My photography “hobby” has been picking up lately. Despite all of my public statements that I’m going to tone down this photography obsession and focus more on business, I just can’t help it. I want to do everything at once. When you’re doing something you’re proud of and excited about, it feels like a crime to restrain yourself. And there was just no way I could turn down this trip to Nepal. I didn’t know anything about Nepal except that it’s north of India and that some very different world awaits.
I didn’t Google or Wikipedia anything about Nepal. Nothing. I didn’t want any movie spoilers, I just wanted the experience to be fresh. I was brought to Nepal to shoot a conference, the Asia Liberty Forum. I’m not a career photographer, I don’t market myself as a photographer or even have a proper portfolio site online at the moment. I’m not a professional, this is not my profession. I’m an enthusiast, I’m always obsessively trying to create beautiful compelling photos to the best of my ability. And that’s exactly what the conference organizers wanted. It’s a crazy expense to bring someone from the other side of the planet out to photograph your event in a 3rd world nation, so I knew I had some huge pressure to make sure I deliver. Click here to see the conference photos.
The photos in this post are an album separate from the conference, purely the scenic photos of Nepal I captured outside of the conference.
Most of these photos were taken in a single day devoted to exploring Kathmandu. I knew I wouldn’t have any chance to explore the city while I was at the conference, so I gave myself 2 extra days in Kathmandu to see and capture whatever I could. Unfortunately, due to some serious incompetence and dishonesty from a tour guide, an early morning hike out in the rural mountains surrounding Kathmandu turned into an all day affair that caused me to cancel my packed schedule of sights I planned to see in my precious remaining few hours in the country. Stuck all day in the middle of nowhere, I was furious to waste most of one of my only 2 sightseeing days, but it’s a lesson in relying on your common sense over and above the assurances of strangers who act like they know what they’re talking about when it doesn’t make sense. Even when you’re in a totally foreign land. But I digress. And I did get cool shots of the rural mountain villages and some groups of cute kids after they got out of school for the day. I have no shame, I just go up to groups of random school kids and ask who wants to be famous. They get ecstatic when I show them cool shots of themselves and their friends in my camera. No one asked for my info to get the photos, they seemed happy just that these photos of them would be seen by people in America.
One thing I totally didn’t expect was the weather. I knew I was going to the Himalayas. In January. I packed for very cold weather (I remember surviving the coldest winter on record in Romania), but it wasn’t that cold in Kathmandu. Once I was there I was told that Kathmandu is the valley surrounded by the mountains, and that it’s relatively warm. No snow ever falls in Kathmandu. It felt more desert like, maybe a little chilly at night, but no big deal. I had full body thermal underwear packed, but I wish I brought sandals instead.
I didn’t have time to check out any other city, though I’m told there are some real treasures throughout Nepal. Kathmandu was both beautiful and gritty. The poverty is pretty extreme, people often live on $80 a month. There is trash everywhere. Los Angeles is not exactly a clean city, but it feels like a sterile sanitary clean room by comparison. I’ve seen plenty of stray dogs and cats in other countries, but all the stray cows was actually pretty cool. The warmth of the Nepali people was striking. Everyone was extremely friendly and graciously greeted me with a Namaste and a bow. I’m talking about the random strangers I approached with my camera. I learned to reply back “Thank you friend” in their language, which people enjoyed.
The temples swarming with monkeys was a highlight. They’re really cute until you get up close. I was warned repeatedly not to get too close, but I didn’t listen, and one angry monkey tried to grab my camera from me. I was ready to fight him to the death, he’s not taking that. The monkeys are rude. They are all unfriendly little shits actually. I can see why our society has so many problems, if we evolved from these bastards. Adorable as they are.
I took a $200 sight seeing flight to Mount Everest with a few friends. I regretted it immediately afterwards. We didn’t get that close, I’ve seen mountains from a plane window before, I wasn’t that impressed, and I really could have used the sleep instead of waking up so early for a delayed and pointless flight. But when I got back to Los Angeles and saw the photos I got of these majestic mountain ridges, I’m glad I did it. I shot those mountains totally sleep deprived, wishing I was back in a bed instead of a freezing cold plane to nowhere, but I managed to still capture a few shots that are priceless to me.
