The sun is back out…and so am I

It’s the last day of winter, and the remnants of the last snow and sleet, have finally vanished. Outside the sun is peeking out from the cover of grey clouds that are quickly being usurped by the blue. Spring will be here tomorrow, that lovely season where everything comes alive. It isn’t warm yet, but like Hemingway once said “…With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning”! Perhaps, that morning isn’t too far away, or perhaps I am now desperately seeking the sun after weeks of rain and snow. So today to celebrate the end of winter I ended up baking the last of the pears for the season into a tart with an Almond Mascarpone Cream. Decadence you say? Oh yes it is! I poured so much time into it, though it is extraordinarily easy to make, that I forgot about making lunch. But, on days like this when I am super hyper active, I couldn’t let that go with just leftovers, so I made myself a bowlful of Kimchi Fried Rice topped with the ubiquitous fried egg. I’m happy and I can’t wait to have more such days of energy and craziness – seems they are my most productive.

If you are wondering why a simple tart took so much of my time that I almost forgot to make lunch, then I should clarify. I spent a good deal of time photographing it. I was challenging myself to come up with different compositions and layouts. Take a look and let me know if I succeeded.

Pear Almond Tart Pear Almond Tart with Almond Mascarpone Cream DSC_0010 DSC_0008

Here is my lunch from today….

Kimchi Fried Rice

The recipes are below, in case anyone is interested. Please DO NOT reuse/reprint/download any of these pictures, they are copyright of Photopportunist/Shruthi Venkatasubramanian and cannot be used in any form without my explicit permission.

Pear Almond Tart

1 Store bought 9 inch pie crust

5 tbsp butter (room temperature)

5 tbsp sugar

5 tbsp almond flour

3 tbsp flour

1 egg

1/4 tsp almond extract or 2 tsps amaretto

2 bosc pears, peeled and sliced

For The Amaretto/Almond Mascarpone Cream

1/2 cup mascarpone

1/2 cup cream

1/2 tsp almond extract or 3 tsp amaretto

3 tbsp powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract or paste

Preheat oven to 350F

Cream together butter and sugar about 3 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add almond flour and regular flour. Add egg, and amaretto/almond extract and cream till the ingredients are all just combined. Press the store bought pie into the tart pan and do not stretch the dough. Peel and slice the pears into thin slices. Spread the almond filling into the bottom of the tart. It will not fill the tart to the top, but it will rise during baking. Press the pears into the filling, keep the pears in the same shape when you slice so you can place them as is. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely. For the cream by whip mascarpone and heavy cream until thick, add powdered sugar, amaretto/almond extract, and vanilla.

Kimchi Fried Rice

1 cup leftover long grain or basmati rice

1 stalk green onions

1/2 onion, chopped

1 pod of garlic, chopped

1/4 – 1/2 cup kimchi without juice, chopped

2 tsp low sodium soy sauce

1 egg

In a frying pan, heat some oil and add the chopped onions,chopped white part of green onions and garlic and sautee till the onions become translucent and begin to change color. Add the kimchi and sautee till it begins to brown. Now add the rice and soy sauce and fry till the rice isn’t sticky anymore and starts to brown. In the same pan, after removing the kimchi fried rice, fry one egg with a tiny bit of salt and until the yolk is just about runny. Top the rice with the egg and sprinkle the rest of the green onions and eat up! Takes all of 15 mins to whip this up!

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The sun is back out…and so am I

A launch and a request

Hey everyone,

I finally bit the bullet and launched my official website today – www.photopportunist.com ably supported by a facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/Photopportunist. I appreciate everyone who takes the time out to read this blog. You come from different backgrounds and yet you understand and appreciate what I do, proving that art transcends all that. For your support and encouragement, I am eternally grateful. Do visit the website and “like” the facebook page, to keep in touch with everything I do. It might be a bit tacky to ask someone to “like” a page, but am small fish in the ocean who needs the props from all of you to be visible. Thank you so much for everything you do for me.

Much Love

Shruthi

A launch and a request

Breakfast News

Today am on reverse gear, backing up to a few food shots I did a couple of weeks prior to the Acadia Trip. I had been yearning to photograph Indian food since I started shooting food and this concept was stuck in my head and bursting to come out. I have always seen Indian food being photographed within a very “Indian” context and set up and I wanted to break the rules. I wanted to shoot it in a more contemporary set up and just wanted to showcase the actual food in a less formal and more accessible way with the cleaner compositions and colors of a Scandinavian design ethic that is far more modern.  So I decided on making brunch, since the mid morning light in my office is perfect for food photography and I could cook and set up ahead of time(read scramble like a maniac).

