30 Things to Do Before I Turn 30

Real adulthood begins at 30…right? Here are some things I’d like to do before I turn 30…which is a year and a half away. Check out the list below, the numeric order has nothing to do with it being a higher or lesser priority.

  1. Experience the Holi Festival
  2. Produce one short film on a street photographer
  3. Be financially stable
  4. Travel with the family and mom to New York
  5. Teach a street photography workshop in Hawaii
  6. Get a promotion
  7. See the Northern Lights
  8. Learn Spanish
  9. Take my boys to Wrestlemania
  10. Publish a book
  11. Take a painting class
  12. Learn how to use Lightroom
  13. Reduce body fat by 7%
  14. Make new friends
  15. Cash in on one of my Stocks
  16. Go on a hot air balloon
  17. Have a big debate why wrestling is better than MMA
  18. Read more
  19. Volunteer for a non-profit
  20. Finish my documentary on my mom
  21. Know more of my family history
  22. Do a fundraiser that supports a cause I’m passionate about
  23. Be my own boss
  24. spend more time than I do now with my family
  25. win a big bet
  26. Travel to Cuba (again)
  27. Own a piece of property in Hawaii
  28. Learn to dance
  29. Eliminate soda completely
  30. Grow up but not old

Lessons Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Can Teach You About Photography


I enjoyed writing the post on “Lessons Stone Cold Steve Austin Can Teach You About Photography”, and will continue this wrestling and photography blog series.

This second wrestling/photography post (IDK what to call it) is on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (I know him as The Rock). The Rock was at the peak when he and Stone Cold Steve Austin were wrestling together in the Attitude Era, when wrestling was at it’s best because there were competing companies (now WWE is a monopoly).

It took The Rock a while to connect with the audience and rise up to the top. I believe all of us can really learn a thing or two from him, he is the highest paid actor in Hollywood per 2016. Here is my analysis.

Rocky Maivia

Be Yourself

When The Rock debuted in 1996 in Madison Square Garden at Survivor Series, he debuted as Rocky Maivia. A combination of his father’s first name “Rocky Johnson” and his grandfather’s last name, “High Chief Peter Maivia”. Debuting on one of the major pay per views of the year, in New York City, and helping his team win the match, was a strong indication that the company (WWE & Vince McMahon) thought very highly of him. The Rock is a second generation superstar and former collegiate football player. He had all the athletic tools and capabilities to be a successful sports entertainer.

His persona as Rocky Maivia, was a happy go lucky guy, who just…well happy to be in the business and nothing more. Fans got bored of watching this happy go lucky guy week after week and fans started booing Rocky Maivia. The WWE officials took Dwayne off the wrestling schedule for a month or so and rebooted his character. He joined a predominately black stable (wrestling gang/group) “The Nation of Domination”. He re-introduced himself as “The Rock” and instead of a happy go lucky guy, he insulted fans, he spoke from the heart, the resentment from the boos fed his fire to tell all the fans in the arena to shut your mouth (You can watch The Rock’s debut somewhere on youtube). It was definitely a turning point in The Rock’s career.

With your photography I do believe you need to shoot who you are. Don’t try to be another photographer, we all have peoplr or photographers we admire and try to follow or emulate them but if you are able to add your own touch or find your style…you will a stand out on your own. The Rock was able to turn a regular elbow drop by adding his own signature to it, and even adding a new name “The People’s Elbow”. He turned something so common and made it so great. The best street photographers are able to make something out of nothing or turn a mundane scene into an interesting photo.


Be Entertaining

The Rock was one of the most entertaining superstars the industry has ever seen. And that opened up opportunities for him in Hollywood which he recently became the highest grossing actor in 2016. Anytime The Rock surprisingly appears at a WWE event, it reignites the fans especially once they hear his music hits. His segments are never boring, it’ll keep you smiling, laughing and wanting more the entire time. I truly believe he could talk and entertain for hours, and it could be on anything. He has a special talent by connecting with the audience. By not making it a I or Me conflict but a “We” thing, we are in this together, we did it…The People’s Champ. He was able to turn a raising eye-brown and make it an iconic signature of his. He would make up his own vocabulary and phrases, “Know your Role and Shut Your Mouth, Smackdown Hotel,  If/Do You Smell What the Rock is Cookin, etc”. He knew how to let the fans be part of the program, basically he was a genius and he did it in entertaining fashion and by being himself.

Check out this video of The Rock’s Funny Moments.


