Thursday, August 26, 2010

Photography 101: Food Photography

I was lucky enough to dine with Steamboat F&B Director Liz (and our husbands) earlier this month to shoot some of the great dishes at Hazie's on-mountain Restaurant. We had a long sunny evening to work with and some interesting photo results that made me realize this would be a great Photo101 post.

From Hazies Food 7.31.10

When photographing food there are some key settings that your digital camera can improve your shots with. If you've been reading the other Photography101 posts, you'll already know I vehemently urge you to take the Auto Setting training wheels off and shoot in manual modes to make the most of your camera's technology and artificial intellect, which IS smarter than you (deal with it).

In regards to lighting, I prefer natural lighting to flash, and an attached flash to the standard on-camera flash. The on-camera flash will make your photos look unprofessionally blown out or ill-exposed, so my tips below are focused on NOT using that standard flash. By using a tripod and the camera's 2-second timer (just so you don't have to wait as long) eliminate shake and a need for the flash all together.

Key points for shooting food indoors on manual modes (P, Av, Tv, M on Canon):
  • Set a high ISO (800 or 1600 if you have it) to give yourself advantage on lighting
  • Play with the light balance/WB settings ("Trunsgten" for a lot of interior lighting, "Cloudy" or "Sunny" for natural lighting)
  • Meter/AV settings usually require a +1 or +2 adjustment to fill in the light on the food
  • A note on shutter speed- the rule of thumb is your hand is shaky at any speeds less than 1/60 (1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 2", etc), so make sure your shutter speed is higher than that. If not, bust out the flash (accessory flash, not on camera flash if possible)
  • A note on F-stops: smaller #s mean less in focus, so choose f10 -f2.5 to focus on the food creatively
  • Always try multiple angles
  • Watch what's in your background and make sure objects out of focus or cropped so focus is on the food
  • Watch for window glare

Tips for attached flashes:
If you DO have an attached flash, use it. If you do not, find a tripod or something like a stack of books to steady the camera on and set the timer.
  • Bounce the light off the ceiling or a nearby wall to have creative lighting and no glare on food
  • Return ISO back to 100 and Speed to 1/125
  • Leave focus/f-stop low

From Hazies Food 7.31.10

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Healthy Living 4 of 4: Use the Experts

In previous posts in this series I've highlighted finding healthy options for on your body, in your body, and in your environment, but I realize this is barely scratching the surface of Healthy Living and want to offer up some additional ideas from the factory for follow-through to keep you on the healthy path!

Firt, your body knows best. It really does, believe it or not. It's just a matter of whether you can hear it or not! Find the best method for you (meditation, prayer, guru) to get in touch with your higher self and do it sooner than later. This will go a long way for both physical and mental health, security of self, intuition, etc. And when your body begins to speak to you, listen wisely to all the nuances you once ignored. What gives you energy? What gives you peace? What makes you happy? What makes you angry?

Second, don't just rely on Western Medicine. While this medical philosophy is great for cutting cancerous moles off your skin, fixing broken femurs, and testing your blood for allergies, Western Medicine is not the end-all to optimum health, and I hope that's not news to you. Find a Naturopathic Doctor, Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Aromatherapist, Nutritionist, Yogi, or Ayurvedic Doctor (or all of the above as I do) to help wean yourself off some or all medications and unhealthy solutions to simple physical and mental problems like sleep disorder, IBS, depression or anger.

What holistic doctors offer is a comprehensive look at your overall body and mind, your whole-health, your history, your body's signals, and bringing you back into balance. In my personal experience, western doctors don't have the training or take the time to look at your health history as it pertains to each health issue you have, nor do they read your body's signals with intuitiveness or healthy solutions. That's not to say there aren't any good doctors out there who care about your overall health. Combining the two is the best of both worlds. My comments purely reflect upon our system, and this post is meant to continue to give you the incentive to look out for yourself, as you, an no one else, will do best.

Some methods are more tried and true than others, but don't let your ego rule out anything, and work at shifting your consciousness when it comes to alternatives. Ayurvedic Medicine= circa 4000 BC. Acupuncture= circa 200 BC. Aromatherapy= excellent results for animals and kids. Naturopathic Doctors= legal licensing in 15 states and climbing, applies to diagnosing illness.

