Photography: how does my camera work?

Let me start off by saying, I don’t know the answer to that question. I know nothing, or rather, I understand nothing when it comes to camera functions. I don’t really know how the camera does the things it does or how, as the camera operator, you make the camera do certain things. OK, I may be exaggerating a bit, but not much. I understand what the camera does: it controls light and speed to create an image. But I don’t know how that happens inside the shell of my Sony Cybershot. I know what terms like aperture, shutter speed, DOF (depth of field) and¬† macro mean, but I can’t really say I have much experience in manually making these things work for me. I can’t say I’ve had much success with it either.

A few years ago, I attempted a photography class, one of those offered by a local company that specializes in leisure classes for adults. I went to class for 5 weeks, at the time¬†I was using a manual camera. I shot picture after picture trying to utilize¬†the manual settings and was dismayed when I saw the results. Lots and lots of blur and things out of focus; a tantrum ensued and I didn’t make it to the last class, the one when we would have to ‘show’ our work. And, I quit trying to use the manual settings and continued taking pictures I was happy with, and even proud of, using my camera’s auto function. But I still longed for the ability to do more with my camera. The funny thing is, I held myself back. I cheated myself out of the joy of learning because of my fear of failure. Ain’t hindsight just grand?!

So, this year I decided to sign up for another class and I vowed to stick to it no matter what. The first class was… overwhelming. Lots of talk about mechanics and technical stuff. One thing I did learn was that my lighting sucks hard, so over the next few weeks I’ll be working on that. The second class was much better, still lots to do with the ‘how things work’, but more having to do with how your camera works. I did find it necessary to ask the instructor¬†a typical Anamaris question. Is there a magic setting one can use to take foolproof pictures? I’m sure you know the answer to that one. That’s a big NOPE! I could feel the darn butterflies begin to fly around my stomach and I could see and hear the evil fairy on my shoulder taunting me with ‘nah nah na na’. That bastid!

This past Saturday I took heed of my instructor’s advice, threw caution to the 45-degree wind and started fidgeting around with my manual controls and shooting picture after jittery picture. No manual shots allowed. I was very excited about some of¬†the shots, then I got home to see this.

and this…

Believe me when I say, that is not what my myopic eyes saw when I shot the pictures. Not all was lost, though. I did manage to make some shots work. Mind you, I intentionally haven’t enhanced any of these.

and this

I was still disappointed, but also pleasantly surprised. I have to say digital is a godsend and I will probably never shoot with a manual camera until I’m close to perfect using a digital camera. Sunday I went to a place called Forbidden Gardens here in Houston. Mark, our instructor, had mentioned this place will be closing their doors permanently and that there might be an opportunity for some interesting shots. Off to see the warriors I went.

And you know what? I scored! A few times. Still miles of room for improvement, but…, tell me what YOU think.

The theme for Shutterboo’s challenge was repetition this week, here are 2 of my runner ups.

this too.

But, I won’t show you my final pick. For that one, you’ll have to go to my photo challenge page, or to Shutterboo’s flicker stream. You can also see a few other shots I took those 2 days, here.

I wonder what next week’s theme will be.

Manually yours, (does that sound dirty?)

Another year, the first challenge

That’s right, the first challenge of the year. I love these cooking challenges, they make me stretch my creativity, especially when Marx Foods sponsors it. Not only does it mean¬†I get goodies, but I really have to challenge myself to best use the ingredients they provide. This year I’m going to add to my challenge and force myself to give the recipe a Latin flair.

To participate in the Ridiculously Delicious Challenge, I have to let the good folks at Marx Foods¬†know what I would do with 3 of the ingredients they’re offering as loot. The idea here is to move them with either an enticing recipe, a funny, naughty, or depressing story, it doesn’t really matter to them. Make an impression, that’s my task. There will be tough competition, as expected, so here I go. To be honest, I want them all, but since my hand has been forced, I’ll follow instructions and pick 3, abandon all those other beauties and be responsible for their ensuing inferiority complex. I’m a terrible human being.

