《六弄咖啡馆》藤井树

This is part of a new series of writings that I’m planning to do, which is to write my thoughts after reading a book. For books in Mandarin, I will write my thoughts in Mandarin. For books in English, I will write my thoughts in English. Apologise for any inconvenience caused.

这是我第二次读这本书。第一次读的时候是在看了电影后,为了补完电影剧情而透过网络小说网站读了一遍。那时候呢,虽然说是觉得故事还蛮不错,但是却还不至于产生共鸣。而从去年年末开始,我的心情就一直不怎么好,非常低落,异常沮丧。问我为什么呢,也说不出个所以然,就是许许多多的事让我越发觉得透不过气来。在那时候,我突然想起了这故事,想起了这本书。于是,我就发疯似的走遍了大小书店,终于被我找到了这本书。买下来,然后再细细的品味一番。

《六弄咖啡馆》的故事开始得唯甜唯美,但却以悲痛欲绝的方式结束了故事。这是关闵绿的一生,这是他给予的选择,这是他得出的答案。也许你不会认同,但是…这也许就是人生。为什么我会想再一次看着故事呢?可能是因为我觉得现在的我,就像是关闵绿那样,陷入了六弄人生,无论怎么走都是死胡同,找不到出口吧?

一事无成的事业,那是我的第一弄。
疏远淡薄的亲情,那是我的第二弄。
不善经营的爱情,那是我的第三弄。
一成不变的生活,那是我的第四弄。
迷茫无助的未来,那是我的第五弄。
浑噩庸碌的自己,那是我的第六弄。

就像闵绿那样,我看不见出口,眼前出现的尽是死胡同。这一次读着这本书的我,更加有着“深感同受”的感觉,仿佛就要透不过气来一样。如果我能够活上六十岁,现在的我棺材都盖上一半了。但是,现在的我…却卡在了这里,停滞不前,无法进退。我知道这是我的人生,我知道没有人能够替我解决我的问题。解铃还须系铃人,希望我能够找得到那把寻觅已久的钥匙吧。

Digging into the thought process of a photographer

I bought the book “Magnum Contact Sheet” quite a while back but was not able to really to have time to sit down and read it through. Well, finally I did now. For those who enjoyed shooting streets or documentary style photography, this book can easily be the “bible” for one to own and keep. Of course there’re a lot more to offer in terms of content inside the book, which I believe is useful to all photographers out there.

The book shows contact sheets, which are series or sequence of photographs taken by the photographer for a particular event or moment. Looking through the contact sheets, you will be able to understand how the iconic pictures were made back then. The first thing that struck me was that there’s almost always more than one frame being captured in order to arrive at that one iconic shot. By looking through the contact sheets, you will get a sense of the photographers’ thought process in arriving at the final image.

Is it a decisive moment? Is it spray and pray? Is it staged? Is it cropped or post processed? I’ll leave it for you to explore and find out the answer on some of the iconic shots. You’ll be amazed. My key takeaway from this book is this: it doesn’t matter if you take multiple shots in order to get that one shot you want, it doesn’t really matter if you crop or post processed your picture, all that matter is the mind behind the camera. The thought process when moving from frame to frame, changing of composition, waiting for different subject, playing with the light and shadow… if there’s a thought being put in for each frame, you will eventually find the “one frame” that defines your thought.

This is indeed a good photography book for me to kickstart the year. Although there isn’t much plan for me on photography this year, reading books like this does keep my spirit and interest going. Highly recommended.

Isolating myself from the world

It’s been awhile where I felt everything around me seems to be noise. Noise of people talking loud, noise of people playing music and video on their phone in the public, noise from buses and trains I ride daily, noise from everywhere, anywhere…

“I had enough!”

That’s exactly my thought, and perhaps is time to look for ways to relief myself from all the noise. Wireless noise cancelling headphone seems to be the only choice to me as they offer great active noise cancellation, passive isolation with over-ear ear cup design, and long lasting battery life that can last me throughout the day.

Few months ago I had been searching high and low for a pair that fits my needs. Beats Studio Wireless 3 seems to be a no brainer choice due to its W1 chip that paired easily with any Apple devices that I owned. I know a lot of people complaint about its sound quality, but I’m actually okay with it. But the comfort and build quality seems really subpar.

Bose offers Quiet Comfort 35 II which is the most comfortable headphone I had ever tested, but it’s sound quality is just… not great, or should I say doesn’t suit my taste. Sony WH-1000XM2 is the closest rival to the Bose, although sound quality and noise cancellation does perform better than the Bose, but it’s not comfortable to wear, especially for people who wear spectacles like me. Other wireless earbud that offers noise cancellation simply has very short battery life for me to even begin to consider them. In the end, I stopped my search and declared that I shall live with the noise pollution… and then came the Sony WH-1000XM3.

Sony WH-1000XM3 was released awhile ago and soon demo unit came in the store. I quickly pay a visit to the nearest shop and gave it a test run. I was generally impressed with the improvement and hence pre-ordered one. Since then, I had been using it almost daily here in the hot and humid tropical country of Singapore, and here’s my humble impression on using this headphone together with my other gears such as iPhone, iPad Pro and iMac.

Disclaimer:

  • I am not audiophile. My daily driver prior to this was Apple’s AirPod.
  • I have not use headphone in long term before as I had never been able to find one that fits me.
  • I spend half of my time working in the office, while another half of my time visiting site and meeting customers.
  • I commute on daily basis via bus and train, walking on the streets and occasionally travelling overseas on plane.

