The Oldham County Fair

The county fair has been a tradition of ours since we moved to Oldham County. We meet up with friends from college, their kiddos in tow, and enjoy what it all has to offer. The rides. The fried food. The petty zoos. The cotton candy. The kettle corn. And usually end the night with some kind of vehicular competition.

With the kids getting taller, rides are more fun — some are more brave than others… some act tough at first and then melt when realization sets in… but it’s still fun. ;) We had a smaller group this year (why people take summer vacations is beyond me), but we still enjoyed spending time together. I think only one of us had ever attended a tractor pull before, so that was new. (Nothing out-does the series of events that unfolded prior to the demolition derby in 2015… that day will live down in infamy. You can read more about that here.)

I had my camera in hopes of catching some fun shots of the kids, the group and all the colors a fair has to offer. I wasn’t even close to take the number of images I took last year (I was in full documentary approach workshop mode and was determined to have a perfect photo essay to share with my classmates) and I do believe my 50mm lens limited me a bit, but I did walk away with some favorites this year.

Note to self: the 35mm is your favorite. Don’t change it up thinking it’ll be a good idea. Just take the 35mm.

But these people are my tribe. This county fair is my jam. And these photos make me smile.

Oldham County Fair

Week 32: One Love | 2017 Project 52

When I started thinking about our “one love” theme and letting my heart lead me this week, I decided two things: 1) I was going to shoot everything that made me squint into thought and 2) I was keeping my 50mm lens on my camera.

When I got my first camera, I carried it with me everywhere. To work, to dinners with friends, to people’s houses, to parties and events — I took SO MANY PICTURES and gave no effs what anyone thought about it. And while I look back on a lot of those pictures and can see things I would do differently now, I’m glad I did this. It forced me to get comfortable with the idea of trying and failing, with finding my way around the camera, to developing a style of my own. And now I can see how far I’ve come as a photographer.

Now, why the 50mm? For the past year my 35mm has been glued to my camera, but my first 50mm — a nifty little 50mm f/1.8 from Canon — was where I had my “a-has!” years ago. I remember the first picture I took with it that made me pause. It was of my dog Chase, we were in our backyard and she’s looking back at me — I may have gone on to over-edit the photo, but with this shot I finally began to understand how my camera and light worked together. Paired with my cropped sensor camera, the 50mm was actually more of a zoom to about 75mm, so there was a lot to figure out. Like, stepping back some. But the pieces began to come together and I got smarter.

This week I’ve photographed my evening walk to my car, a waffle experiment, some beautiful heirloom tomatoes a coworker grew in her garden, Mike cooking dinner, and our tribe at the Oldham County Fair. You know where I’m going with this week’s photo, don’t you?


Settings: f/4.0, 1/320 sec, 50mm, ISO 100
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF50mm f/1.2L USM

Just like old times — and just like last year — I toted my big ass camera all over the Oldham County Fairgrounds. My friends have grown to be comfortable in front of my camera and with their kids growing so fast (and kids being so fun to photograph), this is an easy choice to make. I look like an idiot with my hands full of a camera instead of corn dogs and straps slung across my body every which way, but it makes me happy. My only regret this year was that I had left that 50mm lens on the camera — the 35mm would have been so much better for this setting — but that was rule this week. I made it work as much as I could.

When the kids get on rides, I take a few frames when they circle around to us. And I usually get a few nice ones that are keepers. But this photo of Tanner… be still my heart. His smile is one of pure almost-four-year-old joy, he is having the time of his life in that little airplane and he’s actually looking at me. (He’s quite shy and usually refuses a picture. I got a lot of the back of his head this night.) As soon as I got this photo, I swear I felt my heart swell.

THAT is the reason why I carry my camera. To clarify, it’s not about the subject; it’s about how it makes me feel once I’ve got “the shot.” This week’s picture could had easily been of a tomato or a flower or a self-portrait or of more rust – it just happened to be of Tanner. But that feeling, that split-second of joy and pride at once, when I can walk away and be satisfied to not take another picture all night… THAT is my one love.

