Photographing my first courthouse wedding

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I appreciated the chance to photograph my brother-in-law’s wedding recently. It was my first time photographing a courthouse wedding and it also encouraged me to think through the best ways to generate a large volume of images from a compressed time period.

One thing that was useful was I was able to move freely throughout the courtroom, which allowed me to get some interesting angles of the couple and of the ceremony that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. But the critical decision I made was really to try and capture the couple in between locations. I told them to hold hands, walk slowly, and enjoy each other’s company. Those ended up being the shots that were the best of the day.

These photos were taken with my Canon 5D Mark III (AKA Old Faithful) and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. I also used a Sony A6500 with a 16mm f/1.4 for a few select wide angle shots.

Meeting Joanna

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I’ve been podcasting with Joanna Robinson for about six years. This past weekend, we met in person for the very first time.

It was about six years ago that Joanna first pitched me the idea of doing a recap podcast about Game of Thrones. I was unsure whether this would be a good idea — I didn’t know that much about the world of the show and I’d never done a TV podcast before. But I trusted in Joanna to guide the way.

So we decided to give it a shot, and we launched A Cast Of Kings. We entered a crowded field that already had DOZENS of other Game of Thrones podcasts.

Fast forward to present day. A Cast of Kings is the most successful podcast I’ve ever had a part in, generating over 5 million downloads, with hundreds of thousands of fans from all around the world. Moreover, Joanna’s star has risen dramatically in the intervening years, as she’s become one of the most respected and widely read Game of Thrones writers on the internet. It’s been an honor to work with her during
this ascension.

Despite this, Joanna and I had never met in person before. But yesterday, at a Podcaster Meet And Greet at #ConOfThrones, surrounded by many fans of the show we created together, we finally had the chance. This photo commemorates the occasion (thanks to Jim from Bald Move for taking it).

The internet can be magic, if you will it to be. All it takes is the willingness to take chances with people and a passion for what you do.

And persistence. A lot of persistence.

The best meal I’ve ever had in my entire life

To get to the best restaurant in Washington State, and one of the best restaurants in the country, you first need to drive two hours north of Seattle and take a 10-minute ferry ride to get to Lummi Island (population: about 600). On the far side of the island is Willows Inn, run by Chef Blaine Wetzel. Wetzel is barely 30 years old, but in 2014, the James Beard Foundation named him Rising Star Chef of the Year and in 2015, he was awarded Best Chef Northwest.

The Willows Inn restaurant only operates for 3-4 nights per week. At capacity, the restaurant seats 34 people. There is one seating per night at 6 PM. The meal lasts three hours. Each person’s meal cost $200 with a mandatory gratuity.

Accede to these conditions and you will possibly have the best meal of your entire life. The setting is homey and welcoming. The service is friendly and informative. The food is exquisite and unique. Many of the ingredients are caught from the surrounding water, or harvested from surrounding vegetation and gardens. It feels like you are eating straight from the earth — in a good way.

Several of our fellow diners were here from out of state. They made the pilgrimage and they were well-rewarded. So, my advice: if you’ve never been, add this to the bucket list!

I was able to take some photos of the meal below, using a Fuji X-T2. Here are the dishes that were photographed:

toasted kale leaves
clams and scallops
oysters and wilcress
black cod and currant leaves
dungeness crab soaked in pinenuts
herb tostada
smoked mussels
reefnet caught smoked sockeye
lightly cured rockfish in a broth of grilled bones
steamed bok choy

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There are no words

Yesterday was the Seattle Womxn’s March, an event intended to signal solidarity with all the people who might be marginalized under a Trump administration. An estimated 130K people (more than 2x the 50,000 that was estimated) marched the 3.5 miles from Judkins Park to the Seattle Center. I was part of that group.

According to the site’s press release, this was one of more than 200 events planned in 46 states and 30 countries (The New York Times has a rundown of all the events).

Seattle’s event was “a grassroots response to the 2016 election, according to Paula Goelzer, a Seattle-based birth doula, who started the Facebook event for the Womxn’s March on Seattle after she and her colleagues heard about the march in Washington D.C.” (FYI: This is one of the most Seattle sentences that has ever been written)

As I headed downtown to join the March from its 4th and Pike entrance, I noticed the city was eerily quiet – probably because most people were already at the March’s opening rallying point in Judkins.

