One Photographer's Dilemma - Which Camera to Bring on Vacation?

After hearing about my husband Steve's love of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York for years, we finally decided to take a longggggg road trip from Asheville to vacation there for a week. In a mere 16-17 hours we were there! Many thanks to the bucolic scenery and a gripping audio book, "The Girl with All the Gifts", the trip actually flew by. But before I show you how amazingly gorgeous the area was, I have to back up to my constant dilemma when traveling - whether to bring the "big" camera (really heavy, bulky Nikon D4) or my cute but expensive mirrorless camera (lighter, less bulky, pretty good images but not as good as "big" camera - my Olympus OMD-EM1). The third option is always to not bring a camera, but then my travel companions have to live with my repeated moans of regret for not bringing my camera...

 

I was going on vacation, so I wanted to make it easy and opted for the Olympus camera, and in the end I was quite happy about my decision. True the Olympus wasn't as fast or as good at capturing the range of highlights and shadows, but the fact that it was so light and compact made for a more pleasurable, vacation-like experience, and that meant I was able to get some shots to be sure and remember what a wonderful time we had and inspire me to plan next year's trip there. We stayed near Saranac Lake, and woke up to plan each days adventure either hiking, kayaking canoeing and/or swimming all to return to our cute house to cook dinner and sip a glass of wine.

The neighborhood visitor known as "Bruno" shot with Olympus. It's a  bit too "sharp" - that's one of the differences - that it's not as natural as the Nikon. However, it was easy to grab and go to catch this bear before he climbed back down.

The neighborhood visitor known as "Bruno" shot with Olympus. It's a  bit too "sharp" - that's one of the differences - that it's not as natural as the Nikon. However, it was easy to grab and go to catch this bear before he climbed back down.

My Photo Foodtopia - Week 4

We are really on a roll now with this Cooking with Asheville book project. We started by watching students at AB Tech's well regarded culinary program - they were making the perfect bagels, important even, apparently, for southern bakers. I've known of a few graduates from this program who've gone on to esteemed kitchens, so I know they are doing it right. Next we went to one of my old favorites from when I first moved to Asheville - Rezaz - the site of many birthday dinners in our family. The highlight was meeting the new owners, Laura and Brian, who purchased the restaurant a few years ago from Reza, after having both worked in the kitchen for him for quite some time. I loved shooting their portrait, fittingly, in the back of the kitchen. Photo and food stylist Chris Bryant worked his magic with the meatballs that will be featured as their recipe in the book, and took one for the team by eating a spoonful of the chocolate pot de creme to show that it couldn't stand untouched for long.

Another old favorite was visited - Corner Kitchen. I had a photography show there about 5-6 years ago, so I have a fond place in my heart for Rezaz. Interestingly, President Obama and his wife Michelle dined there when they were in Asheville not long after that.  Chef Joe Scully and Chef Josh Weeks create some very delicious food there with a southern flair (and get it right - I'm from Atlanta, ya'll, so I know southern food). We shot their colorful beet puree with pistachios recipe that will be in the cookbook. We capped off the week with a visit to Isis in W. Asheville, which I discovered was a real family run business (4 members of the family work there from two generations). I loved seeing that family work together and enjoyed playing "do you know?" with Lil, one of the owners, when I discovered we'd both lived in the same neighborhood in Atlanta - Virginia Highlands. Isis not only has  a serious kitchen and bar, but hosts musical acts on two inside stages as well as their outdoor patio - these people are busy. 

My Photo Foodtopia - A Very Busy Week 3

We really got cranking on week 3 - we shot 6 restaurants in all, and we are really getting a groove going with this cookbook project (Cooking with Asheville). I'm finding that each restaurant has it's own energy and style, and that's part of what I enjoy about this job - the diversity each assignment offers. The Blackbird (with new owner Jesson Gil) showed that they are about more than their amazing coconut cake (though if you've tasted it, you understand why it's the source of local fame) - I saw a real comaraderie with Jesson and Chef Mike in their striving for perfection. At 12 Bones I got up close and personal with a huge amount of smoked ribs, and I'm still craving them as that smell was powerfully alluring. I got to hear the story behind  Rocky's Hot Chicken Shack (and was sent home with their famous spicy, crunchy chicken for the family - oh yeah!). Roux's chef Randy made us their well known Sunday brunch dish and a delicious trout burger, and Storm Rhum Bar offered so many eccentric, one of a kind curiosities in their decor that photographing there was a blast (and tasty as we were able to taste the delectable pork roast they are featuring in the cookbook). Last but certainly not least was Bouchon, where we marveled at the warm energy there in the midst of a busy day. Michelle, the owner, kept us laughing the whole time with his generous humor. 

