Barbecuing in January

The one and only good thing about winter in Calgary is that we have Chinooks….

While a week ago we might have been suffering through temperatures in the 20 below zero range, it is easy to forget when today I’m out on my balcony barbecuing steaks at nine ‘clock at night…

First Pictures of the new year.

Ok. So I’ll admit, they’re not very exciting…!

I don’t particularly like pork,  but while out shopping the other day there was a sale on pork roasts, and I do think supporting the struggling Canadian pork industry is always a good thing.  The centre cut pork loin roasts have to be one of the nicest, cleanest looking pieces of meat at the grocery store, and for less then ten bucks you can take it home, cut off a couple nice sized chops to throw in the freezer and still cook a roast big enough for two or three people.

Like I was saying I’m not crazy about pork, or at least I haven’t been in the past. But recently I’ve discovered that although typically dry and flavourless, if cooked properly it can actually be quite tasty. So here’s my rules for enjoying pork.

  1. When it comes to pork chops its all about the cut…… and thicker is always better. This being said, I can’t for the life of me figure out why grocery stores insist on forcing people to buy thin little chops that can’t possible be cooked properly. It’s for that reason that I usually buy roasts so I can cut nice thick chops of my own. The exception to this is the “country style” pork chops, which are usually a thicker cut, and are still on the bone which is always a good thing as far as flavour goes.
  2. Brine your meat…. If you’ve never used a brine when preparing pork (or chicken or turkey for that matter), then you are missing out entirely.  A bit of salt and sugar and flavour dissolved in water to soak the meat in for up to 24 hours, and that really is all it takes to make the juiciest, tastiest pork you’ve ever had.
  3. Don’t over cook it…. It really is that simple.
  4. Try it in a stir fry…. Thin sliced and marinated in a bit of soy and corn starch works fantastically when stir fried together with veggies and noodles.

Anyway thats just what I think. On this particular day I decided to try stuffing the roast with a simple dressing of onions, celery, bread crumbs, and two kinds of mushrooms, and was extremely pleased with the results (although a bit off-centre with the stuffing, and the salad dressing had gone bad and I didn’t realize it until it was too late so the salad was actually completely inedible).

As far as the pictures go I think they turned out pretty good, although I still think the wine looks a little bit too translucent compared to the real thing. I really like the contrast in colour brought out by the green of the lettuce.

Since I had everything set up I also tried shooting some other stuff for stock. But like I said, not very exciting!

I’m never eating leftover Turkey again!

I’m sure like most people this time of year I have a fridge full of leftovers from Christmas dinner. And as tasty as microwaved turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes is, it never really does the real meal justice. But finally I’ve found a great alternative, (sorry mom, curry turkey just doesn’t do it for me)!

For the past couple months I’ve been subscribed to a great blog about food from another local Calgarian.

Here is a link to her home page…

http://dinnerwithjulie.com/

She recently posted a fantastic recipe for “Crispy turkey-stuffing-potato cakes.”

Here’s the recipe…

http://dinnerwithjulie.com/2009/12/29/crispy-turkeystuffingpotato-cakes/

Served in a pool of gravy topped with cranberries, it turned out so perfectly crisp and golden brown I had to take a picture.

Give it a try, its stupidly simple, and a great way to use up all those leftovers…

Tiffany and Grant at Elbow Falls

While we were at the falls on Sunday my sister wanted me to take some pics of her and Grant.

Like usual, I couldn’t get my flash (Nikon SB600) to fire remotely using the built in infrared trigger. I’m not sure if it was the distance, or the line of sight wasn’t right on or what, but we couldn’t get it to work. Although yelling and hand signals across the ravine over top of the river didn’t make troubleshooting very easy.

I also started playing around with some post production filters on a new program i’ve been trying out. But my computer started acting up and I got frustrated with the results so I kinda just gave up on it. I’m sure you can pick out the ones with the extra filter.

Anyway here they are Tiff…

Elbow Falls in Winter

So the weather has been really nice here for the past week . So after all the Christmas festivities wrapped up Tiff, Jack, Grant, and I, headed out to Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country for the afternoon. Although I’ve been there more times than I can count I’m not sure I’ve ever been in the wintertime.

It was a lot busier than I expected for the time of year, although Sunday afternoon over the holidays I probably should have expected it. I think I might have to put it on my list of places to go back to sometime before springtime. Although I got a few decent shots, it would be nice to go back and have the place to myself. Especially at sunrise or sunset so I could take advantage of better light and slower shutter speeds.

  • I plan on getting a neutral density filter sometime in the next few weeks (hopefully in the 4 or 5 stop range if I can find it), in which case I will definitely be heading back there to try my hand at some long exposure motion blur shot.

I did try to get a few blurred shots of the running water, but the lowest I was able to push the shutter speed was 1/10 of a second. Which although slow enough to blur the water it wasn’t nearly long enough to get the effect I was looking for.

Zoolights at the Calgary Zoo

I went to the zoo last night with Tiffany, Grant, and the kids (my nieces and nephews).  Although I went in hopes of photographing some lights, I’m not even sure I actually saw any, or maybe I did, they’re just extremely dull in comparison to the energy of four young kids (just kidding the lights are actually quite neat to see).

