Sinfully Delicious

Some sundays are meant for nothing but absolute decadence and just luxuriating in abundance. When there is a French Open Final match between Djokovic and Nadal on TV and not much else on the schedule for the day, it was the perfect opportunity for me to make us a sinfully delicious brunch of my favorite things to eat for brunch – Poached Eggs on a bed of asparagus and the yummiest and easy to make hash browns,drizzled with an almost effortless hollandaise, accompanied healthily by a plate of mangoes and strawberries ( all in season) , a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice and a cup of my favorite tea.  Good weekend indeed…how was yours?

For the poached eggs – I did the ‘create a whirlpool and gently ease eggs into the vortex’ method, in a pan of boiling water with a tablespoon of vinegar. The asparagus was blanched for 5-7 mins in salted boiling water. The recipes for the hollandaise and hash browns are below  and are good to serve two:

Hollandaise

1/2 stick of butter

1 1/2 tsps lemon juice

1 egg yolk

salt to taste

Melt the butter for 40 secs in a microwave. Blend the yolk and lemon juice a couple of times and then slowly drizzle the butter into this mixture as you blend. Add the salt and if you like – some cayenne pepper as well and blend once more. If it’s still a bit too thick – which it usually isn’t – drizzle in some warm water.

 

Hash Browns

2 medium sized yellow or yukon gold potatoes

1/2 red onion, diced to the same size as the potatoes

1/2 jalapeño, chopped fine

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper.

This works best if made in a cast iron skillet, the crunchiness is just perfect and browning is uniform. Heat up a skillet and pour in the olive oil. Dice the potatoes to 1 inch cubes and throw them into the oil, salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook on medium to high heat and keep an eyes on it and turn it every couple of minutes. Once the potatoes are cooked, throw in the onions and jalapeño and switch off. The residual heat is enough to cook the onion just to the point of turning golden brown.

Poached 1 poached 6

 

All pictures and writing on this blog are Copyright of Photopportunist/Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. DO NOT download, copy, print of use in any form without our explicit written permission to do so.

 

Sinfully Delicious

Let’s set a play date!

I have spoken a lot about my parents in general and my father on this blog, but my mother is a key figure in my life. Growing up, we fought like any other mother and “teenage-angst-riddled” daughter duo, but as I got into my twenties and older, she has been more of a friend and confidante. She retired as the Head of the Department of Psychology and had been a teacher all her life – so is it any wonder that a lot of life lessons come from her? Her greatest motto and life’s principle is to constantly learn and get better at whatever she does. I love the principle and I have done my best to imbibe this into daily life. Photography is obviously not exempt from this. In my “About” page on this blog, I spoke of this blog being a reflection of the journey I am on and I had the opportunity, recently, to revisit this blog’s memory lane. Sometimes its good to look back and see how far you have come, its a morale booster and you  never forget your roots. I wouldn’t have dreamed those years ago that I would open a portrait studio and take pictures the way that I do. I didn’t even think that I would get into people photography of any kind. I am glad that evolution has brought me where it has.

I had a client recently who was willing to experiment and let me indulge in some whimsical ideas. I wanted to put her in something flowy like a tulle skirt and have her dance and be flirty. I also wanted to do something dreamy and wispy, with a touch of fantasy. So I started a mood board of images that I felt were close to what I envisioned. Something that felt like a disney princess but not quite so corny or run of the mill, something ethereal and evocative and oozing femininity. So I chanced upon on some work by Elizabeth Messina and it got me thinking about placing flowers and using a mild pastel color tone. I didn’t want to do exactly what she had done and I knew I wanted my pictures to convey a sense of peace and stillness. Off I went, hunting for silk flowers to match the color of my tulle skirt, got my client to bring a matching camisole top to wear and I suddenly realized my entire studio floor is carpet – which doesn’t quite translate into a beautiful background! My immediate response to that problem was to put her on my very sturdy and long, dark dining table , but the height was a problem causing some issues with limited angles to shoot at – so she had to be on the floor on something dark so that all these pastel colors can contrast beautifully.  I found a dark brown table cloth that I had and covered it with tulle, with the brown peaking through in a very filtered manner. Now that I had an initial idea of what was going into the shoot, I had to come up with some poses and combinations of placement of person and flowers – am not a great sketch artist, so I drew stick figures to depict each of those “poses”! Here’s a look at a couple of pictures that we did on this theme…..

