The dawn

It’s not often I wake up early enough to see the dawn. I usually work late into the night, because I find that’s when I can gather my thoughts and be at my most productive — when I’m alone, the noises of the day have subsided and the only sounds I hear are the reassuring churning of the hard drive platters in my Drobo and my own breath.

When I do manage to wake up early (or work through the night and into the dawn), I get these gorgeous, glorious views of the Earth waking up as that huge fireball called the Sun starts to light things up. Mind you, I’m not talking about the sunrise. It’s the dawn, also known as the daybreak. It’s when the darkness of the night starts to fade away and shapes begin to form out of the mist. It’s when things unseen become seen.

I thought I’d publish a gallery of various photos I’ve taken in recent years of the dawn. Some of the photos are from places where I’ve lived, others are from places I visited and most are from the road. My wife and I would often just get in our car and drive to some town where we had business in the middle of the night, so we’d be there in the morning. The roads were quiet and it was an experience unto itself to be in the middle of nowhere, our car a capsule of civilization and warmth in an otherwise cold place at a cold time, its headlights eyes, peering out into the darkness and making sense of it. Now that we have a small daughter, there’s no night driving. We’re too exhausted. We’re happy to take any and all sleep we can get. Which is what I’m going to do after publishing this post, because it’s way past midnight here.

This gallery isn’t exhaustive, it’s a work in progress (I hope I’m around for a long, long time to capture countless more dawns on bits and bytes) but I think it’s beautiful to look at and I hope you do too. Enjoy!

My favorite vantage point for photography

I was invited by the folks at Light, who are working on some pretty interesting camera technology, to write about my favorite vantage point. I explained to them, as I’m explaining to you now, that I don’t have one. I get bored with shooting the same locations and I’m always on the lookout for new things to shoot.

Then I realized that over the past few years, I’ve been working in the exact same location, putting in lots of time and effort, being happy with the challenges offered by that very same spot and enjoying the beautiful results. But you didn’t know about those photos, because I haven’t published them on my website, and it didn’t occur to me earlier that it was a vantage point. I’m talking about my studio work for my wife’s printed books, in other words, about my food photography.

My favorite vantage point over the past few years has been the whitebox (the official name for it is a seamless tabletop background sweep cyclorama). Here’s what it looks like:


That’s where I’ve been spending my time. Lots of my time. Here’s one example of my work:


This is one of my wife’s raw desserts. It’s a raw vegan whipped cream, mint and strawberry cake. You can find the recipe for it in her Raw Desserts book.

And here’s another photo from the same book. I apologize if it leaves you drooling. It’s a raw vegan brownie with a raw chocolate glaze.


Here’s how I work. I don’t have a set position for the camera or for the speedlites. I work handheld and I vary my camera position, angle and lens until I find what I think is a good frame for the photo. Then I’ll shoot a few photos to see how the lights fall on the subject and whether I need to vary their positions as well, in order to bring out the colors and sculpt the dimensionality of the photo with lights and shadows.

I use three independent speedlites triggered by the on-camera flash, which I sometimes choose to also fire or to only have it act as a remote for the other speedlites. For this photograph, I worked with my Canon gear: one of my three Canon cameras, an EOS 60D and three Canon speedlites. I love my EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens and I tend to use that a lot for my studio work. I also use ambient light from within the room itself (I turn on wall and ceiling lights) and I use a mix of warm and cold lights. I know most people say you should use the same temperature lights, but I prefer to mix them in order to get a warmer ambient light. The speedlites overwhelm the subject with their cold light, but there’s a hint of warmer light all around the photo, which I like, and this comes out when I edit the photo as well. I suppose I started doing this when I began to shoot video. People leave a lot of work for post-production, but I do like it when I capture the mood light of the video live, as I shoot it, so I fiddle less with it in post.

I’d like to say I’m the set designer as well, but for my food photography, I leave that to my wife. She’s the award-winning raw chef with seven published books and I’m the photographer. Sometimes we’re inspired and we love the results, and sometimes we’re not happy with what we get. So we re-do the photo shoot at another time. There have also been instances where we’ve re-shot certain recipes for later editions of her books, because we weren’t happy with the photographs and as our skills improved, we knew we could do better.

