Monday, March 30, 2009

A different sort of Garden blog

Henry Shaw, founder of the Missouri Botanical Garden which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, is blogging! The blog is called Travels with Henry Shaw. I suspect he's getting some help from the archivist or some other Garden staff -- they are posting up an entry from his travel journals each day. So far we've accompanied him from St. Louis to Niagara Falls to Turkey! The descriptions are delightful and I'm looking forward to following the rest of his trip.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blue skies

I signed up for the Monday Blues group on flickr as a way to get myself to learn how to take blue skies. In most of my photos, the sky is washed out and white.

This technique for getting blue sky is to shoot away from the sun and to make use of the exposure compensation dial. White sky is overexposed, so set the dial to underexpose. It worked!

That's Missouri soap, a Lavendar-Rosemary Zum Bar. I can get it at Whole Foods, but I don't know if it's a nationwide product for them or a regional one. Blue soap is fun, but it's soap scum is dark gray so the sink looks dirty all the time. I think I'll try a lighter color next time.

Sunday Transcendentalist Quote

From "Observations on the Growth of the Mind" by Sampson Reed as printed in Transcendentalism: A Reader edited by Joel Myerson.

As all minds possess that in common which makes them human, they require to a certain extent the same general development, by which will be brought to view the same powers however distinct and varied they may be found in different individuals; and as every mind possesses something peculiar, to which it owes its character and its effect, it requires a particular development by which may be produced a full, sincere and humble expression of its natural features, and the most vigorous and efficient exertion of its natural powers. These make one, so far as regards the individual.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Field Trip: Art Museum

Today was our first field trip for my photography class. Unfortunately, we're having "out like a lion" March weather in Missouri (snow predicted for overnight!). We went to the St. Louis Art Museum to stay out of the rain, but my teacher couldn't do anything to give us more light. We all shot a lot of grainy pictures using high ISO values (the equivalent of fast film, but all us students shoot digital).

Here, I'm waiting in the car for the museum to open.

My classmates really liked this one, which sent me on a discovery tour of the museum to find more hands to photograph.

The trip ended with a special event -- a Chinese dragon dance in honor of the Ming Dynasty special exhibit.

Many more photos from the Art Museum on my flickr page.

Friday, March 27, 2009


One of our assignments for my new, more advanced, photography class (HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS) is to look at lots of pictures of people to figure out what I like. I used flickriver to explore some of the groups on flickr that specialize in people pictures. I found the People Portraits group and the Portrait Classics group pools most useful for my purpose.

The first thing I discovered is that I like photos of children with black eyes. That didn't seem to be a terribly useful observation since there aren't that many black-eyed children in my life at the moment, but that may be something I can change.
In the meantime, I looked at another thousand or so photos and decided that a more general observation is that I like people photos that emphasize eyes. That tends to mean that I like head and shoulder shots or even closer (but not as close as the photo below-- I was playing with my macro lens). In general, I prefer photos where the head is turned rather than straight on poses. I seem to have a preference for subjects looking into the camera, but I also liked some where the gaze was to the side.

So, that's my eye. What color is it? My driver's license says green, but I have a chance to change it this year and I'm wondering if I should say hazel.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blueberry buds

My two blueberry plants survived the winter. They are small plants, meant to be grown in containers. I bought them from the nursery that makes my hometown famous, Stark Bro's in Louisiana, Missouri. Their advice was to put the plants in a garage in the winter if it stays just a bit warm, but our garage is both very full and very cold in the winter. So, we tried burying the pots. It worked!

The Garden through a macro lens

We went to the Missouri Botanical Garden today in advance of our first big spring storm. The wind was blowing so hard it was hard to get the flowers to stand still for a picture.

The flowering quince bushes are blooming.

So are the magnolias.

More pictures on my Flickr page.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sign of spring

It must be spring -- there's compost on my shoes.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Transcendentalist Quote

From "Likeness to God," a sermon by William Ellery Channing at an ordination, as printed in Transcendentalism: A Reader edited by Joel Myerson.

To me it seems that the soul, in all its higher actions, in original thought, in the creations of genius, in the soarings of imagination, in its love of beauty and grandeur, in its aspirations after a pure and unknown joy, and especially in disinterestedness, in the spirit of selfsacrifice, and in enlightened devotion, has a character of infinity.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sourdough pizza crusts

My sourdough adventures began last July when Alanna Kellogg gave me some starter. It's just been in the last few weeks that I have developed a routine that makes having sourdough starter in my kitchen really work for me.

