Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mourning, red velvet cake and Happy holidays

Besides being a freelance food photographer, I also work part-time in a company to photograph  their products and retouch the images. Last week, while i was in my studio shooting, a coworker came over solemnly and said:" Do you know about Elizabeth?" I said:" what about her?" , kind of feeling something bad was coming. " She passed away this morning....." I couldn't believe what I just heard. I was still listening to what had happened to her but my mind floated somewhere else. I was thinking about her voice, her smile, her way of telling me her family's stories, even her walking back and forth in the company. Her cubicle pinned on the wall a picture her kids drew, writing" the BEST Mom Ever!" also her computer's desktop was her family's photo. She even brought her daughter and son to the company to show them around coz this is a company selling children's stuff..... I was shocked. I was speechless.


We all hear people say life is short, but it's normally just one of cliches we hear all the time, until something happened to our family member or friends. Only at this time, do we stop to rethink about our lives. According to a list of dying people's most regrets, One of the top life regrets is working too hard, another is not spending enough time with friends and families. I am at least relieved that Elizabeth wasn't workaholic or ignored her family.  She had a happy family, two lovely kids and a loving husband. At least she spent quality time with them.  RIP Elizabeth.



That being said, the holiday atmosphere is full of New York City. Holiday markets are scattering in the city. Holiday window display can be seen in Macy's and other big department stores. Tourists are flooding the town. However, I left NYC for Oklahoma and Texas to visit my family coz no matter how cool New York is, this is a holiday that's supposed to be spent with family. These past two days, we were busying doing holiday shopping, wrapping gifts and decorating the Christmas tree. I hope you guys enjoy your holidays with family or friends, coz, really, life is short.

To go with the holiday atmosphere, I am sharing this red velvet cake recipe. It scored very high on the internet and has over 200 comments. Happy holidays!!




Food styling: Michael Giletto

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 4 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Grease two 9 inch round pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Cream shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar WELL. Add eggs and beat well.
  3. Make a paste of cocoa and red food coloring. Add to creamed mixture. Mix salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla and buttermilk together. Add alternately the flour with the milk mixture to the creamed mixture. Mix soda and vinegar and FOLD INTO CAKE BATTER. DON'T BEAT OR STIR NOW.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes.
  5. To Make Icing: Cook 5 Tablespoons flour and milk over low heat till thick, stirring constantly. LET COOL THOROUGHLY! While cooling, cream 1 cups sugar, butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat this well till light and fluffy. Add to flour mixture and beat until of a good spreading consistency. DON'T ICE CAKE TILL COOL.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My photos published in Sweet Paul Magazine Winter issue 2011

My photos of Paul's food styling and photography workshop was published here , check out this gorgeous magazine. Lots of food photos' inspiration!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Food styling and photography workshop review and sneak peak of Sweet Paul Magazine spring issue

The workshop was held in a Tribeca sunlight studio. We were lucky to have a bright sunny weather to start a wonderful day with. Six attendees from all over the country including Dallas, Boston and Chicago showed up at 10am. And these people flew in just for the workshop. What a good surprise!! The photos and recipes of this workshop are actually gonna be used in the Spring issue of Sweet Paul Magazine. So students can have a taste of what it is like to shoot for a magazine.

First thing first. Paul and Colin briefly talked about the history and trend of food styling and photography respectively. Two important food stylists in shaping the food styling fashion--Martha Stewart and Donna Hay. Important trend of food photography--studio light to natural light.

When Colin was still talking, Paul set up the table for the first shot. Then he gathered students around the kitchen to show them tips of styling the first dish-spring salad with hard boiled egg slices. His tricks include covering greens with a damp paper towel until right before plating to avoid loss of freshness; applying lemon juice to sliced apple will prevent it from turning brown. Paul loves to use blue fabrics, dish wares and props in general to go with food because the color contrast will make food pop.


While Paul was busy with the students in the kitchen, Colin was setting up the camera and doing test shots. Then Paul brought the plate over and did more styling on site. Then Colin took photos and showed to the students on computer, explaining why this angle, why this aperture and such. Finally students took turns to snap their own pictures using what they just learnt. This is the basic procedure of all the dishes of the day. We then did pea soup, limeade, lemon custard, lamb chops, lobster and at last lemon pie.

student shooting lemon custard

It's overal a great workshop for food blogger who want to improve their photos, for people who want to get into a new hobby and for enthusiasts who wanna be professionals in the future.

Paul in the kitchen, cool apron!

Paul and his assistant Michaela studying the menu

student shooting limeade with an iPhone
Paul styling while Colin talking about photography

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pancake, fake it or make it?

