Sunday, January 16, 2011

This Blog Has Moved

Wait! This blog has moved. 

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Friday, January 15, 2010

The Change is Here

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Change is Coming...

As early January creeps toward mid January, I have continued my food and photo experimentation. In case you were wondering.

Food first... A couple of nights ago, we tried Pioneer Woman's recipe for meatloaf (I got her cookbook for Christmas). Neither of us were crazy about it when we ate it for dinner, but I must say it does make a pretty good sandwich. Tonight... Chicken Spaghetti. We loved it. Her recipe for pot roast, which I made on Sunday, makes really good pot roast (a really big mess on the stove, too).

The book, while a best-seller, has gotten mixed reviews. Personally, I love it. It's not the best cookbook in the world, but it's Pioneer Woman. It's full of comfort food, and amazing pictures, and critters (inclusing my all-time favorite cow photo), and her family. It's like I have my own piece of her with me right here in my house.

I've been a PW fan for a while now. She takes awesome cow pictures. She gets me into trouble though. With posts like this one about her new favorite camera lens. Just one more piece of equipment to work toward...

Speaking of working toward stuff, I really am determined to master this camera setting adjustment thing. Not all of my experiments are worth sharing. But today, I caught something I thought was very cool.

After I'd finished working, I was on my way downstairs to get dinner started. As I passed the front door, I just happened to notice a pink tinge to the sky. This time of year, you'll see some amazing pink and blue skies. But the riot of color is fleeting. So I ran and grabbed the camera, walked outside and started snapping away. All in Manual mode, thank you very much.

I only had socks on and my feet were freezing. By the time I went inside to grab shoes, the color drama was gone. But not before I got these shots.

It's not art, but it's a start. Right?

Actually, I could have tweaked the color with post-processing, but I liked the way it looked as it was.

Now that I'm just about at the end of my post, are you even a weensy, teeny tiny bit curious about what is changing? Just a little?

My blog. I'm moving it in a slightly different direction. I want to incorporate more photography stuff, which will completely alienate most of my current followers, so I need to make some modifications. But it will all be good. I promise.

I'll be unveiling a new look soon, which I think will definitely be a change for the good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Experiments Continue

Hey, wanna guess what THIS is?

Come on, I bet you can't guess. I bet you have NO IDEA.

If you guessed dog puke (or people puke, for that matter), you are wrong.

It is soup. Broccoli Cheese Soup to be exact.

I decided this season to be a bit more adventurous with soups. My old standards, which are all pretty darn good, are: Maryland Crab Soup, Beef Vegetable Soup, Chicken Corn Soup (that's a PA Dutch thing) and, occasionally, Bean Soup.

Recently, I have tried French Onion Soup (the recipe in the Joy of Cooking Cookbook makes DELICIOUS soup), Cream of Crab Soup and now Broccoli Cheese Soup (a copycat recipe I found online for Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup).

Here's a shot of the Broccoli Cheese Soup in the pot.

And here it is in our giant soup mugs. I served it with toasted rosemary focaccia bread. Oh. My. God. The soup is good. With the bread it was tres magnifique, which I think means really damn good. The recipe is here.

Speaking of recipes, I forgot to share the link for that Cream of Crab Soup recipe that I tested. It is really, really, really good. And super easy to make.

According to my mother-in-law, it is "to die for." If you make it, go ahead and use the cheaper crab from Indonesia or China or wherever the "blue swimming crab" comes from. The more-expensive meat from blue crabs should be reserved for crab cakes. In my opinion.

I just remembered that I took pictures of the French Onion Soup the last time I made it. The recipe called for Gruyere cheese, but I used Asiago and it was delish. It takes almost two hours to make this soup, but it is so worth it. Someone else transcribed the recipe for their blog, so here's a link for you. I usually use more than 3 tbsp of cheese and I put the bowls under the broiler to melt the cheese. So make sure you use oven-proof bowls!

I'm going to have to get more creative. All of my soup pix are starting to look alike!

Here's my (New England) clam chowder post from 2008. It shows cooked blue crabs, too. And a pissed-off cat. That recipe from the Joy of Cooking was time-consuming, but so good.

