Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘photography technique

I take point-and-shoot literally. I was inconsolable when a valet accidentally drove over our camera last year at Auberge du Soleil (my fault, I dropped it in my haste to get out of the car). One week’s worth of photos in San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma were irrecoverable as the impact had cracked the memory card. We considered purchasing a digital SLR as a replacement but decided against it as we were one week into a three week holiday. I continued to point-and-shoot.

I have always taken photos of food – birthday dinners, Christmas meals, wedding cakes. The sharing of food is very much core to many of my happiest memories. As a novice, I realised that I needed to learn how to wield my camera as a fundamental tool to blogging and photography.

Yesterday I attended a food photography workshop by Andrew Scrivani, food photographer for the New York Times and Gilt Taste. Hosted by Myra Kohn, it was a warm introduction to the Seattle food community.

There was an abundance of food from Dahlia Bakery, Fuji Bakery, mini cupcakes, homemade marshmallows by Flora and Flying, a pavlova baked by Mirror Mirror and an array of fruits and cheeses supplied by Bon Vivant.

Pavlova is an Australian (or New Zealand if you’re Kiwi!) dessert with a baked meringue base topped with Chantilly cream and fresh fruit. Fragrant and sweet, the strawberries were the highlight. It was a lovely taste of home and reminded me of Christmas.

Toasted marshmallows are a rarity in my life, mostly because I’m not an outdoor person! Unfortunately the photo above does not accentuate the beauty of these cloud-like cubes of confection. They were strawberry and vanilla flavoured and liberally dusted with icing sugar.

Andrew showed us his essential photography equipment – main camera, backup camera, gaffer tape, reflectors and black and white cardboard in varying sizes, a light meter and clamps. He made the point that we can improvise and use what’s in our surroundings by pulling out the white backing cardboard in a Uniqlo t-shirt pack.

After a mesmerising presentation of Andrew’s photos where he talked candidly and passionately about his experience as a professional photographer and openly shared his techniques, we were keen to put theory into practice. How to manipulate light, how to create shadows, how to use props to style, how to adjust aperture for depth of field, how to calibrate exposure for the colour white – it was all new to me!

I hate spinach, I find it a vile and slimy vegetable. I don’t know what Andrew thinks of spinach as a vegetable but he said green food is notoriously difficult to photograph as the colour absorbs light. Please call the police, the asparagus stole my light.

Kimberly brought several bags of brightly coloured sweets and the aqua drops were fun to photograph. Andrew uses a macro lens and I was surprised that the food in his photographs are in tiny portions, and he and his team scour flea markets and antique stores for small props.

I spotted the cheese platter hidden behind a faux bamboo pot plant. I also loved taking photos of the bowl of strawberries as each one is shaped uniquely and the focus can be on different ones depending on how the light is reflected.

Amidst the technicality, photography is an art form. They are narratives that evoke emotions and activate your senses – the smell of herbs and spices being ground in a mortar and pestle, the sound of a sizzling barbecue, the sight of flambé on a crêpe Suzette. To me photos are moments in time, bookmarks of memories.

The workshop was insightful and I now have some basic skills to improve my photography. Sincere thanks to Myra for your hospitality, and to Andrew for your inspiration.


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