Thursday, June 25, 2015

Boundary Café @ Kowloon Cricket Club

The moment I stepped off the taxi, immediately I felt a blast from the past.  The entrance to the Kowloon Cricket Club had colonial existence all over it.  It didn't look Victorian or anything ancient but it reminded me of the final British colonial days of Hong Kong.  Just to reinforce this feeling two Indian kids were fighting to get into my Cab which I was still in while the Indian mother was telling them to behave in Cantonese.

As I arrived into the main entrance reception,  I was glad to see that the Boundary Café was somewhat modern and that the people weren't old crusty expats asking for bangers and mash and shepherd's  pie.

Terry was the F&B manager and as he greated me he also gave me a quick intro to their establishment.  Terry immediately gave me a sense that he was well seasoned in his profession and that he had a lot of tricks up his sleeve for the F&B business.

Soon after Ah Sing who was the head chef came and we started to shoot our 5 plates.  

The team at the Cricket Club you can tell were an easy going team.  Most of the staff there were pretty old and you can tell that they have seen it all and done it all.  In a situation like that, you don't wanna take your time.  Usually with smaller restaurants/establishments, they love when you take your time or try something creative, but with larger establishments or event corporate/chain restaurants this is not the case.  Immediately  I knew I had the keep the photo shoot swift as they brought me to a simple table with an ordinary white table cloth with ironing creases on it.

As I asked one of the staff for a table setup he returned with a stainless steal knife and fork with a wrinkly paper napkin that you'd usually find in a cheap diner.  I knew immediately that my photos could not rely on a table setup an even if I requested for something more sophisticated, they wouldn't have been able to provide it anyways.  At the end,  I pulled it off.   I found the wooden surface beneath the boring white table cloth to be usable and once again relied on selective focus and artificial window light made with my Godox Speedlight and my Godox shoot thru umbrellai.

Sometimes shooting for clients,  you can't expect them to be super cooperative.  Some don't know what is required and some don't understand photography.  In the worse case, they just don't care and they just want you to get it done quickly so they can get on to the next thing.  In any case,  communication is important once again so that at least you have this information. Once you have this information you then have to quickly transform it to benefit your last minute preparation for your shoot.   

In this case, my client just didn't know a photo shoot can be that complicated and so he just provided me with what he thought was adequate.  He would have helped if I asked for more to assist my shoot, but you could tell that there would have been a lot more of scrambling around and in this case it would have been better to keep things simple.  

Once again this proves that a good photographer is not just about his/her photography skills but also his/ her technique to get the information he/she needs to get the money shot.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Mandy's Caribbean Bar & Restaurant

Mandy's is a small bar restaurant located on the quieter harbour side of Sai Kung.  The limited seating inside or out already gives you a feel that this place was meant for people to meet new friends and be social.

Mandy herself one of those restaurant owners that don't like to beat around the bush.  For me that is the type I people I like to work with.  If it works it works and if it doesn't, tell me that instant, not after I do the post work.  So with Mandy the moment we started talking I knew that it wasn't gonna be a problem.  

She had prepared four dishes for me.  Of course at the time of this blog entry I have had already forgotten the names. 

Mandy's is one of those bars that unlike others where they just fry you up something salty and fattening, they put out a little more effort into making their food stand out from others.  When you shoot several menus a week, food that stands out make a big difference to your photographs.

As we shot, there were a few exposures where Mandy wasn't too sure with the composition.  She then asked if I would allow her friend to give it a go and play with the plating.  For many photographers that is a big  "nono,". I don't give a shit as long as I get the shot I want and the client is happy.  At the end we are servicing the client not only with beautiful photos but like any business we gotta make sure the client is happy with us and not only our end product.  As photographer you gotta know how to strike a balance and also ensure you can get the job done right doing so.  Remember don't be shy to voice out and get someone's attention because at the end if you end up finding out a certain photograph is "uneditable" because you were to shy to ask for fresher greens on the plate, then the liability goes back to you rather than the cook or restaurant staff.  

Photographing foods is a team effort and not only the photographers. In my experience shooting at Mandy's was the perfect example.  Mandy got involved and she constantly offered suggestions and made sure I knew what she liked and not liked.  If you are lucky you will get a client like that but if you are not, then you need to ply their mouths opened and get them to talk and tell you what they think.

As for the technicals, keep the lighting simple.  I like to use what I call a 1 and 1 lighting setup.  Meaning only 1 strobe with 1 reflector.   Some people bring cardboards, mirrors and this and that as if they are filming in a studio.  That doesn't work. If you want to make sure certain detail is not clipped, take some extra exposures. 

Don't be too ambitious.  Especially for menus.  Most likely the photos will be small thumbnail like and being stubborn about certain detail at the end won't matter as much as you think.

At the end of our shoot I believe everyone had a great time. We had good conversation, great food, great beer (of course we were drinking Kronenbourg K1664), great photos... Photo Shoot you ask?  Felt more like happy hour and that's a sign of a great shoot.