HONY’s Rwanda

I follow Humans of New York for the stories. The photographic medium to tell these stories is so very powerful. Brandon Stanton gives you a deep, layered image of an individual. But the portrait is in the words that accompany them.

Rwanda.

The stories from his Rwanda series.

This one, about the shopkeeper.

This one, about the orphanage.

This one, about the church.

Any many more.

Rwanda.

That we humans can be as horrible to one another.

That we humans can be so kind to one another.

Settling on my photographic kit

Untitled
For the past few weeks, I have been slowly working myself back to using the different camera bodies and lenses that I have. I say “slowly” meant in the same vein as “methodically”. I am trying to be real with myself; what is it that I really want my kit* to be like?

What do I like to photograph? What do I want to be able to photograph? What am I actually willing to carry when I travel, or even on photowalks or weekends exploring? What do I like to use, and how do I actually use it?

I know that I want to use Fujifilm mirrorless as my camera system. I feel like it fits my overall wants/needs in a kit. I do long for my old Nikon and Pentax systems but, realistically, I just didn’t want to carry them around anymore.

It turns out, I’m very close to the complete kit that I established as my goal. Below is the kit I’m working towards, with items in italic being the items I still want to get.

Bodies:

X-T1 – I love this camera and don’t use it as often as i would like to. I plan on changing that. Even though it’s a few iterations behind (the X-T3 was just released), I don’t have any urge to upgrade this one. I haven’t had a chance to put it through its paces. The layout and manual controls are exactly as I want (and invokes the film SLRs I used when first learning photography). This is the workhorse and projects camera.

X-E3 – This will replace the X100T that I currently have. The X100T is a neat camera. It’s quirky and limiting enough to keep challenging my photography. But, it’s not me. I want something more flexible, specifically, interchangeable lenses. I enjoyed the Sony A6000 I had (a few years ago) for travel, and I want something more like that. The X-E3 seems like a good fit here, and I imagine it becoming my everyday and travel camera.

Lenses

18mm f/2 – Landscapes. I know I should go wider for landscapes but, I like this one for landscapes. I can see trading this for a wider focal length if/when I get more serious with landscape photography. But, for now, I genuinely want this as part of my kit. I like it for what it is.

23mm f/2 – this is close to a 35mm lens (on a 35mm equivalent). I like this focal length as an everyday and travel lens. So, when the X100T (which has this focal length) goes, I will pick this up to reside on the X-E3 the majority of the time.

35mm f/1.4 – This is my second favorite focal length (close to 50mm on a 35mm equivalent), and going down to f/1.4 gives me the reach to do portraits on the rare occasion that I do them. I like this one for food shots over the other lenses, though I can see using those as well. The 18mm. 23mm, and this one are the reasons I want my everyday/travel camera to be interchangeable (with lenses), not fixed to one.

60mm macro f/2 – Currently my least used lens but, the few times I have used it, I love it. I want to do more macro photography, so envision this one being used more often.

50-140mm f/2.8 – This is the lowest priority item on my list right now. I want this one for events, sports, and wildlife. I miss photographing those, and would like to get back into it. Mainly wildlife photography. Eventually.

Overall, I’m already in a really good place. Even swapping out the X100T for the X-E3/23mm f/2 combination isn’t necessary nor urgent. I’m feeling good about this overall, and am realizing I’m in a place to really ignore the equipment and focus on the craft.

 


*I’m carrying this approach over to a few other aspects of my life. Kitchenware is another where I am trying to pare down to the essentials. What pots/pans/small appliances do I actually use, and how?

