Cucumber Salad

Its that time of the year.  Time for harvesting the goodness of your garden….and sharing it with ME!  A friend & co-worker told me that his family doesn’t care for cucumbers, except him.  So he brought me a bunch so they wouldn’t go to waste.  Thats what this post is about right?  Nope.  I ate those.  Immediately.  But I told him that I had THE BEST cucumber salad recipe EVER.  And I do.  I said I’d make him some and share the recipe.  So here we go.

This recipe comes from Donna Dobratz.  My other mother back in the day.  It is hands down the best cucumber salad ever.  Try it and see.  Pretty easy too. I like easy.  A lot.

Here is the recipe, photos to follow.

Cucumber Salad

1 cup of mayonnaise

1/4 sugar

4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

————–

One large yellow onion

5-6 cucumbers

 

OK!  Here we go!

Dice up your yellow onion.  Toss it in a bowl.  Then slice up your cucumbers.  I use a mandolin.  WAY faster, way easier.  Remember?  I like easy.

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These are “store bought” cucumbers and it doesn’t even matter.  This recipe still rocks face.

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Diced up sweet yellow onion.

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The mandolin.  Best invention ever.  Well for cucumber salad anyway.

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OK!  You get your onions and cukes all tossed together in a bowl.  Lightly salt the cucumbers as you go.  There is no measured amount of salt.  Slice a couple, throw some salt on them, slice some more…a little more salt.  The purpose of the salt is to get some of the water out of the cucumbers.  Seasoning is secondary.  Put the onions and cukes in the fridge to let the water come out.

Now, on to the magic.  Mix the first four ingredients together in a bowl.

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You MUST use mayonnaise.  Don’t use Miracle Whip or any other ‘salad dressing’.  So gross.  If you hate mayonnaise…well then move along from this post.  XOXOXOX

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Sugah.

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Another must…apple cider vinegar.  Don’t use white…or any wine types.  Apple. Cider.  Word.

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I cover the sauce and put it in the fridge while the water seeps out of the cukes.  Maybe an hour.  However long your patience holds out.   Just drain at least some of the water off of the cucumbers or your sauce will be too diluted.

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Mix the sauce & cukes together, cover and refrigerate at least a couple of hours to let all the flavors come together.  If you taste along the way…you’ll think omg this is nasty.  It really does all have to come together and its KILLER.

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Finished product, ready for the flavors to marry each other.  Seriously, its so delicious….I dunk Triscuts in the sauce and tear those up along with the cukes.

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Try it!  Lemme know how you likey?!!  And a huge thanks to Donna for sharing her recipe with me allllllll those years ago.  Love you lady!!!

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Magical Winter Flakes

Latest photography obsession.  Snowflakes.  Individual flakes on a knit background = magical images.  Each set of flakes I process I gasp in awe of their amazing beauty.  I do the same when I’m shooting them.   As I move my focus in and out, I say out loud, oh there you are little beauty!

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I just can’t believe how beautiful each and every one is!  And what havoc they reek when they all gang up on us.

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I named the flake above, “Whirly Bird” it has another flake attached to it that makes the whole thing look like a yard toy, along the lines of a swing set that a friend used to have back in the day.  We called it the whirlybird.  Some of the super awesome, dangerous sh*t we used to play with back in the 60’s & 70’s.

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You can kind of start to see here that flakes are not flat, but three dimensional.

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Soft focus….but still magical.  I don’t think I will ever get over how pretty snowflakes are.  Ever.  Even when they are stuck to the side of my dirty ride.

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You likey how my ride sparkles?  Yeah…me too.  Minus the dirt & salt, its very sparkly.

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Come on!  Are you kidding me?  IN.CREDIBLE.

Dualies

Dualies.  Two very similar flakes hooked together.  Sooooo pretty.  I think I love snowflakes so much because they remind me of diamonds.  Always gorgeous, always sparkly, all unique.  Breathtaking.

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And last but not least… the next image you can see how VERY three dimensional a flake can be.  Stunningly beautiful.