My Photo Foodtopia - Week 2

Now that we have gotten a bit of a routine with the shoots for Cooking with Asheville, Chris and I have found ourselves quicker to assess the scene, meet with the chef and get set up. We have streamlined what we bring (Chris has his tools down to two canvas bags) and I am also carrying a minimum of equipment, with back up in the car if needed. 

Over Easy was so much fun! They have such a colorful decor and the owner, Carson Lucci and Chef Eric Burleson couldn't have been more helpful and amenable to our requests. Between the stacks of pancakes, the colorful smoothes and the many murals, we had a lot to work with. We can't wait to go back for breakfast soon.

 

Next was a follow up shoot at the Chocolate Fetish with one of the owner/chefs Elizabeth Foley. Chocolate Fetish is a family affair, and Elizabeth is the daughter of the founders of the store. Since I'd shot there last spring, all I needed that day was a portrait of Elizabeth and photos of their recipe for the cookbook - the chocolate flourless torte.

Chocolate Fetish-127.jpg
Chocolate Fetish-134.jpg

Photographing the torte was tricky as it had such a high gloss sheen, so I had to really move around to get the light right. We decided to photograph Elizabeth with the store behind her and I asked another employee to walk back and forth to show someone working in motion in the background. Elizabeth also shared her chocolate sculptures - amazing delectable looking things - so we documented those as well.

Find Your Powerhouse at Clasique

As a happy client of Clasique Pilates and Acupuncture, I was really happy to shoot for them to show off their beautiful new digs and the variety of offerings their talented staff provide. Brooke Tyler, the owner, is a beautiful, incredibly fit source of inspiration herself (her t-shirt aptly says "Inspire") as she motivates her clients to "find their powerhouse" as well as heal their bodies through the many acupuncture treatments they offer. The new location also has a community room, a tea bar, and a retail counter for their stylish T's. I have been under the needles, the cups and the gua sha of their acupuncturists and have done many Pilates classes and private sessions, so I know of what I speak when I say Clasique is a wonderful place to find some inspiration to improve your health. They have massage therapists on staff as well!

Cooking with Asheville Week 1

Finally - we get to begin this long anticipated project for EMG Works - the Cooking with Asheville book.  Chris Bryant - food and prop stylist - and I have been planning on tag teaming this baby for months, but from the very first shoot at the Lobster Trap, things were different than we'd expected....we didn't know how FUN it would be! I have a long history with the Lobster Trap, so it was fitting that our first shoot would be there, and Chef Mike McCarty did not disappoint as he brought out his mouth watering platter of Oysters Rockefeller and a fresh seafood tower. The Trap, as we call it, flies in fresh seafood daily, so despite it's mountain location, you know you're getting the real coastal deal.

Seafood Tower at the Lobster Trap

Seafood Tower at the Lobster Trap

Next up was Isa's Bistro located in the  historic Haywood Park Hotel. I have always enjoyed Chef Dwayne Fernandez's fresh and creative offerings, including the delicious farrow and vegetable salad he composes. For the cookbook Dwayne created a peach salad with burrata and it is perfectly suited for a light summer meal.

 

Strada  was the final shoot for the week and we had a good time with Chef Anthony Cerrato creating the quintessential Sunday brunch spread on their rooftop patio (if you haven't had a cocktail at this elevated location, you're missing out). For the cookbook Chef Anthony shared his version of an artichoke chicken with fresh pasta that was divinely rich - we were able to partake in this dish and look forward to getting that recipe when the book comes out.