I read an interesting article about whether making pancakes from scratch is worth the effort from bon appetit website. Being a pancake lover, I always considered making it from scratch a big pain, flour scattered on the counter, batter dripping over the stove, dishes stacking up the sink...... What a project! Store bought pancake mix is my saver, but does it taste the same as homemade? if you are a fan of pancakes, keep reading. I quoted the article here. 

"

The Contenders

Pancakes--defined as a wet batter cooked on a hot surface to create round, flat cakes--are probably some of the earliest and most widespread prepared foods eaten by humans. Today in France they're enjoyed as crepes; in, Russia, blinis and blintzes rule; English pancakes are made flat and thin, and traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday. But America is the undisputed king of the griddlecake, specializing in a version made with a thick batter containing leavening agents for a finished product that's fluffy and substantial.

Relative Costs
Similar. I used less than $3 worth of ingredients to make each batch of 14 pancakes.

Relative Healthfulness
About the same. Both versions are composed mostly of flour, milk, and eggs. The homemade recipe uses melted butter whereas store-bought calls for vegetable oil.

Time Commitment
It took me about 15 minutes to prepare the homemade batter, much of which was spent beating the egg whites into peaks. The store-bought mix took less than five minutes to put together.

Leftovers Potential
Just like the flour that forms its base, a partially used box of pancake mix will keep on your pantry shelf almost indefinitely. Batter of either sort is best used the same day, and pancakes will be most delicious eaten hot off the stove.

What The Testers Said
First let me introduce our panel.

THE HEALTH NUT
A delicate eater, the health nut is calorie conscious but also likes to eat well

THE FOODIE
Calorie agnostic, our foodie judge has a sophisticated palate and a love of cooking

THE DUDE
Ambivalent toward food trends and health concerns, this guy just wants to be fed when he's hungry

THE KID
Between ages of 9 and 12 years old, not jaded, typically not into strong flavors

Testers sampled both pancakes blind, plain and then with syrup. Even before adding syrup, everyone found the two versions nearly indistinguishable in terms of flavor and texture. With syrup, no one could correctly identify which sample was which.

The Health Nut: No decision; "I can't tell the difference between the two of these."
The Foodie: Store-bought; "This one has a bit more salt, and I find it to be a little bit lighter and fluffier."
The Kid: No decision; "I love pancakes."
The Dude: No decision; "The Foodie can't possibly be serious. Especially once you add syrup, there's just no way to tell these two apart."

The Verdict
Fake it.

Assuming that you have the shelf space for it, pancake mix is worth keeping on hand to help you save a little time and effort in the mornings. These mixes really just consist of the same dry ingredients that go into a conventional pancake recipe, to which you add similar wet ingredients, so there's no real loss of quality in going store-bought (note: 'just add water' mixes are a different bag altogether). And that extra step of separating eggs and whipping the whites into peaks that some pancake recipes call for? Save yourself the arm workout, because it doesn't seem to make any noticeable difference in pancake fluffiness.

--Elizabeth Gunnison


Read More 
http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/badaily/2011/10/is-making-pancakes-from-scratc.html#ixzz1ahADoUhW
"
Aha, I feel happy about their conclusion. And I suddenly had this urge of eating pancakes. I rode my bike to the nearby supermarket and bought Aunt Jemima's original pancake mix and fresh blueberry, the same mix as their test. I took some photos of them and enjoyed my breakfast! 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Food styling and photography workshop on Oct. 15 Sat.


This is the workshop I am going to attend this Saturday in New York City. The stylist is Paul Lowe  and photographer Colin Cooke.  I have heard of Paul Lowe and am very impressed by his  food and craft magazine Sweet Paul, so I am really excited to see him and learn from him on site. Colin Cooke is a photographer I admire and respect. He has being giving me much much help since my move to New York. My gratitude towards him is beyond words. If any of my readers are nearby, I'd love to meet you there!!

Cheer!

P.S. I haven't had too much time updating my blog recently.:( I will post about this workshop after I go there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wei and Geoff's wedding

I was so honored to attend and photograph Wei and Geoff's wedding held in a sweet little village--Dorset in Vermont on Sept the 10th. It's my first time to go to Vermont actually. Although New York City is everything I want, it's still nice to get away and enjoy the tranquility and peace of the countryside once in a while. Vermont is cooler, greener and of course safer compared to Brooklyn NY. Ironically, i just had my car broken in near my apartment two days before I drove there. So when the little hotel owner in Dorset said they didn't even lock their door, I was a bit surprised and then realized this was indeed a very different place from NYC.



















