Sunday, March 27, 2011

Recipe: Double Celery Soup

"Spring In Little Tokyo" - 2011

So, when I was poking through all of the goodies from my first CSA haul I happened to remember this simple recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Bistro Cooking" by Patricia Wells. Low and behold, nearly everything I needed was in the bags and in my pantry! A brilliant soup to serve with warm, crusty buttered bread for these cool, rainy spring evenings.

1 Medium Celery Root (peeled and diced)
10 Celery Ribs (cubed)
3 Leeks (trimmed, well washed and cut in to rounds)
Bouquet Garni (1 sprig thyme, 3 pay leaves, a couple springs of parsley, tied together)
2 Quarts Chicken Stock (or Water - adjust salt as needed)
Salt and freshly ground pepper.
A handful of chopped herbs, including flat leaf parsley, chervil and chives.

Add the celery root, celery ribs, leeks and bouquet garni to a pot. Add the stock/water and lightly season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer until the veggies are tender, around 25 minutes. Taste and adjust salt/pepper amounts. Garnish the bowls of soup with the fresh herbs. And that's it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

You Probably Won't Like it Mix CD #2

Decrepit Birth @ Summer Slaughter 2010 (Yeah, I shot it on m cell phone.)

So, here it is, brave soul that you are! The second disc of my new "actual" mix. First I wanted to acknowledge that I did have one semi-hidden rule in place for this mix, which was that I didn't allow myself to use any tracks or artists that had previously sneaked past the guardians of good taste to place in to my past mixes. So Gojira, Wolves in the Throne Room, Xasthur, Leviathan, Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan, Arsis, AIDS Wolf, Cult of Luna, Chris Speed, Boris, Ahab, The Ocean Collective and Electric Wizard, all of which are staples in my music collection, weren't included in this particular endevor.

Get Mix Disc Two here!

Here's the track list for Disc Two ("Song" - Artist - Album)

1) "Seven & One Blow" - Galdr - Wounded Giant (NA)
2) "Never Remembered" - The Godforgottens - Never Forgotten, Always Remembered
3) "The Order of Destiny" - Esoteric - The Maniacal Vale
4) "Morgen" - Agrypnie - 16[485]
5) "Floating" - Craig Taborn, Gerald Cleaver & Lotte Anker - Floating Islands
6) "With Depths Dove the Red-Eyed" - Celestiial - Celestiial/Blood of the Black Owl Split (NA)
7) "In Death Comes the Great Silence" - Abigail Williams - In the Absence of Light
8) "The Living Doorway" - Decrepit Birth - Diminishing Between Worlds
9) "Alto Improvisation No. 2" - Kaoru Abe - Mort A Credit (NA)
10) "Phosphene" - Deathspell Omega - Paracletus
11) "...Into the Pit of Babel" - Mitochondrion - Archaeaeon

The first part of the mix is here if you want to grab it!

Also, most of the album links will take you to Amazon where you can buy the mp3s or at the very worst, the CD. In a couple of cases the albums where simply not available for purchase anywhere (indicated as NA), so I included links to places you can get the files.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You Probably Won't Like It Mix CD #1

So as you, dear readers, might know I occasionally post mixes to share cool music I've stumbled across in my sojourns across the internet. On those mix CDs I have few rules, the two most important are #1: That I have to be actually listening to the music that goes in the mix and #2: That because, perhaps surprisingly, I actually want my friends to find new awesome music from these mixes, not just to show how stunningly cool I am [cough cough] I avoid including much of really fringe music such as death metal or free jazz.

As my wrecked hearing from seeing Acid Mothers Temple last night night might attest to, the problem is that #1 and #2 fundamentally contradict each other. Like novels, music is one of my deepest artistic inspirations. As such if you were to sneak in to my apartment like some sort of creepy-stalker-ninja (or just be one of my unlucky neighbors) you would notice that when I'm given free reign almost everything I listen to would be excluded from a "normal" mix because of rule #2.

Don't ask me why I am going to be so impolite as to post an "actual" mix of what I'm listening too. Maybe it's just the few insane people who have asked for it, maybe it's a vain attempt to fight the demons of bad music made by reality stars, maybe it's a vainglorious attempt to make myself feel cool, and maybe I just want share this shit because this is the music I adore. Whatever the case, here it is, spanning two discs, a collection of some of my favorite music that I'm listening to at the moment. This is the stuff that inspires my art, and challenges me in the best ways. You might not like much of it. You probably won't like any of it in fact. But you've been warned, now if you're feeling deeply adventurous take a listen (and even if it's before noon, you might want to make yourself a drink!)

