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Flavor vs Health? – Taste Workshop

Fat news is controversial and creates trends in products, recipe development, cookbooks and restaurant menus. We will discuss what’s happening with fat trends and consider the basis for changing recommendations on dietary fat intake.

Fat Questions &/or Myths covered:

  • What are the latest trends in dietary fat thinking?
    • Fatphobia: The “no oils/dietary fats” followers
    • Fatphilia: The “butter/sat fat” followers
    • Coconut oil cures all / burns calories!?!
  • Refined oils are made with chemicals—yum or yuck?
  • 99% of us lack dietary omega-3 fats—which oils help vs harm?
  • Why olive oil for health vs other vegetable oils?
  • Heating oil creates unhealthful compounds—True or false?

Explore also practical uses of dietary oils and challenges or questions about best culinary uses and flavor results. Participate in an olive oil tasting to test your palate and discover the complexities of olive oil!

20 Tips for Creating a More Efficient Workshop

Of the hundreds of questions our readers send to us each year, most of them involve shop layout, organization and dependable tips from our panel of experts. Where is the best place for my tablesaw? How can I organize all the electrical cords crisscrossing my shop floor? What is the best way to store clamps?

The more efficient your shop, the more likely you are to work and have fun in what should be your home’s most interesting room.

To help our readers in their quest for creating the most efficient and dependable shops, we’ve gathered a list of the 20 best tips for organizing your workshop. As well, we’ve included some samples of the most practical shop layouts with popular configurations.

1. Make a Plan: Before you start any woodworking project, you have a plan, right? (Or so we hope!) The same should apply to workshop organization. Draw out your shop layout and play around with it on paper until you get it right. Then, start to add all the details that make a shop run like a well-oiled machine.

2. Easy Reach: Mount your tool’s accessories next to the machine; blades, pushsticks and wrenches all can fit in simple plywood storage.

3. Tools on Wheels: Use castors or wheeled bases for tools that may need to be moved around for space and practicality.

4. Look Up…: Use all the vertical space you can by adding storage overhead wherever possible. And be sure to have a safe stepstool handy for reaching.

5. …And Up Again: Store your electrical cables off the ground and run them along the ceiling. You won’t trip over them or have to clean up around them.

6. Storage Below: Store blades and rulers on the doors of pegboards, then store tools inside.

7. Keep it Clean: Sweep and vacuum during your workday and before you close up for the night. It’s simple, but many woodworkers skip this step.

8. Pair Off: Put two similar tools, such as a spindle and belt sander, on the same rolling surface. The cabinet base includes accessory storage.

9. Clamp Rack: A tall storage area has dowels across, spaced every 6″ to 8” for, well, clamping.

10. Don’t Be Afraid of Prefab: Just because someone else built it doesn’t mean it can’t help you get organized.

11. Electrify: Plan where you need electrical outlets. Use your ceiling space and extension cords to keep your floor space clear.

12. Retrofit: If you can’t add new outlets, use a retractable cord reel to keep power close at hand but cords off the floor.

13. Cleats Galore: Use a support-rail system to hang cabinetry easily and securely. Secure a 45° angle-cleat to studs and another cleat to the back of the cabinet.

14. Make It Your Own: You know your workshop needs better than anyone. Make a list of how you want your shop to function and find a way to achieve those goals. Also, make a list of your tools and figure out where each would best be placed for maximum efficiency and enjoyment. Because, after all, a workshop needs to be fun to functional.

15. Reuse It: Something old can be new again. Turn an old filing cabinet into a dream storage spot for blades, sanding discs and anything else that needs a home. Shop-built inserts that fit in the drawers are the key.

16. Add Colour: Just because it’s a shop, doesn’t mean it can’t look good! Use coloured laminates for cabinet doors and shelving. Even the mitre gauges should match for a professional finish.

17. Power Up: Build a simple charging station for all your battery packs. It will keep chargers and batteries together and you can easily see what needs juice and what doesn’t.

18. In Clear View: You’ll not only save space, but you’ll also save time and money if you build shelving for your nuts, bolts, screws and other hardware. That way you can easily see what you need to buy and what you have plenty of on hand.

19. Use Every Surface: Chalkboard paint isn’t just for playrooms. Add it to a wall or a cabinet door and you will always have a place to make notes or quick drawings.

20. MacGyver DIY: If you can’t find the hardware you need, make it! For example, using a carabiner and a Velcro strap, you can secure a dust-collection hose.

7 Car-Maintenance Myths

Myth: Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles. Wrong. Follow the advice in the owner’s manual and ignore the self-serving pleas from oil companies and quick-lube shops. Under normal driving conditions, most vehicles can travel 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Changing oil more often certainly won’t harm an engine, just waste money. But if you do a lot of stop-and-go driving, trailer-towing, or traveling through mountainous or dusty areas, 3,000 miles between oil changes is a good idea.

Myth: Flush the coolant with every oil change. Most owner manuals recommend changing the coolant every five years or 60,000 miles. But check for a leak if the coolant reservoir is low despite repeatedly topping it off.

Myth: Inflate tires to the pressure shown on the tire’s sidewall. The psi figure on the side of the tire is the maximum pressure the tire will hold safely. If you’re looking for the automaker’s recommended pressure that balances braking, handling, gas mileage, and ride comfort, it’s usually on a sticker on the driver-side doorjamb, in the glove box, or on the fuel-filler door.

Myth: If regular-grade fuel is good, premium must be better. Another expensive mistake. Most vehicles run fine on regular-grade fuel (87 octane). Filling these cars with premium won’t cause damage, but it won’t improve performance, either. Higher-octane fuels are less likely to create pre-ignition problems, so they’re usually used in hotter-running, high-compression engines.

Myth: Warm up your car for several minutes before driving. Outdated advice. Driving the car is the fastest way to warm up a modern engine, and the sooner it warms up, the sooner it delivers the best mileage and performance. And don’t rev the engine during the first few miles.

Myth: Wash your car with dishwashing or laundry detergent. No, not really. Detergents strip off a car’s wax finish. Pay a little extra and stick with the car-wash liquid, which cleans without removing wax.

Myth: A battery will recharge after a jump start in only a few minutes of driving. Not even close. It can take hours of driving to give the battery a full charge, especially in the winter. Heated seats, music systems, and other accessories draw so much power that the alternator has little left to recharge the battery. You can check to see if the battery will still hold a charge by having a load test at a gas station. If it can, several hours may be needed on a battery charger to give the battery a full charge.

The 10 Personality Types at Art Workshops

One of the joys of going on an art workshop is the other participants. It can, of course, also be one of the nightmares, and the fear of who else might be there may be what’s stopping you from signing up. I’ve been on a variety of courses over the years, ranging from a mere hour (at a large craft exhibition) to several days (at residential art retreats such as Higham Hall in the English Lake District), as well as some teaching small groups face-to-face myself, and there are definitely certain personality types you’ll meet.

Art workshops - Artist Patrick Oates demonstrating mark making at a landscapes workshop I attended.
Artist Patrick Oates demonstrating mark making at a landscapes workshop I attended.

1. The Fish Out of Water

Someone who is wondering why they ever thought that coming on the workshop was a good idea. Usually but not always someone doing it for the first time. Who’s finding the strangeness of the setting, the dealing with strangers, the coping with new challenges overwhelming and feels like they’re about to have a meltdown.

Watch for the “rabbit in the headlights” startled and slightly panicked look. Don’t crowd or rush them, offer gentle encouragement and enthusiasm. Once they get over their nerves, they’re great companions on the quest to learn.

art workshops - Photos © Marion Boddy-Evans

2. The Sunday Painter

Not a beginner, but a competent artist who enjoys painting for the activity rather than for selling to make a living. Usually has quality paints and brushes, knows how to use them, and has infectious enthusiasm and enjoyment.

art workshops -

3. The Quiet Mouse

Typically found in the corner, hiding behind an easel with the largest board they could find onto which they’ve put a small piece of paper (because art materials are expensive and they shouldn’t really be spending money on themselves). They watch and listen, eager to learn but equally eager never to be under the spotlight. Often frightened to initiate discussion with other participants but enjoy listening in. Acknowledge their prescence, ask them questions to encourage joining a conversation, but don’t insist they do, let them decide.

Mop brush for watercolor -

4. The Sponge

The participant who soaks up knowledge, mopping up every snippet. Bad sponges will pursue the tutor relentlessly, including at breaks, and try to suck them dry in their attempt to learn every single thing they possibly can in the time available and get their money’s worth. Be a good sponge and stick to taking what the tutor offers and a reasonable number of questions during group session. Ask the most pertinent questions during one-to-one moments, not every single thing you’ve thought about. For the rest of the participants a good sponge will ask those significant questions you’d wished you’d thought of, or were still too shy to ask.


5. The Significant Artist’s Significant Other

The person who is perceived as important in certain circles because of who they’re married to, rather than for what they themselves do. Amongst a group of people focused on creating rather than status, personal insecurities may assert themselves in highhanded remarks. Ignore the words and look at their art. Have a bit of fun counting how many times they name drop, and how long it takes before they do so.


6. The Once-Upon-a-Time Art Club President

The loud, forceful, A-type personality who likes to preface their sentences with “In the art association that I’m president of we do…” and “Yes, but at my art club…”. After not very long you begin to wonder why they’re there as they don’t seem open to new ideas. While you’re gritting your teeth, try to remember that familiarity is a comfort zone, so relating everything to a known factor is a way of dealing with new challenges.


7. The Serial Workshopper

Like butterflies flitter from flower to flower enjoying the nectar but never make honey, so some people flitter from workshop to workshop but never stop to spend time applying what they learn. Great for tutors because all workshops need participants! A variation of this is the Tourist: there for a leisurely holiday with a creative theme not anything that might resemble effort or work (but unlikely to interrupt anyone who does).

Art workshop -

8. The Groupie

This is the one who has an obsession about the tutor and goes to all their workshops (and no others). Can be dangerous, because they will brook no dissension over the apparent greatness of The Master. Check to see if they have particularly sharp and long finger nails, and don’t sit next to them at supper when they might be holding sharp cutlery. Seriously though, repeat students are a sign of an exceptional tutor (and location).


9. The Overtly Arty Person

Flamboyant and outgoing, veering on too loud and hectic for quieter souls, who wears their art on their sleeve, literally. What, depending on your age, might be labeled a flower child, a hippy, an arty-farty person, a free spirit, etc. Don’t be put off by the costume and/or performance, the mind behind it perceives the world differently and interestingly.


10. The (Semi-) Professional

Life-long learning is part of being an artist, and many professional artists take workshops to try new things, learn from other artists whose work they admire, and refresh their own creative batteries. They often won’t mention that they sell their work, and keep a low profile, both out of respect for the tutor and because they’re there to enjoy themselves not teach. Try to position yourself so you can see what they’re doing at their easel as you’ll learn lots by watching these participants too.

Art workshop tutor - The Tutor
Let’s not forget the tutor. Their personality and teaching style makes or breaks a course. It’s their job not only to lead and teach, but to judge and balance everyone’s needs and demands. It’s part-teacher, part-diplomat, part-psychologist, part-demonstrator. They are not a parent, neither are you a child; it’s an adult-to-adult dynamic. Dictatorial tutors enforce their method as the only right way (and often sell their branded supplies) and the worst bully students. Motivational tutors share their approach, tips and techniques, how they would do it, encouraging you to try, to reach for what’s beyond what you thought possible.



Last but by no means least, there’s you. Because not all participants are stereotypes (or archetypes), and most artists are individuals. You are attending the workshop for all the right reasons. To develop skills, to learn new techniques, to recharge creativity, to meet interesting fellow artists, and to produce some inspirational art.

In return for the money you’ve paid, you’re entitled to expect certain things. But rights come with responsibilities, to yourself, to the teacher, and the other participants. Be willing to try new things (repeatedly, not once only), aim for creating studies not finished paintings (you’re there to learn things, apply them more meticulously when you’re back home). Ask and respond to questions, express your opinions, participate!

How to teach a photography workshop in Guatemala

Of note, we’re going to volunteer at the Starfish One By One School in Solola and teach a photography workshop to the girls and staff there. Here’s our plan for the workshop, but I’d love to get your feedback and suggestions on how to structure the workshop. Let’s create this out loud.
  1. Teach practical skills on how to operate the digital cameras we bring
  1. Teach technical skills on how to take pictures
  1. Teach artistic skills
  1. Staff: teach staff how to operate and maintain cameras
Purchased: 5 digital cameras (Vivitar Vivicam 9112). Simple, easy to use, rugged, and runs off AA batteries that are easily available
Proposed: portable digital printer (Canon Selphy CP900)
Proposed: paper and supplies for portable printer (Canon KP-36IP), 
We have 2 sessions with the students:
First session: first day, 3 hours
Focus on how to operate the cameras. How to turn on / off, how to view through, how to take a picture, review a picture, delete a picture. Hands-on.
Start teaching basic photography skills. Rule of Thirds, composition, how to move around an image, find a vantage point, find a subject, position yourself.
Project: Take cameras home overnight, ask students to take 10 pictures. Their home, their family, TBD.
Second session: next day, 3 hours
Ask questions about what students were able to do, what they need help on, what technical and operational questions we can address and fix.
Review images, discuss what people took, why. 
Print 2 images per student and hang them in a gallery at the school to highlight their work.
TBD: Once back in the US, showcase images on our blogs, in an exhibit at a gallery, and online through philanthropic and photographic outlets.

Benefits of Joining Different Workshops in College

Whether you want to become a dietician or a journalist, many colleges offer workshops as part of the regular degree curriculum. In some cases, the workshops may be held outside of the curriculum, but are strongly encouraged by academic counselors. If you are serious about your field of interest and your future career, joining a workshop could mean the difference between finding success and not finding success. Indeed, there are a lot of amazing benefits to joining workshops in college – from being able to have more fun to making yourself more prepared for graduate schools. Not only that, but joining workshops will also make you a more attractive candidate for some more competitive graduate programs. More than anything, though, workshops will make you more of an expert in the field that you are studying. Here are some benefits of joining different workshops in college.

You Could Enjoy College More

It can be easy to burn out with your normal weekly schedule from one semester to the next, but when you find outside workshops it can really add a little zest to your life at San Juan College. You will have the opportunity to work with instructors that have a different attitude because they don’t work within academia, and you will have classmates that are already professionals in the field.

Make More Money in Your Future Career

Depending on the field that you are studying, taking workshops while you are still earning your career could help to move you up on the pay scale. For example, if you are earning your teaching credential and you take extra workshops pertaining to working with English learners or technology in the classroom, you will demonstrate your initiative to better serve your students and that will be reflected in your salary.

Get Critiqued by Your Peers

Sometimes it can be hard to get a real idea of whether or not you’re ready to become a dietitian or a dentist, or whatever it is that you want to do if you don’t have any feedback on your work. However, when you attend workshops, you will have all kinds of peer review that will allow you to grow a lot as a professional before you’ve even become a professional.

Learn More About Your Field of Interest

You can click here and there around the internet and research your subject of interest for the rest of your life, but you won’t get hands on experience and instruction from the seasoned veterans of your industry. With workshops you will be able to really supplement your college education with real world knowledge that will keep you on your A-game.

Polish Your Transcripts for Graduate School

If you’re planning on applying to graduate schools, then you are going to need your transcripts to be as impressive as possible. Not only can workshops help to deflect attention away from the flaws in your transcript, they can also give you a leg up on students with a similar GPA who are applying to the same schools as you.

Benefits of Joining a Taking a Workshop in College

When you are in college, you will learn that taking workshops within your chosen field of study will not only improve your collegiate experience – it will also improve your chances of securing a job when you graduate. In some cases, especially in the teaching or learning industry, workshops can actually increase your salary. In some cases, these workshops are held off campus or even in another city. You may have to pay for the workshop and for your stay in a local hotel, but you will learn a tremendous amount and it will pay itself back in spades. It doesn’t matter if you are interested in student journalism or tech, there are workshops for almost every field of study. You will meet people within your field, and you may even meet some people from your future career.

Here are some benefits of joining or taking a workshop in college.

Supplement Your Learning

One benefit of joining or taking a workshop in college is that you will supplement your learning. If you are already in a program for a certain field of study, a workshop can enhance your learning. You may learn more about the field, or you may simply be working with other students on an intensive hands-on experience that improves your understanding how to do better in the field. For instance, you can always be a better teacher.

Connect with Professionals

When you take these workshops, you will get to meet a lot of different professionals within the field that could bridge a gap between your life in college and your career. When you are looking for a position in your industry, you may be able to call on the people you met at your workshops. Some of these people may even be teaching at your workshop. For instance, if you are getting USC’s MPA degree, you may meet people with the public admin industry that could help land you a job later on. The same goes for other colleges, like Dartmouth College and Harvard.

Boost Your Resume

Of course, workshops look really good on your resume. If you don’t have any workshops on your resume and you are wondering why you aren’t getting follow up interviews, it may mean that you need to take a workshop. This is the power of workshopping. It’s almost like including extracurricular activities in your transcript when applying to colleges.

Earn Course Credit

In some cases, your workshop could go toward a course credit. If you don’t want to take a course within your degree program on campus, you may want to do some research and find a workshop. In some cases – with some intensive degree programs – your course could cover multiple credits, which can actually fast track your program.

Potential Increase in Salary

On top of everything, some jobs or positions promise pay raises for individuals who undergo intensive workshops. This can be an amazing incentive. If you are in college and want to graduate with the promise of earning a job with an even higher salary, simply start looking for workshops. In the long run, you will be so glad that you did.

Amazon & Atlas Partner In New Air Transport Agreement

Online retailing giant Amazon has recently signed a fresh air transport agreement with providers Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings. While full service isn’t likely to take shape until 2018, a deal has been signed that is expected to significantly increase Amazon’s worldwide delivery capacity.

Amazon & Atlas Partner In New Air Transport Agreement

Image Credit

Supporting Growth

“This exciting new deal reflects Amazon’s confidence in our professionalism and capabilities,” commented the Chief Executive Officer William J. Flynn. The President of the company said that he is proud to begin a relationship with Amazon. “We are confident that we can support Amazon’s continuing expansion. Swift delivery in an online business is of top priority.”

Amazon reportedly intends to increase its logistical operations in order to meet an exceptionally high demand. Online shopping and e-commerce businesses continue to expand rapidly. New and ambitious deals are being struck in order to offset any potential pitfalls at times of exceptional strain.

Amazon was at the heart of a major delivery failure two years ago over the holiday period, when a disastrous combination of stormy weather and last-minute orders left many customers disappointed. Although major providers such as FedEx and UPS handle the majority of Amazon’s deliveries, Amazon has attempted to pre-empt any further problems by taking more internal control. A recent report even mentioned that the use of drones has been considered.

An Uncertain Future

While Amazon has experienced growth overall, this has included significant growth in costs. The President of Hempstead Consulting, Jerry Hempstead, commented that not all delivery providers are happy to provide a service for a single demanding business. Amazon has had to consider building its own network as a result.

Striking deals with delivery companies can then become complicated if potential customers are poached by Amazon, who could begin offering their own delivery services. Amazon would then have to invest further in the logistics of delivery such as aircraft, storage systems, and stacking. Pallet racking in Ireland and the UK can be provided by reputable companies like Duffydiscount.

Hempstead continued, “If Amazon built their own network, would they then offer services to other companies who are seeking transport? Or would they consider this to be helping the competition? Offering services to third parties could easily distract from the core vision of the company. But anything that eases delivery is surely good news for the customer.”

Cutting Down the Cost of Your Car

It’s no secret that the cost of motoring is not cheap and for many, the combination of the price of the car, fuel, insurance, tax, servicing and repairs add up to a significant proportion of their monthly wage. Nevertheless, running a car is necessary for many people but is also gives us a freedom that without a car we would be without.

So how can you go about cutting down the cost of running a car? Where are there bargains to be had and what can you do differently to save money?


The archetypal Brit is pretty poor at haggling over the price of something, which means many of us are paying more than we really need to for our cars. It doesn’t have to be that way though – some simple tips could save you money on the upfront cost of your motor.

First of all, you need to know the market and find out how much the make and model you’re after is selling for at any given age. Using the knowledge you need to establish a headline figure – one that you will not pay above no matter how much a dealer pushes the hard sell. This is true whether you are buying new or used – look online for more information.

Once you’re in the dealership, start low and negotiate calmly until you find a price you’re happy with. Don’t be afraid to say no and do not be afraid to walk away.

If you are buying the car on finance, this part is a little trickier. Your dealer will likely offer you a package, but it may not be the best value for money. You need to shop around other options including personal loans and hire purchases to ensure you get the best APR possible.


Your insurance is another costly expenditure but is also one that can be reduced by shopping around. Use online comparison tools to find a deal that you can afford and minimises your monthly payments.

Many insurance companies are now offering ‘black box’ deals, whereby they fit a monitor to your car that records data about your driving habits. If you drive carefully and during the day time your premium comes down month-to-month. This is an increasingly popular option amongst younger drivers who otherwise find insurance prohibitively expensive.


Fortunately fuel prices are one of the few things that are falling in price at the moment, which is great for motorists as it means more money in your pocket. Still, there are ways to save even more money if you so wish.

