Category Archives: hobbies

Hip Things

Meet Lynn and Ava. Hip, cool, retro and just darn nice people. I had the pleasure of shooting their portraits the other day and wanted to share a few. Hopefully you can tell how much fun I had, becauseI was smiling just as much as they were!

 

Whatever your thing is, make sure you are having fun and doing what you love. Life is too short to be doing things you don’t want to do.

 

All Images ©2012 Ken Wallace Films LLC / La Belle Tu Portrait Studio

www.labelletu.com

 

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My Things

My Bag

I”ve always thought it was fun to peek inside a photographer’s camera bag, so I though I would share mine. It is pretty minimal, but seems to do give me the tools I need in most situations!

When I go out with my camera I carry my LowePro bag with just the essentials. For me, the essentials are:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mk III
  • Canon 24-105mm IS zoom lens
  • Canon 70-200mm IS II zoom lens
  • Canon 24mm f1.4 lens
  • Canon 680 EX strobe
  • Rapid shoulder strap
  • Color Checker Passport
  • Extra 32GB SD Card

I might also carry a few other things outside the bag, such as:

  • Lastolite Pro Tri-Grip Reflector
  • Manfroto Tripod
  • 3 meters of diffusion material

And for off-camera flash work I will add:

  • Pocket Wizard TT1 and TT5 remote triggers
  • Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite

 

FOR MORE ON MY PHOTOGRAPHY PLEASE VISIT

WWW.LABELLETU.COM

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Things that Rise – Part 1

A few years ago I had an extended amount of time off work, which would have been lovely had I actually wanted an extended period of unemployment. I like to keep busy. After about 3 weeks at home I begin to loose my mind and I start looking for things to keep me entertained. Since I am a naturally curious person the objects of my focus can be rather random.

This particular time it was bread.

Our bread machine had died and it occurred to me that it might actually be possible to make bread without a big plastic machine. My wife was skeptical. I was fairly sure it could be done, and if something can be done at all my theory is that it can be done by me given a decent set of instructions and enough practice.

I didn’t grow up with good bread. Bread was something to spread peanut butter and jelly on. At its best it could be used to contain a slice of lunch meat, cheese and artificial mayonnaise. My life view on bread changed dramatically after our trips to Europe.

Bread in France and Italy is an art form. Gluten free does not exist. Lines form at 7am to buy the best bread. At the bakery (boulangerie) in our village of Bedoin you have to sign up on a list the day before to be guaranteed a baguette the next morning.

I wanted to bake bread that people will line up for.

My initial research indicated that great bread is baked in a wood-fired bread oven, not a plastic machine. I bought plans to build one.

When I priced out the plans and estimated the construction time I calculated that I could build this oven for about $5,000 and that it would take the rest of my life to complete. Unless my wife killed me before I was done.

So I did some more research, which is when I found a critical piece of information:

Your home oven can be used to bake really good bread for the cost of a pizza stone and a water spray bottle! Wow, that’s SO much easier!

The next critical component to bread is the hungry little critter that makes it rise. Yeast. Sure, you can get little packets of super-fast-rising-instant-dry-yeast, but I don’t think the French bakers get their yeast that way. And I wanted to make crusty chewy bread that wouldn’t go stale after a day. I needed…

A sourdough starter.

There are processes to grow yeast au natural, but I was too much of a beginner and way too impatient to delve into that black magic. Instead, I found a local bakery that made yummy sourdough bread and asked if they would give me some starter (sure, I bought some bread before hitting them up for a freebie).

Did you know you have to feed sourdough starter every other day at least? Sourdough starter is a living organism and you feed it flour and water to keep it alive.

It was like having another child!

…. coming next, the continuing adventures of the unemployed baker.

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Filed under Baking, France, hobbies, inspirational, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Learning Things

The original idea behind this blog was to inspire and help people find their passion. Sometimes I get sidetracked. I feel like I’ve been circling a little too broadly around the core concept: Find Your Thing.

In many ways this blog violates the blogospheric rule of specificity (a short rest was needed after writing that sentence). And honestly, I don’t have much interest in narrow focus. Sometimes I feel like writing about bees, or cooking, or Italy, or even my dog.