One night some of the conference attendees went out to a bar that had a local metal band playing. We were out on the patio where we could talk, which was my intention so that we weren’t drowned out by whatever crappy local band was set to play. But I was surprised and impressed with how good the band actually was. I picked up my camera and started taking some shots of them. They reminded me of some sort of a Nepalese Deftones. A throwback to 90s Numetal when it was still artistic, but driving and aggressive. And the guys were actually talented, the music was great, and fans were in a trance and pumped. I really didn’t expect that when I heard a local metal band was playing that night. I found the guitarist after the show and showed him a few shots I took, and he flipped out, immediately bringing me over to the singer to show him my camera screen. I promised they would eventually get these, and they invited me to share a joint with them. I got a picture of that too ;)
Pretty cool the places a little device in your hand will take you.
One of the craziest things I saw was a citywide protest that shut down all major streets on my last day there, while I was rushing to get to the airport. Fortunately they were letting tourists through (the protesters don’t want to look like they’re cutting off vital income to the country). The protests were orchestrated by Maoists. Not Socialists, not Communists, but Maoists. With flags and banners of Mao. I’m just going out on a limb here, but it felt like it had to be China’s influence to me. Nepal is safe from out right occupation since it’s so closely linked to the massive India, but that doesn’t mean China isn’t going to meddle. Purely my speculation, but seeing very poor people that live off less than $100 a month carry around printed flags and banners of China’s Chairman Mao leads me to assume who’s funding this…
I WISH I had walked around and captured some compelling shots of the protests, but I was rushing to the airport, worried about catching my flight, and could only get a few imperfect shots as my car sped by.
Anyway, these pictures are worth more than any of my words. This is a landmark album for me, and easily the most exotic photos I’ve ever taken. I hope they help you get a better idea of the experience of this different world.
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It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Atlas Shrugged and the author Ayn Rand. So when I was asked to shoot the Behind The Scenes photos for the 3rd Atlas Shrugged movie, I don’t think I let Scott DeSapio (the Associate Producer) finish his sentence before I jumped all over this. It’s not just that I’m a fan, but the idea of having real production value and professional actors to capture was so exciting. I’ve been extremely prolific, and I’ve moved very fast, but I’m still relatively new to photography. When I picked up a Sony NEX-3 four years ago, I first treated it more like a much better quality point and shoot. My friends know I went quite OCD with it, but I had NO IDEA a few years later I would be asked to shoot all these events around the country, and now BTS photos for a movie that will come to theaters and bring my photos to a much bigger audience… wow. Behind The Scenes photos are usually boring, so I was determined to create art pieces at the best of my ability. I had earlier gained some notoriety for my event and conference photos. There’s now probably around 10,000 Facebook profile photos of mine floating out there, being used by people for all sorts of purposes, from Match.com to Speaker Bios to Wikipedia to Book Jackets. And now the Associate Producer is telling me “I want Judd Weiss photos. Can you deliver us Judd Weiss photos?”. Hell the fuck yeah! The pressure was on. Fortunately production was starting the following week in LA, so I didn’t have to wait too long to jump in.
Thank god Sony just released their earth shattering full frame mirrorless A7 right before filming started in January. I had been shooting on smaller sensor APS-C NEX cameras before, and I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the full frame mirrorless, following any shred of rumor and news story for the previous 2 years. I knew I needed to move to a full frame setup in order to take my photos to the next level, and the A7 did not disappoint! I had never shot photos of this quality before, and my love for the camera rose along with excitement from the production team for the quality of photos I was delivering them. I was determined to push past my limits, and over deliver, but I didn’t expect to rise to this level. In January I still had plenty of room to grow, but these photos were a massive leap of a milestone for me. I’m so grateful for that opportunity.
