Journaling and Journalism and Personal Photography

This past weekend we went out with a couple of other New Jersey families to Cranks Around the Campfire.

I’ve wanted to go to this mountain biking/camping/family-friendly event for a few years now but each year it has coincided with our annual pilgrimage up to New England in the VW to go swimming in various lakes. This year though, we didn’t do our annual summer trip so we were in NJ and were available. So a few months ago we organized with a few other families to attend.

So glad we did. It was a blast. Not quite as fun as wandering around in Vermont or Maine in the Vanagon for a couple of weeks but a great way to sleep outdoors and ride bikes and hang together as a family unit and bid the summer goodbye.

As I was going through my pictures from the weekend though I was a bit disappointed with the photos that I shot. Even though I brought my Fuji with me instead of relying on my iPhone, I still wasn’t very happy with my photos. Some were technically good but I didn’t really capture the context.

Which gets me thinking about the food writing I did and the advice the editor gave me about photos I took to accompany my articles: capture as much information as possible. That is great advice, even for taking pictures of family trips. Maybe even especially when taking pictures of family trips.

I am so grateful for the stint I did writing over at PieHole. For one thing, it made me soooo much better at being comfortable asking people questions. Interviewing a couple of people a week for a year or so can really get you out of your head/shell and more comfortable just approaching anyone and asking them about themselves.

And the thing is that people really like to talk about themselves. Until I did the food writing gig I was always uncomfortable asking people questions because I didn’t want to intrude. So that’s one thing.

But then there was the whole photography end of the food writing gig. I wanted to take technically correct photos of food. But that didn’t serve the journalism. Instead what I learned was taking pictures of people doing things they loved, interacting with tools or places they knew well–that’s a much better way to take a photo.

Unfortunately I have gotten rusty on both of these fronts:

  • I’m not asking strangers enough questions and
  • I’m not approaching my personal photography with the same need-for-context that I did back when I was writing food stories.

Just a note to self to try a bit harder here!


Bikepacking Gear

Bikepacking gear  10

If you’re into gear lists, I finally got around to detailing the gear I used for my Erie Canal bikepacking trip earlier this summer over at AllTogetherOutThere.


Credit Card Confusion

First off, here’s this from an interesting read over at The Week:

In brief, payment card companies are piggybacking on public systems and guarantees to gouge the American public, especially with credit cards. They act as middlemen, skimming fees off transactions and using their size to bully businesses into accepting their terms — who then raise prices on all consumers. The associated profits, both for Visa and company and the issuing banks, are effectively a tax on everything Americans pay for.

Also, two other credit card facts I learned this weekend:

  • KMart doesn’t accept American Express
  • Audible (despite being owned by Amazon), doesn’t accept the Amazon Store Card.

2019-08-17 13.05.36


HowTo Photos

iOS Shortcut to upload photo to WordPress & Instagram

I am trying to reduce the friction of posting photos to my site from my phone. In the process I thought it might be useful to simultaneously upload photos to my Instagram profile at the same time as my site.

Over the past year I’ve cobbled together a bunch of pieces to make this process work and it’s never been super-reliable in part because sometimes shortcuts likes to upload a .heic file instead of a jpeg.

##Heic file error

By default, the iPhone stores images in the .heic format. It seems that once you edit a photo on the iPhone it is then saved back to the library as a .jpeg. But I don’t want to have to edit a photo just to ensure that it will upload through the shortcut correctly.

What I’ve realized is that when you do anything with a photo using the share icon, iOS also converts the photo to a .jpeg.

As such, calling the shortcut through the share icon from the Photos library instead of calling the shortcut and then selecting the photo seems to get this whole thing working pretty consistently.

I can’t take credit for this shortcut working as good as it does. I pulled most of it from a website that, sadly, google can no longer find. I have no idea why. In any case, if you’d like to try it out, here is a link to my version shortcut.

You will need the WordPress iOS app installed on your phone for the shortcut to work.


2019-08-17 10.50.56

Base camp


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MTB at Huber on the edge of summer.



A while back I wrote an iOS shortcut to log how many 32-ounce Nalgenes I drank throughout the day. I stopped using it after a while because drinking 3-4 Nalgenes per day had become a habit for me but I’ve noticed lately that I’ve fallen off drinking as much water so I’m using it again, partly inspired by this Outside Podcast on drinking water.


Fuji X70. Not a portable X series.

Fuji X70

I have been loving my Fuji XE2s since I bought it off of Amazon a couple of years ago. It takes some of the best photos of any camera I’ve ever owned and is a joy to use in every way (manual dials for ISO, Shutter Speed, aperture. So nice!).

Except it doesn’t fit in my pocket. Which means I hardly ever take it with me.

But when I scroll through iPhone I can always tell the FujiFilm pics from the iPhone photos. It’s night and day.

No matter how good the iPhone camera software and lenses get, the iPhone will never consistently match what comes out of the Fuji series cameras. Sure, in certain situations the iPhone takes great photos but sometimes it’s just meh. The fuji cameras just give me more consistently better shots.

So last year I picked up a FujiFilm X70, hoping it would give me the best of both worlds: the great look of the out-of-camera jpegs from the FujiFilm XE2s with those awesome film simulations and also fit in my pocket.

Well, the X70 fits in my pocket and it sort of gives the film simulations but there’s just something about the lack of the view finder that makes using the X70 lose some of that fuji magic that you get from their other X series cameras. I brought it around with me but never enjoyed holding it and using it the way I do my XE2s.

So I sold it on ebay a couple of weeks ago and am now going to try to bring my XE2s with me more regularly. I took off the super 35mm 1.4 lens that I usually use and put on the pancake 27 2.8 to bring the form factor down a bit. I love that 35mm lens but it makes the camera even bulkier. The 27 makes it about the same exaxt form factor as the X100. If I can demonstrate to myself that I can reliably bring the XE2s around with this lens then maybe for Christmas I’ll see if Santa can bring me the X100. Stay tuned!


NetNewsWire in public beta

One of my favorite Mac RSS readers ever, has a new version in public beta. I’m currently using Reeder on Mac and iOS but am looking forward to reuniting with this old friend!