Category Archives: Photography

A 43 Things crossout story

Once upon a time – I think it was September – I happened upon an MPIX blog posting about some boat trip around New York City. Although my motion sickness typically keeps me away from small boats, the invitation was too enticing to resist.

I thought for sure that the slots would be filled, but requested admission anyway. Wouldn’t you know it, I got an email back from John of MPIX that my request went through. Exciting!

Fast forward to the boat trip, attended by all these other photographers who seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Me, I was trying to stay by the sidelines and hide the fact that I felt so out of my league. I was just happy to be there, even though I was such a doofus that I couldn’t even think of an intelligent question to ask either of the professional instructors on board. Shrew and I had a deep conversation about that on the way back. We were collectively the mannequin equivalent of a big old “D-UH?”

After the trip, we were asked to submit our five best photos for publication consideration. Let me tell you, I had such a difficult time choosing my five. Not because of the wealth of possible choices, but because I was consistently disappointed as I scrolled through file after file looking for that one shot or two that instantly looked like a contender. But there was nothing. Nada. Not a single jpeg file spoke to me. It was like they just stood there with their arms crossed and lips pursed, tapping their feet and waiting – hoping – to get deleted.

So I posted a few shots on Flickr, and enlisted the help of my ever-reliable buddies – Shrew and Darrell (my high school classmate with a killer Flickr photostream). One of the photos I uploaded was this.

I uploaded it only because I needed to have at least a few photos to show for my effort, and I was having a hard time finding some decent ones. But then Shrew saw it, and y said that she loved it and that I should enter it. In my head, I was thinking, “Really? This one? Are you sure you’re looking at the right photo?”

Obedient person that I am, I took her advice. Besides, I had no time to reconsider or even come up with five picks of my own. That’s because the lovely Lauren Brewer of HFMUS was so kind to email me and tell me that I had only a few more hours before the deadline to submit my photos. (I assumed their deadline meant by midnight that day, only to be told at 11am that the photos had to be in by 2pm. If not for Lauren, I would have completely missed the boat on that one. Pun half-intended.)

So imagine what a thrill it was to sit in the airport with the January issue of Popular Photography looking at this spread:

Recognize that photo on the lower right side?

And this is why I went to my 43 Things page, and in the I Want To Do This page, I very happily crossed out the entry about getting a photo of mine published somewhere.

Then I ate an entire pomegranate, baked cookies with my niece, and stopped groaning about why California had to be 31 degrees in the morning the very week that I was visiting.

The end.

Amateur tracker

Last week, my cousin’s wife and her sister arrived for a quick visit and whirlwind tour of New York.

After playing museum tour guide for them last Friday (more on that later), we ventured into Central Park for a nice change of scenery.

We had to figure out how to find the lake without a map to help us, which put my tracking skills to test. We eventually managed to find it with the help of the sun, a passable sense of direction, and the trusty old lazy person’s rule (when you come to a fork on the road and have no idea which way to go, go downhill – you may still end up lost, but at least it’s easier on the legs).

Of course, it’s kinda hard to miss a 22-acre lake in the middle of the city, but in my defense, that’s a 22-acre chunk of an 843-acre space. Or 2.6% for all you math geeks.

Of course, after walking from The Met on the east end of the park all the way to the west end, they decided they wanted to go back and go window shopping along Madison Avenue in the Upper East Side. So back we went, again relying on those faux tracking skills.

The caveat to the lazy person’s rule is that, if you ever need to retrace your steps, then all those breezy downhill trails you took the first time are now nasty, unrelenting uphill climbs just when you’re about ready for a long nap.

But I didn’t mind it so much. Not with great views and scenery hiding behind secret corners. Even the kids seemed mesmerized.

With buildings now back in sight, we made our way to Madison Avenue. In a future post, I will explain the story behind my cousin-in-law’s epiphany, when she said to me later that day: “Fashion is your kryptonite.”

At least she didn’t tell me she’d beat me for every mile.

The wonders of salt

Aside from making food taste better and pastries sweeter, salt – glorious, wonderful salt – is also an incredible salve for the battle wounds of oral surgery. Which is all the well, since I really can’t eat properly right now and good-tasting food will be wasted on me for the next week or so.

While the Salt Institute of North America (who knew?) lists over 14,000 uses of salt, I won’t attempt to figure out every single one of them. But here are a few not-so-ordinary uses for salt, in case you’re like me and you’re bored out of your mind because you have to spend a good portion of your day either on the couch moaning about the pain, or on the couch sleeping off the Vicodin. Or on the couch attempting to eat mashed up bananas with a baby fork.

