Canon EOS Rebel SL1. Bring it!


When you are a photographer, people ask questions. Who do you photograph? What do you photograph? What camera do you use? What camera should I buy?  My answers are usually always the same: Chefs, Authors, Celebs, Everyday People. Food. Phase One, Canon, Sigma. And lastly, anything Canon.

The conversation then goes like this: But I don’t need anything fancy, I don’t even know how to use it and I just want something simple to photograph my family/kids/friends/vacations.

And still I say Canon.

Having been a Canon user for so long, I always feel confident pointing them in that direction, telling them to start with a dSLR from the starter’s section. It’ll do what you want, you’ll be able to learn and grow, and you’ll love the images. But when my colleague Christopher emailed and asked if I’d give the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 a spin, I thought why not? I’m always telling people to use it, shouldn’t I get my hands on it and try it, too?

So I did!

Never one to be mired down with deep technical facts (although I really should!), I look for quality, ease-of-use, resolution, image quality, and how it suits the user. These are the factors I always consider. But would this little tiny camera work for me? I decided to take it for a spin!

First things first: I’m not one to read manuals. I know, SORRY SORRY SORRY! I just don’t have the patience, which explains why I’m the guy with all those extra Ikea parts laying around after assembly. Oops! I wanted to see how similar the menus and operation of the SL1 are to other Canon models so I hit the ground running!  But first I removed the 18-55 kit lens that ships with the camera. I am not a fan of that lens at all. Granted, putting a Canon 5omm f/1.2L lens on this little body made it look funny (see above), but this way I knew I could remove any lens issues from the equation and really evaluate the camera’s sensor on its own. Well, at least that’s what I think I’m doing :)

My verdict? I love this little thing! It’s small, accessible, and makes me feel like I’m using a Canon. The touch screen is nice, and I’m rather happy with the images. I did not try out the video feature, maybe next time. But I’m happy to confidently recommend this camera to anyone starting out who wants something small with great quality. It’s just lovely.

Let’s look at some images, shall we?


This Kalanchoe beharensis in our backyard strikes an imposing stance, and I wanted to see how the blue ceramic planter would look against the corten steel fence.


I have a thing for 6pm, lens flare, my backyard. As usual, the SL1  didn’t disappoint me with this it-could-sorta-be-difficult-to-expose-for-shot.


Caesalpinia pulcherrima from the front yard. Also known as Mexican Bird Of Paradise, it’s from the pea family. Makes the most beautiful arrangements, too! Shooting this wide open let me blur out the background and make it all prettypretty.



Fountain in the yard, side light. I was thrilled that the SL1 managed to hold detail in the lights and the darks simultaneously.


I took it to Las Vegas, and it was nice to not have a a big giant camera to lug around!


It does well in low light, like most Canons do. In post I had to open up the shadows just a wee bit. I took this photo before cocktail time at Mandarin Oriental, which is good because drunk.


MOZen Bistro, Mandarin Oriental for breakfast.


Congee at Mandarin Oriental. Let me get this off my chest, please: IT IS MY FAVORITE HOTEL IN LAS VEGAS. It’s the only way I can bribe Adam to go to Las Vegas. It’s truly an amazing property with phenomenal service and I get to have congree every single morning. Win win all around.


Beautiful delicate touches in the rooms like petals in a bowl. Lovely.


You might not know it, but this was photographed in their rather dark spa, shot at ISO 800 and still manageable.


Don’t want none unless you got buns, hun. I took the camera to the studio for some fun!

(notice how I truncated the above sentence to remove anaconda? MY MOTHER READS THIS BLOG, Y’ALL)



Those famous hands adjust avocados.


Behind the scenes of a taco shoot for Gaby. I was happy how the SL1 handles color, but of course I wasn’t surprised!



Pasta! Color!


Happy to have detail in the shadows, and nice punchy highlights everywhere else.


The prop table! Thank you, Alicia!