My Welsh Terrier

My hope is that passion is contagious. I had a little help from WordPress this weekend when my post Things That Grow made the Freshly Pressed page. Thank you to all of my new followers who took the time to read, comment and like and follow my ramblings. I am truly humbled and amazed.

Don’t hate me when you realize that I am making this all up as I go! I’m just learning.

But learning is good. Learning is perhaps the one most significant element of Finding Your Thing. There are scientific studies that tell us that constant learning is good for the brain. It fights off mental disease, aging, hair loss and decreases you chances of alien abduction.

I have no idea what studies these are, but I’ve heard about them. Google It.

This blog is our three-day-a-week brain-cell workout. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Like after we’ve had a few too many glasses of wine and don’t feel like going to the gym the next morning.

And with that as a premise it is my hope to not only inspire you to find your thing, but also to get you excited about learning. We will laugh, succeed and fail together (though not in that exact order).

I’ll try to keep focused, though I can’t promise I won’t digress and start thinking about muddy rain boots.

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Beekeeping in Brooklyn

Just a quick post today to share a video that I thought was quite nice…

Enjoy.

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Little Things that Matter

Two little things to be specific: my son and daughter. The two things in my life that matter most. Of the many jobs I have as a parent, helping to nurture their passions ranks high on the list.  The challenge is in guiding them towards interests that have some redeeming value beyond being something that they purely find fun. Otherwise, their passion would be to watch TV and play video games most waking hours.

At a young age my daughter (the eldest) took an interest in learning to play piano. After much discussion we made the plunge and purchased an upright piano and found a local teacher who could take on a new student.  A few years later my son joined in, thankfully allowing us to amortize the cost of the piano across two children, but also doubling the cost of the lessons.

It didn’t take long at all for the novelty to wear off.

As with any new skill as the difficulty level increases so does the need to practice, as does the whining and complaining. When you are a kid the concept that anything worth doing requires commitment is purely a ridiculous idea created by parents to torment their children.

But we have thick hides, selective hearing and iron wills. Our rule is: no practice, no dessert.

But as the weeks, months and years have gone by our children have slowly begun to realize a basic fact of life: practice makes people better. And the better they get, the more they enjoy the practice. Okay, who am I kidding. They still hate practice but getting them to do it takes less pestering than it used to. And these days, they even sit down at the piano and just play for the fun of it now and then.

Something else happens that is pretty cool too: when they play people think they are great, and their little egos get a lift. Best of all, the praise is not artificial–they are actually getting recognized for a talent that they earned. And little by little they are finding that music is more that hitting the right keys–they are finding that there is an artist inside them and music is an avenue for expressing themselves.

Sometimes it takes a push for us to not only find our thing, but to take hold of it, nurture it, and make it our own. And when we do dessert is so much sweeter.

 

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Things I See

I carry my camera in my car with me almost everywhere I go. Sometimes I’m out driving and I see something beautiful, interesting, or in this case just odd, and I have to stop and take a picture. If my family is with me, this can drive them nuts. My teenaged daughter is especially traumatized when crazy dad jumps out of the car and starts taking pictures in public. How humiliating and embarrassing!

Statues at a Hollywood Set Building Company

But I’m stubborn and I don’t mind embarrassing her if it means getting a good shot. We can’t be shy about seizing the moment. Opportunities are fleeting–spend too much energy worrying about what others think and you will miss them.

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Pasadena Farmhouse

Some days when I have a few extra minutes after dropping my kids off at school I take little side trips through the area and look for interesting homes. This 1880s farmhouse sits smack in the middle of a suburban neighborhood in Pasadena, CA. The tree-lined street is home to modest craftsman bungalows from the early 1900s and later war-time era homes of the 40s and 50s.

The owner of 25 years said that over the decades of working on the house she has found all sorts of interesting artifacts–old booze bottles, newspaper clippings and medicine jars.

It’s nice to find little slices of history in your own backyard!

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Bee Your Thing

Okay–“Bee Your Thing” is a pretty bad pun. But perhaps it made you read past the title!

One of my undeclared things is beekeeping. I have a small hive of little honey-makers in my garden and for the most part they are darn self-sufficient little workers. Every few weeks I have to pull on the protective gear and open up their home to check in on them.

