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!

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Rebecca Lily – Pro Set V Presets

Rebecca Lily – Pro Set V Presets

If you’re into photography, then you know that the world of Instagram has changed the way photographs are shared around the world. This introduction also changed the way photographers want to differentiate themselves and create their “look”, the concept of how the photographs are interpreted, each with its own character.

We’re talking about Instagram filters.

The problem with these filters, however, is that are usually indiscriminately heavy handed. Some people use these filters as a crutch to cover up their poor composition by making the colors more interesting. Or the trendy look that crank up the contrast or just desaturated to the point where half of your Instagram feeds look the same.

In the article (linked above) bring up a great point about Instagram:

“They’re diluting their own work and style by focusing on what will grow their account instead of focusing on developing themselves artistically.”

These “hipster filters” as I call them are typically too trendy for my liking; overall muting the natural beauty that the camera and lens has to offer. For example, if you shoot a Leica M camera, using one of these filters will kill the signature micro-contrast look that Leica optics are known for, sometimes flattening the image (there is nothing wrong if you want your photo too look flat, just not my cup of tea).

That doesn’t mean that I don’t like to edit my image to edit them to my liking. On the contrary, I very rarely not edit my images as part of my post-processing workflow. There are a few exceptions to this, especially if you’re a Leica shooter. I’ve noticed with my Leica cameras, that they have the most accurate and organic rendering of tones, especially paired with a Leica lens. I don’t want to take anything away from that beautiful rendering, especially when you pay a premium for that image quality and the shooting experience.

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Straight out of Camera | Leica Q
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Straight out of Camera | Leica Q

However, there are a set of presets that I want to talk about here.

These presets are by Rebecca Lily

These presets are impressive to say the least as they don’t too much from the original rendering. I liked them so much, I’ve purchased three of her set of presets in the past two years because I loved the way they supplemented your images without taking too much away from the original. Her colors are used by world-renowned travel, wedding and lifestyle photographers, all swear by her presets as part of their post-processing workflow. Impressive resume references don’t you think?

Let me show you two examples.

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Straight out of Camera | Leica M9 + Zeiss 35 f/2 ZM
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Rebecca Lily Pro Set V / “Brio IV”

The difference is not drastic, but it’s a noticeable in a pleasing way.

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Straight out of Camera | Leica M9 + Zeiss 35 f/2 ZM

Don’t get me wrong, the stock photo actually looks pretty damn good, especially with the rendering you get out of the Carl-Zeiss Biogon lens. However, I felt the need to warm it a little bit based on the context of the photo with the cherry blossom and the mother’s “warmth” holding her baby.

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Rebecca Lily Pro Set V / “Air I”

I recommend checking her out if you prefer your images to look less “film like” and a more subtle, modern take on the aesthetics of your images.

Morning Hike – Beaverdam Resorvoir

Morning Hike – Beaverdam Resorvoir

I’m an outdoors guy in general.

To me, there is nothing better and relaxing than being outside and absorbing all the visceral senses. The warmth of the sun. The wetness from the rain. The breeze against your face on warm day.

This penchant for sunlight and fresh air partially led me to photography in the first place, therefore if there is a chance of nice weather, you’ll find me outside with my camera. Unfortunately, my time outdoors have been truncated substantially since starting graduate school last summer, making my time being outdoors somewhat of a luxury, something I can no longer take for granted.

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Beaverdam Resorvoir Trail | Leica M9

Despite these challenges, I always try to steal an hour or two doing some light outdoor activities. Whether they’re just short walks outside on sidewalk or a short two-hour hike on a local trail. It’s less likely I’ll be doing the latter due to the time commitment involved, such as organizing and driving.

However, I learned something the other day that would scratch my need for a local hike itch.

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Rocky Creek | Leica M9

I’ve recently moved to a new apartment in Ashburn, VA this past January, near the Broadlands (it was a 10 minute move from my old townhouse that I’ve rented with a friend of mine), and my sister (who is also learning the strings on photography with her own Leica M9) had a couple of photos on her Flickr page that showed a trail she was on with her puppy “Pepper“. I looked up the trail on the Google machine, and behold…there was a trail five minutes from where I lived.

That wasn’t the biggest surprise however.

There were several hiking trails and parks outside the desginated National Parks that I liked to frequent. These particular parks were smaller in scale and under a county  sponsored organization known as NOVA Parks, but they were good enough for me who was looking for something short and close.

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Amy trying to avoid getting her shoes wet | Leica M9

That morning, I tricked Amy into coming out with me on a “short walk” since the weather was finally nice outside after suffering through a few days of rain. Little did she know that she was ill-prepared for this hike since trail on Beaverdam was very wet and muddy. I was fortunately wearing my Salomon Speedcross 4 trail shoes, but Amy underestimated the trail and left her Salomon shoes at home. She was not very happy about the muddy conditions, so to make up for it, I piggyback carried her over some of the nastiest parts of the trail.

She seemed to enjoy that (the piggyback riding, not the trail).

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Muddy Legs (Photo by Amy) |Leica M9

After a few encounters with the mud, I was starting to think that the muddy portions of the trail were far and few.

I was wrong.

The trail was in such bad shape from the previous rain, that over half of the trail were just spots of mud and water. Some even as long as 100 feet.

Unsurprisingly, this required more a lot of work for both my shoes and legs as I was carrying another human being on my back, therefore sinking my feet into the mud at a much faster rate.

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The Beaverdam Reservoir, is owned by Loudoun Water, which is also a source of public drinking water | Leica M9

To say that I got a workout while carrying Amy on my back would be an understatement. I jokingly thought of this moment as one of those “this is why I lift” memes as carrying Amy on my back gave my legs a nice workout, playing well with my Apple Watch as my heart rate rose to a warm 130 BPM.

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Beautiful Foliage | Leica M9
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One of the few dry parts of the trail | Leica M9
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Blurry Tae | Leica M9
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These flowers caught my eye in the lush greenery | Leica M9

The trail ended on the northern half of the trail, which led us to a public park where little league baseball and soccer games were usually held. Since we both refused to double-back and go back on the same (muddy) trail again to get to my car, we’ve decided it was a better idea to just Uber from where we were to the car.

I promised Amy that we would eat Acai bowls at Robeks after the hike, so we ended the morning there, but it was a nice experience to go out and explore a new trail. Albeit I got my Salomon trail shoes dirty, they more than paid their weight in gold as I used them in the exact situation they were designed for. I only wished that I had purchased the GTX (Gore-Tex) waterproof version instead, but for $60 on sale (vs. $130 for the GTX models), I’m more than satisfied with their performance.

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An opportunity for a good photo on one of the stairways at the park | Leica M9
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They paid for themselves | Leica M9

If anyone reading this love to be outdoors, I would look at your local county’s parks because you will never know what trails you may find for a quick hit of nature.

Thanks for reading!

All images were taken with the Leica M9 with the Zeiss Biogon 35mm f/2 lens.

Edited in Adobe Lightroom with Leica “Embedded” Color Profile with VSCO Fujifilm Astia 100F – preset.

 

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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