Minnow Park


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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.

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.

Never Enough

I recently found a pattern in how I started and ended each year. Each year started with me asking myself: “could I pull this off again this year? Do I have enough to make it to the end?” The year would go on and it would be full of great clients and projects, but as December approached the same question would come up again and crisis would ensue. I thought it was the price you pay of being a freelancer, but that’s not true. It was because of a mindset I chose to embrace; a mindset of scarcity. 

I couldn’t look ahead farther than a year, because I was busy just trying to survive. I would dream of these big goals and projects that would take years, if not decades to achieve. Yet I never made time to actually make a plan and create systems to accomplish them. Who has time to do that when you don’t have a steady paycheck?

The antidote to this isn’t to get more resources, because the poison is from within not without. It’s a mindset that makes me think I don’t have enough.

paris hotel taylor

This is a photo of my wife and I from September getting ready to spend another day walking around Paris. It’s a reminder to me that no one who is just “barely surviving” is able to get such an amazing opportunity. It’s a blessing to do what I do and it’s a responsibility to do the most I can with what I have been given.

If you want to face scarcity mindset head on with some people who battle it and overcome it everyday, listen to this podcast episode by Sean McCabe

Everything in Moderation

I had to go from the far side of creating plastic skins to the meticulous side of the 300% zoomed in work to get to a middle ground where the retouching disappears and what you're left with is the intention. It took a while, but I'm happy with where I've landed.

Traveling Biases

Growing up I rarely traveled. Part due to my parents working 70 hours a week with out PTO, and also because they are naturally homebodies, we just never really traveled. The only traveling I did was short trips to do charity work through church, or college organizations, never been to Disneyland/world/cruise/etc. 

It wasn’t until college I started to travel. I toured with a band, went to Cambodia, China, and an impulsive trip to Ireland 5 years ago, which is still one of the best memories I have of my fast paced and blurry 20’s. That trip was the perfect mix of good company and spontaneity. I’ve never laughed so hard about something that you-had-to-be-there-for. And I still have nightmares driving through the Irish countryside as I tried not to crash us while driving on the opposite side of everything. 

Since then, these past few weeks have been the first time I went back to Europe. We went to Nice with my brother and his family, and then Becky and I went to Paris for a few days. Yes, Paris is beautiful. As a friend put it, it’s as if you’re in a movie; a movie made up of the most romantic and beautiful parts of every scene ever.

A few observations that are at the top of my mind: 

  • It seems like everyone smokes there. Constantly. 
  • Traffic lights and street crossing rules are chaotic. 
  • You can’t ever over hype the food there. 
  • It’s as dirty as it is romantic. 
  • Walk around as much as you can. We walked around 45 miles for the four days we were there. It’s like NYC that way and one of my favorite things about the city. 

Boys to Men

But what really stands out is the gravitas of being in a country with thousands of years of history behind it. I realized how young and immature the culture and arts are here in United States compared to France (and probably the rest of the world). We’re the strongest, wealthiest, and most innovative country in the world, but also the most childish in that way.

Because as someone who understands art rather than science, stepping into France I realized we just have echoes of what they take for granted everyday. That fancy new brunch place in Soho that sells $20 avocado toasts took a slice out of the French Bistro on Rue Taylor. The cobblestone streets that we prize around the city? It’s there in every alleyway and street in Paris.

And the architecture! I was obsessed with them while I was there; the buildings, the streets, the way the light danced around the neighborhood. Each fence had a different design, the colors of the buildings were imaginative and tasteful, and every restaurant had outside seating where the chairs closest to the street were faced ouside so that you can take your time to observe, think, and enjoy (and smoke).

Then there’s the everyday, more subtle rituals, that I really appreciated. For example, each restaurant we went to placed our check on a small plate, and presented it in a way where we had to unfold the paper to see the total amount. It’s as if they were saying, “thank you for your patronage, we hope what you will pay in a few minutes is worth what you’ve experienced here and much more.” 1 I heard Alton Brown say in an interview that going to a restaurant can be this beautiful expression of hospitality and craft. French brasseries have that built into their DNA.

When I went to Seoul (my motherland) and Tokyo, I didn’t feel this way about a country. But in France, even though the language is so foreign 2 and we looked at maps all day to get around, I really want to go back as soon as I can. 

Judging a Book by its French Covers

But really none of that may be true about France, or any country I visit. I’m describing how beautiful and tasteful the cover of this book is, but when I actually read it, the book might be entirely different. I may end up not liking the book at all. 

