Do You Back Light Your Food Imagery?

IMG_20190521_050036_835Bigger Is Softer

We have all heard it before, or perhaps not if you are new to photography, “…the larger the light source, the softer it will be.” Softer light is the goal in most food photography. I say “most” because it isn’t always wanted. Believe it or not I have used hard light before and it has it’s affect on the overall image. For this post though let us focus on softer light. How does one capture this soft light? If you are fortunate enough to have at your disposal a large unobstructed south-facing window you have struck GOLD! This is the best for shooting inside and food as your subject. See Bea’s Cookbook for how she uses her large window to showcase her beautiful creations.

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The above image I shot with a nearby window. It was about four feet to camera left with the shadows falling to the right. Here is the thing though, out that window is an over-story of large hardwoods which, if taken in the morning, this image would have a terrible green cast to it with all that light filtering through the leaves. I counteract this by simply waiting until the afternoon to shoot. Voila’! (Yes, I baked this heavenly sourdough)

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I did the same idea using that nearby window for this food imagery. Ingredients for Chicken Tagine. It was about five in the evening close to the summer solstice so I had plenty of light…BTW this window faces east, not south but the effect still takes hold very well. So with softer light we achieve an even, pleasing effect either with or without using diffusion.  What if we have NO window from which to create that soft light?

Off-Camera Flash

There are other options…there are ALWAYS other options. As a photographer/artist/business person it is so important to be flexible and use our creative brains to solve little problems. (They are all little BTW) Off-camera flash may be intimidating but if you read manuals and can follow directions, you have it made. Plus you have to practice using the “master/slave” connection while in optical mode.(look it up) Here is a shot of a sour orange pie that I made.IMG_20190507_113900_901I achieved this food imagery by using a speed light, up and to the right, of the subject, diffused with nothing other than a shoot through umbrella. To fire the flash I didn’t use optical tech but a trigger with a transmitter and a receiver from Photix. Notice that hot spot on the right side of the pie. This was not intended but without it the surface would appear really flat/dull. IMG_20190507_113900_903

A closer view of a slice was shot the same way and turned out pretty well. I didn’t fuss much with styling as it really didn’t need it. Notice the texture of the whipped cream. Yes, it is real whipped cream! Oh and the pie was super delicious…thank you Cook’s Country!

Next in our bag o’ tricks is shooting food imagery using constant lights. We have three LEDs with and without diffusion so that will be in our next post. Any questions? We are always up to answer them. Thank you for reading our blog and we look forward to more food imagery fun!

The Funny Thing About Cancer…

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Human Cancer Cells

I am creating this podcast to chat about my colon cancer journey and to introduce new ways to look at and understand how it is just a funny thing on this Earth some of are chosen to experience. Through interviews with other patients we plan to educate, inform and relieve some of the tensions which can take over at times along our journeys.

 

(testing this file from soundcloud to see if it works withing this platform.)

If you are interested in helping with your story, I am all ears and would be happy to set up a time for an interview…you do have much to share from which others can learn! Please like and share this to your social media to further the ideas!

 

Thank you!

Charlie Sill,19 Months into my colon cancer journey

2-19-2019

Busy Behind A Camera

 

It has been awhile since we posted about shooting through a camera lens at this or that or someone. We thought this time it might enlighten you to learn that we take some time away from the rigors of the gig to see images as we were meant to…through our eyes.img_6067

Our sight is a valuable element as we navigate through life. Although the blind cannot “see” they too must understand spacial references  by navigating through their environment. In many ways their abilities to do such are far more refined than those possessing sight. The hearing and scent senses of the blind too are sharper than ours would be.

Without straying too far off topic, my initial point was to discuss that aspect of photography which involves seeing a scene first with my eyes and then looking through the lens to, it is hoped, capture what I see. In the digital age you might say, “Oh that’s simple.” No, not as simple as you think. One must consider several things before the shutter should be pressed.

