Chicken Hazards

November 10, 2008 in Gardening, Humble Garden

Raising your own chickens in your own backyard means having VERY fresh eggs and, should you so choose, fresh meat on occasion.

If you have roosters (which are not necessary unless you want to eat fertile eggs, love roosters, or want baby chickens) you will also be assured some drama.


Barley, that big orange chicken you see, decided that it was really offensive to him that I walked out my back door. Being so offended, it was his roosterly duty to round me up like a girl chicken and when I didn’t comply, he proceeded to attack me 5 times. I had to ward him off and now he and I, well, we are not on talking terms.

He will be lucky if he doesn’t become one with my stock pot.

While it might have amused some to see video of my experience, I am very thankful none exists!

A Snippet of my Edible Summer

October 26, 2008 in Uncategorized


Humble Garden 2008 from nika on Vimeo.

Here is the Humble Garden video for 2008 (I shoot these with my MacBook Pro, forgive the quality). In it I share my family, our organic vegetable garden, our chickens, our LaMancha diary goats and our guard Llama. I also share a bit of my Colombian culture through the music so turn on your speakers and enjoy.

Let me know what you think! Hope we do not seem too odd to you!

Chicken CSA Mentor wanted: Eggcellent Opportunity

April 3, 2008 in Humble Garden, Local Food

Chickenalia: chickens out for sun and food

This is a call out to those of you out there who have some experience with setting up your own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) activity.

I need your guidance and mentorship so any and all input is welcome and appreciated.

We are currently seriously contemplating setting up a trial run chicken CSA where the chickens will be raised naturally (the word “organic” is woefully deprecated and co-opted by money-grabbing certification types – I cant afford organic certification status right now, not if I want to actually get started that is).

We will raise slow-growth long bodied breeds of chickens like you see the French growing in their “Label Rouge” program. Our chickens will be forest dwellers like those in the Label Rouge program. There is no official “Label Rouge” program in the US but that’s ok because the First Principles of Label Rouge are attractive and to be emulated. We will be more like the organic Label Rouge where we will not use any sorts of chemicals or antibiotics, not because I think it’s the “in” thing but because I follow the golden rule in my cultivation and animal husbandry:

Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Corollary: Treat your animals with the greatest respect possible – they are beings too

Life is absolutely too short to start something like this and not do it MY way. This is not to say that what the neighbor down the street is doing is wrong, its just that I need to do this my way.

I compromise on so much else; don’t we all!

What do I need?

I need to know how to find a local butcher and how that all works (in terms of costs and their capacity) – I have zero clue here. I need to know how best to find people who will want to buy these CSA shares – I fear raising a load of chickens which then are not pre-sold. These questions MUST be asked by any producer when they first start, I know, but I do sound sorta goofy not knowing the answers.

We are also going to be doing CSA egg shares (we just love them girl chickens so much!).

I hope that you all, with clues on this, will come out of the woodwork and drop me a note. When you leave a comment the system gets your email (confidentially I think) and then I can reply to you off-blog to have a longer convo on this.

Food Photo 101: Shooting BBQ

March 25, 2008 in BBQ, Food Photo 101

Another view of BBQ pork butt

(Dark and delicious BBQ’d and smoked pork butt)

I am sorry that the next class in this series has taken so long to produce.

Today I am going to step away from technical and aesthetic foci, be a bit less formal and try to tackle some of the challenges of shooting BBQ’d foods and scenes for your blog.

Some of you, like Curt, may have a preference (or obsession) for BBQ so many of your images are going to have similar BBQ related needs.

Whole trout with asparagus, key limes, and grapefruit

(Whole trout with asparagus, key limes, and grapefruit)

When I think of BBQ I think of my backyard and mostly grilling, which is not BBQing at all.

Charcoal for grilled fish

(Charcoal for grilled fish)

Grilling is, I think, much easier to shoot because the grill can be better lit and you are not trying to capture the unctuous depths of a pit smoker.

