Hello…Happy New Year 2017! Thank you for visiting.
Here’s my own technique for making yummy, healthy pomegranate juice AND tea, without any wastage.
1. First off, you need the pomegranate seeds, or more correctly called “arils”, and there are various techniques taught on the Internet. I opted for the following method.
1a. Slice a bit off the top and bottom.
1b. Next, look for the ridges and make shallow cuts all along the ridges where the fruit will break open.
1c. Gently pry apart the fruit, which should open along the cuts made earlier.
1d. Now gently pry the arils off the peels in a bowl of water. The water helps prevent the arils from bouncing off everywhere. I find this most helpful. The white pith will float in the water for easy removal too.
2. Use a large strainer to catch the arils and pour into a container. Now you can store these in the fridge for a fairly long period (I don’t really know how long they will keep) until you are ready to consume them. You can scoop with a spoon and eat straight off as a morning before-breakfast snack, or use for juicing as what we are discussing now.
3. For juicing, I use a simple “Shake n Take” blender. Whichever blender you use, I suggest that you use the pulse mode to gently extract the juice from the arils without breaking their inner seeds. I imagine the inner seeds, if crushed, may affect the taste of the juice. But then some say that adds more healthy stuff to the juice. It’s your choice.
4. I pour the pure pulpy mixture into the centre strainer of my tea pot and use a pestle to gently coax more juice out of the pulp. The strained juice is then poured out from the teapot into a container to chill for a refreshing healthy drink later.
5. I then add about 3/4 pot of hot boiling water to my teapot and then immerse the strainer (which contains the pulp). I pour the remaining hot water through the top of the pot/strainer. Don’t try to pour a whole pot of hot water through the strainer. The strainer is choked full of the pulp and will surely test your patience if you try that!
6. There you have it! The combined large and medium sized fruits give about 500ml of pure juice. The pulp makes one teapot of pomegranate tea. It may be a rather weak tea to some, but hey, no waste!
I was wondering whether to use the peels for my vermicasting or as garden mulch. But I discovered that the peels have many healthy uses. See the links below.
If you do try any of the health tip below and find it works for you, please share for the benefit of others at my other website, Free2Cure ( www.free2cure.com ), which publishes first-person testimonials on natural remedies to eliminate doubt and hear-say.
Here’s a quick and easy way to grow celery. It’s like recycling your celery for an endless supply of garden-fresh crunchy celery.
How To Have An Endless Supply Of Crunchy Celery
1. Carefully cut off the mature stalks at the base, making sure you do not cut too deep into the remaining layers of young shoots. However, you will need to nick the base of the young shoots…. see step 2.
2. Special tip! Carefully nick ( shallow small cut ) the bottom of the young shoots. This will accelerate the formation of roots at the nicks. Picture shows roots growing from the small cuts after 1-2 weeks.
3. Stand the remaining young shoots in some water taking care not to soak the leaf stems. Wet leaf stems may rot. Place the stems in a sheltered place with bright diffused sunlight, such as on a window sill.
4. Within 3-4 days, the pale young shoots will turn a healthy green. Change the water daily. Thereafter, the young shoots will grow bigger steadily.
5. After a week or two, there should little roots growing out of the small cuts in the stems. When you have sufficient roots (make your own judgement!), transplant the young shoots in a suitable pot, and cover the base lightly with potting soil up to the roots level.
6. Here are my first 3 pots of Australian Celery, USA Celery and Dole Celery (USA) after about a month. They appear somewhat stunted and I’m not sure whether they will eventually grow to their parents’ original market-size, considering that I’m in the hot/humid tropics. But if you live in a temperate zone, there’s no reason why you won’t be able to harvest your full-grown celery within a couple of months. Enjoy!
Bonus: Have you ever wondered how long do carrots last? Click here for an interesting article on some of the ways to tell if a carrot has spoiled, as well as ways to extend its shelf life.
First a disclaimer: this is aimed at the newbie to audio “hi fi” systems. Audiophiles stay away; skip this article.
Let me tell this story as my personal experience, while dipping my toes into the pond of High Fidelity to experience the sensation of near-actual live studio/concert hall musical performances.
First, I found a mentor; an audiophile as crazy a perfectionist as you would expect. Someone who won’t blink an eye to put down mega dollars for that little incremental improvement towards perfection. This was to draw my inspiration from and to establish my own realistic (that’s tough!) benchmark against. When he had got me sufficiently excited, it was time to go shopping.
