Brew Day

 

Ingredients
Ingredients

 

Brew day today!  The ingredients above are for a batch of black ale, American style.  I decided to photograph the process, and thankfully got help from my lovely assistant [read: wife].  So here we are, with water, malt extract, hops, yeast, and some adjunct grains.

 

Next, a few shots of the gear involved.  If it looks like a chemistry set, there’s a reason.  There’s a great deal of chem in the process, backed up with a lot of biology in the ingredients (agriculture in growing, genetics in breeding hops and grain, bacteria strains for yeast, etc.

 

Gear I
Gear I

 

Gear II
Gear II

 

Gear III
Gear III

 

Gear IV
Gear IV

 

 

The odd snakelike things is a wort chiller … you’ll see its use in a few moments.  Wort, by the way, is the name of the liquid after boiling, but before the yeast turns it into beer (yeast eats the sugars n wort and turns them into carbon dioxide and alcohol).  So yeah, beer means you’re drinking yeast piss and farts.  Still tasty, though!

 

This next is the truly critical part: cleaning and sanitation!  Dirty gear means shady bacteria, which leads to ruined beer.  As in, not fermented, or stinky (called “skunked” for a reason!) or otherwise just lousy.

 

Cleaning & Sanitation
Cleaning & Sanitation

 

Next, just add water!  OK so there’s a bit more to it than that. I use distilled because I don’t trust the local tap not to bugger up my beer.  I intend to try water modification later on, because different waters make different beer.  Think Guinness vs. Pilsner, for example – Munich and Dublin water are very different animals.

 

Water, Water Everywhere
Water, Water Everywhere

 

Next, crushing and steeping adjunct grains – this is for color, and for some flavor.  This is basically making malted grain tea.

 

Crushing Grains
Crushing Grains

 

"Beer Tea"
“Beer Tea”

 

Once the “tea” is done, the water is brought to a boil, and the malt added off-heat.  This is what the yeast will eat, post-boil.

 

Malty Goodness
Malty Goodness

 

The heat breaks down the starches and sugars into something edible for the yeast, and hops are added at various stages to produce bittering, flavor, and aroma.

 

Next, the chiller is inserted a few minutes before the end of the boil (which is typically about 1 hour long).

 

End of the Boil
End of the Boil

 

Then the whole rig is moved to the sink and the chiller is hooked up to the tap, so cold water can be run through the wort without diluting it, to lower the temperature to about 80 degrees F.  Reason?  Yeast can’t be added to boiling liquid or you’ll kill it, and thus, get no beer.  You can also put the pot in a bath of ice (or snowbank, if you live somewhere with winters like that).

 

Chill Out
Chill Out

 

Now, into the primary fermentation tank!

 

Into the Pit with Ye!
Into the Pit with Ye!

 

And aeration: adding oxygen to the wort.  Yeast needs to breathe, after all!  You can do this with a long-handled spoon, but I cheat and use a pain can stirrer and a power drill.  Faster and less tiring!

 

Adding some Air
Adding some Air

 

And a test – to measure the density of the wort.  This, combined with the density of the final product, can be utilized to give you a rough guesstimate of the ABV.

 

Because Science Makes Beer!
Because Science Makes Beer!

 

Then add the yeast, close it up, and put in an airlock to keep out contaminants but allow carbon dioxide to escape.

 

Under Lock and Key
Under Lock and Key

 

And after a few weeks, and a few more in the bottle to condition, voila!

 

A Proper Pint
A Proper Pint

 

Sit back and enjoy a pint.  This one’s not from the batch photographed above (not black, obviously) – this was from a batch of ESB I did a month ago.

 

A fun process, and fun to enjoy the product!  But set aside 5 or so hours for the process, it’s a long one.  Invite people over and hang out while things boil, and enjoy a beer together.

 

Happy shooting!

 

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

Instagram: patrickcahalanphotography

Facebook: Patrick Cahalan

Pinterest: @cahalan007

Kitchen Black & White

Knife Rack
Knife Rack

 

For this set of photographs, I decided to focus on my kitchen, but give it a black-and-white treatment.  I mostly did closeup shots, except in a few cases, to limit the frame to the subject at hand and not clutter things up and cause distractions.

 

Pantry
Pantry

 

I almost got rid of the soup can, on the thinking that this would be interpreted as Warhol-esque.  But it was there, and I figured, might as well be honest that I like the occasional Campbell’s with a peanut butter sandwich.

