Saturday, June 30, 2012

Goat Cheese, Lemon and Pea Pasta : DHSPC #9 and The Last Post Before We Move

House is almost empty . A pile of boxes and unwanted stuff are in the center of the living room. Suitcases are laying open around the rooms waiting to be filled. And my back is aching from sleeping on the floor. We are finally ready to move for good.

My mood and feelings are all over the place. It's not easy leaving somewhere you lived in for 9 years. A place I came to a 16 years old newlywed girl. So naive and inexperienced. Now leaving a 25 years old all grown up women with two kids and a life experience that can fill a book. It won't be easy  adjusting to the fact that  we won't be coming back anymore.

Still, with all that that is going on, I am well determined to improve my food photography. I've been sleeping with "Plate to Pixel" by talented Helene Dujardin by my side for the past week. Trying to take every bit of it slowly and reflecting on it with my pictures. And I wasn't going to skip this month's Donna Hay styling and photo challenge hosted by lovely Simon from Junglefrong Cooking.

Recipe taken from Donna Hay magazine issue #55
Photo taken by William Meppem. Styling by: David Morgan

The dish and picture she chose seemed easy to replicate. The dish is goat cheese, lemon and pea pasta. Very light and perfect for summer. I followed the recipe except for a few things. I didn't use arugula because we don't eat this kind of green, so I substituted that for fresh mint. And instead of lemon I used lime juice and lime rind because that's what I had and I am trying to empty the fridge. Did I mention that we're moving?!  Done. And it only took me about 20 minutes.

Now to taking the picture which is the real challenge. A few days ago I was ironing clothes and I notice how the light  coming from the window was so soft yet crisp and beautiful. I took a note of the time      ( 6:48 p.m) and I decided that this is where and when I am going to take the picture for the challenge, and I planned it around this time yesterday. Unfortunately yesterday was cloudy and gloomy and not a bit of that golden sunlight was coming through the window. But I set up the shooting anyways because I didn't have much time to submit . I just had to adjust.

I set the the white balance to cloudy and increase the exposure in the exposure compensation by a full mark to compensate for the lack of sunlight. Window on the left, reflector supported by an empty trash can on the right.

My setup, taken with iPhone camera in the same position as my dSLR

As for the props, I didn't have a small pan similar to the picture on hand so I substituted that for a white ramekin bowl which I think enhanced the light airy feeling of the picture. The thing I struggled with the most was getting the right crop for the picture. Since my setup  was so small and narrow and everything around it is a  chaos.

Choosing the lens is also a big decision. I kept alternating between my 50 mm 1.8 and my newly purchased 100mm 2.8. My 50mm is very light and easy to work with even without a tripod especially if I set it to the biggest aperture 1.8 and it gives crisp pictures and honest representation of the scene. The 100mm is very powerful. It gives the right crop from far behind and because it streches the scene I can get away with the narrow set up and not show the mess around it. Both gave me nice pictures. But I am still in the learning about which lens to choose for which picture. I know for sure that for nature and landscape photography I am better with a wide angle lens and for portrait  I am better with a telephoto lens. But I am still not sure what to choose when it comes to food photography.

Styling was very easy and simple as well. I layed a white pillow case all over, and then put an ironed and folded one underneath the bowl. I really liked the fold in the original shot , so I made sure that it is visible in most of my images. Since the styling is very plain and simple things like a fold in the cloth can add a lot of virtual interest and texture. For even more interest, I added a fork in some of the images.The only thing I don't like about my pictures is how the cheese is melted and all over the pasta instead of crumbled on top. That made for a not so clean feel.

Post processing I adjusted the exposure even more. Did some retouching to very few spots that were on the sheet beneath the bowl. I didn't want a very contrasty picture so in some of them I actually decrease the contrast. And then there was this blue tint that is in the original picture. I tried to replicate that by adjusting the white balance and apply a mask around the food. It looked nice but not quiet like the original.

Of the few pictures I took I liked these three:

I like the lighting in this picture, but the angel is not quiet right. More bowl is showing than food. I didn't apply a blue tint to this one since I liked the lighting so much.
Lens: 50mm 1.8.  ISO 800,  f 3.5,  1/25

Angel is better in this one. I liked this one and the one beneath the most. It was a hard decision choosing between the two. Ultimately I chose the other one for submission because of the added visual interest of the cloth fold and the fork. Although I like the simplicity of this one very much.
Lens: 100 mm 2.8. ISO 800, f/3.5, 1/15

My winning shot. I chose it because of the better angel on the food. The soft light hitting the pasta and the added interest of the fold and the fork.
Lens: 100mm 2.8. ISO 800,  f/5, 1/6

Recipe : 

Goat’s cheese, lemon and pea pasta
Serves                          4
Prep time                    5  minutes
Cook time                  12 minutes
Total time                  17 minutes
Dietary Meal type    Vegetarian Main Dish
 From magazine        Donna Hay magazine
400g penne
420g frozen peas (2 cups)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
2 tablespoons lemon rind (finely grated) 2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
240g goat's cheese (crumbled)
50g rocket (arugula, chopped)
sea salt
cracked black pepper

Cook the pasta in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 10-12 minutes, adding the peas in at the last minute, or until al dente. Drain and return to the pan. Add the garlic, lemon rind, lemon juice and olive oil and toss well to coat. Add the goat's cheese, rocket, salt and pepper and mix until just combined. 

how i like it: I really like this dish. It's very fresh and light yet satisfying at the same time. Lemon, garlic and olive oil is a winner combination for any dish and meal. I think this is perfect for lunch and supper and I would recommend eating it cold instead of room temperature.

So this this going to be my last post from the U.S. Yesterday after I finished shooting, I packed my lenses, reflector and tripod so they are ready to travel. Next time I blog will be in about a month  inshallah . I will be at my parents' house posting about delicious (and hopefully better photographed) Ramadan's food, dishes, recipes and traditions, so stay tuned. Until then..Good Bye!


Junglefrog said...

I'm so impressed you managed to do the challenge despite your move! I'm guessing you will have left the US by the time I'm writing this and I'm really late with reacting but I love your shots! I especially love the one with the fork actually. The light is gorgeous!! Well done you and good luck on the move! Hope all goes well!

MoonFaCe said...

Thank you Simon. Glad you loved the pictures, that really means a lot to me. We're actually still in the U.S. Leaving on Tuesday (tired... :-I

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