Dec 16, 2012

Scuffles

Angie indicated these scuffles are as simple as it gets to make, but they are one of the favourite things I have tasted this year. You cannot go wrong with cinnamon and sugar.


As usual, my mother brought a lovely spread of baking with them for their visit this weekend. I will see if I have time to get some photographed before it mysteriously disappears. I say "if I get time" because this week is very full with one shoot planned, five or six social events then just a few days and it is Christmas.

Tomorrow I plan to join the 21st century by spending some Christmas money on a smart phone. I may be crazy for going to Costco this close to Christmas, but here's hoping I'm in, have the phone, and am the first one through the checkout.


With that, in case I do not have anything more before Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas, blessed holiday season and a Happy New year!

Dec 10, 2012

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Angie, Arleen and Karen spent a nice day baking together. These sugar cookies are the first of their efforts.


Their other work will be photographed and posted soon... then eaten. ;)

Dec 5, 2012

Christmas Decor for 2012

We don't go all out in decorating our house for Christmas but we have finally found a tree that we really like, that fits nicely in the corner without crowding our limited living room space, goes up easily, and still has plenty of room for all of our favorite ornaments. The half wall dividing our living room from our kitchen is seldom cluttered during regular months but becomes a lovely place to put out our favorite things in December.


Even though we were not sure where we would store it, I am really glad that we got our little light up Rudolph that you could see in the bottom left corner of the top photo. If I ever found an equivalent scale sized abominable snowman from the classic Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer movie I would buy it and make a place for it. The lamp that usually sits in the corner where our tree is was moved down the wall so that we still have light when we need it though I really enjoy having nothing on but the Christmas decorations at this time of year.


I always enjoy going through the boxes of decorations, most of which my parents gave me from their tree when I was young, finding new ones that I forgot we had and old ornaments almost as old as I am. I discovered a pair of new ones this year that were stuck to other ornaments and I realized that they were magnetic. Those two snowmen are now nicely stuck on the shaft of our living room lamp. Angie hung Mrs. Clause's clothesline tonight and I am happy to have a plush, dancing Christmas tree that I received as a gift 10 years ago, sitting on my desk. Thankfully there are no batteries in it because as much as it is a cute little ornament it is one of the most annoying when it is powered up. :-)



The last few years have not felt terribly Christmasy to me despite trying to get into the spirit. I did miss the Festival of Trees this year but have already watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation once, listened to two Boney M Christmas albums and have the Christmas cartoon playlist all ready to go. Mom and dad are planning on coming in two weekends which will stretch out the celebrations over a greater portion of the month and, best of all, I have a gift for Angie that was not on her list and I hope to really surprise her with.

I hope you all have a very pleasant Christmas season and that the following winter does not seem too long even if we are starting with 3 feet of snow on our deck.

Dec 3, 2012

Eleven Days and a Whole Lot of Snow


I knew that my camera had been sitting on the desk beside me for a while now but I had no idea, until I checked the date on the photos still on it, that it had been 11 days. That is a long time ago without making a photograph.

It was time to post something new but I really had little to nothing new or exciting to post for a few good reasons. I have received recent print orders that required my attention and took some time to get in order, printed and delivered. Angie and I have had a few days of not feeling spectacular and now I think I am getting the cold that she is just getting over. Three mornings last week were spent at the track getting much-needed exercise to help kick the "blahs" caused by the remarkable amount of snow and cold that we have already received this year. (The above photo was taken early this afternoon and as you can see we have more snow on our deck already than we did all of last winter.) But beyond that I have been feeling like I have been carrying on on a plateau, photographically speaking.

I have been spending a lot more time reading material that I have read in the past to see how much more I can absorb, purchasing new material to dig deep into to see what else I can incorporate into my abilities and really wanting to spend these inopportune times for shooting to learn, instead.

I can hardly complain about wanting the next big piece of equipment to help me improve my photography because I have great equipment and I know that equipment only makes a photographer better when they have maximized their effectiveness with what they already have. I know that one of the best ways to get better is to simply use what you have and shoot, experimenting and trying new techniques as you go. However, as much as I have had the desire to go out somewhere and photograph in a completely unplanned way, the opportunities and locations have not been ideal. Therefore my alternative has been to attempt to increase my skills through study.


It's not that I haven't made a few nice photos recently. It was a few weeks ago that I did some more staff photos for our church, my favorite being directly above. But as much as I have been enjoying the projects I have been working on and the places I have been able to use my camera to help, I feel like my style has reached a standstill. So many photos have the same perspective, similar setups and similar restrictions. Our dining room has made an excellent place to arrange my photos but it has also added some limitations. That is where I need to take the other options available to me and start using them such as the posing platform my dad so expertly constructed for me and was used for my very popular nuts and bolts photo from last year.



