Month: November 2020

First Advent

A red poinsettia in a red pot. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

Happy First Advent!



The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

Amazon’s Best Books list, the darkest human-made substance in the world, the Simon & Schuster sale, a German shepherd howling with wolves, and more. The Zone no. 7 is here.


November means that “Best Of” lists are released. Amazon’s Best Books of 2020 list is a good place to start looking for Christmas gifts. I sent Santa the list below; I hope he’ll find my chimney.

Close up of an Eel Larva, a photo by Galice Hoarau.
Galice Hoarau | Eel Larva. Close-up Photographer of the Year
Overall winner & Animals winner
  • Vantablack, the darkest human-made substance in the world, absorbs 99.96% of the visible light. A coating of carbon nanotubes, it’s so black that the human eye can’t quite make sense of what it is seeing.

A Quote I’m Pondering

What will your life have been, in the end, but the sum total of everything you spent it focusing on?

Oliver Burkeman (b.1975)

I’m finding myself more and more distracted these days. No wonder, considering what 2020 brought us. Still, life has to go on and attention to be re-gained. I’m soldiering on.

From My Photo Archives

A woman in red bathing suit swims in a swimming pool at the Bondi Icebergs club in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Swimming at Bondi Icebergs Club. December 2019, Sydney, Australia. A world ago as it seems.

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To read more The Zone posts, click here.



An End-Of-The-World Book At Night

Welcome to Las Vegas Nevada-sign at night. Photo by Guido Coppa on Unsplash used to illustrate an end-of-the-world mood.
Photo by Guido Coppa on Unsplash

Vegas always carried with it an eat-drink-and-be-merry-for-tomorrow-we-may-die energy: a city perched on the cusp of a never-ending yet never-quite-happening end. It was a city permanently stuck in the predawn hour before the hangover truly hit. Right there at the Rubicon, still having fun and about to start puking, on the line between everything is amazing and the End Times are here.

Chuck Wendig, Wanderers

I’m reading Wanderers, by accident, really. I mean, I wasn’t looking for an end-of-the-world-book about a pandemic wiping out humanity (and 775 pages long at that) while we’re surfing Wave 2 of the real thing. Things happen, though, you know. Let’s call it the butterfly effect of reading.

Wendig is no Stephen King (The Stand is still the measure for end-of-the-world books), but it’s an OK read if you’re willing to put up with all the preaching. I’m researching my first non-fiction book * and I needed an easy read at the end of the day.

I usually read for pleasure somewhere between 7 pm and 10 pm (I only watch TV Fridays and Saturdays, it’s the only way to get anything done and have time to read). After reading non-fiction books and taking notes all day, I’m in the mood for some easy stuff in the evenings.

Speaking of notes-taking: this Zettelkasten method for taking notes changed my life. I’m so happy that I found it exactly when I was about to start my research. Well, I was actually looking for a better method, but this is revolutionary indeed. I’ll post a review once I’ve used it for a while. I have many books to read as part of my research, so it’ll be perfect to use Zettelkasten and see what it does for me. Hint: Zettelkasten means paper slip in German.

* I don’t want to talk about it yet, sorry! I’m still afraid I’ll jinx it.


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In Imitation of Kaku’s Haiku on Knotgrass and a Firefly

  1. The Rising Moon
  2. Tonight’s Moon
  3. Cicadas’ Voices
  4. At Yamei’s House
  5. The Bleak Wind
  6. Beads Of Dew
  7. Moon-Viewing At My Hut
  8. Fallen Leaves
  9. An Old Tree Was Felled …
  10. The Autumn Tempest
  11. Autumn Is Advanced
  12. To Ransetsu
  13. In Imitation of Kaku’s Haiku on Knotgrass and a Firefly
  14. On the Death of Issho
  15. Ice and Water
  16. The Lark
  17. The First Snow
  18. The Moon Of Tonight
  19. The Chanting of Buddhist Prayers
  20. Lightning
Japanese garden, photo by Mihaela Limberea
The Peony Garden, Ueno, Tokyo

Ah! I take my breakfast,

Viewing morning glories.

Matsuo Basho

Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694) was the most famous Edo period poet and a haiku master.


To read more poems, click here.



iPhotography

Take Awesome Photos With Your Phone

Windshield seen from the interior of the car when the car is in the car wash. Black and white phone photo by Mihaela Limberea.

You don’t need an expensive camera or a fantastic subject to take awesome phone photos.

A window seen from the interior of the car when the car is in the car wash. Phone photo by Mihaela Limberea.

These are the only things you need:

1) A camera with you at all times. This is very likely your phone. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one that you have with you. And…

An abstract photo representing a car windshield seen from the interior of the car when the car is in the car wash. Phone photo by Mihaela Limberea.

2) An open mind. If you expect to take photos only when you found a “nice” subject, you’ll end up with banal photos.

A window seen from the interior of the car when the car is in the car wash. Phone photo by Mihaela Limberea.