With your photography make it fun. Recognize those comical, strange, surreal, interesting, crazy, gritty, moments. Have your photos evoke an emotion from your viewer. If your photos lack emotion, if it doesn’t move you with humor, or it doesn’t make you happy, sad, mad, hopeful, or curious, then it probably is not a good photo and will leave other people that view them just as confused or uninterested with it.

rock sweat

Work Hard

In 1995, he had $7 in his wallet, that’s all. By 1996, before he even made his debut in WWE, The Rock was wrestling at carnivals, flea markets, high school gyms for $40 a night. He definitely had a humbling beginning, nothing came easy. Till this day, he works out like a mad man and is so discipline with his diet. At age 45, he is in the best shape of his life. He is at the highest mountain there is to climb being the biggest Hollywood star. But he’s not content, The Rock continues to work hard and out work everyone else. His early struggle (not being drafted by an NFL team, wrestling for $40 a night, the boos early on in WWE) has instilled a work ethnic that you can’t teach.

For me, these past two months I’ve been pretty blessed with my photography. I had a group exhibit at the Street Sans Frontieres in Paris from May 12-14, 2017 for my Rafael Trejos Series. Then I get an email the other day saying that I’m one of the 52 finalist in the 2nd annual StreetFoto San Francisco International Photography Festival. A lot of luck involved to be a part of these group exhibitions but you also need to position yourself for the opportunity. You have to put yourself out there (create a website, Instagram account), take risk (traveling to Cuba to make photos), and outwork everyone else (shoot relentlessly, study photo books, read blogs, read or look at anything that inspires you) and apply it to your photography.

champion rock

Always Help Others

The Rock understood that he wouldn’t be where he’s at without the help of his fellow superstars. The Rock never had any issues putting another talent over (letting them win the match). In the wrestling industry, some wrestlers let their ego get the best of them. This was never an issue with The Rock based on what his peers have said in various interviews. In fact, I think elevating others eventually helped with his character and helped the business in its entirety. The Rock was able to make the fans cheer for ManKind AKA Mick Foley. Who early on in his WWE career, was a freak heel (bad guy). They formed a dynamic duo, The Rock and Sock connection. One of the most entertaining teams ever!

He also put over Y2J AKA Chris Jericho. Jericho debuted in WWE by interrupting The Rock during a in-ring promo. That was probably one of the best debut’s in WWE history. Helping Y2J establish himself quickly into the WWE scene, it create a very interesting feud (Jericho was one of the very few wrestlers that could go head to head with The Rock both on the mic and in the ring).

The Rock never let his ego get in the way, his persona was never bigger than the business. Still today, he comes back from time to time and appears randomly even with his busy schedule.

So no matter how famous or successful you get, remember that you didn’t do it alone. There is always help along the way. Give back to the people who helped you and were always loyal to you. Help the younger generations, help those that seek advice about your photography and maybe you’ll learn something new too along the way.

Do someone a favor and tell them to pass it on.

Thanks for reading, keep shooting.


Lessons Stone Cold Steve Austin Can Teach You About Photography

I’m a big pro wrestling fan (WWE), ever since I could remember. My older brothers grew up watching wrestling dating back to HulkaMania era, to the Attitude Era, into the Ruthless Aggression Era, and now. I love the story telling through the physical athletic performance that these pro wrestlers put on (or how Vince wants us to say “Sports Entertainers). I love the story telling through the microphone, the drama they tell through their physical punishment (men’s soap opera). It’s also sentimental for me…when my dad moved over the states after the Vietnam war, he tuned into boxing matches of Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee movies, and wrestling, to learn English. Ali, Lee, and wrestling specifically Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes, all were a joy to watch and listen to whether you understood any English or not. They all had something in common…Charisma.

One of my favorite wrestlers growing up was Stone Cold Steve Austin. He was fun, had a don’t give a shit attitude, beer drinking, always came up with catchy phrases (What? Austin 3:16, Give Me a Hell Yeah!) and had lots of charisma. I appreciated him more when I researched how he got to the top of the ladder, perhaps becoming the biggest superstar of all time. Austin’s journey was not a smooth one but he kept pushing…here’s how we can apply it to our own photographic journey.


Be Real

The Stone Cold persona would not have connected with the audience if Steve Austin himself didn’t insert a good portion of his personality into the character. What you saw on screen with Stone Cold, I’m sure that was how he was off screen or close to it (if not more credit to him for selling it so good). If Steve’s character were a clown or similar to Doink the Clown, I don’t think it would have worked. You need to be vested in the character and Steve did just that with the Stone Cold character, especially after getting fired from WCW (more on that later), Steve came into the WWE with a “I don’t give a damn” attitude that resonated with a lot of disobedient teenage fans. Whether it was going to work by being himself or not, he had a no lose mentality.