What really encouraged this post, or at least made me take the time to put it together properly, was the amount of interaction I have had with a lot of other photographers online lately. Nothing generates traffic to your website like someone who has a lot of followers referencing you for referring their followers to your site. I do not know how much traffic will be directed here in the next little while from those recent interactions but I thought it might be nice to have something fresh for them to look at as well as have something new for my regular visitors to see.

Just a few more gifts to buy and my Christmas shopping is done so I cannot use that as an excuse for not posting new material. Hopefully this cold does not latch on and I will have the energy to continue producing something worthy of sharing in this space.


Nov 24, 2012

Would You Vote for My Photo?

It isn't often that I ask for your help, my readers. But, one of my most iconic images, "Splash of Colors" is what I chose to enter in the Midwest Photo Exchange contest with the theme of Colors. There are some beautiful entries, but I really think that mine has a chance to win. What I need for now, is your votes. You can only vote once (unless you grab a new IP address) so I appreciate your one time effort on my behalf.

It would be greatly appreciated if you would take the time, at least once but maybe every day, to vote for my photo, if you feel that it is worthy of winning and that you support me. There is no sign-up required, no personal information requested or anything that makes voting more difficult than to click the link below and then click vote. You will need to enter the capatcha phrase (the letters or words that make sure you are a human) to complete the vote so, two clicks and enter the words to complete the process.


Thank you very much and I will definitely let you know if I win.

Jay



Nov 16, 2012

Jay's List of Photography Resources

The lists are a fair bit further down if you don't want to read my rambling, again. :)

I have discovered something lately about photography. I really enjoy teaching it to people. When you get someone that really wants to learn and when they have that "ah ha!" moment it pleases me. It makes me feel like I have done my job in teaching that concept.

There are a few schools of thought about those that teach photography. There is the standard "those who can't, teach." And then there are those out there who sell phony formula-style systems that, when followed, will supposedly make you an instant master photographer. As with anything there is learning, struggling with concepts, maturing, developing your style and your own personal way of doing things. Then comes the time to pay your dues, network, market, prove yourself for evidence of your ability and make certain that evidence is available to anyone who might be considering hiring you.

Myself, I could never imagine not shooting. There may be slower times when the processing needs to be done, the seasons and weather aren't ideal but those do not stop me from making photographs on a regular basis. I have no fear of becoming one of those photographers who stopped shooting just to teach. As for formulas, there are settings to learn and features of every camera to master so that you're spending time working with your subject, be it a person, a pet or something inanimate, so that when the time comes to shoot you are not fumbling with your camera, wasting time and losing your subject's optimal look, be that a smile or the steam coming off of a hot plate of food. There are the "technically correct" photos that lack communication, emotion or a sense of story being told. That is what the engineers designing scammers aim for because they have to for something so why not technical correctness.

It is not until you have mastered the settings and developed a style for what you want your photos to look like that you can start to actually make those photos as envisioned in your head appear that way as a final result. The point of all this is that it is not one day workshop that is going to turn you into a true artist. In fact, thinking that there is a finish line at all is short sighted. I follow many photographers who have been doing this for many decades and they still surprise me on a regular basis when they write on their website about something new they have learned completely unrelated to the technology of photography but to the art of creating an image.

On the day that this is first written (I plan to keep this post updated over time) I had coffee with another one of the photo ministry team members at Ebenezer Baptist. She had some questions that I was more than happy to answer and watching her understand the concept I was trying to instruct was really pleasing to me, just as I described earlier. She mentioned her desire to go to school in the near future and I asked her what for and she replied, "photography." I was a little bit surprised, not because she doesn't really love photography, but that a degree in photography is one of the least required official certifications of all the trades and skills out there.

Now, I am not undermining the value of a university education, but I am self-taught and have searched high and low in DVDs, books, articles, videos and many other sources of information and, where everything I heard was once new to me, I now typically learn one new trick or idea from hours of consumed material. Likely there is a less identifiable kind of information or learning being absorbed by me when I do consume that material but my point is that I do not feel like by getting my education from virtually free sources I have missed out on anything that would make me a better photographer. Let me just add that stating that I am self-taught does not mean that I picked up the camera and learned everything I know by using the camera. It has been by the generosity of the people you will read about it in this post who have shared their information, their wisdom and their experiences that have enabled me to learn what I have learned for the remarkably low price that it has cost me over the years.

