• Vivino - In Studio and On Location

    I have always been known as someone who does both Food and Lifestyle on location and in studio.  If you need me to shoot food and beverage by itself, I can do that.  If you want to put food into the context of how people live their lives, I can do that too.  However, those are two specialties that require two different sets of knowledge.  I have to know how light interacts with food and liquid while also knowing how to create nice shadows on people's faces.  It means I have to stay up on hair, makeup, and wardrobe styling while also being in the know about food and prop styling.  I also need to be able to work with lighting in the studio while also being nimble enough to shoot on location.  I love doing it all!

    For a recent shoot with the well-known wine app, Vivino, we shot both people and food at my studio and on location.  For Day 1 we worked with a hand model shooting the app.  On Day 2 we moved to a wine bar in San Francisco where we photographed Founder Heini Zachariassen and CEO Chris Tsakalakis.  On a shoot like this I make sure to hire a first assistant and digital tech who are well versed at studio lighting with products and with photographing people on location.  Take a look below!

  • Mixt - Staying True to Brand

    I love working with healthy food clients so I was very excited to get the call from Mixt, a fast casual restaurant with 11 locations in San Francisco and LA.  They were planning their Spring Season menu and looking to photograph the different signature salads dreamed up by their Culinary Director, Jeffrey Amber.

    I'd like to talk about how I as a contractor help a business stay true to their brand image.  When working with a business for the first time I make sure to work closely with the marketing and creative departments to understand the story of the brand.  I will ask if there are any guidelines I can study and get to know.  Mixt has a clean and contemporary look and it's important to be aware of that going into the shoot.  We made sure not to spill too many of the ingredients on the surfaces so things didn't look too messy.  For lighting, we wanted things to stay light and airy and make sure we didn't have too much heavy shadows.  We were originally going to shoot with natural light, but decided to go with strobes to make sure things stayed consistent.  Color-wise, greens and reds were true signs of Spring with some subtle pinks added in by Mixt Art Director Jose Quinteros.  Jose also played the role of prop stylist and made sure props had a more modern feel to them vs. being too rustic.   All in all, the brand info helped give our team a solid framework to produce consistent, compelling imagery. 

    Hope you're enjoying your first week of Spring and eating plenty of healthy salads!

  • Dream Project - Alice Waters

    I am the luckiest photographer on the planet!  I spent four days doing portraits of Alice Waters on set of the upcoming MasterClass she is teaching. I have to say that even though she is the most influential person in food of our time it has not kept her from being the most kindhearted.  

    In the business of photography you have to be ready to shoot quick when someone like her comes in front of your camera.  In our first one-on-one portrait session I planned to photograph Alice in her backyard, then go inside for a portrait with a gray seamless.   I hadn't met her before so I didn't know what to expect and in situations like this I always assume my subject is going to be in a hurry.  But, instead she sat down and had the most relaxed and polite demeanor to her.  I think it epitomizes her values for everything she stands for: the best ingredients, the Slow Food movement, educating the world about food, organic, local, composting, etc.

    I came away from the experience with so many lessons about food and I'm now even more steadfast about everything she has preached all of these years.  There is no question the best ingredients are of extreme importance to her.  Her eyes light up and her excitement level rises when she talks about her favorite vegetables and herbs and the fact she got them directly from a farmer, at Monterey Market or at the farmer's market.  Take a look at some of my images below of her looking through all of the food she is cooking with.

    I don't want to give away too much of what will be in her MasterClass and I highly encourage you to go buy her class and hear how passionate and excited she is about the food she makes in the course.  It will make you want to go have fun at the farmer's market and most of all, cook delicious, nourishing, yet simple food.