The movie comes out in theaters tomorrow. Some of my photos were used in the film itself, not just in the marketing. For me this whole thing has been a real honor. I hope you enjoy some of these :)
I haven’t updated this blog in a very long time. But that definitely doesn’t mean nothing has been going on with me. I’ve had so much I wanted to write about, but photography happened, and it’s overwhelming the time I would have spent writing. Check out my albums on Facebook to see what’s been going on there. I’m proud of my prolific work, but……
This is it. This is the best work I’ve ever done. These Ephemerisle photos are my favorite album.
And now I’m a little afraid. I almost feel like giving up on photography. I’m not sure if I can continue to put out stuff at this level. I don’t want my future photos judged against this. I don’t know if I’ll match this again.
Everyone’s recent enthusiasm about my photos mirrors my own. I am just as excited when I see beautiful photos come from my camera. I continually feel like I can’t believe this is mine. But these Ephemerisle photos… I have never seen such beautiful photos come out of my camera. I’m almost in disbelief that these bear my name. Some of these photos are a little abstract, but believe me when I tell you those are very true to the experience. I almost feel like maybe I need to make some sort of art installation project out of this. Or an Ephemerisle coffee table book. Or something. In any case, you get the idea of how meaningful these photos are to me.
Most of that has to do with how unbelievably incredible Ephemerisle was. What a visual experience! It was challenging to truly capture the entirety of that surreal reality; but you can be sure I did the best I could to run around and convey what it was like to be there, overstimulated by this new beautiful foreign universe everywhere you looked.
I swear to god, the biggest reason I haven’t been to Ephemerisle in the past is because I thought “Eh, I’m not sure it’s worth all the effort to spend a few days trapped with a bunch of nerds on boats.” Verbatim. That is exactly what I thought. Reality will alter wrong pre-conceived notions.
I think Ephemerisle was the most exciting and fun time I have had, that didn’t involve a girl, since maybe my college days. Better even than that. Ephemerisle was one of my favorite experiences. I loved running around in that crazy dream world meeting the cast of characters you’ll see in the album below.
I’m not saying Ephemerisle is better than Burning Man. There’s no way an event of a couple hundred people can in any way rival the scope and all the amazingness of the 50,000+ strong Burning Man festival. But I will say that I enjoyed Ephemerisle more. I loved Burning Man, but the desert is a harsh place. No doubt the sea can be unforgiving as well, but I was very happy to trade an over abundance of dust for an over abundance of water.
Burning Man is incredible as it lights up the middle of the desert nowhere into an epic glorious city; being out in the middle of the water nowhere, lit up only by the most amazing glowy party you’ve ever seen, Ephemerisle too is a bright beacon of a testament to our evolutionary progress, while floating over the type of early ocean microbes of life that began it all. How far we’ve come, to create such a stunning atmosphere. A cool blend of excitement and serenity. Like Burning Man, being at Ephemerisle confronts you to face both our fragility and our promise that can only be truly seen in an intentional community that has left many of the comfortable constraints of modern society.
Stylistically people often compare Ephemerisle with Water World, and you can see where that’s coming from, only this wasn’t dystopian. Whatever was rough around the edges wasn’t post-apocalyptic, it was prototype. This is from the future, clearly. These are experiences our grandchildren will inherit when they are our age. But it’s a beautiful future. When the sun goes down, we light up even brighter. Humans evolved from a state of continual starvation in a struggle to survive among brutal nature, and now we master the harshest environments to throw parties of abundance like this for recreation. Humans have no shortage of serious problems, but it’s things like Ephemerisle that compel me to acknowledge our bright future of possibilities ahead.
You might think I’m hyperbolizing a little much. And if I hadn’t been there, that’s totally what I would think while reading this. But there’s a reason for these reflections of anthropological grandeur. Ephemerisle is comprised of exactly the group of intellectuals, business leaders, and artists who are focused daily on the topic of our evolutionary potential as a species. These ARE the people consciously working to design a more beautiful future for all of us. What a treat it is to see one of their early prototypes. And I have to say, I’m in love with this particular prototype they call Ephemerisle.
