Bhavna and I had a stressful weekend of travel for the Holy Days. On Thursday, we set off in our Acura RDX to pick up our daughter Kiran from her last day at college - she'd completed her undergraduate degree a semester early! We were thrilled to be helping her get ready for grad school, where she'll study Library Science at the University of Illinois.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn't cooperate on Friday: it was a winter storm like no other (a bomb cyclone) that ended up making what should have been an easy trip more challenging than expected due to snowfall and bitterly cold winds that filled the air with snow flurries. We did our best to be upbeat. We didn’t want to dampen the excitement over helping Kiran move onto this new phase in life. We arrived in Oberlin safely and had a quick dinner with Kiran and her friend Fawad.
The morning after arriving in Oberlin, Bhavna and I decided on an early breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Sheffield Lake. The roads were still full of snow and ice. The fifteen-minute drive from the hotel to the Cracker Barrel was nerve-wracking. Our top speed was twenty kilometres per hour.
I had never dined at Cracker Barrel and was amazed that the restaurant was also a store and somewhat of a museum. The proper name is Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. Our host seated us in a large room with a large fireplace. The walls were decorated with lots of Americana. While we waited on our food (I ordered grist, eggs and bacon), I walked around "the Americana History Museum", fascinated by the old-timey products and photographs of people. Before we left, we stocked up on classic American candy and soda pop.
After breakfast, we loaded the last of Kiran’s things into the trunk and drove toward Champaign, Illinois. Our route would take through Indiana, stopping near Fort Wayne to fuel up and get something to eat. It was an unbelievably frigid journey, with the weather being nothing more than a multitude of grey clouds and dismal temperatures between -23°C (-9.4°F) to -19°C(-2.2°F). Visibility was, at best, 100 feet which sometimes dwindled to 10! Like sharp knives, the wind cut through our clothes, making refuelling unbearable. New Jersey law requires a gas station attendant to operate a gasoline pump. I missed that privilege.
We had one heart-stopping moment when the Bhavna hit some ice, and the car slid toward the side of the road. She panicked, hit the brakes and overcorrected her steering, and the car almost went into a slight spin. She recovered control, but the anxiety level in the car was intense for the next few miles.
After arriving safely in Champaign, we unloaded Kiran's belongings from the car before enjoying dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was Christmas Eve, so only a few places were open. We found seating at a restaurant just 30 minutes before the kitchen closed.
Afterwards, we checked into our hotel room at the nearby Courtyard Marriott. I looked a bit worn. I think we’ll stay at the Hyatt on our next trip.
We awoke the following day to realise that all the water bottles in the car had frozen solid inside during what little respite we got overnight! I am relieved that we didn’t forget our iPads in the car overnight. The "L" in LCD is for liquid.
The return trip on Christmas Day was stressful since the only thing open was the gas station. We ate junk food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The winds were still blowing, and pumping gas was still an unpleasant experience. But at least the roads were mostly clear of snow and ice.
On the return trip, we stopped every four hours to refuel and swap drivers. Each time we stopped, the gas tank was at a quarter tank (25%) before we filled up. The Acura averaged about 280-300 miles on a full tank.
I was concerned about how we would make this trip in an EV. The EV can lose about 20% of the range in icy conditions. With temperatures below freezing, the cold weather would certainly affect EV range and charging speed. How would the extreme cold affect EV battery life? The thermal management system (within the battery) may limit the charging speeds to keep the battery safe. How much longer will the charge take? The Idaho National Laboratory study found that at 0°C (32°F), an EV battery took in 36% less energy than when the battery management system charged the battery for the same amount of time at 25°C (77°F). This means the colder the weather, the more time the battery needs to charge. How much longer would our 14-hour return drive take? 16 hours? 20 hours?
If we had to sit inside the EV for 30-60 minutes while the battery charges, can we also run the heat? If we keep the EV cabin heating off/low to conserve battery use and sit in our thick winter coats, how much more uncomfortable is that long-distance drive? We saw a lot of stranded motorists. What if those stranded cars were EVs? What different things (stress) do we have to consider with the EV versus the ICE car?
Our hotel did not have an EV charger. Our daughter's apartment (a room in a house) does not have an EV charger. There is no way to warm up the EV while charging.
The Acura RDX got a 450-480 kilometre (280-300 mile) range on a full tank in the extreme cold. Would the average EV still get a 480-kilometre range in the extreme cold?
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.
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.
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 XF27mmF2.8 lens is my favourite lens for my crop-sensor, Fuji X-T3. Some may think that 27mm is a weird focal length. However, I think it is the perfect "normal" focal length. Normal is defined as the diagonal dimension of the film dimension or image sensor, which is 28mm (APS-C), 43mm FF and 54mm (GFX medium format).
The math works out as follows:
Full frame sensor dimensions are 36mm x 24mm; therefore, diagonal measurement is 43.27mm.
GFX sensor dimensions are 43.8mm x 32.9mm therefore diagonal dimension is 54.78mm. Corresponding crop factor is 43.27/54.78 = 0.78988682 or ~ 0.79.
APS-C sensor dimensions are 23.6mm x 15.6mm therefore diagonal dimension is 28.29mm. Corresponding crop factor is 43.27/28.29 = 1.5295157299 or ~ 1.53.
Neither the 50mm nor 35mm lenses are "normal" lenses. 50mm became the standard when Leica rose in popularity. Because a 50mm lens was the optimal design to reduce visual distortions and maximize resolution on 35-mm film, the Leica I came with a fixed, nonremovable 50-mm lens. While the 1932 Leica II introduced interchangeable lenses, its built-in viewfinder was specifically designed to work with a 50-mm lens. Digital cameras do not have these optical limitations.
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.
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 maximizes the number of vertical pixels. For example, my Fuji X-T3 camera sensor has 6000x4000 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 recognizable 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 realize 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.
📷 Last weekend I was in Ohio at Oberlin College to return Kiran for her second semester of freshman year. The week prior was a blur with the contractors finalising the kitchen project and getting Kiran packed and ready to return. The 52 Week Smartphone Challenge fell off my priority list, and it wasn't until this morning that I could review my images from last week.
The featured image is the only image I have that come close to the week's theme of symmetry. I noticed the Apollo Theatre a few times on previous trips to Oberlin, but this is the first time I had an opportunity to photograph it. I was a very early morning on Super Bowl Sunday, and the town seemed deserted. There was minimal traffic, so I was able to stand in the road to fill my frame. I intended to frame the Apollo between the buildings on either side.
The image isn't as symmetrical as I had hoped. Bhavna wanted to leave and get going back to New Jersey so I was in a bit of a hurry and didn't stand in the right spot.