Your driving habits will be a major factor in how much fuel you use. Driving more slowly, accelerating gently and using the air-conditioning sparingly will all reduce your fuel consumption.

In addition, many supermarkets run deals on their fuel forecourts for customers that shop instore. By spending over a certain amount instore you can save several pence per litre on your fuel costs.

Parts and Repairs

Again, how you drive will largely dictate how much you have to spend on maintaining your car. Driving slowly and carefully dramatically reduces the wear and tear on things such as your tyres and braking system. Nevertheless, there will be times when you have to replace certain parts of the car and knowing where to do this can save you time and money.

Tyres, for example, are available online or via mobile tyre fitting outfits at a discount to high-street garages and dealerships. To find a local firm, search online for ‘mobile tyre fitters oxford‘ or something of the like.

Once your car’s reached 3 years of age it will require an annual MOT. Council run MOT centres are often the best place to take your car for this test as they aren’t usually able to provide repairs and so won’t fail your car unnecessarily.

Road Tax

Finally, the road tax you pay is determined by the emissions your car emits and should be something you take into account when purchasing your car. Cars that emit fewer than 100g of carbon dioxide per KM travelled are actually free to tax. There is a sliding scale and each car fits into a band from A to G, where G is most expensive at over £500 per year.

Hydration Tips When Exercising

Drinking enough water while exercising is important. If you don’t, your legs can cramp, fatigue may set in, or you might collapse. Our bodies are composed chiefly of water — without this fluid coursing through our veins, soaking our brains and pumping our hearts, we’re dead in the water. In a worse case scenario, the dehydrated person could be DOA at the hospital — dead on arrival. The following are key hydration tips to keep in mind at all times, but especially so when you’re exercising.


Lack of Water Dangers


We’ve touched upon some of the key aspects of dehydration. Other symptoms include dizziness, a lack of competitiveness in sports, headaches, lethargy, and a general overall feeling of tiredness. The symptoms may appear gradually or all at once — once the worst of dehydration kicks in, you’ll need to stop what you’re doing, including exercising.


Water serves as your body’s lubrication. It permeates every bone, tissue, ligament and cell in your body. Once you begin feeling the effects of dehydration, you’ll notice that you’re not operating at peak efficiency. It might take only minutes to recover, but in most cases your body won’t return to full efficiency until well after you have had time to recover.


Water is a Must


When exercising water will help you work out longer and feel stronger. A body sufficiently replenished works more efficiently and that means your heart will work normally too. Workouts aren’t quite the chore they can be when you’re needing water.


Even if you think you’re getting enough water, you may find that you are not. Oftentimes we concentrate on the exercise at hand, but neglect hydration. Whatever fluids you lose through exercise should be replaced; chances are you are replacing on half that amount, perhaps less.


Your Water Levels


Your physician is an excellent source for discussing your water needs, but so should your trainer explains Fitness 19. Still, there are tried and true methods for acquiring water, beginning before you work out.


Before you head to the gym or participate in an exercise regimen, drink at least a liter of water. Experts recommend that you consume the water about one or two hours before you start. Of course, if you head to the gym first thing in the morning, you won’t have as much time. Still, go ahead and drink the water.


Just before you begin your routine, say about 10 to 15 minutes prior, drink a half-liter of water. Save that bottle because you’ll finish the rest 15 minutes into your routine. Have enough water on hand to replenish every 15 minutes thereafter with additional half-liter bursts of water.


Water Considerations


Some people insist you can drink too much water. Although this is more common when you’re not exercising, it isn’t much of a concern when you are exercising. After all, the struggle when exercising is to get enough water, not drinking too much.


If keeping time of your replenishments is difficult to do, except with a trainer there to remind you, keep this easy rule in mind: if you are thirsty, it is time to drink. Ultimately, your body knows best and if you listen to it, then you won’t be led astray.


Finally, as far as water substitutes go, a product such as Gatorade is fine to consume. Sport drinks with 4 to 8 percent carbohydrates and containing 0.5g sodium per liter are more effective than water, especially for long exercise bouts, such as for an hour or more. In all other cases, water is sufficient, provided you consume it and not merely dump it on your sweaty head.


Four Myths About Hydration That Refuse To Die

As Derek Zoolander wisely put it, wetness is the essence of life. Whether you like drinking water or not, it accounts for about 60% of your body weight, and plays a pretty darn important role in making sure your body functions normally. But statistics aside, there are a couple of myths about hydration that refuse to die.

Four Myths About Hydration That Refuse To Die

Myth One: You Need To Drink Eight Cups A Day

This most well-known but laughably arbitrary rule of thumb has been hammered into us since who knows when. In fact, Dartmouth physician Professor Heinz Valtin went as far as to pen a paper published by the American Physiological Society on the lack of scientific evidence behind the popular axiom.

The truth is, your actual needs can be more than 8 glasses, or less than 8 glasses. There’s no magic number, and the amount changes every day, depending on your size, weight, ambient temperature, daily activities, and, more significantly, your food.

So how do you know how much water you should drink? Before all this science, people relied on a pretty fine-tuned, reliable mechanism to make sure they were getting enough water. It’s called thirst, and you may have heard of it. Drink enough to satisfy your thirst, and that’s good enough.

Myth Two: If You’re Thirsty, You’re Already Dehydrated

Strictly speaking, it’s true. Thirst is normally triggered by a decrease in your body’s water content. But it’s not as dire as it’s usually made out to seem.

Normal levels of thirst usually come about with a 2-4% reduction in body water. As long as you don’t have kidney problems, this is generally tolerable, and acts as a perfectly sound guide to let you know when you need a glass of H2O.

Dehydration becomes a problem when you exceed an 5-8% reduction in body water. By this stage, however, you would be experiencing dizziness and fatigue–far more severe than a slightly dry mouth.

The thirst principle also applies to when you’re exercising. But if you notice that you forget to hydrate or finish parched, take heed of the American Council on Exercise’s guidelines: about 7-10 oz (about a glass) for every 10 to 20 minutes of heavy activity should be enough.

Myth Three: Sports Drinks Are the Best Option After Exercise

This depends. Sports drinks are full of electrolytes (salt ions) that help your body replace those lost from sweat. These electrolytes are important: they’re crucial for nerve functioning, and help to maintain blood pH levels, among other things. But Gatorade? Less important. Good marketing may try convince you otherwise, but such drinks are really only necessary if you’ve been exercising hard for a long time, like long distance running, or hours of hiking in the hot sun. Even then, beer is a better option.

No matter how hard you killed your leg workout, you’re probably better off sticking to plain water.

Myth Four: Water Flushes Out Toxins From Your Body

Not really. There’s a popular misconception that drinking copious amounts of water will help magically cleanse your innards of the sins of last weekend.

Drinking adequate amounts of water ensures your body’s metabolism works correctly, part of which is the natural detoxification process your liver and kidneys conduct. But they work fine as long as they’re getting enough H2O. Any additional water intake isn’t going to help. In fact, drinking too much water can actually prevent your body’s detoxification process. It reduces the concentration of salt in your blood, which can damage your kidneys and liver and prevent their normal functioning.

Workshop Food Myth-Busting with Steve Acuff

This monthly Monday Bonus Workshop features the international food guru himself- Steve Acuff.  He will dazzle you with his many years of experience.

steveDiscover common mistaken beliefs about food and health, and what the truth is.
Avoid cholesterol & saturated fat, they are risk factors for heart attack
Myth: Eat low-fat food for good health
Take lots of high-antioxidant foods to support health
Salt raises blood pressure, so eat low-salt meals
Take plenty of milk and dairy food to get enough calcium

Steve will explain the importance of eating fermented vegetables and how to make them with little effort. He will give other practical tips for optimal food preparation.

After graduating from University, Steve spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at Bonn University, Germany.   He began exploring wholefoods in 1971 and began lecturing and counselling in 1979.  He co-founded a centre for natural food education in 1984 in Sweden and worked as a nutritional counsellor at a medical clinic in Kassel, Germany from 1988-93.  For over 10 years Steve has been consulting clients at Diskin Life.  In 1989 he wrote a book about healthy food in German, which was published in nine editions.  The book was also translated to Swedish.  He is currently writing a book in English.

Art Program of Some Highschool

1. Workshop 1: Principles of Artful Teaching
The program opens with teachers sharing passionate insights about why they teach the arts to young people. Then short classroom segments illustrate how arts teachers employ seven “principles of artful teaching” to meet the needs and imaginations of their students. Participants explore how these principles can affect their own teaching. Subsequent sessions will examine each principle in depth, with examples from dance, music, theatre, and visual art.

2. Workshop 2: Developing Students as Artists
In this session, participants explore how arts teachers help students develop knowledge and fundamental skills while weaving in opportunities for creativity and independence. First, a dance teacher gives senior students leadership responsibilities and coaches them in their choreography projects. Then a theatre teacher mentors stagecraft students who are responsible for the technical aspects of a dance concert. In an intermediate visual art course, a teacher builds on students’ prior learning in a foundation course. Finally, a vocal music teacher works with two classes: students learning to read music and an advanced jazz ensemble.

3. Workshop 3: Addressing the Diverse Needs of Students
Arts teachers are aware of and respond to the many differences they find among their students. In this session, participants meet a visiting theatre artist who takes advantage of the different backgrounds and learning styles of ninth-graders to help them understand and embrace the playwriting process. A visual art teacher brings together honors art students and students with disabilities, so they can learn from each other. As a music teacher works with different classes, she addresses needs common to all students. Finally, in a movement class for non-dance majors, teachers help students explore human anatomy.

4. Workshop 4: Choosing Instructional Approaches
Arts teachers take on a variety of roles, and use many different instructional techniques, as they engage with their students. Teachers can be instructors, mentors, directors, coaches, artists, performers, collaborators, facilitators, critics, or audience members. In this session, participants follow a vocal music teacher as she takes on different roles in order to encourage students to find creative solutions to artistic challenges. Next, an acting teacher becomes a facilitator as his students report on research about theatre history. Then a visual art teacher guides her students in a drawing assignment, varying her approach based on the students’ individual needs. Finally, two dance teachers engage students in critical analysis of a painting, as a way to encourage expression with words as well as movement.

5. Workshop 5: Creating Rich Learning Environments
Arts teachers create a safe environment where students feel free to express their thoughts and feelings and take creative risks. In this session, participants meet an Acting I teacher who helps students let go of their inhibitions and an Acting II teacher who encourages students to take creative risks as they interpret monologues. In a dance class, a teacher asks students to work closely in pairs so they can study subtle aspects of movement technique. In a visual art department, the teachers work together to create a community that gives students multiple outlets for artistic learning. Finally, a music teacher builds his students’ confidence and skills as they learn the basics of improvisational singing.

6. Workshop 6: Fostering Genuine Communication
Arts teachers communicate with students, and students communicate with each other, in respectful ways that encourage communication of original ideas through the arts. In this session, participants meet a dance teacher whose students draw choreographic inspiration from poetry and sign language. A visual art teacher gives her commercial art class a fanciful assignment that enables them to communicate a concrete idea through several visual media. A theatre teacher encourages student interaction around the dramatization and staging of fables. Finally, a vocal music teacher asks her students to use “descriptive praise” to critique the performance of a fellow singer.

7. Workshop 7: Making the Most of Community Resources
Arts teachers develop relationships with community members and organizations by bringing artists into the classroom, taking students beyond school walls, and asking students to draw inspiration from the voices of their community. In this session, participants see a guest choreographer who challenges the students with her working style and expectations. A visiting theatre artist helps playwriting students develop monologues based on interviews with people in the neighborhood. A visual art teacher and her students work with community members to create a sculpture garden in an empty courtyard at their school, drawing inspiration from a nearby sculpture park. A band teacher invites alumni and local professional musicians to sit in with her classes, giving students strong musical role models.

8. Workshop 8: Nurturing Independent Thinkers
Arts teachers use formal and informal strategies to assess their students’ progress and to modify their own teaching practice. In this session, participants meet a vocal music teacher who splits his choir into groups that give each other feedback; he also has students tape-record themselves during rehearsal, so he can judge their individual progress. A dance teacher critiques original choreography by a student and asks her peers to participate in the process; this feedback helps the student deepen the impact of her work. Next, theatre teachers give an in-depth critique to a student, and then ask him for feedback on their teaching. Finally, a visual art teacher helps students develop their observation and analysis skills throughout their high school

14 Workshop-at-home

Okay, so you want to teach at home, you have your curriculum crafted and well, you’re ready to go, right? Not quite. Here are some tips from a girl who has been there, done that. :)

1  Identify the space

What room in your home could be a great space for you to use as your office + workshop? Consider how far it is from your bathroom and front door. Maybe a formal dining room could be your office +workshop AND formal dining room (like mine?).  We tend to eat in the kitchen and use the dining room only for parties and special occasions so it made no sense for us to reserve an entire room in our home for only dining.

Will you teach there often? Will you work there daily? Will you work alone or with others? What will you teach and do you have room for your supplies? How many people do you plan to teach? Perhaps you work as a consultant. How many can the room comfortably accommodate for a consultancy? If you are a wedding photographer, you may need to sit with your clients and show them their photos – can you accommodate a couple and other family members if they plan to bring children or parents?

2  Envision the space

Create a board to collect your inspirations on Pinterest or a file folder for magazine tears. This helps to define your personal style and vision.

3  Materials, storage and equipment: Think about what you use and where you intend to store it.

What do you need for teaching and how and where do you intend to store your stuff?  (i.e. cabinets, boxes, desk drawers, etc.) Imagine all of the ways you could organize and where. The things that you use should be close to where you use them. Store paper and office supplies directly near your printer and desk, for instance. Don’t put your craft cabinet in your guest bedroom if you plan to teach crafting in your new workspace.

Also, have a back up plan. If you teach sewing lessons, you may require all of your students to bring their own machine. It’s been my experience to always keep a spare machine as a loaner in case one breaks.

14 Tips For Teaching On site Workshops3 Floor plan: Putting the puzzle together.

Decide where you will perform each function – working on your computer, printing, teaching, sewing, whatever it is that you do. I needed a large work table for my students and a very long space for my desk area so I could fit a printer, my computer, and stack work. I also required hidden storage because I have lots to store and since the room is also a dining room for my family – I wanted to reduce visual “office” clutter so that I could easily throw a dinner party in the space without having to hide stuff or redecorate the entire room!

Sketch out a few floor plan scenarios by hand. Consider flow – can people easily walk around? Once you feel good about the arrangement, take accurate measurements of everything – the room, windows, doorways, current furniture, pieces you’d like to purchase… And see if everything still works. If not, modify accordingly.

4  Consider your furnishings.

Shop around in your own home first and then make a wish list for other items and buy only what you need at first – you can “fill in” later. Then think of what you need for the space – do you have enough seating? Should you store some folding chairs too? How about the furniture itself – is it precious or antique? If so, you may want to move it to another spot in the home and put furniture in the space that you don’t mind seeing it get beat around a little. Wear and tear WILL occur!

14 Tips For Teaching On site Workshops5  Lighting is key.

Make sure the lighting is really good. You need to see what you are doing! People tend to think of lighting last but it’s a important to think about it right away. If you are teaching something that requires you to take photographs in the space, lighting is even more important. If you expect your students to take photos of your workshop for their blog, it’s also important to ensure the lighting is great so that students look their best and your workshop photographs well. I know, a little detail but pretty photos makes people want to share your workshop with others and since so many are blogging and sharing online, you can bet someone is going to be using Instagram or bringing their DSLR with them!

Now I’m going to cover some things that go beyond storage, floor plans and aesthetics.

6  Theft, privacy, safety and accidents are constant issue that you need to really consider! Not everyone online can be trusted though a majority can. I’ve never had a problem with my students but I’ve heard stories so here is some advice:

* Place valuables in specific rooms and lock those doors when your home is in use for a work session with clients/students, etc.

* Make sure the things in your workspace can all be replaced and are not that “special” to you. For instance, if someone broke or ran off with your wooden stapler you may not care but if your precious vase from your grandmother disappeared or came crashing to the floor, you may be equally shattered.

* Consider too, your privacy and that of other family members. Ask your family how they feel about your idea to teach or work from home with clients.

* Bathroom use is something else to consider. Do you have a second bathroom or half bath that is close to your studio space? If not, are you comfortable with guests using your private bathroom and is that bathroom nearby to the space or does it mean guests going to another part of the house or to a separate floor to use the bathroom – if so, are you comfortable with that? Some things we may not think about in advance can really bug us later on so consider what you may want to keep “private” in advance and ensure that you can do so.

* For the sake of safety, screen your applicants. Ask them WHY they are taking the class, you may want to talk to them on the phone, make sure you look through their blog or website, google them, and most of all – trust your gut. Another way to protect yourself is to make sure you ONLY accept payment BEFORE the event (NOT same day in cash) and that all money is handled either through a bank transfer (wire) or Paypal so you know the person’s true identify before they arrive for your workshop.

* Make sure your pets are not part of your event. Unless you are teaching a dog training class, your pets should be kept away from your classroom. Some people have allergies (please ask about allergies to food and pets before students arrive) but animals are funny little creatures sometimes. Some animals aren’t used to lots of noise and “traffic” in the home and can get a bit weird-ed out by it – they may pee or bite or freak out.

* Consider also local laws and guidelines when it comes to teaching workshops from home – particularly insurance and what is covered in case someone falls on your property.

14 Tips For Teaching On site Workshops7  Consider storage for your guest

Where will they place their handbags, coats and shoots – is their space for that? When I teach, I use a rolling coat rack and I put it in my hallway since I don’t want coats laying on my sofa or bed and with 15-20 students in my home per workshop – that’s a lot of coats.

I also tell students to keep their handbags and equipment with them at all times because I am not held accountable for lost or stolen goods. They shouldn’t be laying their handbag in the entryway with their shoes or putting a wallet on a random table with their keys. These items need to stay with them, on them, at all times.

Theft can happen so easily without a single bad intention since a lens cap, charger, even Macbooks and other computers all look the same so it’s easy to pick up things as you are packing up that don’t belong to you. And to leave with them. So it’s a good idea if you have a bunch of students all using MacBooks for instance, to label them with a post it note or sticker with their name to avoid an accidental swap.

8  Charging Up

Where are your outlets? Consider if your guests will be able to locate them easily to charge their devices during class. You don’t want students interrupting you to ask where outlets are of if you have a charger. Have some extension cords on hand and point out before class where those are located.

If outlets are hidden behind furniture, it’s important to identify a charging station in a few spots with an outlet strip so students can easily plug in.

14 Tips For Teaching On site Workshops9  Shoes off!

I ask all of students to remove their shoes before entering my home but I also email them in advance mentioning that they need to bring slippers or socks because I don’t allow bare feet either. I keep a few pairs of new socks (with tags on so people know they’re new) and give them to those who forgot or missed my email. You can get inexpensive socks anywhere so it’s worth having them in stock. I always let students keep them after use, too.

10  Refreshments

Think about food and drink. How will you handle feeding people? Is there a kitchen near to the room or will you put a small kitchen area in the room – mini fridge, coffee maker, etc.? Will you provide a catered lunch? Will you ask people to bring their own lunch? If so, will you have back up for those who forgot lunch? You may want to make a few sandwiches or salads just in case because you’ll always have ONE student who forgets and this can really disrupt your teaching schedule if they need to go out to pick something up.

Keep plenty of bottled water and juice on hand and in the room during class with paper cups. Let students know that during class, they are free to help themselves at any time. I would avoid placing the bottles on the table (spills, laptops, you see where I’m going with this?), so create a mini drinks table or corner. It’s a good idea midday, especially if you are teaching a full day, to serve complementary coffee and tea.

11  Supplies you should add to your list

Do you have aspirin, band-aids, tampons/sanitary napkins, enough toilet paper/paper towels, pens, paper, and other “stuff” that a student could potentially need? It’s smart to have these miscellaneous things on hand so that students (or you!) don’t have to leave your workshop to get what is needed. You really want to keep everyone together so that you can teach according to the schedule you have set.

12  Directions & expectations

Make sure everyone has directions and a clear idea of what they can expect from your workshop and what time is begins. end them everything they need in a single PDF two weeks in advance and then again 3 days before the event in case they missed the first one. Send a 3rd email the day before as a reminder and encourage everyone to show up on time – I ask students to arrive between 8-9 am so the arrival time is flexible but the start time is definite – 9:00 sharp. If they are late, they have lost time that they paid for to be there, and I think most people know that so they are usually on time. I also throw in that the early bird gets to select their goody bag (usually goody bags are not the same on the outside – different patterns and colors) and they can select the best seating first or something else to sort of nicely encourage an early arrival. Plus, an hour gives everyone time to arrive, get settled in and chat with one another. I usually serve a light breakfast during this time as well – bagels, fruit, coffee… And in emails I indicate that if they want to eat, to also arrive between 8-9 for best selection.

13 Photography

My home is still my home. Students are told at the beginning of class that they are only allowed to shoot in both of the workshop rooms, the entryway and wherever we end up serving food. It is your home, so it’s your choice ultimately, but my husband requested this and though I honestly don’t mind – my husband really does. Remember when I spoke about privacy earlier and talking to your family members first about where they draw the line?