Here's the download link for the first disc! 

And the track listing for Disc 1 ("Track" - Artist - Album)

1) "Twilight Twilight Nihil Nihil" - Current 93 - All the Pretty Little Horses
2) "Dreamdcipher" - Miseration - The Mirroring Shadow
3) "We Have Existed" - Masayuki Takayanagi New Directions Unit - April is the Cruelest Month
4) "Tyrant" - Thou - Tyrant
5) "Bereft" - Fen - The Malediction Fields
6) "Choir of Spirits" - Obscura - Cosmogenesis
7) "Burning Spear" - Eric Dolphy - Iron Man
8) "Gnosis Unveils" - Withered - Folie Circulaire
9) "Transmigrating Beyond Realms Ov Amenti" - Behemoth - Evangelion
10) "The Ancient Covenant" - The Faceless - Planetary Duality

Hopefully even if you don't like anything, you'll be inspired - I'll be posting Disc #2 tomorrow - That's both a threat and promise!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beer Review - Coronado Red Devil

I'm slaving away as you read trying to finish up the fabled "What Eron Actually Listens To Mix" (quite literally, I'm giving it the last run-through while I type this) but in the interim, I found this review in my notebook and I figured I'd share a review of a bit of a rare brew, the Red Devil Imperial Red Ale by Coronado Brewing Company.

Nose: Herbal, earthy hints of cherry and plenty of hoppy pine. Very red color. Hints of carmel sweetness. 

Drink: Big body (almost 10% ABV!). Rich but reasonably balanced for a beer this size. Plenty of maltiness, still a it herbal, still a bit earthy with touches of pastry dough, thyme and some sweet & sour notes (but not actually sour at all). Mostly backboned by the interplay of the rich cherry/carmel malt and the hops. Some dried fruit (Apricots? Dried pears? Golden Raisins?) without being a flavor bomb.

This beer would have a food-friendliness much like a Bordeaux. It's reserved and integrated even though it's an Imperial. Actually, I'd mostly say this is a beer to sip over a cheese plate, not something to slam at a backyard BBQ. The mouth-feel on this isn't really smooth on it's own. I'd bet this would age extremely well, and drink at it's best at around a year out. 

[Dun dun dun! Disc One review is almost done! MWAHAHAHAHA! You will need a couple of these beers to get through the two discs incoming!]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Digital Photography Questions Pt. 3 — PART TWO!

Oh, come brewing storm, come quickening night, the end is nigh, the end is high. This is it, the final, the fourth post, in our three part post about macro photography and depth of field! (Yeah, that's right, this is part four in a three part article!)

So to continue our discussion of advanced depth-of field tricks:

5) Another way to increase the amount of out-of-focus area is using a telephoto lens. The longer the lens in mm, the more narrow the focus range of any given aperture will be. That is, f/5.6 on a 17mm lens will capture way more in focus than f/5.6 on a 105mm lens! Like huge gigantic woolly mammoth difference! 

That said, most people don't use long lenses for shooting macro work because (as you can see below) tele lenses drastically compress space, both in and out of focus. Basically meaning things look more like paper cut-outs than 3-D objects which means that images become simplified. 

It's a fine line, and most people have to play around with what they like personally. If it counts for anything, I tend to shoot macro images with wide lenses jammed in really close. But often I'm trying to get more depth of field than not…   

Here's a couple of images to demonstrate. I'm going to leave everything but the lens length the same, and move the camera to make the frame as close to the same as the lens will allow. Remember to click the images to make them bigger. Be looking for the way the lenses squash space, but also what objects are and aren't in focus as the same f-stop.

17mm, f/5.6, 1/3 shutter, ISO 100

40mm, f/5.6, 1/3 shutter, ISO 100

105mm, f/5.6, 1/3 shutter, ISO 100

Pretty drastic, neh?

6) Okay, moving in to the crazy underworld for the level-85-uber-photo-warlock-nerd, you could get a shift-tilt lens like a Lens Baby to really mess with the focus. What is this you ask? Well, basically that imaginary perpendicular plane that defines your focus, these lenses let you move that from parallel to other crazzzzzyyyyy angles. Basically, instead of the focus going forward and back, it can go sort-of left and right or up and down, or a combination of all three.This is really hard to visualize unless you know optics really well, but really easy to see in a photo. Keith Carter uses this trick for great artistic effect here (see how the pole is out of focus up and down, but stuff on the left in the back is in focus? Trippyyyyy):

Copyright to Keith Carter and whatever site I stole this image from years ago.

