R is for Roads

Where we're going, we don't need roads (but maybe we do)

Hi, welcome back!

America is a car country, outside of a few select cities, it’s kind of assumed people have access to a car. A lot of our cities are structured and designed to make traveling around in cars easier, as opposed to by bike, train or even by foot. It’s kind of a bummer.

I’m not a car person. I don’t really like driving. I’ve got my drivers license, have been happy to rent cars as needed for most of my entire adulthood.

That said, I have had some enjoyable trips in cars, and this week I wanted to take a look at a few pictures taken on the road.

This shot is taken in Mark and Nick’s car as we drove around Lake Tahoe. Every summer is one of my favorite events, the Trans Tahoe Relay, where we swim across the lake. In 2018, we rented a car near the Nevada side of the lake, so as we drove counterclockwise around the lake back to the California side, and I snapped this picture of the fun treeline and winding road. The 2020 Tahoe Relay was cancelled and I am cautiously optimistic that it’ll happen in 2021, it’s hard to put in a single sentence how much fun it is taking part in that relay every year and enjoying a weekend in Tahoe.

Same shot, different spot. My friend Adam from DC visited California and he rented a car, so we drove down to Santa Cruz with our other friend Marcus. Here we’re driving along PCH, and I loved how the road banking makes for a funny horizon angle, as well as the stunning blue color of the water. It was a fun little trip, and a good reminder to me that Santa Cruz and the rest of the peninsula aren’t that far from San Francisco, and they’re worth daytripping to more often.

This photo was taken in a parked car, we hadn’t started driving yet. This is probably about 4am local time, Mandy and I were trying getting pumped up because she was about to drive me to get on the boat to swim the North Channel! I love the energy of the photo, it captures how we were forcing ourselves to get excited at a really early hour (early even for me). I have so many great memories associated with that trip, I get excited just looking at this picture again.

This is on the road to Utah last fall with Mac and Meghan. We rented a minivan so that we could easily slot our bikes in, without having to disassemble them. I was skeptical of the minivan, but it was a very smooth ride for the week. I love the candid, aloof feel of this picture of Mac, with the bikes and all our stuff visible in the background too. The focus is slightly off, I wish it was sharper on his face than his hand, but still the photo really captures the moment. It was fairly early in the morning as we left San Francisco, so this may have even been around the morning golden hour as well.

There is one more photo I was on the fence about including. It was a pretty mediocre photo with a fun story that I’d already blogged about on my trip to Spain, and I’ve decided to leave it there to keep this newsletter more aesthetic.

Thanks and see you next time!

XOXO,
Margs

Q is for Q

I know, it sounds dumb

Hi, welcome back!

This week is about the Leica Q, my digital standalone camera. Between this issue and M is for M3, I’m sure longtime readers of this newsletter are like “yes, we get it, you have a thing for Leicas.” And they’re not wrong. It’s a brand I’ve become attached to. They have really high quality products, and yes, there’s some cultural cache (that red dot), and I enjoy that too.

For me, getting and using a Leica Q has been a little bit of a self discovery journey. As I’ve said before, I think of myself as a casual or hobby photographer. For a long time I just used hand-me-down film cameras from my dad, or my phone. And to be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But when I got curious about the Leica Q, and started considering buying one, it was the beginning of a mental shift. Buying a Leica (new) is definitely a bit of a self-indulgence. In some ways having this Leica Q is merely about the pictures I take with it, but there’s this angle of self-acknowledgement, that now I see myself differently, as a more serious hobby photographer than I was before (but still a casual one).

So threading through this issue of photos from the Q, is pictures of me and how the camera has affected the way I see me.

As I’ve mentioned a million times, I rented the Leica Q (twice!) before committing to one. When I received that first rental in the mail and started testing it out in my apartment, this is the fourth photo that I took (after a mediocre shot of the sunset through my dusty windows and two pictures of my ankles because they were in front of me). But it’s the first actually worthwhile photo. I was clearly so excited to have the camera in my hands, I was ready to take a mirror selfie (which I just don’t do very often normally). The photo is pretty blown out, I hadn’t figured out how to turn on RAW mode so all I have is the JPEG version. But this is me! Excited to try a new camera.

This is a remote selfie I took, like some of the ones in S is for Self-Portrait, but clearly closer up.

I have a lot less hair in this picture. In March, the combination of my hair continuing to thin, and not being able to get my hair cut due to shelter-in-place meant it was time to me to take the plunge to order some clippers and start buzzing my own hair. I was worried about it, but it was surprisingly cathartic to buzz my hair. I felt much more comfortable with the version of myself in the mirror than I was planning on.

This particular photo is the first picture I took of myself with the Q since shaving my head, and I was surprised at how much I liked it. Again, another time the Q helped me see myself differently.

This is, uh not me. This is Vanessa! Vanessa had borrowed my Q a few times, and was considering getting her own, and then a few months ago she did it! Vanessa has been very diligent about taking her Q on hikes, and looking up techniques to take particular photos. Here we are on a hike up in Marin, and Vanessa was taking some bracketed photos of the sunrise. This was the second of these photo walks we’d done, and they’ve been great at reminding me to use my Q. Typically I used to pack my Q on trips or to parties or social gatherings, but there have been a lot fewer of them recently, so going on walks like this has been like a little re-awakening, a chance to see the Q with fresh eyes. Like I mentioned in O is for Overexposed, I got a UV filter since I saw what a difference hers made.

Here’s me, holding my Q! This is from the same hike as the previous photo. Vanessa took this one. It’s a bracketed photo she combined into an HDR photo, and I love the way it turned out. I love how she captured me in the middle of my shot, smizing behind my face mask, with a stellar sunburst in the background. The golden sunrise light looks amazing.

