A Tour Of A Hollywood Prop House

(This is an impromptu discussion of All Things Props. Feel free to check out my previous post of my own prop section. Propheads, this one’s for you).

Folks, if your world doesn’t revolve around tables, plates, napkins and wall flats then this post might not be for you. But if you do share an interest in those things we call P-R-O-P-S then you might just wanna stick around and join me on this very intesting, dusty adventure.

What started as a quest for a rustic table for a project led me down the rabbit hole of Hollywood cinema, a crowded 101 freeway and only one hooker sighting on Santa Monica.

You can’t have everything.

After filling out my paperwork and dropping it off at the office, I wandered around the never-ending warehouses of Omega Cinema Props while pretending to know each piece’s rental pedigree. Is this fence from Bonanza? Was this jukebox on Happy Days? I know this banquette was from It’s A Living, right? I mean, this is Hollywood, after all, and this is a place where set designers, studio dressers and prop masters all head to when crafting their thematic magic. And while I’ve been to some prop houses, I must say that the scale of this place left me speechless.

So I took photos!

Wanna come along?


I think about all the fake bars that are created for movies and television. And then I begin to cry thinking that these taps don’t work. So very sad.


Fancy old timey tea signs. They were beautiful!


Why yes, I will have a Sidecar. What? This is a set? Not real? Damn.


SO. MANY. THINGS.  So very many things go through my head. First, angry children throwing fits. Then, angry mannequin children throwing fits. Third, angry mannequin children throwing fits coming to kill me in the middle of the night. And then I start thinking about the movie “Tourist Trap” where the guy turns people into mannequins. Lastly, I begin to think of Kim Cattrall and Meshach Taylor who played “Hollywood” in a movie called “Mannequin.” See? I told you so many things.


After I shot this I got very sad. Why is that mannequin all dejected, sitting down? Did she say something wrong to all the pretty ones? And who lost their hand on the floor? Anyone? Anyone?


FINALLY! An empty and quiet airline waiting room!


I suppose if you need cosmetic bottles this is your place!


I discovered the grocery store section of the prop warehouse and marveled at the signage systems.


Anyone need any really beat up old pots?


Three words: FAKE CHEESE WHEELS! Without the pungent smell, of course.


Fake sausages always make me laugh. Get your mind out of the gutter.


Old cans waiting to find a temporary home in a fake grocery store or market.


What do you think is in here?


Really great old wire baskets.


Shelf stable milk. Just like Europe.


If you have hospital phobias then this area is NOT for you. Of course I loved it.


Please wait here while I grab your chart.




Just creepy! And fabulous! Freepy! Crabulous! I’ll stop.


These awesome enamel pots were next to the bed pans, which will forever make me think that I’ve been using them incorrectly since the beginning of time.


Really fantastic old surgery tools that are making my teeth hurt just looking at them.


There’s everything one could need at this prop house, including a fake ATM. I wonder if they rent fake ATM skimmers, too.


Bottles galore!


If I ever need to open a fake herbal shop I know where I’m comin’!


Is this for coffee? Or something scary? I ain’t gonna lie, it looks a bit creepy.


So many dishes for instant restaurant sets.


And baskets.


And condiments.


Well I suppose from far away…


Rubber Baked Goods. You never know.


Tons of seating and tables


For a second it was hard to remember that I wasn’t actually in a restaurant or restaurant supply shop. There was everything you’d need to make a kitchen set.


More coffee.


THIS. Omg this. It’s like Logan’s Run Coffee Shop. It’s so freaking beautiful.


A cute sign.


Dogs would love this.


Read all about it.


Plastic meat which kind of freaked me out.


Old grinders.


Lots of pots and pans!


Rows and rows of amazing tables, as far as the eye can see.


A fake kitchen for those times when you need mauvish-features.


Cute tables! I love them!


Chairs in just about every style you’d need.


I love this very sweet little chair.


I found the Gnome Section!


And lastly, I stopped by my favorite antique store on the way home and found something of my very own, this gorgeous old chest. After I stare and admire it for a bit, I’ll take it apart and put it back together as a surface to photograph on.

Or maybe stick a mannequin in it.

The end.

GET OUT! (a sneak peak!)


No, really, I mean, get out!

Not as in get out because I don’t like you but more like let’s go outside.

So, last year we bought a little house. An adorable, well-loved house. And in the past 9 months we’ve turned the house into a home, complete with a brand new interior and a color treatment that makes me weep tears of joy. I mean that literally. Take a quick look.


