From My Garden…

My first garden in decades… it’s so nice to finally have a space where I can grow something pretty, so I can sit and drink my coffee every morning; listening to the beautiful melodies from happy birds and watch the bumble bees dance from flower to flower… filling my heart with joy.

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Winter Wonderland

Saturday was the first snowfall of the season and it has been snowing intermittently since. From the weather forecast, it looks like there will be a big snowstorm tomorrow. They are forecasting 4 to 6 inches. Yes, I know… for a lot of places — these measurements would be considered more like flurries than a storm. However here in the Pacific Northwest, anything over a few inches and they call it a storm. We don’t get snow here very often except up in the mountains — so having snow a few days straight is not a common sight. Unfortunately, this also means a lot of people are terrible drivers in snow. On the news, I saw Metro buses and cars sliding down hills, slamming into each other. It doesn’t take much snow for the roads to become chaotic. So I hope the snow doesn’t stay around too long. In the mean time, I’m glad to have snow. It’s definitely better than rain.  At least I can finally go outside with my camera. I took these photos late today. The sun came out long enough to cast a nice glow on the snow-covered landscape around my neighborhood. These shots were taken at the golf course field. It’s amazing to see the transformation a little snow can make.  It transformed the golf course into a winter wonderland. 🙂

I Only Read Picture Books

I love collecting cookbooks. Over the years, I have accumulated over a few hundred cookbooks. Before I started food photography, I used to buy a cookbook based on the title and recipes. It didn’t matter if the book is all text or  illustrated with only drawings. I was more interested in the recipes than anything else. That is — until I got interested in shooting food. It was probably about a year ago, I realized being a foodie photographer have changed my cookbook buying habit.  Now, I would only buy and read picture books. The styles and techniques of the photos are more important to me than the recipes as my deciding factor to purchase a cookbook.  😀

One of my favorite places to buy books is Goodwill. They have a large selection of new and old books priced at a fraction of the original price. It’s interesting and great learning experience to see the evolution of the photographic techniques and styles of cookbooks through the years. I have learned a lot of my food photography technique and style by studying the pictures of the past and present. It’s exciting when I look at a picture and I can tell what the settings the photographer probably used to get the shot. For those of you who want to improve your food photography skills, the picture books are great for learning about lighting, aperture, composition and other technical aspects of photography.

As I sat at the table this morning having my coffee and donut while looking through the new stack of picture cookbooks I bought yesterday. Something clicked and slowly… I could sense my creativity turning back on. The beautiful food pictures motivated me to play with my breakfast. And for the next hour, I came up with these shots. I experimented with different white balance, aperture, and exposure time. For the light, I used the natural lighting from the windows. One good thing about rainy day — it makes perfect light source for food photography.

With food photography, there are many aspects of technical details to keep in mind; however from my experience, definitely composition and lighting are probably the two most important factors to get a good photo.

For me, I am most attracted to images that show the food up close. I want to be able to see the details but sometimes I don’t need to see the whole thing. Also I like using objects in the background. If it’s done correctly, the background colors created from the objects can help make the food look interesting and more appetizing. From all the newer books, I noticed shallow depth of field has become increasingly popular in food photography.




Rocks and Feathers On a Cloudy Day

During a recent trip to Crescent Lake, I was hoping to get some good landscape shots but with the weather being gray overcast, the lighting wasn’t ideal to capture the lush, vivid colors of the foliage around the beautiful lake. I was using aperture priority mode and didn’t like the results. The landscape images were dark, bluish cast and very flat looking. I decided to go manual and started to experiment with the camera settings. Such as: changing the white balance to sunny might give the image more warmth and color; increase exposure time and ISO while lowering my standard f/11 landscape aperture to f/6.3 to get better light.

As I was making the adjustments, a mallard duck waddled up a few feet from me. Quickly, I took a shot of the duck and was pleasantly surprised by the result. I really like the contrast of the duck’s soft feathers against the shallow depth field of the rocks on the beach. It created an attractive looking background. For me the background is just as important as the subject — especially when shooting shallow depth of field. I know from experience, a distracting background can ruin otherwise a perfect shot.  It is something to keep in mind when shooting — a boulder might become a big black blob that takes up half of the image.

For the next several shots, I focused on the feathers and rocks but also lighting and composition. I didn’t want it to be just a photo of a duck. And lucky me, seem like the duck knew what I wanted and posed nicely for me. It’s interesting how a situation like this helps me learn more about photography than just shooting a pretty landscape.

