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25 Jul 17:15

The Tree That Grows 40 Different Fruit

The Tree That Grows 40 Different Fruit
In an ongoing series on hybridizing fruit trees, Syracuse University sculptor Sam Van Aken's Tree of 40 Fruit is true to its name. Most of the year, it looks pretty ordinary, but in the spring, the tree blossoms display various tones of pink, crimson, and white. Then, from July through October, it bears 40 different types of stone fruit, including almonds, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums.

The feat is accomplished by grafting together several different varieties, including native fruit, heirlooms, and antiques, some of which are centuries-old, Aken tells Epicurious.

Submitted by: (via IFL Science)

23 Jul 15:49

Raspberry and Pomegranate Smoothie with Green Tea Ice Cubes

by joythebaker

raspberry pomegranate smoothie with green tea ice cubes

Don’t look at me with those sad-clown eyes (wait… is that a thing?).  It can’t be all Peach Cobbler Cinnamon Rolls around here.  That’s unrealistic (though delicious) and downright daunting (though delicious).

When the day’s diet turns a bit too indulgent, I reach for a blender and try to coax whatever fresh ingredients I have into a healthy smoothie.  It’s not rocket science… it’s mostly just fruit and almond milk.  You know the old song and dance.

If you take away any little gem of inspiration from this smoothie concoction, please let it be the Green Tea Ice Cubes.  Though so so simple, these little blocks kinda thrill me.  All the antioxidants and good vibes of green tea, frozen into a smoothie friendly cube and ready for blending.  It’s a clever way to add more nutrients to our smoothie meal!  I’m into it.

Raspberry Pomegranate Smoothie

My favorite smoothie boosters include:

•  Chia seeds for their omega powers

•  Maca powder for energy

•  Aloha Green Juice Powder for a major boost of green and minerals

•  Raw Meal Protein Powder for a vegan, gluten, and dairy free protein bang

•  Big handfuls of kale, cucumber chunks, and not bacon.  Whatever you do, don’t add bacon.

Raspberry Pomegranate Smoothie

Into the blender we go with raspberries (fresh or frozen), almond milk, pomegranate juice (bitterness to balance the sweet), green tea ice cubes, and chia seeds.

The results are sweet pink simplicity.  It’s refreshing.  It’s summer.  I know… it’s not cinnamon rolls.  Let’s be reasonable people who eat reasonable things from time to time.

Note:  For the Green Tea Ice Cubes I brewed a Yerba Mate Green Tea Blend and froze them into cubes.

Raspberry Pomegranate Smoothie with Green Tea Ice Cubes

makes 2 small smoothies

1 heaping cup frozen raspberries

1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon chia seeds

4 green tea ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  Divide between two glasses and enjoy immediately.  

25 Jul 04:05

One-Pot French Onion Pasta

by joythebaker

one pot french onion pasta

I’m already anticipating Sunday.

Talk about putting the cart before the horse.  We haven’t even hopped around the weekend enough to make it to Sunday.

Sundays, I would argue, are the worst.  Actually… they’re the BEST but only between the hours of 8am and noon when we’re sleeping in, churching, brunching, or napping after pancakes.  After noon on a Sunday I find myself in the unfortunate task of pretending to be relaxed while stressing about the week to come.  We’ve talked about this before.  It’s called The Sunday Stresses, and it’s more real that we deserve.

Luckily there’s PASTA.  All healing, all comforting, all filling PASTA.  Thank you, Lord.  For real.

I have pasta every Sunday night.  I spoon myself an embarrassingly large bowl, sit cross-legged on the couch, watch Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee and just tear through a bowl.  I’m trying to fill the pit of Sunday Stresses and pasta usually works, until it doesn’t… but even still.

One Pot French Onion Pasta

This One-Pot pasta comes together easily and makes the house smell like an onion dream.  There’s just something so right about the smell of cooking onions.

While the onions, thyme, and chicken broth flavors have more of a Fall feel to them… well, The Sunday Stresses know no season.   Let’s just get some quality couch time in.  Let’s make out with pasta, just a little.

NOT WEIRD AT ALL!

One Pot French Onion Pasta

Fat spaghetti pasta, chicken broth and water, onions halved and sliced, butter and olive oil, thyme and cheese and arugula and seasoning.  Everything! Let’s go!

One Pot French Onion Pasta

The onions.  Oh the onions.  They actually cook longer than the pasta itself.  The onions need a bit of caressing with butter and olive oil and low heat.

One Pot French Onion Pasta

Progress.  It’s hard not to hover and stir, but the onions do need quality time with the heat.  They need to sit and simmer a bit.

One Pot French Onion Pasta

This is about when I get super impatient and start to think of worms.

One Pot French Onion Pasta

Golden brown, studded with fresh thyme, seasoned with salt and pepper rather aggressively.

One Pot French Onion Pasta

Deglazing the hot pan with water and chicken broth.  The steam!  The best part.

One Pot French Onion Pasta

Welcome to the party, pasta!  We need you.

One Pot French Onion Pasta

We do a little dance on the stovetop.  Simmer with the lid on for a bit.  Stir with the lid off for a bit.  Simmer with the lid on again.  Fluff with the lid off.

It’ll all come together in about 10 magical minutes.

Related:  I need more magical minutes in all of my days.  RIGHT!?

One Pot French Onion Pasta

Taste and most likely add:  salt and pepper, way too much parmesan cheese, and handfuls of fresh arugula.

One Pot French Onion Pasta

By now your neighbors are likely knocking on the door because you made the world smell AMAZING! Share the pasta, not the stresses.

This pasta is both slightly sweet and salty.  As the onions cook down, they take on a tender and sweet quality.  It’s lovely, but you may find yourself adding a bit more salt and parmesan cheese than you might expect.  I love the spice that fresh arugula adds to the pasta.  Red pepper flakes are also divine.  You want to add cooked sausage too!?  Heck yes!

Happy Weekend!

One-Pot French Onion Pasta

serves 4

Print this Recipe!

3 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

salt and fresh cracked black pepper

3 teaspoons fresh thyme

2 cups water

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

12 ounces uncooked spaghetti

salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

parmesan cheese

fresh arugula

Place a large heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and butter and stir until butter is melted.  Add the sliced onions all at once.  Stir to coat the onions in the fat.  Allow onions to cook, undisturbed, for about 4 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and thyme and stir.  Allow the onions to cook for about 4 minutes at a time.  Lower the heat if the onions are browning too quickly.    The onions will begin to brown, break down, and resemble an onion jam.

When onions are entirely browned and completely soft (about 15 minutes), add the water and chicken broth to the pan.  Using a wooden spoon, scrape any burned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add the pasta all at once.

Return to medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Place the lid on the pan and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the lid to toss and stir the pasta for about 3 minutes.  Return the lid and allow to cook for another 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and taste the pasta for doneness.  There will still be just under an inch of liquid in the pot.  Allow the pasta to cook more (if it was still crunchy), or allow some of the liquid to cook off.  It’s about your preference.  I like a bit of the broth remaining.  Plus, the pasta will absorb more of the liquid as it sits.

To serve, spoon into large bowls, top with parmesan cheese and fresh arugula.  

 

 

14 Jul 21:00

When to Say No to New Responsibilities at Work

by Jo Miller

When to Say No to New Responsibilities at Work

Usually you should embrace new tasks and responsibilities at work to demonstrate your potential, but sometimes an opportunity comes along that might only bog you down without advancing your career. Here are four instances where you might be better off saying no thanks.

Read more...








