I've always been a photographer, but I'd come to it analytically. My excitement came from the technology inside the cameras: new sensors, new designs, video. For years, I relished cameras for the high technology they demonstrated and took photos that exercised that technology: high ISO, large aperture lenses, night photography. Essentially, I started taking photos to satisfy my curiosity with how cameras worked.
There are hundreds of websites dedicated to the technology treadmill that is the digitial photography market. Every day, thousands of people hem and haw over the latest cameras and the advancements or trade-offs they represent. You could count me among them for years.
Fuji X100. Thousand Island Lake in the Sierra Nevada.
Then, four years ago, I bought a Fuji X100. My ex-wife picked it up and suddenly discovered a passion for photography, something that my numerous other cameras never inspired. She quit her job and started shooting full-time, mostly weddings. This gave me an avenue to exercise my years of amateur interest by second-shooting what's now dozens of times. That single camera did something for me that previous cameras hadn't — it married high technology of the modern digital camera with a reverence for photography's past. Fuji invented new technology just so the act of taking a photo felt like it used to.
The main innovation is a separate optical viewfinder that was designed to emulate rangefinder cameras like the Leica M3. The camera has you compose photos through a separate optic, not through the lens like an SLR. This disconnection from the result, where you don't see what you're going to get before you take the photo, is actually a novel concept for folks that came to photography after the digital revolution. It's a subtle thought that being removed from the direct output of the camera sets you up to be surprised and delighted when the photo is a great one. It trains you to be a photographer and not a camera operator.
You see the world, think about how you can manipulate the camera to capture your vision of something, take the photo, and hope. That's a powerful idea.
Today, when not taking photos professionally, I only shoot film. I own a couple simple, mechanical machines that will last forever. You take a photo and then you're done. You don't look at the results and wonder if you should recompose. You don't pass it around to everyone to show people how cool something looks. There's no burst mode where you end up with 35 shitty photos of the same thing. You stay in the moment, look and consider, take a photo, and move on. Film fully disconnects you from the results.
Some time later, you get to re-experience that moment when the prints or scans come back from the lab. It's a little gift from your recent history. You're set up to be surprised and delighted.
How do these cameras work? I don't know, really. Producing and processing film is complicated. But for once, I don't care. The only upgrade cycle is trying out new film. That's a beautiful thing.
Being a software developer by trade, I am more “plugged in” than most. I relish in new technology, applications, and moderism. New computers, cameras, and means of connecting with others digitally get my heart beating faster. On a daily basis, I work with an incredible group of passionate designers and programmers and we collectively dedicate our mental capacity to mastering an everchanging sea of knowledge in the creation of the intangible.
Perhaps that is why I’m inexorably drawn to the woods where things are simple and devoid of novelty. Wilderness stays the same. Every emotion, impulse, or cause for concern are drawn from the physical world around me. Life is slow, intentional, and quiet, if only for a night or two.
It’s good to feel hungry, cold, and without shelter sometimes.
For the uninitiated, tenkara is a traditional form of fly fishing that originated in Japan. It's found a new home here in the United States thanks in large part to Tenkara USA, a startup founded in 2009 in California that brought global awareness to the relatively ancient practice.
I've been super excited and have posted on various forums about my success with tenkara. As a result, I've received quite a few emails and helped a number of friends get their own tenkara kits and I've given roughly the same advice. I realized it's time to create a resource for others to start tenkara, because more people should try it out.
My choices for the beginner tenkara fly fisherman are budget, practicality, and simplicity oriented. It should be cheap and work well.
A small fly box. Mine is an Altoids tin that I hotglued some thin foam on the inside surfaces.
A stringer (if you plan to eat some of what you catch)
Fly choice will depend greatly on your region and fishing style, but here in the PNW I tie and carry two currently. I fish predominately in wild areas where fishing pressure is minimal and the fish are starving. The need to "match the hatch" may be greater in your area.
Both flies are very productive, easy to fish, and simple to tie. There's nothing quite as satisfying as catching fish with a fly you made with your own hands. These are simple patterns that match the simplicity of tenkara fishing.
It's hard to follow the road when you're not looking where you're going.
I got my first computer when I was twelve. It was a 686 tower hand-assembled by some man in Salem who made them in his house. I drove with my mom to the man's house to pick up the computer in our Jeep Cherokee. It was large, heavy, delicate. Its case was textured, a dingy yellowing plastic even when new. The side door to the computer popped off as he placed it in the car, and the man was apologetic for not fastening the case securely. When we got it home, my brother and I rushed to plug in the cables, connect the modem and boot it up. It was so fast. We sat there, staring at that computer thinking, "now what?" The possibilities seemed limitless. Sure, my parents owned a computer before this, but this was the first time I felt ownership of a machine.
