After a discussion today about ahi, I couldn’t stop thinking about the wonderful ahi salad I had the last time I visited my friends Susan and Chris in Port Aransas, Texas, more than a year and a half ago. We went to lunch at a very upscale restaurant and were served a sinfully delicious mixed green salad with balsamic dressing, topped with bleu cheese, candied walnuts, sliced pears, and heavily peppered ahi—yellowfin tuna caught earlier that day in the Gulf of Mexico. I crave the fresh seafood available in Port A and miss that ahi tuna delicacy. When I drove home this afternoon, I stopped at Whole Foods and found a six ounce chunk of fresh ahi with my name on it. I encrusted it in coarsely ground black pepper, grilled it for a couple of minutes, sliced it thinly, and served it on a bed of spring greens lightly dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette that I made with blood orange balsamic. Whole Foods also had some candied walnuts so I didn’t have to spend the time making my own and I found some crumbled Gorgonzola to use instead of bleu cheese. The resulting feast looked so beautiful I decided to take a few shots. Food photography is becoming a sideline of mine lately. I wish we could serve this at Famous Mo’s but since we don’t have a hood in the kitchen, we cannot cook any meat or seafood from scratch. Maybe we’ll have to start serving sushi.
I couldn’t resist running outside to photograph the hummers this morning. All my camera gear is in the trunk of my car so I had to go with the 24-70mm lens again. When the two that were bathing in the fountain flew into the shrubs, I stepped into the brambly mess behind the fountain and took some shots. What I learned today is that I really do need to remember to switch to manual focus when I am trying to get a subject behind something else, like nine jillion twigs and leaves. This morning’s effort resulted in one in focus shot out of ten; the camera took over after I thought it was focused on the hummer and decided it preferred the leaves and twigs.
I did like this one, though. I did minimal processing because I don’t have any time this morning. I decreased the clarity a bit which actually surprised me; doing so resulted in a clearer shot. I also increased contrast and saturation and cropped it.
Ron’s guitar came to life again last night at Famous Mo’s. Kyle Rowland, a talented young blues harmonica player, asked my permission to play the guitar, which hangs on the wall at Famous Mo’s. He told me he just wanted to rehearse something with his band in the Green Room. Kyle played Ron’s guitar after his show in May when he appeared on our stage for the first time. At that time, he tuned the guitar and played it for me after everyone had gone home. He must have liked what he heard because after the first set last night, Kyle reappeared alone on the stage with Ron’s guitar and performed a solo set. When the set was over, Kyle walked to the wall and respectfully replaced the guitar in its holder. That guitar still has a deep throaty sound, sort of like Ron’s voice, and it did my heart good to hear it again so I know Ron would have been pleased to hear it too and to know that it is appreciated.
Last night was a fun evening at Famous Mo’s and I met another photographer who recommended that I take a photo of Kyle’s harmonica case. I told her I had already done that the last time Kyle played at Mo’s. After thinking about this post and linking it to the previous post when Kyle played Ron’s guitar, I realized I had never shared the photo of Kyle’s harmonica collection, so, thanks to my new friend, Patti, I’m including a photo I took of it a couple of months ago.
I have been reflecting a lot today about how sporadic I’ve been posting to this blog which has been such a dominant part of my life for the past two and a half years. Despite the fact that it is my blog to do with as I please and I am under no obligation to anyone other than myself to keep it up, I feel tremendous guilt. In Focus Daily has been a wonderful creative outlet for me and I have learned so much about photography since I began publishing it, so I plan to keep blogging away. However, my infrequent posts of late make me think I may (when I get some time) need to restructure it a bit so that I will alleviate some of my guilt for not posting everyday. Okay, that said, I have been taking lots of photos this week, I just haven’t been posting them on my blog. Most have found their way to Famous Mo’s Facebook Page because we had bands at Famous Mo’s Thursday and Friday and I’ll be taking photos at Mo’s again tonight for our third band of the week.
Now that my guilty conscience is somewhat assuaged by talking about my inability to keep up with my blog, I did spend a couple of hours this afternoon struggling with another kind of reflection, reflections on glass. I am trying to create a trio of black and white photos that will be printed on canvas and that will be hung at Famous Mo’s. My favorite of the three is an empty wine glass that I have blogged about previously. Here are the links to those previously photographed wine glasses: my first try, and my second try.
