04 Aug

Food Photography Composition Pt.2

stuffed_tomatoes

I want to thank everybody who left a comment on the first part of this food photography composition series of posts. It really proves the point that composition is probably one of the aspects of food photography that most people have trouble with. I was trying to convey a feeling of lightness and fluffiness with those “flying” (they were actually dropping) pancakes. But it got very different reactions from different viewers. That only means that I need more practice with composition, which is fine with me. I really love taking pictures of food.

This second installment of the series will focus on a more technical side of composition. After reading Lou Manna’s book, Digital Food Photography, I have been trying to be more technical when framing my shots. The following information and shots are based on the information written in the chapter Composition of Manna’s book.

One of the most important things to remember when shooting a picture is that the camera and lens play a crucial role. Most of my food pictures are taken with a 50mm prime lens (a non-zoom lens) so I don’t worry about proportions too much. But if you are using a wide angle or zoom lens (or in the case of point and shoot cameras the wide or telephoto setting) you have to understand how the proportion of the image will be affected by them. Take a look at the following shots:

stuffed_tomatoes_wideangle

This first shot was taken at 28mm (the wider setting on that particular lens). The tomatoes look so distant from one another and the real size of the tomato in the back is distorted. This is because wide angle lenses and settings exaggerate perspective. Just think of the “leaning” buildings taken with fisheye lenses or with your point and shoot in the wide angle setting.

stuffed_tomatoes_zoom

The tomatoes on the second shot, taken at 90mm (the telephoto setting on that same lens), have a better proportion and look closer together. The reason is that the telephoto setting of your lens compresses distance. The lesson to learn here is to use the telephoto setting, even if you have to back away from your food, to have a better proportion and perspective of the foreground and background elements in your pictures.

stuffed_tomatoes_line

Next, focus on the way you hold your camera. A straight angle works in many cases, but many others a little tilt will give a shot the perfect perspective and composition. Play around with the angle and the distance you hold your camera when aiming at your subject. In this case I wanted to give the shot above different approaches:

stuffed_tomatoes_tilt1 stuffed_tomatoes_vertical stuffed_tomatoes stuffed_tomatoes_tilt

In this case, I think the third picture works best because of the angle of the glasses and because picture 2 is too straight and pictures 1 and 4 make the tomatoes look like they are going to fall off.  Which is another point you have to pay attention when tilting your camera. Is it going to help composition by placing the subject slightly off-center? Or is it going to make the viewer wonder when the food (or drink) is going to fall of the plate?

Next time I’ll talk more about composition (maybe the last post on the series), but for now I hope this little iformation and shots I am sharing here help your food photography. It sure has given me some very good pointers to improve my shots. But remember that the best way to improve your photography skills is by playing (practicing and experimenting) with your camera.

About the subjects for this post: I used tomatoes stuffed with sauteed onions, zucchini, corn kernels, jalapeno peppers and tuna. The best part of this ordeal is that I get to eat the subjects afterward. That’s an arrangement I can live with.

¡Buen provecho and happy shooting!

27 Jul

Tres Leches Peanut Butter Ice Cream

peanutbutter

Tres leches peanut butter ice cream

That is a long name for an ice cream, but this creamy and deliciuos treat really deserves it. I do realize that this is not a low-calorie and not-too-healthy dessert, but I really don’t feel guilty eating a little bit of it after a long 7-mile run. This is a great source of energy to keep me going, right? (Please say yes :-p )

So why is this a tres leches (three-milk) ice cream? Very simple, when I was about to make some peanut butter ice cream I realized I was out of heavy cream. But I had condensed, evaporated and regular milk so I decided to use them together. My mom’s desserts are always a hit because she uses a simple, yet powerful, secret ingredient. Instead of sweetening her desserts with sugar she uses condensed milk. Trust me, every dessert tastes better with condensed milk.

Tres leches peanut butter ice cream

Tres Leches Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
 
Ingredients
  • •1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • •1 can evaporated milk
  • •1 cup milk
  • •1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • •3 eggs
  • •1 TBSP vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. In a medium pot combine the milks and peanut butter. Turn heat to medium until the mixture warms and the peanut butter melts together with the milk.
  2. In a bowl whisk eggs slightly. Slowly whisk in the warm milk.
  3. Return milk to the pot and add vanilla extract.
  4. Heat up the mixture over low heat. Keep stirring with a heat-proof spatula scraping the bottom of the pot.
  5. When the mixture thickens enough to coat the spatula (around 140°F) turn off the heat and let mixture cool in the fridge for about 4 hours.
  6. Follow ice cream machine directions to finish making ice cream.

¡Buen provecho!

Remember that there is only a couple of days left to enter our last Homemade Challenge. This month we are making ice cream. I am also sending this recipe to the following events:

The Great Peanut Butter Exhibition #7: Celebrations. Is there a better way to celebrate summer than with ice cream?

Joy of Desserts will publish the We All Scream for Ice Cream Roundup on July 31st. Don’t forget to participate.

15 Aug

Keeping Cool

tamarind


Well, not really. The weather here in Ohio has been just gorgeous for the past two weeks. Temperatures in the lower 80’s and no humidity at all. The best part is that it is supposed to remain like that for the rest of the month. If Ohio’s summers were always like this, I wouldn’t mind them so much. Anyway, Jon’s mom gave me a Kitchen Collection gift certificate for my birthday back in June and i bought an ice cream machine with it. As much ice cream as Jon eats I figured the smartest thing was to get one. So I have been experimenting with my new toy. I am so happy with it. These are some of the things that I’ve made so far:

One of the first ingredients that I had to use were strawberries, of course. I followed a recipe for Strawberry Ice Cream like Ben and Jerry’s that I found on recipezaar.com. Delicious, isn’t it?

Another refreshing treat that I made was using my most favorite fruit ever!

Oh delicious mangoes, what would life be without you? This is a very simple recipe that my mom used to make and that doesn’t requiere an ice cream machine. All you need is a large mango and 1 can of sweet condensed milk. Cut the mango and processed it with the milk in a food processor. Pour into a dish and freeze for 2 hours. That’s it! I used bread crumbs mixed with cinnamon and brown sugar for the topping:

The following recipe’s star ingredient is one that I am addicted to. It is hard not to get addicted to its sour and sweet flavor. I love to eat it right off the pod. I’ve been eating them like that since I was a baby. I am talking about

tamarind, that delicious and nutritious African (or is it original of India?) fruit. I was going to make a tamarind sorbet originally, but I decided to make ice cream instead, just to change things a little (tamarind sorbet is very popular in Mexico) This is how I made it:

Tamarind Ice Cream
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • •1 cup tamarind pods
  • •1 cup water
  • •1 cup brown sugar
  • •2 cups heavy cream
  • •1 cup whole milk
  • •1 TBSP lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Clean the pods by peeling off the shells.
  2. In a small saucepan boil tamarind, water and sugar for about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the mixture vigorously to separate the tamarind pulp from the seeds.
  4. Strain the mixture using a fine strainer to retain the seeds and stems of the tamarind.
  5. Refrigerate until cold.
  6. In a large bowl combine tamarind mixture, cream, milk and lemon juice. Pour on your ice cream maker and follow the factory instructions.
  7. When the mixture is thick, pour in a plastic container, seal and freeze for 2-4 hours.

Easy, right? If you like tamarind I am sure you will love this ice cream. I know summer is almost over, but I love ice cream any time of the year. How do you keep cool during the summer?