Week 33: Leading Lines
due 08.16.17

We’ve composed with lines a few times already this year with curves and framing, but this week we’re making it simple: leading lines. Leading lines are a composition that allows you to guide the viewer’s eyes through your image to the subject, but they can be as simple or complicated as you want. Find lines in nature or man-made settings, have them stretch all the way through your frame or layer them in the foreground of your image. Just remember you are guiding the viewer’s eye, so consider where your line begins and ends, and how you frame the entire story.

You can find lines all around you, so find something that inspires you. I’ve included some links this week too in case you needed more guidance.

How to Use Leading Lines for Better Compositions
Jim Zuckerman on Composition of Leading Lines
How to Use Leading Lines to Create More Powerful iPhone Photos (applies to all photography!)

Bonus Challenge: Composition can help a photograph tell a better story in documentary photography. When learning more about leading lines in my workshop last year, we were told, “Don’t just look with your eyes, look through your viewfinder as well. Having limitations of the frame can make ‘seeing’ the lines much easier.” I challenge you to “size up” your lines through your viewfinder and really consider if it’s a strong composition before you press the shutter button.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Bake | On The Menu

Y’all. I made a killer dinner last week. Like, so good I shared it with friends at work because 1) I made a heaping ton of it and 2) I knew Mike wouldn’t eat it. And I want to make it again. I’ve dreamed about it. I’ve talked about it nonstop. I love me some Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Bake.

cajun shrimp and quinoa bake

This is not my recipe — I found it while searching for a fun casserole recipe because what screams “I need a casserole!” more than 98° temps outside? But I was in the mood and when I saw it, I knew it was the one. So this whole experiment is thanks to This Gal Cooks.

I had never cooked quinoa before. I’ve eaten it plenty of times… have had some really badly done quinoa too, so I was afraid I’d eff it up. But I followed the directions and thanks to the gentle reminder of my friend Tricia, I treated it like I do my rice: cooked it in chicken broth. The quinoa was good enough to alone. Actually, several bites were taken while the rest of this was cooking. I will be cooking with it more often, mark my words.

But this dish has the right balance of… everything. With the quinoa and juicy shrimp, fresh tomatoes and garlic, and a bit of kick with a jalapeño and cajun spices… my goodness, I just want to put my face into again!

The only thing I didn’t follow the recipe on was the cheese. I didn’t have fontina cheese. So I improvised with whatever brick of white cheese we had in the fridge — and I didn’t use much at all. I also forgot to salt and pepper… but there’s so much flavor with the cajun seasoning that it covered up that little mishap. But even still, this gets five out of five stars from this gal.

If you’d like to get the recipe for this Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Bake, you’ll have to visit This Gal Cooks‘ blog — but she has a handy-dandy printable recipe at the bottom of the page. If you like, be sure to leave her a comment and rate her recipe too! (I did. Bloggy love is a real thing, people. Especially when it feeds me.)

And take my advice: Add some chicken or vegetable stock to the quinoa water to add even more flavor. If you don’t have chicken stock, chicken base or dissolving bouillon cubes in water does the trick too. Oh, and don’t skimp and get frozen shrimp. Nah… bad plan. Pony up for the fresh ones. It’s worth it, I promise.

Week 31: Close Up | 2017 Project 52

This might be the first week all year that I didn’t have a running list of ideas for the prompt. I had zero plans, figured if inspiration struck I’d just zoom in as much as I could and see if I could frame something interesting. I mean, the theme was “close up,” how hard could it be? But without my list, by Sunday I started to worry that I was letting myself off my creative leash too much. So I decided carried my camera all day while I was running around town… and then a light bulb went off.

close up

Settings: f/7.1, 1/125 sec, 70mm, ISO 400
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8

I had brunch plans with my book club (I love those ladies and our little group) down on Frankfort Avenue. If you haven’t had brunch at Silver Dollar yet, make yourself a reservation and put your face into some biscuits and gravy. But anywho, I always park on a side street and remember that there’s a really weird/cool salvage place on Frankfort at William Street. So I showed up a bit early and took a walk a block over to see if anything caught my eye.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. SO MUCH TO CHOOSE FROM!

