Following A Hunch & A Dream
A Kid With A Dream

First things first - yes, I used to be a rocket scientist. Well, I suppose a rocket engineer would be more accurate, but I think we are splitting hairs at this point.

Before talking about the obvious elephant in the room, let’s go back in time so I may formally introduce myself to everyone within the Speedhunters community and give you a little look into my background.

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Before I was able to recall anything for myself, I was obsessed with cars. According to my parents, the only thing that would hold my attention longer than three seconds were toy cars. I would play with them for hours on end and take them everywhere I went. Heaven forbid if my dad forgot to pack some for our family road trips; they would have to make an emergency pit stop to buy some or feel my wrath as I wailed away in the backseat for hours.

At the ripe age of five, when kids were talking about becoming doctors, firefighters, or astronauts, I already knew I wanted to do something with cars. The question was, what?

Only wanting the best for me, my father recommended that I become an engineer. Despite not really knowing what an engineer was, nor how it would even relate to cars, I began telling people I was going to become an engineer so I could design cars.

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As I grew older, my friends that were also obsessed with cars began developing deep love for imports – in particular, Japanese imports. They would always bring import magazines to class and talk about the legends and forbidden fruits of Japan’s domestic market. This would jump start my curiosity about not only Japanese performance cars, but Japan itself.

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In high school, I started becoming interested in photography. Growing up, I had a deep appreciation for art thanks to my mom, and I loved drawing. For whatever reason, cameras were truly fascinating to me and I began researching them, which led to looking into the cost of a decent DSLR. At the time, the thought of spending that kind of money on something was unfathomable to me, however the notion of owning a nice camera stayed in the back of my head for years.

A few years after my first interest in cameras developed, I bought my first car – a 1997 BB6 Honda Prelude. My dad wasn’t really into cars like I was, so we never had that ‘father son bonding’ around dismantling, modifying, or fixing them. I had to seek that kind of experience elsewhere. I landed a job at a local Honda dealership where I moved cars around and worked in the quick-lube station anytime help was needed. I would also try to help out any of the mechanics by giving them an extra pair of working hands and staying late just hoping a bit of their knowledge would rub off on me.

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I couldn’t really afford to do much at the time and I was incredibly busy getting worked over by AP Calc II to pick up any extra hours, but I still tried to enjoy my Prelude to the fullest. I joined a local car club and made small tweaks to the Honda’s H22A4 engine and suspension.

It was during my sophomore year in college, while interning at a spacecraft launch services provider called United Launch Alliance, that the urge to buy a camera hit critical mass. With the salary I was earning at the time, I decided what the hell.

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That very same weekend, I found a small car event to go to and got my first taste of what true passion tasted like – I just hadn’t realized it yet. Also, I learned to never take pictures with sunglasses on (I was young and ever so foolish back then).

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I had my my first real experience of Japan when I participated in an exchange program with our college’s partner school back in 2010. The school wasn’t located in the metropolis of Tokyo, but the effect the country had on me was profound. Wandering around in the deep countryside of Chiba, which if you could imagine was quite the sight for the locals, I could see more of the car scene than I would have in Tokyo, no thanks to its ridiculously high parking fees.

In a stroke of good fortune, my language partner was a petrolhead and owned a BNR34 GT-R. At night, he would swing by the hotel where our group was staying and take me blasting up and down the touges. It was all new to me, and it was both awe-inspiring and somewhat terrifying at the same time.

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The thrust as the turbos spooled up, the cornering Gs as the car danced effortlessly through the switchbacks and sharp hairpin turns – I was hooked and knew Japan was going to be my home one day.

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The Ex-Rocket Scientist

After graduating with a physics and engineering degree, I found myself checking the stress concentration levels of tubes, brackets, and various components in the engine section of  NASA’s Space Launch System under the Boeing banner. This is where the story really gets interesting.

