Early Rise: Kate’s Cars and Coffee

Early Rise: Kate’s Cars and Coffee

I’m pretty sure that everyone will agree with me: waking up at 6:00 AM on a Saturday sucks, especially if you had a long day the day before.

Since I’m approaching the tail-end of my current graduate class, it’s starting to become a non-stop cadence of projects until the end of June. This is a normal, albeit very fast paced, occurrence…but since our final project require me to work with a group of strangers, it’s trickier than you think.

Needless to say, I finished my portion of the project early, therefore affording me the time to enjoy this long Memorial Day weekend with my camera (Amy is out of town with her girlfriends in New York City).

One of my friends and mentor asked if I was interested in coming out to Cars and Coffee in Great Falls, VA since this might be one of his last visits to Virginia for a long time since he had taken up a CFO position in Boston.

So I reluctantly threw some clothes on, grabbed my camera and headed out the door.

Photos taken with the Leica M9 + Summicron 50mm f/2

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Dave himself with his love for the Red Sox

Hope you enjoyed the photos!

Flickr

The Leica Q never fails to impress

The Leica Q never fails to impress

It’s been about 6 months since I’ve purchased my Leica Q after my test drive with one thanks to Leica Store DC and to this day, it is the best camera I have ever owned. If you look at the current market of premium point-and-shoot cameras that have an EVF, the Leica Q easily stands on its own and as it’s getting closer to 3 years since its introduction, it still has no rival (the RX1R Mk II doesn’t count since it doesn’t have an EVF).

So who is the Leica Q for?

If you suffer from G.A.S. and care about the spec-sheet? The Leica Q covers that.

Are you interested in getting into the Leica eco-system without jumping headfirst with your wallet? Get the Leica Q.

Do you want incredible images quality, the “Leica look”, that only Leica cameras can do?

It just checks off all the boxes for me.

  • Lightweight
  • Full-frame CMOS Sensor
  • 24 Megapixels
  • 3.4MP EVF
  • Leica “M” caliber optics – it comes attached with a 28mm F/1.7 Summilux ASPH
  • One of the fastest AF cameras in the world
  • Small-size considering it has an EVF and a full-frame sensor
  • Legendary build quality
  • You can use Panasonic batteries for it, which are half the price of the Leica batteries
  • The lack of interchangeable lenses forces you to not worry about the lens selection and frees you up to just shoot, thus there is no “lens anxiety” (Thanks Chris)

This post might be a bit short but I can’t emphasize that the Leica Q may be the only camera that most people need.

Photos from the Leica Q at a recent Laos New Years festival. Images are pretty much “stock”

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Date Night in DC – Cherry Blossoms

Date Night in DC – Cherry Blossoms

We had a rare change in weather (for the better) where the temperature rose to the 70’s degrees Fahrenheit. To take advantage of this, Amy and I decided to go out on a day date in the city during the Cherry Blossom bloom by the Tidal Basin.

Photos were taken with the Leica M9

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Switching perspectives now with photos taken by Amy

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It was quite hazy outside, but just enough light for some amazing photos

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Amy’s sweet shoes

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Amy had an infatuation with this dog

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As the sun was setting, it was about that time to grab dinner and our friend Katie recommended a Filipino Restaurant in Columbia Heights called the “Purple Patch“.

I have to admit that I was very impressed with the food there, especially their desserts which Amy and I had devoured like fat asses after our entrees.

The small restaurant is located in the lower levels of the of another restaurant, which gives it a cozy atmosphere.

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Despite the M9 having very poor low light shooting capability, the dynamic range allowed me to recover some exposure. 
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The bar inside “Purple Patch”
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The bar had a very tasty selection of beer

More photos by Amy

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After dinner, we took the Metro back home and ended the long day.

Thanks for reading.

Flickr: Tae

Flickr: Amy

A Short Vacation – Weekend in New York City

A Short Vacation – Weekend in New York City

It was one of those rare weekends when I had a gap between my graduate class ending and before starting my next class. To take advantage of this free time, Amy and I had decided to take a trip to New York City (Chelsea to be specific) for the weekend since we both wanted to go away somewhere while I had the opportunity to travel.

Our method of transportation via Amtrak from D.C.’s Union Station because I honestly did not feel like driving five hours for what was essentially an overnight trip out of town. The train tickets were not too expensive, definitely cheaper than flying for two people, and it the entire trip took 3.5 hours, including several stops along the way. I have to say that we were pretty impressed with the comfort and efficiency of Amtrak.

That being said, we’ve arrived.

