The End of an Era:
Coffee Travels Photo Show

When I started this blog in September 2014, one of my favorite specialty shops was The Library Coffeehouse in Tampa. They featured heavily in My Coffee History, a short series of posts exploring my journey into specialty coffee, and for a long time it was the place I went to talk shop. One of my very first posts was about my photography show, “Coffee Travels”, which hung on their walls for over two years until early last month when they sold the business.

Now their space is occupied by The Vine Baking Co. but I have yet to check it out. I imagine it might feel strange to be in a place where I spent so many years taking coffee photos, enjoying Dawn’s delicious homemade food while chatting with Marie about espresso prep and the local coffee scene, which has exploded since then. It would be like visiting an old house after someone else moved in; the walls still remember our old life, but everything else has moved on.

So it does feel like the end of an era. I’m happy for Dawn and Marie as they move to a new chapter in their life, and we enjoyed a good chat when I went over to Tampa to pick up my photos. It had been so long since I attempted any serious photography, and so long since I visited their shop since their morning hours often didn’t fit the times I would be in Tampa, so I had almost forgotten some of the photos on display.

Espresso from Japan, an affogato from Korea, a rosetta from Denver and a small heart from New York, plus a paper cup with a logo I created just for the show, as well as a selection of some of my favorite scenes from Japan… it was an interesting split between coffee and travel photos, and now they sit in my office waiting for a new home.

The departure of a cozy shop that played so heavily in my coffee upbringing just reminds me how quickly the retail landscape can change. Several new shops have popped up in Tampa since the day I hung these photos at The Library, and I still haven’t made the rounds to all of them. I really need to get out the camera and spend a day coffee touring like we used to do. Perhaps one day soon…

Daily Photo Challenge

It’s been far too long since I did anything creative with a camera.

Last week I noticed that my most recent post about photography was from mid April, when I first upgraded my camera to better capture our little boy as he grew up. Sure, I took a few months off from blogging shortly after that, but the truth is that I have some really top notch camera equipment sitting unloved on a shelf, and that’s just wrong.

It got me thinking, what am I really doing with photography these days?

About 10% of my time with the camera is spent working on this blog, crafting specific images to share my coffee experience with the world. I try to make the photos interesting, at least enjoyable if not unique, but it’s hardly art, hardly something I would use for a photo show. The other 90% of camera time is family, a constant stream of snapshots to capture the memories of every moment in our son’s life.

When I visit The Library Coffeehouse in Tampa, I’m surprised and thankful they haven’t tired of my Coffee Travels photo show, which has been hanging there now for over a year! And when I look at those images, I wonder… why don’t I take photos like that anymore?

I don’t take artful photos because somewhere along the line I lost the desire to create art.

I think that’s a shame. Creative practice in any form of art helps the mind in more ways than one, and I want to get back to where I once was. So I’m challenging myself to post one new photo every day for the rest of this year!

Instagram will be my outlet, and coffee will remain a central theme. Beyond that, I’m not sure where this challenge will take me, or if I will continue it into the new year. For now, I leave you with the few photos from our recent family trip that weren’t just another snapshot, hoping for much sharper creativity in my photos over the next several weeks.

Readers: what are your thoughts on photography? Do you have an Instagram feed you’re especially fond of, or want to geek out on camera gear? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Getting back into photography

Photography was my primary creative passion before coffee. You could say that my pursuit of photography led me to specialty coffee, since our 2010 Seattle trip was all about riding bikes and taking lots of photos in every coffee shop we visited!

If you’re a new reader, you may have missed some early blog posts about my photography, since I haven’t been doing much with a camera for the past year or more. Well, that’s about to change, all thanks to this little guy…

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After a lot of discussion, my wife and I decided to make the jump from our admittidly nice point-and-shoot back to a Nikon DSLR. I was thinking a little about the quality of photos here on the blog, especially after taking so many with my phone (for convenience while roasting, cupping, etc.), but our big reason for returning to a serious camera is our son, Henrik.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m a father first, and a coffee-geek second.

Children almost demand a DSLR if you’re picky about image quality; they just move too fast for point-and-shoot cameras. So much of Henrik’s first 10 months was only captured with our phones, and enough important family photos came out noisy due to low light that I saw great benefit in getting serious about photography again.

