This weekend was probably one of our last really nice sunny days of summer – yes I know that summer is officially over, but you know what I mean. Anyway I really wanted to go out with the camera and get some nice pics.

So Lisa looked online for anything interesting taking place and found out that the city of Snohomish had its annual Classic Car and Hot Rod show – and who doesn’t like classic cars!

The show was on from 10am to 4pm so on Sunday after a quick breakfast (and a chat with my Sister on Skype) I was showered and changed and out of the house on my way.

I decided to take a couple of cameras and a couple of lenses only, preferring to just enjoy the day rather than spend a load of time agonizing over which lens to put on – Yes I do that too.

So I took the Fuji X100T that has a fixed 35mm lens and the X-T1 with an 18-55mm lens and an 18-135mm backup, just in case I needed anything longer.

Snohomish is about 35 miles from Redmond and took around 50 minutes to get there. Parking was a little painful, the city was pretty much closed for pedestrians only and there was nowhere to park. After driving around for 15 minutes I found a spot and walked into town.

In the end I didn’t use the 18-135 and just used the 35 and the 18-55 (you can try and figure out which is which below).

There were so many cars there it was ridiculous! And they were all fantastic. Some were classics that were refurbished to look like the day they rolled off the production line (those are my favorite) and some were hot rods that were supped up with lowered suspension and amazing paint jobs.

I love these shows and could easily spend several hours walking round admiring the cars, but there were so many people there it was difficult to get clean shots without people in the way. But you need a bit of patience for this kind of gig and the end images are (I think) worth it.

I don’t really say it enough but I LOVE my Fuji cameras. They are small and light but produce the most amazing images. I sold all my expensive Nikon gear a few years ago and have never regretted it or looked back.

I don’t really talk much about gear but I got to use a new bag I purchased recently. Just in case you don’t know photographers have a lot of bags – and when I say a lot I mean LOADS. I have over a dozen around the house. So why so many bags? Well it’s very hard to find that “Perfect” bag, that fits your gear so you just keep trying new ones – of all my purchases this is probably the thing that drives Lisa nuts the most (which is funny when you consider how many handbags she has). Anyway this new bag is my best yet, it’s definitely a keeper and is absolutely amazing! It’s called an ONA Prince Street and I got it in leather. I may do a review in the future but I’m really pleased with it and it was PERFECT today.

In the end I spent a couple of hours at the show but had to hurry home so I could watch the Seahawks beat the Chicago Bears .

I didn’t look at the pictures until after the game and have now picked my favorites to post.

Hope you like them too.

If you like pulled pork as much as my family, the day will come when you want to try and cook a perfect pork shoulder. To do this well requires a little knowledge and some specialized equipment.

Now you can cook a really nice pork shoulder in a slow cooker but you won’t get a smoke ring or any smoke flavor, for that you need a smoker. Also if you cook the shoulder too fast, it won’t pull – you’ll have to carve it, and while that’s quite nice, it isn’t pulled pork!

So why am I writing about this? What do I know about pulled pork and smoking?

Well this year I found a new hobby, smoking or barbequing, which should not to be confused with grilling, is my new summer passion. At the beginning of summer, I went on a course, purchased a smoker and started to experiment. Over the last few months I’ve smoked Chicken, Pork Ribs, Brisket, Salmon and Pork Shoulder (also called Pork Butt or Boston Butt).

In time I’m thinking of posting a number of blog articles on my equipment and how I use it. Heck I may even post some recipes too (I’ve got some really good ones).

But today it’s all about pulled pork.

I should state here that I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while, but to be honest I get so excited when I’m preparing the food that I forget to take pictures, by the time I remember it’s all gone! And I think for this kind of article you really need pictures.

But today I remembered to take pictures as I completed each step so here’s how to cook a perfect pork shoulder.

So let’s start with the pork joint itself.

I went to QFC and purchased a pork shoulder with the bone in. The shoulder was actually 8½ pounds in weight, so pretty big (I would have got a smaller one but they didn’t have any in).

You ideally want to get one with the bone in as it improves the flavor of the cooked meat, plus it feels great at the end of cooking when you can pull the bone out with your hand and it’s clean!

The shoulder I bought had quite a thick fat cap, so I cut some of that off (not all, that will add flavor too as it renders.)