Be open and learn to see, really see, what’s right in front of you, without any preconceptions. As Thoreau said, The question is not what you look at, but what you see.

I’ve taken all these images with an iPhone while in the car wash. No fancy camera, no “beautiful” subject. Just the beauty of the everyday. Look for it.


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To read more posts on photography, click here.



The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

Girls racing sheep (say what?), awesome photomicrography, Ed Ruscha’s Sunset Boulevard street view, and more in The Zone No. 6.


Crystals formed after heating an ethanol and water solution containing L-glutamine and beta-alanine. Justin Zoll (Ithaca, New York, USA).
  • I’ve always been fascinated by photomicrography, and this year’s Nikon Small World Photo Contest had several mind-blowing photos. The one above, by Justin Zoll, came in thirteenth place, but it’s my favorite.
  • Emojipedia. Why didn’t anyone tell me this existed? Here’s a list of all new Apple emoji released on November 5th.
  • Tomorrow we celebrate Absurdity Day. It seems only fitting.

A Quote I’m Pondering

Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.

Miles Davis (1926 – 1991)

From My Photo Archives

View of the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre in Paris. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
The Eiffel Tower, Paris (France)

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To read more The Zone posts, click here.



How To Take Better Photos With Your Phone

Anse Victorin beach on Fregate Island in the Seychelles. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Anse Victorin beach on Fregate Island in Seychelles.

Continuing the theme from my previous post on mobile phone photography, I wanted to show more photos taken with an iPhone and share a few tips to help you take better photos with your phone.

A beach sign warning "Strong currents" on Anse Victorin beach on Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Anse Victorin beach. The current was strong indeed.

These are some of our vacation shots from Fregate Island (Seychelles) in the summer of 2018; they are all taken with an iPhone. Considering how the world looks like today, Covid-19 et al., I’m grateful for all experiences we’ve had; it’s something to hold on to these days. I’m sure we’ll be able to travel the world and only worry about photo quality at some time in the future. Maybe not in 2021. But in 2022? We need to keep dreaming about better days.

Marina beach on Fregate Island in Seychelles. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Marina beach
Anse Victorin beach on Fregate Island in Seychelles. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Anse Victorin beach

All photos in this post are taken with an iPhone X and the only processing is using the phone’s auto-enhance function i.e. what most people would do with their images. No filters, no post-processing. No expensive, heavy camera, tripods, or filters.

Villa, palms trees and infinity pool in on Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
Our villa, photobombed by a bird.
An infinity pool with view over the sea and palm trees on Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
The beach bar on Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
The beach bar

In full light, there’s hardly any need for further processing unless you’ve taken a fancy to one filter or another. Just point and shoot.


Some tips for taking better photos with your phone

  • Try shooting in the morning or late afternoon for a milder light. You may have heard about “the golden hour”; this will make any photo pop.
  • Wait for a passing cloud to take photos if you have to shoot in the harsh midday light.
  • Position yourself so that you have the sun at your back. Be careful when shooting portraits, though. If you have the sun at your back, it means that people will very likely squint (if you’re quick) or close their eyes as they’ll face the light. What you can do to avoid “The Others“-like portraits is to position your subjects with their backs to the sun. As you’ll be shooting against the light, you’ll need to use the flash to lighten up their faces.
  • Use available natural light. Avoid using the flash (except for the above scenario). Flash creates a cold, unnatural light with heavy contrasts, and the result is unflattering photos.
  • Set the focus right. Phone cameras automatically set focus on the foreground, but this may not always be where you want it to focus. To make sure the intended subject of your photo is in focus, tap lightly on the screen. This will set the focus on that spot.
  • Don’t use the zoom; move closer to the subject instead. Zooming in makes the photo appear pixelated or blurry.

More Examples of Phone Photos To Inspire You

Beach and flowers on Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

Using the Portrait mode: good background blur, perfectly fine photo.

A coconut on the beach, Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
A coconut tree in the making

Choosing the Portrait mode in your camera app gives your photos a nice background blur. It was meant for shooting portraits, but you can do so much more with it. Try it!

Beach panorama on Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

Using the Panorama mode – not bad! The horizon is slightly uneven (maybe the photographer wasn’t fully awake, maybe it’s the camera, who knows?), but the photo is acceptable, considering the alternative. I.e., carry a heavy camera to the beach, and do a lot of post-processing on your computer, stitching together the panorama. Did you try creating a panorama on your phone?

A blonde woman seen from her back and holding a camera at Anse Victorin beach on Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

One of the rare shots with me in it. You know, the shoemaker’s children …luckily, not a bad hair day! Tips: taking photos of other people taking photos is always fun.

Hornet ghost crab on the sand, Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Close up of a hornet ghost crab on the sand, Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Horned ghost crab
A close up of a Aldabra giant tortoise on Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
James the Aldabra giant tortoise.
Fairy tern chick sitting on a tree branch on Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
 Fairy tern chick
Fairy terns in flight, Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
 Fairy terns in flight
A close up of a Wright's skink, Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Wright’s skink

Some animal photos. The last one, the skink, would have been better with a blurred background (using the portrait mode), but animals usually don’t wait until you set up your camera. Shoot it, or you lose it.  Overall, not bad considering animals rarely pose and are always on the move.

