Global Table Adventures – Sasha Martin

I was introduced to the work of Sasha Martin, of Global Table Adventure, after listening to a piece on her from the podcast The Splendid Table.  Sasha set out to make food from every country in the world in alphabetical order.  She made Korean Turkey, Indian Chana Masala, Yemeni Spiced Skillet Eggs, Emirati Date Crepes, Syrian Lentil Dip, the Ukrainian Pasta Bake, and more.  She, with a young daughter and picky husband, managed to learn and experience a lot all from the comfort of her own suburban Tulsa Oklahoma home.  She finds she is a better Mom and a better wife after completing her challenge.

I find this idea inspiring since I am always looking for ways to travel when I don’t have time off from work or the money to travel like I would like to.  Since food is such a large part of my travels I loved the idea of her challenging herself to bring the food culture of these locations in to her home.

Most recently I recreated the Belize Onion Habanero Sauce I raved about while travelling in the country.  This sauce can be put on top of just about anything.  It was traditionally put on tacos, tostadas, panades, salbutes, and garnaches.  I can see it on top of steak, eggs, and used just as a dip for your chips.  I modified the recipe a bit and made it my own but I believe it will be a staple on my home table from now moving forward.  I suppose it is my little way of bringing Belize home to me.  While Sasha’s recipes range from easy to very hard I love the idea as a place to come up with new dinner ideas for home.

My terribly unprofessional recipe for Belize Habanero Onion Sauce

*One medium onion diced

*One small to medium Habanero diced very small (Warning they are very hot!)

*Juice from one lime

*Diced fresh cilantro to taste

*Optional Finely diced tomato to taste (I like more my husband likes less)

*A teaspoon of white vinegar (more to taste)

Please visit her website for more information and recipes.  http://globaltableadventure.com/

Has food encountered in your travels ever inspired you to recreate it from home?

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I am being followed by Bette Midler and other 80s Pop Stars in Belize…

At times the sweet sounds of Belize included Toucan tweets, the click of Blue Crabs walking on the dock, the zip of the blender making cocktails, the dinosaur sounding scream of the Howler Monkey warning its peers, Hummingbirds dive bombing each other, ocean waves lapping, the ancient Mayans whispering their secrets at their temples, the sizzling of taco meat, marginally cared for vehicles with numerous creaks and squeaks, the buzzing of the mosquitoes, and…music.

What does one expect to hear in Belize?  Bob Marley is #1.  Drum music on the Southern Coast?  Maybe local music?  Perhaps a little Michael Jackson or Beyonce maybe?

Well, immediately upon renting a car and embarking on our journey, the first radio station we tuned in to was playing The Wind Beneath My Wings by the lovely and talented Bette Midler.  High on the excitement of a new journey and the lack of sleep that accompanies a red-eye flight my husband and I sang this song to each other like the big dorks we are.

During the next ninety minute journey we heard the smooth stylings of Kenny Rogers, Neal Diamond, and Michael Bolton.  This led us to believe that the Belizean people took custody of a 1980’s repossessed radio station without ever updating its playlist. We were really enjoying the music time machine though.

During our first evening meal, on day one, we again heard Bette Midler and had a good laugh about it.  Over the ensuing 12 day trip we heard Bette Midler, and no I am not kidding, a minimum of one time per day if not more.  We started joking that Bette Midler either (a) lived in Belize, (b) owned the radio station(s), or (c) was the head of the Belizean mafia.

Probably about three-quarters of the way through the trip we heard her song one evening at dinner and, as always, had a laugh about it.  As we were riding our bikes home that night we were discussing that they must have 80s American music on some sort of loop in the tourist areas and radios which was the only way to explain it.  Well, that idea was dashed when we rode by a local hut with no front door where a large number of ladies were inside having a party.  What were they blasting loudly and proudly and singing along to?  You guessed…it Bette Midler’s The Wind Beneath My Wings.  My husband and I looked at each other and shook our heads.

Good ol’ Bob Marley is also pervasive in Belize even more so in the coastal regions and out on the Cayes.  I love me some Bob Marley.  I mean what’s not to like, right?  Something dawned on me one night at a local restaurant with a famous Bob Marley concert video played on a loop.  The poor wait staff must listen to this over and over again.  I wondered if this bothered them?  I mean Bob Marley is a God-like figure in areas like this.  I asked a sweet young waitress if Bob’s video playing relentlessly bothered her relaying that as a young person working retail in America we revolted to our managers against certain music being overplayed.  Her response, “Bob’s music is like piss in my ear.”  Tourism has ruined an icon for the tourist wait staff.  I am sorry wait staff.  I truly am.  It’s not Bob’s fault.