Thanks, as always, for reading, and see you next time!

XOXO,
Margs

P is for Postcard

Wish you were here!

Hi!

I love writing and receiving postcards. There’s a lot of small steps involved in sending them: buying the postcard, buying the stamp (international ones if abroad), making sure you have your recipient’s correct mailing address, actually sitting down to write the note on the postcard, and then finally finding a mailbox to ship it off. But in the end, totally worth it! And more efficient if done in a batch, of course.

This week, we’re looking at a few pictures that I think would make for great postcards. Just imagine I’d mailed each of these to you, via snail mail.

We took the ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco for the day. Cafe Hafa is a popular tourist destination, they serve Moroccan mint tea and have this amazing terraced view of the water. I mean, just look at the incredible blue water! This is such a picture-perfect view, wish you were here to enjoy it!

My nuclear family took an end-of-the-year trip to Scottsdale/Phoenix. We went for a short, “easy” hike one day (one of us, who won’t be publicly shamed got grumpy about how “easy” the trail actually was, but that’s a separate story). It was great to be outdoors in such temperate weather, and I loved this view with the saguaro cactuses in scattered about the foreground with the mountain range in the background. Wish you were here, and wish we all had actually enjoyed the hike.

This past summer, I made it to Yosemite for a weekend with mom. After we checked out the Tufa at Mono Lake, we made it in to Yosemite itself and hiked to Tuolumne Meadows. On the way back, we spotted this dome (I think it’s Lembert Dome), and I really like how the tree line frames the view of the dome, making this postcard-worthy view. Wish you were here!

Thanks for reading, see you next time!

XOXO,
Margs

O is for Overexposed

Too bright!

Hi!

If you’ve ever looked at my Instagram, you might notice that I take a lot of pictures of sunsets. Anyways, this week’s newsletter has some more!

In photography, exposure is the measure of how much light you capture. Digital sensors have a maximum number they can measure, so if too many pixels hit that limit, the photo is considered overexposed. Usually when a lot of pixels have that max value, there’s likely some lost detail in that area, so we typically want to avoid overexposure to be able to see details, because humans like details and interesting things.

Most iPhones do a lot of really smart stuff with exposure, and new ones automatically bracket exposures and create HDR photos with no user input. My standalone camera can do exposure bracketing, but it doesn’t combine the photos, so this leads to a lot of overexposed photos. The nice thing is that the Leica does indicate when parts of a photo are overexposed, so there is some good feedback to adjust the exposure as needed.

However, sometimes I’m just happy enough to let the overexposed photos be, and enjoy the sunlight. This week, we’re looking at a few of those. A lot of these photos have a hazy vibe, so maybe this week is kind of like the sequel to H is for Hazy.

This shot was from a sunset walk in May. The bright sun kind of blows out the center of the frame, with the light bleeding into the trees in the background a bit, but I kind of like it. I love the hazy mountains on the right side, and I like how the all the masts kind of make a little forest out of the harbor.

I biked to Marin to go on a hike in Muir Woods with my friend Vanessa, and on the way back, just after I came across the Golden Gate Bridge, I looked up and saw the sun in this amazing light and slight haze and had to stop to try to get a picture of it. The vertical streak of light across the water is probably overexposed, as is the sun itself, but I still am happy with how this photo captured that “wow” moment.

Coincidentally, Vanessa had just bought a Leica Q like mine, but hers came with a UV filter. As we walked around Muir Woods, we took similar photos, and it was clear that her UV filter made a difference and helped keep shots less overexposed, so I looked up the filter she had and ordered one for myself.

I had a small distanced picnic in the Alta Plaza Park and we went for a little bit of a walk afterwards. As we rounded the path behind one of the hills, we passed this tennis court and the sun was right there. Again, this photo is a tad overexposed, the sun was right in our faces, but I love the coloring and the long shadows, and the light coming through the fence.

In the time since I’ve taken these photos, my UV filter has arrived, so hopefully I’ll be able to take slightly fewer overexposed photos in the future.

See you next time!

XOXO,
Margs

N is for Northern Ireland

The North remembers

Hi, I hope everybody is healthy and safe this week.

This week, I had a call with a friend who is planning to swim the North Channel, so I spent some time explaining my experience and offering some pointers. Thinking back on the trip reminded me of some of the fun photos I’ve taken on it. I’ve already shared some photos in past issues, but have a few more that I like, so that’s what we’re looking at this week!

The Moat is a small little castle on the top of a hill in the town of Donaghadee, where I stayed. You might think this is a perspective trick, that it’s a large castle on a big hill, very far away, but in reality it’s a small castle not much more than one story tall. I love this photo with the archway kind of pointing to the castle, not quite framing it. While waiting around in Donaghadee, it was fun to go on walks up and around the castle and look down at the harbor.

One of Belfast’s claim to fame is that it’s where the Titanic was built. The city has an entire museum about the Titanic, and it’s got a neat design. One one of the days when I was waiting around for the swim, Mandy and I took a day trip to Belfast. This picture highlights the super interesting texture of the building (see the Wikipedia has a better view of the whole thing).

After my swim, we got to drive all the way to the most north part of Northern Ireland for the Giant’s Causeway. These are naturally occurring basalt columns that happen to form into hexagons and look almost as if they were made by people. The legend behind these is that they were built by a giant in Ireland so that they could go fight another giant in Scotland. Coincidentally, there’s a very similar geological formation in Scotland, which makes the legend more interesting.

It’s a short one this week, thanks for reading!

XOXO,
Margs

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