 

Cutting Boards
Cutting Boards

 

I also used a variety of B&W treatments here, depending on the exact subject.  This one was a red filter, but some others used blue, or just darkened, or otherwise manipulated.  I’m not set on any one style, just what suits the purpose at hand best.

 

Countertop
Countertop

 

Hey, I live near Gilroy, so yeah, there’s a lot of garlic.  That and it makes up for a childhood without it (parental allergy, boo!).

 

Knife Rack, Part II
Knife Rack, Part II

 

And yes, TWO knife racks.  Too many knives … but they all come in handy, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

 

Fridge
Fridge

 

This shoot was done right after I cooked lunches for the week, and have ingredients on hand for morning juicing, so this thing is packed.

 

Spice Rack
Spice Rack

 

And did I mention I like to cook?  Sadly, this is not all the spices … they are also in a cupboard and two drawers, and the whole room’s spices are alphabetized clockwise (really).  I’m mental like that.

 

Next time, either patio or bar!

 

Happy shooting!

 

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

Instagram: patrickcahalanphotography

Facebook: Patrick Cahalan

Pinterest: @cahalan007

Cocktail Shoot

This time I’m attempting to chronicle the creation of a cocktail.  This particular one is a mix of gin, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, and blood orange juice.

That said, let’s start with our citrus! We’ve got to cut a lime in half so we can juice it, as well as cutting out some wheels from a blood orange for a garnish, and juicing the remainder.  This is basically a series of (semi) still life photos.  Directional lighting and flash are key here, as is placement within the frame.  Proportion and perspective are big points for success, as is color combinations.

Lime
Lime
Blood Orange
Blood Orange

 

Next up, measuring the juices … it’s all about proportion, once again!  A badly-proportioned cocktail belongs nowhere, except maybe a bad college party.  And likewise, a nice tight-in set of shots is key here.  We’re interested in the drink and the process of creating it, not the background.

 

Juicing Time!
Juicing Time!

 

And now the main event, the spirituous components.  In this case, some quality gin, and St. Germaine.  Again, keeping out extemporaneous background stuff, to maintain visual focus on our subject.  I’m also using flash, as the lighting wasn’t too great to capture the action

 

Gin
Gin

 

Pour
Pour

 

Then mix ‘em up!  This one has citrus, and nothing carbonated, so it merits a shake over a stir.

 

Shake it up!
Shake it up!

 

Then it’s time to finish it off … a quick “dirty dump” into a waiting glass (or you can strain over fresh ice if you like), add our garnish, and voila!  A finished cocktail.

 

The Dirty Dump
The Dirty Dump
Final Product
Final Product

 

My biggest challenge on this shoot was speed.  Most of the steps happen fast, and require accordingly high shutter speeds.  Add that to not a lot of ambient light, and it necessitated the use of a flash, which thankfully was fast enough to shoot in burst mode and capture most of what I wanted.  Not all of these are great (I particularly like the juicing and blood orange ones), but it’ll get the job done … for now.

 

Happy shooting!

 

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan

Instagram: patrickcahalanphotography

Facebook: Patrick Cahalan

Pinterest: @cahalan007

 

Festivals, Part II

Entry Sign at EatDrinkSF
Entry Sign at EatDrinkSF

 

As promised, more today on festivals.  This time it was EatDrinkSF (which you already figured out), a celebration of all sorts of delicious vittles and beverages.  For example,

 

Foie
Foie

 

That’s a brick of chilled foie gras being shaved into a guy’s mouth.  For real.  And yeah, I was next (it was glorious, thank you).

 

There were tons of cool vendors set ups around the building … here are 2 particularly photogenic ones (the second one is some sort of divine confectionary).

 

Beats Mr Coffee!
Beats Mr Coffee!

 

For Your Sweet Tooth
For Your Sweet Tooth

 

Finally, there was a demo on how to break down a 80 lb. wheel of Parmesano Reggiano … which unlike most people think, doesn’t involve a chainsaw, 10 guys, etc. etc.  Just 1 clever fellow with a pair of small knives, skill, and patience.

 

Parmmesano Reggiano
Parmmesano Reggiano

 

Great fun, and I’ll totally be back next year!

 

Happy Shooting!

