Hot Polka Dot
28Feb/12

How To Tuesday: Photography Lighting Part II.

I'm going to pick up where I left off with my photography tutorials from months ago. I was talking about lighting and white balance last time. This week I'll discuss lighting directions and the importance of bouncing or reflecting light.

For food photography in particular, lighting couldn't be more of a challenge. Highlight here, shadow there, shine here, contrast there all with the goal to make your dish look appetizing. Lighting can mean the difference between a monotonous meal and a gourmet masterpiece.

Understanding light and how to manipulate it is key to taking a good photo. Too much or too little can be disastrous. It's all about control. In order to battle light you should always have two weapons in your arsenal: diffuser and reflector.

The diffuser could be anything from a expensive professional photography light diffuser to an old thin white sheet to a semi-sheer window curtain. It just needs to be sheer enough to let the light in and opaque enough to soften shadows. I use the simple Ikea curtains already installed in my kitchen. Before that I used a thin white tablecloth from the dollar store. It doesn't have to be fancy. It just has to work.

The reflector could be a professional photography scrim or a piece of white foam core board from an office supply store or even aluminum foil found in any kitchen. I use foam core board to bounce light onto my subject because its rigidity makes it easy to prop up without a lot of fussing. Your reflector doesn't need to be shiny, but it does need to be light in colour in order to bounce your light source back effectively doubling the light and minimizing shadows.

Depending on the mood you're trying to convey, your own personal style and the quality of natural light, your diffusing and reflecting choices may change. High contrast, highlights and shadows convey a bold, dynamic, even mysterious feeling like in the photo of the egg shells. You can increase this effect by choosing not to diffuse the light. Low contrast minimized shadows and soft light convey a sweet and airy feeling like in the photo of the strawberries.

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22Feb/12

How To Tuesday: Pantry Envy.

Have you ever caught an episode or two of Chef at Home on Food Network? Chef Michael Smith has the single most amazing walk-in pantry I have ever seen. It's like heaven. Funny how my idea of heaven includes rows upon rows of alphabetized mason jars on back-lit shelves. I have a major case of pantry envy. Not unlike my envy of Carrie's closet in the Sex and the City movie. It also included back-lit shelves and rows upon rows of, not dried pasta and walnuts but, shoes.

My pantry is far smaller than a fabulous closet and houses less designer shoes. It's cluttered, it's disorganized, it probably looks a lot like your pantry. It makes me die a little bit inside each time I open it and an avalanche of dried pasta and spices hit me. Upon further inspection I realized I had three bags of peanuts, two of pecans, two open bags of pene pasta and a really old mickey of Bailey's Irish Cream.

I decided it was time for a serious overhaul. Forty-seven preserve jars, six pasta containers, two Ikea boxes, six Tupperware containers, sixty hand-punched labels and one wall decal later my pantry is born again. She may not be the biggest, most impressive pantry out there, she may not be back-lit or able to accommodate a sports car, but she keeps my spices safe and warm.

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14Feb/12

How To Tuesday: Double Word Score.

Other couples exchange cards. Other couples give flowers. Other couples share chocolates.

We're not other couples.

Being avid readers and generally big fans of the English language, my sweetie, Lee and I like to play Words With Friends. We're pretty evenly matched and the games get rather interesting.

So, being the clever girlfriend that I am, I decided that I was going to give Lee a unique gift this Valentine's Day. A quirky little love token that showcased our weakness for words, the most important words. I saw the idea on Pinterest a while ago and I knew it was perfect.

After a few fruitless weekends spent scouring the city for spare scrabble tiles I was beginning to get discouraged. I discovered that Lee was having a hard time finding a key piece to my present as well. Guess what it was? Scrabble tiles!

For fear that we were giving each other the exact same present we were forced to ruin the surprise and have out with it. Though our ideas were similar they were also different, much like we are. Instead of being disappointed that we had to reveal our romantic plans, we decided that it would be even more romantic if we made them together.

While other couples were enjoying candlelit dinners and Barry White we spent our Valentine's Day crafting at the kitchen table. In my opinion it was far more romantic than a bouquet of roses or heart shaped boxes.

Happy Valentine's Day Lee! You never stop surprising me.

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12Feb/12

Dessert For Breakfast.

I think breakfast gets the short end of the stick. Everyone is under the impression that dinner is the romantic meal. Juicy steak, buttery lobster, saucy spaghetti. Then, naturally, dinner is followed by dessert. Dripping with chocolate, sticky sugar, warm and spicy, sweet berries.

What if you could have dessert for breakfast? Forget breakfast for dinner, dessert for breakfast is where it's at. It's cake for breakfast. Do you need further convincing? A stack of fluffy pancakes and melted chocolate chips all drizzled with thick and sugary strawberry syrup.

If you really want to impress your sweetheart this Valentine's Day, make them breakfast. There's nothing better than waking up to the smell of unsolicited bacon. Or being served breakfast in bed complete with a bird of paradise folded napkin. Or a steaming latte topped with the perfect rosetta poured with barista skill. Or sitting down to a plate of perfectly formed heart-shaped pancakes. It's easy to make pancakes from a mix and slather some off-brand table syrup on them but, to show you really mean it, make them both from scratch this year.

It's the little things.

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10Feb/12

Another Year Of Pink, Pretty, Play.

Today is a very special day! Today Hot Polka Dot turns two and yours truly turns twenty-six. To mark the occasion I have precisely twenty-six grey hairs sprouting from my right temple. I also had two pieces of this impressive specimen of pink sweetness.

I thought long and hard about what sort of cake to make to celebrate Hot Polka Dot's second birthday. I wanted it to be a symbol. I wanted it to be the embodiment of everything Hot Polka Dot stands for.

It's cute and pink, but also classy and understated. It's fashionable, sporting a trendy ombre outfit and bunting accessories. It's speckled with vanilla bean, sweetened with strawberry and enrobed in luscious white chocolate. She's a little messy, a little out there, but she's able to pull it together for the big day, not unlike myself.

I feel like this day is made extra special by you. You might be new to my blog, but many of you have stuck by me from the beginning and I'm very thankful for that. You've seen how my little corner of the internet and I have grown up and matured into something I'm not ashamed to say I'm very proud of. I've experienced so much and learned so much more. It really is a joy to share it with all of you. Thank you for your patience, your kindness and your friendship.

Here's to another year of pink, pretty and, most importantly, playing with your food!

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