Happy New Year!

Canon 7D with 40mm f2.8 lens

Now that it is 2014, I’m proud to present to you:
A new website!
A new camera!
A new blog template!

How exciting my tech life is these days.

New Website
I created a new website, HaleyMBrown.com, to showcase my photo and video work and provide an official way of contacting me, since now I have a new business email address (haley@haleymbrown.com) through the website. The website has been live since summer, but I haven’t made it known through this blog yet, so I thought now is a great time to share. It’s very visual, very media and I like it. Teal, turquoise and red are my favorite colors and I used an image that incorporated those colors from the background of a teleprompter that I had photographed on a prior shoot. I thought this photo represents what I do professionally very well: photography, video, teleprompting, production, all of that and then some.

New Camera
I have craved a new camera for quite some time now, especially since I’m a videographer and editor at my job. Since I work on high quality equipment at my job, I thought I should also invest and incorporate comparable gear into my freelance/hobby life as well, which will benefit me in the long run anyways. I felt like I pushed my older camera’s functions to many extremes, and it was starting to limit what I wanted to do such as more low-light and night photography, as well as time-lapses and VIDEO! Right before 2013 ended, Lorne, who I work with for Perfect Cut Productions, offered me a great deal on his Canon 7D + 40mm f2.8 pancake lens + accessories and I felt like the deal was too good to pass up, even though it was all of a sudden and right after Christmas. It was time to upgrade my equipment. And fun fact, I’ve actually used this camera many times on set with his crew so I knew it was in good hands prior to me buying it which tends to be a fear when buying (gently) used gear. So the deal worked, and now I’m able to offer photo and video services at an even higher quality than before! Plus, it’s a new toy for me and I’m eager to work on new projects, of course.

New Blog Template
Lastly, to round out my media upgrades, I unveil the new blog template that I just recently changed. To me, this layout feels fresh and bright and coordinates well with my website. Some of the previous blog posts may not be formatted well with the new layout, since I designed the original posts to work well with the former layout, but I’m doing my best to update those. I get to figure out how best to display my images within posts and what works well with my new layout. If you find any bugs with my blog or my website feel free to email me or drop a reply on here; I’m pretty quick about finding the solution.

More Projects
My tech life is always a work in progress, which reflects how much media shifts and evolves over time, but it’s something you can always use to improve your skills, challenge yourself and achieve creative results, which keeps media exciting! My New Year’s Resolution? To take more photos and video!

I know that later this month, I will help out on set of a featurette produced by Tugboat Pictures, and I also have a couple of photo sessions in mind for portraits/headshots. So I look forward to shooting more and in turn posting about my experiences and projects, accompanied with photos from my new camera!

Thanks for keeping up to date with my work.

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Taste of Bloomington 2012

In honor of August 24 being the first “Flavors of 4th Street” international food festival that I will be blogging about, I am posting some salivating photos from this year’s “Taste of Bloomington,” as a teaser.

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Holding on to Dust

In May, I photographed on the set of an artistic video directed by my friend, Dylan Cashbaugh. The video was co-produced and choreographed by Melissa Strain and it features her dancing to “The Lonely,” a song by Christina Perri.

Melissa Strain and Dylan Cashbaugh

The view from the pond on the building’s west side.

The Woolery Mill is closed now but it is used as a space for special events such as portraits, weddings, Bloomington’s Craft Beer Festival and films like “Breaking Away” and “Holding on to Dust.” Inside of the mill, the rooms are decorated here and there with graffiti, old clothing, broken glass, rusty equipment and other traces of human presence. From the outside it looks like a dark, abandoned warehouse; the structure is almost skeletal yet still sturdy and massive. However the open south entrance and the west window line allow the sunlight to pour into the space making it feel bright and warm in its charm, and we filmed on a hot, sweaty day.

Holding on to “Dusk”

Because we were shooting the video in a day, we raced with the sun for the shots planned for natural light. While the first half was fun, what was really exciting for me was that we were shooting well into the night and I was able to experiment with long exposures of the old mill and of Melissa dancing, both producing pretty cool effects. I just love shooting abandoned places, especially at night.

More photos on my Flickr account.

“I’m a ghost of a girl that I want to be most”

Filming.