14  Taxes

If you are collecting fees for teaching (you should be!), then you have to check out local tax laws and pay your taxes accordingly. Also, your students may require you to provide them with a formal business receipt for their taxes so they can write off the workshop, so make sure you have a template together and can provide those receipts upon request.

12 Myth of Photography

Myth #1 “I’m not going out to shoot today because the light is bad.”

There is no such thing as bad light. As long as there is light, there is opportunity to make amazing images. There is also no reason to limit yourself to the golden hours on each end of the day. The most adverse weather conditions are perfect for making the most beautiful pictures. So get out there!

Myth #2 “I need to bring several lenses with me on my photo walk, just in case…”

Well, that’s fine if you don’t mind carrying around heavy equipment all day “just in case.”  Depending on what you shoot, if you limit yourself to just one lens for the day you can improve your skills, especially if you decide on a fixed focal length lens such as a 50mm. This simple decision will slow you down which will help you see better and allow you to compose more carefully. Plus you won’t miss the shot while you’re busy switching lenses.

Myth #3 “I shoot 1,000 frames in a day so that I increase my chances of having a lot of keepers!”

The ‘spray and pray’ approach sounds like a good idea, but it is no guarantee that you’ll have more keepers at the end of the day. Instead, pretend you are shooting film and limit yourself to a 24 or 36 exposure that day. You will quickly discover the creative power of limitation.  Shoot with intent, make every single frame count, and you will have plenty of keepers at the end of the day with the added benefit of not having so many images to process.

Myth #4 “I can’t shoot, I forgot my tripod.”

The tripod is a useful tool, but can also become a bit of a crutch. Unless you are on a paid job assignment that requires a tripod, liberate yourself and shoot hand held. There are other ways to stabilize your camera if necessary, you can use a wall or a boulder for example. Tripods are definitely useful, but the problem is that photographers tend to set them once and rely on them to shoot everything from the same level.  Be creative and shoot your subject from different perspectives. Unless you are shooting long or multiple exposures or macro, liberate yourself from that tripod once in a while and try new perspectives.

Myth #5 “I‘m in a creative rut, I need to go to an exotic location to get out of it.”

Everyone gets into a rut. One solution is to learn to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, see the new in the familiar. Go out into your own backyard and see it with fresh eyes.  Give yourself an assignment such as a photo-a-day project for a month or a year.  Create a theme for your photo walk and it becomes a treasure hunt. Shoot with fellow photographers. Give a camera to a child and see the world “fresh” through their eyes. Once you get out there and use your imagination, you’ll be free from that rut!

Myth #6 “I would take better pictures if only I had a better camera.”

Okay, I’m not going to give you a lecture here. It’s true that more expensive equipment, when used skillfully, will yield better images than a point and shoot camera. The mistake, however, is upgrading before using your current gear to its full potential. Believe me, gear lust is easy to catch, yet most of us never outgrow our equipment. Invest into education, attend a photo workshop or go on a vacation instead of spending thousands on the latest and greatest gear. If you can do both, that’s terrific, but it’s not always necessary. Also, there is a lot of bad photography made with very expensive gear and some stunning images shot with iPhones… Food for thoughts!

Myth #7 “I’m too old to learn how to use a digital camera.”

If you have the strength to hold a camera and press the shutter, you can learn to use a digital camera.  Photography is a life long passion. It’s never too early or too late to start!

Myth #8 “I’m making money with my photography. I learned everything there was to learn about the craft.”

Nothing could be further from the truth! Once you think you know it all, you will stop growing. The world of photography is so exciting and is changing at the fastest pace ever. All you have to do is to keep current with the latest technology and embrace it.

Myth #9 “I need hundreds of pictures in my portfolio before I can show my work to clients.”

This is just not true. What is true, and important, is to be discerning about your selection, show only your best work. Quality over quantity is your guideline here.

Myth #10 “Being a photographer is a glamorous job.”

Maybe in the movies, but not in real life.  Most photographers don’t realize at first how much nitty gritty work is required once you turn your passion into a profession. For most of us, it’s 80% business and 20% shooting. This is true for just about any artist, so you need to be realistic.

Myth #11 “All you need to be successful as a pro is talent.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? Ever heard of the expression “starving artist?”  Talent is definitely an important ingredient, but solid business skills are also important. Business and marketing are a vital part of being a successful working photographer, but if that’s not your forte, be sure to get help or hire someone for that.

Myth #12 “Pro photographers are better than amateurs.”

Just because some photographers make money with their pictures doesn’t make them better shooters. A successful pro will be able to offer quality and consistency. I see the work of so-called amateur photographers every day that far exceeds the work of many pros. Actually, pro photographers run the risk of losing the passion for their craft if the work becomes a routine and this can adversely affect the quality of their work. It is very important for pro photographers to make time for personal projects in order to keep their passion alive.

The list could go on! Feel free to add a myth or two in the comment section.

How to Maximize Your Photography Workshop Experience

photography-workshop.jpgAttending a photography workshop is the best way to learn new skills. Not only will it improve your technique and expand your knowledge, it will also expose you to a range of interesting subjects to shoot and give you an opportunity to meet and have fun with like-minded people.

Whether you decide to go on a tour or a workshop, following these few simple guidelines will help you to get the most out of your experience.

Pre-workshop preparation

Define your goals

Think about why you want to attend and what you would like to get out of the workshop. Make sure the workshop matches your interests and skills. Be realistic. Even the most intense workshop can’t teach you everything you will ever need to know about photography.

Choose the right location for you

If you like to photograph nature, a workshop in a attractive location would be a good choice. Not only will you get the kind of images you like, but you will also meet people who prefer the type of photography that you do.

Do your homework

Prepare a list of the most important questions you’d like answered while you are at the workshop. It’s easier to forget things when you are rushed or excited.
Ask the instructor about any specific recommendations that will help you to prepare for the particular subject to be covered. The more you can learn before the workshop the more you will get out of it.

Check your equipment

Make sure that your equipment is in a good working order. There is nothing worse than being in the field and having your equipment malfunction.
Ensure that you have spare batteries and enough disk space.

Know how to operate your equipment

If you read your camera or other equipment manual in advance of the workshop and practice until you feel confident about how to use it, you can spend your workshop time doing what you really want to do – learning to take great photos!

During the workshop

Be an active participant

photography-workshop-1.jpgWork hard to get the most out of your time. Take your own initiative.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your teacher is there to assist you. If you are not comfortable asking in the group ask your instructor in private.

Don’t immediately expect to make great photographs

Use this time to practice using new techniques and experimenting rather than trying to produce great photos. Great photography is about being there at the right time and that may not coincide with the timing of the workshop.

Be open to suggestions

Participate in each exercise fully and enthusiastically. Accept feedback with an open mind. The instructor may see some problems with your technique and approach and is there to help you. The purpose in going to a workshop is to expose yourself to new ideas.. Try it, it might work and you might like it. It’s all about an attitude.

Share your experiences and connect with others

You may learn as much from other students as you do from the instructor. Participate in discussions, share information and your own experience. Listen to the advice being given to others. Pick up as much as you can.

After the workshop

Reflect upon your workshop experience

Take time to reflect upon your workshop experience. Did you accomplish your goals? If not, why not? What would you do differently next time? Write all this down so you don’t forget it. Learn from your mistakes.

Follow your instructor’s recommendations

Practicing new techniques, approaches, or ways of thinking could be a crucial element to the success of your workshop experience.

Extend the learning

Obtain additional information about how you can reinforce what you leaned in the workshop.

Maintain Contact

Keep in touch with your instructor and fellow participants.
You may develop some great friendships along the way.

Four Common Myths about Auto Repair in Woodway, TX

auto repair myths

Through countless bad auto repair experiences you may have been led to believe that auto repair shops are undependable, untrustworthy and are always trying to scam you for money. Below is a list of four myths that, overtime, we have come to know as true. Well now, Christian Brothers Automotive in Woodway, TX are here to debunk these common myths and put the trust back in auto repair.

Myth: Recommended maintenance schedules are actually about getting you to spend more money. Reality: Many people believe that auto repair shops only suggest a specific car maintenance schedule just to get you to come back and spend more money, but this isn’t true. Yes, car manufacturers are making more durable automobiles that last longer with less maintenance, but it is still important to receive preventative maintenance in order to avoid costly repairs in the future. If you do correctly maintain your automobile, you could go over 100,000 miles without needing major auto repair. Christian Brothers Automotive in Woodway would be happy to sit down with you and put together a suggested maintenance schedule in order to keep you and your car safely on the road, and worry free!

Myth: Auto repair shops will often suggest extra work be done on your vehicle just so that you spend more money. Reality: If an auto repair shop isn’t looking for potential problems with your vehicle, they are actually doing you a great disservice. Professional auto repair shops will examine your vehicle with severe detail in order to find any indications of wear and tear before they lead to costly repairs, or even worse, replacements. You would hate to have your car breakdown on the side of the road and have to pay an expensive towing bill, as well as repair bill, because your original mechanic didn’t investigate your car thoroughly enough. At Christian Brothers Automotive, our ASE-certified technicians always take the time to inspect each vehicle that comes into our shop, during our Courtesy Inspection before every repair.

Myth: A shop can give you an accurate auto repair estimate over the phone without seeing your vehicle. Reality: There is no way that an auto repair shop can give you a price quote over the phone without looking at your vehicle. Unless they have a chance to inspect the vehicle and test drive the car in person, they cannot properly diagnose the problem or give you an accurate auto repair estimate. Beware of auto repair shops that are willing to give you a quote over the phone, because chances are they will initially give you a low quote just to get you in the door, and then later on will charge you a higher price. If you bring your automobile in to Christian Brothers Automotive in Woodway, we can examine your vehicle and provide you with an accurate auto repair estimate that you can trust.

Myth: All auto repair shops are the same. Reality: This is false. There are big differences between auto repair shops and even the technicians that work there. Car manufacturers are constantly incorporating new technology into vehicles, so it’s important to have an auto repair shop that is up-to-date with all those changes. Technicians should obtain constant training to keep up with certifications and the shop should have the latest diagnostic equipment available. Not all auto repair shops have the skill, expertise and equipment to work on foreign and domestic cars, which is why it’s important to find one that fits your specific needs. At Christian Brothers Automotive in Woodway, we have the latest diagnostic equipment which allows us to be able to work on any type of vehicle, car or truck, gas or diesel, foreign or domestic. All of our technicians are up-to-date with their ASE-certifications and they are consistently incorporating new and innovative technology into their repairs and services.

10 Top Blogs for Car Mechanics

car repair

1. Automotive Blog

This is the blog for the car-obsessed. In addition to all the latest news in the automotive world, it offers analysis of the latest car concepts and production trends, as well as discourse with industry experts.

2. Popular Mechanics

If you love cars, then you’re almost certainly familiar with the magazine Popular Mechanics. Now you can get all the publication’s automotive content online, from how-tos on repairing your own hybrid vehicle to drool-worthy articles on hot new vehicles.

3. Auto Blog

Auto industry junkies, look no further. Auto Blog ‘obsessively’ covers the auto industry, posting the latest developments (and hottest pics) from all the major car makers.

4. Real Car Guys

The ‘Real Car Guys’ mix useful tips on car repair with insightful commentary on the latest car news, from 9-speed automatic transmissions to racing Top Fuelers.

5. Car Talk

Can’t get enough of Car Talk, the popular (and hilarious!) auto advice radio show on NPR? Get more crazy tips, hilarious antics and genuinely useful advice with Car Talk online.


6. Grease or Mascara

Who says that only boys can love cars? This female NASCAR mechanic blogs about her adventures, love of cars and balance between business and life.

7. Matthew’s Auto Repair Blog

Need to brush up on basic terminology or get useful tips on maximizing your gas mileage? Check out this friendly, accessible auto blog from Matthew, a journalist and long-time DIY car mechanic.

8. Free Automotive Mechanic

Wait, did you say . . . free advice? Sure, it is the blogosphere, but this experienced mechanic takes it one step further. Have a question about buying, maintaining or repairing a car that isn’t answered on the site? Just email him!

9. Auto Repair Information

ASE-certified master technician Mark offers invaluable info on car parts, troubleshooting and DIY auto repair.

10. Jalopnik

These bloggers are ‘obsessed with the cult of cars,’ covering new car releases, cars in the news, car ads and a lot more.

5 Tips For Tackling Your First Big Car Repair

You’re a capable weekend car mechanic. You’ve got basic tools and skills. You’ve mastered oil changes and tire rotations. But when a big repair comes along, it’s decision time. Take it on yourself, or call in a pro?

That’s the choice I faced at the end of last summer, when my 1990 Mazda Miata suffered a crankshaft failure. Expecting a quick repair, I soon discovered the car needed a whole new engine—and I discovered this just after I’d disassembled it to the point that it couldn’t be put back together.

Instead of paying a mechanic to mend my Miata, I decided to try replacing the engine myself. I did it—eventually—though I made plenty of rookie mistakes on the way. Here’s what I learned.

Do Your Research

Aftermarket shop manuals are great for learning the tools and parts you’ll need, but they sometimes read like a general overview (step one: remove radiator, front bumper, and windshield washer reservoir). Internet forums can offer detailed instructions and tricks specific to your car, usually with step-by-step photos. Unless you drive something really outlandish, there’s probably a site like VWvortex or JeepsUnlimited to help you. But don’t forget that Web forums, while helpful, are just Web forums. Get a factory service manual from your manufacturer if you’re diving deep into a big repair.

Set Up Your Workspace

I started my teardown in the corner of my parents’ two-car garage. I got all set to pull the engine when I discovered I had no room to maneuver my engine hoist. Even with two muscular brothers, moving a half-disassembled car was a masochist’s game of Tetris. So don’t make my mistake: Clear plenty of space before you start the job, and position your car for maximum elbow room. I found the best spot was right in the center of the garage, though not everyone in my family shared this view.

Expect It to Take Time

The first time doing a repair always takes the longest. Tinkering on nights and weekends, my adventure lasted nearly a month, far beyond what I’d anticipated. There were lots of trips for parts, tools, and advice, and times when sheer frustration halted my progress. Make alternative transportation plans before taking your car out of commission so you don’t get fired when your Saturday project is still in pieces on Monday morning.

Take Pictures, Make Notes, Label Everything

When you’re on step two of a big job, it’s tempting to think you’ll remember which bolt goes where, but by step 14 you’ll have a plethora of fasteners, washers, and clips lying around that give no indication where they came from. Save yourself a thousand headaches by being organized from the start. Use sandwich bags, empty egg crates, and plenty of labels. A phone camera and a dry-erase board are indispensable for noting the layout of wires, cables, and brackets, and neither one will blow away behind the workbench when you open the garage door.

Use a white-paint pen on metal parts to indicate where parts came from or their orientation. Choose a universal reference point, like “front of the car,” “passenger side,” or “driver side,” and label things with arrows and sides. Label clearly based on situation too. Don’t be afraid to write notes directly on the part, or leave yourself notes about how things go back together, such as the orientation of the distributor relative to the block. Masking tape is also a great tool as well. Loop it around a hose, wire, or connector and close a nice 2-inch flap on the other side that you can use to label what it does or where it goes.

Make a Final Checklist

There’s a natural excitement to putting everything back together. You’ll be tempted to hustle through the final touches. Don’t. The last bit of wire routing, bolt tightening, or body-panel aligning is what separates a pro-quality repair from an embarrassing hack job, and if you slap it together for a test drive, you might never get around to correcting it. (Nobody’s impressed by a guy in a Miata with no hood, front fenders, or bumper—in case there was any doubt.)

So make yourself a exhaustive final checklist, including everything you need to inspect, double-check, torque, and test before you put that machine back on the road. Go over it at your desk or at the dining table—not in the garage, where you’ll be anxious to get going on your first drive.

Choosing Stainless Steel

Roofing contractors go back and forth on which kind of nail is the best for a roofing project. All of them, including the contractors at AnyWeather Roofing LLC, agree that the nails need to be water-resistant to resist corrosion, but exactly which kind of nail is the best is hotly disputed. This dispute is only exacerbated in the case of fastening Envirioshake shingles to the roof. Most will agree that a standard electro-galvanized roofing nail is acceptable. However, some still insist that something more is needed, namely, a stainless-steel nail. Below are a couple of good reasons that you should consider using stainless steel nails instead of galvanized nails in your next roofing project.

Longevity: Because of the shakes’ extremely long life expectancy of 50 years or more, they could easily outlast standard galvanized nails. In this case, even though you had installed a long lasting roof, you would still have to get it re-done because the fasteners gave out. To prevent this kind of annoying situation, you should use stainless-steel nails which can outlast even shake shingles.

Resistance: Stainless-steel nails have a much higher corrosion resistance than standard roofing nails. Although this is what lends them their longevity, it also makes them stronger in the face of high winds.

The downside to stainless steel nails is that finding a wire-collated version that’s suitable for a coil roofing nail gun can be difficult. Stanley Bostitch is one company that makes them in the 1 1/2″ length required for installing the Enviroshake shingles. The nails should be available at hardware dealers via special order. But, clearly, this is going to make them more expensive. So, you just have to decide whether it is worth it to pay more for nails up front or more for a new roof down the road. The right choice seems pretty obvious.

Learn how you can turn salvaged parts into a buffer for your tools

When it comes to working with hand planes and chisels, the state of your cutting edge determines the difference between drudgery and delight. In fact, you need to master sharpening your hand tools properly or there’s no point in attempting to use them to replace power tools. But don’t let this discourage you. A simple, shop-built machine can turn a dull tool into one that’s keener than a new razor blade in less than two minutes. Although the system does require a small amount of electricity for a short period of time, this investment of power lets hand tools work like they’re supposed to.

A hard felt wheel is at the centre of this system. (A soft cloth wheel is more suited for honing the inside curves of gouges and most carving chisels.) Instead of pushing your chisel or plane iron back and forth across a sharpening stone by hand to refine the edge, you hold the tool stationary against the spinning surface of the motorized wheel that is charged with a very fine, waxy abrasive that polishes the metal quickly. As with any honing system, the buffing wheel requires tools ground to the correct bevel angle as a starting point–about 25° to 30° for general-purpose chisels or plane irons. But grinding should only be required a few times a year, even if you use your tools frequently. After that, just switch on your buffing wheel, hold a block of polishing compound against the edge for a second to charge the wheel, then move the tip of the tool back and forth across the felt wheel for 30 seconds. For safety, always point the cutting edge in the direction of the wheel rotation. Avoid pointing the tool into the wheel, which can cause the tool to be flung into the air.

As you hone the edge in this manner, remember two things: both surfaces of the tool edge must end up smooth and, as you do this, the tool surfaces must remain tangential to the edge of the wheel. Get this detail wrong and your bevel will be too blunt and won’t cut. You’ll need to regrind the tool to the correct bevel angle and buff again.

Sometimes brand new, hard felt buffing wheels won’t absorb the abrasive compound initially because they’re too dry. To fix this problem, moisten the edge of the wheel with mineral oil.

Making your own buffing wheel from salvaged parts is easy, cheap and green. I power mine using a 50-year-old, 1/4-hp, 1,725-rpm furnace blower motor. It’s bolted to a plywood base. The only component I bought (besides the buffing wheels) was the ball-bearing mandrel. It’s connected to the motor with a 1/2″ V-belt over pulleys that boost buffing-wheel speed to 3,500 rpm. You can also mount buffing wheels on a standard bench grinder.

Ditch the tape measure

Relying too heavily on a tape measure can actually make your projects more inaccurate. Go ahead. Mark 1″ with a tape and pencil. Do it again. And again. It doesn’t matter how steady your hand is; there will be a slight variation among the marks. Throughout the building process of a project, the influence of these little inaccuracies grow and grow. To stay ahead of this inaccuracy creep, the best practice is to grab physical representations of dimensions. If you are going to be inaccurate, at least be consistent. Here are some tools that will help:

Marking gauge: The tool for making mortise-and-tenon joinery. Set the tenon length on the gauge and mark it on all the necessary workpieces. Next, mark the depth of the shoulders; and then, the cheeks. As long as you are steady with the backsaw, all your tenons will be the same.

Combination square: The combination square can almost sit in for a marking gauge. Set the square to repeat a particular length and mark off from the end of the ruler. Or, set the square to gauge the depth of a mortise. If you insert, say, 1″ of ruler into a mortise and the adjustable straightedge sits flush with the workpiece end, you have your depth.

Chisel: Need a 3/4″-wide mortise? Easy. Grab a 3/4″-wide chisel. Done.

Story stick: When you want consistent spacing between fence boards, make a story stick, a piece of board that is as long as the width of the gap you need. Actually, cut two—one for spacing the fence board at the top stringer and one at the bottom. Get a friend to hold the story sticks against an affixed board while you attach the next one.

Your truck: This trick comes to us from our technical editor, Steve Maxwell. When you are cutting long lengths of 2×4, you can set your mitre saw and stand the right distance from your truck, using your vehicle as a stop block. Use this technique only if your truck is a true work vehicle; otherwise, you might scratch your trophy.

Folding ruler: A proper folding ruler has a slide-out rule in its first leaf. Within a box, fold out just enough leaves and slide out the rule, for a physical representation of that dimension.

How to Debunk Your Own Food Myths

10 Stubborn Food Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked by ScienceSome of the most persistent food myths are the ones that are considered common knowledge, or the ones that have been long disproven but were trumpeted loudly when they were “discovered” but never formally rebutted so much when they were debunked. If there’s anything I learned in my years as a scientist and a student, it was to always keep an open mind. Not so open that your brains fall out, mind you, but open enough that you’re willing to challenge your own deeply held beliefs in the light of new evidence that contradicts them.

Keeping an open mind is only part of the battle however: you also need to seek out and pay attention to reputable sources of information when you’re reading about or researching food or nutrition science. The Cleveland Clinic has an excellent guide to considering reputable sources on the web. We also suggest checking up on food news and new research with the American Dietetic Association, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Information Center, and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ portal for reliable food and health information. Also, don’t ever hesitate to seek out peer-reviewed scientific studies and research to prove or disprove a point.

It’s all too easy on the internet to demand someone produce a study when they present an idea you disagree with-it’s another thing to look for it yourself, or to similarly concede when they do so, instead of simply finding a new vector of attack.

One last note: common sense reigns king: if some tip or magical diet truism seems too good to be true, or too simple to be uniformly true for all people, it probably is.

These myths just scratch the surface, and are only a few of the long lists of food myths that Alannah Dibona and Andy Belatti suggested. There are plenty where these came from, and we cover a lot of them here at Lifehacker when they come up. For example, our own Melanie Pinola took note when research from the USDA showed alcohol doesn’t “burn out” during cooking the way many people think it did.

Balance in a Painting

Balance is the organization of elements in a painting to create balance. The weight of one element can offset another creating a more comfortable feeling for the viewer. Although, some artists will deliberately design a painting to be “off balance” giving an unsettled feeling for the viewer.


There are two types of balance: symmetrical and asymmetrical. With symmetrical balance an imaginary line can be drawn through the center with the result of both sides being exactly the same. Asymmetrical, what we use most of the time, can be more interesting, dynamic and more casual than symmetrical.

It is hard to quantify a balanced painting, but most people can tell if it is unbalanced. An asymmetrical, but balanced painting can have more visual elements on one side of the painting, but will be balanced by a stronger element on the opposite side. Visual weight is also affected by the following elements.

  • Position – the further out an element is from the center, the heavier it will feel; a smaller object near the edge will appear to have more weight than a large object in the center of a painting.
  • Size – larger feels heavier
  • Color – brighter, saturated colors have more weight than unsaturated
  • Texture – an object with more texture feels heavier than a smooth object
  • Isolation – an object by itself has more weight than several objects together
  • Shape – complex shapes feel heavier than simple shapes
  • Value – darker values feel heavier
  • Value contrast – the higher the value-contrast, the heavier the weight,  a smaller darker form balances a larger lighter form
  • Orientation – diagonals feel heavier than horizontals or verticals

I hope this gives you some ideas to work with on your next painting.

4 Benefits of an Art Workshop:

  • Teaching art to people helps with your artistic development.
  • You’ll be inspiring others to get interested in art and learn new skills.
  • Workshops help you focus on your own techniques and are a good remedy for ‘writer’s block’.
  • They’re a good way to network with other artists.

Marion running a workshops at our flagship shop in Islington.

Know your Audience

It sounds obvious, but start with your audience. Depending on who you’ll be working with, you’ll need to offer different activities. It’s about understanding their particular needs.

If you’re working with young children, they won’t be accomplished artists – but they will be very creative. Older people looking to get into art for the first time might be more comfortable with something like watercolours. Student artists will probably be digitally-savvy.

You want to challenge your audience, but make them feel comfortable too. Start by bullet-pointing some initial ideas for the type of projects you’ll run.

Send out a resource pack

A couple of weeks before your first workshop, send your attendees an email or letter pack detailing what they can expect from the day. This will be your first point of formal contact so it’s a good opportunity to say hello.


  • Include a short bio – it’s not about promoting yourself, but giving people an idea of your experience and who you are as an artist and it’s a great way to connect.
  • If you’ll be running some really crafty, creative projects, you might need them to bring some art products with them – let them know.
  • Ask everyone to come to the day with a short statement explaining what they want to get out of it.

An information kit ahead of the workshop helps to provide some structure for the day and will ensure your workshop runs smoothly. You want your people to get something from it, after all.

Portrait painting workshops at our Islington shop with art supplies.

Don’t be authoritarian

As you’ll know, creativity isn’t about totalitarianism. You want to make sure you ‘lead’ the session, but it isn’t about you being the boss. An art workshop should be collaborative and democratic. Work on creating an informal atmosphere conductive to creativity.

Don’t forget about how the set-up and furniture of a room can affect the vibe. It’s not a good idea to position yourself at the head of the group as this makes you look like a teacher. Have your artists sit in a non-hierarchical circle – this’ll foster more ideas and collaboration.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

A successful art workshop needs ideas – and lots of them. As explained earlier, depending on your audience, you’ll need to tailor the type of projects you offer depending on your audience.

For children, it might be better to focus on just one activity (making a sock monster, say) that’s stretched out across the whole day. If you’re working with adults, you could pepper the session with short, sharp bursts of activity.

A life drawing class using art materials and directed by Sky Arts winner  Nick Lord.

Follow it up

Make sure you continue the relationship after the workshop ends. You could connect with your attendees on social media, encourage a follow-up session in a few months’ time or start an email conversation where the team shares with each other what they’ve been doing.

10 Myths People Have About Professional Photographers

During my teen years, I had absolutely no desire to be a professional photographer. I loved sports and was absorbed in the world of snow ski racing. Every year, without fail, I would round up my friends and see the latest Warren Miller ski film in San Jose, California. I would often dream that one day I would be a cinematographer and film my own ski movies, but the world of still photography at the time was nothing more than a hobby, albeit a serious one, of photographing (or at least trying to imitate) the wonderful B&W images that Ansel Adams created.

Then the college years rolled around and I enrolled in Journalism School at San Jose State University. My first semester, I took a class titled Photojournalism 1A and I was hooked! I quickly found that my aptitude was in capturing sports and that began a long career (25 years) of shooting pro sports exclusively (NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB). All through those years, landscape photography was still in my blood, but it got relegated to the back burner. I would shoot a landscape perhaps only a couple times per month as I was busy raising a family, traveling and shooting sports 250-plus days per year.

Back in 2001, my family and I vacationed in Mammoth Lakes, California. Galen Rowell had just reconverted an old bank building in nearby Bishop into the Mountain Light Gallery. I spent the better part of four hours transfixed by his images. I came away from that experience vowing to re-dedicate myself to color landscape photography. I also purchased my first set of Singh-Ray filters: 2-,3-, and 5-stop hard and soft grads along with neutral circular polarizers for each of my lenses.

Wild Lilac and Pt. Sur Lightstation

Wild Lilac: Fuji XT-1, 18-55mm, f/16, 1 second, ISO 200, Singh-Ray Thin LB Polarizer, Pt. Sur Light Station, Big Sur Coast, California

It was easy to see that part of Galen’s success was in controlling the contrast ratio of the light on the subject he was photographing.

Over the years, my landscape side of the business steadily grew to the point that it now requires 85% of my attention and my sports the other 15%. I now teach workshops and shoot landscape stock photography for Getty Images and I will be starting my 24th season as co-team photographer for the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.

If experience has taught me anything, it is that there are so many false assumptions about the life of a pro photographer – regardless of the genre. I can only speak to what I shoot professionally (sports and landscapes) but thought it was time that I dispel 10 myths that I hear on a regular basis. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

MYTH 1: You are lucky!

No doubt it appears that I am living a dream life but there is so much that people don’t see if one is to be successful in this business. First off, luck has nothing to do with success. Hard work and a driving passion to succeed have everything to do with succeeding. I work very hard every day at what I do – so do most successful pros.

I’m usually in my office by 5:30 am and the first three hours of my day are spent on marketing my business: answering emails, writing blogs, posting Facebook images, etc. Then, I usually edit for another 4-hour block. I try to get a daily 90-minute workout in, then more correspondence or working on other business aspects: returning phone calls, planning trips, planning workshops, etc.

My typical day (when I’m not shooting) is usually a minimum of 10 hours of office work – oftentimes more. If I do work in a shoot, my day can extend another 8 hours. Workshops are typically 14-18 hour days depending on the time of year. I currently teach 15 workshops per year along with a bunch of private lessons. No doubt, I am truly blessed, but not without putting in the time it takes to succeed.

Bent Jeffrey Pine, Sentinel Dome Sunset

Bent Jeffrey: Canon 5DMKIII, 24-700mmL II, f/11, 1/8th, ISO 100, Singh-Ray Thin LB Polarizer, Singh-Ray 2-stop soft edge GND, Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

MYTH 2: You have a gift – you see like an artist.

Artistic vision, for the most part, is not something you are born with; it must be studied, practiced and re-practiced. In other words, it is a learned art. Granted, some are more gifted in this area than others. My first official photography class was my freshman year in college. I barely squeaked by with a C- and the instructor told me to never consider being a pro – I’d go broke within the first year!

That harsh statement motivated me. This is a craft with a huge learning curve. There are no shortcuts. It is study, apply, analyze and re-apply. You are the only one who can push yourself. Editors are cruel by-and-large. Once you are a professional, don’t expect anyone to tell you how fantastic your images are. Editors expect top-notch work out of a pro. You better have a thick skin!

My advice is to learn your camera backwards and forwards until you can know it by heart, then learn Photoshop (we are the lab nowadays), but most importantly learn vision. Become a student of light, design and art. Study composition and trust your inner sense of balance. Push the envelope on every shoot.

Coulds Over Dune, White Sands, New Mexico

Clouds: Canon 5DMKIII, 70-200mmL II, f/16, 1/15th sec, ISO 100, Singh-Ray Thin LB Warming Polarizer, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

When starting out, try to shoot every day. Push yourself to get up when it is still dark and chase the light. Be the last one in at the end of the day. Don’t be satisfied recreating what someone else has done. Develop your own unique vision.

MYTH 3: I make money with my camera – doesn’t that make me a pro?

This may sound harsh, but the world is littered with part-time weekend warriors. If you truly want to call yourself a professional photographer, demonstrate that you can support a family for a minimum of 5 years solely with your camera and art. I’m not trying to be cruel here; I’m just stating reality.

Being a good photographer is only one side of the equation. Knowing how to be a good businessperson is the other. You will wear many hats if you want to be successful, learn each side of the business and excel.

Competition is stiff and you must find a way to make yourself better. For me, it’s being consistent and working hard. Build your business step-by-step. Have a plan. Build relationships the same way. If you jump too soon, your name and reputation can become easily tarnished.

MYTH 4: If I purchase all the best equipment that will make my images as good as yours.

Equipment is important, but vision is more important. Vision is a life-long study of light, design, perspective, art and composition. Vision must be developed over the years.

It is not so much learning what works in a successful image, as it is learning what doesn’t work. Learn to eliminate and distill the image down to what is important. Don’t be afraid to fail – because you will. But you must learn from your failures.

When reviewing a shoot, don’t be so quick to hit the Delete button. Ask yourself why you are deleting an image – why it did not work? Those become huge learning moments. A good photographer can create a great image with a smart phone. It’s more about learning to see than having the latest piece of gear.

I do however feel it is important to purchase the best lenses and filters you can afford. All of my lenses are outfitted with Singh-Ray polarizers and I only use Singh-Ray grads.

Moonrise Behind Yuccas, White Sands, New Meico

Moonrise Behind Yucca: Canon 5DMKIII, 70-200mmL II, f/11, 1/15th, ISO 100, Singh-Ray Thin LB Warming Polarizer, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

MYTH 5: You get your equipment for free or at a reduced price.

I pay the same price as all of you. Manufacturers don’t pass out free gear (wish they did). I’ve never sold a piece of equipment online, I wouldn’t even know how to go about selling something on e-Bay.

Bottom line, I don’t have the time! I am affiliated with a few software companies. This is a match made in heaven as I use their software on every image I process. In return, I help beta-test, conduct webinars, write for their blog and teach their products at my workshops. I will not endorse a product that I don’t personally use myself – and that includes Singh-Ray filters.

10 Myths People Have About Professional Photographers-02

Lightning and Half Dome: canon 5DMKIII, 24-70mmL II @ f/22, 1/8th, ISO 50, Lightning Trigger IV, Singh-Ray Thin LB Polarizer, Washburn Point, Yosemite National Park, California

MYTH 6: You get to travel to all the iconic locations to make images.

True, I travel and conduct workshops at locations that are on most photographers’ bucket lists, but those locations have been photographed millions of times. I do challenge myself to find something a bit different or out of the ordinary, but unless there is some dramatic weather, my images will more-than-likely resemble some other photographer’s image of that location.

My greatest pleasure is in finding something new and unique (hard to do in this day-and-age with the internet listing every location imaginable by GPS). My image of this country lane lined by Eucalyptus trees is a good case-in-point. I have to give my wife Beri all the credit for spotting this scene.

Eucalyptus Trees and Fog

Eucalyptus Trees: Canon 1DsMKII, 24-70mmL, f/13, 1/4th, ISO 200, Singh-Ray Neutral Circular Polarizer, San Benito County, California

This is actually a location about five miles from my home. We first traveled down this road to cut a Christmas tree. She said it would make a great image and she was right. I simply kept returning until I got the atmosphere right.

To date, this is my all-time best stock selling image via Getty Images. It has been featured on the cover of 9 books (including my own – Refined Vision: 50 Lessons Designed to Improve Your Digital Landscape Photography).

It was also featured on the cover of the coffee-table book: The Life and Love of Trees, which to my surprise was featured on the Oprah Winfrey show as her book-of-the-month choice!

MYTH 7: Every trip you make must mean you are planning a new workshop.

Granted, there are times I plan trips with the specific goal of developing a workshop and oftentimes it does not work out. Yet many times I take trips for my own enjoyment and to see and create images of places I have never been before.

I recently spent two weeks this past June in New Mexico. A big part of my trip was to photograph White Sands National Monument.

Days are quite long on these trips as I spend the middle of the day scouting and I am on location 45 minutes prior to sunrise and I won’t leave until 30-45 minutes after sunset. This trip was not intended to be a workshop scouting trip, but with all the nice spots I found, it may soon become one. I am working through the permit process as I write this blog.

It is also important to separate your work from your vacation. I had the hardest time doing that over the years and I never really felt rested even though I travel all the time. I recently concluded five weeks of travel with a relaxing vacation at South Lake Tahoe. I did shoot, but it was not the priority.

A photo trip, on the other hand, means long hours of flying, driving, scouting waiting for the light and driving some more. Sleep comes in small increments (4-5 hours at night and possibly a nap if you are lucky).

My wife Beri has taught me how to separate the two and I’m a better photographer/husband/father because of it. It’s the whole “balance in life” thing that we photographers tend to ignore. When your passion is your job, you must pay attention even more or you will never rest.

MYTH 8: Magazines must pay you lots of money for your pictures.

Magazines are dying on the vine (so too are books and newspapers). As you are all aware, the publishing industry (unfortunately) is dying and to survive, magazines, books, newspapers, etc., must put their content online.

I have had many images published over the years and there is an old saying in our business amongst us pros: Published images (editorial) with our name included are good for the ego but not the bank account. The real money still to this day is in advertising.

I’m fortunate that over 75% of my work shown by Getty Images is to potential advertising clients. Your name in never included except for the check that is sent – and yes – those are good paydays! Some of the highest paid pros are names you have never heard.

MYTH 9: Pros Have Secrets They Only Share With Other Pros.

I have to blame the magazine industry with perpetuating this fallacy. How many times have you seen the headlines: We Unlock the Pros’ Secrets! Learn the Pros’ Secrets for Better Images!

Well, I’m here to tell you that there are no secrets. There is no secret society that we pros live in. Where we may have the advantage is that we work hard at our craft on a daily basis (you have school, work and families to raise). This is our work.

Jeffry Pine and Half Dome

Jeffrey Pine and Half Dome: Canon 5DMKIII, 16-25mmL II, f/16, ½ sec., ISO 100, Singh-Ray Thin LB Polarizer, Singh-Ray 2-stop hard edge GND (angled along line of dome), Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

Aspects of using the camera, vision, planning and post-processing may come a bit easier to us because we do it every day, but I for one do not keep secrets. If you read my blogs and/or follow my posts on Facebook or other social media sites, then you will know this is true. I share knowledge because that is my way of saying thank you to all mentors.

Of course I can’t give it all away. If I did, why would anyone want to take a workshop? Other pros have told me that I give away too much. Who knows if that is true? My workshops are well attended so in a sense, maybe someone reads what I have written and thinks, “Hey, I’d like to learn more from this guy!”

MYTH 10: There Are No Good Locations To Shoot Where I Live.

I believe just the opposite is true. If you have truly developed your vision, you will spot images everywhere!

Don’t always think grand scene. Get a bit more like the late Eliot Porter and learn to see your world as more intimate. Macro also offers many possibilities when the light is not cooperating. The key is to keep an open mind.

More times than not, the images I have preconceived in my mind don’t come to fruition. Oftentimes it is something completely different. Don’t walk away from a location if your previsualized scene does not appear. Challenge yourself to find something different.

Keep an open mind and think creatively. I usually chase light not subjects.

Dogwood in Rain

Dogwood: Canon 5DMKIII, 70-200mmL II, Kenko 36mm extension tube, f/13, 1/15th sec., ISO 800, Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer, Yosemite National Park, California

Challenge yourself to come away with something new and fresh from each location shoot. Never say: “there is nothing here to shoot.” That immediately sets you up for failure and closes off your mind. Stay positive, even if you are struggling to find images.

Struggle is good – it is what will make you dig deeper for images. Instead, say to yourself: “there is an image here and I will find it and it will be uniquely mine.” That sets your mind into a positive state and allows for the creative energy to flow. It’s also what makes landscape photography fun!

So you still want to be a professional photographer? Well go for it. No degree or test is required for admission. Just a willingness to work hard, stay passionate and be an informed businessperson.

The road is lined with wannabees who jumped in with eyes half closed. Know what you are in for and dedicate yourself like you would to any other profession.

5 Basic Photography Tips

If you’re just looking for some basics to get you started, then this post is for you! One of the things I (and probably loads of food bloggers) are asked about a lot is food photography. It can be intimidating picking up a DSLR and trying to figure out how to use it. I teamed up with my friends at SORTED to make a fun video for you to quickly explain the basics. I’ve also added stills for each tip with a written explanation below. Let me know if you enjoyed the vid & tips and if so I’ll work on some more Tip-Type posts (also feel free to suggest things you’d like me to write tutorials on).


5 Basic Photography Tips Left: Higher ISO (25600)    Other settings – shutter speed: 1/2500, Aperture: f/5.0

Right: Lower ISO (100) Other settings – shutter speed: 1/80, Aperture: f/5.0

ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light – the higher the number the more sensitive it will be:

Higher ISO number = more sensitive to light = brighter photo

The only down side to a higher ISO is that it can add grain to the photos. This is normally fine if you stay below 1000-ish but super high ISOs can mean that images lose a lot of detail. I usually shoot at an ISO range of 100 to 400 depending on lighting.

You can see in the photos above that the ISO on the left which is high produces a lot of grain when zoomed in. The photo on the right is smoother.


5 Basic Photography Tips Left: Narrower Aperture (f/8)      Other settings – ISO 640, Shutter Speed: 1/160

Right: Wider Aperture (f/1.4)    Other settings – ISO 640 , Shutter Speed: 1/1250

Changing the aperture changed how much the shutter opens when the photo is taken and has two effects:

1) It changes how much light is let in. If you have a wide aperture, more light gets in producing a lighter photo.
2) It changes how much depth of field you have i.e. how far back the focus goes. A wide aperture has a shallower depth of field so less will be in focus.

The way it’s measured is denoted as ‘f/’ which is called an F-stop.

Higher F-stop = shutter opens less = less light gets in = more in focus = darker photo

Shutter Speed

5 Basic Photography Tips Shutter speed is an easy one to guess! It’s how fast the shutter opens and closes when you take a photo.

A fast shutter speed is ideal for taking action photos e.g. scattering flour or sprinkling on toppings but lets less light in so produces a darker photo. You’ll want a fast shutter speed if you’re shooting action shots and don’t want a blurry image or of you’re in a really bright space and don’t want to change the aperture.

A slow shutter speed is good for shooting in low light. I prefer to have a slower shutter speed than use a higher ISO if I need to bump up the brightness as I don’t like the photos being grainy. However, a slow shutter speed means the shutter is open for longer so shaky hands while shooting can lead to a blurry image. To combat this you can use a tripod (only usually if I’m shooting at a shutter speed of 1/80 second or slower)

Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second so a larger number on the bottom of the fraction indicates a faster shutter speed (e.g. 1/500 is faster than 1/100).

Slower shutter speed = shutter open for longer = more light gets in = brighter photo


5 Basic Photography Tips Left: Back lit
Right: Side lit (light coming from the left)

Use natural light. Always! (I mean, you can invest in artificial lights designed for professional use if you want! But don’t use your kitchen lights for photography). Artificial lights are usually too harsh for food and can be too warm or too cold. Natural light is the best because it has a great colour to it and, at certain times of day, will be naturally diffused and soft.