While the older 80s Pop music is obviously pervasive in Belize it is impossible not to notice that current music transcends many cultures and countries.  I heard Beyonce, Rhiana, Katie Perry, and other popular songs while there as well.  Many young people play it on their cell phones, on speaker no less, for everyone to hear.  I wonder if these artists have any idea that their music is being played in every corner of the world?  I wonder if they have any idea that music can be one thing that connects us all together even if we don’t speak the same language?  I wonder if Bette Midler has any idea how popular and loved she is in Belize?  I hope she does.

Belize Botanical Garden – San Ignacio Belize

I am no gardener.  In fact, I sit here staring at my fingers on the keyboard searching for any green hue on my thumbs and there is none.  However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy other people’s gardens!  It is easy to understand why Monet found inspiration as an artist at Giverny.  While I am no Monet, I am a photographer, and I often find inspiration in gardens while traveling.

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I visited Belize Botanical Garden as an afterthought when our visits to a few local San Ignacio area archaeological sites were shorter than we originally planned.  I had spied a tiny little sign on the side of the road that said “Botanical garden” with an arrow.  I was secretly hoping we would be able to make time to go.  So we set out.  This garden makes you work to get there driving approximately four miles on a terrible unpaved road uphill.  When we got there the relief was palpable seeing such a well maintained and peaceful property.

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The garden boasts 45 acres of native plants and native wildlife.  The garden is adjacent to DuPlooys Jungle Cabins which has a restaurant/bar and jungle cabins for rent.   It is very classy and seems like a wonderful and relaxing place to stay as an alternative to San Ignacio.  http://www.duplooys.com/belize-botanic-gardens.php

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After checking in and receiving a lovely little garden map we set out.  Before I even had a chance to remove my camera from its bag we were greeted by Collared Aracari Toucans eating star fruit for dinner in the orchards.  I would have been happy if this was all I had seen!  We sat and enjoyed them for several minutes before we reluctantly left them.  We were anxious to see what we could of the grounds before sunset.

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Various tropical plants, trees, bushes, flowers, have been lovingly planted beginning more than 27 years ago when the ex-pat owners originally purchased the property.  I would have thought this was all wild plants and trees judging by how mature everything was.  Only, the park-like setting gave it away.

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A duck blind has been established for birders to sit and observe a small pond located on site.  No birds presented themselves for us in this part of the garden however we did enjoy small pond turtles.  A native orchid house exists paying respect to various seasonal orchids.  A replica Mayan hut made of local materials is on display for those interested in how thatched roofs are designed.  An area dedicated to palms was enjoyable.  And a professional gardener’s area has lovely flowers on display. A 25 foot tall homemade fire tower exists on one end of the property giving the intrepid climber a lovely canopy view of the area.

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We were the only visitors to the gardens that afternoon making it feel like we had it all to ourselves.  We finished our walk on a river trail that culminated at the bar where we finished our lovely afternoon off with a Rum Punch and a Belikin before bouncing our way back down the dirt road to San Ignacio.

http://www.belizebotanic.org/

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Something new, Something old?

Last weekend I went to Wright’s Beach in Bodega Bay camping again.  My husband and I and Amelia, the bulldog, go there as often as we can primarily in winter since it’s too cold to camp anywhere else.  We had a primo site with a full 100% view of the glorious beach and ocean.  The weather was clear and probably 72 degrees.  Camping really does not get any better than Wright’s Beach.  It seriously doesn’t.  While sitting together staring out at the ocean in a very contented state I posed the following question, “Are we missing out by coming here all the time and not trying somewhere new?”

I pose that question to you.  Do you love to return to the same places over and over again because you love them and they hold sentimental value to you?  Or do you return to them because they are convenient?  Or perhaps you return to them as we did last weekend because we have found a gold mine of a camp site knowing other places will pale in comparison?  Or perhaps you like to try something new every time for the excitement?

Tell me your thoughts on returning to the beloved spots versus branching out and trying something new each time!

