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Each year Jim Goldstein organizes a “best photos of the year” project.  It’s a great incentive to actually get on that project of reviewing your shots from the previous year.  *Thanks* Jim for doing it.

Here’s my baker’s dozen shots that I loved and the short stories behind them.  Click on any image for full size.

1. Hawaiian Frogfish

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We live in California, so Hawaii is my “close” dive destination. (Yes, I know, I could dive Monterey, but that water is cold.)  But I’ve gotten jaded.  I get into the funk of thinking you’ve got to go far, far away.  And if you do go far away — as for instance last year, you can see some great things.  But even “close” by, there are some great critters.

I shot this image shortly after the presidential inauguration, but this is no piscine POTUS despite the similarity in coloration.  Its a frogfish.  A bright orange frogfish.  And despite the international safety orange hue, its actually hard to spot underwater.  They’re ambush predators and they’re good at the camouflage.

Shot on the back wall of the Molokini crater off Maui.

2. Whip Goby

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Same day, next dive, also on the Molokini back wall off Maui.  This little goby was hanging out on its whip coral in relatively shallow water.  And the light shining through the clear blue water was beautiful.

3. Hammerhead

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I love diving and like most divers, I’m a pretty big fan of sharks in all their forms.  I particularly like the weirder looking creatures and hammerheads definitely qualify.  This is a shot from a terrific workshop that Alex Mustard ran with Epic Diving.  If you like these shots, it is in no small part due to Alex’s tutelage.  If you’re going to take the plunge, read his book.

Shark dives are, I think, kind of a crazy affair.  You spend a lot of time on the boat waiting for the sharks to appear.  Then you take turns in the water weighted down and in a little formation.  The person you see in the picture is Vinny Canabal, co-owner of Epic Diving.  He’s got bait in the box and he’s offering it to the hammerheads that come by.  When he’s not feeding sharks, Vinny is an ER doctor.  Hey, no jokes.

This shot and the next were in Bimini, Bahamas.  This one was the one I went for.  And then…

4. Bull Shark!

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As you’re kneeling on the bottom in a little V formation with the feeder in the middle, you keep an eye out.  And you keep looking around.  Not just for the hammerheads you’re trying to shoot.  But for the opportunists that crash the party.  And this is one of those guys.  During this dive, I was on the far edge of the formation.  And in the distance, I could see 2 bull sharks swimming lazy circles and coming closer and closer.

Bull sharks look like mini great whites.  And they’re ambush predators too.  So you really want to keep an eye on them.  Vinny got to the bottom of the bait box and had just one piece left.  So he tossed it out to the gaggle of nurse sharks that were waiting for a snack.  There was a little melee and then poof — there was fine sand everywhere in the water.  And all of a sudden, right next to me, there was a bull shark.  Click.  And then back to the boat for a while to get my pulse rate down.

5. Water Temple
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A lot less adrenaline here.  A mother with her children at a water temple in Bali, Indonesia.

6. Watching

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A clown fish keeps a wary eye on a shrimp in their shared anemone.  Shot at Wakatobi in southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia.

7. Modern Nuns
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We met these nuns on their way back to their home as we were headed to Yogyakarta.  I love the contrast of the traditional with the modern phones — even battery packs.

8. Borobudur Sunrise

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We were in Indonesia to go diving, but we spent more time out of the water than in it on this trip.  And didn’t regret a thing.  The Borobudur and Prambanan temples are truly amazing and well deserving of their UNESCO World Heritage Site status.  This shot was from early in the morning.  We’d gotten up to be there for the sunrise, but as you can see, it was a bit foggy.  That worked for me.

9. Yogyakarta
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On the street in Yogyakarta.  I’ve been trying to work on my street photography this year.  Walking up to people is hard.  But the lady in this shot made it easy.  She was happy to play along.

10. Mother and Calf

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Not all my in the water time this year was diving.  This shot and the next were from a snorkeling trip with the amazing Tony Wu to Tonga to see humpback whales up close.  Here’s a mother and calf relaxing.

