Apple Watch Series 4

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Apple Watch Series 4

I am still wearing this Apple Watch, even though my return period has long since expired.

If Apple makes a gadget, I generally buy it. But the Apple Watch has been tremendously elusive. I gave the Series 2 an honest chance a few years ago, and even an extended month-long trial didn’t yield the expected results. The Series 2 was a monumental leap forward from Series 0 and Series 1, introducing water-resistance, a vastly improved processor, and GPS-functionality.

Series 3 wasn’t much different than Series 2, at least in my book. LTE-functionality was the hallmark feature last year, but I didn’t bite.

I’ve bitten on Series 4 though.

There are the obvious year-over-year changes providing incremental speed gains, cool new features like fall detection and a future ECG/EKG function, and improved water-proofing. Were these the only improvements, it’d be the same old song and dance — I’d buy, play around, and likely return.

But the Series 4 is far and away the best looking Apple Watch ever.

This is why I bit. This is why the Series 4 is still on my wrist. And this, plus the wonderfully fun Walkie Talkie feature, has me wearing the Apple Watch Series 4 even after its return period has expired.

From a design perspective — which is, admittedly, the only real perspective I care to provide — the Series 4 excels and turns the page to a new era of Apple Watch aesthetics. More gently rounded corners, Liquid-Retina-like rounded display corners, new circular watch faces, a less obtrusive red LTE-signifier, and an all-new underside design make this Series 4 more watch-like than ever before.

I love rounded corners. I’m ecstatic these corners continue to make their way through Apple’s product lineup. Circles are more friendly, more comfortable, more approachable. There’s something so inviting about using an iPhone and the new iPad Pro. And while the Apple Watch doesn’t benefit as much from this invitational perspective (although it does, don’t get me wrong), it does benefit from a more skeuomorphic perspective.

The Apple Watch Series 4 finally looks like a watch. Like a real, honest to goodness watch.

There’s been a transition here — from the Series 3 to the Series 4 — in that the Apple Watch has now shed its adolescent visage as a wrist computer and matured into a tasteful wrist watch. This is a watch I’m not afraid to wear with a sport coat and dress shoes. It’s also perfectly at home with sweats, a sport band, and running shoes. It can be dressed up, dressed down, and fit just about any style in between.

I think I’d be less of a fan of the Series 4 in general if it wasn’t for the Apple Leather Classic Buckle band.

I quickly grabbed the Saddle Brown variety off of eBay after I discovered Apple discontinued this specific band.

Although expensive, I’ve been very impressed with the band so far. It comes out of the box with a pretty supple feel and requires very little breaking-in.

The gentle rounded end to the band is, like the entire Apple Watch itself, inviting, comfortable, and friendly. And the burnishing around the band’s edges give the leather a finished, luxurious look.

There are a boatload of new features in watchOS 5, but the fun feature I want to hone in on is Walkie Talkie. Jaclyn and I both bought Apple Watches this time around, and in many respects, it’s Jaclyn’s love for hers that keeps me very happy with mine. She uses hers for working out, quickly responding to messages when up town, and to communicate with me via Walkie Talkie.

The asynchronous nature of Walkie Talkie is extra handy for when a phone call isn’t appropriate and when a message just won’t do. I’d like to see a few improvements over the next few watchOS updates, namely in a little notification that cues an incoming transmission rather than just blurting out the transmission unannounced. But overall, the back and forth capabilities inside Apple Watch’s Walkie Talkie is just fun enough to be incredibly useful.

Many of my hesitations from Series 2 are alive and well with Series 4. It’s hard to look at this device, know that I’ll be tempted to upgrade every year, and know that I’m only using it to check the weather, receive notifications, and Walkie Talkie with my wife. It’s a lot of money just for those modern conveniences.

But now the Apple Watch looks like a watch. It’s a watch I think actually looks great, no matter what I’m wearing. It’s a watch that is fun to use, comfortable to use, and fun to wear. And with the Walkie Talkie feature to chat back and forth with Jaclyn throughout the day, I find keeping the Series 4 on my wrist to be more worth it than not.