It’s not my intention to keep any of this a secret because a) I’m a blabbermouth and b) I love our home and its interior design thanks to the amazing Christian May.  But acknowledging how we all like to look at interiors these days (“Before/After”, “The Big Reveal”, “Move! That! Bus!”), I’m choosing to hold off just a bit before sharing it with the world. If you’ve been over then you’ve seen it taking shape, slowly but surely. And if you haven’t, well, check back shortly because we’ll be ready to share it with the world soon enough. Maybe here, maybe somewhere else. Who knows :)

Oh, but back to that Get Outside bit.

Ever since moving to California 17 years ago, I realized one thing: I am happiest outside. Bright sun, cool air (and sometimes not-so-cool and yes, smoggy) and views of the Pacific on one side and mountains on the other have fueled me and made me a very happy man. And I made a promise to myself when I first got to this Golden State: set up shop, make a home, and entertain with abandon. While a few of those things have come true over the years, we’re only now realizing that last part with the actual dream of being homeowners who just happen to want to throw a party in the backyard every now and then.  And a few months ago we began the process of turning our yard into something magical, a place where friends can stop by for beer and cocktails, enjoy a bbq or a pizza from the wood-fired oven, take a quick dip in a little pool and sit around next to a fire, wrapped in a blanket under the stars and talk about things until wee hours of the morning. Or until Adam tells me to get to bed and makes everyone leave. Or stay. Whatever.

In a nutshell, I’ve dreamed of turning this…


Into this.


And while the firepit with its seating is complete, there’s still quite a bit of construction left to be done. In the next few weeks I’ll be documenting the process, sharing images and progress, and eventually uploading the quicktime movie I’ve made of the entire project (from demolition to completion because yes, the camera tech geek in me couldn’t resist).

I also must perfect pizza doughs and learn to cook in a wood-fired oven and I’m sure there will be plenty of mistakes. Maybe I’ll document those too (if I don’t eat them first!)

But lastly, I want to say one thing.  A huge part of me never wanted to take this leap of faith (and part with the hard earned cash) to make something like this come true. In a way I never thought it was possible or that I should do it, for whatever messed up reason. Deep down inside I still feel like a modest kind of guy. But in light of realizing that so much in this world can disappear in an instant and that life is meant to be lived and shared with others, well, I’m just going to stop analyzing it all and just be. And I hope you’ll be there with me to come over and eat.

So let’s get out, shall we?

Food Network’s One Pot Wonders


We recently finished a wonderful project with our friends at Food Network. Titled One Pot Wonders, it’s being billed as part of a series of little cookbooks with big ideas, all focused on that tasty main dish made in a wok, a slow cooker or a dutch oven. And yes, these recipes are so hearty and filling that you won’t need to think of side dishes…trust me on this. And in usual Food Network fashion, the recipes run the gamut from hearty to quick, traditional to creative, with just about something for everyone in between on the digital pages.


So, what does shooting an app like this involve? Planning. Lots and lots of planning. It’s a well-choreographed affair between the test kitchen, the designers and interface experts and the team that photographs the food (which is us). It’s exact, specific, and immediate, which is something we don’t always get to see. Hundreds of images may be snapped, pages fly around with the glide of a finger, typography is tweaked, resulting in a beautiful digital cookbook. I must say having the entire series at my fingertips is one of the advantages of digital publishing.

One-Pot-Blog-Image-#2 There’s lots of laughter and fun on the shoot, especially when you mix the colorful variety of personalities together. And don’t even get me started on the inside jokes. But we take it seriously, and while it’s not easy work it’s certainly gratifying when you sit back and enjoy the app. It’s even better when you take it into the kitchen with you to cook!

Food Network's Mory Thomas and Adam Pearson discuss something super important.

Food Network’s Mory Thomas and Adam Pearson discuss something super important.

armando looking

Armando Moutela, my assistant and an amazing photographer himself, comes in from NYC to assist on key jobs. I couldn’t do it without him. Here he reviews the shot wall.

Images are printed out and arranged on the wall so that we can see the flow and look of each chapter.

Images are printed out and arranged on the wall so that we can see the flow and look of each chapter.


Big giant hugs n kisses to the entire FN team and to Adam, Alexis, Hristina, Eddie, Armando, and Dani. So awesome you are.

