Friday, October 28, 2011

Chocolate Crème Brulee Action Photography

Creme Brulee-7

As I close out the final punch list to complete my soon to be released eBook “Craig’s Grape Adventure; Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew,” I am photographing several the recipes I failed to shoot on the first go around.  Stay tuned to my other bog, Craig’s Grape Adventure, for announcement of publication. 

Last night I prepared and photographed an open faced steak sandwich with grated celery root and leek, and truffle macaroni and cheese.  Chef Sue decided to contribute to the meal by preparing chocolate crème brulee.

Creme Brulee-8

I always try to include some “action” photography when shooting for Craig’s Grape Adventure.  This is not an easy task as I play both the role of chef and photographer.  It is complicated further because the lighting in our kitchen is not ideal for photography.  The kitchen is not large enough to both cook and set up lighting, so I am stuck with a combination of natural light from the windows and the installed lighting.

Creme Brulee-6

The amount, or level of light is adequate, but the lighting comes from several sources, each having a different temperature.  First we have natural light from the windows.  Add to that the halogen lights installed under the cupboards and the range top surface light.  Finally, the overhead lights are compact fluorescent.  The various light temperatures are a challenge, but can be handled in post processing with just a bit of difficulty.

Creme Brulee-5

The chocolate crème brulee photography was made easier by bringing the chilled bowls to the dining room table for caramelizing the sugar.  With my food photography lighting rig around the table (doesn’t everyone have a dining room table photo studio?) I was better equipped to control the quantity and quality of the lighting.

Creme Brulee-9

Check back soon at Craig’s Grape Adventure for the chocolate crème brulee recipe and wine pairing.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Times Square De-saturated HDR

Times Square

I am not a fan of heavy handed HDR and have posted my views several times in the past.  So here I am, producing a couple of photographs that run completely contrary to my previous rants.  I’m ok with that, and I have a reason.

Like all “rules” or guidelines for photography, including composition, it is good to have a foundation on which to base your photography.  When you step outside these self-imposed bounds, it is good to do so intentionally.  In other words, it is ok to break the rules, and it is best to do so with purpose and intention.

The two HDR photographs of Times Square featured in this post were shot in August 2011.  Just yesterday I finally got around to processing them.  As I was running the photographs through Photomatix Pro, the practically empty Times Square coupled with the clouds and the street shining from the drizzle, led me to choose a heavier application of tone mapping than I normally prefer.  I quickly became attracted to a grungier look for the scene which seemed consistent with the conditions.

To add further to the gloomy feel I was trying to achieve, I de-saturated the photographs aggressively and added grain.

Times Square-1-3

As a final word, I remain opposed to heavy handed HDR.  On the other hand, I can imagine particular scenes, such as these from a sparsely populated gloomy Times Square, when use of the technique and produce interesting results.  HDR is a great tool when used judiciously and appropriately.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Hugo Chavez Before and After Cancer

Chavez Contemplating his Innauguration

Having lived in Venezuela for three years, I still keep up on the news in this beautiful country.  I was just surfing the web and came across a Guardian article “Hugo Chavez; Free of Cancer.”  I encourage you to follow the link for a current photography of Hugo Chavez as he proclaims his full recovery form cancer.

Chavez Profile

I made the photos featured here in 2004 and 2007.  I leave you to draw your own conclusions from the comparison.

Chavez Salute in Maracaibo

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Washington DC Waterfront

Washington Monument and DC Waterfront

I am regularly amazed at the number of people, both area residents and visitors that are unaware of the DC waterfront.  In addition to the picturesque vistas such as the photograph above, the DC waterfront has a lot to offer.  Being a retired Coast Guard Officer, I am regularly drawn to the waterfront – maybe just a little bias.

Bias or not, the DC waterfront is a wonderful place.  With several marinas, a thriving live-aboard community, a fantastic seafood market, the Arena Stage theater, a metro station, shopping, walking distance to the National Mall, and easy access to the highway, the DC waterfront is convenient and an under rated area of Washington DC.

In my ideal world, I would (and may) move from my Capitol Hill row house to an condo or live-aboard barge home.  Why?  Well, I listed several of the many attractions of the waterfront.  But most of all it offers an appealing opportunity to simplify my life.  Being an empty-nester, I find that downsizing and simplifying my life a worthy goal.

If you live in the DC area or are visiting.  I highly encourage you to visit this interesting corner of Washington.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Virginia Wineries


Last weekend, my wife Sue and I made a last minute decision to head out of the city, drive West, and take in a balloon and wine festival.  It was a pretty good plan as far as last minute decisions go.  Unfortunately, the further West we drove, the stronger the winds blew.  By the time we were near to the balloon and wine festival, it was clear we would see no balloons in the air.  The wind was a steady 20 knots with gusts over 30.

Farm at Delaplane

We immediately formed plan B and and pulled into the first winery we came across.  Except for the wind, it was a beautiful day.  Bright sun, temps in the low 70s, and the leaves were showing their first signs of color.  We were also fortunate enough to find some grapes still on the vine…along with a few that had been resting in a bottle for a few years.


We visited several wineries and were pleasantly surprised by each of them.  It was about four years ago since giving a good look at Virginia wine.  Four years ago, I was not particularly impressed.  Even more recently I have paired and written about a couple of Virginia wines on my other blog; Craig’s Grape Adventure.  I was not flattering.  I noted that while improved,Virginia still had some work ahead to mature the industry.

Virginia Wine Country-1

The real treat of the day was our visit to Delaplane Cellars.  We tasted five wines; two Viogniers, a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Franc, and a red blend.  I was taken aback.  All five were excellent wines.  The 2008 Maggies Vineyard Viognier was among the top Viogniers I have experienced.