The great thing about bees is that they are smarter than humans when it comes to understanding what they need. We humans tend to over think things. They like to be left alone for the most part, and since the homes we provide them (the hives) are fixed spaces, they just ask that we give them enough room to multiply, which is really what they do best. So every few weeks I peek in on them, make sure they have enough room, and then let them do their thing.

If you mess this up a couple of things can go wrong. First, a small weaker hive could be attacked by “robber bees” or other natural enemies, so one has to take some precautions against that from happening. Second, if the hive is not well established and doesn’t have enough honey made to make it through winter, you have feed them some sugar water or organic honey to help them out. Finally, if you fail at giving them enough room to expand they will decide to high-tail it out and find another place to live (called swarming). Like I said, they are smart critters.

Finally, if you have been a good beekeeper and you have a nice hive of happy bees you are rewarded by…you guessed it…delicious organic local honey. Once box of honey comb will yield about 30 pounds of honey–which is enough to spread on toast all year long and to give as gifts to the tolerant neighbors who may have been stung while trimming their roses.

There is a movement afoot in Los Angeles, California to make beekeeping legal in all county cities. There are still laws on the books preventing urban beekeeping in many towns, most of which are rarely enforced unless a neighbor complains. Jars of honey liberally shared with neighbors seem to help with this problem!

More importantly, education helps. Bees are a vital part of the local ecosystem, and they are vanishing at an alarming rate. The notion of “killer bees” is more drummed up by the media to get ratings. Sure, disturb a beehive and you will have very upset bees. Beehives have personalities too–some are gentle and some get riled up more easily. But roving swarms of killer bees attacking innocent people at random is a Hollywood movie plot, not reality.

If you are interested in beekeeping, I recommend the book “The Complete Idiots Guide to Beekeeping.” You can also check you local area for clubs that can help mentor you. I recommend a club that promotes organic beekeeping principles that do not involve the use of chemicals, which I like to think the bees appreciate.

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Lisa McGarry – Writer, Painter and Fine Artist

How far could following your thing take you?  How about a life in one of the world’s most beautiful cities?

This week I’d like to introduce you to, Lisa McGarry.

Lisa McGarry

Lisa McGarry

Lisa has a thing for Italy. Specifically, she loves the city of Florence and its beautiful Piazzas (that’s piAzzas, not pizzas–though I bet she likes those too). In Lisa’s words:

“I was drawn into the stories of the multi-talented artists who had given Florence its churches and bridges, palaces and piazzas, and the graceful terra-cotta cupola that has served as a point of reference since the Renaissance.  From my first walk through Florence, when those secondhand memories finally came to life, I was enchanted…”  (excerpt taken from www.lisa-mcgarry.com)

After years of traveling to Florence for inspiration, Lisa decided to focus her efforts on writing a book about the Piazzas of Florence. She pitched her idea to publishers, reworked her book concept many different times, and ultimately made the decision to relocate with her family to Italy to pursue her dream full-time. After years of effort, in 2008 she was able to secure a publisher and realize her goal of being a published author.

Photo of the Piazzas of Florence

The Piazzas of Florence by Lisa McGarry

After getting her book “The Piazzas of Florence” published, Lisa has remained in Florence, working as a painter, photographer and writer. Her most recent works of art are beautifully crafted hand made artist books. The term “books” is a bit of a misnomer–Lisa’s inspired creations range from accordion books and wooden treasure boxes to voyager’s chests. They are constructed using marbled Florentine papers and other fine materials, and showcase Lisa’s love for all things Italian. Her rich use of visual textures invites the viewer to explore on numerous levels. They elevate the concept of a book–these are collector-quality works of art.

Voyager Chest by Lisa McGarry 

Invitation to Florence

Between Sea and Sky

Between Sea & Sky

When Lisa is not writing and conjuring up amazing works of art she blogs about Florence and her creative process at arzigogolare (Italian for “to let your mind wander, to muse, to daydream.” If you like Lisa’s work (and who wouldn’t!) you can buy her prints, cards and books at her on-line store PaperSynthesis, which can also be found on her website lisa-mcgarry.com.

Where might your thing take you? France, Bali, Nepal? Don’t limit your potential. Allow your mind to wander, follow your heart and see where it leads you.

Brunelleschi's Cupola by Lisa McGarry

*  All images and quotes were used with the permission of the artist, and are the property of Lisa McGarry *

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