And the final shot for Gaby, a big dip situation! The Rebel really performs well!

And don’t forget to BringIt! Upload your shots and share your Canon images with the world. I’m having a great time viewing the galleries, so much fantastic stuff there!


Thanks to Canon and Christopher! Disclosure: Canon provided the EOS Rebel SL1 on loan, I was not compensated for this post. All images adjusted for color, contrast, and resized for web. Photographed in manual mode, various settings, always raw. Edited in Photoshop. #Canon #BringIt

Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, And Recipes From Our Kitchen



Oh goodness, IT HAS BEEN FOREVER AND A MOTHERFLIPPIN DAY that I have waited for this. Zoe Nathan’s first cookbook, Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets and Recipes From Our Kitchen, Chronicle Books, 2014.  I had such an unbelievable and obscene amount of fun working on this, I cannot even tell you. And true to form I did indeed taste every single thing I photographed. Yep. EVERY. SINGLE. THING.

If you know Huckleberry in Santa Monica, then you know Zoe. And if you know Zoe and Josh then you know they are filled with so much spirit, joy, humor, care, and kindness that it’s difficult to not fall in love. Being in Zoe’s presence (and her bakery and her home) is to be surrounded by love. And most oftentimes that love is handed to you on a plate, in a cup, or a pastry bag.  She has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen, and this book captures her spirit and humor so perfectly. And the recipes? THEY ARE EVERYTHING.





The cookbook is out this Tuesday, September 9th, and I am a̶s̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ telling you to immediately pre-order it now. NOW. You’ll want this book and I can pretty much guarantee that it will stay on your bookshelf for years to come, if not forever.  Congratulations to Zoe, Josh, Laurel and the entire Huckleberry Team, and to Chronicle for making such a beautiful book. It was an honor to photograph it.

And to Heidi Swanson! :)

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Patrons were given plenty of notice over the 2 weeks we worked on the book.


Next time someone says to me “Oh, you’re lucky.  I don’t have a studio to work in so I don’t have the luxury of all that” blah blah blah (because yes, people do say that all the time) I am going to show them these pictures. You see, shooting on location in a busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy bakery during business hours can be a challenge. Frenetic, wild, hyper, loud, and at times super intense, you must make things work. You must always make things work. Luckily the customers at the bakery were so delightful and didn’t mind cables and cords as we played Twister to reach our shot.

(Confidential to one of my most favorite actors on the planet who came over to say hello and see what we were doing: I love you even more now. Really).


Propping was minimal, only a few cutting boards and trays were needed. I take this small tablecloth that I bought in Paris with me everywhere, and I loved seeing how the light hit it. Speaking of, there’s such great light in that bakery!


One is never hungry for long when you are with Zoe. Every day involved eggs and bread and I will never ever ever say no. Ever.


We tried not to leave a huge mess, we really did.  This was our set, all 3 1/2 feet of it.


Tripod moments were scarce, there simply wasn’t enough room which meant high ISO, lots of handheld, and the world’s best digitech and friend.


Working in a bakery meant early morning call times, which meant Zoe’s breakfasts. No way to resist, really. Thank goodness. Here we are at Milo & Olive for a quick pick up shot.

Make sure and get your copy of Huckleberry or else we can’t be friends. I’m serious. I’m off to my kitchen now to make page 187!


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!

A Spring Pizza


There’s not much of a recipe here, just an idea for free form pizza ingredients that are currently rocking our world. We’re calling it a spring pizza, and it goes something like this: fresh peas, ricotta, pesto, maybe some burrata, , some fennel sausage, and maybe some sliced fresno and/or fresh jalapeños.

And yes, I will do a full pizza post soon now that we’re in outdoor mode.

Oh, and the dough? It’s Roberta’s recipe from the New York Times. It’s lovely.

P.S. We did this version on the grill, as a book I shot just recently hit the shelves. You may already know Pizza On The Grill, but there’s an update with new recipes photographed by yours truly. Check it out!