I set myself a budget of RM20,000 ( it was USD 5,800 then) for a reasonably good entry-level system. I settled for the NAIM 5i integrated amp, Marantz K.I. Pearl Lite CD player and a pair of floor-standing Polk Audio RTiA7. For the interconnects, I use the Kimber Kable PBJ and for the speaker cables the QED Bi-Wire. Just to be sure, I plonked some dollars down for the Chord power cables. My mentor gave me a pair of UPS to stabilise/clean up the incoming juice to my amp and player. On top of that he gave me some gadgets and additional tips to improve the sound quality; but that’s for a later different story.
I hooked that all up and fired them up and… yes! For a guy used to listening to music on a portable cassete/CD player, it sounded so sweet to my ears. It seemed like every instrument came alive. Then it happened. One day the sound just does not seem “right”. It felt lifeless and flat. Even a friend commented that his Bose integrated system sounds better than my so called Hi-Fi separates system. I invited my mentor to take a look. He suggested I relocate the system and to arrange them elsewhere in the living room and helped me pick a new spot. And he was right! The music came alive again! But not for long….
I enjoyed my system for a few months and then like before, it suddenly didn’t seem as sweet as it should be. It’s like, I suddenly realise the sounds were too bright and thin and there’s just not enough oomph in the low frequencies. Should I change my speakers? Should I change my amplifier? I don’t think it’s my Marantz K.I. Pearl-Lite; that should be good enough. After researching the Internet, I came to the conclusion that a sub-woofer would probably help fill the sound voids. But hey! Isn’t a sub-woofer really just meant for the home theatre? Researching some more turned up some literature that advocated adding a (right-type) sub-woofer to the system. But since the amplifier, unlike an AV Receiver, does not have a LFE sub-woofer output, it means the correct sub-woofer has to be able take high level input, straight from the amplifier’s outputs to speakers.
It took me a while to find a right-type hi-fi sub-woofer, but I found the REL range of subs a possibilty. Off I went to the local distributor’s showroom in Sunway Pyramid and auditioned a REL T5 hooked to a NAIM 5i. And it certainly made an audible difference. Next, I asked for a home demo; if it works just as well in my home on my system, then I will buy it. And what do you know? It works well! For me the acid test will be to see if the system now passes muster with my mentor the next time he visits.
So why did I go to all this trouble? Where are the Bass and Treble controls? Shoot! Just crank up the Bass and turn down the Treble! Can’t you?
Well, the answer to that is still the same reason why the Bass and Treble (and generally the equalisers) all went out of fashion in the 80’s in Hi Fi amplifiers. Apparently the move was started by NAIM and soon all other brands came around to the same notion as well.
And what’s that notion? Well, all equalisers, bass and treble controls are actually filters and they remove portions of the sounds that went into the media (CD, records, etc). And to the purists, that’s subtractive and not true Hi Fi. The controls actually distort the sounds. OK, so what’s the difference with the sub-woofer? The (Hi Fi) sub-woofer takes the actual signal from the amplifier and further amplifies the sounds (from the very low sub-bass 30 Hz to about 120 Hz). The result is that it adds to the overall sounds, very much like suddenly a bass guitarist fires up his instrument, or he turns up his bass guitar (or bass drum) volume. The original sounds from the floor standing speakers do not diminish in any way. When tuned properly, the sub-woofer should feel like an integral part of the overall Hi Fi System.
That’s all dandy, if….and that’s a very big IF, the sound engineers have done their jobs well and IF the CDs are all made very well. Who has not listened to a badly produced CD or track? No, not even the addition of a sub-woofer can make up for the CD that’s badly produced in the first place. Perhaps we should start a rating system for the sound engineers and music producers, like we rate movie directors and producers.
I have been very keen in herbal remedies ever since 1998 when my mother-in-law was saved by a herb after doctors had given up hope on her when they deemed her renal failure was no longer treatable.
When she recovered after we put her on a course of urena lobata (“Sar Boh Chau”) herbal tea, and she went on to live a healthy life for 22 more years, I started a website, Free2Cure, to put on record her case study (https://www.free2cure.com/chronic-renal-failure/)and to solicit first-person testimonials of any other successful natural remedy to help anyone in need.
