Summer in the vineyard…

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There’s nothing quite like a wine and food festival as a place to savour the tastes of summer. And one held among the vines right in a vineyard on a warm summer solstice eve is sure to be an extra special treat.

So when my sister asked if I would be interested in going along with her to help shoot such an event, I jumped at the chance. She had been asked by one of her clients to photograph the annual TD Tailgate Party that wraps up the Niagara New Vintage Festival.

My sister operates a busy marketing / communications / public relations consulting business (Winestains) in the Niagara area — one of Canada’s preeminent wine regions – and many of her clients are wineries or wine events. She’s always included photography in her social media contracts, but lately, more and more new clients have been asking for her event photography services.

We had travelled to southern Ontario to celebrate my sister’s birthday and her anniversary. But pro that she is, when the request came in, she didn’t want to let her clients down, so we decided to make a day of it — combining work with our passion for photography with spending time in each other’s company.

She knows how much I love photography and last year I had taken some shots at a Chardonnay festival we attended with her that she liked and was able to use. But being promoted to number two shooter at a wine event was an exciting new experience for me — one I relished and really learned from.

It struck me afterward that event photography is a bit of a mix of street photography, lifestyle photography and still life, all of which I have tried over the years.

You have to be fast, anticipate well, and shoot quickly (and a lot) in order to catch candid moments with good compositions, as you do in street photography. But you also want to show people in their best light, as you do in lifestyle and portrait photography. No odd expressions or embarrassing moments wanted here!

And wine and food events certainly require some set ups as does still life to showcase the “heroes” and the ambiance. At the back of your mind, you must always remember what the client is looking to convey to their audience through your images (a list of subjects and moods can be helpful) and continually aim to capture that.

We came home tired but happy that night. We had such a great time photographing the happy participants as they spent the evening socializing with friends and sampling new vintages and local favourites from all the winery partners as well as the yummy food offered by local vendors.

The next night was set aside for celebrating my dear sister. And celebrate we did! That is another story.

Easy Christmas cooking…

ingredientspotatoin the makingpotato puffs


Thanks for posting the smartphone pic,Elena!

Tis the season for feeding good friends and loved ones around the table. Who doesn’t love a recipe that’s super easy, delicious, a little different but also appeals to most tastes? And a recipe that can be made ahead of time to reduce stress in the kitchen is even more of a find, as far as I’m concerned.

So this past weekend my family from southern Ontario were guinea pigs for this new recipe I spotted, which we served along with grass fed beef, Yorkshire pudding and green beans with hazel nuts for an early holiday meal.

It was wonderful to feast together and then exchange gifts of love.

The potato puffs were proclaimed scrumptious and proved very popular. Here’s the recipe in case you want to give them a try.

Mashed Potato Puffs

24 mini puffs, when you use mini muffin tins

2 cups mashed potatoes
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup grated cheese such as Parmesan or Gruyere
1/4 cup minced chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease the cups of a mini-muffin tin.
Whisk together the mashed potatoes, the eggs, 3/4 cup of cheese and the chives. Season, if necessary, with salt and pepper.  Mound a spoonful of the mixture in each muffin cup.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the potato cups are set, browned on top, and hot through. Let cool for about 5 minutes in the pan, then use a spoon or knife to gently release them from the pan. Serve immediately with dollops of sour cream, if desired.

You can bake these and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To reheat and re-crisp: arrange the puffs on a baking sheet and bake at 400°F for about 15 minutes (depending on size).

The perfect oatmeal cookie…


I don’t know about you, but when the cool weather rolls in, I yearn for homemade treats.

And when I’m wishing I was back in New York, taking pictures, I distract myself by baking.



But not just any cookies. Oatmeal cookies.

They can’t be too soft or too doughy or too hard. They must be thin and light and buttery and crispy and chewy. A tall order for sure.

And I tried many a recipe until I found the perfect one. And if you’ve ever had the same problem, I will share it with you.

You can whip up a batch in no time at all — and even feel somewhat smug that they contain whole grains and aren’t as unhealthy as many other cookies. I also add a bit of ground flaxseed to the mix, which makes the cookies even more wholesome.

Get the recipe here.

And if you’re ever in need of distraction, give them a try.

August break, Day 10


Drink in the cool stillness and refresh your soul…

I have to say that I’m thrilled with some of the new features of Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CC.  Straightening lines and removing distortion has become so incredibly fast and easy. Problems in perspective and converging verticals used to plague me. I would stay away from photographing buildings and architecture because of that. But no more. 

Here’s a great little video about five features to love. Julieanne Kost, Adobe’s Principal Digital Imaging Evangelist, is one of my favorite teachers — direct, to-the-point and easy to follow. Whether you use PS or Lightroom, she knows all, and teaches all, so well.

