Five Pillars Realty invited me on their annual trip again this year and I enthusiastically said YES. Last year we went to Tulum and we had an incredible time, I photographed that adventure to a very high level and this year was more of the same.
Life and Lens does social photography specializing in retreats and events. Going on these trips with the purpose of capturing unique memories allows the people I go with to worry less about getting pictures and more about enjoying the moment.
Camera stuff: I shot most of this with a Canon R5 and a Sigma 24-70mm 1.4. The R5 is a fantastic piece of equipment that provides consistent high-level imagery and is reliable in every environment I throw at it. The drone shots are from a DJI Mavic Pro 2 which I'm proud to have been improving at all year, and a GoPro10 for areas that the big camera was too risky. I always keep my camera slung on a Peak Design slide strap and the whole ensemble gets packed in a Peak Design 10L sling bag.
The Five Pillars team trip is essentially a destination mastermind for real estate investors and agents but without all the annoying structure of a traditional networking event, which is why I love going each year. The primary focus is bonding, seeing the world, and creating meaningful memories through shared adventure. So much of our culture is focused on hustle at any cost but for me, experiencing different places helps me appreciate how good my life already is rather than how much more stuff I need for myself.
Basically, anyone and everyone who is interested in real estate of some sort is invited to the yearly team trip. Not everyone here is part of the Five Pillars team and some aren't even realtors, so even though most people were strangers to each other everyone has a common interest in real estate and that's plenty. This is very effective because real estate investing is about people far more than it's about houses, getting to know people in this industry is an effective success strategy even without a formal structure to the week.
Regardless of our individual backgrounds, by the end of our trip, I'm happy to say I couldn't have asked for a better group to travel to Central America with (...except Drake).
Last year I made a video to go with these pics and I tried to do the same thing again, I think both came out improved from last year's trip.
The travel day to get to our Hopkins Bay resort was a long one. A day full of flights, followed by a 3-hour van ride to the hotel with a stop for dinner and a grocery store run. By the time we arrived at our resort, it was very late at night and downpouring, and everyone was tired. Despite this, we met at the bar on site for some drinks and to get to know each other.
Sara tries desperately to portray herself as cold and tough, here is proof she's fun and harmless
I met this weirdo in Belize and within 10 minutes she made up some excuse to show me her ONLY tattoo, a very regrettable one on the inside of her lip. We obviously became fast friends after this.
The next morning was bleak and rainy. Not the most encouraging way to start a waterfront vacation especially as a photographer. We went out to the dock at sunrise to get what pics we could, we played some drinking games, Lily became the center of attention by drinking out of a cooking pot, and we found a coconut that determines how the Belizians check the weather.
We continued our efforts to make the most of what we had by doing a raincoat photoshoot. I don't usually shoot with my GoPro but this provided a great opportunity and it just so happens that I had the 4 most ridiculous women to make magic with.
The weather cleared just enough for us to go learn how to a Cocoa bean farm and make chocolate from scratch
Night drinking led to night swimming led to a night photoshoot. I've never done this kind of imagery before, but some cool shots came of it.
Our day ahead was filled with adventure, riding ATV's and swimming in waterfalls, but before that, we did what team trip does best of anything: MASSIVE HOMEMADE BREAKFAST! Big thanks to Tim and Kendall for cooking this feast, it was glorious. Tim cooked for us last year too and Kendall is a professional chef, they cooked each morning and we were totally spoiled.
A sick ride through the savannah and we landed in a chain of waterfalls.
Drake and Shelby spent 3 months dieting because they wanted to look their absolute best on the trip and in pictures. They obviously look incredible in these images, but what you can't see is that they always look this incredible. It's actually quite annoying to the rest of us regular people.
So it was to my absolute delight that after all their hard work, sacrifice, and complaining for these last 90 days they looked EXACTLY THE SAME as they always do and all the effort they put in was for absolutely nothing. Idiots.
Here is a picture of them flexing their life out, the whole reason for the diet is basically this image.
This is James Patrick, this dude is awesome but he has no idea what to do with it.
More beachside adventuring on the way home
I love this shot of Shelby, my best friend in the whole wide world. Generally, she is the center of my camera's attention but on team trips, we always promise to make the content about the group and never about us. Shelby is the CEO of Five Pillars and the origin of team trip, she also loves naps. Here is proof:
The resort we stayed at was a bit isolated, so my girlfriend Kate and I decided to walk back alone and explore the town a bit. I have been doing this photoblog for years now, they have grown in scope, and how serious I take them. People who know me love them but when we met I don't think she had any idea she would get the privilege of being featured in one so prominently. She's quite a lucky duckaling.
Life as a photographer revolves around chasing sunsets and sunrises, it's not so bad
In the morning we went to the ancient Mayan ruins and climbed around them like heathens.
Last year in Tulum we took a picture that looked like a 90's album cover on the steps going to similar ruins, I think it should be an ongoing tradition.
Shelby doing Shelby things
Camera stuff: I like this picture because it's one you just can't take this picture with a cell phone. The time between the button press and the shutter release is too long and unpredictable. Higher end cameras have a high-speed burst mode that lets me take 20 images per second in full resolution while focus tracking the subject. Extremely useful for sports or racecars, moderately useful for making Shelby look awesome.
This year I think I got my friend Katie to catch the photography bug and I couldn't be more excited. My last 6 years as a photographer have become one of the most fulfilling journeys of my life. I can only hope the same for her
It'll take a while though because she is new and she is still garbage at it
After the ruins, we went to a local market in San Ignacio. It wasn't anything special really but surprisingly we had the best food of the trip there.
Kate said that the clothes sold here are most likely donations shipped from the US, this seemed plausible as the garments were noticeably US branded and styled and she is familiar with this sort of culture since she lived in the Bahamas for a while. I found this interesting!
This is the Hawkesworth Bridge. It's a popular thing in town so I looked it up, Wikipedia says it was built in England first then imported in 1949 (Belize was an English colony). It's currently the only drivable suspension bridge in Belize.
For our next adventure, we went cave tubing.
Camera stuff: The following images in the cave were all captured on a GoPro10. While I am exceedingly committed to carrying around my heavy full-frame camera and large lenses, they are unfortunately not waterproof so for this, I needed the GoPro. It's a fairly sophisticated camera for having such a tiny form factor and the images it produces are often very impressive!
Let's stop for a moment and talk about something very serious.
I've traveled to a few places in my time alive, from Mexico to Afghanistan, South Korea, Turkey, and others. During that time and in my experience nowhere else on earth produces bugs terrifying as the ones in Belize. The very first night in country we were on the beach at sunset and had a treacherous encounter with sand fleas, something I had never experienced before. You can barely see these tiny little nightmares, which is why they are commonly called "noseeums". They have a very sharp bite and then a day or so later you get a delayed burn and an intense persistent itch, worse still these things are apparently immune to OFF, so we were defenseless. Most of us got chewed up pretty bad but Kate and Shelby certainly got it the worst. I told Kate