Friday, March 17, 2006

Detour ahead!

In a moment of clarity, I created a new blog dedicated entirely to photography. This blog will continue as a Food & Wine resource, but all future photographic endeavors will be displayed at:

Schroedinger's Camera

I hope all three of my readers will make their way over there without difficulty.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Commie cameras rule!

It's been a while since I've picked up my Kiev 4a, made in 1966. Shown here with a Jupiter-8 50mm lens and a hood .

I think the roll of film that's currently in it was loaded about 6 months ago. If I remember correctly, I put the film in the day I got a spiffy 'new' Jupiter-12 35mm lens that I found on ebay, complete with front and rear caps, bakelite canister, AND a matching external viewfinder. All for only $70.

I guess it's time to finish off that film and see what I get. I honestly have no idea what photos I'll get back. That's the joy of having so many film cameras. It takes about two months to finish off any one roll of film, and I frequently forget which camera was used for which occasion. It's sort of a 'grab bag' of images.

Here's a sample taken when I first got the camera. A beautiful example of the stunning bokeh the Jupiter-8 produces. But what I want to know is, why are my best images always from 'test rolls' of film, like this?

A new meaning to beer on tap

A woman thought she was in heaven when beer instead of water flowed from the taps in her apartment in west Norway.

"I turned on the tap to clean some knives and forks and beer came out," Haldis Gundersen told Reuters from her home in Kristiansund, west Norway. "We thought we were in heaven."

Beer in Norway is among the most expensive in the world with a 0.4 liter (0.7 pint) costing about 50 crowns ($7.48) in a bar.

Gundersen said she tried the beer but that it tasted a bit odd and was not fizzy.

It turned out that a worker in a bar two floors below had mixed up the pipes on Saturday evening, wrongly connecting a new barrel to a water pipe leading to Gundersen's flat. The bar got water in its beer taps.

"If it happens again I'm going to order Baileys," she said.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

all you can drink.. and then some

They are virtually impossible for any downtown visitor to miss. Three replica bottles, each 30 feet wide and 90 feet tall with 12-inch letters declaring Budweiser "King of Beers." But there is not an ounce of beer in the 176 concrete silos behind the vinyl banners that greet drivers and pedestrians at the east end of Washington Street. Not a single can of Bud Light, Budweiser Select, Michelob Ultra or Bare Knuckle Stout is brewed or bottled in the mammoth manufacturing facility that includes 40 buildings on 23 acres fronting Lake Michigan and owned by St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch. What does emerge from the Manitowoc Malting Plant operated by Busch Agricultural Resources Inc. is crucial, however, in the production of different varieties of Budweiser, Michelob and Busch beers, and specialty malt beverages like Bacardi Silver Raz. About 2,700 railcars of barley arrive annually at the plant where the grain is processed into malt. After a series of steps involving cleaning, grading, storage, steeping, germination and kilning, it becomes "the heart and soul" of beer. Barley malt determines a beer's flavor and coloring and, with modifications, the speed at which the beer can be brewed. From processing in Manitowoc, the malt travels by train to six of Anheuser-Busch's 12 breweries where the different types of Budweiser are bottled, outselling all other domestic premium beers combined.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Taken in the Glenbeulah cemetery not far from my house... the cemetery is nationally known for supposedly being haunted. I didn't see anything unusual, but I have to admit the place certainly did seem like the type that could be a hub of supernatural activity. I think I'll have to go back in the spring during the evening. But I'll need to bring a friend this time. The Buddy System, ya know.

gated community

This reminds me of the old joke.. Why do they put fences around cemeteries? Because people are dying to get in.

And another.. What unlocks the cemetery gate? A skeleton key.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

On this day in 1945

Joe Rosenthal takes the most reproduced photo in history. You can read the story here.

Monday, February 20, 2006

On this day in 1902

Ansel Adams is born

The famous western photographer Ansel Adams is born in San Francisco. Adams' dramatic black and white images of Yosemite and the West are some of the most widely recognized and admired photographs of the 20th century.

Ansel Adams discovered his love of photography and the West during a family trip to Yosemite when he was 14 years old. He made his first photographs of the dramatic Yosemite Valley during that trip, and he returned to photograph the park every year thereafter for the rest of his life.

Adams soon developed a tremendous passion and talent for photography, though it remained only a hobby for many years. From childhood, Adams had studied piano, and as a young man he embarked on a promising career as a concert pianist. It was only when he was in his late 20s that Adams decided to abandon music and make a career out of photography instead, choosing to make the West the focus of his work. During the next 20 years, Adams' distinctive treatment of the western landscape won him a dedicated following, especially among the growing community of outdoor enthusiasts in California. Today his majestic portraits of the snow-covered Yosemite Valley and haunting images of Saguaro cacti under an Arizona moon are so familiar as to be visual cliches. It is hard to remember that when Adams first published them, the pictures had a crystalline purity that few other nature photographers had achieved.

A dedicated conservationist, Adams deliberately used his photos to inspire a semi-religious reverence for the natural world that he hoped would encourage more Americans to protect and preserve wilderness. A lifelong member of the Sierra Club (when it was still considered a reputable organization), Adams provided images for many of the club's early publications in the 1960s.

Besides being an accomplished artist, Adams was also a technical innovator and a teacher. Along with several other photographers, Adams founded "Group f/64," which was dedicated to promoting deep-focus photography and the use of "straight" images free from darkroom trickery. He created a number of innovative photographic techniques that he introduced to the general public through a series of books and an annual workshop in Yosemite.

