Happy Holidays

Marian Keyes wrote – ” What is life but fleeting moments of happiness strung together on a necklace of despair?”. Dismal beginnings to a post with a cheery headline isn’t it? Bear with me because its not all bad. I do an end of year stock taking, as we all do, and I do mean of life itself during the year. It started well, with trips and the much anticipated move back to the US, work was good and half way down the year it all simmered down and now at the end of the year, its rather quiet. I can’t complain. This coming from someone who is an eternal pessimist is an amazing thing in itself and there seems to be some truth to Marian’s words. The truth is that I choose to focus on the first part of it rather than the latter. You see, I have tried a few new things this year which means that I have struggled, fallen flat on my face and even failed at certain endeavors, but I choose to look at those fleeting moments of good that have made it all worthwhile. Those little triumphs are testimony that I am going in the right direction and somewhere in the future is that big cake with a cherry on top, waiting for me. My failures are guide posts that tell me what not to do and what is sorely lacking in my quiver of skills. At the end of each of those falls, there has been an ah-a moment, telling me how to move forward. So this can’t be a necklace of despair, but it looks to me more like I am still stringing the pearls of wisdom together.

Alright, let me hang up my yoda hat and get back to business. It has been a good year, got pictures published in a book, ran a magazine successfully for a year and  booked a group exhibition for the next year, not too shabby despite a loser second half of the year. And if you will indulge me for one more moment with that aforementioned hat, let me also say it is rather difficult to be sad and/or dissatisfied when the holidays come rolling around. I don’t know what it is about Christmas it evokes the child in me, who is lost in the visions of charlie brown and perhaps even sniffles( if you even know the character!). This time of year is all about near and dear ones and this year has been graphically lucid about the ones I can actually trust. When Christmas swings around, I can’t help myself….I just am happy. You could kick me in the shin and I guess I would still smile!  Something about the season just gets me everytime, I have to bake cookies and send it out to loved ones, I have to write out holiday cards, I have to bake like a maniac for my nephews and I shop a full day for everyone in the family and spend one more day wrapping them with care. There is no time left in the day to wallow! Perfect!

So here’s to Christmas….and putting all your troubles behind and looking forward with educated eyes…

And so I’m offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
A very Merry Christmas to you 

And I wish you and yours a very Happy and Prosperous New Year too……and I will see you bright and early next year, if not before. But before you go, thank you for taking the time out to read and look at my pictures, whoever you are, wherever you are. I will leave you with some shots of some of the cookies I sent out this year.

Chocolate clouds - 1 Linzer - 1 Linzer 3

 

As usual everything on this blog is Copyright of Photopportunist/Shruthi V. DO NOT reprint or reuse without the author’s explicit permission. Please visit – http://www.photopportunist.com if you are interested in working with me or if you intend purchasing a print.

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Happy Holidays

Sweet Surrender to Gluttony

Gluttony is a sin, as listed and described by the Bible, but every Thanksgiving is secretly about gluttony. The coinage of the term “holiday weight” must have been based on the massive binge that begins with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year, when after, more than a month of stuffing one’s face with every possible sweet and savory delight that we can concoct, our bodies have had enough and is ready to take the plunge into the empty promise of a New Year resolution. But while it lasts, lets stuff it with things that can make grown men weep with satisfaction. One of the desserts on my table for this thanksgiving were Pecan Bar, I had a pumpkin chiffon pie and the thought of another pie was too much to handle, so the pie became a bar.

Let me first talk about photographing this. I had decided that I wanted a dark, moody background, because the bars themselves have very warming browns and caramel colors in it and the dark background was to tone it down. It also worked in my favor that today is a dark, gloomy, snowy day in New Jersey – so light was perfect. The pictures were shot near an open window and the background and surface are both black foam boards. I used a white foam board to reflect some light back to cut out some shadows, besides this NO other equipment was used. When you see the pecan bars, you will notice their raggedy edge, it is by default and by design. I hate when things are TOO perfect and the organic feel is lost.

The recipe is from Ina Garten with just the addition of a little bit of grand marnier.

Ingredients

Crust:

Topping:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 cup good honey
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp grand marnier (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream , grand marnier and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.

