New phones are a photographer’s dream

Last year I upgraded my iPhone 7 to an iPhone 11 Pro. One of the most compelling features of the 11 is the cameras. The capability to capture really good images, with such a small sensor size and lens is truly remarkable. Granted, it won’t beat a traditional mirrorless or SLR set up, but it’s also always in my pocket. As they say, the best camera is the one you have on you when you need to capture the shot.

I usually have my camera with me when I’m out for runs or bike rides, and so it’s always there for me when I need it. Then, with a little bit of post processing, I get some amazing shots from wherever my adventure takes me. Personally, I’ve developed a look that I really enjoy. It centers around a nice and rich black point, and a boost to saturation. Those two settings give me a result that I really have come to enjoy, and feel that doesn’t create something that looks so fake you can’t believe it exists.

I’ve embedded a few of my current favorites below.

A quick blog check-in

One may think that because of the pandemic and working from home full time, that you end up with all kinds of extra time to tackle all those big projects you’ve been planning. However, in reality, I’m still working, just as much as I did before. I have a little more time from not commuting, but I’ve already eaten up most of that time with daily runs and bike rides (today is 40 days in a row of biking).

I haven’t forgotten about being more active on the blog, I’ve just been distracted with other things. Namely, some new toys that I’ve gotten to play with. I’ve got a slew of product reviews that I need to work on, I just need to sit down and spend the time to bang them out. I recently upgraded my computer, got new running shoes, and have been playing with a bunch of new software. All of which I need to tell you about. It’s coming soon, I promise.

I did was to take a moment though to check in and write something, so that I can share that I hope you are all well, and able to live your best life, despite the circumstances. It’s hard to believe that it has already been two months since everything went crazy. It seems like forever ago, but at the same time, it feels like this is simply how life goes now.

The picture attached to the top of this blog is of a female cardinal who molted her head feathers recently. Right now she looks like a Skeksis from the Dark Crystal. It’s bizarre and frightening to see a bird like that at our feeder. You want to call the wildlife rescue because she looks like she’s seen some serious shit. But just give it a couple weeks. She’ll be back to her old self before you know it, with a whole new set of coverings. That’s where we’re at right now.

We’re frightening bald birds, just waiting till we get our plumage back.

Make sure you do what you can to show kindness and respect to others. We’ll get through this and it’ll all be OK on the other side.

Some pandemic financial musing

A friend of mine and I had a conversation recently, and he was lamenting the fact that some folks are making more on unemployment (with the federal bonus) than when they were working, and now that some businesses are allowed to start working, they’re struggling to find people who want to come back to work. It was a good conversation, and I’ve had a chance to muse on it more lately, and I’ve got a few thoughts.

First, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the stimulus package was thrown together VERY rapidly. This wasn’t an effort that was studied and debated for months while economic impacts were analyzed. This was a quick fix to make sure people didn’t starve or become homeless (if at all possible). That means that it was put together with the best intentions in mind, but probably not the best execution.

The $600 that the Federal government is kicking in probably feels like a huge windfall to some people. However, in the interest of expediency the government didn’t ask if that was the right amount of money for every part of the country. In Washington D.C., $600 is a pittance, and probably about equal to most folks Starbuck’s budgets. Here in the upper midwest? That’s a significant bit of income. Plus, the program didn’t take into account States that have generous unemployment benefits versus States where that support is much weaker. In some places people are itching to get back to work because even with that $600 bonus, they’re still struggling tremendously. It’s an artifact of working quickly, not perfectly.

However, there’s another angle to all of this. If there are situations where $600/week is enough to stop people from wanting to work, maybe we need to be asking if we’re actually paying people enough in the first place. If a government handout in a time of crisis is more than people are trying to live off of, then perhaps there’s a deeper issue.

It would be easy to go after business owners and flog them for underpaying their staff. How dare they not pay a living wage? But that attitude is short-sighted. Yes, I agree that we need to pay people a fair wage, and people deserve financial security (and many businesses are terrible to their employees). But, for many small businesses those wages are a reflection of “the market”. That means that they can only pay their workers as much as they’re taking in for money. Who determines what the market rate is? In many, many cases it’s the consumers. It’s us.

We’ve fallen in love with cheaper and cheaper products and demand that we get everything for as low a cost as possible. As a society we’ve decided that we value low cost over everything else, and that means that businesses that try to pay their employees what they’re actually worth, simply can’t. We’ve decided that we’re only going to pay $5000 to have our kitchen redone, when in fact it might cost $7500 to actually pay people to do the job right. Or that a well cooked meal, served to us with no mess in our sink, should never cost more than $50. Or a myriad of other things that we’ve decided need to be cheap.

