A Good Vintage!

IMAG0464 by alio

Yep. A winery. That’s how I spent my day. Just have to figure out how to hide the sunburn in the wedding photos.

New Camera

New camera

Still trying it out but so far it’s awesome!

Portland Ho!

Today the Pie and I fly off to Portland, Oregon for the wedding of Doodle and the Cyclist.  I haven’t been to Portland since 2007 (you can see my shots here) and the Pie has never been further west than Thunder Bay, Ontario (which really isn’t very west at all), so it will be a great trip.  My parents are here to take care of the dog, so rest assured he will be spoiled rotten.

Me and the Rock
Last time I was in Oregon I ended up in front of the rock in The Goonies (at Cannon Beach). And I thought it was windy THERE!

You will still be getting your regular MWF posts that I have been stockpiling, but I’d like to try something new this time I go away.  I’m not bringing my computer with me, but I will have my phone, and I’m going to try out the WordPress app for Android and give you a little taste each day of what we’re up to on the west coast. Plus I have a brand new camera waiting for me upon my arrival, so I’ll be sure to take lots and lots of pictures.

Then when we return I’ll give you a little digest post about all the fun we were up to while we were gone.

So stay tuned!

Fast, Fun, Free “Fine” Art

This is probably the most awesome thing you can do with a printer in five minutes, for free.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Do you know what this is?  Probably not.  But don’t worry, you will soon figure it out.

I found out about this through Creature Comforts, and I loved it.

So you go to this site and you can use their online application, called The Rasterbator (gross, I know), or you can download it and use it on your computer.

Just follow their instructions to upload a photo of yours or to link to another photo on the internet.  Select the size you want and how you want to crop it, then get the program to rasterize the image.  Your computer will download a multi-page PDF document that you can then print out and assemble.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Of course the pages are in order, but they’re not as easy as you think to put together.  But you can figure it out.

Use a paper cutter or scissors to carefully cut out the excess border and then stick them all together.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Is this … ?

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Yes, it’s Grenadier!

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

I used this photo here:

Gren Learns to Swim

Now, it’s not a perfect job by any means — you can see the tape and the edges of the paper.  But for something this simple, it’s hella cool.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

And now it’s up in our kitchen, the only place with any free wall space.

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

I can see these shellacked to a board for more permanence, or used as decoration at a party — the picture is the guest of honour, perhaps.  Or you could print one and give it, unassembled, to a friend for them to put together.  What a lovely surprise!

Fast Fun Free Fine Art

Let there be LIGHT!

Light BOX

Rule number one in food photography: ALWAYS USE NATURAL LIGHT.

You know what?  Sometimes that’s just not possible.

You know dinner/supper? Generally that is served in the evening.  And in the winter here, that means it’s dark out.

The solution to that is to use a light box, or light tent.  Many photographers use these devices when featuring a single product.  It’s a good way to get whatever it is to display without any distracting background messing up the shot.

Light BOX

It’s also a good way to diffuse the harshness of electric lighting and make your subject look a little bit more natural.

Professional light boxes or light tents, even the small ones, will run you at least a hundred bucks, easy.  And that’s without the super-bright lighting system that goes with it.  Add another minimum four hundred dollars to your total if you want to go that way.

Constructing my box cost me less than $15 and took me less than an hour.  And a homemade box will give you pretty much the same results. You do the math.

Light BOX

Here’s what you need:

A large and sturdy cardboard box.  These ones are slightly smaller than what I had originally planned, but I can always make another one when I get a bigger box.

Light BOX

Enough white cloth (muslin, linen, cotton, or fleece) to line the box.  Tape or glue for attaching things (I like me my hockey tape, as you know, and it’s designed to attach to fabric).  Double-sided tape is great if you don’t want your adhesive efforts to show.  Scissors/Box Cutter/Rotary Cutter, for cutting things.  White or coloured Bristol board, for your background.   You can also skip the board and use your cloth, but bending the board will give you a nice edge-less angle.

