Minnow Park

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To Strangers

A great scene from one of my favorite movie in the last 5 years, Blade Runner 2049. Also for behind the scene aficionados, Michael Green one of the writers of the film kept a diary while he was on set during the production of the movie. It’s an inside look at a man taking on a huge project and rising up to the challenge. I love the way he writes.

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Canon EOS R Review

It's been a while since I was looking forward to a new camera body like the EOS R. Usually I’s wait to see what the next iteration of the 5D line would be and if it had enough upgrades, or if the one I had was getting too old, I’d upgrade. The 5D Mark III and Mark IV bodies I have now are workhorses, and they get the job done well.

But when I heard about a full frame mirrorless camera that was smaller than a DSLR, had an actual silent shutter, and that it was compatible with my EF lenses, I was stoked. I ordered it and it arrived on launch day. I’ve used it exclusively for the past three weeks on multiple shoots from portrait sessions to events. And although all of those features lived up to its expectation, I returned the camera today.

The camera does live up to all the features I mentioned (I used the silent shutter mode when photographing at a conference, and I couldn’t believe how quiet it was. My 5D’s must have sounded like hands clapping all these years) but it just doesn’t fit the way I photograph.

Let me explain.

For the uninitiated, one of the main differences between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera is the viewfinder. When you look through the viewfinder of a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, you are looking through a prism and a mirror, essentially a window to the scene you are photographing. And what you see through the viewfinder and what the sensor capture is not the same, and so you adjust ISO, aperture, shutter speed based on exposure metering to get the proper exposure (fn).

The EOS R is a mirrorless camera. The viewfinder is a small screen that shows what you’re looking at. You can see what kind of image the sensor will capture and as you change the camera settings you can see the result on that screen. This is helpful to photographers ton take out the guesswork of exposing a scene properly, but the fact that you are staring at a small monitor means that when you shoot the way I shoot, the mirrorless camera’s viewfinder lagged ever so slightly behind the DSLR’s.

The best analogy I could come up with is the difference of an Apple Watch versus an analog watch. Because the Apple Watch cannot have the display on all the time due to battery life considerations when you raise your wrist to see the time the accelerometer and million other things realize that's what you’re doing and turn on the screen for you. Once you put your arm down, it shuts off the screen. This happens multiple times a day. But between the time you raise your wrist and when the screen turns on, there’s a fraction of a second delay for the screen to turn on while the watch is doing its thing.

But with an analog watch, the time is just there, all the time. There isn’t a computer that’s turning on the watch face. As fast as photons can bounce off the watch and your retina can perceive them, you see the time. Compared to an analog watch, the delay in the Apple Watch is something I happily tolerate because seeing the time instantaneously isn't crucial for me. And the functionality of my Apple Watch far outweighs the “inconvenience” of waiting that fraction of a second.

I usually shoot a burst of three to five images after I compose a scene and feel what's going on, but after every click of the shutter, there was this slight lag on the EOS R as the image I captured disappeared and the live view came up again. With the SLR, the shutter just blinks once to reveal the sensor and then you're back to the next moment, nothing in between photons and my retina.

That’s what crucial in my photography and no matter the advantages of this camera, I can’t compromise the way I approach and capture a scene. This doesn’t mean that the future of digital cameras isn’t mirrorless. The removal of a mirror and the shutter mechanism has a lot of advantages. Such as making possible a 28-70mm f/2.0 lens because the lenses can be mounted closer to the sensor. It also doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t buy a mirrorless camera in the future. There will be iterations of this camera, and they will only get better. But right now, it’s not for me. As I was using the camera, I kept trying to change the settings to make it behave like an SLR, and that not what it was designed to do.

Maybe it’ll take a few years, but until then I'm happy with my hand clappers.

Wednesday
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There weren’t that many people on the F train down to Essex St. this morning. Maybe 15 at most? I was one stop away when a guy walked in and apologized for the interrupting.

He said he’ll keep it short:

“Hello, my name is Matt and I’m homeless. I’m trying to get to a men’s shelter tonight (sure you are). I recently started a part time job (then why are you asking for money?). But I have zero to my name. I need money to get some warm clothing that I can’t find at the clothing drive (yeah, probably not for clothing). Anything will help. Thank you and stay safe.”

I checked my bag to see if I could give him a protein bar I usually have. No luck.

