My latest adventures, Part 1

Hello World!

Time is passing by faster than a blink of an eye, for me anyway. My brain is still trying to process that yesterday was Thanksgiving! I’ve been mentally writing blog posts since the last one. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made it to a digital version until now. 🙂

I traveled a little for a few jobs and not for jobs. Not very far in distance but it still seems a world away based on the environments I was in. I’ve experienced a few first these last few months as well. One is traveling up to the Pennsylvania Wilds. Living in PA as long as I have, I hadn’t traveled up this way. It’s located up in northern Pennsylvania, across many counties, and is a great place for outdoor enthusiasts to visit. The forests and other natural areas in this region are still untamed. I went to a small village where it is known for having the largest free-roaming herd of elk. There weren’t any elk to be seen at the visitor’s center when I was there but was directed to a place where there were some that came out of the woods for dinner. I joined others that where there to watch and take photos. I think I saw about three or four and by the time I left, there were probably around eight ignoring the crowd and concentrating on dinner. A few watchers noticed my 100mm macro lens and thought it must take great images of the elk. In reality, I really needed a longer lens. I did see someone have what looked like a 800mm lens. Here’s a cropped image of what I captured. Nothing great but nice to document the trip.

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Elk

Another part of the Pennsylvania Wilds I visited was Pine Creek Gorge, otherwise known as the Pennsylvanian Grand Canyon. I was really hoping to see some river otters while I was there but that wasn’t to be. I didn’t even see the campground I stayed at in daylight until the morning I checked out! There are a few shots that, I think, came out amazing and will be on my website shortly. The last few months, I’ve been thinking about capturing needing to practice capturing images with fog. I unexpectedly got that opportunity while I was here at Pine Creek Gorge. The second morning, I went over to the west rim of the gorge, hoping to capture a different perspective. There was a huge wall of fog that I entered on the way there and still hadn’t lifted when I left. I didn’t get any gorge scenes but I did get some forest scenes which I was really happy with. Here’s an image from that trip. I was happy that the autumnal colors were bright and crisp this year, although, I’m not sure I was able to capture it in camera well.

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Pine Creek Gorge in the Pennsylvania Wilds

 

Another first for me was going to a sunflower farm. I was really excited for this trip thinking I get to cross something off my photo bucket list. I was thinking there’d be great blue skies and fields and fields of towering sunflowers. As I neared the farm, I drove into heavy, thick fog (again!) and very cloudy skies. The rolling hills of sunflowers weren’t that big (which I was warned about) and the sunflowers were maybe waist level. I had trouble finding scenes that beckoned to be photographed so I ended up concentrating more on some closeups and individuality, the ones that refuse to conform to the norm. Here is one I thought was pretty cool, all flowers facing the same way except for that One, the Rebel. Hmmm…I think that is what the title will be for the final image I pick.

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Sunflowers

Well, as this seems to be my longest post yet, I’ll save the rest for the next post. Hope you enjoyed the update!

Until next time!

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The elusive morel

Hello World!

Spring is here but the weather is already feeling like summer! Spring ranks 3 out of 4 on my season faves list even though I just celebrated another year on this planet. The best thing about spring (no, it’s not my birthday!) are the flowering trees. That’s probably it. LOL

Also in spring, for a brief time is the hunt for the morel mushroom. I’ve gone hunting the past three weekends and have yet to find any. Maybe this weekend or the following one will yield better results. Here is an image of one from last year, one of the very first ones.

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Black morel

 

This past weekend, I did see lots of polyporus squamosus, otherwise known as Dryad’s saddle. Some people like it, some don’t. I have to keep in mind not to harvest large ones since they will be too chewy and tough. Smaller ones are better and more tender. Last year, I was deciding on how best to cook the ones I got (my first ones ever). There was one that was questionably too big or just on the border that it might not be good eats (borrowing a term from Alton Brown). I decided if it was, that cutting the mushroom into paper thin cuts might keep it from being chewy. I also wanted to do something different than just sautéing in butter. There was some leftover rosé wine that I needed to get rid of. I decided to make a creamed rosé sauce to cook the mushroom in and served over rice. I wasn’t sure if the wine would have been too sweet but I think it was dry enough that it didn’t taste sweet. The dish came out really nice and yummy. Last weekend, I cooked my find with dried rosemary and sage in a bit of olive oil, garlic, and a bit of butter at the end. Quite yummy too. Here’s an image taken from last weekend.