For several months, now, our favorite bread has included a cup of sourdough starter. It's a variation of this Whole Wheat Zuchinni Herb Bread for the bread machine. If anyone is interested, I'll put up my recipe. The addition of sourdough starter, and a subtraction of half the yeast, makes the bread lighter and with a crispier crust. There is just a hint of the sourdough flavor.

I make that bread once or twice a week, each time following the instructions for Fast Track to Sourdough at the Sourdough Home website. By the time I've fed the sourdough starter three times in 36 hours, starting with a 1/4 cup, I end up with about twice as much starter as I need for the bread -- half goes into the bread and half goes into a canning jar in the refrigerator until I'm ready to go again. Then, a 1/4 cup goes into the new starter and the rest goes into the compost pile. That's a lot of sourdough starter in the compost pile!
I tried starting my feeding with just 1/8 cup of starter, but about a month later, my sourdough starter lost much of its characteristic smell and its rising power. I revived it following these instructions from the Sourdough Home website and went back to using a 1/4 cup.

I had hoped that English Muffins would be the answer, but they have remained a special occasion item for us.

The solution, it turns out is this pizza crust recipe, also from Sourdough Home. Every third time that I make bread, I use the sourdough starter in the older two jars to make pizza dough. Rather than one large crust, I form four balls before I let the dough rest and then roll them into four individual-sized pizza crusts. This makes them small enough to bake in the toaster oven. I bake them for five minutes right away and then freeze them (maybe leaving a couple out on the counter if we're eating pizza tonight).

With pre-made pizza crust, pizza is a remarkably simple and fast meal and very creative. I probably make my tomato sauce differently every time (but a simple one is to cook onions and garlic in olive oil and then add a can of plain tomato sauce, some oregano, and some honey) and, of course, the toppings can be varied by whoever is eating the pizza. Tonight, we'll have smashed balls of fresh mozarella cheese, pesto, artichoke hearts, and spinach. R's pizza will also have mushrooms. But that's a fancy version -- a lot of times I make it with any vegetables and cheese that are available in the fridge.
So, now, I make good use of nearly all my sourdough starter and my compost pile has to live on other kitchen scraps.
If you live in the St. Louis area and would like some starter, let me know. I can give my sourdough starter an extra feeding and easily end up with plenty to share.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Scavenger Hunt

I went on a photo scavenger hunt at the Garden today to complete the assignment for my last intro class tonight (I start a new photography class next week). I decided that a scavenger hunt isn't really the best assignment for me. I get too caught up in finding the stuff and not caught up enough in taking good photos of it. Oh well, here are my best ones.

Reflections in water


Architectural detail

Monday, March 16, 2009

Daffodil and a new lens

Today is the first day we had daffodils blooming in our yard. I've noticed that we get ours a bit later than other people -- I guess because they are growing on the shady side of the garage.

Here is the most close-up photo I could take with my old zoom lens.

And here is the most close-up photo I can take with my new macro lens.

Heh. That photo doesn't really scream "daffodil," does it? But I like the kind of tribute to yellow that it makes. Here's a macro photo that captures a bit more of the flower.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


R is taking care of our witch hazel.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Our new sunroom shades

We got the last of sunroom shades installed today. This is from the balcony off my office looking down into the sunroom -- an architectual feature which is just so cool.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cropped crocuses

At my photography class last night, my teacher suggested cropping my pictures to improve the composition. Do you like these better than yesterday's versions?




Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Composition with Crocuses

At least, I think these are crocuses. I didn't plant them. They are blooming in our yard and I'm assuming that's the only garden flower I would be seeing before the daffodils. The daffodils are still buds in my yard, although I saw some beautiful ones this morning at Antona's house.
Which composition do you like the best?



Saturday, March 7, 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Flags and shutter speeds

Flags "frozen" with a fast shutter speed:

And blurred with a slower shutter speed:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Shutter speeds and water

Playing with shutter speeds. This faster shutter speed captures the movement of the water with some crispness.

With a slower shutter speed, the water blurs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

More water lilies

I complained to R that I always overexpose his water lilies, so we played around with the exposure compensation in my camera. In the end, though, we decided it's probably best to let the camera do what it wants and I'll fudge the brightness with the software afterwards.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

¡Hola, Amigo!

Rick cooked refried beans tonight. The tostadas were yummy!