I have an itch for exploration. It's often hard to find places close to my home that I haven't been to before, but every so often, I find a spot that's new to me. Most of the time, this involves driving great distances and hiking quite a while until I find remoteness and solitude. But the other night was an exception. Following a road I had only been on once before, I ended up in a barren cul-de-sac dotted with eerily rustling trees and shared only by another car minding its own business. The marine layer had already started to work its way in by the time I got there, so my options for photography were few. But I managed to capture a couple of images with my Sony NEX-5 that seem to do the landscape justice. I can only hope that places like this still exist in a few years, before the creep of expanding housing developments overtakes what is left of the region's immediate wilderness.
More often than not, freelancers have to get by on meager incomes for much of their career. While it's not ideal for some people, others try to make the most out of it. The internet is packed with tips for saving money in our down economy, but some are worth repeating. For me, one thing I always try to look out for is overspending when I eat out with friends. It's really easy to sit down at a restaurant and order a $9 entrée, a $3 drink and a $4 dessert without even registering the relative cost of the food. That same amount of money could rack in a complete wardrobe on a Salvation Army dollar-clothing day. Yet so many people order way too much uncessery food which, quite frankly, only lasts a matter of hours in your system.
Instead of ordering a 2000 calorie mega-meal the next time you're out with friends, why not keep things simple? Check out the "Sides" section of the menu. Often times, sides are priced in relation to adding it onto a full entrée, and when done so, comes in a smaller portion size. But in many restaurants, the kitchen/serving staff will actually "super-size" your portions when ordering a side by itself, without increasing the price in the least bit. The french fries photographed above cost a grand total of $1.99. And that was before I ate most of them, when the basket was still full. Sure, I could have ordered the $6.95 Gyros meal like I usually do, but it's often too much food for me. That extra $5 can go a long way, and when combined with a glass or two of water, a large serving of fries fills me up pretty fast.
The downside to this is, of course, the fact that most sides do not offer a complete nutritional range. But as long as one adjusts their other meals of the day at home sufficiently, this should not be a big issue for most individuals with standard diets. And it sure beats indulging on insane quantities of food, only to feel sick afterwards.
I'd like to think that I'm an adventurous person. Sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. It often depends on my mood, and largely how much sleep I've gotten the night before. In many ways, I have a strong adventurous spirit. But it is not always manifested in physical ways. I have a strong sense of enthusiasm for learning new things, for trying out new skills, and for improving my personal capabilities. But often times, when it comes to going out and exploring the world, I suddenly find myself reserved. The idealized version of myself is someone much more physically active and adventuresome, taking on challenges measured in leaps and strides.
My to-do list of "adventure" seems to be never-ending. I'd love to learn how to surf and snowboard. Rock climbing has always peaked my interest. And scuba diving seems like something I'd get a big kick out of. But even though I have an initiative for self improvement, I have a strange lack of motivation when it comes to tackling these goals. In some ways, I don't even know where to start. And this is further complicated by the fact that I have my whole life ahead of me to spend doing these things. But as someone who wants to go into the field of travel and adventure photography, I'm going to have to rack up many of these skill sets eventually. Or at the very least, I should try to gain back the wonderful sense of challenge that has all but faded.
I told myself that I would travel this summer, and if the stars align properly, I'll at least get a chance to get out of here for a short bit. Still, that hasn't stopped me from dreaming. In-between spurts of cleaning and organizing today, I randomly planned bits and pieces of a theoretical Jack-Kerouac-style road trip. And it sounds like UCSD, my new school as of this fall, has plenty of opportunities for recreation and adventure. Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to redeem myself and reach that target of an adventurous spirit after all.
Photography is notoriously expensive. With cameras running upwards of $400 for a basic model body, and a good lens usually costing at least $250 or more, photographers quickly go broke working their way up to a respectable kit. For those who don't make a living off of the art, however, one can get by on some unorthodox gear choices. And if one has luck in the realm of bargain shopping, the act of scouting out cheap gear can become a game within itself.
What you see above was taken with such a lens. Though it is a pretty poor sample shot, it shows you that a decently artistic photo can be crafted on the cheap. And what glass was responsible for this picture? Photographed below, this lens is a prime (ha!) example of a dirt cheap lens. My second thrift store lens (in recent years) for $7, this baby isn't without its flaws. Unlike my first $7 lens, a 50mm Pentax-M f2 that was covered in grime but cleaned up nicely, this latest find isn't in full operational condition. Though physically clean with clear glass, this Sears 28mm f2.8 lens seems to have aperture blades stuck wide open at f2.8. For casual shooting, this isn't much of an issue, as I usually keep my glass open in most situations. And for $7, I'm not complaining in the least bit.
At this point, I fully intend on purchasing a Sony NEX-5 camera as soon as it is widely released. And assuming that a Pentax-K to E-Mount adapter will be available from third party vendors in short time, it would be nice to have a collection of cheap prime lenses to use on such a tiny body for casual and street shooting. Though I wont go out of my way to purchases lenses for such a use, there's no harm in having "extras" lying around. And often times, working within the constraints of manual focus and exposure forces you to critically examine potential shots in new ways.
A quick intro to the current state of digital cameras. For the most part, you've got point-and-shoots, and DSLRs. DSLRs have a mirror that flips up inside, allowing you to look through the lens itself when you use the viewfinder. DSLRs have a much larger sensor than point-and-shoots, allowing for much higher image quality as well. Recently, the new Micro Four-Thirds standard attempted to bridge the divide between point-and-shoots and DSLRs, by removing the mirror element and maintaining a larger sensor with a live image displayed on a screen. But the sensor in Micro Four-Thirds cameras is still much smaller than the (still cropped) APS-C sensor found in most DSLRs. This is where Sony comes into play.
Image via dpreview.com
What you see here is the new Sony NEX-5 camera, coming out this July. It features a full APS-C sensor in the smallest mirror-less interchangeable lens system to date. Retailing at $650 with a 16mm f2.8 pancake and $700 with an 18-55mm zoom lens, both crafted out of metal and not plastic like most modern lenses, the cost is a steal for the phenomenal image quality that samples have produced thus far. In many ways, it even surpasses my current Pentax body. For those looking for a cheaper option, Sony is also releasing the NEX-3 with plastic housing (as opposed to the metal casing of the NEX-5) and reduced video options, but with a $100 savings.
While nothing is set in stone, there's a very good chance that the NEX-5 (with the 18-55mm lens) will become my new secondary body. As of late, I've been taking my primary camera everywhere I go, which gets rather cumbersome and challenging depending on the circumstance. If I had a camera with identical image quality, better video capabilities and more casual features in an incredibly small form factor, I would definitely feel safer bringing that instead. Though it could never replace the pure power that having an optical viewfinder provides, mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras fill an interesting niche in the increasingly diverse camera market. And there's a very real chance I'll own a piece of this revolution come later this summer.