stills from the week | 11 nov 2019

One of the many highlights from Brussels Coffee Week 2019, which I documented here a few weeks back, was meeting and interacting with a lot of folks in the Brussels coffee scene. Energetic people I must say. Although I’m normally photographing, attending festivals for, having conversations about, and enjoying beer, it was a nice change to experience a new environment.

On the final day of BCW, I attended a roasting workshop at Wide Awake Coffee Roasters who had just officially opened the day before. They are a specialty coffee roaster selling beans and brewing equipment and also offering training workshops for baristas. Senina and Rutger are the ones behind this new endeavor. Cool people, enthusiastic, and very knowledgeable about coffee.

It was a brief conversation with them that day, followed up by another quick chat a few weeks later as I was buying some beans, that led me back to their roastery this past week. They were in the middle of building their new website and needed some photos to fill in the gaps, so I was more than happy to lend a hand. By the way, the website is now LIVE! You should check it out, and also pay their shop a visit when you’re strolling though Dansaert.

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I consider myself to be very good at capturing moments. Think festivals, weddings, or an event. In these scenarios, I am trying to capture moments and help illustrate to the audience what it felt like to be there. This is very different than creating moments (although there definitely is some intersection of the two). I don’t think I am as strong of a photographer when I’m creating moments, scenes, poses, etc. It’s the whole ‘act natural while a point a camera at you’ conundrum. Good photographers make it look easy, but I assure you it’s tough.

This shoot was a nice example of the intersection where we wanted a natural, lifestyle feel that felt as though I was capturing them in the moment. However, we needed to create the ‘scenes’ that were necessary to tell their story for the website.

It was also a challenge due to the lighting conditions of the roastery. When I’m capturing moments, the lighting is what it is to a certain extent and helps to tell the story. Here, however, we needed solid lighting that accentuated certain aspects of the photo, so an off-camera flash system was needed - another challenge. I rarely use artificial light, but it’s such a powerful tool when you know how to use it properly.

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This was definitely one of the more enjoyable shoots as of late. Fun, challenging, and the client appreciated the work. And make sure you follow Wide Awake to stay up to date on what they’re doing. They are a welcome addition to the Brussels coffee scene. Enjoy the photos!

Gear Used: camera - sony a7iii | lenses - sony 85mm f/1.8, sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | lighting - profoto b10

 
 

 
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stills from the week | 4 nov 2019

With most Belgian schools taking the past week off in connection with All Saints Day, we traveled to Tuscany for 5 nights. It was a completely new region of Italy that I’d never seen, and offered us the best wine, pasta, and photo ops we could have asked for.

Flying through Pisa, we rented a Fiat Panda (which might be one of the most popular compact cars in all of Tuscany) and drove south to a small farm near Murlo via a pitstop in Lucca. Based on a friend’s recommendation, we had booked an Airbnb at a family-run farm where olive trees and vineyards surrounded a tan-colored, brick estate. Yes, we came home with both new olive oil and a 2014 bottle of their farm’s wine. After three hours on the road, day one finished with a bottle of wine and dinner prepared by the son of the owner, Emanuel, who asked if we were ‘small, medium, or large hungry.’ ‘Large hungry’ resulted in a bowl of pasta the size of a basketball.

Tuesday, although the first full day in Tuscany, probably contained the highlight of the trip. North of our farm and to the east is a natural winery called Pacina we had discovered in a book about, yes, natural wine. The region where they are located is known for its Chianti wines, which is a blend of red grapes with the majority being Sangiovese grapes. Maria, the daughter of the current owner, showed us around the vineyards, explained their approach to farming, and let us explore their barrel rooms. When I asked about the origin of the moniker, ‘natural wine,’ she laughed and said, ‘to us, it is just wine, not natural wine.’ That was refreshing. Following this, we headed west to Siena for a bit before retreating back to our farm for another evening of pasta of wine.