My choices were based on my relationship: the TX wild boar¬†represents my Hubbz. Wild boars can be traced to Germany and they’re strong and resourceful, just like my honey. I would definitely say he’s sweet and slightly nutty, more similarities. We both enjoy all things Latin, Latin America wouldn’t be what it is were¬†it not for Spain’s influence. How appropriate¬†then to have that gamey, nutty, sweet boar basking in the glory of a Spanish saffron sauce. Finally, I just have to check out those Heirloom potatoes, I mean, seriously. One is called Maris and the other is a German butterball, coincidence? I think NOT.

Almost 2 years ago, our reception

Here’s hoping we get to go on another Marx adventure, I’ll keep you posted.


Culinary tour: Turkey

This week Foodalogue’s¬†Culinary Tour will take us to the Republic of Turkey. Do you have your passport? It’s ok, you don’t really need it, I can¬†get you through. We’re going to Turkey this week. Not the bird, the country. Turkey calls Bulgaria, Greece and Syria neighbors–among others. Turkey is a relatively young country, established in 1923 after the defeat of the Ottoman empire. I’ve never been, but I hear it is simply breathtaking and exciting.

I can’t say I am intimately familiar with Turkish cuisine, but Google is my friend and I know more about it today than I did yesterday. Since Turkey was ruled by the Ottomans for a while, you will notice their cuisine harmonizes with that of Central Asia, the Middle East and the Balkans. As with most countries, the cuisine will vary from region to region, but there are still some common ingredients, such as eggplant, green peppers, lentils, pistachios and a number of herbs.

There is also an emphasis on desserts. Turns out, baklava is a Turkish specialty! Yes, I know. I always thought this was a Greek specialty, just as I thought it was always made with honey. How did I ever survive without the Internet, I will never know. What I do know is that baklava has strong ties to Turkey, that there are other desserts similar to it and they don’t have to include honey!!! A definite win in my book.

Wikipedia¬†provided a very detailed compilation¬†of Turkish desserts. The list started off with baklava and then mentioned other similar treats. Enter Sobiyet. I’m going to say that Sobiyet¬†is the baklava’s uppity cousin. Or the fat one. Just like baklava, Sobiyet starts off with layers upon layers of buttery pastry, but it is then crowned with a creamy filling. I found an excellent recipe here.

Following Joan’s Culinary Tour, I have a choice as to how I honor the destination.¬†I can:

  • go traditional: make one of the country‚Äôs national or traditional dishes.
  • choose a contemporary approach: take a traditional recipe and contemporize ¬†it.
  • or go for a wild card and use the flavors and techniques of the country we are visiting, and create my own recipe.

This time I opted for a contemporary approach and tweaked¬†the traditional Turkish recipe by substituting with my Latin stuff. Actually, I Panamanianized it, as the substitutions are very common ingredients in Panama. I added cashews, instead of using regular sugar or honey, I went for raspadura–unrefined sugar cane and I also added orange peel, cinnamon sticks and cloves for aromatics.

Cashew & Pistachio Sobiyet

I came across a delicious recipe by Mercedes over at Dessert Candy and followed it pretty closely except for the following changes:

For the custard filling: I allowed the milk to steep with a few cloves and a cinnamon stick, which I strained before adding the semolina. Once the custard had thickened, I added a bit of nutmeg and pureed raw cashews.

For the syrup: I replaced the sugar with raspadura, added the zest and of an orange, and a bit of vanilla extract.

For the assembly:  I sprinkled chopped cashews and pistachios over the custard. Also, when I had 2 or 3 sheets left, I topped the layer with more pistachios, I wanted the color to show through the top. I finished with more buttery phyllo.

I kinda free-formed it into a round; once all the layers were in place, I used the last 2 layers to  tuck all the edges under.

The result was a crisp, moist, sticky pastry that was (still is, there are a few pieces left) just sweet enough. The raspadura gave it a taste of caramel that seems to be perfumed with anise. It makes me think of toffee. Well, there are a lot more shots, if you care to look here.

This was an exciting destination, be sure to stop by and visit with my fellow travelers. Joan made a sinful looking dish with eggplant and my dear Norma made a 2-layer rice pudding. Join us at the next destination, Japan.

Cookingly yours,