Is the stimulus perfect? No. Does is cause some new problems? Probably. Should we all be using this time to think about how we’re spending our money, and what the real value of things is? Yes.

#30daysofbiking… complete!

For the first year since I had heard about this challenge, I managed to get it done. If you’re not familiar, #30daysofbiking is a challenge where you pledge to ride your bike, even just a little bit, every single day of April. Most years I’m involved in early season trail races, and so I might start with good intentions, but the riding falls off the radar. This year though, partially thanks to the pandemic, I had a lot more time to get into the saddle every single day. Some days involved long adventures with my wife. Most others were just quick trips around the neighborhood. Sometimes I’d ride somewhere on an errand, but most of the time it was just for fun.

I also managed to take a picture every single day, except one. I put it all together into a small slideshow and put it on my YouTube channel. I just did an export of the simple Apple Photos Slideshow, but then brought it into DaVinci Resolve and added some simple titles and transitions. This also meant I had to re-import the audio track separately and add it so that it lined up with the titles.

Not bad for about 15 minutes of video work. The biking took a lot longer than 15 minutes. When all was said and done I ended up with just under 284 miles and just over 24 hours of saddle time.

Experimenting with N/A beer

As anyone who knows me knows, I love beer. I’ve been a craft beer guy for a long time and have tasted just about every beer flavor you can imagine. I also realize that constant consumption of alcohol and the calories that go with it is not always the best for you. So I’ve been seeking out some alternatives that can give me some of that same flavor profile, yet not burden my waistline any more than it needs to be. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to have a beer in the middle of the afternoon when you’re working from home (as we all are now) and not feel weird about “drinking” at work.

Enter N/A beers. Over the past few months I’ve been exploring the new frontier of craft non-alcoholic beers. No longer are we stuck with things like O’Doul’s, but there is an entire marketplace filled with some pretty decent options, and it seems like more and more are entering the space every month. Even some local craft breweries are getting into the act.

Before I talk about what I’ve found that I like, I do need to acknowledge that nothing you will find in N/A will taste exactly like the beer you’re used to. That’s because alcohol is a flavor, and it’s not one that’s easy to duplicate effectively. Therefore, you need to temper your expectations and understand that you’re not going into this for beer, but non-alcoholic beer. It’s different, and that’s OK.

Something that surprised me when I started tasting some of these beers was that even the big breweries were getting into the market space, and doing a good job of it.

  • Coors Edge is a pretty decent corn-tasting lager that has that same crispness and refreshing feeling that a cheap beer does. It’s also pretty widely available.
  • Heineken 0.0 is another big brewery entry that really nails that simple macro-brew taste in a zero-percent package. This one is probably about the closest thing I’ve come to real beer in the N/A space.

On the smaller side there’s a few breweries that are making a big splash.

  • Partake Pale is a really solid entry, as is their IPA. I haven’t been able to find their stout yet, but from the pictures, it actually gets closer to the real color than other ones I’ve seen.
  • Wellbeing Brewing does a really solid Golden Wheat, and their Dark Amber isn’t too bad either. A little bit sweet, but not cloying. I’ve got a couple other new ones of theirs on the way, so I’m anxious to try those.
  • Hairless Dog is one that is local, and I’ve written about them before. Overall, it’s a decent beer, but I think they’re slightly behind some of the others on this list. Their IPA is probably their most solid.
  • Surreal Brewing is one that seems to be all over the place around here, including the local grocery store. They have a wide variety of flavors, and one of their biggest selling points is super low calories. They’re Red IPA is only 33 calories per can which is crazy. It’s got a good nose on it as well as a fuller bodied taste. One disappointment is their Juicy IPA which isn’t very Juicy. I don’t think the aromas were able to really survive the NA process.
  • Athletic Brewing Company… it’s taken forever, but I FINALLY got my hands on some this weekend. I cracked open their IPA it is probably the best N/A IPA that I’ve tasted out there. I’m anxious to try the Golden I picked up as well. I can see why they’re sold out all the time.

Finally, I need to mention our local brewery Fair State Coop that does a really solid N/A lager. It’s crisp and clean, and when I’m relaxing by the open window next to my desk (because it’s all we can really do right now anyway) it scratches the itch for a malt beverage. Plus, I’m supporting a great local brewery!

I’m certainly not giving up beer, but having options is always good. It’s great to see a marketplace that’s so filled with creative and awesome brewing options. I’m guessing that with the explosion of craft beer that N/A craft will be not too far behind. So what have you tried? Anything you think is really awesome?