About The MountainBorn

Memories of a life less ordinary…

Born under the blazing hot sun near the equator, raised in the frozen remote northern wilds, and now making our lives in the Tokyo concrete jungle for the past decade. We love blue skies, stationery, photography, design, 18th century British poets, afternoon naps atop sun-dappled tatami mats, autumnal food, latte art (and lattes), girls in high heels and guys in fashionable scarves.


Photography

Current

We’ve been shooting for a long, long time and use a wide variety of photographic gear. Here’s some of what we’re currently shooting with.

Full Frame

Our main full-fram body is the Sony A7rIV, most often paired with the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM - we estimate about 80% of the shots we take are with this combination. We match it up with the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA and the Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens for the full “3 prime” portrait kit. With just these three primes (or else just the 85 and 24 matched with good old-fashioned human foot zoom) you can make magic happen.

We don’t often bring our full-frame bodies with us for landscape/outdoor adventures due to the bulk and mass - every gram counts when you’re hiking and camping for days in a row. However for trips or travel where we need the performance of a full frame body but the simplicity of a relatively compact one-body-one-lens solution, we’ll usually pair the A7rIV with the Sony 24-105mm f/4 G. While this is an excellent lens overall to begin with, when combined with the 61MP resolution and good high-ISO performance of the A7rIV we don’t find ourselves missing longer focal lengths or faster apertures at all - in almost all cases we can achieve our results by simply cropping in post or bumping the ISO.

For wildlife/sports oriented work (such as our love of yabusame - Japanese horse-mounted archery), we’ll bring along the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS. This is actually not what we’d recommend for wildlife/sports these days - the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 or, depending on one’s wallet and sport of choice, the new Sony 400mm f/2.8 - are almost certainly better choices in terms of performance and optics, but the 100-400 will get the job done most days and without teleconverters to boot. (although you can certainly pair it with one if you feel like shooting the mooon)

APS-C

For cases where smaller bodies and lenses are worth the trade offs over full-frame we rely on our APS-C solution - the Sony A6600. For portable portrait/photoshoots we paire it with the Sony Sonnar T* E 24mm f/1.8 ZA Lens, Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 and the Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA to roughly approximate the holy trinity of portrait primes, albiet much smaller and slightly slower than their full frame cousins. The Sony APS-C lineup of lenses is actually surprisingly weak, so the latter two are actually full-frame lenses that happen to work nicely with the APS-C bodies.

For one-body-one-lens travel, we pair the a6600 with what we consider the strongest lens in Sony’s APS-C specific lineup, the Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 G for a 24-82.5mm equivalent constant-aperture normal zoom. This combination is a workhorse for almost anything we would encounter during any normal travel adventure from landscapes to portraits to even astrophotography.

For vlogging, we pair the a6600 with the Sigma Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN which is a magical combination especially with the astounding eye-tracking AF abilities of the a6600 (as well as its flip up screen and microphone in/headphone out jacks). We pipe the 4K output out from the a6600 through an Elgato Cam-Link and record directly into our iMac Pro for an even faster workflow. For audio, we pair the combination above with the Rode VideoMic Pro+ - the auto power on/off function is truly a lifesaver (to say nothing of the audio quality).

1” Sensor / Everything Else

We also have a mix of 1” sensor and smaller speciality cameras we also use when the timing and situation calls for it. Last year when its predecessor suffered a tragic fall down the side of a mountain, we replaced it with the Sony RX100m7 as our ultra-compact pocket camera. Much like its predecessor, the RX7 comes with a strong list of pros, including its absolutely massive 24-200mm (FF equivalent) telephoto zoom, supremely capable 1” sensor, ultra-tiny size, auto pop-up viewfinder and ability to shoot RAWs - a long list to which it also adds a mic-in jack and built-in timelapse functionality. We’ve done entire outdoor hiking trips with only this camera for the entire journey and been well satisfied with the results. The list of cons include its ridiculous price, fiddly buttons, sad battery life and slower aperture than some previous RX models.

In terms of smartphones, we shoot with our Apple iPhone 11 Pro - the addition of a wide-angle camera is amazing and a life saver. Night mode still pales in comparison to Google’s magic in the Pixel, but it helps get the job done.

For drones, we own a sorely under-utilised Mavic Pro but these days find ourselves much more likely to be bringing along the incredibly tiny and lightweight Mavic Mini. This is the drone that we’ve been waiting for - small enough for us to find a way to include it even for one-bag travel.

For action cameras, we often bring along the GoPro Hero 7 Black for our outdoor adventures and California road trips - the combination of built in hyperlapse and timewarp make for some awesome vidoes with almost no extra effort required (other than dragging our sorry butts up to and teeteringly across ridgelines up in the clouds).

Cameras We Used To Own

Fixed Lens Full-Frame

After a tumultous love-hate relationship with the original Leica Q and then later the murdered out Leica Q-P Type 119 with its fixed 27mm f/1.7 Summilux lens, we ended up selling both of them with the intent of buying the Leica Q II released in 2019. Only… we never did, and we never ended up missing it as much as we thought we might. You can read more about our thoughts on it in previous versions of this colophone.

