Dark Food Photography

“Is that dark photographs of food, or photos of dark food?”, I hear you ask. Well in this case it just so happens to be both.

Food photography is a genre I love, but often struggle with. Just as I’ve figured out how to light food photos to really show off the tasty treats at their best, a new fashion for darker, low-key images has emerged. I’m no follower of fashion, those who have seen how I dress bear witness to this, but I do love these darker, moody images, and have tried and failed to replicate them myself. I needed some help, so just like everybody else, off to YouTube I went.

Over on YouTube I discovered this rather excellent tutorial, entitled “Dark food photography – SHOOTING and EDITING”, presented by channel host Joanie Simon, on The Bite Shot channel. I already subscribe to this channel on YouTube, due in part to Joanie’s very relaxed and fun presentation style, but mainly because of her excellent food photography. Joanie is a most talented photographer, and her presentation style is both charming and natural, yet she doesn’t appear to take herself too seriously. The whole channel is just a joy to watch.

Here’s a link to the video in question.

After studying the video, and gathering as much information from it as possible, I made a trip to my local Hobbycraft store to pick up some supplies, mostly black foam board, popped the camera on a tripod, and started building a setting for something dark yet sweet to take a picture of.

Here’s what I came up with.

Salted caramel and dark chocolate cupcake
Salted caramel and chocolate cupcake

No doubt you will see a certain similarity between Joanie’s composition and my own – hey, great artists steal, right? – although not quite so good, but I did choose to ignore Joanie’s editing methods and use my own. I’ve been slowly improving my editing workflow over the past couple of years, and am happy with my post processing workflow, but if you follow the advice in the video you won’t go far wrong.

I’d just like to say a quick thank you to Joanie and the rest of the team behind The Bite Shot channel for continuing to push out such entertaining and informative content. Thanks guy, and keep up the good work.

If you want more content from Joanie and the gang, as well as a subscribing to the channel on YouTube you can also find them on Instagram and Facebook. Just click the links. ūüôā

Danny.

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Vegan rice pudding

I’m not a vegan, nor am I claiming to be one. I’m your classic omnivore, although I do seem to have developed a number of sympathies to the vegan way of thinking of late. Recently, my work has taken me away from home a lot, and this has included a lot of motorway driving. Passing the trucks on the way to the slaughterhouse, scared snouts and noses poking through the gaps in the crates makes me feel sad; seeing the trucks empty even more so.¬†I toyed with vegetarianism for just over half a year in the 1990s, but once I fell off that wagon I never tried to get back on it.

The more I’ve been thinking about these issues, the more I’ve been wanting to make a change. I decided in October that I would do something about it. When I’ve been working away, which has been a lot during the latter part of 2016, I stopped buying and cooking meat. I would not claim to be a vegetarian for those three or four¬†days per week, there was no announcement or change of lifestyle, I just stopped buying meat when I went shopping, and would experiment with solely meat free ingredients whist preparing dinner. No big deal.

When I’m away and cooking, I’m generally looking for something I can take a photo of. I’ve spoken before about my yearning to improve my skills with food photography¬†and I need to practice.¬†Also, I don’t like to post too many pictures of meat dishes on social media. I understand it can be quite a divisive subject, with many strong opinions on all sides. So, one November evening I decided to cook something for dinner, without meat, specifically so I could take a photo or two to share. I was looking for something with a mixture of bright colours, plenty texture, and steam, just as an exercise¬†in backlighting the steam for maximum effect. The resulting dish was a stir fry, as seen here.

Tonight's dinner.

As I was writing the copy for the photo I realised that had I not used butter when creating the sauce, as well as being suitable for vegetarians, this dish would have also been vegan friendly. Had I made a little more effort or put a tiny bit more thought into it, this dish would have been suitable for a much wider audience. Oh well, it wasn’t my intention to create a vegan dish, just to take a nice photo and enjoy my dinner. This did however get me thinking about trying to cook some vegan food that would look good for a photo. I decided to give rice pudding a go because, well, because it’s rice pudding and I bloody love that stuff.

After some careful research into the ingredients – who knew that some sugars are filtered through bone charcoal – I was all set. I cobbled together a recipe from a few other, non vegan ones I found on line, had a practice, did a bit of fine tuning, and ended up with this.

  • 1 x measure of pudding or risotto rice. I used a shallow ramekin for my measure, but anything will do. It all depends on how much you want to make.
  • 3 x measure of vegan milk. I chose Alpro hazelnut milk, the unsweetened variety, but there are plenty of soy milk and nut milk options to pick.
  • 1 x measure of water.
  • 1 x measure of sugar. I used Tate & Lyle Demerara sugar, because it is vegan friendly and I usually have¬†Demerara sugar handy if I fancy sweetening my coffee a little.
  • It is as this point you will wish you had added the sugar before the milk and water as your ramekin is all wet and lots of the sugar is stuck to the bottom of it.

