To all ye who want to paint with light ...

I should have started this blog many moons ago as I started experiencing the joys of rediscovering the art of photography. But as the saying goes - it's better late, than never!
So, here I am, in the hopes of recording what I learn as I progress from ignorance to enlightenment; about what my eyes can see that my camera can capture; and, what my mind imagines and my camera paints with its capabilities.

Please feel free to add any comments and share your wisdom (tips or tricks) that you have picked up along the way.

And do check out my How-To and Birding pages as well.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Cold and Misty Morning



I remember the first time I had seen the mist over the river one chilly winter morning last year.  I had been on my way to work and when I'd looked out of the window, I'd seen mist curling up from the water's surface.  I hadn't seen anything like that before, and I remember being intrigued by it.  I was on the bus, no camera handy, so all I could do was whip out my cellphone and click a couple of snaps before the road curved and the river was out of sight. I mentioned it to a colleague and he told me that he had seen it before and that it happened on a chilly and bright morning right after a mild day during the winter.  It made sense that the cold air would mist up when it came in contact with the relatively warmer waters.  And since that first time, I'd seen this once more after that.


Since I'm on vacation, and I thought it might be nice to do some photography at sunrise, I decided to wait for a mild day followed by a really bright and chilly one.  I checked the weather, checked the cloud cover, and then checked the temperatures.  Seemed perfectly what I was looking for!  So, I set the alarm for 6:30 am.  

I would need about 15 to 20 mins to reach the spot I had in mind, and then another 5 mins. or so to set up.  I would have at least 20 mins, before the actual sunrise at 7:33 am.  Except when I reached the spot, I realized that the sun had moved during its annual journey and the sunrise wouldn't be visible from that spot any longer.  I was frantic.  I walked down another 500m or so and found the spot where it looked like the sun might be hiding just below the horizon.  Praying that was it, I set up.  



The temperature was minus 19 deg C and with the windchill it was around minus 23.  I was dressed quite warmly and I hadn't planned on staying out for long anyway.  But the wind, especially because I was right next to the river, was bone chilling.  My ears and nose started to freeze first, and then my fingertips.   

And then the magic happened!  The sun started to peep out just above the horizon and as it got a little bit brighter, I saw the mist curling upwards - slow, small curls to begin with, and then it suddenly seemed like the river water was boiling and steam started pouring forth. The wind blew the mist right up to the shore, and it was absolutely breathtaking! 




I forgot my fingers, and my toes.  I just kept my eyes on the river.  And all of a sudden, a flock of ducks landed on the water.  That was a once-in-a-lifetime sight that I wasn't prepared with my camera for.  I had no idea that there would still be ducks in this kind of weather, but the winter had been really mild up to that point, and I have a feeling the birds, and the trees are thoroughly confused by it.  

I wasn't carrying my long lens, so I took a couple of shots and zoomed in on my LCD to see what species of ducks they were.  Although they were back-lighted by the sun, the shapes of their heads and bills told me they were Goldeneyes and Mergansers.  It set me wondering if these ducks remained in this region all year round, but that would be difficult because when the river finally freezes over, they would find no food!  


Anyway, I am planning to make another trip down to the river in the next few days to see if I can find them again. I also saw a Mallard family swimming closer to the shore than the other ducks and it would be interesting to see if they hang around during the winter as well.  I do remember seeing a pair of them early this year, when there was still a lot of snow on the ground and the little lake in the forest was still frozen.


Since I'd missed the photo op of the ducks landing on water, I thought I might be able to see them leave.  But no luck - I waited for over 2 hours, but they stuck around happily swimming in the golden mist!  They looked beautiful like that, but I know they would look beautiful at take-off.  And my half-hour outing had turned into 3.5 hrs, and I couldn't feel my toes and fingertips any more.  I was scared I'd get frostbite, and therefore turned to head home.  And would you believe that I had hardly left the scene, when I heard the ducks take flight?  I looked out over the river again.  There indeed they were, flying off into the distance, and being behind a cluster or really tall trees, it made no sense to even attempt a shot.  



