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?

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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.

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Fancy old timey tea signs. They were beautiful!

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

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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.

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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?

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FINALLY! An empty and quiet airline waiting room!

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

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

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Anyone need any really beat up old pots?

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

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

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

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What do you think is in here?

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Really great old wire baskets.

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Shelf stable milk. Just like Europe.

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

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Please wait here while I grab your chart.

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Peekaboo!

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

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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.

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

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

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Bottles galore!

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

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

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So many dishes for instant restaurant sets.

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And baskets.

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And condiments.

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Well I suppose from far away…

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Rubber Baked Goods. You never know.

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Tons of seating and tables

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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.

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More coffee.

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

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A cute sign.

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Dogs would love this.

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Read all about it.

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Plastic meat which kind of freaked me out.

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Old grinders.

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Lots of pots and pans!

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

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

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Cute tables! I love them!

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Chairs in just about every style you’d need.

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I love this very sweet little chair.

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I found the Gnome Section!

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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.



My new Tumblr photography blog

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Well hello there! While I have not forsaken my traditional portfolio nor this blog (even though yes I admit it’s been quiet around here lately but I’ll share with you the whys soon enough!), I wanted to bring your attention to my new Tumblr blog that — and this is hard for a loud blabbermouth like myself — features only my photography in a new gallery format. I was inspired by my dear friend Kristina Gill, and I’ll be adding new little stories and features regularly. So far it’s filled with some travel stuff and sneak peaks of upcoming cookbooks that I’ve photographed for some amazing people so check it out! And I’ll be back here to this lil blog soon enough with lots and lots of photos and stories.

My new tumblr is here. Thank you!

Winter Citrus, Revisited. Again.

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There’s really not much left I can say about citrus. Particularly, how I feel about citrus. I’ve talked about it for years via my annual citrus round-up, and if I had my way I’d probably write a whole damn cookbook on citrus fruit. I totally would.

Matt-Armendariz-Citrus-Ring-550I think I’ve run out of words to describe the fruits of the Rutaceae family; I’ve used all the zippy and zings, tangy and tarts to last a lifetime. Besides, do you really need me to tell you what a lemon tastes like? Um, no. I’m pretty sure just about everyone knows what they taste like and how indispensible they are to cooking.  In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a cuisine that doesn’t include citrus in one way or another.

To me, it’s that citric acid that makes food come alive, but it also doesn’t need to knock you over, either. It can add balance to a dish, cause a chemical reaction, preserve, intensify and enchance, and it’s also an equal opportunity ingredient, happy in both sweet and savory dishes. To me it’s one of life’s absolutely perfect things.

So how have we been enjoying these beauties at our place? In so many ways. I thought it’d be fun to put together a few suggestions for all those lemons and limes that are their peak right now. Oh, and grapefruit and tangerines. And kumquats and tangelos. And, and…

 

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MARGARITAS, ANYONE?

As luck would have it, one plentiful lime tree stands smack dab in the middle of our new yard. We moved just in time to become intoxicated by the lime flower blossoms (and if you’ve ever need proof as to whether miracles exist, lean in and smell that tiny mighty flower). The blossoms gave way to fruit, so much fruit! It seems like I couldn’t give the limes away fast enough, but being the resourceful guy that I am, I opted for a giant batch of margaritas. You can keep your neon-gree fake mixes, thankyouverymuch. A real margarita could not be easier, nor more satisfying. It goes like this: lime juice, a fantastic tequila, simple syrup or any orange-flavored liqueur like triple sec or Cointreau. I’ve been known to skip the last ingredient, which is just fine if you ask me.

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FRIED LEMONS AND POTATO CHIPS

We recently finished an assignment for Food & Wine Magazine, and one tempura recipe included in the shot list used tempura-battered lemon slices. We were all so collectively bowled over by what happens to a battered and deep-fried lemon – it’s more amazing than you’d think! Incorporating that premise into snacktime yielded these chips with fried lemon slices tucked throughout.  You’ll want beer to enjoy with these things (they’re simply dipped in tapioca flour and fried), and if you need more zing, simply spring with an equal blend of lemon or lime zest and salt. Easy.

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PALOMA

Oh my sweet Paloma, you are a beautiful thing, aren’t you? You make me wish I lived on a grapefruit plantation. And while this Mexican cocktail is usually served with Mexican grapefruit soda and tequila, I’m going straight to the source by mixing fresh grapefruit juice, sparkling water, along with plenty of simple syrup and crushed ice. And good tequila. Fly away, Paloma!

Update: About a day after this post went live a box of Texas Rio Star Grapefruit arrived on my doorstep. Can I tell you how amazing they are? I plan on remaking a batch of Palomas with the sweet juice of these grapefruits, which I learned are only grown in Texas. Thanks for sending, Kymberly, and hugs to everyone back in Texas!

