Food Photography

A few months back I saw a clip on a YouTube channel I subscribed to regarding food photography.  It was another angle on composing photos in a controlled area, with a subject that doesn’t move.  Although the photographers were using quite an elaborate set for a simple place setting where the utensils were the subject of the photo and not the food, I realized that the props in the photo were given as much “focus” as the utensils were.

The plated food enhanced the need to use utensils and glassware as much as the food made the viewer hungry for the food.  There was a nice collaboration of items for this composition – clothe napkins and placemats with carefully chosen colors and patterns; plate settings which helped the food look more appealing; just the right amount of sweat on the water-glass and a subtle background and surface to frame the picture.

I’d like to think I put this much thought into my photos, but usually, I’m just shooting from the hip, and trying to capture the image in my mind’s eye of what I want my subject to say after the picture is taken.   And this all happens (for me) in the space of about 5-15 seconds.  Not long after that, the subject has moved, lighting has changed, or there’s an obstructed view.  I usually just walk into these moments and see a frame with the subject close by and start taking the photo hoping that one or two of the frames I capture are the ones that were in my mind’s eye.

This week I’ve got a bit of a break and I’m going to try my hand at cooking some recipes that I’ve been cataloging through social channels and recipe books I’ve picked up over the last few months with this in mind.  Then, I remembered the food photo shoot on YouTube – why not take the time to build up some food pics for my collection to share as well.  More in the way of lighting and composition – but also trying to create something in the kitchen worth capturing in a frame, and hopefully something that will be edible as well.

My day job has me creating technical recipes other people use and execute for a solution that provides a value to a business unit – sometimes I participate in the creation sometimes its done for me.  Now, instead of creating the recipe now, I’m trying to capture the recipe’s outcome – capture it, and then (hopefully) consume it.

I have about 9 or 10 recipes I need to create in the upcoming months at work, most from scratch – and to balance the demand of my day job I thought injecting two of my favorite hobbies into my daily mix could add some balance and forward motion to both of them.  We’ll see.

From Crawl to Walk (again)

I recently took on the task of getting back into all of my favorite hobbies, and photography has been at the center of the this recently as well.  I used a SLR for years and have zip-locks stuffed with a hundred or so rolls of film developed years ago.  I mainly used them to figure how what was wrong (in my mind) with the picture.  But after starting to use DSLRs, this kind of changed.  The camera wants to think for me, and allow me to do some on-board manipulation of the picture.  For me, this is kind of hard b/c I get caught up in the moment I hit the shutter button – there is nothing else going on around me except what I see TTL.

Like any great word or spreadsheet processor, we only figure out how to use 20%, maybe 30%, if it’s something we don’t use everyday.  But we use that 20-30% to accomplish whatever our task is without looking for a simpler way to finish a task.  This was me with my current camera.  I needed to fix this.

I was out on a bike ride one afternoon and decided to walk in to a book store and find a book that talks only about my camera.  And to my huge surprise, I found one.  Got through the first three chapters and learned so much about this little black box.  Based on what I learned, I was able to take a few pictures yesterday at a neighborhood dance recital.  The book doesn’t help me take better pictures, but it does/did help me setup the camera to my liking with some bracketing worked before the event, in and out of decent to lousy lighting.

So, I think I’ve made it beyond the crawling stage again with photography, and I’m walking again.  Hopefully, I can keep working on this little black box a day at a time to at least get back to the place I was.

j@s

 

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Meet Bella

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Bella

Meet Bella!  I had the unplanned privilege of hosting Bella last night at my home while we were trying to find her owner.  She wandered about two miles ( we think) from her home through the woods and next to a lake.

It took her the rest of the night to calm down and rest – she wouldn’t eat or drink and that much exercise was pretty tough for her to say the least.

During her stay at our house, I realized how much I missed having my own pet, and being able to project my own love and care toward something like a pet.  In a previous life, I had an orange tabby cat named Lucky.  Much the same story as Bella, but he was born into the home where I was staying at the time.  Not such a sweet disposition as Bella, but he was just Lucky.  Lucky didn’t get much attention from the other home dwellers and was often bullied by them.  But he and I got along just fine.  I still miss Lucky.

Lucky’s ending isn’t happy, and he passed away much sooner than he should have, and that was a very hard day for me.  And with only spending a few hours, roughly one day and a half with Bella I starting getting attached to her very quickly.

Belle’s story has a much happier ending though.  We put up flyers around the neighborhood where we think she came from and we found someone who thought they knew the owner.  So we left the dog with the neighbors.  Unfortunately the potential owner’s English Bulldog passed away last March.  So, the neighbors took her to the county animal shelter the same day we left her with them.

Almost a week passed before we knew any of this, and the potential owner never contacted us to say anything about the dog.  So we decided to go back to the potential owner’s house and see for ourselves.  The neighbors decided not to take the dog back the potential owners once they found out from another neighbor that the “real” Bella had passed.  So after I rang the doorbell, and asked the potential owner how Bella was doing, she was very confused.

She gave me the story about her Bella, and I gave her the story about mine.  Not a comfortable conversation once I learned the real Bella had passed.  So, what now?  I queried the family that took her that one day, and they gave me the whole story.  I shared that with Bella’s owner and she set out to find out where this dog is, or was going to be.  She was transferred to a rescue shelter because of some health conditions she had, but was also placed on an adoption list, which Bella’s owners are at the top of.  We’re hoping this Bella can connect with her new owners so everybody wins in the end.

