The San Diego Adobe CreativeJam 2016 - The Story / by Oliver Asis

As of this writing, it has been a little over 2.5 months since the San Diego Adobe CreativeJam 2016 took place.  This post is a complete recap of the whole event from the start.

The Award for People's Choice - Best Smartphone Photo!

The Award for People's Choice - Best Smartphone Photo!

The story of the Creative Jam started with an email titled: Branden Harvey Sent Me....  

This subject line is one that you don't see everyday.  For me, the title stopped me in my tracks.  I thought, "Wait,...What?!"  Seriously this left me speechless.

Side note: The significance of the name Branden Harvey, means a lot to me.  First and foremost Branden is one of the coolest, nicest, humblest, and most amazing people I have ever met.  He is a talented photographer, storyteller, and all around great human being. Branden is one of the few people that I have had the very fortunate opportunity to meet via Twitter, Instagram, and OK! Do This app; made a internet friendship, and actually got to meet in person.  He is as genuine in person as he is on he's social streams.  If you are not following him on any social networks, you TOTALLY SHOULD.  I will share all of Branden's information at the end of this post.

With that, I clicked on the email from Megan Kirkwood, Senior Program Manager for Adobe Systems.  

The email was an invitation to participate in an event called a Adobe Creative Jam.  The Creative Jam was part photographer speaker series and part photography tournament.  And I was selected to participated in the photography tournament.

After reading through the email twice and checking out the included videos, I excitedly emailed Megan telling her of my interest and excitement to participate in the event.  A couple of days later I heard back from her confirming my participation.  That was a HELL YES moment for me!

The 2016 Adobe Creative Jam San Diego Photographer participants in the tournament.

The 2016 Adobe Creative Jam San Diego Photographer participants in the tournament.

A couple of days later, I check the website to see the event page.  And to my excitement I saw my name as a participant in the tournament.  And browsing through the other participants in the tournament I was excited and honored to be some very friendly and distinguished set of local San Diego photographers.  These photographers are friends and artist, who's work I admired and appreciated.  And to be in the tournament with them I felt equally nervous and excited!

Once I got the visual confirmation that I was participating.  This was my way to make sure that I wasn't dreaming.  I set out to share the news with friends and family.  One of the first people I told was one of my best photographer friends, Hollie & Randy.  I wanted to share the news with them because they were one of close photographers that knew me "when."  After telling a few more others, I set out to tell the rest of the world (at least my local world) that I was participating.

With the friends invited and with about a month to go, I set out continue my daily day to day.

Previously unreleased image consideration for the Adobe Creative Jam San Diego.

Previously unreleased image consideration for the Adobe Creative Jam San Diego.

And fast forward to Thursday, February 25, 2016.

"Today was the day!"  That was the first thought that entered my mind that morning.  I woke up at 5:30am that morning, excited and ready to tackle the day.  At 7am I would know the theme to which we tournament participants had to go and photograph.

So until 7am, I had to prepare to go work.  Yup, I said work.  For the Creative Jam, I decided to take a half day from work instead of taking a full day off.  The reason being was that I was working on a huge project and I had some deadlines that week to meet.  In addition to work that day.  I had a conference call and I had to get my haircut.  And somewhere in that crazy schedule find the time to photograph something for the tournament.

So at 7:03am, right before I was heading out the door I checked my email for the theme.  The theme of the Tournament was:


With the theme in mind and known, I headed out the door to do my commute to work.

Interstate 5 heading towards Downtown San Diego.

Interstate 5 heading towards Downtown San Diego.

On my commute, I kept thinking of the theme.  I thought; "How I can I show that?" "Where are there boundaries that I could photograph?"  Additionally, I was thinking; "Do I shoot it from high above?"  "Head on?"  "An abstract?"  I didn't know.  But I knew I had write these ideas down somewhere before I lost it.

One of my first ideas, was to photograph the BORDER.  We were San Diego after all and at our southern most end was the most obvious boundary; the International Boundary between Mexico and the United States.  This boundary is one of the most heated, fortified, and symbols of a boundary that holds many meanings such as Freedom and Security.  I initially thought that one of the other participants would go out and photograph it, so I immediately dismissed it.

But I had a lightbulb Moment!

So my idea for the photographs of the Border was to go to the beach were the border goes into the Pacific Ocean and make a long exposure of the boundary "disappearing" into the ocean.  However as much as I like this idea, I had to think if I had enough time to get it, travel home, and get ready for the event.  That was a factor I had to consider.  And I already had a small window to do this.