If four years of university tuition cost a person $30,000 you could spend $1000 per year on various premium structured materials, develop your skills and be working at the same time to pay for your educational materials and build your experience and skill much faster than in a university setting as well as have an exceptional portfolio before you would be done your formal education. Without question, it would require some self-discipline and probably run you more hours per week than University alone, but that would be time spent shooting and doing the things you love, as well. If you come upon a concept you do not understand while consuming those purchased materials you are but a Google away from greater clarification of the term you did not know to search for five minutes previous.

Let your portfolio be your credentials. A framed certificate in your office is not going to get you clients like top-quality work displayed throughout your local area would when it comes to photography. That is my opinion but it certainly is not the right path for everyone.

As I have said, there is so much that can be learned for free online but there will always be great value in conversation, critiques and face-to-face interaction with other more experienced photographers. In addition to formal classes, that is what I would like to provide for people and if you are interested in either I encourage you to contact me. I would be very interested in providing classes as well as those opportunities to fill in the gaps and have a conversation about specific things you may have learned that could benefit from additional clarification.

On to the list of people and websites I have followed in the past, considered to be valuable for someone in the earlier stages of photography and those websites which I follow regularly now. (Last updated: 12/11/2012)

Great places to start learning photography:


Digital Photography School - Gear, shooting, post production, Lessons, how-tos, support forums. Downfall: posts very seldom go beyond basic info. If you start to plateau or aren't learning new information regularly it's time to move on from here.

Fro Knows Photo - Jared Polin shares with you his experiences, tips, gear reviews and pointers in writing, but mostly in new YouTube videos multiple times per week. He is much more about the art than the gear and that will make you a better photographer far faster than dumping money on more equipment. Some premium and some free educational resources are offered by him.

There are many, many more, but these two are what I've found to be the best places to begin and are free, or very low cost.

Intermediate to Advanced Learning:


Professional Photography 101 - A good site with thorough examples of how to photograph different types of subjects. The biggest flaw of this site is the way many of their articles insinuate that their way is the only way. Two words: creative license.

Kelby Training - This one is not free, but for $25 per month or $200 per year, you have thousands of hours of training from dozens of working professionals in all areas of photography including shooting all genres, lighting, processing, business aspects and everything you could need to become a great photographer. I have not purchased any training from them, yet because either I haven't run out of free material or haven't had time to spend absorbing all that is offered there.

CreativeLIVE - My favourite location for learning all things photography and much more. The classes are broadcast live for free. Decided not to go to school for photography? Write the live courses into your schedule. The classes are available for purchase at special rates of usually $100 if purchased by the end of the live broadcast, or typically $150 after the broadcast, with occasional sales. I have paid for material from CL. Three, eight hour days of teaching for $100? Yeah, I can do that.

Craft & Vision - Remarkably affordable e-books in PDF form from the top names in the industry with topics of everything you could want to know related to photography. I have not purchased much from Craft & Vision because I'm terrible for not reading the e-books I already have. What I have read from them is excellent and far superior to your average 10-year-old hardcover books sitting in a bookstore.

Ask Me Anything About Photography - Zack Arias - So much material from one of my top five favourite photographers. Endless material to keep you reading and easily formatted to skim questions for those you are most interested in. Few people tell it like it is, without being arrogant, like Zack.

Strobist - Learn to Light. David Hobby shares his decades of experience as a lighting photographer. Almost every photographer will use lighting techniques, eventually. David shares all of his knowledge for free, organized into classes just ready for you to consume. He offers a few DVDs but almost nothing on them is not on his site in written form. Best to have your photography basics under your belt, but DH does a great job walking you through the how & whys.

Photography News


Petapixel and Fstoppers - The best two places to get all your photo news about gear, trends, up and coming photographers, interesting projects people have done and many other interesting articles to informed and inspired. I prefer PetaPixel's writing best, but both sites cover almost identical stories, some breaking on one site or the other, first.

Gear Information Resources


SLR Gear / Imaging Resource - Two separate affiliated websites for gear reviews, SLR gear being focused on lenses, tripods, flashes and a few camera bags, Imaging Resource giving you the most thorough and detailed camera body reviews you will find on the Internet.

Digital Rev - This website deserves to be in every category. They provide shopping, comprehensive gear reviews both written, and video, photography tips and techniques (though some are awfully beginner and not as comprehensive as they could be) but are most definitely interesting and help to keep you in the loop of what is new and how the new products stack up. Their YouTube channel is where I focus my attention and they have new videos 2 to 3 times per week.

