Hong Kong - Macau - China
Chef Shinobu Namae puts the finishing touches to one of his signature dishes in his restaurant L’Effervescense located in Tokyo, Japan.

Not long ago I was contacted by Desmond Chang, owner of Ruyi, a ceramics company that specializes in fine dining tableware, asking if I could help him do some portraits of Chef Shinobu Namae in Tokyo. He wanted to create a series of images of Chef Namae holding and working with some of the plates he has created for his Infini Collection. He explained to me that he wanted to create a different feeling for this marketing campaign in which the artistry of these beautiful dishes was matched by the artistry of those he wants to collaborate with. At first I was thinking he simply wanted photos of a famous chef holding/working with his plate. Then Desmond said “…and I want you photograph Namae san with his shirt off.” This was something I was not expecting and it immediately got my attention and peaked my interest. Desmond went on to explain that the shape of the plate resembled that of a human clavicle and would like to see this connection in a photo. I loved the idea and so the shoot was planned.

Chef Namae’s signature dish created from a whole turnip called A Fixed Point.

My assistant Jin and I arrived in Tokyo the day before the shoot and went straight to the restaurant to discuss the logistics of the shoot with the L’Effervescense restaurant manager Aoshima Sosuke san. Since the Michellin Two-Star restaurant has both a lunch and dinner service it meant that anything we wanted to do in the main part of the restaurant would have to be done either before or in between service times. Those two windows of time happens to be quite short. It also meant that I had to be as non disruptive to their service preparation as possible. Together we formulated a plan to photograph the plated food in the morning, followed by images of Chef Namae plating one of his dishes and then do the portraits during the break between the lunch and dinner services. I still had not met Chef Namae and it was uncertain as to whether or not he would agree to taking off his shirt for the camera

Chef Namae’s monk fish in a bowl from Rui’s Infini Collection.

The first shot we did was of Chef Namae’s monk fish dish. Since service in the restaurant had not yet begun I chose a location in the little garden which can be viewed from the dining room. The large rock in the garden made a perfect tabletop and with the use of an extra-small Chimera softbox fitted with a 40 degree grid I was able to create a nice mood for the Infini Collection bowl and the delicate ingredients it contained.

Test shots

With our morning dedicated to plated food shots I was getting nervous about our planned afternoon shoot with Chef Namae. If he didn’t like what I had done with his food the shoot would be in jeopardy. As I was completing my final shot Chef Namae appeared and politely introduced himself. I shared with him the results from our morning shoot and then we began to discuss the portrait shoot. Desmond had presented the shirtless idea to him in advance but he was reluctant. I could tell Chef Namae was not a boastful type of person and his soft spoken reserve made him a bit nervous about the concept. I assured him that if he didn’t like the direction of the photos we would go to Plan B. There wasn’t really a Plan B since I was pretty confident he would like the photos. I decided to light him with fairly dramatic, yet soft soft lighting so Jin and I set to work creating the lighting solution. For this shoot I actually carried a large painted muslin to Japan but when I got to the restaurant I found a wall that had a really nice texture so opted to use that instead. I’m always happiest when I can use backgrounds at the location as it connects the subject to their surroundings.

Chef Namae holding a plate from the Infini Collection by Ruyi.

After discussing a number of poses with Chef Namae we began shooting. When I saw him cradle the plate in his arms I knew this would be the shot. The lighting caught both the plate and his collar bone and the connection between the two appeared just as Desmond had described.

I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable Chef Namae appeared to be in front of the camera. He was incredibly patient and was very helpful in suggesting various poses. We shot for just over an hour and when it looked like we had what we needed we began packing up the gear and putting their lounge area back in order. We managed to leave the premises just as the evening guests were arriving.

If you would like to learn more about the Ruyi Infini Collection you can check them out on Instagram @ruyi_global and on Facebook @ruyi.global

Also follow Chef Namae on Instagram @namaesan and visit his restaurant’s website here: http://www.leffervescence.jp/en/

That’s a wrap!

Le Reve restaurant in Hong Kong.
Chef Ozawa Ryogo in his kitchen at Le Reve

For a recent TK magazine shoot I found myself in a new restaurant in Hong Kong called Le Reve. The concept combines excellent ingredients from Japan with the refinement of French technique and a lot of artistry. Head Chef Ozawa Ryogo runs the kitchen at Le Reve where he is putting all his training to work to create dishes that not only taste great but look like art objects. Below are a few examples of his work. To see and read the entire story visit www.tasting-kitchen.com. All photos © David Hartung


Le Reve restaurant in Hong Kong.
Nature: Soft-Shelled Turtle Steamed Egg, Soft-Shelled Turtle Croquette, Mango Sauce, Blackberry


Le Reve restaurant in Hong Kong.
Mineral: Scampi, Chinese Kale Blossom, Yozan Garlic, White Wine Vinegar Sauce, Olive Oil, Sea Urchin


Le Reve restaurant in Hong Kong.
Vie: Brandade of Akashi Sea Bream, Chiffon of Burdock, Quail Egg, Financier, Caviar


Le Reve restaurant in Hong Kong.
Le Reve restaurant in Hong Kong

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.

Joao Pires, Director, Wine at the City of Dreams Macau.
Joao Pires at the City of Dreams Macau.

For a shoot for TK magazine of Master Wine Sommelier Joao Prires I wanted to create a photo different from the typical shot of a wine expert holding a glass of wine. Upon learning that Joao is one of only 229 master sommeliers in the world I figured that in order to gain such status the man must have consumed a fair number of glasses of wine. With that in mind I set forth to create an image that could help illustrate this concept. The shoot took place in the Jade Dragon restaurant located in the City of Dreams Macau. Joao oversees the wine for all the dining venues at the City of Dreams, the Altira Hotel and recently opened Studio City Resort which are all part of Melco Crown Entertainment.


Upon arrival my assistant, Sing, and I immediately set forth to build a small set for the portrait. Time was limited since I needed to be out of the restaurant before lunch time diners began to arrive. Our first challenge was to find enough glasses to fill the scene. Jade Dragon had about half the number I needed so Joao guided us to another restaurant, The Tasting Room, where we filled a bag and our hands with all the glasses we could carry. It actually felt like we were looting the place.

With all the glasses we needed Sing and I began to stack the glasses as Joao and other staff watched nervously fearing we would destroy their expensive crystal glasses. The base of the set-up consisted of a layer of black acrylic followed by a sheet of tempered glass. The wine glasses were then stacked two high with a final layer being a sheet of black colored glass. Joao was then positioned so that he is peering down a canyon a glasses the camera. The scene is lit with Paul Buff Einstein strobes with a small Chimera softbox attached to each one. A third light is placed on the floor behind Joao as a background light.

Behind the Scenes

60-63 Wine [3]_Page_1