With that aside, let’s dive into my experience of using it. Connectivity is key for wireless headphone, but this headphone only rocks Bluetooth 4.2. Despite that, the connection has been fairly stable and I had not experience much interference and zero drop off. Of course it would be good if Sony includes Bluetooth 5.0 here, oh well. One issue with the headphone is the lack of multi devices support, basically you will need to manually disconnect from one device before you can connect to another one. Hot swapping is not available, hence I am using this headphone on my iPhone only at the moment. A big step down from my AirPod but I think I can live with it for now.

Another important aspect for wireless headphone is battery life, and I can assure you that you need not to worry about it for this headphone. Solid battery life as advertised, perhaps the best in its class. Quick charge via USB C port is also available if you need emergency top up.

The overall build quality of the headphone is very solid and nice. It does look like it will last me for awhile, but the smooth plastic surface on the ear cup can attract quite some fingerprints from my sweaty palm, and I can foresee minor scratches will develop as time goes by. I would much prefer the older design with rough leather-like texture on the ear cup. Another concern is the faux leather headband, not sure how well will it hold up against abrasion in long run. Overall, there isn’t much of plasticky and “screeching” sound when you move it around, which gives an overall more premium and satisfying feel to it.

Currently there isn’t any waterproof feature on this headphone, it would be good to at least have splash proof design as often I will commute in the rain, it’s good to have a peace of mind that my headphone will survive some drizzle. The overall weight of the headphone is okay, of course if Sony can shave another few grams off would be even better.

The fit and comfort is miles ahead of the previous generation. I managed to get a pretty good fit and it doesn’t clamp on my face, ears and spectacles too much until discomfort arise, although I do need to make sure it is put on at the exact sweet spot to avoid adjustment later on. However, in the humid climate of Singapore, I still sweat around the ear-cup area when I’m not using it in air-conditioned environment. I believe Bose has better overall comfort, but this headphone is very closely match indeed. The inner ear cup does heat up a little after long period of use, but it’s not causing discomfort to me. The touch control also work as advertised, and I do not have much problem with it at all.

This headphone is certainly not as portable as the AirPod, but it does allow me to rest it over my neck at times, where AirPod will require me to put them back into the case to avoid dropping them. Being a headphone, it has the bulk that I need to get used to. For instance, I need to be more aware of my surroundings before turning my head around to avoid bumping into something. Also, compared to AirPod, this headphone does not have the feature of auto pause music when you are not wearing it, which I kinda miss.

In terms of audio quality, my first impression was: “Gosh… I finally managed to hear all the notes and rhythm from my song collections!”. Out of the box the audio quality was okay, but after tweaking the equalizer a little, you will get pretty much an amazing sounding headphone for most genres of music. However, that’s not the case for video. There’s latency when watching video, voice will came across a tiny fraction of second delayed from your video. Argh… this is where the AirPod really shine with it’s W1 chip. This headphone support LDAC codec, which is Sony’s high quality music file transfer protocol via bluetooth. But as Apple user, this is meaningless as we can only transmit AAC codec via bluetooth.

And last but not least, the noise cancellation performed superbly. I managed to listen clearly to my music at volume of around 15-20% as opposed to 50-60% when I’m using my AirPod. Thanks to the noise cancellation, most of the noise pollution has been blocked off from my ears. Impressive, or perhaps magical. But just to be clear, it doesn’t completely silent the world around you like you would have imagined, it’s more like suppressing them in order for you to listen to your music. So once noise cancellation is on and music playing… you will hardly hear noise from the outside world. There are a lot of customizations that you can do on the noise cancellation, but I just leave it at maximum cancellation most of the time.

All in all, the Sony WH-1000XM3 is a great pair of wireless noise cancelling headphone that really worth the price. Hopefully I can get used to or work around some of the quirks of this headphone and make full use of it. But honestly, deep in my heart I’m still waiting for technology advancement on noise cancelling earbud. If the day of long battery life, true wireless noise cancelling earbud arrive, I will probably go with that instead of a headphone. Till then.

Goodbye Fujifilm GW690III

Fujigilm GW690III with Kodak Portra 400

“What was all the hype on medium format?”

That’s the question I had awhile ago, and in order to answer it, I got myself the Fujifilm GW690III, a medium format fixed lens camera. It shoot film at 6×9 ratio, probably the largest you can get, completely manual for both focusing and exposure, built like a tank, and works like a charm. I wanted a taste of medium format myself, so instead of buying a digital back with interchangeable lens system, I decided to just keep it simple.

The Fujifilm GW690III was a great medium format camera. But why I decided to sell it? Well, my issue was not too much on the camera itself, but rather on handling of film. As the negative was so huge, it’s hard to get it flatten for a proper scan, and you really need a good scanner to extract the very best bits of it. Hence, I can’t do the negatives justice, and getting them scanned by the lab cost a bomb.

Fujifilm GW690III with Ilford HP5 Plus 400

So is medium format really worth the hassle? Well, it really depends on what you want to use it for. For landscape, hell yes. The amount of details you can extract, the huge print you can enlarge and make, it’s really jaw dropping coming from full frame. The same advantages go to shooting still life products and portraitures. Everything else? Well, I personally don’t see a need but you will be your own judge.

Looking beyond film, currently there were a few high megapixels full frame digital cameras that offer similar advantages at a much lower price point, hence eating into the pie of medium format cameras. However, digital medium format still has some other advantages (such as tonality) that position them better, but that’s a whole different story that I’ll not go through today. All in all, I really enjoyed using this camera and shooting with medium format, but it’s not what I need at the moment. So it’s time to say goodbye and hopefully someone will make better use of it. Till then.