This was supposed to be a silent march, and as I got into the crowd, I did notice things were much more quiet and less raucous than I would’ve expected. Occasional cheers did erupt throughout the marching line, but there was an eerie, magical feeling as we all headed down the street.

One thing the event definitely affirmed to me was the creativity and spirit of my fellow Seattle residents. Lots of creative signs were out in force.

I’m going to have a more detailed post with my favorite signs from the event later this week.

As the march reached its endpoint, we did notice a few crazies. A man standing off to the side of the street. One Chinese woman with a thick accent and a Pepe shirt started screaming “BUILD THAT WALL” at a lot of the marchers (don’t get me started on why this makes no sense). Fortunately, there was a woman following her around with a sign that said “Ignore the troll.”

Throughout the day, there were wonderful moments that confirmed, yes, we still live in a country (or at least a city) that values equality and goodness. And maybe together, we can figure out how to get through this.

The thing that hit me the most were kids. Sure there were some that were clearly dragged there by their parents and had no idea WTF was going on. But others were there to take a step into political activism, to affirm that values like peace, love, and kindness were still worth fighting for in this world. I was deeply moved by them.

The future belongs to these kids. We let them down in a big way with this election. But these children remind me, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”


P.S. Also, why spell it the “Womxn’s March”? From the website:

The spelling of “Womxn’s March” has been adapted to highlight and promote intersectionality in the movement for civil right and equality. Intersectionality acknowledges that different forms of discrimination intersect, overlap, and reinforce each other, and recognizes the impact of discrimination based not only on gender, but also race, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, faith, class, disability, and other backgrounds.

Seattle Urban Craft Uprising 2014

I haven’t been shooting enough recently. 
Between my full-time job, the new cello videos, and finishing up work on the film, and all the podcasting, it’s been tough to find the time and will to get out there and do some photography. Thus, I decided to head to the Urban Craft Uprising today with my Canon 5D Mark III and a 50mm f/1.4 lens. I’ve been shooting a lot with the GH4 recently, but despite how convenient, portable, and fun that camera is to use, I occasionally crave the beauty of full-frame. 
It was pretty great seeing all the cool things that craftspeople from the Pacific Northwest came up with. Pro tip for these situations, by the way: Artists really appreciate it when you ask for permission to take photos. It’s their livelihood you’re dealing with, and they’re graciously giving you control of how it’s presented to the world. Tread carefully. 
Thanks to artists such as Clarissa Callesen and many others for allowing me to photograph their work today. You can find all the photos the photos from this set right here
[Side note: This photo set was made using VSCO’s new Film Pack 06, their Cross Process collection.]

On Trying to Fall in Love with the Fuji X100 Again


I recently traveled to Portland bringing only my aging Fuji X100 to shoot with. I’d kind of fallen out of love with this camera awhile ago, even though I never lost respect for the quality of images it’s capable of. It wasn’t that the pictures were bad. The problem is that a significant amount of the time (I’d peg it at 20-30%), getting the image you want is really kind of a crapshoot. The focusing on the X100 is still really lacking and the menu system is a pain to navigate.

Since I now own a Canon 5D Mark III with its easy-to-access dials and controls and monstrously good autofocus system, it just didn’t make sense to rely on the X100 when I could achieve a much higher consistency in my images. Combine that with the fact that Fuji recently released the X100’s successor, the X100S, which has been insanely well-reviewed, and I was thinking I should retire my X100 and save up for its more attractive, expensive younger sister.

But an impromptu trip to Portland was coming up and it was only going to be a few days, so I didn’t really need a heavy-duty camera. Plus, Fuji recently released a significant firmware update to the X100, improving startup time and autofocus. So I thought, why not? Let’s bring this camera to Portland and see if I can fall in love with this thing again. And while I still don’t think I’m going to be using this camera in my regular rotation, here are a few things I did really appreciate about it.

Caveat: Due to the recent firmware update, I discovered after the fact that all my settings had been reset and that the following images were all taken in JPEG mode. D’oh! 