15 Jul 14:30

​Use a Plate Organizer in the Refrigerator to Add Extra Shelves

by Mark Wilson

​Use a Plate Organizer in the Refrigerator to Add Extra Shelves

Corner cupboard organizers are great for, well, organizing cupboards, but you can also use them in your fridge to make better use of space.

Read more...








10 Jul 17:45

What Do You Do With Your Degree?

16 Jul 07:43

Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

by joythebaker

Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Let’s just all admit that it’s weird that I made soup.  Hot soup.  I didn’t even have the decency to make cold soup.  It’s heat hot, it’s spicy hot, it’s just all up in your face hot… smack-dab in the middle of summer.

Some nerve, really.

I need to openly admit that I really miss (I mean… really miss) California Mexican food.  I’ve made so many obscure tacos in my kitchen I might as well buy a taco truck and call it a career.

This soup is SO GOOD! It’s like eating the soup version of a vegetarian enchilada… in a bowl, with a mega amount of fresh toppings!  If you’re looking to beat the heat, may I suggest enjoying this soup while sitting in front of your open refrigerator?

No?

Well.. fine then.

Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Here’s how this goes:  lots of chopping.

I start with the tortillas (into rectangle-like strips), move on to yellow bell pepper, try not to kill myself by slicing a jalapeño, measure out the spices, mince the garlic (why do I haaate this!?), and finish with a quick chop of the onion.  Onion last.  Those things can be spicy on the eyes.

This recipe calls for a large can of diced tomatoes.  I picked up a can of the fire-roasted diced tomatoes and loved the results.  Extra toasty!

For spices we’re adding paprika, cumin, coriander (which comes from the cilantro plant!), chili powder, and cayenne.  These create a wonderful balance of smoke and spice.

Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Black beans for flavor and protein… and also because sometimes I’m just too lazy to cook chicken.

Even though this soup is labeled vegetarian, I used chicken broth.  I love the flavor.  I hate cooking chicken.  There you have it.

The onions and garlic are cooked down with the canned tomato.  I added the chicken broth and took an immersion blender to the mixture, creating a somewhat smooth soup base.  Then the peppers, and beans are added.  Some smooth.  Some chunky.

Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup is nothing without its toppings.. namely, fried tortillas!

I also love all of the fresh ingredients we add to the hot soup:  radish, cilantro sprigs, and avocado bring the crunch and bring the creamy.

Cheese, too… and sour cream. Let’s just go all the way.

Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

makes 4 generous servings

adapted from Food and Wine

Print this Recipe!

6 tablespoons olive oil

5 corn tortillas, stacked and sliced into small strips

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, juice and all

4 cups vegetable broth

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, depending on your taste

fresh cracked black pepper

1 (14-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into small chunks or fresh corn sliced from 2 ears of corn

1 small jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed and thinly sliced

For the Topping:

corn tortillas (fried above)

4 radishes, thinly sliced

fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

ripe avocado, sliced

sharp cheddar cheese, grated

sour cream

In a large, heavy bottom pot, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add the tortilla strips in two batches, flipping and frying until crisp.  Drain crisp strips on a paper towel and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium heat and add onions.  Cook until translucent and just browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Add paprika, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and cayenne pepper.  Stir and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the crushed tomatoes, juice and all.  Stir to combine.  Add the chicken broth, salt, and a good sprinkling of black pepper.  Use an immersion blender to blend the mixture until halfway to smooth.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can carefully spoon the mixture into a blender to blend until smooth.  Return back to the pot (if using  conventional blender) and heat over low heat.

Add beans, bell pepper (or corn), and jalapeño and lightly simmer until bell pepper is softened, about 20 minutes.

To serve, spoon into bowls and top with fried tortilla strips, slice radish, fresh cilantro sprigs, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, a few slices of avocado, and sour cream.

Soup will last, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.

10 Jul 03:58

Pineapple Coconut Water

Once or twice a year, I buy a pineapple. It feels like a strange thing to purchase in San Francisco. Pineapples = hot tropics, beaches, bare feet, and endless summers. San Francisco = fog, wind, Victorian architecture, and year-round denim. I remember driving between San Diego and Northern California, along the Pacific coast, when I was in my early twenties, driving home from college, and coming across a small pineapple farm near Oxnard. But, aside from that, this isn't pineapple country. I never see them at the farmers' markets here, so I don't think about them much. That said, the other day I walked past a tiny pineapple display at my local grocery store, and the scent coming off these fruits was like walking into a thick, sweet wall of intoxicating, tropical brightness. It was the sort of perfume that immediately takes you someplace else, and I could imagine just how good that pineapple, the most fragrant of the lot, was going to taste.

Pineapple Coconut Water Recipe
Pineapple Coconut Water Recipe
Pineapple Coconut Water Recipe

If you've never had absolutely fresh pineapple juice, you are missing out on one of life's simple pleasures. I juiced my little pineapple, enjoyed the first glass straight, and proceeded to use the remaining in this quencher - made with coconut water, lime, and straight ginger juice. It is invigorating, fragrant, hydrating, and a pure, intense shade of yellow that somehow tips us off to its strength and vitality before ever picking up the glass. Enjoy!

Continue reading Pineapple Coconut Water...
07 Jul 17:30

The Nicest Dragon-Kite on the Beach

27 Jun 19:00

Sleeping Together: Dos and Don'ts

Sleeping Together: Dos and Don'ts

Submitted by: (via Swimmingly)

Tagged: couple , funny , sleeping , g rated , dating
27 Jun 21:30

Focus On Your Children's Strengths

Focus On Your Children's Strengths

Submitted by: (via Barnorama)

30 Jun 22:00

"Meatball" Will Be a Great Blog Nickname

02 Jul 03:14

A List of Summer Picnic Bowls

This coming weekend I'm planning a break from the fog. If all goes well, there will be sun-bright days, star-lit skies, pine trees, bare feet, and eating outdoors. There will be a river. There will be a grill. There will be a cabin. All the necessary components for California mountain summering. I'm incredibly excited. As soon as we solidified our plans I started going through my archives looking for ideas for good picnic-style salads to make, and found myself drafting a list of contenders. It occurred to me that it might be helpful to post the list here as well. Most of these salads are the sort that can be prepped, in large part, ahead of time. And they're all meant to be served family-style as part of a larger spread. I hope it's helpful. Here's to long weekends, long days, and summer adventures. xo -h

Mung Yoga Bowl - The kind of bowl that keeps you strong - herb-packed yogurt dolloped over a hearty bowl of mung beans and quinoa, finished with toasted nuts and a simple paprika oil.

California Barley Bowl - Plump barley grains tossed with sprouts (or greens), nuts, avocado, a bit of cheese - all dolloped with a simple yogurt sauce.

Avocado Salad - thinly sliced avocado arranged over simple lentils, drizzled with oregano oil, toasted hazelnuts, and chives.

Roasted Vegetable Orzo - Roasted delicata squash and kale tossed w/ orzo pasta & salted yogurt dressing. For summer you can swap in seasonal squash or vegetables in place of the delicata.


Coconut Corn Salad - SImple. Butter a skillet add corn, fresh thyme, red onions, toasted almonds and coconut, and finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Yellow Bean Salad - A summer yellow bean salad with a green chile-spiked, cilantro-flecked, and coconut milk dressing, toasted pepitas, and (if you want to make a meal of it) pan-fried tofu.

Heirloom Tomato Salad - A favorite tomato salad, made with roasted and ripe tomatoes, capers, mozzarella, almonds, and chives.