But I am also acutely aware that my brief description of the herbal tea preparation, typically the common advice of “boil 3 cups until 1 cup” is too vague and does not instill confidence for anyone who needs to understand the “how’s and why’s” of the herbal tea preparation.
As such, I scoured the Internet and researched this topic and what follows, I believe, is the definitive guide to making herbal tea. It should provide answers to the “what, when, why and how” of herbal tea preparation. If there’s any gap, error or falsehood in this guide, please post your comment here, and together we’ll continually improve and add to our collective knowledge.
First off, “herbal tea” in its common usage, is a misnomer, since “tea” is actually a beverage prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.
“Herbal tea” (or more accurately “tisane”) as referred to and described in this article, does not involve the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, but is any beverage made from the infusion (hot tisane) or decoction (boiled tisane) of herbs, spices, or other plant material and usually does not contain caffeine. But, we will call it “Herbal Tea” here as it is commonly referred to.
A herbal tea is often consumed for its physical or medicinal effects, especially for its stimulant, relaxant or sedative properties.
Herbal teas generally have lower antioxidant values than true teas but there are exceptions (eg. Misai Kucing) with antioxidant properties comparable to black teas.
Since the liquid medium is water, herbal tea is only useful to extract water soluble active chemicals from the target herb and to release the volatile essential oils (if present).
To extract non-water-soluble active chemicals, other methods like tincture may be used.
Maceration, tincture, elixir, tonic, syrup, etc. to extract the beneficial constituents of a target herb will be discussed in a separate article. Top
Infusion is made by bringing freshly drawn water to a light boil and then adding the hot water to the herb in an appropriate container. The container must be covered to retain the volatile essential oils, and the herb is steeped in the hot water for the desired duration.
As such, infusion is used to extract minerals, vitamins and volatile essential oils from the soft parts of the plant such as leaves or flowers (fresh or dried) or citrus peelings or fruits.
Pre-heat the pot and cup by swirling hot water and pouring off. The warmed tea pot will prevent the water from cooling too quickly so that the full flavour of the tea is not lost. Another good reason to do that is avoid cracking your glass tea pot through a sudden drastic change in temperature which may happen if you just dump the full volume of boiling hot water into the pot. After you have pre-heated the pot, add the appropriate amount of herb followed by the lightly boiled water.
Some herbalists recommend not to stir but to just let the herb(s) steep within the confines of the pot or cup. Probably, this is to prevent the loss of the volatile essential oils if you lift the cover to stir.
While tea is normally steeped for only 1-3 minutes to avoid excessive bitter tannins, herbal tea is steeped for at least 5 minutes and usually 10-20 minutes. Some herbalists recommend the use of higher dosage to make a stronger herbal tea rather then a longer steeping time. Top
While “infusion” generally refers to “hot tea”, you could also use cold water instead of hot water especially for the more delicate herbs that may be adversely affected by heat.
Cold infusion gives a different flavour to the herbal tea as the chemical balance will be different from that imparted by hot infusion. As before, use freshly drawn water (filtered or mineral water) and add the cold water to the herb(s) in the glass/porcelain tea pot and keep covered. Allow it to steep for up to 24 hours. Dosage is similar to that for hot infusions.
But be very careful; the dried or fresh herb must be clean as there is no heat to kill any bacteria that may be present in the herb. In case of doubt about its cleanliness, do a quick rinse of the herb with boiling water, before using for the cold infusion.
Use a pestle and mortar to crush whole herbs to “open” them up before the cold infusion.
Drink the finished tea as is or chilled or sweetened; whatever your taste. Some may prefer to gently warm up the tea to drinking temperature.
Use a bottle or jar instead of a tea pot to make larger quantities. Top
Sun Infusion (Yang)
Sun infusion supposedly harnesses the sun’s masculine yang energy to stimulate the water and herb(s). Use a big jar and fill it with clean freshly drawn water to keep the herb(s) submerged. Keep the jar open or cover with some fabric like muslin cloth to keep dirt out. Put the jar in a sunny spot to infuse for at least 4 hours. The tea is ready when it is fragrant and the liquid is full of color. Strain and drink throughout the day. Top
Moon Infusion (Yin)
Moon infusion supposedly harnesses the moon’s feminine yin energy which is more subtle, cool and passive than the sun’s energy.
Apparently, moon infusions under the different phases of the moon will impart different effect on the infused herbal tea although generally it seems like a good idea to do it under a full moon.
