Sunday, September 29, 2013

food photography :: maple glazed pork loin with roasted root vegetables

More often than not, I can typically sit at my computer and bang out blog after in depth blog, with little or no hesitation. Just another creative outlet I suppose. Today, on the other hand, I'm having a difficult time organizing my thoughts. I can't seem to get the wheels to turn.


Join me as I elaborate. . .

The Deep Dark Truth About Today's Writer's Block

In actuality, it's not all that complicated. That meal, the one pictured above, was just so damn good, so effing delicious, that I have no other motivation today but to share with you how it was made. Unfortunately, that would be a disservice to the majority of readers who land here looking for a photography tip or tutorial.

So, to my food finding friends, those who ended up here in search of a delicious meal and not a photography lesson, I say enjoy the ride, I won't let you down.

I will try and satisfy everyone's needs.

The Nerd File

Thanks to the good people at, I was able to create this awesome diagram of how I composed and lit the star photo of today's post.

Ok, here's the breakdown of the diagram, if you are a bit confused.

The vinyl record (yes, kids, that's how music used to be played and the sound blows away any digital file you can throw at it) represents the maple glazed pork loin with roasted root vegetables. Look, the lighting diagram creator has tons of tools to use but you couldn't really expect them to have this meal could you?

Ok, moving clockwise we come to the 45 inch convertible umbrella that I decided to close down a bit, allowing me to control the light a bit more, like a smaller softbox of sorts. Blasting into that brolly was a Canon 430ex ii speedlite, cranked down to, shit, I forget. It had to be somewhere between 1/8 and 1/16. For food settings like this, I'm typically working at that range. The strobe was powered by a some AA batteries and firing on command via Pocketwizard Plus ii transceivers. Carrying the setup? A 10' lightstand from Calumet Photographic.

Next around the clock is a glowing orb that signifies a tungsten bulb. This was a single transparent tungsten lightbulb suspended overhead. Simply a light in the kitchen. I'll explain in a bit.

At 6 o'clock we run into the workhorse for the shoot, my baby, my Betsy. Who's Betsy, you ask? Well, for those who have been around the past year or so, you're probably tired of hearing about her. As for those who landed here today by some cosmic force or some form of serendipity, Betsy is my love, my Nikon D4. She has been with me in good times and bad, through sickness and in health. She is my everything. Holy crap, I hope my wife, Stefanie, isn't reading this. That would just be strange.

Strapped to Betsy is the Nikkor 24-70mm f/1.8G ED, zoomed to 50mm. Why not just use a 50mm prime? Although it is ever so slight, I can focus closer with the 24-70 2.8 than I can with my 50 1.4. Necessary? Not really, just a personal preference. Sure, I prefer the image quality with primes over zooms, seven days a week, but for technical purposes, I went with the zoom. With that, I'd say that 99.9% of the planet would not be able to tell the difference.

Exposure read like this ::

Shutter :: 1/125
Aperture :: f/6.3
ISO :: 640
WB :: 4850K

Why those settings?

If you  refer back to the photograph, take a look at the lighting, Although the key is by way of a large, soft, somewhat sterile source, you'll notice the hints of warm tungsten, playing in harmony in the specular portions of the image. This was achieved by dropping the shutter and kicking up the ISO, together, more ambient was bleeding onto my black canvas, just ever so slightly, the warm finishing touch.

At f/6.3 I was able to get more DOF as I didn't want much blur or bokeh. My goal was to show each and every element in the pot.

I had initially, in camera, set the white balance to 4800K. Was bumping to 4850K even noticeable? Not sure but when I was sliding from cool to warm in the Adobe RAW editor, I, without looking at numbers, ended up at 4850K. It was just the perfect amount of warmth but not over done.

The Fall Harvest

Hands down, fall and winter are my favorite seasons of the year. Each has their own character that I appreciate each and every day. One of the biggies? The lack of heat. Fact of the matter is, fat guys don't jive with the heat. Period.

In all seriousness, there is just something about living in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, during these times of year. For some odd reason, during the fall and winter, the city feels less chaotic and more cozy, a small town feel in a large metropolis. Quite captivating and endearing.

As days become shorter and the leaves turn color around town, I am reminded of my childhood, and spending less time being busy and more time with loved ones; Sunday dinner at the grandparents as the women gossip and the men watch football.

Mornings bring frost to the neighborhoods and the nights chilly. The moccasins are dusted off, along with the old favorite sweatshirts.

Picking pumpkins and apples from Linvilla Orchards with the wife.

Damn, I love this time of year.

Now, take all those colorful descriptions, all of those warm fuzzy feelings that I know many of you are sharing, and bottle 'em up. What do you get?

Maple glazed pork loin with roasted root vegetables.

No joke, I've never had anything quite like it. If you could serve the seasons on a plate, this is, without a single doubt, how fall would taste in your mouth. I promise. At first bite, there was no other way for me to describe how delicious, how emotional, this meal made me feel.

If you doubt me, even a teeny tiny bit, well, here's the recipe, courtesy of my business manager, VAL, wife and amazing chef, Stefanie.


Ingredients and prep::

  • pork tenderloin
  • fresh rosemary
  • fresh thyme
  • sea salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 large red skin potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 3 large parsnips
  • 2 large Gala apples, cored and cut into 1 inch slices

  • Marinate pork loin, maple syrup, olive oil, garlic, salt and black pepper for 24 hours.

Cooking ::

  • Heat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.

  • Combine sliced red skin potatoes, parsnips and gala apples in olive oil, Dijon mustard, rosemary, thyme, cyan pepper and salt. Spread evenly on baking sheet. 

  • Roast for 30 minutes.

  • While veggies are roasting, sear the pork loin on all sides until brown. Position pork in center of pan and add the roasted vegetables. Roast on upper rack of the oven for 25 minutes.

  • Prepare to get weak in the knees. 

Until next time...