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.

The First of Many

Cleveland Museum of Art

Above: 1/365 Seated Amitayus Buddha at the Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH). Taken with a Pentax KS2 on December 2, 2016.

When I decided to embark on Project 365, I knew I wanted the first photo to be of the Seated Amitayus Buddha statue at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I’ve been taking a class on Buddhist Art in Asia, and have come to know the room that the statue is displayed in pretty well. In my opinion, it is one of the most striking pieces on Buddhist art that the CMA has to offer on permanent display.

For this photo, I really wanted to create a sense of formidability. In Mahayana Buddhism, Amitayus is the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. He is the principal deity in Pure Land Buddhism, which explains why he is displayed in the center of the Ancient Chinese gallery. In my opinion, the statue was really meant to be looked at from below, which is why I decided to shoot upwards. From this angle, it appears as if the Buddha is looking at you, and you really do get a sense of immense power from the statue.

In post-editing, I also wanted to strike up the contrast for two reasons – to further separate the Buddha from the rest of the background, and to emphasize the deep drapery that graces the marble. The drapery itself is more similar to Northern Indian (Gandharan) sculptures than to Chinese sculptures whose drapery is usually frillier and waterfall-like. Anyway, this is not an Art History class, so I’ll skip this technical stuff.

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View of Seated Amitayus Buddha in the Ancient Chinese Gallery at CMA. Taken with a Pentax KS2 on December 2, 2016.

Shooting in museums is quite frustrating because of all the reflective protective glass. But to my surprise, I was able to use the glass casings to my advantage in this photo (I hadn’t even noticed this until post-processing!), producing four reflections of Amitayus. This photo, I think, really creates a sense of the Buddha Amitayus being ever-present.

I decided to go with black and white in this photo in post-processing because the two bronze bells in the foreground were quite distracting in their original color. I also cheated a bit by selectively amping up the brightness of the statue, to further intensify the sense of spiritual magnificence.

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Bodhisattva at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Taken with a Pentax KS2 on December 2, 2016.

My chief purpose at the CMA, however, was really to film a segment on the Bodhisattva, the dry lacquer statue on display also in the Chinese statue gallery. Contrary to the previous photo, reflective glass is not my friend here. Because the statue was well-lit from above (bless), it meant that the reflective properties of the glass was also magnified (not bless). Unfortunately, the KS2 does not have a “through glass” setting, which I remember my old Nikon point-and-shoot having. Regardless, I was able to take some pretty reasonable photos and videos without much glare.

Funny story – when I was filming, it turns out I was on manual focus the whole time, which made my life decidedly more difficult. Silver lining is, I was able to get quite acquainted with the focus dial. It gave me flashbacks to high school when I used to work with high-power microscopes while dissecting fruit flies…

Anyway, I am pretty satisfied by the KS2’s ability to catch detail. Though I do wish it came with a better kit lens with a wider aperture, the images it produces are still very sharp, as you can see from the photo below.

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Close-up view of the foot of the Bodhisattva. Taken with a Pentax KS2 on December 2, 2016.

In this photo, you can really see the wonderful drapery of the robe that the Bodhisattva wears, as well as the texture of the cloth used to make the statue. Yep – you heard that right! This statue is not clay nor stone, it is made from cloth and lacquer via the dry lacquer technique. The process was incredibly labor intensive, expensive, and quite toxic. Very few dry lacquer statues exist today, and it’s a treat that the CMA has one on display.

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Photo of the Pentax KS2 with 18-50 mm WR kit lens. Many logos just in case you didn’t realize what brand this is. Taken with a Samsung Galaxy S6 on December 3, 2016.

Finally, I want to end this post talking a little bit about my new friend, my Pentax KS2 which I have affectionately named Marcus. It came in the mail about two days ago, and I found that I have been unable to keep my hands off of it. Seriously!

I won’t talk much about the specs, because I think it’s been covered pretty thoroughly on the interwebz. This camera is a true delight to use. I’ve used friends’ Canons and Nikons before, and they were great, but there is something very special about this particular camera. Maybe I’m being weird, but I’m hoping my photographer friends can back me up here.

I’m obviously a newbie into the photography realm. I don’t even dare to call myself a “newbie photographer”. But it seems to be the consensus among the community that it is not always about the specs of the device. The feel and grip of the device matters too! In cognitive science, we characterize well-designed products as being extensions of the user’s body. The Pentax KS2’s smaller body fits perfectly in my tiny baby hands, and the intuitive (at least to me) control dials really do make the camera feel like an extension of my hand.

I’m excited to see what type of adventures Marcus and I will embark on next! I already can’t wait for it to be daybreak already so I can go outside and find something to take pictures of. I think I’m becoming addicted to the shutter sound.

Fin.

Writer’s notes: (1) The Bodhisattva has had a pretty interesting history. Its conservation story is the subject of my Art History final project, and you can also read about it here.
(2) You can find many technical reviews of the Pentax KS2 on a plethora of websites. I also found these videos helpful: here (TheCameraStoreTV) and here (Spyros Heniadis).