Wednesday, March 17, 2010

True: Three Carry-ons for Photographers

Alaska/Horizon Airline indignantly awakened my cheapness.

I just didn't want to pay their $15 per checked bag fee–that's each way
–for a photo/interview trip to Napa. What to do? Then I recalled reading somewhere that photographers could carry their camera bag on board in addition to the one carry one and one personal item.

A not-so-quick check of the TSA web site confirmed it was true. Just in case, I also called Alaska Airlines to find that their policy also allowed the extra camera bag if TSA allowed. We're covered.

Here's the exact wording from the TSA web site: "You may carry one (1) bag of photographic equipment in addition to one (1) carry-on and one (1) personal item through the screening checkpoint. The additional bag must conform to your air carrier's carry-on restrictions for size and weight. Please confirm your air carrier's restrictions prior to arriving at the airport.
Air carriers may or may not allow the additional carry-on item on their aircraft.
Please check with your air carrier prior to arriving at the airport.

(Those of you lawyer types probably noted that the bold wording allows the airline to over ride the TSA rules. So be prudent. Check with your airline customer service, who I have found to have no clue so default to TSA rules. Although I didn't get the Alaska/Horizon Airline special photographer's baggage policy in writing, it might not hurt to do so.)

Now I felt confident in my ability to circumvent the baggage fee. So I jammed my tripod and underwear into a borrowed carry on-sized suitcase (Alaska allows 10"X17"X24"), packed my camera gear into my well-padded Tamarc backpack
(Alaska allows up to 10"X17"X24"), put my MacBook Pro and paper work into my personal-sized laptop case and dutifully marched for the security line.

No problem through security. But at the gate, the Horizon representative carefully counted my three bags. Almost in disbelief at the results of her count, she informed me: "You are only allowed
one carry one and one personal item."
Ah, with the elegant manners of a French diplomat, I replied–three times–my TSA and Alaska Airlines findings. "I even have it in writing."

"Let me see," the gate keeper demanded, yanking the paper from my hand.

After reading the printed TSA web site
statement, the representative attached a bright orange tag to my bag. This was my all-clear pass, indicating that I could bring this extra photo-equipment bag on board. She then thanked me for educating her and the handful of other curious gate personnel who had gathered.

Napa here I come.

Wine Tasting-A Beginner's Perspective

I walked into the tasting room – Jánis’ dining room – not knowing what to expect. Having no prior experience with wine, I was excited to learn and interested to see what the process of wine tasting was like.

As the eight of us gathered around the table, seven to taste wine and one, Mason, our underage Photo Editing Intern, to taste a selection of gourmet sodas, Jánis explained that we were going to do a blind tasting. And of course, I didn’t know what that meant. Were we going to be blindfolded? This could get messy.

Eight tasters take on the challenge of identifyng six varietals and seven unknown soda flavors.

Fortunately, a blind tasting doesn’t require blindfolds, we were only “blind” to the six bottles of wine set before us, which were disguised in brown paper sacks and simply marked 1A, 2A, and so on.

Each place setting was equipped with a water glass, two wine glasses, and a spit cup. We also had a page to write notes on each wine, with categories for the color, aroma, taste, texture, and body, etc.

Since Mason, at 19, could not participate in the wine tasting, he did blind soda tasting.

Jánis had provided a cheat sheet of sorts that listed different flavor descriptors often associated with red and white wines. I have to admit that I did get a little nervous when I saw words like tar, leather, and chalk listed on the page. I thought wine was supposed to taste good? Luckily, none of the wines we tasted were even remotely reminiscent of those flavors, and despite my limited knowledge, I found myself enjoying the experience.

Tamarah smells Spring in the first glass of white wine.

Perrie focusing on the nuances of Pinot Noir.

Ryan and Kiersi let the aroma settle in their minds before tasting the wine.

Whitney checks the descriptive list "cheat sheet" deciding on "forest" as the best choice for the first of the three Pinot Noirs, each from a different region in the world.

I walked away with a much better understanding of wine, and although I still have a lot to learn, this was an excellent first tasting.

Story by Whitney Signalness, Marketing Intern for Janis
Captions by Tamarah Hietanen, Digital Asset Manager
Photography by Janis Miglavs, Not pictured here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Photographing concrete eggs in the winery?

Concrete eggs, new/old way to ferment wine in Napa wineries.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Photo tip #4: Make a scene

Sometimes photographs need to be created to tell the story.

For my first book, I wanted to photograph
Assistant Winemaker, Andy Slusarenko, working in the chemistry lab at 3 Rivers Winery near Walla Walla, Washington. We lined up the shot in the lab and had Andy seriously working to solve the winery's problems. But
the shot didn't instantly say winery. The image could have been taken at the local sewage treatment plant.

So I moved Andy and his chemistry gear a few feet in front of the window into the cellar. I turned off the lights into the lab to add drama, used one small strobe with a blue gel behind Andy for that high-tech look and chicked.

Vola. Is that chemistry lab in a winery or what?

Monday, March 1, 2010

When will American wineries import Chinese oak barrels?

Fact: American wineries use more new oak barrels than any other wine-producing country in the world.
The cost of new French oak barrels hovers at about $1200 each. American oak barrels at least $500.

China makes oak barrels.
Bodega Langes winery, a couple of hours out of Beijing in Changli, Hebei Province, claims they are the first in all of Asia to possesses their own oak barrel plant with advanced production equipment. They get oak from Changbai Mt. in North China. The foreman at the cooperage told me that they currently produce 3500 oak barrels per year. That's far more than their winery needs.
An Australian also has a cooperage in Penglai, Shandong Province.

A worker at Bodega Langes winery's cooperage heats the wood to bend it into shape.

So when will we see "Made in China" on oak barrels in the United States?