Back in March, Ligia and I attended a retreat organized by Do Good Academy on a mountaintop in the region of Brasov, Romania. At that retreat, I sat down with the co-directors of the Hippocrates Health Institute, Brian Clement and Anna Maria Gahns-Clement, for an interview that focused on the questions asked most frequently about raw food by Romanians. The interview was then featured in the July episode of De Vorba cu Ligia, one of our web shows here in Romania. Since the interview was recorded in English, I thought you might enjoy it as well.
Here are over 500 photos from the latest edition of our Raw Generation Expo. It’s one of our worthwhile projects, an event through which we promote healthy foods and a balanced life. This one took place in Cluj-Napoca and it was the second regional edition we held there. We’re coming up on twelve national editions and this one makes six regional editions. Here’s to a good life for everyone!
Raw Generation Expo Cluj a fost un eveniment extraordinar de bine primit, care a incununat cu succes seria expozitiilor de anul acesta. Am avut parte peste 40 de expozanti (mai multi ca la prima editie) si in ambele zile foarte multi vizitatori fericiti. Mai jos puteti vedea o parte din pozele de la eveniment. Multumim Cluj-Napoca pentru primirea frumoasa si ne revedem in toamna lui 2017!
I was invited by the folks at Light, who are working on some pretty interesting camera technology, to write about my favorite vantage point. I explained to them, as I’m explaining to you now, that I don’t have one. I get bored with shooting the same locations and I’m always on the lookout for new things to shoot.
Then I realized that over the past few years, I’ve been working in the exact same location, putting in lots of time and effort, being happy with the challenges offered by that very same spot and enjoying the beautiful results. But you didn’t know about those photos, because I haven’t published them on my website, and it didn’t occur to me earlier that it was a vantage point. I’m talking about my studio work for my wife’s printed books, in other words, about my food photography.
My favorite vantage point over the past few years has been the whitebox (the official name for it is a seamless tabletop background sweep cyclorama). Here’s what it looks like:
That’s where I’ve been spending my time. Lots of my time. Here’s one example of my work:
This is one of my wife’s raw desserts. It’s a raw vegan whipped cream, mint and strawberry cake. You can find the recipe for it in her Raw Desserts book.
And here’s another photo from the same book. I apologize if it leaves you drooling. It’s a raw vegan brownie with a raw chocolate glaze.
Here’s how I work. I don’t have a set position for the camera or for the speedlites. I work handheld and I vary my camera position, angle and lens until I find what I think is a good frame for the photo. Then I’ll shoot a few photos to see how the lights fall on the subject and whether I need to vary their positions as well, in order to bring out the colors and sculpt the dimensionality of the photo with lights and shadows.
I use three independent speedlites triggered by the on-camera flash, which I sometimes choose to also fire or to only have it act as a remote for the other speedlites. For this photograph, I worked with my Canon gear: one of my three Canon cameras, an EOS 60D and three Canon speedlites. I love my EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens and I tend to use that a lot for my studio work. I also use ambient light from within the room itself (I turn on wall and ceiling lights) and I use a mix of warm and cold lights. I know most people say you should use the same temperature lights, but I prefer to mix them in order to get a warmer ambient light. The speedlites overwhelm the subject with their cold light, but there’s a hint of warmer light all around the photo, which I like, and this comes out when I edit the photo as well. I suppose I started doing this when I began to shoot video. People leave a lot of work for post-production, but I do like it when I capture the mood light of the video live, as I shoot it, so I fiddle less with it in post.
I’d like to say I’m the set designer as well, but for my food photography, I leave that to my wife. She’s the award-winning raw chef with seven published books and I’m the photographer. Sometimes we’re inspired and we love the results, and sometimes we’re not happy with what we get. So we re-do the photo shoot at another time. There have also been instances where we’ve re-shot certain recipes for later editions of her books, because we weren’t happy with the photographs and as our skills improved, we knew we could do better.
I wish I could be more helpful than this but for me, every studio photo is a new challenge and I vary my angles and lighting in order to get what I think are the best photos of my subjects. My wife and I then cull through them and pick the ones that’ll go into her books. I then edit each one carefully, add it to the collection designated for that book in my Lightroom catalog and carry on doing this until we’re ready to turn things over to the publishing house.
Wild garlic leaves make a delicious soup in the spring, they’re wonderful in salads and they’re packed with healthy nutrients, since they grow in rich, pesticide-free forest soil. Here you can see Ligia picking wild garlic this past spring, in a forest near Medias. The forests near our town are full of them!
Spring is almost here and if there’s a forest near you, go pick some wild garlic! The soup is finger-licking good, especially with nice, home-made bread on the side.
I made a short video last year, which I wasn’t sure I should post publicly, because it contains disturbing imagery. However, I finally convinced myself I should, simply because I want you, dear reader, to be able to make informed decisions when you go shopping for food.
The video you’re about to see shows the guts of farm-grown chickens. These are from an independent farm where they grow in crates, as they do in most farms these days. They’re not free range, and they’re certainly not organic. The name of the farm doesn’t matter. What matters is that these chickens weren’t treated as badly as those in true factory farms, and yet their insides tell a dark story about the way we, as humans, treat our food.
Their internal organs are pretty much destroyed, at around 6-7 months of age. They’re large, heavy, hard, tumor-laden, distended, they’re retaining huge amounts of water — they look as if they’ve been eating the most unhealthy crap there is — and they have. All of that chicken feed they get as food makes them look like this, coupled with the lack of movement, the drugs, the stress of living in crates, in the stench of thousands of others like them, unable to roam, forage for food, smell the clean, fresh air of unpolluted nature.
These chickens (and others in much worse condition) are what you find when you go to the supermarket. Sure, you don’t find their guts for sale. You find their meat, which looks decent enough, especially after it’s been pumped full of water, nitrates, MSG and colorants. But their guts find their way into pet food. They’re what you feed your pets.
Please, think about all this the next time you’re buying chicken (or other meat) at the supermarket. I’m not trying to convince you to stop eating meat — that’s your decision to make — I’m just trying to help you make better decisions when it comes to food.
Look for free-range chickens, for organic chickens, buy from local farms where you can see them roaming the land, scratching the earth for worms, not from factory farms.
Or you could try not eating meat. We don’t. We’re raw foodists. But as I said before, I’m not trying to force our lifestyle on you. You are free to choose what you do. Just be aware of the consequences.