StreetFood Asia

I shoot a lot of food in general. On this assignment, I shot a lot of food all day. The owner wanted photos for the menu, and he planned to have an image for each dish, drink and dessert. Since this restaurant has a business model with variety at its core (hence, street food) that meant a LOT of photos. StreeFood Asia is a relatively new restaurant to Albuquerque, with ownership that is committed to bringing Albuquerque a sophisticated take on asian food we didn't have, and the restaurant complements the already bustling Nob Hill district in a big way. One adjustment I had to make during this session was to use a primarily horizontal perspective because of the way the menu will lay out. This was uncomfortable, since I'm used to shooting vertical for food almost all the time, but I came away feeling as if I'd been forced through a little rut and seen something new. And I like that.

Popular Plates Magazine: Soups and Stews

Last month I was brought back by Dave DeWitt and the team at Fiery to photograph Soups and Stews for Popular Plates Magazine. This was a three day shoot that involved a huge amount of prep from the incomperable stylist/chef team of Emily, Lois and Mary Jane. One of the many perks of this job was the opportunity to work with Wes Naman, a favorite local photographer of mine. I don't often get the chance to work so closely with such a respected peer, and I like to think that we helped one another get out of ruts as the days wore on. Wes and I shoot a lot of food during the course of a given week, but we have different approaches and ideas and it was great to share and collaborate. Sometimes working as a photographer can feel isolating, but this was the opposite.

Look for a copy of Popular Plates in late September. They have a huge circulation, so it should be pretty easy to find.

Casa Vieja Visit, Summer 2011

Casa Vieja Restaurant, in Corrales, has become a favorite client over the years. Owners Josh and Katy Gerwin emphasize fresh and locally-sourced food and take a level of pride in what they serve that only a very few restauranteurs can sniff around here. This is a good match for me and the style of food photography I've grown into. I don't use dramatic artificial lighting and heavy processing to make things look better than they are — not very well anyway.  I'm not on McDonald's shortlist to make their fish sandwich look like something that you want to eat, immediately, without knowing why. I prefer natural light and fresh ingredients that look like they were grown and not engineered.  Saveur founder Christopher Hirsheimer, with her documentary approach and evocative simplicity, is my biggest influence. She's not on McDonald's shortlist either. Well, maybe she is, but they're not on hers.

When I go to Casa Vieja I don't arrive to an assembly line of food to shoot. I photograph people, family, interiors. I take the food around the building to try for different moods. I go in the kitchen. I set up lighting in the bar sometimes and have at Kate's creations — all because they provide me the time and the latitude, to find the images they are after, even when they might not know they were after them. Don't get me wrong. Katy knows what she wants, and she and Josh are prepared every time I go. But they aren't watching the clock, cramming as much as they can in to get their 'money's worth.' At the end of the day, I think we get far more quality images as a result.

The images below were taken in the last couple of weeks during a couple of visits to the restaurant. They show Josh's unique take on Sweetbreads, sautee-ing veggies from the Casa garden, scallops cooked to marshmallow perfection, a perfect pork loin, Josh in the kitchen, Katy on the patio and their hilarious and gorgeous daughter in the back farm and on the patio. If you are after a wonderful meal, created and prepared by passionate professionals (and real people), take my advice and visit Casa Vieja.

UPDATE: I am sorry to report that the restaurant has closed. As the name implied, this was an old building, and in late July it just gave out. We'll all have to wait and see what Kate and Josh do next.


Revisiting Terceira Island

I am lucky. My grandparents on my father's side immigrated in the early 1900s from the Azorean island of Terceira to Hanford in the San Joaquin Valley, where my grandfather started a dairy farm. Additionally, my mother chose to investigate her in-laws' homeland 40 years ago and fell in love with the people there and the traditions they have been carefully passing down for hundreds of years. Her subsequent work in Portugal and the Azores, along with the work she has done with the Kuna people of Panama, have come to define her distinguished career as an anthropologist and museum director. She currently is the director of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum at UC Berkeley. 

This trip was my first time back in 15 years, and the thing I take away as much as anything is a sense that very little of what is important has changed on Terceira. Certainly, as a Portuguese autonomous region and a part of the EU, the island has advanced technologically, and the trappings of modernity are there. But the population is actually smaller than it was last time I was there, and the houses and roads are still made the same way they were 50 years ago. There is no sprawl, there are no chains or amusement parks. The 'highway' that was built 10 or so years ago between the airport and Angra Do Heroismo, the historical capital of the Azores,  blends in perfectly with the quiet landscape and would be considered a quaint road in most other places. 

Young Azoreans have eagerly taken the torch of tradition in ways that surprised me. They are in the bands that play in the streets during neighborhood celebrations, they are handing out food and wine during Festas, they are running in the streets with the bulls (or watching from windows). The young are farming and singing Desafio (think freestyle rap).  But on Terceira, the old are not forgotten and they are not relegated to quiet years of solitude. This is at the heart of what is so special to me about the island –– the sense of community is overwhelming. Azoreans take for granted that they will regularly come together in ways that don't happen in the part of the world I live in. Whole neighborhoods sit down for dinner together at long tables set for 250 or more. Neighbors parade through their streets singing, and laughing and drinking together. They mark one another's occasions in grand fashion, and everyone –– old, young, poor, sick, rich –– is welcome. Even the American with the camera. 

