Back to FUNdamentals

The first time that I remember “being a photographer” was on a trip to Alaska, with my grandparents, when I was 12 years old. I had a simple point and shoot (film) camera with me while we drove from Anchorage to Denali (and took a bus tour through a bit of Denali National park) to Fairbanks, and then back to Anchorage via Delta Junction and Paxson.

This was after spending the first week of that trip with my cousins in McGrath, a town only accessible by plane. The entire experience was incredible and life-changing.

I remember, with that point and shoot, that all I wanted to do was roam, see everything we could, and photograph everything I could. And yeah, the Alaskan landscape will do that to you.

That school year, my Freshman year of high school, I enrolled in a Photography class as an elective. I learned to roll, develop, and print my own film. I learned photography basics about exposure and composition and storytelling for photojournalism.

my Pentax ME Super

I also “borrowed” my grandpa’s Pentax ME Super (SLR) which didn’t leave my side/bag throughout the rest of high school. I still have it, 25+ years later.

I’m currently rereading two books: 1) Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure and, 2.) On Being a Photographer: A Practical Guide, by David Hurn. They’re two of my favorite photography books and I believe they’ll help ground me with this hobby.

I want to get my mindset back to that Alaska trip, and back to how I worked in that photography class. I want to focus on fundamentals and get really good with them. And I just want to get out there and photograph without worry, without self-consciousness, and with passion.

Current streak: 2

My wife and I are really excited to see how many dinners we can cook at home, in a row, this week. My goal is to get us through Friday with a dinner out on Saturday. We shall see…

Sunday’s dinner was a (cast iron) pan fried NY steak, a steamed artichoke with lemon butter, and some roasted asparagus. I really wanted to be sure we used up the veggies in our refrigerator. I picked up a pretty decent 16oz steak direct from the butcher counter for us to share and it ended up being the perfect amount.

Monday’s dinner (above) was grilled corn, black bean, and cheese enchiladas. Originally I was planning on making just plain cheese enchiladas but, last minute, decided to “southwest” them up a little. I cut the corn from the cob right after grilling. It was perfectly charred yet still nice and sweet. It made for a great addition to the enchiladas. I briefly thought about adding some green chiles too but, I think I was distracted by a phone call or something because I forgot all about it (and didn’t remember again until we were eating them).

So far, two dinners. And so far, both have been very very good.

Five Things for the Week

1. Photography

I bought and then returned a Fujifilm XE-3. I thought that the rangefinder-style layout combined with the ability to change lenses, would make for a great everyday carry camera. But, soon after opening the box and setting it up, I realized that wasn’t the case. It’s a great camera, and one that I wouldn’t mind having in my collection. But it’s not on that I want to carry all the time. I prefer the SLR-style cameras, like the Fujifilm XT-1 (that I currently have) and the recently released X-T30, which is smaller and somewhat inviting to me because of the smaller factor.

For now, I am going to stick with the XT-1 as my main and make some further investments into the lens ranges that I want. This will give me more time to just get used to carrying a proper camera around with me; perhaps even force me out to go photograph something specifically (not by happenstance).

2. Houseplants

Right now my success rate, for my indoor plants, is “average”. I think I’m losing my orchid due to watering (either too much or not enough, I’m still trying to figure that out). I over-pruned my AeroGarden tomatoes (will post picture update soon) but, they seem to be recovering perfectly fine. Another leafy houseplant is doing okay though, I still worry about the amount of light it’s (not) getting.

I hesitate to get more for now but, i also understand that since I’m new to this, it’s all really a learning experience. The lemon tree (outside) is doing well. It was full of blossoms a few weeks ago but the wind knocked most of them off over this past week.

3. Read

Science’s Newest Miracle Drug is Free This article points to a very big “duh” and something that we should all take more seriously. Just being outside, in my backyard, improves my mood. We’re not meant to be cooped up.

The rise of fear-based social media like Nextdoor, Citizen, and now Amazon’s Neighbors Fear begets fear. If all you read is bad, you start to believe all is bad. There are some really cool things in my Nextdoor feed, from food drives to students getting tutoring from each other. But the bad posts (complaining about really dumb stuff, posting of fake car break ins and burglaries, etc) always have me second guessing why I use that app.

Olivia Laing: ‘I was hooked and my drug was Twitter’I recently realized, and admitted out loud, that checking Twitter puts me in a bad mood. I divided my timeline into two accounts, one public and one private. The public one so that I could follow a wide variety of people and feeds to respond, the private one being more “intimate” with people I really wanted to keep up with. It helped but, I still hate opening the app and started reducing my use there.

