4 Fun Reasons Why I Enjoyed Shooting the Hanloh Pad Thai Meal Kit

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1. The ease. You ever feel that sense of flow when everything is just kind of happening gracefully and you don’t even need to push, there is just a beautiful controlled forward movement? It’s like riding a skateboard down a hill with a gentle incline and smooth surface, you can go as fast as you want or just cruise and enjoy the feeling of effortlessness.

 

It’s been a little like that for me at times lately with my photography. I’ve been embracing the opportunity to work on studio lighting and creating still life compositions with products and food at home. The result of that work is that sense of fluidity that allows me to work fast and get great results.

 

Now, I don’t want to give the illusion that this flow has come easily. It hasn’t. I’ve worked my ass off numerous times and for a long time to get where I am in my abilities. I know what feels good to me, so I can pretty reliably say when I am on or off and the results always follow that feeling.

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For me, an important part of the process of shooting food is appetite. You have to be hungry. That’s why I work out so hard, doing my 700 pushups and squats and hiking or biking tons of miles. A lot of photography is sitting at a computer, so it’s super important for me to be as physically active as possible. You don’t often think of fitness and photography in the same context, but for me it is critical that they go together.

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Well, when I received the text to shoot the meal kit, I was hungry as could be from working out, so I was all primed to go. For those who don’t know, Hanloh is a Thai food pop-up here in Santa Cruz and they always have delicious authentic flavors. I was excited to see what this Pad Thai kit would create.

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2. The aura. The variety of color texture and form inside this meal kit made a beautiful subject to shoot. As soon as I opened the box, I could tell that it was going to be fun. Sometimes things just have that kind of magical presence to them and good marketers always try to create it for the consumer. It comes from the combination of an authentic and powerful cultural object and an enthusiastic appreciator.

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It’s like when a kid sees a skateboard or an electric guitar for the first time. That thing kind of hums and glows with this magical aura and that is exactly how the ingredients appeared to me. I also feel that way about wine and beer. To me, those drinks are almost more beautiful to look at than to taste.

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What makes something pleasing to look at? Where is the source of beauty? While I have studied these questions for thousands of hours, the experience is the only thing that really makes sense. We don’t know why we like things, but we’re lucky we do.

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3. The people. All of my work is motivated by people I respect, and this was no exception. The beer is from my sister’s brewery Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing. Through working with Emily (the best community builder I have ever known) I met Lalita Kaewswang, who is the woman behind Hanloh. An intensely smart culinary artist, Lalita is passionate about her craft, and that always inspires me.

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The other people who motivate me are the people of Santa Cruz. This is the community I know best and care about most and it is the small businesses, the surfers, the entrepreneurs, the brewers, the naturalists, the teachers, the yoginis, the musicians and all the other brilliant and beautiful kinds of folk in this town. If Portland is where the dream of the 90s still exists, Santa Cruz is where the dream of the 60s was born and where its best parts still thrive. We support our own, here. We shop local.  That’s how we maintain our unique character. It’s the people who are working hard every day to provide the people of Santa Cruz with the culture they enjoy who inspire me.

 

4. The food. Like I said earlier, I work out a lot and that makes me very very hungry. Well, let’s just say that none of this food went to waste, lol.

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It was a pleasure to shoot this meal kit for Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing and Hanloh Thai Food. Thanks for reading my blog and for looking at the photos and I hope you get a chance to try the food and beers!

You can order your meal kit, HERE: https://scmbrew.square.site

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Color Theory and Food Photography

Working with color and composition in food and product photography.

Do you need to photograph some food or products for your marketing purposes? There are some tried and true methods I use to get mouthwatering images easy on the eyes, but I also like to research methods and to keep learning new things, so I stay inspired and varied in my creative output.

One YouTuber who I really like for tips and tricks related to food photography is The Bite Shot. Joanie Simon approaches food photography as an artist and has wonderful ideas that produce great results. I watched her video “Using Color Theory in Food Photography.” In this video, she talks about Josef Albers, of the BAUHAUS movement, and refers so some ideas in his book “The Interaction of Color.”

I had some bags of Big Pete’s Treats Lemon Cookies to photograph with some cut up lemons, so I decided to do some shots using a purple paper to give the image some design elements. It’s a very basic idea that complementary colors are pleasing to the eye, but Albers via Simon helps us to understand why this technique works. When you overlay two colors the color of the ground is subtracted from the color on top, causing the color to move in that direction in the way it looks. If I had used a green paper or orange paper it would have affected the appearance of the yellow. Since there is no purple in yellow, the yellow retains its hue even on top of a colorful ground.

The thing about color is that it is an endless way to experiment with your photography. Being intentional with color helps to understand how it works.

Try to create a photograph with two colors only. How did you balance the colors? What was the mood you were going for? Try different color combinations and see how it changes the way we read color.

