Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cardamom Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate
While the freezing winter seems that it won't ever pass away, what could be better at breakfast than a cup of spicy flavored hot chocolate?
I found this recipe through experimentation and I advice you to do the same as someone prefers a less sweet flavor, another one a spicier one or a less thick chocolate. So while the quantity of milk and cocoa are pretty mandatory, the other ingredients can be varied according to your own taste.

Ingredients (serves 1 cup)
1¼ cup of milk
2½ tablespoons of cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of raw cane sugar
2 teaspoons wheat starch (or cornstarch)
1 vanilla bean
1 cinammon stick (1-1½ inches long)
4 cardamom seeds
whipped cream

Preparation
Pour the milk in a pan together with the spices and warm it on very low heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and eliminate the spices. Using a very thick sieve pour into the cocoa powder and the wheat starch, mixing well so to avoid creating lumps. Add sugar and put again on very low heat until the chocolate will become enough thick. Pour into the cup and serve with a tuft of whipped cream.

(Alessandro Guerani is a professional photographer specialized in food shooting. He lives in Bologna, Italy, and is available for assignments to create the images you always craved. Read the "About me" or contact him using the "Mail me" in the blog menu above.)

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

F Magazine

F Magazine 01 2010

Blogs are fantastic. Internet is amazing. But how many times would you have liked browsing your preferred web pages as if they were in a magazine?
It happens continuosly to me and that is why I decided to collect the bestFood-0-graphia posts and republish them in a magazine format that will be issued about four times a year, one for each season.
Thanks to Issuu technology you can browse this magazine on your PC like if it were a real one, download it as PDF and also, if you'd like, print it to be read comfortably in your chair. PC screen is nice, but paper is sometimes even better!



(Alessandro Guerani is a professional photographer specialized in food shooting. He lives in Bologna, Italy, and is available for assignments to create the images you always craved. Read the "About me" or contact him using the "Mail me" in the blog menu above.)

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Food Photography: Light Modifiers (part III)

"Snoots, grids, barndoors, reflectors... what the hell are they talking about on those photo sites?" How many times you found yourself puzzled while reading some tech photo site and you couldn't find some easy explanation? In this third article about light modifiers I'll try to show you the objects and the logic behind these "mysterious" words.

Reflectors
These are the easiest to understand light modifiers that are used both on studio flash and continuous lights. They consist in a half-spherical or parabolic concave surface attached to the lamp so that its light is reflected into the scene with a proper spread and direction.

Hard to understand without an example or direct experience? Just think at your car lights and you have the perfect example of a reflector, yes that shiny concave surfaces behind the lamps of your car are reflectors and if you turn the lights on you understand exactly how they work in directing the light with a controlled spread. They work exactly the same in photography.

Bowens 65° Maxilite Reflector

They can vary in size and usually are denominated not just in cm/in but also in degrees of the angle they permit the light to spread upon.

Then we have some "special" reflectors that are dedicated to specific uses:

  • Background Reflector
  • It's a reflector which is used to light studio backgrounds, usually from above or below the subject.








Elinchrom Background Reflector

  • Beauty Dish Reflector
  • This reflector is one of the most used in portraiture to spread, as its name implies, directional light upon the subject face. The light is harder than a softbox, but softer than a normal reflector because it bounces against the small dish in front of the lamp and then diffused by the large dish behind. Its effect helps a lot to hide skin imperfections and blemishes and it also gives great looking round catchlights in the subject eyes



70cm Beauty Dish



Snoots
The snoot isn't a reflector, being usually of black non reflective color, but it works on the opposite principle as it absorbs most of the light emitted by the lamp letting just a fraction of it to spread through a very small aperture. The effect is to concentrate the light in a precise spot with a definite, but pretty soft edged, falloff.

Bowens Snoot

Grids
Grids are honeycombed black accessories usually mounted in front of reflectors and snoots. They work killing any stray diffusion so to create a very directional, straight light. The smaller the holes in the honeycomb are, the more directional the light is as it will spill lesser and lesser in other directions.