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Travel from the comfort of your couch

Travel related books give me inspiration when I am not able to get away.  Below are a few books I have enjoyed over the years for one reason or another.  What do you love to read in between adventures?  What has provided you with travel related inspiration when the boss won’t give you time off or your check book won’t balance?  How do you fill the times in between traveling?

 Give me the world

Leila Hadley

Inspirational story of a young woman traveling on her own and with her small son in a time where this was not the norm.

California Camping: A complete guide to more than 1400 tent and Rv campgrounds

Tom Stienstra

Our bible when looking for somewhere new to drag our little canned ham trailer.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Jules Verne

Everyone loves this story and movie.  It’s an exciting, funny, interesting read even today.

The Art of Happiness
Dalai Lama

While this book may not be a traditional travel novel per se it helps get me in the right state of mind for planning a trip, taking a trip, or returning home to the real world after a trip.

This is San Francisco

M. Sasek

I love the art deco vibe of this book about one of the greatest cities on earth.

Dawn of Art: The Chauvet Cave
Jean-Marie Chauvet
Eliette Brunel Deschamps
Christian Hillaire

I saw one slide of Chauvet Cave when I was in Community College which inspired me to purchase this book.  It in turn prompted a visit to the cave in France in 2010.  History and art meet in this beautiful photo book.

The Arabian Nights

Various Authors and versions

Various enjoyable fables told by the brilliant Princess Shahrazad will spark your imagination into traveling throughout the Arab world.

 

Belize Zoo

If you haven’t figured out yet from some of my previous posts I love visiting Zoos.

Phoenix Zoo

San Diego Zoo

Alas, I especially love a beautiful Zoo where I feel the animals are well cared for and have a lot of room to roam and be, well, animals.  The Belize Zoo is a wonderful example.  This Zoo was started in response to a documentary made on Belizean animals some time ago.  After the documentary was filmed many of the animals used in filming the movie had become socialized to humans and could therefore not be released back to the wild.  The documentarian decided to start the Belize Zoo to care for these animals.  The Zoo staff now specializes in caring for animals that have been abused and injured.  The Zoo doubles as a botanical garden with fine examples of local plants and plenty of shade on a hot day.  The Zoo also boasts a lovely gift shop whose proceeds go to the care of the animals in the Zoo.

The Zoo houses creatures native only to Belize.  The Tapir, one of Belize’s national animals is proudly on display.  The Tapir along with various monkeys, big cats, deer, birds (Toucans being my favorite), turtles, crocodiles,  and more.  The Harpy Eagle was of particular interest to me looking part Eagle and part Owl. Mother Nature’s great sense of humor is on display in grand style at the Belize Zoo.

For a $2.50 donation, the Zoo allows visitors to feed one of their Toucans.  This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  Little Runty the Toucan was a joyous and excitable bird who enjoyed eating raisins right out of my hand.  His beak is light as a feather, thank goodness, since he has to fly with that enormous thing on the front of his colorful head.

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The Zoo also allows for visitors to get in a cage and have one of the big cats roam around and climb on top of them.  I hesitated to have a gorgeous and enormous cat do tricks for me so I passed on this opportunity much to my husband’s chagrin.

Wild birds, Jungle Bunnies, and Lizards roam the Zoo in complete freedom.  They are as entertaining as the animals kept in captivity.  In fact, one can do a fair amount of bird watching at this Zoo both inside and outside of the cages.

I would highly recommend a visit to this Zoo for anyone visiting Belize.  It is one of the gems of Belize and is a very good way to spend a nice morning or afternoon.  My only criticism of the Zoo would be with its Cafe.  (It only boasted American standards like chicken fingers and hamburgers when I was looking for street tacos, chicken with rice, panades, salbutes, tostadas, garnaches, etc.

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Belize Street and Local Food

I was fortunate enough to visit the lovely country of Belize a few weeks back.  Suffice it to say there will be a multiple of blog posts to follow on the subject.  However, I need to start where my heart was on this trip…my stomach.

I was planning on having my socks knocked off by the wildlife and the snorkeling and the Mayan ruins.  But, what really surprised me in this little gem of a country is the inexpensive and delicious street and local food.