DO NOT reprint/reuse pictures or any of the material on this blog without the author’s explicit permission. All material copyright of Shruthi.V/Photopportunist. For more check out – www.photopportunist.com

Sweet Surrender to Gluttony

A launch and a request

Hey everyone,

I finally bit the bullet and launched my official website today – www.photopportunist.com ably supported by a facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/Photopportunist. I appreciate everyone who takes the time out to read this blog. You come from different backgrounds and yet you understand and appreciate what I do, proving that art transcends all that. For your support and encouragement, I am eternally grateful. Do visit the website and “like” the facebook page, to keep in touch with everything I do. It might be a bit tacky to ask someone to “like” a page, but am small fish in the ocean who needs the props from all of you to be visible. Thank you so much for everything you do for me.

Much Love

Shruthi

A launch and a request

Breakfast News

Today am on reverse gear, backing up to a few food shots I did a couple of weeks prior to the Acadia Trip. I had been yearning to photograph Indian food since I started shooting food and this concept was stuck in my head and bursting to come out. I have always seen Indian food being photographed within a very “Indian” context and set up and I wanted to break the rules. I wanted to shoot it in a more contemporary set up and just wanted to showcase the actual food in a less formal and more accessible way with the cleaner compositions and colors of a Scandinavian design ethic that is far more modern.  So I decided on making brunch, since the mid morning light in my office is perfect for food photography and I could cook and set up ahead of time(read scramble like a maniac).

The food in the photograph is what I am used to eating since childhood, but this isn’t something we make all the time. Its a rather special brunch and needs some advance planning if you insist on making all the requisite batter at home. The breakfast comprises of Rava Idli & Paniyaram(steamed savory semolina cakes & fried rice cakes) with a Tomato chutney and a coconut-coriander chutney. All of these are South Indian delicacies and actually non-spicy.

f/11, 1/60, EV +1

I knew I wanted to photograph on a white background and everything else came out of that original platform.  If the background is white you know you want things on the plate with color and can absorb and deflect light well. So the colors on the plate had to be complementary to each other. A lot of Indian food is brown and I had one main dish that was going to be brown and the other a more pale greenish beige ( pardon my knowledge of names of colors). To offset it, I needed greens and oranges, so I tweaked the coconut chutney to be more green by adding coriander and added more green elements to the composition to balance off the lack of color. The oranges/reds are to break up the monotony and to push the eye into different parts of the picture. Worked well, I think.

October 1st was also the day we released the fifth issue of the online magazine that I edit, do the layout for and also wrote a piece for this time. Its a good magazine, with plenty of tips for every type of photographer. Give it a read, its completely FREE!!  Here is the link to the October-Dec 2012 issue and here is the link to the previous issues. Here is a look at the cover that will give you an insight into what you can find inside.

For the piece in the magazine, I shot some extra shots of food that I had made on various occasions.  The recipes to each are in the description section of the photograph. You will have to click on the photograph to view it.

f/5, 1/180, EV +1.5

Breakfast News

Fallen for Maine

It’s a fantastic fall day in New Jersey – sun is bright, skies are blue with long white streaks of clouds, the leaves are falling off the trees every time the wind blows.,the forest in the backyard is rife with colors and yet my heart is in Maine…..I have never seen the turn of a season look so beautiful, despite the incessant rain and a broken camera.  For weeks I had agonized over tide charts, weather reports, foliage reports, sunset timings, nautical sunset timings, moon phases and a ton of astronomy that I never knew I needed to know for photography, just so that I would know what to look forward to and be prepared. The thing that surprises me the most about myself  and most human beings is our inability to accept that expectations are far different from reality – maybe this is the key to zen living(?), I don’t know – but clearly I don’t possess the ability, in-spite of know-how. The two days that were spent in Maine, were supposed to have been sunshine and mildly cloudy, but in reality it was rain, fog, cold winds and more rains.

I had a schedule of places I needed to be and shoot and no one had warned the weather gods of my plans. The thing about Acadia National Park is that, weather is just a backdrop, nothing takes away from its real beauty. The park is like a queen, tucked away on the coast of Maine and the drive from Jersey winds its way through New York, Connecticut,Massachusetts, New Hampshire before finally entering Maine. I say queen because Acadia has a sense of arrival, Maine is beautiful no matter where you go, but as you move towards the park the fall colors keep getting bigger and better, until it finally explodes in your face at Acadia.

