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Behemoth

Food Shutter Bug Club (Part 1)

585 posts in this topic

Hey, you gotta take the knocks with the praise. You've got to be pretty happy with the comments on the previous pictures.

The non-closeup of the Mexican meal is better than the extreme-close-up, it just could be even better yet the next time. Part of the problem, may in fact not even be how the picture was taken but the subject. Can you take a good picture of beans like that? I'm not sure it's possible.

Perhaps that can be a future eG photo challenge, if we hold contests (and maybe we should).


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I frequently find it boring (even annoying) when people take these "flat" looking shots where there are no apparent differences in focus.  So I like your shot, at the very least as an experiment.

To me, the only thing which disturbs it is that one branch that reaches up right under that berry with the yellow bit on it.  I don't know... in a "natural" environment is it okay to do something like reach out and break a twig off, or does the photographer have to be totally passive?  :laugh:

I like playing with different centers of focus. With the clarity of pictures today you can really play tricks with the eye.

Because if you're seeing what I'm seeing, it's like a ghostly finger is reaching up for the berry. Your eye can't help but go there.

I wish I could say that was on purpose, but I'm not that good :smile: I have no problems moving a branch out of the way, or arranging a shot as long as you're not picking the flower or breaking the branch in the process. Here are a few more from that same series.

i8861.jpg

Same shot with different cropping

i8862.jpg

i8860.jpg


True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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While Jason is pouting...

I actually found my notes from when I took that macro course with Wendy Shattil and Bob Rozinski in Rocky Mountain National Park several years ago. The one thing that I underlined several times was: "When planning a shot, the first thing you need to have in your head is what the goal of the shot is. In macro, deciding on that goal is more complex than just about any other type of photography." I recall that they used mushrooms as an example. There was a field with just a bunch of clumps of mushrooms. Each student had to take several shots, each with a stated goal. (They were then developed overnight and critiqued the next evening.) Here was my list.

General shot - Goal: just mushrooms in a field. Not much more to do with that. Not really macro. Where else could you go with that? Not far, unless you introduce another element like a butterfly or something.

Moving in - Now one mushroom just about fills the frame. Goal: capture the dew on the cap and the striated texture of the stem but keep it in the context of a mushroom in a field. A few blades of grass are showing.

Closer - One of the mushrooms is slightly tilted. With some contortionist moves and groveling in the dirt, I get some of the pattern of the gills. Goal: show the gill structure in an artsy and pleasing way. But it is still recognizable as a mushroom.

Closer still - Break off the cap and turn it upside down. The sun is still low. (They got us up early.) I am able to get a few pleasing compositions of abstract studies in beige and brown with some lighting up of the gill edges. If I didn't tell you it was a mushroom, you might not guess. Goal: abstract pattern. I don't care if you know it is a mushroom or not. Well, I might care if I want to demonstrate that there is beauty in the details and you need to pay attention.

I am going to guess at Jason's goal with the beans: A study of amyloplasts in grease, hopefully lard. :raz: Actually, the texture does come across.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Jason, I do think your dinner shot was better panned back some. Without the plate to give it focus, the textures, in my opinion, were a little gruesome. :wink:

I have a question, and I mean this very respectfully. Do you wear glasses or otherwise have impaired vision? Because the beans and other shots aren't really in focus--a very slight camera shake might also be the culprit. I've got better than 20-20 for up-close vision (and good contact lenses, by golly), and I'm just distracted by things that aren't crisp, just as I'm distracted by fingerprints on my monitor or my eyeglasses, when I wear them.

There's no way to ask that question without seeming callous, but it's an honest and valid point that, to me, is really important. I've seen a lot of photos on eGullet where people use a macro to no avail. I never know if it's because they're just willing to show their dinner for the sake of showing it, which is fine in a casual thread like "What we ate for dinner." Or is it because they believe the shots are in focus? There was a thread recently doing some kind of important documentation of an event, and so many of the pictures had either a motion blur or were just plain not in focus. I anguished.

I can't bring myself to post photos that are out of focus or otherwise marred unless I note the condition and apologize for it. Does that make me anal, or just an asshole? :unsure:

Anyway, it might seem trivial, but it's deceptive. Any lack of focus should be deliberate and artful.

Just my .02.

P.S. It's pure torture to have to scroll by all that BBQ when this thread loads. I'm starving. You people are meeeeeeeeean.

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Closer still - Break off the cap and turn it upside down. The sun is still low. (They got us up early.) I am able to get a few pleasing compositions of abstract studies in beige and brown with some lighting up of the gill edges. If I didn't tell you it was a mushroom, you might not guess. Goal: abstract pattern. I don't care if you know it is a mushroom or not. Well, I might care if I want to demonstrate that there is beauty in the details and you need to pay attention.

