A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: June 2011
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24 June 2011

Redbud Heather of Inspire me Heather | Photographing a Food Tutorial Process

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Heather's blog is aptly named Inspire Me Heather. Many blogs would like to inspire, many blogs create compilations of inspiring articles and posts, but Heather's blog is right on par with craftgawker for me when it comes for compiling great link posts. Heather does simple posts, with simple links to GREAT content. There isn't flabby links on her site...each link you click leads you to something you are actually interested in reading. It is rare that I don't click through all the links in her posts. Greenhouses, cloches, blogging, photography...the list just goes on and on.

She has featured A Nest for All Seasons before, but today she featured my business and photography blog; Allenaim Photography. {Thanks Heather!} There are 8 other photographers sharing great tips, so check it out HERE!

My post she chose to feature this week was titled "How to Photograph a Food Tutorial Process" and it walks through the steps simply and as concisely as possible (I hope!) The funny thing is...this post was supposed to actually be a food post, but I think the end result turned out pretty badly, so it turned into a photo post instead! :) Lemons and Lemonade, yes?

Enough dillying...here's the article!

Previously Published on Allenaim Photography on January 18, 2011
Are you bursting with DIY ideas or recipes you just HAVE to share with your bloggy friends?  You should absolutely get on the ball and write a quick tutorial then!  I'm going to outline a few simple shots that will give you a basic tutorial below.  Enjoy!

1. Start with your inspiration. 

It could be a link to someones site where you saw the idea or recipe first.
It could be a photo of a single ingredient that inspired you or a BEFORE photo of your kitchen before its big remodel.
It gives readers a frame of reference and an idea of where you are going so they can decide if they want to keep reading!
In this case, it is a peek at the page of a cookbook. 
I used an open aperture to blur out some of the words and also photographed a tiny section of the page
to make sure I wasn't coming anywhere near breaking copyright rules.
I just want to give the reader a taste (figuratively) of where this whole thing came from.  

2. Show off your ingredients. 

Sometimes I just show the ingredients in a still life like this:

3.  Other times I like to mix it up with a little action:

If you are wondering how on Earth to photo food in motion, it is not as complex as you might think.  First, make sure you have enough light so that your shutter can snap fairly quickly.  If it can't use flash or move to another location close to a window with natural light.  Your readers won't necessarily care if you show them your ingredients in your kitchen or on a sofa table as long as you are giving them easy instruction and beautiful photos of the process.

Secondly, you get your focus set.   In this case, I held my arm in the air towards the camera, leaned over and focused the camera on the still shot.  Just press your shutter halfway down and make sure the little red dot or box focuses on the subject you want to highlight.  Then, start the motion SLOWLY (in this case pouring the flour) and press the shutter all the way down.  Do it at least 3 times.  Check your work.  If you are happy, move on.  If not, try, try again!  By all means, if it isn't working out, take a still photograph and move on.  There will be other action to capture :)

Are you wondering how to insert yourself into photographs like this?  Surely my arm is not that long to hold the camera while I'm cooking this far away, right?  You're right.  I am usually holding the camera taking self portraits while I'm pouring or stirring, but sometimes the action is a little bit too difficult to complete with a camera in your arm.  I was afraid I might spill these eggs and the bowl of flour on the floor if I wasn't careful, so this was a self timer shot.  They aren't as difficult as you might think.  The instruction might vary depending on the type of camera you have, but the instructions should be similar.  My example is from a Nikon D5000.

1.  Press the info button on the top of your camera. 
2.  Press the info button on the BACK of your camera (mine is towards the bottom on the left).
3.  Move your cursor up and down the list of options until you see "release mode".
4.  I select the "20 seconds" self timer option. 
5.  Focus your camera on your subject (by pressing the shutter halfway down).
6.  Press the shutter all the way down and get into place.  You have 20 seconds.  There should be a light flashing on the front of your camera.  It will flash several times and then hold for 1-2 seconds.  That is your cue that the camera is about to take the photo.  Start doing whatever action you want to illustrate.  Do it a bit more slowly than you naturally would to give the camera the best chance of being able to focus on your action.  A little blur is ok to show movement.  Too much blur will ruin the shot.

4.  Change it up a little by going back to a still if you have something important to illustrate.  

I wanted to show what the dough looks like when it starts to clump and needs to be hand kneaded.

