New Year, New Lenses

It’s been about a year since I bought Marcus. It’s been a faithful travel companion, and has withstand my clumsy hands. In this time, I’ve only been using the kit lens since I figured it’d allow me to learn the ropes. Well, recently, I decided it was time for me to outfit Marcus with a new pair of lenses. It was an impromptu decision, but I had done some preliminary research in the past, so I hit up the B&H Store in New York, and took advantage of their generous holiday sale.

I purchased the 50mm f/1.8 lens and I’m really satisfied with my decision. I loved the kit lens, but the f/1.8 lens is sharper and creates a more editorial look. Since it’s a 50mm, it means that my field of vision is significantly smaller, and I will have to be more judicious in what I allow in and out of my frame. I think these lenses are fabulous for portraits — it captures the perfect amount of softness and sharpness. After using the kit lens for so long, these prime lenses feel like such a treat!

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Singer in front of Ai WeiWei’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” installation // Washington Square Park, New York, NY

Since I have some quiet time at home, I’ve been doing some self-reflections. I think 2017 was a little bit of a chaotic year for me; there was a lot going on, and I got way too burnt out by the end. I kind of did a hard shut-down as the semester and the year wound down to a close, and I feel much more refreshed going into 2018.

If you’ve been reading this blog for the past year, then you’ll probably know that I started a 365-day photo project, that started off quite strong but I kind of gave up midway through the year. Looking back, it was too much all at once, and if I am to come up with some New Years Resolutions, then I’d better start small.

I’ve got four major “projects” that I want to work on in this upcoming year. They are: (1) capsule everything, (2) budgeting, (3) reading more books and watching more films, and (3) experiment more with my photography.

I think that the first two go hand-in-hand. Fine tuning my capsule system will allow me to be wiser with my spending, and in turn, help me get into the habit of budgeting. I’ve been trying to get into the capsule wardrobe system for some time now, and though I’ve done a great job parring down over the years, I don’t think I’ve quite curated a capsule wardrobe that I’m proud of. I think I will start with parring down my makeup collection first, and then stepping into other things like books, before finally revisiting my clothing for a capsule wardrobe finale! I’ll most likely keep the details to that for a separate post, so this one won’t get too long.

In terms of budgeting, I think I need to work on not just budgeting my spending but also my time. I find myself always doing menial tasks (checking my e-mail, scrolling through Facebook) because “5 minutes” just isn’t enough to do something meaningful when in reality – it totally is! These are larger goals, and will probably take me longer to accomplish than others on this list.

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1 Washington Mews // New York, NY

I was particularly inspired by a friend who committed to watching a single film every week over the past year. Watching more films has been something I’ve been meaning to do now, and haven’t, ever quite gotten around to it. Honestly, since I spend so much time watching Netflix and YouTube anyway, I could turn this time into accomplishing things that I’ve been meaning to do. (Same goes for reading – all those memes could’ve totally been a new book.) I think my goal is to watch a film a week, and read a book a month.

And my last goal is to just have more fun with my photography. I want to challenge myself to look at photography a different way. I’ve noticed that my attitude towards photography has always been secondary. That is, I’m always bringing Marcus along to photograph something an experience of mine. This is detrimental, I think, in two ways – firstly, it interferes with me truly being present during the experience and thus also prevents me from really spending quality time with the person I’m with. Secondly, it’s also a disservice to my photography, since I’m viewing the perfect opportunity to be more passive, when I can be creating my perfect shot. So I guess these are a lot of words to say that I’m going to treat photography as an ends-in-itself, rather than just a thing that is convenient for me to do at that time.

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Passenger (or conductor?), on board the Holiday Nostalgia Train // New York, NY

And of course – one thing that I have to work on is posting more often! I think I started 2017 off quite well, but lost track of it by the end. This year, I hope I am on the up and up instead – I love blogging, and posting about my experiences, and hearing from you all.

So, in the spirit of my new resolutions let me know in the comments below on what is your:

  1. Thoughts on capsule wardrobes/etc.
  2. Budgeting tips and tricks
  3. Favorite book
  4. Favorite movie/film
  5. Photo that you’ve taken in 2017 that you’re most proud of

Thank you for reading, and I wish you the absolute best in 2018. Cheers to a new year! 🥂

Fin.

Writer’s note: 
1. I cannot decide if a pair of camera lens should be “lens” or “lenses”… Any grammar experts out there who can illuminate the proper term?

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Approach with Caution and a Camera

According to the Davidson Lateralization Theory of Emotions, our left brain hemisphere regulates “approach” tendencies while our right brain hemisphere regulates “withdraw” tendencies.

“Approach” includes emotions such as joy, motivation, and even anger – these are emotions that cause us to interact with the world. “Withdraw”, on the other hand, includes emotions such as sadness and the need for isolation. Depression has been shown to be associated with hypoactivation (i.e. under activation) of the left hemisphere, while mania has been shown to be associated with the hypoactivation of the right.

I am, by nature, a withdraw person. There are many plans and goals I’ve set for myself that I have not really achieved precisely because, at the crucial time, my right hemisphere decides to go into overdrive and I become withdraw-oriented. (At least, that’s my guess.) I tend to rationalize these unfulfilled plans – the weather was bad, I don’t feel very well, I should do laundry, etc.

Yesterday was one of the rare days I had forced myself to approach. Despite the groggy weather, I made the decision to visit the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at Temple-Tifereth Israel to take some photos for the Yearbook. The Temple was completed in 1924, designed by Bostonian architect Charles R. Greco, and served as a historic synagogue. In 2015, in a historic partnership with Case Western Reserve University, the Temple was renovated and reopened as a performing arts center.

The Temple was designed by Bostonian architect, Charles R. Greco. Greco was also an architect of many other Jewish synagogues and Roman Catholic churches.

As I was photographing the building, I was approached by a security guard who asked if I wanted to take photos inside of the Temple. It was a real treat to be able to even photograph the empty building from the inside – but I was able to go up to the top of the building, behind the beautiful stained glass windows.

The whole experience was surreal, and very spiritual, though I am not Jewish. The Temple has a magnificent history, was home to two exceptionally famous Rabbis, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To be able to visit the building, and its exceptional architecture, and to transverse passageways that very few people have graced, was an amazing experience.

I left feeling thankful, refreshed, and above all – proud. I was proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone, for pushing myself to overcome my withdraw urge, and to actually engage.

Not only was I able to procure some beautiful photographs, I also made some new friends and, most importantly, I learned something — pushing your limits can yield unexpected results. (Cheesy, I know.)

This experience reminds me of a lovely quote by Johannes Kepler to Galileo Galilei in a letter – “Have faith, and carry on.”

Indeed, have faith — and don’t forget to carry your camera!

Fin.

Writer’s notes:
(1) Davidson’s Approach/Withdrawal model has been one of the most noteworthy models of cerebral regulation of emotions. Read his landmark paper here.
(2) Read more about the Temple via its wiki page, here.
(3) For some photos, I have been experimenting with Google’s Nik Collection. It has been made free for download. Check it out, here.