Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Downsizing on screen real-estate

For the longest time, I’ve only edited photographs on large screens, and by large screens, I mean monitors above 24 inches. It just seemed natural, you know? To have the largest canvas possible, so I can see more of the image in detail, like an architect and his drafting table. Besides, with modern cameras capable of outputting super high resolutions (my trusty Sony A7R2 does 42 megapixels), a screen of commensurate size seems almost prerequisite.

Naturally, I never quite understood how some photographers are able to do editing work solely on their laptops. Isn’t it all a bit cramped? You’d have to hide all the ancillary controls just to get the image to appear large enough, and at the proper 1:1 view, it’s way too zoomed in because the screen simply don’t have enough resolution to show more. I’ve owned many laptops of varying sizes, and as much as possible I avoided editing pictures on them, and instead waited until I get home in front of the 30-inch monitor, or what was the 27-inch iMac.

Indeed, the iMac is no more, due to life circumstances. I now have a 15-inch Macbook Pro as my sole computing device, which means I have no other choice but to run Lightroom and Photoshop on it. Perhaps its the bias of having dropped over $2,000 on the laptop, but I have to say it’s been quite okay doing photo work on essentially half the screen real-estate I used to have. The biggest reason for this is most the latest laptops have intensely high resolution displays, so the issue of not being able to see enough of a photography is mitigated. With the Macbook Pro, I still have to hide all the controls in Lightroom, but once having done so, there’s sufficient space.

Another benefit of sizing down on the screen, one that I hadn’t realize, is the increase in speed. With far fewer pixels to draw compared to the 5K display of the iMac, the graphic system is less taxed on the Macbook Pro. Therefore, making adjustments to a photo returns a more immediate response; there’s no longer that slight pause before the picture reflects the change I just made. It’s a pleasant and welcomed surprise, because more so than screen real-estate, speed is the ultimate productivity assistance.

All things being equal, though, I think I’d still prefer having a large screen. That said, it’s reassuring that doing photo work on a laptop is not the penalty box I’d thought it would be; it’s rather great.

The legendary Shinkansen bullet train.

Hang on, I'm still here

Hello there! Yes, I am still quite active on this website, just not where you’re used to finding me here in the Words section. I’ve been massively busy writing articles for the GT3 Diaries, a vertical dedicated to showing my journey of purchasing and owning a Porsche 911 GT3. Please do check out that section often, because I surmise it will be more active that this blog; there’s far too much to do with such a glorious machine.

And then there’s the enormous backlog of photographs from January’s two weeks in China I’ve still yet to edit through. There will be photo stories to accompany the pictures once (if?) it’s all finished, so yes, even more writing to come.

Again, there’s lots of activity on this website, just not much on the blogs. Nevertheless, I’ll try to squeeze in some written thoughts here and there. It’s good exercise to cleanse the mind, to articulate into words what I’m pondering about. As usual, plenty to do, not nearly enough time. Exciting times.

9K all day.

iPad won't replace my laptop

The most prized team in all of computing technology have got to be the silicon group within Apple. The A12X Bionic chip in the latest iPad Pros have shown in benchmarks to be faster than any Mac computer currently on sale that isn’t an iMac Pro or a BTO Macbook Pro, all for the entry price of just $799. Intel is absolutely getting their ass handed to them by Apple. iPhone users have been enjoying the fruits of the A Series chip for many years now, and it surely won’t be long until Apple puts one of those into a Mac.

But that’s in the future; for the present those wonderful and powerful chips reside in the aforementioned iPad Pros. Apple would like consumers to think of them as laptop replacements, and for a considerable amount of people that can indeed be the case, but for me, a person who’ve owned two previous iterations of the iPad (the very first one and the third generation), it remains but a quality content viewing device. For my particular workflow, the iPad simply cannot replace the laptop.

Apple can cram all the performance it wants into the iPad, and it’ll be utterly wasted in my favor because I can’t do serious photo-editing work on the device. No doubt iPads have got some of the most brilliant and accurate displays in any product, making for a brilliant canvas to work on, but it’s still size-limited at 12.9 inch at the maximum. In handling 40+ megapixel RAW files I want the biggest display possible (I miss the old 17-inch Macbook Pro). The new iPad Pros feature USB-C so it can connect up to a 5K display, though the user is still expected to manipulate the UI using the iPad itself, rather than the more convenient mouse.