Light BOX

At least two, but preferably more, goose-neck or adjustable neck work lamps.  I already have two of these Tertial ones from IKEA, which cost $10 and come with a clamp base.  I plan to acquire one more to go on top of the box.  It’s important to note that these lamps support the brighter 100W (or 23W if you are using a CFL) bulbs without risk of fire.

As many bright light bulbs as you need for your lamps.  I recommend using 100W bulbs (23W in compact fluorescent terms).  I picked up these “daylight” bulbs, which produce a cooler, less yellow light than a regular incandescent, from Canadian Tire for $10.  Halogens work well in this project, because they’re freaking bright, but they also use more energy, so that’s a judgment call for you to make on your own.

Light BOX

Just make sure that the wattage on your light bulb matches the maximum wattage on the lamps you are using.  You can get cheap desk lamps from anywhere to use for the project but more often than not they will only support a 60W (13W CFL) bulb, and those in the know say that’s just not bright enough for their purposes. The lamp on the right is less bright.

Light BOX

The best part about this is you can totally half-ass the project, if you were so inclined.  You don’t even need to measure the holes you cut in the box and if you’re in a hurry, you can leave the interior of the box unlined and simply drape the fabric over the top.

Light BOX

I plan to be a bit more meticulous, however.  But only a little bit.  It’s sort of half-assed half-assery.

Now of course there are a million different DIYs for making your own light box/tent.  Most of them are by real photographers who actually know what they’re doing, but there are some by people like me.  The dabblers of the earth.  I’m going to add my own to the mix, because the world needs a bit more alidoesit flavour, don’t you think?  My three favourite ones in terms of method and supplies are down below, if you want to check them out, but the concept is always the same.  Box.  White stuff.  Light.  Done.

So you take your box.  Grenadier was extremely helpful in the construction of this light box, as the pictures show.

Light BOX

Cut off the top flaps and secure the bottom ones.  The bottom is going to be the back of the box, and the sides the floor, walls, and ceiling.

Light BOX

Cut out large holes on each of the three sides.

Light BOX

Line the box with white fabric, covering the holes completely.  Make sure that all you can see inside the box is white.  White’s a nice reflector.

Light BOX

Prop a piece of bristol board inside the box so that one end is wedged into the top corner.

Bend the board to make a curve and use a bit of tape to stick the bottom in place so it doesn’t slide out.  This will be your photographic surface.  The curve of the board means that there are no corners or edges visible in the photographs.

Light BOX

Put your lamps with their bright bulbs up to all the holes in the box (as I said, I plan to have three lamps some time soon) and turn them on.  Make sure the bulbs don’t touch the cloth.  You wouldn’t want to start a fire.  You might find it easiest to take pictures of items in your light box using a tripod, but it’s not entirely necessary to your happiness.

Tada, your very own light box!

Light BOX

Here’s some food in a shot taken, like I normally do, in my kitchen during the day.  The light is natural outdoor light through my big kitchen window at the end of the afternoon in October.  Lovely.

Light BOX

Now here is the same food in a shot taken at night, using the electric lights in my kitchen.

Light BOX

And again, in my brand new light box!  I think we can all agree there’s a difference!

Light BOX

Other Light Box/Tent Projects:




Newest Member

My Valentine to you is puppy love ♥.

I’d like to introduce you to someone.  The chick with the Justin Beiber haircut?  No, no, that’s just me.  You know me.  I want to introduce you to the little guy on the right.  That’s our future puppy, Grenadier St. James.

At the time of this post little Gren is only 6 weeks old and not quite ready to leave his mum, but he’s already cemented himself into our hearts.  Cait’s heart too.  The Pie is jealous that he doesn’t get to meet him until April, but what can you do …So anyway, in about two weeks a small furry sausage of a corgi will be running around wreaking havoc in our household and I’m sure will be the inspiration for many a blog post to come.Stay tuned.  Chaos will reign.

