Thursday, May 30, 2013

Backyard Bouquet

Every spring one of my favorite things to do is to make a flower arrangement from the peonies and iris in the backyard.  I looooooooooooooove peonies and plan on eventually lining the whole driveway in them.  This year two of my new varieties bloomed well for the first time.  I bought the kind that is just a big poof of yellow anthers in the middle surrounded by a single layer of petals (you can see a pale pink one below just starting to open).  Sometimes when I am working in the yard I catch a glimpse of one and they just stop me in my tracks and I have to stand there marveling at their beauty.  I don't think they last as long as the regular kind but I'm OK with that, as long as I get a day or two before the rains get them.  As I've said in past posts peonies are may favorite flower and I feel the same way about them as Emma Goldman did about her roses.

"I'd rather have peonies on my table than diamonds on my neck."

Friday, May 24, 2013

George's Molasses Bread

George is always tinkering with recipes and changing them and I am always wanting him to make the same thing over and over.  But this time I ended up loving the result of his experiment.  I'm not sure what possessed him to do this, but he added molasses and walnuts to his regular sourdough bread and it is now my absolute favorite bread! George has had his sourdough starter for a couple years but you can make your own easily (King Arthur has a starter recipe here).  This bread is well worth the effort and has a wonderful flavor.  It is especially good toasted with thick globs of cream cheese on top.  If you have any questions leave a comment and I will ask George and get back to you.  Enjoy!

George's Molasses Bread

1/2 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour

Mix these together and let sit overnight.  The next day add:

3/4 cup water
1/3 cup Blackstrap molasses
1 Tbsp. salt
enough flour to form dough

Knead dough for a bit.  Let rise until doubled.
Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Shape into a loaf.
Let sit for 30 min to 1 hour
Bake at 375˚ for 10 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350˚ for another 45 minutes or so.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sketchbook - Xavier University

Last Wednesday Christina and I went up to the 10th floor of Schott Hall at Xavier University and sketched from the rooftop terrace.  It was a great view but both the wind and sun were crazy strong!  After an hour or so we were both sun-burnt and ready to get back to the ground.  I originally planned to include the cool castle details on the closest building but I ran out of room.  (You can see Christina's clever solution to this problem here.) Plus the Xavier "X" got cut off at the bottom.  C'est la vie!  I have to remind myself that that is the beauty of the sketchbook - imperfections and all.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Food Photography Workshop

Last Saturday I attended Gina Weathersby's Food Photography Workshop.  Gina is not only an amazing photographer (you can see her work here, here, and here) but she is also an amazing teacher.  The first half of the workshop Gina covered everything from camera angles and lighting direction to aperture/iso/shutter speed to how to tell your story through food.  We looked at sample work and discussed what makes a good photo.  I absolutely loved listening to her comments on the photos we looked at because for a minute it lets you see the photo through her eyes...what she would have done differently to make it better, how she would have changed just one thing to improve it.  You can learn so much from listening and taking note of the smallest of comments.  There is so substitute for being around someone who is an expert in their field and passionate about what they do.    

The second half of the workshop we all received shooting assignments and were able to ask questions right then and there if we needed help.  It was scary and fun all at once.  My food assignment was to shoot a frittata and its ingredients.  The fun part was choosing between all the amazing props Gina brought.  There were beautiful plates and bowls, linens of every texture and color, cutting boards small and large, silverware, wooden spoons, measuring spoons... I could go on and on but you get the idea.  And this is not even mentioning the food!  Some of the food (including my fritatta) was prepared by eat well celebrations and feasts, but there was also quite an array of fresh ingredients including quail eggs, tomatillos, fresh herbs, edible flowers, rustic breads, olives, and vegetables of all kinds.  Plus the workshop was held at Marti's Floral Design where there were amazing surfaces and textures in addition to large windows that let in perfect light for shooting.   

The photos above show a small sampling of some of the great textures we had to work with.  Those quail eggs were just too awesome for words.  Below was a shot of all of my ingredients.  It was so much fun arranging them...who said not to play with your food?!

I have to add a warning about the above recipe.  I totally made it up just as a sample recipe.  Not to say you couldn't make it, just beware that it is untested and written by someone who makes frozen pizza from a box when George is out-of-town.

One thing I learned after the workshop is that you often do not want to eat the food after a photo shoot.  The food has often laid on the floor, been poked and prodded by many hands, or just plain sat out too long.  Looks yummy but I would not recommend eating it.

I learned so much from this workshop about myself and my photography.  I was nervous to sign up because I felt unsure about my technical skills.  But how else am I going to improve them except by pushing my limits?  And push them it did.  I don't want to feel nervous anymore when someone asks me what my settings are.  I want to be able to answer with confidence "ISO 200, F-stop 4.5, shutter speed, 1/125."  And I want to feel confident in my ability to change the settings as needed.  In her amazingly soft, but somehow stern way, Gina has inspired me to want to learn to shoot manually which has always frightened the bejeezes out of me!  I realize now I have gotten a little too comfortable resting on my aperture-priority-shooting laurels.  So thank you Gina for sharing your knowledge, pushing me out of my comfort zone and providing such a wonderful experience. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sketchbook - Fire Station, Hyde Park Square, Cincinnati

My friend Christina and I sketched the fire station in Hyde Park Square a couple weeks ago and I finished mine last week.  I have never been one to keep a sketchbook but it is starting to really grow on me.  I find it super relaxing to work on it and it is a great way to get away from the computer for a bit.  Thank you Christina for getting me outside and sketching!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Redbud Haiku

After I wrote this haiku I couldn't decided whether it needed a question mark at the end or a comma after "who".  In the end I decided against both.  I also wasn't sure if I liked the texture I had on the photo.  So I have now changed it about five times and it may change again.  That is the beauty of the blog.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Snow in Summer

Last week our crabapple was in full bloom and I had the bright idea to do a little photo shoot beneath it. It was the kind of day that has high clouds and you couldn't see the sun, but still bright.  I thought it would be perfect lighting.  George helped me drag the table, chairs and tablecloth down and I picked a few flowers from the yard for a flower arrangement.  It was a beautiful setting and I shot a lot of photos.

After eating lunch with my neighbor I brought it all back inside because it looked like it might rain.  That night when I sat down to look at the photos I was super disappointed.  The sky was all blown out and my white blooms faded right into the sky!  I was so mad after all that effort I had nothing to show.

But then I had a brainstorm.  My friend Jill layers wonderful textures into her photos and had recently shared some of her favorite places to download textures.  I hadn't yet had time to delve into her email but this was the perfect solution to my blown out sky!  I love when things work out perfectly like that.  Thank you Jill for your perfectly timed email!

If you are interested in using textures in your photos (or just love beautiful photography) you have to visit Jill's blog - She Who Carries Camera. She has wonderful photos plus you can participate in Creative License Fridays where everyone downloads the same photo and applies their own techniques.  It is so much fun to see what everyone comes up with.  Also be sure to check out her feathered portraits - love these!