The images below don’t really apply to anything specifically, they’re just a still life series I did this week and I wanted to share them. Sending you love and well wishes for a fantastically wonderful 2014!
I love traditions. And I especially love traditions when they involve sunshine, expansive views, the wine country and my friends at Jordan Winery. Once again I traveled back up this past week to photograph the many exciting stories and events they’ve been working on that will be featured in their newsletter, Estate Tales. Because I’m not one to spoil any surprises, you’ll have to check the website over the next few months and if you’re in the area you’ll definitely want to take a tour, too.
Over four days I captured over 100 gigs-worth of images (YIKES), ate straight from their garden, shot beautiful food thanks to Chef Todd Knoll, visited with the Jordan team and had my lost-in-the-jungle story outdone by their own resident videographer named Erin.
As I traversed Jordan’s 1,400 acres of property with a laptop and three cameras in tow, it was my iphone that remained nearby the entire time, ready to snap anything and everything. And while I usually do use my iphone for off-the-cuff shooting, I was so happy with the images I was making with my phone that I decided to create this collage for you. Then again, it’s hard to take a bad picture at Jordan, something about those views just make it oh so difficult to do so.
Enjoy the photos, and yes, you are allowed to make a donkey joke at my expense, even though for the first time there’s actually one in the photos. Quit looking at me.
Many thanks to Lisa, Lori, Erin, Todd, Nitsa, John and the entire team at Jordan. A special thanks to Lisa, Damon and Dante! Photos of me standing on top of things like ladders and counters were taken by Lisa and I can hear my mother yelling at me to get down.
(Erin, if you are reading this, please know how bad-ass you are and that my next tattoo will be your portrait)
We photographed a book last year for Good Bite as well as contributed a few recipes along with some of our dearest friends. Now that the book is almost here I wanted to share a wonderful ‘lil video about the project.Please excuse the fact that my head looks ginormous.
I’m lucky enough to have an early copy (Thanks Justin!) and it’s a very beautiful book. It’s available for pre-order at Amazon. Thanks to Adam and Emily for the amazing food and prop styling as well as agreeing to work with me. I hope you still like me.
Earlier this week I returned home from a few days in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. As a guest of the Four Seasons Costa Rica in Peninsula Papagayo, I joined a small group to experience the resort as well as do a little bit of volunteer work and sight-seeing in one of the planet’s most beautiful locations.
It was my first time in Costa Rica, a country that left me speechless (even what little I saw of it!) Beautiful, safe, warm and loving, I understand why so many of my friends are repeat visitors to this Central American country. There’s an immediate dose of relaxation that hits you the moment you exit your plane in Costa Rica. It’s the kind of vibe that can only be made in a place such as this. It’s as if the natural beauty of the country flows through the veins of its citizens in a way you feel internally. And this city dweller was ready to absorb it, too.
I arrived in Guanacaste to wet heat, neither oppressive nor friendly. With my documents in order I slid through customs in record time and met a driver who graciously met me with a cool towel and a bottle of water before we drove the 40 miles in darkness. And by darkness I mean the thick black patches of night you can’t find in a city. Would the coastline be a few miles behind this dark swatch of night? Rolling pastures? Fields of sugar cane? Mountains in the distance? I guess I’d have to wait until morning to find out.
I assembled the mojito ingredients that were waiting for me in my room: ice, lime juice, Costa Rican Rum, freshly plucked mint leaves and a bamboo muddler and sugar cane swizzle stick. It was exactly what I needed after two flights and 1 delay and man oh man did those mojitos go down smoothly. I was pretty exhausted and climbed into the bed of my villa.
Remember when I said I arrived in the darkness of night? I had no idea what was beyond my deck but I could sense there was a hillside below. It just sounded that way.
Well folks, I woke up to this.
Yea. A crazy unbelievable view of the ocean and lush coastline with a few islands off in the distance. And I spent many moments just staring at the view, listening to the wildlife and realizing how beautiful this place is. And I went swimming.
Speaking of wildlife, I was surrounded by some beautiful creatures.
These little guys snuck into my room looking for food. They’re called Urracas (magpies) and they were loud. Yet beautiful. And these capuchin monkeys were also outside my window one morning and started screeching after I laughed at something in my usual shrilly tone. Who knew?
The next morning we toured the property, getting to check out all the programs and amenities of the Four Seasons. It’s a gorgeous resort with beautiful rooms set in the hillside. Numerous restaurants, breathtaking views, with one of the best rooms I’ve ever stayed in (outdoor shower, hello!), it’s easy to see why this resort wins accolades and awards. The service? Perfection. And if you go, you must visit the spa. Promise me that. I also loved that it was so family friendly and included tons of activities for children and teens as well as really beautiful spots for the parents to get away. Not that parents need to get away from their children. Or maybe they do. I don’t know. Ask me in a few years.
After touring the resort we headed to the Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour in Guanacaste to go ziplining through the trees. Or to Face Fears And Death While Dangling Above A Waterfall. Friends, you should know that I got no joy out of this activity at all. In fact, I got stuck between two platforms because I was braking too much. And at that moment in time my worst fears came to life and I realized I would rather be in any other situation than where I was, period. I will never do it again. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t learn from it. It conquered no fears, crossed nothing off a proverbial bucket list. But I’m glad I tried it. There you have it.
