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Archive for the ‘Challenge’ Category

I love photography and always enjoy an opportunity to learn more about my camera and the art of photography itself.  Thanks to The Crafty Wife, I and other photo loving ladies are getting some free lessons on how to put our DSLRs to their best use.

This lesson is all about shutter speed.  What is shutter speed?  The teachers at NoBadFoto.com tell us this:

The shutter speed controls the amount of time that the shutter curtain is left open. – See more at: http://www.nobadfoto.com/understanding-exposure-3.html#s1

In other words, this setting controls how much “motion” you will catch in a still photo.  That sounds a little weird, doesn’t it?  Let’s look at a few of my lesson photos to explain. When the shutter speed is set to a slow pace, such as 1/4 of a second, running water looks like this:

f22-1 over 4-400iso-faucet

f22 1/4 shutter speed 400iso

There is not a lot of detail in the water and when it hits the sink:

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f22 1/4 shutter speed 400iso

It shows up like a puddle instead of running water.  Now let’s hike up the speed to 1/1000 of a second and see what happens.

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f3.5 1/1000 shutter speed 1600 iso

There are a lot more details in the water and you start to see individual droplets instead of one continuous running stream.

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f3.5 1/1000 shutter speed 1600 iso

See all of the extra detail in the water.  Now imagine if that was a person or animal running.  If you want a clear shot of their “motion”, you need to speed up the shutter to catch them in action.  I decided to turn my camera all of the way up to 1/3200 of a second just to see what it would look like.

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f3.5   1/3200 shutter speed 3200 iso

There is even more detail, but the lighting becomes harder to perfect at this speed, especially indoors. So, what have I learned?  I now know the next time I want to take motion or action shots to crank up that shutter speed if I don’t want any blur.  Of course, if I am shooting running water and want that smoky look, I will need to really slow it down and hold the camera very steady to reduce shakiness. 

This has been a great lesson and I so appreciate The Crafty Wife for hosting these tutorials.

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Who has an awesome DSLR, but still doesn’t really know how to use it to its best advantage?  That would be me!  I have always wanted to take an in-depth photography class, but there just isn’t many offered in my area so when Crafty Wife started The Photo Ladies group for us DSLR novices, I jumped at the chance.  Where can you get tons of good information and challenging lessons for free? 

Crafty Wife is using classes from nobadfoto.com and the first one is on aperture.  If you are like me and you’re really not sure what aperture is, here is their definition:

“Aperture: the size of the opening in the lens when a photo is taken. The opening controls how much light can enter your camera at once.”

There was so much great information in just this first lesson that I can’t wait for the rest!  The first challenge is to pick a stable object (I used a plant) and take three photos of the Aperture Priority Mode on your camera.  That means you control the aperture setting and the camera controls the shutter speed.  The ISO is set to 1600 for all of the photos below.

First up is the lowest number aperture setting on my camera with the prime lens which is 3.5, exposure time is 1/640, and ISO is 1600.

f3.5

Notice how the plant is in sharp focus, but the wooden table is not.  That is called a shallow depth of field where the closest object is clear, but the background is not.

Next is the same photo with an aperture setting of 9, the exposure time is 1/100, and the ISO is 1600.

f9

Now the grain of the wood is much more in focus and the colors are also a little more intense. 

Last is the highest number aperture setting for my lens and it is 22.  The exposure time is 1/15 and the ISO is 1600.

f22

This photo has the largest depth of field with all objects being in focus, including the curtain in the very back right corner.

I was so surprised how much difference the aperture makes.  I had been focusing more on shutter speed (exposure time) and the ISO.  Thanks, Crafty Wife and nobadfoto.com for this great lesson.  Can’t wait for the next one!

You can check out The Photo Ladies Flickr page here.

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Another month has flown right by and it is time for February’s dessert challenge hosted by The Lady Behind The Curtain.  This month’s ingredients are Coca Cola and cherries.  Hmmm..I had a little difficulty coming up with an idea, but this recipe hits the mark. I used one of my all-time favorite cake recipes and altered it to fit my needs.

The base of this recipe is the Coca Cola Fudge Cake that I wrote about back in 2011.  I left out the pecans and baked the cake in two 8 inch pans instead of a 9×13 inch dish.  This is a very dense fudgy cake and the glaze hardens just perfectly over the layers.

One little word of warning regarding the glaze:  Let it cool for 5 to 10 minutes before pouring it over the cake or you will have a chocolate sauce river like I did.  I just kept spooning it over the cake until it started to set up, but some of the glaze was still lost off the cake plate. It was just a little bit sad.

