We went on the sole most challenging hike of our lives yesterday, summitting Volcán Concepción and coming down again safely. It wasn’t the longest hike we’ve gone on but it was terrifying; at one point I was sure I was about to fall a kilometre to my death, and at another point truly had my nerves act up to the point of near paralysis (not a great thing when 1550 meters up and off-path on a rock face!). I really don’t think I’d do it again, knowing how hard it is, but I’m immensely delighted to have gone up and down without serious incident, entirely because of the epically amazing guide we had to show us the way, provide assistance, and keep us safe.
I’ve been on a speaking circuit this week, and so living a quasi-nomadic life. It’s a very strange experience to be shuttled between locations and across vast distances, all with only a modicum of awareness of all the places I’m scheduled to attend, persons I’ll be meeting, and expectations I will have to meet. I don’t mean to say that I don’t know why I’m travelling, or what I’ll be speaking about, but that the aspects of travel itself are often almost entire dealt with by other parties. There is no effort to determine where I need to go: someone will take me to the designated address. I don’t need to find a place to eat: I’ll be taken to where I need to eat. I don’t need to figure out where to sleep: someone else will determine that.
I contrast it with trips I take for personal relaxation and it’s a totally different experience. Tomorrow, as an example, I’ll be landing in a new place where I don’t speak the language and have no read guidance once I’m there. There are a few tent pole events — nature hikes! — but otherwise time will be entirely unoccupied with designated tasks or todos other than exploring. I actually find this kind of travel deeply uncomfortable because it feels so uncontrolled, but every time I learn a great deal more about the world, and how I should readjust my perceptions of that world.
While shuttling between places for conferences and events is intellectually stimulating it doesn’t tend to push me into uncomfortable spaces that facilitate growth. The exact opposite is true of personal travel. I half wonder, though: if I didn’t travel so often for work where things are scheduled and I’m attended to, would I prefer personal travel that had those characteristics? Would visiting resorts have some resonance if I wasn’t functionally visiting them for work on a semi-regular basis?
Great Photography Shots
I really like these simple compositions which were made with smartphones.
Music I’m Digging
Neat Podcast Episodes
Good Reads for the Week
- Tinder Wants to Make Emoji for Interracial Couples
- The Financial Realities of Being an Olympic Medalist
- How Photographs Printed on Paper Changed 19th-Century America
- Jerry and Marge Go Large: Gaming the lottery seemed as good a retirement plan as any
- We Have to Build the Future Out of the Past
- For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned.
- Inside North Korea’s Hacker Army
- David Kind Glasses (Similar to Warby Parker but higher quality and made in Japan and Italy)
- Lacoste swaps famous crocodile logo for ten endangered species
- Illustrations by Ann-Sophie De Steur
For the past few weeks I’ve been deliberately constraining my photography by shooting exclusively by a 35mm equivalent lens. This was the focal length that really convinced me that I enjoyed photography as a way of seeing and experiencing the world. I’m a big fan of zoom lenses, and keep eyeing the Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 Pro lens, but I find that I learn the most about a scene by having to walk around it with a bright prime lens.
When I travelled to Cuba, having to march around with a 50mm equivalent lens meant I went into entirely new places and angles that I wouldn’t have if I’d had a zoom lens to otherwise get a shot. And while I’ve previously used my 35mm equivalent, I have to admit that I’ve been far more reliant on some of my zooms and the 50mm; I just haven’t focused on learning to use the 35mm lens because there is so much more walking-by-zooming that I have to do with it compared to even my other prime lenses.
But that’s silly: I enjoy the focal length, I just have to work a lot more to get things out of the camera. So I’ve been using it at night, during the day, and exclusively attached it to my camera body for the past month and intend to bring it (along with an 80-300mm equivalent lens) when I travel to South America in a week and change. I like the idea of an unobtrusive lens as my walkabout, and then the zoom for when I’ve trekking through nature. And, perhaps most importantly, I really like the idea of forcing myself to get a lot more comfortable with my current gear as a way to inhibit my desire to buy more gear: I have functionally underused equipment, and I should be playing with it, first and foremost, before even considering the purchase of new kit.
“We start on the path to genuine adulthood when we stop insisting on our emotional competence and acknowledge the extent to which we are – in many areas of our psyche – likely to be sharply trailing our biological age. Realising we aren’t – as yet, in subtle ways – quite adults may be the start of true maturity.”
Great Photography Shots
Mobiography’s landscape photography shots are really, really amazing and showcase just how much you can do with a contemporary smartphone and good lighting conditions.￼￼
Music I’m Digging
Neat Podcast Episodes
Good Reads for the Week
- Mapping apps and how advertising subtly warps user experience
- The Sinking Brothel
- Inside Trump’s Cruel Campaign Against the U.S.D.A.’s Scientists
- Instagram Influencers Are the New Fashion Establishment
- Palantir has secretly been using New Orleans to test its predictive policing technology
- ‘Living laboratories’: the Dutch cities amassing data on oblivious residents
As I return from an event I was invited to I have to reflect on, and admit, how profoundly…weird…it is that stuff I write about and the activities in which I’m engaged increasingly influence the course of justice in my county. How weird it is that the leader of my country is briefed on the work that I and my colleagues write about. How it feels epically strange that things which seem to have no impact on public debate whatsoever reverberate behind closed doors. It’s just really, really weird to know that people who are intrinsically involved with law, security, and justice — to say nothing of policy and politics — closely watch what I do, with the intent of using it when making decisions that may affect the lives of people across Canada, and around the world.