Again, keep the jar open or covered with a fabric like muslin cloth to keep dirt out. Moon infusions are generally kept overnight in the moonlight.
The beauty of making lunar infusions is the ability of these to capture the energy of the moon phases and their relative teachings into the tea. A full moon tea will bring more bright, illuminating, and culminating energy to a blend, while a waning moon infusion will invoke a remembrance of rest, calm, and letting go. Herbalists pay close attention to the moon and we use the moon for harvesting. We harvest some flowers and plant tops under the light of the full moon, when the energy of the plant is lifted like the tides into the highest part of the plant. And we harvest roots and tubers under the darkness of the new moon when the energy is calm, the tides are low, and the plants have their intelligent life-force nestled deep into the earth below.
The guiding principle is that herbal tea is meant for its therapeutic value rather than its flavour, unlike the case of drinking tea.
Therefore, the material of the container must not contaminate the herbs. As such inert material is preferred over clay or cast iron, two of the popular types of tea pots for making tea (not herbal tisane).
The recommended material for the pot for herbal tisane is glass or porcelain. Metallic containers like aluminium and copper may react adversely with some herbs. If you have to use metallic pots, I believe stainless steel is inert and will not react with the herb. Other sources recommend enamel pots but I would not use use them as the enamel can chip off and expose the metal (cast iron or mild steel) which can rust. Traditional Chinese tea is usually infused in clay or ceramic pots. For our herbal tea, stick to glass, porcelain or stainless steel. Glass has the added bonus of a delightful visual sense to add to the enjoyment of the herbal tea. The downside of glass is that glass is a poor heat insulator and tends to cool down quite fast compared to clay (or porcelain).
The longer you infuse the herbs, the stronger and more effective the active constituents will be. But the flavour may alter with different steeping times, so experiment to suit your taste with a minimum steeping time of 10 minutes.
And remember, the pot must have a cover or lid.
Choose the size of the container appropriate for the quantity of herbal tea. Do not use a large pot for a small quantity of herbal tea. Top
What is the recommended dosage?
Generally, the recommended dosage is about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of dried herb or 2 tablespoons of fresh herb per 8 oz (240 ml) of water (1 cup). But this is only a guideline as different herbs have different potency.
Add 2 tablespoons of fresh, or 1 tablespoon of dried herb (or crushed seed) to the pot for each cup of water, plus an extra 2 tablespoons of fresh or 1 tablespoon of dried “for the pot.” (For iced tea, increase to 3 tablespoons of fresh and 2 tablespoons of dried herb to allow for watering down by melting ice).
Therefore, if making 2 cups of hot tea, you would use 6 tablespoons of fresh herb or 3 tablespoons of dried herb in a pot.
Alternatively, a very general guideline is to take a cupped handful of fresh herb for a quart (0.88 litre) of water.
From the foregoing, you will notice that if you are using fresh herbs for your tisane, use twice the amount you would use if the herb were dry. This is because the water content in fresh herbs dilutes their flavor. As one herbalist wrote, “Let your hands, eyes, nose and heart guide you”.
Note: 1 g dried herb approx = 1.5 tsp dried herb
The average dosage is usually 3 to 4 cups in a day. Top
A decoction is used to extract primarily the mineral salts and bitter principles of plants from hard materials such as roots, bark, seeds and wood. These hard materials generally require boiling for at least 10 minutes and then are allowed to steep longer, sometimes for a number of hours. The word “decoct” means to extract the essence from (something) by heating or boiling it. The tea is boiled down and concentrated so that water may need to be added before drinking, in some cases. But a general guideline is to use 3 bowls of water and boiled/simmered until 1 bowl.
Put 1-3 tablespoons of cut herb, seed, root, bark, etc into a pot of 16-32 oz of water and allow to sit in non-boiled water for at least 5-10 minutes. Set on stove and bring to a slow boil then turn down to a simmer for 10-30 minutes. Strain and drink. Will keep about 72 hours if kept refrigerated. Most decoctions can also be brewed via single cup through a regular infusion process as noted above but without the strength.
The decoction method is used for hard, woody substances (such as roots, bark, and stems) that have constituents that are water-soluble and non-volatile. (Red clover is an exception, because red clover flower decoction will extract more minerals that the infusion.)
Decoctions extract mainly mineral salts and bitter principles. Decoctions are intended for immediate use.