A lot of us fear of failing and pursue things with the intent of playing not to lose rather than playing to win. We need to photograph for ourselves and take risk, try new things, embed our character…our personality into our photos. What is our photos saying? What is it saying about society, or about yourself? Or is it just a photo of just people. A lot of this will take time and may organically evolve on it’s own as you keep shooting and studying the masters or photographers you greatly admire.


Add Your Own Touch

Part of claiming your own unique style is adding your own touch. In photography, everything’s been done before, however, not everything has been captured through your eyes. Like in wrestling, every move has been done in the industry. Even Stone Cold’s infamous finisher, the “Stone Cold Stunner” (photo above) was used by some other wrestler (ECW’s Mickey Whipwreck). I would say Stone Cold’s version was a lot better even though its the same finish, his version had more impact behind it, and his opponents would most often sell the move a lot more (making the effects from the finisher look more dramatic, painful)..The Rock was the best at selling the stunner.

So if you’re preventing yourself from shooting the streets by thinking that you can’t be innovative…your wrong. Study the photographers you admire and why you enjoy their photographs. If you like Bruce Gilden’s up close, in your face style, then by all means try and shoot that way. Or maybe instead of shooting at a low angle, aim higher, fill the frame with 75% of their face instead of 100%. Aim your flash gun at a different angle, up your flash power, lower your flash power. Experiment! Experiment! Experiment! That’s the only way you’ll find what style of image caters and is unique to you (I don’t even have a unique style, I like everything!).


Your photography should evolve for the best overtime. Your taste and in what you like or dislike on a photo will change over time. I started off shooting only in B&W simply because that’s what I thought street photography was. I look back at my old photos and really have a hard time viewing them. The B&W seems too force and artificially imposed without reason. I think B&W just like Color works on a photo if it helps with the image, if it helps elevate the content. Don’t just turn a photo B&W just cause, search for a reason within the image, find the reason, if your reason is “Well I think it looks better in B&W”, then it probably means that your photo is weak.

Your intentions will evolve overtime as well. When I started off I wanted to make badass photos like Vivian Maier who I highly admire. I wanted to make intimate portraits and captivate those special moments out in the public setting. Then a few years in (2010-2012) I asked myself “WTH am I doing”. I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to produce and capture those surreal moments but lacked reason behind it.

I got off my ass in 2015 and went shooting again. The same thoughts passed through my mind, fast forward today (2017) and I realize for me it’s not about capturing special moments that I enjoy most. It’s really just getting off my ass, taking a walk, burn some calories, absorb some vitamin d, appreciate the “NOW” moment, get away from my phone or social media and enjoy the day. Appreciate life. Getting good photos is the bonus, seeing the surreal, comical, interesting moments, is the bonus to all of it.

Steve Austin started off in WCW as part of the tag team, The Hollywood Blondes. He was a big brass athletic guy with long blonde hair. Very very talented and should have moved up the ranks if it wasn’t for backstage politics.

He got a call one day from his boss telling him that he was fired. Left unemployed, the lit a fire up Steve”s ass in which he used as motivation. Which brings me to my next point.

Have Something to Prove

Have a chip on your shoulder. Find it within you or Something that you may experience to give you that extra motivation. Prove people wrong but most importantly do it for yourself. Test yourself, test authority, break the rules…these will only lead you to be more innovative in your work.

Austin’s character was anti-authority, who didn’t give a damn about anything. It was refreshing to see instead of your usually good guy/bad guy, he was an anti-hero. Someone that we could relate to with our everyday lives, someone that we wanted to be like. Austin would give the Stunner to his boss (Vince McMahon) and they started feuding. The  story line worked, it was innovative, it resonated with the audience (I mean who doesn’t want to give their boss a Stone Cold Stunner). And the fans embraced it.

Sometimes you can’t be too forceful or even if you put all your eggs or marketing budget into one idea or basket it does not mean it’ll blossom. The best things happen in it’s purest form, evolves organically, and happens with reason. Continue to look up to your idols, your parents, teachers, super heroes, photographers, athletes, business entrepreneurs, and ask yourself what is it about them that I really admire, look into their story, and apply to your photographic journey and everyday lifestyle.

Thanks for stopping by!

Keep shooting,