Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Marshmallow Man

Merry Christmas Random Mealers! Today our Christmas treat brings us the Marshmallow Man. This treat is three large marshmallows covered in white chocolate. Dark chocolate forms his hair and some M&M's completes his features. It is a fun holiday treat.

The funny thing about this photo was the first thing I was asked was "is the background photoshoped?" The answer is no. I ran my normal resizing and my 15 seconds worth of corrections. Yes, I limit my computer time and strive to do everything right the first time from the camera as a photographer. My Nikon D700 has is very convenient dial for the metering exposure area. It is so convenient that I never use it. The funny thing about this is that the majority of the time, I set the camera to matrix metering and call it a day. Today I was trying to shoot a very white object against a dark dining room. With the meter set to matrix, I ended up with a not ideal picture with the background still showing up. I was shooting with a 105mm macro lens to try some isolation and it was still not quite giving me the shot that I wanted. So I switched the dial to spot metering and the background blew away to black. Bingo! The shot is done.

Found at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in Valencia, CA.

(Nikon D700, 105mm, f4.0, 1/125, iso 3600)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Griddle Cafe Peanut Bubba Crunchy French Toast

Our random meal of the day brings us an order of the Peanut Bubba Crunchy French Toast. This was one of those days where I just wanted to be comfortable and just enjoy a random meal so we decided to eat inside at a dark comfortable booth. There was a table outside but it was off a busy street and it was a chilly overcast Southern California day. I took a couple of test shots to see what the lighting was going to be like and it was pretty much a no photo moment. My goal is to only shoot with available ambient lighting so the use of a flash is not an option. Only one random meal was ever shot with a flash and that was at a wedding reception. There was not going to be a second chance there so the Nikon SB900 was actually used then. If I do use a flash, then it would really make my life exponentially easier but that is not the look that random meal of the day is striving to achieve.

Today my test shots before the food came was between 1/20 and 1/30 for the shutter speed at iso 6400. I only had my Nikon 60mm macro with me so I really needed at least another stop of light. The test shots were wide open at f3.2. With the macro lens, when you shoot wide open, the plane of focus is so narrow that you only get a sliver of the food in focus when you shoot close to the food. I normally need to stop down to at least f4.0 before I actually would like the shot. I would have been better off with my 50mm but that lens was sitting at home. Oh well, may next time I thought. Then the front door opened when the waiter was checking on the customers sitting outside. The brief moment that the door open seem to brighten up the table just a bit. Our food arrive just a bit after that. So I patiently waited until the next time the door opened and bingo, I got my shot. I didn't even get a chance to perform a manual white balance but a shot is a shot. It would not matter if i shoot in RAW but I am a proud JPEG shooter. The shutter speed was still a bit low but I was in the zone and didn't shake.

Now back to the random meal of the day. The Peanut Bubba Crunchy French Toast was intense. The flavors overpower you in a good way. It felt like Peanut nirvana. Maple syrup was not need as it made the french toast overly sweet. This is definitely more of a dessert treat than a breakfast. I was sadly only able to finish one of the two gigantic slices of french toast.
Found at The Griddle Cafe in Hollywood, CA.

(Nikon D700, 60mm, f4.0, 1/50, iso 6400)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

CBS Seafood Restaurant Sesame Roll

Our random meal of the day treat brings us an order of Sesame Rolls. This is a childhood treat of mine. The sesame roll gives you a slightly crispy crust that transitions into a silky smooth sticky dough. The inside filling is a bit random. From what I remember as a child, there were two types of filling, you get the sweet golden yellow paste or a sweet dark purple paste. My favorite was always the sweet golden yellow paste but I could never be sure what I would get. Today I discovered a third filling. I believe that inside today's random meal of the day treat, they mixed both the yellow and purple paste together to bring a hybrid of the two. I was actually a pleasing blend of the two flavors. Now the Sesame Rolls become even more random.
Found at CBS Seafood Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA

(Nikon D700, 70mm, f11, 1/80, iso 1250)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

HoneyBaked Ham Sandwich

Our random meal of the day brings us a wonderfully delicious Ham Sandwich. This is not any ordinary ham. This is a HoneyBaked Ham. This carefully crafted sandwich is loaded with thick slices of ham. If you didn't realize it, HoneyBaked Ham actually sells sandwiches and not just whole hams. The only sad part of this meal is that I was only able to get the second half of the sandwich. This was originally not my random meal but I spotted the other half of the sandwich and claimed it!
Found at HoneyBaked Ham in Valencia, CA.