Dryad’s saddle, polyporus squamosus

 

Here’s to good mushroom hunting! Oh, very important, if you can’t identify it, don’t eat it! I go out with a local mushroom group and well seasoned hunters help with identification of what’s edible and what’s not. For example, there’s a mushroom known as the false morel which is carcinogenic. So, if you can’t identify it, do the next best thing and photograph it! 😉

See you guys next month!

Selfies and art

Hello World!

I recently had a chance to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty again. The last time I went, I wasn’t able to go up the statute. I can’t remember if it was because they were cleaning it or not.

So on the ferry to the Statue, I decided to take a selfie of myself to send to my brother just to tease him. I pretty much never take selfies. Here’s one I took with the Statue behind me and another one at the pedestal of the Statue.

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Now, I know it doesn’t look like selfies everyone takes but I was pretty happy with them. I liked that only part of my face was showing. I’d probably crop the nose out in the second one so that only my eyes are showing. Apparently, according to my brother and not explicitly said, I need to be a professional photographer all the time and can’t just turn it off. In the first selfie, I needed to take out the person in the red coat and in both selfies, I needed to show my face more.  Ah, critics! Yes, true, if I take out the person behind me, it would have made a better self-portrait. But, that wasn’t really the point of the photo. As a photographer, one has to remember to enjoy and savor the moments in life and not always be snapping away.

As I sign off, I want to remind you to enjoy life, eat well, have adventures, and find joy. Otherwise, why are we here? Until next  time… =D

A year in review. Wait! What?!

Hello World! I have been thinking about you all this past year. Proof is several unfinished posts. 😮  They will eventually get posted sometime this year. One post needs a bit more research though. Ah, yes, the scientist is still inside waiting to be unleashed into research mode.

Let’s see, to catch you up on what’s been happening the past year, let me think. Now, I know you’re probably thinking this kind of post should have posted at the first of the year and January’s just about over (okay, it is over). Umm…well…I’m in time for Chinese New Year. Yes, that’s it! I follow the lunisolar calendar rather than the Julian calendar. 😉

Alright, last year I decided to get going on food photography again since after graduation (which seems and is a long time ago) I was working on my architectural/real estate photography skills. For most of the year I photographed food interspersed with product and architectural work. I found that as much as I enjoy product and architectural work, I think I like food even more. I just need to find vegetarian and vegan based food clients (and pastry chefs, bakers) and I will be in heaven! Well, I can’t ignore being in nature though!

Last year, I also entered a food photo contest as a professional. A first for me. Here’s a few of the images I entered.

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I want to include the (purple) medieval one in my portfolio update but at the moment, I don’t think it fits in with the other images but we’ll see. I’m still deciding on which ones I want to include. I’ve also been trying to update my website with a new template for way too long now but it’s been a bit of a challenge using the new software. It’s probably time for me to make a new self portrait as well.

Plans for this year is to continue with my food photography and to get more serious about my landscape/nature photography. I have been getting great inspiration as well as views of beautiful pre-dawn and dawn skies (and sometimes dusk). I’ve always been driving on my way somewhere so I haven’t been able to take the time and find a really nice landscape to compliment the skies to capture in camera.

That’s all I have for now. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

 

Oh no, winter is gone!

Hi World!

Can you believe spring is here already? It’s kind of hard to believe considering it snowed the other night! This past winter, I decided to experiment photographing snowflakes with my 100mm macro lens just to see if was possible with that lens. I discovered I can get great boca backgrounds but as for individual flakes, not so much. One day, I’d like to try using the 180mm macro lens and maybe add some extension tubes to see what happens. Yep, it’s been done already by others, but since I’m a scientist as well, more experimentation is needed. I’ll have to try one of the DIY setups I’ve seen online for photographing snowflakes, although, I did find a post where someone used a point and shoot and was able to get individual snowflakes. I should try that with my point and shoot and see if I can reproduce that as well.

 

Snowflake Boca

Snoflake Boca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snowflake closeup

Snowflake closeup

 

I’m hoping this year, I make it to D.C. to photograph the cherry blossoms, which should be another week or two before the peak…maybe. Though with all the “April showers” coming that may change. Also, I’ve been thinking about possibly going shooting in the Blue Ridge Mountains soon. I haven’t gone out for landscapes for quite a while now. I miss being out in nature. I have a couple of series planned to go on my website. One is mushrooms and the other is a surprise.

I’ve finally started on updating my portfolio (images not on the website just yet). Yea! I’m working on food at the moment and have discovered some things. I love to bake and, usually, don’t have many problems. I haven’t made cakes for a while and I normally make other types of frostings than what is needed for piping.

Discovery #1: Non-stick cake pans still need to be greased and floured. I normally use springform pans for cakes but one of my bottoms seems to have gone missing. So, I got some round cake pans and thought I’d try the non-stick ones while I was at it, even though they were dark pans.