“I’d rather fillet a roma tomato than dice a red onion.”

Avocado skins make for perfect portions.

It is 11:08 p.m. and I am finally at my computer, ready to blog about my experience of making a double-batch of guacamole. I aimed to perfectly craft guacamole in taste and appearance, to the best of my abilities.

My abilities took four hours.

I researched which guacamole I wanted to test out, and I decided on Alton Brown’s (no relation that I know of) recipe on foodnetwork.com. It’s Alton Brown, so the recipe’s perfect to near-perfect already, right? Scientifically and culturally proven to be perfect, usually! Or that’s how I perceive it on his TV show. Anyways, I had a whole spread planned out in my head of what I wanted to make for dinner and I went to the store to buy all the ingredients. I completed one “dish,” and it wasn’t even my proposed entrée.

If Alton Brown says to seed a Roma tomato, you do it.

My love for cilantro and garlic portrayed simply. This took time and distracted me, too. Creative Design by Haley Brown.

I’m not a chef; I cook for fun, and I don’t do it often enough. I believe that what I make shouldn’t be visually boring or flavorless. But I know sometimes that’s just its nature. I find myself looking at food photos online or in print and I just love coming across good photos/recipes. My bookmarks are piling up, and if I’m going to cook it, I need to share it. I love food, I love photos and I love food photos, so I might as well combine everything using the cooking/writing/photography skills that I have developed from my family, friends or on my own and by means of my college education. Alas, here’s my personal niche in food blogging/plogging (photo blogging). And if I’m not cooking it, I’m going out to restaurants to order it. (I’m already developing my food album on Flickr and Pinterest.)

I grew up not liking guacamole, avocados or onions, but somehow over the years I developed a better taste for guacamole. Still working on the onions but I really can’t stand them (unless they’re “masked” which is hard to do, but definitely not plain onions).

I think my appreciation for good guacamole happened during my Spring Break vacation in 2009. My mom, sister and I went to California to visit my aunt and we traveled along the coast from Oakland to Santa Barbara. It was at Post Ranch Inn where we took an evening to relax after hanging out on Pfeiffer Beach. We sat on the deck of Sierra Mar, Post Ranch Inn’s restaurant, atop the cliffs and looked down and across the Pacific Ocean during the sunset all while enjoying tortilla chips and a trio of salsa, black beans and guacamole. It was one of the most tranquil spots I’ve been in. The dinner we ate much later was probably the most exquisite meal ever, but I can’t even attempt to recreate that moment and that meal, and I am still overwhelmed by it and grateful for indulging in it thanks to my mom and aunt.

Later that week we headed to Santa Barbara. For lunch one day, we ate at Sandbar Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar and again ordered guacamole to go with our chips and salsa. I don’t eat guacamole a lot, or hardly ever, but I think I got a major craving recently because not only did I miss that whole trip and those memories, but let’s face it, a hint at a vacation every so often is nice if it has been awhile and you’re not preparing for one for the future.

Four hours of peeling, scooping, chopping, dicing, filleting, mixing, mashing and preparing guacamole and photographing it in between and after. Unfortunately I don’t have any cool gadgets to help out the process, such as the ones my grandpa used to collect, but I may need to invest. It took my Chicago Cutlery Santoku knife to halve the avocados, my C.C. paring knife to extract the fruit from its skin and a spoon to scoop it out. I managed to keep the skins intact to create serving boats for the guacamole and I added a finishing touch of minced cilantro on top.

Guac boats.

When I cook, I try being thoughtful, methodical and cautious. Baking is a slightly different story consisting of not-exact measurements and it usually doesn’t turn out as well as my cooking results do. At least guacamole is filling. (Avocado superfood!) My double-batch bowl of guac topped with lime juice, plastic wrap and a lid will hopefully hold over for a while in the fridge.

Tomorrow’s a new day and a new dish, and I’m thinking burritos.

If your chips don’t come in a bag like this, you’re doing it wrong. (The only tortilla chips from my local grocery store that I can approve.)

