Adventures of a Camera Dummy

One day not too long ago, Eric came to me and said, “I think we should upgrade our camera. I want to try to take pictures of lightening.”

Um. Okay. I guess?<<cough, cough NERD ALERT! cough, cough>>

He added quickly, “And you can use it for your blog too.”

Oh. Well, in that case….I’m listening.

I’ve been thinking about the camera upgrade for a while but found myself reluctant to take the plunge. I’m not sure I have the photographer gene in me. I mean, I do okay here on the bliggity-blog. As my short, stocky, slow-witted, bald friend Mr. Georgey C. would say “Not showing off, not falling behind.”


Photos are generally bright and clear. Food is identifiable. There are recipes that haven’t been blogged because the photos were not up to my (albeit perhaps lower than yours) standards, so I like to think I have some self-awareness in this area. Do I consider myself a photographer? No. Did I start this blog because I was really excited about taking pictures of my dinner? Honestly, that’s a big, fat negative.

Sigh. But photos are important. So I do try.

When a friend of ours recently offered to let us borrow his Nikon dSLR for a few days to try it out, I jumped at the chance. Try before I buy? Yes, please!

So he hauls this piece of equipment over to our house. The bag holding this stuff may or may not be too big for the overhead compartment. Please see an associate to check your camera bag. (Kidding, kidding…) He got about as far as turning it on before my head started to spin and panic set in.

Wait! What am I doing? It took me forever to locate the play button on the DVD remote, how am I supposed to work this thing? I can’t do this! Stop, stop! I wanna get off!

And so our friend left this very expensive and highly breakable piece of equipment in my care. Me. Accidental Dropper of Things. Eternal Mess Maker.

After tooling around (very carefully) with it for a while and getting nowhere, I had a brilliant idea – the manual! YES! I can read. The manual will help.

The manual did not help.

The manual assumes I have basic knowledge of photography terminology.

I do not.

F-stop means nothing to me. ::hangs head in shame::

The manual attempts to show the difference in the setting with tiny little black and white pictures that look exactly the same.

I can’t see the difference. ::hangs head in shame::

This thing is scary…

I know these things take practice, but how to practice when you don’t know where to begin? See, this is why I love writing about food way more than I love taking it’s picture. I learned to work a pencil and paper somewhere around the age of 5. At 10, I learned how to type with my fingers on the right keys. Nothing much has changed with these two items since then and they probably never will. I’ve been scribbling in notebooks and filling blank word docs for so many years, it’s comforting to know they will always be there. The latest and greatest digital camera will become obsolete. Words from the heart are forever.

Ahhh. Hello, old friends.

So maybe I’m no photog. Maybe I’ll have to send that fancy camera back across town to it’s owner without taking one decent picture with it. And that’s okay. Because I feel like my identity with this blog lies within the words. I hope that’s at least part of the reason why you keep coming back. It’s certainly why I do. πŸ™‚ WORD NERDS! Holla!

Oh, who am I kidding. I want to take pretty pictures too!! Please help me. Oh my gosh, I feel like such a camera dummy. I am overwhelmed to the point of anxiety. If you started from the bottom up with your DSLR, what were some of the resources that helped you? How long did it take you to feel comfortable? I want to hear about your experience!

And now for something truly poetic. Lyrical even. Something that dances and sings on the tongue. Silky smooth, creamy, the butteriest of butternut squash soups. Simple and healthy to boot. And with a dollop of smokey roasted red pepper puree in each bowl, it’s downright literary.

Actually, it’s not a bunch of word fluff. It’s a bunch of delicious! I made this soup as the first course for my Project Food Blog luxury dinner party. Upon finishing, I was promptly removed from the competition. Hmpf. But that’s neither here nor there. πŸ˜‰ This pureed soup is super simple to make, especially if you have a stick blender. With the natural sweetness of the squash, the warmth of the citrus zest and thyme and the toasty yumminess of the squash seeds, this is an easy dish that tastes like something special.