Five things for the week

she lurks

  1. The above picture was featured on the utata.org front page. It was not a planned shot. I saw this scene when I took a short break to get a drink of water. The light and the look on my cat’s face was too good to pass up so, I ran back to the office to get my camera. A few clicks later and this was the result. I’m happy with it and proud that it was featured.
  2. I like the juxtaposition of Halloween and Thanksgiving (and Christmas). Wander through a store like target and one weekend you’ll see horror, gore, skeletons, witches, etc., and the same store the very next weekend will be trees, cute characters and animals, and family themed.
  3. I start a new (school) term tomorrow, and I’m nervous. I feel like I’m trying to squeeze something else into my life right now (I am) that I really don’t have time for. But, this is necessary. It’s necessary for my long term plans. I just need to build and stick to a routine.
  4. Relearned (is this a word?) a good lesson this week: when it comes to meat and seafood, pick it out yourself. Grocery delivery is awesome; it’s both a timesaver and takes care of a chore I hate. The issue is when it comes to meat, seafood, and even some veggies. There are just some things that I need to see and pick out for myself.
  5. On social media, I’m trying to get into the habit of commenting in addition to liking/favoriting. I want to become more verbal (if that makes any sense). I can’t be introverted online AND in real life (or, can I?).

Simple and decadent weeknight meal

At the risk of sounding overtly dramatic, Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce is life changing for me. I always knew I could make simple sauces from scratch, and even did so from time to time. But, in my mind, they still took too much brain power and energy for those times I’m just trying to throw a quick weekday dinner together. Like a lot of people, spaghetti dinners settled for being a jar of pasta sauce and boiled noodles. Exciting, not at all. Now, no more buying pre-made jarred tomato sauces for pasta.

Last night was my third time making Ms. Hazan’s recipe. It’s so so easy and makes the house smell so so good. And, the three ingredients (onion, butter, can of tomatoes), is always something I have in my pantry.

This time I added some chicken sausage but, I can assure you, the original three ingredients are stellar on their own.

Plated
Plated

I had a package of chicken sausage in my fridge and I thought, “why not?”. I heated the cast iron pan to “crazy hot” and got a nice sear on the sausage slices. I also wanted something other than spaghetti noddles, and opted to indulge in the box of bucatini that we had.

Bucatini, if you don’t know, is a thicker noodle that is also hollow. It’s fantastic for picking up a lot of sauce and, when cooked al dente, has the perfect bite to it. It’s one of my favorites.

Sauce
All four ingredients starting to get to know each other

Combine one 28oz can of tomatoes, 1 onion cut in half, 5 tbsp of unsalted butter (this makes it both rich and smooth) to the seared sausage. Simmer for 45 minutes.

So simple, so good
It’s ready

My wife and I ate in silence. We even ate without looking at phone/tablet/tv screens. With how simple this is, you wouldn’t think it could be as good as it was. Those supermarket jarred sauces have nothing on this.

I’m re-teaching myself how to cook and appreciate making things. Through this process, I’m also learning that I like making things from scratch. I definitely appreciate the shortcuts but, making things from individual ingredients helps me destress and enjoy cooking more. It also increases my appreciation for it.

Recently read, watched, listened

iog_lede_v05-0

I have had The Internet of Garbage by Sarah Jeong, sitting on my Kindle (the link takes you to the published version on theverge.com.) for a few weeks now. This is an important read for anyone (this means you) using the internet. Sarah breaks down harassment and its many forms in a way that is alarming and honest, and in a way that is easy to understand so that we can work together to address it.

I’m constantly amazed by how we, as humans, are so self-destructive with ourselves as both individuals and towards one another. We’re better than this. We have the capability and the tools to be better. We’re just choosing not to.


 

Ugh, another cooking/food/travel show? Here’s what made this four part documentary enjoyable for me: Samin. She is someone I would jump to have a chance to share a meal with. She is funny, and she fully shows that she genuinely enjoys tasting, cooking, and experiencing food. This doesn’t feel scripted or forced. It feels like an extension of her book (of the same name), in that she is just trying to teach us to enjoy food and cooking like she does. It’s easier to do than we think.


 

The Cristina Martinez episode (Season 5, episode 1) of Chef’s Table is captivating and magnificent . Her story – of herself, her daughter, and her family – combined with her craft (barbacoa) is fascinating, The episode itself was so beautiful, I had to stop down and appreciate it without watching any more episodes for a while.

This is a reminder to ignore all labels of race, immigration status, political affiliation, etc. Pay attention to people, as people. As individuals. Hear their stories and make human choices.