  • Photographing a Restaurant Before it's Built

    I often get called to photograph restaurants that are within weeks of opening or already open and need imagery for their website and other uses.  At that point the restaurants are pretty much ready to go and we're able to use their tables, kitchen, etc. for the shoot.  But, what about when the restaurant is still under construction and isn't opening for 4-5 months, but needs content to create buzz?  Such was the case with the new Fairmont Hotel opening in Austin at the end of this year.  Fairmont wanted to create imagery for 4 of the hotel's 5 restaurant concepts.  

    How do you create imagery for 4 restaurant concepts that don't even exist yet?  To start off I wanted to get a sense for the feel of each concept and got help from the branding decks supplied by Biography Design.  I also called on Houston-based prop stylist Amanda Medsger to help tie-in surfaces with plateware provided by Fairmont.  We then created a visual guide with mood board imagery and references to the options of surfaces we could use for each shot.  Some concepts were more minimalist and lighter in tone whereas others were darker and more rustic.  Amanda was able to provide a number of surface options on set to go with each shot.  

    We also spent a good amount of time finding the right space to shoot in.  The question was whether to shoot in a studio where we would start from scratch and make it look like a kitchen or rent a house. We wanted the chefs to look like they were working in a real, yet tasteful restaurant kitchen. We ended up going with the house option and found something large and open enough with simple, yet sophisticated counters and stove.  I'm really happy with how it turned out and excited to see how the restaurants look once they open!  


  • Story of an Heirloom Salad

    I'm a big believer in being driven by the things I'm passionate about so it was an easy decision on what I wanted to produce a motion piece about this summer, Heirloom Tomatoes!  As I usually do on shoots I asked myself how I could best tell a story about the subject.  With some inspiration from a simple and delicious heirloom tomato salad recipe from Donna Hay magazine I thought of telling the story of a home cook getting excited as she puts the salad together.  Kendra McPhee of JE Models was a great subject as she's done food marketing before and is passionate about the subject matter.  I also teamed up with food stylist Alexa Hyman, prop stylist James Whitney, and director of photography Doug Birnbaum.  We made a lot of action happen for the shoot as we showed each part of the process: the washing of tomatoes, water dripping from them, oil being poured, basil being placed, etc.

    Hopefully this piece will inspire you to go out and buy some heirlooms and make a salad of your own.  Enjoy the rest of what's left of your summer, or soon to be Indian Summer here in San Francisco!


  • Every Fermented Drink Known to Humankind

    It's here!  The book I photographed, "Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond" is in my hands.  This wasn't just a book about fermentation, it was about all the vast ways you can make fermented drinks, ranging from kombucha to wine you can make in prison.  We spent 4 days photographing fermented cocktails, ciders, sodas, kefir, lassis, Mexican pre-Hispanic drinks, vegetable name it.  I didn't like Kombucha before, but now I'm definitely a big fan as a result.  I tasted whatever authors Alex Lewin and Raquel Guajardo dished out.  Speaking of, you can see author Alex Lewin speaking and promoting the book at this Saturday's Fermentation Festival in Petaluma.  

    We were blessed to have Prop Stylist Leila Nichols on the shoot, she gave us a ton of options to choose from and added her nice touch to all the shots.  Lighting-wise we made sure to keep things relatively consistent throughout to create a uniform look.  And as usual I made sure to identify as many opportunities to "bring the drinks" to life by adding some action in the form of pouring, dripping, and shaking.  You can see some of that below along with the final cover.  

    And on a personal note, I'm celebrating my birthday today!  Going to be heading up to Lake Shasta to celebrate in Sept., and working on photographing another book.  Exciting times!

  • SFO Airport Campaign

    How do you pull off six locations in a day in different terminals of one of the busiest airports in the world?  It takes preparation, patience, (especially going through security), quick decision making, and a little bit of luck.

    I was hired by the agency Fuseideas for a campaign to promote shopping and eating at SFO Airport.  It was a nice feeling to be able to photograph wherever we wanted inside the terminal areas.  Most photo shoots not associated with the airport aren't allowed to go past security, but we were given free reign since we were working with the airport directly.  However, that didn't mean we were immune to the rigors of getting through security.  Since we had a number of crew and gear with us, it took an hour and a half to make it through.  But, thankfully scouting the location twice helped make sure we were as efficient as possible.  

