Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bokeh: Take One

The term bokeh is not misspelled like what I had previously thought. It is derived from Japanese, meaning the aesthetic quality of blur or out-of-focus highlights. Bokeh can be created using the background light source and its reflection, by using large aperture. The actual science behind it is beyond me, so is the technique. Whenever you see pictures with blurry light bubbles and a focused object, that's an example of bokeh. I have also read on other sites that bokeh is not limited to just light reflection, it could be anything with out-of-focus area. So far, using my new 35mm f/1.8 lens, I am able to get very blurry background while keeping the object focused.

f/1.8, 1/50, ISO 400

I think I see some light bubbles in the background...

f/2, 1/2000, ISO 400

f/2, 1/4000, ISO 110

Never thought I would see dandelions in February.

f/2, 1/2000, ISO 180

f/1.8, 1/4000, ISO 140

Amazing colors with this new lens. I love every part of it, even Lola knows that.

f/1.8, 1/4000, ISO 100

I think my pictures can be considered as being aesthetic quality of blur, or at least an attempt to do so. More on this topic later. That's what I love about photography, with endless possibilities. Should there be "right" or "wrong" way to take beautiful pictures?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

35mm f/1.8

I got it! The 35mm f/1.8 lens, that is. So far, I love it! Remember my lens dilemma? It took me another two days to think about which I want to get. I wrote posts on photography forums asking for advice. Finally, I realized that I don't do much macro photography and if I were to get into it, I'd get a fancier macro lens.

It's a fast lens. By fast I meant the shutter speed, super awesome for low light photography (i.e. my kitchen). However, the lens takes a while to focus and since this is prime lens (no zoom option) I'd have to move around to get it autofocus. The lens hood that it came with is small, I'm not sure how this would work as sun flare reducer.

f/5.3, 1/30, ISO 1800

Lola's snout. 

f/2.5, 1/30, ISO 900, +0.3EV

Best sugar cookies I have ever made. At f/1.8, you can see the sugar granules.

f/1.8, 1/60, ISO 400

Lavender and cilantro seedling under grow light.

f/1.8, 1/1000, ISO 400

f/1.8, 1/1250, ISO 400

Instead of full-on autofocus function, this lens has M/A function (autofocus with manual override).
I need to figure out how to focus better, as the last couple pictures look like out of focus. Every picture always looks pretty on the small display screen on cameras, but its a different story once transferred onto the computer. Either way, wheeee I'm excited to use this lens outside, just in time for spring blossoms.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

f/5, 1/30, ISO 1250, +0.3EV

Other than salt and pepper, cinnamon is probably the most used spice in my kitchen. I add it to pretty much everything from cookies, breakfast oatmeal, to hot chocolate, and even in my coffee.

f/5.6, 1/60, ISO 1250, +0.3EV

I love the smell of cinnamon, especially the freshly baked cinnamon buns or cinnamon sticks in shopping malls. I know that the cinnamon buns sold commercially have a zillion calories, so I decided to "healthy-fied" this recipe.  I replaced half of all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour.

f/5.6, 1/60, ISO 1250, +0.3EV

It does take up a whole day get these babies ready. The dough has to rise and then punch down a couple times. The punching of the dough not only lets the air out, but also creates finer crumbs/texture in the finished product. Make sure to be extra generous with brushing melted butter on the rolled-out dough. I did not use all the three tablespoons, the rolls turned out to be a bit on the dry side.

f/5.6, 1/30, ISO 1250, +0.3EV

Ready to be baked!

f/5, 1/30, ISO 1250, +0.3EV

Ouuuu LaLAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa~

f/5.3, 1/60, ISO 400


Apparently my perspective on cinnamon rolls has skewed, thanks to certain giant cinnamon buns sold in grocery stores. I was complaining how small these came out until I realized that they were the "appropriate and healthy" serving size that one should have.

f/5.6, 1/30, ISO 2800, +0.3EV

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

1 cup warm fat-free milk (100° to 110°) 
6 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided 
1 package quick-rise yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
2 cups of bread flour
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt  
Cooking spray
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon 

Icing (makes about 2 cups): 
6 tablespoons butter, softened
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2 cups powdered sugar