Basically it will allow you to place very specifically where the out of focus areas are. Now this option might work, but it's very severe and kind of gimmicky (a bit like a double-necked-guitar in rock), rather than natural. But these lenses aren't super expensive, so it might be a good tool to have in your kit if you like the look. The "Control Freak" is probably the best option for table-top. 

7) Lighting, while not a technical nor camera concern, can often be used to accentuate or build similar visual readings to actual optica selectivel focus. If you check out any film noir movie you can see this used for a tremendously power effect. Even in a scene where you have a mid-range f-stop you can spotlight the main subject and "flag" your lights (which means using bits of foil to prevent light for going where you don't want it) to control where your eye will go. 

You can blow areas out, making them too bright to determine details, or put areas in shadow to make them un-readable compared to the main subject. These aren't depth-of-field answers specifically, but in the viewer's brain they can function in a very similar way. 

[Another portion of controlling your light is that all that ambient light bouncing around your house can muck up the color. Nothing like a whole set of frames with weird blue highlights and nasty yellow-green shadows to make you bash your head on your keyboard after a long day in the studio. So try to work in an area that is as dark as possible except for the lights on the subject. I often will shoot at night with the windows closed and all the house lights off for this reason. Then I can put gels on the lights if I want coloration. ]

Here's a pair of examples, which if you notice, are shot at the same aperture, f/11,  which produces decent depth of field:

All house lights and studio lights on. 40mm, f/11, 1/4 shutter, ISO 100 

Blinds closed and all house lights out but one snooted studio light. 40mm, f/11, 1.33 shutter, ISO 100

And if you want to see what I'm talking about snooting and flagging to control the light, you can see in the following image (which is a fake shot mimicking how I made the second shot) I've wrapped with front of the light in foil leaving only an inch or so opening so the lighting only hits the central subject. Additionally, I'm holding a bunch of sheets of paper just out of frame to block the light from slightly spilling on to the back area.

As a parting thought most artists combine and use many of these techniques to get the shots they want. Feel free to play around. Move your lights, move your camera. Experiment! This guide is just the smallest amount of what you'll discover on your own.

I hope these posts have been informative — My next two guides are going to be on building a digital darkroom at home (great for all of you new grads from photo school) and also a full guide on building an amazing, sensibly priced home stereo system. Follow my blog of grab my RSS feed and you'll be the first to see them.  

You can check out my portfolios of art at including my documentary photo project on anime conventions, "Bridges of Desire" and my work on virtual landscape photography, "Land to Die In" among others!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Digital Photography Questions Pt. 3, NOW with Two Parts!

Finally, at long last, I'm going to get to answering Shing's question #2, which was, "For shooting small toy/doll house sets, how do you control depth of field to make the background more out of focus?" It only took two massive blog posts and finishing off all of the Earl Grey tea in the house to get there!

(That's right, this is the first part of the third and final installment of my guide to macro photography and selective focus. If you don't like that I didn't break it in to four parts, well, too bad. Get your own blog with blackjack and hookers. Part one talks about basic Canon DSLR zoom lens choices. Part two talks about basic technical concerns with macro photography.)

What we are talking about in this final section is termed "selective focus," which is simply using a lack of focus control the look of the image. And in the case of Marlowe, Shing is looking for more ways to make the background less in focus. Let's look at a one of her images (used with permission) to see what we're working on.

"Marlowe could never finish enough beer to attain a full set of beer goggles." © 2011 Shing Khor

(She might not be James Casebere but she's already doing a damn good job, so I'm just going to ramble about lots of different tools and methods she could try.)

Here are some basic ways to control depth of field: 

1)  First, on any camera/lens combo, if you want to decrease depth of field you need to set the aperture to the lowest possible number (which to be confusing is the largest physical opening in the mechanics of the lens). 

In real terms, f/4 has a much more narrow depth of field than f/22 would. The easiest way to make your camera use smaller apertures is that instead of using the "P" or "Auto" setting on the camera, you use the "Av" setting on the control dial. This shooting mode lets you pick a specific aperture to use and then the camera automatically picks the correct shutter speed to match it, but never varies the aperture for the exposure. So if you want lot's of blur, set it as low as your lens will go and leave it there. 