Sunset on the beach, Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.
Sundown over an infinity pool and palm trees, Fregate Island. Photo by Mihaela Limberea.

And lastly, two photos in low light – taken at 6am and 6pm. All phone cameras struggle on these conditions of course. But in this size for a photo album, Facebook or Instagram they are perfectly fine.


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To read more posts on photography, click here.



To Ransetsu

  1. The Rising Moon
  2. Tonight’s Moon
  3. Cicadas’ Voices
  4. At Yamei’s House
  5. The Bleak Wind
  6. Beads Of Dew
  7. Moon-Viewing At My Hut
  8. Fallen Leaves
  9. An Old Tree Was Felled …
  10. The Autumn Tempest
  11. Autumn Is Advanced
  12. To Ransetsu
  13. In Imitation of Kaku’s Haiku on Knotgrass and a Firefly
  14. On the Death of Issho
  15. Ice and Water
  16. The Lark
  17. The First Snow
  18. The Moon Of Tonight
  19. The Chanting of Buddhist Prayers
  20. Lightning
A close up of fallen autumn leaves, photo by Mihaela Limberea

Will you not call on me in my loneliness?

A paulownia leaf has fallen.

Matsuo Basho

Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694) was the most famous Edo period poet and a haiku master.


To read more poems, click here.



Some Say The World Will End In Fire

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

Robert Frost, Fire and Ice

Robert Frost (1874 – 1963), American poet and winner of four Pulitzer Prizes, is most known for The Road Not Taken (a poem often read the graduation ceremonies), Fire and Ice, Mending Wall, Nothing Gold Can Stay, and Home Burial.

To read more poems by Robert Frost, click here.



The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021

  1. Welcome To The Zone!
  2. The Zone: No. 2 – Oct 22, 2020
  3. The Zone: No. 3 – Oct 29, 2020
  4. The Zone: No.4 – Nov 5, 2020
  5. The Zone: No. 5 – Nov 12, 2021
  6. The Zone: No. 6 – Nov 19, 2020
  7. The Zone: No. 7 – Nov 26, 2020
  8. The Zone: No. 8 – Dec 3, 2020
  9. The Zone: No. 9 – Dec 10, 2020
  10. The Zone: No. 10 – Dec 17, 2020
  11. The Zone: No. 11, Dec 31, 2020 – Special Edition
  12. The Zone: No. 12 – Jan 7, 2020
  13. The Zone: No. 13 – Jan 14, 2020

Welcome to this week’s installment of the Zone, my happy place where I share interesting (and often whimsical) things I found out there on the world wide web. Here are a few things I thought were worth sharing this week.


  • The Quote Investigator is a website where Garson O’Toole investigates quotations. Did s/he really say that? Citations and references are included to show how the quotation was verified. How could I live without this? If you’re interested, the Resources page offers further reading. I bookmarked the page on the spot.
  • As a long time lover of Japanese woodblock prints, I was mesmerized by this video showing the step-by-step process of making one of the woodblock prints. The video is narrated by the Tokyo-based woodblock printmaker David Bull. Bull has also created a three-hour video showing him creating an entire woodblock print, from beginning to the end, with no cuts. Bonus: you can download +2,500 Japanese woodblock prints and drawings at the Library of Congress’ online collection here.
  • A documentary I’m looking forward to watching: Song Exploder, in which the musician Hrishikesh Hirway deconstructs how songs are made. The documentary series is based on his acclaimed podcast, and the first episodes include Alicia Keys, REM, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
  • A podcast I’ve discovered: Writing Excuses, now on its’ 15th season. It’s an educational podcast by writers for writers, with short episodes, between 15 to 25 minutes. The length guarantees I’ll listen. I usually appreciate longer podcasts diving deep into a theme (Tim Ferriss’ is a favorite, for instance), but I don’t always have the time or the peace of mind to listen to such long episodes. I can always accommodate a short one.
  • Speaking of Tim Ferriss: he has created the ultimate To Read – Book List, books recommended by world-class performers in their field, and guests on his podcast.
  • As an aspiring artist, I’ve always been fascinated by artists’ studios. I’m in the process of creating my own studio in our former garage and was therefore glad to stumble over Hyperallergic’s A View from the Easel series, in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. Bonus: see more studios in my Artist Studio board on Pinterest.
  • Birthdays to Celebrate: Georgia O’Keeffe was born on November 15th, 1887. She transformed flower painting, and New Mexico (where she moved later in life) transformed her. A short introduction to Georgia O’Keeffe’s art here. And a bonus.

A Quote I’m Pondering

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.

Herbert A. Simon (1916 – 2001)

From My Photo Archives

Close up of deep blue sea, photo by Mihaela Limberea
Deep Blue Sea

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To read more The Zone posts, click here.