Chuan’s Birthday at Espetus

I hope all you friends in the Bay Area are safely enjoying this rainy week. I know I am.

You’ve all probably noticed that I’m posting a lot more regularly these days. I’m trying my best to make a dent in the long stack of photos and post drafts that I have. Hopefully I will be caught up in a few months!

Today, we just have a short post with a few photos. We celebrated Chuan’s birthday at Espetus Churrascaria in San Mateo back in June. It was a notable day for me because it was my first time having Brazillian BBQ since I started eating meat (will talk more about that in a future post).

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We ate cheese bread,

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drank sangria,

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and, ate a ton of grilled pineapple. I somehow didn’t actually upload any pictures of the meat that we ate, but believe me, we gorged ourselves.

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Chuan didn’t want any special birthday treatment, but of course since he wasn’t organizing the dinner, we got it for him anyway!

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Enjoy your Thursday night, folks!

My Photographic Process

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People often ask me my opinion on photography. It must be because of this blog or the fact that I’m often seen with a camera around my neck. I get questions about the camera I take the photos on, the software I use in post, and even the places I post my photos.

A few days ago, while slowly going through my backlog of photos (I’m 6 months behind. Hopefully I can catch up to the present soon!), I came across some photos from a day trip I took with Dustin and Kailing. We had lunch at a Peruvian restaurant and then took a short hike at Mori Point in Pacifica. At the end of that trip, I only had 4 decent photos. That’s not enough for a full post. So, I have decided to include those pictures and also talk about my photographic process in the same post. Coincidentally, these photos also happen to be some of the last photos I took with my Fujifilm X100 before I sold it this summer.

The Gear

If you have been reading this blog for at least a few years, then you know I don’t like talking about gear. It’s usually not the most important or even the most interesting topic. Despite that, I do find talking about gear interesting when its design forces us to interact with it in a completely new way.

That’s the case with my camera setup at the moment. I have a Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 M-Mount (Leica Rangefinder mount) lens mounted on a Sony a7 full frame camera via a Voigtländer VM-E Close Focus Adapter.

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All that might sound like some model number mumbo jumbo to you, but they mean one simple thing: manual focus on a compact full frame camera. You get the tactile, manual focus experience similar to rangefinder cameras while still retaining all the good stuff you get in a modern digital camera. If you’re curious, I’ll further explain in a future post why I sold my old gear and gave up autofocus, multiple focal lengths, etc.

I would suggest trading in your current camera for something that leaves more control in your hands. For me, photography went from feeling a little like a video game to feeling completely visceral and tangible. My setup has brought me closer to the art of photography.

However, I need to remind you though that the best camera is the one that’s with you, not the shiny new one you saw online. Falling into the rabbit hole of gear acquisition can not only be expensive and time consuming, but also dangerous. Try to avoid it.

Post-Processing

With the increasing popularity of Aperture, Lightroom, Instagram, etc., post-processing (post) has become much more mainstream. Simply uploading a photo as you took it on your camera is no longer enough. Photographs need to be imbued with the creative energy of the photographer, and post is the way that many accomplish that.

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I use Lightroom to catalog and process all the raw files from my camera. If you don’t know what Raw is, I’d suggest that you first learn about it before coming back to read the rest of my post.

At first, I used Aperture. That was back when it was in version one and I still had my 2007 (first generation) MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, Aperture didn’t perform well; So, I switched to Lightroom. Now that at least 95% of my photos are in Lightroom and I have a Creative Cloud subscription, I don’t see a reason to go back.

I take a very film-centric approach to post. I use presets that emulate film; My favorites are from Visual Supply Co (VSCO). They aim to take the raw photos from your particular camera (they have different presets for all major manufacturers) and transform them to look like photos taken on classic films. If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably seen me use the #VSCOcam hashtag. It comes from their excellent VSCOcam application. I like its filters better than Instagram’s; and, it has manual controls that Instagram only recently added. That’s enough about the app, let’s get back to VSCO presets in Lightroom.

My approach when choosing presets is extremely simple. I just imagine the particular film I would have used to take a photo if I was actually shooting with a film camera. It could be Kodak Tri-X black and white film if my shots were closer to street photography or Ilford Delta for night shots. In the case of the photos in this post, I chose Fuji Velvia, a popular slide film often used for landscapes.

Uploading

There are many sites to upload photos to like 500px, SmugMug and even deviantART. My site of choice is Flickr. I have been using it since 2005 and am on their Flickr Pro unlimited plan. Flickr was the original social network, and it still counts many of the best photographers in the world as members. Sure, it may have stagnated for a while after Yahoo purchased it, but it has been given a new lease on life after Marissa Mayer took the helm at Yahoo. I may switch over to one of its more modern competitors some day, but it is really hard to beat having one site that spans my entire photography career.

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Delicious Ceviche at Mancora Cebicheria in San Mateo

Closing Thoughts

I hope this answers some of your questions and gives you some new ideas. If you have any suggestions, tips or questions for me, shoot me an email or contact me via social media.

Also, this flow I have detailed is only my process when using a dedicated camera. In the past few years, I have found myself sidestepping this altogether by shooting, processing and posting my photos all on my iPhone. Phone cameras have become much better and the whole end to end flow has become so painless that it could be the future of fields like photojournalism or street photography!

A Wedding and a Proposal

It feels like yesterday that I was in high school. It was a time when a relationship was considered “serious” if it lasted longer than a few months. We had jobs that paid by the hour. College was the most important thing on the horizon.