I wish I could be more helpful than this but for me, every studio photo is a new challenge and I vary my angles and lighting in order to get what I think are the best photos of my subjects. My wife and I then cull through them and pick the ones that’ll go into her books. I then edit each one carefully, add it to the collection designated for that book in my Lightroom catalog and carry on doing this until we’re ready to turn things over to the publishing house.

Ligia’s Kitchen: a raw vegan dessert from whipped cream and blackberries

In this episode, Ligia makes a quick and delicious dessert from raw vegan whipped cream and blackberries, sweetened with Green Sugar, an all-natural powdered sweetener made from stevia, with none of the stevia after-taste.

An evening walk through Sibiu’s historical center

Here are a few photos from a recent visit to Sibiu, where we walked through the two main piazzas in its historical center.

How I dealt with my back pain

Last year, I experienced a bout of debilitating back pain, whose cause is still unclear to me. I talked about it in this video and some of you asked me to make a follow-up video where I detail the treatments I underwent to get over it. This is that video.

I’ll let you watch the video to get the full details, but here are the concrete things that helped:

  • Regular deep tissue massages from a knowledgeable masseur.
  • Stretching routines, particularly yoga routines for the hips and lower back (here’s a particularly good routine for me).
  • Various pain relief medications, but they only mask the symptoms and cause other problems after long-term use.
  • A posturology exam which can pinpoint various anatomical imbalances in gait, posture and muscular development that can cause back pain; custom-made shoe inserts are usually recommended as a result of the exam, and they need to be worn daily for over three months in order to correct the problems.
  • Ozone injections to the lower back (subcutaneous and deep tissue) in order to help the vertebrae and discs heal. Look for a good sports doctor in your area, they’re the ones who are usually equipped to do these treatments.
  • Regular use of a special massage bed made with jade stones, that uses infrared heat and mechanical movement of the jade stones along the paraspinal muscles in order to relax and elongate the back, helping relieve the strain on the discs.
  • Regular use of an inversion table that also elongates the back and helps ease or get rid of pain flare-ups, but you have to hang on it for 5-10 minutes at a time in order to make a difference.
  • Supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid to help heal the discs, plus multivitamins and superfoods to feed the body and make sure it has all of the nutrients it needs to function properly. I made a video recipe of a superfood smoothie that I use after workouts.
  • The most important thing I did, the thing that got me back on my feet, was a visit to a traditional Romanian healer, who used a combination of muscle and joint stretches, plus some other courses of treatment, to make my life livable again and to help me become fully functional once more. His name is Costică Bonta, and he has an office in Baia Mare, Romania. His phone number is posted in the video. Not sure if you can visit him, but I also encourage you to look for traditional healers in your country or local area, perhaps they’ll be able to help just as well.

In my case, I don’t believe the cause of my back pain was physical. There was no one particular injury I can point to and say, yes, that’s when I screwed up my back and started to feel the pain. Rather, in my case, the progression of the pain was incremental, from annoying to debilitating within the course of a few months. So I believe the trigger was something else, perhaps stress, perhaps overwork, perhaps anger or resentment, something that accumulated inside me and then manifested psychosomatically. It’s true, I have several herniated discs in my lumbar and sacral region that were confirmed by an MRI, but so do many, many other people who are experiencing no pain at all and are fully functional. So a herniated disc does not necessarily lead to torturous pain and an inability to function on a daily basis. There is more to this than meets the eye, and I’m still looking into it.

Back in the gym

A few days ago, I had my second workout in what amounts to almost a year off due to my back pain. I recorded a short video after the workout, which you can see below. It feels great to be back in the gym, and even though I still have some recurring and minor back pain, I’m undergoing therapy to address it and cannot hold off on going to the gym any longer. Exercise is vital for me.

How to behave toward women

Someone asked me to make this video a long time ago. I put off doing it until now and you’ll see why as you read on.

I am an introvert and have trouble relating to people (to women in particular). Some would label me an extreme introvert with anti-social behavior, although I manage to mask this when I’m in public, for the sake of others. Fact is, I’m most comfortable and clear-minded when I’m by myself, far, far away from everyone. I get splitting headaches when I have to be in public or speak with strangers, and the rub of it is that I organize public events with my wife (it’s part of our business). These things take their toll on me, but I do it because I have to. I find ways to retreat and hide during those days, so that I can recover my sanity. But enough about my bats in the belfry and on with the bread and butter of this article.