Thanks for reading and sharing the significant moments of the new couple. I wish them a happy life together ever after.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

new domain and new start

Some of my friends might have noticed that I have changed my name to Jocelyn Jiang. As much as I love the simplicity and meaning of Yue, which means Joy in English, I don't like to see people having difficulty pronouncing it. It happened a lot and I realized my name would be a limitation of me reaching out to people and trying to let them remember me.

My new website is http://jocelynjiang.com, and this blog is renamed as http://blog.jocelynjiang.com. Please update your bookmark to avoid any chance of connection error.

Cheers! Happy autumn!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Discrimination or fear?

I am someone that needs to be punched from time to time. And I was just punched by the photographer I've been assisting, so hard that it woke me up.

 Well, via email, he was making a joke about telling his sons that men were used to waiting for women, after I told him I hated being late for a meetup. I said women were already discriminated against in this male dominated industry,  and I didn't want to be treated differently than men.  Just a week before, I told him about my concern about discrimination against colored people, Chinese, and women in the photography business. So when he heard me talking about discrimination again, he said bluntly:" Stop caring! Give it up! It doesn't matter anymore. If you carry this thought as your excuse for not getting ahead or  getting a job, you don't get ahead.  When I don't get a job, I explain it as"fuck it" and move on. There's a lot of power in not caring!"  Right there, I was punched.


Sitting in front of the computer, I was stunned that someone just told me that.  Is there really no discrimination? Is it just the fear of being discriminated against that keeps us from getting ahead?

The Chinese don't like risk. We invest in real estate and education coz that's something that gives us return. Influenced by Confucius, Chinese people prefer stable and predictable lives. Before they do something, they always ask around to gather opinions from the elder or more experienced to lower risk and have someone to refer to when going down the path. Whether it's choosing a job, buying a house or deciding a major. When they ask around and find few knows about it, they tend to hesitate and step back to find something more popular and that has a set path. Take a look at the engineering department of universities across the US, I am sure you've noticed many Asian faces working hard late at night. For those areas that have few Chinese people, the Chinese think they are hard to get into and there's discrimination. That's where I am.

Blaming things we can't do to something we can't change such as racial discrimination does make us people feel more comfortable. And people tend to stay in their comfort zone, until their butt is kicked.

Speaking of kicking butt, the Chinese society is blunt and judgmental. When you do something wrong, people tell you you did it wrong, It makes you uncomfortable and alert. And you try to do better the next time. But the American society is more tolerant, it tells people to accept what they are, to be comfortable with themselves, but when you are comfortable, you don't wanna push forward. In this sense, I do agree with "the Battle Hyme of the Tiger Mother"'s parenting somewhat.

I am someone that needs to be punched every now and then. It kicks my butt, it wakes me up and it makes me work hard.

My butt was kicked earlier this year by Penny De los Santos when i watched her online food photography workshop. She is so inspiring that I felt the urge to rush out to shoot photographs immediately, but as time goes by, the pain on the butt disappeared and I felt comfortable again. So I quoted her here to keep me reminded.

"Free yourself to go beyond what is obvious for you. Being uncomfortable is when you grow the most. You grow the most when you put yourself in a very uncomfortable place and you solve the problem. It doesn't always work out, but when it does, you step up a little. You move beyond."
— Penny De Los Santos



Monday, August 15, 2011

one box of cherry tomatos, six presentations

I'd like to make the most of everything available. After buying a box of colorful cherry tomatoes from Union Square's green market. I styled them differently, using both natural and flash light. I was kind of scared of artificial lighting, but after attending a photography workshop, I was amazed at the dramatic effects it creates.








Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fun day with food stylist Michael-Ann Rowe

I can't believe how lazy i have been lately with blogging. I did this test shots with Michael-Ann over a month ago and i finally climbed up here to give my blog an update.

These photos were taken right before a thunderstorm, the sky gloomy, the light dim. I really like the moody look of some of the pictures.  The dark table surface with scratches on was  an improvise converted from Michael-Ann's computer desk.  We ate all the food after the shooting thanks to the wonderful cook! Something i wish I had done was to take some portrait photos of the stylist. Her blond hair is beautiful.








Monday, May 30, 2011

Photo shooting with food stylist Michael Giletto


   If you have been following my earlier posts, you may know that I have had the opportunity to work with a food stylist on a photo shoot.  Well, here is an update on how things went.

