Birthday Breakfast at Aunt Chubby's Luncheonette

Before COVID-19, Bhavna and I dined at Aunt Chubby's Luncheonette at least twice a month, usually on a Sunday morning. We introduced Aunt Chubby's Luncheonette to family members, and it became part of their regular dining rotation. Post-COVID-19, we are restarting our early morning breakfast routine. Aunt Chubby's Luncheonette is back on my Sunday calendar at 7:30 AM.

Friday 18 November 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7

The first meal I had at Aunt Chubby's was the Grits and Greens. I had mine served with an egg on top and a few strips of bacon. It quickly became my favourite. I used to be able to order it every day of the week. But for unknown reasons, Aunt Chubby's Luncheonette now serves my favourite, Grits and Greens, on weekends only.

Friday 18 November 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7

Friday, 18 November 2022, was my 56th birthday. I did not have Grits and Greens.

Aunt Chubby's Luncheonette · Friday 18 November 2022 · FujiFilm X-T3 · MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7

My Best Images From 2021

Once again, Brent Huntley has invited photographers to participate in his yearly Top Images from the Photography and Travel Community photography project

It is another new year and time for the annual round-up of my favourite previous year’s images. Once again, Brent Huntley has invited photographers to participate in his yearly Top Images from the Photography and Travel Community photography project. It's a year-in-review project, and photographers are encouraged to choose their top "10(ish)" images, publish them to a website, and submit the link to Brent for inclusion in a photography blogroll. You can review all the Best of the Year submissions or just the 2019 and the 2020. It's a fun way to review the year in pictures with far away (and near) photography enthusiasts, and each year I discover interesting photography blogs to add to my RSS reader.

This post also aligns with the Lens-Artists Challenge #180 – Favorite Images of 2021.

Selecting just ten photographs from the thousands I made this year is challenging and even more so by the ongoing global pandemic, limiting travel and public experiences. I spent even less time outdoors in 2021 than I did in 2020. Most of these photographs are not to my usual standards as you would expect. As a friend used to say, these photographs are the cream of the “crap”. My choices below are based on my emotional connection to each image.

Waves | 4 February, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

At the end of 2020, my contract with my last client ended. In June of 2021, I continued to work remotely but for a different client. I had much time to explore the waves of emotions crashing over me. The future continued to feel “unsettled”.

people running in snow while snowing
Winter | 7 February, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7

Winter brought a lot of snow, much more than I have experienced in recent memory. I was still unemployed, there was no vaccine, and I was challenged to assemble the words to express my feelings.

woman smiling
25 years together | 4 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF27mmF2.8

This year, Bhavna and I celebrated 25 years of marriage, a bright spot in a year that would continue to be the “new normal”.

kids playing
No worries | 23 May, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

After the “new normal” school year that these kids have had, it was great to see the return of some “normal” activities. Given how long I went without employment, I was still feeling out of sorts, but I was happy that I had finally signed a contract. I was still feeling blue but happy for the green.

Sir Alphonso Mango | 8 June, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Our cat Sir Alphonso Mango is now almost two years old. My youngest daughter, Kiran, is attempting to complete her studies at Oberlin College sooner. She will be away for all semesters this year and the next. I have set up an office with Alphie as my daytime companion in her room. He enjoys listening in on the Teams conference calls.

Ray's Reserve cocktail
Ray's Reserve | 19 June, 2021 | Apple iPhone 11 Pro | iPhone 11 Pro back dual camera 6mm f/2

With little else to do, Bhavna and I spent the summer outdoors at some of our “safe spaces”, including the Brick Farm Tavern, Flounder Brewing and Sourland Mountain Spirits. These spaces are our "away” from home spaces. I just loved the colour of this cocktail, Ray’s Reserve, named for the distillery’s founder, Ray Disch.

Rahul | 27 June, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7

The best thing about being vaccinated is that we could finally hug each other and regain some of the intimacy denied during the lockdown. I had so missed these summer BBQs with family. My nephews were sporting new haircuts, and I had to capture the smiles. When adapted to my Fuji X-T2, the Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm F1.7 is an excellent portrait lens. Look at that bokeh!

Dragonfly | 3 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

In 2019, I started getting into bird photography, photographing warblers with a rented XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. I was smitten and planned to buy this lens to use in 2020. Inspired by Stephen Gingold and local photographer David Mathre, I rented this lens again and went out chasing dragons. I want this lens but struggle with the $1800 price tag.

woman smiling
Bhavna | 10 July, 2021 | Minolta XD-11 | MD ROKKOR-X 45mm F2

I continued to relearn 35mm film photography. I had more keepers in 2021. I grew weary of the increasing cost of 35mm film, film developing and scanning. I bought an Epson V600 film scanner and learned how to scan and colour-balance the film myself. I am saving about $8-$10 per roll of film. I have also limited myself to using 35m film stock priced under $10 per 36 exposure roll. My current favourite is Kodak Pro Image 100.