We were looking forward to Wednesday as the town of Montalcino was on the agenda. The wines from here, Brunello di Montalcino in particular, were high on our list of those we wanted to try. We didn’t visit any vineyards this day, but we did enjoy a few glasses at a natural wine shop. We then decided to break form and seek out a brewery, and although they ended up being closed when we arrived, the journey there took us through some of the best countryside views we saw all week. Fear not though, a beer was eventually enjoyed when we made our last stop for the day in San Quirico d’Orcia. There was a small brewery tucked away on a side street with copper brew system where we tried a hoppy blonde and a UK-style pale ale. It was much needed and enjoyed. As was becoming tradition, we headed back to the farm for some wine and food as the hosts had prepared a wine tasting for us. We learned our lesson about food portions on the first night so we were better prepared for this evening.

What was originally thought to be our last full day (we showed up thinking we were flying out Friday, not Saturday), Thursday was another foggy day where we walked around Montepulciano and Pienza, and eventually worked our way back to Montalcino for a tour of Casa Raia, a natural winery just outside of the city center. We had tried to visit on Tuesday, but didn’t have any luck as they were in New York for a wine festival. Luckily, Jean Pierre was available to give us a quick overview of the vineyard, let us explore the cellar, and treated us to a few wines straight from the tanks and barrels.

In what I imagine to be a very Tuscan end to the week, Friday was our first time attending an olive oil festival. What you’re picturing in your head is exactly what it looked like. Our friends from Pacina recommended this festival which is held every year in Montisi. It’s another small town with narrow streets, brick-lined alleys, and lots of little caves where oil producers and vendors sell fresh olive oil in bottles of 25 cl all the way up to 5 liters. We settled on the smaller option. As we headed out of town, we realized we had forgotten our two bottles of Rose that we purchased, and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. When we returned, we found our wine (right where we left it), sat down for a bowl of pasta we didn’t know we wanted yet, and were treated to a rowdy performance by the New Generation Street Band. Incredible.

Tuscany was amazing. This brief write up doesn’t do justice to the sights, the people, and the tastes we experienced. I cannot wait to return. Enjoy the photos!

Gear Used: camera - sony a7iii | lenses - sony 85mm f/1.8, sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

 
 

 
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stills from the week | 28 oct 2019

Weddings and beer are more or less the two topics I enjoy shooting the most. Each presents a different set of challenges, a different approach to capturing a scene, and both provide an enormous sense of satisfaction when shot well.

While this was by no means a comprehensive wedding shoot, I had just as much fun shooting a wedding happy hour this past Friday at Beer Mania (hence the opening line). Our friends, Joanie and Jared, tied the knot earlier in the day at the Ixelles commune, and they followed it up in the evening with a cocktail hour at their favorite bottle shop. It was certainly an informal shoot to capture the friends and family, but we couldn’t help but sneak off to grab a few shots around the shop.

Note: the curved-stem glasses you’ll see in a few of the pictures are for the beer Mea Culpa, which is produced by the owner of the shop. It only made sense that the first shot you see featured a set. Enjoy the photos, and cheers to Joanie and Jared!

Gear Used: camera - sony a7iii | lenses - sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

 
 

 
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stills from the week | 21 oct 2019

This week was a challenge. A challenge in the positive sense where I found myself shooting in a style I hadn’t yet tried - corporate portraiture.

I teamed up with a local creative agency whose client, the European Climate Foundation, was getting a website refresh that needed updated profile photos for their employees. They wanted something that didn’t fall in line with your typical white-background-sit-still-and-smile aesthetic. We found some outdoor locations on their balconies and in a local park, and with some stroke of luck, a two-day shoot where the weather forecast showed nothing but rain proved sunny and bright. That’s not always a good thing, however.

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Flash photography is new to me, and all I’d known about it previously was that it usually takes lots and lots of practice to do it well. This was my first time using a strobe setup and I certainly appreciate the difficulties now. The general process for this style of shooting is to expose for your background by changing your camera settings (shutter speed, aperture, ISO), and then use the flash to light your subject. The only issue is when the sun jumps out from behind the clouds nonstop throughout the day. I found myself having to change camera settings far more often than I’d have liked, and many of our subjects were more than keen to get back to work as quickly as possible. It was a pressured situation trying to nail exposure quickly, but I always enjoy the challenge of adjusting on the fly.