(Nikon D700, 70mm, f5.6, 1/80, iso 900)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Baby Blues BBQ The Hound Dog

Our random meal of the day brings us some lunchtime BBQ. We have here "The Hound Dog". The Hound Dog lunch special platter comes with a 1/3 Rack of Memphis Ribs with Beef Brisket. We also have one fixin consisting of Mac N' Cheese and a piece of cornbread with chunks of whole corn to round out our random meal. In my opinion, this is just too much food for a lunchtime random meal. ;)

This is also the first random meal with my new Nikon 105mm Micro-Nikkor VR, the Nikon naming of a macro lens. I think this lens is a winner but a bit impractical for live restaurant location shots. With the longer reach it requires me to push the plate all the way across the table where the other person would be sitting. So it is either get a table for 4 so that I can push my plate to the other side or eat solo. I would also run into situations where if I am seated at the counter, then I would look like a knucklehead when I step back away from my seat to take the shot. I do not run into these issues when I shot with my 50mm or 60mm macro. The 50mm seems to be the perfect focal length for a full plate shot. The 50mm falls short when I have to shot something smaller such as a hamburger and I run into the one and half foot (18 inches) minimum focusing distance. What I am hoping for this lens is that with the VR, I can shoot at a lower shutter speed than what I require with the 60mm macro. The 105mm focal length should also help enhance the bokeh of my random meals.
Found at Baby Blues BBQ in Venice, CA.

(Nikon D700, 105mm, f5.6, 1/125, iso 4000)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bamboo Thai Bistro Crab Fried Rice

Our random meal of the day brings us some Crab Fried Rice. I always find it a bonus when you get the claws of the crab on your fried rice. For some reason, it just makes me feel that the crab is actually fresh.
Found at Bamboo Thai Bistro in Redondo Beach, CA.

(Sony A55, 30mm, f5.6, 1/50, iso 250)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Schooner Cheeseburger

Our random meal brings us a Cheeseburger from a dive bar. These are the random meals that just seem to hit the spot.
Found at The Schooner in Manhattan Beach, CA.

(Sony A55, 30mm, f4.0, 1/30, iso 1600)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thai Lai Restaurant Egg Noodle Soup with Wonton Shrimp (Hoanh Thanh Mi)

Our random meal today brings us an order of Egg Noodle Soup with Wonton Shrimp. The soup comes with "shrimp, wonton, squid, pork, chicken, fish ball and imitation crab." You can have everything in the soup or have it separated.
Found at Thai Lai Restaurant in Hawthorne, CA.

(Sony A55, 30mm, f5.6, 1/50, iso 1000)

Monday, December 6, 2010

FuRaiBo Double Jane Course Japanese Fried Chicken

Our random meal of the day brings us some wonderful Japanese Fried Chicken. If I had to choose my favorite restaurant, I would have to say that it is FuRaiBo. I think the fried chicken is just magical. I think it is one of those places where you either like it or you don't. The chicken is so deep fried that the skin actually bonds to the chicken meat. The two are magically infused to become one. Some would say that it is too dry for them. In my opinion, this dryness is what makes the chicken spectacular. You get this crispy piece of chicken that you cannot get somewhere else. The sweet, savory, and spicy all blends together to give the chicken a distinctive taste. You do not need any additional sauce. The chicken just stands on its own. When you get it extra spicy, you get more seasoning and not the hot spicy in the typical sense. Extra spicy translates to extra flavors and not burn your taste buds until you taste nothing...

This is also the fifth time I have featured FuRaiBo. Funny thing is I am always on the hunt for another random spot to eat but when FuRaiBo is close, I can't seem to resist. Well this time it was more than just a random meal but a camera test at the same time. At this point the food talk is done so feel free to tune out until the next random meal. I am a self confessed camera nut with a bit of a shopaholic tendency. I can't seem to resist buying a camera every few months. My square day job pays for my hobby. I saw a funny quote the dpreview forums and it was something like this: "Money does not bring happiness until it is turned into Photography gear." I was about to go mad during the Black Friday weekend and buy yet another camera but I resisted. The reason, I saw in front of me four SLR, one micro 4/3, and two point and shoots. Normally I don't have all my cameras with me but our office closed for a week for the Thanksgiving holiday and I brought everything home. Normally I would leave a couple of cameras a work for the lunchtime blog photo ops. I randomly take the train to work so lugging an SLR camera around is just not ideal on certain days.