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Like it has fins sticking up kind of?

I now have a love to get me through the long Wisconsin winters.  Each time it snows, if I’m not at work, I will be outside catching snowflakes just like I did when I was a kid.  Only now I don’t eat them.  I photograph them.  Well…once in awhile I’ll toss one back.

In case you are wondering where my inspiration for snowflake photography comes from…its these two people.  Don Komarechka in Canada, and Chaotic Mind in Russia.  Chaotic Mind has a different approach which I will be trying a modified version of next.  Just gotta get with my brother to custom make me a device that will help me achieve it.  Stay tuned folks!!  I am stone cold obsessed!


Eagles

I haven’t posted in exactly ONE year. I didn’t know this until I got on today to share the eagle images I scored this afternoon.

So!  With that, lets get started!  My friends, John & Anne (yes…those are their real names…not witness protection program names) sent me a text yesterday about some eagles down by the river right here in my very own town of Janesville, WI.  They knew that it was a dream of mine to score some eagles photos in their natural habitat.  So I went down yesterday, and sure enough I truly did see a majestic eagle, perched in a tree watching the river.  I named him Angus…tho I don’t really know if its a male or a female.  So…Angus…Agnes…either one.  I had left my tripod mount at home (duh.)…so I rested my 400mm lens on the tripod, and I really just couldn’t keep it still.  It was cold and windy and the images I got were just ‘ok’.  The image below is at a super high ISO and shot from a really long ways away, then cropped in, in post.  Cool, and I’ll take it… but not amazing like I was after.

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I try again today.  Nothing.  Tho I did spot my friend Tracy!  So I shouldn’t say ‘nothing’.  We hook up and head over to the other hot spot that John & Anne told me about.  BOOM!  SCORE!  I see Angus!  He is waaaay far away so I went to get my gear, Tracy kept an eye on him with the binoculars, and he took off.  We walked in the direction he flew and tried not to kill ourselves on the slippery, icy bike trail path.  After seeing nothing and waiting a bit, we gave up.  Tracy went her way…and I went mine.  As I was about halfway home, something came over me to turn around and go back.  I went to a couple of different areas, down by the river.  I get to behind the Wilson School area and low and behold, TWO young eagles STANDING ON THE ICE!!!!  SCORE!!!!  At first I thought they were turkey vultures.  But no, they were eagles!  Yesssss!  I was so stoked and shocked and excited and fumbling for all my gear.  See the two crows trying to get them to leave?  The eagles were like pshhhhhh.  Please.  We are eagles.  We will smack you down as if you were nothing.

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Looky!  The eagle on the left is older than the one on the right.  I think they are siblings tho.  You’ll see why later.  Anyway, the one on the left still has a lot of dark feathers on his dome.  I believe that means he is still young.  The older they get, the whiter (balder) they get.

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See, he’s not totally ‘bald’ yet.

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I got a little worried, thinking there was something wrong because they just stood there.  Not moving.  I thought maybe their feet were frozen to the ice.  It happened to me the day before!!  Anyone who knows me knows that my mind starts going and I’m thinking…how in the hell am I going to rescue two eagles off a slightly frozen river (I am NOT a swimmer on a good day, let alone an icy river).

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They stood around a bit, keeping an eye on me.  Then the youngest one took off!  Of course none of those take off shots were sharp.  <sigh>

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You can hardly see the youngster because he is not in focus and blends in with tree branches…but low and behold…look in the tree!  How many eagles do you see in this picture!  I had no freaking idea that mom & dad were there supervising!  I didn’t know till I got home and unloaded my card!  HOLY CRAP!  THIS IS AWESOME!!!  (Yeah, I’m pretty stoked.)

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See them?  Mom & Dad?!

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Older sibling was still chillin’ on the ice.

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Until he decided to find his younger brother or sister.  My images are backwards.  Sorry.  Such a good story teller.

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They flew over my head and I was still in so much shock to be in the midst of these majestic creatures I could barely get my camera off the tripod to shoot them in flight!