Store for a maximum of 72 hours in the refrigerator.
Amounts can vary, depending upon your taste and the potency of the herbs, however 1 to 2 teaspoons of herb mixture to each cup of water is a good starting point. Roots and barks are more concentrated than the lighter leaves and flowers used in infusions, so less is needed. Top
Heating method for the decoction
There seems to be conflicting views as to how to boil the herb(s). The following methods are extracted from different sources.
Start with cold water over a low heat and slowly bring herb mixture to a simmering boil. Keep the pot covered and simmer for ten to 20 minutes. Take off heat and leave covered while your decoction cools to drinking temperature.
Use this method when the material you want to extract is a bitter, or mineral salt. The whole herb, roots or seeds, or the bark of a woody plant are soaked in cold water for several hours, then brought to a boil and simmered for 30 minutes.
Add 3 cups of water to the herbs and bring the mixture to a boil using relatively high heat. Reduce to medium heat and continue to boil (for approximately 20 minutes) until 1 cup of strong, dark liquid remains.
Strain the liquid into a large glass or ceramic container. This is the first dose (the strongest) of your herbal medicine.
Add 2 cups of water to the previously cooked herbs. Continue to simmer under medium to low heat for approximately 20 minutes, until 1 cup of liquid remains.
Strain the liquid and pour it into the same container holding the previous dose.
Repeat the last two steps one more time to make a third dose of medicine, which you again combine with the previous two doses.
When finished you should have approximately 3 cups of herbal medicine, and can now discard the cooked herbs. You will generally take 1 cup of your decoction three times a day, but this depends on your individual condition. Decoctions should be drunk slightly warm (like tea). Some herbs may taste a bit bitter, and if so you can usually sweeten them with a small amount of honey. Your decoction should keep for about 2-3 days if sealed and refrigerated.
I personally adopt Method 3 most of the time.
Why you boil a decoction three times
It is important to boil the herbs three times for 20-minutes each time, rather than all at once for one hour. Many of the herbs in your formula will contain some volatile aromatic oils as active ingredients. These oils will be retained in a short 20-minute boiling, but will probably evaporate after an hour at high temperature. Other components of your herbal formula (such as the active ingredients in hard roots or nuts) might take an hour to be fully extracted, however.
Thus the best method of preparing the decoction is to boil the herbs for 20 minutes three times in a row, combining and mixing all three doses. This ensures that all the various active herbal ingredients are present in the final medicine. Top
A mortar and pestle can be used to crush the herb(s) to aid in the infusion or decoction of the herbal tea, especially anything tough or hard, like nuts or barks.
For the freshest tasting cup of tea, you should always use mineral water or freshly drawn water direct from the tap that has been running for a while. Standing water loses oxygen, and the resulting tea tastes flat. If your tap water is chlorinated, a compromise can be reached by drawing fresh water and letting it stand uncovered for a couple of hours to allow the chlorine taste to leave the water; although, using mineral water is a quick and easy solution. Boiling the water for long periods also removes oxygen from the water, so always use fresh water (do not re-boil it), and use the water quickly after it comes to a boil.
Traditionally, in Asia, water is always brought to gentle boil before one prepares tea. Boiling water eliminates many harmful germs and bacteria. Though water quality has improved vastly, boiling in the water in this fashion can help to bring out tea’s flavor. The water should be heated until a steady stream of air bubbles gently rise to the surface. At this point, the water is sufficiently heated and also has a preferable oxygen content. In contrast, using water that has been held at a fierce, rolling boil can leave tea tasting dull and flat.
Try this the next time you use your juicer to make fruit juice. Make sure the container for the pulp is clean before you start juicing. After juicing, the collected pulp can be put into a tea bag/filter and used for fruit tisane infusion. Now you can have your juice and fruit tea, no waste!
I used my juicer to make some fruit juice as usual, but this time instead of throwing away the pulp, I used the pulp to make a fruit tea (infusion).
3 large green apples
1-litre fruit juice, and pulp sufficient for 3-litres of fruit tea.
The above ingredients produced almost a litre of fruit juice while the pulp was sufficient for 3 litres of fruit tea. I packed my teapot’s strainer full of pulp to make a fresh infusion of fruit tea. The balance of the pulp was kept in the fridge and used over two days to make two more pots of fruit tea.