As in this shot of a large hardwood taken at golden hour, I had the intention of making sure the scene was not a silhouette. Why? Well, that answer has several ways to go. First, I saw the bark on the tree and the lichen pattern and wanted that to be part of the image. The shadow of the tree too I wanted to emulate a reflection as it might in a still body of water.IMG_8779 B&W Second, I wanted the sun to just peek from the side of the tree so I positioned myself where the lens could do that. Although it is a high contrast black and white image, there is enough reflected light to make this scene look as I saw it.

Shooting in black and white, I believe, allows us to really study the values, mid-tones, contrast and composition of a scene in a way which color only can to the trained photographer. Color adds a big distracting dimension which can work to our advantage in some cases.img_5752watermarked

Taking an image such as this one with the water in the foreground and the home situated in the upper left frame, it becomes apparent that the eye travels there first, then to the grouping of azaleas in the center of the frame. It is clear that the dominant color here is green and the “distraction” of the azaleas with their pink hues creates a little bit of competition for the eye. As a whole this scene looked almost identical to what I witnessed. The strong late afternoon light coming from behind the camera evenly illuminated the scene which the water so wonderfully made a bit darker in that reflection.

One more example, this time of an indoor scene I did for a local real estate developer, demonstrates the idea that not all interior shots have to follow a formula. Here is what I saw in this room. a beautifully illuminated scene with various elements within it coming to life.

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Craftsman Office

The idea was to capture the room with the morning light streaming in but NOT actually see the light source. The light and airy feeling I wanted to preserve so I placed the camera in the hallway with the sun not actually in frame, as I had done with the above example of the tree.

My goal was to warm it up a bit in post but I decided that it was not necessary with that great shadow on the floor created from the legs of the desk. Those shadow lines assist in making the room appear larger than it is too. In a room as this, it would seem that being able to look out the window/French door to the front porch would offer a refreshing break from work at this desk.

Really seeing an image in your mind before you step behind the camera is something most would-be photographers seem to overlook. They don’t truly consider lighting angles, shadow patterns, composition, background patterns and colors. There are so many elements to a good image but it is those GREAT images we strive to capture!

When Sleep Evades

We’re all aware that we need a good 8 hours of sleep. OK, if you’re one of those who can honestly get by with less, good. Wish I were like that. Alas I sit here sleep deprived after waking every hour and a half to stare at the green glow of my digital clock. I ask why.  I will put forth several reasons.

For one, I have a job at which I pretty much sit all day. Oh yes, I do a bit of mental exercise during that time but the lack of good physical activity is surely a contributing factor.

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For a second contributing element to my trouble, I have a man who snores and falls asleep really quickly. Oh what I wouldn’t give to have that talent! Sure, I can up and leave to sleep in the guest bedroom but last night I didn’t so here i am. Using my time to tell you about it all. It is sort of funny.  I am more productive as an insomniac than a well rested man. Yes, it is true and something that evades my understanding most of the time.

Third and probably the most obvious reason for my lack of good REM sleep is that I enjoyed a cup of Constant Comment tea late in the day on Friday and the caffeine kick in as I was laying down to sleep. I won’t do that again and see what come of it. I do know that if that had been a cup of coffee, it would have produced the same result. Sleep a little initially after going to bed then BOOM 2am arrives and I am wide awake. Does this happen to you? If so, I would like to chat about it with you.

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Fourth, and finally, I see my age as a factor too. At 56 sleep evades me more than any other time in my life. I remember my mom’s mother, Flo, when she was in her 70’s getting up early too. She was busy. She would be up at 5AM casing her front garden for snails. They were her garden’s nemesis and her goal was to eradicate them. She would collect them in a used coffee can, some mornings 10 or 20 snails! After that she would pour salt on them and let them die. Some might call it Mollusk Murder. Not grandma. My point is that we are human and each a little different in that some need more sleep than others. If you are awake, be busy because you can take a nap later in your day and then get back to a rhythmic sleeping schedule. A schedule, yes I said it. Having a regular patter of bedtime is essential. Oh, and put the mobile devices away and not within reach at bedtime. They just make it worse.