Ginger Soba Noodles - Soba noodles tossed with a creamy-ginger dressing and topped with crispy tofu, tarragon, and toasted delicata squash seeds.

Shaved Fennel Salad - Shaved fennel, arugula, zucchini coins, feta, toasted almonds.

Buttermilk Farro Salad - Farro with shaved radishes, zucchini, and fennel tossed with a tangy herbed buttermilk vinaigrette.

Continue reading A List of Summer Picnic Bowls...
22 Jun 19:00

Getting Your Foot in the Door as a Freelance Assignment Photographer

by Scott Umstattd

Hurricane Sandy

One of the biggest changes photography has seen over the last 10 years is in photojournalism and documentary photography. Some will see this change as good while others will see this change as bad. The improvements made to consumer DSLR cameras, lenses and editing software have opened the doors for many photography hobbyists to engage in documentary photography.

Gone are the days when having a good camera and access to a darkroom separated the professional photographer from the amateur photographer. The playing field has been levelled and it is open season for anyone to take part. Within this new landscape there is an abundance of opportunities for you to possibly earn a little extra cash by taking photos for your local paper, magazines or online news outlets.

The assignments will always vary. You may be asked to cover a government meeting or the opening of a new business. You may be taking pictures for a human interest story about a unique person in your town. You could be asked to cover a local high school football game or be asked to rush to the scene of an accident. You may find yourself taking pictures of a festival or a gala dinner featuring some movers and shakers.

Police Car

Below is a list of tips that will help you be a better assignment or documentary photographer, and possibly get your foot in the door to get some jobs.

PRACTICE. KNOW YOUR GEAR.

In many regards, photography starts with the gear. It is important to know the limitations of your equipment. It is equally important to know the areas in which your equipment performs well. No matter what camera and lens you are working with, your equipment will have limitations. Don’t spend time wishing for, or wanting a different lens or camera. Use what you have to the best of its ability. A better lens in some warehouse, is not going to help you now.

ASK QUESTIONS OF YOUR ASSIGNMENT EDITOR

As an assignment photographer you should be prepped before you go out by the editor of the publication, or the writer of the story. If you have any questions, ask them! I have never had an assignment editor react poorly to me asking questions about a piece they are asking me to cover.

Ignorance can be overcome by asking questions. Overcoming stupid is more challenging. Don’t be stupid. If you are not clear about what is expected of you, ask questions until you and your editor are on the same page.

WHO? WHAT? WHEN? WHERE? WHY? HOW?

Speaking of questions, do your pictures answer the ones above? Try to take pictures that answer as many of these questions as possible. While it will be very challenging to capture one picture that addresses all of them, shoot with the idea that your pictures are answering as many as possible.

Blueberry Season

DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH

After you have asked the necessary questions of your assignment editor, do your own research on the subject. This will help you develop ideas, understand how events may unfold, or which images will be more important than others. Don’t expect your editor to tell you exactly what picture to get. They are hiring you, in part, because of your vision. Conducting a little research before you go out will help you find your vision.

COME WITH AN IDEA IN MIND

After researching your subject, think of shots that you want to capture and work toward those pictures when you are in the field. But don’t knock yourself too much if you don’t get “the” picture you wanted. Documentary photographers have little (or no) control over what happens. Come with an idea that will keep your mind centred, but be prepared to adjust your ideas accordingly as the events unfold before you.

Civil War

START BY PLAYING

Once you arrive, begin by playing with your exposure settings and shooting styles. This will ensure that you, and your camera, are properly set up when the moment arrives. In the same way athletes warm up before a race or a game you need to begin by getting your mind and your gear in proper condition before the event begins.

BE INVISIBLE

Remember, you are there to document what others are doing. The story is not about you. Do what you can to stay out of the way to allow events to unfold naturally. If you are too intrusive your subjects will not relax and you will not be documenting natural events. Stay out of the way and let events unfold in front of you.

TIGHT. MEDIUM. WIDE.

Take wide, medium and tight shots of what you are covering. As an example, if you are covering a town hall meeting be sure to get a wide shot that shows all of the filled, or empty chairs, in the room. A medium shot may be a waist-up shot of someone at the podium. A tight shot would be a head shot of someone expressing emotion as they discuss the subject of the meeting or as they listen to the presenters speak.

Westville Meeting

FOCUS

Proper focus is critical in all photography. It is essential in documentary photography and photojournalism. Your focal point tells the viewer what they should be looking at. If you are still taking pictures at that town hall meeting you can have two very different pictures of someone at the podium if one picture is focused on the speaker and another picture is focused on all of the microphones that the presenter is speaking into. One picture shows who was talking and the other picture shows how many people (news outlets) were there to cover the event. Each picture has its own meaning and that is derived from the focal point.

ANTICIPATE

I make a lot of sports analogies when talking about documentary photography because, in many regards, photojournalism and documentary photography is a sport. Just as a quarterback has to read the defence as he stands behind the centre, a documentary photographer has to have his eyes and attention in several places at once. By keeping a constant vigil on your surroundings you will see a picture developing in the same way a quarterback sees a play developing. The great ones always seem to be a few seconds ahead of the action.

Semana Santa

BE PROFESSIONAL

A professional attitude will help to guarantee two things. One, it will help to ensure that those around you understand that you have a job to do and they will permit you to do your job as long as you maintain a professional demeanour. The other thing a professional attitude will bring to you is another assignment. If word gets back to your editor that you were forcing people to behave in a certain way or that you interfered with the event to get a shot, you may not get another chance to work for that editor again because you have embarrassed them (and yourself) in your attempts to get a great picture.

BACK UP YOUR WORK

Once you get back home or to the office, back up your pictures. It doesn’t matter if you put them on a second hard drive, upload them to the cloud or put them on a disk. Make sure that you have copies of your pictures in more than one place in the event that the originals become damaged, destroyed or lost.

Farm to Fork

CAPTION YOUR PHOTOS

Your job as an assignment photographer doesn’t end when you back up your pictures. More times than not you will be asked to caption your photos. Your assignment editor will have no idea of the names of the people in your pictures. It will be up to you to write a brief description for each picture you are turning in. An easy way to do this is to answer the questions, who, what, when, where and why when making captions. “How” may not always be relevant.

DON’T OVER EDIT YOUR PICTURES

If you are asked to turn in edited pictures, don’t over-edit your work. Photojournalism and documentary photography are about the real world. In a strict sense you should only adjust the contrast of your picture. Some news outlets shun adding too much color and all news outlets shun the removal or addition of elements into a picture.

Habitat Vans

BE EASY TO WORK WITH

Being easy to work with is incredibly important in today’s freelance assignment photography landscape. It is becoming easier and easier to take quality pictures with less than professional equipment. Photographers are becoming very replaceable as there are more and more people with photo skills itching to get a little credit and maybe even a little money. Make sure you have an easy payment process. Make sure it is easy to get in touch with you, and that you respond quickly to emails and phone calls. Make sure you are open to your editor’s suggestions and that you are willing to go the extra mile to make them happy. Make it a no-brainer for them to rehire you because there are more photographers behind you just waiting for their chance.

This is a great time to get your foot in the door as a freelance assignment photographer. It’s not easy work and it’s not always sexy. But with hard work, a good eye, a professional attitude and determination you can find yourself on a short list of photographers that assignment editors want to use again and again.

The post Getting Your Foot in the Door as a Freelance Assignment Photographer by Scott Umstattd appeared first on Digital Photography School.

