Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Look closely

Look closely-
There have always been
ghosts in the machine...

just me goofing around with long exposures in the dark... oh the excitement.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Three Fruit Tart

My long lost cousins visited tonight. I hadn't planned to bake for a while yet, but in honour of the occasion, I dusted off my recipe books, pulled out Jane Price's 'Kitchen Classics: Pastries and Breads', found that old favourite and set to work. I am irrevocably in love with baking with chocolate, but I must admit this one has its charms, namely the undeniably colourful beauty of the three fruits, the chance to create the dreamiest custard from scratch, and finally the sweet and clear taste that is both gentle and subtly amazing.

Three Fruit Tart
Shortcrust Pastry
  • 150g of Flour
  • 2 tablespoons of Castor Sugar
  • 90g of Unsalted Butter (chopped)
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1 tablespoon of Iced Water
Custard Filling
  • 250ml of Milk
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 55g Castor Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of Flour
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Essence
  • Strawberries, Kiwi and Blueberries, to decorate
  • Apricot jam, to glaze

The arrangement of fruit was supposed to be random, like on the Summer Berry Tart,
but something inside of me just wouldn't let it happen...

Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and add the egg yolk and iced water. Mix to a dough with a flat bladed knife and a cutting action, and then gather it together in a ball. Press the dough evenly into a circular 23cm tart dish (a 10 × 34cm rectangular dish can be used). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 190°C.
Line the pastry-lined tin with baking paper and spread a layer of uncooked rice evenly over it. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the paper and rice, and bake for another 20 minutes, or until cooked on the base and golden brown around the edge. Set aside to cool completely.
blue blueberries :)
Custard Filling
To make the filling, put the milk in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil. Set aside while quickly whisking the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl, until light and creamy. Whisk in the flour. Pour the hot milk slowly onto the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Wash out the pan, return the milk mixture to the pan and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring with a wire whisk. Boil for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the vanilla essence, and leave to cool, stirring frequently to avoid a skin forming. When cooled to room temperature, cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. 

Cut the strawberries in half across what would be their equators and slice the kiwi. Spoon the cold custard into the cold pastry shell, then arrange all the fruit over the custard, pressing in slightly. Heat the jam in the microwave or in a small saucepan until liquid and sieve to remove any lumps. Using a pastry brush, glaze the fruit with the jam. Serve the tart on the same day, at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Shoes

So I got some cool white shoes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Urban Aurora

I don't usually name my pictures (although it is occasionally tempting) because I prefer to leave them as an image only. If you see stark hard shadows where I imagine the intricate delicacy of light, then the magic is working.
As I said, however, I do go out on a whim sometimes, like now. The name for this picture came unbidden at around 8ish this evening as I focused on an ethereal glow on the horizon. At first, all I could see was a few inexplicable white wisps, but then I blinked a few times, got used to the cool  (and mostly) dark night sky and then dashed downstairs to grab my camera. Luckily it was still there when I got back up, and I was able to capture this -

The Urban Aurora

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sharp Shooter website and facebook page

I was happy to happen upon the Sharp Shooter facebook page a moment ago. It has the teams' best photos and links to the Sharp Shooter show website. On there they have details of the locations and contestant profiles and websites. So I believe those wish-list items have now been ticked off, thank you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Light-writing my name!

More firework magic - light-writing my name on Diwali. It would have been naive to expect my sparkler-air-writing to be any less unacceptable than my just pen-paper-writing.

If you don't know how to do this - it's quite simple; all you need is a tripod and a camera that has at least the shutter-speed priority function. Set it to 15+ seconds with fairly low ISO sensitivity, start the timer and start writing!

Sharp Shooter Pilot - "Heroes"

So the first episode of Sharp Shooter just finished, and I am impressed. The feature-length pilot introduced the show, setting the stage for the first photography reality show. Somehow they were able to take photography, which is reasonably exciting for those so inclined, and give it a breathtaking spin of excitement and tension. I admit I found it strange that the host, Craig Urbani, spoke the words of photography as if he were describing say, The Amazing Race, or Survivor. It took some getting used to, but the fast paced cinematics, overly enthusiastic lens-flare and tension laden commentary soon grew on me and lent the contest the edge that kept me interested for all one and a half hours.

The contestants, amateur and professional alike, will face photography challenges ranging far outside their strengths and have their talents pushed to the limit in the search of the best shot.  For the pilot episode, the fifteen contestants were split into three teams of five and given photography tasks centred around the theme 'Heroes'. Their assigned names Optical, Aperture and Exposure were a bit cheesy - so be it. They met at a firefighting training ground and were given three sub-themes- Inferno, Vertigo and Backdraft. They had to work as a team of individual photographers, taking their cameras to the middle of firefighting exercises, to find that one moment that best captured their theme and the epitome of a Hero.