I sure hope Apple brings back the Leather Classic Buckle though. I’d like to change colours from time to time and a snazzy Midnight Blue leather would go great with even more outfits.

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Jonas Rask’s Photographic Look at the Leica M10

Friday, November 09, 2018

I’ve been on a bit of a Leica kick as of late. For a solid two-plus weeks, I was reading reviews, watching videos, and lusting after everything the boutique camera company was coming up with. (Up to but not including the Leica M10-D, mind you. I can’t get onboard a camera like that.)

And it all started with this photographic look at the Leica M10. What an insanely beautiful camera. Insanely expensive, sure. But insanely beautiful. Rask has a way with product imagery unlike anyone else on the internet.

It’ll have to wait a few years, but this camera is a bucket list camera. Alongside the venerable 50mm Summilux, this would be one formidable camera kit.

Moraine Lake, Alberta

Monday, November 05, 2018

Moraine Lake

This panorama of Moraine Lake — a five-photograph stitch — is widely recognized thanks to its heralded Windows 7 default desktop wallpaper placing.

In all likelihood, about 95% of people who stumble upon this site have previously seen Moraine Lake. Between the millions of travel photos on Instagram and the Windows 7 default desktop background, Moraine Lake is surely the most recognizable mountain lake in Canada.

Moraine Lake is set in the Valley of the Ten Peaks amidst mountains, rock piles, and Rocky Mountain forests. The vivid blue lake comes as the result of light bouncing off “rock flour”, which are small particles of rock floating in the water.

Like every mountain range in the Rockies, there are numerous hiking paths to discover in and around Moraine. The Rockpile Trail runs along the back of Moraine and is home to the “Twenty Dollar View”, which was artistically featured on the back of the Canadian $20 bill between 1969 and 1979.

Despite the incredibly popular and instantly-recognizable mountain range, Moraine Lake is surprisingly difficult to visit. From Banff, you head up the Trans-Canada Highway to Lake Louise. As you venture through the town of Lake Louise toward the lake itself, you have to take a quick left off the regular road to visit Moraine Lake. After that, it’s about a 10 to 15 minute drive up the side of the mountain to the tiny parking lot housing all Moraine Lake visitors.

This doesn’t sound bad, if not for the fact you have to make this trek at 5:00AM in order to secure a parking space. Moraine Lake’s parking lot fills infamously quick — even during our stay in mid-September, the parking lot was filled by about 6:00AM. Should you be lucky enough to secure a parking spot, the magical sunrise over the lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks is one of the most ethereal images to see on this planet.

The Moraine Lake/Lake Louise dynamic duo are the absolute highlight spectacles of a visit to Banff National Park. There are many, many mountain ranges and wonderfully blue glacial lakes to visit — Peyto, among the ones which I wish we had visited — but Moraine is the most mind-bending visage imaginable.


Photos shot with the Fujifilm X-T2, XF 23mm f/2, XF 35mm f/2, and XF 16mm f/1.4 lenses.

You can view the entire Banff National Park gallery right here.


The Wondrous Banff National Park

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Vermilion Lakes

On the Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive, you’d be hardpressed to capture a bad photograph.

There’s Banff, like the town of Banff. And then there’s the entire Banff National Park, which encompasses the town of Banff, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and on, and on. The natural beauty extends for hundreds of miles through the highest peaks and lowest valleys in the Canadian Rockies.

Just outside Banff Town, for example, is the Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive. The drive winds along the lake, with spectacular views of Mt. Rundle. We took the drive right through the middle of golden hour, so conditions were perfect to snap a few unforgettable photos.

You can also visit Johnston Canyon, about 45 minutes or so from Banff. After hiking the canyon and viewing the two sets of waterfalls, you can continue on the path to the famous ink pots at the end. Or, you’ll venture around to find the not-so-secret “Secret Cave”, where many Johnston Canyon photos are shot. It was closed when we came through. The limestone and stunning glacial stream that winds through Johnston Canyon is worth the workout.

