Fri 29 Jul 2011
“…Music requires years and years of practice in order to make what is conscious unconscious. If you want to fly off the edge of a cliff, you have to know where the cliff is.”—Pat Metheny in The New York Times.
I finally know where the cliff is. And that is very freeing. In my last post, I discussed how my studio is a perfect creative environment for me to do my best work for clients and myself—my terra firma. But, when preparing to fly off that creative cliff, it’s nice to be able to tell clients: I can bring my tools with me into their own particular wild-blue yonder!
Depending on the scope of a job, I can go solo—just me and my camera. Or, I can replicate my well-equipped, state-of-the-art studio on location. When shooting the cookbook Dining with the Washingtons at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, I did both. I went alone to capture fruits and vegetables close up, like the glorious, dewy cabbage above. I was inspired by the working, historic garden, and the editors decided to use these shots to enhance the book’s storytelling and design.
With two photo assistants, a food stylist, camera and computer equipment, I made other scenic images and shot a large collection of prepared recipes and other food images—some with lighting equipment, some lit only by natural light. We even stayed overnight in the historic mansion so we could rise early enough to capture fleeting dawn light on a table set with breakfast, on the vast lawn that slopes down to the Potomac’s edge.
Early-evening sun beaming through tall, mullioned windows was all the lighting I needed for this still life in the Washingtons’ household. I could almost sense the aftermath of a convivial meal—fading, hearty laughter and soft clatter of gathered tableware. Often during this project I had a feeling of timelessness, like experiencing quiet moments from centuries past as I rendered them.
To do justice to the fabulous treats in Classic Desserts Redefined, an award-winning cookbook for The Ritz Carlton hotels, I set up a location studio with a food stylist, a photo assistant, props, cameras, and lighting and computer equipment.
The gorgeous desserts were prepared by Ritz Carlton chefs in the excellent kitchen facility provided by gourmet food importer/distributor Albert Uster Imports in Gaithersburg, MD.
Above, Ritz-Carlton project art director Claudia Barac-Roth of Marriner Marketing Communications (at right) offers her perspective, as food stylist Lisa Cherkasky positions the props for the shot below. (Lisa was the food stylist on this project as well as on these others in this post: Mount Vernon, Ritz Carlton and The Palm.)
The right props are critical. They communicate through materials, style, mood and color, and affect lighting and compositional elements. For this book, in addition to providing unique props like the rustic pottery above, a large collection of simple, elegant Fortessa tableware was brought in to the location. Below, clients from Ritz Carlton and representatives from Fortessa review options with Claudia from Marriner (bottom, left).
Taking my studio mobile for the Ritz Carlton job was similar to my operation for shooting at the Washington, DC location of the national restaurant chain, The Palm (below). Bringing camera, lighting equipment and a computer, I shot many of the menu favorites for their website. This job also required shooting in the front-of-the-house, as The Palm wanted to include their characteristic decor and their own table settings in some shots.
So, between lunch and dinner services, I set up a studio in the dining room, where the walls are decorated with The Palm’s iconic, celebrity caricatures. Some of the carciatures show in the background of the lamb-chop shot below.
Having pre-pro details worked out is important. With representatives from The Palm in their DC location, I did a walk-through, making test shots in the dining room, bar and kitchen, which helped me plan logitistics and aesthetics.
Shooting in the public area of a restaurant brings special practical considerations. Some restaurant clients want a photographer to come in only at off-times when the kitchen and dining room are not busy, as I did to shoot for The Palm, including the burger photo below.
However, some restaurants want to capture lively activity dining room and kitchen. I really thrive on the energy of a bustling restaurant, and love to shoot when it’s busy—cooking and service. I was a server myself for many years, so I feel very at-home in all areas of restaurants. The shots below were made in the kitchen at Pizzeria Paradiso in Washington, DC.
I am very comfortable hanging back with my camera to capture the action, as I did at Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco, CA (below).
I love the flambe action below, shot in the kitchen at Susan Gage Caterers of Washington, DC.
Whether in my own studio, or on location, I am always ready to tell my client’s story—well-equipped and in expert company, with all my senses attuned, I capture their decisive moment.