Where did I put my guidebook to relevance?

I was walking around downtown today with a Sony a57 and it's wonderful 35mm DT 1.8 lens. I felt playful and used the "toy camera" setting on the camera's menu. Then I felt so dirty....

But seriously, I think photographers in the digital, massively-shared age are mostly looking for a feeling of relevance. What does my work mean? What is my real context? What difference does my point of view really make? Stuff like that.

I was looking at these two cranes and understanding that the left crane was helping to build the counterbalance for the right crane which would then be used to build yet another high rise which, in the grand southwestern American tradition would be used for 20 years or so and then knocked down to make room for another temporary structure. None of us will really stand the test of time. So what is our relevance as photographers?

I guess we're the little bitty building blocks that are part of the temporal photographic foundation that will anchor the next generation in their incremental journey toward somewhere else.

Ed Koch, "I can explain it to you, but I can't comprehend it for you."  Love it.

A series of interviews about 33 Variations at ZACH Theatre.

A couple of Sundays ago I spent an afternoon at ZACH Theatre shooting interviews with the artistic director, the lead actor and the featured pianist in Zachary Scott's production of 33 Variations. The theater's digital expert, David Munns, took the raw interview footage, edited it and created this web PSA for the play. Colin Lowry shot the footage of the actors on stage.

The interviews are shot with the Sony a99 and the Sony 70-200mm G lens. The microphone used was a Sennheiser wireless lavalier. Lighting was a mixture of ambient light supported by small LED panels for fill.

Ice Cream and Bread Pudding. Sony and LED lights.

I'm so happy I took a refresher course in food photography by buying Nicole S. Young's book on food photography. It was easily my most effective purchase of continuing education in all of 2013. The underlying principles of the craft are pretty much the same as they've been for quite a while but Nicole did a nice job explaining them and reminded me to use certain techniques that just make food look better. The printed book is a whopping $14 on Amazon. And it's useful even for people who don't necessarily shoot food. Just buy it and put it in your library. Pull it out next time you plan on cooking something great and you just want to show off your culinary chops to your friends.

So, why was I re-reading Nicole's book? Because I'm working with a gifted marketing guy on a restaurant project. My part of the project (as I'm sure you've guessed by now) is to make heroic and tasty shots of the food. The image above is one of many we shot last week. Right before my immersion into boots.

This image was lit by two big 1000 LEDs above and behind the food. The two LED panels are scrimmed or modified by a white diffusion panel on a 24 inch by 36 inch frame. They are color corrected with 1/4 minus green gel filters. While they are called minus green filters they are actually magenta. The magenta cancels out the green, hence minus green in the name. I get them at a movie supply house here in Austin called, GEAR.

The backlight is reflected back into the front of the food by two big, white reflectors. The reflectors are used as close to the food as I can get them and still keep them out of the shot.  I love the way the back lighting makes the green mint leaf translucent.

I shot this wonderful combination of ice cream, drizzled caramel and bread pudding in a hurry to I could catch it before it all melted into itself. But at least the melting process was slower than it would have been with tungsten lights. Even the tungsten lights in electronic flash modeling lights.

Before the dish arrived on the table I did a careful custom white balance using a small, collapsible Lastolite gray/white balance target. Getting the color balance nailed down in the shooting process means more consistent files in post production and, by extension, more consistent exposures. Get one of the targets and stick it in your bag. It will improve the technical quality of your work. Really.

I used my Sony a99 camera with the 70-200mm f2.8 G lens to make this image. I used the lens near 180mm and as close as it would focus, cropping a little bit to get the exact composition I wanted.

We wrapped our Austin food shoot around 6pm and I was in San Antonio by 8pm to get ready for the next day's shoot. The economy seems like it's really thawing out. I'm busy and loving it.