Pretty soon my travel mates and I were safely back on ground and ready for much safer activities.
Speaking of travel mates, have I introduced them? It was a great group of people, including Kelly Bensimon, Danny Seo, Bradley Irion, Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere and blogger and writer Kristen Chase of Motherhood Uncensored.
And yea, if the name Kelly sounds familiar it’s because you might know her as a Real Housewife Of New York on Bravo. God I love that woman.
I think the greatest highlight of the trip involved working with the Four Seasons and their program called Creciendo Juntos, or Growing Together. This program began in 2001 as a way of pairing up guests of the Four Seasons Costa Rica with locals in need. In an effort to create a more meaningful travel experience, Four Seasons and Peninsula Papagayo created custom-designed volunteer programs based on a visitor’s goals, budget and time schedule. For example, we headed to a small school outside the resort and painted a fence that surrounded the entire school. We were greeted by students and learned that the kids were bummed out that their modest school looked as if it has seen better days. If there’s anything about Costa Rica you should know it’s that there is almost a 96% literacy rate and education is king. It’s a right for all its citizens and they do not take it lightly. Knowing how important it is to everyone it made sense that the kids deserved a nice new paint job as they all love coming to school. They’re some of the brightest, most beautiful kids I’ve ever seen and it was an honor to participate in the program.
After covering ourselves in paint we spent a few minutes with the kids and I snapped away.
Kelly radiates positivity and as a mom she couldn’t help hugging and loving these beautiful girls.
Bradley, Kelly’s hairdresser as well as NYC stylist to the stars, created an ad hoc salon in the middle of the courtyard and braided one of the student’s gorgeous long locks. It was such a special moment in time and the feeling of love and reciprocity filled me with overwhelming emotion. I had such a wonderful time!
And then there was food! Let me eat beans and rice everyday and I’m a happy man. And I think I did, actually, including a wonderful casado which consisted of fish and shrimp over cabbage with rice and beans, plantains and a cuajada cheese, a very mild-tasting salty cheese. And then there was the limon mandarina, a green round citrus fruit that resembled a very unripe orange with a yellow-orange flesh and bitter acidic taste. Limon Mandarinas are prized in ceviche making as it’s super acid flavor “cooks” the fish and imparts a flavor like nothing else. Man it was delicious.
I’m also happy to report that I did my share of Costa Rican coffee drinking, all of it excellent. The Four Seasons set up a small coffee tasting with Café Britt and we sampled their various roasts from their different product lines. Thanks to Carlos for the lesson!
Our last dinner before leaving involved a dinner from Chef Michael Brough, the Executive Chef who has been with Four Seasons for many years. Dedicated to procuring and using local ingredients, my mind was blown from the selection of fruits, vegetables and cheeses that we ate during a long leisurely dinner that was interrupted by some pesky moths who wouldn’t take no for an answer. But no matter, we were able to dine both inside and outside that evening – the best of both worlds.
Caracol, one of the resorts many restaurants, sits inside Bella Vista Clubhouse which is a quick shuttle ride from the main lobby. A garden is kept here for the restaurant where many herbs and vegetables are grown. The chef’s fresh flavors were impressive and knowing so much of it came from only a few feet away was splendid.
I didn’t want my stay to end but reality was calling. Even though I only saw the smallest portion of Costa Rica we cannot wait to return to explore more. It truly was an amazing experience and I look forward to returning and participating again with Four Season Costa Rica’s Growing Together program.
Special thanks to Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo and to the people of Guanacaste, Costa Rica.
Back in January I took a few roadtrips to San Diego in order to photograph a story for the April issue of Coastal Living Magazine. I had to wait a few months until after the story ran to share the outtakes and I’m finally glad I can do so.
First, let me tell you something: I love Coastal Living magazine. Second, I AM CRAZY ABOUT SAN DIEGO. So put those two things together and you’ll see why this was a dream assignment. D-R-E-A-M. Not only did I get to spend a beautiful crisp morning at the Little Italy Farmers’ Market but I was also able to photograph a variety of fantastic restaurants for the story. And meet some amazing folks, too!
The story, written by Jacquelyne Froeber, was about a few days spent in San Diego and the fun things to see and eat. And eat. And eat more. Because there really are some delicious things happening there.
To my friends and readers in San Diego: you are lucky. Damn lucky. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Here are a bunch of more images that didn’t make the story. Enjoy!
Earlier this morning food writer and NY Times columnist Melissa Clark tweeted this:
Now as a photographer and someone who gets paid to photograph recipes and cookbooks you might think that my answer is a solid YES. But it’s not. I believe that great writing like Melissa’s can be enough, photos don’t always have to support a recipe. When they work together it’s magic, and sometimes a photograph can help a written recipe for a myriad of reasons (maybe it’s complicated, an unknown method, foreign title, etc.) So now I’m curious and would love to know what you think!
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.
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.
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?