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Valley Fair Mall’s Bar Code – The Art of the Perfect Pour

September 19th, 2013 Comments off

There’s a reason why the pros who mix and pour your drinks have fancy names like “baristas,” “sommeliers,” and even “bartenders.” Drink mixology, much like food preparation, is an art. A beverage prepared with the right balance of flavors and attractive layers of colors, with drops of condensation masking the transparency of the glass just so, creates just enough allure to tempt you to slake your thirst.

Bar Code drinks at Valley Fair, San Jose

Are you a fan of the Asian-originated bubble tea? Or do you prefer a classier beverage such as wine that speaks to your sophisticated taste buds? The best of both worlds does in fact exist; Bar Code is a drink café already with a base in San Jose that will soon open a new location next to Uniqlo in Valley Fair Westfield Mall near Santana Row. Like Tapioca Express and Fantasia Tea & Coffee, Bar Code carries the well-known milk- and pearl teas, but they kick it up and notch and also serve flavored tapioca in alcoholic beverages such as sparkling wine and mojitos.

Drinks Photography for Valley Fair's Bar Code

Unless you’re a photographer who has attempted this, few people know that capturing the perfect splash of wine as it sloshes its way around the contour of a glass can take a full day. “What the heck takes so long?” you ask. Well, everything from the timing of the shot to how the liquid aligns within the inner wall of a slightly tipped glass needs to be accounted for. Lighting is, as always, an important consideration; red wine especially is judged by its color, viscosity, and consistency, all of which we aimed to capture by watering down the wine so the brighter color accents will come through on photo.

Wine is served in a specific amount in a glass that allows room for twirling. This reactivates the scents and flavors after the wine encounters oxygen again for the first time after years of aging in the correct climate. We wanted to use an exact pour amount to justify the ratio between entering wine and empty glass.

This unique Bar Code drink also presents us with the challenge of tapioca add-ons in the wine glass. Like pebbles that part the waters of a rushing stream, the splash stream becomes unpredictable with these new little barriers. And what happens when we don’t get it quite right on the third try, or the thirteenth? Each failed splash means having to wash and dry the glass to crystal clarity, resetting it at the right angle, adding a fresh batch of tapioca that is untainted with the red wine, and trying again. All this means that there is less than a 1% success rate to get a beautiful splash.

We aimed to have the wine splash into the glass without curving back into the original stream, thereby giving the appearance that the drink is arrested in its tracks to enhance the pouring action.

Swirling wine in glass

Whether you feel like brain-freezing through a slush on a dare, quickly gulping an ice-cold drink to cool down on a hot day, or sitting and catching up with friends while enjoying an alcohol-infused mix, come by Bar Code to pay homage to the people who consider mixing drinks an art, admire their creations as they make their way to your table, and reflect on the photo that captures the perfect pour frozen in time.

Mango Mango / Lychee and Strawberry

Food Truck goodness – San Francisco, Palo Alto to San Jose

July 7th, 2012 Comments off

French Burger Angus Patty

So you’re starving. Maybe you skipped a main meal or two in your constant sprint to a day full of meetings, managing to gulp down an energy bar en route from Building A to Building B. Maybe in between Chem Lab 46A and Engineering 113, you haven’t had so much as a wheatgrass shot in your stomach. Or maybe you’ve completed a two-hour workout, darned proud of yourself for making it through, but knowing if you don’t get some food in your system, you’re going to keel over before you make it home.

Parmesan Louis XIII Burger

Now you’re staring down this delectable burger, a juicy 1/3-pounder patty nestled atop a bed of caramelized onions, underneath a blanket of oozy, melting cheese, crowned with some tart tomato slices, dill pickle chips, and a generous scattering of fresh greens. Those lightly-toasted buns with their mean grill lines just call out for you to sink in with your teeth and tear out a good chunk, satisfying your craving. Go ahead, you know you deserve it.

Drunken Burger with savory bourbon sauce

Or maybe you’re more in the mood for some savory garlic noodles, the sweet smell of shrimp sautéed in a rich, buttery garlic sauce creating an aroma in the air that you find hard to resist. Maybe you’re feeling adventurous today and decide to go for that pork belly sandwich, with pork chunks embedded next to the Asian sauerkraut, all wrapped up in a crispy French baguette.

