Category: Photography

Cadillac Ranch

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There’s really no way you can drive through, or even near, Amarillo, Texas, without making the jaunt over to the Cadillac Ranch.

No way.

As the daughter of the now deceased Queen of Everything Texas, whether kooky or historical, there was no way, I, personally, could bypass this famous (or infamous) tourist stop.

(I texted my sister later to say how proud our parents would have been of me for the little side stop in our vacation.)

Honestly, though, even if I weren’t still trying to impress my (deceased) parents, I would so stop at Cadillac Ranch! It’s just one of the Texas things to see and do!

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Cadillac Ranch has zero educational value, unless you count quirky “art” and the mere ability to say you’ve been there, educational.

And, I do.

My youngest son has added to his culture bank, fo’ sho!

(Now, to make sure we inserted something educational into the visit, we discussed the importance of Route 66 and the various, often quirky, attractions along the famous highway–Cadillac Ranch is located in a pasture along Interstate 40, but the road the pasture is on is the original Route 66.)

Cadillac Ranch was originally created by three artists, back in 1974 , by sticking 10 Cadillacs into the ground, a la Stonehenge style. (Although, the degree of tilt corresponds to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.)

The pasture where the cars reside is private property, but it is encouraged to cross onto the land via an unlocked gate.

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Once you’ve entered the field where the cars are on display, you begin to notice, unfortunately, trash.

Empty spray paint cans.

Besides “trespassing,” you are also encouraged to “tag” the cars.

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We had not come prepared (with our own can of spray paint), but there were plenty of partially used cans on the ground to pick from.

When in Rome…

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We all got in on the act!

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Once you look closely, you realize just how many years of graffiti/paint has been coated on these cars!

Look how thick the paint is!

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There is not a single inch of any of the cars that hasn’t been colored upon.

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Really and truly, if you are ever in Amarillo–or anywhere near there–you should take the 30 minutes to see the Cadillac Ranch.

Just to say you did.

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E.

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Montana or Bust!

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My family recently did the Griswolds’ thing and drove to Montana for a family vacation.

We drove from Texas.

(that in and of itself should be impressive)

Three days to get there.

Three days to get back.

Through seven different states.

Worth every hour on the road.

My husband and I put this family vacation WAY high on the list of favorites. (My boys may disagree, simply because the last three days–with nothing planned but hard 8-12 hour driving–really shrouded the good memories of the trip. I know, though, as they forget the boring drive home, they will begin to remember the highlights of the trip. And there were many!)

Here’s a short list of some of our adventures:

We visited new friends in Montana and ate some of the best steak ever.

We drove to Wyoming, more than once–more on that soon.

We hung out Yellowstone–we saw lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

(Okay, we didn’t see lions and tigers.)

We hiked in Teton National Park–I didn’t pack the proper shoes, so I hiked in flip-flops…

We stopped at every state sign and took a picture. (See picture above.) My boys were THRILLED every time we stopped. Thrilled, I tell ya!

We had F.U.N., fun!

I’ll unpack our trip over the next few posts, if I may.

Stay tuned!

E.

Lastest Obsession

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If you follow me on Instagr.am (esimmonsphotography), then you’ve already seen pictures of my latest breakfast obsession.

How can pictures truly depict how delicious this is??

How can words fully describe this experience?

So simple.

So yummy.

So different.

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Toast.

Avocados.

Lemon juice (don’t skip).

Red pepper flakes (a MUST).

Salt and pepper.

That’s it.

Unadulterated, uncomplicated, luscious, creamy, light, scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth, nummy, yummy…

I’ll stop now.

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Try it.

For my sake.

I beg you.

E.

Zucchini Muffins

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Do you recall the zucchini growing in my garden?

Let me remind you…

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I don’t think the picture does it justice.

Imagine a hand at the end of that thing and you’ve got my arm.

(Except my arm is not as smooth and it jiggles more.)

But, just imagine, okay?! (Not my jiggly arm…the zucchini with a hand…wait.)

I wasn’t real sure the zucchini would taste all that great once I actually tried to cook it. So, someone on Facebook suggested I use the big zucchini for bread.

Good idea!

So, I made muffins.

I’m a rebel like that.

“You don’t wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. So long, Dott.”

Name that movie.

Has nothing to do with zucchini.

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I used an extremely easy recipe on AllRecipes.com.

I, of course, tweaked the recipe.

(We’ve already established my rebel-ness.)

For example, it called for 3 cups all-purpose flour, I used 1 cup all-purpose, the rest whole wheat flour.

The recipe called for 1 cup vegetable oil.

I used 3/4 cup coconut oil and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. (Some people suggested, in the reviews of the recipe, to use a portion of apple sauce to cut down on the oil, but I didn’t have any on hand. So, I tried using a healthier oil.)

I sifted together all the dry ingredients, except the sugar.  Then, I added the sugar into the oil, eggs and vanilla (above) and beat them until creamy.

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Next, I poured the dry ingredients into the wet and mixed those thoroughly.

(I didn’t take every single step pictures. I’m too messy, I usually forget, and don’t like to get my camera all sticky. Plus, the lighting in my kitchen is icky.)

Finally, I dumped 2 cups of grated zucchini and 1 cup chopped walnuts into the bowl and mixed it up.

Hey!

Notice that cute spatula/scraper/thingy I have!

See it below?

It’s shaped just like a baseball bat!!!

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(My sweet friend Julie R. gave it to me. We’ve only been friends for a short while, but she already knows me well!)

I baked the muffins with the convection oven for about 15-20 minutes or so at 325 degrees. But, the recipe calls for a much longer baking time of 40-60 minutes for a loaf or two of bread.

(Loaf. What an odd word. Say it a couple times real fast and it starts sounding weird… loafloafloafloafloaf… See what I mean?)

Boy, am I happy I made these into muffins, though! Bread would have been super, too.

What I like about this recipe is that it is not too terribly sweet. But, will certainly scratch that itch, if you’re hankering for a little sweet something.

(Oh! And, if you chop the walnuts small enough your non nut-eaters will never know they’re in there.)

I like them in there. They add a certain…um… nuttiness to the recipe.

ThrillCam gave his seal of approval–he confirmed that I put zucchini in them, because he said you couldn’t taste it at all.

Score!

A sorta sweet, sorta healthy muffin that even your kids (and your hubby) will like…you could re-name them if need to.

Take out the zuchhini part and just call them Magnificent Morning Muffins!

After they’ve scarfed down 3 or 4, then you can tell them there are veggies inside! (Or, just wait a couple years until they can handle the truth.)

By the way, you can freeze the bread/muffins for a quick breakfast or snack.

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You really should give these a try, especially this summer, while the fresh zucchini are plentiful!

And HUGE!

Enjoy!

E.

ZUCCHINI MUFFINS/BREAD

Adapted from Mom’s Zucchini Bread in AllRecipes.com submitted by v monte.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 C. whole wheat flour (or all 3 C. can be all-purpose flour)

1 t. salt (I used Morton’s LiteSalt)

1 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

3 t. ground cinnamon

3 eggs

1 C. vegetable oil (or coconut oil)

2 1/4 C. sugar (I think I used much less than that)

3 t. vanilla extract

2 C. zucchini, grated

1 C. walnuts, chopped

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325*

2. Spray with non-stick spray, or grease and flour muffin tins or two 8×4-inch pans.

3. Sift together flour(s), salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl.

4. Beat the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until creamy.

5. Gently fold in the zucchini and walnuts.

6. Pour or scoop batter into prepared pans.

7. Bake loaf pans for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. (Or, if making muffins, in regular oven, bake for about 20-30 minutes.) (Or, if making muffins in a convection oven, bake for about 15-20 minutes.)

Happy Independence Day!!

(I posted this in 2011, but the sentiments and ideas still stand. Hope you all have a safe and wonderful time with friends and family this week celebrating this great country we are privileged to live in. God bless America! E.)

 

 You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks,and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.  ~Erma Bombeck

Whether or not you throw a Frisbee, or stuff yourself on iffy potato salad, I hope your Fourth of July is super!

In honor of Independence Day, here’s a brief recap of what it is all about (credit goes to History.com for the following excerpt–had I written it, it would have been three times as long and full of incorrect information, so I decided to go with someone reliable.  And, it never hurts to have the occasional refresher course.):

“In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.”

(Stained glass window of The Reading of the Declaration of Independence to Washington–as in George–1776, at Mount Vernon.)

I thought I’d list a couple ideas for things to do on the Fourth of July.  Of course, by now, you’ve probably already made your plans, but just in case you forgot something, here you go.

July Fourth ideas:

  1. Of course, fireworks.  If your city has not banned the firing of them due to no rain, then you should absolutely grab a lawn chair and some Off! and go watch them.
  2. Take pictures of the fireworks–don’t forget your tripod!!
  • Shoot manual and at a slow shutter speed: allow for long exposures of many seconds to 30 seconds, or you can even try the bulb setting
  • Use a quick release trigger for the camera, if you have one.  If not, try setting your release to a 2 second or 10 second delay, especially if the fireworks are being shot off at very regular and quick intervals.  You can press the shutter button and allow for any shake to subside before the picture is taken.
  • Shoot at a low ISO 100-200
  • Pretend the next number on my list is 3.
  1. Eat some watermelon.  I don’t know why, just do it!  Because it’s so yummy!  And, it just goes with Fourth of July, that all.
  2. Ask some neighbors over to grill some burgers and hot dogs, and play some games.
  3.  Have a neighborhood parade–decorate the bikes and wagons and play some loud patriotic music (like John Phillip Sousa), and take your parade through the neighborhood.  If you want to throw out candy, like at a big parade, let your kids throw out all your old Halloween candy.  It’s a great way to get rid of it, and I consider that recycling!  What?  You didn’t keep all your old Halloween candy?  No one keeps candy for that long?  Really?  Oh.
  4. Play horseshoes, ladder golf, washers, or cornhole.  All four are fun games to play outside, while eating your watermelon.
  5. Hang a flag in your front yard somewhere.
  6. HAVE FUN!!