23 Jun 19:00

5 Tips for Creating a Photo Essay with a Purpose

by Lynsey Mattingly

As a photographer, you are a storyteller. The nouns are your subject matter; the verbs are the color and contrast that keep the story moving. A cast of characters all working together to get your point across. Instead of proper grammar, you ensure proper exposure. Instead of spelling errors, you watch for tack-sharp focus. For those times when the story is especially important and meaningful, or for when one image doesn’t say it all, there is the photographic essay. With blogging and social media, photo essays are more popular than ever: humorous or emotionally relevant, sparking debate or encouraging compassion, each with a story to tell.

melanie1

I’ve mentioned before that taking on a photo project is one of my favorite ways to reignite my love for photography, but beyond that, it’s a great way to get your message across and have your work seen by a larger group. A photo essay is intriguing; it’s something to talk about after people hear that you’re a photographer and want to know about the glitz and glamour of it all. It’s the perfect thing to tell them after you’re done going on and on about all of the red carpets, the celebrities, the fame, and the fortune. It also can be extremely satisfying and kick-start your creative wonderment.

By definition, a photographic essay is a set or series of photographs intended to tell a story or evoke emotions. It can be only images, images with captions, or images with full text. In short, it can be almost anything you want it to be. Which is where I struggle most–when the options are limitless. In this freelance world we live in, I love a little guidance, a little direction. Ideally, someone to tell me exactly what they want and promise to be thrilled with whatever I produce, for my fragile artist ego can’t take any less. While I continue my quest for that, I offer you these 5 tips for creating your own, completely without bounds, photographic essay:

1) Let it evolve on its own

Each time I’ve had a very specific concept in mind before I started shooting, it’s never been the end result. An example: for a hot minute, I offered a “day in the life” session to my clients. I was photographing so many of the same clients year after year that I wanted to be able to offer them a different spin on the portrait sessions I was doing for them. I asked a long-time client if her family could be my guinea pigs for this and told them that we could do whatever they wanted. We went out for ice cream, had a mini dance party in their living room, and I photographed a tooth that had been lost that very morning. Then, very last, I photographed the two young daughters with notes they had written, which to be honest, I’m not even sure how they had come about. I rushed home after the session and edited those last note pictures first just because they were so different from what I usually shoot, and posted them on my personal Facebook page the heading Notes Girls Write.

sarah

gracie

Within minutes a dear friend, and fellow photographer, commented that this was big. Bigger than just the two pictures. She and I would spend the next year working on a photo essay that became a blog, that in turn became a book entitled Notes Girls Write. We photographed hundreds of women of all ages with their notes, each one later expressing having their portrait taken with their own words was an extremely powerful moment for them. Beyond my beautiful children, the fact that I can make a bed with hospital corners like no one’s business, and the award I won in the 4th grade for “Most Patient”, Notes Girls Write is one of my proudest accomplishments. It evolved on its own, starting from a few similar photographs that struck a cord in viewers and becoming a large and powerful project, one of the biggest markers in my career so far.

lindsay1

IMG_6287b

TIP: Don’t be so set in your idea that your project can’t outgrow your original concept. Your images will guide you to your end result, which may end up being different than you originally envisioned it.

2) If you think there’s something there, there’s likely something there

For the last year I have been a “foster mom” with a dog rescue group. Volunteers transport dogs that would otherwise be put down from overpopulated shelters, or seized from terrible situations, to my area, where dog adoption rates are much higher. These dogs live in foster homes while they receive medical care and basic training so that they can be adopted out to loving homes. It’s incredibly rewarding. Especially when I had hardwood floors.

I knew from the first time I met the transport van I wanted to document what it looked like: a van full of dogs that just narrowly escaped death arriving to temporary homes where they will experience a level of love and care which they’ve likely never known. I tear-up every time I see it. I am also put to work every time I am there, so taking photos while holding onto a 100 pound German Shepard is tough. It’s going to take me several trips to have enough images to do anything with, but that’s fine. I have no idea what I will be doing with these photos. I know they will find a home somewhere: maybe with the rescue group to raise awareness, or to help bring in volunteers, or maybe they will do nothing more than document my own story with volunteering, or perhaps something more. I’m not sure yet, but the point is that I have the images, ready for their time, whenever that is.

dog1

dog2

dog3

TIP: If you think there is something to it, there likely is. Even if it’s just a personal passion project. Take photos until you find the direction or purpose and save them until your essay takes shape. You may not end up using all, or any of the images, but in continuing to take photographs, your project will be defined.

3) Shoot every single thing

I’m the “World’s Worst Over-Shooter”. Need one image? Let me take a hundred so we know we have it. Luckily for my bad habit, the photographic essay needs over shooting. Whether you know what your plan is, or have no idea want your end result will look like, the more coverage you have, the better. This is one of the few times I push my luck and ask my subjects to work for me until they never want to see me again (I only photograph people though, so if you are photographing mountains or something, you have the added advantage of not pushing people until they cry or yell). Don’t be shy. Shoot everything you know you don’t need, just in case you need it. Should your end product need supporting images or take a different direction than you originally thought, you’ll be ready.

Take advantage of digital (if that’s how you shoot) and fill a memory card. You may end up trashing everything, or you may not. I had no idea that my Notes Girls Write project would span for as long as it did, but because I didn’t turn down anyone who was interested in the very beginning I ended up with some shots that told complete stories and expanded on the original concept.

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sarah3

TIP:  Think big. If you are shooting an essay where mountains are your subject matter, see the mountain in pieces and photograph the surrounding trees, rocks, and whatever else. This will save you having to return to the beginning of the project for supporting shots, or having to reshoot if your essay takes a different turn than you planned.

4) Ask for help with image selection

I struggle with this one–I let my personal feelings get involved. Throughout our Notes Girls Write project I was constantly picking images based on my personal feelings–the subjects that I had connected with more, and the girls that I knew were most interested in the project. This is where it is so helpful to have someone else help. Someone who has no personal feelings towards the images and will help you pick based only on the strength of the image and not your own feelings. Even if people were not involved as subjects, you tend to have personal feelings toward images that the general public may not see the power behind.

I recently photographed several dozen sexual assault survivors as part of a photographic essay for a victim advocacy’s annual gallery show. This event is meant to put faces on the survivors and raise awareness, and has been a large local event for years. I was thrilled to be selected to be the exclusive photographer, though this was one of the hardest projects I’ve ever taken on. The photo sessions themselves, whether five minutes or 30, were extremely emotional for the survivors and in the time I spent with them, I often learned a lot about their journey and experience. This made it difficult for me to pick which final images would be used for the show, based only on the power of the image and not my personal feelings. In the end several select friends helped me narrow each survivor’s images down, and the subjects themselves selected which would be the final image used, as ultimately this is their story.

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SAVA2

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TIP: All creative work is personal, and looking at photographs we take ourselves is incredibly hard to do with clear eyes. We see the mistakes, the personal feelings, the shot that could have been better. It’s impossible to always set these aside so when working on a project that is incredibly important to you, or large in scale. Have others help you decide what images to use for your final pieces. Bring in people who are interested in photography and people that aren’t. People that know about your subject matter and people that don’t understand it at all. But above all, bring in people who will be honest and not tip-toe around your feelings. Lastly, also bring a thick skin.

5) Tell your story, in fact shout it from the rooftops if you can

Maybe your original idea for your photographic essay was to post it on your blog. Awesome, nothing wrong with that, but are you sure it can’t be more? Shop it around, who can it help? Does this benefit a group, an organization, or a person? Could it inspire people? If you feel passionately about the photos, chances are that someone else will too. Your photographic eye doesn’t stop when your shooting is done. If you felt compelled to take the time to create a photographic essay, there are likely “readers” for your story.

