Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Road Trip fantasy

Interesting challenge was given to us in the post a day challenge.  Road Trip Fantasy with a cast, linked too of course.  Many of my choices are dead and so long so they don't have SM or URLs to link too.  But I have quite a few interests and a cast I've always wanted to have on a road trip so here goes.

Envision a nice RV like my folks had so we all can take turns driving and sitting around the table kibitizing.

First up.  Mario Batali.  I like him for a variety of reasons, being a great chef is part of it but he's also an excellent teacher, loved his old show "Malto Mario".  He's also one of the hosts on ABC's "The Chew" which my wife and I tivo and catch up on so I know he's both entertaining and engaging.  A must to moderate the group I have put together.

Cars. What a passion that is.  I'd love to have Alan Mulally the head of Ford on board along with drifter Ken Block.  Between the two I'd learn a lot about the future of cars and performance cars.  To round it out my absolute favorite writer editor, Jean Jennings.

Laughter, I love lots of it.  I'd toss in Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and author PJ O'Rourke.  They would be the icing on my cake.

Of course I'd shoot it all.  With DSLR and flipcam...for one of my "blair witch project" YouTube videos.

That my friends would be my ultimate fantasy road trip.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

falling off the grid

And it can't happen fast enough

Yes. Those are solar panels.  Yes,  Those are installed on my roof.  34 total generating some 11KW peak during the course of a bright summer day.

I didn't do it or environmental reasons. I did it to keep as much green as possible in my wallet.

Seriously, this year has been a wild one for us SCE customers.  We got hit with a huge rate increase and rate restructure that if you run much more than a 'fridge you are going to go into tier 4 at 34-freakin'-cents per kilowatt hour.  July, August and September fully 2/3 of my power bill was in tier 4, and I did it without trying.  Actually short of turning off the air we tested our mettle with much higher than usual temps in an effort to trim the bill but it didn't make much of a dent.  Solar was the answer as we can get our juice for a bit over half of what those turds at SCE charge.

If you want details or a referral to the company I went with drop me a note.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

How to shoot food in the wild*

*and not be an obnoxious pest to those around you
In the early 'oughts there was a photo sharing program, social media in its infancy if you will, that had a lower case "t" as its logo. I was an early adapter and for the life of me I just don't remember its name.  When they went out of business I got everything copied that I had shared on a DVD. 2 of them...most of it came from a low res cell phone and/or my Che-ez snap .2 megapixel toy camera.  It was fun and the lessons learned with those tools and food I took with me as I advanced through an iPhone.

Food photography, especially in a restaurant I was doing long before the foodies started and actually ruined it in a lot of places.  What?  Haven't you seen those pretentious snots with portable mini-lights and tripods for their cameras yet, wait you will.  Worse is the obnoxious bright flashes.  Seriously, its a pain and ruins it for the rest of us.  Like me that started doing it before the turn of the century before those dreadful hipsters and instagram showed up.

Why do I do it? Lots of reasons, primary is like to get cheffy and try and recreate the memorable meals just as I had them in some 5 star joint in 'Vegas or L.A.  Its a rolling recipe book of ideas and that picture brings back everything so I can recreate.  Also I do my own plates and later blog it over at frazgo feasting making it possible for my followers to recreate my recipes to a "T".  The cell phone, especially in its infancy was such a primitive tool that it lent a wonderful impressionistic capture that adds to the romance of the dish.  Lastly, this vast library is used for blogging all over the place and those of my food will be used in a "bloggers cook book" something that I've been toiling on for a while.

Enough of why I do it, how about some tips to do it up right.

  • Turn the Flash OFF Seriously its an annoyance to other diners and it doesn't add anything to your final image.  It actually degrades the results but washing out too much, no modeling and certainly no depth of saturation.  Rest your arms on the edge of the table to steady yourself for the long exposure. 
  • Rotate the Plate  Its all got a good angle, rotate a bit so you get the best angle of you meal. That wink of tomato or cheese says a lot about the time the chef put into composing the plate.
  • Photo at the Pass Through  Yes, ask if you can photo your plate in the kitchen before it goes out, you'd be surprised how many places will actually accommodate you.
  • Get Up Close and Personal  Really fill the frame with the plate or the entree.  Make it big and important.  A nice table setting, well do that before food arrives if you must.  
  • Clean up the Plate  Give it a quick once over and move any stray items. Mop up any unusual drips, or turn the plate to hide them.  A messy plate will turn off the viewers.
These are pretty self explanatory.  Shooting food isn't some bit magical bag of tricks, yes commercial photographers are guilty of it.  Back in my early years I was guilty of it until I realized that the restaurant I was shooting spent a lot of time already choosing props, adjusting lighting etc., so why bother reinventing the wheel. Fresh out of college at SIU-C I had the pleasure of freelancing the restaurants for Las Vegan Magazine and learned to do just that after a couple of exhausting location shoots. Take advantage of what they provided and work with it.  Your results will show it. Your results will be better for it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

So, what do you want out of me?

Seriously, I've been running this blog since spring of 2007.  I was even in the running for most valuable blogger in 2011 for KCBS here in Los Angeles.  I'm full of ideas and things to share. What to share and when is my question  to myself.  Do I just meander and post what interests me, do a series on a topic too big for a single post. You tell me.  Really, tell me what you want and I'll work at providing it.

