Working at Jordan Winery

by Matt on August 24, 2010

See that photo above? Can you believe how beautiful it is? That dappled sunlight through the trees is on a road at Jordan Winery in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, a place where I’ve spent a few days last week photographing almost anything and everything I could get my hands on. To say it’s heaven on earth is a putting it mildly; it’s an expansive working winery with view after view after view, delicious wine, olive trees, guesthouses, lakes, and some of the nicest people you could ever meet. And I’m not just whistlin’ dixie here.

While traipsing through vineyards can be quite a bit of fun, it’s also lots of work capturing the moments that make a winery like Jordan so special. There are the people that make the wine, the people that create the food, the people that tend to the garden, and the people that make the guests feel like family. Then there’s editing 40 gigs of images captured over 2 1/2 days — no easy feat!

Thanks to the generosity of Jordan I can share a bit about the past few days, some images, and what it took for us to create those photographic moments.

The Gear

I’ve been bouncing between Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City these past 3 weeks I can tell you that traveling with loads of camera equipment isn’t fun (and I want to thank my friend Misha for holding my hand and providing guidance here). But I knew what I wanted to capture at Jordan and how I wanted it to look; that dictated that I’d travel as light as possible. Lots of emails between Jordan’s Communication Director Lisa Mattson prepared me as much as possible about how much we’d be covering and what I needed to have on hand. I packed two Canon 5D Mark IIs (and a back up!), a tripod, two laptops, four external drives (I’m paranoid!), as well as one 100mmL lens, a 24-70mm L lens and a 16-35mm L lens for those wide moments.  When it came to light modifiers I crammed my suitcase with foamcore, reflectors, scrim material, clamps, plastic bags and my tacklebox of puddy, clips, pins and wooden blocks.

I’m not sure what I did to deserve such amazing weather which translates into amazing light but it was there, allowing us to take advantage of cool blue morning hues in the garden and ending with golden, warm tons of evening sun. During the harshest moments of the day when the light was too strong we moved inside to photograph food and people. Sometimes I shot to card, other times I was connected to my laptop so that I could double check my exposures.

The Extras

There were some moments indoors that required strobes as there just wasn’t enough light to photograph a person with the ambient light without them becoming blurry. But the two most important things to me during this photo shoot were a light meter and color checker. A light meter became invaluable as I figured out just how far I could go handholding my camera without a tripod out in the field, and also just how blurry or sharp I could get when photographing people. Would I have enough light to accomplish what I was trying to do? A light meter would tell me and eliminate the guesswork. The Color Checker Passport, a small folding passport-style card, allows me to have perfect color readings in each frame. I’m a stickler for color accuracy (that doesn’t mean I don’t like to play with color temperature when appropriate) and I never travel or shoot without it. Ever. Ever.

Now how about some shots?

Fruits and vegetables from Jordan's garden take center stage as I balance up above. Hipstamatic Photo by Teri Lyn Fisher.

Color Checker Passport in Action. It allows me to get an accurate color reading and maintain the proper color balance.

Todd Knoll, Executive Chef at Jordan Winery, prepares some food in the makeshift hallway "studio". I was loving the light and proximity to the kitchen.

A dining room also became a studio as we photographed wine and flowers. I kind of fell in love with the oversized doors. A scrim and reflector were my main tools. Photo on right by Lisa Mattson.

A test shot for exposure and color. The wine barrels were beautiful.

Getting to know Barney & Clyde, Jordan's show goats.

A collage of Jordan Winery images from the vineyards and garden

You can find Jordan Winery here. Make sure to add them on Twitter and Facebook, and check out their blog, too.