Photos taken with the Olympus PEN-F + 17mm f/1.8

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We’re here!

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Performer in front of Madison Square Garden

Koreatown

We’ve decided to detour East towards the Empire State Building to stop by Koreatown…and not soon after walking within a block of the area, Amy had to stop by and shop the local Korean beauty shop for facial masks.

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Koreatown, NYC

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After the short shopping event, we were famished and when you’re in Koreatown, you definitely need to eat some delicious Korean BBQ.

The restaurant that we’ve chosen for our late lunch (it was 4:00pm at the time), was Miss Korea BBQ with their famous beef bulgogi that had been marinating for 48 hours in a pot.

One word to describe this meal: amazing

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Adjustable ventilators above the fire pit sucked out the smoke
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…yet it was still a bit smokey – not a bad thing since it smelled delicious inside

Matcha

After our late lunch, we then walked a few blocks south to 28th street to get to our hotel and as with any tourist, we were distracted by every little shop along the way, particularly this matcha green tea shop.

I’m not the biggest fan of match green tea but Amy seemed to love it.

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INNSIDE Hotel by Melia

We’ve arrived at our little posh hotel on the corner of 28th and 7th Ave. The hotel in general was very modern and had a upscale feel to it in term of interior decorating.

Our room was not very big, but it was more than enough for two people staying overnight.

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Amy loved the wallpaper inside the elevators

Heading West

As the evening was drawing near and the sun was starting to set towards the west, we headed west from our hotel towards the High Line to catch some of the sunset and golden hour while we searched for a place to eat dinner.

Photos taken with the Leica Q

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Ready to go
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Construction behind the Post Office

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The High Line

The High Line (also known as High Line Park) is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) elevated linear park, built on an old rail track from the early 20th century. The park is built on a disused, southern viaduct section of the New York Central Railroad line known as the West Side Line. Originating in the Lower West Side of Manhattan, the park runs from Gansevoort Street – three blocks below 14th Street, in the Meatpacking District – through Chelsea to the northern edge of the West Side Yard on 34th Street near the Javits Center.

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The park’s attractions include naturalized plantings, inspired by plants which grew on the disused tracks and views of the city and the Hudson River

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Chelsea Market

After our long walk south along the High Line, we’ve ended up in Chelsea Market, which I would say is the equivalent of D.C.’s Union Market, but much larger. We felt that this was the perfect place to grab dinner.

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One place Amy had her eyes one was a place called “Very Fresh Noodles”, where they literally served everything that had to do with noodles.

I personal favorite was the beef noodle (I forget the name and maybe Amy can chime in and I can edit this), but I would admit that it was best noodle bowl I’ve ever had.

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People waiting in line for their carryout
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If you could find a place to sit, this would be it.

After dinner, the rest of the market had your usual fare of international foods and desserts that would make any food aficionado happy.

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What surprised me was that Chelsea market consisted of two floors, each with their own decor and theme.

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You can also find fresh produce if you were grocery shopping.

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After a long day, Amy and I walked back to our hotel but not until we had a speakeasy cocktail bar to try out…

…and that failed miserably.

Our idea of a speakeasy cocktail bar was somewhere quiet, exclusive and intimate…

New York City’s version of a speakeasy was just literally a crowded bar with a hidden entrance, which you can easily miss if it weren’t for the bouncers standing outside.

We’ve tried our three of these bars and we walked away disappointed because it was just too crowded and noisy to sit down and chat.

 

Photos taken with the Olympus E-PL8 + Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7

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Not all was lost however as we’ve made a stop at a small and cozy Vietnamese restaurant closer to the hotel. It was no speakeasy, but the small and intimate bar table was exactly what we were looking for.

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Amy’s fancy drink
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My “Passion Martini”

After our nightcap, we finally walked towards the hotel and called it a night.

End of Part I

 

 

Eat Everything – Union Market, DC

Eat Everything – Union Market, DC

I guess you could call this Part II of my previous post since it happened on the same day and in the same city, but this was easily my favorite part of the day.

After we separated from the Instagram meet at the Capitol, we all then decided to make the trip to Union Market for late lunch. It wasn’t a long walk per say, but it definitely burned some calories and I’ve managed to hit most of my walking goals for the day by the time we’ve reached our destination.

Union Market

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Union Market, if you don’t know already, is a place where you can artisan food and organic groceries located in an industrial park area where most people go for their trendy Instagram photos.

Amy and I were pretty excited as we both were planning for this all day, but what awaited us exceeded our expectations.