This image is of Bishop Creek in the Eastern Sierras from a few years back.  Its a simple shot of late fall that was tone mapped and then run through a plug in, virtual photographer to be precise, to give it the old timey post card look.  The unmolested image was nice, the final product was nicer and evokes a moment of nostalgia.

Monday, October 14, 2013

DSLR and night photography, or can we cut the noise?

Back in the High School and College I did a not of night photography.  Love it. Loved star trails and moonlit landscapes.  Armed with a tripod I was all over the Ozarks and Southern Illinois at night taking pictures.

Not so much since I got the DSLR. Dabbled in it, but got turned off by the noise that long exposures bring to the table. Add in a high ISO and the noise takes over and it begins to look like a pointillists painting, not a photograph.  Not that I find it objectionable, but sometimes I want a crisp clean black and no noise.

Now the current dilemma.  In a scant 6 weeks Comet Ison which I've been geeking out over since early this year is going to be at peak viewing.  Yes, I can capture an awesome sunrise, sunset and even a moon rise.  Capturing a comet, even one as "bright as the moon" will have challenges at dawn as I don't want a lot of noise.

Google will help. Any other ideas on where to go for help on this one?  I figure I have a month to get the info, practice and nail it for a pre-dawn road trip and excursion out to Joshua Tree or similar for best comet viewing and photo-ing.

This image is one I captured of a moon rise from the San Gabriel River near Azusa several summers ago.  It was just at dusk and didn't need a tripod or having to worry about excessive noise.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Celebrate the Arts...the MUSD students in action

As promised earlier, the video went live on YouTube after it was uploaded and processed.  I don't understand all the steps and widgets involved once they have the video, but it went into a queue with others that took a while to get it processed.  Hint, if you watch it in YouTube you will get a high definition option where you can really see the details.

The event was fun.  MUSD and Monrovia is blessed with some really talented youths.  They will only get better.

Complete and updated Celebrate the Arts set is up on flickr now.

Celebrate the at 11

or maybe a bit later...
It all depends on how fast YouTube gets the upload done and processed.  I'm already at the max bandwidth that Champion/Altrionet offers in my area but I need fast upload.  Video was done by 8AM...upload is 2/3 done 2 hours later.

This weekend is the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts Celebrate the Arts.  Its a juried Fine Art Festival that I have been involved with for 10 years now.  9 of it I organized the whole shebang, this year due to stuff I couldn't do it, let alone have a display space for my images there.  Maybe next year.

New to this years show was live demonstrations of art by MUSD students from Monrovia High School and Canyon Oaks High School.  I don't have the video to share, yet, but I will post it when its ready.  In the mean time this teaser from flickr should get your appetite whetted.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Its all about the quality of light

I've said it before, I love the quality of light here in sunny So Cal in late summer into early fall, then again in the Spring. The sun sits low on the horizon longer in the morning casting a warm glow over everything.  Even mid-day the longer warmer shadows are a blessing.

This shot was captured in the spring right after the trees leafed out in the early morning hours in Monrovia Canyon right above my house.  I love the sun glowing through the trees, the warm glow to the hills in the back ground and the crisp blue sky.  (Yes, we gt those in sunny So Cal too).

This image was shot bracketed +/- two stops and normal and combined with photmatix for a final HDR image to preserve the shadow detail as well as highlight detail  It was blended for a realistic view not surreal.  Some images just beg to be real.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Well, sugar, flickr is changing again

I like flickr for a lot of reasons. Its a daily photo blog at times for me, at others I share works in progress and dumbed down final versions of my art.  I'm not freebie there, costs me a bit a year to have the unlimited view and upload "pro account". In the end its worth it for the exposure.

I liked the changes of late to the home page.  Nice clean spot to put in a banner.  Nice clean layout grid for your images.  Easy to get to sets and collections.

I'm not thrilled with the new uploader.  Its fine for a couple of images, but a royal pain in the arse when you have a few dozen to over a hundred images to upload as the interface is way too cumbersome for adding titles and such. Every edit stops the uploading process which adds in some cases hours to the process. The classic uploader worked much better in this situation.  Uploads were as fast as your modem allowed, the edit to title etc was done on their main frame and done in minutes.  Not so much fun now.

Today the announced a change to the photo view page.  Not sure I like it, or dislike it.  Having the image grid on the right is a nice touch.  Makes it easy to snag a specific image to view instead of scrolling through.  Having stats on the right is nice as well.  Getting to larger images for linking into posts doesn't look to be as easy as before.  sugar.

Sorry for the rant, with them down so much the last few days and changes always underfoot, not always for the benefit of the pro user I kinda get discouraged and angry.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Kids: down to their level and up close and personal

Works for puppy dogs too...

Seriously nothing makes me more bat shit crazy than pictures, even family snaps, of kids taken from above looking down at them and across the room.  What's that all about?  A close second is spending hours trying to get them to smile...seriously what is wrong with odd picture of them sleeping or in a pensive moment, they have plenty of that so let those expressions shine too.

Shooting kids and pets are quite similar.  Drop down to their level, play with them even a little to get their attention to something other than the camera.  Rattle keys or scrunch wrinkled paper to give them something to stare at for a second will also help distract them from the camera.  Its all about getting them to act naturally and capture it at their level.

Capturing kids 101.  Enjoy the pics of my grandchild "Tyler"