I’m not sure how many pictures I took of the side of a rusting train car, but it’s not like I would disclose that embarrassing information anyway. ;) But the fading, scraping and rusting paint made was the inspiration I needed. I chose the image above because of the colors and the textures bleeding into one another. I love the warm and cool colors, those big rust rings that reach out to crackle the paint. It makes me happy. Really happy.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Week 32: One Love
due 08.09.17

One Love. One Heart. Let’s get together and feel all right.

Think of something that makes you pause, maybe makes your heart grow two sizes bigger, and melts into happiness all over. Now try to photograph it.

This theme can be interpreted in many ways, but I challenge you to let your heart lead you this week. What got you interested in photography to begin with? What types of subjects draw you in the most? Forget perfect lighting or fantastic composition — slow down, think about the things that matter most to you and then pick up your camera. Make us feel what you feel.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!

Week 30: Red | 2017 Project 52

Color challenges continue to be a favorite of mine because I love the hunt. But it is SO FRIGGING HOT OUT that taking a photo walk is more like torture than fun these days. So much sweat, you guys. So I decided this week instead of seeking out the color red, I’d let it come to me.

And that really didn’t work out for me.

For starters, not going outside meant not seeing anything, or anyone, new. I was at work. I was at home. I was in my car. I was in my bed. And finding inspiration when you’re in a routine really doesn’t work all that great. I did carry my camera everyday though, hoping to see a pop of color that got my wheels turning. But it was actually a last-minute, random decision that I made to get this week’s photo.

red stop sign

Settings: f/2.8, 1/1000 sec, 53mm, ISO 100
Camera and Lens: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF35mm f/1.4L USM

After a baby shower [where I ate my weight in delicious food] and dropping off a friend [who I had the best conversations with], I was heading back towards Prospect to go grocery shopping. And… on a whim… I took a turn that I normally wouldn’t take to get to Kroger. And then the pep talk began. “Let’s just check it out. Maybe traffic is a lot lighter on Sunday. No one will judge you – OK, maybe they will but those people aren’t our friends anyway. Actually, they’re assholes. They don’t know you and how awesome this project is. How dare they throw shade at me from their air-conditioned Benzos!”

I’m happy to report traffic was slow — very slow. And no one rolled down their window to ask what the hell I was doing. The little repair shop was closed even, so no bother with parking their small gravel lot. I just pulled over, hopped out and walked down a narrow strip of grass, praying that there was no poison ivy, and got to work. (I’m about 90% sure I got poison ivy from last week’s photo and didn’t even realize it until I was editing. I thought I just had some terrible rash on my ankle… which could have been prompted while taking a few steps into the field. It was quite itchy.)

But this sign… I drive past this stop sign every morning on the way to work. And I remember the afternoon I was driving home and saw these little “smile more, love more” signs that had been screwed into the post, sprinkled down River Road, both directions. I liked it then and I still like it now. Because it’s a reminder to find joy in everything. I’m happy that I summoned up the strength to do something I normally wouldn’t do. And now I have a sweet reminder that there is good in the world because someone took the time to do exactly what I did to share some love.

Week 31: Close Up
due 08.02.17

That’s right, we’re getting close to our subjects this week. Zoom in, or if you prefer prime lenses like I do, move closer to the your subject and really consider what you see through your viewfinder.

Are you able to find better light if you move around your subject? Is there amazing texture or detail that give it more character than you originally thought? Does it make more sense to stop down to a smaller aperture so more of your subject is in focus? Should you consider photographing different angles to create more interest?

Just step in, get close, and see if you can find detail that you otherwise would have missed. You don’t have to shoot macro, but if you want to I say go for it. I don’t have a macro lens so I usually fake it – click back to Week 17 if you’d like to reference ways to fake macro photography.

If you post your images on Instagram or any other social media, use the hashtag #2017project52 so that we can find your work and give it some love!
Have questions about 2017 Project 52? You can find more about it here or in the Flickr group description. Please join us!