3 Minutes w/ Owuor Arunga [VIDEO]

1 am. The server at Amante Pizza clears our table. Across from me sit two old friends, veterans in the music scene, of their neighborhoods at least. “Remember that one hook I had… the one where I said….” Something about riding a bicycle through town. In my fixie, riding down Broadway damn near sixty. Owuor laughs, his lips still raw from his show earlier that night. His sips are long. Recovery.

An over-dressed salad and 1.5 slices of cheese pizza remain on the table. Anna to my right, and Anyango asleep on the bench next to her. Both performers in the show that night. I remember sitting next to Anna at Starbucks 2 years ago and about a conversation we had. About our goals as we often did. She wanted to dance. To travel. And to do all of this with her family on stage with her. And now, in the corner booth on Capitol Hill, streetlight flickering with every pedestrian between the street and our window in perfect unison with our lagging blinks, this lifestyle was her new normal. Her success.

3 minutes.

Enough time for a bite. Enough time to run into an old friend and relive the past. Not quite enough time to convince someone that you are still the same old dude from the neighborhood but just enough time to fall asleep. To recall how far you’ve come, and how far you still have to go.

Someone once asked me what I thought about “success” and how to deal with not ever feeling like we are making any ground. My secret is that I don’t define success with my art. My art is just my tool. It’s the experiences and the people that I have met through what I do where I get the most fulfillment in life. I’m lucky. I get to pick the brains and learn from people who have “made it.” They are the cool ones. I just push buttons. I’ve never linked the two.

The most valuable thing I have learned is that success is real. It really exists if you choose to play the part and make the moves. It’s not just something we see on Tumblr. That, and the fact that you cannot do it alone. Trying to do it by yourself will only take you so far. Do it for the sake of something bigger than yourself and to be happy for others along the way. Give. That’s when you will begin to see success.

3 minutes. My Conversation with Owuor Arunga on success, fame, and his creative mindset.

www.ArungaMusic.com

@Owuorobi


Remember, there is no timeline.

-Amir


[PHOTO] How I Lit It | Fitness Shoot

I thought I’d switch it up and post a photo related blog post. When I started getting into photography in my cramped basement single back in college, behind the scenes blogs and how-to videos were the biggest tools that I utilized in teaching myself how to light and strobe. So for you aspiring photogs just like myself, here it goes.

The Shoot:

Fitness Shoot with Jessica Rose Fitness and Vo2 Multi Fit

Gear:

Paul C Buff Alien Bee B800 Strobe (X2)

22″ Beauty Dish w/ 30 degree honeycomb grid + diffusion sock

Vagabond Lithium Battery Pack

Cybersync Transmitter and Receiver

Lighting:

The goal was to highlight Jessica’s amazing physique. I wanted to make sure I was controlling the light in a way that accentuated her defined edges, cuts, and definition. To do this, I placed my key light with a gridded beauty dish above her pointing down at about a 45 degree angle. This would light her face and her upper body but with a very narrow stream of light due to the honeycomb grid on the beauty dish. I didn’t want any light spilling out onto the ground or even to her legs. To get a nice side light kick on her body and hair, I placed another light behind her pointed towards the back of her body at a slight angle. This is what gives that high key shine on the side of her head, shoulder, and leg. The visible flare in the background from the light also adds some more interest to the image. The overhead key light and rim light are both firing at angles. This side light is what highlights her defined muscles. Avoid shooting direct light, it will flatten everything out and make the body very 2 dimensional. This is the last thing you want to do when shooting fitness.

Straight From The Camera

 Final After Post  

Same Setup With Derek

RAW Image

Final After Post 

(To see the entire photoshoot, click HERE)

You can learn anything online these days. Take advantage of the internet! In writing this blog post I’m reminded of my information-hungry self 3 years ago and how addicted I was when I found a new website or YouTube channel that pulled back the curtain, revealing the techniques and equipment used in strobist photography. And as Ryan Brenizer says: “If your business is based on secrets, you have a shaky foundation. If you can succeed by being open, working hard, and working smart, then you’re in a good position for continued success.”

With that said, if you have any questions about my process, feel free to shoot me an email, a facebook message, or a message ontumblr. I have also listed my favorite blogs and websites below that have helped me immensely with my photography.