  1. To prepare rolls, combine milk, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add egg and remaining granulated sugar to bowl.Mix bread flour and whole wheat four into a separate dry mixing bowl. Stir in 1 cup flour into the milk mixture; let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Add about 2 1/2 cups flour and salt to milk mixture; stir until a soft dough forms (dough will be sticky). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 12 minutes); add the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 35 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rise 35 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.
  3. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; roll dough into an 18 x 11–inch rectangle. Brush remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter over dough; sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture. Beginning at one long side, roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Cut dough into 18 (1-inch) slices. Arrange 9 slices, cut sides up, in each of 2 (8-inch) square baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 35 minutes or until doubled in size.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°.
  5. Uncover rolls. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 10 minutes in dishes on a wire rack. Turn rolls out onto wire rack; cool 5 minutes. Turn rolls over.
  6. To prepare icing, combine 6 tablespoons softened butter and cream; stir with a whisk. Stir in vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar; stir until blended. Spread icing over rolls; serve warm.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Yesterday we took a day trip to Frankfort. Kentucky, that is, not Germany.
Although the city is the capital of the state, it seemed small and empty. But its still got the historic feel to it, old buildings and historical signs every corner. We had lunch in a cute coffee shoppe at the historic downtown.

f/14, 1/250, ISO 400

The Kentucky River flows through Frankfort and the main government buildings are on the south side of the river.

f/10, 1/400, ISO 400

We walked through residential neighborhoods leading up to the capital.

f/10, 1/125, ISO 400

f/5, 1/160, ISO 400

We visited Daniel Boone's grave in Frankfort Cemetery on top of a hill and overlooking the city. For the longest time I thought this pioneer was a story book character, like Paul Bunyan. Rumor has it that they were friends.

f/13, 1/200, ISO 400

The Kentucky River and State Capital Building

f/8, 1/250, ISO 400

f/5.6, 1/800, ISO 400

Friday, February 17, 2012


In a couple of my past posts on photography equipment, I expressed my interest in getting a new lens. Specifically, I want a lens with wide aperture for portraits, objects, and low light conditions. I have been doing lots of research, since lens don't come cheap. After reading tons of photography forums and product reviews, I am sure that I want this:

AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G
It is affordable, exactly what I am looking for.


Until the salesman at a local camera shop showed me this:
AF-S DX Micro-NIKOOR 40mm f/2.8G


Bahhhhhh more decisions to make!

The price difference is about $80. It comes down to how much macro photography I do. I have not experiment with macro photography simply because my current lens does not allow such thing. I do prefer landscape and wide aperture-type of photos. But everyone talks about how awesome macro is, especially for food photography. The macro lens (Nikon calls it micro, hence the confusion) can be used for landscape and daily use other zoom up objects. I am back to the drawing board.

Which should I get??

p.s. Happy Friday!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Nutella Cookies

f/5.6, 1/20, ISO 3200

Love is in the air.
I could feel it when the weatherman said "Happy Valentine's Day!!!" on TV this morning, when I was in grocery store where every check-out aisle had big red heart-shaped balloons, and when I saw the bare Valentine's display of candies and flowers.

f/5.6, 1/15, ISO 3200

Then when I checked my e-mail, every baking blog newsletter I got was related to chocolate and hearts.

f/5.6, 1/50, ISO 1600

So I thought I would get into the spirit of the holiday.
You might noticed that lately I have been posting more on cooking and recipes.
This wet winter days have kept my camera indoor for the most part.

I am a HUGE fan of Nutella. My friend and I even celebrated the World Nutella Day by having a Nutella fondue party.
It was heaven.

f/5.6, 1/30, ISO 2500, +0.3EV

I used a peanut butter cookies recipe and added Nutella instead of the peanut butter. The hazelnut-taste was not as distinctive in these cookies, maybe I should have added some roasted hazelnuts. I got creative by cutting out heart-shape on a post-in and dusted powdered sugar on top.