Sometimes focus is off.  Notice in the first photo of this series, the focus was on my shirt sleeve.  In this last photo, the focus is on the faucet.  That is ok with me once in awhile.  I could close my aperture more to get more in focus, but then I would catch ugly things in the background, so the blur is worth it to me.  As long as the photo is illustrating the motion AND is pleasing to the eye, I am ok if the focus is not exactly where I want it.  You might be a bit more perfectionista when it comes to tutorials.   

5.  One of the most important things is to get a photo of the final product 

Sometimes, I forget all about this and we eat the food before remembering to take an AFTER photo.  
Your reader definitely wants to see the end result, so make sure you give them a photo like this:

Now, contrary to the above statement,  if you are wondering why I am showing you a photo of RAW pasta dough, well, that's simple.  It did NOT work out well.  I wasn't able to roll the dough thinly enough by hand and the end product was not so great.  Therefore, you are getting a tutorial on how to write a tutorial instead of a tutorial on how to make basic pasta dough.  If you are curious, the process took about an hour (including a 30 minute wait time) and about 20 minutes of kneading and rolling by hand.  It was not fun, but my arm muscles did get a workout.   If I had a pasta attachment, it might be worth it.  It is NOT worth it this way.  The $1 box of spaghetti tastes much better.

Don't even get me started on the ravioli...

...which leads me to my last step...

6. Be Honest.  If something tastes great, rave about it.  If it comes out awful and took forever and was not worth it (see above!) , be honest and tell them!!  Alternatively, just don't share the tutorial.  If you teach people to make bad things, they won't trust you.  So be honest in your critiques and go on and on and on and on about the things that DO work out!  If you are interested in things that DID work, check out my FOODIES page in the NEST!

If you are interested in more tutorials and photography articles, check out Allenaim Photography or simply click on the for Photographers tab above!

Do you have a tutorial you would like to share?  I accept photo tutorials on Gardening, DIY Projects, Cooking and Photography.  If you would like to submit an idea, just email me at allenaimphotography@yahoo.com . 

23 June 2011

Have you seen my baby's feet? | DIY Baby Footprint Project

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So I've had a couple people on facebook tell me that they have been seeing my little project all over pinterest.  I knew it had kind of taken off on tumbler, but was excited that it spread so much on pinterest.   The only problem was...they saw it there first instead of seeing it here first - bummer.

Ah well, exposure is still exposure, right?  Kind of??   If you are wondering, the footprints are simply made by using an oil based paint that I brush onto the bottom of baby's feet, a regular interior paint for the board, a piece of scrap plywood, tacks and a whole lot of contortion and patience with the bebe.

Basically, I painted out the scrap piece of plywood with leftover interior latex paint and let it dry.  The entire piece is fairly lightweight and is attached to the wall with six little upholstery tacks.  I take the board down every time I update the footprints and the tacks just stay in the board.  To make the footprints, I use a thick, oil based paint that is intended for artists creating oil paintings on canvas.  It works well because it is super thick and "cakes" the bottom of the foot so the footprint is clear and full in one press.  If you use regular paint, the feet will slide around more and make more of a "smear". 

This paint can take days to dry, so plan on leaving the board down (outdoors) several days after each footprint set has been stamped.  Placing a wet art piece next to baby's crib is a decidedly BAD idea.  If you look close at the photos, you will see a few little fingerprint arks where kiddos have made their unintentional mark on the board...even outdoors they still manage to find it... :)

Check out more alternative artwork ideas below!
The following is excepts from the original article on alternative artwork published September 30, 2010.

This is an example of a non-stretched canvas.  They are about 1/2 price of the stretched canvases and I like the casual look of it.  I simply folded and nailed this one to the wall, but you can certainly buy a cheap frame or find a cheap painting at a thrift store and nail the canvas to it yourself to save $30-40.

We recently moved and I had a bunch of leftover photos, frames, etc that no longer "fit" in the groupings I had in previous homes.  Some of them went into storage until I can use them properly again, but this grouping went together in a hallway based on the color scheme.  All of the photos and frames have a large amount of brown in them.  Many of the photos have a sepia overlay, and all of the frames are either a light blond wood or a beech colored wood.  The small canvas in the middle is color, but  the skin tone reflects the blond wood and the darker browns in the photo reflect the beech woods.  This canvas is placed near center because it is unique and pulls all of the colors in the grouping together.  The entire grouping makes a large rectangle, so it has form and it also serves to camouflage the ugly plastic light switch a bit.