– Amir


Resource List:

Strobist 101

Dom Bower

Framed Network

FStoppers

Lit Up | Joel Grimes

ISO 1200 Mag

Phlearn

Film Riot

Julia Kuzmenko

Emily Soto

Chase Jarvis

Creative Live



Why I Don’t use the Dish Washer | Avoiding Resistance and Pending Processes

The other day, my roommate and I got into a heated debate over dishes. I hand-wash my dishes. I did it when I lived alone, and I still do it now living with two other roommates. He argued that the dish washer was not only more energy efficient and time efficient, but that “that’s what technology was for” and that I should get with the times.

I had one plate, and one fork. Before he could finish his spiel about the “steaming point of water” or pruned fingers and what not, my dishes were done drying. 2 things here: never let a machine do something for you that you are capable of doing yourself, and if it takes you more than 30 mins to wash one plate and one fork, slap yourself.

But my reasoning for hand washing has absolutely nothing to do with full loads vs empty loads, water bills, or wasted energy. It has everything to do with how I stay productive. More specifically, how I avoid Resistance.

There is a common misconception about people who make art… “Creatives.” That creativity is inherent, somehow just naturally overflowing within a writer, a painter, or a dancer and that inspiration strikes left and right and with a wave of a wandPOOF, Van Gogh, a perfectly choreographed ballet, or a New York Times best seller comes out. It’s just not true. Allowing yourself to be present in a space that welcomes inspiration AND to be able to act upon it and create something is really, really hard to do. And it’s hard because of Resistance.

Resistance can take many forms. For me, it disguises itself as productivity. Allow me to explain. I know that I work best when I have nothing in my pending processes. My work area is clean, my room is clean, I’ve sent my emails, I’ve showered if I need to shower, and my water bottle is full. I can give 100% of my energy to my creative habits in order to craft the necessary space in which I work best.

But let’s say that my little OCD checklist wasn’t fulfilled. I begin cleaning my room. But first, I open Spotify because I can’t clean without music. I open Facebook for a couple of minutes since I’m already online. Then I eat dinner and watch some TV. 3 episodes of Bar Rescue later I put away my dishes. And while I’m at it, I’ll wipe down the counter and clean the rest of the kitchen. Then I shower and finally head down to my room. And if you are like me and you correlate cleanliness with a sense of internal “healing” and balance, you would probably tell yourself that you had a very productive night. But wait, you didn’t even begin working yet.

This is Resistance at its finest.

In the words of Steven Pressfield:

“Resistance loves healing. Resistance knows that the more psychic energy we expend dredging and re-dredging the tired burning injustices of our personal lives, the less juice we have to do our work.”

Life is distracting. I know my weaknesses. Something as little as dishes sounds silly but I treat it the same way as every other chore I encounter during the day. Get it in, get it out, move on to the next. Because I can’t afford to get side-tracked. God forbid there are no clean dishes for dinner.

Help yourself out. Limit the pending processes during your day. Know your weaknesses, identify what Resistance looks like to you, and create habits to avoid it.

“Resistance is like a telemarketer; if you so much as say hello, you’re finished. The pro doesn’t even pick up the phone. He stays at work.”   –Steven Pressfield (The War of Art).

Stay Productive.

-Amir


What I Learned in 2013 & 2014

What I learned in my first few years of business and my favorite photos in between


Always sign a contract. Even if there is no money involved

“Approved” and “sent/processed” are 2 completely different things. As in… “Your check has been approved.”

How to say no

If it takes you 2 months to share stories from your past, you’ve just spent 2 months not doing something new

Living alone in the suburbs at your prime will destroy your social life

You really cannot mix business with pleasure

Facebook is dead

A college degree does help you get a job

Age is just a number. But it often correlates with other numbers that are more than just numbers

Acne.org works better than Proactive. Thanks Fitz

If you want to get married soon, date someone who works in the wedding industry

If you don’t, do not

Disneyland is not the happiest place on earth. Vegas is

I am a dog lover

What it feels like to put in your 2 weeks

Clients will always select your least favorite image from a shoot

The details matter to those who matter

Therapists need therapists

If you love creating art and want to make it a career, make sure you love business as well