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RIGHT OVER MY HEAD!!!  What an amazing afternoon I had.  I’m still in awe and feeling incredibly grateful to have had the chance to photograph such greatness.  And I’m pretty impressed with myself for listening to my gut and going back.  Nice job gut.  Nice job.


Artsy Fartsy

🙂

Trying to get my creative juices flowing.  Its hard.  This time of the year is super tough.  Its so gray all the time.  I’m ok with gray.  As a matter of fact, I love it.  But the cold that accompanies it…well…not a fan.  Cooler?  Fine.  Cold….mmmmm no thanks.  So today was supposed to be decent out, I thought I’d go play with my photography toys.  So I loaded up my stuff and headed to Palmer Park.  I got out and started to set up the shot I had in my head.  Wait…what the….wasn’t it supposed to be like pushing 50 today?  Its SOOOO not.  It was cold.  I banged out like 6 images and went back home.  I was not dressed for as cold as it really was.  Yep.  I’m a baby.

So the shot I had in my head was this one.

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Its an HDR (High Dynamic Range) macro shot, looking thru the viewfinder of my mom’s old Kodak Brownie Twin 20.  Cool huh?  Looks kinda grungy huh?  Yeah, I even cleaned it a little before the shot.  Clearly I didn’t do a good job.  But I did want it to look authentic.  Like it truly looks sitting on my desk.  Which is dirty.

Here is the Brownie:

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It actually still has film in it.  I can’t imagine that it would be any good.  I don’t want to disturb it.  I think its cool that there is still film in it.  I wonder what could possibly be on it….the last time I saw it in anyone’s hands it was in the 60’s.

Some shots of the Brownie, thats the viewfinder that I macro shot –

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Brownie_7539see….dirty.

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I like the add on flash attachment.  I didn’t realize that it wasn’t actually part of the camera till today.

Next is an indoor recreation (minus the HDR effect) of the outdoor shot.

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And a pull back so you can see how everything looked.  Yup….photonerd.  Thats me.  Keeps me out of trouble.  Sort of.  🙂

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Makes me want to go old camera shopping at some consignment shops…or ebay or something.   I have 3 old cameras.  I don’t really need more.  (Has that EVER stopped me?  No.)

Thats my fun for the day!  So far anyway…

 


Show me how to do that!

I’m planning on teaching a photography class, Margie-Style (that means light hearted, fun and ass backwards) this spring.  Here is a point that I’ll touch on once we get the basics covered.

I posted some images on Facebook this weekend and it generated a little buzz.  Some people wanted copies, some people wanted to know how I captured it, so I thought I’d share how I got this image.

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My friend and I sat (we actually stood) outside at Carvers Roehl Park (otherwise known as Carvers Rock Park) and waited, like hunters for wildlife to appear.  That takes patience….we’re going to see if we can order some on Amazon.  🙂  Tracy spotted a female cardinal a ways away from us.  Ms Cardinal was sitting pretty nicely on a branch and I ‘sighted’ her in my viewfinder.  FYI….this alone is no easy task since cardinal was kind of far away, and I was using a long lens (400mm).  It feels very ‘Blair Witch-y’ trying to find your subject with a long lens.  Ok, once you’ve located your tiny little subject with your big long lens, next is to focus.  Another challenge.  I toggled my focus point over the birdies and hit my focus (for most of you, that is going to be pressing your shutter release half way down).  Oh!  I should mention, I’m using a monopod.  A tripod would have been better…but I really didn’t feel like all that work.  The monopod worked pretty good.  Good enough for my first attempt at this type of capture.  I try to focus….fail….fail….fail.  <Sigh> I told you it was a challenge.  There are sooooooo many sticks and branches and I’m trying to hold as still as I can, but I’m missing and focusing on other stuff either in front of birdies or behind them.  FINALLY I nail the focus on the cardinal, I hold as still as I can, trying not to move the monopod or myself and fire the shutter.   I take a bunch of shots since she is moving around and hiding her pretty face behind a branch.  I really want a nice shot, so I keep trying.

