Various client projects: Products Still Life
From the local community garden.
Christopher Lee Floral Design creates spaces of tranquility in Atwater Village (Frogtown).
Los Angeles’s architectural landscape reflects the diverse cultural makeup of locals and integration of ideas. It’s international style is coupled with west coast desert aesthetics. As the film industry got established in LA, it become the back lot, production site for countless films. Like actors in the films, LA is ever changing for the new role.
Various shots for both personal and client works.
Muir Ranch is a school urban farm in the Pasadena School District (John Muir High School). Over 2 acres of disused sports field was changed into an educationals and healthy alternative for the underserved students. Once a month Muir Ranch has a “Farm-to-Table” dinner. It goes to help support their summer internship program at Muir Ranch. The goal is to offer fully paid internships to 30 students for the Summer. Each student will earn $600 for 8 weeks of work.
Volunteers and guests chefs help out creating a wonderful community dinner with produce from the farm! If you have time, please check them out.
Muir Ranch and the Mud Baron hosted another #plugmob at LA City Hall’s South Lawn. The Plugmob program receives donated seedling plugs from various nurseries to be handed out to social programs and school gardens. Mud Baron has started an innovative #flowersonyourhead bouquet give away as part of the effort to spread the word. Start school garden and horticulture programs! It’s worth the work.
Transitional Gastronomy – Wild Food Dinner at the Mariposa Creamery – June 2014
Food photography is a specialization of commercial photography, aimed at producing attractive photographs of food for use in advertisements, packaging, menus or cookbooks. Professional food photography is a collaborative effort, usually involving an art director, photographer, digital tech, food stylist, prop stylist and their assistants. Unlike motion shooting, still life or table top, the subject is fixated for the viewer and sole attention to the details and composition. Production value reflects the work.
The art directors are producer / graphic designers / marketing / copywriting / accountants / therapist / cater / hostage negotiator. It’s a demanding position, not a job for a pope. Depending on the scale or budget of the project, they can be all or one of those capacities. Primarily, art directors act as the coordinator between the client and creative talents, keeping the project within the scope of the budget and concept. Same as the film director and director of photography (DP) work in tandem on movies. Photographer works closely with the art director, concentrate on the lighting, composition and overall gestalt of the shot. Choice of lighting, angles and lens creates the atmosphere of the scene. Estimates technical parameters, type of lights and power source, how much grip is needed, backups, crew, and camera set-up. The introduction of large mega pixel digital cameras means having a digital tech is standard practice. Tethered to the camera is a powerful computer workstation with a large monitor for the digital tech to process the files, keep the data in order (Data Asset Management or DAM). RAW files from the camera need to be processed for final contrast, color and ensure cropping. Retouching on the fly can be done on station by the tech if time allows. Above all the tech will make sure the system is running smoothly and backed up.
The prop and food stylist translate the concept, color, and shapes on the set to the dish. Being the studio magpie, Prop stylist collect, organize and prepare the objects used on set to create the look and atmosphere of the concept. This involves time collecting and sourcing from retailers, prop rental houses or artist vendors/dishware designers. Some of the best prop stylist have an uncanny resourcefulness, like borrowing items from museums or artists studios. Then like the theater of a thousand faces, can return all of the “non-borrowed” props. Food stylist are trained chefs/cooks with years of kitchen experience, like the character from “Close in Encounters…”, they create sculptures with the food. I’ve learned a great deal about kitchen craft from them. The stylist have an instinct for the camera angle, portion and . Big rule in the studio, don’t fall in love with props. That antique silverware from the Palace Versailles, sorry it’s bigger than the serving of cake, it’s cropped.
Life cycle of a food shoot starts with the concept and design. Then assigned to an art director. Prep day, everyone in the studio is given a briefing on the layout / design, colors, props, and size of the food(s) to be shot. Studio crew start to gathering up the equipment, props and food ingredients to be shot. The prop stylist and photographer take time to review the design of the layout, taking into consideration room for type, logos…etc. Is it a high key or natural lighting, size of the set, and props. Food stylist will take anywhere from a day to a week lining up the recipes, shop ingredients, make in advance or even run tests. Not all materials act well on the set and may need to be faked. Unlike motion food shots, still images require perfection (as near possible), because it’s the only frame for the viewer. The ingredients need to be correct and picked for the most photogenic. Even in the digital age, this is the most cost effective process, retouching is very expensive and used only when necessary.
Like a scene from one of Miyazaki’s films, the set is buzzing with quiet activity. Everyone working quickly, the food oxidizing, wilting, melting or drying out. Phrase used often, ‘It’s starting to die”, as the eggs develop a rubbery surface. Using strobe lights keeps the set cool, unlike the past where tungsten lamps were the only option. Stand in food is used, it can be anything, long as its on the identical plate / surface and size. Once the hero food is ready, the food stylist plates and stands by to apply touch ups. Most commonly used material for making food fresh again is olive oil or the Sophia Loren method (she swears by its restorative powers). In the background the art director and prop stylist are busy getting the next shot ready. The digital tech processes the selected files and gives the art director and photographer a rendered image. Color good, focus good, lighting beautiful and food tasty.
This kind of work is for someone that likes paying attention to the details, standing and bending over a set for long hours. It’s a craft and industry unique to the visual arts.
Thirty minutes north of Los Angeles in the Valley is the city of Winnetka CA. Craig and Gary run a micro farm on less than an acre of land, growing their food and cultivating heirloom varieties of Italian vegetables. The property has been developed for well over five years. Currently, they are putting together a commercial kitchen to prepare some classic family recipes…stay tuned!