What 75 million dollars looks like

That Netflix is a better investment than sleeping pills

Leading a horse to water is not enough. You must inspire the horse to drink. Getting eyes on your product is half the battle. You need a call to action – Gary Vaynerchuk (Jab,Jab,Jab, Right Hook)

There are people who value your creative process. There are people who only care about the end product. Respect both

Play stupid games; Win stupid prizes

I spend the most money between 11pm – 3am

Give media outlets the story they are looking for. Do not expect them to research you on their own time. They won’t

How to tie a bow-tie

Life with an iPhone

Sloppy emails exist everywhere, even in Corporate America

Our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of productivity – Tim Ferriss ( The 4 – Hour Work Week)

Drink water

If you want to do something that has already been done, browse the internet. If you want to create something no one has ever seen, find inspiration offline

I am more creative at night. I am more productive in the morning

The best way to find out if you really need something is to sleep on it

Select roommates as creative partners. Be able to collaborate on more than just bills. Their investments affect you now

I wear a size 43 shoe in Europe

Watch movies with the captions on. There is information found in background dialogue and song lyrics that we often miss

Most great opportunities only come around once. If you get a second shot, be ready to quit your job

The worst advice you can give someone is “Never Change” (aka the yearbook curse)

Most, if not all, of my paid jobs are a result of work I did for free

Annie Leibovitz gives a firm handshake

Do more in less areas. It is hard enough to be great at one thing

Create habits for the beginning and end of your day so you can start and end with normalcy regardless of what happens in between

There are 2 rules for success. 1: Never give away all of your secrets.

-Amir


Dream Chaser Syndrome: Understanding the Limitations of Your Personal Narrative

Aaron Andrews Apparel

I often stop and ask myself, Am I really working as hard as I think?

Sure I’ve come a long way. Professionally, I’ve been published. I landed a job at a respected company. Outside of my career, I utilize my gym membership. I’m actively involved in a couple start-up companies. Labeling me a “work-a-holic” would not be inaccurate.

Still, I’ve always been partial to the “grinding” tweets. You know, the “if you weren’t with me for my struggle don’t expect to be there for my success” type statuses.

Let’s be honest. There are times when we want to post them. And when I have one of those moments, I hesitate. I think about a few things.

  • What have I actually done?
  • Can I show for it?
  • Do people actually care?
  • Why do I want to share this?

The answer is usually: Not as much as you think, maybe, probably not, to reassure yourself that what you’re doing is worth it.

We like to think that we are actively living out our purpose in life. I can recall the hard weeks, the obstacles that I overcame. The highs. But these are all accounts according to my narrative.

What about the un-memorable days. The failures. The ambiguous moments that perhaps had no meaning that we conveniently forgot or narrated as a “growing experience.” A positive. It’s why we say things like, Everything happens for a reason.

How we talk about things doesn’t always reflect how it really was.

The Narrative Fallacy

Ryan Holiday describes it like this:

“The more inspiring and metaphoric we make our stories, the less they seem to resemble the dull and comfortably literal world that the rest of us live in. We start to think that we’re different, that the laws don’t apply to us – that all we have to do is let manifest destiny take its course. This denies the fundamental role of hard work and sacrifice and luck in everything. Narration conveniently ignores the day we laid around and watched TV and the week where we were sure we were going to quit but didn’t. It’s just not honest.”

I am not here to un-romanticize your journey. But before you tweet “IDGAF bout any 1, just gonna doo me ja feeeeel. #Grinding” and look like a complete idiot, remember this.

  • Talking about things before we do them gives us a false sense of accomplishment. Talk less. Do more.
  • You care way more about what you do than your friends/fans/followers. Don’t get offended if they don’t know what you posted last night at 4 a.m.
  • Take advice from people who have been where you want to be
  • We are all after the same thing. Stop comparing and start helping.
  • Be aware of other narratives. You belong to someone else’s too.

I would like to think that I’m on the right track. I also understand that how I interpret my journey is as relative as walking down the street with headphones on. Only I can hear the music and feel the meaning amidst the mundane.

To hear myself, I would have to yell. And that’s foolish.

-Amir



Explosions and Onion Bins: Why Being A Pessimist is Sometimes Beneficial

I smelled a gas leak.