~SLEEP WELL

 

5 Elements to a Successful Life

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Ah yes, the online presence we so fervently chase. Blogging a list of this or that to capture the attention of a relentlessly fickle reader/audience. Well, to some, perhaps. When we read a headline with a list we, without so much as a thought about it, envision another grab for SEO and all the trappings it can provide. We simply cannot help it, we have been conditioned to think this way by these devices. I like to think of it as some sort of mechanism to allow us to adapt and in some ways grow. Within this blog I plan on telling you the five elements of a successful life. Are there more than just five? Oh, I sure hope so.  Initially, I was imagining about ten or so but with the attention span you are fostering I thought five would be more manageable.

ONE

Believe in your ability to alter your world or situation. I have discovered that the older I grow, the less flexible I become. Well, yes, in the physical sense this is certainly the case but I am talking about my attitude. We have all done this…been at a job which seems not to satisfy us and we complain about it. I can see you nodding, it IS true. Complaining about your situation is the recognition stage. We have to acknowledge a situation isn’t to our liking before we can alter it. Right? Once you do this you are freed. You are free to select your action to alter your situation. Really? Is that it? YES. I mean, really, complaining then doing nothing is silly. DO SOMETHING! We have an innate need to get better through out lives and what better way than to chart our own course through action? You will be utterly amazed as you do it and arriving at your goal will bring great success and satisfaction.Wayne's Engine

TWO

Never miss an opportunity to make people laugh. This is a big one! I venture to guess you don’t consider yourself a comedian. Fair enough. Let me tell you a little story about one instance several years ago. I was at work, a large media company in Atlanta, and I was waiting to take the lift to the sixth floor. I was in the lobby so the trip was short. The lift door opened and there were several, perhaps six people, inside. A bit crowded I would say. I do recall there was this one chap with disheveled red hair and a fair complexion. I had no idea who he was so I extended my hand and told him my name. He, in kind, shook my hand and said, “Hello, I am Ed Sheeran.” I replied, “Nice to meet you Ed. Are these your groupies?” At that, they all laughed! I knew they were his people, not groupies, so I took the opportunity, ran with an idea and it worked. By the sixth floor the tension in the lift had dissipated and I got off to head to my little studio-the rest of the day went smashingly well.

THREE

Be engaged and don’t be shy about touting your talent(s).

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I understand if you’re shy about telling those who ask about what you do, most of us are and know you can overcome it. Shyness has no place in a successful life. Meeting new people is a skill. It involves a certain set of actions, attitudes and practice to master however it doesn’t take that long to do so. If you’re one of the shy ones you have to pop outside of your comfort zone, join a meet-up group or three and jump into them with both feet. Like anything in life, the more you do it the more comfy you’ll feel about doing it again and again. Above all, be genuine and listen to what others have to say. Being a great listener takes practice too-you’ll get there.

FOUR

Allow yourself more than adequate time for you.

This world can be overwhelming. The day to day is just begging for you to stop, wait, relax and take stock of what truly matters-your well-being.  Too often we get wrapped up in all the little details of life and we forget for and with whom we’re living. Ourselves.  The goal here is to unplug. No, not just turning off our devices but also our minds. Creating a relaxed mind does take effort too but on a separate wavelength from our active state. Meditation offers our minds to not totally shut down, but to not focus on anything. Those streaming ideas which access our brains from moment to moment are allowed to pass on by in the meditative state. “A review study last year at Johns Hopkins looked at the relationship between mindfulness meditation and its ability to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain.” This quote is from a February 2015 article in Forbes magazine by author Alice G. Walton, who covers the disciplines of  health, medicine, psychology and neuroscience. If you’re new to meditation there are many videos online to assist with this mindful practice.                                                                                                          

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FIVE

Be grateful for all your can.

One thing I am really thankful for is this guy!  For such a young man he truly has a handle on this life thing. If you do the first four elements in this list then reflect on your blessings, what could be bad about that? I appreciate you reading this far and I wish you the best with your life. Enjoy and share the joy by passing this along, it will improve your life and those of others. Thank you!

Photographic Scale

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Morning at Mather Point. Looking west along Grand Canyon’s south rim.

     Notice the tiny people in this photograph? See them yet?  There, in the upper left of the frame.  They are standing along the railing admiring the enormity of the scene before them.  OK, your brain has done one incredible piece of work. It has spatially put scale to work.

