Transformation. Mobile Photos.

My wife and I went on vacation to Japan this year! Whenever I travel anywhere, part of my packing process is figuring out what photography gear I am going to bring to capture our adventures. This vacation’s packing process started out no different. As I started packing up lenses, charging batteries, and gathering memory cards, I started to wonder if I _really_ needed all this stuff.

I tweeted as I was packing:
“Do I really need this many cameras for one trip??”

The amount of stuff I thought I was going to bring was ridiculous! It consisted of the following:
– Sony A7 Body + 4 Batteries
– 50MM f/1.8 Lens
– 35MM f/2.8 Lens
– Sony RX100 III + 2 Batteries
– Small Tripod
– iPhone 6S

As I was getting all this gathered up, I FINALLY figured out that I am going on vacation to enjoy myself, not be a documentary photographer! That is when I decided to cut the above list drastically. And by drastically, I mean the list became this:
– iPhone 6S

That’s it?! Yep! That is the only camera I was going to bring on the big Japan trip.

Every photo that I took was done using my iPhone 6S and no other accessories other than my hands. I have to say, it was a very freeing experience. No lugging around a ton of camera gear, and no pressure to “get the shot”. Using my phone as my only camera made my shooting very versatile as well. When you are using a big camera and lens, it can be intimidating to people, regardless of what you are photographing. When you are using your phone, it is seen as no big deal and no one cares what you are taking photos of.

With all the tech that is inside of your phone, you get some great bonuses on the software side as well:
– Geotagging
– Multiple Photo Modes
– Immediate Review and Edits
– Automatic Backup (iCloud Photo Library)
– Uploading / Sharing Anytime

These benefits continued to pay off once I got home. One thing that didn’t change was that fact that I had a ton of photos to go through once we got back. But, because I took all pictures with my phone and they automatically uploaded to iCloud Photo Library, there was no transferring of images from SD cards. I simply picked up my iPad Pro, opened Photos, and all my photos and videos were waiting for me. This really felt like the future in terms of photography “workflow”. Side note: these photos were already on my iMac as well, due to iCloud Photo Library. To add to the awesomeness, any edits I did on my iPad automatically synced to the iMac, and the opposite was true as well. This means that anything I did, on my iPhone, iPad, or iMac everything was the same and I could manipulate any of my photos anytime, anywhere. To me, this kind of versatility is way more powerful that having a big “pro” app that is dedicated to a single machine.

iCloud Photo Library also allows me to have access to every photo I have ever taken. This means I can search for any photo throughout time and have access to it. That is huge! I have 30,000+ images and can view any of them on my iPhone, iPad, or iMac at anytime.

One final item that confirmed my decision to only use my iPhone was geotagging. The majority of big cameras don’t yet have geotagging capability. When you use your phone, it is a free bonus. Historically, I didn’t really care about geotagging, but I have seen the light on this one. Being able to look at a virtual globe and pick out places you have taken photos is really cool and useful. Also, every picture is going to be tagged exactly where you took it. With big cameras you have to go through some process of adding geotag data, and you might get rough estimates for batches of them, but it’s a pain. This process has gotten much better in recent years, but still requires either special hardware, manual work, or some combination of the two.

So, am I happy with how things turned out? Absolutely!

Do I wish I had brought my other cameras? Nope. (In fact, this trip caused me to sell my Sony RX100 III.)

I got some great memories captured, and quite honestly, probably more than I would have with a larger camera. Most importantly, I was able to experience the whole trip. I spent no time trying to frame shots, setup gear, or charge clunky batteries. The pressure was off to enjoy the experiences with my wife. I am sure she was happy as well to not have to deal with all this camera crap, or holding one lens while I swapped to another.

This was a transformative trip for me in many ways, and one of those ways was how I think about capturing memories with one of these things we call a camera.

If you would like to check out the photos from the trip, head over to my Flickr Album.

A Japanese Sushi Experience


It was an unassuming building, on the corner of two streets that didn’t stand out for any particular reason. There was a single illuminated sign to the left of the entrance door that simply had 3 Japanese characters. Nothing about the front door felt like the correct door to enter the restaurant, but we tried it, and fortunately it was indeed the correct door. Upon opening the manual sliding wooden door, we were greeted by a man who we would later learn to be the owner and head chef. Shortly after he greeted us, we also learned he spoke fluent English. It was a very inviting atmosphere and we soon found we were in for one amazing experience!

The chef’s name is Toshiya Ohnishi and, he lives above the restaurant with his family. I believe he took on the restaurant from his father, who started the restaurant. Toshiya-san walked us through the menu and how ordering worked. When ordering, you can choose the Omakase (chef’s recommendation) in several tiers. The tiers are broken up by price. With each increased tier, the food courses remain the same, but the quality of the fish increased.

The Pricing Tiers:
¥10,000 (~$80)
¥30,000 (~$240)

You can also order à la carte, but we decided we had to do the chef recommendation and expand our sushi world! We chose the ¥20,000 tier and got ready for what would become one of the most amazing experiences of my life!

The chef was also very accommodating to anyone’s food allergies. He was sure to substitute anything with scallops for Valerie’s food (she is allergic to scallops). This was fortunate, considering the very first thing that was going to come out was a plate of scallops.

We started with an appetizer that consisted of 3 small bowls. 
Bowl 1: fresh fig with a delicious sauce
Bowl 2: three small pieces of fish with a glaze
Bowl 3: a mystery that the chef called “a special surprise”. Neither one of us had any idea what it was. The only guess I could come up with was some kind of brain. I was way off! After finishing the appetizer the chef came over and described to us what the mystery ingredient was; it was fish sperm. He told us a story about how when buying this delicacy during its short season, 90% of the cost of this fish is the sperm and the fish itself is actually pretty garbage and not used for much in the way of sushi.

Next up, sashimi.
The sashimi plate was by far the highest quality fish I have ever eaten. It consisted of fatty tuna, salmon, yellow jack, and mackerel.

The third course, soup.
The soup was a boiling fish soup with assorted mushrooms. Again, very delicious!

The main course was 8 pieces of nigiri, served one at a time. The chef would make up 2 of them and place one each in front of us. As we ate each one, he would prepare the next, and so on. This portion was beyond comparison, from the quality and taste, to the presentation.

Finally, dessert.
Dessert consisted of soft mochi in a sauce and red bean powder. You mix it all together and eat it with chopsticks. It tasted like a delicious candy bar!

The chef really made this experience special. He would engage us in conversation and tell us great stories about the food itself or the surrounding area throughout the meal. Always showing up to talk at the most perfect times. One cool story was that of Steve Jobs coming to visit and eating at the restaurant whenever he was in Kyoto. There was a hand written message signed by Steve on the wall. (Photos below)

Sharing this experience with my wife was beyond comparison! I will never forget it!