Pork Belly Noodles with saffron and shrimp

With the latest wave of “Moveable Feast” lunch truck goodness, delivering interesting, savory, French-Vietnamese fusion food conveniently to a location near you, is Le Bon de Cuisine. Their menu keeps it hearty and fulfilling with just the right fusion flare to make it interesting. Hungry for a more permanent solution to having to hunt down Le Bon when you’re bit with the craving bug? Good news for you, as Le Bon’s main chef is planning to open up a restaurant, offering these and other delectables soon in San Jose. That’s right, pork belly sandwich at your beck and call, right where you know you can find it. Yeah, you know you want it, so come get you some.

Coq Au Vin Chicken stewed with mushrooms, potatoes and carrots

Photography Studio Renovated! Happy New Year!!!

December 31st, 2011 Comments off

As we say goodbye to 2011, we also say goodbye to the headache of renovating our photography
studio. We spent 3 months dealing with the fine white dust from the drywall, the teeth-shattering jackhammering, and the noise from dawn till dusk. Renovation is super stressful, especially if, like me, you’re someone who is meticulous about the tiniest details: light, color, the shape of the tiles, design, ambiance, and on and on.

But the good news is that our studio renovation is finally complete! Champagne all around, please! Happy New Year!!!

Photographer of the Year

We decided to go through the remodeling process because we wanted to be able use the studio as an elegant backdrop in photos. Renovation of this proportion usually takes 6 months, but we
completed a majority of it in just under 3 months because we are utilizing the space as a studio and can’t have such a long downtime. We had to be extremely creative in making the renovations in sections.

We did all the interior design ourselves, and we’re so please with how it turned out! The studio used to be really dark, but now light pours in from skylights and windows. Glass doors open onto the yard, creating a flow between indoor/outdoor living space.

We created more light by adding 7 new skylights, and a bunch of new windows. We also installed at least 60+ new light fixtures into the studio, most of which are LED (energy efficient and non-toxic).

The interior has a wedding theme with a glamorous, contemporary, warm and extremely sexy feel. The furniture is modern and cozy, the perfect place for couples who are getting married to get comfortable, have some wine and cheese, and chat with us about their plans.

The fireplace is elongated, see-through and set into beautifully curved tiles, bordered by wood. The other side has a large black granite surround, sitting on a sensual red wall. The see-through fireplace is fun because it’s essentially 2 fireplaces in one.

The salon also received a facelift with new light fixtures, glass French doors and new flooring.

With its beautiful lighting, flowing design, comfortable furnishings and elegant touches throughout the space, visitors tell us the new studio has the feel of a high-end lounge.

Reception Room

Crystal Light Panels

Wedding Albums atop a see through fireplace

Chandalier

Capture The Love Studio

Album Spread

designHERimage Salon by Tiffany Chiang

Food photographer for Pizza Chicago, Palo Alto, San Jose & Santa Clara

May 15th, 2011 1 comment

“The Untouchables”, “Air Jordan”, “The Rush Street”, “The Sears Tower” are all names of pizzas at Pizza Chicago. Restaurant locations are in Palo Alto, San Jose and Santa Clara. These pizzas have a few thing in common. Beyond fresh ingredients, their meat (sausage, for example) are the size of small apricots, tender and delicious. The pizza served here are deep dish. The dough rises to a beautiful golden brown.

The Eddie Gaedel pizza from Pizza Chicago of Palo Alto, Santa Clara, San Jose

They serve 16 variety of pizzas. We photographed only 11 of their pizzas and 7 other dishes, total of 18, all in under 2 full days. For a normal shoot, this may take all the way up to 3 days. Most restaurant owners are astounded by how long food photography and styling takes until they experience the process. In extreme cases such as the BigMacTM by McDonald’s, would take one full day to photograph that single image.

Why does it take hours or days to photograph food? Isn’t it just clicking the shutter? Some reasons aren’t just the photography itself but a team, working together to create the perfect images to represent your company, as much as a perfect logo to showcase what you believe in.