With an arm full of wine bottles, membership in yet another wine club, and a sense of satisfaction in knowing Virginia wines deserve further investigation, we drove back to DC.  Delaplane Cellars convinced me that great wine can be made in Virginia, and that there are talented winemakers making serious wine.  Thanks!

Have a Seat

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Food Photography Coup


In February 2011 I launched a second blog “Craig’s Grape Adventure” dedicated to my exploration in the kitchen and the wine rack.  When I started Craig’s Grape Adventure I did not have a grand plan of what I wanted to achieve.  However, over the last eight months, my adventures in food and wine pairing have flourished.  It is really no surprise it is doing so well – I was able to combine my passions for photography, food, and wine.

Steamed Crab

The shift of focus in my photography was one of the unexpected outcomes of launching Craig’s Grape Adventure.  Since February, the sheer numbers of my photographs have shifted dramatically to food photography.  Over half of my photography is now dedicated to food.  While I continue to enjoy many genres of photography, food photography now has a distinct purpose for me.  Having a purpose and focus for my photography is both motivating my work and by virtue of raw numbers, improving my photography.

Venezuelan Pepito-2

While I had expected this shift in raw photography volume was occurring, it did not really hit me until I set out to write this post.  While considering a topic and looking for new photos ready to post, I realized that everything in the on-deck circle was food photography.  Having realized that food photography had executed a bloodless coup, I decided to run with it.  I’m certainly not giving up on the rest of my preferred subjects and ongoing projects, but for today we have food photography.

Shrimp Pot Stickers with Ginger-Lemon Sauce

The next step to improving my food photography will be the addition of new lighting gear.  At present I am getting decent results using a couple of home-spun diffusion rigs and basic work lights you find at a home improvement store.  While adequate, this gear is not very flexible, and the lights present a few challenges with color correction.  I’m not unhappy, but know I can do better.

2009 Cupcake Red Velvet and Gorgonzola Juicy Lucy-1

I hope to add two or three strobes with soft boxes in the near future.  With this gear I hope to improve the flexibility in setting up shots, enhance portability, address the color correction issue, and gain greater control over the amount and quality of the light.

Korean Taco

In the mean time, I will be dreaming and researching the best approach to strobe lighting for food photography.  Be sure I will let you know when it happens and will be talking about the results.

Beef on Weck - Lamb on Weck-1

Finally, if you want to read about the food you see in this post, along with wine pairings and recipes, please visit Craig’s Grape Adventure.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Snapping Turtle

Giant Snapping Turtule

While sitting in the garage, smoking a cigar and watching football, my wife got my attention and said I had to come see the turtle.  Turtle?  Not thinking much of taking a look at a turtle, I reluctantly complied with my wife’s excitement.  Turtles are pretty common around our home on the Potomac River, but this one was definitely out of the ordinary.

Mr. Turtle was huge by comparison to our normal shelled visitors.  The photo does not do justice in providing a sense of scale.  Only the grass gives a slight sense of size.  However, think of this for a sense of scale – the head was the size of a softball.  Tail included, this turtle was nearly three feet long.  Not wanting to risk the chance of Mr. turtle sprinting at my camera and taking a bite, I shot at a safe distance of about 2 feet.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Friday, October 7, 2011

H Street Festival 2011 Washington DC

H Street Festival 2011-3-2

I started a new job this week and am behind on my normal posting schedule.  In the interim I am posting several photos from the H Street Festival 2011.  We had a great time eating our way through the festival and enjoying the never ending cast of characters.

H Street Festival 2011-15-2

H Street Festival 2011-11

H Street Festival 2011-10

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Justin and Rusty–Black and White Shots from the Garage

Justin and Rusty-18

In early September I met and became friends with Jackie and Steve who were buying a number of prints from my Southern Maryland Photography gallery.  The photography was printed, framed and delivered in time for Jackie’s promotion party which I attended this past weekend.  Jackie hired a couple of talented young men to perform at her party – another photography opportunity for me!

Justin and Rusty-1

The photography was little challenging to say the least.  Due to the passing showers, Justin and Rusty were forced to set up in the garage.  In general, garages do not make good photo studios.  This was made even more challenging because Justin (guitar) had his back to the open garage door which meant the lighting was dominated by back-lighting.

Justin and Rusty-10

Having only my camera and no lighting gear, I pressed on and did my best to take advantage of what I could.  With the less than optimal lighting, some odd backgrounds to deal with, and uninteresting or even distracting colors, all the photography was processed as black and white through Silver Efex Pro 2.

Justin and Rusty-11

This was my first run at processing a group of raw photos through Silver Efex Pro 2, and led to a couple of discoveries with respect to work flow.  First I started with my normal workflow of importing all the shots into Lightroom.  Next I proceeded with my normal process of selecting and rejecting shots.  Then I went to work on individual photos.  This is the point where the workflow diverges.

Justin and Rusty-4

At first, I went directly to Silver Efex and made the black and white conversion. With the round trip to Silver Efex complete, I found that some Lightroom work was still warranted – such as cropping, and using the spot removal tool.

Justin and Rusty

I quickly found that these Lightroom adjustments are best made before processing in Silver Efex Pro.  In the end, I discovered the only Lightroom adjustment best left for post Silver Efex Pro was noise reduction.  Because I was shooting at ISO 800, there were a couple of shots with underexposed areas that benefited from applying the Lightroom noise reduction tool.

Justin and Rusty-13

I remain completely enamored with Silver Efex Pro 2 and the level of control and added creativity it offers for processing black and white photography.

Justin and Rusty-19

Have fun, and go make some great photography.