[…continued from the prologue…]

#1 of 5: Blue Scholars.

I’ve known of Geo for some time.  Known of him, but don’t know him.  Somehow we’ve run in semi-overlapping-but-not-crossing circles for a minute.

In jr. high and high school he was “Mo’s brother.”  As in, “Did you hear that new tape Mo’s brother got?” She was a close girl (space) friend to my circle of brothers, no less evident than in our universal daily high school rituals of lunch room table congregation and strategic locker placement selection.  He was her older brother and homie to slightly older homies you high five in passing and acknowledge with headnods when strutting through the neighborhood on foot en masse in summer.

But I didn’t meet him until college.  Over time, I will have met him for the first time several times, the first having been in Red Square at UW when a mutual friend and I were loitering for no reason and she spotted him in passing.  Based on quick intros and less than significant casual conversation, I remember him being an everyday average joe comfortable wearing a friendly smile.

A few months later I met him again at an isangmahal show, and it became evident he wasn’t just your average joe.  If you’ve never been to a spoken word show, you should go.  One by one, poets took to the spotlit mic and filled the dimly lit room with warmth, strength, passion, anger, agony and the beauty of life through words fired at the intimate gaterhing.  Geo was one of the first few to take the mic, and I was struck by how easily he commanded the crowd in not much more than the same even, steady speech you’d hear on the other end of a long distance call home.  No beats, just the commingling of silence and a strategic melodic delivery; he had the audience chanting along to his prose by the end of his verse.

“My wounded eyes seen through the lies, many soon to die.  Who am I? A student, I study to survive…”

It was so striking that the piece was burned to my memory and I recalled it almost immediately when I met him again a couple years later.  By this time, the Blue Scholars had been born, and by marrying Geo’s words over Sabzi’s beats, some magical force beyond the normal reach of speech or music was born into this world.  The same lines that quietly moved a small silent crowd off 7th & Jackson was now eliciting shouts and the rhythmic waving of arms.

I have video of Geo from the aforementioned isangmahal show, somewhere in the archives. I couldn't find it at the moment, but here's an old clip of Wounded Eyes. click the pic to jump to the video.

my autographed copy of one of the initial pressings of the debut album, picked up from Geo at the old Wing Luke. "Go Trojans!" -- our high school mascot.

Over the next few years, I would meet both Geo and Sabzi for the first time a few times over and over again, but will also have witnessed what I will call the most influential creative expression of my generation thus far.  Bold statement, I know.  But I can feel it.  It can’t be proven in record sales, Facebook likes, or bands that cite the Scholars as an influence on their Twitter bio.  Not even in the way Sabzi threw a paper faux-decorative-corinthian column into the 21+ crowd at the Croc last December causing them to go bananas.  It’s maybe instead in the volume of lyrics extracts I hear quoted, the countless times I’m surprised when I run into a coworker (seemingly not in the Scholars’ “target market”) randomly saying to me “now I don’t listen to rap, but…that [INSERT SONG TITLE HERE] song by the Blue Scholars…you gotta hear this,” or the way I can look out at a crowd at a Blue Scholars show and see a cross section of America represented that I’d be hard pressed to see elsewhere.  But mostly it’s by way of a more intangible creative force driven by Geo and Sabzi’s work — not just their music, but also their shows, videos, views, workshops, imaginations, and creative expressions in whole and in part.  As an artist, I admire their ability to infuse the essence of themselves into their art, and can only hope that one day I will produce a piece that comes close to leaving the same mark they’re constantly making on the scores they speak to.

my copy of bayani. geo on the left, sabzi on the right

obligatory horrible photo of me with subject. my most recent introduction to Geo, Dec. 2010.

They’re doing something great with their next album, and I highly suggest you check it out and consider becoming part of the next great awesome to hit this summer.


Local Lokal Plate

April 9, 2011

I’m all about custom.  Rarely do I leave things as they are, right out the box.  Cars, cameras, computers, barbeques, houses, food…


I’ve been known to fry up an egg and throw it between the layers of deliciousness in a standard Whopper-(with cheese)-to-go, split open a red bean bun and throw cream cheese in, or even sneak crushed and sliced pineapple underneath a slap of vanilla bean ice cream tucked lovingly between 2 slices of all american white bread.

These are all minor mods, mostly because I’m not allowed into the kitchen.  Dramatic messes tend to occur when I collide with that section of the house, so I’ve been blacklisted.  However, the wifey is currently out at Wai’s bachelorette party, so while she’s away I took the liberty of inviting myself into her kitchen to play.