Today, I took photos of a clear glass cup and saucer and a straight-sided beer glass to accompany whichever wine glass I decide to use. I like the reflections on the cup and saucer but I am not thrilled with those on the beer glass. I may have to try this again. I changed the photos to black and white and used various filters on them. I took both at f/16 with a relatively slow shutter speed.
Sir Walter Scott’s words came to mind as I downloaded photos I took this morning of a huge garden spider. Spiders give me the creeps and I have always been afraid of them but today I managed to keep my life-long arachnophobia in check. Photography has changed me in many positive ways, one of which is that I make it a point to try to overcome my fears when it means that I will be able to capture an interesting photograph. When I saw this spider outside the window of my gym this morning, I knew I had to photograph it. I jumped off the treadmill, grabbed my camera, ran outside, tramped through the shrubs, and squeezed around the huge web to capture the best angles. I used my 24-70mm lens and cropped these shots to eliminate all the distracting background and for dramatic effect. I was about 24 inches from this creature (yikes) and it is really quite large; the body is probably an inch and with the legs, its overall length is probably almost 3 inches. If it had been jumping spider, I would never have ventured this close. As it was, I jumped about three feet when the spider moved suddenly and when I got home, I let out an audible gasp when I downloaded the shots to my computer and the first one came into sharp focus. It brought back memories of my inability to touch the pages of National Geographic Magazine when I was a kid reading an article with creepy bugs or spiders pictured prominently on the page. A short time later, I let out a loud shriek when I realized that one of the shots showed the spider actually spinning silk to repair its web, something I didn’t notice when I took the pictures because I was so intent on the angle, lighting, and focus. And, I should add, that shriek was one of delight, not horror. Wow!
Wow! Jennifer Batten appeared on the Famous Mo’s stage last night with a phenomenal multimedia presentation and wicked guitar licks like you have never experienced. Jennifer kicked off her west coast instrumental multimedia extravaganza with fellow guitarist Jesse Solomon. The WOW! factor was front and center. Jennifer’s guitar rendition of ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ would have made Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov take notice. When she played it, I was awestruck. This is a piano piece I have never managed to play more than a few notes of, although I once mastered “Bumble Boogie,” a boogie boogie version by Jack Fina that remains one of my favorite piano challenges. Jennifer played with Michael Jackson on several of his world tours and was featured on stage when he appeared at Superbowl halftime some years back. She was slated to go on tour with him at the time of his untimely death.
“Hugely entertaining, wickedly cool blues, and roots rock with a twist…masterful harmonica” is how the San Francisco Chronicle describes Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, an incredibly fabulous blues band that performed at Famous Mo’s last night in their second engagement at our venue. I took so many photos (again) that they are still downloading. Our lighting, perfect for performances, is not so perfect for still photography so I turned this shot to black and white.
Faith turned three on Saturday. Faith is my personal trainer’s daughter and I have been taking photographs of her since she was just a few months old. Her third birthday party will be held in a couple of weeks and, today, I was at her house taking photos in hopes of capturing a demure, pink princess for her princess-themed birthday party invitations. The 105° heat kept us from spending too much time posing outdoors and Faith was just not in the mood to wear her new pink princess dress, her tiara, or her pink plastic high heeled slippers. She was acting like a three year old, squirming and in constant motion, that is, until Mom handed her a birthday cupcake left over from her family birthday celebration on Saturday. By this time, we were back inside, princess dress stripped off, sitting at the kitchen table. She was contemplating blowing out the candles (again).
The theme for the July meeting of the Placer Camera Club is closeups or macros. Since I don’t have a macro lens, I suppose my entry qualifies as a closeup. I had basket of luscious strawberries from the nearby strawberry stand and thought one of the berries would make an interesting closeup. I used natural window light from the front and a small lcd flashlight to backlight the leaves and cropped the shot.
