Summer Sangria


Dear Sangria, hey sorry about going so Rosé-crazy that I forgot all about you. I’ll fix that. Starting today. You see, some friends are coming over and you’ll be perfect to have around. Chilled wine, the best of summer fruit, some mint or basil from the garden… DONE! I might even need to have you arrive BEFORE the other guests, if that’s not too much of an imposition.

Summer Sangria from Martha Stewart

In a pitcher or large bowl, combine 6 cups assorted fruit (such as mango, pineapple, cantaloupe, and apricot), sliced or cut into pieces, 1/4 cup thinly sliced peeled fresh ginger, 1 to 1/2 cups fresh basil or mint leaves, and 1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur. Mash gently with the back of a wooden spoon until basil is bruised and fruit releases juices. Add 1 bottle (750ml) chilled dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, and 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon). Stir to combine. Refrigerate 1 hour or up to 1 day. To serve, add ice.

Behind the Scenes of a Personal Food Photography Shoot

Pie Intro

It was a pie safe that we purchased years ago. Rustic, beat up, full of character. I could never walk by it without thinking of what it would look like filled with pies. Over the years it’s housed prop glasses, plates, beautiful ceramics, but never pies.

Eight years later I decided to do something about that.

Whenever I have some free time I love to schedule personal shoots. I get to work with friends and lovely models, create a story of my own, and shoot it the way I see fit. One doesn’t always get that luxury when working for clients as there are a variety of requirements to meet. Not that I object! It’s just nice to do something for yourself now and then, right?

The idea for this story involved a couple making pies one late afternoon. I called my dear friend Ellen at Neat Productions to handle the casting, and before long we were looking at a dozen models. I must admit I really love this part!


“Hold this. Turn this way. Use the rolling pin. Got it.”



With the casting underway, I turned to my folder of sketches and drawings I stored just in case I ever got around to shooting this story. Swatches, colors, fabrics, and inspirational images go into it, and I soon started the task of turning ideas into actions. One thing I knew I wanted to use was an old stove. Luckily there’s a shop with a wonderful collection of vintage stoves right around the corner from our studio, so after asking if I could rent one I found a mover to drop it by. Those suckers are heavy!


Once it was delivered, it met the pie safe and a lovely old farm table. I think they all got along perfectly and all I needed to do was build a shelf over the stove and start dressing the set. I pulled from our prop collection and went to town. So much fun!


The lighting for this story would be a balance of very bright directional light and dark, contrasty shadows. I wanted to feel like you were in a kitchen one late afternoon when the sun has just peaked and is on its way down, high up in the sky. Not flooded with light, but still keeping the intensity. This was done by blocking quite a bit for shadows (all the black foamcore) and keeping the light high. The two wall flats were also painted a very dark shade of brown, a departure from the dark greys I prefer. It helped to cut down reflection and light. Shadows can be your best friends.



The set was extremely minimal and only took 45 minutes to put together.




I didn’t need a wardrobe stylist for this shoot, I wanted the models in their own clothes to keep it casual. However, I did have to hunt down aprons, and eventually decided on a beautiful blue apron from Madison And Muse for her as well as a few others for him.


Shot over 2 days, we started with the skeleton crew for the food. Pies were baked (thanks, Adam!) while I photographed ingredients and process shots. Unfortunately they weren’t baked in the vintage stove, which is probably a good thing now that I think about it.



On day 2 our models and crew arrived in the afternoon. Thanks to old Xscape, 702, Inoj, Blackstreet, Brownstone and Zhane for keeping the mood just right. After a quick visit to the hair and makeup department (a/k/a Candy Corner), the models were ready to hit the set and start making pies.



Cal crimps and primps! Also, a few touch ups between takes with the amazing Aunny De La Rosa!



After a few process shots it came time for the best part of the day: TO EAT PIES. Like everything we shoot, it’s completely edible and considering Adam made these pies, well, enough said. They are legendary.

I wanted to get some action shots with hands so I crawled up a ladder and made the models eat VERY slowly. Awkward yes, but it made for a great shot!


Photographing the models went very quickly (they are professionals after all) so once we were done it came time for the editing process. I use Capture One to shoot tethered and to process my images, but I usually wait until I’m back at my home office with my calibrated monitors before working on edits or colors.  Most things can be done with Capture One so it was easy to finalize the shoot. If I have to use photoshop it’s for things like cloning or removing items within the frame (like a seam)



With the shoot done, I can now add it to my portfolio and use it in promotional materials. Now let’s eat pie! Come back tomorrow where I’ll share the final images with ya! Thank you so much for reading!

Thanks to Adam for humoring me and making beautiful pies! To Ellen, Aunny, Byron, Aubrey and Calvin… a million thanks!


Jordan Vineyard & Winery

There’s nothing I look forward to more than my annual trips to Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Healdsburg, Sonoma, California. I’ve been traveling there and photographing all sorts of beautiful things for many years, and I get downright giddy when I get the email from my colleague and friend, Lisa Mattson, asking about dates.

Why do I love it so? Let me count the ways.

  • A beautiful property with exquisite food and wine
  • The Jordan team couldn’t be more talented and friendly if they tried
  • There’s wine
  • And more wine

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture at this point, right? I said wine, right?

This year I actually went back and forth over a few weekends, capturing magical moments at sunset and also quiet times as the sun rises in the garden. As a photographer we live for these beautiful moments, and you find it extremely difficult to put your camera down for even just a second lest you miss something.

Being at Jordan also works my photographic chops — I’m shooting people, food, vistas, details, drinks, wine, interiors, you name it. It keeps me busy but it’s a dream job, I ain’t gonna lie.

But enough about that, let’s look at some photos!

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Can you believe this view? I mean, really. Look at it. As far as the eye can see it’s beautiful. And apparently you can see three separate counties from the highest point in Jordan Winery.



Chef Todd Knoll prepares exquisite and creative dishes, always a delight to visit with him. And the abundance of fresh ingredients makes for some fun photos.

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I could photograph Nitsa’s flowers all day long. Also, need some moss for some arrangements? Just step outside. Lucky!

MattArmendarizJordanBlog_0039 Jordan Winery, Sunset Supper Photo Shoot, Sunset Supper Jordan Winery, Sunset Supper Photo Shoot, Sunset Supper Jordan Winery, Sunset Supper Photo Shoot, Sunset Supper Jordan Winery, Sunset Supper Photo Shoot, Sunset Supper

Jordan Winery, Sunset Supper Photo Shoot, Sunset SupperIt’s not Sonoma unless I leave with tons of grape shots!

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So many wonderful moments around the property and gardens. FIGS FOR DAYS!


All hands on deck when it comes to blocking down some overly-dappled light. Shooting midday outdoors can be difficult, luckily the trees provide lots of coverage.


Great food and wine, what more do you need?


Oh yes, olive oil. Jordan olive oil, which is outstanding. Here’s a product shot I wanted to try on a beautiful piece of wood, and luckily leaves and fruit are only a hop skip and a jump away.


A Star Wars selfie. I’ll have to tell you about this later. Thank you for helping me, Erin.


I photographed a tour group before the lunch scene and my assistant played model. He always dresses well.

MattArmendarizJordanBlog_0048Me and Byron! I told you he’s sharp.


Also, romantic fires burning during summer midday can leave you a bit spritzy. Can I get a glass of chilly wine?

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For a story we headed to another vineyard one morning, the light was fantastic!

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Also, THESE MOMENTS.  Can you believe that table? And that little sitting area? So beautiful.

MattArmendarizJordanBlog_0052There I am!


Thanks to all my friends at Jordan! Thank you Byron! See you soon!