Certainly, I have more places I go to for information that this but these two are my primary places when I am researching lenses for cameras. Researching things beyond basic camera and lens photography, such as lighting equipment, is best done by sites dedicated to that type of gear. Lighting, strobist.com is my go to website, for example.

Equipment Acquisition


I use acquisition because much of what I use is do-it-yourself or home made equipment when it comes to lighting. As such, my first site recommendation is DIY Photography. Here you will find some tutorials, DIY light modifiers, DSLR video devices and accessories, many giveaways, and a solid community of photographers looking to think outside the box and help one another.

Don's Photo - My primary place to get my gear that cannot be made yourself or gear that simply needs to be the best, from a reputable, knowledgeable, warranty supporting seller. They price match any Canadian seller and are local.dealer with staff you get to know and who get to know you.

B&H or Adorama - The two largest photo and video equipment suppliers in North America and for good reason. They have very competitive prices, helpful staff and fast shipping. Adorama has a great print lab and a free video podcast with much good information. B&H has an unbelievable inventory of anything you could possibly need, especially their store brand, Interfit, that provides decent quality products for a lot less than the brand name products. Be aware that your purchase shipped to Canada will come with duty and import fees which can exceed the cost of buying locally, if that is an option.

Midwest Photo Exchange - A great supplier of standard equipment, but more so many things you cannot find locally, especially their Strobist kits and other lighting equipment. Like B&H, check out MPEX's Lumopro brand. Great quality at often less than 1/3 the brand name cost. Their shipping is fast, but often import fees seem quite high, however, I've heard it has more to do with the shipping company you choose.

Flash Zebra - For those cables and adapters that you cannot find elsewhere, these guys really fill a niche at reasonable prices and shipping.

Deal Extreme - Your home for all things Chinese knockoff. There are the ethical concerns about a lot of Chinese products such as sweatshops or Joby researching and developing their $85 Gorilla pod then Chinese companies reverse engineering them and selling them on DX for $12. The price differences combined with free shipping (which takes about 4-6 weeks) free of duty is hard to beat when top quality is not your goal. That said, would I trust my DSLR and a large lens on a knockoff Gorillapod? No. But a flash on an umbrella swivel? Yes.

Amazon - Shopping on Amazon.com from Canada can be frustrating. Find the right product at the right price? "Sorry, we won't ship to your location." Yes, you will? Great! How much is shipping?...Ouch!... Import fees?... Doable. Return policy and customer service?... Sometimes iffy, depending on the item. You buy it at Don's, they'll ship warranty items for free. Buy it at Amazon, shipping is on you and by this point you didn't save much by buying online.

eBay - When in doubt, try eBay. Competitive pricing, but no customer reviews like other sources.

Shows to Watch


Kelby TV - Comprised of multiple shows on multiple topics. My caveat is that it is that they do spend a lot of time selling you on a North American Association of Photographers membership and on Kelby Training.com. Both worthy, just be warned. Also, often opinions and personalities are strong on these shows and they are very people photography oriented. It is not uncommon for me to stop an episode of The Grid part way through unless they have a great guest on it.

I watch the Grid and D-Town TV, now called Photography Tips and tricks. The Grid is a talkshow with much to do with trends and the industry, a little on technical skills. PT&T has some interesting pointers, but remains very basic in the information that they offer.

DRTV - Digital Rev TV's YouTube channel. Like I said above, many gear reviews, some photography tips but mostly very interesting characters, doing street photography in Hong Kong, walking through the most interesting places making their videos. Often they have very interesting guests and unique series of videos. Definitely one of the uploads I look forward to a few times per week.

YouTube Channels to Check Out - Benjamin Von Wong (Montreal), The Camera Store (Calgary), Chase Jarvis (achaser123), Jared Polin/Fro Knows Photo, Kelby Media Group (The Kelby TV shows on YouTube), The Slanted Lens and Framed Show are the main photography YouTube channels I watch.

People to Follow


Once you have your technicals down, there will be a void to fill and that will be the creativity and detailed or specialized areas of photography. Where I gain much of my motivation and influence is by following these photographers' tweets, blog posts, books, DVDs and other online content:

Joe Mcnally - Portrait and editorial photographer based out of New York with many years with work experienced in publications such as National Geographic. A master of lighting,  incredible teacher, nice guy, funny and as easy to like and learn from as anyone out there.