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SWEET CHILI LIME SAUCE

Oh, this is cheating. Ok, let’s not be so harsh. This is doctoring.  Which I’m not opposed to doing if it’s easy, delicious, and let me bring more flavor to the party. In this case, a few teaspoons of fresh lime juice and garlic added to bottled sweet chilI sauce makes an excellent dipping sauce for grilled shrimp and squid. OH AND LOOK, THESE THINGS ARE ON STICKS! I wonder what gave me that idea. I really do.

Oh, and don’t forget squeezes of fresh lime before serving!

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STEAK & NUOC MAM

You may know the Vietnamese condiment made from fish sauce, sugar, chiles and lime juice as the umami-rich dipping sauce of spring rolls, bánh xèo and bánh bèo, among other things. But this FREAKING MAGIC SAUCE (yes, emphasis mine) makes an appearance at our house all the time. ALL THE TIME. Especially when meat like slow roasted pork, flank steak or grilled chicken are on the menu. I use Andrea’s recipe all the time, which can be found here.

But I don’t usually stop there. I’ll add tiny amounts to a bowl of beans, sprinkle it over pasta, and even add it to my guacamole. It’s my fave.

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CITRUS CURD

Juice + eggs + sugar + butter + heat = curd. And it’s fantastic on just about everything. Cakes, scones, cakes, you name it. In this case Adam made these beautiful little citrus curd meringue tarts and well, they disappeared. INTO MY MOUTH. A very easy little shell was blind baked and cooled, then filled with lemon curd and topped with meringue.  A quick torch to brown the peaks of meringue came next, and then some blackberries finished it off. Tart, sweet, buttery, berry, oh lord these things didn’t stand a chance.

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CANDIED KUMQUATS

Oh really, this cannot be easier. All you need is time and a few ingredients. And thanks to Pim for the inspiration for this: simmer covered kumquats in water and sugar and a little vanilla bean and a dash of salt for about 2 hours, then uncover and reduce so that you’re left with an amazing citrus syrup. That is all. Seriously. The fruit turn soft and delicious, losing any bitterness they may have had from the long soak. Enjoy the kumquats on dark chocolate cake, on a cheesecake, or along with the syrup over vanilla ice cream.

Alrighty my friends, what’s your favorite thing to do with citrus? I’d love to know! I’m thinking 2014 already!

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The Beginning

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There’s no reason for this post, other than to share a few images. We spent the first few days of this year in Palm Springs where it was chilly yet sunny. We ate, walked, picked oranges and grapefruit, went to the movies, napped (several times!) and slept late. I can’t think of a better way to bring in a fantastic 2013!

 

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

Top Ten Halifax Moments

I just returned from 5 glorious days along the Eastern coast of Canada, Nova Scotia to be exact. But you might already know this. In those days I visited Halifax, Dartmouth, the Annapolis Valley, Sambro, Ketch Harbor, Wolfville, and many points inbetween as part Canada’s Explore Like A Local campaign. In fact, I was one of the lucky three selected to hit the ground running and well, explore the area just like a local. And that I did! We ate, sipped, snacked and devoured the best Nova Scotia has to offer, and while I could easily spend an hour talking about the food, how about I just jump right into my Top Ten Halifax moments for you? It’s that good.

 10. Beer

Look, this is a beer-drinkin’ part of the world and Haligonians love their beer. Love. Their. Beer.  That doesn’t mean you can’t find some amazing cocktails at places like Nectar and The Bicycle Thief, because you can. But if you’re looking for a pint of local beer enjoyed in great company then you’ve come to the right place. I fully embraced my IBL (Inner Beer Lover) and I’m sure Benjamin Armendariz will be very very proud of me.

 9. A Drive. Anywhere.

Never have I been so non-specific! But really, it’s hard not to tell you to get in a car and drive somewhere, anywhere, in this beautiful part of the world. Idyllic views, beautiful waterways, rugged coastlines and crisp air beg to be explored (as long as you can tear yourself away from #10 above). Give yourself plenty of time and get out and explore Nova Scotia like I did. You won’t regret it.

 

8.  Blomidon Inn

I swore I stood in my room at the Blomidon Inn just waiting for someone to come in and dress me before walking down a grand staircase for dinner. It never happened, but that’s ok; this turn-of-the-century mansion enthralled me in so many other ways. While I don’t always throw out words like quaint and old-fashioned without a snicker, there will be no joking about this glorious hotel. It’s easy to go back in time here, especially with the afternoon tea served in one of the hotel’s magnificent front rooms.

