There’s a spot near my BART station where bike messengers gather. One guy seems to be in charge. He’s older than most, and has an ex-military bearing. We once had a nice chat in line at the adjacent coffee kiosk. I imagine one day I’ll run afoul of a messenger, and just as I’m about to get clocked with a U-lock, The General will step through the haze of pot smoke and say, “Stand down, rider. This one’s okay.”

My mobile photo editing workflow

Although I carry a camera around my neck pretty much whenever I’m outdoors, I still take photos with my iPhone, especially if I know I want to share them right away. My workflow may not suit everyone, but I’ve spent years perfecting it.

  1. Shoot the photo in the native iPhone camera app. 
  2. Run it through the Perfectly Clear app, which often does something. 
  3. Upload to Snapseed to crop and edit basic things like exposure and contrast.
  4. Use the Snapseed Transform feature, altering vertical and horizontal perspective to make it look unnatural and bad.
  5. Undo.
  6. Save to Camera Roll. Or Favorites. Or is it Moments?
  7. Upload the saved photo to the VSCO app.
  8. No, not that one. The other one.
  9. Repeat step 7.
  10. Try every filter. 
  11. Try them again.
  12. Go back to the one that looked good. 
  13. Which one looked good?
  14. Repeat steps 6 and 7.
  15. Determine that I like none of the filters and revert to the original, which now somehow seems lacking.
  16. Post to Facebook and/or Tumblr and/or  Flickr and/or my blog, based on vague and ill-defined criteria.

Give it a try!

Mindfulness is more practical than it sounds

Larry Kim shared a post recently about the value of mindfulness. The term may sound a little New Age-y, but if you get past that, it’s a very useful practice for managing stress and clearing the mind. I’m not a strict adherent (to anything, really), but I’ve found many of the principles of mindfulness beneficial. 

Writing out my thoughts in a notebook gets them out of my head and helps me recognize my positive and negative thought patterns. And when I remember something I need to do, I pull my notebook out of my shirt pocket and write it down, so I don’t need to worry I’ll forget it. (The Bullet Journal method is a simple, free and useful way to start.)

Stopping to concentrate on my body and posture tells me when I’m holding my shoulders high and tight in response to stress.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list, pausing to take a few deep breaths is a valuable reset and helps me get back to it with a clearer frame of mind.

Making coffee by hand (grinding the beans with a manual grinder, folding the paper filter, pouring the water into the funnel and watching it drip) feels meditative and makes me appreciate the coffee more (and avoids that awful grinding noise first thing in the morning).

I’ve found that listening to the sounds around me while riding the train or walking to and from the bus stop is calmer, simpler and less stressful than constantly messing with my iPhone, podcast app or Spotify, wrangling cords, worrying about my battery and trying to make sure everything is downloaded and ready to play offline.

The more you do it, the more you recognize the things in your life that actually provide value, and the ones that are more trouble than they’re worth.

People love dogs in this city

I’ll be walking down the street, thinking about what I need to do that day, and a happy dog walks into view on the end of a lead. Sometimes it’s a big man with a little dog, wearing a look that clearly indicates none of this was his idea. At those times I wish I could sit them both down and help them to some sort of reconciliation. 

Street photographers face a variety of challenges unique to the genre. How do you approach strangers? What equipment will allow you to be mobile and responsive while still capturing sharp, well-lighted images? How can you take even one goddamn picture without a FedEx truck in the background?