Kathy & I headed to Charleston, SC over the Labor Day weekend to attend the Lowcountry Jazz Festival there. When I was packing up my photo gear I didn’t know if I would be permitted to take a camera to the concerts, so at the last minute I pulled out my Fuji X-10 and decided to toss it in the bag.
I hadn’t been using the Fuji in a while, in fact I’ve been on a “use the best camera all the time” kick and haven’t been carrying a point & shoot camera at all. And I have never been happy with the way Lightroom processes the RAW files I’ve gotten out of the Fuji, so I had sort of abandoned it.
I have read a lot of comments about how good Fuji’s JPEG processing is, so I set the camera up to shoot high quality JPEGs. And although I could have taken the “big camera” to the concerts I decided to just take the Fuji. In fact that was the only camera I used all weekend. We went out and did some touristy stuff and the X-10 did the job.
It did a pretty good job all in all, especially considering that it is several years old. The concert photos were taken at ISO 1600 or 3200 and came out pretty good for a small sensor. I decided to post these with no processing at all. A few are a little on the dark side, but that is mostly due to the fact that I was using negative exposure compensation at the concerts and kept forgetting to reset it when I went outside!
I’m pretty impressed with the results from this camera. In fact, based on a lot of things I have been reading lately, I’ve just about decided to try out one of their newer offerings as a possible eventual replacement for the full frame beast that I’ve been carrying. It’s tough to beat the files I’m getting from the 5D, but with results like these from a several-year-old point & shoot, I think I owe it to myself to at least rent a newer model and see how I like it. No surprise that we have some upcoming travel plans 😉 , so I may need to check out the options.
I’m going to try something a little different starting with this month’s calendar. For the last year or so I’ve been mostly dredging up old landscape photos mixed in with a few more recent shots. I’ve recently started to realize how much my photographic emphasis has changed over the last few years, and I find myself photographing a lot less nature and a lot more of what I call “found scenes.” Sometimes they are scenes I find in nature, but often they are scenes I come across just walking down the street in some town I happen to be visiting.
These photos won’t necessarily be the iconic “hero shots” that I have been posting as wallpaper, but I feel like I need to be true to my own sense of what it is I happen to be seeing and shooting. And that changes, necessarily I think, over time as I learn and grow. Some readers may enjoy this work and others may not. For those who like it, please say so and thanks. For those who don’t, please feel free to let me know!
I may also add in a few abstract photos that I’ve come to enjoy. Those also make nice wallpaper, although they may be a little different from what I’ve posted here in the past.
This particular photo was taken in Charleston, South Carolina, last winter. For me it represents the change from winter to spring – winter from the bare branches on the trees, but spring through the green on the bricks in the background, set against a whitewashed wall that hints of color but also could be seen as representing snow. Not in Charleston probably, but certainly in many parts of this country, even in March.
I hope everyone enjoys this little change of pace and I hope everyone has a nice March!
This post has been rolling around in my head for some time, but Thanksgiving and all the Black Friday hoopla seems to be an appropriate time to gather these thoughts and put them out on the blog.
On our recent journey to Charleston, I remember at one point commenting about the number of car dealerships clustered around a particular interchange. I think it was somewhere around Columbia, SC but it could be anywhere in the US big enough to have car dealerships. As much as I love and appreciate nice cars, the automobile business has always served to me as a prime representation of marketing-driven consumption. If I wanted to be negative I could say “greed and excess” here, but it wouldn’t serve my point. So we’ll call it marketing-driven consumption. Black Friday is another prime example of marketing-driven consumption to the max.
I specifically remember, shortly after buying a new car several years ago, someone told me “congratulations!” as if to imply that purchasing a new car was some kind of heroic achievement. But that’s how cars have always been marketed, as symbols of success and status. When I was growing up, each September my brother & I would start sneaking into the storage lots behind the local car dealerships to get a peek at the new models to be introduced in the fall. Back in that day, models tended to really change between model years, rather than just another homogenized ToyHoNisOlet, because the manufacturers relied more on the cars to sell themselves. And they all had somewhat distinctive features, from styling to performance.