Immediately upon arriving to our very fist destination, Orange Walk Town, we set out to find something to eat.  We were trying to get a feel for things so we hit a local restaurant called Nahil Mayab.  We had Arrichero tacos and empanandas accompanied by the local and tasty Belizean beer called Belekin.  I thought surely the trip was ruined because nothing could top this meal.  Boy was I wrong.

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The food got cheaper and better as the trip went on.  We got more courageous and excited to pay very little for quality food.  Orange Walk is apparently known for its street tacos so we tried a few while we were there.  Tacos were the equivalent of three for fifty cents!  Yes, I said three for fifty cents.  And they were sublime.  The only thing I didn’t have the guts to try, and I regret it now, was the mystery beverage out of a plastic bag tied with a straw sticking out.  That went one step over the edge of my comfort zone.

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Next we ate local baked sweet breads.  We had a splendid time with all of the local people and felt very safe the entire trip. But, funny enough a local person asked my husband for money only once.  Eric gave him some money and asked him what was good at the bakery.  The guy pointed out his favorite baked goods and they turned out to be a delicious and again ridiculously cheap breakfast.

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Nearby the Belize Zoo, on the main highway, is a road food shack called G&J.  It was here Eric had the best Chicken curry he will ever have in his life.  (I had stewed chicken that was seriously perfect.)  Here, he proclaimed he may never try curry chicken again because he has had the best and nothing could outdo it.  It was also here that I was handed a strangers baby.  I stepped up on to the deck and two ladies were lounging eating their lunch.  I smiled and said hello and before I could even make eye contact one of them asked if I wanted to hold their tiny infant and she was trust in my direction.  I politely said no thinking I might make her uncomfortable being a stranger and all.  (I was wrong.)  She was proud to show off their daughter trusting the fact I was a fellow woman and all would be ok.

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Before I go any further I need to talk about the Belizean onion habanero sauce.  Virtually every place we visited had their own home-made brand of this standard sauce.  The sauce essentially consists of a variation on the following ingredients; finely chopped white onion, cilantro, habanero, lime juice, sometimes tomato, sometimes carrot, and sometimes vinegar.  Eric and I fell in love with this sauce.  In fact it was the first thing we made when we got home.  Behold the glory of the onion sauce housed in an old jar with a communal spoon.

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Talking about onion habanero sauce is making me thirsty which brings me to Rum Punches.  This is clearly the drink of the islands one that you never get tired of and one that is not made with any consistency anywhere in the country.  All I can tell you is it generally included some sort of delightful local juice and rum.  Panty Ripper is another version that is basically rum and pineapple juice.  It embarrassed me every time I ordered one but I ordered them nonetheless.  In a quest to eat cheaply on this trip we of course bought our own rum and juice and made our own the entire trip and I must say the bartender did a top rate job!

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Our next stop was San Ignacio where the locals are known for their Panades, Salbuntes, fried tacos and chicken tostadas.  We ate at Minchos which was supposed to be a local favorite.  But, our favorite in this town was a small local food vendor near the river called Pasadito.  She made the most perfect chicken tostadas with homemade tostadas, a bit of black bean, cabbage, and onion habanero sauce.  (Hers was the best but it was also the spiciest!)

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Another of my favorite bites of “street food” in San Ignacio was a Pork Pie from two local girls walking down the street selling them.  It was ironic because we were sitting on a stool waiting for the food we ordered from Tattas Fast food when they came by to see if we wanted one.  (It was only fifty cents so we couldn’t resist and it was delightful.) IMG_1258

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We moved on towards the coast where the seafood became the star.  In Placencia, grilled snapper was on the menu at Mango’s and was as fresh as fresh can be.  While this wasn’t street food per se it was very reasonable and was worth a stop.

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Fried snapper and stewed chicken was on the menu at Vern’s kitchen in Siene Bight not far from Placencia.  Again, it was ridiculously inexpensive and fresh with a lot of local flavor.

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Heading back towards Belize City we stopped for another local dish called Garnaches.  They are essentially a tostada with bean and cabbage and no meat.  This particular rendition has ketchup on it!  I assumed this was only a “garnish” and boy was I wrong.  Three for fifty cents again made us so excited we felt like we were getting away with something.