Happy Independence Day!

God bless America,

E.

Creative Challenge Update

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Last week, I issued a creative challenge: to try something new, to stretch your creative legs a bit.

My personal challenge was to use a different camera lens than my go-to 70-200mm. Using different lenses offers different vantage points.

The lens I grabbed was my Canon 24-105mm. I had purchased the lens for our trip to Jordan back in 2010. I needed a good lens that would give me a little zoom along with a wide angle. It worked pretty well for me. But, since purchasing the lens, I haven’t used it too terribly much. It just doesn’t give me what I hope for.

Or, to be honest, I have not worked very hard to learn its strengths and weaknesses.

(May I take a moment to say something that’s been heavy on my heart? Just because someone has a bunch of expensive camera gear it does not mean they actually know how to use it. Cameras have continued to improve over the years and everyone has a pretty decent camera in their possession–even the phone cameras are improving with each new release–that does NOT necessarily equate to a good photographer. A good photographer knows how to creatively and properly compose a photograph. A good photographer knows how to expose for the light properly. A good photographer can take his/her camera off auto–if they want–and still take beautiful, creative photographs. A good photographer knows how to pose one or more people. So, if you hear someone say, like I did the other day, “Wow, that is a great camera and lens! I bet it takes super pictures!” please remind them the equipment needs someone to actually know how to use it creatively to capture super pictures.)

Sorry.

I guess what I’m trying to say I needed to practice with a new lens to learn how to best use it. In some pictures I succeeded (notice the road pic–I didn’t put the horizon in the middle of the picture; it leads the eye and adds interest), some I didn’t (like the sunflower, above and below–I didn’t expose too well for the backlit subject–I needed a reflector or something to pop some light to the center of the flower, or I needed to move and squat differently, but my knees were already beginning to stage a coup).

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It was 3pm and blazing hot, about 90+ degrees the afternoon I took the above photos. Too hot and harsh to be out practicing, but it was good for me. It forced me to deal with some not-so-great light. I had to change my ISO, speed up or slow down my shutter, and close down or open up my aperture, depending on what I was shooting. All good for me, especially since I was using a somewhat unfamiliar lens.

All in all, it was a very beneficial lesson for me–fun and creative, to boot!

How did you do over the weekend? Did you work on something creative? Please let me know what you worked on and if you learned anything through the process.

E.

A Creative Challenge

My go-to lens of choice is my Canon 70mm-200mm.

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I use the lens for just about everything.

For example, I can shoot portraits.

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(Look at the good-looking guy!!! I’m missing my oldest punk! Waaaahhhhhhh!!! He’s off playing summer college baseball…I can’t wait to see him play in a couple of tournaments closer to home in a few weeks.)

This lens also allows me to get up close and personal for sports and action shots.

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(That’s my youngest punk who is also playing summer baseball. Thankfully, he’s playing on a local summer select team. He still sleeps in his own bed in his own room. Which means, I still have to go upstairs occasionally and remind him to clean up after himself. I’m sure, one day, I will miss having to tell him to clean up, but right now, not so much.)

Look at the bokeh (the blurry background) the 70mm-200mm gives me.

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See how the plant is isolated and the back- and foregrounds are blurred and creamy? (Photoshop was not used on the above photo, except to create the frame, add my watermark, and to lower the resolution for the internet.)

The 70-200 is my most favorite lens, ever.

Yes, it is large.

And, yes, it’s on the heavy side, sort of. (I’m used to it, so it doesn’t really bother me.)

I know the lens inside and out.

It’s my go-to lens, and, because it’s my go-to lens, I rarely use my other lenses, which is a shame.

I don’t know them quite as intimately and I find myself frustrated when I use them–they are slow, or cumbersome, or too small, or too wide, or too whatever.

So, I’ve given myself a challenge: I’m going to use a different lens over the weekend, exclusively (with the exception of my son’s baseball tournament–I’m trying to build my sports photography business in this new area, so I need to use my 70-200mm).

I’ll report back to you next week with some samples of my work.

I’d also like to issue YOU a challenge. If there is an area of your creative life that needs a little practice or a boost, I challenge you to work on that this weekend.

Is there a particular knitting stitch (stitch?? pearl??) you want to try?

Are you more comfortable using oil paints but would like to improve in water colors?

Do you want to learn to play a new song on the guitar that requires you to learn a new technique or riff?

I don’t know! Just pick something creative you need to improve upon and go for it! Let’s do this together! (I want to hear what you worked on over the weekend, by the way! I expect a full report on my update post!)

In the meantime, have a super weekend!

And, let’s be creative, people!

E.