I’ve got to thank Simone Syed, Scott Norman, Patri Friedman, and Paul Grasshoff for persuading me to come out to this. But most of all, it was Randolph Henken (President of The Seasteading Institute) who put his foot down and insisted I come out to this. Thank you buddy, so much, if you didn’t push past my hesitation, the world would not have these photos of Ephemerisle. And thank you to everyone involved for coming together to create Ephemerisle. You made these photos. I just captured what I saw as well as I could. Your vision created this reality. Congratulations to all of your beautiful minds. These photos are my humble tribute.
Ok guys, get ready to watch the colors move…………
For the photography buffs out there, I shot this entire set of photos with the new amazing Sony Alpha A7S full frame mirrorless camera, with a manual Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 lens. That combo allowed me to achieve low light shots never before possible in the history of photography. The Sony A7S was the perfect camera to capture the experience of the dark glowy night that made Ephemerisle shine. Your iPhone would have recorded black smudges. Even the widely acclaimed Canon 5D MIII could not have achieved many of these shots.
For example: The below shot, while not the cleanest shot in history, was shot at 51,200 ISO (!!) at 1/125 second, handheld from a bobbing moving boat in the dark. It was challenging to stand, and hard to see clearly, let alone to take a clean photo. Try to get anything remotely usable in those conditions with another camera setup.
Again, the below shot is not perfectly clean and crisp, but it was shot at 32,000 ISO from a moving bobbing boat.
I love how the camera rendered the daytime shots as well. Enjoy the rest of the album below.
(ps. if you’re interested in getting this revolutionary camera, if you purchase it through this link for the Sony Alpha A7S, I will get a small affiliate commission from Amazon, and at no cost to you. Thank you for helping to support this site!)
Here’s another nude set I shot with Monique. You’ll quickly notice that I went a little bit further with these than the “Shadows” set with her. Well, I’ve got to get comfortable with my foray into shooting nudes. Slowly ;)
These were shot last October, right after our night at the Playboy Mansion Halloween Party. Monique’s outfit was a Diamond in The Rough, which makes an appearance in some of these. Monique and I love this set of photos, and both feel like they should be shared.
I love that “Shadows” set with her, but this “Light” set are some of my favorite photos I’ve ever shot (and I’ve got quite a lot of photos out there now). Both sets are good counterpoints to each other.
Shooting in bright light instead of the dark makes shooting nudes, well a lot more nude. I intentionally let the grain remain for the edge I wanted, and to differentiate these shots from shooting porn (which I have no interest in ever shooting). No disrespect to porn, but I’m trying to do something a little more thoughtful and compelling. A major difference is that most porn embraces the social stigma that nudity and sex is dirty, taking that baton and running with it into far raunchier territory. I’d just rather ignore that stigma entirely and focus on capturing the most beautiful and most captivating photos I can. I’m growing with my photography hobby. Though it seems it’s now clashing with my experience in dealing with difficult aspects of our culture.
I’ve experienced some awful behavior from a world so consumed with insanely twisted thoughts regarding the sin of sex. This isn’t the moment for an articulate argument about it. These pictures are my protest. If you could look at something beautiful and publicly denounce it as dirty, does that make you a better person? Does disavowing that which is attractive and hot demonstrate your virtue? Then you can go ahead, give it a try…
This is my first time shooting nudes. It’s funny that Monique pushed me to be edgier than I intended to be. This girl is braver in front of the camera than I was behind it. She knew I’d only capture something tasteful, so I guess she wasn’t worried. So much respect for that.
I’m in love with these photos. I was considering keeping them private, but we’re both proud of them, and both agreed they should be shared.
My idea was to create images from some foggy shadowy surreal dream on the verge of disappearing that you’re struggling not to wake up from. I wanted to capture that in a way that was hot as hell and sensual, yet beautiful, edgy, and human.