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After taking the water taxi to Caye Caulker from Belize City we asked the owner of our place where the locals ate.  She told us to go by Terry’s place for dinner where Eric ate the freshest and most delightful lobster he has ever encountered.  I asked Terry how often his fisherman went out.  He told me his fisherman was his father-in-law and he delivered lobster and other fish to Terry twice per day because he didn’t have or need a freezer.  Eric’s lobster, which was no less than two hours old from the sea, was BBQ’s in front of us and only cost a mere twelve dollars.  I enjoyed Jerk Chicken at Terry’s that was also out of this world.

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It was in Caye Caulker that I had my first decent cup of coffee.  It turns out that most people in Belize don’t know what “bean” coffee is.  They rely on instant coffee or none at all.  I found this strange considering their proximity to Guatemala. Regardless, I had a splendid iced coffee at Amor y Café where the ice cubes were actually frozen coffee.

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The second local recommendation that was made to us on Caye Caulker was Maggie’s.  I had curry vegetable and Eric had Curry Lobster for dinner.  The curry was delicious and Eric had another divine lobster dinner for approximately ten dollars.

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On our last day in Caye Caulker we experienced the fried goodness that was a Fry Jack.  The bread in a Fry Jack reminds me of a sourdough pancake although to be honest I am not exactly sure what it really is.  I didn’t ask because I didn’t want the magic to be spoiled.  We had a multitude of options on what to put inside of our Fry Jack.  I had egg and bean and Eric had Egg, cheese, and ham.  I would never eat anything else for breakfast every again if I lived there.  Period.

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In case your mouth is still watering below are some additional food porn shots free of charge…

Conch Fritters in Corozal Town.

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Fresh Rock Crab in Caye Caulker

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Picnic Stewed Chicken and Rice provided on a River tour of Lamanai

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Pork Tacos in San Ignacio

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BBQ Chicken on the main road to Placencia

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Home made alcohol.

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Is Yosemite Overrated?

Rock climbers have recently free climbed the Don Wall of El Capitan which is an extremely impressive and exciting feat. I followed the news reports cheering these young climbers on as if they were personal friends.  Their successful feat brought Yosemite into the national news again for something other than wildfires and hantavirus. Furthermore, water is once again flowing in drought-stricken California, at least for the moment, which makes Yosemite Falls full of life again.

Sigh.  Gulp.  Is Yosemite overrated? It pains me to even say those words. As a proud Californian I have always considered Yosemite a “Wonder of the World” or at a minimum a “Wonder of the United States.”  It boasts some of the most glorious and spectacular sites anywhere.  Many of its highlights, such as El Capitan, are immediately recognizable to anyone in the world.  I have always considered myself lucky to live within driving distance of this amazing park.

But, all of this got me thinking? Do I even want to go anymore? Or do I want to visit somewhere quieter and more peaceful?  What about Hetch Hetchy where practically no one goes?  Why is it I don’t want to go there? I only live a few hours away from heaven on earth. Yet the burden of getting into the park through traffic and the crowds of hikers takes so much away from the peacefulness and serenity of the park. I hesitate to go in high season only considering it if out of town travelers are visiting and have never been or it is the dead of winter and the crowds are at a minimum. This makes me sad. Visiting Yosemite shouldn’t be like visiting Disneyland. But this is the reality today. Is it still worth it? Tell me your thoughts?

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iPhone Photos June 2015 002 (39)

3, 2, 1…Shoot

Sometimes people ask me what camera I shoot with.  Well, I am married to my Nikons and I shoot a lot with my iPhone because that is what I have with me ALL THE TIME.  Most recently I tried a relative’s Nikon Coolpix for underwater snorkeling photos/videos which was a fun experiment.  But it got me thinking.  What was my first camera?  Then I went down memory road.  Care to join me?

It feels like just yesterday.  Picture tiny me, along with six + cousins, two brothers, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents all sitting on the floor of my grandparent’s house way up in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Christmas Eve morning.  Sadly I can’t remember if it was Santa, my grandparents, or my parents who gave it to me.  But, they gave me my first real film camera with an actual flash!  I was too young so I am pretty sure I used up all of the flash bulbs and the film before everyone was even done opening their presents.  My kind parents developed the film which produced photos of my shoes and wrapping paper and probably the wall.  Nevertheless, it has been fun for me ever since.

I am pretty sure this Fisher Price/Kodak Camera  is what my first camera was.  I sure wish I still had it!