DSC_3968 copy

DSC_3971-1 DSC_3974

In order to contrast the stillness of the pictures above I wanted something with movement. My client was thankfully, also a tango dancer – yay!!! I have to mention that she was an enthusiastic client and absolutely willing to try ideas, to the point that we bounced a lot of ideas back and forth and she was part of the development process. I wanted black and white shots for this set, so I set her up against a black backdrop a.k.a my black V-Flats, switched on some sinatra and 40’s music with some pep to it and let her do her thing. I gave her some basic direction in terms of keeping her torso and face still, whilst she moved about the skirt and danced. I wanted motion blur but I still wanted to be able to see her. Just a subtle hint of movement. This was a portrait shoot after all, and not being able to see the face in a shot may actually be detrimental to the purpose. We set up a rhythm count within which she would move, land at a pose where her face and body were still and there would be just the slightest movement of her hand and skirt.Take a look and tell me what you think…

dance

So if you are looking for a playful photo session, check me out at http://www.photopportunist.com and message me or call me. Let’s set a play date!

All pictures are copyright of Photopportunist. DO NOT use,download or print in any form without our explicit written permission to do so.

Let’s set a play date!

It’s Official!

The year began several months ago and the last anyone heard of me, was when I announced that I will be moving Texas…and I did. San Antonio, Texas is now home and there are mixed feelings about being here. It’s honestly just a case of fear of the unknown as I explained in the previous post but to overcome  that, takes a while and some effort.  Adjustment is a befuddling concept for me and this constant need to evolve is tiring albeit necessary.

I began writing this post in the end of March, when I was looking to set up shop in Texas and have my studio up and running by mid April. I had just filed my DBA in Texas and was waiting for the stipulated time to get my certificate; but right at the beginning of April, my dad had a heart attack and I had to travel to India. When I was a young child, my dad came home one day and announced he had resigned his job and was going to start his own practice, which he has successfully run for 28 years. But on the day he announced that he had resigned, I remember feeling a tingle of apprehension. He never said he was afraid, he never showed his anxiety or fear for the future, he just worked hard and made his and our lives happen. In the beginning of this year, he made an announcement that he was going to retire by april, which he did. Four days after closing shop, he had his heart attack. On the day of his heart attack, I had a shoot at my home studio and I had scheduled several more for the next couple of days. As we scuttled as a family to get to India, I cancelled some of them. The ones that were too close to cancel I shot in the time I had before I left for India. As I prepped and shot those sessions, one day before leaving for India – I remembered him working through unsure times to provide for a young family with two kids. He is back home now from the hospital and thankfully doing better than we could hope for. I stand on a similar precipice as he did several years ago, looking at uncertainty and the possibility of failure, but the only reassurance I have is in my own abilities and a certain sense of confidence in my skill set. All that is left for me to do at this point is to take that slight leap of faith and push the business in the right direction.

