Monday, February 28, 2011

Beer of the Month - Febrewary

The beer of the month for February is Sapporo Premium Beer {5% abv}. I was laboring over what I was going to pick this month, but it all became crystal clear after going to a Japanese Steakhouse for my buddy Mike's birthday celebration. I hadn't had a Sapporo in quite some time, but when I heard it was on the beer list I immediately ordered a lovely 22oz aluminum can. When I later looked for these 22oz cans for the picture, I ran into storefronts selling bottles only; check out the Sapporo website to see what the can looks like.

Sapporo's notoriety comes from being Japan's oldest beer brand. Back in the 1870's Sapporo's founder, Seibei Nakagawa, trained in Germany to learn advanced brewing techniques. He returned to his home in Sapporo City, the first Japanese German-trained brewmaster (braumeister) in the world. There have been many aspiring brewers that travelled to Germany (or surrounding areas) to learn superior techniques, but unique to Seibei-san, he returned to make beer using all local ingredients. In 1876, the resulting brew Seibei-san produced under the Sapporo name became rapidly popular throughout Japan, and by 1964 it began being imported to the USA. The large star on the Sapporo label dates back to the origin of the company, symbolizing not only the pioneering spirit of Japanese inhabiting Sapporo region in the late 19th Century, but also symbolizing the Sapporo brand being at the very forefront of the Japanese beer industry.

Sapporo Premium Beer has a very crisp, light flavor which results from the use of aroma hops as well as brewing method. It makes perfect sense as a Japanese beer, given the amount of lighter fare common in the land of the rising sun where seafood is a mainstay. I would equate this brew much to a white wine, shining when paired with a meal starring pork, chicken, fish or shellfish. Sapporo Premium Beer is an easy drinking lager and shouldn't be limited to a seasonal snag. 2 stars.

Monday, February 21, 2011

First Friday.

A couple years ago I was at my now brother-in-laws wife's parent's house, which is within walking distance of the Chesapeake Bay. It was a lovely afternoon; light on clouds, bright sun and there was a large gathering with a pig roast, horseshoes and cold beverages. Across from their house was a neighbor whose yard lead to a small set of stairs that lead you down to the beach several meters down, but more importantly one of the best views for a sunset on the East Coast. I took a couple pictures early in the afternoon, then made sure to come back to catch the sun drop with my camera. My sister-in-law-laws mom (Jo) who hosted this party liked the pictures I took and told me about an Art event that takes place in nearby Oxford, PA called First Friday. After we conversed about the shooting I'd done over the years prior and her own love and production of artwork she suggested I find a day to come to the shop she manages in PA to be her featured artists during the First Friday Art Stroll.

Chesapeake Bay
Over the next couple years I saw Jo at the odd wife's-side family events; weddings, birthdays, pig roasts (mmhm). The same question would come up as I showed her new work of mine after travelling and what not, and I kept having to put it off for the trip/carshow this weekend, or the wrenching on my car that weekend. On top of that, I still hadn't found a trustworthy place to make prints of my images, representing my shots as well as my raws looked on my computer. Fast forward to this past December (2010) and Jo let me know there was an opening in her featured artist spot for February. I freed up some time away from other projects to track down a reliable printing house and assemble some prints to showcase at Jo's store. After some research I found a printer that lined up with my needs. I ordered several prints through this printer, in a variety of large sizes, primarily to see how my fullsize 350dpi jpegs would translate once printed on quality paper. I didn't get anything framed to keep costs down, just went with sturdy yet clean mat-board bases so the shots were solid enough to hang. Thankfully, I was quite pleased with what showed up in the mail.

February 4th (2011) arrived and it was time to get to work. I drove North and arrived at Jo's store, the Outback Trading Company at 29 South Third Street Oxford, PA 19363. I met Jo's and her colleagues, the Hatfield ladies, and we quickly worked together to get the store ready for the event. We ended up using a couple stand-up display boards they normally used for clothing, removed all the hooks, then used Velcro stickers to arrange all my displayed work.

Throughout the evening large amounts of people came by the store and checked out all the current clothing deals going on. Some of Outbacks' patrons also checked out my work and asked me everything you can think of about the images that stood out to them. It was interesting to hear the different takes as well as input on some of my subjects, especially since these are all people that just found out about what I do that day. I had some great conversations, plenty of close friends and family stopped by to check things out and I got leads on some places to shoot future work. Icing on the cake was that I sold a piece from the Vegas 2010 album; as you can see I'm gearing up accordingly. I was happy I finally made it out to support this event, even if it was just in a small way. Hopefully I can make time to bring some new work out later this year.

I'd like to thank Jo (right) and Trina (left) for the help they provided for this first public event of mine. If you're into quality suede and leather boots, hats, clothing as well as casual and active outdoor apparel, you definitely need to check out the Outback Trading Company. Outback Trading Co. gear is sold across the US and worn by adventurists, cowboys and cowgirls alike, but the Oxford, PA location is the place to get these goods, discounted directly from the source. Visit them online or give them a call, and tell them that Allen sent ya.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's cold.

