Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mechanical Scoop

Ice Cream Scooper

I like hand tools, woodworking, garden and yes kitchen tools too.  Looking into my kitchen utensil drawer I looked for the most neglected and found it at the very back of the drawer, my old ice cream scooper from the 50's or 60's.  I don't stock ice cream and when I do it seems the boys of the house attack with anything that gets it to their mouths.  As a kid I worked as a scooper in a ice cream shop and learned the fast and easy way to scoop, it was not with one of these so I don't reach for it when in need.  I do however like the mechanics and form, the American industrial design and build quality of pre-WW2.   So when I brought it into the light of day I had an inspired moment, a found object worthy of a photograph; a Marcel Duchamp object in a Louise Nevelson set.   

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Things gone perfect

   Bosc Pear

Sometimes a simple thing can trigger complexities which seem out of reach of my words.  
The pear does this for me.  Perfect in form, its ergonomics seem made for the human hand to hold yet mimic the whole body.  Perfect skin, just enough to protect its moist delicate flesh but easily pierced with a bite and without a strong bitter taste.  I would have thought this fruit the undoing of Eve and wonder if biblical scholars got the translation wrong.  I do have a hard time with the negative saying "things gone pear shaped", it seems perfect to me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ode to Marmite


Oh I can't paint in oil but the odd, never used filter in photoshop allows me to smear.. just as I smear the viscous yeasty substance known as Marmite on my toast.

This mornings gooey spread found its way into a Revelation, a stroke of epicurean genius.  1 egg..fried over-med, 1/2 teaspoon Marmite, 1 teaspoon Mango Chutney, 1 teaspoon butter, then slice of mature cheddar cheese..melted over egg and 2 slices of dense country white bread..toasted with butter and marmite on one, chutney on other.  What a beautiful small egg sandwich.  Marmite, a little dab will do ya.

Revelation #3264

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ying Yang Chicken Wing

Popeye's Chicken Wing Remains

In this day and age, fast food and whole slow foods exist on opposite ends of the spectrum, as a habit I go out of my way not to partake in fast food.  There is good slow food readily available so supporting the fast food industry is not high on my to do list.  However, I also take pleasure in being a contrarian, even to my own self imposed dogma, life is the balance of opposite values, one day I may be having only juiced organic greens and the next…Popeye's Louisiana Chicken!  

It has been years since ordering from a fast food chicken operation, in fact I think the last time was at the Mill Valley KFC back in 2005…10 years!  Well a brand new Popeye's opened in the neighborhood so last week while my tire was being replaced a few doors down, (seems that tire shops and fast-food joints always sit adjacent to each other) I walked over to try a sample, I have heard of Popeye's but never have tried it.  I ordered the spicy version and was instantly impressed and came back that weekend for a take home family order.  12 pieces of spicy chicken, a pint of mashed potatoes with Cajun gravy and 4 very basic looking biscuits ( those deserve their own post ), all for 21 bucks.  Of course there was chicken left over which included both wings, I never could be bothered with wings, too much work for those few little bits of meat but this was all going to change.  A day or 2 later I was in need of a snack and reheated one of the wings and went for it almost as voraciously as my black lab would have and enjoyed it far more.  Systematically eating every bit of chicken meat on those tiny bones, I did not even know that a wing is made of 4 separate bones, I also learned:  

1. Popeye's makes a great tasting spicy fried chicken.  2. Don't neglect the wings.  3. Eating off the bone in a thorough manner puts you in touch with primal instincts and is very satisfying.  4. Be open all food groups and price points, value is part of my good food equation, embrace the Ying and Yang.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Hip Overhead Shot

A Salad, by food stylist Amy Nathan

If you look at what is being shot these days in the food world this would look typical…well the angle of view is typical, Everything!…yes everything is being shot from above.  It is oh so hip and cool and only the young know the secret of the overhead view and man is it easy with an iPhone!

Hey, I have a news flash, there is very little new and this is not one of them, so maybe it is more a history lesson.  I was into this view made really popular by the beautifully styled and photographed  "Salad"  by Amy Nathan and shot by Kathyrn Kleinman.  When I started shooting with Amy she was ready to move on from the overhead shot, not just stylistically but physically. Overhead shots the way we use to shoot was a real chore.  A 45 lb view camera floating above a set is not magic, it required building the set low to the floor, lots of heavy equipment, ladders, leaning way out there to see around the camera, flags, lights, cards, etc.  Amy is a wonderful stylist that collaborates with the photographer and gets the whole shot, she wants to see the angle of the pepper grinder and how that plays into the total composition so she is up and down the ladder with the photographer, leaning out over the set, no live view on a big monitor like we have today.  Hour after hour of  this is not easy on you.  I liked the overhead for a look that played with the flatness of the set and composition, but then it was time to move on.  It will be the same when this fad once again evolves to the next one, photographers and stylists having run the course of overhead shots will bring the camera down..after the last overhead fad the camera went tilted, then went really low, so the view was from the height of a salt shaker instead of the overhead fan.   Let them think they have reinvented the wheel, after all many on today's cutting edge where not even born when Amy and I where above the set.  With the proliferation of food photography on the web there needs to be more diversity and not a locked in style, there is room for some overheads and some low shots, the view should fit the food and feel of the set, that is why the overhead and backlight was so perfect for the Salad book,"form follows function".  
Mix it up, don't get locked into a "look" that can go stale. For true food styling inspiration please spend some time on Amy Nathan's website, really beautiful.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

White Seamless Food

Here is the food shot I have sold more often than any other as it appears on Getty's site; a pepperoni pizza in a take out box.
On one hand this is not surprising but on the other it does give me some irritation.  I have spent a lot of time to hone my food photography, hone my appreciation for sets, prop styling, food styling of my collaborators, pushing the envelope with lighting, composition and color choices… and yet here it is, a cardboard box on white with a drop shadow, oh, its a fine looking pizza and a killer drop shadow which is harder to produce than one would think, but still, it is what it is.
I take solace though, this was not a food shoot, but shot for a Dell Computer ad and I was paid very well that day for creating this now "popular" shot.  So when and if I see another 25 dollar stock sale, I will try to think of it as just a tiny sprinkle of parmesan on my large pepperoni & cheese.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Using the full potential of Digital in still life


There is something to be said of old school, not vintage, or nostalgia, but true appreciation of what was once and is no more.  Out of progress comes side effects and with the death of silver based photography in the commercial market we now have a digital commercial world.   The workflow of the professional photographer pre-digital was set and consistent, years of looking at polaroids and knowing how it would translate once you committed the exposure to a particular film was integral and crucial.  There was not "fix-it-later" unless you wanted to reshoot it.  Your craft was tied to your experience and your experience ranked you among your peers and your clients.  Your vision was also tied to your methods, to fully express what you saw you had to know your materials and how to manipulate light to achieve the desired effects.   There is something also to be said of new school, the freedom to shoot in almost any light, the plastic quality of a raw image is fantastic. Digital allows a fast flow of captures, fluid and changing yet maintaining image quality…that is if done well.  I see many images that seem to be done too quickly, too quick to capture and move on before the light was tweaked and refined.  Compositions just a tad hurried.  Still life is not a race.  Still life is still.  Allow the composition to speak, do not assert first impressions when deeper waters are to be explored.  It is a subtle thing, maybe not really important in this fast paced world but those that have refined seeing, see it.  I think those photographers with the old school discipline use digital to its full potential.  They know what can be done latter and what needs to be addressed prior to capture. Years of experience makes composing and lighting naturally faster, they use this to lay the ground for a beautiful image. Photoshop just enhances what was captured originally.