Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mist-ical Mardi Gras Morning

Lake Martin Sunrise

View Large On Black

It's February 24, 2009, Mardi Gras. No work. No school. I awaken early, dress in the dark, grab my gear and dash out of the house headed for the lake - careful not to wake my sleeping husband and children. I thrilled to learn that it's 37° outside. If I'm right, the water in Lake Martin is warmer than the air and a nice steamy mist will be rising from the surface.

As I drive away, the sun is just appearing over the horizon. It's burning bright on the winter morning. I've never driven to the lake in the early morning, so I am excited at the prospect of what I will find.

I arrive at the lake and out of my side window I immediately notice a blue heron standing still as a statue in the water, waiting for breakfast to swim into view. Then, I notice the mist. Just has I suspected, its dreamy tendrils are rising from the lake. I am giddy with anticipation. Within minutes, the golden sun breaks through the trees and beams of light streak across the lake, illuminating the mist.

From where I am standing, a tree-lined peninsula separates the lake so that the water on the other side of it glows like an ethereal cauldron. I carefully compose my photos and fire away, knowing that something wonderful awaits on my memory card.

The air is soon filled with the noises of lake activities. The cries of birds beginning their day. The rumbling of boat engines starting up and racing off to find that perfect fishing spot. I continue to shoot on foot, then I return to my car and tour the lake road, enjoying the morning as it unfolds.

I have witnessed the birth of another beautiful day in South Louisiana.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Louisiana has some of the best sunsets on Earth.

This is another beautiful Louisiana sunset as it unfolded tonight at Lake Martin.

5:51 p.m.
Glow - 5:51 p.m.

6:02 p.m.
Glow - 6:02 p.m.

6:09 p.m.
Glow - 6:09 p.m.

6:12 p.m.
Glow - 6:12 p.m.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Day Comes to an End and New Friendships Begin...

Today I made new friends...

After picking up my daughter at a friend's house, we made a quick trip to the lake since we both had our cameras with us. No clouds to be seen, but we could still get some sunset pics. When we arrived at the lake, I was excited to see a few clouds just above the horizon, reflecting the golden glow of the setting sun.

But, before I was out of the car - surprise! John sees me through the window and recognizes me! Beth wasn't far behind. Then I find out D and C are there, too! It turned out to be a surprise Lake Martin Flickr Group meet and greet. A quite chilly one, I might add.

After setting up my tripod and mounting my camera, I turned it on only to discover I had left my CF card in my computer at home. Luckily, I had some smaller cards on me for backup. While my daughter ran back to the car for the backups, I used her point and shoot to get in some shots.

It didn't take long for me to figure out what a fun group of friends I have made. In fact, after a couple of minutes it was like we had known each other forever. We've corresponded through Flickr, but I had never met them in person. We had fun taking pics of the sunset and a few birds and enjoying a few good laughs. It was nice to know that I'm not the only one trying to figure out which settings to use for what. Since Tuesday is Mardi Gras and most of us will have the day off, we talked about meeting up on Tuesday.

On the way home my daughter asked if I was going to the lake Tuesday and if she could come with me. It looks like photography is becoming more than just a creative outlet for me. It's helping me to make some wonderful new friends and creating some great memories for me and my girls.

I wasn't very focused (pardon the pun) on what I was doing, so my shots were pretty unremarkable. In honor of Mardi Gras, I took some liberties with this photograph and gave it a purple cast to complement the gold.

Photo taken at Lake Martin, Cypress Island Preserve, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Happy Birthday, Korey!

Pink Polka Dot Chocolate Cake

Korey turned 10 on February 17th. She wanted her party decorations to be pink and brown. For her cake, she wanted chocolate with pink polka dots and a "K" in the middle, just like the one I put on Kasey's cake.

I baked three 8" layers of Devil's Food pound cake and used Bavarian cream filling between the layers. I frosted the cake with homemade chocolate frosting then decorated it with bright pink fondant polka dots. I finished it off with light pink pearls and a circular plaque with a large, bright pink "K" in the center.

Just as for Kasey's party, I displayed the cake on a glass cake pedestal rimmed in silver. It's the same one that was used for our cakes when we were kids, so it holds a special meaning to me.

She loved her cake and her friends were amazed. Now they all want me to make their next birthday cake.

Happy Birthday, Korey!

Happy Birthday, Kasey!

Kasey's Birthday Cake

Kasey turned 12 on February 11th. She requested a cake decorated in "her" colors - aqua blue, lime green, and purple. She wanted the concentric dots like I had done for her daddy's birthday cake last August.

I baked three 9" layers of French Vanilla cake using the White Almond Sour Cream recipe. I separated the batter into two equal parts and tinted one aqua blue and one purple. Then I dropped alternating scoops of batter on top of each other. The result was a purple and blue striated cake when you sliced it. I used Bavarian cream filling between the layers. Frosted the cake with butter cream frosting and then covered it with fondant and then the fondant appliques. I finished it off with a large "K".

I displayed the cake on a glass cake pedestal rimmed in silver. It's the same one that was used for our cakes when we were kids, so it holds a special meaning to me.

She loved her cake and her friends were amazed. Now they all want me to make their next birthday cake.

Make a Wish!

Sunsets Are Like Snowflakes

December Sunset

Sunsets are like snowflakes - no two are the same. You could set up a camera in the same spot and shoot the sunset for 365 days in a row and never see the same thing twice. On a clear day with no clouds in the sky, you'll see a huge, glowing ball of fire. Throw in a few clouds and that's where you'll find the best action. It's like looking through a kaleidescope, the image is never the same. Sometimes the colors are magnificent; sometimes they are muted. Reds, yellows, oranges, pinks, purples, blues...and an infinite combination of them all. Some days the clouds glow golden like spun gold.

