September 5, 2019

So…this $10 waffle maker is the best thing on the market?

In testing recipes for cookbook #4, I was stymied to find the most consistently golden waffle I’ve come across is from the $10 Dash Mini Waffle Maker. The Dash Mini is an impractical little kitchen appliance, making just one, round, 4-inch waffle at a time. I was curious why stores were always sold out of these things. I though maybe it was an impulse buy, since they’re cute and in multiple colors. Or that parents were buying each of their kids (or college students) one so they can fix their own breakfast on school days. But the real reason seems to be that the Dash Mini makes a great waffle.

The convenient 4-inch waffle.

Waffleiron manufacturers seem to have forgotten that there’s always leftover batter, so people make extra waffles and pop them in the toaster later. As waffles went gourmet, they got bigger and thicker and now don’t fit in the toaster anymore. The Dash Mini’s 4-inch waffle is the same size as an Eggo, but thicker and whole lot tastier. It’s a chore, but worth it to make extra waffles on Sunday so you can pop them in the toaster and enjoy a quick breakfast during the week. You might consider getting two Dashes to speed up the process. They’re energy efficient at 350 watts and two of them together burn less energy than most waffle makers on the market.

No temperature control?

There’s no browning control on the Dash Mini Waffle Maker, but none is needed. Before the fad of browning controls, waffle irons did fine: You plug them in, wait until the light goes off, pour in the batter. The Dash Mini cooks flawlessly to an even, golden color and a nice cripness, then shuts off. So if you want a darker waffle by leaving it in longer, the browning process is rather slow. (You’re better off to pop it in the toaster for browning.)

Picture-perfect waffles.

I tried the Dash Mini Waffler Maker in hopes of getting smaller, more aesthetically pleasing waffles for photographs. As you can see by the photo, it does this quite nicely. Dash also makes a mini griddle for those with a pancake fetish and grill, kind of a George Forman on pixie dust.

Get the Dash Mini Waffle Maker on Amazon

September 5, 2019

Throwback Thursday: The Mirror Lake

Lake Matheson, New Zealand, July, 1982

I met Deb climbing up Fox Glacier. She was from Albuquerque and had traveled completely around the world over an entire year. Nzed her last stop before going home. With a few days to go, she was down to existing on the safety and comfort of peanut butter and crackers because—well, these things happen when you’ve circumnavigated a planet.

I was headed to Mirror Lake and Gillespie’s Beach and asked if she wanted a lift. Seeing the Southern Alps reflected in the mirror of Lake Matheson, seemed a befitting end to any journey. We hit Lake Matheson, before sunrise to catch the sight of Nzed’s tallest peaks reflected in water that’s black as crude oil. But when I stuck my finger in, it was crystal clear. The blackness was actually a silt on the bottom of the lake.

These young islands don’t have have all the little lifeforms that resorb decay back into the environment. So the silt sits. And sucks in stray rays of light, creating this flawless reflection. The morning light was excellent, a low fog hung between the trees beyond the lake and Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook. But a cool winter breeze rippled the mirror waters. So much for photographic perfection.

Nzed had been in a six-month-long drought and then had a couple days of day nonstop rain that cut 10-foot deep gashes in Fox Glacier the day I’d arrived on the South Island. As we headed out, the sign on the road said Gillespie’s Beach was 18 kilometers, but it took the rented Honda Civic a half hour to make it through the muck. And then it started to rain again. Drops the size of bullets.

The long road through Westland Tai Poutini National Park suddenly became some guy’s driveway. Literally, we rounded a bend and we were in his yard. He charged out of his hermitage towards the car. I told Deb not to worry: I’d found out NZ wasn’t an armed country. As he got close he almost smiled and stuck a letter in my hand. “Could you mail this for me? Thank you” and ran back to the house. I don’t think even had a chance to say yes.

His place was right on the beach. Because of the steep volcanic shores, six-foot waves were stopping dead at the sand. The storm had left driftwood from all over the world littering the beach. Black woods, stripped trees with sand-gnawed white heartwood, gnarled stumps with tentacles. This beach is nature’s junk pile. And the sight of it well made up for the ripples.

Read more Throwback Thursday stories.

Learn how this photo was copied from a 35mm Kodachrome slide with a Moment 10x Macro lens and an iPhone.

photography throwbackthursday
August 29, 2019

Throwback Thursday: Burial at Sea

Dingle Penninsula, Ireland 1984

Somewhere in my travels I got this idea for a sand sculpture that looks like a burial mound with my hiking shoes sticking out of it. I re-constructed Burial at Sea wherever I found a beach. Never failed to draw a crowd, even on this remote Irish beach that was seemingly uninhabited moments before.

The first time I did this artwork, my friend Chuck and I were visiting penpals in France and Spain. We were staying in Bordeaux at Marie France’s family dairy farm. Her father introduced us to his homemade L’eau de Vie and joked we spoke French like Parisians because we said wee with our lips drawn taunt. In the provinces they said a lazier way where the mouth drops open a bit and there’s no energy applied to the face muscles whatsoever. (When we got back to Paris we continually said way so the Parisians could hate is for both being Americans and having learned French from country folk.)