So you have a super duper Home Theatre system complete with a jiffy HD Projector and a top-of-the-line AV Receiver linked by a 50-foot (15-metre) HDMI cable that snakes overhead in the ceiling. One end is connected to the HDMI input port of your overhead HD Projector while the other end is connected to the HDMI output port of your AV Receiver across the room.
What happens when there is a severe thunderstorm and there is one or more lightning strikes nearby? Does your system go on the blink? If yes, then you share the same bad experience as I have. The close proximity lightning strike has induced a large voltage spike in your long HDMI cable that completely toasts your HDMI ports. If you’re “lucky” then maybe only either the Projector’s or the AV Receiver’s HDMI port gets toasted. More likely, both will be zapped.
After that has happened to me 3 times in as many years, I decided to be proactive as I was getting embarrassed submitting my home insurance claim every year. Not to mention the inconvenience of the downtime pending repairs. I installed my solution early this year and having survived 2 severe thunderstorms since the installation, I am confident this is a viable solution to protect HDMI inputs from being toasted by lightning-induced spikes in the long HDMI cable of a home theater system. Read on.
The solution calls for two HDMI Switches. I searched for a simple 2-to-1 HDMI Switch but the simplest I found is this 3-to-1 HDMI Switch. I wanted a mechanical switch but finally settled for this electronic switch because it has a remote. This makes the switching convenient when the switch is mounted at the Projector, ceiling-high.
Install one of the HDMI Switches to the HDMI Ouput of the AV Receiver. In my case, I connected Port 3 of the switch to the AV Receiver’s HDMI Output. The switch’s output port is then connected to the long HDMI cable. The other end of the HDMI Cable connects to Port 3 of the second HDMI Switch mounted at the overhead Projector. The output port of this switch connects to Projector’s HDMI Input port. That’s it. When the system is on, I use the remote to switch to Port 3 of both switches. When I have finished viewing, I switch to the un-used Port 1 of both switches, before shutting down the system.
The cost? Only RM80.00 (USD24.00) for each HDMI Switch. I reckon that in the event of a really bad lightning strike, it’ll be a USD24 fuse. But so far, neither switch has failed.
Does this help you? Share your experiences here.
Last night there was no video output from my Projector. The bulb was OK but there was no display. A quick change of the HDMI input port from HDMI 1 to HDMI 2 was to no avail. A quick visual check showed that the light on the HDMI switch at the Projector went out, like there was no signal reaching it from my AV receiver. Checked the HDMI output from the AV receiver; there was output when connected directly to the TV. It appeared as if either one or both of the HDMI switches were toasted, but when swappped out to test each at the AV receiver end showed both were OK. Horrors! Could it be that my projector’s HDMI ports are both dead? I refused to believe that; if anything, the HDMI switch should be toasted first. I am confident of that. That left one long shot to try out. Maybe the signal from the AV receiver had somehow degraded and was a trifle bit too low at the Projector end? Luckily I have a HDMI repeater. I connected the HDMI repeater to the Projector end of the long HDMI cable before connecting to the HDMI switch. Voila! Happiness! Problem solved.
There are very few things in Life that are as humiliating and demoralizing as when a guy with an expensive, massive, mean- looking DSLR takes pictures beside his spouse who is snapping away on a tiny point-n-shoot camera and then friends go “wow!” looking at the spouse’s snapshots and saying “uh ah, not bad” at the guy’s should-have-been-awesome photos. What is wrong with this picture!? … pun intended. If that sounds familiar to you and you can relate to it, or better still- if you do NOT wish to be that guy, read on.
First attempt with DSLR in AE mode.
No-one is watching, set the DSLR to full auto.
Spouse’s compact point-n-shoot camera.
Same scene taken with iPhone 5, just for the heck of it.
From the above, it is easy to see that except for the first photo, the rest are actually quite acceptable “keepers”.
What went wrong?
If you attend a photography class with a live instructor to guide and hold your hands, so to speak, this scenerio may not apply to you; lucky you! For the gung-ho, teach-yourselves (almost everybody else), this one’s for you. Remember, this is strictly for the NEW newbie. If you’re already ahead of the class here, just shut-up and post your comment at the end of the article.
1. Forget about everything that you’ve read elsewhere or what other “lessons” you’ve been taught about the creative modes of your DSLR.
The absolute first thing you’ve got to focus on is how to get a really “tack-sharp” image. That’s pro-speak for a super sharp in-focus image.