You may already be familiar with Julieanne and her tutorials. But did you know that she is also a fabulous photographer? Because she travels so much for her work, she found herself taking lots of pictures out of airplane windows. This resulted in one of the most beautiful and astonishing collections of “window seat” images I’ve ever seen.   Why not take a trip with Julianne?


August Break, Day 6

green pepper

August Break, Day 6, Gift from the Garden

Today is Day 6 of the August Break and we’ve been out in the garden cutting peppers and pulling beets.

So my image for today is a “gift from the garden”.

Another gift from the garden is captured in this impressionistic — almost abstract — image by Barbara Hurst, who is a supremely talented American photographer I’ve been following for some time now. Would that not look dramatic framed in large format on a wall?


Image by Barbara Hurst Photography. Used with permission.

It seems to me that Barbara’s creativity has been on fire lately. Every time I’ve looked at her blog in recent days, I’ve marvelled at the sheer number of exceptional images she manages to take, process and post in even a very short time. This woman is prolific!

Barbara calls her new site a “visual journal” because she prefers pictures to words when telling the stories of her days — and of her passions. But she doesn’t need a lot of words because she is such a gifted visual story teller.

She is also a master of the perfectly composed collage.

Be prepared to swoon at her nature shots, her still lifes and don’t miss her lensbaby images.


August Break, Day 5

This month I’m joining Susannah Conway and many others around the world in the August Break project.

The idea is to post a photo a day, inspired either by the daily prompt or by something else.

I’ve also been sharing links to the work of photographers who inspire me.


Lisa attended the senior project of her son recently. He found math “torture” when he was younger. Just look at him now! I love that Lisa captured this in her image. Thanks to Lisa Gordon Photography for permission to use this image.

Today I want to share my enthusiasm for the images of Lisa Gordon, who first caught my attention with her delicate, dreamy and perfectly composed homages to flowers.

I was drawn to her restrained use of colour and texture, which gives the flower’s form centre stage.

But that’s not the only subject Lisa turns her camera toward. I love that she is a versatile and experimental photographer who stretches herself on a regular basis, making images that range from landscapes to street photography to environmental portraits. What shines through all of them is a keen perception, a palpable warmth, and a real love and respect for her subject.

I very much enjoy her black and white photography too.

Lisa is a generous soul, regularly sharing kind and encouraging comments with her photo buddies; she also shares her photography itself through the Creative Commons.

Why not delight yourself with a visit to her photoblog at Lisa Gordon Photography or to her flickr photostream?







August Break, Day 1


Smoked Havarti with handmade pear paste, sea salt crackers, salad and lemon water

This month I’ll be joining Susannah Conway and many others around the world in the August Break project.

I love that there are no rules to this project. (I’m a rebel like that.)

I hope to post a photo a day, perhaps using the daily prompt, perhaps not.

And in addition, I will be sharing a link to the site/blog/portfolio/flickr stream of another photographer whose work I greatly admire and who is a source of inspiration on my photographic journey. (They may or may not be doing the project too.)

And I’ll be on the lookout for artists who are new to me but grab my attention this month.

I invite you to go have a look at their incredible images. One of the joys of this project is the joy of discovery…

So why not check out the flickr pool and join up too?

Let’s get started…

First off, Susannah Conway herself! She is more well-known than many, having published several books and being a pioneer in the photoblogging community, so you’ve probably already heard of her.

But if you haven’t run across her work, do check it out here and here. I particularly love her soft and dreamy polaroids. I took her Photo Meditations course a while back and it sparked me to see ordinary scenes very differently. I admire her because she is a generous, authentic, kick-starting photographer.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’


Chardonnays from all over the world...

Chardonnays from all over the world…

One of the highlights of summer so far was attending the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c) in Niagara.

Spending a weekend eating and drinking right in the vineyards of the region was the perfect way to love and appreciate summer!

This is what I FaceBooked right afterwards: “What a wonderful wine-soaked weekend in the Niagara region at the Cool Climate Chardonnay event! Can’t thank the organizers, winemakers, wineries, volunteers and all those involved enough for all their effort.
A new Chardonnay monster has been created.”

For those whose only experience of chardonnay is that cloying, overly oaky stuff, chardonnay made in cool climates is a revelation! I think I sampled chardonnays from most countries represented and my mind and palate were opened.

At the dinner for 800 under a massive tent on Saturday night we sat with the winemakers, who proudly poured their wines for us and shared fascinating details about how they were made.

Not only did I become a fan of cool climate chardonnay, but I also discovered how well oysters and champagne go together.

The celebration takes place every year. You can’t beat it as a fabulous summer experience for wine lovers.

See more pics here.

Thanks to the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration for featuring this blog post!