, it gets progressively better and so I think to myself – when I get really good, then I can do something about it. But having that mindset of never being good enough means that I’ll never get to “really good” – it’s a never-ending road, but I think it pushes you to always try to create exceptional work and the ‘customer’ will always receive the best work that you can provide at that time.

In my post, I asked for 6 volunteers for photoshoots at a cost to help fund new gear with the promise that as soon as I got the new gear, I’d do another photoshoot for them. Needless to say, the spots filled up and before I knew it – my weekends and evenings were full. My ‘thank you’ goes out to everyone that reached out and there were some (that will remain nameless, but they will know who they are) that even just donated to the cause. It was at that moment – regrettably – that I realized how 13 years of doing something can create such strong foundations beneath you that you sometimes don’t even realize are there. I use the word ‘regrettably’ cautiously only because I wish I knew sooner, but it’s as they say – it’s only when you’re down that people who truly care or support you will come and give you a hand. I want to clarify – I’m not “down and out”, I just wanted to provide people who were interested in a photoshoot the opportunity to join in on the “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” scenario. So again, thank you to everyone who reached out – it really means a lot to me, you have no idea!

Now for the dreaded elephant in the room. That elephant has always been there – I just chose to ignore it due to reasons stated above, but jumping ship from Canon to Sony (or any brand for that matter) is a huge leap that involves switching practically all of your gear in order to be back to where you started. Unfortunately, it’s not a free switch (what is free these days?). At the end of the day, as much as photography is a hobby for me – it still costs me money to maintain the hobby. If I were going to meets and just taking random photos – I wasn’t expecting people to pay me per picture. I know you’ve all probably heard this before but photography is more than pushing a button and having a nice picture come out. It’s having the gear, it’s driving to the location, it’s the cost of gas, it’s the time spent editing the photo, the subscription to host the photos and display it, and ultimately the final outcome which you receive to do whatever you please with it. The result – although intangible – is something that (I hope) brings you some sort of gratification, like any product, but requires work to deliver it.

Photography is a really blurry area when talking about services. The water is muddy because it’s not something that you pay to get certified in. There’s no ‘paper’ you can show to people to say you’re good at what you do. You just need to be able to have a good camera and the title of “photographer” is instantly yours these days. I take a lot of pride in taking good photos, and I really hesitate to call myself a ‘photographer’ to people because I know how people feel about it. “I just take pictures.” My take on my work has always been to let my pictures speak for itself, that people recognize good quality, and great work will always outshine any title, in my humble opinion. I joke a lot about people calling themselves photographers as soon as they get an “expensive” camera because it truly takes more than that. People need to start somewhere and everyone has their own idea of good work – which is a big reason as to why the water is just so muddy. Someone who has never seen a good photo before will think that a photo from an iPhone X is amazing. Someone who has seen millions of good photos will know that it’s from an iPhone X. It’s the same thing when trying to find a good bodyshop or mechanic – you need to weed through the bad to find the good.

My point is that although my work won’t be free (for the many reasons listed already), my hope is that everyone still understands the difference in quality, attention to detail, and many other little things that come with the work. You’re ultimately funding the passion and work that I’ve been pursuing for all of these years. It helps me (and other truly deserving paid photographers) continue to upgrade and support themselves in whatever way they need. In that same breath, I am absolutely not concerned or offended if you decide that my work is not worth your dime, because I know there will be some out there that will be turned off by this. There are many other photographers out there that I’m sure will do what you need them to do.¬† So again, thank you to those that continue to help fuel the fire and keep my passion going – for every photo I take, you’re a part of it in one small way or another. Here’s to another 13 years?

(Some) Overdue Wedding Photos

With the recent slow down of car parts and posts, I’ve kind of been slacking in all departments – I’m on an Netflix Anime-watching spree lately and since it’ll be a couple more weeks till I get the last remaining parts, so I just end up lazing around. I’m basically just waiting for nice weather to come because it’s just around the corner… If I do what I typically do, then the car will be out by mid to late March but I’m not sure if I want to risk the rocks this time… But impatience always gets the best of me. We’ll see!

Anyway, as I was thinking of something to post to keep the blog alive, it occurred to me that I didn’t really post any post-wedding photos taken by Lanny and Erika from Two-Mann. I think when Diana and I received the pictures, we were so stoked that we just kept watching the slideshow and reminiscing so much that we didn’t do much with them after the fact. We still haven’t even printed them yet! As I was going through my e-mail, I noticed the link and decided to pick a few favourites to post as a space-filler until more relevant things come up. Out of almost 1000 pictures, I only picked 20 or so of my favourites.

Erika and Lanny can be found here: http://twomann.com/

I will say this again – I wish we could replay that wedding day all over again. Time goes by way too fast these days…

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Morning selfies

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Anxiously waiting for the guys to arrive for a lip sync battle

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The girls killing it to Spice Girls

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More selfies

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Group shot!

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I don’t know who this girl is.

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My sister helping Diana put her garter on.

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I think this was one of my favourite photos – the look on Sara’s face is priceless. These are the types of photos that I love.