Right On Target

This past summer I photographed some delicious holiday items for Target. As in that Target. As in one of my favorite retailers. And can I tell you something? Working with them was every bit as fun and exciting as I thought it would be. Such wonderful people. The signs are up now, if you’re in your local Target you might see them. And if you see the pie shot in store, please know that I ate an entire pie all by myself.

Happy holidays!

Food Styling: Susan Sugarman Prop Styling: Kate Martindale

Jordan Winery Estate Tales magazine photo shoot: Behind The Scenes

Before you settle into this post and video, please:

1) Forgive my spastic, forever gesticulating body language. I swear I can be calm. Sometimes.

2) What really looks like Jazz Hands was only me talking about a large plate with tiny food (my pet peeve).

3) No insects were killed in the making of this video.

4) I’m fully aware that I sound like Minnie Mouse when I speak.

I do want to thank the lovely folks at Jordan Winery for the opportunity to join them on their Estate Tales magazine photo shoot for the 3rd year in a row. It’s such a joy to spend time with them and see all the new things they do for their customers. As a business owner myself I’m touched that they place such an emphasis not only their product but on their customers, too. I can’t wait to return and see what’s in store!

Thanks to the entire Jordan team, and also to my beautiful assistant who provided the necessary support to pull off all this hard work in such a grueling environment. Tee hee.

Martha Stewart’s Cooking School this weekend on PBS

Wow, it’s hard to believe it was 4 years ago that a certain someone was on Martha’s old show as it seems like yesterday. But this weekend we see the premiere of Martha’s new series on PBS titled Martha Stewart’s Cooking School. I’ve screened 3 episodes already before the debut and while it’s definitely not breaking any new tv ground, it’s nice to just sit back and see what Martha does best: teach. And if you’re like me, a refresher is always appreciated.

Stylistically, it’s almost a hybrid of her last show (without the guests) and her previous Living program that ran from 1993 to the early 2000’s.

Check your local PBS listings to find airing times. No Big Bird political jokes :)


A Few Things, But Mostly A Shameless Plug

Well hello there.

And how are you? That’s me in a photo taken by the lovely Erin Malone last week at Jordan Winery. I was in San Francisco shooting a few projects which I’ll share with you shortly, but in the meantime it’s back to the grind this week at the studio doing what I love. I’m wrapping up an amazing book for Joe Yonan (oh just you wait! the recipes!), and starting another tomorrow that is nothing but mac and cheese. Heaven help me. Someone’s gonna have to roll me out of the studio garage door, I swear.

In other news, my 2nd book came out last week and I wanted to let you know about it! Titled Focus On Food Photography for Bloggers, it’s jam packed with tips that I’m hoping might help you when it comes to food photography. But only if you need it.

And also, you know what would make me super duper smiley and happy? If you have purchased it I’d love to know what you think about it on Amazon. It’s valuable feedback for authors and potential buyers as they shop. But please be honest. Loved it? Hated it? Thought I was too silly? Not silly enough? Share your thoughts!

Also, just a quick shout out to the people I’m thankful for: Toni from Ten Speed, Lisa at Jordan, Lisa Schiffman (A-D-O-R-E-Y-O-U-!), Linsey G, Lori at Jordan, Carol, Nicole, Erin M, Kristina, Gaby, and our studio staff for keeping things together and putting up with my non-stop babbling about random facts and Paris Is Burning quotes. This world is made better by all these loving, wonderful people.


Just My Type!

From Martha to Rachael, Sunset to Cooking Light, these modern faces are showing up in food magazines from coast to coast. All part of the Modern type of classification, they’re actually quite old styles from centuries past but so named as they took advantage of new ways of creating type that left old world and old English styles behind. Characterized by strong contrasts between their thick and thin strokes, this family of type has always been a favorite of mine. Let me set anything in Bodoni or Didot and I am a happy man. Interestingly enough, these types of typefaces have always been at home in fashion magazines!

Ok, the old graphic designer in me will now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Boo! Country Living October 2012

Psst. Go buy the latest issue of Country Living magazine, will you? October 2012, to be exact! We wrote, styled, and photographed a feature on indulgent upgrades for candy apples, and yes, it features our spooky apples from a few years back! It was fun to recreate them, but if you want to know my favorite it’s those Triple Dipped S’More Apples. MY NEW FAVE. Buy the magazine for the recipe, it’s on newsstands now and also available for ipads!

Apples waiting for their close-ups; notes, napkins, tables


The set of the spooky apples, in which I used all the same things from the original shot years ago. Call me the Reflection Wranger (all the black curtains help control all the light and reflections).