Here’s a not so fantastic photo taken with my not so fantastic camera. πŸ˜‰

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups chopped onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 2 1/2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve seeds)
  • 5 1/2 cups (or more) vegetable broth (I used chicken broth. I just like the flavor better.)
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sautΓ© until tender, about 12 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add squash and 5 1/2 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until squash is soft, about 40 minutes. Cool slightly.
  2. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return puree to pot. Add 1 teaspoon thyme and orange peel. Thin soup with more broth if desired. Simmer 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Cover and chill. Rewarm before serving, thinning with more broth if desired.)

For the red pepper puree:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Puree all ingredients in processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)

    For the toasted squash seeds:

    • Seeds from one 2.5 lb. butternut squash
    • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
    • Salt, pepper and cumin to taste

    Rinse the squash seeds to remove any excess fibers. Spread in a single layer on a paper towel to drain and dry completely. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and ground cumin. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until golden brown and crunchy, 8 to 10 minutes.


    One Year Ago: My favorite Beer Cheese Bread. Made this again just a couple weeks ago. Stuffed. My. Face.
    Two Years Ago: My grandma’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was JUST thinking about these. Must make. Now. πŸ™‚


    Filed under soup, veggies

    16 responses to “Adventures of a Camera Dummy

    1. Get The Betterphoto Guide to Digital Photography – it will explain everything you need to know!

    2. Girl, you can definitely learn how to use a dSLR! I was in your place two years ago and SO glad I got my Nikon (started with D40, now have the D90). The more you use it and just play with buttons, the more you’ll learn. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll pick things up.

      I’ve read a couple other blogs with helpful tips. Pioneer Woman was one. Read about aperture (f-stops) and shutter speed on her site. Very helpful for me!

      Really, all you need to know is to turn the camera on the manual (M) setting and just mess with the aperture button and shutter speed button. Who cares what they really mean! Click and adjust until you find your perfect photo! πŸ™‚ Then you’ll get the hang of it and start seeing trends depending on lighting and such. (White balance is also another good feature to know, but Auto white balance is just fine as well.)

      Go for it! Oh, and we upgraded to the D90 because my DH wanted to use it and take picture of lightning too!! hahaha!! Must be all men are the same. πŸ™‚

      • themilkmanswife

        Ha ha! I love that your husband wants to take pictures of lightening too. It’s a guy thing for sure. Thanks for the recommendation. I will check out PW. She probably breaks it down for us newbies pretty good. Your pics are great so I’m glad to hear just practicing makes a difference.

    3. brannyboilsover

      Neverfear! I, for one, come for the words and recipes, not for the pictures (which are great anyway).
      No advice on the dSLR – I don’t have one either.

    4. I’ll admit I’m a little scared to upgrade cameras myself. It’s taken me forever to figure out how to use a p&s decently.

      Regardless of what kind of camera you are using, I think your photos are lovely, including the one of this soup, which looks absolutely delicious!

      • themilkmanswife

        Aw, thanks. πŸ™‚ I wish there was just some magic camera that took awesome pics of food without all the work. We will get there!

    5. I have no camera advice, but I cracked up when I read “cough, cough NERD ALERT! cough, cough”


    6. I am so with you on this subject. I’d love to upgrade to an Slr, but I am completely clueless. I can hardly figure out how I take decent pictures with my point and shoot. I know one person who uses her SLR with great skill, but we’re not close enough for me to ask her to show me how. I think I need to take an SLR for Dummies class.


    7. I’m in exactly the same position right now. My point and shoot camera died about 2 weeks ago so we’re looking at getting a refurbished dslr and I have no idea what I’m doing!
      If you find any magic cure to the Camera Stupids please let me know. If I (haha) figure it out myself I’ll share the wealth.

    8. I have a fancy DSLR as well and I am clueless! I very slowly getting the hang of it, but I know I can do so much more! I plan to take a class soon, but in the meantime, ditto Nikki’s suggestion about PW’s photo section. She writes in terms I can actually understand! πŸ™‚

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