The results?

My take on the loco moco.  Behold my Hawaii-inspired lunch plate holy trinity!:

1)  Homemade bacon and bleu cheese hamburger steak, over rice, and covered in 2 sunny side up eggs + gravy.  If I’m gonna throw a spin on it, it’s gotta be bacon-fueled right?

2)  Spicy crab mac (well, penne) and cheese, in lieu of mac salad

3)  Kona Brewing Co.’s Koko Brown ale (they claim toasted coconut, but all I tasted was toasted deliciousness), standing in for some kind of obligatory tropical fruit juice


Now… to search the web for news articles about that tornado that touched down in kitchen — I didn’t see it happen, but it’s the only explanation, and someone must have written about it by now… and to decide if I should pick up some Bubbies mochi for dessert…

Couples: Wai+Tatsumi

April 7, 2011

Last week, I left Chewy in charge.  Unfortunately, the lil lazy sucker didn’t accomplish much aside from running up a huge international long distance phone bill, destroying the corporate credit card, and hosting questionable social events on company property / time.

All this went down while I was out at Whistler for Tatsumi’s bachelor party.  While I can neither confirm nor deny the purported existence of possible photos from that alleged event, I am happy to say that I do have photos of Tats and his lovely fiancée Wai.

Wai and the wifey have known each other for years.  In fact, I first met Wai when I first met the wifey.  Quite a feat, seeing as how I met Cindi in Seattle (while she was in transit to LA) at a time when Wai lived in San Mateo because she worked in San Francisco.  The stars aligned somewhere between all the cities and all the (good) S words.

Thanks Wats for the fun Sunday.  Can’t wait for the wedding!


Couples: Ali+Tyler

April 4, 2011

There’s a great deal of variables unknowns that we have to dance around daily as photographers.  Sunshine, wind, bold racoons, freak lightning storms, intentional or unintentional felonies.  You name it.  Especially in the upper left, you never know when you’ll encounter rabid flannel or sideways rain.

Rain has been a problem lately.

With so many ways for things to go haywire, it’s inevitable that you’ll have a shoot go “wrong.”  And if it must go wrong, I insist that you must have Ali+Tyler.

It rained on us.  Hard.  I think at the end of the day on our drive home it even hailed on us.  Did it matter?  Nah.  Because nothing phases these two, and even if the world was coming apart at it’s seams around them, you’d still feel the love as you plummet into interspatialextraterrestrial oblivion.

Thanks Ali+Tyler for being the ideal in everything less than.


March 24, 2011

I’ll be out of office over the weekend, leaving Chewy in charge.  Which reminded me of this photo.

chewy ordering custom blinds for his dog house and negotiating pricing. circa october twentyten.

Babies: Lucy

March 23, 2011

This past weekend, the Mrs. and I had the privilege of meeting Lucy. If you haven’t met her yet, you should, because she’s great people. Between almost rolling over for the first time, melting our memory cards with sheer cuteness, and snacking on her delicious left and right hands, I asked her:

“So, where do you see yourself in 5 years.”

She responded with a look that could only mean:

“Well Mr. Jocson, hopefully by the end of year 5 I will have successfully launched my 3rd multinational company.  I will likely keep this one privately held, since my first 2 companies would have been public, and while a great learning experience, it would be about time to take a slightly different route.  I would maintain control as much as possible to the best of my abilities, and stress the importance of participating in important, albeit not necessarily profitable activities.  For example, I would hope that said company could maintain strong local ties to the community, play a part in furthering landmark public policy, and serve as an advocate for the disenfranchised that need a voice.”

Sooo cute!! It’s great to see social consciousness so alive in today’s youth. After our shoot, we stopped off for some bubble tea, Ms. Lucy balanced my checkbook, reallocated my 401(K) elections, and promptly fell asleep. I tell you people, this girl knows how to live.

auntie+uncle tagging along for fun

i stole a moment of mom+dad stealing a moment while uncle+auntie stole lucy


March 21, 2011

Monozygotic triplets can happen when a single zygote splits into three embryos, each carrying the same genetic material.  It occurs naturally, within nature, at a rate of 1/892 or approximately at a rate of 0.013%.  Certain factors appear to increase the likelihood of multiples, such as age, use of fertility drugs, and association into and within a West Coast Media composite of photographically-inclined creativs.