I knew that if I did this shot, I would also limit myself with my option of shooting locations.  In the end I decided not to pursue this idea in favor of having a few more photography options and also to give myself more time to prepare and get ready.

So as I arrived to work, I immediately settled down and started drafting out my engineering plans.  I put in a full 2 hours of work into the plans before I decided to take a break.  It was during this break, that one of my ideas of boundaries came to me.

Location of one of the shooting spots for one of my "BOUNDARY" photographs.

Location of one of the shooting spots for one of my "BOUNDARY" photographs.

The idea that I had was related to engineering and what I did.  I thought, that infrastructure was a boundary.  It was boundary in a sense that infrastructure, like roads separated and defined neighborhoods.  And I had one place in mind where I could photograph this idea.  So I noted that idea.  And that's when the second idea came to me.

The second idea I had was I wanted to show the invisible boundary that existed and had a large impact on San Diego.  That invisible boundary was the 500 foot limit that was imposed over downtown San Diego buildings.  The reason for this boundary was that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had regulated that no building shall be taller than 500 feet tall if they were within 2 miles of any airport runway.  And the San Diego Airport was located about one mile away from the airport.  With this rule in place, it would limit and help define the San Diego Skyline.

Then I thought, I would take that idea and then combine it with the previous idea.  And on top of that I had a place in mind, that would be perfect for that exact photograph.

With two solid ideas in the bag, I went back to work and finished my work day.

I left work at 11:15 am and went to my coffee spot since I didn't get my morning coffee.  After acquiring my coffee, I had to head to my favorite local San Diego camera store to get a few things I need for the shoot and also for something I need for future travel.

And this is where things get interesting.

After getting everything I need from the camera store, I headed over to my bank's local ATM to get money for my haircut.  My barber only takes cash.   Well I figure I get the cash and chill out a bit and think about more shooting ideas, while I waited for my conference call at noon.  Unfortunately that didn't happen.

While trying to get money from the bank, my card decided to not work.  And I was unable to get any cash.  But I remember I had some cash in my car for emergencies.  And this was an emergency.  So I check my car for the emergency cash and it was no where to be found.  It was just then, I remembered that i had cleaned out my car and I forgot to put the cash back.  This was about the time that I had to make the decision to either go home and grab cash and then drive back to my barber.  From where I was at currently I was only a 10 minute drive.  But heading home would turn that drive into a 40 minute drive to and back to the barber.  And remember I had a conference call to take at noon and my haircut was at 1 o'clock.  And it was now 11:45 am.

It was then, that I decided I would head home to get the cash and head back to barber.  And I would take the conference call while I drove.  So then I rushed home as fast and safely as I could. Full disclosure: I drove around 90 miles an hour heading home.  :(

Making it home safely and without a ticket, I grab the cash, and rushed out of the house.  Breathing hard, I tried to relax and prepared to take the call.  So while I drove back to the barber I entered my conference call.  Luckily for me I had the time to take it and I gave my barber a heads up that I would be a few minutes late.  And about 5 minutes after my scheduled haircut appointment, my conference call ended and sat in the barber's chair to get my normal 3 week haircut.

This was serendipitous timing as I would look and feel fresh for the night's event.  :)

The infamous bike lane in the San Diego Banker's Hill neighborhood, that took away a traffic lane from cars.

The infamous bike lane in the San Diego Banker's Hill neighborhood, that took away a traffic lane from cars.

Sitting in the barber's chair gave me a full 30 minutes to relax and just enjoy the beautiful summer like weather.  It was while I was in the chair that I thought about one more idea for the shoot.  This idea's inspiration came from when another customer brought in their bike into the shop.

From that I thought, I will show the boundary between automotive public and the cyclist.  Giving some context.  Recently in San Diego news, there was an on going battle between cars and bikes.  And for some neighborhoods this was battle ground that formed boundaries within communities.  Additionally, this was also infrastructure related.

After getting my fresh and nicely primped haircut, I headed out to my first shooting location for the photographs that I needed.  

Additional shot from the Adobe Creative Jam.

Additional shot from the Adobe Creative Jam.

The first location I have shot multiple times before so I didn't take me long to photograph it.  However it was here that I got my final concrete idea for a photograph.  Playing along with a previous idea, I notice something else that would add another element to photo idea.  While on location, I notice that the fence, a boundary, had a hole cut into.  And I thought, well there's a story there.  (see photo).