Vintage Camera

Later, I played around with my dad’s Pentax while taking an astronomy class in early college.  Night photos fascinated me, they still do, but it was a failed attempt for sure.  It was still a great time with the mechanics of the camera and that rainbow colored 70’s camera strap.  (One of these days I need to steal that from him and make it my own.)

Pentax

I borrowed my Mom’s Cannon point and shoot 33MM for my very first trip out of the country to Ireland in 1999.  This trip and the photos that accompanied it sparked a restlessness that is still with me today.  I remember being in Ireland during a solar eclipse.  I ended up putting my sunglasses over the lens as a makeshift filter and taking a few photos whilst crossing my fingers.  I ended up getting a great shot of the eclipse in one of the courtyards of Trinity College in Dublin.  Proof you don’t need expensive equipment to take interesting shots…

Moms Canon

In 1999 I was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding in downtown Sacramento.  It was there I met Diana Tompkins of D.ElainePhotography.   http://delainephotography.com/ Diana and I hit it off because she is a wonderful, kind, giving person.  She found out that I was headed to Ireland and asked me to show her my photos when I returned.  I thought surely a professional photographer wouldn’t be interested in my silly photos using my mother’s borrowed camera and thought nothing more of it.  Low and behold Diana contacted the bride and asked me to accompany her when she picked up her wedding album.  I went and Diana was very excited to see my photos.  I showed her what I seriously thought were terrible, juvenile, uninspired photos.  She was impressed with my composition and asked me if I was interested in a job.  I was currently employed by Uncle Sam and told her I already had a fruitful career path.  She offered to teach me everything she knew, borrow her equipment, and pay me to shoot weddings with her.  This was an opportunity I could not pass up which started a relationship that is still strong today.  Sixteen years later I am still employed by Uncle Sam, am still shooting weddings part-time with the beautiful and talented Diana Tompkins, and I am forever grateful for her friendship and patience in teaching me.

My first Olympus digital camera was purchased shortly after this Ireland trip and was similar to the one pictured below.  It was one of the best non-professional cameras I have ever owned.  It was robust and consistent and a great deal of fun.  It was a relief to be able to take photos at random with no thought to film cost or processing fees.  Those costs were transferred to editing software and external hard drives.

olympus digital camera

Hasselblad is a beautiful word that just rolls off of the tongue.  Diana let me borrow her medium format Hasselblad camera and spent a summer teaching me everything I needed to know.  I fell in love with this camera for many reasons.  To this day it still trumps any camera I have used in quality and consistency.  It is a work of art to look at and hold.

Hasselblad

I now shoot primarily with Nikon Nikkor DX 18-135mm and Nikon Nikkor AF 70-300mm lenses.  I used these lenses with my Hasselblad and I still use them with my Nikon digital cameras.

Times change and the digital world has taken over.  I was forced to change with it.  I invested in a Nikon D700.  With it came a whole new learning curve.  But, boy did I fall in love with this camera.  The luxury of shooting thousands of photos to get the perfect shot is really a pleasure.  Using Lightroom to make the shots even more magical gives me hours of pleasure.  Not only do I use my digital cameras for professional wedding shoots, family photos, etc.  Most importantly I began taking it with me traveling.  The professional work paid for the equipment so I could take it traveling!

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Recently I invested in another new digital.  The Nikon D800 has come in to my life.  The D700 feels a little jealous and put off by the D800 but they are still good friends.  I shoot with both when I do weddings.  And when I travel I tend to take only the D800 now in an effort to travel light.  This requires lens changes when necessary but I feel it still makes the most sense balancing awesome photos with one small backpack.

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Some may say this is blasphemy others will be proud of me.  But, I shoot quite a bit with my iPhone 5S when travelling.  The quality of the photos isn’t there in comparison to my Nikons.  But, the convenience is second to none.  Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to take out a large camera, light meter, flash, etc.  Sometimes I just want to take a photo of my food, or a candid shot of my husband, or capture a split second moment.  The iPhone is convenient and fits in my pocket.  Every new version of the iPhone comes with a better and better camera. I feel the camera on the 5S has come a long way and am looking forward to an even better camera in the next version I pick up.

iPhone

Do you have a first camera story?  What do you shoot with?  I never grow tired of hearing what others use.  I am always impressed by professional expensive fancy equipment.  But, often I am even more impressed when I hear of people using their camera phones or a Polaroid or a vintage camera inherited from their relatives.  I am camera friendly and would love to hear your story.