Yes, I was making a lot of money for a recent graduate, and had great benefits, but the camera sitting on my desk stared at me every night begging to be used. The thought of going back to Japan where I was always surrounded by cars danced in my head everyday at work while I sat in my cubicle staring at a massive CAD models. ‘I should just quit and move to Japan and try being a photographer.’ I thought to myself. I just needed that extra push to make me do it.

Unfortunately, my friend passing away a few days before Christmas was that extra push. Being an older gentlemen, he was like a second father that I looked up to; someone I could talk to more on an emotional level about life. As we sipped glasses of whisky, he would tell me that I should follow my passions and travel the world, because you never know what may happen in your life. The night after his funeral, my friend came to check up on me and we ended up sitting in the car for four hours discussing life and figuring out what we should do. Both of us weren’t happy with our current situation and wanted to try and force ourselves to chase our dreams.

“We should just quit our jobs, sell our things and force ourselves to make it work by moving overseas,” I blurted out haphazardly. To my utter astonishment, he didn’t hesitate to say “OK,” and that following summer, we did exactly that. I quit my comfortable job, sold most of my worldly possessions, and made my way to Japan. Once we got settled into our new home for the summer, I grabbed my camera and wandered around the streets of Tokyo looking for cars to take pictures of, learning the ins and outs of automotive photography along the way.

The Pursuit Of A Dream
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I quickly learned that finding events and underground meets wasn’t an easy task due to everything really being word of mouth. If you can’t speak Japanese, that difficulty is multiplied.

As my Japanese improved, I eventually caught wind of an event at Fuji Speedway, and as Dino mentioned in one of his monthly editorials, I was curious as to why he was the only foreigner taking pictures within the roped off area. He didn’t know it at the time, but after exchanging contact information he became my unofficial senpai, helping me with my photography, teaching me things about Japan, and overall being incredibly helpful and open to any questions I had.

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I continued roaming around for months, expanding my network, and trying to improve at my skills. Working with one of my roommates, we decided to try and make our very own media site focusing on all aspects of Japanese car culture and putting primary emphasis on the owners, thus Tokyo Tuner was created. We traveled around together and kept trying different and new things until early last year when he got the opportunity to run a new Japanese hot dog shop in Honolulu’s Shirokiya Japan Village Walk for a friend of ours, which he took up.

A few months after my friend left for Hawaii, Dino asked me to meet with him to discuss an idea he had. That conversation included an offer to try my hand at the big leagues and shoot for Speedhunters.

I would still need to work on things here and there, but if I could stick with it and continue to hunt for some of the best car culture Japan has to offer, I could join the Speedhunters team. There was no way I was going to let this opportunity pass me by.

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I’m on cloud nine right now; the opportunity to follow my passion in my new home of Japan and contribute to the growth of Speedhunters is a dream come true. I really hope everyone has enjoyed my posts thus far, and will continue to do so in the future.

Ron Celestine
Instagram: celestinephotography

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50 comments

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1

Keep doing what you feel your passion tells you to do Ron. Its the only way to live. See you soon in Japan!

Lino

2
Ron Celestine

I really appreciate it Lino! I think I may miss you (and everyone else coming to Japan this week) seeing that I'm leaving to Thailand tomorrow morning C.c... Failed to realized the scheduled trip feel during 7's day (how does one fail to do that is beyond me but I did it lol)

3
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Don't worry, I'll be there!

4

Lool see! There you go! Make sure to meet up with Dino ^^

5
Jack Robinson

Cool post! Think there should be more background stories like this
I enjoy all the stuff you post Ron. Keep it up!

6
Ron Celestine

Thank you!! I really appreciate it ^__^ Thanks for reading my long ass background story lol

7
Richard Browm

Awesome story! Thanks for sharing, really enjoy your work!

I find myself in a similar situation, graduated as a mechanical engineer technologist. Really good paying job right out of school. While I look forward to work and it's "good enough" right now, I'd love to do something different at least part time. I picked up a camera a few years ago and have fallen in love with it, I'd love to get to the point where I could do automotive photography at least part time! Maybe I'm not at the point where I could pack up and go to a foreign country, but definitely some inspiration in this post.