One thing I have learned in the last few weeks, is that telephoto lens are pretty much useless when shooting in falling snow (the distance and magnification all work against you so you end up with big white circles all over the picture… it might look neat the first couple of times… But….  I’m sure you get the point). I can honestly say this was the first time i’ve felt my big expensive glass was a hindrance, and i probably would have been better off with a P&S camera. Of course I really doubt I’d be saying that if I could afford the wide lens I’ve been eying for the past year (ah… the pictures I could have taken with that last night… of course I say that every time I go out shooting).

I’m somewhat embarrassed to post the following pics. but sometime there’s not much you can do but turn up the ISO mount the flash on the camera, switch it to TTL and blast away. But it’s ok they’re kids so the pictures are always great!

And of course I can get away with it because nobody’s is reading this but me………

B.

Food Pictures – 2009 – pt. 1

Over the past year I’ve discovered that along with cooking, I really enjoy the challenge of photography food. I’ve found that It can really change the way you look at cooking. Making you look at not just the taste but the presentation. And it can actually be a lot of fun trying out different ingredients to get the colours and shapes that you’re looking for. Substituting things like vinegar and food colouring for red wine, or instant potatoes for ice cream (that one didn’t work out so well, but it did pass for ricotta cheese nicely).

Although I will admit I am getting extremely tired of eating cold dinners at midnight, it is definitely worth the effort.

Anyway here’s some of my favorites from the past year, you can also see them on my website under the food gallery by clicking here.

B.

Carburn Park

One of the highlights of my summer is the discovery of Carburn park in Calgary’s S.E. in the community of Riverbend.

Carburn Park (click on link for city of calgary’s information page).

What was a random attempt to find river access for an afternoon of fishing led to a month or so at the end of summer filled with evenings spent knee deep in the Bow fly fishing for trout that the river is so famous for. In case you don’t know I am entirely cursed as far as fishing goes and never ever catch anything (seriously… never)! Not that it stops me from trying, but I have to say it is nice to find a place where you can actually see the presence of fish as they throw themselves into the air in search of food. That has been my experiance while fishing from the banks of the park at sunset.

Since the end of the fishing season, (actually that section of the river is open year round, but wading through the river at sunset looses it’s appeal when it’s frozen half over with ice, and the sun sets at 4:30, although I do plan on heading out with rod and reel in the near future.), I have been back to the park to shoot pictures a half a dozen times. Besides being one of the more natural areas i’ve found in the city, the abundance of wildlife is outstanding, and it keeps pulling me back whenever I can find the time.

Anyway, here’s a few pictures from the past couple months;

Spray Lakes and Banff

November 11, 2009

Here’s some pictures from a recent early morning trip to the spray lakes area. The weather turned out suprisingly good, considering they we’re calling for snow all day long in Banff.

It was my fist encounter with Spruce Grouse, and I have to say they were a lot of fun to photograph. I spotted a pair of them on the side of the road and tracked them into the forest (leaving my car parked in the middle of the road with the motor running, for what turned out to be about 45mins…. oops)! These birds are unbelievable tame, which I found out later they are actually known for, and I was able to easily get within a foot or two of them without them spooking. Overall a great day… Except of course for the 3 hours it took me to drive from Calgary city limits to my house (unannounced to me, the storm expected in Banff had spent all day causing havoc on the roads in Calgary)!

A few of the pictures are from the Vermillion Lakes just outside the town of Banff. A place I have driven past hundreds of times wishing there was a place I could pull over on the highway to shoot some pictures. As it turns out there’s a road just below the highway that runs right along the lake shore… How I lasted this long without knowing about it is beyond me.

B.

Weaselhead Park

November 21, 2009.

Got up early to take a walk and shoot some pictures. Thought I’d try Weaselhead Flats, mostly because it’s close to my house. There seems to be a lot of praise online for this place, but I have to say I was not very impressed by it at all. That could have been because it was a cold overcast morning with no real sunrise to speak of (so much for waking early to catch the good light). For the most part the whole place seemed dirty and dusty and devoid of life, likely due to the frequent flooding in the area (it is a flood plan after all).

Coyote Prints Mallard DuckOne coyote and a couple of ducks were the only wildlife  I saw. Of course I ran into the coyote about two minutes after arriving there, while it was still too dark to take pictures at a decent shutter speed.  To top it off there was a was a number of rude and obnoxious joggers, that really gave the whole place a negative feeling. So it’s not likely I’ll be heading back there anytime soon, which is a shame because it is nice and close.

Wild Coyote

Things to remember when you go out shooting!

Just a couple tips I’ve picked up on photography over the years

1/125 of a second records movement similar to the way the human eye sees it!
50% view is approximate quality that you will see in print/magazines!