  • Pick up a dropped egg. If an egg breaks on the kitchen floor, sprinkle salt on the mess and leave it there for 20 minutes. You’ll be able to wipe it right up.
  • Soothe a bee sting. Wet the sting right away, then cover it with salt.
  • Eliminate a grease fire. Pour salt on top to smother it. (Never use water on a grease fire.)
  • Clean up oven spills. If food boils over onto the oven floor, sprinkle salt on top to stop smoke and odor from forming. When the oven is cool, it’ll be easy to brush away the spot.
  • Set color. If a dye may run, soak the garment for an hour in 1/2 gallon of water to which you’ve added 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup salt. If rinse water shows color, repeat. This is good for a single-colored fabric or madras. If the item is multicolored, dry-clean it. (Although American-made fabrics are unlikely to run, fabrics from abroad are sometimes iffy.)
  • Kill poison ivy. Add three pounds of salt to a gallon of soapy water. Spray it onto leaves and stems.
  • Make cream whip more easily and egg whites whip faster and higher. Add a pinch of salt.
  • Test for rotten eggs. Put an egg in a cup of water to which you’ve added two teaspoons of salt. A fresh egg will sink, but one that’s iffy will float.
  • Clean the brown spots (from starch) off a non-stick soleplate (the bottom of your iron). Sprinkle salt on a sheet of waxed paper, slide the iron across it, then rub lightly with silver polish.
  • Repel fleas. Wash the doghouse with it.
  • Kill grass growing in cracks in the cement or between patio stones. Sprinkle salt on the grass and pour very hot water over it. Or sprinkle coarse salt on the grass, let stand all day or overnight, then pour hot tap water over it.
  • Clean a glass coffee pot. Fill it with a quarter-cup of table salt and a dozen ice cubes. Swish the mixture around, let it sit for half an hour, fill it with cold water and rinse.
  • Halt the mountain of suds from an overflowing washing machine. Sprinkle salt on the top.
  • Clean artificial flowers. Put them in a bag of salt and shake the bag. Take a look at the color of the salt and you’ll see what you’ve accomplished.
  • Keep windows frost-free. Dip a sponge into salt water and rub it on windows, and they won’t frost up even when the mercury dips below 32 degrees; for the same effect on your car’s windshield, put salt in a little bag made of cheesecloth, moisten it slightly and rub it on.
  • Clean tarnished copper.Fill a 16-ounce spray bottle with hot white vinegar and three tablespoons of salt. Spray it onto the copper, let it sit briefly, then rub clean. (Don’t do this to lacquered copper.)
  • Keep radishes safe in the garden. Salt worms (cutworms) will be repelled if you sprinkle seeds with table salt, then cover with dirt.
  • Clean coffee and tea stains from china cups. Rub them with salt.
  • Keep potatoes and apples from turning brown once they’re sliced. Put them in salted cold water.
  • Clean a cutting board. Cover it with bleach and salt, scrub it with a stiff brush, then rinse with very hot water and wipe with a clean cloth. Repeat with each use.
  • Revive overcooked coffee. Did you forget about the coffee while it was brewing? No matter! Add a pinch of salt to it and revive its true flavor again!
  • Keep salad crisp. Is your salad getting to gooey due to excess water? Want it to be crisp? Well, just add salt to it and eat it crisp even after several hours!
  • Clean messy dough. When leftover dough is cleaned, it tends to get rolled into sticky lumps. To avoid that, just sprinkle a little salt on the leftovers.

I got those from Mary Ellen Pinkham, in iVillage and Onflame in Gomestic. Because those were among the first ten links that came up in Google, and if you must know, it’s hard to do proper research when you’re on the couch.

How about you? Any interesting tips with salt you’d like to share?


It was a toss-up between these two photos, so I thought I’d just use both of them.

What is it, you ask? It’s the string-pod! It buys you up to two stops in low light for handheld shots, and fits right in your pocket.

Man, I just love McGyver photography equipment. So cool, so simple, and so cheap.

And this one didn’t even need duct tape or gum. Or gum wrapper.

Going for brokeh

going for brokeh (Project365 20080116)

I’ve been reading up on bokeh, and if I’ve understood what I’ve read so far, then according to Ken Rockwell, that top polygon in the background is an example of bad bokeh, the one below it is neutral, and the blue one below those two is the best-shaped one of the three.

Is that right? I’m not sure. In any case, that’s what I was trying to do here. So no comments about the photo of Santa Cruzan Mango Rum with Bailey’s Irish Cream in the background. Or the fact that this picture of bottles of alcohol was taken before 9am today. They’re just props. Really, they are.


Writer's block

writer's block (Project365 20080115)

What do you call the photographer’s version of writer’s block? Whatever it is, that’s what plagued me today. I was absolutely uninspired to photograph anything all day. So Day 15 will be the tip of my red pen because, well, even that was unused today.

And to think I spent a good part of last night imagining all these cool things I was going to photograph up close. Right.

What I learned at the CS3 Power Tour Part 7

I have some photos that are bleh in color, and a bit less than bleh in black and white. What to do, what to do.

What I learned at the CS3 Power Tour:

7. Not too happy with how your photos look in color or black and white? Try infrared faked in Photoshop. It just may be what you’re looking for.

I was scanning through my old shots to find a nice one with enough bright, sharp foliage to test out the infrared technique. I’d been going through some infrared photos in Flickr, and a number of them are simply amazing. But I was slowly getting frustrated with my inability to make them look at least a little bit like the ones I had seen on Flickr.

While I don’t know yet how to realistically recreate that true infrared white glowing foliage effect (is it even possible done solely in Photoshop?), I discovered that it can do wonders for those in-between shots.

Here’s one I took some years ago, straight out of my first digital camera (a 1.3 Olympus that probably cost more then than my Canon S5 now). This was Pebble Beach in Monterey, California. Which happens to be my favorite place ever in the world, other than home, of course.

rocky coast sooc

I liked it enough to keep it, obviously. But I clearly didn’t know what do with it.

So I followed the easy step in my CS3 Power Tour workbook to fake the infrared look. And yes, I said “step” because that’s all it took – just one Channel mixer adjustment, and I was good to go.

rocky coast sooc

rocky coast infrared

I thought it turned out pretty well, and much better than a straightforward black and white conversion. Here’s another one from that same trip:

lone cypress infrared

Now, I know the foliage should be white, but hey, don’t those rocks look cool?