Portland 15

Traveling is one use-case scenario where I do think the Fuji X100 still shines. I think that this will definitely still be my go-to travel camera in the future. The Fuji X100 is super light, nearly silent, and very inconspicuous compared to a DSLR. Plus, the retro design looks beautiful – many strangers comment on it when I take it around. I have a compact camera bag that I put this into and I can easily throw it in my backpack on the way out the door. Oftentimes I will literally leave this thing hanging around my neck all day and it feels totally fine, even though it definitely marks me as a tourist.

There’s a certain comfort to knowing that I can still achieve professional-quality images with the camera I’m carrying, even in low-light scenarios. This camera provides that comfort for me.

Portland 5

Here’s a reason why this camera is awesome for portrait photography: people behave differently around you when you’re holding a Fuji X100 than when you have a DSLR. I often ask people to let me take their picture, and if I have a DSLR, they’ll tense up or even refuse. Not so with the Fuji X100. The Fuji X100 is not intimidating. It looks like a rangefinder film camera. And it’s so silent, people often won’t even know that you’ve taken their picture (you have to tell them and thank them). This allows for a quality of candid shots that you just can’t achieve with DSLRs.

Portland 22

This thing is perfect for food photography, if you’re into/not incredibly annoyed by that kind of thing. With its F/2.0 max aperture, its spectacular low light performance, and its adequate “macro mode,” you can get some pretty appetizing results.

Portland 3

One last random thing: I used VSCO filters for a lot of these images and I find they work really well with Fuji X100 images for some reason. Not sure what it is but I think it’s the quality of the image combined with the focal length (35mm equivalent) that just creates a feeling that’s really vintage-looking and attractive. Here’s the full set of images I took.

So overall, this camera is still great. True, there were several shots I missed, and several that I had to try multiple times to capture. But I’m really happy with the ones I did get. The firmware update did improve things but I didn’t find that difference to be night and day- it was more of a subtle, evolutionary improvement.

Given the improvements and given that I only use the X100 occasionally, I’m probably not going to upgrade to the X100S quite yet. But once the latter drops in price, I’m all over that thing.

Vegas Through a Rokinon 8mm Fisheye

I recently traded in my Canon 5D Mark II (*sniff*) for a Canon 60D and a 5D Mark III (I wanted the 60D to do some cheap DSLR video on-the-go). One of the ancillary benefits of the 60D purchase was being able to finally use that 8mm Rokinon fisheye lens I had sitting in my closet. I had bought the Rokinon many months ago, not realizing that it was essentially useless on a full-frame camera. Stupid move, but one easily negated with the purchase of another camera!

I decided to take the Rokinon with me on a recent vacation to Vegas. How’d it fare in real-world use? In general, pretty well! Here are a few stray observations on this lens:

  • One of the big annoyances about this lens is the lack of aperture control from the camera itself. Instead, there’s an aperture ring you must physically turn. I’m used to this from using my finicky-but-awesome Fuji X100, but it was still a chore. Compounding this is that you get an aperture preview that is “always on” as you look through the lens.
  • Outdoors and in good lighting, the fisheye was amazing. Just setting the focus to somewhere between 3ft and infinity yields razor sharp pics. And of course, the look is quite unique.
  • In low light and using the 60D video function, I found the lens to produce images that were kind of a soupy mess. You can get a taste of that in one of the videos I made using the fisheye at night. Really not ideal, although the lack of sharpness here is probably a combination of a bunch of factors.
  • Because of the way the lens’s glass element is shaped, it’s a bit challenging to get the lens cap on and off. It will only fit in one orientation.
  • As is probably obvious, conventional photographic guidelines don’t really apply. It’s hard to adhere to the rule of thirds when your horizon is bending dramatically. After much experimentation, I found that photos I took that were mostly symmetrical ended up being the most striking and impressive. And of course, be as close to the subject as possible.
So would I recommend the fisheye lens? Depends. The fisheye produces a very specific type of image and you really have to get in close to create something visually striking (or alternatively, be really far away, as in a nature/landscape shot). I was definitely glad to have it in certain situations, but it is a lot harder to craft eye-catching images from it, since I believe the settings and situations you need to create those images occur more rarely when using this lens. Thus, if you are making one of your first, relatively-low-cost lens purchases, I’d definitely pick up the 50mm f/1.4 lens before you pick up anything else, as its versatility and sharpness are beyond compare. For the 8mm Rokinon, only niche hobbyists need apply.