You know that smell. When someone at a house party leans against the gas knobs in the kitchen. Or the smell that follows the CLICK CLICK of the propane grill. But on this day at the sub shop that I worked at, we had not beer nor barbecue. Or a gas grill. Something was wrong.

It was the bread proofer. It had to be. People forgot to fill the water pan all the time and it was probably giving off the smell of the blackened pan. My inner “lifer” began to prattle. ‘Who was in charge of the bread? The newbies don’t know anything!’ I started preparing the words I was going to unleash on whichever employee was at fault. ‘Be firm. Let them know they messed up. But… don’t be a dick. Teach, don’t preach,’ I told myself. Perhaps no one told them what to do. I calmed down, then checked the proofer. The pan was full. 

Was the ice machine overheating? No! The water heater. Sh*t. The whole place was going to go up. I’ve seen too many movies to not know what could happen. Do I jump when the place explodes? I should cover my eyes so glass doesn’t fly into them. Do I look back at it? What am I saying… I should be helping my coworkers get out safe. The customers?! I mapped an escape route for them and rehearsed a speech worthy of meeting airline safety code. I walked to the back. Ice machine was fine. So was the water heater.

There I stood, perplexed. Did no one else smell the leak? It had been a good minute or two by this point. Then it hit me.

I WAS INHALING IT. Covering my mouth was pointless, the damage was already done. My breath did feel inexplicably short. My legs felt weak. That was it. Game over. I was going to pass out from CO poisoning it was just a matter of time. If I was going down, I figured I might as well clear the area around me. I powered down the slicer, moved the knives, turned to map my fall trajectory, and there it was.

Onions.

They had just opened a bin of sliced onions. (ketchup bottle fart moment)

The absurdity here is not in the onions but rather… this was the second time this exact thing happened. I made the same mistake before and I knew that onions smelled like propane gas because of it. Why didn’t I make the connection right off the bat?

Neurotic? Maybe. Hypochondriac? I did misdiagnose an ingrown chest hair as a heart attack once. This is beside the point.

We anticipate the worst outcome in stressful situations. It’s not that we don’t want things to turn out for the better, we do, but it’s just easier and less debilitating to take this defensive pessimistic approach. Because while we rehearse these bad scenarios in our heads, we also formulate the necessary measures to take in order to avoid them. Think of it as, a positive spin on negative thinking. In finding solutions for each thing that could go wrong, (burning pan, faulty water heater, impending death) you harness your anxiety, remain in control of the situation, and are able to tolerate the negativity and remain productive. And in the event that sh*t does hit the fan, well, you’re already prepared for it, physically and emotionally.

The key is being prepared. Expecting failure is just a little trick we play on ourselves to make us perform better. Or in the event of actual failure, at least we avoid getting emotionally blind sided. Life is stressful. It’s easy to think we smell a gas leak. Relax. Make a plan, and take action. In the end, there might be an explosion.

Or a bin of onions.

-Amir



I’m Back: Self Complexity and Living your Art

It’s been over a year since my last blog post. To my After Hour Faithfuls I say these words, “I’m back.” But not in some vainglorious, prodigal son-esque, self proclaimed “return” to the blog world type of way; although the idea of redemption does play a role.

Self redemption, at least.

The goal was simple. Graduate college and pursue this dream of being a “professional photographer.” (I put this title in quotes because I still don’t know what that means). So I did. I graduated, built a photo studio, and took on this new full-time role. Emails, promos, marketing, producing, buying, learning, shooting, and editing. It was exciting. I was able to do it all, to my taste, on my time, and most importantly, without school. I was living the life of a photographer!

Unfortunately, I was living the life of a photographer.

I’ll save this topic for another post, but to say it plainly, taking photos is the easiest part of the whole gig. And there’s a lot less shooting that goes on than one might expect. If you know me, then you know that the only thing greater than my desire to succeed is my stubbornness. I’m not one to ask for help. If I’m going to do something, I might as well go all out. If I had to pull 2 all-nighters to meet a deadline with 2 shoots in between, I would do it. The weight of my gear bag, feathers compared to the weight of hypoxic brain cells beating against my forehead. “It is what it is,” I always told myself. I worked too hard to get to this point, I can’t give up now. If this is what it takes, then just do it. Because you love it….. right?