That’s because iOS still doesn’t feature a pointer: you’re forced to use your fingers at all times, even when connected to a giant display. Great as it may be on the iPhone, iOS simply haven’t evolved quite enough on the iPad to provide a suitable workflow for me. It does bring up a chicken or the egg question: should a device acquiesce to my idiosyncrasies, or should I adapt to the peculiarities of the device instead?

I don’t mind altering habits, but there are some barriers that simply aren’t acceptable. For instance one cannot import photos on an SD card directly into Lightroom mobile; it must go through the iOS Photos app and then import into Adobe; it doesn’t make any sense. External USB storage are not supported at all on the new iPad Pro even with the USB-C port; how and where exactly do Apple want us photographers to perform backups? Please don’t say iCloud.

One last deal-beaker of the iPad that keeps me clutching to a laptop: the typing experience. I write regularly on this website and a proper keyboard is crucial, and the fabric facsimile Apple trots out in their Smart Keyboard Folio isn’t it. I’m not about to carry an extra wireless keyboard with me just for typing. A mac laptop is still the better in that regard, and more importantly it actually fits on the lap, no table necessary.

All of this is to say I hope Apple really get a move on putting the A series chips into the Mac; I have a hunch when the Macbook receives its next refresh, it won’t be running Intel.

What we mean when we tell users we need to perform diagnostics.

What we mean when we tell users we need to perform diagnostics.

Quality is worth paying for

I’m in the camp of hobbyist photographers who seldom do actual prints. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that the initial investment to procure the necessary equipment is relatively enormous. Why spend thousands on proper photo printer and paper when I can put that towards a new lens instead? Therefore the scant few times I needed to print something out, I outsource to the typical online printing platform (I use Mpix).

Tangent: now that Apple have shuttered their printing service, I’ll need to find another place to print my annual photo Calendars.

I recently went on a family trip, and we took a rather lovely group photo together. Figured it’d be wonderful to hang in the living room, I went on Mpix to order a framed 8x10 print. Even without going too crazy on the options (standard mat board and glass, cheapest frame material), the total price for the single photograph came to around $50, not including shipping. For some reason, I was surprised at how expensive this is.

Me, a photographer, can’t appreciate that a custom framed print ought to cost more than, say, 10 dollars. For shame; I should to be banished from ever selling prints of my own.

Perhaps the low prices of online retailers like Amazon have indoctrinated me to expect things to not cost a lot of money. It has certainly done so to the price of shipping, as in there shouldn’t be any. Adding to my frustration with the price of the print was that I had to pay another 13 dollars to have it delivered. I’ve been so acclimatized to not paying for shipping - and items arriving within two business days guaranteed - that honestly I had second thoughts about completing the purchase, on principle.

As I’ve written before: free shipping is not free, because there is no free lunch.

So I did end up buying the framed photo, because items of quality and craftsmanship are worth paying for. As an artist myself, that is the kind of sentiment I hope everybody carries with them. A race to the price bottom hurts everyone: ask musicians for their thoughts on streaming services. We must fight against the desensitization of online shopping and easy price comparisons, because more often than not, we indeed get what we pay for.

Now  this  is my kind of tranquil living.

Now this is my kind of tranquil living.

Should I return to Instagram?

I quit Instagram a few months back but lately I’ve been itching to get back in. For a hobbyist photographer like myself Instagram is a tremendous platform indeed to a connect with and draw inspiration from other photographers in the world. I really get a kick out of seeing people take amazing pictures and I use that as motivation to get off my ass. I'd thought I could live without this mechanism when I deleted the app but withdrawal symptoms are strong.  

And admittedly the sweet dopamine hit from photos of beautiful Instagram models isn’t the worst thing in the world. 

But every time I’m inclined to reactivate the account, Instagram gives fresh new reasons to deter me. In the never-ending bid to sell more advertisements, the app recently launched IGTV, allowing users to upload long-form videos up to one hour in length. For all practical purposes it’s a Youtube-like  ecosystem within Instagram; yet another feature I couldn't care less about much like the Snapchat-copying ‘Stories’. 