I have played the game of comparing myself to other photographers, sometimes feeling superior and sometimes feeling extremely inferior – but as Sue Bryce so aptly put it in a recent Creativelive session, I have to let my insecurities go, embrace what I have and carve a niche out for myself and eschew the philosophy of ‘Show don’t tell’! So off I have been in hibernation, getting my business in order. First step was to cut the fluff out and cull out the genre which will be the thrust of the studio – that naturally fell in the portrait arena. The next part was weeding things I didn’t want to do within that genre – I don’t do newborns ( I honestly have no idea how to handle a session like that and call me crazy, but I always feel like I might “break” their baby!!), head shots etc. I love shooting women and I love it more when they like adding a touch of whimsy and fantasy to their shoots – sorry men, but when we dress you up it becomes more of a costume! Once I knew the thrust going forward, all that was left to do was build the business around it. I sat down to figure out my target audience, what I can offer them, how I can offer them what I have, and last but definitely not the least – how do I bridge expectations with what is on offer. As much as the customer is right, often they are unaware of the full nature of what they are buying, leading to dissatisfaction with the buying experience. Educating people of the experience vis-a-vis just selling several digital files of people against a backdrop is key. Educating them about what goes into a shoot that can produce those treasured portraits is my responsibility, not theirs. So, the website has to give them an idea about what to expect, what products are on offer and what goes into a photo shoot experience with me, but it has to be just enough to make them want to call me. No deal for a portrait session is just made by visiting a website, the website is the clincher that makes them pick up the phone.  The next logical step was to revamp the website and give it a complete overhaul, which included a rebranding exercise where a logo was designed, photos were taken out and only the best work was put up for display. There is information on what to expect, and answers to questions that might come up. There is information about me and what I have achieved, links to this blog so they can learn more about the person who will be helping them every step of the way. I set up a small shooting space that is movable to any room of the apartment that I choose to shoot in, bought and painted V-Flats, bought and setup seamless paper rolls and stands – if you are wondering why am not talking about lights , that’s because I shoot with natural light for the most part.

Photoshop adjustments

The shoots I completed in the days leading up to my India trip, was rife with trouble. One client cancelled due to a personal emergency, another one did not bring one of her key wardrobe choices and another had several restrictions about what she would wear. For a minute there, I almost wanted to scream, but that is the nature of the beast – no two clients are the same and they come in all shapes, sizes and with their own list of inhibitions, restrictions and so on. It is my duty to work around those obstacles, if at all they can be called that. When a client didn’t bring a dress we had agreed on, I pulled out a top of mine, which was extremely large on her and if you look at the picture above you will see that we clipped it with fridge magnets! It’s like they say – human ingenuity at times, knows no bounds! One of the major issues of a portrait shoot is trying to get the model/client to pose the way you want them to. The ingredients to achieving that perfect pose  are direction and loss of inhibition. Direction is far easier, simply because one can ask your client to mirror what you do, the loss of inhibition however, can be confounding – merely because it requires a connection between photographer and client, which may take some time and investigation. Patience is crucial, positivity and reassurance at regular intervals are a necessity and the words -“this is not working” – can NEVER be uttered in front of a client. To understand what a client goes through when we put them in front of a camera and direct them, I shot a series of self portraits (one of which is below) by directing myself – I found myself having insecurities about my body and clamming up in front of the camera. In fact, this was shot without any make up on.

shruthi-1

A typical fear that every client faces. Not all poses are equally created for every type of woman, it has to be tailor made to body shapes and those crippling inhibitions. So I researched and practiced poses in front of a mirror just to see what it did to my body shape, though am still a novice at this – I have an idea of what I can and cannot do on certain body types. I am also acutely aware of the tiny details like stray hair near the eye, that I need to look out for before I click the shutter. I think of things that I cannot fix in post-processing and for which I lack skills and I make sure that I cover my bases even before taking the picture. The devil is in the details – and a truer adage hasn’t been invented!

With the move to Texas this was the perfect opportunity to rebrand and relaunch, and with the approved ‘Doing Business As’ certificate in hand, I am thrilled to announce the opening of “Photopportunist” portrait studio in San Antonio, Texas! Although, I will happily photograph you in any part of the world. The landscape and food arm of the business will continue, as they are sold through galleries and stock agencies, but the impetus is for the Portrait Studio. The website remains the same –  http://www.photopportunist.com. The blog remains the same, twitter remains the same and if you want to follow me on instagram then click here. Looking forward to creating some beautiful memories for years to come….and your continued support and encouragement!

Here’s a small teaser of what we do at the Portrait Studio….Your friendly neighborhood Photopportunist!