     Space is something we exist in all the time and we do take it for granted. The world around us moves and changes all the time and we blend into it and sometimes forget how incredibly beautiful it can be.  We often see elements, like the Grand Canyon, as a two dimensional image and think, “Wow, that is really big!” The same can be said of images of the night sky and the billions of stars which surround our planet.

     Being part of a larger space can be overwhelming, humbling and some might say spiritual. We believe the Native Americans who inhabit Grand Canyon, Navaho, Havasupai, Hopi and many others who have called the canyon home for hundreds of years are right about this sacred place.  Seeing Grand Canyon in either video or still images does not do it justice.  One has to be there in it’s midst to understand the power and respect it commands.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/199320623″>Experience Photographic Scale</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/bluberryproductions”>Bluberry Productions,LLC</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

      It is with great pleasure that we are able to visit such places. To be able to experience something so vast it causes one to pause and think/reflect on what a gift it is.

We appreciate you reading our posts and invite you to share them if you feel so inclined.  If you would like us to feature something specific here on our blog, let us know by contacting us at our Bluberry Productions,LLC web page Thank you again!

 

The Proper Way to Successful Sourdough

Well, it is no secret that home made bread, especially sourdough, has been in existence for just about ever! It has that distinct aroma and tangy flavor which many love and some do not-if you are reading this, you are NOT in that latter category. My friends say to me, “you do know they sell this in the grocery store…” I just laugh and say “I do know that, that is not MY kind of bread!” Yes, I am a sourdough snob through and through. It may come from the fact that I grew up where it was said to be the best around…in Los Angeles, California. Although they say the best is sometimes confused with that other California city, San Francisco. No matter where you sit on the sourdough bread continuum it can be accurately stated that all tastes have their place.

Much of the tanginess of the bread comes from the starter and the length of the fermentation process. In my experience, off and on over the past twenty years of baking it, I have discovered that the worse the starter smells the tastier the bread will be. Sort of like cheese. You enjoy cheese too I hear. Starter is the yeast culture used to leaven the bread. I made my starter a few years ago and used a recipe I found online which took 17 days to accomplish-BE PATIENT. Good things take patience and persistence. You know that.

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Walnut Sourdough is one of my all-time favorites as it turns this odd shade of grayish lavender color as the fermentation and baking progress. I added 1/3 cup of walnuts, finely chopped, to my normal sourdough recipe and was very happy at the way it turned out. I have to thank San Luis Sourdough of San Luis Obispo, CA for the idea. I looooved that walnut sourdough bread they had in the 1980s and 90s. So much so that I devised my own version and am posting it for you here.

Perfectly Bread Sourdough Recipe

ingredients:

3.5 cups of bread flour (may be more of a little less depending on the atmospheric humidity)

2.25 tsp salt

1 TBS sugar

1.5 cups sourdough starter (again, home made is best)

2 TBS olive or vegetable oil (butter may also be used)

I love baking by hand so here is how to do that. Yes, if you have a good sturdy stand mixer you can use that too. Here is the link to my video in which I made Walnut Sourdough, just omit the nuts if you don’t care for them. This recipe is great as it lends itself to adding just about anything to it; Black Garlic, Herbs, bacon, Asiago Cheese, Roasted Bell Peppers etc. Use that imagination God gave you and post YOUR results! I would love to see what you can do.

Happy baking,

Chef Charlie Continue reading “The Proper Way to Successful Sourdough”

Photography Using Glass

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Photographer Federico J. Vasquez

When it comes to the aspects of photography which cause us to stop and think we are in agreement that composition is key and not always easy to execute. OK, when it comes to composing a person in a portrait, that is pretty simple. Still life images, on the other hand, offer some distinct challenges. Design elements come to mind. Form, shape, orientation in space and a host of other ideas and concepts whirl around in our minds until we commit to what we want.


The other week we were setting up some glass candle holders for a shoot and decided to use both natural light and speedlights although not at the same time. The diagram below shows the initial setup using sun through a window on the right of the frame coming from a set of french doors. The result was pleasing but just not what we wanted. Again we have to define what we want before we can achieve it. We tempted to change things a bit. Trying different things is how we get there.