Flounder Brewing at Carriage Farm
Flounder Brewing at Carriage Farm | 16 July, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | MD ROKKOR-X 50mm F1.7

Some old spaces moved to new locations. After years in a tiny industrial garage, Flounder Brewing finally completed the restoration of the 150-year-old farmhouse at Carriage Farm. The new site in the farm country in Hillsborough is fantastic. The taproom only has a few ales, but Bhavna and I invited our friend Ed Velez as our “plus one” when the brewery had a soft opening weekend for Delta House members only. Having a beer at Flounder Brewing became an almost weekly habit.

Note: I dropped and broke my Fuji X-T2 in August and replaced it with a Fuji X-T3.

ababoned freight car in Lambertville
Look | 10 October, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

This is my favourite image of the year. On a drizzly autumn day in October, I went on a quest. I had read about and heard about an abandoned freight car on some railroad tracks in Lambertville. The freight car has seen better days but has inspired multiple graffiti artists.

Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve | 16 October, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8

We hiked a lot less than we did last year. Maybe it was some pandemic-fueled ennui, but we lost our motivation. But, one weekend, while exploring Billie Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve, Pettoranello Gardens, and Community Park North, I saw a family cross a narrow wooden bridge I had not noticed before. I had promised Bhavna we would go hiking this weekend, so later that day, we returned to Billie Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve and explored one of the loop trails. We had so much fun hiking and exploring this new space.

Autumn Macro | 17 October, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF27mmF2.8 + Fujinon MCEX-16

"It's for you", Bhavna yelled from the kitchen. I opened the package, saw the [Fujinon MCEX-16]] macro extension tube, and was upset and excited. I was upset because had I checked the mail sooner, I could have used the extension tube to photograph the fall berries and wildflowers I saw during the previous day’s hike. But I was excited because, with winter arriving, I had the means to transform ordinary things into extraordinary photographs. I experimented on some autumn leaves.

Aunt Chubbie's at Christmas
Aunt Chubbie's at Christmas | 7 December, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T3 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Before the pandemic, before taking to a nearby trail for a hike., I had a semi-regular habit of breakfast at Aunt Chubby’s. The restaurant re-opened for indoor dining earlier in the year, but Bhavna and I did not feel comfortable dining indoors until after our Pfizer vaccine booster. We started to feel almost normal.

Walk and Talk

While driving home after breakfast at Aunt Chubby’s I asked Bhavna to take a walk with me along the Aunt Molly Trail of St. Michael’s Nature Preserve. I had mentioned to her that a few weeks prior, I had walked the Aunt Molly Trail after breakfast by myself at Aunt Chubby’s. After we started walking Bhavna mentioned that after our adult children returned to university for the winter semester that the two of us could develop a weekend routine of breakfast and after breakfast walk.

It was cold and windy and the trail was muddy and swampy, not at all like the frozen trail I walked a few weeks ago. We walked along on the grass to the side of the trail. Bhavna was concerned about walking out alone in the woods for fear she would be murdered and her body disposed of in a wood chipper. She asked about my concern when out by myself and I mentioned that I was far more worried about falling and hurting myself. We both agreed that our iPhones provided some comfort because we could be tracked via GPS. I guess we've been watching too many movies.

I noticed that the Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2 has a tendency to sun flare but I liked the way it looked.

My wife is attentive. She had noticed that I had been looking at camera bags on my iPad Pro and wanted to know more. I told her that I wanted a camera bag to hold my Fujifilm X-T2 and a couple of lenses along with my diabetes kit, a small tripod, and some snacks but that I was having trouble making a decision. Some of the leather “Indian Jones” style satchels are expensive and I didn’t feel that I could justify the expense. But she reminded me that I was the type of person to buy quality items and use them for a very long time.

I also like classic canvas and leather look of the Fujifilm/Domke F-803 Camera Bag. But I don’t like the padded velcro dividers inserts that come with many camera bags. I would prefer to toss my lenses and camera body into the bag, using lens wraps and pouches to protect the lenses from damage in the bag. But the bottom of the bag may not be padded and I could damage my body so I would at least like some padding on the bottom of the bag. Argh! Choices!

We walked and talked further than when I was out on my first walk but eventually, the trail was too muddy, and we feeling cold so we turned around and walked back to the car. I'm looking forward to the next one.

📷 FujiFilm X-T2 | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2
📷 FujiFilm X-T2 | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2
📷 FujiFilm X-T2 | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2
📷 FujiFilm X-T2 | Asahi Optical Co. SMC Takumar 55mm f/2