Friday, February 19, 2016

Where have the trade experts gone?

There was a time, in my own lifetime, when tradesmen and women were in demand. They knew how to do things others didn't know how to do. They delivered a result that was exceptional, and those who were the benefactors of their skills knew they held something special. They revered it. They knew it wasn't something they could do themselves, and they appreciated it and happily compensated the craftsperson for their extraordinary work. Back then, a customer demanded exceptional results, and got them. It never occurred to him to expect mediocre, or average, because, he could turn out mediocre or average himself. He didn't want that, he wanted something special, something he couldn't do on his own.

Somewhere along the way, and I don't know when this happened, a shift took place. A lowering of expectations. A lack of appreciation for something finer, more special, and in its place, an acceptance of average as exceptional.

I see this in many walks of life, but I'll use photography as an example.

The advent of the DSLR, with all its automation, has, effectively, put the professional photographer out of business. Anyone with a DSLR, even an entry level one, can take a picture somewhere north of phone quality, and the result is generally regarded as "professional".

I'm a hobby photographer. I don't claim to be a professional. I don't hang out a shingle as a professional, and I don't collect monetary compensation for my hobby images. I've been told they are good. I see them as adequate, but not special, and some will even argue with me that I am too hard on myself. The truth is, I am demanding exceptional from myself, and anything less is not worthy of praise.

My images are certainly more special than they were in the beginning, but to really be special, they need something that can't be achieved by any flunky with a DSLR who hung the shingle "professional photographer" outside their door 20 minutes after they unboxed that entry level camera.

The concepts of composition, lighting, exposure, and the technical use of the camera beyond "auto" aren't required to impress the typical onlooker now. The professional photographer, and even the dedicated hobby photographer, can tell the difference between professional and beginner, but most cannot, and it has hurt the artistry and craft of the professional photographer and his legacy.

Ansel Adams worked with equipment that required knowledge - in depth knowledge. In order to turn out quality, he needed to know how to use his equipment, in every possible way - he needed a command of his equipment that exceeded just turning on the camera. He needed to understand the finer points of his craft and his equipment. His limited equipment would only take him so far, so he forced himself to exceed the limits of his equipment with a dedication to photography, and the development of a skill that couldn't, wouldn't be matched by the technology available in his day.

Today, our equipment takes us further than it possibly should. What is quality? I guess the truth is it's in the eye of the beholder, though I must admit, I miss the days when people expected something more...demanded something more.

When a truly exquisite image is shared, I often see cries of "Photoshop" foul, when the truth is very different. When the professional, with years of experience and an understanding of the technical capabilities of his equipment, allow him to achieve results that aren't believable, it's not Photoshop, it's skill - it's the skill of a craftsperson with a life dedicated to excellence beyond the equipment he holds in his hands.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Resurrecting...

The last time I posted on my blog was about this time last year. Growing tired of Facebook pollution (i.e., a lot of crap, and click bait posts) I thought I'd raise the veil on the blog again.  Fitting that I'll be going to see my best friend in California again, too.

I thought I'd share a dream I've held for a very long time. Meet Wynn...








Saturday, November 8, 2014

Before winter sets in...

Staring down the barrel of winter in the northwest, a trip south was just what I needed. A week with a dear friend? The icing on the cake!

I didn't want to leave without a night shoot at the Old Mission. The place Cliff and I were married 21 years ago. A challenging setting, but one I enjoyed, especially with the very light, but very warm breeze blowing against the palm trees. A perfect cap to our visit, and a great way to start off the month of November.


A busy week working with another client dog, this one in Birnam Wood, just down the street from Oprah Winfrey's house...I waved as I went by every day, but never saw her. Perhaps she didn't get the memo that I was in town. Maybe next time, Oprah! I'll have my people call your people...

Friday, August 29, 2014

The traveled road, page seven

I've been remiss in updating my blog lately. With more struggles on the dog front, I haven't had much interest in writing. Letting go of the struggles surrounding Kindle has been excruciatingly difficult...

The 'traveled road' reminds me that life goes on. 'Things' can be more constant, but living, breathing creatures have a force all their own, sometimes that force is good, and sometimes it's bad. None the less, it's a force to reckon with, and we have certainly had to face that full in the face with Kindle very recently.

Last month we were in California, and had occasion to visit the central coast. We made several pit stops, but the one I loved most was the one in Carmel at thMission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo, or, as it's more commonly known, "the Carmel Mission".

I'll let the images speak for themselves. Needless to say, it's a very quaint, understated mission. I loved this mission's rich history. And I loved seeing where Father Junipero Serra is interred. An interesting and educated man. He held a doctorate in theology.








Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bar stool desk

A desk for Cliff.

