I haven’t written in my journal or blog since the end of August. I was just mentally tired preparing for the CCSP exam then disappointed that the testing centre cancelled the test. I reschedule, and I will be sitting the exam this Saturday, so I’ll be prepping the whole week. Instead of the normal breakdown of each day of the week, I will lump it all together.
For the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #165: Going Wide, Patti has asked that we submit images taken with wide-angle lenses, which she defines thusly.
What’s a wide-angle lens? It’s any lens that is below 35 mm on a crop-sensor camera or 50 mm on a full-frame. The wide-angle view is perfect for capturing a broad vista like a landscape, seascape, or cityscape.
My favourite lens for my Minolta XD-11 35mm film camera is the MD Rokkor-X 45mm F:2 lens. I prefer something closer to 40mm, like the Minolta M-Rokkor 40mm F/2, but that lens is over $1200 on eBay, and I don’t own the similarly expensive Minolta CLE.
The Fujinon XF28mmF2.8 lens is my favourite lens for my crop-sensor, Fuji X-T3. The ~41mm full-frame field of view suits the everyday documentary style photography that I find myself doing during these “no-travel-stay-close-to-home” pandemic times. Of course, I also have my Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR. The ~41mm full-frame field of view provides a field of view in the range of the human eye.
Many websites keep propagating the “story” that a 50mm focal length on a 35mm full-frame camera is roughly equivalent to the field-of-view (FOV) of the human eye. First of all, the human eye is not a camera. Even though the focal length of the eye is 17 or 24mm, only part of the retina processes the main image we see. This part of the retina is called the cone of visual attention, which has a field of view between 50-55º wide. On a 35mm full-frame camera, a 38-43mm focal length provides an angle of view of approximately between 50-55º.
All of the images included in this post can be considered part of a set for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #165: Going Wide.
One of the many ways one can widen the range of one’s lens is to stitch together many vertical frames shot while panning the camera from one side to the other. Some cameras, e.g. Fuji X-series and Apple’s iPhone, have a built-in panoramic mode that automatically does the stitching in the camera. A sturdy tripod and Adobe Photoshop can make the process easy for the cameras that don’t have built-in panoramic mode. All of the images below are panoramas created either in-camera or via Adobe Photoshop.
When shooting panoramas, I try to use the camera in portrait orientation. This maximises the number of vertical pixels. For example, my Fuji X-T3 camera sensor has 6000×4000 pixels. If I shoot my set of images for the panorama in portrait orientation, I will have 6000 vertical pixels across the set of images.
While I have a few camera shops nearby where I can drop off a roll of 35mm film, most don’t develop the film themselves but instead outsource the process to labs in New York City or Philadelphia. I have been mailing my undeveloped 35mm film to California and New Hampshire labs and paying for developed negatives and scanned images. The cost of developing and scanning was about $25-$30 per roll. Shooting film is an expensive hobby.
I bought an Epson V600 Perfection Photo scanner to scan some very old family portraits earlier this year. It was a fun but tiring exercise, but I was happy to preserve some family photographic history. I wanted to develop my photo scanning skill, primarily to eliminate the cost of scanning film, but I also wanted to see if I could match or improve the scans from the various labs. At first, I used Silverfast 9 with the Epson V600 but struggled to find a consistent workflow. But after reading Matt Wright’s article about Picking your Color Negative Film Stock, I installed Negative Lab Pro for Lightroom, followed Matt’s advice, and rescanned some Kodak Pro 100 negatives. The results were so much better than what I have received that I sent out my last few rolls for development only.
Unless you do your film developing and scanning at home, film photography can be frustrating. You expose a roll of film over a day or perhaps a few weeks. You mail or drop the film off at a lab for developing and scanning. You wait. A few weeks later, you get your negatives or scans back. Unless you shoot polaroids, there is no instant in film photography. The scans below are my own from a set of negatives from a roll of Kodak Vision3 250D that I exposed in August. The film roll was developed by Boutique Film Labs in Juliet, Tennesse.