This is a super easy and cheap way of framing kid's art.  My kids don't always have a long attention span to makes big pieces of art, but they are able to make many small pieces.  I cut card stock into pieces and had my son draw all of the various things we have done at Hershey Park.  I limited the cardstock colors to 3 and the crayons to 3 colors as well.  The look is slightly random, but cohesive and we've got a great framed memory of our child's artwork as well as a great reminder of trips to the park.

I have kept footprints of my older boys in books, but with the youngest, I decided to make a little bit of cheap art with them.  I took a free piece of plywood and painted it with leftover neutral paint.  I painted my kiddo's feet with white paint and *very carefully* placed the footprints on the board.  Every few months I make another set and watch his feet "grow".  It is attached to the wall with 6 simple decorative nailheads (maybe a penny apiece?)  So basically a free project...and yes, that is a baby sleeping there :)

Another option when  you are looking at wall after wall of blank space, but have little money for artwork, is shelving.   I actually picked up a bunch of these white shelves when they were on closeout clearance at Home Depot for a penny each.  (These deals are amazing by the way...when they are clearing out stock, you can sometimes by tons of stuff for next to nothing!)  To make the shelf display cohesive, I used kraft paper fro the dollar store to wrap books, sprayed a basket white (where I store baby meds), a free giveaway photo album and a 30 cent car from TJMaxx.  It was 30 cents because it was missing a wheel, so you can't play with it, but it works perfectly to sit on top of a book and look cute! :)

...the other option is to pull paint off the wall to make modern art...at least that's what my 2 year old thinks :)

Last, but not least...conventional art...see that huge canvas?

 I didn't really like the 80's pastel paint artwork, so I painted it myself...hello birdie!
There were already art lights on the ceiling to display it - yay!

To the right is another little project I am working on.  The little brown squares are various sized canvases that I painted a basic khaki brown.  They will turn into something interesting before long...I am thinking of spray painting around the edges of various leaves for imprints...but we'll see...stay tuned!  I've also got a great project in store for a wall and a screen and another wall...oh and these great panels from IKEA that will go above our bed...more more more to come! 

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21 June 2011

I am a tree girl.

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The kids were on a little vacation with their grandparents, so I was able to run down to the Hershey Gardens for a little mommy "stroll-at-my-own-pace" time.  Last time I was there, I kind of shocked myself because I just walked through the {incredible} rose garden and kind of said "Eh...it's okay" in my head.  The same girl that waxed poetic on the David Austin Rose collection is saying "Eh" to one of the greatest rose collections in the world.  Wow.  Let me explain.  Although the collection is immense and the roses beautiful, it is all laid out in formal rows of rose bushes only.  ...and if you know roses, you know they are large thorny, rambling canes.  In other words, we would hate them if they didn't produce roses.  SO, the long lines of thorny branches didn't do much for me.  I like my roses surrounded by prettier foliaged plants like artesima in the summer and bleeding heart in the spring.  (...and truth be told, the tea roses just don't have the scents of the English roses...)

...but what does that have to do with being a tree girl?  Well, this is the thing.  After I left the rose garden, I spent most of my time in the arboretum where the trees are at least 100 years old.  Big stately, beautiful trees that have been pruned to have a low canopy.  You know, the type that have big, long horizontal branches 3 foot from the ground that you can lift up and go under?  You know, the type that have a big open, beautiful shaded space inside under the branches, big heavy trunks that look like they would beat up anyone that wants to hurt you, and the type that has tangles of roots all over the ground, coming up out of the soil - roots that must be little roads for chipmunks and expressways for ants.  Those are the kind of trees I love.

Maybe it is that sense of protection, the pure masculinity of a giant tree like that.  Maybe I'm drawn to the privacy of the interior of a tree...like a kid that hides up in the canopy of their favorite backyard tree.  You climb up and look down and see and hear everything that is going on, but nobody can see you or find you.  You're hidden, and safe and cool and at peace.  Maybe it is that peek of sky through the twisting leaves in the wind that allows you to see without being seen.  That is what I like about a tree.

