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3 posts from July 2012

12 July 2012

Project 52: Freedom




About six months too late I’ve just started doing something called Project 52

Every week awesome commercial photographer Don Giannatti sets a real life photography challenge via Flickr and then does a weekly live online critique of all entries. 

The most amazing thing of all is that it’s completely free, no commitment, no worries if you miss an assignment, nada. You just show up on Flickr with your picture and then tune in for the online critique later, together with a chat room full of hugely talented and hugely helpful fellow photographers. 

This week’s theme was for a single shot that sums up the words Independence, Freedom or Celebration.

The pic above was my first attempt – a random cute kid at Seattle’s Golden Gardens beach.

I also like this shot from the same afternoon.


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Come and join me on Project 52.  It would be great if there were more newbies in the room.


11 July 2012

An Afternoon of Chocolate


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Just in case your life was lacking a little chocolate right now (yes, I thought so) here are some pics from the afternoon we spent making chocolate desserts and truffles under the watchful eye of master chocolatier Jean-Pierre Meignaud at Patisserie Camp on Canoe Island.

It’s going to be the same drill as before, no real recipes, just descriptions and food porn a-plenty.

First get yourself a bowl of properly tempered chocolate, some Pralissimo hazelnut paste (this stuff is GOOD) and a box of chocolate breakfast cereal. Yes, truly, something like Cocoa Pops or Cocoa Krispies. I feel so much better now I know that fancy pants patissiers use this stuff too.


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Carefully mix the ingredients together and then use a ring mould to form them into a crispy chocolate base. You’ve just made the world’s most sophisticated, and delicious, Rice Krispie cakes.

Then mix together some more melted, tempered chocolate with the hazelnut paste and fold it into some whipped cream. Pipe this chocolate mousse onto the crispy bases.


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So far so easy, n’est-ce pas?  Unfortunately it gets trickier from here on in.

Next use a knife to ‘wipe’ petals of chocolate onto a sheet of acetate.  The shape of your knife will dictate the shape of your petals.  Place the sheet of acetate into a plastic ‘gutter’ (half a plastic tube) to bend the petals slightly.  That just blew your mind didn’t it?


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Or you could just swirl blobs of chocolate with your fingers.

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Or comb out streaks of chocolate and again swirl them into grids.

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It was amazing watching Jean-Pierre do this stuff.  He made it look incredibly quick and easy.


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Finally use your chocolate shapes to decorate your mousse cakes. Adding a little gold dusting powder as necessary.


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I’m just off to rustle some up for family supper tonight. Hahahahahaha.

We also made chocolate truffles that afternoon, but I have enough swoonworthy pics for a separate blog post.

06 July 2012

How To Photograph Fireworks





I’ve had the summer cold from hell over the last week, AND I’ve been organising our big annual 4th July party, so over the last week I’ve been rushing around like a very grumpy crazy person.

Today though the house is clean and tidy, our roof deck is hosed down and looking beautiful, cherries are being picked from our tree, the second clafoutis of summer is being made, cats are gambolling on our vast acreage, a Brit is in the final at Wimbledon, THE. SUN. IS. SHINING. IN. SEATTLE, the oceans of sticky yellow snot in my head seem to be receding (possible TMI?) and all is right in my world. 

So I thought I’d indulge in a little gentle bloggery.

This year I decided to make an effort photographing the 4th July fireworks at our party.  In previous years I’ve generally been too outrageously drunk and inept to anything more than a pitiful job, so this year I armed myself with this blog post by the very lovely John Cornicello (whom I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting in person at a recent Creative Live workshop) and set to work.





This is what I learned.


1) Use a tripod

This year I took the trouble to set the tripod up on the deck before I got started on the margaritas.  This is imperative as in previous years the tripod has defeated me in my drunken state and I’ve ended up leaning the camera on railings instead.  That doesn’t work at all.




2) Use a GOOD tripod

I bought my tripod 6 years ago when I was just starting out doing product photography and I distinctly remember it being the cheapest one in the shop.  Its flimsy and lightweight and not suitable at all for long exposures.  If you’re serious about photographing fireworks you may need to SPEND MONEY. My next birthday present is sorted out now.


3) Find the BULB setting on your camera

This will allow you to push on the shutter release, hold open the exposure as long as you want and then release it when you think you’ve got the shot.  I practised doing this the day before.  Go me.




4) Use a low ISO and smallish apertures

Fireworks are BRIGHT and you don’t need to bump up the ISO number, or open the aperture miles wide to get the shot (mistakes I’ve always made in the past).  I used the settings John C recommends – ISO 100 and apertures between f/13 and f/18  and they seemed to work well. I held the shutter open for anything between 1 sec and 6 seconds depending on how much was going on in the sky.


5) Use a remote control shutter release

This was the thing I didn’t do and regretted, instead relying on my margarita-fuelled finger to hold down the shutter, and thereby gently shaking the camera every time. So between that and the crappy tripod I got lots and lots and LOTS of photos full of movement blur as below.






So I still have lots to learn and practice where fireworks are concerned.

Until next year. 

In the meantime here’s a very lucky shot of a bottle rocket taking off from our deck which is maybe my favourite shot of the night.




Also two really cr*ppy shots of the 100 mini celebratory cupcakes I baked, just to prove I made them really.


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