4. Watched

Chasing Life with Dr. Sanjay Gupta I stumbled on this series (forgot how) and was drawn in with some of the stories he is telling abut the people in the places that he visits. I don’t want to oversimplify any of it (it’s all really good food for thought) but, it seems that humans, no matter where they are and what circumstances they’re in, find ways to evolve both physically and mentally to achieve happiness and health.

The United Shades of America I like W. Kamau Bell’s perspective on the topic he brings out, and I like that the topics themselves are both topical but not always at the forefront of our news cycles. This week I caught up on Season 4’s episodes, with great appreciation for his most recent on the Hmong Americans.

Game of Thrones, s.8, ep.5 – Clegane Bowl, good. Rest, meh. I know they’re trying to wrap up as much as they can before the end of the season/series but, everything is far too rushed, with too many character arcs being cut short and/or not making any sense. A very disappointing season.

Wine CountryArgh! I wish this was better than it was. Especially with the acting talent that they had. There were definitely moments when I thought it would break wide open and become really funny and really good but, this was so subdued and bland. Disappointing but, I want this group to keep making content.

5. Listened

Nothing significant to report here. This week, when I had time, was filled with my usual news podcasts and Apple Music playlists.

Sheet Pan Nachos

sheet pan pollo asado nachos

We opted for dinner in, rather than going out for Cinco de Mayo. Our usual tradition is to go to our favorite Mexican restaurant but, since we had been eating out (what felt like) a lot this past week, we thought a dinner at home would be better.

So I grilled up some corn and then some pollo asado. Combined with other toppings like queso con salsa, jack cheese, green chilies, black beans, cilantro, and a few squeezes of lime, we ended up with a sheet pan of nachos.

I love this because it’s fun to come up with your toppings and assemble it all. A few minutes in a hot oven really brings it together. And it’s nice and fun/messy to eat.

Five things for the week

the eyes

1. Nesting

I think it might be time to get an interior designer to come look at our home and give us some ideas. My wife and I are definitely not decorators but we want to find ways to make out home more… well, more like a home. It’s all very utilitarian right now.

2. This coming week

Another school term begins (Monday) and work looks to be ramping up in intensity again (which I welcome). I found a pretty good rhythm and balance to getting work done, mostly making sure that I take the time to schedule work on an actual calendar. So, instead of just meetings, I have blocks of work reflected on there. The key, of course, to being successful here to to stick to it! If you have 45-minutes blocked off for a task, do the task. It requires discipline but when done right, it’s super effective for me.

3. Read

Workers Love AirPods Because Employers Stole Their Walls I like reading articles on the modern workplace, especially those that talk about dynamics and issues related to layouts. I found this fascinating because, even though we know why people wear their headphones in working environments, it’s still a more complex behavior than we’re giving it credit.

As a Mexican-American Woman, I Have a Few Thoughts on Cinco de Mayo. It Could Be So Much More I don’t have anything to add to this; I just think it’s important to read.

4. Watched

Street Food Netflix sure is going full st(r)eam on food shows, am I right? Lame pun aside, I did appreciate this series for the focus on street food vendors and their lives. It wasn’t following a host around who was trying different foods, which I find (that format) extremely tiring now. I did enjoy seeing Nikki Tran pop up in the Vietnam episode. I would love to see Nikki Tran get her own series; we could learn a lot from her.

Brené Brown: the Call to Courage Before watching this, I had no idea who Brené Brown was. I hadn’t heard of her TED talk nor her books. I watched this to fill some time between ending work and starting to cook dinner. The message is clear. I don’t disagree with any of it. It’s difficult and it’s very genuine. It’s a message that more people need to hear. I’m glad I watched.

Rogue One I re-watched this (May the Fourth be with you) and I have to say, they got a lot of things right with this. Everything from the look and the feel to the technology they showed (not crazy new stuff that would be out of place in episodes IV-VI), to the characters not being over the top. It’s just all really well done.

Game of Thrones, s.8, ep.4 – This show has it’s issues (but I like it anyways) and I had many with this particular episode. I didn’t enjoy this; in fact, it felt like I watched it out of obligation. Like I had to only to understand what would come next. There wasn’t any enjoyment out of it.

5. Listened

Song Exploder: Ep 158 The CranberriesThis episode breaks down the “All Over Now” track which, in context to Dolores O’Riordan’s untimely death, adds more weight to this episode, and the track itself.