Save a few expensive hotels, Acadia’s main stay are BnB’s and we stayed at one this time as well. We were the last guests at the Inn for the season before they close for winter and so we had a chance to meet the owner and her wonderful little dog – Rosie. Floridian by birth, Rosie – a tiny shihtzu – was decked out in her favorite sweater and was crumpled up on her bed by the fire place, the whole time that we were there. The weather had got to her and all she wanted was a nice and warm place to rest her tiny little head.

The very first evening was the only time the sun was out, but it was bitterly cold and windy, that should have stopped me from going up Cadillac Mountain but the lure of a sunset was too much to ignore. It was by far the biggest mistake, at sunset (although pretty), every square inch of Mount Cadillac and especially the Blue Hill Overlook is covered by photographers. From those leading tours to workshops to individual enthusiasts alike. By next morning the weather took a turn for the worse and crowds quickly started dissipating out of Acadia. Perfect! But just one day in, my camera broke along with two lenses – one of them was my favorite 18-55! What I got till that point was all I had and I regretted passing by opportunities and scenes which I had promised to come back to during lesser rains and better light. Lesson learned – never let it go by, get some shots in even if you think the light maybe bad and never have an assistant who thinks he is too macho to put down the camera bag safely before attempting to cross a stream from rock to rock in rubber waders after a rain! The few shots that I did get in that time are here  and until camera and lens come back repaired or replaced – there will be a break in posting ( hopefully it won’t be too long, cross your fingers for me).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It goes without saying that all photographs and written material on this blog are my copyright and cannot be reused or printed in any manner without my explicit permission to do so. If you are interested in purchasing prints or getting in touch with me about work, please drop me a message here and I will respond by end of day.  Thank you for your interest.

Fallen for Maine

Sentimental thank you’s

Uneventful as my blog has been, life never really is. Tiny changes, new concepts to explore, more to learn, and even more to unlearn. Yes, I am unlearning – its a strange concept to me, but I am. I am unlearning how to lead life on a 9-9 schedule and learning how to take the lulls with the peaks of bustling deadlines. I am unlearning to take my camera everywhere and be disappointed if I miss an opportunity because of that. Is it strange that one has to learn to unlearn??? Maybe its just me!

This month has by far been the biggest bounty I have had in years. I’ve witnessed an exponential growth in life personally and professionally, more so because I have come to value certain relationships that have been forged afresh or renewed. There is a definite spurt of unbridled encouragement, flowing my way and I am ever grateful for the believers. Self doubt has been a monster that has reared its ugly head often, but thanks to these believers it is easy to sail past it. It feels like this moment has come at absolutely the right time, when I am ripe to receive it. They say one should count their friends based on who is standing with you , during your darkest hours and I am glad I have had a few great ones. You know who you are, so please pat yourselves in the back and give yourself a hug from me. Sentimental , I am – because I turn 32 today. I have and am spending it, in the loving embrace of those who have stood by me. Thank you ever so much, those are words that don’t get said much. For everyone who has contributed to my successes, thank you.

I never thanked my spouse much and I sometimes shudder to think what your job as my husband really feels like. You are a tower of patience, topped with a cool head and for that I love you.  To my family(every single one of you, down to the tiniest one), what am I if not for you? You tease me, torment me, encourage me, love me, tolerate me and believe in me, no matter what I put you through. To my dearest chennai girlfriends and their husbands, every moment we have all spent together is a wonderful memory and every word any of you have ever said have been nothing but emboldening. To  my closest friends ,you know darn well who you are and some of you don’t even read this and its about time you did, for giving me inspiring stories to explore and letting me be me. To hottie( ha ha ha i like calling you that these days), miss our girlie chats and all our ups and downs – someday we shall rule the world! To MP and BG from The Hindu, you see something in me that I never even intended to see, thank you for putting me on the map(and BG for your continued belief that I don’t sound like a four year old). To everyone else I haven’t personally acknowledged, you know what you have done for me – good or bad – its all been good!

The best 32nd birthday one can ever have :

Oh and I got published yet again and here is the link to that – http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/metroplus/article2230189.ece

Sentimental thank you’s

Versatile Blogger Award

Yay! There are days when I wonder if there is anyone out there reading this blog besides friends and family, but my comments section has been buzzing with wonderful feedback from people all over the word.  One of my loyal subscribers, happens to be a student named Kieran from Edinburgh, Scotland who writes the blog – Sumpix. He just passed on the “Versatile Blogger Award” to me!!! It is an award by the bloggers for the bloggers, that is passed on from one to the other. I am extremely embarrassed that I didn’t know about it till Kieran mentioned it, but now that I’ve read up about it – Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!! Woot!!! Woot!!!! Woooohooooooooooooooo!