8
Ron Celestine

No problems ^__^ Thank you for taking to time to read it all. I def say go for it! If it's your passion, then anything is possible (as long as it doesn't defy the laws of physics to some extent lol )

9

These are the stories that makes this site better than the others. Inspiring to say the least. I wish you the best for your dreams and your career!

10
Ron Celestine

Thank you for being a fan of the site and thank you!! I'll give it my best ^^

11

Another great post RON! Keep up the good work! Makes me want to speed up my plans to visit Japan!

12
Ron Celestine

LOOOL!! I feel like this will be our running joke ;) thank you and you should totally do it! It's Japan after all lol ^^

13

Amazing, Ron. I had no idea of your background or the risk you took by moving to Japan. Huge respect for you and your story.

14
Ron Celestine

Thanks Paddy^^ haha yeaaaa I normally don't tell many people about it because the following 20-30 mins is why the hell did I quit lol.. but really I appreciate it !

15
Dino Dalle Carbonare

You just told the whole internets!

16
Ron Celestine

Haha yeaaaa but the explanation was also written so that saved me the effort of explaining it haha

17
Cameron Phillips

Incredible story, Ron. So many people have that gnawing at the back of their minds that they ought to be chasing their dreams, but they can't do it for one reason or another. It's inspiring to see somebody say to hell with it, and roll the dice. I'm looking forward to seeing a lot more content from you and Dino out there! Keep killin' it!

18
Ron Celestine

Thank you ^^ I was fortunate to be in a situation where I could say screw it let's give it a go ^^. Def will keep bring everyone the best we can find out here and where ever the hunt takes us !

19

Hopefully, you will inspire others to do the same.
I'm in my 30's and I am doing the same thing, although much later in life.
I was always told that I should be in software since I am good in my computers and that being a mechanic means I will be poor. Now I have 80000 left in student loans after paying them down for 15 years, I hate my job, and I don't get paid much different than a mechanic.
Kids, college isn't for everyone. Don't choose a career based on everyone else's recommendation. Do what makes you happy, money doesn't mean everything. Some people are better off going to a trade school and taking up a skill that they enjoy.
I'll be selling my house, moving back in with the folks for a while, and start a new life doing what I want to do. I just wished I did it earlier in life.

20
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Good on you! Follow your passion and shit has a way of working out in the end. You either do it 100% or you just don't do it at all!

21
Ron Celestine

That's what's up!!! It doesn't matter that you're doing it later, it's the fact that you're actually doing it that counts! College isn't for everyone but I did learn a lot from it and it did set me up to be about to leave it all and come to Japan. So in those terms it was really useful. However student loans are NOT THE BUSINESS -___-

22

Solid advice.
Yup, school is tough. The tuition is brutal. I'm older and going to school and it's hard to do it all with a family. But, do what you have to in order to be happy. It sounds like you have the plan laid out. You'll be good to go in a little while.

23

Thanks for the great story! Chasing one's passion is always inspiring. I'm working for a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology right now, and every day I wonder how I can make my passion for cars align with my future career. Thanks for the read and good luck!

24
Ron Celestine

Appreciate it ^^ yea, figure that out sooner than later if possible lol. There are tons of ways to relate the two - just for me, the training through schooling happen to be it hehe.

25
Christian Clark

Great tale bud :) Any pictures of the 'lude?

26
Ron Celestine

Haha in the archives somewhere. Sure if I did around I might be able to find some. Probably on my old flikr account tbh O.o..

27
Lance Gillera

It's awesome that you were able to grasp those dreams Ron! I'm a hopeful soul who believe one day I'll have that same blissful feeling. Keep up those Awesome Shots!