That’s the beauty and lie about travel. How much can you really know about a country when you only spend a few days there. How much can you research, read, and know before you get there? Not much at all, especially if it’s a place that’s been around since the Iron Age. 

I know understand the adage that the real benefit of travel isn’t for us to get to know the world, but to get to know ourselves better through the world. It’s hubris to think that we understand the world better by traveling. Just like thinking spending two weeks building home, is changing the world. We learn more about ourselves and change in the process than anything we could do for them. 

We get to walk away with selfies and stories, while the country accommodates and tries its hardest to not be too inconvenienced. How selfish of us. 

France was amazing but that’s because it was amazing on my terms. Coming back with these observations I want to be a more thoughtful and hospitable person. I need to make an effort to slow down and not let my 30’s be a blur. 

Always face the chair towards the street. 
Always give more value than you receive.
And even when you are building the 1000th fence, build it with care and creativity. 

  1. After being in France and Japan where tipping isn’t the norm. I’m a bigger proponent of it. The idea that the patron has the power to rate someone’s service through money takes away the soul of dining out: hospitality. Pay your workers a decent sustainable wage so that they are free to be as hospitable as they can be. I’ll pay more for the food, don’t skirt the responsibility to me.  ↩︎
  2. I wish I learned French when I was in school. It just seemed so impractical back then. I learned Greek in junior high school because Astoria, NY has the largest Greek population outside of Athens. And I learned Spanish in high school because we live in NYC. But I wish I learned a language for the sake of learning it, and to tap into it’s culture and beauty even sooner.  ↩︎
Andrew Chen for Maekan

Andrew is a good friend, the co-founder of 3Sixteen, and a partner at Self Edge in New York City. But before all that, he is a husband and a father to two beautiful boys, Logan and Hunter. I had the pleasure of spending the day with Andrew and his sons as they spent the morning with building blocks, books, and a trip to the museum. The boys were excited to spend the day with their dad. And I saw how thoughtful Andrew was in steering their bright-eyed curiosity through games and art. 

The story was for Maekan, a digital media company whose aim is on educating and empowering creative culture through audio and video-based storytelling. Their goal is to tell meaningful stories that rise above the low quality and ephemeral stuff that's in our culture and media.  It's a lofty goal that they have set for themselves but working with them on this story and hearing Alex and Eugene's ideas made me believe and want this type of storytelling to exist and thrive. 

I was fortunate enough to be a part of their beta launch and if you want to read more of Andrew's story, you can go here to read and sign up. These are some of my favorite photos from the day. 

How to Make Matty Laugh

Before he laughs he has a curious, almost intense look on his face with his mouth slightly open, as he's deep in though trying taking in the scene. He looks at you with big beautiful eyes, asking you for a clue.  And then when the thought lights up in his head, once he realizes something, he smiles. A big beautiful smile that makes his eyes into a shape of a rainbow, and a laugh that you could listen to all day long.

My brother loves finding silly ways to make his son laugh, and will exploit it until he has to search again. Every time we see them, he shows us a new way he's found to make Matty laugh. In this photo, it's rubbing his face into Matty's stomach. 

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I've had the Best in Tokyo

Before I visited Tokyo, I was very liberal with my superlatives.

"This is amazing!"
"That movie was unbelievable!"
"That was the best _____ I ever had!" 

But now that I'm back, I've become much more conservative with my praises. Because in Tokyo, I really did have the best. The best coffee I've ever had was at Chatei Hatou in Shibuya. The best steak I ever had was at Gyu-an in Ginza. The best hotel I've ever stayed at was at the Park Hyatt Tokyo in Shinjuku. And the hands down best meal I've ever had was at Kyubey in Ginza. These are true statements, that may fall on skeptical ears because I've wasted the word "best".

And so after coming down from Tokyo's mountain, I'm going to make sure other experiences are just as high and majestic before I use such lofty words.

Rediscovering Seoul After Ten Years

It's been over 10 years since I last visited Seoul. I was in college and was taken around by family to different places. I also had no interested in photography then and so all I have are vague memories of playing games and eating noodles on my cousin's college campus. This time around my wife and I went with good friends who took us all around Seoul.  

The food I grew up loving was everywhere, cheap, and delicious. And places like Dongdaemun Design Plaza were some of the most breathtaking places I've ever been to. 

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