   I contacted an executive chef in New Jersey named Michael Giletto.  After the back and forth phone calls and emails where we were deciding what dishes to make and what style of photos we were looking for, we finally set the date of the shoot for Saturday, May 28th.

As it was my first time to work with a food stylist, I was quite nervous. The weather forecast earlier in the week was forecasting rain and thunderstorms for the weekend of the shoot, so I was beginning to worry. What else could I do but keep my fingers crossed? As the weekend approached, I made a list of things to bring with me, including a tripod, foam boards, mirrors, clamps, backup camera and battery, my collection of fabrics and props, the laptop, and a light stand and umbrella (in case the window light wasn't diffused enough).  Oh, and I received my new Nikon D7000 camera on Wednesday, just in time for the project!  So, my Nikon D60 was relegated to the task of backup camera.

  On Saturday, much to my relief, it was mostly sunny with a slight breeze. It was an ideal day for natural light food photography. I drove down to Oceanplace Resort and Spa in Long Branch, NJ where Michael manages quite a number of kitchen staff and all of the restaurants in the hotel, which makes him quite busy. However, he still found time to set aside a whole day for the photo shoot, of which I am very appreciative. The photo shoot took place in the fine dining room, in which one entire wall was glass. They set up one dining table with a white tablecloth and another that had a rustic, natural wood look to it.  I was provided with a tall ladder to use for my overhead shots.

    Michael was very easy-going and flexible to any ideas I had for the shoot. Before I met him in person, I had read about his appearances on the Food Network and about some of his other accomplishments. He mentioned he will also be appearing in a series of shows set to air in June. Honestly, reading and hearing about all that made me nervous, but soon after we began working together, I felt comfortable and relaxed. Michael is a very talented food stylist and is awesome to work with!

You will find some of the photos from the shoot after this post.  Enjoy!


My thoughts and prayers go out to those families who have lost loved ones that have given their lives in defense of, and to those who are currently serving this country on this Memorial Day.
 












Sunday, May 8, 2011

Something orange


Life is treating me good so far since I moved to the city. I made a post on Craigslist last week to look for a food stylist to build portfolio together. To my surprise, quite a lot of people replied. I got emails every day until a week after. There are people with very interesting background. One girl called Michael-Ann is a food TV show host and producer, who also does food styling on the side. In her show, she travels around to eat different food and hear stories and cultures behind the food, which reminds me of Samatha Brown's show of the Travel Channel. Another one is an executive chef of a hotel restaurant in New Jersey. He has appeared in Iron Chef America as sous chef for Cat Cora and a contestant of Chopped. I am excited about all these opportunities. Only New York can provide me such diverse talents and surprises. You never know!

I met photographer Mira Zaki this week for coffee. And I am her intern now! She is sweet and easy-going and actually cares that I will learn from this internship, which I appreciate very much. I don't know how other professionals start, but for me having someone nice and approachable to show me this business is so invaluable. I got to know that she didn't enjoy driving for the same reason as me. Driving isolates us from the vibrant minutae of daily life on the street. You miss too much when driving. It's New York City!



Orange is my second favorite color besides pink. My personalities always prefer warm tones. They just cheer me up! I recently received Helene Dujardin's new book-Plate to Pixel. This is a practice shot of making use of complimentary colors--in this case orange and blue, that I just learnt from her book. Before I can work with the cooking and styling professionals, I just did some simple styling.

I am testing my new website and am gonna launch it officially soon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lemon curd

 

    I've been trying so hard to do food styling myself. Things don't turn out as planned. I always make a mess and waste lots of time figuring out the recipe. When food is finally prepared, it's time of sunset, and the beautiful natural light is gone. So I tend to make simple food which doesn't require too much time or too many ingredients. Like this lemon curd. Lemon, butter, sugar, salt, and eggs are all I need. From the advice given by experienced photographers, I've spread out words, looking for a food stylist to work together. So I get the food prepared by professionals, and they get my photograghs.  Win-win right?

    On Monday, I checked out a retiring prop stylist's blowout sale. She has thousands of items crammed into her one bedroom apartment. Besides the bed, I didn't see any space available for a normal life. The cutting board, pink bowl and grey napkin are some of the items I got from her. The sale is still going on till Saturday, and she wants everything out by then. The prices are quite reseaonable compared to renting from a prop store. If you happen to live in NYC, it's something worth checking out! If you are interested, shoot me an email and I can send you the specific address. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