Check Camera Settings

* ISO
* WB (white balance)
* Image Quality
* Image Settings
* Exposure Compensation
* Metering Mode
o Use spot for tricky lighting or when subject is the majority of the frame
* Shutter Speed
* Aperture
o Small Aperture (F32) – More DOF
o Large Aperture (F1.4) – Les DOF
* Focus mode
* VR (vibration reduction) settings
* Flash mode
o Bounce
o Rear Curtain
* Flash zoom

“Don’t be LAZY work for it. – Get the ANGLE”!

* Aim for Impact
o Simplicity
+ Get close, avoid clutter.
o Colour
+ Limit # of colours
+ Use complementary colours
o Light
+ Shoot during the “magic hours”
o Depth
+ Subject & context in different spatial zones
+ Leading lines
o Include personality
+ people sell!
o Variety
+ Think how they will look as a group (in a slide-show/gallery)
o Look for Patterns

Tips

* Where are the Shadows / Highlights?
o Do they add to the photo?
* Would fill flash help?
* Rule of thirds
* Get down to their level (eye)
* Use plain background (avoid clutter)
* Shoot vertical
* Move in closer
* Back off and show surroundings
* Think about the shutter speed
* Try different angles
* Add reference to show size
* Shoot at sunrise / sunset
* Try panning with or without flash
* Blur motion
* Stop motion
* Rule of threes with colour (1:3, 1:2 not 1:1)
* Emotional impact of colour?
* Use contrast to layer
o Light foreground/Dark background
* Try back-lighting
* Try Monochromatic
*

Shutter Speed must be double the Length of the lens for anything over 100mm (NO EXCEPTIONS… unless you want to spend lots of time deleting blurry pictures that could have been good if you listened to this one simple rule)!

Notes on the Calgary 2009 Photography Expo

Notes from Calgary Photo Expo 2009….

Presenters
Larry Frank – Travel Photography…
Kristian Bogner…
Darwin Wigget…
John Marriott…

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Travel

*Wear camera with strap over shoulder, lens pointing INTO small of back (for long lenses).

Where to start
– Tours – a good way to scout locations to return to, to shoot later.
– Markets
– Playgrounds
– Festivals
– The street
– Countryside
– Seaside

Tips
– Shoot at eye level
– Shoot from the hip
– Shoot when something is about to happen
– The light is always right (for something)!!
– Shoot with themes in mind
– Shoot Up
– Shoot Down
– Shoot on the ground
– Look for symetry
– leading lines
– patterns
– diagonals
– scale
– Create beveled frame (PS)
– Use raincover to kneel on
– Zoom long exposures

Wide Angle Lens ———– Integrate
Telephoto Lens ———— Isolate

– Don’t repress your creativity!
– Be silly – Use your sense of humour!

“It is the photographers job to observe and determine that Magic Moment!”

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Making Money

– Photograph your passion
– Get marketing and business skills
– You MUST be really hungry for it!
– You must be a business
– Do not undervalue your work

“You cant’ make it as a pro unless you charge as a pro!”

– Set a minimum fee
– Don’t give images away
– Be diverse and adaptable
– Don’t get stuck on one thing
– There are lots of ways to make money – you have to find them!

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Sports

– Improve yourself constantly
– Energy is Everything!
– Positive outlook creates passion = Good photos = Success!
– Practice using high ISO to get DOF
– If you’re going to do it, be 100% committed
– Do something you wouldn’t normally do! (shoot something different)
– Shoot on “auto” from the hip (safer (run away skateboards) & different POV)
– Develop awareness of your camera AND what is around you.
– Try “panning” when it gets to dark for clear shots
– People LOVE to be photographed, (especially doing sports)!
– Focus is critical on the “point of action” (usually the eyes)
– Shallow DOF works well for sports photographs
– Capture the “Height of the Action”
– Use flash fill on overcast days
– Don’t be afraid to use “space”
– Have fun. Try;
– silhouettes
– multiple exposures
– shooting out car window @ 2000 sec. (just to see what you get)!
– Bracket and blending images
– Be open to whatever opportunities are out there
– Look for colours!
– Wait to shoot until you see what you’re looking for

“With any challenge you can either thrive or fail”! – D. Lama.

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Nature Tips

– Lanscapes- near subject that leads eye to far subject
– All weather is good weather!
– Test the limits of your gear.
– How low can you handhold?
– How low can you go with a tripod?
– What ISO can you get away with?
– Where is YOUR lens sharpest?

*50% view = what you see on print…

– Even pros can SUCK!
– Keep it simply – eliminate clutter
– Do sweat the small stuff (and shoot it too)!

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Filters

Polarizing Filter
– Use polarizing filters (PF) to bring out the colour in rainbows
– Use PF on overcast days to saturate colours
– Use after it rains
– Use PF when shooting macro
– Use PF to remove highlights from water-glasses
– Always keep PF on lens!

Gold & Blue Polarizing Filter
– Colours reflections gold and blue colours
– Use to replicate sunset at anytime
– Need to correct WB manually

Graduated Filters
– Use to darken bright half of the picture
– Try “Hard edge 3 stop”
– Use soft edge to darken reflections in the foreground

Neutral Density Filters
– Use for long exposures to catch movement
– Try shooting WIND
– Use to catch moving colours at sunset