Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wouldn't it be funny if...

That's how most of these things start. Quick design and put it up on Printfection. Spread the humor (not the flu). What I like to call "The Offical Shirt of Swine '09." If you look closely there is a H1N1 on the but of the pig for the more politically correct.

A gem on PCH

I got assigned to shoot at Sophy's Cambodian today. Yes, there is a woman named Sophy and she runs the place. We rode our bikes up Orizaba (a good street to bike on btw that runs parallel to Redondo).

She made three dishes. Beef kabobs, salmon salad and a yellow curry. The food was pretty easy to shoot. They looked great so it was just a matter of figuring out the light and how to position the plates. Someone commented and asked if I have an assistant. I usually don't. In fact, it would have been nice to have one on this shoot.

I had my camera in my right hand and my left hand was holding my lucky white matt board that is crinkled and stained from 2 years of food guides just off to the left side of the frame. That's about as high tech as I get. No assistants. No beauty dish. No ring light. Just a small softbox a used Nikon SB-28 strobe and a piece of matt board (I should take a picture of it).

Shooting a pile o' food...

The Scenario:
Doing a quick food shoot I go to a seafood restaurant that is making their famous seafood menagerie. It is served....or rather, it is poured on to your table. Crab legs, mussels, potatoes, corn and brine. While it taste good, the pile o' food doesn't represent too well. It looks like carnage. Like a lawn mower was let loose through the set of The Little Mermaid and a potato garden. What to do.

Problem Solving
Photography is creative problem solving.

The first thing is find a good background. The checkered cloth looked promising but it was covered with butcher paper. The food is going to be too low and horizontal to get a good shot of the patio and window outside.

Luckily, I'm nosy.

Luckily, I ask questions.

I find out that in addition to the food being poured on the table you are given a mallet and a wooden board! Voila.

I arrange the mallet and wooden board. Sort of pre-light it. Get it close. When the food is about to be dumped, I ask them for tongs and try to arrange the food. Strong diagonals. I'm going to use the handles of the mallet to create a leading line into the photo. The crab legs are big, red and photogenic. I'm going to arrange the grab leg as the counterpoint to the mallet.

Finally I get to shoot. Head-on. Over-head. Trying to think of the food as a landscape and my strobe as the sun. Where do the shadows fall. Where is it interesting. If I saw this photo on the screen would it make me want to lick my dusty monitor.

All this in 10 minutes before the food gets too cold and the brine and the juices coagulate. Fun!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Food Guide Time!

My favorite time of the year (for eating that is)....Do you own a restaurant or catering service in Long Beach and need photos that will make people want to lick them off the screen or off the page? You know what to do.

Now on Twitter!

Yay....I've joined the Twitter-sphere....ok, a little late, I admit. It sorta feels like showing up to a birthday party after the cake is all gone.

So for those that are interested, follow me at:

If you're local tweet me everytime you see me ride by with a time/place and I'll set up a google map and do a sort of running Where's Russ?

Monday, April 27, 2009

A new post on

Check it out at

This is the second episode of The Path Less Pedaled. We've counted all our stuff now it's time to start getting rid of it. Laura goes through our dishes and starts picking what can stay and what has to go!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Baby Carter turns 2!

Some snaps from baby Carter's birthday today!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Behind the District Cover

Shot a portrait for the DW on campus today of writer and professor, Alan Rifkin. Everything is available light. Nikon D300. Simple light.

The first challenge with every portrait is looking for a good background. Interesting but not too interesting. Simple but not boring. Find the background first, THEN the subject. Seems backwards, but too many a potentially good photo is ruined by a crappy background. Lucky for me, the room had this blue/cloud-like pattern going on that was just interesting ENOUGH without being too distracting.

The next challenge is light. I turned off the overhead fluorescents so I could get some nice directional light (instead of flat overhead light). Worked well. Didn't have to set any strobes up.

Then, it was a matter of just getting Alan comfortable. Hey, I was a literature major in college, I can talk about anything, especially books!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bilenky + Ortlieb

I've been really enjoying using the Ortlieb Shuttle Bike on my assignments this week. Here it is with my Bilenky. It doesn't use the mounting bracket, obviously, but judicious use of bungees fixes that problem. It looks (and might actually be) a little more aero than my wicker basket :)

A short video from the new project Laura and I are doing. Check it out at

The Path Less Pedaled - Stuff from Russ Roca on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Mini Rig

After riding around the Santa Monica mountains with the cargo bike and a lot of loaded gear, I needed a change of pace today. Instead of the Bilenky, I took out the Dahon Speed TR and my Ortlieb Shuttle Bike case. I've written about this combination before and I still feel that it's the best set-up for multi-modal transportation.

Here are some shots of the great Ortlieb Shuttle Bike

On the deeper side of the clam shell design, I keep a LowePro backpack that adds extra padding for my gear. Inside, I'm carrying my Nikon D300, 17-55 2.8, 2 pocket wizards, 2 strobes, extra batteries and a synch cord.

On the shallower side, I've got my reflector (folded piece of white mat board, XS Chimera softbox, speed ring for the box and there's room for a small pump and patch kit.

The whole thing folds up to a nice sleek package. When I arrive to my shoot, I just pop the case off and wheel it in using the retractable handle and casters. I can use this set-up for about 80% of what I shoot. If I'm taking a lot of trains and buses, this is really the only way to go.

I'd highly recommend this setup to anyone that needs to transport any kind of equipment by bike. The weight is centered so you're not riding lopsided. The lower overall center of gravity of the Dahon Speed TR also helps mitigate any handling issues.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dirt Mulholland - Conquered (with a cargo bike)

Just got back from another nutty weekend bicycle adventure. Laura and I took the Metro to Hollywood/Highland. We then rode up a pretty steep road (Outpost Road) up to Mulholland. It gained about 600ft in a mile and some change.

Mulholland runs through the Santa Monica mountains. Our original plan was to take it all the way to Leo Carrillo, however it took us a lot longer than we thought. There was a fair amount of climbing and about 8 miles of "dirt Mulholland" to enjoy :)

Fortunately, we saw that there was a camping spot along Las Virgines (Malibu Creek State Park). The campground was full, but the rangers that were working saw that we were on bikes and let us pitch a tent at a secluded little spot.

I'll post more on Epicurean Cyclist (which has a new home at a little later.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Bike'Stache

Laura added a fun new item to her etsy store, the Bike'Stache! For sale now (you know you need one :)!

Even more Bike Fest!

Even more snaps from Bike Fest. This was on Sunday when they had the Crit.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some snaps from BikeFest

Still sifting through about 3000 images of BikeFest. I got through the first day! Whew.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Meet yer maker...

A historic moment! :) I finally meet the people responsible for building my cargo bike. A photo for the ages, the bike, myself with Bina Bilenky and Simon Firth.

Not related at all, but has some religious overtones. Spotted in the handicap bathroom stall at Ocean Beach, where I was changing into my bike clothes.