Now, don't get me wrong, I do love my roses and I adore peonies in the spring, and I am a big fan of sedum that I can pop stems of into the ground anywhere and they will grow, and I will knock you over trying to get the first tomato of the season.  That isn't even mentioning the aromatic plants like the sweet musk of lilac and lavender and the fruity David Austin roses that will make you swoon, or even the lemon balm that is somehow cleansing and calming in the same breath.  I like them all.  a lot.  That's why I try to convince you Pottery Barn and baby lovers to try gardening.  ...but you know how men have a type?  They might like long flowing hair, and beautiful eyes and luminescent skin, or even a great personality and the charisma of a woman...but what do they really like?  Well, typically there are bum men, leg men and the men that like a rack.  Almost all men are one of the three and while most like all three as well as a host of other things about their woman, if they had to pick one thing, it would be a bum, a set of gorgeous gams or some boobies.  Yes, I know it's a bit crass, but it is true, and it applies to gardening.  There might be a million scents you love, a million plants you want and a million flowers that you HAVE to grow, but there is one thing that makes your heart feel at home.  For me, that is a tree.  A giant old purple beech with arms hovering a few feet from the earth, a cavern of cool, peaceful space waiting underneath...all open and empty...just me and the tree.

SO babies, when I die, can you plant me under a tree please?  I don't know what the official burying rules are, but if you can manage, bury me without a casket so whatever is left of my old rotted body can nourish a tree.  ...and by the way, get a tree that will last like an oak or a beech or a maple.  Please don't buy a crabapple that only gets 15 foot tall or a cherry tree that will need to be replaced in 20 years.  Get some awesome, stately shade tree that will grow huge and strong, and grow a nice big canopy with arms hovering a few feet from the earth, a cavern of cool, peaceful space waiting underneath...all open and empty...just waiting for someone else to enjoy.  Seriously, I would much rather give a tree a start in life than nourish the cemetery grass for a few years.  Do you hear me babies?  Under a TREE!

I don't know if I could raise a girl...

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I have boys.  3 of them.   These boys are all boy...well bebeRed does like contemporary dance (I've let him watch too many episodes of SYTYCD with me...see HERE and HERE) and bebeRex has a definitive love of pink and purple, but otherwise they are ALL BOY.  Like hitting each other over the head with fake swords, using couches as launching pads instead of seats, rolling in mud like happy oinkers, eating plates and plates of food and then running and running and running so they still have chicken legs and knocking knees (and the cutest little bums you've ever seen, but perhaps I'm a little biased as their mother).  TMI?

 My point is this though...every once in awhile I start wanting a girl.  A little tiny, prissy thing that wants to do her hair 6 different ways, 7 times a day, and drink from a teacup with her pinky up in the air.  A little girl that enjoys looking at rack after rack of clothing and would rather take a stroll through the park than dig for worms off the beaten path.  (Yes, I know I am glorifying little girls...)

 The problem is this...I have had three babies and I do not know if my body could handle another.  I felt like I was breaking on #3.  Literally breaking inside...I don't know what my insides looked like when they opened me up, but I can guarantee that things were stretched and strained and all out of place.  (TMI again?)  ...and I told my husband no more babies...I can't do this again.  ...and I meant it.  ...but just once in awhile I still long for a little girl.

...but then I wonder if maybe I wouldn't be as good at raising a girl as I think I would be.  Maybe I would be jealous and catty with another girl in the house.  Maybe I would get frustrated by her prissiness and just want to get out of the house without 4 bouts of crying.

I dunno...all I know is that my boys are all boy...dirt and bugs and sweat and strength.  Worms and trucks and adventure.  They are all manliness to my girliness and we have this kind of perfect world of balance.  Perhaps more girliness would upset this balance...perhaps it would make it perfect?

What is your family balance?  Do you long for more?  Do you think you are crazy? 

19 June 2011

Father's Day

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That was then and this is now...they are growing into Daddy's shirts way, way too quickly...

I barely kept the shirt on Hank this year and ended up just throwing it over his head for a couple photos...sadly, while playing 
peek a boo with the shirt, he bumped his lip against the crib (you can see a tiny bit of blood :( and the game ended.  Happily, a nuk solved all ills.

Happy Father's Day Daddo!!!
and the boys

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