That’s right.  In gearing up for this year’s season, we’ve adopted triplets.

fast asleep, fresh home from the nursery

Unfortunately, we’ll have to split the trips, with Cindi and I keeping 2, and the third moving down to LA where a loving home awaits.  However, we will be forever bonded through holiday greeting cards, birthday parties, and sequential serial numbers.

dispersed up and down the left coast to better serve you. we've got your photography needs covered

Our inaugural with these bad boys is set to be with Stephanie this weekend, but the forecast calls for rain… let’s hope for surprise sun.

You know those people that you don’t know, but you do?  I think I first met Karen almost a year ago, toward the end of the summer.  We ever-so-briefly worked not-quite-together-but-within-the-vicinity-of-each-other on a project, where we traded jokes, war stories, art projects, wedding plans.  Yes, wedding plans.  The wifey and I were nearing the end of our wedding planning, and Karen+Josh had just begun theirs.

Those of you that know me (or don’t know me) know (or don’t know) that I rarely share such personal details so readily — but Karen is just so gosh darned easy to talk to.  Dangerous.

A few months later, we crossed paths at an event, where I met Josh for the first time.  And the Mrs. met them both.  It was love at first sight.  These crazy kids are just so fun, and the world needs more of people like them.  But only if they’d hang with C+C on the regular.

in typical seattle fashion, this day started at a coffee shop. a coffee shop of luuurrvee. or coffee. perhaps just coffee.

How do I … No you’re not showing me, you’re just doing…. No wait, where?… How did you…. what?

That’s typically what it sounds like when the wifey asks me how to do something.  It’s usually promptly followed with “You suck at teaching.” and the absence of thank-you-cake.  And I love me some cake.

I LOFF CAKE!! little jocson likes biiig cake

Unfortunately for me, it’s true, I’m not the best teacher.  But I AM trying to get better.  Continual improvement. It’s a process really.

Fortunately for you, I have, here for you, a special treat.  It’s not cake, but 4 out of 5 pediatricians agree — studies show it’s potentially better than cake.  It’s our first guestblog of recent history, brought to you by none other than Ami of ami’s in LA Photography!

So, you say you want to kick up the level of awesome in your shots from ‘epic’ to ‘sweet merciful justice?’  Have no fear, let’s have Ami help get us there.

P.S.  Major thanks to Ami for taking the time to put pen to pad (fingers to keys?) for this one.  It couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Mrs. and I are out shooting both days this weekend, so it’s nice having a blogsitter in while we’re out.


I’m no expert at post production.  Or photography in general.  I’ll be the first to admit that.  Shout it off a mountaintop, even.  But when Jocson asked that I do a post on the topic, I had no choice but to oblige, because after all, he was kind enough to do a guest post for me, too.  I do love photography, though, and Jocson’s pretty cool.  So, to deter him from coming after me with a spork, and also in the hopes that this post might help at least one person, I present the amisinsLA intro to post production.

The most important thing to me about post is that your straight out of the camera shots (SOOCs) need to be on point as possible.  Meaning, at the time the photo was shot, the image was exposed well and lit properly.  I will tell you right now, personally I find it near impossible to correct a flat, poorly lit image (and trust me, I take my share of those), no matter how much I tinker with it in Photoshop or Lightroom.  I’m sure it can be done, but I can’t do it.  Not just because it’s difficult, but to be honest, after I’ve applied a dozen Photoshop actions, I’ll know that I’ll just look at the image and it will look artificial to me.  Because I have done it.  And it has looked that way.

That’s not to say that I don’t bump the exposure.  Oh boy, do I.  Nailing your exposure is something that takes tons and tons of practice (for me, anyway), so being able to correct it in Lightroom or Photoshop is a beautiful thing.  Especially when you shoot RAW.  Shooting RAW ensures that you have maximum control over editing your photos.  The camera basically saves the conditions of when your photo was taken and saves it all on a file so you can alter it later.  Again, it’s a beautiful thing.  But, relying on that alone can be way more work in the end than it’s worth.  So I highly recommend practicing shooting in different lighting situations and understanding what settings will lead you to a well-exposed shot.