This is the kind of thing that I love reading about. You're seeing something with new eyes, which makes us see it that way, as well.

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I do wear glasses Tana and I have poor eyesight. That being said, the pictures look like they are in fairly decent focus to me.

Camera shake with the 5700 is a huge problem. Its a large camera with a big front heavy zoom lens and the unit does not snap a shot as soon as you hit the button, which has a deep depress. It also focuses poorly in low light. Apparently these issues were corrected on the 8700, its successor.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I can verify that Jason's camera has a real big problem with camera shake. It's almost a miracle that he got the shots at the BABBP that he did.

(stop pouting, Jason!)

Now whether or not he sees the focus problem AFTER the fact in the finished product is different. He's got fully corrective lenses on then, he's not holding his head away from the camera to compensate for glasses--it could just be a natural perceptual thing as I implied before. With the texture of those beans, for example, how COULD you be sure of the focus?

Skipping on over to the berries shots... the last one really is an interesting study in NOT being afraid of "blurriness". It's a neat focus trick--a similar kind to what you might see in a movie where they switch up a foucs to imply movement with a still camera. That's not exactly what's happening here with a single frame, but there's definitely a sense that you are somehow "peeking" in at something. There's more of a sense of... I don't know... intimacy?


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I will jump into the fray. I am using the example of a shot I took of lard. The goal of the shot was simply instructional, a demonstration of what various lard products look like, the color being the most important. I was not really after any artistic nuances. The only concession to "art" was to deliberately choose my butcher block table top because the color fit and I tend to like monochromatic color schemes. The light source was natural.

Rip away.

i8174.jpg


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Now whether or not he sees the focus problem AFTER the fact in the finished product is different. He's got fully corrective lenses on then, he's not holding his head away from the camera to compensate for glasses--it could just be a natural perceptual thing as I implied before. With the texture of those beans, for example, how COULD you be sure of the focus?

This is something I was wondering about -- I have been taking my photos with my glasses off. There is a little dial on the front of the camera that supposedly compensates for my vision impairment. Anybody know if I am doing the right thing here?

I liked the last berry shot the best, too. Reminds me of chinese paintings.

For the black beans -- I mean, its just hard to make that kind of dish look good without some form of garnish. Why are canned black beans always so much more glossy, anyway? This question has always haunted me. Hey, at least they liked some of your photos.

I like Heidi's idea of focusing on one subject, though this thread seems to be picking up a little steam which is nice.

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Linda, the only problem I can see with that photo is glare, off several surfaces. The composition certainly looks fine to me.


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Let me voice here my support for a "single food subject" ongoing photo contest. That sounds like a fantastic idea.

And now, i submit a few of my photos for improvements by others. I think i compose most shots fairly well, and i can crop/sharpen/blur with the best of the Photoshop masters, but i'm crap at changing highlights and color spectrums.

Larger shot of my avatar:

oils.JPG

Portrait of some egg yolks:

8atoneblow_0043.jpg

People and salads:

acfdinner_0001.jpg

"Egg Wash", a shot composed for a Baking II project:

egg%20wash.jpg

Preparation for ice carving - i really liked this shot because of the reflection of people in the window glass at the top:

ice%20dump_0008.jpg

So, yeah - have at it. Make my shots pop, folks :cool:


Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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Shot #4 ("Egg Wash")--what a witty title. It's also the most interesting, visually, because of the retro feel of it: "A housemaker uses her Kenmore for making salads!" I love the composition, and it's interesting as hell. Every bit of it is clever, or mysterious enough to make me think of it as clever, even though you might have felt quite pedestrian when you did it.

Note: this is the only photograph that is in focus.

The first shot: the wall is in focus, not the bottles. If it were the other way around, I would love it. The red bottle is just gorgeous. The varied heights are also compelling.

Egg yolks: completely out of focus. Sorry to say, ditto shots #3 and #5.

I don't know what to say. Focus is elemental. Without it, what is photography?

I have 20-400 eyesight, which means I'm nearsighted (sighted for what is near). But I am a little worried about the collective eyesight of eGullet. I know I ruined my eyesight from reading in poor lighting. Ask my Memaw. (Use a Ouija board.)

I still have decent contact lenses (Acuvue dailies, pretty cheap but also thin and comfortable); I've worked on a computer for close to two decades. My work requires me to be able to discern a pixel three feet away. I can do it.

