27 December 2015


It's way too hot in Atlanta, 2 hours north of Mexico and I'm wearing the exact same amount of clothing and sweating still. Unfortunately there's no ocean breeze to cool things down.

Hence today's tea is the last of the fishhook sample cold-brewed:

Also testing out the Classic Chrome film simulation, it is really nice.
Official blog post, series of FB posts explaining each film simulation in more detail.

24 December 2015


Been waking up at sunrise every day trying to get good photos, no luck. There's always too much clouds covering the horizon.

Pretty much every morning:

But at least today we walked to a nearby lagoon with clear turquoise ocean water. The experience is similar to hiking to the Grotto in Tobermory.

Learning to use Fuji RFC (based off silkypix) to process my raws (just this image), there is a bit of a learning curve. Also getting this new camera system has affirmed the usefulness of manuals, never shall I discard them again.

21 December 2015


sunset spotting was not the most successful:


star spotting at the (very small) beach:

20 December 2015

spotless mind

Cloud spotting on plane ride:

18 December 2015


Because on the night before a true vacation, I spend all my time drooling over shoes.
First my own pair that I brush with love and care (hopefully I can keep this up forever), and then scrolling through Saint Crispin's 2015 lookbook & catalog...three times.

A compilation of the ones I stared at for the longest time:
 Two notable mentions: double monk boots! and the 630 which is sleek as fu.

Can I make a vow to never buy crappy shoes again? Not realistic at this point in life though (ahem, patience self). Need to replace sneakers very soon as the current pair's sole almost has a hole, finally decided on Stan Smiths since they're the best combination of low profile & affordable. A new pair of tall boots would be useful too next year, but ugh I should just suck it up in the wind and wear short boots because the models I want are too expensive to be stepping in salt.

Also waiting for good weekend lighting so I can finally photograph my C&J and gush about them.

17 December 2015


I really do have a pleasant walk home.


Unrelated: I waited 427 chapters from this for this. Totally worth it.
(and how much the art has improved)

16 December 2015


X10 meeting it's older sibling, X-T10.
I can't bear to part with the X10 because it's twist to turn on mechanism is perfection. But am glad to welcome another member to the family.

After much deliberation, these are the reasons that I chose:
a) Fuji (rather than Sony)
  • Those jpegs *u*
  • Metal construction...though at the expense of a heavier camera. It definitely feels weighty holding it in my hands, but totally fine slung across shoulders.
  • Lots of dials and buttons for dedicated controls. Though the Q menu is pretty handy too.
  • This reason is super subjective, but I totally agree with this one photographer when he described Sony as technologically great but has no soul whereas Fuji has a personality. Plus all those comparisons to the Leica spirit. Same reason why I prefer Apple's designs rather than PCs/Androids.
b) X-T10 (rather than X100t)
  • Interchangeable lenses, wheeee fancy glass.
c) Rokinon 12mm f2.0
  • Cheaper than the Fuji XF 16mm f1.4 but still good performance and even wider angle. 
  • Pretty darn handsome in silver on the silver X-T10 body :D
  • Has value as astro-photography lens when I do upgrade to the XF 16mm f1.4
The only two glaring flaws that I've currently found (at this point I've taken exactly one photo) is the center placement of the EVF (do we not have noses? the X10 does it right by placing the viewfinder to the left end of the body) and the plastic lens hood on the Rokinon (not the same quality as rest of camera set-up).
More comprehensive first impressions to come after testing it out in Mexico. Though I am a little apprehensive to use it in a coastal environment ...all that sea salt spray @_@

15 December 2015

Garden Lights

After procrastinating going to Garden Lights for a whole month, today is the day!

The unbelievably warm weather leaves me no excuse to postpone this any later. Also it's a good chance to try night photography, although this is slightly sadistic since my X10 has a tiny sensor. Nonetheless I am impressed with it's results, as it did produce a legible image of tree branches against the dark sky at ISO1000, f2.2, and 2s shutter speed. Sure it's not a usable image with all the noise, but woah I can make out the branches really well.

Below are more successful photos, there's also a couple more over on Facebook (but the butchered IQ...cringe):
 This took some post-processing magic to tone down the reds to something manageable.

 The most fuss-free shot of the night.

 I absolutely love the light reflecting off the handrails.

 I know I'm skipping winter when there's still flowers on tree branches in mid-December. It was difficult to keep my arms steady in mid-air at a 1/8 shutter speed.

 I do like this composition very much.

Luckily there were benches around the fountain to set my camera for a 2s exposure for that lovely soft water. Also important to set a shutter delay. 

14 December 2015


Today's sunset was not as nice as this day's:

The clarity slider is the trick.

13 December 2015


Finally had the chance to sit down and brew tea, t'was much needed.

I promised myself that I would limit myself to one big tea haul once per year when there are good sales. Last year was from Tao of Tea, this year is from Tea from Vietnam during their thanksgiving 30% discount.

