I’m a Naughty Boy

Daffodils Dying Maybe it’s the lack of any kind of Spring this year here in Co. Kerry. Maybe it’s that the daffodils are dying among hail showers and North winds. Maybe it’s that it’s colder than it should be. Maybe it’s that every time the sun comes out, an astonishingly heavy shower is soon to follow. Maybe it’s simply that I’m tired from a long winter, finishing the book, and a busy Easter in the shops, but I have been feeling in dire need of an inspirational lift.

Nikon D300What did I do? Sun holiday? Yoga? Weekend retreat? No! I recklessly whipped out the credit card and splurged for a Nikon D300. The reviews have been so great and the people I know who have one so happy, that I couldn’t help myself. Hmmm. I’d better keep repeating that!

Sometime next week I’ll get a package worth drooling over, and hopefully you’ll see some good results here once I get the hang of it.

By the way, I ordered it from Conn’s Cameras in Dublin, who have a good reputation and fantastic prices on certain items at the moment. There has been some grumbling in the press about Irish businesses not passing on the benefits of the fall in Sterling, but Conn’s Cameras has done so in a big way on certain cameras and lenses. They have some real bargains. Hmmm. I’d better keep repeating that!

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How to Make a Chocolate Emulsion

Virtually every recipe I have written for hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream, or chocolate sauce involves making a chocolate emulsion. An emulsion is simply a mixture of two liquids that don’t normally mix, such as oil and water. Chocolate can be a bit tricky to work with, and consistently getting a smooth, glossy final product is not always so easy. In fact, I struggled with it before going off to France for the Valrhona chocolate course. There, I learned a very simple trick that’s shown in this video – adding warm liquid to warm chocolate in small parts, mixing all the time, until you have a very professional looking product.

Anyway, here’s the video! I hope it’s helpful. Here are recipes where it might come in handy:

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A Study In Ice Cream Cones

Honeycomb Cone Melting I’ve been trying to take a photo of an ice cream cone for the front cover of our upcoming ice cream cookbook. I think it’s the hardest thing I’ve tried to photograph, especially since we want it to be melting slightly, which we think makes it look less static. There’s so much humidity in the air that the ice cream tends to frost up before it melts. Anyway, here are a few attempts. The last one is from a few months ago… Now I’m off to the All Ireland. Chiarraí­ abu!!!

Chocolate Cone

Vanilla Cone Melting

Vanilla Cone Melting Logo

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Ice Cream in Space?

Sean and Cian Bungie My brother Sean and Cian, our temporary Dingle Shop Manager, decided in a moment of madness to bring ice cream into space.

BungeeWell, maybe not space, but about as high as you can get in Dingle.

At the moment, we have this crazy bungee contraption in town that basically hurls you a hundred meters into the air.

Credit to Sean, who is afraid of heights. Not only did he muster the courage to do it, but he sweet-talked the ride operator into letting him bring along ice cream.

There were a few mishaps, but perhaps it’s better to show it than explain it because there is video footage of the event, and I’ll post it just as soon as I can. It’s pretty funny…

I’m kind of jealous and might have to have a go myself this evening…

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Espresso Pouring

Espresso pouring This is probably getting a bit boring, but I’m going to talk about my new flash and lens again. I can’t help playing with new toys, even though most of my time has been spent scooping ice cream in the shops! Once I get my head around how to use the system to its full potential, I should be able to get some very cool photos.

Espresso pouringIt’s such a handy thing to have photographs of the various tasty treats that we sell, and a benefit of taking pictures myself is that I love the subject! Now I just need to get a little more professional about it.

One of the most exciting things about a flash system is that you can take high speed close-up photos, and I managed a few of espresso. It’s a bit awkward to get the lens into a position to take the shot, but I think these turned out pretty well…

For anyone who is interested in flashes and lighting, there is a fantastic blog called Strobist that has a wealth of information…

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Yes, it is love…

Vanilla cone melting As per the last post, my new lens will be very useful indeed. I also managed to work out the flash system without any trouble at all. It’s actually super-easy. The first cool thing about it is that the flashes are remote, so you can move them at will to get the effect that you want. The second thing is that you can use the command unit, which fits to the camera, to increase or decrease the amount of flash between the units so you can get the lighting balance right.

Chocolate drippingIn the photo above, I took the shot in the courtyard of our shop. There was enough light without any flash for the ice cream, but the backdrop was coming out too dark. So I took one of the flashes with a soft filter on it and lit the logo.

In the photo on the right, I simply dripped chocolate from a spoon onto a blue plate. The effect comes from shining the flash across the plate from the bottom left, and I used the second flash, with less intensity, on the bottom right to remove most of the shadows…

It’s going to be too busy, coming into the season, to play much with this. I’ll be scooping ice cream. Maybe it’s for the best. I could spend weeks fooling around!

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New Toys

Fuscia Trying to take photos of ice cream and ingredients without a macro lens has been quite frustrating, so I talked my brother into letting me spend some ice cream money on my Nikon D80. After all, there is the possibility of an ice cream book, and one would want it to look well.

BumblebeeAfter much research, I decided on a Nikkor 105mm micro lens as well as Nikon’s close-up R1C1 flash system.

I have to say I’m already in love with the lens. I unpacked the lens and took it straight into the garden. The fuscia above and the bumblebee are the result.

I can’t wait to work out the flash system and try it out on food!

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Still in Love?

Dingle Shop at Night I got a package in the post yesterday – the folks at Leica managed to resuscitate my old camera, which is quite amazing, given that it was dumped in the sea. Either that, or they gave up on the repair and sent me a new one (perhaps more likely since it’s positively gleaming).

However, I have to say my cheating heart has been completely won over by my new Nikon D80 in the meantime, and I also love the 1.4 fixed lens I bought for it. It lets in so much light and makes so many things possible.

The above photo was taken just before the Dingle shop closed for the season, just after dark, without a flash. I used a tripod. The blur is a passing car.

Change back from the D80? I think not. I do still love the Leica, though, and I guess it will be my travel camera, since it’s so much more compact…

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