Chase Jarvis - Commercial photographer and director based out of Seattle. Chase doesn't teach much in the way of technical information, but he will motivate you and has given back so much to the community of photographers everywhere. CreatiiveLIVE was his brainchild.

Zack Arias - As straight a shooter as anyone you will follow. He tells it like it is, generously provides perspective and advice on everything from gear to business to life as a photographer which is seldom an eight to five job. In addition to his site linked to in his name, his tumbler blog  has 1,000 questions answered from followers as of the end of 2012. As of this writing he is on his end of year social media hiatus while he focuses hard to conclude his year.

David Hobby - The Strobist. As mentioned, his site has comprehensive lessons on learning to use off camera flash, all for free. What you miss on his site are his retweets/reposts of very applicable information and interesting articles. His lessons took me ten steps forward in my understanding of photography. If you do shop with Midwest Photo Exchange, click to them through Strobist.com to give DH his commission. For all he has done for free, he deserves it.

Jeremy Cowart - Is a commercial photographer based out of Nashville and the creator of Help-Portrait. He is an incredible artist in more than just photography and a compassionate humanitarian. A real inspiration to want to be more than just a big name in photography.

Peter Hurley - A master of the head shot based out of New York. I've only recently begun to follow him. A very assertive character and former olympian, he is a product innovator with great ideas to fill gaps in the photography equipment industry. If you are shy watching him will help you move beyond that and see how to get those superb expressions from your subjects.


Is that everything and everyone? No, but my top names and sites. To look at it it can appear overwhelming. Check out one or two and go from there. I am only able to keep up on everyone through RSS feeds using a reader like Google Reader and by subscribing to the YouTube channels so I am notified when I go to YouTube who has something new to watch. Information overload is a problem with today's technology and a person needs to not be afraid to consume only what you can digest. High quality, low fat, content. Shooting will always be the best way to learn so if you are reading far more than shooting, take a step back and evaluate your ratios... Says Jay after this huge post.

If you have additional suggestions for these lists, want to chat about them, or want to have some learning time with me, send me an email (jayscottphotography AT gmail DOT com) and we will make it happen.

Nov 5, 2012

Rob, Brenda, Matthew and Danica - 2

The day before our shoot we scouted the area for a wheel instead of watching the same walls go by fifteen times at the track. The maintenance staff had emptied the pond. I thought my reflection shot planned for tomorrow was gone. We stopped to talk to them and they told us they were just cleaning it and it would be refilled by the end of the day. Besides that it had to be filled for it to be a skating rink in the winter.

Regardless, the water was not yet settled by the next day and the light just wouldn't work for a reflected shot so I tightened up the frame to make the shot below.



Such a nice family to work with, full of willingness and ideas to add to my own.




I hope to work with them again and look forward to getting back to Innovation Place  now that I have so many more great spots to use.

Nov 1, 2012

Rob, Brenda, Matthew and Danica - 1

With the switch being flipped that seemed to turn summer to autumn and the second flipping autumn to winter, it seemed like an opportune time to share the results of our last family session this autumn.

Word of mouth is the best and most affordable form of advertising for so many businesses. When someone vouches for you it is the highest compliment. Paul was that referrer and that is how this session came to be. I had done portraits of Paul and Rob for Federal Medical, but commercial is a different style of photography than location shoots with multiple people.

Since Innovation Place worked so well just a few weeks ago and since I had a number of great spots we didn't get to take advantage of the last time, as well as some newly discovered spots, it was a natural choice.

The raised patio from below gave us the vines on which grew some of my favourite flower snapshots, the morning glories


The other location I was excited to try was first seen in this post, the nook with the reflections from the gold windows. Danica's face was just radiant in those mixed lights. I grabbed one shot with her reflection in the windows, but an imperfect angle combined with being in a wheelchair on a significant slope made it less than perfect. This portrait turned out nicely.



Matthew helped his sister climb up this tree. They always say you shouldn't ask your subject to do something you wouldn't do yourself. I wouldn't have asked, they suggested climbing up there. I just shot.


Matthew had already crossed the stream but the gap was a bit too big and the rocks unsteady so we suggested they stay on the side with the walking path and little chance of having a very cold bath.


More on Monday.

Oct 28, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Portrait


It was a photographic equipment birthday this year. I had already mentioned the transceiver I purchased with birthday money from my parents but the gift from Angie had not arrived, or so I thought. When I accidentally stumbled upon the transaction in our bank records I had highly doubted that it would make it here from Hong Kong in the two weeks before my birthday. It did not. It arrived in one week with the free shipping option! When Angie explained to me why it took so long for her to get our A & W the other evening it was because she was stopping at the post office to pick up my gift.