And last, read, read, read!
What's on my shelf? Rosemary Gladstar. Jeanne Rose. Gill Hale. Deepak Chopra. Wayne Dyer. Elizabeth Gilbert. Stephen Gascoigne. Doreen Virtue. Mary Lambert. Louise Hay. Diane Stein.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Healthy Living 3: Environment and Sustainability

In parts 1 and 2 of this series I discussed the insides and outsides of your body as an aspect of Healthy Living. Read the label of your bath and body products to avoid harmful toxins and improve physical and mental health. Same goes for your food labels and choices and healthy eating, in the post prior to this one on Healthy Eating.

But for me a big part of how I live healthy is the health of my environment and my personal sustainability. The overall health of your environment reflects on your overall health.

First, I have spent years perfecting our home's energy- in Chinese Medicine the flow of the home is central to the personal health of those dwelling in it. Read up on Feng Shui if you haven't heard of it, but the finer points are easy: remove the clutter, create movement, balance the dark space with light, bring in greenery, and pay attention to electronics (turn them off regularly!) and other potentially energetically harmful items, locations, etc. Such as, don't build your home under the powerlines, but if this was the best purchase for you, you can combat that energy with Earth Acupuncture.

Support the healthy interior space with healthy exterior space as well, such as a garden, or even just a deck for some outside space and time. Make sure the exterior around your home is as welcoming to YOU as the interior is. Pay no attention to how this might affect your guests at first, make sure it is comfortable to you! Most importantly, give yourself a space for quiet time, whether it's a "library" in your home, a prayer or meditation room, a garden to tend to, or a pond to relax by, inner peace isn't achieved easily, so give yourself tools to assist you. Learn to quiet your mind and body, this goes a long way for your overall health.

Once you know that your home, environment, and peace of mind are attended to, it's time to start looking at sustainability: What healthy ways can you impact your surrounding and personal environment in order to achieve your own personal sustainability as well as nature's?

For starters, give your family the gift of growing their own food- gardens can be as big or small as your needs require, but the rewards are huge. You will teach your family nutritional sustainability with this one addition to your home, as well as feeding your home for three to four seasons depending on where you live! Many botanic gardens, children's camps, and other community service organizations teach gardening basics; often for free or a nominal fee because these organizations want to encourage sustainability. Look around, even Whole Foods offers courses.

After you start gardening, you'll be inclined to start composting and creating a food storage. Composting is a great healthy addition to your environment; create healthy soil AND reduce your landfill input by making this one small change to your home. Composters come in all shapes and sizes, from large outdoor churning piles to indoor electronic models like the Nature Mill that we use, your options are limitless. A great science project for the kids: Worm composting.

If you don't have a garden don't be afraid to grow your vegetables in pots (like we do). Previously we belonged to a CSA club, and when the location changed and prices skyrocketed this year, we opted to grow indoors and on our deck. Granted we're not getting the yield we did in prior years by being part of an actual farm, (enough to create last summer's CSA series), but it's fun watching our tomatoes, jalepenos, and herbs grow right here at home. It's even more fun to be able to say "this mint is from my herb garden" when we bring Mojitos to a neighborhood party!

Once you start paying attention to how you affect your environment and how it affects you, many other sustainability topics may start to interest you. Look up Transition Town if you're intrigued on how to wean yourself off of Peak Oil. Join a local sustainability network like ours to get some new ideas.

This barely scratches the surface on environment and sustainability, but "The Green Movement" is all around you, you won't have to go far to find it, and I encourage you to seek out healthy living in all aspects of your life!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Healthy Living 2: Healthy Eating

Last week I began the 3-part Healthy Living series for returning to the basics to achieve overall physical and mental health, and covered "Read the Label." This series is intended to remind you that everything you need to be healthy is within your reach, and to act now for your long-term health rather than re-acting later to any health issues that arise.

In addition to being proactive about what you put ON your body (as discussed in Read the Label), it's imperative you do the same WITHIN. But in this day and age, our society doesn't exactly make that easy on us, with quick, easy options at our fingertips that seem on the surface to be healthy, often we make the wrong choice without even knowing it, and even more often, without knowing what the true healthy alternative is.