THIS is how the shot originally looked:

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This is the straight out of camera image (SOOC).  See, really far away.  Below are my camera settings.   Shortly after this image I bumped my ISO WAY up to 1000 so that I could get my shutter speed up higher for crisper images.  Well guess what…we didn’t see any more wildlife.  Well…Mr. Squirrel.  But he wouldn’t sit still and trying to lock in on him way up in a tree?  No.  That is WAY too ‘Blair Witch-y’ and would have made me sick.  Ok, moving on!

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As you can see I shot this in manual.  Thats all I ever shoot in.  Its what you need to do to nail the killer shots.  I know, I know…its hard, its scary.  But its what you have to do and why I’m working on a class to help people turn that dial!!

So how do we get the image to look like the FB posted image you ask?  I’ll tell you.  As I reviewed the images I unloaded off my card, I zoom way in on my subject to see if its sharp and in focus.  SCORE!  A few actually were!  You need to understand that with a really long lens you have to have a fast shutter and a steady hand to nail your focus.  Even with a monopod I struggled to keep still.  More about that in class folks!

I do all of my post processing in Photoshop.  Thats a pretty expensive program and the average joe wouldn’t need to go that route.  Photoshop Elements is a great alternative for the non-professional at a FRACTION of the price.  Mac users have iPhoto, which I have but have never even opened.  Windows users…well there is Paint….but I wouldn’t recommend that.  There is some free stuff on the internet which I know nothing about so I really can’t comment on what is good or what isn’t.  You’ll need some sort of post processing software that can crop an image.

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This is the SOOC image and the approximate bounding box where I cropped.  Little hint, place your subject using the rule of thirds.  It creates visual interest in your image.

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For more on the Rule of Thirds, check out this link.

I boosted the saturation just a smidge to bring out the richness of their feathers.  OH!  By the way, MISTER Cardinal swung by for a brief visit with the Mrs!  I tried so hard to capture that but he was in flight, I was in shock and I missed the shot.  He was literally there for a nano-second.

Again, the end result:

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Keep in mind, that unless you NAIL your focus you can’t or shouldn’t crop your image to this extreme.  It loses its wow factor if its a unsharp image.  Also, I shot wide open to get that beautiful background blur (bokeh) and to really make my feathery subjects stand out.  As wide open as my lens would allow which in this case was f5.7.  I typically like a faster lens (one with a smaller f number)…but for a 100-400mm lens….you are talking MAJOR bucks.  This is just for fun and not something that I ‘needed’.  🙂

I hope this little tutorial gives you some inspiration to go out and score some shots of your own!!  Share them with me if you do!  I’d love to see what you’ve captured!!  Remember even if you can’t get super close to something, if you can NAIL THAT FOCUS and crop in on it in post you can end up with a sweet little image!!


Spin the Bottle?

A Pinterest project that I’ve been dying to try.  Why now?  Why tonight?  Um….I have time and I’m super impatient.

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Here’s how it starts.  Drink a bottle of wine (or what have you), soak off the labels and dry the bottle.  This was a bottle of Petite Sirah.  Mmmmmm.  Delicious.  Get you a jug of Mod Podge (all my life I thought it was ‘modge podge’), some jute or twine and a sponge brush or two.  See the other colors on the left….I got some drinkin’ to do.  There’s a theme there.  🙂

I put some waxed paper under my project.  Stuff has been glued to my counter before.   Working in one inch sections, brush on some glue and start twisting the bottle and guiding the jute upwards, layer after layer.  Brush on more glue, twist on more jute.  Until you get to the top.  I had some trouble at the curves.  Had to slow it down a bit, use more glue.  They kept wanting to creep up and gap.

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I used a clothes pin to keep the top end secure while it dried.  I also added some extra glue to the bottom to keep that secure.  Let it dry….about 20 minutes according to the jug of glue.  Add your favorite fake or real flowers or greenery and wah-lah!

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Almost instant awesomeness.   Not too bad for my first try.  I’m going to use beer bottles for the colored twine.  I have different colored Horton Hears a Who flowers to go in those also.  I think I’ll line those up on my table.    Better get to emptying those bottles!  🙂


Sidelined.