I took 2,000 pictures over 6 days. I carted all my lighting gear, diffusers, tripods, etc. I never used them. In fact, I basically had my d90 with an 50mm 1.4 (75m with crop) on it over one shoulder and my d700 with a 20mm 2.8 over the other. The d700 stood up well at night, the d90 gave me focal length when I needed it. Mainly I just tried to photograph what was in front of me. Since it's often foggy, light was pretty even. Nice for people, tuff on landscapes but interesting and moody. Since I've been a kid, the part of the festivities that enticed me most has always been the Tourada a Corda (Bullfight on Rope). I know that not all people will share my enthusiasm for this sort of thing, but Hemingway did, and that's what counts.   

So, mom and I were there to update her work documenting the traditions surrounding the celebration of the Holy Ghost Festival (Festa do Divino Espirito Santo) throughout the island. Festivities revolve around the crowning of a person in the neighborhood at the local Imperio –– a tiny chapel with distinct architecture located in each neighborhood and the hub of all Festas. These photos will hopefully appear in an exhibition at UC Berkeley in the near future and one day make it into a book. I hope the photographs below speak more articulately than the words above, or at least help make some sense of them. Thanks for stopping by... If you have interest in seeing more images of the Azores, please feel free to visit my site where I have put up a gallery of images from my Nikons and one of photos made with my iPhone:

Family Trip to Pagosa Springs and Abiquiu Lake

I had a chance to shoot more personal stuff recently, so I took it. It get's harder and harder to pull out the camera around the family, and I find myself sneaking iphone shots more and more, but on this trip I brought my new 10-stop ND, flashes, tripod and the D700 and D90. I planned to do a big star trail stack, but the clouds and my own impatience killed that idea. On May 1st it snowed in Pagosa, and the next day the sun blared as we made our way back through Abiquiu, stopping for a 'hike' at Echo Canoyon. I love living in New Mexico. 

Japanese Kitchen

This week's Alibi assignment took me to the venerable Japanese Kitchen, an Albuquerque landmark for well over 20 years. Images include chef Masa, owner Keiko, Tempura, the Baja Roll and the Roasted Green Chile Roll.

Popular Plates

I am in the midst of a series of shoots for the magazine Popular Plates. They are putting out an issue about spicy foods and brought in the Fiery Food Show founder Dave DeWitt to generate the content. I've been working with Emily DeWitt-Cisneros to provide images for over 60 recipes. We've been shooting in close quarters as she cooks and plates, so I've used strobes and natural light in various combinations. I have hundreds of images but the ones below caught my eye for some reason. Hopefully you'll see a copy around before summer turns to fall!

Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert

This was a great assignment from Sony Entertainment. Our goal was to capture the monks in their breath-taking environment and generate images for an upcoming album cover and associated collateral. Sony had the creative team flown in from NYC to meet me and a video crew was on-hand for sound/motion coverage.

The weather was classic New Mexico: alternating snow, wind and blaring sunshine. I used every piece of gear I brought, including sandbags, every lens in my bag, ND filters, speedlights, and modifiers of every size & shape. At the end of the day though, it was about letting the images make themselves as I followed the monks through their day of prayer, meals, contemplation, meetings, and relaxation. While I wasn't there to photograph the landscape, I couldn't help but indulge myself at dawn and throughout the evening. Thanks to Sony for the opportunity, and to the monks themselves for putting up with me all day long.

Nob Hill Bar & Grill

They're revving up for spring, so I went in yesterday for an hour to get a couple of thier new menu items for an upcoming ad campaign. This restaurant is such a great part of Nob Hill. Items shown here include a delicious burger that is now made with all-natural New Mexico-raised beef, the Country Style Pork Ribs that come braised in a plum bbq sauce with wasabi mash and Bok Choy, an all-new grilled Shrimp Cocktail, and the unique Buzz Cocktail garnished with a toothache flower. Executive chef Phil Roybal has the kitchen firing on all cylinders right now, and owner/mixologist Matt is one of the most creative drink designers in the city. Food shot with natural light and reflectors. Cocktail had two speedlights with snoots to make it more interesting.

Digital Arts in highschool!

EFG Creative and I spent a day in late February at this amazing school. DATA stands for Digital Arts & Technology Academy, and the highschool offers focused training to aspiring filmmakers, photographers, animators, etc... Two students bounced SB600 and SB800 off the white ceiling for me all day, which was nice. Very refreshing to have assistants. The assignment was to capture the students in the environment and get some slightly more formal staff shots of teachers and the principal for upcoming marketing and web collateral. The light was flourecent, so flash was essential though I left the gels in the bag. More and more I find that I like the color balance of ungelled flashes. Or maybe I'm just lazy. 