Three up copy

 

All pictures and writing on this blog are copyright of Photopportunist/Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. Do NOT print, download or use, in any form without our explicit written permission to do so.

It’s Official!

Life doesn’t stop for anybody

 Another small chapter comes to an end and a new one begins thus, with change at the helm. Change is the hardest truth to accept in life, though it is as inevitable as death and taxes. Change, in and of itself is the epitome of transition and a proven fact of life and yet it is a loathsome event as one ages. The price of stability is directly proportional to my age at this point. The gurgling in the pit of my stomach is a fair combination of the fear of the unknown, excitement for new prospects and adventures, sadness in leaving the known and loved, and the growing distance between me and all things familiar. Perish the thought, I should and dive head first, I must; easier said than done. The idea of relocating and reinventing the wheel of business in a new location is daunting. At this very moment these words are nothing but a ploy to evade the ineluctable, to sit in front of a screen and rant to strangers I have never met, but strangers who know this journey I am on, rather intimately. This is a peculiar sort of comfort that the world today provides, isn’t it? Strangers who are just there on the other end listening. So with a heavy heart , I shall soon be leaving New Jersey for the comforts of Big Ol’ Texas.  Change is upon me and I must embrace it for life must move on.

Moves are always a new chapter and with this move I shall be embarking on another challenging shift in my life. I am now a fully operational glamour and portrait studio. Am I worth the effort, you ask? Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so I shall leave here a taste of what I am capable of. All of these were shot on a day when the skies opened up and unleashed their fury on New Jersey, but there is nothing a V-Flat, some reflectors, an open window and some really fast lenses can’t achieve.  In case there are enough of you who are interested in knowing any technical details behinda particular shot, let me know and I will post the technicalities in a separate post. So with good news, I shall part now for Texas. And oh! in case I don’t see you soon enough – Happy Holidays!

_DSC6063copy web

_DSC6137 copy web 1

_DSC6061copy web

_DSC6369 copy web

_DSC6149 copy

_DSC6014 copy web

_DSC6057 copy web

Model : Veronica Pickens

MUA : Angelica Rivera

Assistant : Kristen Auriemma

All photos and materials on this blog are copyright of Shruthi Venkatasubramanian/Photopportunist. DO NOT reproduce, print of download or use in any form without our explicit permission to do so.

Life doesn’t stop for anybody

Au revoir l’été bonjour automne

It is now officially fall, in fact it has been fall for over a week. It is that time of year when I reluctantly bid adieu to summer, which has felt strangely short this year – perhaps because time sometimes feels like it flies by,while at other times cause sheer agony in the length of each second. Don’t mistake this for the depression that millions feel when the weather is about to turn bleak and dark, I look forward to fall and winter just as much, just not so much the transition periods. I reminisce about summer because I am cherishing some of its best work as I type. I chanced upon some lovely ripe yellow peaches, the last of summers’ bounty for the year and decided to combine it with my new found love for greek yoghurt – which I am not ashamed to say has begun to substitute sour cream and sometimes even mayo. I did decide early on this year that health will take precedence in decision making and I’d like to think that, that switch is a product of that decision. I have made some healthy choices through the year, key word being some. In fact I even braved the darned dentist and got some extractions done. Now back to the peaches, surely its fun to eat the peaches just as it is with yoghurt, but it is fall after all, so poaching it with some spices couldn’t be all that bad an idea. It is a bit nippy outside, some warm spice poached peaches over a honey vanilla greek yoghurt base is just the best of both seasons. The spices evoking a gentle trigger to remind me that the holidays aren’t too far off, that mulled wine , pumpkin pie and cider are just a few weeks away. On those toasty thoughts….

