Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blue Moon

What an exciting event!

A Blue Moon to close out 2009 and ring in 2010! Twenty - Ten! Thank GOD we are starting a new decade! I know for many people 2009 was pretty terrible - and for me the past few years have been dreadful in many ways - but we are starting anew tonight!

I get to ring in my New Year by photographing a friends wedding! How great! To be around friends - watch 2 people who love each other get married and get to photograph it for them as well! I am pretty psyched!

I am also as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs - but that's besides the point right? I mean this is a special event and I am in charge of documenting it! Official wedding photographer! Weddings bring a while list of things to worry about as a photographer and a mess of challenges - but now add in that it will be at NIGHT and OUTSIDE! Yikes.

Flash don't fail me now!

Flash and bracket kit - check
Both camera batteries charged - check
Many extra batteries for external flash - check
Extra Memory card - check

And that is a good one - I deliberated over the additional $80 memory 8 gig memory card(I already have an 8 and a 16gig) but went for it - only to come home and find that my 16 gig card has a small piece of of the front that cracked off - so thank GOODNESS I bought a spare!

Fully caffeinated and ready to rock - check!

Happy New Year and don't forget to go outside at midnight and make a wish to the Blue Moon - it only happens once in a .....well you get the point!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Another Holiday Pet Session

The Ryan Family Pets. Maxine, Haley and Stan.

Try getting an excited 70 pound lab to sit still in front of a Christmas tree and then add a Mini Australian Shepherd and a half blind kitty....hence we had to go with individual was comedy but I seriously don't think I could shoot pets for a living - except the ones I know.

Then again...

Stan (Who's an annoyed Kitty?)



Pamelas Products!

Pamelas All Purpose Gluten Free Flour! It may be pricey but it was worth it!

You really can not tell the difference and although I thought my cookies were not that pretty they tasted pretty damn good - according to the cookie tasting panel from last night!

And the baking adventures continue....with photos next time.

Next up - Grandmoms famous Manicotti recipe!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Son of a Nutcracker!

I just paid $16 for a bag of All Purpose Flour!!!! Now granted it is Gluten Free All Purpose flour and seems to be considered the best product out there that can mimic baked goods with Gluten in them - but REALLY? $16???

And I don't even BAKE that often!

Which is interesting because I have brought that up before and something began to dawn on me. Prior to Celiac - I almost never baked. Now I realize it was because I would just buy cookies or pies and bread of course - without much though other then the calorie and fat content (sometimes). Now if I want baked goods that don't taste like sawdust or even worse super sugary sawdust - I need to learn to make things.

So tonight's annual cookie exchange holiday party courtesy of the Ryan sisters - aka our very own Martha Stuart and her sister so of course they would be bakers - I needed to find a gluten free cookie recipe and I was not psyched about it.

Then a friend told me about Pamela's Gluten Free All Purpose Flour - and told me to make a regular cookie recipe and just substitute the flour. So that is what I am embarking upon at the moment - while I type this my hand candied pecans are baking in the oven, and I am trying to figure out where to put the borrowed behemoth of a Kitchen Aid (also courtesy of the Ryan sisters as they of course had 2 when they moved in together)

Why do I for see more baking in my future?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


So last season a group of friends introduced me to Top chef on Bravo. It was during a dinner party - and the conversation went from taking bets on who the Top Chef would be - to plans for our own "cook-off" for the season finale party. It was a tough match as this a group of people who like food - and damn if everyone doesn't have some kind of cooking talent!

The theme was New Orleans (for the finale of the show) I pulled Vegetarian - which was REALLY difficult - but I did ok. Came in second under the 2 who tied for first - and people liked my dish.

So this year for season six - the host threw a curveball at us (just like in the show) and we had to prepare dishes inspired by music. A song, an artist, a genre etc...and bopnus points for a playlist that went along with your dish! We had a set pannel of judges (who were pretty amazing with the notes and critiques and personalities etc. We had our own "Price Waterhouse" counting team and we had a crew of chefs who were all bringing their A game - no doubt.

I pulled Fish as my protein and due to some serious family issues and having to move over the weekend I was feeling pretty stumped and un-inspired. But while working on editing some photos my iTunes was on and the Slumdog millionaire Soundtrack came on. started to click. After many many years of going back and forth to England - i was introduced to Indian food properly and must admit I do enjoy it. However I have NEVER made any Indian food from scratch - so of course that's what I chose!

I found a recipe for Fish Pakura - a fried fish popular with street vendors and served with chutneys or tomato sauce. So I found a few recipes - really gambled by picking and choosing my favorite elements of them all AND chose corn flour to make it Gluten Free and decided to take a chance.