Side note: Not sure why I gravitate towards Mexican or Tex-Mex foods for cooking/blogging (Cheesy Gordita Crunch rendition was posted earlier). I even have a Spanish night planned. Italian will come later; I have a great pasta sauce recipe that I haven’t made in years. Plus I need to steal some family recipes and share what the Brown/Freeman/Stegman/Huffman/Carlson clans can whip up, but our tradition with sharing recipes is to leave out an ingredient so the dish is never the same/authentic. (Puzzler!)

Gail Hale’s Art Studio

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Gail Hale’s Art Studio, a set on Flickr.

For Homes & Lifestyles magazine, I interviewed Bloomington visual artist Gail Hale and explored her studio for a story on re-purposing clothing and trash items for the Center for Sustainable Living’s Trashion Refashion Show. The issue’s out now!

Homes & Lifestyles

Semi-Homemade Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Homemade Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Update: I started a new “Food Photography” album on Flickr.

It was a limited-time product, but now it is a mainstay on the menu. Taco Bell describes it as a “warm, pillowy flatbread covered in a melted three-cheese blend, wrapped around a crunchy taco and topped with a zesty Pepper Jack sauce.” One of my favorite items to order off the Taco Bell menu is the cheesy gordita crunch. As a recent college graduate, yes, Taco Bell is still a guilty pleasure.

I still live right off campus from Indiana University, and this week is Spring Break but I’m not on vacation. How about serving up cheesy gordita crunches and throwing together a fiesta?! Sand not included.

I was shopping in WalMart recently and came across some shelf products made by Taco Bell. I had no idea that they offered packaged salsas and sauces, so I purchased the Spicy Ranchero Sauce hoping that it’d be a good substitute as a cheesy gordita crunch sauce.

Spicy Ranchero Sauce, Ortega taco shells, cheese, and On The Border hot salsa. Not pictured: taco seasoning, ground chuck, water, lettuce, and Taco Bell Mild Sauce

You could definitely make your own sauces, salsas and tortillas and get really creative with it, but my idea came about quickly and I went for the faster, packaged selections instead. It’s actually a simple taco recipe, just with craftily constructed shells. I put the Spicy Ranchero Sauce on the side, and turns out I didn’t really like it anyways. Maybe just melting pepper jack cheese would have been more suitable. I can try that next time.

Start with:

1 box of Ortega Grande Taco Shells, Hard and Soft Tacos. It comes with 8 hard shell tacos and 8 soft tacos and is perfect for “cheesy gordita crunch”-making.

1 lb. ground chuck. This is enough to make six, depending how much fills the shells.

1 cup water.

1 pkg. taco seasoning mix.  I had Kroger’s on hand.

Lettuce. I had bags of romaine salad on hand that I sliced up.

Taco sauce. Of course, I used mild sauce packets from Taco Bell.

1 package of blended Mexican cheeses. The Great Value brand I bought at WalMart had Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso and Asadero cheeses.

Salsa. I typically have four different salsas in my fridge because I’m picky, but now my favorite is On The Border Hot Salsa.

Shells on top of cheese-covered tortillas. Photo credit: Isaiah Ashba

Ortega directions I followed but improved on:

Taco-seasoned ground chuck. Photo credit: Isaiah Ashba

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove hard shells from container and arrange on baking sheet.
  2. While waiting for the oven to preheat, brown the beef in a pan on the stove and drain the fat. Stir in 1 cup water and packet of seasoning mix, then heat until thickened while stirring mixture often.
  3. Place baking sheet with hard shells in the oven and bake for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Using a hot pad, remove sheet from oven, then take out soft tortillas from container. Shells will be hot, but gently move them to the side of pan or on another clean surface. Place soft tortillas on the baking sheet and sprinkle cheese on tortillas, covering the surface but still leaving space around the edges for cheese to melt. Place shells directly on the tortillas. Make an even amount of shells and tortillas. Bake for roughly 20 seconds, depending on oven. The cheese needs to be softened and melted but not completely.
  5. Remove baking sheet. Quickly but gently fold tortillas around shells and press together firmly around sides and bottom. Be careful because shells are fragile.
  6.  Fill newly made gordita crunch shells with beef, taco sauce, salsa, lettuce, cheese and enjoy!

Isaiah takes a bite.

Lights, Camera, Exercise.

Shooting a music video on the roof overlooking Rose-Hulman's football field.