When I was doing my PhD I laughed out loud at my colleagues who spoke of how the work of political scientists can lead to exceptional impacts in the worlds. As a philosopher I thought such conversations were borne of a group of people who took themselves too seriously in their (ongoing) moments of hubris. But I get it now: that which we say, when we’re deliberately involved with public debate with an eye to inform (if not influence) policy can have unexpected and exciting and unintended impacts on the lives of millions of people. And in living this reality I have remarkably more sympathy for those who’s work isn’t just read and taken up, but misread and subsequently misappropriated to justify governmental activities that the political scientists in question might not have anticipated or endorsed.
There are a lot of different ways that you can challenge yourself to a photowalk. Use specific lenses or focal lengths or creative formats. Walk a predetermined distance and take a hundred photos from that site. Shoot black and white, mobile only, or focus on a concept, colour, or number.
I think I have a challenge that’s a bit different.
Recently I planned a photowalk to wander along a river in Toronto and, along the way, shoot some sculptures I’ve wanted to look at for the last several months. I got ready to head out, threw my camera over my shoulder, and walked out of my building and into a light drizzle of rain.
The low chances of rain had turned into the reality of rain, and it was only starting to come down harder. Without weather sealed gear there was no way I was going to be walking a few kilometres in the rain and shoot.
I quickly rerouted to an enclosed botanical garden that I live nearby. And pulled out my 12-42mm 3.5-5.6 II R kit lens and started at one end of the gardens and walked all the way to the other end.
I then swapped out my lens for the Panasonic 25mm 1.7 I had with me, and proceeded to walk all the way through the gardens once more. The shots I got tended to be different from the zoom lens, and forced me to think about what was differently possible to shoot with the prime lens compared to the short zoom.
Once I’d walked the length of the gardens once more I passed through it one last time, this time with my Olympus 40-150mm 4.0-5.6 R. This is definitely not the lens I’d normally use for this kind of shooting environment. And that meant that I was forced to really try with the lens and make it perform in a space in which I’m not comfortable using it.
What did I take away from this? That by walking the same space with different lenses possessing different characteristics I saw the space and photographic opportunities differently. It also was a useful exercise in just visualizing the possible: what shots was I willing and able to experiment with based on the lens at hand? What kind of shot — architecture or natural environment – captured my imagination with the different lenses?
The shots shown above are those that I was most happy with. There were, obviously, far more that got deleted (especially from the 40-150mm!). It was a fun opportunity, and a challenge I suspect I’ll revisit in the future.
I keep reading all kinds of amazing and exciting things about Bear, and after a conversation with Jeff Perry on Micro.blog, which started following his post ‘Using Bear as an Apple Notes Replacement’, I was convinced that it might be interesting to try switching to Bear…and then read the documentation for importing documents.
I have a lot of notes stored in Apple Notes. Thousands of them. Many of them have attachments. And Bear can’t automatically import them; instead, I’d have to manually export, import, and re-attach documents. While I’d like to try the application — support for real Markdown sounds exciting! — I just can’t afford to burn a week or more just moving files from one repo to another. I already spend that time moving from Evernote to Apple Notes!
Leah Miller has a good take on Unsplash, a website where photographers donate photos which can subsequently be used without royalty or attribution:
They bill themselves as “Beautiful FREE photos for Everyone”. That means anyone, including businesses can go to their website and download unlimited amounts of photography (and some of it is very good) work without attribution or payment to the individual(s) who created them. Furthermore there is no requirement for Model or Property Releases which guarantees that the photographer and end user are likely to get sued. Don’t believe me? Do a search on that website of any popular brand you can think of…sportswear, etc. You will not see a single RELEASE for those images in sight. Large companies like Apple will sue the pants off you should they get wind of their products/logos etc. being used commercially. That “EXPOSURE” you got in return for the image of a Nike sneaker you posted (and was subsequently downloaded and used commercially) won’t be worth an ounce of mercy when that first lawyer letter hits your mailbox.
When you purchase a “creative” person’s professional’s services, be they from a photographer, programmer, editor, writer, or marketer, you’re paying for more than the finished thing that the professional is providing. You’re paying for the suite of skills and talents and knowledge that surround the finished product, and some of those skills and talents and knowledge are largely invisible to the client. And that’s fine: it’s what’s being paid for. But if you get something for free or at a deeply discounted price it’s important to know that all those hidden extras that you don’t see when you hire a professional can quickly become your problem. Sometime those problems are just a massive pain in the ass when they arise. But at their worst they can be a terrible drag on whatever you have going on in your life and career, and can be poison to either your hobby, your side gig, or your professional career.