I do have a few criticisms about the show, the most significant being the lack of publicity. I happened to see the link on the MNet facebook page to a short article describing the show, and immediately went in search of the fan page for the show. There was none, and still is not. It is as if the producers have no idea of the power of social networking or have chosen to actively forgo this powerful tool. I found the onscreen text to be very short lived and hard to read, and so I missed the artistic preference of each of the contestants. I would also like to see their work before the show, and their entry submissions, so I can judge how well they deal with areas outside their comfort zones.

Once they had their shots, they had half an hour in 'The Lab' (oh, the theatrics) to select what they believed to be their team's best shot to be submitted to the judges  (Jenni Button, Josie Borain and Bryan Traylor. In addition, the team leader would choose one picture from each member to be placed on a collage. In an unwelcome twist (because it introduced uncertainty in rules that weren't yet familiar) the judges decided that the teams had not chosen their best shots and so no one team had lost - they all had. I assume that under normal circumstances, one team would face the loss of a member, whereas here, two people were eliminated. I suppose that counts as a criticism, the rules are fairly straightforward, but were presented in rapid-fire mode which made the twist hard to appreciate.

Their equipment was drool-worthy; each aspiring sharp shooter was given a Nikon D5000 and the promise of more specialised equipment as the tasks demand. That was slightly disappointing, in my opinion, because I pride myself on my point-and-shoot and compact photography and hoped they'd be tested by less than professional equipment. I specifically forfeited the chance to own a DSLR in favour of a camera I could fit in my pocket. It's a choice I often doubt, even regret, but more often I am glad of the portability of my amazing superzoom SX210is.

I suppose I had hoped, but it seems unlikely, that the photographers would be handed point and shoots, or even camera phones and be expected to produce winning shots. A lot of the time it seemed like they weren't using the true power of a DSLR and simply clicking wildly away, caught up in the panic of the moment, trusting in the power of the D5000 to get them that perfect shot. For some, this did not work as was seen in some of the overexposed or badly composed shots. I know from experience that the limits of a point and shoot force one to be more creative or innovative in achieving the desired shot, and there are extensive forums for those who create art with their phones. Perhaps a task like that would prove most challenging for those who desire absolute control and predictability from their camera.

I am glad to see an exciting take on photography, it could have been very, very dry. Lens-flares aside, the cinematography is good, and the format keeps things fresh. I'm surprised that this is a world first, but I guess everything has to start somewhere, so why not here. Perhaps this will take hold, there are certainly enough photographers out there, it seems, who would be keen to take part in it. I know I would love to get stuck into these. I would probably be out of my depth, and I'd have to learn how to use DSLR on the job, but hey, it looks exhilarating.

So as far as first impressions go, this one fared well. My gripes are really minor and I'm stoked for next week.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sharp Shooter South Africa

On Wednesday, I was pleasantly surprised to see a photographer hunkered down patiently over a patch of flowers outside the Wits Great Hall. I know I am fairly unusual for carrying my camera in my pocket literally at all times, but sometimes I feel like there aren't any photographers around.

It is for this reason that I was ecstatic to hear about Sharp Shooter: South Africa. Tomorrow, MNet will  broadcast the debut episode of a South African first: a photography reality show. The show promises to present an entirely new kind of reality, that seen through the beloved lens. I read up about it here earlier this week, and needless to say, I'm pretty amped to see where it goes:

"In Sharp Shooter, 15 photographers are chosen from all walks of life - from amateurs to professionals, students to housewives. The show reveals how the contestants match their photographic and interpersonal skills across a wide range of photographic disciplines – fashion, abstract, product and destination photography. The cinematic treatment of the show makes it different to anything ever seen before, and takes “reality” to a totally new level."

My photography is purely amateur. At some point, I picked up my first point and shoot, fell in love with the beautiful light and never looked back. I subscribe to a South African photography magazine (Pix) and follow the pictures of my photographer friends, learning from their experiences as well as my own. I am therefore interested to see how more experienced amateur and professional photographers work when given real tasks. I want to see how they interpret a scene, make choices, both in the moment and in the digital dark-room, and express their impression of the world.
It's a strange and exciting idea; I hope they pull it off - it's always nice to see photographers doing their thing.

Sharp Shooter: South Africa airs on MNet at 17:30 tomorrow (Sunday, 7th November)

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Ring of Fire

Diwali firework magic this evening with a giant sparkler. That's me in my luminous red/orange shirt.

Diwali lights

Monday, November 1, 2010

Is it a sun-dog? Is it a parhelic? No, it's a 22° halo!

