Some words as 2018 wraps up.

Every now and then I'd get a notification from Google Photos or Facebook showing me a moment from X years ago, and more often than not it's a (hugely) pleasant surprise. They represent so much more than simply the where/who/what. They also bring back memories, emotions, sensations not depicted in the pixels. It's one of the reasons why I love my work so much. I get to observe, (sometimes facilitate), capture, and preserve these memories that could last forever.

2018 has been a tremendous year once more for me. One of incredible growth and expansion. I spent much time being in and exploring a few new places, made some really radical new friends, made peace with people I had disagreements with, made mistakes, failed and rebounded, made and rescued quite a lot of food, discovered and tried new things, had very little diarrhea, and rekindled a number of old connections as well as reconnecting with family.

Sometime in mid 2017 I committed myself to take photography and videography full-on and sustain myself with my craft. I had spent the summer doing a complete makeover of my website, and putting it out there that here I am, a poor artist with bright eyes, able hands, and open mind, ready to attract more than just a financial means of livelihood. Not long after I had finished revamping the site, I landed in New Zealand.

Just over a year ago at a solstice/holidays gathering in Christchurch, I remember being surrounded by a group of friends and stating my intention to continue to attract the good work and financial abundance for the incoming year. I wanted to not only have the passion, but capital too. There's been this mindset of scarcity that I feel has kept me from reaching my full potential. I welcomed the challenges that come with the commitment. I've devoted myself to my craft, and am happy to say that though there are slumps and unmotivated days, each week overall I DO feel closer to my vision of what a life of abundance could look and feel like.

New Zealand was in countless ways multiple lessons that keep teaching, a land that has kept giving, an incubator for new ideas to be born and explored, and a meeting point for all the teachers I came across. While I don't believe I had taken full advantage of my time there, but that in itself is a lesson that will keep paying dividends. Aotearoa-New Zealand, you are truly a wonderful place. I long to return.

I am grateful for many things, but most importantly are the humans. I have gratitude for Peter in getting me down under in the first place, Erica and Preston in their friendship and immense drive that made me run harder faster stronger while remembering to slow down and have fun, Kit for your openness and hospitality in your home, the whole Ministry of Awesome team in putting up with me at your coworking space, Michael Reynolds in being an all-star human, friend, and collaborator, Franca for your beauty, patience, and honesty, AJ & Allison in being absolute gems of humans and deep discussions that really move me cosmically, the Guido-Henry-Milena trio for our short but truly memorable time together AND in rescuing me in the final hours in NZ. Rieki in his visionary projections on what our future could be, and acting upon it.

I am forever grateful to Sue & Tony Angles for their love and hospitality in Sydney, for the Enspiral and Digital Storytellers team to have showed me what immense power we hold when we run for-purpose instead of for-profit. For Zana and her family in hosting me in Byron Bay, Ibaia on the Gold Coast, all whilst I was working on the launch of my Patreon.

Gratitude also to Utsav in being a teacher, friend, and host in Kolkata, Kristine who put me up (and put up with me) throughout Vietnam, Carina in traveling with me in Sikkim, and my friends-"clients" Elizabeth & Anup, Christina & Kevin for your truly wonderful weddings that brought me (back) to places I really enjoy to do what I really like - capturing moments while making a living out of it. It's pretty rad.

Beyond grateful for Conscious Impact, and every human that's taken part in its creation and ongoing devotions to the land and one another. Returning to the Himalayas this year was invigorating for deeper parts of my soul. A piece of my heart is always there, awaiting its missing pieces for a reunion.

Deeply thankful for friends and communities back on the west coast of the US & Canada. California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, thank you for (re)inviting me back and welcoming me always. I feel at home here.

And especially for the Seattle/Beacon Food Forest crew - wow. Nothing but love. Michael Guenther, Caroline, Allen, Steph, y'all are just wonderful.

And to my father, my sisters, their spouses, nephews, and of course, my mother - oh my brave, strong mother - here I am, because of them, typing this unexpectedly in California while looking out the window of the last morning of yet another momentous year.

Onwards!

Lately...

Lately I've been time traveling, a lot. As I go through years of old photos, each one has lit up a different part of my memory, bringing back flashes of sensations stored in my brain and throughout my body. Truly quite the wonderful experience.

Unearthing gems like this always puts a big fat smile on my face. This was from the Avenue of the Giants where some of the tallest trees in the world reside. In my previous time there, I rode through those stunning redwoods on my bicycle. This third time was just as sensational.

But where do I even begin with this moment? Rewind a week and I'd have found myself making a last-minute purchase in Seattle of my friend's vehicle as she and her partner were swiftly preparing to go overseas for a new job. I then made a post of Craigslist to find rideshare companions, and within days departed with a packed car headed south - with Danny from Puerto Rico (left) and a black labrador who needed to be transported to his other 'parent' down the Willamette Valley. We drove into a wall of smoke as we got deeper into Oregon. Just like this year, the (wild)fires started early and raged across thousands of acres. In Northern California the visibility and air quality were so poor we weren't sure if it was even safe to be outside for more than a few minutes.

