Tag Archives: beer

The 2011 Deschutes Brewery Street Fare

This is one of my favorite events of the year. Great beer + delicious food + amazing bands + a good cause = one awesome evening.  This year the bands were Lost Lander, Hillstomp, Old Light, and The Builders and The Butchers.  If you missed it, you missed it.  But there’s always next year, and the trend has been that it’s getting better each year.

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2011

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2011

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare 2011

Check out the rest of the photos here.

The 2010 Deschutes Brewery Street Fare

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare

Deschutes Brewery Street Fare

Wow, I might as well just call this blog Beer and Photography.  Most of my work these days seems to revolve around beer in one form or another: events, products, process.  It’s a tough burden to carry.

Let’s get right to the point of this conversation: as a photographer, should you separate work from fun?  The answer to that is going to be different for everyone.  The question is really about balance and finding the right combination of work and play.  At the extremes of the spectrum are places like total objectivity and complete immersion.  For photography, total objectivity is like shooting fish behind glass where where people and activities become examined specimens.  On the other hand, complete immersion can become a scary place if you forget to say, shoot the event because you’re so caught up in the action yourself.

It all boils down to understanding your subject.  In this case, the subject was the Deschutes Street Fare.  On the surface, an event is just an event.  It doesn’t get interesting and unique until you break it down into it’s components: food, music, beer.  But the devil is in the details, and we want to get much more granular by asking questions about these broader categories.  For music, these questions are important to me: who is playing the music, both individually and as a group?  How are they interacting with or affecting the audience?  How are they interacting with each other?  What piece are they in the bigger picture of the whole event?  Answering these questions with photos can make it much easier to figure out how to cover an event.

As a self-titled connoisseur of food, beer, and music, asking these questions and being immersed in an event event like this comes naturally.  With a connection already in place, it’s easy to fall into the rhythm of the event and seek out all of the aspects you want to cover.  This is the perfect scenario for me as a photographer.  It makes my job easier and hopefully I can translate my enthusiasm into great photography.

But what if you are not attached to an event?  Most of us can’t absolutely love every single assignment, but if you can still break it down into a series of questions that need to be answered, you can still get great shots of the next Guinea Pig Olympics for your client.  Is the event more about the owners or the animals?  How are the animals treated?  How can the competition versus comradery be measured?  Is there nothing more savage than a Guinea Pig owner and can you capture their essence?  Coming up with these questions and answering them with your camera can lead you through the whole event.

In the end, I was once again guided by the Ten percent Rule: I shot around 1000 photos, was happy with about 100, and really liked 10.  It’s still a low rate of return, but ultimately I’m happy with it.   You have to take some chances to get truly great shots, and with those chances there are a lot of mistakes.

Check out the rest of the photos here.

Mixing Beer and Photography Again

Oakshire Brewing Company, Eugene, OR

Hop Valley Brewing, Eugene, OR

Oregon Trail Brewery, Corvallis, OR

Hop Valley Brewing, Eugene, OR

Block 15 Brewing, Corvallis, OR

Wow, the first post of the new year and it already almost March! A lot of times, blogging and being really busy are inversely proportional and that’s the case for me. I try to strike a balance and post regularly, but when it comes down to paying bills, blogging is lower on my list of priorities.

Beer, however, seems to stay at the top of that list. So, mixing beer and photography is never a stretch for me. In mid February, I was sent to Eugene and Corvallis on a beer journey by: Travel Lane County, Visit Corvallis, and Travel Oregon.  My job: hang out with brewers and drink beer.  Sure, when you boil it down, it sounds like a breeze.  In reality, while fun, it’s also a lot of work.  Try this experiment at home: stand in a cramped space, surround yourself with giant metal tanks, turn the temperature down to 50 degrees, turn off the lights, take notes, take photos, hold and drink a beer, and change lenses.  You find strange places to hold things in these situations.

On the trip, I did six breweries over two days. Whew! I came back with over 10 GB of photographs. On Saturday, I hit Hop Valley Brewing, Ninkasi Brewing, and Oakshire Brewing. On Sunday, it was Oregon Trail Brewery, Flat Tail Brewing, and Block 15 Brewing.  I used this trip as an opportunity to rent a lens and I ended up with a Canon 35mm f/1.4 L.  Hot damn!  Great focal length for cramped spaces, and a wide aperture for all of the low light situations.  I shot with this lens for 95% of my trip, making it a good candidate to replace my ailing, if not broken 50mm f/1.4.  The price points for these lenses differ greatly, so I need to start replenishing my photography gear fund if I’m going to be able to add a $1400 lens to my bag of tricks…

I’ll be writing several articles on the trip at my other site: portlandbeer.org.  If you want to read about the details, you can start here.