I could probably drone on for pages about my camera history and experience, but this is still a coffee blog, not a camera blog. Let’s just say I’m super excited about the unbelievable low-light performance, fast auto-focus, beautiful bokeh with shallow depth of field, plus the strong zoom range and ability to work with specialized lenses later down the road.

So I have a lot to look forward to, taking photos at future coffee events (throwdowns, Coffee Fest, SCAA in Atlanta next year!) and improving the quality of photos in this space. Travel photos will be a lot more fun, and perhaps I can play around with some coffee videos at some point.

For now, here’s a sampling of my first days with the camera:

My Year in Photos: 2014

I can’t think of a better way to end 2014 than to highlight some of my favorite moments of the year, at least those I shared on Instagram! In case you didn’t already notice, I added a new page to the blog featuring my latest Instagram photos, so even if you’re not an Instagram user, you can still check out my photography. I’ll warn you, it’s about 90% coffee… but you already guessed that, right? This year I only posted 234 photos to Instagram, not an impressive number by any means, but here’s a look at 2014 as it happened:

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My first photo of the year, which happened almost exactly one year ago right now! Funny now to see the old mug, old espresso machine, and realize how much our home coffee bar has evolved in twelve months.

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January was a busy month this year. I visited Zion National Park for the first time and posted my largest collection of non-coffee photos for the year, but on the way out we stopped at Deep Creek Coffee for some delicious espresso drinks.

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I spent the last day in January with my wife, Jamie, touring a selection of coffee shops in Houston, Texas. This was taken at our final stop, and one of my favorites by far: Blacksmith. This beautiful latte was poured by none other than barista John Letoto, who I would later watch compete at Coffee Fest in NYC!

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2014 was a year filled with lots of board gaming, at least during the first 5 months before our son was born, when leisure time at home was much easier to come by.

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Speaking of New York, I didn’t do any Instagram-ing from the convention itself, but after Coffee Fest we enjoyed another coffee tour. I think I would need at least a month in NYC just to experience the richness of their specialty coffee community!

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In the spring I started to get better at steaming milk, and this was one of my early attempts at latte art.

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Not a great photo, but definitely a key moment in the year: preparing the nursery for the imminent arrival. Our kitties naturally wanted to help.

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And here he is, just 2 weeks old at the time, sleeping on my stomach next to our kitty, Moo moo.

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Speaking of new arrivals, two months after Henrik joined the family, I took the plunge and upgraded our espresso machine. This has made a huge difference in my drink flow, although I’m usually lazy and stick to the regular portafilter so I can focus more on steaming milk.

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Then in September, I finally saw more of the Orlando coffee scene thanks to the Florida Coffee Symposium, which gave me the inspiration to start this blog!

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I don’t practice enough yet, but I do post a fair amount of home-latte art these days. Latte art is a topic I plan to write more in depth on soon.

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I already shared the photos and stories from our Thanksgiving coffee tour through Savannah and Richmond, but since I haven’t shared many photos in December, this seemed like the best place to wrap up 2014.

What a year it was… And 2015 will only get better!
Check back Friday for my thoughts and plans for a coffee-filled year ahead!

Coffee Photos & Typography

Back in early 2013, I challenged myself to post one image each day featuring one of my photos with text. I’ve always enjoyed typography, the creative arrangement of words and letters, and at the time I was using a fun app called Over (back when I was still on the iPhone) to add text, saving it one layer at a time until I had constructed a complete phrase.

Since I’m feeling pretty run down and under the weather today, I thought I’d share some of my favorite coffee-related images from that time. Sorry for the short post, but it’s Friday, so I have the weekend to recover from whatever is hitting me right now, and I promise more coffee-focused updates on Monday.

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The Library Coffeehouse in Tampa was the scene of several photos back then, and they’re still one of my favorite spots to visit. They just got their roaster hooked up this week, so I look forward to tasting some of their own fresh-roasted coffee next time I’m over that way, and you can expect a full post to follow.