Black Forest Coca Cola Cake Slice

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

3 sticks unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, divided

1 1/2 cup Coca-cola, divided

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar

1/2 can cherry pie filling

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8” baking pans.  Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.  Set aside.  In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 sticks of butter with 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1 cup Coca-cola and 1/2 cup buttermilk.  Cook until it boils.

Add the boiled mixture to the flour mixture and combine.  Then add eggs and vanilla extract.  Pour the batter into the baking pans and cook for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes then remove and cool completely.

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In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining 1 stick of butter with 1/4 cup cocoa powder and 1/2 cup Coca-cola. Let this come to a boil and then remove from heat. Beat in the 4 cups of powdered sugar.  Let the glaze cool for about 10 minutes or until thickened but still pourable.

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Place the first layer on a cake plate, pour about 1/3 of the glaze onto the layer and then pour half of a can of cherry pie filling.  Try to keep the cherry filling from running over the edge of the layer.  Place the second layer on top and pour the remaining glaze over the cake.  You may need to spoon the glaze from the cake plate back on to the cake if it is still too warm and liquid-y.  Let the glaze set until firm and enjoy!

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Black Forest Coca Cola Cake

Black Forest Coca Cola Cake Slice

 


Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge

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I was so pleased when Lady Behind The Curtain decided to continue her monthly Dessert Challenge, but it sneaked up on me a little bit.  Thankfully the two ingredients that we have to use this month are some of my favorites: hot chocolate mix/chocolate pudding mix and marshmallows! 

Since taking part in this challenge, I have tried to come up with ideas of my own instead of just copying other people’s recipes.  I have had a few failures along the way, but this is not one of them.  I started with my favorite simple chocolate Bundt cake recipe and just upgraded it a little bit.  One thing I had not counted on was the marshmallows melting completely during baking.  Oops!  You can’t see them in the cake, but they are definitely there in these soft little gooey spots throughout the cake.  Yum!!  Hope you enjoy!

 

rocky road bundt cake1

1 chocolate cake mix of your choice

3.9 oz. box instant chocolate pudding mix

1 3/4 cup milk

2 eggs

1 cup chocolate chips

10 large marshmallows cut into quarters

1/2 cup chopped almonds

 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a Bundt pan by spraying it with baking spray.  I just love my new Nordicware pan that I got for Christmas.  The cake looks like a big chocolate flower.

Combine the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, and eggs.  With an electric mixer, beat on low until just combined and then beat on medium for 2 minutes.  Fold in the chocolate chips, marshmallow pieces and almond pieces.

Bake for 1 hour then cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove the cake from the pan and let it completely cool before slicing and devouring!

rocky road bundt cake2


Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge

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This is the last week of the Fall Nurture Photography Challenge and the theme is…there really is no theme.  We are just supposed to use some of our favorite shots from this fall.  Last weekend was beautiful here in South Central Kentucky, so I took a few new photos with my iPhone while C & I were walking the dogs.  The light this time of year is just amazing!

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Nurture Photography Challenge - Fall 2013 Edition

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Welcome to the November edition of the Lady Behind The Curtain Dessert Challenge where we are using pears and maple as our spotlight ingredients.  Since I made muffins last month, I decided to stay on the handheld dessert theme and make cupcakes this time.  These are so moist and flavorful!  The texture is more like a muffin than a cupcake, but the maple buttercream just puts it over the edge from snack/breakfast food to a true dessert!  I started with this cupcake recipe from Sugar Hero and this frosting recipe from Chow and tweaked it as you see below.  This is definitely a keeper!

Five Spice Pear Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

For the cupcakes:

1 1/8 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. Chinese five spice

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups finely diced pears

1/2 cup chopped & toasted pecans

For the frosting:

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

pinch of salt

1/4 cup maple syrup

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  This is a perfect time to toast the pecan pieces.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside.   Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt & Chinese 5 spice. 

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Then add the egg and vanilla.  Slowly add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Stir in the pears and pecans gently by hand.

Fill the cupcake liners no more than 2/3 full because the cupcake will spread instead of rise and you don’t want ugly cupcakes. Bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few or no crumbs.  Cool completely and frost with the maple buttercream.

For the frosting, beat the butter, salt, and maple syrup together with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Don’t worry if it still looks separated because the sugar will make it come together.  Add the sugar about 1/2 cup at a time and mix thoroughly.  You may need to adjust the sugar amount to make it the consistency that you want.

I decided to use a 2D piping tip to frost the cupcakes.  It almost looks like a rose when you are done.  This recipe makes 12- 14 cupcakes.

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Five Spice Pear Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

 


Lady Behind the Curtain Dessert Challenge

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Sorry I missed out on last week’s challenge, but I just didn’t get it done.  This week’s prompts are brown/tabletop so I went out searching for some natural brown.  It is easy to find right now!

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Nurture Photography Challenge - Fall 2013 Edition

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