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Top five food photos

Cooking and food are some of the most integral parts of human culture. It’s actually pretty amazing – humanity took this biological need and made it into a beautiful part of our daily life. I feel lucky to enjoy a diversity of food that was once separated by natural titans, such as oceans and mountains, and barriers of the mind, such as national borders and ethnic lines.

The celebration of food has led us to a culture of food photography, often referred to as “food porn” on certain parts of the web. While I’ve held a subtle disdain for photos of food in the past, I’ve managed to push pass this and to see it for the beauty and utility it serves: (1) capturing the beauty of food we eat and (2) capturing memories of how we share food with friends and family.

Photographing food is something more recent for me. I’ve taken photos of food my wife has prepared but rarely did I take photos of food at a restaurant. Now it’s something I more actively pursue in hopes of capturing memories of sharing great meals with amazing people. I hope you can see some of the sentiments I shared in the photos I chose as my top-five food photos.

Final touches to Bún thịt nướng

Final touches to Bun Thit Nuong
Olympus E-M5 II & Olympus 12-40 mm Pro | Taken on December 15, 2017

This photo marks one of the first attempts to record my wife’s cooking in photographs. She enjoys cooking for the scents, colors, and processes that come with it. Bún thịt nướng is a Vietnamese rice-vermicelli noodle dish usually served with pork. In this photo, you can see not only the braised pork, but the pan-seared shrimp as well.

I don’t know how this turned out so well. I didn’t use a tripod and I didn’t use any lighting. Maybe when I look this photo, I should use it as a reminder from time-to-time: sometimes chasing the moment is all we need. I shot this at 2.8 at 14 mm. The IBIS of the E-M5 II is really amazing – even at 1/60, it’s sharp enough.

Composition wise, it might benefit some cropping. When I eventually reorganize my Lightroom catalog, I might take a stab at re-touching some of my earlier photos. More recently, I avoid cutting off hands, but I feel the hands working on the final touches of this dish brings it together.

A meal fit for a season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones

A meal fit for a season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones
Lumix G9 & Olympus 12-40 mm | Taken on April 14, 2019

Give me a shopping list and recipe, and I might be able to navigate my way to a decent meal – a stark difference from my wife’s culinary prowess. But around a grill or smoker, I’ll cook something up the whole neighborhood will drool over. This a quick snap of the final minutes of our meal for the season 8 premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Inspired by the lavish meals featured on screen, we smoked chicken drumsticks, Cornish hens, and veggies (button mushrooms and zucchinis). My other grill-master friends and I rose to the challenge and took a shot at smoking these small birds.

I took this photo outdoors using manual mode on f/2.8 at 1/60 shutter speed. Not much else going on – I just wanted to to make sure I had the shot. I later touched it up in Lightroom, specifically to deal with the overblown background.

Composition wise, I like the square feeling of this photo. Like may of my photos, it may benefit from cropping inward – but I felt the open sky and backyard setting really sets the mood. With the weather this good, I felt like it needed to be in this photo. I don’t take too many vertical shots but it’s something I want to consider more in the future.

Home cooked Vietnamese meal on our first day in Vung Tau

Home cooked Vietnamese meal on our first day in Vung Tau.
Lumix G9 & Olympus 17 mm Pro | Taken on February 3, 2019 at Vung Tau, Vietnam

Imagine a meal cooked at home, surrounded by family and friends. This is what this image evokes. You don’t see the faces of the people, but the food and drink on the table are the type of simple but delicious things you see surrounded by family.

This was one of the first times I used the Olympus 17 mm f/1.2 Pro in such a low-lit, outdoor setting. Prior, I’d taken some portrait photography in-doors with the lens, but overall, didn’t have too many stand-out photos. As of now though, this has been one of my favorite photographs taken with the lens. It almost has that depth-of-field that really puts a magical though behind the photo – I’m not entirely sure how to explain it. With the 17 mm Pro, I was able to keep my ISO relatively low at 1600 – even without a flash. Unfortunately, this means I’d have to shoot wide open at f/1.2 but I think it turned out well! Shutter speed was at 1/100 which isn’t the best at stopping people in motion, but it’s not as big of an issue seated at a table.

As a composition, I feel like it’s okay – nothing too crazy here. Some people may look at this photo and dislike the beheaded figures behind the table – though they’re part of the scene, not the subject of it.

Packed with food at Salsa Mexican Restaurant

Packed with food at Salsa Mexican Restaurant
Lumix G9 & Olympus 12-40 mm Pro | Taken on February 7, 2019 at Vung Tau, Vietnam

Globalization is a crazy thing. For the average person, wherever we might travel, we’ll likely see the affects of it. Food is no different. While I was in Vietnam, there was a Mexican inspired restaurant by the ocean. The place served up some great seafood dishes alongside with traditional Mexican cuisine.

This was one of the moments where I brought the wrong tools for the job. I knew I would be out late into the night without a flash, but I brought my Olympus 12-40 mm Pro over my Olympus 17 mm Pro. I regret not bring the 17 mm pro; the 12-40 mm struggled as soon as the sun fell half-way below the ocean horizon. I knew I chose the zoom because I felt lazy. I didn’t want to disturb conversations, or move closely into subjects (food and people) during the meal. Despite that though, many of the photos before and during sunset looked pretty good. This photo was shot at f/5.6. I wanted as much of the food sharper in the photo. There wasn’t too much going on in terms of movement, so I was able to get a decent hand-held shot at the shutter speed 1/25. Light was pretty good too, so I left the ISO at 800.

Composition wise, I like how most of the food subjects create a diagonal line of interest in the photo. The foreground in the bottom left is a bit empty and distracting because of the reflection of a fan in the glass.

Honeymee Matcha Latte topped with ice cream

Honeymee Matcha Latte topped with ice cream
Lumix G9 & Olympus 17 mm f/1.8 | Taken on September 15, 2018

I’m surprised more of my photos aren’t desserts (I have a bit of a sweet tooth). I suspect that’ll change as I focus on taking photographs of my meals more often though. Matcha is one of my favorite flavors, so I was a bit disappointed at the lackluster taste of their drink. The gimmick is the honeycomb wax and honey in the drink. Either way, I snapped a pretty nice photo thanks to the hanging lights in the outdoor seating area.

This was about a month or two in with my new Lumix G9, so I was excited to take it everywhere. While relatively bulky to my E-M5 II then, it was such a comfortable and intuitive camera to handle. I shot this using the lens wide open at a shutter speed of 1/30. The ISO had to kick up to 1600 but not high at all considering how little light I worked with.

It’s a pretty boring composition overall, but I did get have fun with the bokeh balls. It’s not something I shoot very often and would love to try it again soon.