Made the tomato mint chutney, (bought the mango ginger one) got 3 huge beautiful fresh Cod fillets and headed on over. It was a bit stressful having NEVER made the dish and frankly have never done a lot of deep frying in the past either - but it turned out quite well and got a great response.

There was some REALLY great food, desserts and specialty cocktails - but when the points were added up - I pulled it out! TOP CHEF! Oh YEAH!

Waiting for a picture of my dish from a friend to post - and the hostess and I (she came in first last year and second this year) have a feeling we will be going head to head in the future - all in great fun.

So you think you can cook? Come see what we can do!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fun Family Holiday Cards

It's that time of year - when people realize the Holidays have begun and it is time for taking family photos for the holidays cards.

Scooby was such a good little model. His owners were fully prepared for him to be a menace for the shoot - but in reality - other then the bow - I think he really enjoyed himself and acted like a professional dog model!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


A time to give thanks.
A time to be with family and loved ones.
A time to eat yourself into a tryptophan coma with a side of sugar!

WOW - a holiday about family and food - what could be better? Sadly though sometimes in our lives, family brings added stress instead of joy, but that's just the way it is.

When I am wound up or stressed out I have a tendency to cook. It must be the Italian in me.....there is a trauma? Oh well I must feed everyone! It's just the way I am - I love cooking! Ask me to throw together a dinner party (including the HUGE thanksgiving meal) for 10 or more and I get all pumped up and psyched! Planning menus, making specialties, experimenting with new ideas/recipes and inventing some of my own! I LOVE it!

Ask me to bake and the stress freak emerges! I am not a baker. I mean it's not like what I bake is inedible by any means (most of the time) - but no one ever says "Oh Amanda is a great baker!" No. Not me.

So imagine the added stress I put upon myself when I decided to make my favorite - Pumpkin Pie - from scratch - by myself .......and....GLUTEN FREE! As I can no longer eat Gluten(one of the many "joys" this past year has sprung upon me) - this is a must, but baking Gluten free AND having it taste good is NOT easy and - well leave it to me to do my first run on a the biggest food fest day of the year.

I went to Yoga first yesterday, then poured myself a glass of wine and meticulously measured every little thing. (Its the scientific /can't experiment part of baking that terrifies me).

Then today it was roll out the pie dough (not pretty - and I had that dude from the Food Network - you know the know-it-all with the glasses who you actually learn interesting stuff from?) in the back of my head from a show I watched months ago stressing "not overworking" pie crust dough. Oh GREAT!

So after much angst that thoroughly entertained my neighbors - some who are used to me and my new neighbors who MUST think I am a total head case - they just came out of the oven - and I must say the smell was pretty heavenly - and they LOOK pretty good - but tonight at the desert and drinks soiree I am attending at Patio Culture - the truth will be told. Will they TASTE any good?

Well at least I know by that time everyone will be good and drunk! LOL

Happy Thanksgiving to - well anyone who reads my blog!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Going to the animals

Yes I am one of those "animal people". I generally find most people are - although occasionally you run into an exception. I have had people tell me that I should add animals to my repitoire of photography - but I don't have quite as easy of a time connecting with them as I do with childen or people - and that is WITH me being and animal person!

Take for example my own. My beautiful albeit willful 10 year old Labrador/Cocker Spaniel mix Ascher, and my Inglewood rescue cat ( rescued with his litter at 6 weeks old) named Pagoda or "Evil Kitty".

They are my pets and yes I think they are beautiful - but if I can't get them to "pose" to get a great shoot of them - then how on earth would I be able to do it for other people? Yes Pagoda is more of the "poser" of the 2 - but whenever I aim a camera at Ash - she just lays down and looks like she is pouting. (Maybe she is channeling her inner model - who knows) but I can never seem to capture the happy smiling face she has on most of the time when I am not aiming a camera at her.

I am impressed when I see great portraiture photography of animals - but am really quite baffled at how the photographer interacts with/ deals with their subject to get those shots. So I need to keep practicing, especially since I have a Christmas card shot next week that includes the family dog! Oh boy - should be interesting!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teen Models

I have known my young friend here since she was 11 and used to visit my shop with her puppy after school. Even at that young adolescent age it was easy to see she was going to be a beauty as she grew up.

Well now at 15 - lets just say I would have KILLED to look like her when I was that age. After taking these photos, out of curiosity I pulled out some old photos from my high school years. Sufficed to say - awkward would be the best word to describe me at that age. I like to think I grew into my face - so to speak - but still it is a face better left to behind the camera!

