Posts in Lifestyle
Slowing Down in a Digital/Analog World

There's a romanticism around old things. Film cameras. Record players. Mid-century modern furniture. Things our grandparents owned. Some of the nostalgia comes from a burgeoning digital world built on smart devices, notifications, instant gratification and whatever I want on demand. It's almost too easy.

With the advent of Apple's new Screen Time feature and even a way to track your Instagram habit, in-app of course, there's a growing feeling that maybe all the screen time we currently enjoy isn't good for us. The question is, haven't we been here before?

In his short film "Peripheral," cinematographer Casey Cavanaugh tells a story entirely through the viewfinder of a Hasselblad 500C/M camera. It touches on themes of being present in your life and the time-tested mantra of "pic, or it didn't happen."

I struggle with taking too many photos of big events, especially while traveling. There's a fine line between documenting your life and living it that is hard to straddle most days. Smartphones haven't helped the matter, but they are just another piece in a long line of addictive tech and behavior that can take us out of the world around us.

One of the reasons I like film photography is for its ability to slow down the process and make me think about what is going on around me. With only 36 exposures and the rising price of film and development, each shot seems more precious, thought out. I tend to talk more about what I'm shooting with the people around me since I can't just show them on the screen after the fact.

I’m currently reading Henry David Thoreau’s “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For” (which is an excerpt from his book ‘Walden’ published in the Penguin Great Ideas series) and I’m struck by his tone of indifference to the world around him. In the chapter on the economy, Thoreau lays out his reasons for choosing Walden as his site of retreat from the world and of his mistrust of people and common life. I’ve always wanted to live a simple lifestyle but not at the cost of abandoning those around me.

I believe that the people around us shape who we are and how we live our life. Sure we may have to course correct every once in a while, but I’d rather live with people at the moment.

So whether it's an old hobby or a new-tech experience, remember that we live life with the people around us and that all the other things are meant to enhance that, not take away. When you're traveling or just out to dinner with friends, put that smartphone, old camera or whatever it is, away for a second. Live deeply. That should give you plenty to take photos of later.

Making Pictures: Street Photography

When I worked in downtown Houston, I would use my lunch break to walk around with my camera. Most of the time I used my trusty little Fuji X-T20 with an 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens that is pretty small and doesn’t scream, “I’m taking your photo!”. To be honest, I’m not good at taking photos with people in them. Not really from a technical standpoint, more from an introverted one, so the X-T20 is perfect because it has a small footprint and doesn’t look like a professional style DSLR.

The fun of street photography is that you will rarely ever see the same thing twice. Cities are living beings that continuously move and change, a veritable photographic feast every minute of the day.

In his video on street photography, Sean Tucker walks around Rome (also with a Fuji X-T20) and gives tips on how to create stylized shots without being obtrusive. His use of contrast, shadow and framing really provide a good base for a beautiful picture.

He also gives practical advice on taking pictures of people and what to do if someone doesn’t want you to take their picture. I ascribe to the “delete if necessary” philosophy because the last thing I want to do is make someone uncomfortable by taking their photo. Regardless of the law, I would rather be respectful of people’s right to privacy, and if they ask me to not take their picture or delete the one I’ve taken, I’ll happily oblige.

Below are some of my photos from walks around downtown Houston using the Fuji X-T20.

Street photography can be a great exercise to improve your skills, as well as a great way to document a different side of a trip. These simple tips from Sean Tucker will help you develop your own street style and come home with some great new images.



Finding Peace in the Open Sound

My feet trembled as the engines turned on, slowly pushing back from the city above us. Seattle is glorious in October, the bright midday sun hanging above the hulk of buildings, cranes, and tourists. "This isn't how it usually is," my friend Katie said. No rain or fog, Rainier looming large in the distance, she'd outdone herself.

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The wind whipped my hair into a slight frenzy as we made our way from the port dock and into Puget Sound. I grew up avoiding open water. My first sea experience was a 25-foot fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico during high school. We set sail early in the morning to rig hop in search of fish that I still don't know the names of. Even though I got seasick, the feeling stuck with me. Openness. Vastness. Freedom.

The ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge is hardly open sea, but for a soul stuck in cities and cars the feeling was therapeutic. The wind mixed with passing boats, gulls, and gripped hands on railings.

