This was my first full year at Apartment Therapy and it went by in a flash. Literally. From photographing home tours, to writing about the latest in tech, and even writing posts over at the The Kitchn. It's no easy task, but an experience I've enjoyed immensely. And as an engineer, I often turn to technology to get me through the day. Here's My Tech Top 10 — a list of the essentials that got me through 2012.
Canon 5D Mark III: For my first six months of writing and photographing home tours for Apartment Therapy I got by with my trusty Sony NEX5 — a mirrorless, interchangeable-lens camera that I still recommend for introducing someone into photography. As I started doing more and more tours, while also getting opportunities to photograph events with unpredictable lighting situations, I realized that I had simply outgrown the NEX5.
As much as I loved the form factor, I knew I needed something more versatile and with a full CMOS sensor. Just about every photographer, videographer, and director I had met up to this point used and loved their Canon 5D's. Naturally, that's the first model I considered. This need for a new camera coincided with the release of the Mark III, and after seeing specs, reading reviews, and even using it first-hand, I knew this was my new camera. I called him Batman. Looking back now, I'd buy this camera all over again today. It's truly professional, has limitless versatility, and I'll admit I even feel a bit like a caped crusader when using it.
Macbook Pro with Retina Display: I made the switch to a Mac a couple years ago, and when I did I went for a Mac Mini. I liked the small footprint of the box, and it most mimicked my traditional desktop environment — non-mobile computer tethered to a monitor. I started to realize that having a Mac Mini chained to my desk was limiting and inconvenient. I needed something portable. The Macbook Pro with Retina Display was my solution.
The Retina Display meant I didn't have to compromise on resolution when editing photos away from my high-res monitor — and the solid state drive and quad-core processor executes tasks without hesitation. When I need to go mobile I simply unhook the laptop and well...GO! I don't have to worry about transferring files, or making sure I have all the data I need. Everything is where I want and expect it to be — at the ready.
ONA Union Street Messenger Bag: With a new camera and laptop comes the need for a new bag to carry it all in. I'm so glad I did a blind buy of the ONA bag — something I couldn't see or feel for myself since it wasn't sold in any local stores in my area. The ONA bag is even more useful and functional than I imagined. Large enough to hold a 15" Macbook Pro, a DSLR, a few lenses, power supplies, and accessories. The bag will wrap all your gear in a beautiful waxed canvas shell that doesn't scream "camera bag!" It looks just as new today as the day I got it in the mail.
Adobe Creative Cloud: Adobe's new Creative Cloud offering is brilliant in every way except for the name. When I finally realized that "Creative Cloud" wasn't just some file management service for Adobe CS customers, but was actually a use-every-tool-Adobe-makes-for-a-monthly-fee service I jumped in. Now I always have the latest updates and versions of popular software like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Acrobat Pro for a reasonable monthly fee. Couple that with the freedom you get to download and try every other product Adobe makes and you end up turning yourself into one versatile individual. Need video? Let me download Adobe Premier. Graphic Design? Illustrator or InDesign? By the power of Grayskull...err Adobe Creative Cloud, I have whatever I need.
Fanny Wang Noise-Canceling Headphones: Whether on the go, or at the desk, I need isolation when working on a post or editing photos. These headphones give that to me. I love their clean look, the cushy ear pads, the collapsible design, and the sound is stellar. I've listened to a lot of headphones and if these aren't the best they are pretty dang close. A built-in amp gives great bass and full spectrum sound you can nod your head to. Just don't peek at my playlist. You'd be embarrassed for me.
Spotify: 99% of the time I'm listening to music — on the Fanny Wang headphones, through my Apple TV, or in my car — I'm listening through Spotify. It's another fantastic all-inclusive "everything is included, even the drinks" offering that is hard to ignore. I find the benefits of the premium package well worth the cost of admission. I think the interface is well done and the sharing features useful. The addition of apps like TuneWiki also let me quickly look up lyrics to the songs I'm listening to — because I'm the worst at guessing the actual lyrics. "Hold me closer Tony Danza."
Lark Silent Alarm Clock: This device was one of my first reviews. Right away I loved the concept and problem it was trying to solve. Who can't relate to sleep deficiencies? Rarely does a bright idea develop itself into a well designed, user-friendly product, but Lark is one exception. The Lark sleep monitor is a silent arm clock that you wear on your wrist and awakens you with subtle vibration. It does more than just that though. It pairs with your smartphone and works while you sleep — tracking how well you slept, how many times you woke up, and giving you tips on how to improve those things via a virtual sleep coach. After being impressed by it from my review and time with the product, I handed it off to my wife — a habitual snoozer whose alarm clock routine woke me up prematurely each and every morning. Now her silent alarm clock doesn't disturb my sleep, and best of all she snoozes less in the first place.
Brother Monochrome Laser Printer: This year, I got fed up with inkjet printers. No matter what I did — even automate the printing of a full color test page once a week — the ink would always be empty or nearing empty when I needed it. The ink just dried out, and wasn't reliable. There had to be a better solution. It's called a laser printer. Since laser toner is first a powder that is only converted to ink in the printing process it doesn't dry out like inkjet printers — oh and BTW it's way faster too. I no longer fiddle with test pages, or worry about ink drying out prematurely. I just click "print" and don't even think about it anymore. I had to give up some all-in-one features like a scanner and a fax, but luckily there's plenty of mobile alternatives in the space now that fill that void for me.
2do App: I've used lots of task management apps, and I still try out others that become relevant, but my favorite is still 2do. I like the way 2do is organized. It's easy to write in a note (and attach a picture, URL, or voice memo), easy to schedule a task, and easy to move around and manage things. I even sync tasks with due dates to my Google Calendar, and it syncs across all my devices via the cloud. It's got everything I need, and I always keep a running list of post ideas in the tabs.
Tweetbot: Twitter has become my favorite source for news, local events, and happenings. The power to connect with people in your field, and people you admire is amazing. I've found a handful of house tour leads through twitter connections, developed a few professional relationships, but perhaps most importantly I know when my favorite restaurant is having a special — or when my favorite ice cream cookie sandwich trailer is rolling out a new flavor. Rice milk and cardamom? Um, yes please.
It took me a while to "get Twitter" but once I did, it became essential. Tweetbot is my hands-down favorite client to use for organizing lists, and composing my tweets. Connect with me — @metropochris.
(Images: Chris Perez)