11. Ready For My Close Up
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When I say close, I’m not kidding.  This baby girl came very close to check me out.  Like arms distance close.  No, I did not touch her.  She quickly figured out that I wasn’t a threat and that there was no way I could hope to keep up with her.  And then she headed back to mom in a cloud of bubbles.

12. Parade

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Back on dry land, at the end of October I headed to Oaxaca, Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebration on a fantastic tour led by David Coleman.  Everyone and everything is decorated.  Here, kids are lining up for a parade.

13. Day of the Dead
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And finally, one for the road.  At night, the cemeteries are just amazing places.  Families decorate the graves of their loved ones with flowers and candles.  And whole extended families spend long hours in the cemetery.  I’m used to thinking of cemeteries as solemn and quiet spaces.  But for Día de Muertos, its a party.  And there is a lot of Mezcal on offer.  By the time I’d made this picture, I’d already been offered several shots by multiple families.  So, as the musician here, have one to celebrate 2017 being done and all the possibility in 2018.

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Once upon a time, Bean Hunter was an app you could use to find better than average coffee. Then they redid the app.

It did not go well. They seem to have lost almost all the content. You’re in Iceland; “find near me” finds cafes in Melbourne, Australia. I’m sure they’re nice. But a little far to go for a quick espresso. 

And I thought, ok, I’ll try to help. I’ll try to add the cafe I’m in. But wait, did they lose the ability to add reviews too. 

Bean Hunter I used to like you. But like I said. I give up. 

Apple Watch Sport

I know, I know.  You’ve already read plenty about the Apple Watch.  That’s fine.  I know I’m not the first to tell you about it.  These are my first impressions.  There are things that I really like.  And there are definitely things that confirm it as a v1.0 device.

1. Feels like iPad 1.0.

By this I mean that the Apple Watch is an interesting toe in the water of a new (ok, newish) product category.  But definitely not fully realized.  In the case of the Watch, it is so reminiscent of the original iPad.  Cool new thing.  Directionally interesting.  But clearly not the device you’re going to be happy living with in the long run.  Many of the issues/limitations are the same.  Big, boxy, heavy, under powered.  Certainly on a different scale.  But for each category, true.

To be clear, I’m not criticizing.  While “good is the enemy of great”*, great is the enemy of shipping.  As a product guy, I am a big fan of shipping.

So, for Apple Watch v2, given the design ethos of Apple, I’d expect thinner, same barely adequate battery life, more powerful/capable.  I have no inside info.  Just observing what they’ve done over generations of iPhones and iPads.

* Here we are in an Apple focused post.  You thought that quote was going to get attributed to Steve Jobs.  Nope: Voltaire.

2. Fitness tracking feels pretty inaccurate.

This is definitely not unique to the Apple Watch.  And I’m not saying that it can’t count steps correctly.

I wore a Jawbone Up for a year and found the same thing.  Maybe if I was a runner I’d think it was more on the mark.  But I’m not.  I do Pilates.  I do a little weight work.  I swim.  When all else fails, the elliptical.  The Jawbone was completely baffled by pretty much everything except the elliptical and walking the dog.  So on days when I had a hard workout at the gym it would tell me to move more.  On days when I just took the dog for a long walk, it would celebrate.  Umm, no.

The Watch came way later than the Up, Nike Fuelband, Fitbit, etc.  So there’s been time for the underlying sensors and interpretation of the data to get much better.  I think the watch is better.  But it is still far from what I’d consider accurate for what I do. Your mileage will definitely vary based on what you do.

How about adding Fitness programs for Pilates, aerobics, strength training, …?

3. Heart rate monitoring is about as accurate as other wrist based monitors.

Which is to say, kinda sorta accurate.  Get a chest strap if you want better accuracy.

4. Isn’t it supposed to be monitoring me?

Sheesh.  This is one of the most annoying “features” of the watch.  It does some amount of activity tracking all the time.  But if you want it to track your workouts, you have to remember to start the “Fitness” app.  Invariably, I remember this halfway through a walk of part of the way in on the elliptical.  Why do I have to monitor it?  Why do I have to remember?  Since it can tell there’s activity going on, how about *at least* asking me “hey, want to start a workout now?”  Or better yet, just start it and get out of the way.