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TIP: This isn’t the time to be humble. Taking on a photo essay is a large endeavour. While there’s nothing wrong with having it be something you only did for your own personal growth, showing it around can be helpful both in experience and longterm benefit. Post it on social media, find appropriate places your essay could be displayed, and think about how it helped you. Every single photo essay I have done has led to an outstanding connection, or more work, and there is nothing wrong with getting those things along with the personal gain of accomplishing something you’re proud of.

The ideas are truly for a photographic essay are limitless. Truly.

Want a few more ideas for projects, try these?

Have you ever done a photographic essay? What is your experience? Share with in the comments if you have, or have considered it. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

The post 5 Tips for Creating a Photo Essay with a Purpose by Lynsey Mattingly appeared first on Digital Photography School.

24 Jun 14:00

Three Exercises to Limit Yourself and Grow as a Photographer

by Simon Ringsmuth

Today’s digital cameras are marvels of modern technology, allowing even the most inexperienced photographer access to state-of-the-art imaging systems that were the domain of supercomputers, and research institutions only a few decades ago. With prices plunging continually lower, and more devices equipped with cameras than ever before, photography has reached the point of ubiquity: cameras are everywhere, and anyone who wants to take photos can do so. But sometimes, the best thing you can do to grow as a photographer is to take the opposite approach and set some strict limits for yourself. By operating within the bounds of some simple constraints, you will often find yourself exploring new photographic possibilities that you had never realized were there before.

Duck pond

1. Limit the number of shots you take

Memory cards are extraordinarily cheap. It’s tempting to buy the biggest card you can afford in order to ensure you can fill it with thousands of pictures and not worry about running out of space. But not too long ago, photographers were limited to just a handful of pictures at a time. Each roll of film (i.e. memory card) could hold 36 shots at most, and they were crazy expensive by today’s standards. Imagine paying four dollars for a memory card that could only hold a couple dozen photos and only be used once! Nevertheless, for decades our photographic forefathers were able to churn out amazing images by working within these limits, and so can you.

Cicaida tree

The next time you go out to shoot, limit yourself to only a handful of pictures–set the number beforehand, and stick to it. In doing so, you will have to be much more purposeful about what you photograph. Rather than take the “spray and pray” approach where you shoot hundreds of photos now and find the good ones later, take a more measured and intentional approach by really studying your subjects and finding the best shots through careful planning. You might be frustrated at first, but will soon find that you develop a much more intimate relationship with your subjects, the lighting, the composition, and other elements of photography. Limiting yourself to only a few pictures will help you make each shot count, and help you shoot for quality instead of quantity.

Night lights

2. Limit your focal length

Zoom lenses are a wonderful thing, and are a great way to help you get closer to the action or take in a wide angle of view on a given scene. But zoom lenses on consumer cameras are a fairly recent invention, and not long ago every camera shipped with a simple prime lens, meaning it could not zoom at all. Imagine not being able to zoom in and out! You would have to physically move yourself to get closer to the action–not at all what people expect nowadays. But by limiting your focal length you can, ironically, find yourself stretching your photographic muscles in ways you never thought possible.

Flower bug

When you allow yourself only one focal length, it forces you to look at the world with a different perspective and see new opportunities for pictures. Let’s say you are out with your kids at the park, but instead of standing on the side and zooming in, try locking your lens at one focal length such as 24mm or 35mm and physically walking around to get closer. You will soon discover new perspectives that you overlooked, because you were relying on the zooming capability of your lens. Or if you normally like to take photos of nature or architecture at a wider settings like 18mm, try setting your focal length to something like 55mm and see what happens.

True, the pictures you take will look nothing like what you are used to, but you will see the world from a new perspective and find all sorts of different photographic opportunities you never realized were there. If the temptation to start zooming in or out strikes, don’t give in. Move yourself around and look for ways to work within the limit you have set, and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Toy top

Of course the best way to limit your focal length is to buy a prime lens, which I highly recommend. Not only will you learn to maximize the possibilities afforded by a single focal length, but you will get other benefits like a much larger aperture which means better photos in low light, and nice blurry backgrounds too.

3. Limit your subject

We’ve all heard people tell us to take time to stop and smell the roses, but what about taking time to photograph them? Or, specifically, one single rose. That’s the idea here: rather than taking pictures of many roses, trees, buildings, sculptures, or people – focus on just one subject and look for new and interesting ways to capture it on digital film. Study it from every possible angle, and find ways of positioning it (or yourself) that might not seem so obvious. Try returning at different times of day, or seasons of the year, and see how it changes. You might end up with dozens or even hundreds of pictures that are boring, uninteresting, or just not all that good. But you will also likely end up with some gems that are far beyond what you thought you could accomplish before.

Tree perspective

Limiting yourself, in a world with limitless photographic opportunities, might seem counter productive at first. But if you give it a try, you will find that putting some constraints on your photography will help stretch yourself in new ways and find interesting picture opportunities that you might have overlooked hundreds of times before.

The post Three Exercises to Limit Yourself and Grow as a Photographer by Simon Ringsmuth appeared first on Digital Photography School.

25 Jun 14:00

Three Uses for High ISO you Might Not Know

by John Davenport

You may already know that the ISO setting is used to control your camera’s sensitivity to light. When you use a high ISO setting essentially you are telling your camera to become more receptive to the available light. This is most often used when you are photographing in low light situations in order to maintain a proper exposure. However, there are at least three other reasons you might consider using a high ISO setting when you’re either in a good light situation or on a tripod.

Freezing fast motion

when to us high ISO

Use a high ISO setting to freeze fast motion – 1/8000th ISO 1,000

The only way to freeze fast motion, like the wings of a hummingbird moth, is to shoot with an extremely fast shutter speed. The above photograph was shot with a shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second in order to freeze the insect’s wings. However, even in the bright mid-afternoon sun, a shutter speed that fast required bumping the ISO setting on the camera to 1,000 to maintain an even exposure.

Below, is an example of why shooting at 1/8000th of a second was necessary. Even at 1/800th of a second the insect’s wings were barely visible. In order to ensure that the motion was frozen it meant that more light was needed in a shorter amount of time and the only way to get this (without a faster lens) is to bump up the ISO on the camera.

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ISO 500 1/800th – even at that speed the wings are blurry.

Night sky photography

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Use high ISO to capture the stars

Many different techniques come into play when you want to photographing the stars, but one of the more important things to remember is to increase that ISO setting. The reason you want to photograph the stars with a higher ISO, even though you’re using a tripod, is that as the earth rotates, the stars move across the sky and you don’t want to capture that movement in your photograph (unless you are doing star trails)

By using an ISO in the 800 to 1,000 rang,e with a fast wide-angle lens, you will be able to capture enough stars to fill the sky.  For more on photographing the stars check out: How to Photograph the Stars.

Hand-holding a long lens

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Use high ISO when shooting handheld with a long lens

If you’re shooting handheld with a long lens, you have to remember the shutter speed rule: 1/focal length (35mm equivalent).  This rule basically means that if you’re using a 300mm lens on a 1.5x crop factor DSLR then the minimum or slowest shutter speed that you can use is 1/450 (1/300 on full frame).

The bald eagle above was shot at a 450mm equivalent focal length using a shutter speed of 1/500th of second and an ISO of 1,000. Any slower on the shutter speed and you begin to run the risk of introducing camera shake.

What other uses can you think of for high ISO?