Or you can take the scenic drive past Lake Minnewanka, Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and more. Johnson Lake, in particular, caught our attention as the place to get away from all the tourists in town. There’s ample parking wherever you go on this scenic drive, so don’t be too concerned about arriving early.

Of course, there’s lots more to Banff National Park. Even beyond what I’ll be sharing over the next few weeks. The beauty to this National Park is endless and is worth ten times the price of the rental car you’ll need to explore. Should Banff National Park not be enough to satisfy your thirst, there’s Yoho, Glacier, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, and Jasper National Parks all effectively surrounding Banff National Park.

Each are worthy of their own lengthy visit. And each houses a lifetime of exploration.


Photos shot with the Fujifilm X-T2, XF 23mm f/2, XF 35mm f/2, and XF 16mm f/1.4 lenses.

You can view the entire Banff National Park gallery right here.


Banff, Alberta

Monday, October 22, 2018

Banff Town

Banff, Alberta is located in the heart of Banff National Park and is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations.

The only times I’ve experienced tourist towns are times where I’ve left the country. Foreign currency and passport in hand, and generally a foreign language dictionary in the other, walking up and down the streets of foreign tourist towns put me on one side of the coin.

Now that I’ve been to Canada’s own tourist town, I have gained a better understanding of the other side of the coin. Not because Banff is bad, but because it’s easy to see how quickly problem-plagued tourist town problems can become the norm. Banff is a clear indication that this country knows how to do tourist towns better.

Banff’s walkways are almost as wide as the vehicular streets, providing ample room for tourists to walk up and down the touristy district. Crosswalks provide left, right, and diagonal crossing paths to cross the street in any direction during prolonged red lights. Parking lots are plentiful and large, ensuring tourists with rented vehicles can find a place to park and walk. Washrooms are abundant, clean, and free.

Free.

That’s a foreign word you don’t find when you travel to other countries. Simply pay the national park fee when you enter Banff National Park and all attractions, bathrooms, and parking lots are free thereafter.

Painless and simple.

Banff may be a tourist town, but it doesn’t feel like one. And all the horror stories I’ve heard of past-Banff and the horror stories I’ve seen in other tourist-plagued towns shouldn’t scare away want-to-be visitors. Whether you’re Canadian or are travelling from across the world, Banff is a tourist town worthy of a lengthy visit.


Photos shot with the Fujifilm X-T2, XF 23mm f/2, XF 35mm f/2, and XF 16mm f/1.4 lenses.

You can view the entire Banff National Park gallery right here.


The iPhone XS and XS Max Review on The Sweet Setup

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XS and XS Max are the first iPhones that showcase the iPhone’s new, extra long lifespan.

I’m slowly catching up here. A few weeks back, I went through the paces on the latest iPhone XS Max for The Sweet Setup. This was an interesting review, to say the least.

In short, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so ambivalent on an upgrade plan for the iPhone. Must-have-the-latest-gadget folks will be happy with the iPhone XS and XS Max, in that it boosts speeds, provides a large new screen type, and has a great camera.

That great camera is absolutely fundamental to the iPhone XS and XS Max’s persona. The new larger sensor is great at gathering more light and provides way (way!) more detail in low light, but it’s crazy how much detail is being smoothed out in the boosted Portrait Mode.

Aside from the camera though, it’s clear the iPhone is going the way of the automobile. Annual upgrades are probably overkill at this point, with the majority of iPhone users tending toward 24-month or 36-month upgrade cycles. With that in mind, iPhone 8 and iPhone X users can probably steer clear, while iPhone 6 users are in for a delight. Plus, the iPhone XS and XS Max are sure to be high-powered for many years to come, especially if iOS 15 and beyond continue to support older iPhones.

Head over to The Sweet Setup for the full review. I was particularly proud of this one — my views weren’t entirely unique at this point, but I felt (at least) that my voice was.