It was the weekend after I broke my Fuji X-T2. I wanted to try to achieve another success with the Minolta XD-11 and Kodak Vision3 250D.
We were at Beneduce Vineyards to hear “Fitz” perform in the band “Winery Katz”. Fitz and his wife Monica are friends with our other friends, Matt and Jean. Matt is a guitar instructor who performs as one half of the Acoustic Road duo. A month earlier, during our visit to Unionville Vineyard to hear Acoustic Road, I had asked Fitz when he would be perfuming. He replied that he was performing with musicians on August 14, and we immediately reserved a table. He cheekily named the band “The Winery Katz”. Bhavna told her family, and before we knew it, we had three more couples with us – Bhavna’s older sister, Nilima and her husband Mukesh, her younger brother Uday and his wife Bhairavi, and Uday’s work-mate Oleg and Monica. The more, the merrier. It was a fun evening.
The sky indicated we might get a bit wet, but it lasted only a few minutes. We had a wonderful time dining on wine and charcuterie.
Oberlin and Elyria
Kiran started her Oberlin College experience in the fall of 2019. That first semester weekend, we had the Oberlin College’s fast and furious tour for first-year students and returned to New Jersey with thoughts of exploring the town and the college campus later. But then COVID ruined those plans, and she transitioned to remote instruction from our home in New Jersey. However, Oberlin College allowed fully vaccinated students this summer, and Kiran took the opportunity. The summer session ended, and Kiran opted to stay on campus until the fall semester started in October. But she needed her fall and winter clothes. We agreed to make the drive over the Labour Day weekend, and Kiran decided to give us that campus tour we never had.
Bhavna and I rented an AirBnB off North Main Street on the edge of the Oberlin College campus, about a block away from downtown Oberlin. It’s a beautiful 1900’s house which our host, Linda, has sectioned off into upstairs and backend guest rooms. We had the top level with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a private bathroom, and a small deck area. It was way more than we needed, but Bhavna thought it might be more fun and convenient than a hotel room at the Marriott in Elyria.
After getting Kiran settled in one of the worst maintained college resident rooms I have ever seen, we walked over to Aladdin’s Eatery for dinner. I think the owners were too clever with the menu. Instead of keeping it simple, with recognisable names, the menu played off the Aladdin theme a bit too much. We enjoy eating middle eastern food and are familiar with the food names, but the menu at Aladdin’s had some idiot name instead of falafel. I had to read the ingredients to understand that the item was indeed felafel. They were also out of the only Lebanese beer on the menu. So much for providing an immersive experience. I ordered a glass of water. I’m too much beer snob to drink the piss water (aka. Budweiser or Miller Lite) that some Americans call beer. Maybe when all the baby boomers are dead, restaurants will stop putting that garbage on the menu. The new generation of beer drinkers won’t drink that swill.
After dinner, we took a quick stroll through Downtown Oberlin before heading back to the house to shower and relax.
I think Oberlin is a boring town. I think most small towns in New Jersey have something unique about them that makes them worth visiting. Princeton has the University. Hopewell has some excellent farm to table and vegetarian restaurants, an award-winning distillery and a micro craft brewery. Montgomery Township, where I live, has beautiful parks and hiking trails in Sourland Mountain. Ringoes and Asbury have wineries. Oberlin offers none of that. It’s bland. Generic. I think this annoyed me the most.
The downtown is two square blocks just off the southeastern section of the Oberlin College campus between West College Street, Main Street, South Professor Street and Vine Street. These streets are mainly lined with old town shop front ends and restaurants. I woke up early the following day, I walked downtown and photographed what I thought might be interesting, but I think overall, the photographs are uninspiring. I photographed the early morning light of the storefronts on West College Street, making my way down to East College Street and then back over to South Main Street.
I was killing time while waiting for the coffee shop, Local Coffee, to open at 8 AM. Honestly, I was annoyed. Except for weekends, most of the coffee shops in the Princeton area open around 7 AM. If you open your coffee shops at 8 AM, you will find that most people are already well on their way to work. Even with remote work, at 8 AM, I have already drunk my first cup of coffee, eaten breakfast and am sitting at the computer catching up on blog posts. The other coffee shop in Oberlin opens at 9 AM.