  1. Composition of the photograph. Knowing where the image will end up, allow us to compose the shots to the final composition. If you look at this shot, the area where they want the photo is extremely horizontal. Where most photos are 4×6″, this is a 4×14″ !!! Without compositing for this shot, the image will not fit at all in the space allocated. A close working relationship with the graphic designer is necessary.

    Notice how we leave space on the right for the bottom of a coke glass and allow the “Order Online” promotion to seep into the image without disrupting the image of the pizza. Pizza Chicago’s new website (like what you see in the image below) should be online soon.
  2. (Click image to Enlarge)
    Pizza Chicago's website homepage

  3. Marketing direction determines the lighting, props and the environment on how the product should be photographed under. We used the pans used by the restaurant, creating a rustic and homey look, and we photographed the pizzas on the same table that their customers will see in the restaurant instead of a white background or a beautiful wood table, like what we did for Sam’s BarBeQue in San Jose.

    Since these are deep-dish pizzas, we have to showcase how thick the pans and hence, how thick the pizzas are. Only by going lower on the shot can we achieve that.
  4. Photographed food sells better. Go to a restaurant and open up a restaurant menu. Nine times out of ten, you’ll point to a photo (if there is one) of a dish that looks delicious and say, “I want that”.
    Understanding this point allows the owner to either select the dishes that they want to sell more or the food item that are more colorful and attractive.
  5. Pizza Chicago, Palo Alto food photography - hotdog with mustard, relish, jalapeno and prickled on a poppy seed bun

  6. Lighting. The make-it or break-it to a food photograph. Mediocre lighting technique makes the food photos look like it was photograph for facebook and yelp. It makes the food and restaurant look cheap and that they can’t afford a food photographer. Check out the salad below, the greens, rings of onions and tomatoes screams freshness and glows in the light. There is a definite wow factor that makes you want to eat the menu photos! Setting up each shot and moving lights around for the next shot can take some time to gobo, flag, reflect, etc.
  7. Food Stylist Since we’ve worked closely with numerous food stylists, we have a great idea of how to coordinate the dishes coming out of the kitchen, styling, photographing, review process. Everything becomes smooth and the owner learns a great deal on how to present their food after the shoot. In this case, Juan of Pizza Chicago decided he now wants all their Cookieza (A buttery chocolate chip cookie baked when ordered, topped with a Haagen-Daz vanilla ice-cream & drizzled with caramel sauce) to now come with a cute mint behind the ice-cream.

    Depending on how crucial the image is, we can spend hours arranging each sesame on a bun to ensure the perfect look to the image. Understanding composition and art appreciation goes a long way here. Beyond the rules on “hero” food item, separation, etc., there are many other things that comes into play, such as market trends, colors, etc.
  8. Buttery chocolate chip baked cookie, topped with a Haagen-Daz vanilla ice-cream & drizzled with caramel sauce

  9. Review and approval of images – With new technology, we can now wirelessly photograph the food and then immediately upon clicking the shutter, see the photographs. However, this also means that the lighting for the photographs need to be spectacular that they come out fantastic, straight out of the camera. These images in this blog are nearly all straight out of camera, what the owner saw during the shoot itself. Without this process, it’s going to be a shoot in the dark. Why would you pay someone money to photograph your food when you don’t even know if the image will turn out well.

Investment in time and money on better food photographs yields a high ROI (Return On Investment). Images that you get from a food photographer will pay itself back, years and years after the initial investment. These images ends up on the menu, website, reviews sites, brochures, banners, tradeshow booths, coupons, etc.

Staying ahead of the curve with marketing and smart investments will allow a restaurant or a food company to be extremely successful.

Pizza Chicago, Palo Alto food photographer - soup and house salad

Pizza Chicago, Palo Alto food photographer - Hot Buffalo Wings

Dinner party at Terel Beppu’s in Sunnyvale

December 5th, 2010 Comments off

What better way to enjoy good food and wine is to have them with great friends. An invitation to fine dining with Carol + Chris and Terel + Stacia is met by a surprisingly gorgeous home, a warm family and friends, Stroy + Laura and Danean + Brad.

How much fun can a few hours be? Watch and find out!

Categories: Family, Food, Videography, Weddings Tags: