May 16, 2013

Summer Photography Checklist

Photography has always been a passion of mine. I wouldn't ever want to be a professional photographer, but I do enjoy taking pictures in my spare time, especially in the summer. Living in the Northern states makes you appreciate the changing seasons which is very fun to document with a camera. I have captured a lot of photos of lovely flowers and gorgeous sunsets over the years, but I'm not a big outdoorsy person so unfortunately I'm missing a lot of beautiful scenery.

Since I'm kicking off summer with a trip to my friend's beautiful log cabin which is tucked away in the woods, I figured I should take advantage of the opportunity and get some of the nature shots I have been missing. My friend's cabin is on a river and not far from a public beach, but I haven't been there so I wanted to make a broad checklist for the summer instead of just the weekend. Hopefully I can cross them all off my list by the end of the summer.

Summer Photography Checklist
  • Sunrise
  • Moon and stars
  • Frog on a lillie pad
  • Turtles sunbathing on rocks
  • Hummingbird and a flower
  • A dog enjoying the sunshine
  • Birds flying into the sunset
  • Berries on the trees
  • The view from the very top of the sand dunes
  • A sandcastle
  • A sailboat on the water
  • A campfire
  • Fireworks 
  • The clouds before a storm
  • A rainbow

Apr 3, 2013

Lantern Festivals: Illuminated Inspiration

There are few things I enjoy more than a good festival. Between the vast selection of one-of-a-kind displays, food vendors, upbeat entertainment, and diversity of people, festivals provide photographers with endless subjects and lively moments to capture on camera. Lately, I’ve been inspired by images shot at various lantern festivals across that country.

If you’re unfamiliar with these spectacular events, they were inspired by an age-old Lantern Festival held each year in China. The original Chinese Lantern Festival is a festival celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar that marks the end of the Chinese New Year Celebrations. Occurring on the first full moon night in the Chinese lunar year, the festival symbolizes the awakening of Spring. People in China traditionally celebrate with loved ones by appreciating the full moon, lighting up lanterns, solving riddles on lanterns, setting off fireworks, and eating rice glue balls.

The Lantern Festival originated from the Eastern Han Dynasty when Buddhism was first being introduced to China. It is part of Buddhist tradition for monks to light up lanterns in honor of Buddha on January 15th. Therefore, Emperors of the Han Dynasty who wanted to promote the religion ordered people to light up lanterns like the monks do in palaces and temples across the region to demonstrate their respect for Buddha. Civilians were also asked to string up lanterns on that night, giving birth to the Lantern Festival. During the Song Dynasty, it was custom for people to write riddles on paper strips and attach them to the lanterns for others to figure out. The subjects of the riddles were traditionally songs, poems, or historical events. Fireworks were added in the Qing Dynasty, making the festival a record-breaking grand occasion.

Over the past 2,000 years, the Lantern Festival has grown to include more customs and activities. The lanterns have become increasingly more elaborate over the years. Many lanterns depict aspects of Chinese history and culture, incorporating themes from Chinese legends and images that reflect traditional values. Lanterns often represent animals from the Chinese zodiac and heroic figures. Some lantern designs are purely aesthetic rather than symbolic, and the diversity of lanterns is astounding. The popularity and aesthetic delight of the Lantern Festival in China has sparked countless other lantern festivals around the world, including the United States.

One of the well-known lantern festivals in the States that I’ve been inspired by pictures from is the Holiday Lantern Festival at the Global Winter Wonderland inside the Great America Theme Park in Freemont, California held from November through January each year. The festival boasted eco-friendly lantern recreations of some of the world’s most beloved architectural achievements including the State of Liberty, the UK London Bridge, and Egyptian Pyramid. Some of this past year's displays were 100 feet wide, towering into the air more than 50 feet high. Festival goers also enjoyed captivating entertainment including martial art performances, acrobats, and laser lights shows, sight-seeing attractions at the Global Village, and classic holiday characters like Santa Claus and Rudolph.

Another worthwhile event with fascinating photographs is the Chinese Lantern Festival at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. This unconventional festival held from November through January featured 22 hypnotizing lantern displays in and around the fairground lagoon including The Temple of Heaven, Statue of Liberty, animated creatures, and a large Blossoming Lotus. Other visual delights included a collection of architecture, fabric flora and fauna including flamingos, dinosaurs, pandas, and even a dragon made from 15,000 porcelain dishes! Visitors had the pleasure of browsing Old World handcrafts, watching artists weave palm leaves into detailed animals, paint with liquid sugar, and create creature confections. Not to even mention the spread of delicious Chinese and Western food!

Last month, visitors enjoyed all the buzz of a Chinese village around the Lunar New Year at the annual Chinese American Museum Lantern Festival in Los Angeles. Held at the Chinese American Museum, the festival featured historic New Year celebrations with everything from musical performances to vibrant lantern displays. The festival offered an assortment of unique attractions including a glow-in-the-dark show, acrobats and lion dancers, and hands on crafts like origami, kite-building, and lantern-making.

Looking for an opportunity to take your own lantern festival photos? Mark your calendar for the 2013 San Diego Lantern Festival taking place on July 19-21 in the Little Saigon San Diego Commercial and Cultural District. The festival typically draws between 10,000-15,000 visitors- bringing together businesses, neighbors, students and community groups. The festival features a fantastic array of cultural activities to be submersed in. From delicious food, street performers, eccentric vendors, and carnival rides, there’s something for all ages to enjoy. At night, you can look forward to a display of more than 6,000 lanterns lighting up the sky. Don't forget your camera!

Martha Fox a guest contributor from Carolina Lanterns, a South Carolina based lighting company specializing in custom-made gas and electric lanterns.

Mar 5, 2013

The Kittiwake

Yacht mainsail
The Kittiwake is a versatile little boat designed for two people, and able to be carried on a car roof-rack. She only weighs 75 pounds and is essentially the result of stretching our Little Auk design. The stem and stern posts were also raked a little more, giving her an attractive and elegant hull form. The increased length means that two adults can sail her in comfort, easily able to hold up the 35+15 sq foot of sail area.
Like Storm Petrel, she has decked ends, with plenty of dry stowage behind huge watertight hatches. The original design was to have no daggerboard, and instead, to have deep bilge-runners. However early trials indicated that between 8 and 12 degrees of leeway was being lost, which when sailing on rivers and crowded estuaries, was considered unacceptable. A dagger board was then added which made all the difference.

The rig is similar to many traditional boats of her kind, with a balanced lug mainsail and a sprit boomed mizzen. Both sails can be tensioned reasonably flat giving her surprising upwind performance. When running, the sails can be set goose-winged, driving her to her hull speed quickly and under full control. The mizzen is also a handy maneuvering sail enabling the practiced owner to show off by sailing backwards or tacking when stationary!

The design also incorporates a storm jib that is hoisted when conditions get really bad and the reefed mainsail is overpowering the boat. The main is lowered and the halyard reattached to the head of the jib, which can then be hoisted giving a sailboat the sturdiness of a pontoon boat. Many will be familiar with how weatherly this combination jib and mizzen is.

The craft has many interesting possibilities for camping and cruising. A large tent could be comfortably rigged between the masts, and she could even be sailed under jib and mizzen like this.