See more of my work at

Website: http://www.patricklcahalan.co.nf

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patricklcahalan
Wordpress: https://patricklcahalan.wordpress.com

Instagram: patrickcahalanphotography

Facebook: Patrick Cahalan

Pinterest: @cahalan.007

Food & Drink Part II, or Negroni Time

So here is another stab at food photography.  This is centered around a little “mad scientist” experiment I started a few weeks ago – barreling a batch of cocktails.

A few years back my fiancee picked me up a whiskey aging kit, and after enjoying the results thereof (and believe me: they were VERY enjoyable), I kept the barrel for some future use.

Enter the aged cocktail.  The basic idea is mix up the drink, less the ice, and shove it in the barrel.

Disclaimer: I have nothing to do with the Woodinville Whiskey Co, aside from having enjoyed their product.  Which you should buy, like, yesterday.  And I am not making money off this so kindly do not waste your money on lawyering me.

For this, I set up with a short lens and a flashgun, set to through-the-lens.  I kept the shutter time short (1/200), with a wide open aperture  and ISO of 400 so I could snag fast motion as things poured or stirred.

End of Maturation
End of Maturation

After a few weeks in the barrel – which ages at about a 10x rate compared to a normal-sized whiskey barrel – it was ready to tap and taste today.

Tapping its Potential
Tapping its Potential

After that – time to make a drink.  Since I already had the booze, it became an exercise of adding ice and a garnish.

Ingredients
Ingredients

Then stir!

Making a Cocktail
Making a Cocktail

And finally, the finished product.  Less overtly bitter than normal, it seems that the aging mellowed out the Campari and Vermouth … it became an herbal orchestra, and was utterly delightful.

An Aged Negroni
An Aged Negroni

Food & Drink Photography

This is a subject that annoys the ever-lovin’ !&*$#@^ out of me.  I love food, I love drink, and I love photography, so why the bloody hell is it so hard to get them all together in the same place and cooperating nicely??

Ahem.  Calming down now, deep breathing, kum by ya-yas, and all that rot.

This is one that really does irk me.  Essentially it’s a matter of still life photography, with some particular tweaks, most of which I’m not too great at yet (hey, room for improvement!).  As best I can gather, the following are all highly important.

  • Controlled artificial lighting. Including source type, angle relative to subject and camera, and intensity.  And possible use of multiple sources.  Studio lighting, in other words, which is not my strong suit.
  • Vessels (plates, bowls, and especially stemware) with atypical reflective properties – read: shiny things.
  • Making the subject appealing; see also: Food Porn. The use of things like olive oil or water misted onto food to make it look more moist, use of obviously decadent ingredients like truffles, chocolate, wine, well-marbled kobe beef, gold dust (no joke!) and so on.
  • Composition, otherwise translated as “presentation” in the food world. Go turn on Food Network for an hour or two and you’ll hear all about it.
  • Controlled backgrounds. You can’t go having, for example, a cat litter box behind a shot of steak and potatoes.  Because, ew!
  • What stage of the cooking process you want to photograph. Raw ingredients?  Prepped but not cooked?  Actively cooking, complete with slick moves and twirling liquor bottles?  Finished product?

A few examples are probably in order.  First up: mojito time!



Mojito
Mojito

Getting the reflections right was a real nuisance on this.  It took me about 10 shots, all on tripod, before I got one I liked.  Also a nuisance was the fact that the light inside was incandescent and outside it was daylight, so I ended up needing a flash to balance the exposure of the two (couldn’t use a grad ND filter since the shot’s vertical like this with one subject running throughout).  But after tinkering with settings, it all came out OK.

Next, your more classic still life.

Asian Staples
Asian Staples

The biggest trick here was hiding the background (TV stand and wine rack, if you look close enough).  I had to use a flash coupled with a flashlight on the bowl, and use a really short shutter speed to get what I wanted. 

Now a less successful version of doing the same thing:

Five Harmonious Foods
Five Harmonious Foods

The composition of the food and drink is OK, but the background is a mighty distraction. 

And last, just something I stole from Jacque

Horseradish Cod a la Pepin
Horseradish Cod a la Pepin

So that’s the very basic on food photography.  I’m going to try and do a better job of this.  Studio lighting is not one of my strong suits, but obsession with food and drink will probably help me along this path. 

Got any ideas how to improve?  Other tips on taking outstanding photos of food and drink?  Sound off in the comment section.