The joint then looked like this:

Now the meat was ready for it’s rub. You can buy rubs but it’s really easy to make your own. I make one here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • ½ cup salt
  • ¼ cup paprika
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

This makes around 3 cups of rub. You can make more just make sure the ratios are the same. Once you start doing this you can begin to adjust ingredients to taste.

Thing is a rub won’t stick to the meat by itself, you need a binder. For that I just use French’s Yellow Mustard. This works really well as doesn’t add any taste to the end result.

Here’s a picture of the joint covered in mustard:

Next it’s time to apply the rub. I do this pretty liberally as it creates a nice bark over the meat that tastes great.

After the rub is applied it looks like this:

Now we’re ready for the smoker. Before I started preparing the joint I turned on my smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now this is important. Once you put the meat in, you must not open the smoker until it reaches temperature. The way you know it’s ready is that you insert a temperature probe into the meat that extends to a temperature gauge outside of the smoker.

So the image below shows the shoulder in the smoker with a probe stuck into the joint. Here I was aiming for the middle of the joint, but not near the bone.

Now it’s waiting time! The question is how long do you wait? Well that depends on a few different things, how big the joint is, how hot the smoker is and how long it takes to get through the “stall”.

So what the heck is the stall? I can’t explain the science behind this but meat will raise in temperature to around 165 degrees and then stop going up. It can stay at that temperature for between 1 and 5 hours! I’ve read loads of articles on the stall and the reality is nobody really knows why this happens, but they all say the same thing – you have to wait it out, don’t turn up the heat or play with the meat in any way – you will just ruin it!

I’ve found on average though that it takes around 2 to 2½ hours per pound to get to temperature.

So what’s the temperature? Ideally it’s 205 degrees but I’ve found that anything over 200 is just fine.

The shoulder I cooked today took just over 20 hours. Yeah I know that’s insane! But low and slow means a long time and if you wait it out it’s worth it. So this went on the smoke at 8:30 Friday night and was ready at 4:45 Saturday afternoon.

Once the meat was ready, it looked like this:

Once the shoulder is done the fun begins. First you get to take the bone out. This should just pull free and be clean, if the meat won’t come off the bone – you didn’t get it to 200 degrees

Then it’s time to pull the pork. To do this I use bear claws, it’s so much easier with the right gear. These look exactly like their name you have one in each hand and just pull the pork apart. It should be super easy to do.

The result should look like the following:

At last, it’s time to taste the results of our hard work.

You really need a good barbecue sauce here, in a future blog posting I’ll tell you how to make your own, but added to the pork I promise you it’s all worth the wait.

Here’s the end result.

So what’s the takeaway here? Firstly it’s not hard to do, you just need patience and a smoker, maybe I’ll talk about smokers next time.

Happy smoking folks, I’ve got some pulled pork to eat (if there’s any left, James, Abi and Lisa are there already).

For quite a while now I’ve wanted to visit the Olympic National Park but for all sorts of reasons have never been.

So why visit at all? Well the Park in on the Olympic peninsular – that’s the big bit of land between Seattle and the Pacific Ocean, and with three distinct and diverse ecosystems that include, the Pacific coast, rain forest valleys and glacier-capped mountains the Olympic National Park is home to a stunning variety of plants and animals.

There are so many places to visit and things to see that it’s difficult to figure out an itinerary for just one day, add to this that fact that it’s pretty painful to get to (long drive, ferry trip, very long drive) I’ve had problems finding anyone to go with me.

Anyway this weekend I just thought I haven’t been out with the camera for a while and I fancied a car trip to somewhere new. So I got up super early and hit the road to Edmonds, that took around 40 minutes, then I got on a Ferry to Kingston, another 40 minutes, and found myself on the peninsular.

I had a couple of locations I wanted to check out, namely Port Angeles, Lake Crescent and Sol Duc Falls. The nearest was Port Angeles so off I set.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t that great, there was a lot of low cloud (no rain thank goodness) but a lot of mist, especially as I started to go up in elevation.

By the time I reached Port Angeles (nearly 3 hours later) the sky was actually pretty grey. Now if you have broken cloud this can look really good, but this was just a sheet of nothing, not very appealing for pictures, so I quickly headed on the Lake Crescent.

The lake was great, sure the sky was still a little grey but the scenic views were amazing. So I just drove round the lake stopping every mile or so to take some pictures.