After you pass the picnic tables and the assortment of chairs filled with people stuffing food in their mouths, you enter through the large glass door – where you will suddenly become overwhelmed with the smell of food.

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Your senses are on “can I have some more?” mode

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Right away your eyes dart left and right as you try to take in what is going on around you.

“Where do I even start?”

You’ll ask yourself this as your natural instincts tell you to start from the left of the building and then walk around the various kiosks serving anywhere from Asian food to Ethiopian delicacies.

“Am I in heaven?”

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“Am I in heaven?”

I’m pretty sure that was what I thought when I walked past the first couple of kiosks that served what looked like…really fucking good food.

I swiveled by head around to take in all the information around me and then checked on Amy to make sure she didn’t get swallowed by the crowds (or her hunger), but sure enough, she was smiling as she was recording a video clip on Snapchat.

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Amy and I both couldn’t decide where to eat first, so walked around and lapped the building until we saw Ben holding some Korean tacos.

“EMPANADAS….!”

I looked over to what sounded like Amy and sure enough, she was gleefully pointing at the empanada shop next to us while I was ordering my Coconut Thai Basil Dumpling from what looked like a soul food kiosk that specialized in chicken broth based soups.

I’m telling you this now…shit just got real…

Amy loves empanadas and it’s probably one of her top favorite foods of all time (there are literally hundreds of foods that she likes) – actually, I think she just likes everything.

While my food was getting made, I continued to take picture to capture some street photography indoors.

So on with the pictures…

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A Seafood Bar
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Indian Food

 

 

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Ramen shop

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A couple of kids playing with Arya

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Amy eating her second meal – Shrimp and Gritz

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Friday Happy Hour – Ocelot Brewery and Leicas

Friday Happy Hour – Ocelot Brewery and Leicas

You know what I love about having happy hour with a group of friends that all happen to love photography? It turns into our own low key version of “Beers and Cameras” and today’s location was at Ocelot Brewery, located in the industrial park area of Dulles, Virginia.

With a venue chosen and gear packed, today in particular was a special day because some of us were introducing our new Leicas for the first time.

Ben recently picked up a second-hand Leica CL.

Asif picked up a second-hand Leica M5.

Yours truly picked up a second-hand Leica M9 with a 50mm Summicron f/2 V3 (1969-1979). There is a fantastic first-hand review about the legendary Leica M9 from someone that came from DSLRs: ShootTokyo

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Right away, one of the first things I’ve noticed while I ran these photos through Lightroom is the lovely color rendering and the contrast due to the combination of the Leica M9’s CCD sensor (developed by Kodak back in 2009) and the vintage Summicron from the ’70s.

The LCD Screen is Shit

The other thing that I have to get used to is not using the rear LCD screen to “chimp” after taking the shot. The LCD screen is considered “vintage” now in 2018 (think of the time when we all thought the original iPhone had “good screen” back in 2007-2010). The screen is so shitty that I don’t even bother using it to actually check the photo other than to check my exposure.

 

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ISO 800

Don’t even think about exceeding the ISO past 800. We’re talking about old sensor technology where ISO 800 was considered “high-tech” back in 2009. Shoot the Leica M9 like a digital-film camera: ignore the LCD screen, learn to use manual controls, and understand manipulating exposure/light both in and off camera.

 

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56K of Buffering

After you take a photo, give it about 10 seconds for the buffer to fully clear before your next shot. Due to the slower-than-2018 processor technology and the M9’s finicky nature with high-speed memory cards (use 16GB 40-45 MB/s cards only). Again, treat the M9 like an old-school digital-film camera.

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What is Sharpness?

Despite these quirks (it’s almost a decade old), the camera is capable of pulling some amazing images from the sensor thanks to the CCD sensor designed to simulate Kodachrome film stock. Paired with a Leica M lens (Summicron f/2.0 to a Summilux f/1.4), you will get that amazing micro-contrast “3D” pop effect known as the “Leica look” that no other camera on the planet can emulate.

I’ve been drunk with this stuff since my Leica Q and its excellent Summilux 28mm f/1.7. That lens is just stunning.

Remember – you can always sharpen photos in post, but you cannon create micro-contrast in post.

Is this worth the price of admission for a Leica lens? That depends on you.

What Leica does understand better than anyone else, is that absolute sharpness (resolving power) of the lens means little if the images don’t look great. Something I’ve also been guilty of chasing since my Sony A7 full-frame days with my Carl Zeiss and G Master lenses. I loved how sharp they looked, but the images looked cold and sterile in comparison.