You can try everything that the books or instructor tell you, but you will lose heart and interest if your photos turn out any less sharp than someone’s simple auto camera.
2. The secret to a beginner’s DSLR camera getting a sharp image is Shutter Speed. Some experts will tell you something like shoot at your len’s sharpest aperture. Right, but what’s that and why? Think about it: the reason your picture is blurry is usually because of shaky, unsteady hands. The second most likely reason is because the subject is not perfectly still ( the kid/pet is simply behaving as a kid/pet or the breeze simply will not pause for you or life is just being unkind to you ) . So you see, as long as you have a sufficiently fast shutter speed, much faster than your hands can shake, much faster than the kid/pet can move, much faster than the flower can flutter in the breeze, you’re already 95% home. OK, I made that up. I don’t know the percentage but I certainly know that you are more likely to get a decently sharp image than not.
3. Yes, there are probably myriad other reasons why a picture is not sharp, but I dare say the above 2 reasons account for 98% of all new-newbies’ bane. Yes, I made up that percentage, too, just so you can get the picture, get it? And don’t tell me the problem is “out-of-focus” because I’m assuming you’re humble enough to engage your camera’s auto-focus. You just have to check that the auto-focus is indeed focussing on your subject of interest. My Tamron wide-range (18-270mm) lens is notorious for its misbehaving auto-focus at critical times. Yet, I can’t bear to part with it. Sigh! But that is another story.
4. And, oh, the book/expert tells you to use a tripod to eliminate that shake and vibration. But I’m addressing the 99% of new-newbies who have just unwrapped/unboxed his brand new super duper DSLR and who can’t wait to create the highly anticipated brilliant photos he sees from his books/magazines. Who uses a tripod in the first 100 days of trying out his DSLR for the first time? C’mon!
5. Here are the guidelines for Shutter Speed priority or Time Value (Tv) on the dial of a Canon DSLR.
A good rule-of-thumb is that the minimum shutter speed, secs., = 1/focal length (mm) of the lens used. For example, if you are using a 50mm lens, then the minimum shutter speed is 1/50 sec. In practice, a newnewbie is well-advised to use 1/125 sec for a hand-held shot. And as your focal length gets longer, the vibration risk gets higher with the increased magnification. So while the guideline prescribes min. 1/200 sec for a 200mm lens, say, push the shutter speed as high as your aperture will adjust to maintain correct exposure. If you find that you need a higher speed than your aperture will allow, you may need to adjust for a higher ISO setting to get that speed.
Save in RAW, if possible, so that your less-than-perfectly exposed picture has a chance to be saved. On the other hand, if you used too slow a speed and your picture is blurry due to shakes, it’s game over.
In Tv mode for Canon (S-mode for Nikon), set the shutter speed faster than the rule-of-thumb prescription and check the exposure to see if the aperture can handle the selected speed for a given ISO. If not, then dial downwards the speed until the aperture value stops flashing. If that is not possible without going below the rule-of-thumb value, stop! Increase the ISO and try again to get the fastest possible speed.
Remember, we are talking about a new newbie just wanting a tack-sharp photo and it’s not about stop-motion, panning, special effect or whatever. Just a tack-sharp photo that you won’t be embarrased to show off, side-by-side with your spouse’s P-N-S photo. So just start with the fastest possible shutter speed. Aperture Priority (Av) and everything else can wait.
If you still get rubbish blurry shots, then maybe take a step back and dial in “Full Auto” on your DSLR. Look, no-one needs to know. It’s your own private classroom, after all. After each shot ( quite nice shot, isn’t it?), check the photo information to see all the data and learn. Use your DSLR in Full Auto as your private tutor. You can’t fail.
And I just have to add this parting shot: take as many shots as you possibly can. Memory storage is cheap now, not like expensive films in the past. You could even set your camera to take continuous shots. I read somewhere that even the Pros do it. It’s not a matter of “kia-su”. It gives you the increased odds of getting a keeper. The rest you can just delete before you show off your terrific photo to everyone, right?
There you have it. Your first 100-days of embarrassment-free, confidence-boosting DSLR photography adventure begin.
You ought to be able to do better (with your fancy DSLR) than this shot taken with my iPhone 5, while a steady breeze is gently rocking the flower.