My favorite place to photograph the sunset is at Lake Martin in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. It's a large body of water so you get a large, unobstructed view of the sky, a tree line in the distance. You can include trees in the foreground of your photos, which will give you some wonderful silhouettes, which can create dramatic effects. Best of all, it's only five minutes or so from my home. I've been known to jump into the car and rush off at the end of the day because I just know the sunset at Lake Martin is going to be beautiful and I have to get some photos of it.

Not only do I like a beautiful sunset, but I love the golden light created by a setting sun. I often take photos of objects basking in the glow of the setting sun. The warmth of the light is very complimentary to everything it shines upon.

Here are some of my favorite sunsets and objects glowing in the sun.

Still Standing

My Grandpa's Barn
My grandfather's barn. December 2008, Sulphur, Louisiana.

I've always enjoyed photos of old structures that have fallen into extreme disrepair, but still exhibit the character and workmanship that are rare in today's modern world. Here in South Louisiana, cypress was the lumber of choice because it resistant to insects and rot. Because of its durability, you can find many old structures that have stood the test of time...and hurricanes.

Now that I'm exploring the world of photography I have learned that old, abandoned structures in rural areas are often referred as "rural decay", especially if you visit the Flickr photo-sharing website. (If the structure is located in a city or metropolitan area, it is referred to as "urban decay").

Here are my recent contributions to the rural decay photography populous.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight

Red sky at night, sailor's delight.

It takes about an hour for us to drive to work each morning and then home again. My husband drives and I usually observe all the stuff I'd love to stop and photograph. But, alas, I'm not the driver. Probably a good thing, because I may never make it to work in the morning or home in the evening. Before you know it, you'd see my face on milk cartons.

Today, I noticed some wonderful clouds in the sky. As the sun started its decent I knew we were in for a beautiful sunset. And I was right. I watched it unfold through my window and the sideview mirror. I could feel my anxiety build. I hadn't been to the lake since January 30th. Of course I had my camera with me and my tripod was in the car, too. Maybe we could make a quick trip to the lake tonight.

As we neared the sitter's house, I could see the magnificent fireball building in the sky. Layers of clouds looked like spun gold...and I was missing it. So, I asked if maybe we could make a quick trip to the lake after picking up the kids...Nope. Not happening. Too tire...No problem, as soon as we get home I'll drive out...and I did...I was racing against the clock once again to beat the sun to its final destination...my five minute drive seemed to stretch on forever...my chances for catching today's magical sunset were fading as was that spectacular glow...eventually I drove down the lake road, parked at the launch, grabbed all my gear, got my camera mounted on the tripod head (my first time, I might add) and snapped away as quickly as I could. Time was of the essence.

By the time I got this picture, the brilliance had faded... and along with it the stresses of a Monday in the corporate world. This photograph won't win any awards, but photography has won my heart.

This is what it's all about. Feeling that moment of peace and tranquility. And capturing that moment to share it with others.

Photo taken at Lake Martin, Cypress Island Preserve, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, on February 16, 2008.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Fire Crackers

Fire Crackers! So addictive they should be called CRACK Crackers!

These are so addictive they should be called CRACK Crackers! They are wonderful served with cream cheese and pepper jelly, or with soup or chili. They are so good and flavorful that they make a great snack that can be eaten alone.


4 sleeves of saltines
1 packet Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing mix
1 or 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup vegetable oil

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl with oil and whisk together.

Put crackers in a 2 gallon resealable bag. Drizzle oil & seasoning mixture over the crackers. Seal bag. Gently toss crackers so that they become coated with mixture. Lay bag flat and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then toss crackers around some more and lay the bag on the opposite side for another 10 minutes.

Remove crackers from bag and place in an airtight container such as a large glass or plastic canister with a tight-fitting lid.

Soup's On!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Feeling Hot! Hot! Hot!

Feeling Hot! Hot! Hot!

Having fun trying out some macro photography. Although according to some purists, this isn't a true macro shot. Just a really close, close-up.

Anyway, since Valentine's Day was right around the corner, I placed a heart-shaped cookie cutter on a black tray. Sprinkled some red pepper flakes in the cutter, then gently removed the cutter. Took some close up shots using my camera's macro setting. And this is what I got.

Valentine's Sentiment

Monday, February 9, 2009

Night Photography Rocks!

We rocked it old skool with Tesla at the House of Blues in Houston!

Sean and I attended a Tesla concert at the House of Blues in Houston on Sunday, February 8. No cameras allowed. Boo. Hiss.

So after the concert, we returned to the car. I got my camera out and had Sean drive me back to the H.O.B. and drop me off so that I could get some shots of the neon signs while he drove around the block. I had never shot photos after dark, so I winged it hoping things worked out. I also shot some pics of the front doors since the door pulls create the H.O.B. flaming heart logo and it was February, after all. You know...Valentine's Day.

When we got back to the hotel room, I decided to try out the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens I had bought the day before at the Houston Camera Exchange - a wonderful place for all things photography. Anyway, I laid my jeans on the coffee table and stuck the tickets in one of the back pockets.

When we returned home I was pleased to learn that my neon sign shots were terrific and the tickets pics were exactly what I wanted. I selected my favorite ticket pic and tweaked it with Picnik so that the colors were bright and glow-y like the neon signs. Then I combined the tickets pic and two neon sign pics to create a collage as a remembrance of a wonderful weekend with my husband.

Here are some more photos I shot that weekend.