Bowens Reflector and grids with differently thick honeycombs

Barndoors
Barndoors are even simpler to understand than grids. They are just flags (you remember flags from the other article, don't you?) attached to the side of the lamp so to avoid that its light spills out uncontrolled in every direction. Barndoors can be moved singularly so you can create a narrower or wider illumination on the set depending on what you want to achieve in your shot.

Profoto Barndoors

Fresnel Lenses
The Fresnel lens is another accessory which is hard to explain  without a practical example. Do you remember the car lights I talked about before? While they have a reflector on the back, the glass in the front is a Fresnel lens indeed. What does it do? It concentrates the light into the distance, refracting it, so that the your car can illuminate the road straight in front of you, and not all the surroundings, while losing very little power. The same way it is used in photo lighting: Fresnel lenses allow you to control how the light is concentrated and usually you can change the focal of the lens so to have a wider  and shorter or a narrower and farther illumination on the set.

Bowens Fresnel Accessory

Ok, here I gave you a pretty quick overview of the accessories that you can use with flash and most continuous photographic lights. I tried to be the simplest I could but sometimes it's pretty hard to be clear without letting you see how the work in practice. It's a foundation anyway and from now on every time you read some explanations of a shot in photographic jargon you can come here to see what they are talking about. For the next articles we'll start to see how all these instruments can contribute to create a great food shot. Stay tuned!


(Alessandro Guerani is a professional photographer specialized in food shooting. He lives in Bologna, Italy, and is available for assignments to create the images you always craved. Read the "About me" or contact him using the "Mail me" in the blog menu above.)

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Pomegranate Spicy Muffins

Pomegranate Spicy Muffins
A middle-eastern fruit, like the pomegranate, and a couple of oriental spices give an unusual boost to the taste of these muffins. I have to confess that the muffins lasted for about half an hour at my Sunday breakfast, so I hope that the following recipe will bring you to forgive me for the week long absence from the blog: I had some sickness, then the boiler in my home died and I spent 2 days at cold, I just lacked flooding and grasshoppers invasion to complete the misfortune series. In the meanwhile though I renewed my portfolio website www.alessandroguerani.com, have a look at it if you feel inclined to, it's pretty fast and with large images, not just food related.

Ingredients (6 muffins)
1¼ cup of flour
½ cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 orange zest
1 teaspoon of ginger powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
confectioner sugar
1 egg
½ cup of milk
1½ oz. butter
arils of ½ pomegranate

Preparation
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and orange zest in a large bowl. In a smaller one whip up together milk, melted butter and an egg. Pour the liquid in the center of the larger bowl and quickly amalgamate all the ingredients until you have a smooth mixture then add most of the pomegranate arils and mix a bit again. Pour into muffin stamps, previously greased or lined with baking paper, place the remaining arils on top, dust with confectioner sugar and cook in oven preheated at 350F for about 25-30 minutes or until golden.

(Alessandro Guerani is a professional photographer specialized in food shooting. He lives in Bologna, Italy, and is available for assignments to create the images you always craved. Read the "About me" or contact him using the "Mail me" in the blog menu above.)

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow in Bologna (again!)

Bologna via dell'Osservanza
Bologna - via dell'Osservanza

broom

Bologna Piazza Santo Stefano
Bologna Piazza Santo Stefano: Seven Churches

(Alessandro Guerani is a professional photographer specialized in food shooting. He lives in Bologna, Italy, and is available for assignments to create the images you always craved. Read the "About me" or contact him using the "Mail me" in the blog menu above.)

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Identità Golose 2010

Bottura e Marchi, Identità Golose 2010
Massimo Bottura is speaking in a conference, at his side Paolo Marchi

Identità Golose is the first Italian convention about high level cuisine: an event that brings together some of the most renowned chefs and food producers of Italy and beyond. It was invented by the food journalist Paolo Marchi in 2004 and this is year was the sixth edition, a London edition has also been started in 2009.

I attended the convention this Monday and I fought with myself between the interest in the conferences, in one spoke one of the greatest chefs of all times: Alain Ducasse, and the temptation to taste again and again all the marvelous food products that were on display, like the ones presented in the stand of Emilia-Romagna, the Italian region where I was born.

But being mainly a photographer, even if a food lover one, after listening to the new trends of Haute Cuisine and eating a slice of Culatello, I used my camera to take some portraits of some of the culinary protagonists attending the convention.