My beautiful friend is also very poised and relaxed in front of the camera - which is always a plus, and her face has a natural symmetry that makes her very photogenic as you can see here.

We shot these on a Sunday afternoon around the neighborhood, using natural light and occasionally a gold reflector. This one was wonderful because the natural light was shining on a gray flat building/ wall behind me and the light reflected from there and aimed a soft glow on her face. It's the kind of natural lighting luck/timing that photographers dream about.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Family Matters

So on Friday I did a photo shoot of the largest family I have worked with to date.

Always a challenge to work with more then a few people and when you add in all the children and a 10 month old baby - wow! Almost 100 shots to get a handful where the MAJORITY (never all) of them are looking at the camera. However "perfection" is not all that is important. to me some of my favorite photos don't have every single person looking directly at the camera with perfect smiles pasted on their face. A Family is never perfect - it is full of all sorts of different personalities and my goal is to try and let those individual personalities shine through wherever possible.

I really enjoyed working with this family, but as
always my biggest joy is working with the children. The three girls in red live in my neighborhood and the girls in white are their cousins. The girls know me by sight as I walk by their house with Asher a few times a week, but until the day of the shoot they really had no connection to me. As always with kids - they start off a little shy, a little unsure, and sometimes more then a little annoyed at having to "sit still" and smile for a stranger. When working on family portraits , it is always a challenge to get them to settle in, which is perfectly natural, and also why I love to let them run and play and try to capture them in action. It doesn't take to long before they are having FUN with the whole process and of course those are the moments where the best photos come through.

One of the lovely girls even became my "art director" when it was her idea for them to pose for this next photo.

Some people may not be happy that all 5 girls are not looking at the camera and smiling in perfect unison. But as I said - that isn't family, that isn't life. Instead the natural beauty of all of their individual personalities shines through in this, and I believe that is what makes a photo special.

To me it is important to let the kids feel involved and when they come up with ideas or poses I always go for it, because the more fun they are having the bigger the smiles. The bigger the smiles the more genuine and beautiful the photos turn out. Natural life, my favorite way to capture such beautiful children.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Family Portrait Time

Well I have been busy the past few days - reading, studying, practicing. Photography is something you never stop learning about. A marriage of art and science, beauty and technology. There are certainly times when I feel secure with a shoot, set-up etc, and others where I second guess myself every step - or make rookie mistakes that remind me how much there is to learn.

Fortunately my technical/scientific side of my brain has always somewhat dominated the artistic and creative side - because although photography is such a mix of both, the best intentions and artistic eye can be derailed quickly by the technical elements. My left side of my brain is always running through F-stops, exposure, lighting and berating myself for how much I don't know yet. Then my right side has to fight through the noise to think about the artistic quality of the shot - how to find the beauty in the subjects and show it the best way I can, to let my eye do what it needs to do to capture the moment.

It is a learning process that at times can be frustrating and lead to sleepless nights....but at others when I come across a great shot I re-connect with the joy in the whole process. While working on my most recent Family portrait ( a multi-generation family of 13 - including a 10 month old) I came across this one and worked on it first.

Mom loved it - and THAT is why I do this!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baby Smiles

I wonder is there anything sweeter then being able to make a baby smile?

I am helping a friend out watching her beautiful boy a few hours a week and I swear, just spending 2 hours with him, making him smile and having him fall asleep in my arms was mood altering.

I know I know, it's all fun and games when it isn't your baby and you don't have to be up every few hours or be a 24/7 mom, and someday I will get my due - but for now......


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Social Media Revolution

Social Media Revolution. Wow. It's amazing where we are now.

Most often, the word 'revolution' is employed to denote a change in socio-political institutions. The "Revolution" in question deals mainly with the way we gather information and interact with the people around us. I did not fully comprehend how quickly the world of social interaction and media is advancing. Honestly, it scares me just a little.

I am about to officially sound like an old person, but I remember growing up without email. Without the internet. Hell - we didn't have cable until I was in Highschool, and I still remember our very first beta max, artari and answering machine, not to mention my very first Apple computer in college! Black and white screen it was little more then a fancy word processor and calculator - but still I felt so technologically savvy!

In the past 20 years, I have been able to witness first hand cameras turning digital. The internet becoming mainstream (although sadly this happened after college). Email becoming the prefered mode of long distance communication. Beta max, to VHS, to DVD to Blue Ray. Cassettes to CD's to MP3's to the iPod taking over the world. Cell phones - a novelty in and of itself - getting smaller, faster and morphing into handheld computers that have become such a part of who we are - really an extension of ourselves - that leaving the house and forgetting ones cell phone is tantamount to a disaster of epic proportions. They have become a sort of lifeline, something many of us no longer know how to function without.