I walked into Local Coffee, ordered a cappuccino and was immediately disappointed that they could not make me a bagel with lox and cream cheese. Argh!
Bhavna and Kiran joined me a little later, and after breakfast, Kiran gave us a tour of her campus.
Unfortunately, it seems that Oberlin College has chosen to use the short break between Summer and Fall sessions to dig up the campus ground outside all significant buildings and install pipes for their Sustainable Infrastructure Program. The campus is an absolute mess with construction equipment and mud and dirt everywhere. I photographed what I could, but this was not the beautiful campus that Kiran described.
Oberlin College claims that all faculty and staff have been vaccinated. But they won’t let anyone tour the buildings unless they are vaccinated and wear a face mask. If everyone in the building is vaccinated, I refuse to wear a face mask. It serves no purpose. After this visit, I can’t believe that the administrators of this college are educated, rational people. We did not tour the inside of the buildings. I doubt it would have made much difference. The architecture of the buildings is some of the least interesting I have ever seen on a college campus. I don’t care if your college was founded in 1833 if your oldest buildings look like they were built in 1933.
After we toured the Oberlin College campus, we toured the downtown, and Kiran showed us some of the murals she had discovered.
I noticed the colourful mural on the wall of the outdoor space of the Thi Ni Thai restaurant. Then I saw the tuk tuk. We all agreed it was beautiful and we wanted Thai for dinner.
Kiran had ordered some ice cream from her favourite ice cream shot, Cowhaus Creamery, which had relocated to Elyria from its usual downtown Oberlin location because of the pandemic. We picked up the ice cream, put it in a cooler. It was lunchtime, so we drove to a gastropub in Elyria, Foundry Kitchen and Bar, where I had an excellent beer. I chatted with our wait staff, and we learned that there was a brewery, Unplugged Brewing, a short walking distance from the gastropub.
The food and the beer at the Foundry Kitchen and Bar were excellent, and walking to the brewery allowed us to burn off some of the calories we had just consumed.
Working from home over the last two years of this pandemic, it can be easy to forget how fortunate one is. Some of the restaurants and shops in Princeton did not survive the lockdown, but most did. Some even thrived as residents filled their outdoor spaces. But the many empty boarded-up storefronts in Elyria made me realise just how fortunate we are.
I do not think I would ever walk into Boomers for a craft beer.
Unplugged Brewing was a farther walk than I anticipated, but the friendly taproom staff served us a flight of some pretty delicious ales. Kiran is not yet twenty-one, but we agreed to take her on future trips after her birthday in November. We bought some canned beer to bring back to New Jersey.
We left the brewery and went back to the house for a shower. The showers in the student housing where Kiran was staying for the month between summer and fall and the shower was, to use her words, “disgusting”, so she used the shower at the house.
Dinner at ThiNi Thai was delicious. Apparently, the Thai phrase translates to “is here”. The owners of the Feve, a popular restaurant on South Main Street, opened the restaurant at the beginning of January 2020. They were inspired by a trip to Chiang Mai, a city in the mountainous northern region of Thailand, where they met their tour guide and friend Aon Krittathiranon who helped them develop the menu. Aon is a co-owner and moved to Oberlin to join the project as the restaurant’s chef.
I ordered a Tuk Tuk cocktail. We sat outside on the “patio” right under the dragon on the mural. We talked with Kiran about the upcoming school year, her internship, early graduation and what to expect after that.
On Sunday, Bhavna and I went home. The flowers below are from Linda’s garden.
Last week we had a lot of rainfall in a relatively short period. Many towns flooded. Many basements were destroyed. Lives were lost. I’m sure you’ve read about it.
The local and county fire fighting crew were very busy rescuing residents from flood waters. We lost a few residents.
9/11 Tree Planting
For 9/11, we planted trees in Hobler Park today.