Food Photography Challenge

New challenges….that’s something that we should never shy away from. This semester I embarked on such a challenge when I was asked to be the photographer in the newly revamped course, “Food Styling, Photography & Writing” in the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at the University of Technology, Jamaica. I say this was a challenge because most of my time as a photographer over the past 20 years has been spent as a photojournalist, with not much time spent in the studio. So to say that I was a bit rusty is an understatement. However I took on the challenge because, as all teachers know, you never stop learning. In fact, if you believe that you have stopped learning, you might as well stop teaching.


So what did this challenge entail? First of all, let me give you an overview of the course. The main lecturer was Chef Leroy Myers. I have no idea how his food tastes, but he is a very skilled food stylist. He was also able to teach the students how to creatively arrange a variety of dishes, under the themes of eggs, fruits, sandwiches, meat, ice-cream and beverages.

My task was to light and shoot the subjects arranged by the students. The shooting was easy (I so love my Nikon D800E!). The lighting…not so much. At least not during the first shoot. Why? Space. I shot in two main areas – a classroom where the students also used to prepare the dishes, and an outdoor atrium. Both had their unique challenges. For the indoor shoots, I ideally would like to have at least six feet between the table and the two lights and umbrellas that I had set up.  This was not possible, so the first set of photos had distracting shadows that I was not happy with. Fortunately the ceiling was white. So within the space, I bounced the two Smith-Victor lights off the ceiling and violà, I had created a soft-box. The outdoor shooting was easier. It was done in the morning when there was still shade in the atrium which provided soft lighting. Here I used the Nikon Speedlights wirelessly, the SB-910 as the main light and the SB-800 to fill-in when required.  Here are the best shots.

Papine – Past, Present and Future

Papine in eastern St. Andrew is the last settlement that you will pass through when you leave Kingston and head into the foothills of the Blue Mountains. It is a historical community, being the location of the Papine sugar estate that was founded in the mid eighteenth century. The main remnant from this era is the aqueduct which carried water from the Hope River to irrigate the Hope, Papine and Mona sugar estates. Now, most people think of Papine as either the bus terminus or as the location of the Papine market. As such, it is a hub of activity – of pedestrians, vehicles and vendors.

One of my photojournalism students in Papine market.

One of my photojournalism students in Papine market.

Papine is also being touted as a potential “university town”, due to its history and close proximity of both UTech and the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus. For this to happen, a lot of work needs to take place. For example, UTech students confirm that while they do have lunch at the various eating places, student-friendly hang-out spots are absent.

School children waiting in the rain

School children waiting in the rain

Father and son in the Papine market

Father and son in the Papine market

My most indelible memories of Papine are as a high school student walking from Jamaica College to catch a bus. Ideally, we could have just waited by the bus stop outside the school, but most of the buses sped past, refusing to stop for the “Boys in Blue”. And honestly, sometimes we just felt like walking. Decades later and now I work in Papine at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech). I find it is a great location to take my photojournalism students for them to be experienced and comfortable with street photography, approaching and photographing strangers and general documentation of locations. While overseeing my students I occasionally manage to grab a few shots myself, of which here are a few. And as you can see the boys in blue still stand out from the crowd when they are catching the buses in in Papine.

School children boarding a bus.

School children boarding a bus


Immersion at the Inaugural River Breeze Workshop

A spirit of camaraderie characterised the three-day River Breeze Photography workshop held last weekend in the Buff Bay Valley of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. Based at River Breeze cottage at Cascade, the three participants immersed themselves (at times literally) in all of the activities. Friday morning saw sessions that focused on DSLR camera familiarisation, creative composition and light interpretation and included a short climb to the nearby One Drop Waterfall. The day ended with a night photography session on the grounds of the cottage.  

It was an early wake-up the next morning to catch sunrise at the upper Buff Bay Valley followed by a critique session. After lunch we made our way to the Maroon village of Charles Town where the students were exposed to an integral part of Jamaica’s history and culture. That night ended in the coastal town of Buff Bay, formerly the capital of the defunct parish of St. George.  Sunday was a full day, with some of the stops including Fish Dun waterfall, Birnamwood Anglican Church and Avocat. At the end of the weekend, the portfolios were presented and all of the students had very strong work that highlighted their creativity and drive as well and also illustrated the Buff Bay valley. Here is a link to two of the students’ work and above are the students in action.