Stir-Fry at Cait and iPM’s

Hang in there, those of you facing Hurricane Igor!

The main trick in food photography, I have learned, is to always, always, always use natural light in your photographs.

The problem with living in Canada is that half the year, the sun sets really early and your good afternoon light turns blue.  Unless you want to start cooking your dinner at two in the afternoon, you have to put up with a lot of noise in your now blue-tinged shots.  I apologize in advance.

A downside to cooking in other people’s kitchens is that friends my age often live in quirky apartment buildings and so don’t have the enormous picture window with which I have been blessed in my own kitchen back in St. John’s.  The light quality in these places, therefore, isn’t all that great.  I should really start using my low ISO feature.  Some kitchens don’t even HAVE windows, which is a real shame, both for the sake of my pictures, and for the cooks themselves.  How can you enjoy cooking if you don’t like being in the room where cooking takes place? 

Anyway, tonight I went over to visit Cait and iPM.  You may remember them from their visit to St. John’s in June. Cait is a computer guru and she is in the process of making my laptop able to survive the extra two or three years of service I need it to give me before I can afford to replace it.  Their kitchen is fortunately roomy enough for my purposes, but as it was late in the evening, the light’s not all that great.

In the middle of the produce section of Loblaws, Cait and I decided on a stir-fry, so I picked up some broccoli, mushrooms, green onions, snow peas, and fresh garlic.  Cait already had chicken, carrots, soy sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, so it was a simple matter of adding hoisin, black bean, and teriyaki to the basket and off we went.

At home, Cait set to haranguing my computer and making it do her bidding and I set to chopping.  Cait owns neither a cutting board nor a non-serrated knife so it was an adventure trying to julienne the carrots and broccoli stalks.  But I did it.

I also sliced up three boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well.  Nice and thin.

Ruby, who is only a puppy, tried to convince me that chicken was the best thing for her and that what we thought was her proper dog food was actually poison.  She failed.  But she’s cute.

In a small bowl, mix together about two tablespoons each of brown sugar, vinegar (I prefer rice vinegar but Cait only had balsamic), hoisin, teriyaki, black bean, and soy sauce.

Slice up about three cloves of garlic and plop them in a pan with olive oil.  Heat that sucker up.

Add the chicken, and stir until just cooked through, between 5 and 10 minutes.

Add the sauce mixture and stir to coat all the chicken.

Plop in your vegetables and stir to get them all coated, too.I ran out of room in the pan and therefore had to transfer half my cooking to a nearby pot.

Let the vegetables cook a little bit, but not too much.  You want them still crisp, but brightly coloured.  Probably you want to cook them for about seven minutes or so.

Serve over rice, and if you have lovely Fiestaware to do it on, all the better. 

iPM went back for seconds so I know it was good.

Handy Items Week: GorillaPod

Cait and her fiancé iPM will be on a whirlwind tour of St. John’s this week, so the Pie and I will be playing host and tour guide while they’re here.

To keep you entertained until they get out of our hair and I can give you your own personal tour of my city, I’m giving you eight days of gadgets that I cannot live without.

I would not be able to make many of the process shots on this blog without the help of my third hand, the GorillaPod SLR.

It’s small, it’s flexible, it’s lightweight, and it’s a no-brainer to use.

The tripod attachment fits flush to your camera, and the click-and-lock mechanism allows you to secure your camera to the tripod in seconds. 

It also has a little level on it so you don’t need to straighten your shots later.  Not that I really bother with the level, but it’s a nice touch.

I have one of those regular-sized, prohibitively expensive tripods that I inherited from my grandfather, but it’s a real pain to lug around.  This little one wraps around the straps of my purse and I don’t even know it’s there.

Plus once I figure out how to do time lapse photography, it will really come in handy.

Egotistical Exercises, or, Experiments in Self-Portraiture

(Apropos of nothing, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOMMA!)