Shooting next to a window is the best option but you want to have diffused light. By ‘diffused’, I mean natural light which isn’t super intense or overpowering so a cloudy day is ideal! You want the light to be coming in from one direction normally, but the shadows the props and food are casting shouldn’t be too harsh. If it’s a really sunny day you can tape a thin, white cloth or curtain up to your window to help soften the light.

I like to light my photos in two ways: side-lit or back-lit. The way in which the shot is lit will highlight different parts of the objects and create a different feel.

Ways to Shoot

5 Basic Photography Tips Left: Close up
Right: Far out

5 Basic Photography Tips Left: Top-down / overhead
Right: Angled side (3/4)

To get the most interesting shots you’re going to have to move around and change up the composition. You’ll need to try out different angles and how close you get to the food.

Shooting close-up is great for showing details and getting those sexy food-porn type shots you see all over the internet.
Shooting far out is nice for more of a story-telling/lifestyle shot. You can show more of the overall composition and get a sense of the space your shooting in to add a bit of a back-story to the shot.

Top down shots are great for things like ingredient shots or foods with minimal height (like salads or soups). This is also the best angle for taking photos on your phone (as you may have noticed after scrolling through instagram). I also like to take the photo on my phone with the basic camera app and then edit it later in the VSCOcam app (it’s free!) using their filters before uploading to instagram.

Angled shots show the height of the objects. It’s nice to have a definite foreground and background when you have this angle, with the ‘hero’ of the shot at the front. Then you can prop with ingredients or equipment behind or just in front of it so they don’t obscure what you’re shooting.

Extra Tips: Shooting in RAW

DSLR cameras have an option to take photos in a file type called ‘RAW’. This means that all the details and information your camera captures (the light temperature, exposure, detail, colours etc) is uncompressed. Therefore you have access to all this data when you’re editing the photo later on so the photo is true to how you shot it and you don’t lose any information! Then when you go to edit the photo you can change each setting easily and the photo will look better. Only certain photo editing software can handle RAW photo files though e.g. Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop. They will allow you to access and alter the data of the photo and then export it to a compressed JPEG when you’re happy with it, ready for your blog/magazine/whatever!

If you shoot in JPEG mode, the camera automatically compresses the information which makes for a smaller file size. However this means any edits you add on the computer are layered on top of the image so won’t look as good.

If that sounds really confusing here’s an analogy:

A RAW photo is like having plain cake batter and plain buttercream frosting. You can add flavourings or ingredients straight to the batter/frosting to make whatever cake you want. Add cocoa and chopped pistachios or raspberries and almond extract! Then you get to bake it up (this is like exporting the edited RAW file to compressed JPEG form) and eat that delicious cake just how you imagined it to be.

A JPEG photo is like being given an already baked and assembled unflavoured layer cake. You can add sprinkles to the top, or drizzle on caramel but it’s still going to be a plain cake and you can’t change that.

Easy Shooting with a DSLR (without using Auto mode!)

If the idea of changing shutter speed, ISO and aperture sounds WAY too daunting (trust, it did at first for me) there’s a beginner’s way to get beautiful shots with your DSLR.

Set the camera to AV mode – this means all you need to control is the aperture and the camera will sort out the shutter speed and ISO for you.

The reason I like this mode so much is that choosing the aperture is one of the things which can immediately change the feel of a photo. If the camera is on AUTO mode then the aperture might not be ideal for food photography.I like to shoot in a range of f/3 to f/5 as you still get detail but things in the background will be slightly out of focus. Once you feel comfortable shooting like that you can switch to Manual mode!

The 5 Biggest Car Maintenance Myths

1. Myth: You need to replace your oil every 3,000 miles.

Reality: Thanks to advancements with synthetic versions, your car can literally last for thousands of miles over the once-sacred 3,000 mark. To get the most out of your oil, make sure you’re using a synthetic or conventional oil that’s specified by your owner’s manual, and change it according to your oil product’s durability schedule. “And, no, it doesn’t do your engine any better to change oil earlier than it’s scheduled,” says Stan Markuze, founder of, an online auto-parts marketplace. “If you’re using a 5,000-mile oil, you’re throwing away a perfectly good product by replacing it after 3,000.”

2. Myth: To keep your warranty valid, you have to go to the dealership to perform vehicle maintenance.

Reality: What matters is that the maintenance work gets done, as opposed to which certified technician does it. “As long as maintenance is performed on the schedule that’s specified in your owner’s manual, you can take it to any shop,” says Sidney Billingsley, CEO and owner of Woodbridge, Va.-based HomeTowne Auto Repair and Tire. Don’t forget to document all work.

3. Myth: You should replace a tire if you run over a nail.

Reality: A capable tire shop should be able to repair the damage done by a small nail or similar puncture with a special, rubber patch job, which goes on the inside of the tire. “The patch usually costs $20 or less,” Markuze says. “Compare that to at least $100 for a new tire.”

4. Myth: You should never replace just one tire.

Reality: Many tire service centers recommend replacing at least two, to ensure the tires have the same tread depth. But given how expensive these products are getting, you could get away with replacing just one, especially on front- and rear-wheel drive models and/or if your other tire has a lot of remaining tread depth. Just make sure you replace it with a tire that’s the same brand, size, tread pattern and speed rating as the one you’re matching it with. “Otherwise, it’s like wearing a running shoe and a heel,” says Matt Allen, co-host of Bumper to Bumper Radio, a top automotive-advice radio program in Arizona. “Okay, maybe it won’t feel quite that goofy. But your car sure will handle and drive oddly with mismatched tires.” (Important note: For all-wheel models, all four tires must be replaced at the same time.)

5. Myth: Fuel is fuel. You can use any quality grade and it won’t make a difference.

Reality: Actually, depending on the type of car you have, you can do a lot of damage by using the wrong type of gas. If you try to save nickels and dimes by using regular fuel in a model designed for premium, you may shell out thousands for engine damage and overall poor performance. And—contrary to popular belief—it does you no “favors” by using premium for a vehicle that doesn’t require it. “You’ll actually hurt fuel mileage performance instead of help it,” Allen says. “You’ll also possibly accelerate and promote carbon and deposit build-up in the valve train and combustion chamber, which can lead to higher maintenance costs.”

Five Essential Tips to Ensure You Don’t Get Ripped Off at The Garage

Costly: A trip to the garage can result in a hefty billVisiting a garage if your car needs to be repaired can be a baffling and costly experience, especially for those with limited motoring knowledge.

Even those who know their way around an engine can struggle as today’s cars carry an ever expanding array of hi-tech electrical devices that require experts to put right.

It leaves drivers relying increasingly on professional mechanics to put their car right, and the imbalance of knowledge can lead them vulnerable to rip offs and sharp practice.

Recent research from Warranty Direct showed hourly costs at garages have hit a dizzying £92 an hour in some areas of the country. Costly electrical faults on cars more than three years old have increased by 66 per cent over the last five years.

Given the spiralling costs, what can drivers do when checking their car in a garage to ensure they are not taken for a ride?

Before you choose a garage

Even if you have no knowledge of car maintenance, it can pay to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can about your car when it goes wrong.

Trawl the internet for details about the problem – or buy a Haynes Manual for your model, they cost around £20. This may highlight common causes of faults your model that can be fixed easily without needing a professional mechanic.

If you do need a garage, you have the right under consumer law to be charged a reasonable amount for repairs, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau. However, this ultimately boils down to what you and the garage consider to be fair.

To help you get an idea of what this should be, and once you’ve established what work needs doing, shop around at other local garages to see what they would charge.

You should always ask whether the price you are being given is a quote or an estimate and also check whether it includes all parts, labour and VAT, otherwise you could be stung.

Steps to take to avoid being ripped off

Trusted Dealers, part of the National Franchised Dealers Association, has put together five tips for drivers to follow to help them get a good deal.

1. Make sure that all work and parts are guaranteed for one year – something that most reputable garages will offer. But always ask before handing over any money.

2. If anything needs to be replaced, ask the garage to show you the parts afterwards and get them to explain to you what they’re doing and why.

Any decent garage would be happy to do this and many dealers will also now send you a free video, or photo, to your smart phone so you can see exactly what needs doing and the finished results. This should completely eliminate any confusion or nasty surprises.

3. Asking friends and family for their recommendation remains a great way to find a good garage.

However make sure that they drive a similar type of car to your own and ideally, that they have the same manufacturer.

It stands to reason that the very best place to get your car serviced will often be at the franchised dealer for your car but there are some good alternatives too.

4. It’s probably a bit much quizzing technicians about their qualifications and work history, but a lot of information on a dealership can be found online in advance such as whether they’re a member of a motor industry trade bodies such as the NFDA, the Independent Garage Association or have signed up to Motor Codes.

These guarantee certain sets of standards and are a potential selling point, so most dealers will want to highlight their membership.

5. Finally, make sure you get a receipt and keep these records safe. Having a full service history can add significant value to a car and there’s also some evidence to suggest that having a fully stamped service log from a main dealer can add as much as £400 to the resale price.

5 Shop Essentials

PM's Garage

1. Storage
To keep your place organized, you’ll need storage for not only bulky items like tires and wheels, but also shelf space and smaller compartments for tools and smaller parts. Coffee cans and baby-food jars may have been good enough for your Uncle Pete, but you can burn a lot of time looking for an 8-mm nut in a coffee can full of assorted leftover hardware. We’ve tried several solutions, but we’ve found that cheap sets of drawers from Home Deport or Office Max work well. Rolling toolboxes are a nice luxury since you can move them around so you’re not walking back and forth to find the right-size socket.

2. Floor jack and jack stands
It’s just too time-consuming and downright unsafe to do anything but the simplest undercar task with the jack that came in the trunk. Don’t forget a half-dozen pieces of scrap 2×4 and 4×4 for chocking the wheels. For years, we hauled heavy steel floor jacks, but several years ago we bought an aluminum one from Sears. It’s under $200, has a 3000-pound capacity and weighs less than 30 pounds.

3. The right tools
Of course the tools you need depend on the kind of work you plan to perform. For light automotive tools, we usually find ourselves at the local Sears. The company sells inclusive kits that often go on sale for very reasonable prices. Keep an eye out around the holidays for the best deals.

4. Electrical service
Most residential garages have a single 20-amp circuit for the outlets, and maybe a second breaker to share between the lights and the door opener. I need at least a 60-amp subpanel, a 220-volt outlet for the compressor and the welders, and an outlet about every 6 feet all around. In fact, I never install a simple duplex outlet anymore; I always put in double boxes with four sockets, with every box on its own 20-amp breaker and GFI. And don’t forget fluorescent lights. They’re relatively cheap and you can never have too much light.

5. Music
A decent stereo or even an iPod dock can make a long evening in the shop less boring. Satellite radio is perfect; there’s a channel for any activity. I like classical for sanding body filler and engine assembly, but George Thorogood, MC-5 or Ten Wheel Drive is best for panel-beating. Welding? Outlaw Country.

How to Hide Screw Heads

Wood screws offer strong, fast ways to join project parts, and they can be made virtually invisible too. Tapered wooden plugs make it happen. Typically 1/2″ in diameter on their large ends, tapered wooden plugs can be bought from a store ready-made or cut in the shop using a drillpress attachment. Either way, you need to prepare two-part holes if you want to use plugs. The first part is drilled about 1/4″- to 3/8″-deep on the face into which the tapered plug will be installed in later. This step is called counterboring. Next, drill a 1/8″-diameter hole in the middle of the counterbored hole, through the wood for the screw shank. It’s always wise to create counterbored test holes in scrap wood first, to check how your tapered wooden plugs fit before drilling into your project. Ideally, you want the plug to form a tight fit within the counterbore while the plug’s top is flush with the surrounding wood.

A sharp spade bit is an excellent tool for counterboring. You can even grind down the edges of a spade bit on a bench grinder, allowing you to make a smaller hole if a particular plug needs it. Although store-bought plugs are convenient, they’ll never blend in with the surrounding wood well. Shop-cut, tapered wooden plugs made from project scraps offer the best visual match with the surrounding wood, especially when they’re prepared with face grain on the top end of the plug. Installed carefully, with grain aligned to the surrounding wood, the plugs become virtually invisible. Use a tiny bit of glue during installation, then let it dry thoroughly


Look for: Organic, USDA Organic, 100% Organic

The Labels That Actually Tell You If Food Is Healthy

Why: Although it’s well known and easy to make fun of (oh, you only feed your toddler organic lentils?), you shouldn’t assume, as some do, that the organic label is completely useless. The term has a very precise definition, and inspections ensure that farmers are complying with the rules that let them use the label.

Food that qualifies as organic ranges from truly sustainable farms to industrial mega-farms that happen to meet the minimum requirements. Some of the requirements are definite good news. For example:

  • Synthetic fertilizers can’t be used on organically grown crops (or crops grown as feed for organically raised animals). Synthetic fertilizers are widely used in industrial agriculture, but are pretty bad for the environment.
  • Animals are subject to some minimum welfare requirements, so if you can’t find animal products certified by one of the seals mentioned above, but still want to buy that meat, dairy, or eggs, organic is a good second choice.
  • Antibiotics aren’t allowed for animals, so it’s another way to ensure you’re not contributing to antibiotic resistance and similar public health concerns as described above.

Caveats: Most of the benefits of organic food aren’t for you personally; they’re mainly for the environment, animals, and farm workers’ health. That means you don’t need to fear non-organic food. It won’t dose you with harmful levels of pesticides (even if you eat it every day) and it isn’t more nutritious. It’s better for your health to eat any fruits and veggies at all than to pass some of them up because they’re not organic. Organic means a lot of other things too, and they all apply as a package deal. Organic food can’t be irradiated even though irradiation is totally safe (no, it doesn’t make food radioactive). It can’t include genetically modified crops, even though GMO objections are largely based on misunderstandings. So you have to take the good with the sometimes nonsensical.

Not to be confused with: “Natural,” or any wholesome-sounding word other than organic. (A group of organic food companies made a funny video lampooning the “natural” label, and it’s pretty much spot on.)

Why This List Is So Short

Foods that boast their health on the front of the package are usually foods that aren’t very healthy to begin with. You’re better off knowing which foods fit your diet, and when in doubt, flip the package over to check what matters to you, such as the macronutrients on the Nutrition Facts label.

With that in mind, I’d like to nominate a few labels for honorable mentions: good ideas behind them, but packages trumpeting these claims should be viewed with suspicion.

“High in” or “excellent source of”: When paired with the name of a vitamin or other nutrient, this label means you’ll get at least 20% of the daily recommended value in one serving. Other phrases like “contains” or “good source of” don’t mean the same thing. The caveat, of course, is that most things with this label are otherwise junk food. For example, these cookies are an “excellent source of” calcium and iron.

Zero grams trans fat: Everybody agrees trans fat seems to be bad for you, but there isn’t a single clear label that will help you avoid it. Paradoxically, anything boasting zero grams trans fat is almost guaranteed to have trans fat in it—just less than half a gram per serving, since that lets the manufacturer round down to zero. (To make things more confusing, some animal products, like butter, contain a small amount of trans fat naturally. This type of trans fat is probably fine for our health, maybe even beneficial.) What to do instead? Flip the package over and look for “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredients list.

There are tons of healthy-sounding labels on food these days, but most of the rest are misleading or arguably meaningless. Think I missed a good one? Let me know in the comments.

Self-Reliance in Food Production is a Myth: Natural Farming Expert

The mismatch between increasing food needs and decreasing land and water resources is a puzzle everybody is trying to solve. Subash Palekar, who was in Madurai recently to conduct a workshop on ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF),’ has some clues to solve this puzzle.Subash Palekar, promoter of Zero Budget Natural Farming, who was in Madurai recently toconduct a workshop.— Photo: R. Ashok

He offers not only technology but also the philosophy to get farming out of the shackles of exploitation. His model is for everyone, including traditional farmers, consumers and even IT professionals.

The current food production and consumption pattern, according to him, breeds disease among urban people and drives farmers to commit suicide. “Today, the farmer has no honour in society. In the absence of a secure future, rural people are migrating to urban areas, creating more social tension,” he says.

Mr. Palekar dismisses the contention that India is self-reliant on the food front. “Food means not only rice and wheat. It includes cereals, millets, pulses, edible oils, fruits and vegetables. If we are self-reliant, why should we import wheat, edible oil and fruits,” he queries.

“We have a duty to provide food for an ever-increasing population. We have to preserve the shrinking cultivable area for food production alone,” he says. “In the name of development, farm lands are taken up for construction of industries, dams and mega cities. The demand for food is going up and land availability is coming down.”

Mr. Palekar is firm that there is a bright future for farming. “That is the reason why many people, including software engineers and IT professionals, are ready to leave their jobs and take up farming.”

The agriculture graduate from Maharashtra is unhappy about the “development madness” prevailing all over the world. “We are not anti-development. We are for sustainable development; development without destroying natural resources.”

He points out that even our routine activities pollute the environment. Unmindful use of chemicals leaves the soil barren. “Food cannot be manufactured in factories. Only the soil can give food.” He is confident that there is a way out. “Everybody has a role to play in my movement. You can work to stop destruction of land by continuing with your service. We can stop use of materials that destroy the land in a non-violent way,” he says. More details about ZBNF can be found inwww.palekarzerobudgets

How to Start Painting – Brushes

Now, what kind of brushes to buy? This is another area that I find students come with inadequate brushes that are very frustrating to use. Obviously, the brushes vary a lot and with each artist in their choices and it can be a daunting task to choose which brushes will work for you.  So, I’ll explain the uses of different brushes and tell you about what I look for and the parts of a brush.

brush-partsParts of the Brush

There are 4 main parts to a brush:

1. the bristles or hairs, which can be natural, synthetic or a combination of both

2. the ferrule is the metal part that holds the hairs into place

3. the crimp which is where the ferrule and the wood handle join.

4. the handle usually made of wood or plastic

Oil or Acrylic Paint Brushes

There are 10 different types of brushes, at least.

brushesThe flat “curved edge” is a new brush by Rosemary & Co. This is one I want to try next time I order. It works as a flat, but with softened edges.

The fan brush is used to blend and smooth and for textural effects.

The long flat brush can be used for covering large areas. The longer brush can be loaded with more paint. It makes hard edges, thin lines on edge and sweeping strokes.

The bright brush is a shorter flat brush. It has more control and sharper edges. It can be used for thick and heavy paint.

The round brush is used for detail and depending on the size creates thin or thick lines.

The filbert brush creates soft, rounded edges and used for blending.

The angle brush paints, well, angles.

The rigger brush makes long, sweeping lines. Because of the length they will carry a lot of paint.

The egbert brush is similar to the filbert brush, but longer. Because of the length they will carry a lot of paint.

The dagger brush is a specialized brush that Rosemary & Co. carries. It has a lot of control and carries a lot of paint.

Long handled brushes are made for standing at the easel.  Short handles are for when you are working over a piece of art on a table.

Bristle brushes create harder texture in a painting. The softer “hair” brushes make softer marks.


A palette knife is for mixing paint and is sturdier than a painting knife.

A painting knife is designed to have the hand lifted from the canvas when painting.

If you had one knife, I would use the painting knife. It can be used for both jobs.

A couple more  blog posts about supplies for the beginning painter.

How to Teach an Art Class or Art Workshop

If you’re an established artist and you feel pretty comfortable with your medium, its probably only a matter of time until you’ve had some inquiries about teaching an art class or art workshop.

Teaching art is usually a nice way to keep yourself in art supplies, and it can also be a creative jumpstart for your own work – for instance, when I share creative ideas with my watercolor students, I am often inspired myself!

But it’s not always easy to START teaching. . . and so today I’d like to pass along some ideas for teaching painting to beginning students.

I’m going to explain how I’ve been taught, and how I teach watercolour painting to my own students. Hopefully the following techniques will work whether you are teaching oil painting, acrylic painting or, really, any medium.


Breakers – A watercolour that was originally painted as a demonstration of technique, which I later completed as a painting. Still a favourite.

How I learned to paint:

The first time I took a watercolor class, I had zero experience with the medium, aside from childhood dabbles with cheap cakes of paint. And, although, I didn’t know it at the time, I had chosen a teacher who was more concerned with encouraging students’ creativity than actually teaching us how to paint.

From that class I learned not to waste my time with cheap supplies, and to paint from light to dark as a rule, but I was still pretty much uninstructed where actual techniques were concerned.

I spent several more years muddling through, painting every night, and ended up learning most of my technique through trial and error. When next I took a watercolour class, the instructor had a far different focus, and I learned so much more.

From that teacher, I learned that much of what I’d discovered alone in my living room over two years I could have picked up in a weekend with a good instructor. She shared jewels of information on colour mixing, techniques and how-to’s, and we all left that weekend with one fantastic painting and lots of hands-on experience.

How I teach painting:

Like my second instructor, I believe that teaching technique is the first step in teaching a student how to paint. Creativity is something that comes from within, and just as I noticed my personal style taking off after I’d mastered technique, I want to free my students to explore their own creativity by teaching them technique until it starts to become second nature.

When you don’t have to agonize over “how” you are free to paint your dreams.

Of course, you can’t master watercolor techniques in a weekend, or even in eight two-hour sessions (which is what I prefer for my workshops). I know that most of my students won’t remember what they’ve learned in my sessions without a little help, so the first thing we work on is creating a cheat sheet. This isn’t junior high school—cheat sheets are allowed!

