Strawberry Fields and that Analog Feel

This past weekend, my roommates and I decided to take a break from the urban life. We spent our Saturday morning at Patterson Fruit Farm (8765 Mulberry Road, Chesterland, OH 44026) picking strawberries. It was my first time strawberry picking (and I’ve only been apple picking once before, when I was a teeny tiny little kid) so I was super pumped.

I brought along my camera, Marcus (yes, I named my camera), to capture all the fun.

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We arrived at the farm a little past 10AM, when it was bright but not overbearingly sunny. I wore a black T-shirt and some shorts, but with the morning breeze, a longer pair of pants would’ve felt more comfortable.

The farm had opened not long before we arrived; even so, there were quite a few people there – mostly families with younger children. Some had already finished their picking for the day, and were preparing to leave.

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When you arrive at the strawberry fields, a few employees greet you to give you a basket to store your loot and show you what fields are open for picking. I noticed that they opened up more sections as the day went on, to ensure that no singular area was over-harvested. Plus, it means that you’ll always have nice, fresh strawberries to pick regardless of what time you arrive.

I also appreciated that the farm had lined the fields with straw; it had rained the previous night, and without the straw, the ground would have been soggy and muddy. The straw made it more bearable to kneel, or even sit, down onto the ground to harvest the strawberries. Because the strawberry bushes are low to the ground, it does mean you have to do quite a bit of kneeling and hovering. If you have bad knees, this might not be the best sustained activity for you (unless you bring a stool, which honestly, isn’t a bad idea at all).

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Overall, I had a lot of fun and got to nab some great pictures. I especially love the photo of me holding up the strawberry in the feature photo. Because there was so much direct sunlight, some of the photos looked a little bit bleached during post-processing (I set it on P mode, and don’t use a UV filter). I didn’t really mind it, because I think it gave the photos a cool vintage vibe, which prompted me to be more experimental in my photo editing. (I will probably grab my a UV filter from one of my dad’s old Minoltas when I head home in August, though.)

To give the photos that truly analog feel, I used Analog Efex Pro 2 from the Google Nik Collection (which is now free!). All of the photos were edited using the Classic Camera 7 filter, though I did play around with the film type and the dust filters.

While I quite like this app, though I do wish there were two changes – (1) that I could open RAW files directly without having to convert it first, and (2) that there was a save button that didn’t close the program after the new product is saved. It was a little bit tiresome to have to re-open the app repeatedly to edit more photos. If you opened more than one photo at a time, you end up editing all of them with the same filters. This is merely a problem with the UX, though; otherwise, the app does exactly what it says it will do and is easy and intuitive to use.

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I’m really happy with the results of the photos, and of course the 6 lbs of strawberries I harvested with my roommate! (We split into two duos; we harvested nearly 10 lbs altogether.) We’ve frozen most of it, while I added some to a homemade banana ice cream. Cassandra, one of my roommates, has plans to make a strawberry sorbet!

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After our time at the strawberry farm, we headed over to the Pizza Festival to feed our tummies. One of my goals this summer in Cleveland is to spend as much time outdoors as possible. So far, I’ve gone kayaking in the Vermillion metroparks (I wish I had brought my camera along for the view – it was gorgeous!) and spent some time exploring West Side Market and cooking with friends. (Another goal is, of course, update this blog as much as possible!)

Up next on my list are: Hocking Hills and Kalihari Water Park.

If you’ve got any suggestions for my Cleveland summer, drop me a comment! I’d love to find more places to go to.

Fin.

Writer’s notes:
1. Sun protection is real business. This summer, before you spend an obnoxious amount of time outdoors, make sure to check for the UV Index (here by Coppertone) and take other precautions accordingly.
2. I really like Uniqlo’s UV-protective clothing (here), and for my face I use Skinfood’s Aloe Watery Sun Water Gel (here). Biore’s Watery Essence (here) is really great too.

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.

Oh, the places I’ll go?

As a second-semester junior, I am expected to have the next part of my life charted out. Some of my peers have the rest of their lives planned: where they want to go to graduate school, and to study what, and in which area they envision themselves settling down.

I can’t say the same. Up until three months ago, I didn’t even know if I wanted to go to medical school. I have no immediate plans to take the MCAT, still have two remaining pre-med classes to take, and have no dream medical school.

I knew I wanted to take a gap year after graduating, but I didn’t know to do what or to go where.

Trying to map my future feels like trying to complete a 9×9 Sudoku puzzle with only 3 clues. The possibilities are endless, and anything can be an answer.

Most of the time, I am pretty good at taking life one step at a time. But some days, I am overwhelmed by the thoughts of the future – immediate and distant. These last three weeks have been especially difficult.

As the semester begins to wrap up, I am confronted with a mountain of schoolwork and exams, as well as extracurricular commitments that have built up. This is the immediate hurdle I must overcome.

At the same time, this is no regular semester – it is my third to last semester as an undergraduate. At the conclusion of next semester, some of my peers will know where they will be spending their next four years as a graduate student. In the semester after that, we will be graduating college, and heading off to another bigger, and hopefully better, chapter of our lives.

Much of the planning, then, takes place this semester. Much of this planning, though, feels like grasping for air – much time wasted, but very little gained, if at all.

Fortunately, I am now at a much better place than I was three months ago.

In the upcoming year, I will be working to attain a Master’s degree in Bioethics. In my near future, I see a career as an ethicist, which lines up neatly with the bulk of the research I have been doing in the last three years.

And hopefully, one day not too far away, I will attend medical school and ultimately become a neurosurgeon or neurologist.

As the dust settles, I am starting to see a path.

I am reminded of a Chinese idiom, “车到山前必有路,船到桥头自然直。” The literal translation is, “When the train gets to the mountain, there will be a way; when the boat gets to the pier-head, it will go straight with the current.”

Things are finally starting to fall into place. I am beginning to have a direction in life, and can rest easy that I have an ultimate goal I’d like to achieve.

But very little of this was planned. I ended up in Cleveland for college because all of my other plans fell through. I joined a sorority on a hunch. I applied for the Bioethics program on a whim.

Still, the old Chinese idiom was right – when you get to the mountain, there will be a path.

For some people, this path is planned. But for me, it is forged, one step at a time.

Fin.

Writer’s Note:
Some translators equate the Chinese idiom with the English saying, “We’ll cross the bridge when we get to it.” I personally think that these two sayings convey slightly different messages.