This isn't equipment or technique or anything. Things are either in focus or they aren't. I took a bunch of stuff tonight, trying to learn the complex buttons and dials on my camera. Let me come up with a few samples of what did and didn't work.

The things that are blurry do not work. Surely this isn't some wild theory? Don't good photographs have to be in focus?

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Maybe we could do a (weekly? or monthly?) thing where someone picks a single food, ingredient, or theme to shoot and everyone posts their shots (cherries, BBQ, ice cream, etc) -- we can compare and talk about all the different approaches (what works, what doesn't) and tackle any technical problems we run into. Maybe a separate thread? Just a thought -- there's nothing like a narrow assignment to get people thinking about everyday things in extraordinary ways.

I would like to participate in this too. :smile:

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I will jump into the fray. I am using the example of a shot I took of lard. The goal of the shot was simply instructional, a demonstration of what various lard products look like, the color being the most important. I was not really after any artistic nuances. The only concession to "art" was to deliberately choose my butcher block table top because the color fit and I tend to like monochromatic color schemes. The light source was natural.

Rip away.

i8174.jpg

Fifi - That is some beautiful lard. It fills me with "what if's".

1) I love the little pots and I wish you had chosen a way to give them more weight while at the same time addressing the lard comparison. My instinct would have been to try arranging them within the frame of the photo itself rather than introducing the plate as a background field - because the plate itself as a background distracts from what should be the focal point of the picture and does not add any useful information. It complicates what could be a very stong graphic image. Try putting them on newspaper, plain white linen, or even something dark to serve as a rather neutral background.

2) The way the lard captures light is a very good indicator and a great way to illustrate the contrast and comparison between them. I would experiment and shine light different angles to try and illuminate the lard from behind and make it glow. Also, what does the lard look like through the side of the pot? Worth an investigation.

Love the lard.

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I'll reiterate and maybe say it more strongly that an undertaking like this works much much much better if it is structured and scheduled, with some ground rules in place at the outset. I can promise you, and I have seen this happen on every photography message board on which I have participated and in some classroom settings, that these discussions become unpleasant quickly if there are no agreed limits and requirements. Please trust me on this. Will anybody volunteer to lead the group and help set up a structure?

Back to a couple of the discussion points . . .

Focus, camera shake, and losses due to image compression and other settings can be difficult to distinguish (sometimes, not always) when looking at 600 pixel wide photos. That being said sometimes it is very easy to tell, especially if it is a simple matter of the wrong part of the photo being in focus. I'll plead guilty to posting plenty of photos on eGullet that I would throw in the trash were I selecting photos to send to a photo editor. Especially when doing photojournalism, even a good autofocus system makes plenty of bad judgment calls in the heat of the moment and rarely do digital cameras give you enough depth of field to allow for much of a margin of error especially on the closeups. But people on eGullet as a whole would rather see the information than see no photos because of minor clarity deficiencies of the kind tana is a stickler for. That being said there is a fine line between flexibility in standards and collapse of standards.

Some tips for correcting clarity problems: 1. Learn and work within the limits of your camera. If your camera isn't well suited to macro shots then don't take macro shots until another day when you have a camera that's better than that. Most digital cameras have a comfort zone within which they take their best photos. So move yourself around in order to place your subjects within that comfort zone and then crop if need be. 2. Observe how your autofocus system behaves. Every camera is different but after awhile you will figure out what your camera thinks it should be focusing on, and then you can push it to focus on what you want. You can also learn how to change your autofocus settings on some cameras. 3. Without getting overly technical, there are reasons why when working with zoom lenses the effects of camera shake and restrictions on depth of field will be worsened the more you zoom. So don't zoom way in if those are problems for you. 4. Use the viewfinder rather than the LCD screen when composing. When you use the LCD you extend your arms away from your body and amplify camera shake. When you hold the camera to your face your arms can brace against your body and you get much better clarity through the viewfinder. With SLRs you don't even have the choice to compose with the LCD, and that's a good thing. 5. Follow through, just like in tennis or softball. Taking a photo represents a whole cycle of body and camera motions. Train yourself to wait a full breath after the camera has taken the shot before you allow yourself to move away from the scene. 6. If you have really serious problems with camera shake, there are more things you can do, ranging from learning to control your breathing to using available objects as braces. 7. You may not get as artsy shots but flash, even daylight fill flash, will usually help with clarity.

I'll throw a couple of photos into the mix. These are taken in an active kitchen.

i8874.jpg

i8875.jpg


Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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This is the most helpful thread I've ever seen on any of the several sites where I read and post.