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Photographing objects offers unique challenges

Our next shot depicts a slightly different angle on it all. Instead of the natural light we decided to make a soft box out of a white paper sack and a speedlight. This was better as we were able to move it around without too much effort. The results? Well lets just say they were what we were looking for. One thing though-when shooting glass objects be careful to not have the surroundings reflect in the glass and always wear black clothing to minimize reflections.

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With a white foam board as our background an elegant simplicity is achieved.

Summing it all up, the way one places the light in relation to the subject greatly impacts the shot. With glass objects especially. Try some of your own glass objects using both sunlight(diffused) and studio strobes or speedlights. We would love to see what you come up with!

We have to say thank you to Michael with you tube channel Good Light! Clips for inspiring us to do this work. His channel offers so many other great ideas for lighting in all set ups, check it out! In the mean time-get busy with that camera!

When Autumn and Your Lens Meet

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Autumn hues create a wonderful scene across north Georgia, USA

It surely is the favorite time of year for many. Those long hot, humid summer days wane as Fall turns its page on the calendar. The refreshing drier air moves in and all is so much more comfortable for man and beast. As a professional photographer, the season offers so much more than dry air and clearer skies. With the changing colors and shorter days magic or “golden hour” is that much more intense. I am referring to those two times of the day when the sun is either low in the morning sky or late in the afternoon as it approaches the western horizon. The shadows are long and the golden hues of light are the best for photography of nature, portraits (with diffusion) or anything your mind’s eye can imagine. When you are ready for it, the light becomes magic!

Using the Light Nature Gives Us     

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A suburb of Atlanta, GA Northlake offers some excellent golden hour photo opportunities

The best light comes, no doubt, from our nearest star, our sun. The photo above was taken in the morning as the long shadows stretched to the northwest. Notice the back-lit leaves. The lower sun angle of the morning is accentuating those yellow and gold hues. Only nature can provide such a colorful display. I was particularly happy with the dark, silhouette-like tree trunks in the shot as they added that “Halloweeny” edge to the image. As I recall, I shot this image using my cell phone that morning and posted it onto my insta-gram page. Many of my followers were amazed at the colors and their vibrancy! The blurriness at the edges I added using an app and it creates that dreamy soft effect.

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Sunlit Maple trees reflecting on Northlake. Atlanta, GA

Reflections from Northlake add an impressionistic quality to this photo, taken at magic hour.  When using the natural light of the setting sun do your best to notice what is around you. If you have a body of water, use it! The  image at right was taken in late afternoon with the sun illuminating the colorful trees and the stillness of the water blurred that color in the reflection! Amazing! Notice that I didn’t include much sky in the frame. “How come?”, you may be asking. Well, look at it. It was milky with rather unimpressive high clouds so I just didn’t include much it for that reason. When composing your shots-study what is and is not in frame before committing to hitting that shutter.

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Colorful Japanese maple (Acer Palmatum) leaves in mid-day shade, Atlanta, GA

A great way to imitate magic hour is to fudge it a little with the sunlight. What does that mean? Well, consider taking a shot like this one closer to the middle of the day. This one, to the left,  was taken around 1:30 in the afternoon with only a slight bit of sunlight peeking through the right side of the frame. The reflective nature of the Japanese Maple leaves gives a less vibrant image but one worthy of shooting for the golden hues of autumn. Adding more interest, I purposely put the center of focus off-center and to the left. Did your eye go directly there?

Now, is there any post processing involved in shooting at magic hour?   Yes, if you so choose. If you choose to, be careful not to overdo it. It is pretty easy to get carried away. Be aware of what your colors look like as you shoot them. See what is there and if you need to adjust them a little, feel free. It is always best to let nature provide the show and leave it at that. So go out and capture some of your best Autumn images in the northern hemisphere this Fall. Share those images and lets keep the conversation going. If you have any questions of comments feel free to leave them here-we read every one of them!

"Photographer Federico Vasquez"
Federico Vasquez shooting with Canon 60D at Northlake, Atlanta, GA