Slowly but surely I’m trying to make my way back to a new normal.  Losing the love of my life has taken the wind right out of my sails.  He was my biggest supporter in everything, but most certainly in photography.  Hence the months with out posting.

Everyone says be gentle with yourself.  So I am.  I do what I feel like no matter what my brain tells me I “should” be doing.  If I feel like laying on the couch and feeling sorry for myself….I do it.  If I feel like retail therapy, I do it.  If I feel like crying, pshhh I can’t stop it even if I try.  I’ve found that if I go with my feelings, they don’t stay as long as when I try to fight them, and not feel them.  The backlash from that is wicked.

So the other night, I looked outside at the beautiful summer sunset, and saw a little teeny, sliver of a moon and thought, hey…I’m gonna shoot that.  This is the view I now have from my living room.  It used to be if I sat on my couch and looked outside, I’d see a busy street.  Now I see this.  I like ‘this’ much better.  Thank you Nate Berkus for pointing me in a better direction.

SOOC (straight out of camera), resized for the web.  I shot this with my 100mm f2.8 L lens.  Too lazy to get a wider angle.  Still pretty none the less.  I shot this wide open at 2.8 with a shutter speed metered for the sky at 1/160.  My ISO was 1600.  I used a custom white balance because thats how I roll.  It will always, 100% of the time give you a better image.  And this is EXACTLY what the sky looked like that night.

The next image was at the same settings, of course…but just a little further to the right.  Just because the clouds were more interesting, and the pine trees gave it some texture, the colors of the sky are slightly less rich, since the light was ever so slightly brighter in that direction.

 

I’m looking forward to testing out more images like this.  I love beautifully colored silhouettes.

Shooting does my heart good.  More importantly it honors my husband, since he went out of his way to make sure I got my dream camera.  Although….these were not shot with that!  Ha!  Sorry Babe!  These were done with my Classic 5D, my first dream camera!!  Its a kick ass camera too.  And he was right by my side when I purchased that too, making sure I didn’t get ripped off.  Its all good.  🙂

2333 – 1023 – my heart.  (For those of you who don’t know….2333 is my husband’s badge number.  1023 = on scene and in command.  My heart, well he is there and it is, and always will be in his command.)

 


Winter Wonderland

Oooooooooooooweeeeeeeeeeeeee!  Yesterday we got lots of sideways snow.  About 5 or 6 inches I’d imagine.  I didn’t measure it, I don’t care that much.  As long as I can get out of my driveway.  It was super pretty out this morning so I threw on a hat and boots and headed out to capture the wintery wonderness with my new fisheye lens.  And here are some highlights.  I used Lightroom to edit them instead of Photoshop.  They seem overly crispy (sharpened).  I’ll admit, I don’t know much about Lightroom.  Clearly.  I’m too lazy (and tired) to go back and do them my normal way.  So, crispy photos….here we go.

I can’t get over how ‘right up on’ something you have to be to shoot it with a fisheye.  Not used to that at all.  I see all these great shots with my normal eye and when I put the camera up to my face, its a million miles away.  I’ll get used to it.  Watch me go to shoot a portrait and be right up in someone’s face.  Heeeeeeeey….back up lady.  🙂

 

Stomping around in the snow on the trail thru Blackhawk Golf Course.  Not many cars out, I did see walkers however.  Very scenic walk any time of the year.

Why couldn’t a cardinal fly by and land on this bench?

There was more color facing this direction.  Oak leaves add some interest.

I love how quiet it is outside when it snows like this.

The entrance to my house.  BAAHAHHAAHAAA.  No.

Doing cool artistic stuff with the fisheye.

Watch the distortion change just by shifting my horizon line.  I did not physically move.  Yeah, thats my sleeve in the lower left corner.  180° field of view is reeeeeeeeeally hard to get used to.

This next image I thought was sooooooooooo cool.  And even cooler in B&W.  Again, I am right up ON that pavilion. I’m talkin like a foot or two right in front of my lens.  WILD.

