Hi all. Happy New Year!
It does indeed feel like a happy new year, especially compared to the last. In 2020, still unvaccinated, I stayed in New York over the holidays — the first time in my life not being with my family for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Last year, finally vaxxed (and boosted), I saw my family not once but three times. In May, I became an uncle with the birth of my niece, Rowan, and one of the highlights of my year was spending lots of time with her.
I also spent time (in person) with friends I didn’t see at all in 2020. I’m still working from home most days, but at some point last year the office opened up and I’ve enjoyed going in and catching up with coworkers every so often. Things certainly aren’t ‘back to normal’, but I’m not sure if they’ll ever be. Better than last year is good enough for me.
In March, I bought myself a camera I’d been eyeing for some time - a Fujifilm X100V. I had wanted something compact enough to carry while traveling, or camping, or just walking around the neighboorhod, but with enough manual controls to [re]learn the basics of photography. As a teenager I loved lugging around my Dad’s hand-me-down Canon AE-1 but ever since my iPhone camera got ‘good enough’, the prospect of paying for (increasingly expensive) film development became unappealing and it started to collect dust.
Sure enough, the X100V is a lot of camera in a tiny package. It has tactile buttons and dials for aperture, shutter speed and more which make experimenting with exposure, composition, and depth of field a joy. It took me some time to figure which of its focus settings I liked the best and how to adjust exposure compensation on a particularly overcast or sunny day. I learned the basics of Lightroom and was blown away by how often I could rescue a photo that out of the camera seemed totally unusable. I started to take pictures I was really happy with.
In 2021, I took lots of pictures but barely shared any. I posted twice to Instagram - once to celebrate a year with my cat Blue, and again on bi visibility day (👋). Other pictures I shared with friends via text, or with my family via email, but nothing publicly. For years now, neither Instagram, Twitter, nor any other social media platform has felt like a comfortable place to share
content. I could go on about why that’s the case (something something ads something something monetized user data something something lack of control) but ultimately none of them feel like the right fit for me.
Recently I’ve been thinking again about tools, communication, permanence, and visibility. The phrase ‘digital homesteading’ has become lodged in my head. In my free time I’ve started to tinker around with a few prototypes for sharing. I don’t have anything to share on that front at the moment, but when I do, you’ll be the first to know. 😉
Without further ado, here are some (more) pictures I took in 2021, roughly organized by locale.
The beginning of the year was slow. I wasn’t vaccinated yet so stayed close to home and practiced with my camera around the neighborhood. In April my friend Holly and I made a quick trip to Hudson to celebrate getting our first shot (though really it mostly an excuse to get the rotisserie chicken at Kitty’s).
Regrettably, I only went bike camping once last year. This time was at Croton Point Park, some 45 miles north of NYC, with my friends James and David. I devised a safety wrist strap to permit taking pictures while riding, but the only keepers of the bunch were once we got to camp.
In June I flew for the first time since 2019, to Dallas, to celebrate both the birth of my niece Rowan, and also to celebrate my grandfather’s 80th. I didn’t take many pictures over the long weekend, but I did get this sunset from I-75.
I visited LA for the first time over the fourth of July. I went with Holly (a California native) who was an incredible tour guide. We ended up doing a ton but a few of my favorites were:
- tacos from El Ruso
- hiking in Malibu / Point Dume
- the stone fruit plate from Gjelina
- people-watching at Santa Monica Pier
Growing up, I had some inexplicable distate for LA, having never visited — probably some teenage Caulfield-esque aversion to a city surely full of ‘phonies’. This trip totally changed my mind. I’m already thinking about a return trip, hopefully soon.
Later in July, I headed back out west to visit my sister Brittan, who was in her last year of nursing school in Phoenix, and eventually drive together to my grandparent’s cabin in South Fork, CO. On the way, we stopped at the Grand Canyon, which still manages to surpass its grandiose name. We got up before dawn and hiked the Bright Angel Trail down to the Three-Mile Resthouse (route here), mostly in awestruck silence.
From the canyon we headed northeast some 8 hours, stopping along the way at the Four Corners Monument. At the cabin we were joined by the rest of my immediate family. Highlights from the rest of the week include lots more time with Rowan, a backpacking overnighter across the continental divide to Crater Lake, and a mushroom foraging class where I came back with a full basket of chanterelles.
At the end of October, Holly and I spent a long weekend in Philadelphia. I had never been and was looking for a reason to get out of town so the prospect of catching the fall leaves on the way was good enough. We had not one but two cheesesteaks (or was it three?) in as many days (John’s Roast Pork: A-, Dalessandro’s: B+) then went apple picking at Brecknock Orchard. On the way back to New York, we hiked a few miles of Mount Tammany and stopped for ice cream.
Having postponed family travel plans slated for 2020, we decided to take our chances and head to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico between Christmas and New Year’s. Other than an ill-advised raw shrimp aguachile (and its consequent 24 hours of gastrointestinal discomfort), the week was lovely: even more time with Rowan, an tour at the Cañada de la Virgen archaeological site, and lots of fresh fruit, mezcal, and tacos. I ended up shooting a few rolls of film over the week but only took a handful of shots with my X100V.
In 2022 I’d like to work towards being visible in more ways, including posting my photos more often. I’m still trying to figure out what that feels like, and how to balance it with work, socializing, and rest.
In 2019, I wrote about the idea of non-preciousness:
A few weeks ago I went to a yoga class, my first one in a while. I had forgotten - maybe not intellectually, but physically - how good it feels to stretch deeply. At one point in the class, after a particularly intricate pose, the instructor asked us to take a moment and reflect: were we allowing ourselves to be present, or were we beating ourselves up for not doing the pose perfectly? She asked us, simply, to let the class be a non-precious activity. That idea - an intentional turning-off of the optimization feedback loop and letting an activity exist on its on merit, simply as it is - has stuck with me.
I’m still working on it. In some ways, it feels like I’m worse off now than I was then. But that idea feels like a guiding light, and for now, that’s enough.
Thanks for reading! 🎈