I am back, saying hello from NYC

    After the hectic packing, moving, cleaning, driving, looking for apartments, unpacking, and decorating, I am finally sitting here on my couch, typing my new post from my home in Brooklyn, NY. I took out all my dishes for photograhy, cleared out some space beside the window, checked out some awesome prop shops in downtown, bought a few more things from a retiring prop stylist's sale. I am ready to go back to my routine. I want to keep doing food photography, not just as a hobby, but professionally. New York is the right place for this job. Tons of restaurants, hotels, magazines, newspapers, advertising companies make this city full of opportunities and competitions. There are dozens of prop shops too for the prosperous TV, movie, art and design business. I checked out one called Prop Haus, which was mentioned by a food blogger. Although I had seen some pictures from its website, I was totally blown away the minute I stepped in. Two whole floors dedicated just to food photography and styling. It has everything you can imagine, besides the regular bowls, plates, cups, glassware, cookware, napkins......it has a considerable collection of vintage tables, surfaces, and anything antique and organic. I've been trying so hard to find a nice wood surface, something with  light-colored paint peeled off and cracks here and there. They have some perfect ones!! Later when I told a food photography studio manager how excited I was when I found this store, she was so calm and said: "oh, there're a dozen prop stores like this." New York is definitely the right place! I like crowds! I feel alive when I follow the flow of crowds on the street. I grew up this way. 

    Well, last week I met a food photographer-Colin Cooke, who's in business for 30 something years. He is so nice and ready to share. He told me how technology had affected this business and what the life would be like as a photography assistant. He even extended his generosity to think of ways for me to build my portfolio. To be a freelancer needs lots of self-discipline. Unlike a nine to five corporate job, you have to figure everything out yourself. You have to push yourself. Sometimes you get lazy unconsciously, and sometimes you just don't know how to run this business. So it would be great to have a mentor when you just get your foot in, to show you around, to familiarize you with the process. That's why I want to start as an assistant. I got several photographers interested in me, but nothing is settled yet. Maybe I will meet more people in this coming week.

    I styled and photographed the roasted cherry tomatos as my return and the first shot of my new life.  I don't usually like the taste of fresh tomatos, sour and boring for me. But this simple recipe of roast tomatos changed my opinion. Just a drizzle of olive oil, fresh thyme and basil, roast in 400C oven for 15 minutes and add salt and pepper after roasting. The sourness is gone! It's so full of flavors and juices. 

Cheer!





Monday, April 4, 2011

Trip to China Part II


    This photo was taken at my friend's home. These stools and chair put together made an intereting combination of shape and color. 

    New Year is all about family. The new year holiday lasts 15 days and I remember we always had very full schedule of visiting families. Eating family meals is the traditional and the only festive way to celebrate it. Quite a few people have to work for a day or two in the kitchen to prepare the new year's eve dinner for 30 something family members in my mom's side. That is an extremely labor intensive work, since we always cook meals from fresh ingredients, there's nothing like throwing a grocery store bought frozen pizza into the oven and getting dinner ready within 30 minutes.

    I took some photos of the home-made dishes at my Aunt's home, and my little nephew eating. 

Spicy chicken salad;shredded carrot salad; ants in the tree (minced pork and cellophane noodles)

An Uyghur man selling lamb kabobs

Street food vendor and customer
 Chengdu's one of the most famous snack food is sweet potato noodles with pig intestine. Weird as it sounds, it tastes really good and I know where to eat the best in the whole city! I made a tour to visit the neigboorhood I grew up and came back to this diner restaurant to reminisce my childhood memory. For 20 years, it hasn't changed at all. Still an open kitchen facing the street, people waiting in the line at the kitchen to get their food, the staff smashing the dough of sweet potato noodles with his sweat rolling down the face, right in front of waiting customers. It's quite a show!



Non-spicy and spicy sweet potato noodles with pig intestine
    
    No doubt that China is rising up and there's a rapid increase of higher income families, but it's an extremely polarized country with the poor struggling hard to survive. I like to shoot these poor and maybe ignored people who showcase a large portion of the population to remind myself and others that China has a long way to go to become a real good country.

In my parents' neigborhood, this man makes a living by collecting residents' trash and sorting it out. He likes to sit in his shabby chair outdoors on sunny afternoons and drink some cheap booze and maybe take a nap.


     This old lady sells her hand-made stuff on the sidewalk in winter. There's a bus stop right in front of her spot. Although this is a busy business district, few people bother to stop and buy her stuff.

 I am extremely busy packing, contacting moving companies and looking for apartments since I came back to U.S. I will be moving to NYC soon, hopeful in mid April to try my luck to land a job as a food photographer assistant. The one and half years of living in North country NY made me unable to work, but on the other hand, I discovered something I trully love. I am grateful!