Compare:

Grilling

Mozzarella stuffed blue cheese and basil hamburgers

(Mozzarella stuffed blue cheese and basil hamburgers)

Whole trout on the grill with asparagus

(Whole trout on the grill with asparagus)

Pit Smoker

B.T.'s BBQ: Boston Butt Pork Slow roasted pit BBQ

(B.T.’s BBQ: Boston Butt Pork Slow roasted pit BBQ)

Both cooking methods can give you similar problems – mainly dark, lumpy chunks of delicious meat that is mostly not photogenic or not nearly photogenic enough to equal the beauty of it’s flavor.

BBQ pork butt

(BBQ pork butt)

It is also hard to “food style” away the essential darkness of a perfectly smoked BBQ’d pork butt because that, in person, is what is so arresting in its beauty. In a photo, the pork butt looks like it has been burned and dried to inedibility (when, in fact, its smoked and moist).

BBQ Pork Ribs

(BBQ Pork Ribs)

Another problem with BBQ and grilling is that its a shame to lose the context by focusing too closely. If you show just the BBQ’d rib you miss the dramatic smoky grill, pit, or smoker. This means you might want to shoot outside and then lighting becomes less predictable (but exciting too). To do any sort of ambient outdoor shooting you need to master your manual settings, shoot lots of shots from many angles, and be patient!

BBQ beef ribs

B.T.’s Smokehouse: Slow roasted pit BBQ beef ribs

Go for detail, interesting point of view, drama, and emphasize context whenever possible.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: Slow roasted pit BBQ beef brisket, pork butt, chicken

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: Slow roasted pit BBQ beef brisket, pork butt, chicken)

Did I mention that you should be patient? Be patient with yourself mostly because you need to take the time to capture many alternative shots but you need to also take the time to go through all of those shots and asses which ones work, how they happened and also identify those that didn’t work. Those that didn’t work can be helpful teaching tools for you so that the next time you will know what to avoid (not that you would take any fewer shots, just that the ones you do take will likely not repeat too many of the previous mistakes).

Slow roasted pork butt

(Slow roasted pork butt)

I have been including various shots above from my own grilling and BBQ. Next I am going to show some images from a shoot a couple of weeks ago that I did at Brian Trietman’s B.T.’s Smokehouse (see these two blog posts: An improbable meat nirvana in a BBQ wasteland, Criminally Good Smoked Salmon and Bacon – B.T.’s Smokehouse). I was shooting inside of his mini-restaurant and I had no special plates because I wanted the location and the non-fussy nature of the BBQ to show through.

I took a flash head but did not end up using it. Below you can see a shot of the set up – a table by some windows and a fluorescent light overhead. The light coming in from the windows was super-bright bluish light bouncing off of the snow outside. By far, the most dominant light was from the windows.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: insanely delicious smoked salmon - setting
B.T.'s Smokehouse: insanely delicious smoked salmon

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: insanely delicious smoked salmon)

I wasn’t that happy with the light in that location and my attempts to bounce didn’t give me much sparkle as you can see below.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: insane smoked bacon

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: insane smoked bacon)

I did some other shooting in the mini-restaurant/service window but didn’t do much outside because the snow was just too much for getting much of a shot. I used my Canon 30D kit lens for the general shots below.

B.T.'s Smokehouse: smoked beef jerky

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: smoked beef jerky)

B.T.'s Smokehouse: bacon for smoking - seasoning

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: bacon for smoking – seasoning)

B.T.'s Smokehouse: ribs for smoking - seasoning

(B.T.’s Smokehouse: ribs for smoking – seasoning)

Your Task

Using everything you have learned in the past Food Photo 101 classes, go out and either shoot your own BBQ (I am sure Curt will because he has quite the set up and I am looking forward to seeing it!) or perhaps find an event where some real pit BBQers are doing their thing.

Post it to your blog and send us your link or post it to the Food Photo 101 group on Flickr.

Thats it! I am looking forward to seeing what you all submit.

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