Loving the idea of the mashup, I decided to incorporate all the ideas into one image.  I had to wait about 20 minutes for an airplane to land and get framed up for the shot.


Now with that location wrapped.  I decided to head to the second location of the shoot day.

I drove about 5 minutes south to the Banker's Hill neighborhood of San Diego.  I decided to come to this neighborhood to get a photograph of the bike lanes in the area.  The reason I choose this spot was that it provided me a vantage point that I could capture the whole scene.  I spent about 20 minutes wondering the streets in the neighborhood.  The challenge in acquiring the shot was waiting for a cyclist and a car to be side to side to each other.  I had to wait quite awhile to get it.  Once I got the shot.  I packed up and headed to the next location.

Heading to the next location took me about 10 minutes from the previous.  When I arrive at the corner of University Ave and Park Blvd I immediate found parking.  And then I grab the camera and walk out to the location to do a quick scout of the location.

I do quick scout when I arrive to locations to get a feel and understanding of the current site conditions, lighting, and if anything in general has change.  Doing this over the years has allowed me to know if it is a good time to shoot or to scrap the shoot and reschedule it.

After doing my scout of the location I felt that it was within my scope and vision of the final image that I wanted to create at the location.  So with that, I went for the shot.

The shot that I wanted to create at University and Park was a shot of University Ave as it headed east into North Park.  In the area there is a bridge that goes over the street and provides a beautiful eastern view of the street and the neighborhood.  And with the exception of a few powerlines, the view is unobstructed.

I spent about 5 minutes shooting at the locations before I decided that I did the best I could at that spot.  However it was then that I started to think that I didn't have enough shots to work with.  So I decided to walk for a bit to see if I see anything else to shoot that would go with the theme.

A couple of minutes later, I thought of one another place to get one final shot before I had to head home and grab the rest of the gear I needed for the event that evening.

Getting back into my car I headed to the University Heights neighborhood to get that one final shot.  Luckily for it was a quick 3 minutes away.  I headed to the very end of Adams Ave where I had an END sign.  I thought this would be a great image to show how a boundary simply told by a sign.  Arriving to the location, I quickly grab the photograph and called it a day of photography for the event.  I had completed what I wanted to do.  And I was good with what I have captured.


So now I had to head home and get the computer and get dress for the evening's event.

With the gear, computer, being freshly showered, and all dress up, I headed to the event.

The event was being held in downtown San Diego at a up and coming Co-Working spot.  Part of the tournament rules was that the photographs had to be "worked" at the event.  Starting at 5pm, every participant could start working on their photographs that they took that day.

Leaving my house at about 4:15pm, I made my way to downtown.  Being a Thursday I was going to experience some traffic.  And depending on the conditions, it can take a normally 20 minute drive and turn it into a 1 hour slow adventure of travel.  And for this event, I absolutely didn't want to be late.  Knowing that I made sure I gave myself some time to travel to the event.  

Well about 10 minutes away from home, I hit the wall of traffic of epic traffic and I was still about 15 miles away from downtown.  And at the rate that I was going, it was going to take me about 40 minutes to get to the venue.  So I took a deep breath, turned on the music to my playlist, and just seriously rocked out!  It was just then, that it hit me.  The realization and acceptance that I was participating in an event that I truly felt very deserving to partake in.  It was also knowing that I had a strong turnout of support from my fellow photographers and friends.  It seriously was going to be a great night!  And I thought, wether I won or not, it was just going to be a celebration.  Having the "feels", I started to rock out and had my own version of Car Karaoke.  (see attached Snapchat video).  You can say that I was completely happy and content with what was going on that day.  I freaking did it and loved it.

After totally rocking out in the car for the 40 minutes it took me to get to downtown, I arrived.  The space where the event was going to take place was a huge cavernous room.  The room itself was raised, a large stage as setup to the left, delicious food and drink was setup to the right and towards the back a full on setup of audio and visual equipment was setup.  This was, as I would say completely was "Legit!"  And behind a opening on the wall near the stage was the "room."

The room was the area, that Adobe set aside for the tournament participants to work on their photographs.  Setup with tables and workstation, each of us had a place to work on the photos that we took that day.  This room was also open to public to come in and watch us work.  This was huge.  After setting up my workspace, I went around the room and met my fellow photographers.

Then after meeting and making friends, I sat down at my workstation and got to work.  I excitedly and nervously downloaded my photos from the day's shoot.  I sat there thinking to myself, that I have done this multiple times before and I just had embrace my inner photographer "bad-ass."  So while the files downloaded I go myself into the zone and relaxed.  And once the files downloaded and loaded into Adobe Lightroom, I got into working.