Footnote: On the issue of gender. This article refers to a male DSLR-hotshot-wannabe simply because I’m male and I’m writing largely of my personal experience. No disrespect is meant to any female reader.
You hate the incessant tape hiss of your old cassette tapes, right? Well, good news! Audacity has a noise removal feature that will minimise your tape hiss to an insignificant level when you convert your tape recordings to MP3. Here’s how to do it:
1. Follow the setup procedure described below, in the earlier tutorial.
2. This time, after saving your recording as an Audacity Project file ( .aup ), scroll through the length of your recorded waveform to locate a silent passage (ie. between songs) which is essentially the background tape hiss. Highlight/select this portion of the waveform.
3. On the Audacity top menu, select “Effect” -> “Noise Removal” -> click on “Get Noise Profile”. That’s the portion of tape hiss which you highlighted in Step 2.
4. Next, on the Audacity top menu, select “Edit” -> “Select” -> “All”. This will highlight/select the whole recording.
5. Finally, on the Audacity top menu, select “Effect” -> “Noise Removal” -> “Step 2 ……… stay with the default settings, Noise : remove” -> click “OK”.
6. Audacity will now do its magic; it will scan the whole recording and remove whatever “noise” that’s comparable to the “noise profile” . Depending on how long is your recording, it may take a few minutes to complete this process.
7. Now you can export the .aup file to MP3, minus the irritating tape hiss. That’s it. Enjoy!
If you are a music lover and if you are now a forty-something or more, chances are that you will have a treasure trove of precious cassettes ( and maybe vinyl records or -gasp!- even 8-track audio cartridges) that you want to archive in your hard disks or thumb-drives. Well, here’s a neat way to do just that.
Things you need:
1. A cassette player with line out (or at least headphone output); preferably a stereo-player with USB output for easy connection to a PC.
Most cassette players should be adequate. I bought a no-frills stereo-player with USB output for USD18.00 online that does the job well.
2. An audio capture software that converts the tracks to MP3. There is a free software, Audacity, that will do just that.
The cassette player which I bought online came with Audacity on a CD but it was an old version. You can easily download the latest version from http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Audacity is such an awesome software that you can easily get lost in the multitude of functions and features. Stick with me here, and I’ll walk you through the mere essentials you need to get our immediate task done.
To me, Audacity is to Audio that GIMP is to Images/Photos; you get the picture.
1. Load your cassette into the player and connect the player to the PC with the USB cable. Do this before starting Audacity so that the software can recognise a USB device is connected.
2. Start Audacity.
a. Choose 2 (stereo) input.
b. Set USB device as your input. Do not select stereo mix for your input. If there is no USB option available, choose Transport > Rescan Audio Devices.
c. On the “Advanced” tab, in the “Default Format” section, make sure the drop-down menu is set to “2 channel 16 bit 44100 Hz”.
d. Enable the Meter Toolbar and select Monitor Input. Start your cassette trial playback and aim for a maximum peak of around –6 dB.
e. Stop and rewind your tape and you’re ready to go. Start the player and simply press the red Record button in Transport Toolbar to start recording from the player.
f. Save the project as a Audacity Project File ( .aup) and then export as MP3. That’s it!
While this Tip shows a quick-fix to a problem with securing a toilet seat, the same method can be applied to similar problems with other plastic situations.
A toilet seat, usually with a hinged cover, is bolted to the toilet bowl for a flush system. The bolt is usually made of plastic with one end flared to secure the seat to the bowl. The problem is, very often the flared end of the plastic bolt slips right through the hole of the hinge’s base. You can get a metal washer but it would rust in no time. Anything else (stainless steel washer, plastic washer, etc) would be too much of an effort to find/buy, if at all available.
A view of the component parts. The seat, the hinge, the plastic bolt and nut.
See the bolt inserted in the hinge but is able to slip out of the hole.
All that’s required. A chisel-like tool ( a large screwdriver will do fine ) and a hammer ( or a rubber mallet, if you are a stickler about using the right tool ).
Use the screwdriver and hammer to make indentations in the plastic bolt’s flared end.
Compare the two bolts. One has the indentations completed.
Both completed. Just a minor tip here: in a paired situation ( two bolts, two lamps, two batteries…etc.) always repair both/change both together. If one has failed, most likely the other will fail soon too.
The bolts now stay well in place in the hinge. Re-bolt the seat to the toilet bowl and we’re done..
Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. – The Buddha