Discovery #2: My oven might not be level. Easy to find out but I have yet to stick a level in it to check.

Discovery #3: I found that I have trouble making buttercream, more specifically, FLUFFY WHITE buttercream. I started off with Swiss several times and finally tried American. I have no problems with the meringue but once the butter is added, there goes the fluff and color. I don’t think my butter is overly yellow. I’ve read/seen that I should just beat the heck out of it so it gets whiter but it hasn’t worked for me. Maybe I should beat the butter first until it’s light in color first and see if that helps any. The color of vanilla extract doesn’t help either.

Discovery #3.2: I don’t know what to do with all the “trial” buttercream that’s taking up space in the fridge.

Discovery #4: There’s such a thing as white vanilla extract. Who knew? I’ve never come across it until now. I can’t find anything about how it’s made except maybe using vanillin instead of the beans.

Discovery #5: Multiple cakes = no room in the fridge or countertops for anything else.

 

I think next week I will start on some entrées before I make another cake I have planned and some recreations of yummy things I’ve had at restaurants. Until my next post, happy eats!

 

Painting trials

Hi World!

So old age aside (no offense to anyone, I just feel old, body does at the very least),  my brain seems to have found a black hole where it keeps track of time. Time just disappears. Sometimes I wish I can walk the space-time continuum or find the mad man with the blue box (a shout out to Doctor Who and the TARDIS for those who are unfamiliar). I had some cool photo shoots planned that I was going to share with you guys since July. Alas, the shoots didn’t work out and next thing I know, the months keep passing by. Can’t believe this month is 2/3 over already and I’m already looking at things I’m doing next month.

During my unintended hiatus from writing here, I was watching a class taught by Jack Davis on painting with Photoshop on CreativeLive. Jack has amazing skills in Lightroom and Photoshop, turning photos into more than amazing photos. In this class he shows the audience step-by-step how to create a painting in Photoshop from your photos. I enjoy watching his classes tremendously, partly because of his humor, his laid-backness (yes, new word), and the soothing way he talks. He was talking about Bob Ross and I do have to say that Jack does have that similarity about him. For those of you who don’t know Bob Ross, he used to teach painting shown on PBS. His voice was very soothing as he tells you stories while teaching you how to paint. He did amazing landscapes. But, back to painting in Photoshop. I thought since fall was coming up (at the time), I’d try painting one of my autumnal photos taken when I started Hallmark since I was still waiting for leaves to turn. I have to say it was an epic fail. I tried a couple of versions, which I wish I had saved so I could show you. The edges of the trees weren’t definable so the painting just turned into one big ugly brown mess. I eventually decided to try a lighthouse scene taken in Cape Cod. I think it came out alright, albeit a bit rough. Left is the painting and the right is the photo used.

Lighthouse Painting      Cape Cod Lighthouse Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be experimenting more in the future, including photo tinting. I’ll let you guys know how it goes. In the meantime, have safe and fabulous holidays.

Wow, how did half the year go by already? So, it’s just about summertime in the northern hemisphere and many are planning on trips and vacations in the next couple of months. I thought I’d share a couple  of photos I took and explain the thought behind it. These photos were taken in the Kubuqi Desert, Resonant Sound Gorge in Inner Mongolia. They were probably taken around midday, so, not necessarily the best time to get the great desert photos that other photographers take to show the spotless texture of the wind blown sand.

Sand Dunes, Kubuqi Desert, Inner Mongolia

Sand Dunes, Kubuqi Desert, Inner Mongolia

 

 

 

I thought the portrait orientation was best to capture this part of the desert. It helps concentrate the viewer to observe the dunes without extraneous landscape to distract the eye. The lines of the dunes also form a leading line, drawing the viewer further back into the photo, helping to show greater depth within the photograph. Though I don’t remember the thoughts as to how I purposely framed this exactly, it does demonstrate the rule of thirds. The foreground being the “flatter” portion of the dunes, the “hills” of the dunes making up another third of the photograph, and finally the sky for the remaining third.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desert and Umbrellas, Kubuqi Desert, Inner Mongolia

Desert and Umbrellas, Kubuqi Desert, Inner Mongolia

 

This next photograph, I remember I wanted to photograph the scene like many of the beach with beach umbrellas photos seen in travel magazines or ads.  What was perfect was seeing a line of tourists making their way across. I was lucky enough to get each individual in between the umbrellas at the same time.

 

 

Thanks for tuning in! Don’t forget to take advantage of the present and look outside the viewfinder for happy accidents. Safe travels!