 

7. Foxhill Cheese

I was lucky enough to spend time with Jeanita Rand, the owner of Foxhill Cheese House who, along with her husband and family, run this amazing micro-cheesemaking business on a sixth-generation farm in Port Williams. While you’ll taste some of the most delicious fresh quark and yogurt made from the milk of their own cows out back, it’s almost easy to be awestruck when you hear the family motto: “Quality, Service, Education”.  The dedication to their customers and the pure hard work they put into cheesemaking make you realize how special this place is. Oh, and another thing: there’s not enough space on the internet to tell you the lengths they went through to bring glass bottle milk to their customers. If only every business thought of their customers half as much as Foxhill Cheese.

 

6. Donair

First, you’ll need to read this article written by my friend Simon Thibault in The Globe And Mail. Read it now. Ok. Done? Now let me tell you why I love it, as summed up by Mr. Thibault himself: “Best eaten late at night and on the street, it is a sweet and savoury, tasty and messy snack for meat lovers.” Yes, it sure is. You can’t visit this part of Canada without trying a donair, and it’s exponentially better when enjoyed with friends after barhopping. While I admit it took me a while to get used to the sweet donair sauce on top of what seems to be a doner kebab, I can see the appeal. There’s simply nothing else like it. But since I’m all about discovery and trying new things, I wasn’t about to pass up the Donair Pizza, either. I actually loved it more, imagine that! One day I’ll return to try Donair Poutine. Who knew?

 

 

 

5. Fid Resto, Specifically This Blood Pudding.

We stopped by Fid Resto for lunch, where I discovered heaven in a bowl: warm smoked haddock sitting on top of a potato and spinach mash that’s been topped by a poached egg. That’s right folks: eggy, mashy, smoked fishy. Three things I adore all put together. Needless to say I felt right at home with Chef Dennis Johnston’s local creation. After snapping a few photos, he began to tell us about a special dinner he was doing that involved his own housemade blood pudding, and as luck would have it a small plate appeared on the table at the end of our meal. I’m going to tell you this right now: a piece of blood pudding (or sausage as we Americans call it) on top of creamy smooth mashed potatoes with cooked apples instantly became the highlight of the day. And before you get all squirmy squeamish on me (ewwww blood!!!!) I want to tell you that you’d most likely enjoy every savory bite of it, too. You would.

 

 

4. Tibs Family Dinner

You don’t really know how lucky I was to snag an invite to the Tibs Family Dinner Pop-Up at Dartmouth’s favorite local coffee shop called Two If By Sea. These regular dinners focus on a seasonal ingredient or theme, and with asparagus season upon us we enjoyed tempura, risotto, a savory cappuccino and a beet salad that rocked my world. It was great to see a community come together for a meal and was a fantastic way to really explore Halifax like a local.

 

3.  A Stroll Through The Halifax Public Gardens

Sunshine and gorgeous views made for a wonderful way to spend an afternoon at the Halifax Public Gardens. Created in 1875, these Victorian gardens cover 16 acres through a series of walkways, bridges and paths and feature a bandstand in the middle of the park.  Strolling through the park and admiring the beautiful plants and trees make for a perfect city experience.

 

2.  Digby Scallops

I get pretty excited when I experience something that I feel is the absolute best: salmon from the Copper River in Alaska, Ig Vella’s Dry Jack from my adopted homestate of California, and tart cherries from Traverse City, Michigan. Now add Digby Scallops to this list as I’ve never had a more perfect example: tender, fresh, flavorful, sweet but not too sweet, and just right. Of course I must give credit to the chefs who prepared them perfectly at both Chives restaurant in downtown Halifax and Le Caveau restaurant inside the Domaine De Grande Pré winery. This dish in the photo featured then crusted and pan-seared served on top of housemade kimchi. Um, hello? How do you say perfection?

 

1. The People Of Nova Scotia

I saved the best for last here, with good reason. I talked about Nova Scotia being “nice” in my earlier post, but I’m pretty sure I’m still not getting it across here. You see, I really do believe that people are good and nice; I spend enough time traveling the globe to know that mankind is generally, well, kind. But Nova Scotia? Oh you people, you do something different. You take friendliness to a whole ‘nuther level, in a way that takes this citydweller by surprise. Off guard, even.  All you need to do is strike up a conversation with a shopkeeper, with someone at the table next to you, at a bar, on the street…just about anywhere and you’ll see what I mean. Gracious, friendly, warm, welcoming. And if your town has a deficit in the Manners Department, we can all look to the entire province of Nova Scotia, Canada for having it in spades. It’s just the way they are.

Psst. There are two things missing from this list. Two things that needed their own posts, two places that I’m still dreaming about now that I’m home. Check back in a few days to see what they are.

Disclosure: As part of the Explore Like A Local Campaign, I am working with the Canadian Tourism Commission and all opinions and viewpoints are my own. Travel expenses have been covered by the CTC.