POACHED PEACHES 1

POACHED PEACHES 2

POACHED PEACHES 3

I seem to be obsessed with the concept of symmetry in my photography and I need to break the mould soon….Everything is in pairs…oh dear lord! I feared that my OCD would bubble over into other facets of my life but wow, this is rather disconcerting. So here is a promise – the next food blog post/picture will NOT have anything to do with symmetry, I will come up with compositions that are more fluid. All shots were shot with natural light, no reflectors and everything you see are things most of us already own.  As for the recipe – this was really off the cuff – poached in water, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and a wee bit of all spice and the sauce is just a gentle mixture of greek yoghurt, vanilla and honey! Proportions are completely taste based on this one so have fun – one can’t really screw this up! You could poach this in some gorgeous Riesling, if your intentions are to make this a bit more sophisticated sounding.

As usual, all pictures and everything on this blog are copyright of the Photopportunist/Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. DO NOT copy or reuse or download or print without my explicit written permission.

Au revoir l’été bonjour automne

Shameless Plug

Shamelessly I am about to plug an event that I am participating in, while I shamefully apologize for vanishing from these pages for several weeks. If you have followed this blog long enough, you do know that absence always stems from a plethora of chaotic events crammed into those days. This absence was no different – we have been part of several gallery exhibitions in New York City, participated in a couple of contests – one of which led to an exhibition in the city, had a parent and a dear friend visit us all the way from India, took a couple of quick trips and are now setting up for the next event which is on Sunday the 29th

Let’s address the shameless plug first, shall we – We are taking part in an event this 29th Sept, 2013 ( Sunday) at a local “Arts in the Park” event in our town of Highland Park, New Jersey. It will be held right on Main Street or our little chunk of Route 27 in Highland Park. If you are in New Jersey or know people in New Jersey send them our way to say hello, ask them to look out for Shruthi Venkatasubramanian/Photopportunist’s stall.  We will be selling beautiful matted prints from $10 onwards. But we aren’t the only ones there, there will be several different artists of various genres, live music, good food, petting zoos, and dance & theatre events. We do mean ARTS in the park! Weather seems like its going to hold up nicely, so come on by for a lazy sunday street event.

Arts in the Park Banner

Arts in the Park Marquis

Now for the apologies, people use blogs to engage with an audience, to build an audience , to market, to rant and whatever else one can think of these days. I do want to engage with all of you and build new audiences, but I believe if I have nothing concrete to say or contribute then I might as well shut up.  But if you are wondering – “hey lady, plugging isn’t concrete nor does it contribute” – then let me say, this is an invitation to all of you to come engage with us one on one, I would love to meet you loyalists, newbies,  and critics.  So if you are in the area, do come and say hello.

Shameless Plug

Pink Grapefruit, Strawberry & Orange Rose’ Sangria

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you know its a hot one out there today. So here’s my idea for a good cool off – a pink grapefruit, strawberry & orange Rose’ sangria. Am probably going to serve this tonight with a light salad of some sort. Its one of those days when I don’t want anything hot , spicy or heavy, going into my system.

Before I give you my recipe for this incredibly invigorating cooler, the set up is simple its a small light box that I received as a christmas gift, propped up against a window. It was shot around 2pm and the window is east facing, so there is no “direct” sunlight streaming in, that can cause very harsh shadows. Simple props of two highball glasses, the “napkin” is actually a top of mine folded to look like one, and some oranges I had at home.

Voila!

Sangria 1

sangria 2

sangria 3

Recipe

2 large pink grapefruit sliced

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled

3 oranges sliced

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup pink grapefruit juice ( i juiced another 2 grapefruit)

1/2 cup vodka ( if you have either orange flavor or grapefruit flavored its better, otherwise just use normal vodka)

1 bottle rose’ wine ( i used a spanish grenache rose)

Put everything into a jug and let it mascerate overnight. If you want it to be a little sweeter add some simple syrup, it was perfect without the syrup though.

All pictures and material on this blog are copyright of Photopportunist.com/shruthi venkatasubramanian. If you are interested in working with me on a food shoot or purchasing a print of my work, kindly visit my website – http://www.photopportunist.com

Pink Grapefruit, Strawberry & Orange Rose’ Sangria