"This is mine", I thought.
Looking back to see a straight line of focus from then to now surprises me. My twelve year old self certainly didn't predict I'd be doing what I'm doing, but my passion for computers and the web have been rather unyielding for fifteen years.
It's hard then, to relate to those that feel lost or confused about how they want to spend their life contributing to the world. Time and again, I meet, hear, or read about people with diverse passions like winemaking or sailing thinking about getting a business degree or becoming an HR person. I want to shake them and say, "take something you love and find a way to make it yours."
Why would anyone willingly spend the majority of their life doing something—or being somewhere—that doesn't fill them with passion, excite them every day, and continue them down the road they likely started as kid?
More and more, the average life is spent in front of computers, televisions, and smart phones. People travel everywhere by car and it seems we are slowly approaching the condition of humans in WALL-E:
This may seem a bit over the top, but the human condition is devolving in its capacity to be a wild animal, to provide for itself, to survive on its own. You're reading this blog and so perhaps, Dear Reader, you are already acutely aware of the simple pleasure of walking to see things not ordinarily visited and of being self-reliant, but most are not. Backpacking is just one way ordinary people can reconnect with nature and our natural selves.
To those that haven't yet been on a backpacking trip of at least two nights, please let me fill you in.
Walking without a destination through forests and on the top of ridges and mountains, carrying your only options of survival on your back is exhilarating. You can exhaust yourself so completely that you get better sleep on rocks than you do in your bed, and wake up with the sun, completely filthy, and never feel more alive. You'll run across wild animals, overflowing with the anxiety and fear you're supposed to have toward these creatures, only to find them timid, happy, and majestic. You'll arrive at destinations few have seen, and bask in the absolute silence of miles of untouched world.
Backpacking is, essentially, now a sport; however, it used to be how people traveled and lived and explored. It is our roots. Walking and sleeping are such simple, base activities, but there's so much beauty in the world left unseen by your eyes that it'd be a shame not to go visit.
I'm coming to realize Facebook isn't the best forum for sharing much of the information it provides facilities for. Facebook's poor at sharing quality photos (quality truly is operative), bad for long-form writing, worse than Twitter or Tumblr for short or otherwise nonessential authoring, worse than LinkedIn for business networking, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It is truly a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none (perhaps except abusing user's trust in them through dubious privacy issues).
What people really need is a single directory through which others can discover their friends content around the web—a "homepage" for the non-technical, if you will. A single page with granular security that provides access to people's content around the web. Friendster mostly did that, but was purchased and shut down by Facebook.
 I tried posting this on Facebook, but hit an arbitrary status-length limit, further illustrating my point.
The noise is the first thing, the shrill cries, screams, and mechanical creaking, the uncouth discussions, the loud talking, the small children, the greediness of toddlers still unaware of their own self-centered viewpoint, the assault of the attendees' subtle tastes. Everything at a fair screams for your attention; each ride or stand is an island of assault on your senses, promising an extreme experience or ridiculously insensible prize. I know many, many folks that have an empty spot in their living room just waiting to be filled with a six-foot tall stuffed gorilla bear.
I went to the Portland Rose Festival'sWaterfront Village Saturday. I went with my ladyfriend who is, unbeknownst to me until this day, a carnival ride junky. With requisite machismo running high, I agreed to go big, to ride the big rides, the scary, the janky. How bad could it be?
As it turns out, pretty bad.
After the third ride, I was sweating ice water, pot-sticker skinned, the skin of a man about to have a heart attack. It was impending-doom sweat. Something wasn't right with me and I was fighting back vomit. I was determined to sit out the last ride which appeared to be the worst of all, a contraption that spins you in a circle while you spin in a larger one, g-forces gluing you to your chair, destroying your insides for a small charge. "Funtastic", indeed.
"This will wreck me," I remember saying, still panting.
The ladyfriend went, bravely, into the line by herself to await her turn. She gets to the front of the line, and is stopped. Surely, she is too short to ride this as it looks like Satan himself created this machine. She's turned away, thank God, walks over, and says:
"I have to ride it with a partner—no singles! Please?"
People are so fucking stoked for the new iPhone. I arrived at the Pioneer Place Apple store a little before seven this morning, expecting to find a line, but found a crowd instead, sixty nerds deep. Thankfully, I was next to some rather interesting people to pass the time with, especially important because of the apocalyptic failure that was the in-store activation process. By the time I walked out of the store with my new iPhone at 10:30 (still inactive), there were about 300 people in line, first in switchbacks and then stretching down the walkway and around a fountain. Extrapolating my two hour, thirty minute wait (from the time they started selling at 8am until I finished), with sixty people in front of me, it led to a 2.5 minute wait per person. With 300 people, that wait would be a mind-blowing twelve and a half hours.