Micro Four-Thirds

Here’s the story - we absolutely loved and to be honest, still do love, Micro Four-Thirds. In particular, our much beloved trio of the stunningly built Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH., the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO and the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 ASPH coupled with the Panasonic GX7M3 (GX9 outside of Japan) and later on, the Panasonic G9 made us realise that being able to do serious portrait work didn’t necessarily require one to bring multiple kilos of heavy full-frame equipment - especially when traveling overseas with one bag or on mixed business/pleasure trips.

But as the years passed and smartphones got better and full frame and APS-C got better, and even pocket cams got better…. well, you know the story. We’d ended up accumulating so much Sony gear and the release of the excellent Sony 16-55mm f/2.8 G and a6600 meant that we were just not really bringing our M43 stuff out with us as much as we used to - and the 61MP A7rIV and the tremendous margin for cropping in post (to the point where you could crop out a full-sized vertical slice from a landscape-orientation image taken by the A7rIV and it’s just as big as if you’d taken a portrait-orientation shot from a normal FF body) meant that the compact ultra-zooms of M43 were not as much of an advantage as they used to be. And to be honest, we’d been burned a few times by the poor high ISO abilities of M43 in the past as well.

And with a heavy heart, we made the sad decision to sell off all our M43 gear at the end of 2019. Farewell our beloved companions - we shall miss you.

1” Sensor and others

We also own the original Sony RX0 for video, but freely confess that it wasn’t a wise purchase especially in light of the rest of the gear we already own and it has been collecting dust somewhere for almost a year at this point.

With the release of the tri-camera iPhone 11 Pro, we no longer find much need for our Moment Wide Angle and Anamorphic Lenses. (The anamorphic lens sometimes but honestly, we almost never remember to bring it with us these days)

GoPro Hero Fusion - we regret buying you, you expensive toy you. We forgot we’re not extreme sport parachute skydiving wingsailers. Our life is boring in 360°.


Bags & Travel

We travel extensively for both work and pleasure and are constantly trying out new gear in search of the ever-elusive “perfect setup”. At last count, in our dedicated “bag room” we had over 100 different carry pieces, and probably add one or two each month.

As a result, the exact combination of carry solutions we favour tends to change at any given time and depending on the use case, but at the moment some of the bags getting a lot of rotation include:

Backpacks
  • Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24 (possibly one of the greatest bags ever)
  • Evergoods Mountain Quick Draw 24 (possibly one of the best looking bags ever)
  • Evergoods Civic Half Zip 22
  • Able Carry Daily Backpack (XPac) 20L
  • Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 24
  • Arcteryx Veilance Nomin Pack
  • Hyperlite Mountain Gear DayBreak
One Bag Travel
  • Patagonia Mini-MLC 26
  • Belroy Transit Pack
  • GoRuck GR1/GR2
  • Evergoods Civic Transit Pack
  • Topo Designs Travel Pack 30
  • Aer Travel Bag 2
  • Peak Design Travel Bag
Rolling Luggage
  • Rimowa Cabin
  • North Face 22” Rolling Thunder
  • North Face 30” Rolling Thunder
  • Tumi 4-wheeled brief
Messengers
  • Arcteryx Leaf Courier 15
  • Arcteryx Granville 10L
  • Arcteryx Fyx 9
Hiking/Camping
  • Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400
  • Millet Trilogy 30 Dyneema
  • Arcteryx Bora 63
  • Mammut Trion Spine 75
Packable
  • Mystery Ranch In-And-Out
  • Hyperlite Mountain Gear Metro
  • Matador Transit Packable Tote
Totes
  • Arceryx Veilance Seque Tote
  • Arcteryx Bianca 9
  • Peak Design Everyday Tote
Duffles
  • North Face Basecamp Duffle S/XS
  • Patagonia Black Hole Duffle 45L
  • Arcteryx Carrier Duffle 30L/40L/80L

The Analogue

In the non-digital world, we’re partial to Rhodia DotPads, Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks and have a far larger collection of fountain pens than we really ought to, with the Lamy Dialog 3 EF, the Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age EF, Visconti London Fog EF and Pilot Custom Heritage 912 EF being among our heaviest rotators.

We also own a few different watches - we wouldn’t consider ourselves horological connoisseurs by any stretch, but we do enjoy a mix of digital and analogue watches - and sometimes both at once. In our current collection:


Creative

The MountainBorn is primarily set in Sentinel and Whitney from Hoefler & Co, with Datalegreya for smallcaps captions and Source Code Pro for monospaced text.

The site is powered by Jekyll, created in Sublime Text with photography processed by usual suspects like Lightroom and Photoshop, all atop a combination of a 2018 iMac Pro, 2018 12” retina Macbook and 2018 iPad Pro.

We use Cultured Code’s amazing Things across all our devices to keep us organised and get things done, Day One to keep our daily diary (and occasionally draft initial versions of posts) and Bear for all our productivity/note taking needs.

Finally, we love legos and firmly believe that the Lego Pirates series of the 90s was the single greatest theme Lego has ever created.