The pace at which things move these days is dizzying to say the least. Dial up has been replaced by cable and Vios. The speed at which we can be delivered our news is astounding, and really with online shopping and delivery, in today's modern age one could literally never have to leave the house.

But does it make us happier? Is it hurting or helping our human connection?

Facebook has been what I would call an enlightening experience. Through it, happily I have been able to re-connect with many people. Friends from my high school or college with whom time and distance has kept us apart - now a daily check on my Facebook news feed keeps me abreast of the goings on in their lives and vice versa.

On the other hand relationships based on status updates and emails can leave us feeling dis-connected and even farther apart, regardless if the person lives 3,000 miles away - or the next town over and yet you never see them in the flesh. Nowadays I have relationships that are conducted via text message. Hell I was even broken up with that way once. I have had friendships end in email and relationships re-formed and growing in strength via Instant Message and Facebook messages. Isn't it odd?

What I fear is that as we head down this road of technological social interaction that future generations will lose the ability to interact on a personal face to face level. The basic idea of a "revolution" is an uprising and desire to change the way things are because they are not working. I understand that Social Media has it's positive side for news, commerce and business as well as connecting the world to each other, but is it hurting our personal relationships? Will we soon forget how to connect at the human level without our Blackberry or iPhone?

I guess only time will tell.....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wine and Friends

Sometimes things are really frustrating in life. Sometimes you can feel as though everything is coming down on your head. Sometimes you just don't know what to do.

Then sometimes, when you feel that way - all it takes is a long lunch with a few glasses of wine and a good friend to sound off on. To talk about problems, and also to talk about good things, gossip, catch up on life and tell stories that really have nothing to do with anything and all of a sudden you forget about your problems.

Thank goodness for a sunny LA Monday, a good workout and then a great friend and our favorite place in Culver City to get a yummy salad, a glass (or 2) of wine, a long leisurely lunch and a good chat.

We may not be able to solve the worlds problems. Hell half the time we can't even really solve our own problems, but after such a lovely afternoon for a while - nothing is that bad.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Johnny Depp Tri-fecta

My last Halloween post for another year - sigh - I love dressing up! I also love going out with friends after sitting in front of my computer for several weeks in a row, and as usual Randy and Jordan's soiree did not disappoint!

At the party we had a plethora of creative and fun costumes that people put a lot of effort (and commitment) into. Wolverine spent the month growing his beard so he could sport the mutton chops. Our Spinal Tap guest was incredible in his bright red spandex with zippers up the side. Then there was our John McEnroe - whose short shorts were - well epic to say the least!! Several of us even admitted to watching the movies we were portraying characters from that afternoon for inspiration. Candy corn martinis were served with our pant less LA Sheriff officers famous gumbo, Rockband was brought out late night and all in all the spirit of revelry was high.

I went Pirate this year. In lieu of sassy, sexy or suggestive - I channeled a bit of Captian Jack Sparrow - and a mighty fine captain I thought I was. Then , at one point in the evening it dawned on someone that 3 of us were channeling Mr. Johhny Depp. We had a Sweeney Todd, a Mad Hatter from the upcoming Burton take on Alice in Wonderland, and myself as Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. So just for fun - here is a photo someone took of the Johnny Depp Tri-fecta as it was. (The Mad Hatter MADE his hat! Impressive huh?)

I am a HUGE fan of Johnny Depp - so here is a clip from the upcoming movie. I can't wait to see it!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Moon Trailer and Vampire Addiction

21 days! 21 days until New Moon of the Twilight series is released on the big screen.

Oh my.

What is it about these books? Damn you Stephanie Meyer for your inspiration and for creating these stories - originally meant for teenagers but so incredibly addictive I personally have read them all twice and STILL want more. At least I know I am not the only woman in my 30's who is twice the age of the intended audience yet obsessed to a point of absurdity. According to the woman at Barnes and Noble in Philadelphia who sold me New Moon last Christmas time after I DEVOURED Twilight on my flight from LAX (a birthday gift courtesy of another Twilight addict and friend) - about 75% of the people she had been selling the book to were in their late 20's through 40's.


It's not as if these are books full of steamy romance and sex - which would explain my age group hungrily devouring them. They are rather chaste, full more of suspense and mystery. So that can't be it.

Is it that it is about Vampires? I mean they are the sexiest and most seductive of the dark world mythical creatures for sure but in general society has the attention span of a toddler and fads come and go so quickly if they weren't posted on Facebook I would - and still do miss most of them. Still, America's recent obsession shows no sign of waning - in fact it appears to be growing stronger daily. The Twilight series, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries - vampires show no sign of losing their strength in popularity, - so again what IS it about Vampires?