    We did 6 setups, but we did a vertical and a horizontal for each set up, so it was 12 final images total.  Image usage included electronic displays, signage throughout the airport, and SFO website.  We were working with a number of different aspect ratios so we adjusted the shots accordingly.  

    Prop Stylist:  Thea Chalmers
    Food Stylist:  Karen Shinto
    Digital Tech: Weber Shih
    Assistant: Garry Belinsky

  • Dominique Crenn for FSR Magazine & Marin Mag June Issue

    How cool is it that I get to watch the World's Best Female Chef rock out to music in front of my camera?! When I got the call from FSR Magazine to photograph Chef Dominique Crenn for the May 2017 cover story I was so ecstatic.  Although I had photographed her twice before I still get excited each time.  Knowing I would not have much time with her I immediately began researching ways to do the portrait and illustrate the story.  I requested to take a look at the story and noticed the writer had mentioned the importance of local farmers and produce.  I scouted her restaurant, Petit Crenn, and discovered a really nice board they use to put food on.  "I'll have her hold it with a bunch of produce on it," I thought.  So the day comes for the shoot and I present my idea to Crenn and she says, "Absolutely not."  Can't say I didn't try, but she made up for it by having so much fun on set and we mixed up the shots between being fun and a little more serious.  By coming to the table with ideas and being open to them being changed it made for a fun little adventure.  

    Besides the work for FSR please take a look at the work I did for the June issue of Marin Magazine.  Really good story titled "Recipe for Success", interviewing a number of Marin restaurants on what it takes to stay in business for more than a few years.  The answer was that it's a whole lot more than just good food.  I photographed three long-time restaurants in a photojournalistic style.

  • Setting Up For Success

    It may come as no surprise to know photography jobs take a ton of preparation.  It takes a great producer who knows the subject matter and all the right people to help get access to all the places we want to shoot. For one of my latest jobs I relied on producer Amy Silberman to help get it all done and make sure everything ran smoothly.  You'd be surprised at how many contacts Amy has around San Francisco and how much she knows about every little detail relating to pulling permits and renting spaces.  We were working with Lennar homes for their new San Francisco Shipyard project and the needs of the shoot included showing potential residents of this community living life: working, shopping, relaxing at home, etc.  Take a look at some of what we came up with and scroll down to the end where you can see some of the crew celebrating outside of our RV in the Mission District on the last day.  Also, here is a list of some of the things we juggled to make it all happen on this 3 day shoot in 10 locations around San Francisco:
    - Chartered a boat to show people commuting to downtown SF.
    - Rent a number of spaces; a restaurant, a workspace, a retail store, Tartine Manufactory.
    - Permits for photography on SF city streets.
    - Permit to photograph on the Muni platform.
    - Permit for Port Authority open space for outdoor shots.  
    - Permits and signs for parking an RV all around San Francisco.
    - Wardrobe, Prop, and Hair and Makeup.
    - Plan B in case it rained.
    - Manage 8 models and their schedules/wardrobe.
    - Catering and RV
    - Budgets, Call Sheets, and Crew Book
    Producer: Amy Silberman
    Prop and Wardrobe:  Lisa Moir, Deborah Dapolito
    Makeup and Hair: Veronica Sjoen
    Models:  Blackwell Files
    Photo Agent:  Freda Scott
  • All The Tasty Places

    San Francisco Travel Association calls on me when they want to continue building their image library to promote SF as a travel destination.  It’s such a blast because I get to shoot some of the city’s best places to indulge.  On our recent shoot we had on the list places like The Mill, 4505 Meats, La Taqueria, Plow, Samovar Tea, and Anchor Distilling.  Having lived in the city on and off for 20 years I know so many of the best things to do and places to eat around this town.