Whatever happened to the simple app of yesteryear where the only thing on the feed were squared photographs with filters applied? Instagram have morphed into a photo-centric version of Facebook, replete with ads and algorithms (rest in peace, chronological feed). I guess it makes sense: the founders made it out like bandits after selling Instagram for over a billion dollars so naturally Facebook is heavily incentivized to monetize the heck out of the app to recoup the investment. 

So now we’ve even got people launching a car magazine using Instagram as the main platform. The app isn’t purely about photographs anymore, and that is very sad. The more media appendages they add the more I don’t want to go back. Complexity killed the cat. 

Google preparing their annual week-long takeover of Moscone Center. 

Google preparing their annual week-long takeover of Moscone Center. 

Landscape photography involves a lot waiting

The branch of photography I participate in is landscape photography, and the name of the game is waiting. Lots of waiting. To get the best light, to wait out strange weather patterns, and even the general public getting out of the shot, a hearty dose of patience is prerequisite to doing landscape photo work. 

And that can get tiring indeed.

Everyone knows the best light is the hours around sunrise and sunset: blue hour and golden hour, respectively. Getting shots during golden hour isn’t a problem because I’d simply stay out as long as needed. Blue hour however is slightly more difficult because the I'll have to break my circadian rhythm. Bad enough that sunrise is wicked early in the morning, but you have to factor in travel and setup time in addition to that, so obviously there's not going to be much sleep. 

In the trip to Korea last year, in order to get a sunrise shot up on this crater, we had to wake up at 3am because it took an hour to get to the location and another hour to hike up the mountain. Exacerbating the situation it was summer so blue houra was quite a bit earlier than it would’ve been during winter. Well worth the effort but I’m not sure I can do that constantly: I value a proper night’s sleep above a lot of things. 

So golden hour it is for me. 

Then I would pray the weather gods cooperates. This past weekend we wanted to take some sunset hour photos of the Golden Gate Bridge but San Francisco’s famous fog spoiled the party. The entire ocean-facing side was covered in clouds, not giving the sun rays a chance to poke through. Were I adamant about capturing this I would’ve needed to return another day under more favorable weather. 

It’s super time involving, but I love the solitude and peace when I’m out in the field, especially away from the bustle of the city. Something about setting up shop somewhere, music in my ear, and waiting for the perfect moment to appear before the lens: it’s thoroughly meditative. 

Perhaps instead of planing to buy another sports car I should instead purchase a rugged SUV and go overlanding for landscape photos. A thing to think about. 

When the sun isn't cooperating you go long exposure with an ND filter. 

When the sun isn't cooperating you go long exposure with an ND filter. 

Going to stay in my lane

I spent much of the weekend putting together some GoPro footage I took way back during the Colorado trip - in addition to watching World Cup games of course. It was nothing elaborate: just stringing disparate videos together using iMovie into one cohesive timeline, with the appropriate transitions and captions. As someone who is decidedly on the still photography side of things it’s always fun exercise to dabble in moving photos. 

Suffice it to say I won’t be quitting my “day-job”. Video editing is obviously immensely time consuming and while the artistry involved is a natural extension of photography there’s many more dimension to juggle simultaneously - sound editing might be an entirely different art in it of itself. The amount of time spent on production and the resulting output length of the video is heavily skewed towards the former. 

Not to say I don’t enjoy video production, and given enough time investment I’m confident I can become decent at it. At the present however I think I shall as the kids say these days 'stick to my lane' and keep to still photography. I’ve still got much to do in that arena, plus I won’t ever “pivot to video”: written words and beautiful images are my passion.

Besides, it was superbly difficult to concurrently take pictures and film during the Colorado trip. At every place of interest I first took photos with my camera and then repeat with the GoPro for video. I’d nary the time savor the breathtaking views, which ultimately defeats the purpose of traveling in the first place. This is why I haven’t done video since traveling to Denver. 

Photo-journalism is more my speed anyways. 

The first-generation Honda Fit was a great car at the tail-end of Honda's golden era. 

The first-generation Honda Fit was a great car at the tail-end of Honda's golden era.