*Note!* Remember to change this back to P or Auto after your shoot! There is nothing worse than shooting tons of random photos of buildings and streets and landscapes and fashion and realizing you had your lens set to f/4 so only people's noses are in focus, or the mail box… Not that I've done this… 

Let's look at a couple of examples!

This first image is shot (on a tripod, with a timer...) at 40mm with f/4, 1/6 shutter, and ISO 100.

Now, the exact same frame but at f/22.

If you click the images and zoom in, you can see that the f-stop is the foremost thing to impact the depth of field in an image!

2) If narrow depth of field is really really important, you might actually want to buy a prime lens. 

Backing up from my recommendation in my zoom lens post, assuming money is no option, if you really wanted to be able to put the most area out of focus with a zoom lens, you would want to buy the Canon 16-35 f/2.8L lens. The difference between f/2.8 and f/4 is actually somewhat significant. 

But there is a cheaper and more useful way to have the same ultra-narrow depth of field. What you'll want to do is buy one of those general zooms I talked about and then spend some bucks bucks to buy a prime lens (a non-zoom lens). 

Nice zoom lenses might go down to f/4, but even a moderately priced prime lens can go down below f./2, which is MUCH more narrow depth of field, despite the small numerical difference (almost four times as narrow, because the f/ number goes in odd intervals. A single doubling/halving step is f/8 to f/11, or f/1.4 to f/2). The Canon EF 28 f/1.8 will go super narrow! A similar but cheaper lens is the 50mm f/1.4. It's a bit longer, which will change the character of the shot, but that is a razor thin depth of field. 

Of note to artists is that prime lenses usually have much better out of focus rendering. That is called "bokeh" in photo-parlence. "Bokeh", which was coined by Daido Moriyama and his circle of friends in 1960's Japan, describes the kind of character of each lens in the areas that are out of focus. Prime lenses almost always look more pleasing and interesting in the out-of-focus areas than zoom lenses.

3) Another strategy for being able to make the focus area smaller is to work closer to the subject with the camera. At 22 mm with f/4 where the lens is 6 inches from the subject will provide much less in-focus area (1" at best) than shooting 22mm f/4 from a distance of 20 inches and cropping the image in post. The closer you can jam your lens to the point of it's minimum focusing distance (the distance where it can't focus on a subject any closer) the less apparent depth of field you will get.

Here's a couple examples:

22mm @ f/4, 2/5 shutter, ISO 100, with the lens 6 inches from the focus point.

22mm @ f/4, 2/5 shutter, ISO 100, 20 inches from the focus point, cropped to match the framing.

You can see how the pink dino and the Totoro are both way more in focus on the cropped shot, even though all I did was move the camera back about a foot!  

4) For the purpose of shooting super close to objects a "macro" lens might provide the best results! These lenses are designed to be able to focus closer to a subject than normal. Most of normal lenses have a minimum focusing distance somewhere between 16" and 3 feet (the longer, more zoom, and cheaper the lens the further the minimum distance will be usually). But "macro" lenses will actually let you focus in such a way that you can get just about as close to 1:1 as you might need (that is, a penny is taking up one penny worth of space on the sensor or film!) The a good one for Canon is the EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro. It's not too expensive either!

Or, if you get a general zoom and want to do macro work with that lens, you can use an extension tube to shoot closer than normal. They lock in to place between the lens and body, effectively changing the focusing geometry to make the lens focus closer which basically turns regular lenses in to macro lenses. You'll have to play with which one will work best for each of your specific projects since they come in different values for more or less macro. This one tends to work pretty well. 

I shot all of the macro shots of the hentai origami for my upcoming "Japonisme" project with a 17-40 f/4L and a generic macro extension tube, if you're curious. They look amazing, so getting macro extenders are a very viable option.  

"Sailor Moon Hentai Origami" 2010 by Eron Rauch (39mm f/16 1 sec. ISO 100)

In the next section coming tomorrow morning we'll have more photos, more about lenses, and even a little bit about lighting! 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Digital Photography Questions Pt. 2 — BACK 2 BEARSICS!

Shooting Macro Pt. 2 — BACK 2 BEARSICS! 

Anyway, this essay on photography technique just got one section longer, and this is the second part of three! (The previous post is here). 

Continuing along on our macro/selective focus tutorial I wanted to back up before we go forward to make sure the basics are solid before the I talk about the tricky stuff. Here are a couple of rudimentary suggestions for all photographers shooting small dioramas/objects. Even if you know all of this (I assume most people do, but I was just going over my own process for shooting those hentai origami shots from the first post) this will be a good refresher.  