Do you ever shoot with an ISO of 800 or higher? What’s the highest you’ve ever shot? Share with us some examples and of course, if you have any other uses for high ISO that you think I’ve forgotten please share those below as well!

The post Three Uses for High ISO you Might Not Know by John Davenport appeared first on Digital Photography School.

25 Jun 19:00

How to Create and Use Photoshop Actions to Speed up Your Workflow

by Bruce Wunderlich

Photoshop_CC_icon.pngWhat are Photoshop Actions?

Photoshop Actions are very useful time savers. Should you find yourself applying the same Photoshop commands or a series of commands repeatedly to images, wouldn’t it be nice to just push one key and apply that series of commands to your image, or even to a whole folder of images? It can be done, read on.

What kind of things can you do with Actions?

Inside Photoshop, just about everything you do to enhance images can be done with an Action, ranging from: applying creative styles, resizing, converting to Black and White, sharpening, watermarking, or even compositing star trails – all with one click of the mouse or a keyboard short-cut.

Why use Actions?

The use of Actions will streamline image processing by combining multiple commands into one key stroke, or batch, which will save you lots of computer time and give you more time for shooting. Every photographer wants more time for shooting.

Create a simple Action

Okay, so perhaps you want to resize an image for the web. This simple action will resize the image to 600 pixels wide, and also add copyright and contact information to the image.

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Steps-by-step how to create your own Action

  1. In Photoshop , open the photo file you want to work on.
  2. Open the “Action Palette” or panel (Alt+F9)
  3. Select “Create New Action” from menu or click on the “New Action” button.new action3
  4. Name your Action; use a name that will tell you what the Action will do. In this case we will name it “Save for dPS Blog”.
  5.  Assign a key board short-cut.
  6. Assign a color to Action button. (This is optional, but can be useful to organize your Actions when you set up multiples.)
  7. Assign a set in which your Action appears. This is useful if you want many Actions for many different types of work, for example “Sizing Actions”.
  8. Start recording – select record from the menu or click the  “Start Recording” button.
  9. Now, simply apply all the Photoshop commands to your open image that you want saved in that Action.
  10. Select image size (Alt+Ctrl+I) and set to 600 pixels wide.
  11. Select File Info (Alt+Shift+Ctrl+I) and enter your Copyright information.
  12. Select “Stop Recording” from menu or click the “Stop Recording” button.If any of your commands require variable settings that need to be changed on an image by image basis, click on the pause button for that Action. Now when you run your Action, it will stop at that command for your input. Otherwise, your action will run just as it was recorded with all input being applied the same.

How to use Actions

There are three ways Actions may be used:

  1. Applying it to a single open image
  2. Applying it to a batch of images
  3. By creating a Droplet of your Actions

Explanations of how each of these work follow.

Applying to open image

You can apply your Action to an open image by simply selecting the desired Action in the Action Palette and then selecting Play from the menu or by clicking the Play button.

Applying to a batch of images:

  1. Place all the  images into one folder
  2. Select the Action you want to run
  3. Under the File menu, select Automate and then Batch (because the Action you want to run is already selected, the action field will have already been preloaded with the right one)
  4. Under Source, select the desired folder from the menu.
  5. Click on the Choose button and select the folder that contains your images.
  6. Under Destination, select Folder.
  7. Click on the Choose button and select a folder where you want the final images to be saved.
  8. Select Override Action “save as commands”
  9. Click OK and Photoshop will automatically start opening all the files in the source folder one at a time and running the Action, then saving them to the destination folder. Cool, huh!?batch

Make a Droplet from an Action:

With this method you can create an executable file, which you can be place on your desktop. Then if you want to run an Action on a file, you can just drag it to your Action Droplet and the changes will be applied to your file and saved to a specified folder.

Creating a Droplet:

  1. Select the Action that you want to use to create your Droplet.
  2. Under File menu, select Automate and Create Droplet, the Create Droplet menu will open.
  3. Under Save Droplet In: click on Choose and select a destination for your droplet. Your computer desktop is a great destination and makes the Droplet easily accessible.
  4. Under Play, since we already selected the Action in step 1, this section already contains the correct command info.
  5. Under Destination select Folder.
  6. Under Destination click on Choose and select a folder where you want the finished images to be stored.
  7. Select Override Action “Save as Commands”.
  8. Click OK and Photoshop will automatically create your Droplet.
    Now simply drag your image to the Droplet and the Action will be applied to the image and saved to your specified folder.Droplet

Actions can be used for the simplest series of commands, but after you get the hang of it you can create some very complex applications. The purpose of this article is to show just how easily you can create your own Actions and thereby simplify and speed up your work flow.

If you have other tips for using Photoshop Actions please share in the comments below.

For more on Photoshop Actions try these articles:

The post How to Create and Use Photoshop Actions to Speed up Your Workflow by Bruce Wunderlich appeared first on Digital Photography School.

26 Jun 14:00

7 Proven Ways to Come Home with Better Travel Photos

by Etienne Bossot

It s all about the light

Your next vacation or around-the-world escapade is the perfect time to brush up on your photography skills.

After all, taking a great photograph is never more important than when you’re seeing people and places you may never see again. Travel opens your eyes to other cultures, and if you prepare before you leave, it can also open the eye of your camera lens to infinite possibilities.

But first things first – let’s make sure you have a basic understanding of photography before you step onto the plane. Here’s a list of seven proven ways to come home with better travel photos.

#1 Take a good look at your gear

You don’t need to spend a million dollars on crazy-expensive gear. However, you do need a camera from this century. Better yet, a camera that was made in the last five years. Technology is changing so rapidly that you’re really going to notice a difference with newer cameras.

Also, don’t be afraid to check out the new lightweight DSLR cameras that are all the rage. You may feel cooler hauling around a huge Nikon D5300, but a more compact model can take great pictures too (plus compact is always better when you’re traveling).

#2 Get intimate with your settings

Get intimate with your settings

You haven’t just been leaving your camera in Auto mode, have you? What fun is that? Now I’m not saying you have to learn how to manually focus before you take-off for say, Fiji, but at least get familiar with these three need-to-know settings (the Exposure Triangle) on your DSLR camera.

#3 Do your research

Dive into Google Images, Flickr, or 500px to look for photos (and photographers) you love. Choose at least three travel photographers and follow their blogs.

Not only will get some great ideas for photographs, you’ll be able to find tips and techniques for getting specific effects you’ve seen in the photos you admire.

#4 Get to know your subject

Get to know your subject

Photographing people is one of the most exciting parts of travel photography. Imagine getting great shots of Buddhist monks in Laos, a tribesman in the African bush, or mountain people in the Himalayas. But you’re not just going to walk up to someone you’ve never spoken to and stick a camera in their face (promise me you won’t do that).

So how are you supposed to approach your subject? The #1 tip is to make friends first. That can be tough in and of itself when there is a language barrier, but it’s not impossible. Read: Practical tips to build your street photography confidence (which also applies when travelling).

#5 Get lost

Get Lost

You’re not going to get great travel photographs taking pictures of the monuments and sites that every other tourist on earth has already photographed. When you travel, get lost! Venture out into villages and unknown areas that no one else goes to. Don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path.

The most exciting photos you’ll take won’t be of the Empire State Building, they’ll be of the ancient bartender in that random dive bar in Astoria, Queens (the one you never would have found if you hadn’t gotten completely lost).

#6 Get close

Repeat after me: “I will not be a lazy photographer.”