More photos at Veggie Obsession

It's been fun to work with Amy White on her blog. Her recipes are delicious and she's a good sport about taking the time to get the right photos. In fact, she's a bit of an aspiring photographer herself, and is even trying out my D50 right now... Her recipes are also featured at on Edible Santa Fe Magazine's site and Mrs. White will have a feature in the print version this spring, which I photographed (of course). 

Spending time at the Andaluz Hotel

I've been working for a few weeks with the Andaluz hotel to compile a cache of images for them to illustrate what the hotel has to offer. A major concern for them was to incorporate more people, to breathe life to their current marketing collateral. The assignment has been a big one and has involved many different setups, some using amatuer models and lots of lighting, some using ambient light and the customers that happened to be there. I was fortunate to have Rip Williams on hand one evening to add his expertise. I used eveything in the bag for this shoot, including the dreaded tripod (extensively). All my speedlights came out and I pushed the limits of the D700s high ISO performance. I also recently upgraded to Aperture 3 and used this project to test it out: worth the upgrade. Used Nik extesively in the processing of these files. The shots at hand include the grand opening of the Casablanca space, models in the Cabana area, night shots in the Lucia restaurant, food shots, chef portaits and some shots in the Presidential suite with models. 

Mother Truckin' Gourmet

The fine folks at EFG Creative called me to help with images for a client unveiling a high-end food truck concept. This was one of those assignements that felt less like work than it did a project we were all invested in. Val and Karen are a dynamic mother/daughter duo with an impressive combined culinary pedigree, and I think this is a slam dunk concept that Albuquerque folks will one day wonder how they lived without! I mainly used the beautiful mountain light coming in the windows, but added a little strobe here and there for the portraits.

Desert Fish

The Alibi sent me to Desert Fish this week. This restaurant is beautiful and is a welcome addition to the Duke City's restaurant scene. There is a Pacific Northwest seafood vibe to the menu, and management was cooperative despite my last-minute request today. Thanks to chef Carrie Eagle for putting together the items with no warning that I was coming! Ari talks about the crab cakes, the oysters and a Cioppino stew so those are what I photographed. Check them out online.

Back at Los Poblanos

This place is magical, so I take every opportunity I can get to be there. Last weekend I took the family down with me and got some shots, including one with my new iPhone and the fantastic Autostitch app (below). If you have a chance to get away and are in the area, make sure to get down to Los Poblanos.

New blogs

Yesterday I started shooting for a couple of new blogs that local epicurian Amy White is involved with: Edible Santa Fe and Vegetables, Glorious Vegetables. I think it'll be a great project and am looking forward to working more with Amy. Yesterday she put together a squash soup and green chile blue corn stew that will be featured in coming posts.

I Love Sushi

I'm putting this one in for a couple of reasons. First, I like the photos pretty well -- sushi is one of those photogenic foods that rewards you if you think about the setup. Second, due to miscommunication and some lost-in-translation moments, this shoot almost never happened. It reminded me that a phone call is sometimes not enough, that polite persistence and a cooperative spirit is imperative in photography, or any business where you work for yourself. It's easy to give up on projects because of a percieved lack of interest from the party paying for your service. The hard part is to figure out where this resistance originates, and if it is real or a simply misread. In any case, it was empowering to overcome a percieved obstacle to start a new year in photography...

DuVal Meditation

I've been lucky enough to have known Michelle since we were kids. She has always done things her way, and her company DuVal Meditation is no exception. She and Claudio, her marketing director, came by the home studio to update their portraits for thier website. We worked to evoke a welcoming and calm, yet professional message with these. I used my speedlights, incorporating a blue gel at times for that calming vibe. This is a great company doing important work. Be sure and check them out if you have ever wondered about meditation and living a more mindfull life.

New Mexico Bowl

Got the call from AP today -- UTEP was coming in for the 2010 New Mexico Bowl and they wanted some images. It was at the Sheraton, 12:45pm. There was a large welcoming comittee on hand for them, including mariachis. I tried to get shots of the players that will make a difference in the game, including wideout Russell Carr, LB Isaiah Carter and RB Joe Banyard. Coach Price is also pictured with his grandkids. Shooting for AP is very different than the day-to-day commercial work I do. A huge premium is put on efficiency, delivery (with proper captoining and subject info) and speed, and of the hundred or so photos taken only a few are submitted to avoid clutter. Like a wedding, everything happens in an instant, so set-ups are out of the question. With that in mind I put a fast 50mm on one camera and a 24mm on the other with a speedlight.

BYU's antics with the Mountain West aside, I'm pulling for the Miners, having met the players and coaches in person. Props to the New Mexico Bowl staff who helped a ton with logistics.

Embassy Suites

A great shoot that developed from my initial foray into shooting the Albuquerque sunset panoramics from their top floor a year or so ago. Most recently we photographed some items on the menu, long-standing chefs Jeffery Berres and Son Ho, and a great couple that stood in for some lifestyle imagry. There is a giant skylight 200 feet up, so between that, my reflectors and my tripod I got most of the food lit. The people required a bit more light so I brought out my speedlights and the Phototek diffusers.