Thursday, March 27, 2008

Peeps Diorama Winners

Apparently, there were Peeps Contests all over the place this year. I already mentioned the Washington Post's, and there was one at the Chicago Tribune that I saw, too. Click on the links to see the finalists from both papers.

The Trib's contest is where my most favourite, hilariously funny and clever entry came from. It was submitted by Joel Hoag & Kay Kojima from Brooklyn, NY. Ta da!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ten Tips for Photographing Food

I get a twice-weekly e-mail newsletter called Photojojo, which always has interesting tips and techniques for photography. Since I am an amateur photographer, I find a lot of things I can use. Today's selection was especially interesting, since it was 10 Tips for Food Photography. Here are the TEN TIPS:
  1. Choose a setting that enhances, but doesn’t distract from your food. Pick a simple, plain background or tablecoth. Use plates whose color contrasts with or harmonizes with your food, but not ones that are the same color. Before you start shooting, make sure there isn’t any distracting clutter in the background of the shot (stray people, silverware, whatever). Using a wider aperture to blur the background will help.
  2. Use natural light whenever you can. The ideal set-up is a next to a large window, with a white curtain to diffuse the light. If you can’t get natural light, don’t be tempted to use your flash. Flash photography is too harsh for food’s delicate sensibilities. It flattens everything out and makes for unappealing shiny spots.
  3. Learn to color balance. Especially in situations where natural light is unavailable, your photos can have a yellow or blue cast that makes food look terrible. Use the white balance setting on your camera, or adjust the color digitally later on.
  4. Hold still. In low-light situations like restaurants and kitchens, long exposures will register any camera movement as blur. Use a tripod whenever possible. If you don’t have one, try resting your camera on a water glass or the back of a chair. This is one of my favourite tricks.
  5. Take lots of pictures. Move around the food and see what angle looks best: down low to see the food head-on? Up high to take in the geometry of the presentation?
  6. Get in as close as you can. Use the macro setting on your camera if it has one. Fill the frame with the food, so the viewer can almost taste it.
  7. Work quickly. The faster you take pictures of the food, the fresher it will look. Cold, congealed meat and wilted salads just don’t look good. Use an empty plate to help you set up your shot before the food is ready. At the last minute, slip in the real plate of food.
  8. The devil is in the details. Check the edges of your plates and glasses for stray food, and wipe away any smudges. Use sauces and garnishes to add color to drab shots (i.e. adding a lemon wedge to iced tea).
  9. Don’t forget to take pictures of the process. Sometimes making the food (chopping, cooking) can be as interesting as the final product.
  10. Know what not to shoot. Some things will just never look delicious, no matter how hard you try. Meals that are all the same color and brown sauces are best left alone.

I will try and make sure I follow these rules. To learn more about PhotoShopping photographs, watch this.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Aloha Tokyo

Cat and I decided to go to dinner by ourselves while Dog stayed home with the flu watching Twelve Monkeys (filmed in Baltimore, hon!). We got in the car and started driving and aimed towards Locust Point, or LoPo as we used to call it before it got to be the "it" urban neighbourhood (and got awful).

We decided sushi would be fun so found a parking place in front of Aloha Sushi on Fort Avenue. For the ten years I lived in LoPo, this space was the dark and narrow French Quarter, a desperation bar, when nothing else was open or you were in need of some carry out beer. It was an open secret that their main source of income was the numbers they were running, but who really cared. The Aloha Tokyo have just slapped their sign right over the old FQ sign.

Aloha Tokyo is about 14 feet wide and needs every inch of width. The bar takes up a third of the width, the chairs at the bar are way too deep for the place, and then there are tiny booths for two along the right side. The place is done in head-to-toe bamboo and a faux tiki look. The booths have tall benches and Cat and I, both being height-challenged, worried whether our feet would reach the floor. We saw one tiny woman struggle to get into the chairs. There wasn't two feet between the backs of the chairs and the booths, which made for some tight squeezes.

The first stumble happened when we ordered our drinks... Sapphire Gin and Tonics. The drinks arrived with the glasses half full and we correctly guessed that it was just gin. When we asked, the waitress said they didn't have any tonic and that the owner was going out to get some. She took our drinks and put them behind the bar. About a half an hour later, we saw the owner scurrying in with several grocery bags. We finally got our much watered down G&T's.

We each got sushi, mine a tuna with "crispy" on the top and Cat's an avacado and tuna. When we asked what crispy was, the waitress said it was powder. It was more like rice crispies. It added an interesting texture to the sushi.

One good sign for the restaurant was that three-quarters of the clientele in the place were Asian. That boded well for the food, which was pretty good. The entire waitstaff was Asian, and their command of English wasn't great. It was a little frustrating trying to get our drinks and then the check. The demographics of LoPo have changed so dramatically in the past few years that I am sure a sushi joint will be welcome. When I lived there, sushi was viewed as another word for bait.
Image: The Baltimore Sun