 

Sorry about that, just a wee bit excited! There are some rules though to accepting this award and they are :

  1. Link back to the blogger that gave me the award.
  2. Tell you 7 things about myself.
  3. Choose 15 other blogs to pass the award to.
  4. Inform the other bloggers that I’m passing the award to them.

I’ve already linked back to Kieran, so now onto those 7 things about myself…..which are as random as they can get.

  1. I love chocolate and only brown chocolate. Irrespective of the thousands of artisan chocolates out in the world, the chocolates I absolutely CANNOT resist are Ferrero Rocher and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (which I will savor more if I can lick the melted chocolate off the cover). Oh and I love Vosges’s Bacon and Chocolate bar!
  2. I am hooked to Call of Duty on my PSP and dearly miss my Xbox and Wii. Right now I am battling to get past the spider tank on Killzone:Liberation on my PSP.
  3. Poetry is my new thing – no, no I don’t write any, I am incapable of that. Unless you want ‘Baby got back’ kind of rap about poop, please don’t ask me to. I stick to reading the poems of other people like Homer, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley,Gibran etc. I admit I’m just beginning and still trying to find a genre that I like
  4. I am a fragrance freak. I blame my old desk job for turning me into an addict. I always loved fragrances but now that I can clearly distinguish scents and identify them, I’ve turned niche=broke half the time!
  5. Crazy about dogs, not so much about cats though. When I start making enough money out of photography, I intend starting a shelter.
  6. I am extremely sentimental, not so much with things but surely with people. I hate having to move away from friends and people I am close to. The two people I miss the most are my two nephews, I can’t believe they aren’t just a weekend trip away from me anymore.
  7. I am insanely sickened by cockroaches, dirty bathrooms, snakes, clutter, grimy kitchens, Lady Gaga and stupid people.

Onto the next rule of the award. I need to pass this onto 15 other blogs that are worth your time and effort. I can’t promise you that they will all be about photography but they are all great blogs, some written by friends and some written by strangers on the internet who now feel like people I know.

  • 1. Nonchalant Gourmand – a dear friend who shares my enthusiasm for food and food photography.
  • 2.Nikita Modi Photography – the accomplished pro food photographer and co-collaborator for the blog above.
  • 3. Amar Ramesh’s Blog – a pro photographer from the same city as I, has had a very similar career shift as I and whose work I admire.
  • 4. Sweetfineday.com – a working mother with two wonderful children, an artisanal baker for a husband and a funny and insightful blog filled with beautiful photographs of her life.
  • 5. Once Upon a tea time – a lifestyle and design blog that I adore and look to for inspiration .
  • 6. Stroborati – I derive voyeuristic pleasure from this man, he lives a dream of mine – he has taken off for the next 10 years travelling the world, photographing it.
  • 7. Ode2Food – A school mate, family friend who writes a blog on delectable vegetarian food sometimes with a distinct Indian kick.
  • 8.  Chitra Aiyer Photography – she is an Indian photographer who has some really different and beautiful wedding photographs.
  • 9. Dreamscape Photography – an ex colleague from the fragrance industry I have met probably twice and who wouldn’t recognise me if we walked by on the street, but an incredibly talented wedding and portrait photographer. (David your pictures of Hae Won rock)
  • 10. Rang Decor – a fellow photographer who indulges in decor.
  • 11. Toothsoup – she doesn’t need an award from a fellow blogger, I’ve been following her work for years, I think from even before toothsoup! We once had an argument about editing on some online forum.  Her poetry, her language skills – I covet!
  • 12. Deezden – another immensely talented(that it-is-almost-criminal) artist, she has her own etsy shop where she sells her art.
  • 13. Mpaulphotography – I love his cyanotype photographs and his black and whites. I did not even know about cyanotypes till I read his blog and now I love what he does with them.
  • 14. Cherokeebydesign – A busy father and photo enthusiast.
  • 15. Delishhh – a fellow foodie, who was incredibly helpful when reached out to for suggestions on Seattle eateries. I have been following her ever since, do not visit her site if hungry!

There it is – 15 blogs I love and follow. Off I go, spreading the joy !

Versatile Blogger Award