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Getting ready to walk!

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Jonah holding the ring boxes

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I think this photo was put up as Erika and Lanny’s favourite photo of the day. It was also put up for a bunch of other entries as well for wedding photography. Jonah let a bunch of tears out when we were reciting our vows. I love this photo because it’s not every day you see a little boy get caught up in all the emotion as he stands there with the rest of the groomsmen.

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Our turn for selfies.

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Big group shot.

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Reflections

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I will admit though, Diana and I were all nervous about getting shots taken of us. We (especially myself) aren’t always on the other side of the camera and having shots taken of us was even more nerve-racking. How did we look? Are we posing right? Where do I look? That was stressful LOL

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red bottoms or no bottoms.

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Loved the use of light here.

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And the last one (of many). Happy Tuesday!

Automotive Photography: It’s Kinda Complicated

An interesting thought came to my mind last night about photography and it all started from the fact that I have a shoot with Mike and his Ghia this evening. Weird combination of thoughts – I know… But the reason why is because Mike is a fellow dSLR-wielding, car-loving fanatic like myself. Cars and the automotive scene in general make us giddy like little school boys, and photography helps us meet new people and craft our own skill. Now the thought that loomed over my last night was “how can I get better at photography?” and the reason why it’s been on my mind for the last 12 hours is because a part of me is anxious to shoot Mike’s car and the other part of me is nervous that I won’t shoot it “right”.

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Then I got to thinking – there’s no wrong or right way to photograph – it is all personal preference and style. Ever since I picked up my first Canon XT SLR, I’ve always wanted to create amazing images. The first person to ever inspire me was Easton Chang – those of you that are into automotive photography probably know who I am talking about…¬† I had wallpapers of his shots of the Mugen RSX on my desktop for months, rotating between the Pioneer NSX, J’s Racing S2000, and the R34 Skyline. Those 4 images were the pinnacle of automotive photography for me – my source of inspiration and awe. I remember even staring at them for unhealthy lengths of time, wondering how he got that shot – oblivious to the fact that post-processing even existed¬† back then.

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Every time I would go out and shoot, I would try and mimic the way that Easton shot and it failed every damn time. There was not a chance in hell I was ever going to shoot like him so that dream died fast. I did, however, always compare my shots to fellow photographers that I looked up to, and even then I got disappointed. That’s where my mistake was – comparing myself to someone with a different style other than my own. I quickly realized that in order to separate myself from people and to prevent myself from getting disappointed, I had to find my own way of shooting. It truly is an art and anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Ask any amateur photographer what they’re biggest challenge is and they’ll probably tell you that it’s finding their own style and making use of composition and all the other things regular, non-camera geeks are unaware of.

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Even today, I look to other photographers for inspiration… Something that I can take and merge with my own style to create something unique – almost like a signature. When you look at certain shots, you know right away who shot it if they’ve been shooting long enough. Style has everything to do with photography – some use a lot of contrast, some use a lot of vignetting, and the list goes on…

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Photography is two things to me: A hobby and a passion. I separate the two because there are people that are passionate about shooting – they do it because they truly love it and want to create. Then there are people that shoot because it’s fun to do. I respect both, but I admire the ones that do it as a passion because they will do whatever it takes to get the best possible shot, they aren’t satisfied with everything and are the harshest critics on themselves. Hobbyists will post every single 128 photos that they shot all over the world wide web, while you’ll only ever see a few shots from the latter. There is something satisfying in one great shot that you can’t get from 128 shots. The key to becoming better at something is to be happy, but never satisfied… It can’t be more true for photography.

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I’ve come to the point where I’m not comparing myself to others and when you finally get to that point, your own style will start to come out. The way you want colours to look, the feel of the picture, the composition you want to have. Everything just naturally comes when you’ve absorbed enough influence and experience to shoot the way you love. Sounds corny as hell… But nowadays – that’s what people want in a photographer. They want uniqueness in a shot and the only way to do that is to develop it first.

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How do you develop uniqueness, you ask? You shoot and you shoot and you don’t stop until you get the same feeling that the owner would get looking at their own car. That’s where all of this originally came from – the fear that I would not be able to shoot a fellow photographer/car enthusiasts car in the best way that I could. Mike’s car will be the first one that I shoot where the he (the owner) is fully capable of doing their own photoshoot (which is why I’m so anxious). Mike mentioned that he felt the same way back when he shot my LS460…

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I guess the difference is that I was excited to see the outcome of a photoshoot of MY OWN car. More often than not, my car is just in the background and hardly gets noticed. Having it as the subject for once made it super exciting for me. I was even more stoked when I saw what Mike came up with… I guess that’s the commonality between photographers – we look to each other for inspiration because we more than likely would never shoot the same way.

When you push the shutter button and you look at the preview and you say “shit, that was a good shot”. You want to strive for that.

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You want to create that feeling in an owner where they say “Damn, I shouldn’t have sold that”. (Pictures can do that)

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At the end of the day, you want to make a great looking car look as good as it deserves.

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Happy shooting!