In the beginning of 2016, I self-assigned a project of photographing food in various ways. At times, I did them in a straightforward fashion, sometimes with a unique perspective, and occasionally just weird. Once, I just did it so that I could buy a sixer of beer on a Friday (ok, it was a Thursday).

I stayed with it for about 5 months and it helped me to push myself, to try different techniques and approaches to what has become a relatively common occurrence at the studio. Certainly aided in my growth as a photographer.

Whether directly related or not, we ended the year with a series of jobs for clients in which we had a chance to create some fun food photography of which I am proud. Each of these jobs was different from the others, from a controlled studio environment with multiple days of planning to a day in a busy restaurant shooting and changing setups as fast as the chef could plate his beautiful food to a an editorial pictorial in which we tried multiple things as quickly as we could think of them (and which featured my debut as the next great hand model).

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Beautifully plated app, entree and dessert shot on location at LaGrotta in Richmond.

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We had a chance to work once again with CF Sauer on some images for the Duke’s Mayonnaise website…

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And, with Richmond Magazine, we made some fun photos with pizzas from various restaurants around town and their unique toppings. If only I could control myself from grabbing a slice before the photo is finished…

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And so, 2016 comes to a close. Now excuse me, I’m hungry.

I’ve tinkered with high speed flash photos of splashing liquids here before, and recently we were provided an opportunity to use the equipment and techniques for a client. It proved to be a fun and exciting process, if a little wet. Fortunately, the studio floor can handle it.

We started by arranging our hero fruit, kiwis and strawberries, into a shape that fit the layout. I had thought we would need to set this up in multiple arrangements and bring them together digitally, but I found a way to defy gravity in a way that would keep them stable enough to stand up to the drenching they were about to receive. The set, fruit arranged in front of a textured stainless steel sheet, was lit with Einstein E640 heads that were rented for the job. These are nifty monolights that can generate flash durations as short as 1/13,500 sec. I found that a power setting yielding about 1/4,000 sec provided us with sufficient stop motion, yet enough light for adequate depth of field.

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The base image was shot, and then the water began flying. This was the fun part. I found pouring the water into a large spoon at the edge of the frame provided a nice splash that had a bit of an upward motion to it, and spread out nicely. Timing the exposure was done manually, and their was some hit-or-miss, but, happily, more hits than not.

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Selected portions of the splash images were placed onto the base image, and unwanted areas were masked off in Photoshop. Subtle movements occurred with the impact of the water, but fortunately, nothing too large or disastrous.

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The final resulting image required about 40 captures, about a quarter of which were used as elements.

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A second image was created for the upper corner of the layout in a similar fashion, with just a single piece of kiwi and strawberry…

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The two final photos were blended together after having rotated the second 180 degrees, and dropped into the layout comp (along with a third photo of fruit for the lower corner), which looked like this…

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After much fine tuning of images, composition and masking, the final files were delivered to a happy client .

 

These shots are not particularly new. These were created about four years ago for Virginia State Parks. The final photo of the “giant stack o’ s’mores” was printed with a die cut and looked pretty cool in all of the visitor’s centers along Virginia highways.

I stumbled upon these as I was collecting images for a saxmanphoto.com website redesign (check it out!), and thought it would be interesting to post the “behind the scenes” shot, that shows (some of) the mess that was required to produce the final piece. The marshmallows had been toasted over electric stove burners (romantic, eh?), and skewers were used to help keep it all together on set. Note the hair dryer in the lower right, which was used to get the chocolate looking nice and melty-licious.

Bonus points to anyone that correctly gets the reference in the title of this post.

Multi Level S'mores, photographed for Virginia State Parks

Multi Level S’mores, photographed for Virginia State Parks©Jeff S. Saxman

Multi Level S'mores, photographed for Virginia State Parks

Multi Level S’mores, photographed for Virginia State Parks©Jeff S. Saxman

This group of photos is a couple years old, but I thought I would break it out in celebration of National Donut Day. I drove by Sugar Shack Donuts on Lombardy about an hour ago to pick a few up to photograph, but the line was out the door! Good for you, Richmond! Donuts for lunch! I’ll just have to get mine later. Rumor has it RVA Racing will be making a donut run later today, as we often tend to do!

The donuts in the photo are from Dixie Donuts, which sadly closed up shop a few months back. Wherever you get yours today, enjoy!

Dixie Donuts, six varieties of donuts

Mmmm, donuts. Images ©Jeff Saxman.

Stuck with the beverage theme last week in my food photography project, and, since it was Friday when I shot these, beer seemed an appropriate choice (again!). This time, however, I ventured out into the wildlands surrounding the mighty James River. Clean rivers and streams are natural habitats of dragonflies, and so away I went to capture a special species waterside.

The St. Croix Snaketail is a rare species of dragonfly found in only a few places in the United States and has recently been found in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is now also quite a tasty session IPA brewed by RVA’s own Triple Crossing Brewery. This beer was brewed to honor the discovery of this beautiful specimen of odonata and the 30th anniversary of the Virginia Natural Heritage Program. In these photos, we get a glimpse of the brew in its natural environment.

The beer is a limited release, so get it while you can. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, which finds and preserves important natural areas within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Enjoy!

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Triple Crossing Brewery, Virginia Natural Heritage collaboration results in Snaketail Ale, seen here in its natural environment

All photos are ©Jeff Saxman and reproduction in any media without prior written consent is prohibited, discouraged, and just not a nice thing to do to a guy trying to make a living. Sharing of links, however, is strongly encouraged! See more at http://www.saxmanphoto.com.

I’ve not posted in a few weeks, but I have a pretty good reason. Soon after my previous post, I took a bad digger off my bike and ended up in the ER with a fractured vertebrae and separated clavicle. Been trying to heal, while keeping up with the ordinary business of the day around here. Needless to say, a couple trying weeks!

I wanted to get back at this, and give a nod to healthy bones at the same time. What to shoot? Milk! What goes good with milk? Oreos! So, I figured I would run with the techniques of my last post, but with milk and cookies, and spend the afternoon noshing Oreos. Don’t judge me- it’s therapy.

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Image ©Jeff S. Saxman. No reproduction in any media authorized without prior written consent. Eat some cookies.

 

Bending the rules a little here, but I won’t tell if you won’t. While there is food in this photo, it is technically a product shot. But I thought it shines a little light on our capabilities and thought process around here.

We occasionally shoot on location for things like this, but there are times when time or budget dictate we pull something together in the studio, yet achieve the look and feel of a different environment. Fortunately, we have lots of things here to work with, and I find it a fun challenge to make something like this happen. I often don’t think of the process as being that unusual or special, and, in fact, it may not be. But, when the AD snapped the photo below of the set to send back to the office to demonstrate that the final photo, despite looking as if shot in a restaurant’s back kitchen, was actually done on a set, I realized that this may actually be interesting to others.

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It brought to mind, too, one aspect of studio photography I have always found fascinating, and that is the lights and grip equipment, stands and articulated arms, flags and gobos that lie just outside of the frame. In fact, I find it difficult to look at a photo without imagining all of that. One of my favorite recent examples is the personal photography project of Adrian Sonderegger and Jojakim Cortis, wherein they recreate notable historic photos in the studio- check it out here.

My final photo:

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Final image of product on studio set. Photo © Jeff Saxman. No reproduction authorized without prior written consent.