Video production.

Although I was in media-related majors, I didn’t have production classes in college; I had basic shooting/editing projects in an Intro to Journalism class. This past weekend, I got to see and learn how Perfect Cut Productions produced a music video for Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Sports and Recreation Center. I felt completely useless because I didn’t know how to assemble anything on set and would have hindered the crew further behind schedule, but that’s not what my job was anyways. Instead, I spent each day photographing behind scenes. I shot the crew at work and of their candid moments, images they could use for marketing/advertising purposes.

The whole crew: Nick Maudlin, Evan Richardson, Lorne Golman, Steve Mech, Michael Bennett and Alex Guevara.

Music, Red Bull and a blurry haze of exhaustion

Key elements needed for production sets that I learned: Red Bull, iPod/stereo, candy and chips. These provisions fueled the team for the 15-hour workdays and were much appreciated by everyone. Shout-out to Perfect Cut for the transportation, snacks and meals such as dinner at the local Mexican restaurant.

Sure, a music system of some sort is obvious for the set of a music video, but an upbeat, energetic and comical playlist helps heighten the crew’s work ethic and overall mood throughout the day especially when the days drag on and the tensions through exhaustion begin. If I could create a playlist for this post that would match what we rocked out to, I would. However, WordPress doesn’t have that sort of technology, I don’t think, so instead I’m going to include turquoise, italicized links for you to check out as you read to get an idea of what we used as motivation and inspiration.

Possible scene from "Silent Hill"

On the first day we drove up there, Friday the 17th, the entire drive seemed like we were in the movie, “Silent Hill,” because of the dense fog we tunneled through along the highway. Eerie.

The first day had scenes that included cool hand scanners, a faculty basketball game, Rose-Hulman’s elephant tusks circa 1959, the Vince Lombardi Trophy won by Super Bowl XLI Champions the Indianapolis Colts, elephant mascots and “Gators,” the men’s varsity locker room and finally a night-time jib shot of the building’s entrance at night complete with hyped students and Steve Mech, our talent for the video.

Night shot in front of the SRC.

The GoPro camera makes an underwater debut.

For Saturday morning, we started off with high dives at the pool. Lorne, the director, changed into his SCUBA equipment and shot Steve underwater. Steve, who was wearing weights, said, “I’ve always wanted to do this after seeing Pirates of the Caribbean,” and began walking underwater from a five-foot depth downwards to about eight feet.

“This is the tale of Captain Jack Sparrow, pirate so brave on the seven seas.” –Michael Bolton/The Lonely Island

Next came shooting a pick-up football game, the catwalk above a conference championship track meet, a fluid mechanical engineering lecture, cheerleader stunts and we finished on the roof overlooking the football field at night. I hope Steve conquered his fear of heights by this point. Before this night, I don’t recall ever seeing a silent and reflective group of guys. The roof, the football field, cold weather, a clear night sky and “Paradise” by Coldplay on blast makes for a humbling, thoughtful moment we got to experience both individually yet together.

Sunday was our final day of shooting—a frigid wind chill morning where we had to shoot outside in front of the SRC. Later we shot the weight room which included lifting weights and running on treadmills.

“I-I-I work out.” –LMFAO

We proceeded with shooting racquetball, karate, swing dancing and dance aerobics. Even with the usual down-time here and there, I feel like it was quite an active day.

Rose-Hulman's dance aerobics club dances to "Jai Ho."

Group critique.

Now to wrap up, I really enjoyed being on set and watching video magic happen, making new friends with the Perfect Cut team, and having access to basically wherever we wanted at Rose-Hulman’s SRC because it gave us really cool location/shot opportunities that I know will make this music video interesting and quite frankly AWESOME. Also, much thanks to Michael, Nick and Alex, the guys in the background who continuously assembled and disassembled the lights and hauled the equipment. Without them, we literally wouldn’t have gotten around, and I wouldn’t have such sweet lighting in my set photos.

Once Perfect Cut edits and completes the video, I’ll post it in another blog entry, so please be on the lookout for that.

And as always, go to my > Flickr < account for extra pictures, because you won’t want to miss them.

Side view of Rose-Hulman's Sports and Recreation Center.