The Winter has come and, barring something amazing in the next couple weeks, has for the most part retreated. Going after a shot representative of this season was difficult, because what is Winter really? Ice? Cloudy skies? 20 inches of snow? Winter is whatever you're used to in your neck of the woods from Dec through early March; on the East Coast of the US, it's rubbing your hands together while you wait for your cars' airconditioning to warm up. It's Winter Weather Advisories every time there's a threat of precipitation. It's heat and electric bills doubling over the previous month. It's the sun setting before 5pm. It's warm tea on a Saturday afternoon after a couple hours of shoveling...I think you get the idea.

All that said, I figured a nice snowy day would be perfect for me to shoot in. Fool! The first problem with this plan is that when you have light snowflakes, they tend to float and drift upwards rather than falling straight down, which gets shot ruining water droplets on your lens. The second problem was that since the snowflakes during this days' shower were extremely small, the shots end up looking like they're soft on focus more than appearing that it's actually snowing. If I had all the time in the world, I would've shot a set when the flakes were huge, but ya can't win them all. I was happy to take on this challenge so I can keep working outside of my comfort zone. While the level of entertainment this post will bring you is up for debate, me enjoying this process isn't ha.

Keeping lens dry...sorta.

I wandered around for an hour or two in my area looking for a great representation of what Winter is; I ended up running into some old stomping grounds in the process. This old mansion below I spoke of in the beginning of the Fall ended up being a repeat destination. Something interesting to add about this building is what I learned while doing an Art exhibit of sorts a couple weeks ago. I had a large print of this same structure that I took this past November on display and we ended up getting into a conversation about it's architecture and history.

The gentlemen explained that this was likely an old plantation mansion which probably dates back to the 1800s. As you all know at that time, Maryland (and most of America for that matter) still participated in legal slavery (for my International readers who are unaware, slavery in the US was legally abolished with the enactment of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865). He also told me about a few other locations in Maryland where historical buildings like this are preserved and I think I'll try seeking a few out for the sake of documentation. I've always been into history, almost minoring in it during college, because learning about what was before your time allows you to put right now in perfect context. Being aware of previous successes and failures also does a pretty good job of keeping yesterday's poor choices by society from being revisited.

Now that we'll have a 50 degree-high day or two, during the next several weeks while we await Spring, all those thoughts of time flying by too fast come to the forefront again. The Sun staying out past 6pm makes it a bit easier to accept though.

Monday, February 7, 2011

On Assignment: HVM Racing's Simona De Silvestro 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series Press Event

For those of you who know me or have followed this blog, you know I love cars and competition. Putting these two things together, what I say next will make perfect sense; I love motorsports. I follow British and German Touring Car Championship racing, American LeMans Series racing, World Rally Championship racing and more importantly Formula 1. I also watch legendary endurance races like the 24 Hours of LeMans, Nurburgring and Daytona when they're televised. Of course then you can understand how I felt last year after hearing that Baltimore City would be playing host to an IndyCar Series race event over Labor Day weekend. By way of the Baltimore Race Development (BRD) Group, this festival of speed is called the Baltimore Grand Prix.

For my automotive site, I've covered and written articles for several shows from the U.S. German automotive enthusiast scene, but have yet to frequent road races since ROTL's inception; mainly due to glaring schedule conflicts. Rectifying last years errors, I've planned my schedule in advance ensuring my availability for the Baltimore Grand Prix. Accordingly, I've been in communication with BRD's Marketing Director concerning media access during the race weekend. A couple of weeks ago I was notified of a local press event being held by one of this years IndyCar Series Race Teams, HVM Racing. HVM's ace driver, Simona de Silvestro, was signed to return in 2011 for her sophomore year in IndyCar behind the wheel of the teams #78 race car. The catalyst behind this encore was last years major sponsor for Simona, Entergy Corporation, renewing her contract based upon the belief in the skills of this young (22) but accomplished driver; being 2010's IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year didn't hurt either.

I arrived an hour and a half in advance at the location where the demonstration is to be held; S. Howard & W. Camden at the tollgate entrance for Camden Yards. It was about 25 degrees in sun. The conditions weren't perfect for operating an IndyCar of course, but in order to make things a bit more manageable, the HVM Racing Team used tread laden rain tires rather than slicks.

Simona de Silvestro, the focal point of this gathering, arrived once the general media had swooped in on the prepped #78 car, changed into her firesuit, had a seat and then began her briefing with the team before getting started. The plan was a quick two figure '8's in the closed off area so the media could get as many angles as needed for coverage purposes.

The event went off without a hitch. Plenty of locals came outside of their jobs and lunch runs to watch everything going on, regardless of the cold, and the local city utility workers who were coincidentally on a job on W. Camden hung out with point and shoot cameras to capture the spectacle. It was a fun event; not only did it pump me up for the Baltimore Grand Prix, but it was interesting to see a young driver so early in her career going through this process of presenting herself publicly. From posing for pictures with fans and bigwigs (responsible for organizing the Baltimore GP), to signing autographs for kids; it was really cool to see. My entire set from this event can be seen here.

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