While working on my photographs we were told that we could enter both categories for the tournament: Photography and Mobile Photography.  With that news I decided to enter both categories.  So that meant working on my photos from the day, I also had to select and work on photograph from my phone.

Copyright: Evan Yamada (

In selecting my photographs, I knew that I wanted to do something with infrastructure.  And I immediately went to the photograph that I took at Park & University earlier that day.  For me, it was a simple choice.  It was simple because I just felt it was the shot for what I thought of my concept (see below).  I was true to my initial vision for what I thought for Boundaries and it was also a true representation of who I am as a photographer.

Now with my photograph selected for one category.  I immediately went to my mobile photograph selection.  And for that one it was quite frankly easier for me to determine.  I selected one of the first photographs I took earlier in the day.  To me it showed the boundaries in a big way.  And on top of that it was a photograph that showed off what you can do with an iPhone.  (see below).  So with a couple of edits using some mobile apps, I was done.


Now with the images selected, edited, and submitted.  All I had to was wait to go on stage.  So with the main task completed, I headed out from the workstation room and headed to the main room.  While in the main room, I saw some of my friends outside waiting to come in so I headed out to them to say hello and see how they were doing.  It was such an pleasure to see so many friends come out that evening for a good time and support.  And having them there meant the world.  I never felt so loved by my friends and peers than that night.  They showed what true friendship is about.

About 2 hours past and a few presentation happen before all the the tournament participants were invited to the stage to present their images to the audiences and the judges.  The tournament winner would be awarded by the judges and the audience.  So it was up to each individual photographer to win their votes.  But I think it is safe to say that each and everyone of us participating was just happy to be there and have the honor to take part in it.

It was interesting to watch and listen to every photographer go up on stage and speak about their image.  Some told the story, some were short and sweet, and some just one word.  But when it came to me, I spoke and told the story and inspiration behind the photograph and how it related to the them of boundaries.  And I did that for both images.

Copyright: Evan Yamada (

By entering both categories, I had an opportunity to speak twice on stage.  It was my second talk about the mobile photo that I felt I truly told a story that represented who I was as a photographer and as a person.  In my talk, I told about how roadways can create boundaries, represented by the freeway.  Then talked about how the fence in the photograph represented a boundary that keep people from throwing things on to the freeway and confining people within the walkway.  And that the hole represented that boundaries can be cut and you just have to cut holes into the boundaries before to get the shots.  And finally I told the audience, that the plane wasn't there simply for looks but actually represented a hidden boundary that was imposed to the building of downtown San Diego.  And it was with those words that I left the stage and waited to see the results.

Waiting for the results was one of the most interesting and nerve racking things to ever witness, especially for the people's choice.  It was interesting in the fact that I as a participant got to watch the voting live.  Everyone was given a website to vote for their favorite image.  And the thing that made it nerve racking was that you got to see the results live.  So you watched as people submitted their votes and you would see how the voting goes.  One minute you are up and the next you are down.  It was crazy.

But after all of the thinking, time, photographing, editing, words, and nerves, the end result was that I didn't win the for the best Photograph of night.  But I did win, best SmartPhone Photograph for both the Judges and People's Choices!  I freaking took the both awards of the evening!  Holy crap, I did it!  I freaking won!!!  That was simply one of the most exhilarating things that has happen to me ever!  I still get the chills from thinking about it.  But wow, what a way for me to win!  In front of respected photographers, friends, and strangers.  It was a complete honor and humbling experience.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity.  And just like that the event and evening was done.  I did celebrate the victory with some awesome friends!

Janet Bark, Xavier Bailey, Oliver Asis (me), & Hollie Ward.

Janet Bark, Xavier Bailey, Oliver Asis (me), & Hollie Ward.

In conclusion, this whole experience started with that email: "Branden Harvey sent me..."  It just goes to show, that you have to check your emails.  But in all seriousness, what this whole experience taught me is that you never know where opportunities will come from.  And because of that you should always play nice with everyone you meet.  Genuinely want to get to know them and make friends with them.  And always keep in touch with them.  A simple Hello, How are you doing? every so often is all that is needed.  And while you do that you simply continue to work on your craft despite everything else.  Do what you were Born to do.

Thanks for reading!  :)

Learn more about the CreativeJam Here:

Branden's Info:
Snapchat: @brandenharvey