As I demonstrate for my students different techniques that I employ in watercolour painting (such as drybrush, wet-in-wet, blending, hard & soft and lost & found edges, salt, spatter, etc.) I have each student practice the technique on a single sheet of watercolour paper.

I then have them use a pen to label each technique so they can follow along through the rest of the session when I use a specific term. This helps them familiarize themselves with their supplies, as well as helping visual, auditory and hands-on learners.

Our first session is also spent getting to know our palettes. Students won’t be able to work quickly without a passing knowledge of the hues at their disposal, so we try out each colour and make a little colour chart.

We also use this time to talk about value, and how the ratio of pigment to water is what determines the lightness or darkness of a color. I also share some of my favourite colour blends—how I get my greys or blackest hues, for example.

Following our cheat sheet session, we make a painting. I usually choose a floral image, and have a line drawing for them to transfer to their paper. We work together, step by step, to create fairly identical paintings. This gives me a chance to observe their technique and offer suggestions in a situation that I control. It is remarkable how different each painting will still turn out to be.

This step may take one or two sessions, depending on the speed of your students and how many you have in your class.

Between sessions, I do like to give homework – usually just a reminder to practice the techniques—and I tell them to have fun with their paint and brushes.

Depending on the length of the class and the skill level of the students, I occasionally do a second step-by-step paintings during the workshop, but by the middle of the workshop, I like to start my students on a painting of their own, with the subject matter they choose.

I offer reference photos for them to pick from, or they may bring their own. This is usually the time when I talk about the do’s and don’ts of copyright and derivative work.

I try not to discourage my students if they seem to choose a very complicated image for their first painting. (You’ll probably see this happen too!) Instead, talk with them about some good ways of achieving the result they want, and be available to answer questions and recommend solutions if they run into problems. Often, the most ambitious beginners surprise me with the promise of their first paintings!

I have also found, in any class I teach, that providing bottled water helps everyone. I do a lot of talking in a two hour session!

There are many benefits and reasons as to why you’d want to teach. . . for me, it all comes down to seeing others succeed.

Recently I was at the home of a former workshop student and on her walls she had several lovely watercolour paintings of our northern lights. She had successfully taken the techniques learned in my home studio, and was continuing to explore painting on her own.

While I love painting, there are few things as rewarding as seeing a group of people—who had never even held paintbrushes before—beam with pride at their own paintings. It’s also very affirming, that maybe I do know what I am doing as a painter if I am able to teach others how to do it too!

Ten Myths of Professional Commercial Photography

Now on to some myths that get related to me often at the workshops. If you have any you would like to bust as well, add them in the comments and I will make another post.

1. Professionals all have the best, most modern gear:
Well… no, not really. Some do, and many have top-of-the-line stuff mixed with old stand-by’s. And some only replace when needed. And most have what they have and it still works and they keep it working as long as possible.

My suite-mate Ken Howie still shoots the original Leaf back on his view cameras. 6MP backs… and he has a stash of them from EBay and anywhere he can find them. They are cooled by refrigeration units when shooting and all of them are about 20 years old… so having a stash of usable backs is important. His first one cost about $35K, and he is getting them off of EBay for around $300 in working condition these days.

But the point is – they work. Beautifully.

His clients are some of the most demanding; advertising agencies, art museums, and custom automotive. He has 30″ x 60″ prints in the lobby that are amazing. He knows his craft and delivers a wonderful product. From a 20 year old back. He also owns a fill 1DSMKIII system as well, because there are times when he needs that format. He has what he needs, not simply for the ‘new’ factor.

Of all the working shooters I know, most have a mix of good gear and ‘it works’ gear. Clients don’t really care if your stands are a bit older, or whether you have the newest and greatest softbox. The images don’t care if you use a $600 photo scrim or a $12 Shower curtain – as long as the image rocks, it’s all good.

I recently spoke with an editorial portraitist who has 2 bodies, 2 lenses and a small portable lighting kit (all total less than $15K) and he is working pretty regularly. His style of image doesn’t require that much stuff. And his clients love his work, not his gear.

Get what you need. Make sure it works. Shoot more pictures.

2. Professional photographers need lots of staff.
Well, that looks cool on video doesn’t it? Whole gaggles of 20 somethings running around and being ‘involved.’ And I am sure that situation plays itself out in many studios. But in most, there are the minimal staff needed to create the work. I know many shooters who rarely use assistants unless they really need the help. Carrying 20 packs of gear up three floors is a gonna trip getting an assistant for me… heh. And there is nothing better than working with a great assistant when the shoot calls for having a second pair of hands and eyes.

Working outside with umbrellas and softboxes when there is a breeze can be quite a challenge, for sure. So great folks willing to help hold stands can be a blessing.

However, in most working studios staff is rare. Staff is expensive. And if you aren’t making the money you need, paying staff for sitting around can be a drain of resources. Be judicious when you hire – make sure you need and will be able to use them. Be fair to them, as well as yourself.

For me, freelance assistants are the way to go. And when you need them, they are worth every dollar. So get to know who they are so you can find them when you need them. For most of us though, working alone is probably the reality for most of our gigs.

3. Every shot is portfolio worthy.

Yeah. Heh.

Actually most of the work is not portfolio quality for most of us. They are work-a-day shots of people, places and things that are used for commerce and for illustration.

A six day shoot of garage opener doors and parts for a catalog may be a real kick to the bottom line that month, but probably not gonna be stuff you share in your portfolio -with the possible exception of trying to get another catalog of garage door openers… and then, only if asked.

Commercial photographers do a lot of commercial gigs that are not going to ultimately end up in the portfolio. It is simply a part of what we do. A big part.

Most shooters in smaller to mid markets are going to find it that way. The portfolio work is much harder to come by as you start to build your careers. And choose those pieces carefully.

4. Too much competition:
Well, if there is that much competition, there must be work to go after.

I cannot think of a single endeavor worth doing that doesn’t have competition. Can you? Why would I want to do something that no one else has proven they can make a living doing? (Of course there are entrepreneurs who do that all the time, but we are talking photographers here.)

You want competition? Try being a bank president. Or a top attorney. Or a prize winning jockey. Now there is competition. There are very damn few of them… there are lots of photographers. That’s a good thing.

And with the internet I can see what they do. And make my stuff better.

Hard to make your stuff better than the other guys? Hell yeah, it is. Did you expect it to be easy? Really?

Sorry. It isn’t easy, it is simply what you have to do.

5. Too expensive:
Nope. It isn’t.

You can start a photographers business on less than $15K. And you can make it thrive.

Tell me any other businesses that can be started up for under $20K and see revenues in mid 5 figures in a year or two.

You think cameras are expensive, check out what a pizza oven goes for. Those mom & pop pizza places have a hell of a lot of money in those pizza ovens.

Stop telling yourself that it is too expensive and get your work out there.

6. It’s shooting every day:
Oh, sure it is.

Except for those days when you are editing, packing, unpacking, traveling, scouting, marketing, cold-calling, marketing, working on the portfolio, gathering receipts, marketing, making bids, filling out RFP’s, marketing, going to meetings, returning calls and emails and marketing.

Yeah, except for when you are doing that stuff, it’s shooting every day. Yep.

7. Your art will ultimately win out.
If you are really, REALLY good, you don’t have to market your self. The work will speak for itself and the phone will ring.


Good luck with that.

8. You can get rich.
A. If you got into photography to get rich, you should quickly get used to disappointment.
B. If you do manage to get rich (and there are most definitely some very rich photographers) try to manage your money and stay rich.
C. But most of us will not. Just the way it is.

9. Working for yourself is a blast.
Except for of course the boss. He/She is a slave driver who will make you work instead of watching the game, fooling around on Facebook, hanging out with the guys, having a weekend without work… I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Being self employed has a lot of perks. It is also one of the most demanding endeavors you will ever take on. It takes discipline, self motivation, perseverance and sheer guts to do it. You are the only one that can make the decision whether it is right for you. But please be sure you take a very strong self-audit to find out if you are ready for the challenge.

10. You never shoot “for free”:
Yes. You do.

On occasion.

Anyone who says they haven’t or don’t are not being straight or parsing the terms.

There are times when the gift of photography, the goodwill of images, the ability to help a friend who can in turn then help you is too compelling. Just be sure you know what you are doing and what will come of it.

Be judicious, be careful and be aware that you MAY be getting taken advantage of… but you can take advantage of situations yourself.

Thanks for coming along on this little rant. I hope that I may have helped to put a hole in some of these “myths” or whatever you would refer to them as being.

Mike Allen’s Shop Wish List

PM's Garage

1. More Storage.
For tools, right now I’m using a really nice Mac top box. It’s sitting on a 30-year-old Craftsman bottom box. Unfortunately, the bottom box is on its last legs, probably as the result of too many years of being hoisted into race car transporters and bouncing along the freeway crammed with tools, only to be returned to the shop after race weekend. The drawer slides are worn out, and on close inspection, it’s clear that the drawers all sit at odd angles. Last month one of the casters disintegrated, and I had to use the overhead crane to lift the fully-loaded toolbox and give it a caster transplant. The whole business is overfilled, and I should probably relegate the tools I don’t use to storage or donate them to some high-school vocational class. Even so, I’d like to get another pair of bottom boxes and retire this one.

2. Upgraded compressed-air system
I used to have a pair of 3-hp compressors, plumbed in tandem. They made plenty of air to run a dual-action sander or a spray gun, but didn’t quite keep ahead of the glass-beading cabinet or the sandblaster. One of them was stolen a few years ago, leaving me slightly under-aired. My plan for the PM Shop is to add a 5-hp or so vertical-tank compressor, tucked back into the corner, and muscle the older compressor onto the 9-foot shelf I just built, so its larger footprint won’t take up so much floor space. Then, to plumb them together, I’ll add a compressed-air distribution system, with a fat, low-restriction pipe that circles the room. With air outlets waist-high every 10 feet or so, I won’t need to trip over hoses all the time. Eastwood, the restoration company, has generously donated a distribution system that uses a special flexible hose and fittings that connect without requiring tools. I’ll plumb the shop in record time, assuming I can someday find a spare afternoon.

3. More light
Our leased shop space came with a single 175-watt high-pressure sodium fixture mounted dead smack in the middle of the room, 16 feet up. It throws light that’s so bright and actinic you need a baseball hat and shades to work under it. Unfortunately, it’s useless for working on cars. Open the hood, and there’s no light shining on the engine; it’s all a shadow. Ditto in the wheel wells, where there might be a demon lurking behind the brake disc for all I can see in the dark-side-of-the-moon shadow. I added a 36-inch photographic umbrella reflector right under the fixture, and it softened the light considerably, but it’s only about three stops dimmer, and still comes from the wrong direction. So, I added three $20 T8 fluorescent fixtures, hanging from the back wall, so they throw light obliquely, at a 45-degree angle under the hood. It works so well I’m going to add more along both side walls to allow work in the wheel wells without having to hold a flashlight in my teeth.

4.Shop computer
Right now the only computer access in the shop is if I bring my laptop along. A working shop, with welding smoke and slag, grinding dust and overspray, and even sawdust, is a poor environment for a laptop. So, in the near future, the PM tech editors and I will be building a durable computer specifically for the shop. Why do I need a computer? Think about it: Internet access to all the shop manuals and service bulletins, scan-tool software that can use all of a full-sized monitor’s real estate, CAD-CAM software for designing things to build and my entire catalog of George Thorogood on the hard drive.

5. Lift
At several thousands of dollars, a lift is pricey, but a luxury that’s well worth the money. Not only does it prevent having to lie on a cold cement floor, but it also saves time—raising the car to head height provides simultaneous access to both tools and the undercarriage. I’ve been considering several different types, including a portable scissor lift, but recently Jay Leno showed off the most amazing portable two-post lift I’ve ever seen, the MaxJax. Awesome. I might have to get one of those.

Three easy and light multi-tools

These multi-tools help the handyman travel a little lighter, either by reducing clutter in his toolbox or by making it easier to carry around a bunch of tools that, on their own, might overload his pockets and strain his suspenders.

Cost: $110
The Gerber has 12 components, including wire cutters, prybar and Phillips screwdriver. There is also a ruler in Imperial and metric, but you probably only need the Imperial side.

Cost: $95
This multi-tool is purported to have the strongest pliers made by Leatherman. The 18 other tools have large cutouts that make it easier to pull components out while wearing gloves.

Cost: $45
Don’t let the cutesy name fool you; this tool means business. The carabiner lets you clip the adjustable wrench, 2″ blade, LED light and bottle opener to your belt loop, to keep those tools on hand. The strength of the locking pliers can be adjusted with a thumbscrew set in the handles.

Tablesaw tune-up

I am often hired by other workshoppers to make their tablesaws perform better. There are many steps to tuning up a tablesaw, but I can outline three of the most important tips here.

First, I adjust the trunnions of the saw so that a 10″ blade at full height is canted away from the right mitre slot by 0.003″ to 0.005″ at the rear. This very slight canting of the blade is measured using feeler gauges referenced off a steel rod clamped to a slop-free mitre gauge.
The 0.003″ to 0.005″ clearance is less when the blade is lowered, but it helps to prevent burning, binding and kickback when ripping. I do most cross cutting on the right side of the blade, so this clearance gives perfect cross cuts as well.

Second, I adjust the fence parallel to the right mitre slot and square to the table. A slight rightward cant at the rear of the fence is often recommended, but not necessary when the blade is angled. Parallel is just fine.

Last, I set the right side of the splitter or riving knife tight to the right side of the cut line. This set-up means that when you rip a board, the splitter holds the board tightly to the fence behind the blade. Setting the splitter in the middle of the kerf is not good enough to prevent kickback. Remember that your left hand should not travel past the front of the guard and you should not hold the offcut. So, the splitter takes the place of your left hand behind the blade.

Hand Saws Put to The Test

Sure, you have cordless power saws for all kinds of cuts. But sometimes, the old handsaw is quicker, cleaner and quieter. No batteries to charge or cords to run. Just pick it up and cut.

Stanley 15″ FaxMax handsaw

Tester: Deon Haupt, 

The test: Cut 2x4s, plywood strips and PVC piping.

Pros: The handle is comfortable and has a place for your index finger if you, like me, keep it out along the saw while cutting. The “blade armour” worked well to keep the strokes smooth, and there was no binding in any of my cuts.

Cons: The black coating started coming off the teeth after only a few cuts.

erdict: A hungry animal that will power through almost anything you feed it.

Details: 9 tpi; 15″ long; $22;

Mastercraft 14″ aggressive handsaw

Tester: Cheryl Caven
, Wood artist

The test: Cut several 2x4s to length.

Pros: The saw’s ability to cut on the push and pull strokes made for fast work. I appreciated the precise 90° angle between the top blade edge and the handle, which made marking efficient.

Cons: The double-edged teeth didn’t offer any improvement in starting cuts, which needed several pull strokes at the start.

Verdict: Great saw for the home-owner or handy person to have in the shop.

Details: 7 tpi; 14″ long; $13;

Irwin 15″ universal handsaw

Tester: Geoff Bell, 
Amateur woodworker

The test: Cutting various hardwood and softwood boards.

Pros: Cuts started easily with minimal chatter. The saw cut quickly in both hardwoods and softwoods. It didn’t bind, even when cutting through a 4″ x 5″ board. There was almost no tearout.

Cons: The saw doesn’t cut as efficiently on rip cuts as on cross cuts. Leaves rough surfaces on hardwoods.

Verdict: A fast-cutting, easy-to-use saw for general carpentry, especially cross cuts.

Details: 11 tpi; 15″ long; $18;

Kobalt 15″ aggressive-tooth saw

Tester: Jana Bookholt, 

The test: Cut pallets into smaller sections.

Pros: The saw cut through a stack of pallets very quickly and with little effort. It’s light, and its rubber grip was quite comfortable. I like that the handle is conveniently designed so you can easily mark off 90° and 45° angles.

Cons: The tooth design means you’re going to get 
a rough cut.

Verdict: A good saw for rugged projects that might
damage your finer tools.

Details: 9 tpi, 15″ long; $14;

No Antibiotics

Look for: “Raised without antibiotics” or “No antibiotics administered.” The USDA Organic label also ensures that antibiotics weren’t used.

The Labels That Actually Tell You If Food Is Healthy

Why: Meat animals often get antibiotics in their feed, which makes them grow faster for reasons scientists still don’t quite understand. Farm antibiotics have a huge role in creating and sustaining antibiotic resistance, a real and growing problem. Cooking food will kill the bacteria, so the risk to you is small if you use good food handling techniques—but nobody’s perfect.

This is also a public health issue that might find its way back to you: farm workers can be infected with resistant bacteria (and pass them on to other humans), and resistant bacteria can be spread through manure and water runoff. Buying antibiotic-free meat helps encourage farmers and regulators to move away from using antibiotics in livestock. McDonald’s and Costco, for example, are restricting the use of antibiotics in their meat.

Caveats: This label doesn’t tell you anything else about how the animal was raised. Also, it’s sort of irrelevant on egg packages, because laying hens aren’t typically given antibiotics.

Dave Arnold and Harold McGee Bust Food Myths at Harvard

Harvard’s Science & Cooking lecture series launched its fifth season last night, bringing world-renowned chefs and scientists to Cambridge, Massachusetts to give weekly talks to the public. In all, there will be fourteen lectures. First up, veterans of the series: Dave Arnold of Booker and Dax (a New York City bar in the Momofuku empire) and Harold McGee, an author who literally wrote the book on science and cooking — the definitive On Food & Cooking: The Science & Lore of the Kitchen, which was originally published in 1984.

The Discovery of a New Dish

As with all the lectures, Harvard’s Michael Brenner, Glover Professor of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics, gave the introduction. He led with a famous quote from Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin: “The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity than the discovery of a new star.” (Brillat-Savarin published his book, Physiologie du Goût (The Physiology of Taste), in 1825. Nowadays, it’s available for free on the internet.)

The quote set the stage well for the series in general but in particular for last night’s talk, which was dubbed “A Look at the Last 20 Years.” In it, Arnold and McGee reviewed the past several decades in the ever-growing sphere of science and cooking, pinpointing some of the key players and musing about the next big obsessions in the field (spoiler alert: fermentation). This year, the duo didn’t do any demonstrations; last year, Arnold caused an evacuation of the hall due to a malfunctioning cereal-puffing cannon.

“This is what people think I do. This is a load of crap.”

In fact, the return to a less “spectacular” show formed the thesis of the talk. Why, wondered McGee, does it seem necessary to put on a flashy show to talk about food and science? Underneath the things that fizz or explode or taste like one thing but look like another, what is the substantial core of information that will actually be relevant a decade down the road?

“Molecular” cooking — and that’s a term they both dislike, by the way — is perceived a certain way. Arnold showed a video of the making of a cocktail that involved fluid gels, allowing one side of the drink to be hot and one side to be cold. Then, it was all topped with a Campari foam. And then, text on the screen: This is a load of crap. “This is what people think I do for a living,” said Arnold, while in reality, he describes the drinks he actually makes as “hyper-simple.”

arnold mcgee - rachel leah blumenthal - eater01.jpg

A Subject Without an Audience

McGee ushered in the beginning of this era of interest in the science of food when he began writing about it in the late 1970s. “I couldn’t get a job doing anything else, and I was desperate,” he said. “I saw a niche and wrote a book.” When On Food & Cooking came out in 1984, “it really was a subject without an audience at that point,” he said. “It had to develop.” But soon, it was the younger generation of cooks who began to pick up on it. Rather than spend years and years working their way up to opening their own places in the traditional ways, here was a new frontier in food, a way to learn how things worked and maybe an opportunity to break out on their own sooner.

In 1992, McGee co-organized what came to be called (much to his dismay now) the International Workshop on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy. It was basically a marketing term, he explained last night, meant to make the topic sound less soft when they pitched the idea to the Ettore Majorana Center for Scientific Culture in Sicily, where the workshop was held. Five more workshops occurred between then and 2004, but they “only gave the term ‘molecular’ to what followed,” said McGee. The meetings were very small and talked of improvement in cooking through scientific understanding — but no sign of the innovation that marks the field today. (McGee has published an interesting account of the history of the workshops on his website, including letters among the organizers.)

Then came Ferran Adrià to change the face of the industry. He “realized that science would be a very important tool” in doing things completely differently than anything that was already being done. Meanwhile, in the United States, chefs like Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse were making waves — not using science, but serving a similar purpose as Adrià: they were also raising up the image of the chef. “All of a sudden the chef was becoming a public figure,” said McGee.

“You can use knowledge not just to make a better French fry or pizza but also for whackadoodle stuff.”

Meanwhile, Arnold was on his own path to discovering the intersection of food and science (with a background in neither). He was buying up restaurant equipment to mess around with at home, making, for example, a periscope to film inside of his deep fryer and finding a way for his oven to cook at 800 degrees. Eventually, Wylie Dufresne — renowned for his “molecular” cooking — told Arnold: “You can use knowledge not just to make a better French fry or a better pizza but to also do whackadoodle stuff.”

Arnold warned last night that there’s a “thin veneer of science” put over a lot of cooking these days. The problem is that once there’s an explanation, it “closes down further avenues of discovery.” It’s too easy to get boxed into thinking you understand something. Rather than accept an explanation and move on, cooks need to learn to observe phenomena and figure out how to control them.