Almost too clinical.

No soul.

No character.

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A Sincere Camera

Despite these drawbacks and limitations with the Leica M9, there is also something liberating about these limitations.

No AF – learn to take your time and learn to use zone focusing like a proper rangefinder camera. You will soon learn that this method is even faster than auto-focus (unless you use the Leica Q, just throw that guy in AF 99% of the time and you will get a lot of keepers).

No EVF – learn to expose and compose with your eyes prior to taking the shot.

Slow Buffer – you can’t run and gun with this camera. This will force you to be patient and compose properly.

No LIVE View – Use the viewfinder like you’re supposed to.

Shit LCD Screen – Don’t even bother checking your images.

Pretty much what this camera is trying to tell you is this: “it’s on you”

This camera will make you a better photographer.

no

It will force you into becoming a better photographer.

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Summicron-M 50mm f/2.0 V3

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Asif’s Leica M5
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Ben’s Leica CL
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My favorite photo of the night

 

New EDC Camera: Fujifilm X70

New EDC Camera: Fujifilm X70

The original purpose of my purchase of the Fujifilm X100F was to have a compact, everyday carry camera that I could just throw in my jacket pocket or my bag, therefore always having a real photographic tool with better quality than the iPhone.

The iPhone X takes excellent pictures, don’t get me wrong, but the process of “photographing” is something to be desired and everything shot with my iPhone usually gets lost in the abyss that is Apple Photos. However, when I take photos on a dedicated camera, I feel more disciplined to not take my photos for granted.

The photos will rarely feel expendable if you use an actual camera. They typical hold more value – either due to image quality or how it made you feel when you took the picture.

The occasional slideshow of your weekend trip with your friends may garner the occasional nod, but then people will usually forget about them – rarely ever seen again.

If you want to go even deeper in appreciation for photos, look into printing Instax photos. I promise you that those little photos will be worth more to you, your friends and family than your iPhone slideshow ever hope to be.

There is a zen-like experience of actually taking the time to take photos, rather than snap and go. 

Obviously, carrying a compact camera with you on a daily basis is not for everyone, but I personally don’t like to waste my time taking shitty and forgettable photos, therefore it’s worthwhile for me that enjoy capturing moments in higher quality.

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Side Gripe: It makes me absolutely cringe when people use their camera phones during their “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to somewhere and try to share their photos with me on their small screens like they’re weekend photos of their family cat.

Stop it.

If you want to share your photos of your amazing trip, share it on dedicated photo site like Flickr or something where people can actually feel emotionally compelled to appreciate your photos as much as you were when you took them.

“But I don’t want to carry a camera when I travel! They’re so cumbersome.”

One word: Mirrorless

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Ahem.

This brings me back to the X100F.

The X100F quickly became less of a pocket camera due to the addition of the thumbs  up grip and the lens hood. Since it no longer served the purpose of being my “pocketable” camera, it soon became a stablemate with my other “serious” cameras: the Leica Q and the Olympus PEN-F. Cameras I take with me when I plan to go out and take photos.

So this brought me back to square one: I need another EDC camera.

Originally I’ve picked up a brand new Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX10 pocket camera with the excellent 24-72 equivalent f/1.4-f/2.8 zoom lens. However, I’ve been lukewarm about the camera for several reasons:

  1. The camera was not comfortable to hold and it was terribly slippery.
  2. The start-up time was noticeably slow due to the requirement for the zoom lens to extend out, even at its widest end.
  3. The image quality was decent, but I blame my standards from owning bigger sensors and my lack of tolerance to poor high ISO rendering that the Panasonic had. It would easily hit 4 digit ISO too easily.

To cut it short, I traded the camera with a member on Fred-Miranda and picked up a Fujifilm X70.

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To put it succinctly: this camera is tiny.

It’s actually smaller in length than my iPhone X, but the caveat here is that it is definitely thicker.

But here is the real important part about this: it’s so small that you can actually take with you everyday in your purse, jacket pocket, or your everyday carry bag.

You’ll also get image quality like this (and have useable RAW files if you want to edit them in Lightroom):

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Using the built-in “Classic Chrome” film simulation – no filters needed!

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I’ll make an update on this in the future but my point is this: get a camera.

Spoiler Alert: A dedicated camera will blow the shit out of your iPhone.

Also, using the “too big” to carry as an excuse is becoming redundant as mirrorless cameras like the Fujifilm X70 is tiny, but if you want to use the camera on your phone to share onto social media for instant-gratification because you’re impatient, then I can’t help you there. 🙂