28
Ron Celestine

Thank you!! Yea, I was very fortunate to be about to do it. You can do it too! Anyone can ^^ just make a plan and go for it

29
Jonny Fleetwood

We could all take a leaf out of your book, you've kept it humble and not forgotten why you started in the first place. And giving it all up to give your dream a real chance is inspiring, I heard the story from you first hand and reading it again was another reminder how easy it is to forget the love and chase the dollars. We will hang out again!

30
Ron Celestine

Thank you Jonny ^~^ it really is easy to forget why we do it but the real key is you can't forget ! And most definitely! Either back here in Japan or whenever I stop being lazy and go to Europe. Tons I want to go see ^^

31

Welcome to the family! Good luck buddy

32

Thank you! Glad you be apart of it ^^

33

Wow! thank you for that, was a great read.

34

No problem^^ thank you for taking the time to read my long background story !

35

Wow what a story Ron! I think many of us, including med are in that "comfort" seat WANTING to follow our dreams, leave a well paid secure job to gamble for your dreams, this post is very inspiring, not to mention what you upload on SH :) its not an easy step to do I guess, but you did it :) Hope everything works out good for you, and keeping me busy at work, reading everything you post lol!!

Greetings from my boring, secure and wellpaid deskjob in Sweden (hoping for daring to do the same as you and let it all go for my passion) :D keep it up!! Best post so far at SH !!

//Andro

36

Hahahaha kinda don't know what to say at this point.. thank you ^^ definitely take that jump if you feel like that cards are in line the best they will get. It will be uncomfortable for a while but it will be TOTALLY worth going after your true passion ^^

37

Calc II is the worst thing of all time ever. Ever. This next semester I'm retaking some classes I did poorly in previously, and calc 2 is one of them.

I'm a computer science major, anyone care to weigh in on interesting career paths in the automotive world I could follow?

38

Ugh lol.. Cal 2 was horrible.. But I think the worse class I took was either fluid mechanics or statistics... Totally different subject but good god....

Hmm that's an interesting one. I'm sure with the way technology is constantly being integrated into cars, you should be able to find something car related. The real question is what do you want to do that is car related.

39

great story. you're a brave man, don't know if i could do it

40

Haha thank you and I'm sure you, or anyone for that matter can do it ^^

41

Great back story man! working for ULA had to be pretty cool. I was a mechanic for a few years, and ended up going to work for a Govt. Contractor in the aerospace industry (kind of backwards from you). Out of everything I've seen, Nothing compares to an Atlas V launch at night, from the grandstands at KSC. It was INSANE! I'd say 75% of the techs and engineers I work with are all car enthusiasts, and gear heads. Keep doing YOU!

42

I love everything youve been writing man, and honestly call me Ron cuz i am exactly you. Im now going to the university at buffalo for engineering telling myself ill be designing cars at one point but the whole father situation and looking for ways to be around cars i am exactly you, working in a shop helping around and working on my IS300 24/7. Keep inspiring man! I relate to you to a kinda scary level

44

Super cool story Ron!

45

That was some good reading! Saluting to your gut's to take a plunge!

46

passion first the rest will follow,
you dont know how much this spoke to me.
thanks for sharing

47

Selling it all to live the dream in Japan. I totally know what that is like.

Your photos are great and the story is one to be proud of. Keep up the good work.

48

This was such a relatable article Ron. I think so many people end up going down a career path that they were encouraged by their parents or other forms of society that we sometimes forget the things we're truly passionate about. Love the content that you put out and keep it up!

49
Thomas Gateau

You guys should organize a Speedhunter party around Tokyo one day, could be fun :)

50

There may be something in the engineering waters haha! I'm a sophomore aerospace engineering student and I have been in love with everything car culture has to offer for a very long time. As a city boy I haven't had the space to work on anything more than cosmetics and small upgrades on whatever car I happened to own at the time, but man have I had fun with it! I mean, who knew a couple of performance spark plugs, a reprogrammed ecu, and a cold air intake would push a stock 2011 Focus SES to 160MPH! Articles like this are amazing to me man. Keep doing what you love!

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