***EDIT: I was intensely caffeinated when I wrote this, so it kind of reads like it’s in fast forward.***


If you’re like me (and I suspect most people, even secretly, are), then, aside from the nominal insecurities about appearance, health, lifestyle, career prospects, finances, social interactions, intelligence, and personality, deep down you think you’re pretty awesome.

*I* think I’m pretty awesome.  The Pie is a terrible liar so when he says ‘you’re awesome’ generally I believe him.  So I’m a pretty awesome wife.  I’m a pretty awesome cook.  I’m a pretty awesome anthropologist – no, I’m actually just a middling anthropologist, but I do only have half a PhD at this point so there’s an excuse if I ever heard one.

One thing I am not pretty awesome at doing is taking pictures of people.  The light is always bad, they’re looking away, blinking, or moving so fast everything comes out blurry.  It’s a real failing.  My problem is I’m not a fan of posed photographs.  I find the candid ones always turn out better – expressions are more genuine and they’re less cheesy.  They just don’t turn out well when *I* take them.  Most of my shots of the Pie are of his back, a fact my mother never fails to point out to me.  I can’t even shoot my own husband right.

So I need some practice.  I can shoot Il Principe to my heart’s content but he’s a baby and baby pictures always turn out well, no matter how badly I set them up.  Kº, Kª, and the Pie will all lose patience with me very quickly if I practice on them before I develop any real skills.

I’m going to do the ultimate in self-serving activities, therefore, and take pictures of … MYSELF.

The main reason is to get some practice understanding how different poses work, to learn new lighting techniques, and to penetrate the miasma of technical camera stuff that I never bothered to absorb before.  And really only I have the patience to sit through my OCD while I figure this stuff out.

The other reason is that I am generally The-Woman-with-the-Camera, so in group shots and outings and whatnot, I’m the one taking the pictures and there are very few of me.  The most current pictures I have of me that I like came from my wedding, which was last summer.  Most of the other ones of me that exist catch me candid, showing my double chin, my belly roll, or the peculiar upturn of my nostrils.  Not flattering, really.  So it would be nice to have some shots of me where I’m in control.

Now just so you know, these aren’t going to be your typical ‘Myspace’-like ’emo’ shots, reverse-angled through a mirror and shot from 45°.  These will be real (though entirely inorganic) shots of me doing real things.  Brushing my teeth.  Cooking.  Washing dishes.  Reading.  Gardening.  The usual, which is usually action shots.  I don’t do sitting still very well.

***EDIT: Can you hear the caffeine?***

Kª mentioned Cindy Sherman to me the other day, and her work is kind of sort of exactly what I want to do.  You can see some of her stuff, done around 1977, as part of a MoMA exhibit in 1997.  I probably won’t be that well-coiffed but my mop-top will suffice for now.  I may even be wearing painting pants and be covered in dirt.  It’s kind of my style.

Now you know what I will be doing.  I’ll post results when I’m happy with them.  Until then, you can have a picture of my hands, a part of me with which you are already rather familiar.

Greenthumbing Take Two

Happy Spring!

Well, not quite yet.  We had a blizzard last week that set things back a pace or two.  The above photo is one I took last spring around this time.  In fact, all the photos in this post are from my garden last year.

Last spring I had all sorts of plans for my garden.  I was going to create a simplified version of a wildflower garden, and plant things that I could name off the top of my head and that I knew how to care for.  I had all my seeds planted indoors, soaking up the sunshine from the warmth of my kitchen.  I was ready to go.Things did not work out the way I had hoped, however.  It was a cold spring and we had a last-ditch blizzard in late May.Most of my seedlings died because I had ignored the frost warnings.  The rest were eaten by slugs.  Even my marigolds, which I planted as slug repellents.  Who knew?

I did have some successes, however, and you can see the results here.

My failures were many, however, so this year I plan to start afresh: no seedlings, just mature plants, and everything will be simple and hardy enough for shallow, rocky, lead-lined soil.

Stay tuned!