Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Life Is Like a Bowl of Mussels

On Saturday, I attended a photography workshop led by acclaimed New York Times' food photographer, Andrew Scrivani. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, and left enthused to show off my new skills. That was until I remembered my next post was a mussels recipe.

So what? Well, during the class intro, Andrew did a slide show to illustrate various keys concepts and strategies, and the bowl of mussels you see below was used to demonstrate how a simple, eye-catching prop, like a vintage fork, could help draw the viewer’s attention away from less-than-attractive shellfish.

Andrew Scrivani/NYT
A brilliant ploy, and one I would have implemented, except that my silverware drawer contains exactly zero fancy shellfish forks. So, I decided instead to use the inside of a mussel shell, as an attempt at some nacreous misdirection. Did it work? You be the judge. 

Anyway, I’d like to extend a big thanks to Andrew and the other attendees for a very enjoyable afternoon. Also to Contigo, a wonderful Spanish joint here in San Francisco, for being such great hosts. 

Here's a handful of my favorite pictures from the workshop. I hope you enjoy!

I love this shot of Andrew showing my friend, Annelies, how to use a screen to adjust for the bright light reflecting off bald people’s heads. This is a technique that will serve me very well going forward.

If I ever specialized in one specific food photography niche, it would be meatballs. Why? I really like meatballs.

Does your eye go to the world's most beautiful ice cube, or to that horribly discolored radish? Was this a bold attempt at textural juxtaposition,
or did I simply forget to turn the radish over? I think we all know the answer to that question.
This probably best encapsulates all the key elements we discussed during the workshop; details, light direction, props, movement, and telling a story. My only regret is not having a little drip of water coming off the tip of the root. Maybe if I have time later, I'll Photoshop one on. I'm sure Mr. Scrivani would have no problem with that.

This photo provided my proudest moment of the workshop. It was one of the few shots I composed, as I thought it'd be interesting to use the lines of the garlic skin to play off the grain of the wood.

When the photo was shown later, my blogger buddy, Irvin, from Eat the Love, said he liked the shot because of how the garlic skin lines played off the grain of the wood. I just smiled appreciatively, but inside I was like, "Yes! Yes! In your face, other attendees that didn't get similar comments!" Hey, at least I was outwardly classy.

This almost sexy octopus skewer photo is alright, but what I really love, is how if you look closely enough, you can see the entire universe in that drop of oil. I find that very relaxing.

If you want to see more of Andrew's fine work, you can check out his blog, Making Sunday Sauce, or his photography website, Andrewscrivani.com, as well as follow him on Twitter. If you have a chance to attend one of his workshops (like the one we are doing together at this summer's IFBC in Portland), I highly recommend it!


dorely.103 said...

The pictures are nice!!!

Jonathan said...

on your mussels photo the first thing i see is the bread :P

Anonymous said...

Hi,Chef John. Let me comment on the issue of the Web browsing.

Some people said they can't get to the page.
I can't see them in Internet Explorer. But can in Safari.
So I think a matter of personal browser.

roddie said...

The crostini actually does the trick instead of the fork. Are you still using your T1i?

Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef said...

I've seen the universe, life is complete. :)

Great post.

Christy said...

The ice is cool, but the use of "nacreous" is, in a word, superb.

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef J. I have been watching your recipes for quite a while and love them however I have not been able to view your macaroons or drunken mussels. Any suggestion is appreciated:)

Emerald_Mara85 said...

Did anybody ask why draw the attention away from the main characters (the food) to using a prop (the fork)? I mean, your 2nd picture is pretty (might need to play the composition more) so yes...why?

For the ice/radish photo...the eyes goes towards bright colors 1st. If you want to make ice the focus, don't put colors next to it. Unless you want color in the ice...(use either color transparent paper on lights or go crazy with juice ice cubes)

Lastly I like the meatball photo the best...there's something about meat texture that is so...attractive (but I'm pretty sure my dad would say use a higher angle)

Love to see more photos from you :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures! The mussels look so tender and with the baguette! It makes me want to fall into a food coma and never come out.

Anonymous said...

I'm also unable to get the video links for the macaroons or the mussels. I've tried Explorer ans Safari, no luck. ??????

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John! I've been watching your videos since way back when the videos were blurry! :)
Is there a way I could possibly email and ask you about culinary schools? I am having a hard time deciding which to and what path to take.
Looking forward to your next videos!

Chef John said...

Sorry, I don't do that kind of advice. I don't know anything about any of the current culinary schools. But, don't even think of going to school until you've spent at least 6 months in a kitchen, even as a dishwasher. FYI: It's long hours and low pay!

PH said...

Way to go, Chef John. I love the photos. I seriously need to learn some photography. By the way, I love your blog and the video instructions are great.

Barbara said...

Eat mussels the French way....after you eat the first one, use the empty shell as "pliers" to pull the rest out and then pop them in your mouth! No utensils needed!!

Barbara said...

Eat mussels the French way. After you eat the first one, use the empty shell as "pliers" to pull out the rest and pop into your mouth. No utensils needed!!!!