Exposure isn’t the only thing I adjust in Lightroom.  I also alter the saturation, brightness, blacks, temperature and tint.  Sometimes I adjust them all.  Other times I adjust some, and even others, I just adjust one.  The point of post for me and my personal style is to help make the photo to look as natural as possible.  If you don’t know what your style is, my suggestion would be to compile a ton of images that speak to you.  Ones that you naturally gravitate towards in magazines or on blogs and make you go, ooooooh.  Then figure out why you like them.  Is it composition?  If it is, then for the most part, post production (aside from cropping) isn’t going to help you very much.  That’s more of an in-camera issue.  But if it’s colors and light, then post can definitely be a great tool.

So now comes the good stuff.  Once you have a shot that you are happy SOOC and have an idea of where you want to go with it style-wise, you can head to Lightroom (or Photoshop, but I’l be using Lightroom for the purpose of this post).  I also shot the following two images JPEG, so all of the settings start at zero as opposed to RAW that has your exact settings saved for you SOOC.

In this first image, you can see that the before and after are pretty much the same, but the exposure and brightness have been bumped a bit.  This is because the image SOOC was a bit underexposed, but otherwise fine.  The light was hitting Bry’s face from camera right, illuminating his face sufficiently.  I also bumped the temp to +5, because I wanted his skin to have a hint of warmth.  If his face had been too warm, or even had a tinge of redness, I would have decreased the tint a tad.

In this second image, you can see that the original photo was way underexposed and had to be compensated for in post.  I don’t think I was originally even going to bother with this photo, and instead just pass it off as a lost cause, but I liked his expression and the composition, so I tinkered a bit with it in Lightroom.  I bumped the exposure and brightness, brought out the blacks a touch, and desaturated the photo a bit as well.  The purpose of desaturating is  so that when the colors are entirely too vivid (sometimes after you amp up the exposure), desaturation restores balance to the colors.  It can help to essentially create a softer photo.

I’d like to reiterate here that I really believe that you have to understand where you want to go in order to get there.  Sometimes you just don’t know, so you experiment to see what is appealing to you.  That’s great, you totally should.  But first, you have to understand fundamentals (light and composition) and second, learn from others.  I think when you study the works of those that you admire, you start understanding and recognizing patterns.  When you take various patterns from various influences and apply them to your own work, you start creating something entirely new that you can call your own.  You shouldn’t feel like a copycat for applying methods that the artists you are looking at have learned from other artists who learned it from others and so on.  Even the very first artist presumably took influence from somewhere–maybe nature, who knows.  The point is, study, learn, apply, and practice, practice, practice.  I think that goes for everything.  I haven’t been doing photography for a super long time and I’m still learning every day.

So that’s my brief intro to the steps I take in post production.  If any of the above was unclear or if you have any questions, please leave a comment on Jocson’s site or you can always email me directly.  You can find me at amisinLA at gmail dot com and at my site.  Thanks, and hope to see you there!

What’s your style?

Probably the most-asked question that follows “I’m an artist / photographer / dancer / writer / designer / competitive eater…”

The list goes on, but the question remains the same.

What’s your style?

I don’t know.  I’m not sure how to quite answer that.  Dope? Fresh? Typical? Contemporary? Played?  Retro vibrance with a luminescent tinge of ballet?  Newsjournalistic krump with a hint of basil over nouveau haute socio-political web bboy?  Modern Louis Pasteur?

While I firmly believe it’s important to have a style, I’m less inclined to clearly categorize it.  I have somewhat of a claustrophobic fear of the boundaries that you, or others, may prescribe based on a subjective interpretation of semi-arbitrary adjectives.  I’m also not sure if we ourselves, creativs, can or should be able to say we subscribe to a particular style without unintentionally inhibiting a more natural organic growth.  At least not at first.  Can you really wake up one day and say ‘I will do [activity], and do it [adjective]ly,” having not yet fully explored the boundaries of your comfort with it?

I’ve had my hand in various media for quite some time, and still reach a little uncertainty in explaining my style.  Do I have one yet?  It’s relatively easy for some to recognize my work, point out commonalities and recurring themes, and identify traits of my handwriting written across the spirit of the piece.

At the fore of my mind I probably like to think I’m still distilling my style, digesting my influences, and finding my groove.  In reality, I’m probably like all other creativs — mostly satisfied with my products, but in constant pursuit of elusive perfection through perpetual revision, growth, and rebirth.

In truth I think we all have a particular style whether we know it or not.  We all have a voice, regardless of how low a whisper we think we keep.  Rather than describe the sound of our voice, I think it more meaningful to explore what feeds the words we speak.

And so, for those curious, I’ve taken an introspective look at my own personal influences…

stay tuned. who's got guesses