To demonstrate what that means, the duo discussed several hypotheses that they tested in a short course they taught together at the French Culinary Institute in New York, where they performed something like 50 demonstrations in three days.

Disproving Common Knowledge

Mushrooms and Pan Temperature
Most books tell you that the pan needs to be hot when you saute mushrooms; otherwise, they release too much moisture as the pan heats up, and you end up stewing them instead. But as it turns out, the mushrooms that start in a cold pan — and more importantly, a crowded pan — are the real crowd-pleasers. They don’t absorb as much oil as mushrooms that are added to a hot pan, and as it turns out, oily mushrooms don’t taste as good as non-oily mushrooms. “Why do you hate mushrooms?” Arnold now demands of anyone he sees not crowding mushrooms in the pan. “You must crowd the mushrooms.”

“You must crowd the mushrooms.”

Arnold wrote about a variation of this demonstration on his blog in 2009, focusing on wetness vs. dryness, but not pan temperature. The key is that the wet mushrooms (soaked before cooking) aren’t absorbing oil while they’re giving off moisture, and by the time all the moisture is gone, the mushrooms have become less porous — and less ready to absorb oil. Meanwhile, the dry mushrooms start absorbing oil as soon as they hit the pan. So, the wetter and soupier the mushrooms, the better. (You could also just vacuum compress them first to close down the pores, noted Arnold at last night’s lecture, “but who the hell has time for that?”)

Preventing the Browning of Guacamole
Another demonstration from that course involved whether putting the avocado pit in a bowl of guacamole would prevent browning. It’s really just about blocking oxygen, and as it turns out, only Saran Wrap (that one specific brand) is very effective at doing that — or at least it used to be. While that had worked in the past, the demonstration failed during the course because once Saran was acquired by S.C. Johnson & Son, they began to manufacture the wrap out of polyethylene (like all the other brands) instead of polyvinylidene chloride, increasing Saran Wrap’s permeability to oxygen (and thus decreasing its ability to keep food fresher longer).

Tender Octopus, Thanks to Cork
The duo also explored why cooking octopus with a cork keeps it tender, but they never figured that one out. “Yeah, we don’t get it,” admitted McGee, laughing.

arnold mcgee - rachel leah blumenthal - eater05.jpg

The Same Flavors, Different Forms

Next, McGee and Arnold touched on multiple big names in science who are known for “molecular” cooking, showing different ways science can be used in cooking other than “making spectacular things” à la Ferran Adrià. It can help cooks think creatively by allowing them to understand what is happening. “There’s no such thing as modernist cooking,” said McGee. “There are lots of cooks using science to do different things.”

A lot of people lump together Grant Achatz (Alinea) and Dufresne (wd~50 and Alder), for example, because of their scientific approaches to cooking. But those approaches and those goals are actually totally different, Arnold explained, taking the perspective of a diner.

“There’s no such thing as modernist cooking.”

Dufresne, who keeps “insane” notes and loves experiments, lets his obsession with hydrocolloids come out in his menu, while Achatz seems to have more theatrical goals that don’t necessarily rely on detailed knowledge of particular reactions. Dufresne uses gelling agents extensively in order to create funny dishes with familiar names, “giving you the same flavors in completely different forms.” There are his signature shrimp noodles, for example — “kind of a revelatory, baller move,” said Arnold. Basically, he creates pasta that is entirely made of shrimp, thanks to transglutaminase, otherwise known as “meat glue.”

Meanwhile, Achatz is more likely to be found forming perfect squares of sauce on a silicone-edged surface. Both think scientifically but achieve very different results and styles.

Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck) is part of this class too. Like Dufresne, he plays a lot with hydrocolloids, but his dishes strive to involve as many of the senses as possible, invoking theatrical elements like earbuds (served in a sea shell) that you put in while eating Sound of the Sea, allowing you to actually listen to a recording of sea sounds.

Science Is Control Over Food

“How much control does the chef want to exert over the dining experience?” asked Arnold. In today’s restaurants, chefs — the right chefs, anyway — can get away with things like this. It’s more acceptable than ever for chefs to be control freaks and to create these entire experiences. Diners won’t feel tricked when they encounter these kinds of dishes, as long as that’s the reputation that that particular chef has built. There are some “P.T. Barnum hucksters,” said Arnold, who will latch onto whatever’s marketable, using science gimmicks for the sake of using science gimmicks, but chefs like Achatz, Dufresne, and Blumenthal seem to have more of an “inner reason” to use science.

Arnold, for his part, does some things out of sheer curiosity while other research is more technique-driven, allowing him to develop methods and equipment that he uses again and again. On the just-because side, there’s live-infusion of oysters, for example. Inspired by a quote from the movie “Night Shift” where a character muses that feeding mayonnaise to live tuna would be a good time-saver, Arnold wanted to infuse oysters with flavors. It has to be done with the right size particles so as not to suffocate the oyster, and the type of infusion is very important as well. Acids, for example, will kill the oyster. He experimented with flavors like dashi and dill, beets and bacon, and, most successfully, carrots and cardamom.

On the more practical side, Arnold has been working on figuring out how to get the citrus juices at the bar to taste the same consistently without measuring acidity with a pH meter. Humans actually taste molarity more than pH, so the important thing to measure is how many acid molecules are present. Citric, malic, and tartaric acids all have fairly similar molar masses, which simplifies the process. Ultimately, Arnold can make orange juice taste like lime juice with the right concentrations of the right acids. You just “have to know enough to use the right instruments and measure the right crap,” said Arnold.

Backing Up Cooking With Science

In some cases, chefs intuitively have a better understanding of a phenomenon than scientists. Observations of ingredient behaviors can provide pretty solid proofs, McGee explained. Arnold and McGee presented the case of Ike Jime, a Japanese fish-killing technique that involves ablation of the spine. Japanese chefs have known for years that this technique results in the best-tasting fish, but Arnold, McGee, David Chang, and even a neurobiologist they consulted, Bob Datta, initially had one word for it: “Bullshit.”

But one day they decided to experiment with it, bringing in a sushi chef and killing a bunch of fish in a bunch of different ways. (“Gotta kill a fish to eat it, people,” laughed Arnold, in response to a bit of a gasp from the lecture audience at this point in the story.) The result? Those who practice Ike Jime are definitely onto something.

arnold mcgee - rachel leah blumenthal - eater04.jpg

In part, it has to do with the appetizing topic of rigor mortis. (In general, most fish actually tastes better after rigor mortis has already come and gone. It’s a bit of a myth that the absolute freshest fish is the best.) Muscles run on an energy source called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is necessary for contractions as well as relaxing, so when a fish is killed, contractions begin to set in place as ATP depletes. The fish ends up getting tender again post-rigor thanks to protein degradation — that’d be decomposition setting in — but the faster that rigor mortis occurred, the worse off the flesh will ultimately be.

“The better you treat something before you kill it, the better that sucker is going to taste.”

Fish have various pattern generators in the spinal cord that the brain inhibits, so when a fish is killed, those pattern generators can keep muscles active for a bit without the brain there to put on the brakes, and this leads to fast ATP depletion. With Ike Jime, destruction of the spinal cord stops those generators sooner, leading to slower ATP depletion and therefore a slower, gentler rigor mortis. This process is more effective in species with highly developed autonomic nervous systems meant for swimming continuously for long periods of time, like bass.

Arnold added that fish tastes even better when anesthetized with clove oil, a practice common in New Zealand and Australia, but even though cloves can be used as seasoning in the United States, clove oil is not approved as an anesthetic for fish that will be eaten by humans. Arnold’s anecdotal conclusion: “The better you treat something before you kill it, the better that sucker is going to taste.”

What’s Next? Fermentation

So, what’s the next big thing in the world of science and cooking? Fermentation. It’s already begun to take hold, although it has been flying a little bit under the radar because it’s not very flashy. Every region of the world has had its own fermented products for eons, but now chefs are exploring beyond the usual compartments, from European yellow peas to nuts and seeds, explained McGee. “The bar has been raised for deliciousness in general.”

Back in the early and mid-2000s, it was all about rushing out to buy the next bit of exciting equipment on Ebay and figuring out new things to do with it, recounted Arnold. “Put your flag on that,” he said. “Did Ferran already use this blah for blah? No? Mine now!”

“The cronut is an excellent thing, but it’s not fermentation.”

And now, this fermentation niche has opened up. “There’s a lot of fermentation to mess with,” said Arnold. At the end of the lecture, an audience member asked what else is on the rise these days, and Arnold wasn’t sure but noted that with fermentation or any other technique, it seems to take just a few chefs who are charismatic enough to start a wave. “You get a sense when you hit something whether or not the vein is deep.” Fermentation’s vein is quite deep, and Arnold supposed that people will be excited about it for awhile. “The cronut is an excellent thing,” he added, “but it’s not fermentation.”

McGee concluded that thanks in part to the increasingly wide and popular realm of science and cooking, food professions are attracting different types of people these days. It’s an interesting and engaging field that pulls in people who use the word “passion” when it comes to food. Ultimately, getting these people into these positions “will change the world for the better.”

Practice Value Studies

n a recent workshop, one of the students asked me what would be most beneficial for her to go home with and practice. I told her that she should do value studies. So, I thought I would post here what I have done in the past and still continue to do.

I have a sketch book that has several pages of values studies using 4 values, including black and white. I use small bottle of craft paint costing about $1 each from the local craft store. It is easy to pick two grays evenly spaced between the white and black. Also buy a bottle of black. You can forego the white and use the white of the paper as your white or you may want the bottle of white to rework the composition as I do.

I’ve posted several of the sketches that I’ve done in my book. These were all done using my photos and sitting down at the dining room table. When I’m painting on location, I will sometimes paint a value study (I should really do it every time. That’s a much better habit to get into.) You can work out your design in values before you get into color. In the case of doing it on location, I will make a small pencil or marker sketch or mix a little bit of oils up.



You can see by these sketches that some ideas have been abandoned, others changed and some more successful than others. The more successful ones where painted into larger color versions.

The values are the backbones of your paintings. The value study will be the “pattern” or “blueprints” of your painting.

Use some of your photos or go through art magazines and make value studies of paintings that you believe have a good composition. Most likely you will see strong values patterns that hold together.

Start painting, have fun and learn!

The Benefits of Teaching Artist Workshops

Teaching artist workshops can positively impact your artistic bottom line in a variety of ways. Not only can you use them as a way to earn extra income, but also to increase your effectiveness at creating and publicizing your art. Workshops are additionally preferable to non-art-related income producing options because they allow you to continue working with art and don’t require large commitments in terms of time, energy, preparation or overhead.

The most immediate and obvious benefit of conducting workshops, of course is that they are a good source of supplemental income. A single workshop can net you anywhere from several hundred to over a thousand dollars. Teach one per month and you can see how the money adds up.

Money isn’t the only reason for holding workshops, however, and for some artists, not even the primary one. For example, a workshop can stimulate your own creative impulses, help relieve artist’s block, or result in new ideas and inspirations for future work. These are some of the fringe benefits to being around new people, amateurs and first-timers experimenting and creating whatever they feel like. Even though you’re the one doing the teaching, beginners in particular are not bound by convention and tend to engage in original techniques and approaches that experienced artists who are more set in their ways might overlook or not think of. Everyone benefits– you as well as your students.

Selling art is another benefit of teaching workshops. Holding them in your studio, for example, allows you to display a good selection of your art for attendees to observe and appreciate while they’re learning. Not only do they see this art as the backdrop, but during the course of their instruction you can talk about how you make it, and help them understand it on additional levels beyond the visual. As they become increasingly familiar and informed about it, they feel less intimidated, more comfortable and– here’s the good news– more inclined to buy it if they like it.

Increasing your overall exposure and profile in the arts community will likely also result from conducting workshops. For one thing, you’ll be able to add participants’ names to your email list for subsequent workshops, shows and open studios. Those who enjoy your workshop experience tend to return for shows as well as additional workshops, and often bring friends who they think may be interested in your art or in attending your workshops as well.

If you advance to the point where more serious artists start attending your workshops, potential ancillary opportunities increase even more. Artists who teach other artists in their workshops report that they’re great ways to network. Participants share information about events, arts organizations, venues for having shows, personal contacts, art techniques, selling, publicity, good resources for buying supplies, and more. In general, artists who maintain good consistent relationships and contacts with other artists are more effective at creating and presenting their art than those who go it alone.

Some enterprising artists further augment workshop income by selling art supplies. For example, you can give participants the option of bringing their own materials or paying to use yours. You might also consider participating in art store or website affiliate programs or possibly even arrange sponsorships with certain manufacturers or companies to represent their products.

Lastly, workshops are a great way to gain teaching experience and improve your overall ability to talk about your art in public. Over time, they can lead to speaking engagements or appearances as guest or resident artist at schools, colleges, recreational centers, adult or continuing education programs, community centers, and teaching or workshop opportunities in other cities.

People attend artist workshops for a variety of reasons and often choose according to how the events are portrayed and what’s being offered. Many of those who sign up have little or no previous experience with art and merely want to relax, have fun and explore their creative sides. Some are even uncomfortable or intimidated around art and want to become more familiar with it. Others want to take art up as a pastime but not invest large amounts of time or effort in ongoing programs of study. Trained artists usually attend them in order to acquire new skills or learn specialized techniques outside of their areas of expertise.

Artist workshops ordinarily run from four to six hours and cost anywhere from $50 to $350, sometimes more. Artists who are beginners at teaching workshops might consider sliding scales in order to attract more participants. Likewise, artists who teach more expensive workshops can also use sliding scales so that people who can’t afford the full fare can still attend. Offering payment levels is not generally a problem in terms of students taking advantage because they really want to be there and typically pay the most that they can.

Two of the most important criteria for successful workshops are that a complete method or technique be advertised and taught, and that each student come away with a finished work of art. This gives students a feeling of mastery and accomplishment. Not only have they learned something new, but they also have “diplomas” to show for it.

Another advantage of workshops as opposed to formal courses of study is that you can make them less structured and more fun and social. Attendees will still learn, of course, but they’ll be able to do so in the relaxed and casual setting of your studio or home. So if you’re thinking about conducting a workshop for the first time, don’t forget to make it fun. This is one of the great advantages you have over more traditional and structured forms of art education when it comes to attracting participants.

The other big plus of workshops is that attendees are able to receive plenty of individual attention and support. Beginners and amateurs or part-timers appreciate a positive hands-on approach for self-esteem and personal creative growth reasons as well as instructional ones. Artists appreciate it for professional and technical reasons, especially when it comes to understanding fine points and nuances.

Regarding food, short snack breaks are usually included. But some artists take this one step further, particularly those who love to cook or know someone who does, and provide a gourmet meal as part of the program. Amenities like this can transform a basic teaching workshop into a dynamic interactional experience where participants actually get to know each other and share thoughts and ideas around art.

Here are some additional tips for any artist considering putting on a workshop for the first time:

* Decide what you want to teach and plan your agenda ahead of time. Practice in order to make sure that you can accomplish what you want to within your chosen period of time.

* Advertise that no experience is necessary in order to attend, but also make clear that even artists who sign up will be able to learn something new. That way you maximize the number of potential participants. A good workshop giver knows how to address a variety of skill levels and makes sure that everyone feels comfortable and accomplishes something.

* Advertise on the Internet and in places where artists and people who like art tend to congregate. Options include websites or newsletters of arts and artist organizations, your own collector and student email lists, word of mouth, recreation centers, arts centers, art schools, cafes, coffee shops, community galleries, performance spaces, and other online options. Some experienced workshop givers even have their own brochures. And don’t forget senior or retirement centers. Many retirees have disposable income and are interested in exploring their creative sides.

* Determine what supplies are needed and whether or not to provide them. If you’re just starting out, supplying everything yourself is usually the best way to go. All students have to do is show up. Just remember to work supply costs into your overall fee.

* Plan on having three to ten participants. Teaching larger numbers is difficult in such a short period of time. You want to make sure that each person gets plenty of individual attention.

* If your studio space is not adequate for teaching, ask your best collectors whether they can provide you with space. Offer a free workshop, a piece of art, or both in exchange for the favor.

* No matter where you hold your workshop, make sure that plenty of your art is on display.

* Once you get going, teaching regular workshops is the best strategy. One every month to two months is a good frequency. Holding too many cuts into production time for your own art and makes finding new students difficult. If you hold too few, you can get out of practice or give people the impression that you’re doing this as a lark and may not have the experience necessary to make it rewarding.

* If you find that you enjoy teaching workshops, you might offer options for collectors as well as those who simply want to learn to make art. For example, you might invite collectors to attend at no charge or for a nominal fee. They can choose to either watch you create art and teach others how to make it, or they can participate and make art along with everybody else. Ask them in advance or in casual conversations what they would like to do or see you do. Collectors often have interesting and workable ideas– plus they’re generally eager to learn more about the artists whose work they collect.

* A variation on workshops, assuming you’re comfortable with the idea, is creating art in public places while people watch. Cafes or coffee shops, hotel lobbies, malls and some restaurants are particularly suited to this form of “entertainment.” Getting paid for letting people watch you make art in public is a plus. Commercial establishments may be reluctant to hire you at first, so perhaps offer a barter or volunteer arrangement for starters. Hopefully you’ll attract positive attention and upgrade the atmosphere to the point where owners will be more inclined to pay for your time. And of course, you can always use the opportunities to sell your art.

22 Myth About Prof Photographer Part -1

Myth 1 – To be a photographer, you just press a button, right?

Many believe with the clever technology of digital cameras today you simply point and shoot; however, this is simply not the case. You can have the best camera in the world but if you only use it on auto you might as well own a compact.

Myth 2 – Anyone with a nice or expensive camera can be a pro

Being a professional photographer is more than just the gear and equipment we own. It is about running a business and making a living to survive not just taking pretty photographs.

Myth 3 – When in doubt, 1/125sec @ f8 always works

No it will not always work. Professionals know how to handle lighting situations and the problems you may encounter to still get the shot. Particularly at a wedding, there will be no second chances so you best know how to capture the dark church to the bright midday sun.

Myth 4 – All pro photographers act in a professional manner

Unfortunately not all professional photographers know or understand that to be a professional you are servicing the needs of a client and not your hobby. A true professional knows how to act and handle people in most situations that may arise.

We debunk the common myths about the life of a professional photographerMyth 5 – A professional produces better quality image than an amateur

I have seen many talented amateurs with a passion for photography who produce better quality images than many ‘pros’, but being a professional is a lifestyle choice as well as a career move. Some people really just do it as a hobby and for the love of technology or photograph.

Myth 6 – Everything can be fixed in Photoshop

Photoshop is another skill set altogether and you cannot make a bad photograph good in Photoshop. However, you can make a great image exceptional if you know how to use it to the best of its ability.

Myth 7 – Qualifications guarantees a good photographer

Becoming a professional photographer is like driving a car. The more experience you have the better you become. Qualifying is just the beginning.

Myth 8 – A wedding photographer only works on Saturday

Photographing the wedding is the fun part; however, wedding photographers then need to edit the photographs, produce albums, market their business, find new clients, update a website and blog constantly, file accounts, handling enquirers, meet future brides and grooms, network with suppliers and compete against 22,000 other registered wedding photographers.

Myth 9- Nikon is better than Canon – and vice versa

This is a debate which dates back many years but in all honesty, just choose the brand or camera you personally prefer and be happy with your equipment. All digital cameras are very good these days. The megapixel war will always continue, but remember it is what you do with them that counts.

Myth 10 – That we always get paid

Sometimes to get ahead you will have to work for free but what you need to do is evaluate what it is you will actually gain in terms of exposure and publicity.

Myth 11 – Presets and Photoshop actions make up for a bad photo

No. These should enhance a photograph but will not cover up a critical mistake such as exposure or focus.

5 Tips for Getting the Most out of a Photography Workshop

1)  Choose the Right Workshop.  I know this may sound obvious but here’s what I mean.  Don’t make your workshop choice based solely on the location.  Of course the location is critically important but I would argue that more important are the instructors that you’ll be working with.  It’s important to find a workshop being led by photographers whose work you greatly admire and frankly would like to emulate, whose personalities are fun and engaging and who has experience guiding and/or teaching groups of people.  You’ll be spending a lot of time in the company of your workshop leader(s) and if they are not fun and engaging it can make for a miserable experience.  Most professional photographers and workshop leaders have blogs (and if they don’t that should be a red flag), which will no doubt shed some light on their personality and approach to photography, life and teaching.  You should also ask for referrals, read them and perhaps even get in touch with some folks that have attended their programs in the past.  The bottom line is you want to have fun while at the same time benefitting from a “behind the scenes” view of how an admired photographer works.

Another important aspect of choosing the right workshop is it’s focus.  Is it more of a tour, tourshop or workshop?  Is it geared for beginners, intermediate or aspiring pros?  And don’t forget to investigate the itinerary, how early is sunrise and will you be able to sustain that many early mornings and how much physical strength and endurance is required to get to locations.  These are all important considerations if you are to get the most out of the experience and enjoy the process.