66mm focal length
As I continue sorting through my fireworks shots from Fourth of July I am finding more that I can’t resist posting here. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to photograph fireworks and I hope I don’t have to wait until next Fourth of July. I learned some things that I want to work on and I would certainly use a different lens instead of my 28-300mm lens which for some unknown reason I decided to use when I should have used my 24-70mm or even my 14-24mm lens.
So, here are a few more shots that I really like. A couple remind me of palm trees, one looks like a dandelion seed pod, one reminds me of a wild-haired rock star, and one makes me think of the Big Bang.
Amazingly, despite the record breaking heat spell that left us sweltering with minimum 105° plus temperatures for almost a week, accompanied by unheard of humidity for our ‘but it’s a dry heat’ clime, potted Winsome, a miniature tree rose, one of my Ron Smith memorial roses, has thrived and is covered with tiny blossoms. I took several shots from slightly different angles using the tripod and my 24-70mm lens set to ISO 100, f/16, 1/5 second. After reviewing the shots, I decided to tightly crop them. These are three, slightly different shots of the same flower. The first is not in tack sharp focus, despite the fact that I used a tripod, because the welcome breeze was wafting the flowers a bit. But I like the angle of the petals in this one so I included it in this trilogy of photos.
Until last evening, I hadn’t had an opportunity to photograph a fireworks display. The Auburn Fourth of July Celebration featured a fireworks display and since I was there joining my friends, Foxtrot Mary, the featured entertainment for the celebration, I tried my hand at it. I read up on how to do it so I wouldn’t waste too much time figuring it out for myself. I set the ISO to 100, the aperture to f/11, and experimented with shutter speeds from 1/8 second to 25 seconds. I had read that I should set the camera to manual focus so it wouldn’t try to auto focus every shot but I forgot to do that and luckily, I was mostly successful at focusing the shots with auto focus. I set the camera on the tripod and I basically watched the fireworks while punching the shutter release every few seconds. What I noticed was that the fireworks all seemed to explode at the same place so my hopes of getting several cascades of fire at various places in the shot didn’t materialize. I took most of these shots (the first 7) with a 45mm focal length and a shutter speed of 6 seconds. I was experimenting with the last two shots, the first 28mm, 10 seconds, and the last at 35mm, 25 seconds. The last two include a bit more light action. I couldn’t decide which of these shots I liked best so I’m including all of them.
I don’t remember learning any more of our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, than the first verse. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t realize there are actually four verses; I suspected there might be two. And, how did I learn this fact? This morning, while reading the newspaper—the articles about newly sworn citizens, upheaval in Egypt, the soaring temperatures contributing to the spread of West Nile Virus (ironic juxtaposition with Egypt’s plight)—I turned to the “Cryptoquote” puzzle which I do every morning and realized immediately that it was from “The Star Spangled Banner” (‘o’er’ was the dead giveaway) but I couldn’t immediately figure out the word “triumph’ because shouldn’t it be “that star-spangled banner yet wave?” The letter pattern was wrong. With a few minutes speculation I finally identified the letters ‘m’ and ‘p’ in the word triumph. These are the last two lines of the four verse Star Spangled Banner.
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Of course, that sent me outside to photograph my flag, triumphantly waving over my home in my peaceful neighborhood. And despite the fact that I once again have no air conditioning and today’s high is predicted to be 108° and they can’t get to my house to fix the air conditioner until Saturday, I cannot complain and I am grateful that I live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
My 28-300mm lens got a new UV filter this morning. I had to buy a new one the other day when I discovered the lens had no filter. I’d forgotten that when I was in the Grand Canyon, I cross-threaded the polarizing filter when I attached it to the UV filter so I had to pilfer the UV filter off this lens for my 24-70mm lens. I now have a very expensive polarizing filter that comes with a UV filter already attached. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to find someone who can separate the filters so I’ll have two filters again.
But I digress. I looked out to my yard this morning and the baby scrub jay was bathing in the fountain. I ran out and took a few but at 300mm, this lens opens only to f/5.6 and it was pretty shady in the yard so I had to increase the ISO and decrease the shutter speed so my focus isn’t as crisp as I’d like it to be. I love scrub jays and the babies are so adorable, adult size but totally incapable, clumsy, and begging for food. I especially like the shot with it taking off from the fountain…a real stretch!