-1) It is vital to use the lowest possible ISO when working with out-of-focus areas - usually around 100 ISO on modern digital cameras - because with the lowest ISO your camera will render those subtle soft areas in a more beautiful manner. Also, soft fields of tone (as well as shadows) are some of the image-areas most susceptible to ugly and distracting digital noise, so using higher ISOs will disproportionally affect macro images. [Also, you are shooting in RAW, in Adobe 1998 color space, at the maximum image size right? If you're not, go change that right now and come back!]

Here are some examples. Make sure to click the images to full size to really take a look at how the soft, out of focus areas are annihilated by noise in the ISO 3200 images even though the "focused" areas still look okay (these two examples are shot on a tripod btw).

Full Size f/4 @  ISO 100

Detail of f/4 @ ISO 100

Full Size f/4 @ ISO 3200

Detail of f/4 @ ISO 3200

-2) Shooting on a solid tripod is essential when shooting small objects up close. Camera shake and minor changes in focus can much more easily ruin a shot of a tiny object in a studio than a shot of a mountain in the distance at noon. The relationship of the slightest motion of the camera to the subject is exponentially worse working in macro.  So get a good tripod, a good tripod head and lock the camera down tight! I usually find the angle I want with the camera off of the tripod, compose my shot, then set my camera on the tripod and replicate the shot I found. Spend around $200 to get a nice tripod and head combination (I recommend the 055 Manfrotto legs. For macro photography, I don't really know about a head, but I use a basic ball head and love it.) It sounds like a lot of money, but you will thank yourself! Even under heavy use, they last at least a decade, make your images look better and reduce your stress!  

-3) Even with your camera on a stable tripod you still have to use a cable release or if you don't have one, use the auto timer! Even if you are as nimble as a ninja, and your tripod is so burly that it would get mistaken for a construction crane, pushing on the camera to release the shutter will cause shake (even the motion of the mirror and shutter can cause shake!). This is doubly important with selective focus because you are trying to exaggerate the disparity of the small part in focus with the larger area out of focus, and if that in focus part isn't sharp because of camera-shake caused by you pushing the button, it reduces the impact of the selective focus! I use the built-in 2-second auto timer all the time for working with product photography. You set the shot up, push the button, remove your hand from the camera and tripod, and voila, no more accidentally blurry images! 

Here are a couple of examples of points -2 and -3. Again, click them to make them larger and really look at how the hand-held image never gets anywhere near as sharp as the one that is locked on the tripod (and additionally using the auto timer). 

Hand Held, f/4, 1/8 shutter, ISO 100

Hand Held Detail, f/4 1/8 shutter, ISO 100

Tripod + Timer, f/4 1/8 shutter, ISO 100

Tripod + Timer Detail, f/4, 1/8 shutter, ISO 100

-4) Okay, I realized as I was writing that some folks might be like "But ERRRRrrooonnnnn, I don't use a full-sized tripod because otherwise how could I get low enough to shoot such tiny things blah blah blah." Here's a couple photos of my ghetto standard set-up for shooting small objects that will expand the angles you can shoot from. You want your set/objects at the very front of a normal table or desk. Your tripod/camera just in front of that on the floor. The table should be away from a wall so you can get all around it. The reason you shoot like this is that you can actually shoot a much more diverse set of angeles - even from below,  which no matter how small your flexi-tripod is, you can get! (image) Also, this gives you the most ability to position lights. You can set them above, behind, and all around on the table and from any position from the front very easily.

Normal Setup (Not ictured, the death metal bugging my neighbors). 

Note the lights now above and below, as well as how the tripod/camera is actually below the table looking up! 

-5) If you are working on shots like Shing's Marlowe, which are small objects staged in a studio, it is usually worth your time to download the images to you computer and preview them as large as possible durring the shooting session. Because of how minute changes can affect such small objects and how tiny shifts in focus can change a shot, if you have your camera locked down on a tripod, you can pop the card out, download it, look at it on your large monitor in Aperture or what-not, go "Oh! That area is too dark, and the focus is like .1 inches behind the object, and I need a little more depth of field…" Pop the card back in, make the changes and shoot another frame or two. Repeat until perfect all without squinting at a tiny LCD screen. You're not doing any "Decisive Moment" work, so use that control and time to your advantage!