He finished his pitch and walked past me to get to the next train car, but realized the doors were locked. So he stood in the middle of the train waiting till the next stop. His eyes canvassed the few of that were there to see if anyone was reaching into their pocket. We caught eyes a few times. 

Then from the other end of the train car, another guy walked in mumbling, “Anyone got a quarter? Anyone have a dollar?” His speech was the exact opposite of the one I heard a minute before. Much easier to ignore.

He started to walk towards where Matt was standing and then I realized I never saw two people in the same train panhandling before. And with the train as empty as it was, I couldn’t help but watch to see what would happen. 

Just then, Matt walked over and reached into his pocket and gave the guy some money. Maybe it was a quarter, maybe a little more. I don’t know how long it took Matt to collect that much change, but he gave without hesitation. It didn’t matter to him what the guy’s story was. They walked together to the other end of the train together and it seemed like Matt was telling him the door was locked. 

I took a dollar from my wallet, and as we neared my stop I walked over to Matt and gave it to him.

EssaysMinnow Park
New York City in 1911→

"Old film of New York City in the year 1911. Print has survived in mint condition. Slowed down footage to a natural rate and added in sound for ambiance. This film was taken by the Swedish company Svenska Biografteatern on a trip to America."

Man, the way they dressed, the way the city looked. This was over 100 years ago, it it's so familiar. I love how the cars are driving around the horse and carriage. That was probably the road rage of the day.

Dropbox Paper→

They did an amazing job with this product. Forgot how I even came across it, but it's changed the way I am collaborating and sharing things online. Sorry to say, but Google Docs feels outdated and heavy compared to this.

Jeff Sheldon from Ugmonk serendipitously put up a screencast about how he uses it, and that sealed the deal for me.

The Opioid Diaries →
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Photography can cut through abstractions and rhetoric to help us understand complex issues on a human level. Never is photography more essential than in moments of crisis. To witness people suffering is difficult. To make a photograph of that suffering is even harder. The challenge is to remain open to very powerful emotions and, rather than shutting down, channel them into the images. It is crucial to see with a sense of compassion and to comprehend that just because people are suffering does not mean they lack dignity.
— James Nacthwey
"Uh Huh" →
If I’m really stuck on a scene/beat, call up my editor and talk it out. Editors are awesome. Sometimes they just nod and say “uh huh” and let me blab until I work it out. Sometimes they ask just the right questions. These calls ALWAYS help.
— Greg Pak
Why “I Don't” Works Better Than “I Can't” →
Your words help to frame your sense of empowerment and control. Furthermore, the words that you use create a feedback loop in your brain that impacts your future behaviors.

For example, every time you tell yourself “I can’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that is a reminder of your limitations. This terminology indicates that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do.

In comparison, when you tell yourself “I don’t”, you’re creating a feedback loop that reminds you of your control and power over the situation. It’s a phrase that can propel you towards breaking your bad habits and following your good ones.

...the phrase “I don’t” is a psychologically empowering way to say no, while the phrase “I can’t” is a psychologically draining way to say no.
— James Clear
CommonplaceMinnow Park
Pencils, Photography, and Words →

The two are made for each other, like a couple married for 50+ years. This recent story in New York Times Magazine is a great example of such a union. It put a smile on my face the whole way through. 

 Photo by Christopher Payne

Photo by Christopher Payne

That image could have been a clip in a video, but having it frozen in time with great composition, and the flattering light. I stared at that image much longer than a video would allow me to look.

Red pencils wait, in orderly grids, to be dipped into bright blue paint. A worker named Maria matches the color of her shirt and nail polish to the shade of the pastel cores being manufactured each week. One of the company’s signature products, white pastels, have to be made in a dedicated machine, separated from every other color. At the tipping machine, a whirlpool of pink erasers twists, supervised patiently by a woman wearing a bindi.
— Sam Anderson

And this is what great writing can do. It gives life and an insight to the world of this pencil factory that an image can't fully capture. Maria matches her shirt and nail polish to the pencil color being made that week. I mean, how charming is that? 

I have nothing against video. My greatest inspirations comes from film, but what I have at my disposal right now is a camera and a pencil. With everything going to video and everyone raving about video, I feel as if I'm convincing myself that what I have is valuable. But features like this that are masterfully done inspires and delights me to no end.