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As the city sunk into the horizon, we made our way to the front of the ferry. Mothers held their children close as they cooed at the passing birds, looking desperately for the sight of seals. For barely eight dollars, the trip across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island felt like alien territory to me. The concrete jungle of Houston has conditioned me to endless strip malls, traffic, and constant alertness. Here, the water beckoned you to slow down, breathe deep, and feel the life inside your lungs.

After a summer of heat, humidity, loss, and change, the biting air coursed through my body. I donned a bright red beanie low across my ears and stood westward. This deck was my sofa for the afternoon, and I intended to empty myself and begin again. Breathe in change, breathe out life.

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The waves beneath cast fresh blue into our eyes. People filed back into their cars beneath. Children accounted for, friends made. The island opened up before us. I walked down the ramp, leaving a piece of me behind, mixed in the wind and water.

The engines rumbled in the distance as life moved on, slower, weightless. I grabbed my wife's hand tightly, as she smiled back at me. We didn't just make it to shore, we made it through the summer, together. Sometimes that's all you need.

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Five Great Criterion Collection Films On Sale Now

I'm a firm believer in the ability of film to transport us somewhere new, whether that be to a new world or to a country we've never been before. One of the best ways to do that is through the Criterion Collection. Not only does the Criterion Collection highlight some of the most beautiful films ever made, it also brings directors and films from world cinema to your doorstep.

If you're looking to start a collection of films that you'll definitely not find on Netflix, like Godard's Breathless, Truffaut's The 400 Blows, or Ozu's Good Morning, then Criterion is the way to go. Complete with the most authentic cut of the film and brilliantly designed packaging, it's a piece of film history that you'll love to have displayed on your bookshelf. 

Barnes & Noble is having a 50% off sale on all Criterion Collection products until August 6. I've already grabbed a few of my favorites and here's a few more to consider for your classic film collection. 

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Day For Night

Truffaut's look at the world of filmmaking makes for a funny and very French classic. Winner of the 1973 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Day For NIght chronicles the production of the fictitious film "Meet Pamela" about the drama that ensues when a young Frenchman introduces his parents to his new British wife. 

 

Wings of Desire

Set against the backdrop of Berlin in the mid-1980's, Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire is a compelling look at what it means to be alive. Centering around two angels looking down (yes this is the original version of City of Angels with Nic Cage and Meg Ryan) the film uses black and white and color to convey emotion and life. It also features an excellent performance by Peter Falk as himself. 

 

Seven Samurai

Akira Kurosawa's epic Seven Samurai transports you to the time of honor and duty as the way of the samurai comes into conflict with the changing modern world. The part story of courage and morality, Seven Samurai looks at what it means to follow an old tradition in an ever-changing world. Oft-cited as inspiration from modern directors, Kurosawa's classic is a great intro to Asian cinema of the 1950's. 

 

8 1/2

Moving to the Italy, director Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 is considered to be his magnum opus. Part autobiography, and part fantasy, Fellini delivers a surreal look at what it means to create art. If you're a fan of surrealistic films and great 60's fashion, Fellini's 8 1/2 is a great choice. 

 

Night and Fog

Released 10 years after the end of World War II, Alain Resnais' Night and Fog is a sobering, heart-wrenching look at life in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. Filmed not too long after liberation, Night and Fog's almost monotone narration is in stark contrast to the brutality played out on screen. I first saw Night and Fog in college and its images have stuck with me ever since. 

You can find more great titles from the Criterion Collection sale at Barnes & Noble here or in store, but hurry, the sale ends August 6. 

The Itinerary: Movie Fonts, European History and Banksy

It's still hot here in south Texas. I feel like I could write that sentence every week and it'd be true for a good 8-9 months out of the year. We're gearing up for a trip to see the fam and this is what we're reading/watching/laughing at to prepare. Enjoy!


This Histomap of Europe gives you a pretty detailed look at the borders and population of Europe starting from the year 400 B.C. Come for the history, stay for the ridiculously epic musical score.

National Geographic's 2018 Travel Photography Awards are out and this year's crop of winners is exceptional. Check them out here

By far the most famous street artist of the modern era, Banksy has popped back up in Paris, this time with a pretty overt political message. 

Ever wondered about the fonts on movie posters? Well, wonder no more with this video from Vox that looks at why we keep seeing the Trajan font on movie posters. (via Uncrate)

Watch the video below for a bright and quick way to go all over America from Kevin Parry. (via PetaPixel)