Today, many cars, at least those the regular folks can afford, all look pretty much alike. So it takes marketing to make us want one over another. And that marketing is usually aimed at making someone feel young, attractive, successful, more interesting or some attribute only accomplished by purchasing a particular product. Because it’s been hammered into our heads for so long, whenever someone sees a friend driving a new car, there is often a tinge of envy (or worse) and at least a little bit of “must be nice.” I usually look at it and think of what I could do with the payment. But that’s just me.
Anyway, the comment that I made when I saw all of these car dealerships was that if there was some way we could be identified and ranked (because after all this is all about judging and ranking – a subject for another post) not by how fancy our car is or the neighborhood we live in, but by the size of our 401(k) our IRA or our savings account, would there be investment offices at all of these interchanges instead of car dealerships? Would we make different decisions if they were based on mindful reasoning instead of marketing? And how would those decisions be reflected in our personal wellbeing if they didn’t involve spending huge sums of money or committing to an endless stream of payments?
In that same vein, why do so many people tend to judge how serious someone is about photography based on the type of equipment they own or the subject matter that they photograph? Have we been convinced by marketing and promotion by the camera manufacturers and retailers that the only way to take meaningful photographs is to have the latest and greatest camera and lens? Perhaps. But I prefer to appreciate a photographer’s work based on the quality of their photographs, and when possible the stories behind the photographs. THAT is what photography means to me, not what brand of camera someone has, or which lens or how big their sensor is. Or even whether they are using a digital camera or film. But that’s hard, just like resisting the temptation brought on by advertising and marketing is hard.
As someone who doesn’t own a television or listen to commercial radio (I usually say that “I don’t watch TV” because saying “I don’t own a TV” makes some people uncomfortable) I’m not bombarded by all of the marketing messages that drive consumer spending. Kathy & I just don’t buy a lot of stuff, and when we do, we buy it because we need or want it. Being on sale isn’t generally a factor in our buying decision, although once we make a decision to purchase something we will often wait on a sale to buy it if we aren’t in a rush. But I still find myself attracted by the “Sale” or “Limited Time Only” mentality, and sometimes have to work hard to curb that feeling I get when something looks attractive because I’m afraid that I might not be able to have it.
As Kathy & I prepare to move into our “downsized” new home, and after having lived for the last 6 months in a rented apartment with just our most essential belongings, we have come to realize that all of the things we have been storing since May are things that aren’t really necessary for our daily lives. And while we did a really good job of paring down the things that we deemed “disposable” before we moved, we now think that maybe we didn’t go far enough. Many of things we have been storing are things that we’re going to have to think really hard about, in order to decide how much of it we even need or want to keep.
So what does this all have to do with anything? In the last few days, like many of us I’ve been bombarded by e-mails from every merchant I’ve ever done business with promoting their Black Friday “Doorbusters.” I don’t know about everyone else, but I haven’t yet seen a “deal” on anything I’d actually buy. I don’t think of camera equipment as something that is an impulse purchase. Most people only buy a camera when they need one, after weeks or sometimes months of analysis or research. I’ve enjoyed several recent exchanges on the blogs of some of my photo friends, discussing things like the aesthetics of a particular camera. Talking about how a camera feels to hold versus another, the ease of use or feel of the controls. Discussions around the mindfulness of talking photographs and cutting out the noise and chatter that distracts us from the pursuit of activities that make us happy. Things that matter to those of us who actually use a camera to take photographs, not just collect equipment or are constantly chasing after the next great thing. But that isn’t stuff you can buy at the mall or Best Buy.
Monte has demonstrated that you don’t need to necessarily buy the latest version of a camera, that the introduction of a new model can mean a good deal on the previous one. That makes the older model a good value, because it will do exactly what he needs it to do for a fraction of the cost of when it was new, or of the cost of the new model.
Chris has spent some time comparing the relative qualities of several mirrorless compact camera models, and has formed an opinion that seems to be contrary to the popular opinion. But if a particular camera meets your needs, then it is the right tool for you. Whether or not something is on sale doesn’t make it a good deal if it isn’t what you want. And I guess that is my point.
And Cedric wrote a similar post about how the ergonomics and feel of a camera means more to him than megapixels and dynamic range. His story about an exchange with a photography professor about the “feel” of a camera was a good one.
Mindfulness is a theme I have been pursuing lately. Decisions made in a calculated fashion, not driven by a marketing frenzy. Just being on sale isn’t a reason to buy anything we don’t want or need. Not buying something means you have saved the entire price, not just a percentage. And not needing a place to store all of our accumulated junk means we have room and resources for things that do matter to us. A purchasing decision made mindfully is a good one regardless of the price of the item being purchased.
