Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Behind the scenes: Playing with Cheese

The rain seems to be done for the season here in Northern California (I hope)... It had me a bit on edge with an outdoor shoot scheduled last week for one of my favorite clients - Laura Chenel's Chevre. And no, they're not a favorite client just because they share their delicious cheese with me!

The morning was crisp and almost still in the Carneros vineyard where we chose to set up shop. Tiny frogs hopped across our muddy feet as we unloaded gear and positioned the set. The intent of the shot was to showcase the Laura Chenel's Chevre product line in a way that illustrates that they're produced in Sonoma's wine country. Hmm... what would say wine country???

Uh, duh... vineyard - lush green vines, blue sky and a giant oak tree! But this wasn't just any vineyard; it's a cheese wheel's roll and the future view from Laura Chenel's new Sonoma cheese making headquarters. Lucky stiffs will get to look out their windows at this site - without the table and photo gear, of course.

Our next order of business was finding the right angle to position the table. How do you show a table full of short, round products while capturing the vineyard and tree but a minimal amount of grass in one frame? Answer: tilt the table.

Assistant Hailey plays peek-a-boo behind the table to help adjust the angle. Tilt too little and we don't see all the products. Tilt too high and the cheese falls off the table. Twice. Plus a jar of olive oil. Oops!

Once it's just right Marie and Chef Jacquelyn start adding cheese and plates and props of all sorts.

More cheese and plates are added and subtracted until it's just right. Except then we decided to abandon the "voyeur" perspective. That required some more adjusting. Actually, we decided to forego props and just show the cheese. Delicious, mouth-watering cheese.
The right-hand photo shows a myriad of abandoned props peeking from under the table including but not limited to: plates, extra cheese, platters, jars, more cheese, baguette, wine, cheese, cheese knives, linens, clamps and cheese. There was definitely cheese under there!

And our nearly final vineyard photo...

Next on our shoot list was a more detailed group photo of all the cheeses. Many of the items were already in place but we wanted a bird's-eye perspective. That required more massaging of cheese to create a balanced composition.

We added a few more slabs of travertine tile to complete the background, and add more cheese until the photo fills out.

Nearly there... We move things around to create a composition we like. This is me teetering atop a ladder in the muddy vineyard. Unlike some unfortunate cheese logs, I managed to not fall.

Everything seems arranged as we want it but from this perspective it seems too flat and one-dimensional.

So we tilt the camera angle a smidge (right side photo) and get better profiles from the cheese wedges, slices and rounds. Just a few more compositional changes and tilted even more and... voila! Our final photo... well, almost...


Here's the final final photo with some post-production edits to achieve the desired look and feel.

Hope you liked this cheesey little journey. Now go out and EAT SOME CHEESE!

~ Jason