Today's session is with Fish Hook, because surprisingly I was in the mood for a green tea.

ugh loving the color rendition, this is with the provia film emulation.

The dried leaves smelled very nutty, which is the first time I've actually smelled the nuttiness from green teas and also the first time that the vendor description was pretty spot on. Surprise surprise.

The surprise continuous as the wet leaves gave off a seaweed / nori smell, the first brew had a strong umami taste as well. Quite reminiscent of a higher grade sencha. Though the subsequent brews tasted more-so like Chinese greens and retains just a touch of the nuttiness.

I've also finally realized that manual focus is the answer to how to take photos of the tea brewing. This is such a no-brainer...unbelievable that I did not think of it until today.

Speaking of manual focus, I spent yet another afternoon lost in photography sites, except this time I finally pulled the trigger and bought a new camera and lens. Sticking with my Fuji, the new set-up is starting at the Fuji x-t10 and a Rokinon 12, f2.0. The connection with manual focus is that the Rokinon is a full manual lens, which I'm really excited to learn how to use.

12 December 2015


No pics of new C&J boots yet, but I did open up my shoe care order from the Hanger Project and started to practice legit shoe maintenance on my monks.

Shoe care is another one of those things I was reading and reading about but always procrastinating on actually doing. Partly because there's such a variety of opinions and the products are pretty much black boxes in terms of formulation. Even after my order arrived, I was planning on watching a whole bunch of youtube videos. But alas I managed to stop myself and go more of a trial and error approach, hence starting on my monks instead of boots.

Process, revision zero:
  • Brush with horsehair brush
  • Clean with saddle soap + dauber
  • Two coats of Saphir Renovateur, applied and buffed in with a spare sock, fully dried between coats.
Worry #1: using too much water when scrubbing / using too much soap / not removing the suds?
I still have no idea if I did the cleaning correctly, but haven't ran into issues yet. It was surprising to see how much stuff the saddle soap removed, see the heel of the right shoe where I was not very thorough with my scrubbing.

Worry #2: crap the leather looks so much lighter and dull, should I have bought a cream polish?
Luckily Renovateur is amazing, it darkened the leather back to the original rich tan and can build up a small shine.

All photos above with only one layer of Renovateur. Below is a comparison of two layer (top) and one layer (bottom), which doesn't appear all that different to me even looking at it in real.

Worry #3: am I applying too much pressure / using too much product / not buffing it in enough?
I really wish I had shoe trees for this pair, it's currently such a pain trying to maintain the shape of the shoe while vigorously rubbing in the products. Hence the ghetto solution of stuffing it with paper. I've also quickly learned to spread the product out on the sock before dabbing it on the shoe since the product is wet enough to stain the leather. On the bright side, it takes so little product to do a full coat that my little jar will last years and years. Not a bad cost per use at all. Finally, all that polishing is really meditating, similar to how I feel while creaming butter and sugar. It's also very satisfying seeing the leather come back to life after it's been cleaned.

11 December 2015

Yongbi the Invincible

So I have survived this tiring week, made worse by me trying to finish reading Yongbi. Worth it though.

Between Ruler of the Land, and Yongbi the Invincible, I've got my 武侠 covered :D
Side note: through a translator's note in this series, I've finally figured out the "murim" is 武侠 and "gangho" is 江湖, everything makes sooooo much more sense now.

I feel the entire arc in the Muhae valley is to show off the art.

Anyways there's not much to say about this series since 武侠 series really only go one way and that is perfectly alright with me. Yongbi has a really good cast of characters, with some side characters being really well developed. A recent surprise was a bit of the past that's between Yongbi and Hong Yemon, I did not expect any romance as part of this series, but damn I ship those two to the end of the world now.

One more item of note is two quotations, which is also surprisingly since no specific lines of dialog has stood out to me before in manga/anime. First is by the grand general when he's overwatching the final battle between Yongbi when he commanded the Black Lancers and the Horsemen tribe's prince, and I paraphrase:
It's a shame that these two must perish in this nameless battle that won't even be recorded in the annals of history. Sometimes the fate of heros who are not born in the right age is more wretched than the fate of ordinary men. 
Side note 2: there really is no fast way to skim fast chapters of manga online to find a specific page.

Second quotation is the dialog between Yongbi and Yul Mu Gi where he consoles the little merchant:
Yongbi is usually not this cool, but he kills its when he is. 

This review summarizes nicely how Yongbi usually is:
Yongbi is a great hero for this sort of work, because he is a character who behaves a lot like Lupin does. He doesn’t try to be a role mode or a moralist person, and is constantly seeking new forms of roguish entertainment.
which is pretty much the archetype of a 武侠 main character.

This dialog also highlights what I think to be the theme of the story which is how to find redemption without regretting your past choices. We shall see if this plays out to be true, the scanlations are 11/23 volumes, this is going to be a slow and excruciating wait (but when is it not?).