I’m looking forward to living even more mindfully in 2014. We’ll see how that actually plays out. But first I’m going to have to sort through all the stuff that the movers are going to deliver in a couple of weeks! I’ll probably decide to start planning a vacation…that’s a lot more fun than a car payment.
Kathy & I spent some time in Charleston, SC a few weekends ago. I took a few photos, and these are a few that show my take on Charleston, although perhaps not what most tourists take photos of. I got a few of those, too. That will be the topic for some future posts. For now, here are a few of my “non-typical” Charleston photos.
Kathy & I spent this past weekend in Charleston, West Virginia. Why Charleston? We met up with friends from Ohio with whom we are planning a vacation this summer, and it is roughly half-way for both of us. It was a planning weekend for us, easier than trying to talk on the phone, or Skype, or send e-mails back and forth. A friend of Kathy’s remarked that “only we would take a vacation to plan a vacation.” Well, duh! 🙂
It wasn’t really a photography weekend, but I did take a camera. I almost always have at least one camera with me, and although I didn’t carry it to dinner, when we went out for breakfast or lunch, or just for a stretch, I took it along just in case I saw something interesting. I don’t think I came back with any prize-winning shots, but it was good exercise.
I’ll eventually get around to writing more about it, but I’ve been on sort of a “one camera, one lens” kick the last couple of months. I bought one of the Canon 50mm 1.4 lenses a few months ago, and I don’t think I’ve taken it off my camera! I just love the simplicity of the single focal length, and have really enjoyed the discipline of having to work a little bit to refine a composition, rather than just twist the zoom ring. It really makes me think about what I am shooting and what I’m trying to show. At first I was afraid the 50 would be a little wide, but I’ve gotten used to it.
I think I could have represented Charleston in a more favorable light had I gone a few weeks later, but things were still pretty brown there. The trees were just starting to show some buds and the grass – what little we could see downtown – was still pretty brown. And the whole place had that “could stand a good rainstorm” look that cities get when the snow has just finished melting. Not that they’ve had a lot of snow, but that was sort of the look it reminded me of.
In just a little over a week, Earl and Paul & I are going to go shoot some birds at the Carolina Raptor Center. I suppose I’ll have to take the 50 off for that, but I’ll probably put it back on as soon as I’m done!
In the comments to my last post, Paul gently chided me about the fact that, in a post about our visit to Charleston that I didn’t talk about the food. Sorry! It was one of the most important things we did that weekend, but frankly I had been planning to write more than one post about our weekend, and one of them – this one, in fact – would be to talk about the food.
Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale
Our visit to this place was rather a fluke, as the day we arrived it was pouring rain, the town was full of people attending the Southeastern Wildlife Expo, which we knew was happening but had no idea it was such a big deal. It’s a big deal.
Anyway, the bellman at our hotel told us that we needed to go to a place called Bubba Slyes Deli, located right around the corner on King Street. So off we went, only to find that Bubba had called it quits just the day before and the place is now closed. Practically next door to Bubba’s is a place called Juanita Greenberg’s Nacho Royale, which sounded like an impossibly interesting name. They didn’t have a wait, so we went in. Overall it was decent faux southwestern food, but it hit the spot and the beer was cold, so mission accomplished.
Hall’s Chop House
This was the real reason we ventured to Charleston in the first place. Long-time food & wine buddy Stefan Stanton, formerly a manager at Dressler’s Restaurant in Charlotte – our favorite hometown restaurant – is now a full-time surfer dude and occasional waiter at Hall’s Chop House, reputed to be one of Charleston’s top restaurants. And what a place! It was partly due to the anticipation of seeing Stefan again (it had been a year since he left Dressler’s), but from the moment we walked in the door, the people at Hall’s – including it seemed most of the Hall family – made a point of welcoming us, introducing themselves and basically making us feel like the most important people who had ever showed up at their place for dinner. And what a nice feeling after too many less-than-enthusiastic chain restaurant experiences.