Between about 9 and 11 this morning, an eerie glowing ring appeared around the sun, and brought Wits (and Joburg) to a halt as they gazed upwards in wonder.

The 22º Halo in the sky over the Wits Physics and Biology buildings.
The physics department was disgorged onto the concourse to stare at the spectacle.
And the dangers of looking into the sun be damned.
'A 22° halo is a circle at 22° around the sun, or occasionally the moon. It forms as sunlight is refracted in hexagonal ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. As the light beam passes through two sides of the prism, the angle of minimum deviation is almost 22°. This wavelength-dependent variation in refraction causes the inner edge of the circle to be reddish while the outer edge is bluish.'

Apparently, Venus was visible as a tiny red dot passing over the sun during the halo.
I couldn't see it, and a camera can only do so much, so here's a strelitzia passing in front of the sun instead.
Floating in the sky above the Biology and Oppenheimer Life-sciences buildings
Above the Wits Great Hall.
A classic halo shot.
This one gives you a true sense of how large and looming the halo was. Pretty cool to watch people when they first saw it - a moment of shock, a stumble to halt, and then wonder and wasted hours of ruined retinas.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Just another bolt of lightning...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The first of the Summer lightning

Earlier this afternoon, a storm on the horizon grudgingly gave up this, my first photo of 2010 Summer lightning.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hitchin' a ride

A simple, understated gem, on the way to Wits this morning

(The trolley she's riding on is that used by the recycling collectors, employed here for a sweeter purpose.)

Monday, September 27, 2010


I didn't take this, but I do like it.
It's me, running into the waves near Suncoast beach in Durban.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mechanics Butterfly

Second most productive mechanics lecture ever.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Boxer

"In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
'I am leaving, I am leaving'
But the fighter still remains,
yes it still remains."
- The Concert in Central Park
19th September 1981

Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer Berry Tart

I stole some free time during the study break to indulge the urge to bake that’s been simmering a while now. In a break from the chocolate tradition, I chose this Summer Berry Tart, similar to the Fruit Tart I’ve made in the past, both from Jane Price’s 'Pastries and Breads'. Without the cooling kiwi slices, this taste was more mellow and laid-back.

Summer Berry Tart
  • 145g Cake Flour (125g all purpose/plain flour)
  • 90g chilled, unsalted Butter, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons of iced Water
  • 3 Egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons of Castor Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of Corn flour (corn starch)
  • 250ml of Milk
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Essence
  • 250g of Strawberries, halved
  • 125g of Blueberries
  • 125g of Raspberries (couldn't find these yet, so I compensated with the other two)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of baby apple gel or apricot jam
Just blueberries (:
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Lightly grease a 20cm round fluted tart tin.
To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl. Using your fingertips, run in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and add almost all the water. Mix with a flat-bladed knife, using a cutting action, until the mixture comes together in beads. Add more water is the dough is too dry.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper to fit the base and side of the tin, line the tin with the pastry and trim away any excess. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Line the tin with baking paper and spread a layer of baking beads of uncooked rise evenly over the paper. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the paper and beads and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden.

To make the filling, put the egg yolks, sugar and corn flour into a bowl and whisk until pale. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until almost boiling, then remove from the heat and add gradually to the egg mixture, beating constantly. Strain back into the pan. Stir constantly over low heat for 3 minutes or until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Transfer to a bow, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to cool.

Spread the filling in the pastry shell and top with the berries. Heat the apple gel or apricot jam in a heatproof bowl in a saucepan of simmering water, or in the microwave until it liquefies. Brush over the fruit with a pastry brush. Allow to set before cutting and serving.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A great tie can fix anything

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cape Town Lighthouse

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beach of gold

Pebbles and the sea at sunset, on Bloubergstrand.


Groot Constantia

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A triptych of colours and light

Left to right:
1) Miniature ivy leaves in the late afternoon light at Emmarentia dam.
2) A solitary red reminder of autumn lit by a winter sunrise last week, next to the Architecture building at Wits.
3) Water droplets on rose leaves, mid-morning in the garden.

Sail on

-from the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vuvuzela! Thousands of fans cheer Bafana on in the streets of Sandton

Tens of thousands of Bafana fans showed up in Sandton today to wish the team well before they kickoff against Mexico in two days. The power of raw emotion and excitement was infectious.

I was surrounded by vuvuzelas but I could hear and feel only the spirit and proud fervour that thrummed through us all. It may have rung in my ears for five minutes, but it reverberates in my heart still.
Never before have I experienced the power and pride of South Africa so deeply, and I can't wait to see what is to come -
Ke Nako, It's Time.

This is only a selection - Click here to see the entire album.

Mail & Guardian