Marie France took us to the beach to see the spectacle of the entirety of France inhabiting the southern half of the country the two weeks after Bastille Day. As she lay sunning in a bikini, I created the first Burial at Sea beside her. She tried to maintain her composure, but couldn’t as she translated the comments:” “I’ll bet he’s hot under there.” “Has anyone contacted the gendarmes?” “Did they try resuscitation?” Even at a tops-optional beach, it caught quite a few eyes.

Probably the most important thing I learned that day was that many of those who go topless at a public beach probably shouldn’t. It frightens the children.

Read more Throwback Thursday stories.

Learn how this photo was copied from a 35mm Kodachrome slide with a Moment 10x Macro lens and an iPhone.

photography throwbackthursday
August 27, 2019

Bringing sculpture to life with your iPhone and the jitterbug effect.

I’m obsessed with making sculpture appear more human. Sculptors intended for their work to be a representation of life, so it seems logical that videographers would want to use a technique that brings out this human quality. In traditional timelapse video, a stationary tripod is used so the subject is stagnant and the background moves. Traditional hyperlapse video is often shot as stills so both the subject and background move and motion is kept as smooth as possible. With the jitterbug effect, a super-wide lens in combination with timelapse recording adds a jittery movement to a close subject while keeping the background relatively motionless. It’s used specifically for animating three-dimensional sculpture that represents living beings.

What’s used to create the jitterbug effect.

  • an accessible statue
  • an iPhone
  • a monopod and iPhone mount
  • a Moment Superfish lens
  • the Time-Lapse mode of the built-in Camera app

Look the statue in the eye.

You’ll need to find a statue in a cemetery or public place that’s low enough that you can shoot at about eye level. Just like in a portrait, you want the sculpture looking directly into the camera and need to get within a few inches of the face. Please be considerate, in addition to obeying the law.

The fisheye exaggerates movement.

With a fisheye lens, things that are close look very close and things that are far away look really distant. In handheld video, these lenses emphasize our unsteadiness. And in a timelapse the unsteadiness is magnified even more to add a motion with the head of the statue jittering in contrast to a relatively still background. The Moment Superfish is the sharpest fisheye available for the iPhone and this sharpness creates even more realism. The Superfish gives you a 170º view without any round black space at the edges. If you try to shoot the same scene with the built-in iPhone wide angle lens the effect won’t be as pronounced.

The monopod makes it easy to work on long exposures.

When shooting a timelapse, it takes eight minutes to record a 30-second video. Trying to hand-hold a camera for any length time is tiring and your steadiness will get more erratic the longer you shoot. A monopod can help to steady movement for more consistent vibration. It also lets you subtly move in and out from the subject, which is the movement you want. Free-holding the phone results in more up-and-down and side-to-side jitteriness that can look more like unintentionally shaky video.

Monopods also allow for slow panning movements around the face of a statue, which can create a real intimacy with the stone or metal. This adds the hyperlapse effect to the video. I use a Velbron Ultra Stick Super 8 Monopod and a Mantrotto Twistgrip phone mount. It’s sturdy and gets as tall as eye height, but collapses down to 10 inches, so it’s convenient to keep in your camera kit. (You can achieve the same effect of a monopod with a tripod by just extending a single leg.)

Editing can add to the jitterbug effect.

I use iMovie on iPad for most editing. It’s free, easy to use and makes it simple to add a soundtrack. Here are a few editing tricks that can add to the effect.

  • One of the pains of timelapse is the massive amount of shooting time it takes to get a few seconds of video. A nice little trick is to use an app like Reverser and alternate a forward and backward version of a four-second clip. With clips shorter than four seconds, the repetition may be noticeable. The movement can be pretty seamless, unless there’s something else in the scene moving in a linear pattern that would make the alternating forward/reverse movement noticeable, like clouds or slow-moving cars.
  • If you want smooth linear movement in the background like cars and clouds in addition to the jitterbug effect, you either need to shoot a longer clip or get creative with editing as with Jitterbug Jesus. The original clip for this video was 10 seconds long. I used 18 overlapping short clips with a 2.5-second dissolve to blend cloud movement and have two jittering effects of the head blended together.


Audio intensifies the effect. Surprisingly, slow-paced audio can work just as well as fast-paced. You’ll need to experiment and see what soundtrack works with your video. I create my own soundtracks from scratch, but Google has a library of public domain and Creative Commons tracks that will start you off.

While the jitterbug effect is time-consuming to create, it can add life to three-dimensional statues in your video. I suggest you experiment with it to develop your own unique style with it or improve on what I’ve started here.

August 21, 2019

Throwback Thursday: The entreprenettes.

Kathmandu March, 1988

In Nepal, everyone’s ingenious. They have to be. They don’t have much because they’re at the top of the world: Everything has to be trudged uphill to get there.

This tribe of girls (can’t be one over ten) were made responsible for babysitting their toddler sisters. But they didn’t let this drudgery interfere with their business model. As a matter of fact, they put childcare at the heart of the endeavor.

They parade themselves in their best clothes and jewelry, lugging around the toddlers and smiling big for the tourists’ cameras. Click.

They say “rupees” and they’ve got you. You hand over few. Then you know the real reason they’re smiling big.

Read more Throwback Thursday stories.

Learn how this photo was copied from a 35mm Kodachrome slide with a Moment 10x Macro lens and an iPhone.

photography throwbackthursday