Again, right up on this sucker.  I wanted to find a little bitty perfect pine tree to shoot.  No luck., so I used a big one.

There was a baby oak tree tho…

You can see that some wildlife was out and about pretty early.

The next shot is my favorite image of the morning.  It was mostly cloudy, with some breaks in the clouds revealing gorgeous blue skies.  This was a BIG break.  Just for me.  🙂

Looks like there was a little cross country skiing action this morning too!  Right?  Thats what those lines are I think.

I had to walk waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay in front of my jeep to keep it out of the shot (above).   I stopped and whipped a u-ie (u-y? ok u-turn) to catch a shot of this creek.  I kind of laugh at myself because I literally can find a cool shot just about anywhere.

I wend downtown to do some streetscape shots and it was already too busy.  I don’t like cars in my shots.  I don’t know why.  I think its fun to go back and see what cars looked like in the past, so I know its cool to have them in your images….I just don’t like them in mine.  So I tried to find a nice high point, and hit up the parking ramp.  Top level was closed.  So I hiked up there.  Yeah.  I can see why it was closed.  Wicked winds, slippery as hell.  Folks, if you don’t know this….UGGs are for looks and warmth only.  I almost wiped out too many times to count.  Time to call it a day.

This shot is from the third level.  I had to lean kinda out of the opening to get the shot.  AND try not to slip, dust myself or my camera.  Yes.  Time to go home.

Enjoy your weekend folks!  Stay warm and dry.


RCHS Pooch Pull 2012

My first adventure watching the Alaskan Malamute Club dogs in a weight pulling competition.  It was fantastic weather for it and the dogs were sooooooooooo beautiful!  The dogs have special harnesses and they pull weights loaded on a trailer a certain distance across a carpeted area.  The owners stand past the finish line and call the dogs and they are timed.

There is a distinct bond between the humans and the dogs.  Lots of love and praise showered on these pooches.

In the next image, this doggie did well on his pull, his owner gave him a lift back to his kennel.  It was so sweet the dog just hopped right up into his owner’s arms.  Awwwwww!

 

You don’t have to be a malamute to compete either.  This little 31 pound pitt bull pulled 800+ pounds!!!  She was badass.  I was so proud of her!

Its not a good shot, but its the only one I had where you could actually see her.  She was so focused on getting to her owner that she lined herself right up where I couldn’t see her.  BTW, you have to be at least 30 pounds to compete.  She was 31.  Atta girl!

Rankings….

Some of the dogs didn’t want to pull.  So they just stood there….looking fabulous for the camera.  🙂

Speaking of fabulous….

or……

It was a pretty good time watching the dogs!  RCHS had free hot chocolate, a bake sale, a fire for roasting marshmallows and adoption specials all in one spot.  We only stayed for an hour, but it was a good time indeed.  I love how vocal these dogs are too.  They “sing” a lot.  Some people call it howling…..I call it singing and it was beautiful.


Canon EF 85mm f1.8 **SOLD**

This lens is for sale.  It retails at $420.  I am selling it for $300.  Mint condition, with original packaging.  L lens quality at a regular lens price.  Contact Margie at mduerr@olivephotographics.com with questions.

Some reviews:

I just purchased this lens 2 weeks ago. I can not stop shooting with it! It is more than I thought it would be! I read all the reviews and had an easy choice selecting it. It really is true that a good lens makes you a better photographer! The overall feel of the images quality screams professional! Really!

For this price range, you’d have trouble finding a lens even comparable, and you for sure won’t find one better. This lens is amazing, and I personally think it should be rated an L lens. It is heavy glass too. You will be amazed at the sharpness you can get out of this guy! Buy it! You won’t be disappointed.

This lens is nice and fast, and takes very clear pictures. I was using a tele-zoom, and was kind of disappointed with the clarity of my camera lens and body (Canon 5D MK2). With these fixed focal length lenses such as this one, the photos are unbelievable clear and crisp. I would recommend this lens highly!