Here's one of my photos. Feel free to have at it:

i8876.jpg


What's new at Mexico Cooks!?

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I don't have "the eye", but I really want "it"

This thread has such a wealth of information, so much to learn, it just might be possible for me to achieve the eye.

Be assured that I can take the knocks. I'll embrace them.

i8879.jpg

i8880.jpg


Edited by spaghetttti (log)

Yetty CintaS

I am spaghetttti

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Sure.

Hit me:

i5890.jpg


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Fifi - That is some beautiful lard. It fills me with "what if's".

1) I love the little pots and I wish you had chosen a way to give them more weight while at the same time addressing the lard comparison. My instinct would have been to try arranging them within the frame of the photo itself rather than introducing the plate as a background field - because the plate itself as a background distracts from what should be the focal point of the picture and does not add any useful information. It complicates what could be a very stong graphic image. Try putting them on newspaper, plain white linen, or even something dark to serve as a rather neutral background.

2) The way the lard captures light is a very good indicator and a great way to illustrate the contrast and comparison between them. I would experiment and shine light different angles to try and illuminate the lard from behind and make it glow. Also, what does the lard look like through the side of the pot? Worth an investigation.

Love the lard.

Thanks. Those are some good points.

I used the white plate just because it was there and I needed a white background. I really didn't put a whole lot of thought into it. I was focusing on just getting the four products together and used the white plate to emphasize the color of the lard which is the whole point of the picture. (This is the picture that I took specifically to add to the recipe in RecipeGullet.) The little pots are just the 1/2 cup wide mouth canning jars that I use to store it in the fridge. :biggrin: I use those kinds of jars for storing all sorts of things and don't think of them as anything special. But, now that you mention it, that information would be important since you need to use jars to keep the lard from picking up flavors (I think I even say that in the recipe) and featuring them more in the picture makes ultimate sense.

I like the idea of lining them up some way on white fabric. Problem is, I don't have any. :laugh: That is why I used the plate. Backlighting is a good idea as well. When at room temp, the white lard is more opaque than the tan and that would show that quality as well.

This was a small batch that I talked about in the carnitas thread, I think. (Exploding carnitas!) The next time I make a typically larger batch and use the larger jars, I am going to take your suggestions to heart.

I also just noticed that there is a speck of something on the white. ARRRGH!


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Sure.

Hit me:

i5890.jpg

First thing that I like about the shot is the scale and the composition. (Well, once I get past the point of wanting to snap a scallop. :biggrin: ) The fork and napkin on the left help establish the scale. That is one thing I like to see in a shot of a plate of food. To get ultra-picky, I may have moved the fork and napkin in a little and pulled in a little closer. But that is really picky.

The one thing I keep wishing for is that it was shot from the other side of the table. The reflections on the table and in the upper right are distracting. If it had just been the wine glass, it would have been interesting but there is other stuff there that I can't identify and that is drawing my attention away from the food. (But then, I am an intensely curious person so that could just be me.) A little glare on the plate would be ok to indicate the texture of the plate but this is too much. It distracts from the glisten on the scallops, for instance.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Sure.

Hit me:

i5890.jpg

The overall impression is very arresting...you want to stop and look at what is on the plate, the illuminated background makes you focus on the dish. I do wish that you could see the back of the plate clearer....its too much in the shadow.

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A few contrast and composition pointers for digital snapshots on dark backgrounds, triggered by looking at Jinmyo's very appetizing dish:

High contrast situations are hard enough on film but digital camera CCDs really tend to choke when bright whites and deep blacks compete for recognition. The extremes of the white and black especially impact the richness of any other colors in the photo. Also shiny dark surfaces and flash don't often mix because the reflected flash makes them look white. A gentle natural light source that doesn't reflect back at the camera will give nice deep dark negative space-colors, which can be beautiful for still-life backgrounds (food is a species of still-life photography). Composition-wise, any plate where two foods are very similar color-wise is going to present a balance challenge. Obviously here there is an attempt to capture a real dish so there is no food styling expressly for the photo but photographically just the cabbage and the scallop would make a more striking composition than the dish with that third piece repeating the reddish caramel colors. Definitely would crop out most of the surrounding wood and glare and contrast-enhance this as much as possible. Possibly place the fork tines right onto the plate if it is really desired for scale. These high-contrast photo compositions also often work spectacularly when photographed from directly above rather than from diner's eye perspective.


Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Helenas I have to run and do have some technical comments about those photos but on the whole would just like to say they are very sharp. With minor modifications I would expect photos like that to be in a well produced cookbook. Can you tell us about more about your equipment and the intent of those images?


Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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