Clause: I'm no nutritionist or medical practitioner, but I find it frustrating that those two jobs are rarely combined. What is written below is from my personal research, years of my own healthy eating, and listening to my own gurus. I urge you to choose your own path, find what natural solutions are right for you, and always listen to your own gut.

In 1980 I learned a very valuable fact/lesson that I literally never put into practice, and still struggle with today, 30 years later. Fact: Coca Cola DISSOLVES copper pennies. Lesson: it will do that to your intestines. Coke and Pepsi have spent decades on marketing that avoids this lesson, yet the fact remains. Somewhere in my late 20s I realized that when I drank a soda, my intestine had this weird fluttering twitch and I could no longer ignore the fact that still haunted me from elementary school.

But bottom line is, it's not the soda that does this. It's the laundry list of nasty ingredients in these products, the first of which is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Which hits the physical system like an adrenalin shot of sugar, and in 60 minutes, your energy level is down below your norm. Wellness Coach Nick Hodgson explains it well in his blogpost on Coke. But it's not just Coca Cola, this applies to Diet Coke as well, and you know this.

In fact, remove the word "diet" from your vocabulary right now; everyone cringes at that word, and everyone has their own version of "healthy diets." I am certainly NOT saying cut out everything that makes you happy. This is in essence, contradictory to the "Healthy Living" topic, as being happy is central to being healthy. But the point is that Diet Coke is no more "healthy" than regular Coke. So let's just lose the word diet right now.

Instead, look for the alternatives as if it were a healthy challenge, and once you find them, sitck with them for a few months (3-6). Then go back to Coke, tell me if it still makes you feel good.

For healthy, natural soda seek out Hansen, Blue Sky, IZZE, Jones, and Ginger Brew to name just a few. Make sure the label says "cane sugar," has no coloring, and most of all, tastes good. (Recycle the can of course.) You can also choose natural juice and mix it with straight soda water to make your own, but remember that 64-80 ounces of water a day will keep your insides moving healthily! Avoid corn syrup in everything if possible, but especially the high fructose kind.

Since this isn't meant to be just about drinks (got side tracked!), other healthy choices for "American Living" include:
  • Choose chocolate to replace unnatural candies (no brainer!).
  • Replace your white sugar intake with cane sugar or honey (HUGE! White sugar is bad for your blood, digestion, caloric intake, bones, liver... on and on)
  • Use olive oil instead of Canola Oil (HUGE! Honestly, please take everything that is genetically engineered OUT of your kitchen!)
  • Choose organic when you can, but buying veg at a farmers market is actually better for you than buying organic at Giant, Safeway, or Albertsons. Do your research- Where does your food come from-IE how far does it travel? Is it picked pre-ripening and does it ripen in a truck? Does their organic stamp refer to pesticides or soil? All these factors equate to your overall health as well, believe it or not. Buy local when possible, eat in season, and freeze some vegetables for winter months.
  • Remove "hollow" foods from your kitchen all together; these are foods with no nutritional value whatsoever, "junk food," like Twinkies, M&Ms, etc. Replace with healthy snacks like apples and nuts. By removing temptation, and replacing with food that makes you feel good, you will begin to lose the need or temptation for "junk." I promise you will eventually notice that Twinkies don't make you feel good, no matter how good they taste.
  • Listen to the gurus of healthy eating and make changes slowly, but stick with them. Such as: cooking with olive oil, baking meat instead of frying it, using fresh or frozen herbs instead of dried, eating more raw foods than cooked ones, etc.
  • Don't buy anything that says "homogenized" or "pasteurized" if you can.
  • For added health, supplement your diet with vitamins, Kombucha, ProBiotics, WheatGrass, protein powder, etc.

Last, learn what absolutely doesn't agree with you, since we are individuals, and listen to that. Many people get red cheeks from alcohol or strawberries without realizing it's an allergic reaction. Listen to your body. Many people get migraines and don't look at their diet as a solution or symptom. I have cut wheat out of my diet because of arthritis and psoriasis, and wish I'd figured that out decades ago. What you put in your body always reflects how well it performs. Always; no different from your car, except your body is priceless and irreplaceable. Take care of it!

Keep reading: Healthy Living 3: Environment