I’m not pretending to be a professional. I don’t have professional equipment. This is clearly not a professional environment, which is obvious because my cat’s litter box is in many of the shots. And there was no way I was able to keep my damn stubborn cat from walking through some of these, no matter how many times I moved her away. I used my pocketable Sony NEX cranked to the max ISO sensitivity, which did remarkably well in virtually no light, creating the rawer grainier look I wanted.
Hope you like these ;)
To know me is to know that I’ve had a Sony NEX camera attached to my arm for the past 2 years. I get a million messages a day asking for photos, and I’ve come to realize I’ll simply never be able to physically get to all of them, I have many 10s of Thousands of photos waiting to be sorted through, individually edited, and organized into Facebook albums. Cranking out 2 facebook albums a week isn’t going to cut it, there’s too many. But I will definitely get around to the good stuff. I watermark each photo with HustleBear.com because I have absolutely no intention to ever make a professional career out of photography and figured I might as well bring eyeballs to my blog. I’m not a professional photographer, I’m a hobbyist, but I’m heartened to see so much enthusiasm from so many people over the photos. It’s insane, but I have over 1000 (!) Facebook profile photos out there among my friends. That’s pretty fucking cool man. Whenever I log in I see mostly my photos in my friends list. To date I’ve got 819 email notifications that someone used my shot as their profile pic, and much of the time I’m not notified, and never when it’s a cover photo. So yeah, that helps make it feel like a worthwhile hobby. Since the pics are watermarked to this site, and with all the activity my Facebook albums have been generating, people often ask me why I’m not posting these photos up on my blog.
I don’t have a good answer. It’s a good point.
So here you go, I’m going to start posting some of my favorite sets of photos more regularly. I’ll start with my Hong Kong trip earlier this year. I was there for only about 3 days, but it’s an interesting story. Continue Reading >>
Something truly horrible happened to me recently. The worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I know that far more terrible injustices happen around the world, but I’ve never experienced anything like this. I can’t talk about it. I will be happy to at some point in the future. Anyway I was getting pretty depressed and disturbed. And then I saw this video, and it hit me really hard. In fact I think it might be one of the most important videos you ever see in your life.
So beautiful and inspiring:
The photo above is Philip Gould standing over the grave site where he will soon be buried in a few weeks.
Some things are hard to accept. Some things feel impossible to accept. While watching this video, I realized that I’m unable to accept what happened to me, that I still hoped it was a nightmare I could wake from. Seeing Philip Gould so accepting even of his own inevitable approaching death is what I needed to see to realize that I need to accept what cannot be changed, that I can accept it, and that no matter how awful something is, I can appreciate that I have my life and my health and my drive to create a good future ahead.
Sometimes you smile at the world and the world smacks you hard. I hope I’ll have the strength to always face the difficulties of life as bravely as Philip Gould.
“Acceptance is the absolute key. At that moment you gain freedom, you gain power, and you gain courage.” – Philip Gould
I organized an event for Peter Schiff at my house, some difficulties ensue… (with Photos and Video!)
Whoa man, my house has been packed before, but never like this! Last week I held a cocktail party with a short talk from Peter Schiff. About 300 people came over, and most of them piled in my living room all at once to see Peter speak. It was so tight that the photographer actually had a hard time lifting his arms to take pictures. I was honestly terrified by the sheer number of people I knew would show up that I’ll somehow fit in one room; but hey, we made it work! And it was a great time!
Everyone looked amazing. Check out all the pictures below:
(Many more photos below at the end of this article)
As many of you know, I’m a massive fan of Peter Schiff, he’s had a significant impact on my economic understanding, and I watch all of his videos that get posted online. I even named him “Man of the Year” in a previous article. To say the least, I was extremely excited to have him over to speak at my house. I know I was warned a thousand times by many people that he can be difficult to deal with. Still, I was surprised that for a moment even I was pissed with the guy.
Continue Reading >>