The service from everyone from the bartender to the bus boys – and most especially our waiter – was superb. Stefan introduced us to their sommelier, who recommended a couple of excellent wines, making it easy to choose from their enormous and outstanding selection. Hall’s specialty is dry-aged beef, and while I have had it before, I have never had dry-aged beef like THAT before! It is fairly rare to find a restaurant that dry-ages their own beef, knows how to pick it and – most importantly – knows how to cook it. I had a dry-aged Ribeye that was easily the best restaurant steak I’ve ever had. Kathy had a filet that she could have cut with her fork, and it was delicious. And the dessert – let’s just say that you can’t go wrong with any of the desserts!
Stefan is clearly loving life, and it was great to connect with him and experience Hall’s. He seems right at home there, and I swear that if I could find a way to marry into the family he might just have a job for life! Overall, Kathy & I agree that our dinner there was probably the best restaurant experience ever. We don’t have the resume for that to mean very much, but we’ve been around enough to know what’s good, and Hall’s Chop House is beyond good. It was truly fabulous.
Caviar & Bananas
Another unlikely-sounding place, this is officially a gourmet market and café, and is located just a little out of the way from the tourist traffic, near the College of Charleston. We went there for a late breakfast on Sunday, which explains why I don’t write about my Sunday lunch – we didn’t have any! Their signature dessert – which I did not have but should have – is Caviar & Bananas. It’s described on their menu as “Bruleed Bananas, Sweet Tapioca, Local Honey, Brown Sugar, Marscapone & Almond Tuile. Yummy!
Recommended by our buddy Jon Dressler, we visited Basil, a Thai restaurant just up King Street from Hall’s, for dinner on Sunday night. Believe it or not, neither Kathy nor I had ever eaten Thai food before. So, trusting Dressler, we went. It was great! I know that I am probably very inaccurate to say that it is a lot like Chinese, but I thought it was a lot like Chinese, with some different spices and flavors. The wait – even on a Sunday night – was over an hour, which we passed across the street in the bar at The MacIntosh, which looks like a nice restaurant itself. Next time!
There is a Basil restaurant in Charlotte, also. We’re going to have to ‘give Thai another try.’ We really did like it!
Practically next door to Caviar & Bananas on George Street, is this Monday-Friday, breakfast-lunch only place called Jack’s Café. It’s nothing fancy, but Jack himself has been running the grill for nearly 40 years. Good, fast diner food, served with a smile at a reasonable price, it’s sometimes just the ticket. The cheeseburgers are supposed to be excellent, so we’ll probably need to go back for lunch. Next time!
So there are the highlights of our Tour de Food in Charleston. Every person who goes as their favorite places, and we now have a few more of our own. The next time we go, we’ll definitely make room for a return visit to Hall’s. And some day (Paul) I’ll get to Hyman Seafood! 🙂
I’ve been away, but I haven’t gone far. We’ve had a few things going on over the last couple of months that disrupted the little bit of posting momentum that I had back in January. I forced myself to spend a little time on the computer to process a few photos and throw a few words onto the blog so everyone knows I still love them!
A few weeks ago – seems like months – Kathy & I visited Charleston, SC for a weekend. February probably isn’t the ideal time to visit Charleston, and the particular weekend that we went was cold and windy. We spent a lot of time dashing from shop to shop, looking for shelter from the cold, and even dodged a little rain & snow on the first day there.
Charleston is a photogenic town whenever you visit. I did some photographing while we were there, and while I certainly didn’t capture the “classic” Charleston, I feel like I captured what I saw and felt while we were there. Add some color from a few flowers and trees, a little warmer weather and the results would be totally different.
One of the things that has kept me off the computer is a little “reading project” that I got myself into. When we took our cruise in January, I decided that I wanted to read the Harry Potter series. I had never read any of the books, never saw the movies, and our kids were too old by the time the books became popular for them to bring “Potter-itis” into our home. So I got the first volume as an e-book from the library before we left, started in on it, and I got hooked. I quickly finished the first book while onboard, and quickly downloaded the second volume. I just finished #5 of 7 and decided it was time for a little break. It’s great reading, but it sucked me in and wouldn’t let go!
We’re headed to “The Other Charleston” this coming weekend – Charleston, West Virginia. We’re meeting Bill & Cathy, our friends from Ohio, there to make some travel plans for this coming summer. I’ll definitely have a camera with me and hope to have some time to wander around, so I’ll be interested to see what that Charleston has to offer.