My Cheap Macro Date

Lately, I’ve been asked what kind of camera and lens do I use — especially for my macro shots. When I bought my Nikon D90 camera as a kit, it came with a couple of lenses and a few filters. The standard Nikkor 18-55mm and Nikkor 70-300mm. One of the filters was a screw on macro. I thought about Nikon’s 105 mm micro but at $900, it was out of my budget. So, I decided to make the best of my cheap $10 screw on Macro filter. And you know what? While the macro filter might not take the sharpest photos and the focus is a constant challenge, I am very impressed by the images I can capture with this filter. Because of its limitations, it constantly challenges my skills. The focus distance for the filter is about 4 or 5 inches, so I have to shoot really close to my subject; this is when good eyes, quick timing and patience are crucial to getting a focused shot.

These photos were taken yesterday at the community garden in Marymoore Park. It’s the same garden I was at last weekend — when I conquered my nemesis. It was a great date with Macro. I shot these in RAW, using the Nikkor 18-55mm lens. I find that the macro filter works better on this lens than the 50mm prim lens. By shooting in RAW, I didn’t have to do much processing, other than adding some sharpness and contrast, adjusted lighting, and some cropping. Overall, I’m very satisfied with the results. Of course it is still my dream to have the 105mm micro but for now… I’m happy with my cheap Macro dates.

I’m not sure what this green bug was. It looked like a bee but I’ve never seen a green bee before — then I thought maybe this is a green hornet? Does anyone have any idea what it might be? Well, whatever it was, it couldn’t have landed on a better color flower. It’s bright green color was a perfect contrast against the red background.

I don’t know if the hair on this bumble bee is as soft as it looks but I do know the sting hurts like your skin is on fire! I was stung by one last summer.

The Beauty of Lily

With the weather forecasting rain all weekend, I decided to stay closer to home for a photowalk; I went to my mom’s place. She lives about 40 minutes from me. While I was there, I noticed the flowers in her garden were in full bloom. Fortunately, I had my camera with me and saw these beautiful tiger lilies begging for my attention.

The Wheels On The Truck…

I’m sorry that I haven’t been visiting and commenting on everyone’s blogs lately. The graphics card in my computer burned out a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to get it fix but have ran into some technical difficulties. Hopefully, when the correct graphics card arrives sometime this week, I will be able to get the problem solved and have my computer running normal again. In the mean time, I am running on the standard back up graphics card and needless to say, it runs very sluggish or would freeze with heavy graphic websites. It’s been tricky trying to get some posting up before the computer would crash if I make it work too hard.

These photos I took of a semi-truck’s wheels pretty much describes the road trip I went on yesterday. Without going into the long details, all I can say is that — the experience has left me reflecting and spinning my wheels. At first I thought the truck driver was nuts for driving so fast. We were already doing 70 miles and he was passing us. But when I saw the reflection of my car in the wheel’s hubcap, my creative light bulb turned on. Quickly, I grabbed the camera and started shooting at the wheels. At first the driver wasn’t sure what I was doing but once he understood, he played along with me and slowed the truck down so that I could get a better shot.

Even though the road trip didn’t turned out like I have planed, I’m sure there are life lessons to be learned from the expereince. I just need to have faith that things will work out for the best in the end. And to enjoy the happy moments because I am sure, the spinning wheels will eventually take me somewhere grand… Happy Monday Everyone!

The French Experiment

I woke up with a craving for french toast this morning. So I thought I would post my breakfast, although it was more like brunch by the time I was done making and shooting them. The result was tasty, though I will need to experiment with the wild blueberry sauce again. The flavor was good but I think it needs to be a little sweeter and maybe add some lemon zest or perhaps some cream sherry to give it extra something…

Since the recipe is still in the development stage, I will not post the recipe today but hope you enjoy the pictures.

I really enjoy food photography. It’s challenging and yet very calming at the same time. One of the great things I’ve learned from food photography is that, it forces you to learn about using good lighting and correct aperture settings. Unlike some subjects, you can’t get good food photos without knowing these technical details.

Alvis and Me

I remember the first time I saw Alvis from my cafe window across the street. He was sitting in the music store looking so gorgeous. It was love at first sight.

After a few days of staring and day dreaming, I decided to be brave and make the first move. As soon as the clock hit 3:00 pm, I put the “Sorry, We Are Closed” sign on the cafe door and ran across the street to meet him. After a cup of coffee and few questions later, I paid the finder’s fee and took him home with me. I knew Alvis and I were going to play beautiful music together for many years to come.

Unfortunately, the music  part didn’t happen as I had hoped. My relationship with Alvis was a struggle from the start. I’ve tried self-help books and paid for the counseling of music making experts. But nothing could help my lack of musical harmony with Alvis. In the end, I realized that I’m not very musically inclined. Although disappointed, I still have hope that with patience and time —  someday my musical talent will emerge.  😉