Pop all of the ingredients into a pan, and get it on the heat. Once this is going you will need a very low heat. Cook it for about 45 to 60 minutes, until the rice is soft and scrumptious. Don’t leave this simmering alone for long periods of time or it will stick to the bottom of the pan.

If the mixture is a little too thick for your liking then loosen it with a little more milk or water.

I chose to top my rice pudding with some of the Co-Operative’s “Extra fruity strawberry conserve” from their “Irresistible” range, and also grated some freshly ground nutmeg on top. Next time I may try some Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup instead. You could of course choose to simply enjoy it as it is.

“Where’s the photo” I hear you ask. Ta dah!

5t5a6746

Please feel free to comment in the comments section below if you have any questions, if you tried this and liked it.

If you have any vegan recipes you would like to share then I’m sure you will find some like minded people in the Promoting veganism group on Facebook.

Danny.

Yorkshire Dales

After viewing Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, we decided to find out where the water fight scene between Robin and Little John was filmed. It turns out that the principal photography for the scene was in a place called Asygarth Falls in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, and not in Sherwood Forest as the film makers would have us believe. Keen to see such an area of natural beauty we found a cottage in the area to rent for a few days, packed up the car, and went on a road trip to see the surrounding area. Here are some photos from our adventure.

The journey started with tea. The people of Yorkshire love their tea. It seemed rude not to have some, and also to try some local food whilst we were there.

They love their tea in Yorkshire
They love their tea in Yorkshire
Yorkshire rarenit, made with Wensleydale cheese of course
Yorkshire rarebit, made with Wensleydale cheese of course
Lunch
Lunch

Enough of the food, how about the scenery? First stop was the planned Aysgarth Falls.

Aysgarth Falls
Aysgarth Falls
An overcast day but this does make the greens shine through
An overcast day but this does make the greens shine through

After this we decided to visit Middleham Castle.

Middleham Castle
Middleham Castle
Guards on patrol
Guards on patrol

A short drive from where we were staying took us to West Burton and the fabulous Cauldron Falls. Somewhere that I will go back to and try to create some better photographs.

This scene is crying out for a model
Cauldron Falls
Cauldron Falls
Cauldron Falls
A beautiful place to visit

Another sight that we decided that we had to see was Hawdraw Force in Hawes, Leyburn. The Internet tells me that this is England’s highest single drop waterfall. I wouldn’t know such things, but I can tell you that this is a sight to see. The noise of the water falling is quite something, and it truly is a remarkable spectacle. You can feel the water vapour on your face from 30 feet away. I loved this place.

Hawdraw Force
Hawdraw Force
England's highest single drop waterfall, whatever that means.
England’s highest single drop waterfall, whatever that means.

Entrance to Hawdraw Falls is through the back of a pub called the Green Dragon Inn. This means that this particular pub can claim the best beer garden in the world. Stunning.

I shall finish off with a couple of images taken from where we were staying, showing the nice views available of the Dales. Thank you for reading.

Nice view
Nice view
Obligatory sunset picture
Obligatory sunset picture

Trying food photography

Chorizo and mushroom pasta

Food photography is always something I’ve found difficult. This seems an odd thing to say in this day and age where you can’t go into a cafe or restaurant without somebody Instagramming their coffee or uploading an image of their breakfast to Facebook.I guess it’s the styling I struggle with. I’m happy backlighting and adding in fill to the highlights, but making to food look attractive is just not my strong suit. Still, one has to try.

So into the kitchen I went. I prepared some pasta, added chorizo and mushrooms, and made a sauce which was mainly garlic and bitter, but had a good dash of the starchy pasta water which I’m told is the way the Italians do it. This was finished off with a few fresh basil leaves to add a splash of complimentary colour. The result is the photo you see above.

And what was for dessert? Cheesecake, my favourite.
Cheesecake

Manchester’s Christmas Market

Each winter, for the past 15 years, the Christmas Market comes to Manchester. There is such a wonderful atmosphere around the market. People are taking advantage of the chance to try some warming winter food and to sample the mulled wine with its sweet apple and cinnamon aroma. It is a wonderful environment to perhaps pick up a gift for a loved one, to taste some freshly cooked German sausage, or to try a glass of spiced cider.

If you get the chance you should visit. It is a friendly atmosphere, safe for families and a joy for children of all ages right up to 100 and over. A lovely day out for all.

a host of sausages cooking on a hot grill
Sizzling Sausages
A woman wearing a hat is seen in the foreground. In the background the lights of the market shine bright.
Girl with a hat
A selection of cheeses are seen, starting right in front of you, fading off as far as the eye can see.
Sausages are not the only foods on sales at the German market
Several women are seen at the counter of one of the stalls of the German Market
Shoppers at the German Market