In recognition of his lifelong efforts supporting the national park system, Mt. Ansel Adams in Yosemite was named in his honor shortly after he died in 1984.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Wine Glasses 101

If a camera body is just a box that holds film, then a wine glass should be nothing more than a bowl to slurp wine out of, right? Maybe not. So how do you choose the right wine glass?

Unsuspecting drinkers are likely to be confronted by massive goblets large enough to comfortably house several goldfish. Or cut crystal that looks pretty but merely masks the wine inside. Or thick rims that simply block the wine from your mouth.

Glassware isn’t that hard to figure out. And while I hate to admit it, the proper glass really does make all the difference in enjoying wine — whether it’s $5 table wine or wallet-busting Grand Crus.

The bottom line. Find a set of glasses that fits your budget and your wine-drinking habits. Maximilian Riedel, CEO of Riedel Crystal of America and an 11th generation glassmaker, offers a decent rule of thumb: “What you spend on average for a bottle of wine, you should spend on your glass.”

Totally reasonable, though Riedel stemware — functionally the Rolls-Royce of wine glasses — might not fit everyone’s budget, seeing as it can cost well over $50 per hand-blown stem for the top-end Sommelier line. Still, it’s possible to find good glasses for about $10 apiece.

Good machine-blown glasses from German-made Spiegelau (purchased in September 2004 by Riedel, which is headquarted in Austria) average $10 to 12 per glass, and Riedel’s own entry-level Wine series starts around $10. I’m partial to the Connoisseur line available at Cost Plus stores, which average about $7 per glass.

To be avoided at all costs are those cheap, six-to-a-box travesties, which appeal in an Ikea-impulse-buy sort of way but don’t really warrant use for anything more than apple juice. Their shortcomings are revealed in even the most rudimentary taste tests. (Honest, try it yourself). Assign them to water duty and buy yourself a decent set.

Shape up. No need to go all wine-geek and buy a different glass for every type of wine you drink, but one set each for red and white will make you a happier camper. The aromas and textures of red wines and white wines are different enough to justify separate sets.

Red wines especially require a bowl big enough to provide what Bob Betz, a Master of Wine and owner of Betz Family Winery in Woodinville, Wash., calls “critical mass in the glass”: ample space to properly expose wine to air when it's swirled, and for aromas to be directed into your nose (where most of the “taste” is actually perceived.) A bowl size of 20 to 25 ounces seems about right for red-wine glasses; white wine functions well with bowls around 11 to 13 ounces, though a good glass for white Burgundy might require something closer to 20 ounces

“I was a cynic,” says Betz, “and I was proven wrong time and again.”

Beyond red or white, you’ll want to choose a specific shape. Among Riedel’s 160 shapes, the biggest sellers are Bordeaux-style glasses, meant for cabernet sauvignon and the like, followed by chardonnay glasses.

Pinot noir lovers might prefer a Burgundy-style glass that highlights the grape’s more subtle qualities. And sparkling wine truly benefits from a proper tapered flute — narrow enough to retain the bubbles but wide enough to release the wine's aromas.

These shapes are anything but arbitrary. The Riedel company invites winemakers to collaborate on new designs for specific types of wine, often sending them over 200 shapes to evaluate.

“It’s a Ping-Pong game,” Maximilian Riedel says. “We send them six, they send us back three.”

This back-and-forth can last for months until a final tasting round narrows it down to one perfect shape.

As for stems, sturdier is better — especially if you have clumsy friends. And 29-year-old Riedel also recently introduced his own pet project: His O Series glasses, designed for younger, casual drinkers, use the classic bowl shapes but are stemless.

What to avoid. The most overlooked feature in glassware is the rolled rim, easily detectable by a slightly bulging lip (versus a narrow tapered one). Not only does this block the wine from leaving the glass, it’s a sign of inferior quality. Those six-for-$10 packs almost inevitably have rolled rims.

Skip skinny or shallow glasses with more looks than functionality. Unless you’re drinking riesling, flared bowls or rims are unnecessary. Ditto flourishy stems, or those massive jug-like goblets.

Cut or etched designs may enhance the look of the crystal, but mostly just obscure the wine. Flat-bottomed glasses don’t really let you swirl the wine, which releases its flavor.

Keep it clean. Many wine pros are freaked out about using soap, but the rules aren’t quite so simple. Everyday glasses can survive the dishwasher provided you steer clear of harsh detergents and carefully wipe the glass afterwards. And don’t crowd them in the dishwasher.

More expensive stemware should be hand-washed; dish soap is OK on the outside if you apply it with a finger, but don’t put soap inside the glass. If you aren’t going to wash a glass the same evening you use it, leave some water inside to prevent staining.

Yearning to breathe free. Cabinets impart their own musty, veneered scents to a glass. I battled with a stale scent from my own kitchen cabinets for nearly two years, wiping out and shaking my glasses to clear out the must, before I gave up and moved them to a neutral-smelling closet.

Give the cabinets where you store your glasses a good cleaning, Don’t put glasses immediately into new or newly stained woodwork. Don’t store them upside down (it’ll only trap stale odors) and keep them freshly washed, at least once a month. “They’re not supposed to be dust-catchers,” Riedel says.

Betz endorses a popular technique of seasoning the glass with a bit of wine he’s about to taste: pour a bit in, swirl it around, then dump it out (or into the next person’s glass) before pouring yourself a full serving. The wine rinse helps wash away residue and off scents.