Davide Oldani
Davide Oldani, chef at the restaurant D'O
via Magenta 18, località San Pietro all'Olmo, Cornaredo (Mi) - ITALIA

Elio Sironi
Elio Sironi, chef at the restaurant Bulgari
via Privata Fratelli Gabba 7/b, Milano - ITALIA

Niko Romito
Niko Romito, chef at the restaurant Reale
viale regina Elena 49, Rivisondoli (Aq) - ITALIA

Viviana Varese
Viviana Varese, chef at the restaurant Alice
Via Adige 9, Milano - ITALIA

Massimo Bottura
Massimo Bottura, chef at the restaurant Osteria Francescana
via Stella 22, Modena - ITALIA

(Alessandro Guerani is a professional photographer specialized in food shooting. He lives in Bologna, Italy, and is available for assignments to create the images you always craved. Read the "About me" or contact him using the "Mail me" in the blog menu above.)

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Food Photography: Reflectors and Flags

Which are the most useful instruments to really improve the lighting in your shots? Some panels, white and black colored.

Strange as it may seem often some inexpensive and simply devices make really a difference when we're need to improve the lighting on our photographic sets. These devices are named reflectors and flags.

Reflectors, as the name implies, are reflective surfaces used to bounce the light toward the subject or another part of the set. They could be professional device, expressly made for photographic use, easy to handle, with controlled color casting and built using highly reflective materials.

In the image here you can see some of the professional reflectors made by Lastolite. As you can see they can be found in various shapes and dimensions, and with different reflective materials: white ones give a a neutral reflected light, silver ones tint the light with a cool tone while golden ones produce a warm reflected light, similar to the the light of the sun when is low on the horizon.

Professional reflectors are some of the least expensive lighting equipment and they are very handy especially outdoor as most of them can be easily folded so to fit in a backpack. When in studio (or at your home) you can also use do-it-yourself reflectors that still work fine. I am very fond of my foam panels. They're cheap, light, I can easily keep them straight with a couple of clamps and i can carve an hole onto them so to put my lens through. But everything can be used as a reflector, a cardboard, a mirror, a white wall, everything that can reflect the light, even a little.

You can experiment with reflectors and their placement looking how they reflect the available light onto your scene, even natural light coming out of the window of course. It's a matter of trial and error and personal tastes. Sometimes you want softer and lighter shadows, other times you prefer not, there's no exact rule.

Other times instead we want to block the light. Maybe the light is so much strong and diffused that enters our lens creating unwanted reflections (named "flares" in photographic jargon), other times we want to darken a part of the scene or keep in shadow a side of our subject.

Just like reflectors bounce the light, flags are used to block it. They are usually black panels that are put in between the light and the subject you want to shelter from light. Just think at how you use your hand to shelter the eyes from direct bright sun and you get a very clear example of how flags work: in this case you are flagging your "lens" (the eyes) to avoid flare and excessive exposure. In the image et right you can see the complete range of flags made by Advantage Gripware.

Also in this case you can easily made your own flags instead than buying professional one. Just remember that professional devices are needed when quickness, sturdiness, practicality and flawless results are needed but if you are learning and experimenting do not stop yourself just because you don't want spend money on pro equipment. A black cardboard works the same than a pro flag, just pay attention (as usual) using inflammable materials (like card, cardboard, plastic, fabric, etc) near hot lights (like tungsten lamps).

Before the end of this post I want to talk about a little trick some of you may know, but others probably don't: what I call the "black" reflector. Light bounces around even in the blackest night, go figure in a small room light by the sun or some powerful artificial lighting. So when I want to keep away those unwanted reflections from my subject or scene I use a black flag or panel just if it were a reflector but, being black, it "absorbs" the reflected light from the scene instead than bouncing it in. The concept is very similar to the flags I described above but in this case you don't suppress direct lighting but just the reflections. Run a test and see how it works, it really makes a huge difference in some situations especially when you have a lot of "white" on and around the set.

(Alessandro Guerani is a professional photographer specialized in food shooting. He lives in Bologna, Italy, and is available for assignments to create the images you always craved. Read the "About me" or contact him using the "Mail me" in the blog menu above.)

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