 

Crazy Kitchen Talk

kitchen.01I want to cook, or pick up where I left off when I used to cook for myself a lot. Most folks that cook have an arsenal of tools they use from kitchen string, to spatulas designed by NASA – well, maybe not NASA but there are a lot of pampered chefs out there – I’ll leave it at that for now.

So my arsenal consists of four new knives pictured above, and a few baking pans and skillets I’ve collected over the last few years. The skillets and bakeware I used for a dinner I cooked for my girlfriend’s nanny. She’s British and I thought I cook a “Thank you, you’re awesome!” Sunday dinner for her and her family. It turned out amazing! Their words not mine. All of the recipes I took out of a Jamie Oliver cookbook that targets British favorites his family and friends shared over the years. The recipes were wicked simple to follow and made sense for the amateur taking a whack at a full-blown three course meal for 11.

This past weekend I was shopping for the two smaller knives pictured and stopped at a store I thought would have what I needed. So, I’m standing there looking over the myriad of brands and sizes of cutlery and the knife angel shows up – not a store employee but someone on the same type of quest a few months back who, unlike me, did all of research to make an informed buy. More than I ever thought I know about metal, age, steel, handles, grips, knife duties, etc. I left with the two pictured “Cuisinart” knives pictured.

I’m not sure my “arsenal” is complete, but it’s started. I also picked up another cookbook from a book fair at a local elementary school with my girlfriend and her daughter. Simple recipes, full of flavor, that don’t need the full arsenal, but enough to get me started for sure.

One of my blog followers (Tina Schell – http://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/) was looking for more sparks based on a blog entry I composed about writing code; I’m hoping there won’t be to many sparks from my crazy cooking that would lead to a mishap in the kitchen. I promise to be careful. There. I’m good now. Besides, like my good friend Z says, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

j@s

Distracted Progress

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There’s a lot of distractions that run across your desktop, kitchen table, cafe table, and your mind throughout the day.  So I decided to block them all for this long Memorial Day weekend and dive deep into a new web thingee that’s been getting a lot of chatter and traction in the developer community. I set a simple goal after asking myself, “what do you want to accomplish with this deep dive, given the time you have to spend?”

 

I wanted to get through the first three chapters of the online tutorial and get three things:

1)  figure out what I don’t know and should

2) learn the lingo of the this particular language so my Google and Bing foo doesn’t suck and I can find what I need;

3) stick with the tutorial as close as I can and get my laptop setup so I can do my web development going forward;

4) build something that works and has some tests built into so I’m not just slinging code, but testing what I sling.

So the effect of doing something like this is that (for me anyway) is I want to keep going and go deeper and understand more – part of my Magic Factory initiative I blogged about last month.  My goal is to finish this tutorial and actually move into some more advanced content and site construction.  But, baby steps – always baby steps with this type of thing so I glaze over something I need to “get” and would miss if I’m in a big hurry.

j@s

Afternoon Harvest

I had some free time this afternoon so I decided to spend some time walking (and riding) around a popular theme park close to my home town. I snapped a few pictures along the way to capture some of the magic going on.

j@s

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So, how did this blog get here?

There was a time when I knew and spoke with many developers across my region (FL, GA, TN, OH, MI) who weren’t very connected to one another’s efforts and successes – and lessons learned. So, for the Florida-based coders I was thinking how cool it would be to have a Florida Coders United blogging area, or portal.  I started with that idea on Blogspot over a decade ago and ended up here, and took the handle of “onefloridacoder”, that’s where my handle came from.

Blogging about my own lessons learned, tips, tricks, and efforts was just “ok”, but getting up in front of a group of people at a talk, or sitting around a table full of beverages (beer, coffee, water, soda, etc.) was much more powerful.

Still, I find through a lot of conversation over the years that my fellow developers that do blog a bit, do it for the sake of “OH!  I figured it out! Let me leave a trail of bread crumbs so I can find this in the future.”  Some developers blog about other things going on in their lives, not much, but some do here and there.

So, the logo for Florida Coders United would have looked something like “FcU” – yeah, there’s a subtle pun in there but it wasn’t the intent.  At any rate – I migrated from Blogspot, to GeeksWithBlogs, to a Microsoft hosted blog – then finally had that converted it to a WordPress blog as “john@scale”.

This is why, and how, this blog got started in case you were interested.

j@s

The Magic Factory

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I recently discussed the “Magic Factory” with my girlfriend to see what she thought about a Grand ReOpening.  Oh, what is the Magic Factory? It’s a place I walk into mentally with one, or two, maybe three ideas and blue sky what might happen if I built applications around those ideas.

I’ve had a bunch of ideas up on AgileZen waiting to be unpacked and built but just lost the fire last year about this time to pick up my tools and start writing software again until this conversation happened.  But after trying all last year to relight the fire, all I could render was a spark and that was about it.

Then last month our shop announced Hack Day 2014 – hmm… how could I pass that up, right?  Our shop is going to give us 24 hours to build something from scratch then present to leadership the next day.  The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes were pretty sweet, but it wasn’t about winning for me – it was a test to see if I could start and finish – something you take for granted when you a bit less gray over the ears.  So, freakin’ sign me up!

I found a great (and smart) peer on my team who wanted to help build something in 24 hours from scratch.  I thought this would be the real test to see if I could pry the doors open on this place I used to spend so much time in.

We didn’t win the grand prize, or make the final cut – but we built an app in 24 hours that conveyed the business idea we wanted to promote.  So, now with the doors to the magic factory swinging with activity and visitors like my grandma’s front porch screen door, things feel a bit more normal now that this place is open.  Oh, by the way, welcome to my “Grand (Re)Opening!”