This is probably as far as I will be doing for Valentine's Day. In a couple hours, I will be back to the grocery store for some discounted candies.

f/5.6, 1/30, ISO 1800

Nutella Cookies

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup Nutella
1/4 cup roasted hazelnut, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients together. Cream butter in a separate, add sugar, beat until mixed. Add in vanilla, egg, followed by Nutella. Stir in half of the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, mix until combined then add in the rest of the dry. Stir in hazelnut. Place dough tablespoon size on greased baking sheet. Use the bottom of a glass and gently press the dough down. Bake for 10 minutes.

To make heart-shapes: Cut out small heart on a post-in and place it on cookie. With a sifter, sift powdered sugar top of the post-it. Carefully remove the post-it. Ta-da!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chocolate Truffles

Ever since I was young I am convinced that Valentine's Day is made up by candy/chocolate/flower/card-making corporations.

f/6.3, 1/30, ISO 1800, +0.3EV

Valentine's Day at my high school was big. Various clubs would set up fundraising candy grams. My teacher would have a pile of chocolates waiting to be distributed. It was fun seeing which girl got the most. Then there are those girls who always get bouquets of flowers, and for some reason they had to carry the bouquets to every class.

f/5.6, 1/10, ISO 3200, +0.3EV

My friends and I would send each other chocolate grams. Sometimes they would write "From your secret admirer. I love you, Jenn", leaving me trying to decipher whose handwriting it is.

f/5.6, 1/8, ISO 3200, +0.3EV

Secretly, I was slightly (just a little bit) jealous of those girls who got flowers. I daydreamed that I had a real secret admirer who was too shy to send me flowers. It was important for some to show their love, even at a young age of 15. Pretty sweet actually, now that I think about it. The thought that someone likes or even loves me gives me a warm feeling.

f/5.6, 1/15, ISO 3200, +0.3EV

I still think Valentine's Day is a commercial holiday, the only best part about it is the day-after-chocolate-sale. Why wait until Valentine's Day to show someone that you love them? Why not today?

f/5.6, 1/15, ISO 3200

I got Cook's Illustrated for Christmas. It is probably the best cooking resource I have ever read. The first issue I got had chocolate truffles (click for recipe or see below). I got creative with the chocolate by mixing half unsweetened and milk chocolate. Turned out pretty yummy. I would definitely not skip parchment-lining in 8x8 pans. It was not easy getting ganache out of my silicon pan. Also, use lots of cocoa powder on hands when rolling these out. Although they don't look too appetizing, homemade chocolate dessert is Always worth the time.

Chocolate Truffles
Published January 1, 2012.   From Cook's Illustrated
Makes 64 truffles.    


  • Ganache
  • 2cups (12 ounces) bittersweet chocolate , roughly chopped
  • 1/2cup heavy cream
  • 2tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 8 pieces and softened
  • Coating
  • 1cup (3 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1/4cup (1 ounce) confectioners' sugar


  1. 1. FOR THE GANACHE: Lightly coat 8-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Make parchment sling by folding 2 long sheets of parchment so that they are as wide as baking pan. Lay sheets of parchment in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra hanging over edges of pan. Push parchment into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing flush to pan.
  2. 2. Microwave chocolate in medium bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until mostly melted and few small chocolate pieces remain, 2 to 3 minutes; set aside. Microwave cream in measuring cup until warm to touch, about 30 seconds. Stir corn syrup, vanilla, and salt into cream and pour mixture over chocolate. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, set aside for 3 minutes, and then stir with wooden spoon to combine. Stir in butter, one piece at a time, until fully incorporated.
  3. 3. Using rubber spatula, transfer ganache to prepared pan and set aside at room temperature for 2 hours. Cover pan and transfer to refrigerator; chill for at least 2 hours. (Ganache can be stored, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.)
  4. 4. FOR THE COATING: Sift cocoa and sugar through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl. Sift again into large cake pan and set aside.
  5. 5. Gripping overhanging parchment, lift ganache from pan. Cut ganache into sixty-four 1-inch squares (8 rows by 8 rows). (If ganache cracks during slicing, let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes and then proceed.) Dust hands lightly with cocoa mixture to prevent ganache from sticking and roll each square into ball. Transfer balls to cake pan with cocoa mixture and roll to evenly coat. Lightly shake truffles in hand over pan to remove excess coating. Transfer coated truffles to airtight container and repeat until all ganache squares are rolled and coated. Cover container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. Let truffles sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Blue Snow

Ever notice how quiet when it's snowing out?