Because of placing some orders with other Chinese companies I was aware of some political goings-on that were causing outgoing packages to be examined by Chinese customs as well as by the customs of the destination country, with the exception of the United States, which was resulting in 20 to 50 business day delivery times with standard airmail shipping as opposed to the typical 10 to 25 business day delivery times. Regardless, it did not affect us with this one.

What Angie had bought me for my birthday was a 90 cm x 90 cm soft box, essentially an umbrella-like box with a reflective interior and a white sheet of diffusion material at the bottom that softens the light to diminish the appearance of wrinkles, soften shadows and give a gentler appearance to the subject that it is being used on. There are other purposes but I will leave it at that.

I tried it this morning on a pair of nail clippers, which many people on Facebook thought was an interesting subject, for my project and then this afternoon asked Angie to pose for a portrait.



I am pleased with the results, happy that despite its significant and somewhat cumbersome size I can still handle it and that it will be one more tool when soft light is called for or when I need a pure sheet of reflected light and the appearance of an umbrella's ribs simply will not do.

Aside from the gifts, we had a very nice supper with good friends at Las Palapas last evening. We then came back to have some lovely banana cake with chocolate icing and coffee almond ice cream that Angie made for me with an even larger group of friends. Definitely what I would call a great birthday.

Oct 22, 2012

Oct 20, 2012

Haircut and a New Toy


As I wrote the title for this post I realized that I, too, got a haircut yesterday and have really been enjoying my new toy, the radio trigger purchased with birthday money from my mom and dad. No buyer's remorse here. I am really enjoying it. However, wouldn't you know, GoPro came out with their third iteration of their action camera. It looks like this one will do what I was hoping the second one would do. Regardless, I am glad that I did not get the second one because the third one, for the same price as the second one was, would have been an outdated version just weeks after it was given to me. Everything worked out for the best.

The title of the post was actually a description of our Kiwi. She got her hair cut this past Tuesday and was overdue for a new toy so we picked one up yesterday after my haircut.


I think it is going to be perfect for her. The loops make it easy for me to throw and give her endless enjoyment chewing on and she has yet to be able to squeak the deeply embedded squeaker. That shows her determination as she works at that thing make it squawk.

Certainly enjoy how soft she is for some time after a haircut. We may need to bath her at the halfway point so that brushing her is that much more effective at making her extra soft.

That's all I have for your Saturday dose of cuteness.



Oct 16, 2012

Hot Racks Bakery - Date Square

Along with the freshest, gooiest, tastiest cinnamon bun, we picked up an excellent, buttery date square from Hot Racks Bakery this morning.


Once again, they did not disappoint.

Oct 15, 2012

Fresh Squeezed Ancient Hop-Grain Juice

Our hops did incredibly well for their first year in our yard. It was very refreshing after killing two clematis vines two years in a row. I don't know if our hops are the kind used to brew beer, or just ornamental. Gave me the idea for the photo below, the title inspired by a quote from the Simpsons.

Oct 8, 2012

Thanksgiving Dessert

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you have had an excellent, restful and rejuvenating weekend with those you care about. We made the trip down to Swift Current on Friday to see my parents. It was some quality time, with much good food, a bit of park time for us and the dogs, a few hands of 31 and even a bit of planning for Christmas.

We gave mom her gifts (one hadn't arrived yet so we gave her a picture of it for now) and was I ever impressed with the metal prints from Don's. The colours and the way they gather light just makes them glow. I will be recommending them to customers for anything colourful. Even the brushed finish of the metal print used for a black and white portrait was arresting. I must say that it never ceases to amaze me of what a flora gallery of my work my parents' house has become. I may have to have a show there some day. :)

Angie prepared one of the desserts we enjoyed this weekend, a pumpkin cheesecake with candied pumpkin seeds topping the whipped cream. I was happy that there was a piece left over after the first servings for me to photograph the following morning.



She said next time that it could be a little bit sweeter and have more spices that the original recipe called for. You can find that recipe at the following link:


It seems to work best for us to combine mom's birthday, Thanksgiving and my birthday into one weekend since they are fairly close together. I received my birthday gift which I intend to use toward a Pocket Wizard +III. Originally Angie had planned with my parents to get me a Go Pro Hero 2 to give me some better video and time lapse capability. Of course, knowing me, I changed my mind after they had already made this decision. However, I'm not certain that the Go Pro is the right tool to add to my kit at the moment. It only has a very wide angle lens and that might be great for action videos but certainly not ideal for all uses including time lapses of smaller things. The increased capability of this new radio trigger will serve me far better, and multiple times per week, than the Go Pro which would have been more of a toy than a regularly used tool.