All went well, though. In the end it was a great learning experience and a type of photo shoot that I hope I find myself in again. Enjoy the photos!

Gear Used: camera - sony a7iii | lenses - sony 85mm f/1.8 | flash - Profoto B10

 
 

 
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stills from the week | 14 oct 2019

Brussels Coffee Week just wrapped after a caffeinated 7 days of roasting sessions, cuppings, filter coffee workshops, latte art competitions, and much more. About as accurately-named an event as you will find, #BCW19 had me running all over Brussels experiencing new cafés and diving head first into the coffee scene. While beer and breweries normally find themselves in front of my lens, immersing myself in Brussels coffee culture and the folks who drive it forward was a welcome change!

While it’s not hard for me to enjoy an event/festival/weekend morning focused on coffee, Brussels Coffee Week took it a step further by putting a major emphasis on sustainability. Sustainability in coffee bean sourcing, production, packaging, and many other stops along the supply chain. It’s promising to see this becoming a larger part of the production conversation and on the minds of consumers.

To start the week, I attended a Coffee Collective cupping at My Little Cup. Callum Hare from Coffee Collective talked about their sourcing strategies, their transparency in pricing and how much is returned to the producers financially, and even introduced a new bean that is fermented in plastic buckets!

The next evening I found myself listening to Alpro’s head of sustainable research and Billiecup founder, Ineke Van Nieuwenhove, talk about sustainability through cow milk alternatives and by introducing a new reusable cup. Thanks to Knits & Treats for welcoming everyone into their shop. This was followed up by a filter coffee workshop at Kaffabar where attendees learned different methods of brewing with both an Aeropress and Chemex. Team Aeropress here!

Thursday got a little heated. After searching long and hard for the speakeasy-esque entrance to Cantine, I watched a round robin latte art tournament full of non-dairy milks, an automated milk frother from Perfect Moose, a ‘televised’ boxing ring, and a three-man jury comprised of two coffee experts and a rapper. I would say this was the highlight of the week!

Lastly, #BCW19 wrapped with a roasting workshop on Sunday at the newest roaster in town, Wide Awake Coffee Roasters. Rutger and Senina are both coffee fanatics experienced in sourcing and roasting and can certainly teach you a thing or two about how to roast the perfect bean. I’d recommend their Juicebox roast from Ethiopia. Apricots, Golden Kiwi, Yellow Plum, Cherries. This blog was actually powered by a Juicebox if we’re being honest with each other.

Gear Used: camera - sony a7iii | lenses - sony 85mm f/1.8, sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

 

My Little Cup

 

 

Knits & Treats | Kaffabar

 

 

Latte Art

 

 
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motion from the week | 7 oct 2019

This week’s project was slightly different than those in my previous posts, and quite frankly, different from anything I’d worked on before. My friend, Xavier, who is a talented photographer and videographer was hired to film a wedding the Saturday before last. The general outline of the day, not unlike most, started with some ‘getting ready’ shots, a first look, riding around Brussels in tuk tuks, and then off to the ceremony with an evening reception to complete the night. Again, not too different than what you’ve come to expect.

However, Xavier was asked to not only film everything during the day, but was also asked to edit a 3-minute showreel that would be shown at the reception highlighting what the bride and groom had been doing all day. That’s where I came into the picture, volunteering to help edit. Luckily, wedding videos are fairly sequential so I thought it would be rather easy to piece the video together. The tricky part was not knowing what footage I was given because when it’s you doing the shooting, you tend to remember which clips worked well and which didn’t, and you have a good idea of the content that’s available. I had no idea what I was working with, and only had 4 hours to edit the entire video, but when I hit export at 8:58pm for the 9:00pm showing, it was a proud and much needed sigh of relief that immediately followed.

The video is far from perfect, the colors will need plenty of work before the final edit is delivered, but Xavier and I can hold our heads high knowing we did what was asked of us. The bride and groom loved the video, by the way, so all is well! Enjoy the video!

Gear Used: Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2019