My life hasn’t changed much since then. I may have already graduated from college and I may have a job, but I still live with my friends, just as I did in high school. I still play video games and watch anime. So much has stayed the same.

It’s only when I hit an important milestone or a friend announces a major event that I stop and realize how far we have all come. Some of my friends have been married for years and have children. Others have finished medical school or law school. Some have even made large sums of money and lost large sums of money. We really aren’t children anymore.

This summer was yet another one of those milestones. Two of my friends go married, and two other friends got engaged.

Eda and Brian’s Wedding

I was ecstatic when Brian and Eda announced their engagement and when I later received an invitation to their wedding. They are two incredibly smart and hardworking people that together form an amazing team.

Their wedding was held in LA and a bunch of us drove down from the Bay. The ceremony was small and simple, but beautiful. Of course, the people are important, and because of them, I had a great time. As usual, when I’m having fun, I forget to take many photos. That’s why I’m only including a few in this post.

Below are shots from the ceremony.

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Now here is something rare: a picture of me from my own camera!

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Just a few of us after the party:

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Phil Proposes to Lynn

Phil and Lynn are yet another model couple. They are smart, hard-working and incredibly humble. I’ve known Phil for 7 years, ever since freshman move-in day at Columbia. He’s been a pledge brother, roommate and close friend. The manner in which he thinks is such a contrast to mine that just talking with him helps me see the world in a new light.

When he first introduced me to Lynn, I was impressed. You would never know how talented and smart she is when you first meet her because it is her kindness and modesty that really stand out. When Phil told me that he was going to propose to her, I couldn’t have been happier.

He planned the proposal ahead of time and and involved all of us in it. We gathered in the Stanford Oval and tried to act inconspicuous while Phil and Lynn walked down the green. When they finally reached the center of the oval, we all came together while Phil got down on one knee.

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Look at that rock!

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Friends, thank you for letting me share these important moments in your life. They are unforgettable.

New York in May 2014

6 months late is better than never, right? I took these photos back in May. Let’s travel back in time!

I have been going to New York every May for the last 3 years. First, I travelled over to attend Chithra’s graduation. The second year, I came purely to hang out. This year, aside from my normal activities, I went to the Columbia Lambda Phi Epsilon installs banquet (also the 15 year celebration). It’s an event that I’ve blogged about before 1 that sees the formal welcome of new brothers into the fraternity and the goodbyes to graduating seniors. 2014 was my first year attending as an alumnus.

Joining my fraternity has been one of the best decisions in my life. The people I can call my brothers are some of the smartest, most caring and most passionate people that I have ever met. Every time that I go back to New York, Lambdas make me feel at home.

This time, I was staying with Ethan and Andy, where many of us alumni met up before the banquet. Here we are taking the subway after failing to hail cabs or Ubers from Ethan and Andy’s place.

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This was the fourth installs banquet that Caroline accompanied me to. She has always been the best date I could ask for.

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The sheer number of people at the event was staggering. Soon after I crossed in my sophomore year, the house had 27 brothers. The house has almost doubled since then, leading to massive parties of 100+ people like this year’s banquet.

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Fortunately, I was still able to hang out with the people closest to me

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and reconnect with people in my line.

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Events like these really prove that the connections you make in college can be life-long.

Hide-Chan Ramen

If you are reading this, you know that my favorite past time in New York is eating and ramen is often the food of choice.

In the last decade, competition among New York ramen joints has become fierce. All the while, New Yorkers have worked up a sophisticated and discerning appetite for the popular Japanese noodle dish. As a result, ramen restaurants, each with their own signature dishes and quirks have been opening up all over New York. Hide-Chan is just one of those places.

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Hide-Chan is all about choices. You get to choose between no less than 7 different broths, 3 levels of richness in the broth and 5 different levels of noodle firmness. All those choices point to the focus of the food, noodles and broth. Hence, toppings are pretty minimal.

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The best part of dinner wasn’t the food, but the company. Daily, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have friends who share the same interests as me and take me to all the best places in town.

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A Day Out With Caroline

Caroline and I take turns planning out days out every time we see each other. This time was my turn. We started the morning at Essex Street Market. We bought a slice of spanakopita and olive oil pear cake from Boubouki to eat for brunch. Learn more about the pear cake in the video below.

We sat down at a table in a pretty sketchy park. Caroline took pictures of the food while I took pictures of her.

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Afterwards, we Ubered over to the west side, where we played mini golf at Pier 25 and walked around a park. It’s not one of those classic mini golf places with the windmill and other themed holes. It’s pretty plain, but still worth the visit, considering the admission price and the fact that it isn’t a commercial operation.

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I’ve noticed that my camera tends to trigger smiles in peoples’ faces. However, it seems to have the opposite effect on Caroline. She may be smiling one second, but once the camera is up to my face, that smile is immediately replaced by a blank stare.

This picture was taken at La Frite. Their fries are good, but I still prefer Pommes Frites since they have Poutine.

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Random Other Food

I ate a lot of things in New York. I’ll leave you with a few notable ones.

Bacon and egg mazemen at YUJI Ramen (now closed) inside Whole Foods.

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Montanara pizza with a deep fried crust at Forcella

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Olive oil and crème fraîche gelato at il laboratorio del gelato

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Ramen burger at Smorgasburg

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Until next time!