I Like Pie!

Apple Pie! (1 of 2)

With both of our having the entire week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, there is good reason to celebrate! And, with a bunch of apples hanging around, pie is the perfect answer.

Apple pie is a very subjective thing. Undoubtedly a favorite – but favorites come in many varieties, just like apples. Time and energy play into it as well – homemade crust? peeled apples? bottom crust? crisp topping?

I am very partial to crisp toppings. In fact, I usually just make apple crisp as it requires no crust. I don’t peel the apples, either; the skins add something to the entire melange which I find quite good. Apple choice is important in many instances, but a variety of apples often makes for the best pies for flavor.

Spices are also critical to flavor. Your favorite may not be mine. I like my pie with lots of spice – not hot, though adding pepper when there is a lack of ginger gives a pie a bit of zip.

Here, then, is my recipe for this particular pie. Next one may vary. Enjoy – and happy holidays!

Apple Pie! (2 of 2)

Apple Pie & Crisp

6-8 apples, sliced, peeled if you want, and cut into bite size pieces
Zest of lemon – all of it if you want from the lemon you juice
1 lemon, squeezed
1/2 c. white sugar
2-3 T. tapioca
Fresh ginger, finely grated – 2-3 T.
Mace – 2-3 tsp.
Nutmeg – 1/2 grated (about 1 tsp.)
Cinnamon – 2-3 T. – the hotter the cinnamon, the less you should use
2-4 T. water

If making a pie, preheat oven to 425 F.  Mix all the stuff together and let sit while you create the pie crust and/or topping. Stir it now and then so it can juice up.

Pie Crust – one or two, pre-made or homemade.

Crisp Topping

Up front, I don’t measure anything. It is thrown together. Too wet, add more dry ingredients of your choice; too dry, add more melted butter.

1 stick butter, melted
1 c. oatmeal (more or less)
3/4 – 1 c. flour
1/4-1/2 c. brown sugar
Nuts (I used walnut halves)
Spices as used in the pie, and a bit of salt

Mix dry ingredients together. Pour in melted butter. Mix until rather crumbly but holds together if squeezed in your hand. Pat topping onto pie or crisp (or both – which is what I ended up making because I had oodles of apples).

Let’s Bake It!

For the pie, place pie in 425 F oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn to 350 F. Bake another 40-50 minutes. Baking the pie at a very high heat helps prevent the bottom crust from being soggy. Failure to turn down the oven after 10 minutes can be disastrous. Set that timer!

If you are making a crisp along with the pie, do not put the crisp in the oven until you turn down the temperature. If you are only making a crisp, bake it at 350 F for about 40-50 minutes.

Serve warm, cold, with ice cream. A good cup of coffee and pie is a great afternoon treat.

Enjoy! And happy holidays to everyone.

Cleaning Up the Flamingo Pond

This is from a trip to the zoo! I love flamingos, but you have to admit, they are pretty messy birds. They live in large flocks, on muddy ground, and filter for food in muddy water. Additionally, they moult, leaves fall into the water, and the whole place can become rather rank.

Flamingo Pond Original (1 of 1)

Taking a picture of flamingos can be a bit of a challenge, but here the challenge was the messy pond. Above, you will find the original picture. And below, you will see the pond all shiny and clean, and cropped a bit. Click on any one of the three pictures below to play the slide show.

I used OnOne Photo Suite 9 to clean up the pond, add a texture layer, and finally a sun flare to modify or hide a rather rough patch where the big leaves on the lower left side were removed. Some final finishing in LR 5.7.

I Needed a Change!

I have just written about how I am disgusted by becoming obsessed with photography.  What that means is that I don’t like getting so focused on one thing that everything else I like to do takes second, third, or some place down the road.  Life then becomes – for me – rather dull and quite uninteresting.  And way too focused.  It becomes a trap.

I don’t like thinking of only one thing at a time.  I like being in different areas of interest in my head, and in my daily life.  It keeps everything in balance.  Creativity is an energy which can become quite wonky if not properly directed.  It becomes a chore, and downright unpleasant when decisions are not being able to be made.  Stagnation then sets in.  And frustration.  And so on.

To break this up, this is what I have been doing these last few days:

Other Things to Do (5 of 11) Other Things to Do (3 of 11)Other Things to Do (10 of 11)

Other Things to Do (9 of 11)Other Things to Do (7 of 11)

Masking a Photo

Soldier in Autumn (17 of 21)

This is the original picture I took of a Civil War Re-enactment soldier. I decided to use this picture because it was complicated enough to require my working on it awhile. I also found a great background for him in some of the “extras” provided in Perfect Photo Suite 9.