Now that he's gotten himself more and more into photography, a desk for his laptop (for image processing) was bubbling up as a real need. He also needed a place to do his paperwork, and store a few items.

I looked far and wide on Craigslist for a desk with the dimensions we needed, but I couldn't find anything...too short, too long, to wonky looking, too beat up...and don't even get me started on what people think their their stuff is worth!  I could find nothing that would work.  I decided we should build one, and the bar stool desk was born.  A quick Google search would show me that I wasn't the first to think of this, but what I found did get my finishing and decorating idea motor running!

For a couple of days I checked Craigslist for used bar stools before I found some that would work. A married couple, on the last day of their garage sale, had a pair of solid wood bar stools in exactly the style I was hoping to find. We dickered down to $30 for the pair. Perfect!

It was time to design/build a topper. I got the idea for the topper from the one that makes up my own desk. It was purchased from Pottery Barn years ago, but the idea is a good one. Build 'pockets' for the seats of the bar stools to rest in, which keeps the topper from shifting.

The bar stool seats were about 1-1/2" too wide for the dimensions needed, so Cliff trimmed them down just a bit with the table saw. You can see the sawn edges here.


The bar stools are unattached to the topper, but the 'pockets' keep the topper from shifting. Easy to take down for moving. Topper upside down, showing the 'pockets', first without the bar stools...


...and with.



The topper has a cove edge, which Cliff added with the router. I love that thing. I think it's my favorite wood working tool. It gives everything a finished off, professional look. Sometimes I look for projects that require a routered edge, just so we can use it.

The topper upside down, showing the coved edge.


...and right side up.


A good sanding and finishing project is next, but for now, you can see how things look, and get a sense of how easy this is. The routered edge takes a specialty tool, but even just a basic pine board, sanded and finished, can sit atop a pair of barstools, for a quick and easy desk.


Total cost? $55. I love it, and more importantly, so does Cliff.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pesto baked eggs

With a rather significant cutting on my basil plant two days ago, I decided to make pesto. I didn't have any pine nuts, and they are very expensive, so I rarely use them in pesto, anyway. I used what I had, which was pecans. It was a basic pesto recipe; basil leaves, garlic, salt and pepper, and my prized Barouni olive oil from Joelle Oil.


I don't cook with my Barouni olive oil, because I often worry that it will lose something in the high heat, but in a pesto? It's the creme de la creme.

With quite a bit of pesto on hand, the plan for my weekend is a series of pesto recipes. I'm in a pesto kind of mood.  First up? Pesto Baked Eggs.

The first time I made baked eggs, I used a marinara sauce, which I didn't love, but the overall recipe was quite good, so it got me to thinking. Why not just tomato slices vs. the sauce? Easier, cheaper and the tomato slices would add nice texture to the dish.


This one couldn't be easier and the pesto takes it from very good to exceptional. This is a gourmet flavored/textured dish that prepares like a beginner's recipe.

Ingredients:

Butter
1 large (or two small) Roma tomato
4 eggs
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Pesto (buy it, make it...whatever you wish)

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Butter the bottom and sides of two baking ramekins (1 cup size).

Layering from the bottom up, to each dish, add 1/4 of the tomato slices, two 2 eggs, 1-1/2 tablespoons of heavy cream, the last 1/4 of the tomato slices, and 1/4 cup of the Gruyere cheese.

Bake for 8 minutes.  Raise heat to broil, and remove from oven when the cheese begins to brown, 1-2 minutes.  For runnier eggs, decrease the initial baking time.  For firmer eggs, increase it.

Remove from oven, top with a generous dollop of pesto, and serve with a side of crostini.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Up-cycle (or is that re-cycle?): small garden stakes...

As I grew my tomato starts, I realized they might need staking up before going into their bigger buckets, and I didn't  want to buy a bunch of sticks/stakes (hate to spend money when something else will do). As I was walking through the laundry room, I spied a package of bamboo place mats I'd bought on the cheap years ago. Four of them for $1.99.  They were 50% off at the time. One of them I used as a sushi rolling mat, which, BTW, it was perfect for. I had three left.

Hum, these could work, I thought.

I took my rotary cutter, ran a slice through the strings holding the place mats about every 2", and pulled them apart.



Very easy, and I have enough small stakes to last several growing seasons, all from just one of the mats.  I still have two left. I'll keep them. Never know what use they may find.


This project took all of about 10 minutes. Once down to the last few bound sticks, just pull the threads off, and you'll make clean up time quite a bit faster.


My sagging tomato before...


And perked up after...happy.


This is the time of year I'd rather be traveling around with Cliff and Kindle, exercising my camera, and the less money I spend on things I need around the house, the more money I have to hit the road for short weekends here and there.  Plus, it just makes me feel better to up-cycle.  Or is this called a 're-cycle'. I never did figure that one out.