2)  Shadow the Instructors in the Field.  Again, this one seems pretty obvious but I can’t tell you how many workshop participants take off away from the group in hopes of discovering some great little gem of a shot that no one else will have, or perhaps to find a bit of solitude.  This is of course an admirable approach toward image making however, it puts you at a distinct disadvantage for getting the most out of your workshop experience.  Remember you’re there to learn from a master photographer and if you’re not with said master photographer you won’t maximize your learning opportunities.  There will be plenty of time to strike out on your own but during the workshop it’s advantageous to be near the instructor, learn how they see, how they set up compositions, handle tricky light, work with filters, etc.  If you want photographic solitude then I would suggest saving your money or hiring an instructor for a one on one experience, but you shouldn’t take a group photo workshop.

3)  Ask Tons of Questions.  This one goes hand in hand with the previous tip.  There are no stupid questions on a photo workshop.  Everyone there will be at a slightly different point on the learning curve and chances are if you’ve got a question about something so does someone else.  As an educator with over 20 years of experience teaching and leading groups let me assure you that for better or worse the squeaky wheel usually gets the grease.  People that advocate for themselves by asking questions, initiating dialogue and seeking guidance always get the most out of an educational experience.

4)  Connect with the Group.  Group workshops can be a lot of fun and lead to some great opportunities for long-term friendships and connections with other like minded people.  Let’s face it most of us have friends and significant others that aren’t photographers and most of them think we’re nuts.  Workshops can be a great chance for you to meet and develop friendships with other nuts.  This won’t happen however, if you don’t get involved.  My advice is to jump into a carpool and have meals with some of the other participants.  It’s a great way to develop new relationships.  In fact, on our Olympic workshop there were two folks (and a third that couldn’t attend) that met on a previous workshop and were having a reunion of sorts during this one.  Additionally, there were two others that teamed up to share hotel and car expenses after meeting on my Autumn in Vermont Tour last year.

5)  Share Images During Critique and/or Post Processing Sessions.  Many of us are shy and insecure when it comes to sharing our work.  This is a natural emotion but one that you need to fight if you hope to grow as an artist.  Whenever the opportunity arises I encourage you to participate in the critique process, not only when others are sharing but by sharing your work.  It’s also a natural tendency to show your “best” work during these public critique sessions but the how much are you going to learn by hearing a bunch of “atta boys” or “you go girls?”  Share some images that you’re on the fence about in order to get the perspective of the instructor.  It may confirm your suspicions that it’s not a great image but you never know, you might be missing a real gem.

Here’s one of my favorites from the last night of our workshop.  It’s from Ruby Beach a little before sunset.  What made the experience all the more fun was the gaggle of workshop participants that were all eagerly working on similar compositions and collectively enjoying a splendid evening on a wild pacific beach.

Myths with Car Servicing

Always thought of Technical Jargons Used by Service Advisor and Raising Several Thousands of Bills for – EGR Cleaning, Engine Flush, Oil Additives, Fuel Injector Cleaning, Decarbonization etc as part of Scheduled Service.

Have Had Query in Mind about Santity of :-

» Is EGR Valve Cleaning or Engine Flush Necessary

» Is Engine Decarbonization Useful Feature ?

» Do car engine oil additives work ?

» Why is Dealer Recommending Fuel Injector Cleaning every 10,000 Kms ?

Do not let Car Service workshop to take you for ride by pocketing your hard earned money and let deviate from manufacturer recommended service schedule

Know the common myths and tantrums adopted by Car Workshops – which can well be avoided

» EGR Valve Cleaning in Diesel Cars (Every 10 or 20K Kms) – High Temperature Combustion Chamber mixes Air and Fuel Mixture to form Oxides. EGR Valve regulate exhaust flow of Oxide gases as produced during Combustion Process. Generally EGR Cleaning is done only after the valve develops dirt over a longer 40,000 to 60,000 Kms (and that too if needed) or if car ride quality turns harsh or experiencing loss of Power. But – No point in EGR Cleaning earlier – unless Facing Technical Snag Issues of Power or Performance loss in Car

» Engine Flush every 20K or 30K Kms – Engine Flush is also often been recommended by Workshops. Trust – its not even required – as long as one follow in Periodic Service Schedule of Car as per Service Manual for Change of Oils and Fluids

Go in for Engine Flush only and only if approved or recommended by Car Manufacturer and you check it in written or you skip in Oil Change and Viscosity Molecules been broken along with dirt enter engine due to Clogged Air Filter (and then too approved as per manufacturer guideline). Do note that Engine Flush if not performed correctly as per recommended guideline of manufacturer can rather damage the Engine, its Seals and Bearings – causing a major loss to the owner.

» Decarbonizing Car Engine – Yes its Useful for Clearing Carbon Deposits, if Car Engine is getting slow and unresponsive due to heavy build up of Carbon Deposits over a Period of Time. Stating Period of Time – interval can be from 60,000 to as high as  100,000 Kms.

But – Decarbonization, if adopted as scheduled practice at 20,000 / 30,000 or even 40,000 Kms actually is not at all required unless heavy carbon deposits have build up due to poor Filters impacting Performance of Car Majorly due to same.

» Using Additives with Engine Oil – Car Engine Oil is a highly specialized lubricant Chemical Formula so as to prevent corrosion and helps engine performing efficiently at best. Using additives in a car engine to our view is not at all required. Car Engine Oil (if used from branded makers – Like Mobil One, Shell, Castrol etc or OEM Own Engien Oil) in itself are sufficient to optimize Engine Performance

The Workshop Mechanic or Service Advisor may advise for using Additives (by Quoting them as Performance Booster, Antiwear Agents, Antioxidants, Friction modifiers and much more) But all these qualities are already there in Engine Oil. Using additives is like conflicting with Engine Oil Elements and is not at all required  (unless same is tested and recommended by car manufacturer and mentioned categorically in service manual or same approved by Car Engine Oil Makers).

Hyundai – For Instance – recommends additives from Bardahl / 3M / Wynns / Liquimoly – and the same is tested and approved by Hyundai acting as Performance booster by upto 20% on car or reduced friction or low NVH Levels – so additives can well be adopted for Hyundai Cars – as it directly comes as recommendation from Manufacturer side.

While – Honda Cars on other hand go very strictly with clear guideline of No Additives. As per Honda Cars  “Such supplemental additives are unnecessary when using quality oils. Additives cannot prolong the life of a used oil, because the oil molecules have been broken down. The use of oil additives will increase your cost of ownership, and can lead to engine damage”.

» Using Synthetic Oil Even for Low Running – Its true that Synthetic Oil is considered Superior and has better performance, Engine Optimization with Lesser Sludge and Lower Noise and Vibration Levels. But – unless the car manual states explicitly to use Synthetic Engine Oil – stick to Mineral Oil for Petrol Cars atleast, if your running is no more than 5000 Kms a year. Synthetic Oil costs 3 times the Mineral Oil and if annual running is less – its best to follow manufacturer guideline as referred in service manual.

» Service Car Before Every Season – If someone tells you to Change Oil, Filter before commencing of Winter Season, Summer Season, Monsoon Season (unless explicitly mentioned as Engine Oil Shelf Usage Life of 6 months by Car Manufacturer in Service Manual) – Its all Crap – to go in for Season Specific Servicing – other than the manufacturer recommended Schedule.

» Fuel Injector Cleaning Every 10000 Kms – Fuel Injectors – yes might well be required to clean off dirt developed during a very longer period say 40000 to 60000 Kms – due to bad fuel – but cleaning injectors at 10,000 or 20,000 Kms is absolutely No No – unless your car is creating a technical snag and loss in performance due to bad injectors.

» Engine Lamination – To be honest – ask Workshop Advisor – what for is Engine Lamination required –  Most likely is they will recommend for preventing corrosion and making Engine look newer all the times ? Manufacturer has done enough protection to Engine and probably laminating the most heated part in the car is at best avoidable. No need for any such Engine Lamination to our view.

» Car AC DisInfectant (Blower Cleaning) – Car Air Conditioning System can cause Bacteria, Fungus to be developed through Condenser, especially the Problem can turn out to be worse during Monsoon Season with Bad Odour. Your Service Advisor at Dealership may advise to go in for AC Disinfectant

We recommend that rather than going in with Dealership – Go in for Short Ride for 8 to 10 Minutes with all 4 Windows down. Turn On the Heater Blower at full speed with Vents Directed towards Windows – The Heat will kill all Bacteria, Fungus. Also – to get Clean Air and enhance AC Effectiveness – get Cabin Pollen Filter Installed which blocks all Bacteria, Dust and let flow only Clean Air in the Cabin and is more effective way.

» Alignment and Balancing every 5000 Kms – Though is a good way to align the vehicle even if deviate Partially and ofcourse it does no harm – if alignment done every 5000 Kms. But Balancing and Rotation Ideally to be done every 10000 Kms Interval. Also – Independent Tyre Shops can perform the same activity at almost 60% to 65% of price at which car workshops do.

» Brake Pad Cleaning, Caliper Greasing in Every Service – Cleaning Dust on Brake Pads and Caliper Greasing in every service, has become norm with some of the workshops. Yes it enhances braking efficiency partly – but point is how long will the efficiency remain. The Dust does gets settled out again within days when car will be driven on road. Caliper Greasing is done on Front Brakes to reduce Noise Levels and cost around rs 500 and also performed too as norm in every service by some of the workshops.

If the Braking System is doing fine and Car is Mostly Driven in City Conditions – one may rather choose for Brake Pads Cleaning (not to be read as replacement) and Caliper Greasing to 15,000 to 20,000 KMs, unless driven in Upcountry / Muddy – where Cleaning Interval can be preponed to 10,000 Kms – but no point in making it as a norm in every service or every 5000 Kms.

7 Tips on Finding a Good Mechanical Workshop

Finding a good mechanic for your car is just as important as finding a good doctor or dentist for yourself. You want someone honest and someone who will have the best interest of you and your vehicle at heart.


With car repairs becoming quite expensive these days, it is more important than ever to find a mechanical workshop that offers quality at a fair price.

“So who can I trust?”

  1. Get recommendations – Ask family and friends to recommend a workshop where they were treated well and were happy with their work.
  2.  Look for a professional appearance – A clean, organised workshop indicates a professional attitude. That attitude usually carries over into other phases of the business, including their repairs and job pricing. Business websites and social media pages can help you determine appearance through photos, reviews and information.
  3.  Look for membership in or approval from consumer organisations – Most reputable shops are members of an organization or association that provide consumer arbitration in the event of a dispute.  Organisations such as the RAA also ensure that all approved repairers guarantee their workmanship, maintain a fair pricing policy and follow their code of practice. The repairer is regularly audited and must also maintain standards in equipment and qualifications to remain accredited.
  4. Check for training and certificates – Look for training certificates and certifications. These demonstrate that the technicians are maintaining their technical competence and keeping up with developments in technology. Although they don’t prove competence, certificates show an attitude of pride and professionalism; just what you would expect from an honest workshop.
  5. Ask for a detailed, written estimate – After checking your car properly, the mechanic should have a fairly good idea of what is wrong with your car. They should be able to provide a written estimate that specifies what is wrong and what it will cost to repair.
  6. Avoid low ballers – Workshops in a similar area generally experience similar expenses and costs. So when one shop offers you a price that is remarkably lower than the others, be suspicious. There is a good chance that the price will go up a lot before you get your car back, or you will get a repair that is less than satisfactory. Also ensure they are quoting on the same repair – for example there is a significant difference between a second hand unit, a rechecked unit and a fully reconditioned unit. If you are not sure don’t be afraid to ask!Car Mechanic
  7. Warranties – Before having any repairs done, make sure the business will put a guarantee or warranty on the work to be carried out. You don’t want to be stuck paying twice for a job that wasn’t done properly the first time. An honest workshop will gladly advise you of the warranty on the repairs and will stand behind that warranty.

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Five Tips for Milling Rough Lumber

Milling rough lumber for workshop projects saves money, and it also opens up more creative possibilities than standard, pre-dressed wood. That’s why Art Mulder designed his block set around rough lumber. Success, however, demands more than just running boards through your jointer and thickness planer. Great mill-it-yourself lumber ultimately depends on careful craftsmanship, and the five tips I’ll show you here are the things they never put in thickness-planer instruction manuals.

Cross Cut First, Joint Later
Rough lumber isn’t just coarse to the touch; it’s also twisted, cupped and bowed to varying extents. These changes in shape are just what happens to wood as it dries after sawing. And if this isn’t enough, rough lumber also shows a surprising variation in width and thickness from board to board because sawmills aren’t exactly precision instruments.

Jointing and planing is all about making boards flat, edges square and surfaces smooth. You’ll do yourself a favour by cutting project parts to rough size before milling. The shorter a board is, the less material has to be removed to make it true, all things being equal. That said, never try to joint and plane lumber shorter than 12″ for safety reasons.

Allow Enough Extra for Milling
In theory, rough lumber is sold in increments of 1⁄4″, but in practice you’ll find 1″, 11⁄2″ and 2″ thicknesses are the most widely available. Rough hardwoods are available in 11⁄4″ thicknesses, and you’ll occasionally discover 13⁄4″-thick boards. Whatever you find, make sure you choose boards with enough extra thickness to let you mill down to the final part sizes you need. Depending on how long the final parts need to be and the actual thickness of the wood you’re buying (not all 11⁄2″ wood measures a full 11⁄2″ thick), you’ll need to allow for extra thickness for milling. Long project parts made from bowed wood, for instance, could need 1⁄2″ of extra thickness or more. The short pieces needed to build Mulder’s 13⁄8″-thick blocks, on the other hand, can be made successfully from rough wood as thin as 11⁄2″ if you’re careful.

Orient Cupped Surfaces Downward
Most boards have one concave side and edge, and these will mill best if you orient these surfaces downward during the first stages of the milling process. Concave surfaces offer two contact points and a more stable stance for the lumber as it passes across the jointer and planer beds. Convex surfaces, by contrast, are especially bad on the jointer since they encourage wobbling of wood and ever-increasing levels of inaccuracy with each successive jointer pass.

Dust Collection 
Improves Results
Most benchtop thickness planers use only the spinning action of the blades to eject shavings, but this setup isn’t always enough. It’s not unusual for shavings to build up around the cutterhead during heavy cuts, leading to pockmarked wood surfaces as the drive rollers press shavings down into the surrounding wood. Thus, a vacuum system is quite valuable as part of your milling setup. By extracting shavings mechanically from the planer instead of hoping they’ll just blast out completely on their own, you’re much less likely to have shavings build up in your planer, clog and cause trouble.
A dust system also keeps your shop a whole lot cleaner.

Mill in Stages
There’s no such thing as completely stable wood because lumber is always picking up and losing moisture from the surrounding air, depending on relative humidity levels. And here in Canada, the most likely stability problem you’ll face is caused by wood that’s too wet. Outdoor storage of lumber is the most common culprit. Even covered storage areas allow wood to pick up moisture that’ll lead to boards shrinking later when the wood comes inside during the heating season. To address this common scenario, give your wood time to stabilize in stages while milling. Instead of jointing and planing down to final size immediately, joint one edge and a face of each board, let the wood sit in your shop or some other heated space for three to four days, and then complete the intermediate planing.

Leave excess wood available for final milling steps in case some cupping, warping or twisting sets in. Although these changes are quite likely to happen when working with rough lumber, they are no problem as long as you allow for them.

Skill isn’t as mysterious as it looks. It’s nothing more than understanding why crucial details are important and how to put them into practice. Rough lumber is my favourite choice because it gives access to more interesting and varied woods, it costs less and it gives you creative control over thickness dimensions. Take off the training wheels and give rough lumber a try for yourself.

Ideas in Food Bespoke Workshop

I had the pleasure of participating in a day-long workshop with Ideas In Food’s Alex Talbot at the Rittenhaus Tavern in Philadelphia this past week, and since I’m a food, cooking and a gadget geek, I was in a state of agitated bliss. So, of course the first thing that was on my mind as I drove home that day, belly full of lobster done six ways, beef shoulder CVAPPED, deep-fried and burger-ized, handmade pasta with cod tripe tomato sauce, double-butter, no-knead brioche cinnamon buns (see below), and eggs done as umpteen experiments, was: I want to more of this and I have to share this with you all. Somehow.

Hence this special workshop offer. I arranged with Alex to set up a private workshop for a small group (me plus 4) that would take place in his and Aki’s home culinary workshop in Levittown, PA. Normally, these “bespoke” workshops start at around $800 per person, per day, but my relentless enthusiasm and rat-terrier-like persistence (I’ve had two of these terrorizing, but cute dogs) have resulted in a rare (and affordable) opportunity to spend the day immersed in culinary creativity with two of the most talented, creative and innovative chef/teachers in the food world today. It’s a chance to cook, not from recipes, but from inspiration and ideas. A chance to be informed by the food, and led down a path of culinary instinct and creativity. Do you want to be a more creative, intuitive, fearless cook? Do you consider cooking to be a serious hobby/obsession? Do you love great restaurant food and would love to get an inside look at how it evolves from idea to plate? Does the idea of spending a Sunday (August 26) playing with food get you excited?

I’ve set up a “party” on this great new site ZOKOS that allows you to create any kind of event/private party that you want to invite people to and share the cost. I think it’s brilliant! Just think how many more dinner parties you would do if you could share the grocery bill? Or the high-end ingredients you’d love to try out on a group of friends but can’t take out another mortgage to do it…ZOKOS may be your answer.

To learn a little bit more about Ideas in Food, here is an excerpt from an interview with Alex Talbot that appeared in Serious Eats:

Modernist cooking may be all the rage today, but back in 2004 it was just getting started, with few resources and even less press. That’s when the husband and wife team H. Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa began their blog Ideas in Food, a digital notebook that chronicled their experiments with hydrocolloids and sous vide machines, and propelled them to the forefront of a whole new world of cooking.

Today their work, which includes a nerdily awesome essay collection and cookbook, is some of the most authoritative writing on modernist cuisine for professionals and home cooks alike. H. Alexander Talbot talked with us about Ideas in Food’s journey, while sharing insights on culinary whimsy and a test kitchen equipped like a science lab.

What do you see as the goal of your work? Our goal is to make cooks we’re in contact with better. How does that work? We’re still figuring it out. We poke and we prod, and we ask questions and look for answers with individuals, groups, and communities. We get people unafraid to ask questions and look under rocks.

Your cooking has a genuine sense of play and joy. What role does play have in your cooking? We find great pleasure in cooking and sharing things. Whimsy and connections are essential. I think it’s a way to connect and tell a story. In all honesty, you can be creative and break through a culinary barrier with whimsy or alliterations or connecting dots. If I say, “pretzel spaetzle,” you have a couple thoughts: that’s clever, it’s caramelized and toasty. I would want to eat that. It also rhymes. Whimsy is an icebreaker with food. You could serve pretzel spaetzle with sweetbreads to get someone to try them. It brings a connection.

What’s great about our workshops and presentations is that we give knowledge and unlock creativity in individuals. We give them their own voice. We share a process and, okay, then the end results, but they key is process, so others can borrow it and make it their own.

What’s next for Ideas in Food? Our first book came out last December. It gives you supporting knowledge and then recipe. Book two has started, which will be photographed by us as well. The premise is using science, technology, and creativity to make most delicious food possible. It’s geared toward passionate people, so my mom will cook from it, but I hope that all sorts of professionals will want to cook from it as well. It will be a book with layers, with something to learn for every level. It should come out June-ish 2013.

Is the new book a sequel or standalone to Ideas in Food? It’s both. Ideas in Food gets you going. It gets you thinking. This will have that same scientific approach, but there will be fewer essays. Ideas, discoveries, and tips will be scattered in headnotes and the recipes themselves. Ideas in Food was a handbook; this will be more of a workbook.

  • Max Falkowitz,  Serious Eats

Communicating Food for Health Benefits

On 8th and 9th November 2012, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, hosted an international workshop “Communicating Food for Health Benefits”.

The aim of the workshop was to explore how communication can be incorporated within the European Food Research Agenda. The workshop consisted of four interrelated strands, each relevant to developing good practice in food risk and benefit communication.

 How communication could improve institutional logics
 A social marketing approach: a challenge to be applied for healthy eating
 Communication from scientific expertise: Innovative blogging experiences
 Audiences and deliberative engagement: insights into the reasoning process around risk/benefit food information

On Friday, 9th November, Aine McConnon, Pieter Rutsaert and Julie Barnett presented findings from the FoodRisC project. Please click on the titles below to view the speakers’ powerpoint presentations.

Mineral Versus Modern Colors

syntheticsYou may have read a past blog post about me slowly switching my palette of colors from Mineral colors to Modern Colors in the last few months. I told you about the modern colors being more intense than the .mineral colors. The reason I like working with the Modern Colors is that I feel it gives me more options than the Mineral Colors. The colors are more intense and can be mixed with white without killing the intensity of the colors. I also can gray my Modern Colors as easily as I can gray the Mineral Colors.

I want to compare the limited palette of mineral colors versus the limited palette of modern colors sometimes called the spectral palette. A traditional limited palette of warm cool colors would often consist of the mineral colors: Titanium White, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, and Cerulean Blue.

To correspond with these colors in the Mineral Colors I might use the following colors: Titanium White, Hansa Yellow Light, Hansa Yellow Deep, Napthol Scarlett, Quinacridone Red, Pthalo Blue and Manganese Blue Hue.

Now to actually show you these colors in use in the studio.