I took these pictures at 7:00am this morning.
The cloudy white balance effect gave a cool, icy, and blue effect.

f/10, 1/30, ISO 2000

I have been reading The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby. The author doesn't get into the technical stuff of photography, instead he focuses on what a photographer should think in terms of his/her subjects.

I learned this about taking landscape pictures: Do not put the horizon in the middle of the frame. Think about what you want to capture first.

For example, the horizon of first picture below is slightly higher (the horizon being the top of the roof), hence more of the parking lot and apartment buildings are shown. The focus here is the snow on apartments and the tree.

f/11, 1/30, ISO 2200

Next, if I want the focus to be the cloudy sky and the line of trees behind the apartment building, then I lower the horizon line. More of the sky is captured in this picture, which then shifts the focus.

f/11, 1/30, ISO 1600

Get it? Simple enough.

This picture was taken an hour later with more light but still in cloudy setting. I tried to capture the snowflakes by setting at shutter speed priority. I probably need a zoom lens in order to see individual snowflakes.

f/4, 1/2000, ISO 2000

Recently I became obsessed with Pinterest. I love the beautiful pictures and how I am able to browse for things that I wish were mine. Follow me on Pinterest by clicking on the icon on the left. Maybe one day my pictures will become someone's "pins".

Happy Wednesday!

p.s. I entered Lola into the World Spay Day Photo Contest. Click on her picture on the left to vote for her!

Sunday, February 5, 2012


To celebrate my birthday earlier this week, Jake took me to the Newport Aquarium and Hofbrauhaus in Newport, Kentucky yesterday. Unfortunately it rained all day, I did not want to risk getting my camera wet therefore all the pictures were taken indoor...i.e. very low light condition, which means blurry pictures. It did not help when I forgot to turn on the VR (vibrate reduction) on the lens. I am almost embarrassed to put these pictures up, but they are a good reminder of what I need to do to improve.

We started the day with a giant pretzel, bratwurst chili, and sausage platter.

f/4.5, 1/8, ISO 3200

f/3.8, 1/60, ISO 1600

Each stein had its own lock. Some serious bier drinker here.

f/3.8, 1/60, ISO 1600

This was one of my many attempts to take pictures through class and in a dark area. Turned out alright. I am seriously considering getting a prime lens AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.5G, which is supposed to work better in low lights.

f/4.5, 1/25, ISO 3200

Who knew the aquarium also had birds that you can feed?

f/5.6, 1/50, ISO 1600

The largest turtle I have ever seen, weighted more than 200 pounds.

f/4, 1/50, ISO 1600

The aquarium was an awesome experience, we have not had the time to take a trip like this. There were lots of people with their point-and-shoot taking pictures of everything and anything. By taking pictures for a year, I have already learned what I should do. Like I need a lens more fitted for this situation, maybe a tripod, a polarizer to reduce glass glare (I did not even know what this was called), and to be prepared to take pictures at anytime.

Do I sound like a photography snob already? There is still so much to learn!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

No Knead Bread

f/5, 1/40, ISO 400

I got a new baby.
She is Dutch.
A cast iron Dutch Oven, that is.
Although it is not the prestige and pricey Le Creuset, I am more than happy about this one.
As you can tell, Lola was staring my new love with envy.

f/5.3, 1/100, ISO 1600

I missed the No-Knead Bread (click for recipe) phenomena by a few years. I know about the recipe for a while now but could not make it without a Dutch Oven. Now I know what the fuss was all about. 

f/5, 1/160, ISO 1600

It was the first thing I made with this pot. The dough was very sticky and "soggy" (as the recipe called it) at first, a copious amount of flour is needed.

f/5.3, 1/40, ISO 1600

The dough needs to rest for 12-18 hours. Might seem like a long wait, but it is worth it. My first no-knead bread was slightly over baked. However, the crust is heavenly crunchy.

f/5.6, 1/40, ISO 1600

Simple bread with butter and bowl of soup.
Perfect meal for winter.

f/5, 1/30, ISO 400

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