Taking over Leica USA’s Instagram

leicaSLI have the honor of taking over Leica USA’s Instagram account for two days — today and tomorrow. They are sharing photos made by me on recent trips to Iceland, Japan and the Pacific Northwest. Most of these are made with the y trusted Leica SL and Lecia M-Monochrome M246. As someone who has been trying to make sense of this hobby, it is great to to get this shot in the arm from a company whose products are my preferred tools. Thanks Leica USA!

Snap’s Silver Lining

Time Spent per DAU.pngSnap’s first quarterly earnings has taken a toll on the stock, thanks to Facebook and it’s all out assault on the company. User growth was more modest than expected. The company reported an adjusted EBITDA loss of about $188 million during the quarter, a number you find out if you look past the $2.4 billion loss headline.

However, there are some silver linings on these dark clouds: the company is still second to Facebook in terms of time spent in app by its 166 million daily active users — at more than 30 minutes per day. It used to be about 25 minutes. Facebook users spend around 37 minutes on the service, according to Morgan Stanley data, though Facebook itself doesn’t reveal those numbers. Instagram daily active usage is about 22 minutes. Twitter is ten minutes!

It might not be enough to stop the bleeding, but it shows for now those who are on Snap are logging in and staying for a little bit longer. Or as one analyst pointed out — any social service that gets people to spend 30 minutes or more every day, it can’t be taken lightly. Facebook, certainly isn’t!

P.S. In comparison with all the social networks, television viewing is still huge – 4 hours in the US.

The Om Show Podcast: w/guest Shakil Khan

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Shakil Khan, the head of special projects at Spotify and co-founder of Student.com is one of the fixtures in Internet circles. And connected as he is — is the guy who got many of my peers to support CharityWater — no one really knows him. These days he is Spotify’s special ambassador and a wellknown and beloved fixture in tech circles. He is “Shak,” not “Shaq.” It is hard to describe this tall, British-Pakistani guy who starts his Sunday by sharing some amazing desi songs from Spotify’s vast library of music with me and a handful of friends of South Asian heritage.  He is always there to help his friends, make impossible happen. He hides behind an easy smile, putting his rolodex towork for others and tweeting links to some of the best desi (aka South Asian) music. I met Shak ten years ago and we have become what is known as Internet friends.

Recently, Shak had a heart attack (much like me about ten years ago). I shared some tips with him on how to get better, how to focus on the right things and why he needed to take a step back and focus on health and life. And during those talks, I wondered if he would come on my podcast — which I am re-branding it from The PicoCast to The Om Show — and share his story. He agreed and bared his soul to me: from dealing with racial slurs in BNP’s England to running away from home, becoming a street kid, a thief, a drug dealer, a convicted felon. From his personal hell, Shak clawed his way up. Don’t read my words — just listen to his story. To be honest, I am still shook up with what I heard — and so much so, decided to not even bother editing the file. You can get it on iTunes or listen to this on SoundCloud.

Dies Slowly 

He who does not travel,
who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
dies slowly.

Pablo Neruda, Dies Slowly

On Apple’s Portrait Mode Ads

Apple’s latest ads for the iPhone 7+ are touting the “Portrait Mode.” As I have written in the past, I love the bokeh-like capabilities of this mode which blurs out the background elements. Sure it isn’t the same as the real lens on a real camera (like my old Leica Summicron 50mm on my Monochrome) but still not bad on a phone. I have argued that it’s like having a brand new camera. 

That said, portrait mode is a hit-and-miss feature. It works about three out of five times. You need really good light and clear definition in the subject to get it right. The distance from the subject and light requirements are not predictable, and as a photographer I am always searching for the sweet spot make the photo. If you try and let the phone take the photo, often the subject itself gets blurred out. In other words, the portrait mode is still work in progress. It definitely needs more polishing and still feels like a beta product. 

That said,  when “portrait mode” works, it is pretty amazing! Check out these photos of mine! 

May 3rd, 2017. San Francisco!