Yes. I do. This journey has blessed me in so many ways. I’ve been on opposite sides of the camera to some incredible individuals in the most inspiring venues and elaborate locations this past year. I’d say I’m doing alright as far as photographers go. “I am a photographer.” - A sentence that I could not say with confidence for the first few years with a camera. Ironically, the moment I finally believed it, is the moment where everything fell apart.

It is an issue of Self Complexity. People with high self complexity see themselves in many different ways. Aside from your occupation, you also understandably belong to other roles and memberships. You may be a manager of a restaurant, but also a daughter, mother, friend, lover, artist, humanitarian, social butterfly. So a negative event at work has a smaller emotional impact on you as compared to someone who’s life revolves solely around their job. Here, the pitfall of my all or nothing mentality. I wanted to make a name for myself so badly. So badly that I gave up everything that wasn’t photography. My initial identity as a dream-chasing, college student who blogged about life, sports, personal inspiration, and late-night revelations was stripped down to simply a “portrait and lifestyle photographer based in Bellevue, Wa.” A tagline. My self concept lacked complexity. As business fluctuated, so did I. Art never slept, neither did I. In this case, Art also rarely made time for friends, family, or spiritual wellness. I was a photographer. And only a photographer.

Every artist hopes to have their work inspire others, to have people believe in what they do. The only way to do this, is to live what you create. I was a photographer, and I wanted people to believe it. The problem was, I was only shooting client based jobs. With little time to shoot personal work, I lacked the satisfaction of creating a piece from pure inspiration to completion without any exterior input. The very satisfaction that fueled my love for this art in the first place.

The words, “I am” are potent; be careful what you hitch them to. The thing you are claiming, has a way of reaching back and claiming you.” - Al Kitselman

I am a photographer. But I’m also a son, a trustworthy friend, a hard worker, and a dreamer. I’m also a writer. Calling this blog my road to self redemption would be lame. But it is one of the ways I’m reclaiming my identity as a passionate individual who strives to inspire others.

Thank you for your support these last few years. Thank you for believing in me in times when I did not.

I’m back.

-Amir


THE AFTER HOUR? What the H?

What the h*** does The After Hour even mean?

While the initial assumption is that I run some sketchy, NSFW operation, the name is actually a testament to how my journey began 2 years ago. In fact, the response is very positive once people actually decide to visit my website, whether in a private window or not.

Defining“The AfterHour” : what it means and what it has become

The Literal: I was sick of my routine-driven life. School stressed me out and I didn’t have a creative outlet to keep me balanced. I was searching for something, anything, to pull me out of this state of existential boredom. One night, I came across some photo blogs that explained off-camera lighting, strobing, and post processing. I was hooked. I wanted to shoot like these people. So from that point on, my life was school and work by day, photography at night. All night. It was during these hours where I studied, read, Googled, and developed as a photographer. It was my time of escape. The After Hour was when it all began

The Psychological State: Something interesting happens late at night. Undressed of our daily tasks, our responsibilities, the internet and our smartphones, we find ourselves confronted by silence. Amidst this silence, we allow ourselves to reflect. We think about our relationships, past and present. We think about how badly we need a new job, then about how inconsequential having a job really is in the grand scheme of things. We are reminded of our flaws, our fears, and the fact that we haven’t accomplished as much as we thought we would by this point in our lives. But the great thing about the human mind is that it always strives to reduce an internal imbalance. So to counter this spurt of negative self-examination, we will also create a solution, a way out. A way to succeed and recreate ourselves. We are dreamers. And in our late night, sleep-deprived, desperately-motivated minds, the “impossible” suddenly becomes much more plausible. In this After Hour state of mind, we are driven by impulse and desire, not fear. While I don’t recommend living your life without sleep, I do believe that in order to achieve your dreams, you have to believe without a doubt that what you are doing is not only possible, but also the right thing. No matter how dark things appear to be, you will always have options and there will always be a solution.

The Idea of Legacy: I often think about The After Hour in terms of my legacy. Fact: I’m not going to be here forever. When I’m gone, how am I going to be remembered, further, what is my work going to say about me as a person? As an artist? As long as the internet exists, my kids, and their kids, and their kids will be able to see everything that I posted. Everything. My message has always been greater than photography. I won’t be here forever. But my art will. During this After Hour, what will be my legacy?

Create something greater than yourself.

-Amir

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