the beauty of allowing others to interrupt your very important work

Posted on February 29th, 2012

This is a behaviour in myself I really wish wasn’t part of my makeup: friends call or drop in or write to ask if they can come stay and sometimes, not always, but way too often, I get…antsy. I feel they’re going to break my stride, stop me from achieving things.

Photo by Rachel de Joode

On the phone I’m too often distracted. When they drop in it takes me a good 15 minutes and some internal self-talk to be cool. And when I have someone coming to stay I have to talk myself down from a mild panic. This is partly borne from working for myself from home – my parameters are very loose and loved ones can forget that my lounge and kitchen is my office and that at 10am, when they want me to hang on the beach with them when they come visit, I’m meant to be at work.

I get irritated. I want the world to just go away in that moment.

I know not all of you work in the same manner, so you might not empathise. But maybe you do. Because you might find personal calls at work distracting. Or impromptu weekend drop-ins annoying when you’re in the middle of a project. Or when you’re stressed, visitors might tax your tolerance quotient. You issue impatient, “Yep, yep, yeps” as they talk.

If you do, you might find comfort in some ideas I came across.

Recently I read Trust the Process by Shaun McNiff, which is seriously a great book for anyone who gets writer’s block or struggles to access their creativity. He writes that

Picasso welcomed visitors to his studio because they recharged his creative energies.

It was these distractions that provided his inspiration for the day. His muses were people who popped by on that day.

Then Stephen King in On Writing said this: Read more

23 tips for beautiful food photography

Posted on February 28th, 2012

Now. You might have noticed (and politely not commented): I’m am THE crappiest food photographer going around.

Cooking? I’m in my element. Dreaming up flavour combinations? Few can rival my boundless creativity (hyperbole alert). But I just seem to descend into an impatient numbskullness when it comes to capturing it in a pretty pic.

photo by Aran Goyoaga, Cannelle et Vanille


I’ve been meaning to ask a few friends of this site for a while to share their tricks. They most gracefully agreed to share theirs here with us all. And all of them are indeed graceful…their pictures speak more than my words can…

Aran Goyoaga, food stylist, writer + photographer

Her blog: Cannelle et Vanille, a basque-inspired mix of food, life, and photography.

Her story: a gorgeous Basque ex-pat living in the US since 1998. We connected online and share auto-immune love (Aran also has thyroid issues)…there’s a little community of us who’ve connected in this way and we plan to unite on a project one day, don’t we Aran!? Aran runs food styling workshops around the country and her first cookbook will be published later this year.

1. Lighting is everything. Shoot in natural light when possible. Find a bright space, but try to avoid direct sunlight as it casts harsh shadows on subject. If sun is right on top, diffuse the light with a diffuser, a sheer curtain or even a sheet of parchment paper taped to the window. Manipulate light using white or black foam board. White will reflect even more light into the subject and black will take away. Play with these elements until you find the bright/darkness balance that speaks to you and the mood you want to evoke.

photo by Aran Goyoaga, Cannelle et Vanille

2. Determine what the focus of your image will be. Then think about what depth of field suits this image that you want to create. You will have to think about the lens you want to use. Once I have determined the lens I will use, I examine the light available. I set my aperture and ISO according to the light. The aperture I select will also affect the depth of field so I take that into account. I always shoot in manual mode so I control all the settings and I shoot RAW. Read more

how to choose a toxin-free sunscreen

Posted on February 27th, 2012

*this post has been updated in red below

Sunscreens confuse me. They’re full of toxins…should I bother with it at all? Zinc? (oooh, but the nano-particles?!)…You too? Good. I did some scouting, asked experts and here’s what I found…just in time for Australia Day!!

photo via bauhaus

A lot of the sunscreens out there do NOT protect us against harmful UV rays, plus they can contain chemicals that affect our hormones, damage our skin, and sometimes increase the risks of skin cancer. Oh, the tedious, messy, modern-life irony of it all! Today’s post is going to try to get to the bottom of the sunscreens that are purposeful AND harmless.

However, my advice, first and foremost, is:

don’t use sunscreen

Covering up with a hat and clothing, and not staying out in the sun too long, is the best tact. No chemicals, no “stuff” and far more economical. But also (and, yes, I know it goes against how we were raised)…

Getting sun, without sunscreen, is actually good. Better than good actually. Recent studies reveal that people who spend more time outdoors without getting sunburnt, actually decrease their risk of developing melanoma. The benefits of Vitamin D exposure (which can only be reaped without sunscreen) actually protect against many types of cancer; including breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, ovarian, bladder, gallbladder, gastric, pancreatic, prostate, rectal, and renal cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Indeed, more people die of Vitamin D deficiency-based cancers than from melanoma. I’ve written about it previously here.

Get sun every day, but only for 20-40 minutes at a time and, if you’re in Australia, before 10am and after 5pm.

Just don’t get burnt. (In countries with less harsh sunlight, any time of day is fine for sun…and in fact advisable by many doctors these days.)

I get sun every day. BUT I never stay out sunbaking. AND I stay out of the sun in the middle of the day. I personally wear sunscreen ONLY if I’m outside longer than 20 minutes in the middle of the day…the sun here is just too strong. Plus, I generally find that by eating coconut oil – which has an SPF of four – this protects me. You can read more here. So. If you use sunscreen…

non-nano zinc oxide is best

Sunscreens come in two forms:

  • physical sunscreens, containing either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which form a film on top of the skin that reflects or scatters UV light. 

These are your best option.

  • chemical sunscreens, which absorb UV rays before they can do damage.

The Environmental Protection Agency‘s graph below features chemical and physical sunscreen ingredients, as well as the type and amount of ray protection that they provide and their class. Note how zinc oxide fares.


don’t want zinc? what next?

If you’re going for a chemical sunscreen, you need to know this: Read more