Also, check out my latest podcast “Massage the Messenger,” HERE: http://bit.ly/Massage_the_Messenger

Massage the Messenger

podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/dialogic/id1410521236

Without Losers

Competition or Cooperation? In our current cultural climate it can be very challenging to think about cooperation. If we do, it’s often in terms of teams in competition. We believe in team work but only when there is another team to beat. There is very little that we find entertaining that doesn’t involve someone coming out on top. The logic of competition has its dark side, though. If there is any truth to the idea that competition has given us major advances in technology, it has also created some serious problems.

Agree to Grieve: Sunday evening, there was a shooting in Gilroy. A map of where mass shootings have taken place is beginning to look frighteningly crowded. We are so used to them, we don’t even know how to respond. Or we know so well how to respond that we no longer feel the need to do anything. We know that some tremendous and terrifying chasm opens up each time. Evil shows its face and families are forced to grieve prematurely and forever.

Freedom or Control? When something as tragic as the Garlic Festival shooting occurs, you would think that it would create some sort of consensus. At least we can all agree that mass shootings are a terrible problem, right? The problem is: the split that already exists starts arguing two sides. Gun rights versus gun control. Even when something as crystal clear as a public tragedy occurs we can’t avoid bipartisan arguments.

Habitual Fans: I believe that this kind of change is much deeper than debate can touch. We have deeply rooted habits and patterns. Our reverence for competition keeps us from ever really working together. It’s as fundamental as what we pay attention to as an audience.

If Everyone Wins: There isn’t anything inherently wrong with liking a game where there are winners and losers. What’s wild, though, is how much that form of game predominates. It’s difficult to even imagine a game where everyone wins. I’m not talking about slightly altering the rules of one of our games so that there are 12th place trophies. That still keeps the same structure of logic, it just distributes and dilutes the wealth of winning. Imagine, however, if a group of people were given a set of tasks and the more they achieved the more they all would win. Instead of fighting to win and not be on the losing side, what if we worked collectively to win as much as we could together.

Organizinational Habits: This game does exist, but it’s not widely known or celebrated. The Teen Kitchen Project is one such game. The more work happens, the more everyone involved wins. Teens learn about cooking and people who need a hot meal get some delicious and healthful food. Teens get some experience and develop their culinary skills, people who need good food receive it.

Working Together: On Monday, I felt the effects of this version of winning when I went to photograph a visit at the Teen Kitchen Project’s Soquel kitchen. It was a normal day of production at the kitchen, the teens were attacking their tasks with order and a beautiful discipline. It takes so much more time to peel carrots and to prepare the ingredients for a quiche than it does to commit mass atrocity. This is what I find cool. Working together to win together.

Produce and Purpose: When our visitor arrived, we got to witness another layer of the vision. Bentley had been a cook in the military and he had received meals from the Teen Kitchen Project recently when he was battling cancer. The teens gathered around and he shared some of his experiences both as a chef and as client. Here we were looking at a man who had been nourished during some of his darkest hours by this very program. His eyes were shining like a stage actor’s in the spotlight of our attention, and he articulated himself expressively with his hands.

Feeding people is an ancient and honorable occupation and a program like the Teen Kitchen Project gets it right on so many levels. It’s an honor to be able to work with them.

The Joy of Ribs

It’s not a difficult task to love food. It’s the most natural thing in the world. Humans are blessed with this amazing palette of flavors, colors and textures that they can consume via the edible arts. Is food the ultimate art form? It engages every sense that you possess and then it becomes a part of you. How powerful is that?

As a photographer, I relish the opportunity to work with culinary artists and so it was with great pleasure that I agreed to shoot my friend Teddy Danielson’s first dinner as a private chef. She had worked all day to get everything ready, and when I got there, an hour before she started serving guests food, she greeted me with a cookie. “Jake! How are you. Try this cookie.”

I looked at the powdered-sugar-dusted little nugget of goodness and got a napkin and sat down to enjoy it. I sank my teeth into the cookie and I was transported. What the heck? I wasn’t expecting what I experienced. It was crunchy on the outside, but so chewy on the inside and sweet and almond flavored all the way through. It was like a magic trick.

“Are you kidding me?”

“Good texture, huh?”

What a way to set it off. I knew that she was an expert chef, educated in technique and passionate about creating great food, but even with this expectation I was happily surprised. The cookie was evidence of her magic. Teddy was a contemporary sorceress working with her team to prepare beautiful hors d’oeuvres and rolling out some gorgeous pizza dough. These lucky guests were going to eat some absolutely perfect pizza with pears, brie cheese, and caramelized onions, as well as other flat bread masterpieces. But that was just the beginning.

As I moved around the kitchen keeping out of the way of this master orchestrating her work, I kept catching a whiff of the short ribs that had been slowly cooking all day in a bottle of wine. Next came the risotto which filled the kitchen with that unmistakable scent of rich cheese infusing rice with flavor. As she was plating the buttery short ribs atop a bed of risotto I witnessed the final course of a dinner that is as good as it can possibly get. Check her out if you are hosting a party and want the best of the best private chefs. She also delivers meals on a weekly basis for clients who want something delicious, healthy and easy to heat up.