 

There’s not a lot that I can write about Anthony Bourdain that others haven’t already written. It’s weird to say (type) this out loud but, I am still having some trouble processing his death. The same with Jonathan Gold’s passing; they both affected me more than I thought any public figure’s would.

One of the things that makes me feel “home” is when I get a local library card. I don’t borrow printed books and materials often, mostly just ebooks. So, over this past weekend, I finally got my library card and promptly started placing holds and building a reading list. The first auto-checkout notification came last night, in the form of Hungry Ghosts, by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose.

It was a fun, quick read right before turning in for the night. I kind of like that I also read it (kind of) close to Halloween. I wouldn’t categorize it as “memorable” nor necessarily a “must read”, though I did enjoy it and am happy to have read it. It reminds me of Get Jiro!, another graphic novel by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose.


 

monstress_vol03-1

I have written about this series before. There’s not a lot more that I can add to this other than YOU NEED TO START READING THIS SERIES IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY. I just finished and fully enjoyed Monstress, Vol. 3, Written by Marjorie Liu and Illustrated by Sana Takeda.

The depth of both the characters and the world is stunning. The dark material and some added humor make these quick and satisfying reads. I prefer the volumes (versus individual issues) because I get a bigger chunk of the story to feed on.

I cannot imagine anyone other than Sana Takeda‘s art accompanying this series. If this is ever animated into a feature film, Sana’s art needs to remain a huge part. The look is epic.

Yesterday’s Frito pie is today’s chili dog

Frito pie

I was craving Frito pie so, I made Frito pie.

Yesterday’s slow-cooker batch of chili turned out pretty good I used beer (Negra Modelo) instead of broth, and kicked up the chili powder mix with some “looser” measurements and spice blending. It ended up with a more layered, deeper flavor (if that makes any sense) and had a bit more (spice) kick than my normal chilis.

Chop a white onion, shred cheddar cheese, and scoop a ladle full over a stack of Fritos Scoops, Yes! And, add a dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt (in lieu of sour cream).

I’m learning (better late than never) to cook things that I crave so that I can indulge at home when needed, versus order or go out to restaurants. This helps me control the ingredients, cost, portion, and overall “healthy-ness” of the dish.

Five things for the week

Original double double

  1. It was a weekday and she didn’t feel like making a big deal for her birthday, so we indulged in an always good In-N-Out* dinner for M on Wednesday. I like when we limit our visits there, even though it’s less than a mile away now, because it just makes every visit that much better.
  2. For the past two weeks, I have been calorie tracking in the Lose It! app. I’m learning a lot about my habits. Overall, I eat fairly healthy. Sometimes without even trying. I do need to increase fruit and vegetable intake, though. My biggest issue is portion control. Eat less, weigh less. I’m taking steps to address that, and they seem to be working so far. Cooking/eating more often at home has been a huge help.
  3. This morning, after making breakfast (fried eggs, toast, bacon, half avocado), I then a) hardboiled eggs for the week, b) started a batch of crock pot chili, and c) made a big batch of pesto chicken pasta salad, all which will take care of quite a few meals during the week. I feel pretty good about it. It’s the closest to Sunday meal prep that I have been in a long time.
  4. Don’t move across states if you can help it. The level of fail and incompetence between bureaucratic entities, like the DMV**, will drive you insane. If I told you this before, I don’t mind saying it again. It warrants multiple warnings.
  5. I caved and bought the iPhone XS Max (really hate the name). Overall not a bad phone. I am having some battery drain issues that I hope are addressed with a software update. It (battery) doesn’t last as long as the iPhone 8+ that I upgraded from. I have also come close to dropping it quite a few times (more often than with any other iPhone I have ever had) and, I’m not sure why.

 


*Is In-N-Out the best burger in the world? No, not close. But, growing up with it, it’s home. And it’s food that reminds me of home. And for the price, the quality is fantastic. It “tastes like California”, and that’s more than enough for me.

**Shoutout to the staff at the Davis (CA) DMV, though. They were all very helpful and made the two hours we spent there fairly bearable. Some of the bureaucratic anomalies even boggled them at times.