Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Harvesting Cayenne Peppers

My son Mark is a big fan of HOT food, so last spring
he planted cayenne pepper seeds.
He had to move in late May, so he brought the seedlings to me
to babysit and I fell in love with my grandpeppers!
I lovingly nurtured them into this enormous
planter of red hot glory!
I ended up with more than 200 peppers.
The peppers were supposed to grow two to four inches long,
but some of mine were 10-12 inches!

My grandpeppers were so red and gorgeous,
I wanted to harvest them in a way we could use
them for cooking.

I decided to dehydrate them and
crush them into hot pepper flakes.
I harvested in mid-September when the peppers had
gotten a bit wrinkly.
I used scissors to clip them from the plants
keeping a bit of the stem.

I washed them with warm water
while they were still intact.

Then I patted them down with a big towel
until they were dry.

We were in the midst of a 90-degree heat wave,
so I spread the peppers on a table outdoors
to sun dry for a day.
This isn't necessary, but it got the drying process underway.

Then I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper and laid out many
of the larger peppers and some small ones and
baked them in my convection oven at 185-degrees.
I did NOT cut open the peppers because I didn't want
that HEAT spreading through our house.

Then I put the rest of them into my food dehydrator and
plugged it in on the back porch.
I didn't want too much pepper smell indoors, so
this method worked great!
I had four layers of peppers.

I wanted to compare the dehydrator
with oven drying.
The oven worked faster, but I felt the dehydrator
maintained the rich color better.
I checked every hour and removed any peppers that
were at the brittle stage for crushing.
It took between 5 and 18 hours for them to dehydrate...
the big peppers took the longest.
They were ready when they were no longer leathery...
but brittle, so I could crush them.
The red pepper on the right is freshfrom the vine.
I simply squeezed the peppers between my fingers
and if they crackled...they were ready.

I donned rubber gloves because I figured the hot oils
and seeds from inside the peppers could burn my skin or worse,
I would accidently rub my eyes.
I started by cutting the stems off the top and putting the
dried peppers into a large zip lock bag.
This got tedious, and I found it was much easier and faster
to break the stems off with my fingers...and I
ended up not using the gloves and I did not have
any problems. 
Made sure I washed my hands well after this process.
Next, I used my meat mallet to crush the dried peppers
right in the zip lock bag.
This didn't do the job completely,
so I whizzed the crushed peppers a few times in my food processor.
Lordy, the dust cleared my
be very careful breathing around the
finished product if you use the food processor.
The result:  Beautiful, fragrant, colorful
crushed red pepper flakes!
Definitely NOT the bland flakes you find
on the table at the local pizza parlor!
I bottled some up in shakers for
Christmas gifts.
Of course, my son will be getting
a nice big bottle! 
Such a FUN and exciting summer project.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Photographying Events

If you've been asked to photograph an event, party, shower,
or special occasion,
here are some tips to help you memorialize the highlights!

Not only did I get to shoot Mother/Daughter photos with
Terri and her daughter Ali...
I got to photograph Ali's bridal shower!

The shower was held in a historic building with an entire
 wall of windows on a bright sunny day.

I know the harsh sun and windows seem scary,
but since I usually backlight my portraits,
I simply considered that wall of windows my sun and backlit everything.

I shot the entire event with natural light.

Backlighting with the window worked like a charm and I purposely photographed people
with their backs to the SUN!

I love the backlit "halos" glowing around their hair from the sun behind them.

Events are usually chaotic and ever changing.
I set my ISO on automatic so I don't need to constantly check it.

I used my Canon 50mm f1.4 lens for this. 

I shoot in Aperture Priority Mode so the only thing I have
to tinker with is the aperture to capture details and play with depth-of-field.

If you find your photos are looking dark,
simply boost your exposure compensation.  Don't worry if the window
gets blown out...that is art!

You are in charge of capturing the event.

Arrive early and  look at the fine details,
then try opening your aperture all
the way to pull the eye to the main feature in your composition.

For the bridal shower, Terri set each place with a different setting
of vintage china and handkerchiefs.
I knew she would want me to capture these special touches
from a variety of angles!

I shot these decorating details before the guests arrived
so I could then concentrate on the people.

You will be much less stressed and won't get people in
these detail photos if you shoot them before the party begins.

Always concentrate on the guest or guests of this case the Bride-to-be.
It's easy to get involved with all the people and hoopla,
and at the end, you realize you have very few photos of the STAR!

I learned this because it happened at my wedding! 
Very few photos of me and my groom!

Whenever you are near the STAR...grab a shot!

When guests begin to arrive, look for little groups that have gathered.

Don't just snap away...stand there with your camera aimed and
ready...while you watch for MOMENTS!

Wait for them to laugh, or hug, or smile!


Yes, stand there with your eye to the camera and
wait for MOMENTS!

While looking through the lens waiting for moments,
plan your composition. 

Create FRAMES using other people.

For this photo, I backed up to include their pretty dresses...
then I watched for that LAUGH!


I like candid shots best...

But, also pose shots with special guests.

Once activities such as games or speeches begin,
you need to stay alert to capture these moments!

I used my Canon 24-70mm, f2.8 lens for some of these so
I could quickly zoom in and out.

You will need to be on the move.
I usually begin in the back of the room to capture a wide shot
while they are introducing the games, etc.

Now move around to capture different angles while paying
close attention to MOMENTS!

I saw Terri reach for her daughter's hand and I KNEW
that was a MOMENT!

I quickly zoomed in close and waited for the

Really LOOK and SEE what is in that frame.
I had to shoot higher so the pitcher of orange juice didn't block
the hand-hold.

Then I scurried to capture another angle of this lovely moment
to include the guests reactions!

If they are preparing to open a bottle of champagne for a toast...
Get into your best position to capture this.

I wanted to include the guests.

Again, watch and wait for MOMENTS among the guests
and include the STAR!

Snap one of the game winner.

At some point, zoom all the way out and try to
get a full shot of the entire event.

When it's time to serve food,
Capture the STAR going through the line first
so you can show the food.

Then grab some detail shots of what was served.

But, DON'T photograph people eating!

When it's time to open gifts,
first shoot the wide shot from the back of the room.

Then fill in with shots from various angles
and distances.

You want the STAR to shine, so wait for her to SMILE or LAUGH!

Watch for MOMENTS!

Look for fun details!

Go in close for special MOMENTS!

And, show that special bond with mother/daughter, and family!

Pose a few...

And watch for CANDIDS!

Wait for the LAUGH!

Always, get a fun shot of the family!

I put these photos into a book I created on Shutterfly
and gave one to Ali and a copy to Terri as gifts.

Putting thought into each shot and watching for the MOMENTS
will give you an awesome collection of memories
the STAR will cherish forever!