I keep threatening to make the clam chowder again. Hubby doesn't like clams, but this chowder is extraordinary, so maybe I can convert him. I'll let you know if I am successful.

Monday, January 11, 2010

On Taking Better Pictures

A little over a week ago, I wrote a post about cameras. The general gist of that post was that having a fancy SLR camera doesn't necessarily mean you will be able to take better pictures. Taking good pictures takes work. And practice.

I practice a lot. On Saturday, while Hubby was home baking cinnamon rolls, I decided to drive over to the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge to try out my new teleconverter (think of it as a booster that increases the power of your lens).

The reason I wanted a teleconverter was to increase the power of my zoom lens. So I can get clearer pictures of stuff that's far away. When you use a zoom lens, every teeny tiny movement of the camera will make your image blurry. That means, in addition to a zoom lens, you really need a tripod. Even with a tripod, if you are not careful pushing the shutter, you'll shake the camera and blur your image. A cable release or remote (wireless) shutter release button is good to have, too.

Often, I don't have the time or inclination to drag all of that stuff out. Saturday, I did. And I managed to get a few good images.

I was really just playing around to see how well the teleconverter worked, i.e., does it really bring subjects that much closer? Will it allow for clear focus? Will I be able to use autofocus or will everything need to be manual? That sort of thing.

With the tripod and remote shutter release, it worked pretty well. There weren't a lot of critters around to try the long-distance bird shots, so I was just shooting pics of the grass and trees and stuff. That's when a bluebird couple decided to drop by.

They were far enough away that I couldn't see them well with my naked eye. I am pretty sure there was a Mr and a Mrs, but the Mr was being elusive. The Mrs sat still a tad bit longer, so I was able to get a few nice pics of her. (This might be a male. Females are usually much duller than the males. This bird is much duller than the elusive one, but the more I looked at these shots, the more I realized it isn't as dull as most of the females I have seen. But it could have been the light making her chest look more orange. Her head is sort of on the dull side. Here's an old pic of mine with a male and female side by side, with the male on the left. Bluebirds

The camera was on the tripod and I used the wireless shutter release for all of the above shots. Those two pieces of equipment really do make a huge difference.

I snapped this image of the woods as I was walking out, then I edited it with Photoshop Elements.

As I was shooting pics, it was getting darker and darker. I had to stop shooting when the flash kept firing and I realized I don't know enough about aperture and shutter speeds to capture any really good low-light images.

That's because I have become lazy. I have been relying way too heavily on my camera's automatic settings to do most of the work for me.

So, this morning I decided that I was going to limit my SLR shooting to the camera's manual mode. That will force me to become aware of and practice using the various aperture and shutter speed settings. I told myself I would not revert back to automatic until I'd mastered those two things.

And then this bird landed in our backyard...

It is a Red Shouldered Hawk. I was fortunate to catch a glimpse of it as it swooped in.

They don't land in the yard often. And, when they do, they never stick around long. Luckily I still had the teleconverter and zoom lens on the camera. I did not have time to set the tripod up or use the remote shutter release. And, I had to shoot through the window. I also didn't have time to fiddle with manual settings I know so little about, so I went back to automatic temporarily.

I did tweak the shots with Photoshop Elements slightly, but overall I was pleased with how well they turned out. Considering I was standing at the window just snapping away.

It wasn't exactly close to the house either.

Since I started feeding the birds again yesterday, the yard was pretty busy with birds and squirrels today. I thought it would take the hawks a while to notice the smorgasbord in our backyard, but was very pleasantly surprised when this one showed up. Usually, it's Redtailed Hawks that we see.

Anyway... this year I am going to be working on learning how to use aperture and shutter speeds manually. That means you'll probably be seeing a lot of pictures of odd stuff. But hopefully they will be good pictures. Then maybe by next fall I'll be able to take good eagle pics when they come back to Conowingo.

Speaking of eagles, have you checked out the nest cam yet (there's a link in the navigation bar on the right)? I just added a link to the osprey cam today. My favorite nature photographer, Jon the Nikographer, was kind enough to let me use one of his osprey images for the link button. If you haven't looked at his stuff before, you should check it out. He's really very good. You'll have to remember to check the nest cams periodically to catch a glimpse of the birds.