Well, damn the ducks, at least I had the opportunity of seeing the mist over the river that morning!  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes

Thanks to my son, now I have to bake my cupcakes and eat them too! :(  Not good, considering I shouldn't be consuming any more sugar than I already do.  I should have self control, you say?  Well, if you knew what kind of internal battles I fight every time I look at a sugary treat, you would know I'm trying really hard.

I got the idea of strawberry cupcakes because I found strawberries at unseasonably low prices at my neighbourhood grocery store.  And since I'd been promising to bake cupcakes for the past month, I thought I should just seize the opportunity and the berries and put them to good use.  

I recently indulged in some baking tools and this would be the best occasion to break out my neat little cupcake liners.  I love the pattern and thought they would be perfect for the pink delights. 

I'm not that great at piping, but thought I'd take the opportunity to just use the pastry tips the best I can.  Didn't turn out too bad in the end, did they?

Enjoy your cupcake with a glass of milk, or a cuppa tea or coffee! 

Here's the super-easy recipe!

The Cupcake

Self-rasing flour - 150 gms (5 oz)
Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - a couple of pinches
Granulated sugar - 150 gms (5 oz)
Butter (room temperature) - 150 gms (5oz)
Eggs, beaten (room temperature) - 3 (medium)
Vanilla essence - 1/2 tsp
Strawberry essence - 1tsp

The Low-Fat Cream Cheese Frosting

Light cream cheese (room temperature) - 125 gms 
Butter - 100 gms
Confectioner's/icing sugar - 8 0z
Strawberry essence - 1 tsp
A few strawberries and other decorations for the topping


The cupcake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 deg C.
  2. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners, or grease it and keep aside.
  3. Put the butter in a bowl and beat with an electric beater for a minute or so.  
  4. Add the sugar (preferably sifted), a bit at a time and beat until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  5. Add the vanilla essence and then slowly add the eggs; continue beating for another minute or so.  You might find the mixture curdling a bit, but don't worry, it's normal.
  6. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in another bowl.
  7. Add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Start on a low speed and gradually increase the speed till the mixture is light and fluffy again.
  8. Fill the cupcake pans halfway to the top with the batter.
  9. Bake for about 18 - 23 mins.  You will need to check the cupcakes at the 18 min. mark so see if a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  If you see a few wet crumbs, leave them in for a couple of mins. and check again.  Baking them too long can make them chewy and dense.
  10. Once the cupcakes are done, let stand for a couple of minutes and them remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.
The frosting
  1. In a bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese till fluffy.
  2. Slowly add the sugar and strawberry essence.  
  3. Add the cream, if using.
  4. Beat on high for 3 - 4 mins. till light and fluffy. The mixture should form firm peaks.
  5. If the mixture looks too runny, add more sugar; if it looks too thick, add a teaspoon full of cream at a time to bring it to piping consistency.
  6. Use a piping bag to pipe the frosting on to completely cooled cupcakes, or use a knife to slather on the frosting. 
  7. Top with fresh strawberries or other decorations.

Chef's tip: I prefer to keep it low in fat and sugar, but you are very welcome to use the full fat cream cheese and sweeten it to your taste as well.  The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, but I used only a cup (8oz).  Additionally, I omitted the cream.  If you use 2 cups of sugar, you will definitely need some cold whipping cream to thin the frosting down a bit and add some fluffiness.  Cream makes it lighter on the palette, but it's far from lighter on the system, if you know what I mean!

And by the way, keep a look out for my Chocolate Lava Cake recipe to come in the next couple of weeks, if not sooner. :)  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Announcement: My Work Gets Published

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but something or the other always got in the way.  My recipe and food photography was recently published.  It's the blueberry trifle recipe that I've already posted, but seeing  it on another website is so much more exciting.

You can find the recipe here.