Given what I’ve said, I encourage you to draw your own judgment about the advice given in my video (just as you should with any advice you receive from anybody). It’s a long video, as I’m wont to do, so if you do make it to the end, thanks for watching!

Here are a few notes I jotted down before I sat down for the video:

  • Women and men are different in the way they look at the world. Clearly. But the differences aren’t black and white. There’s a spectrum of sexuality and traditional female and male roles are becoming outmoded as our understanding and acceptance of “man” and “woman” gets more nuanced. So it’s up to each of you to discover how different each woman you meet is from you and from other men and women, and to respect those differences.
  • My own personal history with women doesn’t give me much background and knowledge to go on. I’ll let the video speak for itself here.
  • When you find a good woman, one that you’ll want to be with, one that you dream of being with, you’ll know it. Of course, the woman may not know it and that’s where you can screw up big time. All introverts know what that’s like. Thank God there are women like my wife, who take the time to understand a social screw-up like myself and see me as I am in private.
  • Some women deserve wonderful treatment, some are downright nasty. Just like some men are wonderful people and some men are pricks. Being an asshole is a gender-neutral thing. And figurative assholes are to be avoided, no matter their sex.
  • The most important thing is to realize that women have the right to the same opportunities, pay, treatment and choices as men. Choice is the most important thing in a woman’s life and as men, we should give them that choice. Choices in life, relationships, choices in growing up, in love and in their jobs. We owe them that choice, especially because of our despicable behavior toward women during the past few thousands of years. No one can argue that women have been empowered and treated equally in our patriarchal society, and everyone I think will agree that women have had to fight, tooth and nail, to get rights and privileges that we as men have enjoyed efortlessly, by virtue of being born with a penis and two balls.
  • Just because women are fragile, it doesn’t mean they’re weak. Just because they’re small, it doesn’t mean they can’t do great things. Just because they’re pretty, it doesn’t mean they’re stupid or that they can be objectified. Just because they have a vagina doesn’t give anyone the right to enslave them and force them into sex trafficking.
  • Things like restrictive clothes are remnants of our male dominant culture. Dresses that zip up at the back, they take control out of a woman’s hands and put it in someone else’s. High heel shoes make it difficult for them to move and escape a potentially dangerous situation, plus they ruin their feet. Flimsy materials used in their dresses can be easily torn, exposing their bodies and encouraging abuse. I realize some of these things are meant to celebrate the beauty, the unique and amazing shape of a woman’s body, and so clothes are made thin and shape-fitting and shoes are made thin and tall, to accentuate their beauty, but there are clear downsides to these practices, and they’re also remnants of a past where males dominated and abused females.
  • Some would say women choose to dress and act this way… But when little girls are raised to believe that’s how they should dress and talk and behave, it’s no longer their choice. They see bad examples of the status quo everywhere and they’re brainwashed into thinking that way. That’s how their choices are taken away from them. Just like many of our choices as people are taken away from us simply because we’re raised to believe certain things, to not question some things, to do things because that’s the way they’re done, etc. We need to question everything. It’s our duty as we mature to sit down with ourselves and reason out what makes us tick. See where we’re right and where we’re wrong.

Finally, treat each woman as a person. A real, breathing, talking, feeling human being, not a sex toy, not a body with breasts and a vagina, not something to possess and f**k, but a soul. Relate to them that way. The rest will follow… or not, but the focus should be on a soul to soul connection, not on a penis to vagina connection. Do you get me? Treat each woman as your equal. Different but equal. Show respect, be honest and where needed, keep your distance. Not every woman is a flower, but when you do meet a flower, remember to be gentle and move slowly, as not to break it. To continue this analogy, although it’s nice to have a bouquet of flowers in a vase in your living room, flowers are meant to be outside. That’s where they get pollinated, form seeds and give birth to new life but most importantly, that’s where they live freely, enjoying their time in the sun and being seen by everyone. Give every woman the freedom she deserves.