Get close

Lazy photographers use lenses instead of legs. I want you to use those legs of yours to walk, run, jump, swim, crouch, bend, and move any way you can to get close to your subject. Why? Because the simple act of getting close to your subject will drastically improve your travel photographs.

Once you’ve followed step #4, don’t be afraid to put your camera as close as possible to your subject, sometimes right in their face even.

Disclaimer: this tip does NOT apply to house fires, political violence, or wildlife safaris.

#7 It’s all about the light

It s all about the light

The other day a student of mine showed me a photograph that was taken in the middle of the day, under the hot Hoi An sun. There were several problems with the shot, but the main reason it looked flat and lifeless was simply because of the time of day it was taken.

I told her what I tell everyone; don’t bother getting out your camera between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The light is too harsh. Get up before the sun and/or wait until the sun is about to set, and you’ll enjoy amazing light that will work wonders for your photographs.

That same student sent me a photo the following day, this time taken just before sunset. It was 10x better. Had she suddenly become a better photographer in less than 24 hours? Yes. But only because she learned to tell time.

Follow these seven tips and I have no doubt you’ll be taking amazing travel photographs on your next trip. Have any additional tips you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments below.

Safe travels!

The post 7 Proven Ways to Come Home with Better Travel Photos by Etienne Bossot appeared first on Digital Photography School.

26 Jun 19:00

Review of the Turfstand by Windborne

by Jeff Guyer
The Turfstand sheds the legs of conventional light stands and adds ground-anchoring spikes for a new layer of stability in outdoor lighting.

The Turfstand sheds the legs of conventional light stands and adds ground-anchoring spikes for a new layer of stability in outdoor lighting.

When you stop and think about it, how much is there to really say about a light stand? I suppose we could discuss height, weight or materials, but once we got our preferences out on the table, it would be a pretty short conversation. As long as it holds what you put on it safely and securely, and you can get it where you need it, the discussion is pretty much over, right? If we were talking about a traditional light stand, maybe. But since we’re talking about the Turf Stand, there’s actually quite a bit more to discuss.

Created by Michigan photographer Mike Drilling, the Turfstand is anything but traditional. Replacing the three legs we’re all used to with five sharp, metal spikes, at first glance the Turf Stand bears more of a resemblance to Poseidon’s trident than it does to a light stand. But a light stand it is. Obviously designed for outdoor photography, the base goes about ten inches into the ground, anchoring it securely into just about any terrain.

Specifications

  • Height:  8 feet from base to top of stand when fully extended (2.4 m)
  • Weight:  2.5 lbs (1.13 kg)
  • Spikes:  5 – the longest of which are 10″  (25.4 cm)
  • Materials:  aluminum and steel
  • Maximum load:  approximately 4.5 lbs (2.04 kg)
  • Price:  $139.00 (USD) on company website. $99.95 (USD) on Adorama and Amazon

First Impressions

There is no question that a lot of thought went into the design and manufacture of the Turfstand. Straight out of the box it appears to be sturdy and well-crafted. While I’ll confess to having one of those, “Why didn’t I think of this?” moments, I also have to admit to being a bit skeptical. After all, a conventional light stand and sand bag have always served me well in the past, so what’s the big deal? Then I remembered how much I hate dragging sand bags around with me, so that became a quick point in the Turfstand’s favor. Then I thought about uneven terrain, odd angles, and some of the other dilemmas that Mother Nature and circumstance sometimes throw in our way. Skepticism slowly gave way to intrigue and I was eager to put the Turfstand through its paces.

turf-stand-review-dps-001

Caution #1 – those spikes are sharp!

Considering the fact that the stand was designed to give you a sturdy base in grass, dirt, mud, sand, clay, etc., I would fully expect the spikes to be sharp. I would, however, also expect there to be a guard of some sort included for when the stand is not in use. First and foremost, you MUST be abundantly aware of how you carry this thing, especially when walking with or moving around your subject. Regardless of which direction I had the spikes pointed, I was a bit nervous- not only for the safety of the people around me, but for my own as well. After all, this was designed for uneven terrain. Tripping while carrying this stand unprotected could have some pretty serious results. Putting it in my light stand bag was not a viable solution, out of fear that the spikes might damage the bag itself, or the umbrellas and softboxes also stored in it. I addressed my concern with some heavy-duty cardboard.

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Caution #2 – this is not an air-cushioned stand

If you’ve been doing this a while, you know that air-cushioned stands lower slowly, regardless of how much weight is mounted on them. Non-air-cushioned stands, on the other hand, will slide down pretty fast as soon as the thumb screws are loosened. While this should not be a factor that prevents you from using this stand, you should be aware of it. As with all light stands and background stands, maintain control of each section as it’s lowered. You’ll not only keep the people around you safe, but you’ll also avoid accidents that could damage your gear.

turf-stand-review-dps-010

Out in the field

I do a lot of portrait location work, so I was pretty excited to see how the Turfstand performed. As noted, the spikes are pretty sharp, so driving the base into the ground was pretty easy. I tried it out on grass, hard-packed gravel, wet soil, and our famous Georgia clay. I couldn’t find anything on the Turfstand website regarding water-resistance, so I passed on the idea of trying it out in a running, shallow river nearby, but my guess is it would be fine, as long as the base was not completely submerged.

One area where the Turfstand performed exceptionally well, was when I tried it at odd angles. How many times have you been shooting portraits on location and not been able to get your light stand down low enough? Portraits with subjects sitting on the ground often require an assistant holding the light, or turning a light stand on its side and laying it horizontally on the ground. The Turfstand’s unique design allowed me to stick it securely in the ground at a 45 degree angle, bringing the softbox down to a lower height, without the usual hassles.

turf-stand-review-dps-003

Taking odd angles and uneven terrain a few steps further, I decided to see how the stand would fare if stuck into the side of a hill. As you can see from the photo below, it’s pretty adept at putting a light in places you wouldn’t be able to even try with a conventional light stand. Even better, it lets you do so without putting you, or an assistant, in a physically dangerous or precarious position. We all want to get “The Shot” but personal safety should come first (most of the time).

turf-stand-review-dps-008

The other big question mark for me was how the Turfstand would perform under windy conditions. Starting with the premise that no light stand is going to stay 100% still in even a light breeze once an umbrella or softbox is mounted on it, my concern was less about movement and more about falling over. By virtue of its three legs, a traditional light stand is going to have a lower center of gravity, resulting in less lateral sway. The down side is that on a windy day your traditional stand will either stay up or get blown over. Up or down. There’s not going to be much in between. An assistant or a sand bag will obviously help, but not everyone has the luxury of a second set of hands on a photo shoot. While I did notice some sway with the Turf Stand–particularly when used at unconventional angles–I was never worried about it being dislodged from the ground.

As with any piece of equipment, you have to use some common sense. In windy conditions, a softbox will fare better than an umbrella, but remember that any chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In the case of the Turfstand, my weakest point was where my speedlight and softbox were attached. Just because the Turfstand can withstand a heavy wind, don’t assume that your light or modifier can. As the product insert says, “Nothing works in a hurricane.”