I had heard from the grapevine (Insta) that a couple old friends were camping at Mt Shasta, so we (just Danny & I now) joined them. Unexpectedly, we escaped the smoke purely by being high enough in elevation at the base of Shasta. The air was pure delight to breath again. We spent 2 mindblowingly beautiful nights just below this magical mountain (if you haven't been I strongly recommend a visit in this lifetime) with a crew of ubΓ«r chill, artistic, and musical talents - friends and their friends from all over - including Alex (right) + Kate (center).

Most of the time, we dangled out of the windows with our mouths wide open, cruising slowly down the Avenue of the Giants - so appropriately named - and it was especially delightful for me as I had the realization that it was these three's very first time being amongst the grandmother trees. πŸŒ² #subtledream

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I'm back in California!

I'm back and ready to take your photograph, video, or tell your story!

I recently returned to California from my 5th trip to Nepal. This time I spent 7 weeks in the Himalayan country, and all but 3 days were with the Conscious Impact community continuing our natural building, agriculture, and youth empowerment projects.

This community that I've mentioned so often encompasses the locals it serves, locals who work alongside us, the volunteers - both Nepali & foreigners, and our supporters spanning the globe. To date, we've had about 500 volunteers representing ~40 countries from every continent except Antarctica. It's extraordinary.

Together we've (re)built 32 homes, 2 community centers, an orphanage, a school, a business building, and many micro structures on the land where we dwell, cook, live, play, and share stories, craft, and practices with one another. We've stuck to our principles of earth stewardship, natural building, and selfless service to the community by listening to and responding to their needs while holding firm on our permaculture (systems thinking and design for coexistence and abundance for all living beings and the earth) roots.

This trip back was important and special for a number of reasons, some of which I've written in recent posts and on Patreon where I share (and will continue to) more with my amazing supporters.

Meanwhile, I'd be delighted to connect for the photoshoot idea that's been on your mind, with your recently engaged friend who seeks a photo/videographer, or other documentation/visual storytelling needs that you or someone you know could benefit from. Know that all paying work allows me to sustain this livelihood to work/serve/play/explore/thrive, as it is my main source of income. Know that my income often goes right back into purchasing gear that helps me capture moments better and continue pro-bono or discounted work for individuals and organizations like Conscious Impact. Know that I always do what I can to minimize my environmental & social impact while fostering regeneration. And, as most of you are aware, I happily travel for a good gig or opportunity. Try me πŸ˜‰

Jonathan H. Lee, at your service!

PS: this was from an awesome wedding where I partnered with the talented Vidu Love & Kristin Cameron to capture the very special day of Christina Leung & Kevin Sun βœ¨

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#foodisfree

As I was packing up and before I left my parents' house this evening, I decided to do once more something no one really does in our neighborhood - I would pick dozens of sweet grapefruits from our backyard and encourage folks walking by to take as much or little as they fancy.

The concept isn't new to me. The @foodisfree project is one that I've followed and admired for years. It's one of thousands of wonderful ideas, if done and implemented at a widespread level, would and could move us to a real sharing economy, and as Shareable calls it - "sharing cities." That's the type of future I want to live and take part in. 

But where my parents live in suburbia Los Angeles ain't like parts of Portland, Berlin, Amsterdam, Seattle, or even the various small towns and rural communities I'd been a part of where neighbors know one another, spend time in their front pouches/yards, openly share resources and support one another, etc. No, this is one where there's not even a dedicated sidewalk, one where ornamental and non-native grasses dominate the manicured landscape, where the sounds of internal combustion engines from vehicles and mowers along with water-wasting sprinklers are the main sources of sounds throughout any day. 

This is the unsustainable American dream that so many people have bought into without realizing the disconnection it has brought forth from natural cycles and one another. 
The concept of food being free and the fair share of abundance (e.g. food) with everyone can be viewed as a socialist nightmare for many in the US. But I don't see it that way. I see possibilities where others see a pipe dream. I see the hungry and homeless having sustenance and shelter by the dissolving of greed and scarcity. I see these possibilities becoming a norm where we regenerate ourselves, each other, and our earth instead of extracting it as if it contains infinite resources. I see little acts like this - the simple sharing of fruits - a rebellion against a system so ingrained, so utterly off-sync with our true natural selves of compassion and empathy, that perhaps that is all it would take for someone to wake up from their trance. I'm ready to meet you there. πŸ™ŒπŸ½

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Presenting you...

What a fun and joyous day that was this newly wed couple! A little teaser before I go offline for a couple days. Gonna go recharge amongst the Sequoias.

It's been a few years since I've spent considerable time in the Sierras. I adore those mountains and the beautiful landscape and ecology. They are my kind of sanctuary. πŸŒ²

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Bonnie & Dennis & Family Photoshoot

A gorgeous day out at the beach in southern California! I had the chance to meet Bonnie, Dennis, and their family in Los Angeles over the weekend, and we went to Seal Beach for a family photoshoot. Light breeze, perfect temperatures, and not too many people even though it was a Saturday. We had discussed about the photoshoot for a few days and actually changed locations last minute due to the infamous Los Angeles traffic. Well our "Plan B" location turned out pretty sublime afterall. Though my camera nearly drowned in seawater(!), I had a lot of fun and we captured some great pixels together. I love my 2-lens/2-camera combo (Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART + Canon 100mm f/2) that I've been using for the wedding last weekend and several portrait photoshoots in the past couple months. Here's a small collection of favorites showing the place and energy of the afternoon. Thanks, Bonnie & Dennis!