I’ve tried remasking on a number of occasions, using different photos with different backgrounds, many with disastrous results. Here, I was reasonably happy, but there are still many flaws if you decide to pixel peep. I don’t really know the key to “great” masking – probably a combination of patience and a picture that is not too complicated along the edges. One thing I have learned is the importance of saving the image as you move along, not writing over the work, but naming it progressively in steps – like Soldier 1, Soldier 2, and so on. I made about 10 versions of this guy, working from large areas, saving more frequently when I came to small, fine areas. I also amputated part of a sleeve and a big chunk of his messenger bag at one point, so this really saved me. I also put a copy of the original under my other layers to reclaim really badly masked areas.

Here, you can see a cycle of my saves during the masking process – click on a picture to begin flipping through them.

One of the problems I had was the lighting. The soldier is backlit, and the scene itself has more even lighting, nothing really strong. To compensate, I darkened the right side of the picture with gradients and filters; some worked, some did not. I did other things, too. Below are my final results.

There was a lot of work involved here, and I am really glad I took the time to do it. Doing something is the best way to learn. Saving these masks in steps is also a good way to put things away when you are tired, as well as to save your tusche when things go wrong.

The Perfect Photo Suite is working out nicely for most of my stuff. Panoramas, too my knowledge, are not easily done in the software, so I use Photoshop for that.

Let me know what you think!

A Quick Thought

To my disgust, I am getting rather obsessed with photography, and trying to take mine to a higher level.  This higher level means better composition, more forethought before shooting (though it may not be possible at times), and better understanding of the post-processing program(s) I use.

Below is the original image of a guitarist in a crowd of people.

Singer for the Dead  - Original

The composition isn’t great, but I needed the entire length of my lens – the Nikon 24-120mm f4 – on my Df. The focal point is the guitarist. As you can see, there are a few people between me and him. While taking this picture, and many others at the Day of the Dead, I thought about composition, and layers – foreground, midground, background – while I shot. During the crops, I thought of the same, and tried, too, to incorporate leading lines and/or the rule of thirds. Post-processing included colors, black and white, and vignetting. I used Nik Silver Efex, LR, and Perfect Photo Suite 9, along with different crops.

Singer for the Dead BW

Singer for the Dead

El Dia de los Muertos 2014 (87 of 421)


Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a Mexican tradition from the more southerly parts of the country.  Such days are celebrated in various forms throughout the world.  As populations migrate, so do their holidays, and this holiday is much better than Halloween!

Yesterday, there was Dia de los Muertos in a local cemetery.  There were altars for lost ones, with photos and memorabilia and objects they liked; remembrances, some poignant, some funny; there were marigolds everywhere; and there were booths, dancing, cultural events and more.

The cemetery itself is new; there are no fancy headstones and rusting gates.  Tucked against a mountain with vistas of the plain below, it is a rather pleasant place to come.  Ranchland  spreads out to the city and hills beyond.  Last night’s remaining rain clouds filled the sky.  Altogether, it was a beautiful day, for the living or the dead.

A View from the Cemetery

A couple of friends and I got to the cemetery around 11 in the morning. It wasn’t crowded, but still had enough people to make it busy. For me, the most interesting subjects to photograph were the people, especially the kids.  Click on a picture below to start a slide show.

That Old Faded Look

Once more, the folks at OnOne Software have come through with an excellent video tutorial.  What makes their tutorials so nice is that you also get to learn a lot more about the program as their narrators are usually articulate with a spoken pace which is understandable and clear.  Being able to put a video on pause is another advantage – you can fumble around with Perfect Photo Suite as you follow along, wait for things to process, answer the phone, or whatever.  You will find their tutorials under the Learn / Video Tutorials tab on their site.

The video I watched today is Replicating Faded Film Looks.The essence is that one can achieve this look, and then batch process it so other images will take on the same characteristics as the original.  The parts of Perfect Photo Suite used include the Browser, Enhance, Resize, Effects, and Batch.

I used a bunch of images from a photo shoot at a local beach done a couple of years ago. Here are the before-and-after images.  If you have sharp eyes, you will see that none of the “original” pictures match the finished – I have about 1400 pictures in the folder from which these are drawn, so I pulled out ones which were similar.  I really should have moved the before and after pictures to another folder . . . live and learn.  But, you will get the idea!

Before the Fading 1

Faded Dunes at the Beach

After processing the images in Photo Suite, I did add a bit of a vignette in all images using the vignette tool in LR5.

Before the Fading of the Crab

Faded Crab on Pier

What I like about this shot is that the crab, while really rich in color, did fade rather nicely in the final shot.

Before the Fading

Faded Pelican

Altogether, this is really nice if you are trying to achieve a similar quality between pictures. The Batch process works nicely, and seems fairly efficient – I processed all 3 of the images in the same batch.

I’ve decided that I will work toward mastering Perfect Photo Suite, rather than some of the other programs I have to use. Photoshop is just way to complicated for my impatient nature, and OnOne is putting out V. 9 of Photo Suite by the end of this week, and I already bought my upgrade.