For purposes of this test, I used a Nikon SB800 speedlight in a 24″ Glow HexaPop softbox (one of my favorite modifiers for ease of use and quality of light, full review coming soon). The combination of the two was well below the 4.5 pound load limit. As with any light stand, exercise caution against pushing the maximum load limit, or maximum extension.

turf-stand-review-dps-007

Pros of the Turfstand

  • Lightweight and easy to use
  • Sturdy and secure
  • Quality materials and construction
  • One-year, 100% guarantee
  • Great performance on irregular terrain
  • Reasonably priced

Cons of the Turfstand

  • The spikes could be a hazard
  • Non-air-cushioned construction

Final thoughts

I review a lot of photography products, and some of the highest praise I can offer is that a product does what it says it’s going to do and does it well. That is certainly the case with the Turfstand. Plant it in the ground and it’s not going anywhere. It’s a unique solution to a problem that any location photographer has faced, and any solution that lets me leave the sand bags at home is a solution well worth considering. You’ll notice below that I’ve given the Turfstand 4 out of 5 stars. If the designers can come up with a guard for the spikes when not in use (something I’d be willing to pay extra for, by the way), and switch to air-cushioned construction, I’d gladly give the 5th star.

As noted, the Turfstand sells for $139.00 (USD) on the Windborne website, but even at its $99.95 Adorama price, I can’t help but think the price is maybe a bit high. Realizing that you can buy two conventional air-cushioned light stands for the cost of just one Turfstand makes you stop and think about whether the added versatility is worth the added cost. As with any gear purchase, only buy it if your answer is “yes.” For me, I don’t see it being a major part of my workflow right now, but it’s nice to know that an option like the Turfstand is available if that changes.

The post Review of the Turfstand by Windborne by Jeff Guyer appeared first on Digital Photography School.

20 Jun 18:30

Bake the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies by Knowing What to Tweak

by Melanie Pinola

Bake the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies by Knowing What to Tweak

Some like their chocolate chip cookies soft and chewy. Others prefer it a little crispier. No matter what your cookie preference is, a simple adjustment in ingredients will help you bake your perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies.

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23 Jun 12:30

Take the Doors Off Your Kitchen Cabinets for Easy Access

by Mihir Patkar

Take the Doors Off Your Kitchen Cabinets for Easy Access

Think about it for a minute: Do you really need doors for the cabinets in your kitchen? Apartment Envy's Kerra Huerta took them off and she's never going back.

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23 Jun 19:15

Five Best Chef's Knives

by Shane Roberts, Commerce Team on Gizmodo, shared by Shane Roberts, Commerce Team to Lifehacker

Five Best Chef's Knives

Last week we asked you which chef's knife you thought was a cut above the rest, and now we've counted your votes and narrowed the field down to the five best blades. Head down to the comments and vote by starring your favorite, and respond to each entry with your cases for and/or against.

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25 Jun 16:00

This Graphic Explains All the Health Hazards of Sitting for Too Long

by Melanie Pinola

This Graphic Explains All the Health Hazards of Sitting for Too Long

By now, you already know that prolonged sitting is bad for your body . But what exactly goes on when you sit for hours every day? This graphic from the Washington Post explains.

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26 Jun 13:00

Get a Tighter Velcro Grip on Non-Flat Surfaces with Sugru

by Mihir Patkar

Get a Tighter Velcro Grip on Non-Flat Surfaces with Sugru

The problem with double-sided adhesive Velcro is that it needs the two sides to align for a lasting hold. That doesn't happen when you have a curved surface and a flat one. To fix this, turn to Sugru .

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26 Jun 19:30

​Forget.me Helps Remove You from Google Search Results

by Mark Wilson

​Forget.me Helps Remove You from Google Search Results

A recent European ruling decided that internet users can ask Google to remove outdated or incorrect information about them from search results. Forget.me makes the whole process as easy as possible.

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23 Jun 09:00

Ubi Trying Really Hard To Not Delay Assassin’s Creed On PC

by Nathan Grayson

Assassin’s Creed’s history with PC tardiness is about as well-documented as the Templars’ involvement in history isn’t. Almost annually, the story is the same: Ubisoft is non-committal about a PC date, release gets close or close-ish, and then the publisher suddenly announces a delay of a few weeks. It’s nearly as much of a tradition as annual Assassin’s Creed releases themselves. But will it happen again this time, or has Ubisoft finally kicked its inexplicable (or at least thus far not well-explained) delay habit to the curb? Well, if nothing else everything’s going according to plan so far. Ubisoft told me that it’s trying really hard for a simultaneous release of Assassin’s Creed Unity.

… [visit site to read more]

23 Jun 18:00

Sex, Romance, And Faction Wars In Dragon Age Inquisition

by Nathan Grayson

Once upon a time, videogames were really horrible at depicting romance and sex. Plot twist: that time is now. Dragon Age: Origins, however, holds the dubious distinction of having some of the worst sex scenes in gaming, not to mention many relationships that ended in BioWare’s patented(ly pernicious) “give gifts until sex falls out” method. On the upside, the developer has been promising much more robust romance options for Dragon Age Inquisition – much more so than in Dragon Age 2, even – but it hasn’t offered much in the way of details. I asked producer Cameron Lee, and we took a ride on the loooooove train – by which I mean we mostly talked about Saints Row IV and also animal genocide in Inquisition. Also I saw Inquisition’s E3 demo and I… have some concerns.

… [visit site to read more]

21 Jun 17:52

Daryl Hannah and Naveen Andrews Join Wachowski Series ‘Sens8′

by Russ Fischer

Sens8 cast

Sens8, the upcoming Netflix sci-fi drama series from Andy and Lana Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski, has a cast, and we can also tell you a bit about the plot. The show, which will run 10 episodes, was originally described only as ”a gripping global tale of minds linked and souls hunted.” Now we know that Naveen Andrews (Lost), Daryl Hannah, and Brian J. Smith (Stargate Universe) will feature in the large ensemble cast. In addition to that trio, the show features almost another dozen primary names in it’s diverse cast.

Deadline has the cast report, and this plot info straight from Straczynski:

The series follows eight characters around the world who, in the aftermath of a tragic death, find themselves linked to each other mentally and emotionally. They can not only see and talk to each other as though they were in the same place, they have access to each other’s deepest secrets. Not only must they figure out what happened and why and what it means for the future of humanity, they must do so while being hunted by an organization out to capture, kill or vivisect them.

And the rest of the cast? Andrews and Hannah may only be guest stars, with Brian J. Smith as one of the leads. Also reportedly in the core of the story will be Tuppence Middleton (Jupiter Ascending), Aml Ameen (The Maze Runner, Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas), Miguel Silvestri, Tena Desae (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Jamie Clayton (Dirty Work), and Max Riemelt (Free Fall).

In addition, Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who), Alfonso Herrera (El Diez), Erendira Ibarra (Capadocia), and Terrence Mann (Critters, All My Children) will appear in the show. 

The scale of Sens8 will also be broad, as the show plans to shoot in locations that include Chicago, San Francisco, London, Iceland, Seoul, Mumbai, Berlin, Mexico City and Nairobi.

The post Daryl Hannah and Naveen Andrews Join Wachowski Series ‘Sens8′ appeared first on /Film.

20 Jun 20:00

S.EXE: Vampire The Masquerade – Bloodlines Part 1

by Cara Ellison

Snacking was never more dramatic

When you think of California, you probably think of sun, people wearing shades, the wide, flat pavements sunbleached and neat. But when the night falls in Santa Monica, CA, it gets mortuary cold. I’m staying there this month and I found myself thinking of Jeanette the other night. Something about a tumultuous relationship, smudged kohl, and Jeanette.

So I paid for another copy of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, and I went to visit video games’ most animated goth chick seductress. She lives above the Asylum club in a Santa Monica where the sun never comes up. For this week’s S.EXE I thought I’d write you the first part of my spiral into the dark, sexy overtones of one of the best-written western RPGs we’ve got, and my quest for someone there who gives a damn about me.

… [visit site to read more]