09 December 2015

looking for excuses

08 December 2015

come out of things unsaid

alt lines of lyrics that were title worthy:
  • "trouble that can't be named"
  • "confusion never stops" (have a mug from Tien that says basically this)
  • "closing walls and ticking clocks" 
  • "cursed missed opportunities"
  • "home, home where I wanted to go" (ugh struggles)

I suppose Coldplay is my favourite band. Though I usually like their songs a lot more when I go back and listen to them a couple of years later, hence the chain of songs from A Rush of Blood to the Head.

07 December 2015

how long must you wait for it?

There's gonna be at least two more days of Coldplay.

06 December 2015

stand here until I fill all your hearts desires

Musics fillers for a couple days because I need to be in Charlotte. 

Haven't even had the chance to listen to their new album yet :(

02 December 2015


Finally home...this has been the longest time that I've been away from my family and it really is nice to be back. Though it's a subtle kind of nice...the kind that includes sleeping well because the mattress is firm and the bedding cozy, and going through your old stuff feeling all nostalgic.
Wishing I had more vacation time so I can stay longer. It's a struggle to have enough time to meet up with friends and also just stay at home.

Though I wouldn't have cut my time in New York short. The saying that third time is the charm is true in this instance because I finally feel like I've nailed down how to travel to suit myself. My little revelation is that leisure is the difference between "rich" and "poor", and that I want travel in a way to maximize leisure.
I've always loved trip planning, and researching a destination is as fun as actually going there. I make google maps with color coding, and excel sheets to sort out my schedule. It was basically a very open ended problem with lots of constraints and objectives, oh the fun to find an optimized solution :D
Now I've learned to have a very detailed plan...but no pressure to follow it. This trip is a good example of the goods and bads of straying from my plan.  The good included making my first tea friend, following him to another tea shop down the road that specializes in Fujiang tea (including cliff tea!) and enjoying another couple hours of good tea + good company. Also meeting a housemate in my Airbnb and going out for dinners together (Grimaldi's was deliciouuuus). The bad was still alright, I lost track of the days of the week and missed going to the Museum of Food & Drink.


Pivoting, this trip is very much a treat for myself and thus I did not exhibit much constraint when shopping. I didn't plan to buy anything initially, but ended up coming home with these:
Not pictured: C&J boots (a big reason why I went to NYC at all), and Uniqlo sweater + shirt (could not resist dropping by on Black Friday). 

All completely unnecessary, but ahhh such treats.
  • Clover necklace: the last necklace I'll ever buy, with the shaky assumption that I won't break this. Frankly because I'm too lazy to have another element of an outfit to think about. 
  • Tea: 正山小种 and 北斗 from that Fujiang tea shop. The owner is super generous, he made us any tea we wanted continuously as we sat there for 2 hours with no pressure to purchase. Apparently it's because his main business is wholesale so us little fish in the pond is inconsequential. 
  • Greek mountain tea: finally. been too long.
  • Starter pack of nice pencils: why did I ever think I could walk into a stationary shop and not spend money? Not sure how I managed to avoid hauling at Kinokuniya last year. 
I need to be much more strict with myself for next year ah ha...

30 November 2015


Am I sounding like a broken record about how I love the color rendition that velvia produces? Absolutely beautiful, especially the blue shadows. My loyalty to fuji is increasing everytime I look at these.

Had a short conversation with Gilly about post-processing. While I'm definitely pro-post, and love to tinker around (sometimes obsessively), it's nice to be able to minimally process OOC jpegs that already look good. All of the photos below (minus the pizza) is processed from jpeg, mostly lowering the exposure of the sky, some color balance / selective color (push some red tones into the shadows to make the blue more interesting). Three shots, the intersection, girl, and Mast Brothers, is mostly untouched.

Ahh I'm so happy with velvia.

PS. don't judge from the blog photos, compressing them down to 800px takes a big toll on IQ. Don't judge on fb either, since their compression algorithm destroys IQ. I need to find somewhere else to post higher quality photos.

One caveat: velvia is not good at all for food photos, its way too saturated. Also gotta start manual focusing for food since AF is quite poor in dimly lit restaurants. Noise from high ISO is also annoying...

29 November 2015


Is it too much to ask for the Gardiner to be turned into the High Line?

 The water didn't turn out as nicely as before :(

 Favourite shot of the day

 The shadows looks like a wash of ultramarine blue...or was it phthalo blue? Been too long since I touched my watercolors.

 Cheesy but I do like lens flares (or sun bursts). This photo is very creamy imo.

 More blue shadows, this time complimenting the fall foilage.

 Interesting composition...uninteresting colors/light, sigh.

I didn't think this photo would turn out usable since it's strongly backlit, pleasant surprise.

Ending my walk at Hudson Yards as the golden hour approaches its end. Lighting really is everything, there's no patch tool equivalent for fixing crappy lighting.