Maybe I got used to the ‘always on’ tracking of Jawbone UP/Nike Fuelband/Fitbit, but it is downright weird that you have to remember to start the fitness tracking app.

5. Battery makes it trough the day!

Unlike the iPhone, the battery definitely lasts for the whole day and then some.  That is good.  But honestly, if it can’t last longer or can’t charge more quickly, you lose some of the benefit.  Sleep tracking?  Nope, it’s on the charger.  Alarm clock to wake up?  Nope, it’s on the charger.

6. It is odd that you can’t manage apps from the watch itself.

I get that the screen is small.  That browsing the app store for new apps on the watch might be impractical.  But how about at least being able to delete an app from the watch directly.  You know, by pressing and holding and pressing the X, like on an iPhone/iPad.

7. It is not waterproof.

I don’t need it to be a dive watch.  I don’t need it to figure out my decompression schedule.  But you can’t take it swimming?  Unlike say, a $14 Casio?  And honestly, a little watch app that counted and timed laps? That would be pretty nice.

8. The sport band is really nice.

Beyond being a lovely green color, it’s very comfortable.  Soft and easy to get on and off.

9. The wrist tap is better than you think.

The watch is good at notifications.  The little tap on the wrist is subtle enough that only you will know about it, but “there” enough that you’ll definitely *know* about it.  This, coupled with apps that understand subtlety is the killer app for the Watch.  So if you’re trying to stand up more during the day, the watch will remind you to do that in a pretty unintrusive way.  Ditto for drinking more water.  Or just plain working your todo list.  Paired with an app like Timeful, it is powerful.

Subtlety is a big deal, one that most app designers haven’t gotten yet.  The question shouldn’t be “how do I move my iPhone app to the watch.”  It should be how do I enable a different use pattern that is uniquely enabled by the presence on the wrist.  I think Marco Arment figured this out for Overcast after first trying to do a lot in the app.  And being frustrated by the limitations of the WatchKit development environment.

But as with many things, limitations sometimes lead you to a better design.  And apps on the watch are definitely a case of Less is More.  You want a nudge delivered at the point it would be useful.  The watch can do that.  And it can do it better than your phone buzzing in your pocket, prompting you to get it out, unlock it and interact with it.  There’s just less friction with the watch.

 So, a couple of weeks in I like the Watch.  And I expect I’ll like watch 2.o even more.

You should seriously get on this now.

Negroni served in Vancouver BC

(Photo courtesy of Geoff Peters CC BY 2.0)

From Chowhound: 8 Versions to try.  But really, just start with the classic (with Campari).  If you have a blood orange, that’s the twist you want. If not, grapefruit is great too.

Once you’re in the rhythm of the week,  you can go to your cupboard and see what other amari you’ve got on hand.  You can’t go wrong with Cynar (artichoke based).  Tonight I’m going to give Amaro Sibilla a try.  But, if you’re a traditionalist, you can always just sip the Sibilla on its own after dinner.  Its great.

Cin cin!

 

Today was the 2015 San Francisco Carnaval parade.  Last year, I shot the parade during Derrick Story’s San Francisco Street Photography Workshop (which was great).  This time, I shot it on my own.

Memorial day is the unofficial start of summer.  And true to form, it was cool today in San Francisco.  But that didn’t dampen spirits.  It was a great event.

Right after I got there, I got one of my favorite shots of the day.

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The people marching were definitely feeling it.

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And the bands worked the crowds so that we felt it too.

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white shirt

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My last shot of the day.  She carried this enormous “shell” the whole length of the parade.  Smiling all the way.  That’s impressive stamina.

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My gear had really dried out.  So, off for a quick trip to Maui.  And you know, it was bitterly cold — air temp in the upper 60s.  Just like the big snowstorm on the east coast.

Here’s a very blue shot of a nice Eagle Spotted Ray off South Maui at a dive site called River Run.

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We’ll be back to Africa tomorrow, but I was at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco this morning and saw this display at Capay Organic.  Orange and red cherry tomatoes.  Black mission figs.  And flower centerpiece.  One of the many reasons I love the Bay Area.

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From the side of a sewer overflow pipe.

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At the Carnaval Parade.  Discussing strategy.

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At the Carnaval Parade.

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