Photographing objects on plexiglas and other reflective surfaces is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination. Most photography schools teach it for product photography. But, it's not something that's really used for food. I was looking for a way to step outside of the plate of food paradigm and create something that looked like art.
One of the most memorable dining experiences of my life was an evening sitting at the sushi bar at Nobu watching the very talented chefs make little sushi works of art. There is art in all kinds of food preparation and presentation but I think sushi is some of the most artistically presented. That is why my first idea was to have a talented sushi chef create some pieces specifically for shooting on black plexiglas.
To test the concept, I went to a sushi place up the street a bought some to go for a test shoot. I shot all different kinds, but it became quickly apparent that I needed something more special than the take-out. I did show the images to the owner of the sushi place and she liked them but said it made their sushi look too expensive. Which is a compliment of sorts, I suppose.
The next idea I had was to make something a little more graphic and even geometric. I thought about citrus and other fruits that were symmetrical and could have the refection complete the design. Most fruits have a texture and pattern when cut in half so I chose some with interesting patterns, colors and shapes. The vibrant color of the fruit and flower petals popped off of the black background.
I also wanted to do some deconstructed dishes with the raw ingredients chosen for color and texture. I naturally gravitate towards seafood because, unlike a slab of raw beef, the look of raw fish is still appetizing. Pink rose petals offer a nice accent.
This one turned into something not originally intended after I changed the position of the artichoke. It was standing up showing the inside and when I laid it down it looked a little like a fish head with the reflection. A prehistoric piranha fish head, but still a fish head. So I arranged the dill weed to look like a tail and added a lemon peel swirl for a dorsal fin.
I gathered flowers from my neighborhood for the colorful accents for these pictures. Before I disassembled the flowers I decided to shoot the most vibrant ones.
Click on any image to see a slideshow of the images in a larger size.
This was shoot on a tabletop. I used black velvet seamless paper to trap the light in the background and produce no highlights. I used a 4' x 4' piece of black plexiglas for the surface. The lighting was provided by a single small strip softbox with a 20 degree grid set overhead lighting the front at a slight angle. The grid made all the difference with the softbox providing a diffused light and the grid preventing any light from spilling over the entire scene. This control of the light made it so very little retouching was needed as long as I kept the surface clean.
I shot these with a Canon 5D Mark II and used a Canon 135mm f/2.0L for the bigger scenes and a Sigma EX 105mm Macro f/2.8 for the close-ups.