Well, back to the camera test. On previous random meals at the Gardena FuRaiBo location, I hit the limits of my Nikon D700 while shooting with my 50mm 1.4D lens. My favorite view is at 50mm. At 50mm the rule of thumb when shooting with a film or full frame digital camera handheld is 1/x where x=the focal length of the lens. So in this case 1/50 should be your minimum shutter speed to avoid a blurry shot. For me I am a bit shaky or so I normally bump up the shutter speed 2/3rds of a stop to 1/80. Since most of the time I am quickly shooting my random meal so I can eat it. The little bit of shutter speed helps avoid the blurry shots. With the 50mm lens, I normally shoot two shots at starting at 2.8 and forward two more full stops until 5.6. Each random meal with get at least six shots. My D700 noise levels are acceptable in my opinion up the 6400 iso. You may be able to push another stop if you shoot in RAW but I am a JPEG shooter. I prefer to get the shot right the first time rather then fix during post as my goal is to become a better photographer. The last photo opp was then 50mm @f2.8, 1/80, iso 6400 with the Nikon D700. This is the max that I would push with this setup. With the older Nikon 50mm 1.4D lens, it gets soft with any aperture larger than 2.8 so I really try to avoid it. From what I read, the 50mm 1.4G should be good at f2.0 so maybe one day I will upgrade. So based on where I was sitting in the restaurant the last time, the ambient lighting in the restaurant pushed my equipment to the max.

Now for this visit I actually sat in the same seat. We have for this time, the Sony A55 with the 30mm 2.8 macro for this photo opp. Since the Sony has a "Translucent Mirror" it becomes a very interesting food blogger camera. The first thing is that I use it like a point a shot. Forget looking though the EVF, I use the gigantic 3 inch LCD screen on the back of the camera to compose and shoot. Because of the new translucent mirror technology, focusing is incredibly fast in live view. There is no comprise when using the live view for shot to shot as long as you turn off image preview. This also allows you some very nice angles that would make you look like a knucklehead it you had to look though the viewfinder at a restaurant. For this camera since it is a DX cropped body, the lens crop factor is 1.5x. So the 30mm becomes effectively a 45mm. If we go back with the previous rule of 1/x then your minimum shutter speed should be 1/45 or 1/50 rounded up. This is where the Sony can shine over all my other DSLRs; inbody image stabilization. For me this means I can effectually gain one stop. This equates to a non blurry shot at 1/25. In my opinion, I can push this camera up to iso 3200 for acceptable noise levels. With the extra stop image stabilization advantage, then at the same light level I can take the same shot with both cameras! Not bad for a $750 camera (body only). The $200 30mm 2.8 macro lens is nice and light and makes a great setup for the food blogger in everyone.

Granted my favorite camera is still the Nikon D700 but the Sony A55 at a fraction of the cost is a nice alternative.

(Sony A55, 30mm, f4.0, 1/40, iso 3200, +0.70ev)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Crepe Studio Strawberry Sweet Crepes

Our random meal of the day treat brings us Strawberry Sweet Crepes. These crepes have Nutella drizzled on them. The powder sugar didn't quite make the trip home but the side of whipped cream made up for it.
Found at Crepe Studio in Pasadena, CA.

(Nikon D700, 60mm, f5.6, 1/80, iso 2800)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ragin Cajun Cafe Fried Crawfish Entree

Our random meal of the day brings us a Fried Crawfish Entree. This is my friend's random meal. I was debating between this and the fried shrimp. This post concludes our week long RMOTD Photographer editions of Random Meal of the Day.
Found at Ragin Cajun Cafe in Hermosa Beach, CA.

(Nikon D700, 35mm, f4.0, 1/80, iso 560)

**RMOTD Photographer**

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cafe Rio Chicken Fideo

We have the Chicken Fideo for our RMOTD Photographer random meal. My friend had this dish and he described as soupy noodles. I believe this is the Friday special.
Found at Cafe Rio in Manhattan Beach, CA.

(Olympus E-PL1, 20mm, f4.0, 1/60, iso 640, +0.30ev)

**RMOTD Photographer**

Thursday, December 2, 2010

El Pollo Inka Salado de Pollo lunch

We continue today with another edition of RMOTD Photographer. The idea behind RMOTD Photographer is to highlight some of the meals that my friends have with me but that I never did get a chance to try. It doubles to photo ops for the random meal. We have here the Salado de Pollo lunch. I always wanted to try this but the beef versions seems to call my name.
Found at Ell Pollo Inka in Lawndale, CA.

(Nikon D700, 50mm, f4.0, 1/80, iso 4000)

**RMOTD Photographer**

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chicken Maison Greek Salad

This RMOTD Photographer Greek Salad was not my random meal. My coworker that it was a good meatless salad.
Found at Chicken Maison in Redondo Beach, CA.

(Olympus E-PL1, 20mm, f2.8, 1/80, iso 200)

**RMOTD Photographer**