Contact Teddy through her Instagram @takingpurejoy

Vintage Stories

The Blues are back. Santa Cruz is one of its unlikely new homes. How do these things happen? How do cultural scenes coalesce? Bigger than the sum of its parts, a cultural movement is the product of people who will it into being. JJT.15.April.2016.blog-6Big Jon Atkinson is a large part of the reason why the Blues is prominent in Santa Cruz, these days thanks to Larry Ingram, owner of Aptos St BBQ and Mission St BBQ. Larry is the huge force behind this development, bringing Christopher “Preacher Boy” Watkins, Big Jon Atkinson, and a deep pool of legendary Blues talent on board. Larry has live Blues music in both restaurants 7 nights a week from 6-8. Big Jon and Larry have been JJT.15.April.2016.blog-7My last two art exhibitions have had the Blues as part of their theme, explicitly and implied through tone. The first was a series of experimental paintings with poems that was entitled “Pogonip Blues.” It was a series inspired by the idea of the Blues expressed visually and with words, in response to things that were happening around the world and here in Santa Cruz. The next extended series I worked on was entitled “Dark Fields, Bright Spots.” The Blues have historical roots in the US American South, but they speak to a universal spirit of resilience in the face of uneven odds and challenging times.JJT.15.April.2016.blog-8

Remedies for the Body

There’s a lot to think about, these days. Being thoughtful is usually considered a good thing and in an age of phone-scrolling zombies all too rare. Mindfulness, we mainly agree, is a technique that everyone could use a little more of. We can’t forget about the body, though. Sometimes, it’s ok to let go and let the body have its time at the wheel. That’s one of the goals of meditation and one of the effects of beer; freedom from mental slavery.JJT.15.April.2016.blogPhysical discipline is also a path to freedom. Every kinetic form has its own unique ways of getting the body to grow dominant during the time of practice. It’s not just about building the body in a pleasing form, but attuning the mind to the body and giving the body control in relation to the mind.JJT.15.April.2016.blog-2Medical Cannabis is truly a panacea. It helps with so many things, including: building a strong appetite, creating restful sleep and providing pain relief. Training and living in the contemporary world can be enhanced by this medicinal herb.JJT.15.April.2016.blog-4

Awakening in April

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Bigfoot

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Tri-tip Salad from Mission St. BBQ

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Jewel from Broken Shades at Mission St. BBQ

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Wyatt Barrabee

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Craft Beer at Mission St. BBQ

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BBQ Dinner at Mission St. BBQ

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Tommy is Back!

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The Giant DIPA is back!

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Aki Kumar at Aptos St. BBQ

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Kendra at Pilates 26

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Kendra on the machine

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New Pilates Instructor at Pilates 26

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Sunset from the Therapeutic Healing Collective

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Making Cookies at Big Pete’s Treats

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Beet Burger from Cremer House

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Taz ripping

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Shatter by Punch Extracts from Therapeutic Healing Collective

What You Eat

There is so much more to food than meets the eye. Food is an expression of culture, of life itself. Food is about connection. Arctic Char, for example, is a fish related to Salmon and Trout. It is loved for its flavor and chosen for its sustainability. This fish was served at the Cremer House and it came from Royal Hawaiian Seafood.JJT.Blog.1.April.2016-5JJT.Blog.1.April.2016-6JJT.Blog.1.April.2016-7

Rhythm of Days

You always heard older people talking about how fast time moves, but it wasn’t until you actually had experienced enough years to feel it for yourself that this mysterious element of time began to take shape: acceleration. My dad used to share an explanation for it. He thought that you always feel the same age internally and can remember what it was like to be younger, so the more time passes the faster it seems to go. It’s mostly an effect of the conflict between knowing that a lot of time has passed and feeling that it was just yesterday. He has a rare capacity for memory, though. He can remember slight plot details and character points from novels he read twenty years ago. When I stop to remember things that vividly stand out in my memory, like the earthquake of 1989, it doesn’t feel like yesterday, at all. For me, it feels like a different lifetime.JJT.blog.30.March.2016-6JJT.blog.30.March.2016-2JJT.blog.30.March.2016-3JJT.blog.30.March.2016-4JJT.blog.30.March.2016-5JJT.blog.30.March.2016-7JJT.blog.30.March.2016-10JJT.blog.30.March.2016-8JJT.blog.30.March.2016-11JJT.blog.30.March.2016-12JJT.blog.30.March.2016-16JJT.blog.30.March.2016-18JJT.blog.30.March.2016-21JJT.blog.30.March.2016-22JJT.blog.30.March.2016-25JJT.blog.30.March.2016-24JJT.blog.30.March.2016