Thursday May 16th, 2013 09:23 AM
We live in an age where weâ€™re encouraged to think newer is better. This yearâ€™s camera / computer / car (insert your preference here) is better than last yearâ€™s, they tell us. So, once in a while, itâ€™s nice to spend some time photographing a very traditional activity.
A team of loggers have been thinning a 40-year-old pine forest near Ezcaray, La Rioja. By taking down some of the trees, those left behind have more room to grow. But rather than dragging down the trunks with tractors they use mules. Using animals means they donâ€™t have to carve new paths through the forest; mulesâ€™ hooves damage the mountain environment less than mechanical tracks.
The animals are trained to obey the voice commands of their handlers and watching them work as a team was a real privilege.
Sunday April 21st, 2013 08:52 AM
El Portal del Echaurren, Ezcarayâ€™s Michelin starred restaurant, has opened its doors with a new menu after the winter break. This year the dishes are designed not just around local products but also the history, sociology and even geology of this corner of La Rioja.
Take, for example, the â€śmarine fossilâ€ť dish above. During the Cretaceous period, the land where Ezcaray is sited today was under the sea. You can find fossilised gastropods (snails etc) in the surrounding mountains. Chef Francis Paniego has incorporated barnacles, cockles, scallops into the dish and also â€śedible fossilsâ€ť made from seaweed and seafood broths.
Other dishes on the menu include â€śThe River Fish that Dreamed of the Seaâ€ť – based on the trout that migrate along the River Oja – and â€śThe Woolâ€ť, lamb sweetbread wrapped in candy-floss in a nod to the areaâ€™s traditional textile industry.
Friday March 1st, 2013 11:26 AM
A couple of months ago I wrote about the importance of preparation before a photo session with the world’s best chef, Ferran AdriĂ . In a world where most people have a camera-phone on them most of the time, preparation is often the difference between a snap shot and a great photo.
But however much youâ€™ve planned something it’s also important to think on the hoof. Raquel and Fernando had asked for a photo call during their wedding at Hotel Echaurren, Ezcaray, La Rioja. Photo calls are the polar opposite to my usual, spontaneous, no-flash approach. But I like doing them and wedding couples delight in the resulting photos.
So I’d set up a couple of remote flashes and all that was missing were the guests. While someone went off to rouse the troops I was left alone with Raquel. Now Raquel is an exceptionally energetic person by nature so, to while away the time, I suggested we took a couple of shots. â€śWhy don’t you jump?â€ť I asked. So she did. I took a shot. It wasn’t too bad. â€śOnce more, please.â€ť And that’s the photo above.
This shot is a result of planning but also improvisation. It probably took less than10 seconds from the idea coming into my head to the finished photo. Sometimes that’s how the best shots are.
People often ask me how much photoshopping was in involved in this picture. I donâ€™t use photoshop much. I prefer to spend my time out taking photos not sat in front of the computer changing them. But I did use photoshop to remove a sign from the wall, which I found distracting. The rest is real. The original picture is below so you can see for yourself. And there are more photos from the wedding here.
Testimonial from Raquel’s mother: “Dear Friend, A great job. Every photo has something special. You’ve known how to get the best of both of them in their most treasured moments. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! and many thanks.”
Monday January 28th, 2013 06:54 PM
When on assignment for a newspaper Iâ€™m always looking for two things. The first is the â€śwowâ€ť picture that stops people in their tracks and, with a bit of luck, makes the front page the next day. The second is a variety and depth of images to complete the portfolio.
My job, regardless of whether its for a press or commercial job or for a wedding, is to tell the story through strong images. To do that you need to have photos which show the big picture but others that give the details. In the case of snowy whether, that means showing how people, animals and general every day life is affected.
In addition Iâ€™m always looking for photos which not only appeal to the eyes but to the viewersâ€™ other senses. I want you to feel cold looking at the dog or the cows. And share the joy of my son Nick throwing a snowball and excitement of the girls in a snowball fight.
Thursday December 20th, 2012 08:45 AM
Just as in fine cooking, in photography many ingredients need to come together just right to produce good results. And perhaps one of the most overlooked is preparation. With good planning even the most daunting assignments can be fun and creative.
In the days before Ferran AdriĂ â€™s visit to La Rioja I read articles and watched videos about him and his Bulli Foundation. Having got a bit of an idea about the man, I made sure I got to the first location, at Hotel MarquĂ¨s de Riscal, an hour before he did. This gave me time to come up with not just one but three possible locations for the group shot of Ferran with the hotelâ€™s Michelin star restaurant team. And it meant that when the hotel bosses vetoed my first choice location as too far away, I didnâ€™t panic; I had a plan B which resulted in the photo below.
The main reason for Ferranâ€™s visit to La Rioja was to give the final talk in the Somos Capital series marking the end of LogroĂ±oâ€™s stint as gastronomic capital of Spain. Over the past year more than a dozen of the countryâ€™s most distinguished chefs (with 27 Michelin stars between them) have given talks at Francis Paniegoâ€™s Tondeluna restaurant in LogroĂ±o. Iâ€™ve photographed most of them so know the restaurant well. But I still wanted to arrive with enough time to visualise the photos beforehand. I knew where Ferran would be speaking so I got on a chair and swivelled two ceiling lights towards the spot. And voila!! The above photo and many in the following gallery are the result of that couple of minutes of preparation.