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Axum Coffee in Winter Garden was another regular stop back then, although we don’t get up to that part of central Florida as often as we used to. Their interior lends itself to some neat photo opportunities, and this next photo was one of the first pieces I created when playing with my typography app:

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I always thought that would make a cool poster. Although graphic design has been a big part of my job for the past several years, I haven’t done much large format work, but the idea of creating larger than life posters for coffee shops sounds like a lot of fun.

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It’s amazing how much our home coffee bar has changed since then. This next photo was taken at home, and the drink was made with our Nespresso machine, which came before I started trying to make good coffee at home.

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To wrap things up, here’s one of the first photos I took in Seattle. I was sitting inside Victrola Coffee Roasters, sipping my first Seattle mocha, and I loved the view through their front window. So I took the photo, then reversed the image since the text was backwards. Just looking at this image makes me want to go back to Seattle again soon…

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Coffee Travels 2015 Calendar

Wow, I can’t believe 2014 is nearly over, less than 2 months left! It’s hard to believe this time last year I was just barely getting into coffee, trying something other than sweetened lattes. It hasn’t even been a year since I started reading Barista Magazine, and the chain of events that followed quickly advanced my knowledge, enthusiasm and love for coffee. Now I can’t imagine not making coffee at home, not sharing my experiences with others, and I definitely can’t go anywhere without seeking out the best coffee and lattes available.

So with the year winding down, it was time to design a new calendar. Jamie and I have been enjoying a custom photo calendar this year, full of images from our trip to Korea and Japan, and now I’ve designed a 2015 calendar focused entirely on coffee. I collected some of my best coffee photography from the past few years, trying to match the mood of each month if possible, and I’m calling it “Coffee Travels”.

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Best of all, I added dates some major coffee events such as all three Coffee Fest conventions, the SCAA event in Seattle, SCAE’s World of Coffee expo, even International Coffee Day! I’ve already ordered a copy for the house, but it’s not just for me; anyone can buy a copy and enjoy looking at artful lattes and beautiful mugs all year long.

You can preview and purchase my Coffee Travels – 2015 Calendar on Lulu.com. It’s only $15, available now through at least the beginning of next year, and would make a great gift for the coffee-lover in your family.

Mugshots: My original coffee photography show

I may have mentioned already that photography was my primary hobby before I discovered a love for specialty coffee. While I currently have a small gallery on display at The Library Coffeehouse in Tampa, a couple years ago I exhibited a large coffee-centric photo show at Mitchell’s Coffeehouse in Lakeland. I called it Mugshots.

This collection of photos includes shots from the following coffee shops:

  • The Library Coffeehouse – Tampa, Florida
  • Axum Coffee – Winter Garden, Florida
  • Mitchell’s Coffeehouse – Lakeland, Florida
  • Brew Urban Cafe – Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Foxy Loxy – Savannah, Georgia
  • Espresso Vivace – Seattle, Washington

I included a variety of latte presentations, and a few more minimalist pieces focused on the cup itself. I enjoyed preparing for the show, as it involved tasting a lot of different espresso drinks, though looking back now, only one photo really captured the beauty of coffee itself. Amazing how much my awareness of specialty coffee has changed in the past two years, from a love of primarily milk-based beverages, to an appreciation of single-origin and the whole process from farm to cup.

If I have the chance to do another large photo show, I would like to build it around the journey from farm to cup, and no lattes this time. Maybe one day…

Coffee Travels Photo Show

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Not only is The Library Coffeehouse one of my favorite spots in Tampa to enjoy coffee and homemade food, Marie & Dawn are nice enough to showcase my photography from time to time. They hosted my initial coffee-focused photo show a couple years ago, and when given the opportunity to have another show, I jumped at the chance.

While the first show was entirely coffee, mostly espresso drinks, latte art and such, this show is all about Coffee Travels. Half of the images show coffee from various locations (New York, Denver, Tokyo, Seoul) and the other half focused on my favorite shots from four different cities in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone).

A big thanks to my friends at The Library for showing my work again, and if you’re in the Tampa area, be sure to stop by for a coconut mocha and let me know what you think of the artwork.

The Library Coffeehouse
3201 S Dale Mabry Hwy #106
Tampa, FL 33629
Open Wednesday-Saturday, 7:00am-3:00pm & Sunday 8:00am-4:00pm