After around an hour I got to the end of the lake and headed off to Dol Suc. This took another hour (and is about 30 miles from Forks for all you Twilight fans). I paid my entrance fee to get into the Park and drove the 14 miles to the end of the road. Then there was a mile hike into the forest to get to the falls.

As I was there at the end of summer there wasn’t a load water but the falls still looked good. I took a load of pictures walking around the falls, even walking out onto the rocks at one point to get some closer pics and then headed back to the car.

It was 4 in the afternoon and time to head home so off I went again and got back to Kinston by 7. I had an hours wait for a ferry and got home at 9:30.

For a first trip out I had a blast, took around 400 pictures and ended up with around 30 I really liked – some of which are below.
I’ll definitely go back there and maybe next time convince Lisa and Abi to come too (not even going to try to get James to come). Although next time we’ll find somewhere to stay for a couple of nights, that way I can shoot the coast too.

Anyway here are some of the pics.

What can I tell you, I HATE taking pictures of animals. It’s not that I don’t like them or anything, I just don’t have that patience gene that allows me to either sit over a hole in the ground for hours, stand quietly in a wooded area with a long lens or in my case this weekend, try to convince my stupid dog to sit still.

But as Lisa (my wife) wanted a new picture of Roxie our dog, that’s what I had to do.

Roxie is a Maltese Shih Tzu mix and just doesn’t like having her picture taken. She’ll sit there looking beautiful until the moment I pull the camera up to my face, at which point she runs for the hills.

Now I’ve read blog postings from other photographers who talk about offering treats and being patient for that perfect shot, but I just don’t have the patience – or quite frankly the desire!

But again as Lisa wanted a picture we grabbed the camera, one light and hit the garden with Roxie and a cheese stick. Roxie loves cheese sticks so I figured this might keep her still, but it had the complete opposite effect. She went mental.

Rather than sit still like all those amazingly trained dogs you see on TV, Roxie decided to dance around like a nutta. At all times she didn’t take her eyes off the cheese Lisa was holding, jumping up and down, spinning round in circles and when she did stop and sit still, the only shot I got was a great shot of the back of her head.

Have I mentioned I don’t like doing this?

Anyway, after lots of attempts (and I mean a lot), I managed to get four passable images that Lisa quite liked.

In every one I had to crop out Lisa who was holding the cheese and re-compose the shot so Roxie was nicely positioned in the shot.

Luckily Lisa got her image and I’m saved from having to do this again for a couple of years.

Here are the four we liked:

When we got back from Orlando I had a couple of days off before I had to go to work. So I figured that while I was getting up nice and early (due to the time difference) I’d go and shoot a sunrise over Seattle.

Now sunrise shots in summer suck as you have to get up at like 4am! But I did it and got all my gear together and headed off to the city.

Question was where to go?

To really get the sun over the city I’d have to go over the West Seattle to Alki Beach or something, but I’d done that before.

So this time I thought I’d try Kerry Park to shoot the city skyline as the sun came up on the left. Sure I wouldn’t get the sun in the shot, but I should see some nice light over the city as the sun broke over the horizon. At least that was the plan!

I got there with plenty of time and set up with my 18-135 lens and started taking pictures before the sun came up.

At first it looked like I was going to get some great shots, but as the sun started to provide more light it became clear that while the city looked great (really good visibility) there was a lot of low cloud cover.

The light was nice but I wasn’t going to get the spectacular shots I was hoping for.

Still, this is what can (and usually does) happen with landscape photography. The answer is to keep going and see what you can get.

So I stuck around for about two hours taking pictures while the sun rose and you can see some nice light hitting the buildings on the left.

Before I left I thought I’d try something a little different.

In Kerry Park, right by the location where people shoot the city is a large piece of modern art. I don’t really know what it is but it’s basically a big square thing with round holes all around it.

I was wondering what a picture of the Space Needle would look like if I shot through the statue.

So I moved my tripod and set up for the shot.

Ironically this is my favorite picture of the day, so I included that too.

When I got home I looked at all the images of the city and while they were nice none of them really jumped out and grabbed me! So I decided to add a few filters in Lightroom (no Photoshop here) with a little bit of dual tone action. I added some contrast and clarity and got an image I liked.

So that’s the one I’m sharing with you today.