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April 21st, 2011

Color Your Eggs with Onion Skins

This morning I dyed eggs with onion skins. A few weeks ago, Eric’s parents told me how their mothers used to dye eggs in onion skin, and polish them with olive oil. It was fun listening to them reminisce, so I gave it a try.

01_Ingredients

Step 1: Gather ingredients. You’ll need eggs, onion skins, small pieces of cloth to cover the egg, and rubber bands or string. You can save your onion skins for a few weeks before you need them. If you forget, like I did, you can ask a grocery store for skins. (I got mine from the Rodale kitchen. Thank you, Leah!)

02_SoakClothSkins

Step 2: Soak. Soak both the onion skins and cloth in warm water. It makes the onion skins softer and easier to wrap around the egg. It’s best to use big pieces of onion skin; it makes a more uniform cover for the egg.

03_WrapSkinCloth

Step 3: Bundle. Wrap your eggs in the onion skin, and then in the cloth. Secure with string or rubber bands. I tried tucking loose pieces of onion skin around any uncovered spots on the egg. Since I’ve never done this before, I wondered if the rubber bands would leave any sort of mark, like they do when you tie-dye.

04_BoilInPan

Step 4: Cook ‘em. Layer the eggs in a saucepan. I chose a pretty one, for the photo. Then I realized I needed an inch of water above the eggs, and had to switch pans. This is the danger of being a photo editor. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat. If you are using large eggs, let them sit for 15 minutes.

06_removeFromHeat

Step 5: Rinse. Here are the egg bundles after 15 minutes. They floated to the top of the pan, and I lost one rubber band in the process. You’re supposed to remove the cloth and skin right away, and rinse with cold water. I am a wimp, so I ran cold water over the still hot bundles for a few seconds before I freed my eggs. Then I rinsed them a few seconds more to stop the cooking.

07_Rinse

It worked! Also, my mystery was solved—the rubber bands did not leave any lines or marks. Some of the eggs I covered in small bits and pieces did not actually dye the egg. It gave these eggs a marbled appearance.

08_LightOliveOilCoatStep 6: Polish. Dry the eggs, then apply a light coat of olive oil with a soft cloth. This one is a bit extra shiny; I wiped it more thoroughly after the photo.

09_EnjoyStep 7: Enjoy! I packed these back up to take to Eric’s parents. They should be okay in the fridge for up to a week. These eggs may be a part of an egg hunt before they are turned into egg salad. This was pretty easy, and fun. Next year I want to try some with red onion skins.

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March 24th, 2011

Better blog photos from your point-and-shoot

Katie Walker (our editorial assistant and The Green Earth Girl blogger) asked me to help her take better photos for her blog. My first impulse was to have her come to one of the food shoots, to see behind the scenes. (We will do that in future blog entries, I promise. But the reality is this: Most of you bloggers won’t have professional photographers, art directors, assistants, and prop and food stylists  in your kitchens.)

Katie brought a sandwich from the Rodale cafeteria and her point-and-shoot camera to the studio. I had her set things up for her photo the way she would at home. Then we worked together to get better photos from her camera. Here are some things you can do right now, with your point-and-shoot camera, to get better photos for your blogs.

1. Keep your props simple.
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This shot is an exaggeration—Katie loves this plate, and I love this glass. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the cool dishes and glassware, but remember what my photo professor always asked, “What are you taking the photo of?”

2. Watch your backgrounds.
loBackgroundsN0468
Take a look in the background of your photo. Are there distracting people walking by? Can you see electrical cords, appliances that have nothing to do with the photo? Clear away the clutter; it helps emphasize what you want the focus of the picture to be. Less really is more.

3. Take your object out of  harsh shadows.
looriginalN0469
Yes, high contrast can create a mood, but you don’t want your sandwich to look like it’s being served in prison. Look for even lighting in your kitchen. In the future, we’ll do a post about color balance and reflectors. For now, just drag your food away from the dungeon.

4: Keep your subject out of harsh sunlight.
looriginalDSCN0474
Watch out for bright sun. Even with the miracle of Photoshop or other photo-editing software, it’s tough to add information to a blown-out photo. It’s so much simpler to move your subject out of the sun and make the image nicer in your camera. Those blasted highlights also wash the color out of your photos.

5. Look at things from all sides.
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Move around, zoom in, stand back, get up tall, get low. Katie asked me if there were any recommended angles for food photos. I think the key is to mix it up—if you move the camera around, you can sometimes eliminate distracting backgrounds. If you shoot overhead, you can get a nice graphic shot. If you have multiple photos in a blog entry, sometimes taking it from different angles makes a more interesting pace.

In the end, I showed Katie how I would shoot the same sandwich with a digital SLR. loDSLR_6801
In my shot, I used the rule of thirds in my composition. I also changed the camera angle to eliminate the background completely. You don’t have to have a fancy camera to do either of those things. You improve your photos by keeping it simple, watching your backgrounds and lighting and mixing up your angles. You’ll know your photo is effective when people stop by your office to talk about art and keep getting distracted by wanting to eat the sandwich on your screen.

Katie blogged about our day here.

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January 10th, 2011

Out on the Web: the Layered Approach

The Layered Approach

Our no-dig Organic Gardening slide show is live on The Huffington Post.

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