It was a good trip home, with perfect weather, less wind that was forecast and quiet roads. A nice break and trip but also nice to get back to routine.

I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was super.

Oct 4, 2012

Paul, Barb, Emma and Olivia at Innovation Place


The more times you visit a location the more you find ways to use it. Innovation Place is not a difficult place to work at, but part of the challenge is making it less obvious of where you are shooting. This is made more difficult when both the photographer and one of the people you are working with are using wheelchairs.


There weren't many photos off the beaten path this day, but that is just fine. Those are the times you take the surroundings and go with it.


Paul and I have been friends for a long time but only in the last few years have we spent regular time together, much of it exercising together. During that time it has been nice to get to know the rest of his family better. As his daughters have come to know me better it only increases the comfort level and makes for better photos.


I was simply impressed with the girls' attention spans and patience. They had returned just an hour earlier from their aunt and uncle's farm, not having normal sleep being in beds other than their own, but they were great the whole time.


Emma has been exploring making time lapse and stop motion videos and showing excellent skill for such an early stage. I've been helping her how I can and look forward to watching her skill grow. She also has had shown and interest in modelling. For her age she really has posing figured out. I will be happy to keep working with her if she pursues it.


It was a great day together finished off by lunch back at their home. Quality time and enjoyable company on a nice late summer Saturday morning.


Sep 28, 2012

Fruits of Labour

Last year she learned to knit and has learned some serious techniques. This year Angie has decided that our fully loaded Thunderchild Crab Apple tree couldn't go to waste. We knew by the ample blooms in the spring that there would be plenty of fruit.


So she picked about 25 pounds of apples and brewed up a few batches of juice, the straining aided by a few jelly bags suspended from a light stand and my boom arm. The results are very tasty and now we have the supplies to can more food in the future.

Sep 24, 2012

Gluten Free Thai Chicken Pizza



It is possible! It is possible to have a delicious gluten free pizza. We had pizza from Pizza Pirates here in Saskatoon a few weeks ago. The toppings were great, the crust was passable at best. It was simply a bit too gritty and even a bit soggy or undercooked in the middle.  I know that you cannot always have an optimal product when you're trying to balance standard pizza with gluten-free, and I do think they did a pretty good job, but it was not up to the standards I was used to so we kept looking and found this excellent, crispy flat crest pizza dough recipe. However, it was not a creation of our own and involved a very significant shortcut that was almost as easy as picking up the phone to order.

That shortcut was this: It was the premixed pizza crust blend #219 from Bulk Barn. The mixture contained, in unknown proportions, rice flour, whole grain rice flour, corn flour, tapioca starch, corn starch, methylcellulose, guar gum, and xanthan gum.

The directions for the pizza crust:
1.25 cups of the gluten-free pizza crust blend
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
2 tablespoons of ground flax seed (Angie has informed me that ground flax can go rancid and is best kept refrigerated so you need to add it yourself, as it does not come already mixed into the pizza crust blend)
two large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup of milk

Preheat your oven to 400°F
Line a non-perforated pizza tray or baking tray with parchment paper or grease a tray with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Combine blend, salt, pepper and ground flaxseed. Add eggs, milk and mix well to form a smooth batter. Spread batter on tray into desired shape, approximately 12 inches in diameter, making edges slightly thicker than the center.
Place tray in middle rack of oven, and bake for 15 min.
Remove tray and prick with a fork several times, it will puff up in spots while baking.
Spread tomato or pesto sauce and top with your favorite toppings and cheese. Bake for another 15 min. for a thin crust and 20 min. for a medium thick crust or until crisp and golden on the edges and the cheese bubbles.

We followed those directions for the initial pre-baking of the crust. After that we used the Thai sauce recipe you will see below and topped that with precooked chicken, caramelized red onion, mushrooms, red pepper and mozzarella cheese, garnishing with green onion and cilantro.



The toppings we used could have been on any pizza but what we have always felt really makes a unique pizza unique is the unique sauce. Certainly, we still have a place in our stomachs for standard pizza sauce but this is by far one of our favorites and as simple as it gets.


The sauce came together easily without any heating or other steps. Simply combine:

2 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tbsp. peanut butter (heaping)
1/4 tsp. soy sauce (gluten-free, of course)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-4 drops chili oil (we omitted this but made sure we had enough red pepper flakes and the above heaping tablespoon of peanut butter to compensate)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 green onions, chopped

Stir everything together and top your prebaked crust with the sauce and your toppings then finish baking it.