The food in the photograph is what I am used to eating since childhood, but this isn’t something we make all the time. Its a rather special brunch and needs some advance planning if you insist on making all the requisite batter at home. The breakfast comprises of Rava Idli & Paniyaram(steamed savory semolina cakes & fried rice cakes) with a Tomato chutney and a coconut-coriander chutney. All of these are South Indian delicacies and actually non-spicy.

f/11, 1/60, EV +1

I knew I wanted to photograph on a white background and everything else came out of that original platform.  If the background is white you know you want things on the plate with color and can absorb and deflect light well. So the colors on the plate had to be complementary to each other. A lot of Indian food is brown and I had one main dish that was going to be brown and the other a more pale greenish beige ( pardon my knowledge of names of colors). To offset it, I needed greens and oranges, so I tweaked the coconut chutney to be more green by adding coriander and added more green elements to the composition to balance off the lack of color. The oranges/reds are to break up the monotony and to push the eye into different parts of the picture. Worked well, I think.

October 1st was also the day we released the fifth issue of the online magazine that I edit, do the layout for and also wrote a piece for this time. Its a good magazine, with plenty of tips for every type of photographer. Give it a read, its completely FREE!!  Here is the link to the October-Dec 2012 issue and here is the link to the previous issues. Here is a look at the cover that will give you an insight into what you can find inside.

For the piece in the magazine, I shot some extra shots of food that I had made on various occasions.  The recipes to each are in the description section of the photograph. You will have to click on the photograph to view it.

f/5, 1/180, EV +1.5

Breakfast News

Soul Food

There are very few things in the world that are readily available and generously soul satisfying as food. A rainy day, a hot cup of tea and if you are Indian by birth, then perhaps a plate of bajjis and pakoras. There is a reason why there is such a thing as comfort food. It can stir up memories and fill you up with the warmth of the moment that penetrates your very core. But who says comfort food should be associated with just wet weather, summer can be comforting too. The feeling of fresh fruits and vegetables, traversing your gullet and cooling down your system as the mercury rises outside, is just as surreal. For a few weeks in July and August, while school is out, I had my nephews with me. From fresh cherries to shortbread cookies to pies and crumbles, we found a way to incorporate as much fresh fruit as we possibly could into everything we could possibly eat. I love summer for just that reason, its time to be out in the sun, scour farmers markets for fresh produce and gorge on some of the best fruit the country has to offer and not be a closeted gourmand. Now as the winds turn cooler, I still have some fond memories to look back at.

As a photographer, food gives me plenty of subjects of to photograph and the means to combine the two things I love the most – photography and cooking. I am evolving, atleast I hope I am, as a food photographer – I am still at the very beginning of the learning curve on this one, but it definitely isn’t something I will stop doing once I’ve mastered it. The very idea that I can get 10 different compositions just from changing the background is eye-opening to me. Do enjoy my bouts of gluttony, hope I leave you hungry!

Do not reprint or reuse any of the material on this blog without the author’s explicit permission. Click on the picture to view the larger version, Enjoy!

Soul Food

Biting off more than I can chew

This morning I was sitting at my home office staring at a bunch of delicious home made blueberry muffins, torn between my integrity and patience as a photographer and my impatience and hunger, as a foodie. Obviously, integrity triumphed otherwise this post would not exist, needless to say that a re-shoot is impossible though!

First forays, first experiments are nerve wracking. Food photography is a genre that I have only , so far, playfully dabbled at. So to take a serious stab at it, meant hours of pouring through photographs, blogs, written material of any sort, analyzing lighting in photographs, analyzing lighting through the house at different times of day and lastly agonizing over props and what to actually photograph.

Baking to me, is a cathartic mathematical experience. Follow the equation to the word and failure is not a probability. I enjoy baking, measuring every tiny litte 1/8th of a teaspoon to attain nirvana in the form a deliciously aromatic concoction that in every bite reminds me that it will settle forever on my hips, but the devilishly decadent taste beckons like Mata Hari. If food photography was daunting, the only way to make this task easy and to make the first steps into this genre easy, was to make the baking part easy. To stick to the known was the easiest solution and Blueberry Muffins are things I can make in my sleep. Having settled on the subject, now I needed to figure out how to shoot it. Every blog and book on the genre, said one thing that stuck like glue in my head – just treat food like you would any other subject and to stick to natural light. Fantastic and that’s exactly what I did and the good part about food is that, as opposed to portrait subjects, these don’t have opinions about your work! 🙂

So I searched high and low for angles to shoot it in, used the basic ingredient ( blueberry) as a prop and some raspberry for color and contrast, an old dish cloth, a wooden chopping board and some seamless white paper background to create a set of images that are pretty neat. I am glad, however, that I did not try to experiment with the likes of gelato or ice cream though! Those foods just don’t have the patience to sit through a shoot. Like everything else in life – I started simple and kept adding pieces to the puzzle to create a set of images ranging from simple shots of just muffins to slightly more elaborately styled shots. Enjoy! Buon Appetito!

Please DO NOT use the images or words without the author’s prior and explicit permission.   If you need to purchase or use any prints from this blog then leave me a note and I will get back to you. Click on the picture to view an enlarged version and to see a brief write up about the shot. The recipe is courtesy of Ina Garten – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/blueberry-coffee-cake-muffins-recipe/index.html , but I did substitute baking powder for soda and used more blueberries than required ( because i like more anti-oxidant deliciousness per bite), I substituted yoghurt for sour cream and 3 large eggs instead of extra large and it came out just as fluffy and just as delicious!

Biting off more than I can chew