It’s been my good fortune over the years to photograph some subjects that people are interested in: wonderful chefs, organizations doing good work, fun events. So it’s a bittersweet thing to pack up this WordPress blog and move over to a new, blank platform. There’s a lot of work here that I’m proud of, and it’s fun to look at all the images made over the years.
But technology moves on, hackers do their thing, and best practices must keep with the times. So I’m off to this new spot with a new look, but the same content and tone. I hope you’ll visit me.
One of the great things about taking on personal projects is that you can push yourself outside your comfort zone a bit with less stress than there would be on a paying gig. Under normal professional world circumstances, shooting still and moving images can be a mountain of stress. Given the right pre-production (and budget), it’s totally doable, but it involves some mental gymnastics moving between the two formats. Lighting, composition, audio considerations, relating to your subject. . . it can be daunting. Unless you’re calling all the shots and you’re OK with things happening organically, which I most definitely am.
We went out with a loose plan: to forage for a while in the afternoon, cook for stills in the evening, then cook for motion in the morning. As it turned out, the sky clouded over early in the evening and never really let up. I had hoped to shoot more human interaction lifestyle-y shots of the cooking, but it didn’t pan out.
Fortunately, the morning was perfect, as was the weather for our time foraging the prior afternoon. I’m happy with the stills I came home with, but I’m especially happy with how this motion piece turned out. Audio in particular can be a real challenge, but the ambient sounds of the woods and the cooking pair together, I think, in a really pleasing way. I hope you like it.
Alan Bergo discovers some chanterelles
One of the best things to come out of my time collaborating at Heartland Restaurant has been my friendship with Chef Alan Bergo. Currently a sous chef at Heartland, it was Alan who prepared and styled the dishes we photographed. But, lucky for us all, Alan also runs a beautiful, entertaining and useful blog called Forager Chef. Over the past months I’ve consulted with him on his photography (read: hung out while he shot some stuff, offered a few opinions, then helped him eat his subjects), and a couple weeks ago he was kind enough to join me on a shoot foraging and cooking in the woods.
I’ve never been a person with strong feelings about mushrooms, but I feel like that’s changing after my weekend with Alan. There’s something undeniably magical about walking down a wooded trail and having your hiking partner pull up short, brush aside some dried leaves and uncover these sprigs of food, in sweet scents and vibrant earth tones (that’s right: vibrant earth tones!). There’s a vast well of knowledge and experience needed to forage wild food the way Alan does, but after just a short hike with Alan I understand the allure.
Not only did we forage, we cooked. Well, Alan cooked. He cooked big pans of foraged chanterelles, red potatoes with wild bergamot butter, duck leg in a black raspberry and wild szechuan peppercorn reduction. It was glorious, all the more because so many of the ingredients had been gathered within a few hundred yards of our campsite.
Cooking and eating in this way connects you to a place in an active way that not even a CSA can touch. If you live in the Midwest and want to expand your flavor palette with things growing in the nearest patch of woods, check out Alan’s work over at Forager Chef.
Chanterelles over flame
Potatoes in Wild Bergamot Butter
Wild Juniper Berries and Black Raspberry Reduction
A couple months back, Mystic Lake Casino+Hotel revamped the look of their Buffet, the largest of eight (!) food options in the complex. While the makeover didn’t impact the food coming out of the kitchen, it did provide an occasion to talk about some of the things that their kitchen does that people wouldn’t necessarily expect from a facility that serves thousands of diners per day.
Executive Chef Richard Fisher had seen the piece I did last year at the Minneapolis Club with their Executive Chef Hakan Lundberg, and they brought me in to get behind the scenes to show buffet diners a little bit of what happens behind the scenes, and the care they take in delivering all their food, from steaks to breads.
In addition to the quality ingredients, Chef Richard just runs a great team of cooks and chefs who obviously enjoy their jobs. It was a huge treat to see the kitchen in action, and to see an operation as large as Mystic sourcing locally and cooking from scratch.
The piece will appear in Mystic hotel rooms, with a soundtrack created in house.