I will always enjoy good pizza that has been ordered, even though it is always saltier and less healthy than homemade, but if our pizzas from this day forward are made of this crust I won't complain. To be perfectly honest, I think I like it better than our former home made pizza crust.



Sep 21, 2012

Hot Racks Granola Bar

My sweet tooth flared up as predictably as the sunrise the other day so I swung by Hot Racks for not just one, but two treats. I had to grab one of their perfect cinnamon buns but also a granola bar.


Fresh, dense, chewy, sweet with just a hint of saltiness in the pumpkin seeds. It won't be my last.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Sep 19, 2012

Autumn Snap Dragons

It may not technically be autumn, but overnight frosts have begun (better blow out the sprinklers soon) and I made a point, after much procrastination, to shoot our few remaining snap dragons. They really were beautiful this year and spread out so much from the tiny shoots that were planted not so long ago.

Sep 17, 2012

Gluten Free Mexican Lasagna


Sorry I missed last week's gluten free recipe post. The fact is that not every recipe is going to be spectacular and I won't have time to shoot every great meal. That wasn't the case this time. I was just occupied with other work.

This recipe was hardly a science and was created from a few different recipes. It would be pretty simple to add ingredients you like or reduce or remove what you don't care for.

Ingredients
1.5 lb lean ground beef
1 chopped onion
1/2 each chopped green and red pepper
1 can of plain tomato sauce
1/2 can of tomato paste
1/2 cup of broth or water
1 can of drained and rinsed black beans
1 package of taco seasoning (this shortcut isn't typical for us, but we had a package to use)
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 cup frozen kernel corn
12 corn tortillas (6 inch), divided
1 - 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 small can of sliced black olives, drained

Method

Begin browning beef, onion and garlic in a large skillet. Add seasonings and complete the cooking of the beef. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add crushed tomatoes, paste, broth, beans and corn. Cook and simmer until it is the desired thickness. You will want less liquid than a lasagna recipe that calls for the noodles to be uncooked before baking. The corn tortillas won't absorb much if any liquid so simmer it until it is quite thick.

Layer 1/3 of the meat mixture then a generous layer of tortillas in a 13x9-inch baking dish. We cut the tortillas in half for ease of arrangement but should have been more generous with the tortillas making a slightly overlapping layer so they don't get lost in the final product. Repeat layers then cover with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese and olives.

Bake for 30 min. or until heated through. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to set then serve and enjoy.

Sep 14, 2012

Innovation Place Before Autumn - 3

Oh, how I wished I had seen the location from my first two photos below on the family photo shoot two Saturdays ago. It is right beside the Saskatchewan Research Council building's entrance. They are a reflective gold. The light bouncing off of them is beautifully warm and the imperfections in the glass make it look like light reflected off of water or maybe light under water.

I will post some photos from that session in a week or so and will point out those that were taken with the gold windows as a background.


I suppose the family photo session day was completely overcast so as much as those two girls sitting on the rocks pictured below would have been nice, without the direct sunlight the effect would not have existed.


One of the first crunchy leaves of the upcoming autumn season.



Sep 12, 2012

Innovation Place Before Autumn - 2

You likely saw the Morning Glory from my Friday evening post. I thought I would pull back and catch two of them in one frame.




 The ladybugs certainly flourished this spring, then disappeared and have now returned in numbers again. I wonder if the temperature has anything to do with it.


Normally I would not pick flowers, but I couldn't get close enough to these to get a good shot, and it's the end of the season, so in the interest of art, I picked one to shoot. The softness of these little red caterpillar-like blooms was just like fur. Reminded me of cotton candy. I'm pretty certain that these are perennials so I will make sure to get back to this spot next year.


Sep 10, 2012

Innovation Place Before Autumn - 1

The days are getting shorter and before long we will begin questioning that alarm in the morning. "How can that be right? It's still dark out."


But we aren't there yet. Yes, a few trees are beginning to drop leaves and the remaining flowers are all that will be for this year. The chill in the air is noticeable, even in the still warm sunlight, and that sunlight is coming from a much lower in the sky orb.



It's a new season, though, and the return to routine has its goodness, as well. Still, the snow could hold off until November January, for my tastes and ease of getting around. The primary sump pump we just replaced is still running every five minutes. I wonder how many years of drought we would need before it stops.



At any rate, break out the indoor to-do and project list as they will be needed soon enough.