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I suppose that for many living outside of Asia the idea of diving into a bowl of soup in which the eyes of a big fish are staring back at you would not be too appetizing. However, for many people in this part of the world it is extremely desirable and perhaps a requirement.

Having lived in Asia now for close to 25 years I have grown accustomed to this style of eating. In fact if a fish arrives without the head still intact I feel like there is something wrong.

For the photo above we spent quite a bit of time assembling all the ingredients that go into making this Fish Head Soup. The image was created for a restaurant called The Golden Pavilion located in the City of Dreams resort in Macau. The restaurant features a variety of Southeast Asian cuisines.

To achieve this image I had to work closely with the chef to make sure that ingredients in the soup looked fresh and tasty and then surrounded the bowl with a variety of other ingredients that go into making the soup broth.

It’s a painstaking process to get all the elements into the image and composed in such a way that they add to the image both visually as well as provide a bit of information to the viewer.

Getting the lighting just right is the other challenge. Especially when dealing shiny glistening objects. Food almost always looks best when lit from behind. By lighting from behind it brings out the textures of the food and can make it look fresher and gives the image more depth. Sometimes this technique doesn’t work out so well when there is too much reflection.  When faced with such a situation the lights need to be moved or adjusted until the desired affect is achieved. For some food shots I may incorporate a spot light such as the one my assistant, Sing, is adjusting in the photo above.

So for the final image we ended up three Eistein strobe heads with two fitted with softboxes and the third with a 3 degree honeycomb grid. A white reflector card was positioned on the right side of the scene to help fill in some of the shadows.

The final step was to add steam to give the appearance that this dish is hot and ready to be consumed. Actual steam is very hard to capture in a photograph unless there is a lot of it. To recreate steam there are a number of techniques you can use but the easiest is to use dry ice. By placing a couple chunks of dry ice in various parts of the bowl and the adding hot water a steam-like vapor will rise from the bowl. It’s then necessary to blow or fan the dish to make the vapor rise as dry ice vapor wants to settle and flow out of the bowl like a witches brew.

That’s it. Anybody hungry?

Bon Appétit!

Black Pork Paella : Squid Ink Rice / Pata Negra / Iberico Pork Collar / Iberico Pork Belly / Olive Oil Caviar / Chili Sauce / Saffron Mayo
Black Pork Paella : Squid Ink Rice / Pata Negra / Iberico Pork Collar / Iberico Pork Belly / Olive Oil Caviar / Chili Sauce / Saffron Mayo

The other day I headed over to  T for Tapas restaurant located in the City of Dreams in Macau where my friend, Chef Andre, has been creating some wonderfully tasty and visually stunning dishes. The following is just a sample of what you can expect to see and taste at his restaurant…

Tuna La Plancha : Mango Chili Sauce / Bell Pepper Piccata / Olive Oil Caviar
Tuna La Plancha : Mango Chili Sauce / Bell Pepper Piccata / Olive Oil Caviar
Estupeta : Hamache Fish / Bell Pepper Coulis / Sakura Leaves / Bell Pepper Gelatin
Estupeta : Hamache Fish / Bell Pepper Coulis / Sakura Leaves / Bell Pepper Gelatin
Foie Gras : Goose Liver / Lemon and Thyme Brioche / Onion Confit / Balsamic Truffle Reduction
Foie Gras : Goose Liver / Lemon and Thyme Brioche / Onion Confit / Balsamic Truffle Reduction
Scrambled Smoked Flour Sausage & Black Diamonds : Tomatoes / Eggs / Portuguese Farinheira Sausage / Black Truffle
Scrambled Smoked Flour Sausage & Black Diamonds : Tomatoes / Eggs / Portuguese Farinheira Sausage / Black Truffle
Portrait of Master Hu, an expert in the ancient discipline of Shaolin kung fu, during a recent visit to Macau.
Portrait of Master Hu, an expert in the ancient discipline of Shaolin kung fu, during a recent visit to Macau.

The first challenge when shooting a portrait on location is finding the right place to place to do the shoot. For these types of shoots I always try to arrive early to scout the location for potential backgrounds. For this shoot with Master Hu, an expert in the ancient discipline of Shaolin kung fu, I was assigned to photograph him at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Macau where he was holding some special workshops on relaxing the mind and reviving the senses. Since the weather was bad I had no choice but to shoot indoors. The only place that seemed to offer anything that seemed appropriate for the shoot was in the spa area. I wanted to keep the shot simple and emphasize Master Hu’s discipline. A tiled wall at the end of the corridor in front of the elevators seemed to offer what I needed. The tiles added some depth to the background without distracting form Master Hu. Space was tight and in order to achieve the lighting I wanted we had to place the lights within the small space in front of the elevators. If any guests tried to come in using one those elevators they would be confronted with my lights. That meant I had to work fast.

For this shot I used two Paul Buff Einstein strobes, each fitted with a small Chimera softbox and honeycomb grid. The lights were positioned to create side light on Master Hu and each were to set to approximately the same power. I then asked Master Hu to go through a variety of kung fu stances and it was this shot, with the fan being backlit, that seemed to have the most impact.

 

Dancer at Pacha nightclub, Studio City, Macau
Dancer at Pacha nightclub, Studio City, Macau

It’s rare that I would find myself in a nightclub and perhaps even rarer for a dining magazine to assign me to do a shoot in one. But that’s exactly where I found myself prior to the grand opening of the new Pacha nightclub located in Macau’s Studio City resort. For a special supplement to TK magazine the club was featured to promote its offerings.

For this portrait of one of the dancers I posed her behind the spaghetti-like steal structure which covers the escalator that leads clubbers into the venue. To light her I used a small Sunpak ring-flash which I had to hold precariously in front of my Canon 50 f1.2 lens. I say precarious because the large diameter of the lens is too large to fit into the ring-flash opening. A detail I forgot about when I packed the ring-flash. For the background I placed a blue gel on a Paul Buff Einstein strobe and placed the unit on the floor behind the dancer and  pointed directly at the wall behind her.

Self portrait as test shot by David Hartung
Self portrait as test shot © David Hartung

Whenever I’m assigned to shoot a portrait I always try to arrive early to get set-up and do some test shots so that when the subject arrives we can get right into shooting without having the subject watch me monkey around with my lights and camera. Typically I work with one assistant but sometimes I have to work alone which slows down the entire process. The other day a last minute assignment came in and my regular assistant, Sing, was already committed to another job. So, for the test shot, I set the camera to self-timer and I jumped into the scene. I’m sure that the people watching this process thought that I was some extremely vain dude as I kept going back and forth from camera to lighting to self portrait over and over.

Technical Info: Image shot on a 5D RS with a 16-35 f2.8 lens exposed at f8 for 1/5 sec. Two Godox Wistro AD360 strobes were used, each mounted with a small Chimera softbox and honeycomb grid. To light the wall holding the shield one of the grids on the softbox was left slightly open so a bit of light could highlight this area.

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