Photographing the new Food Network Cupcakes! App

What do you get when you combine 1400 cupcakes, delicious recipes, a team of talented folks, a week of photography, 50 lbs of butter and sugar and plenty of code and technology?

Food Network’s Cupcakes! App, and folks let me tell you how incredible the entire experience was. This app for the iPad contains more than 100 cupcake and frosting recipes, and if I was a glutton I’d tell you I actually tasted most of them. But I’m not (wink wink) and I only tried 99 or so, give or take one or two.

Now that the app is out it’s such a delight to sit back and scroll through the recipes and watch the videos, but there was quite a bit of work that goes into making an application of this magnitude. Lots of meetings, plenty of discussions, and that’s just before we even set foot into the studio to begin the main photography. Once we were in our groove it became a wonderful yet serious endeavor, with dozens of cupcakes baked, frosted and decorated, sets constructed, frames animated, images approved, and so on. This doesn’t even count the amazing design work that happened after photography, and trust me when I say this as I’m sure I could be biased: it’s one fantastic  application.

And the recipes? Solid and thorough, tested like crazy from the Food Network kitchens in New York. One day I’ll even share with you my favorite cupcake from the entire app (hint: it’s savory, not sweet!). But first you’ll need to buy the app from itunes. You’ll love it.

Until then how about some behind the scenes images?

A messy studio is a productive studio. Well, that’s what I kept saying as we began to be overrun with these sweet treats. And props. And surfaces. Since shooting this we’ve expanded the studio, thank goodness. But there is something fun about being up to your eyeballs in cupcakes, even if the powers-that-be kept their eyes on you so that you wouldn’t eat them.

Here we are working on one of the animations from the application. Have you seen it? I still chuckle every time, it’s adorable. And the cupcakes are delicious. I keep saying there’s a skinny elf in this image over on the computer but really, that’s just Armando who came in from NYC to assist and save the day on numerous occasions. I love you, Mando!

Look, it’s the elf again. The application not only contains recipes but tips and tricks about frosting as well as having the right gear on hand to create many of the cupcakes. Here’s an extreme overhead shot.

Adam works on another animation, this time featuring candy bees and a hive made out of cupcakes. Quite possibly my favorite bit of the application.

For a week the studio became a fine-tuned cupcake factory (we even installed a 3rd oven!), and batches of cupcake cooled throughout the studio. It was quite a sight to see.

Here’s Alexis, Adam’s assistant extraordinaire. I asked her to perform double duty and hand model for one of these scenes. You couldn’t ask for a better person to work with, we love her so much. She doesn’t even slap me when I print out photos of her from facebook and stick them to the kitchen ceiling. Not yet, at least.

More cupcakes awaiting their close up!

You know you’re fancy when you’re building custom-made props and boxes for cupcakes, right? Of course, them gems deserved nothing less. And when you can’t find exactly what you need you make it yourself, no?

And lastly, here are a few more screen shots from the app. You can buy yours from the iTunes store here. Thanks so much to Deb and Mory and everyone at Food Network. A very special thanks to the design team for making such a beautiful and intuitive application, it’s an honor to be involved! Now go eat a cupcake!

 

 

 

Join me on Saturday, May 19th!

Friends, I want to tell you a few things.

First, that glorious photo of me was taken by the amazing Gabriel Goldberg. A beautiful man who only photographs beautiful people and celebrities. Gabriel, I want to say thank you for lowering your standards by agreeing to photograph me.

Second, there is an event coming up where I will discuss the worlds of photography and social media, and it should be rather fun.

Third, the copy for this program was written by my friend and fellow Texan Kim Phipps, and please note that I would never under any circumstances refer to myself as a superstar. NEVER. Ugh! Dork? Yes. Weirdo? Yes. Funky fresh? Perhaps. But “superstar” should be reserved for those with fan clubs or discussion of Karen Carpenter songs. NOT ME. Now that I have that out of the way, let’s continue.

This event, put on by the American Society of Picture Professionals, takes place Saturday, May 19th from 9:30am to 1pm in Culver City, California. The ASPP is a community of image experts committed to sharing experiences and knowledge throughout the industry, and I’m really looking forward to a robust discussion about social media and food photography with everyone. I have absolutely no intention of standing before a crowd for 3 1/2 hours so I will be preparing a song and dance number from NBC’s recent smash “Smash”. My god I love that show.

All joking aside, I really do hope you can make it. Since this focuses on food photography and social media, it would be great to meet and hear your story about social media and how it connects us all, too. And we can talk about food photography, which is always something I could do for hours and hours until Adam tells me to wrap it up and stop talking.

And yea, he’ll be there too so you can ask some food styling questions if you have them!

Click on over to Eventbrite to register for this event and I really do hope to see you there!