Vampire lore, legend and various descriptions from different writers around the world is vast and contradictory. They sparkle like diamonds in the sun and don't need to sleep (my favorite - nice twist Ms. Meyer!) or they sleep in coffins and will burst into flames in the sun. One bite will either kill you or turn you, or vampires can feed off of their human companions with no inherent danger other then the bond between them growing with each feeding. They all descend from from the devil, are demons themselves or as in Bram Stokers Dracula - they are descendants of Vlad the Impaler - detailed even more in the Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I could go on but there is only ONE theme that remains true - regardless of the storyteller.

They are immortal.

I think that is the key. It's the idea of immortality. Something not possible for sure but it IS an intoxicating and seductive fantasy. In today's day and age, we live longer, are stronger and with trainers, dietitians, cosmetic surgeons and botox - we can appear to be cheating the passage of time and trick ourselves into feeling as though we are even cheating death. Of course that is unrealistic - but I think it is the secret desire in so many to live longer, look younger, perhaps that could be what draws us to vampires. The idea, the fantasy that there is a way to live forever. Be strong, invincible - and in most cases preternaturally beautiful - and of course the sexy draw of immortality.

Maybe that's why we are addicted to Vampires these days.

I can't be sure of the reasons, but I know I sure am.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy (Pagan) New Year

I know - it's not January - but it is the day before the Pagan New Year of Halloween! One of my favorite holidays. It is a time for celebration of the dead who have gone before us, the life a new ahead of us, masks and costumes, drinks and revelry.

It is a mark of the New Year for the Pagan religion and this year, I feel more then ever it is the mark of a New Year for me. Partly to do with launching my photography business, and part due to the fact that a year ago around this time marked the end of certain things in my life. At the time I felt my world was over, and as the New Year struck this time last year I unknowingly had set upon a course of rest, reflection and exploration. What at times seemed a long - drawn out - painful year, is now showing me the reason why these things happened...and so things change yet again.

Most people mark the New Year as the changing date on the Gregorian calendar that we have followed for centuries, by making their resolutions to change themselves for better in the upcoming 365 days many of said resolutions having to do with some sort of trying to perfect the physical self.

I myself have done this countless times, and most likely will continue to do so. But THIS New Year is different for me. I wasn't even sure how - until this morning when upon waking and looking out my second story window on a crisp clear and yes COLD for southern California fall morning - I happened to see that one of the resident spiders in my garden had worked an incredibly large web - suspended so high it was eye level with me and spanning the distance I can only guesstimate at 8 or 9 feet across from the tree it was anchored on one side, to the fence far below and over on the other.

Spiders are a symbol of Halloween for sure, and they are plentiful here in Venice this time of year. The past 2 falls while living here in my beautiful gated courtyard complex, I would either wake to the grumbling sounds of my rather tall neighbor Dr. D as he would be heading out to work and run into a web that had been spun in the night, or if he went out the other direction - I would be the unwilling victim of a web getting tangled in my hair as Asher and I set out for a walk. Now I know they catch flies and bugs (better then the "as seen on tv" fly catching system I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond for a wasted $9.95 that sits empty day after day mocking me as I swat flies away) - but still I have never been a fan of spiders, webs or anything like that.

Then I saw this web. Now you will see it not perfect, it has already been damaged by the wings of the winged bugs ensnared in its sticky filaments, but what struck me enough to stare and then grab my camera was the MAGNITUDE of what this small creature of the planet had created. Something so functional yet temporary. Spiders work and work and work to spin these complex webs to create something that enables them to get what they need to survive. And all it takes is a large bug , or a human of the right size to knock it all down.

I started thinking about that. All the spiderwebs in my courtyard the past few years I have either unintentionally or intentionally destroyed, and the fact that the very next day - there would be another in its place, sometimes larger and more intricate, sometimes angled in a way that I wonder if they are trying to figure out how to make it so it will not be destroyed THIS day. Spiders don't sit around lamenting the loss of all their hard work and toil. I doubt they put their head in their (multiple) hands and say "why me" or "what do I do next". No, that is something for us humans to get mired down in, instead they get right back to work and re-build. That's it, what they built, their home, their world gets blown away - and they re-build and move on.

Amazing that after a year of questions, and searching one morning a spiderweb in my yard begins to put it all in perspective for me. Things break down, plans don't always work out but the best thing you can do for yourself is start again. Make it bigger, bolder, different, but re-build. Don't dwell on what has been lost - but look towards what can be.

The past is gone - today is full of possibilities.

Happy Pagan New Year!