Check out the rest of the photos here.

Photographing 52 Beers in a Year

52 Beers Group, Week 8: Brrr, Seasonal Red -- Widmer Brothers Brewing

52 Beers Group, Week 34: Old Boardhead

52 Beers Group, Week 29: Alpha Dog Imperial IPA

52 Beers Group, Week 13: Goudenband, Brouwerij Liefmans

52 Beers Group, Week 31: Lagunitas Hop Stoopid Ale

I don’t think anyone would be surprised that I enjoy beer.   It’s fun to sample, write about, and photograph.  Exactly 44 weeks ago, I joined the 52 Beers group on Flickr.   I don’t write reviews or document my beer intake in any way, but I took this on as a challenge to force myself to come up with new ways at looking at beer by photographing one new beer each week for a year.  To accomplish this, I had to ask myself a few questions: What makes a beer unique?  What makes a bottle or a label stand out?  What does beer mean to me?  What have I gotten myself into?

Taking photographs for fun and taking photographs professionally are two different monsters.  As much as I love photography, it doesn’t mean I want to have a camera in my hand around the clock.  It’s pretty heavy.  Plus, motivation does not strike all day, every day.   If I don’t have any appointments scheduled for the day, it’s fairly easy to watch a DVD, take a nap, and then spend the rest of the afternoon wondering where my day went.  I can admit that. Evidently,  not just to myself,  but to anyone reading this.  I think a lot of people are like me in that respect,  so it’s important to set up challenges and exercises where I can be held accountable.

Well, I’m almost a full year into the project and what did I learn?  Well, I love beer.  I think that was already a fact though, so it doesn’t count.   First, I don’t have an expensive studio with unlimited lighting.  So, some were shot outside, some under random generic lamps, and others under a speedlight.  But lighting, although imperative, was secondary to me for this project.  The overriding element was composition.  Show the beer?  Show the head?  Show the bottle?  Show the glass?  Show the growler?

  • Widmer Brothers Brewing, Brrr:  I got a sample bottle in the mail, but things didn’t come together until I bough a six pack off the shelves.  What typifies “Brrr” more than huddling together?
  • Full Sail Brewing, Old Boardhead: Simple label, complex beer.  I happened to be drinking it when I got a phone call.  When I got back to the beer, late afternoon light had come through the window and lit the beer through the glass.  It was nice, but a flashlight exaggerated the effect and created the shot I wanted: a complex tasting beer that was also complex visually.
  • Laughing Dog, Alpha Dog Imperial IPA: The analog TTV treatment seemed to work with the bottle design and the glass of beer in the background.  I didn’t think about it while I was shooting it, but the lpha Dog is definitely gaurding the beer in the background.  Sometimes, things just come together.
  • Liefman’s Goudenband:  I decided a dyptych would be the best option to show the label from the front as well as the twisted tissue presentation layer.  It’s very unique packaging, and very important ot feature it.
  • Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid: Not everything has to be planned.  I was playing dominos, drinking Hop Stoopid, and my camera was nearby.  End of story.

Baltic / Imperial Porter Tasting at Upright Brewing

2009.06.13 -- Baltic and Imperial Porter Tasting at Upright Brewing

2009.06.13 -- Baltic and Imperial Porter Tasting at Upright Brewing

2009.06.13 -- Baltic and Imperial Porter Tasting at Upright Brewing

I was asked to attend and photograph a Baltic / Imperial Porter tasting tonight at Upright Brewing.  I don’t mind mixing work with pleasure, especially when it comes to beer, but the physical aspects of holding a glass and shooting photos can be tricky at best.  Couple this with the fact that we are gathering in the basement of a building with uneven lighting and there can be some issues.

I used my 50mm 1.4 for most of the night because of the low light where the taps (and hence, most of the people) were gathered.  I also used my 10-22mm around the brewing equipment where there was much more light available.

It took about two hours to go through the photos tonight with selection and remastering.  Make sure to click on the photos to see the larger versions as the tones and brightness are compressed in the thumbnails to the right.  Great night, awesome beers, and now it’s late and I want to go to sleep.

The Ten Percent Rule

Widmer Brothers 25th Anniversary Double Alt

One obvious advantage of shooting digital is the almost unrestricted amount of shots I can get.  I usually carry about 20GB worth of cards around with me, so it’s shoot, shoot, shoot.  Because of this, I can take chances with different lenses, various angles, and unlimited compositions.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a familiar formula popping up when I take photos.  I call it the Ten Percent Rule.  It’s pretty simple.  Out of all of the images I shoot during a session–an event, a game, a hike–I’ll be happy with about 10 percent of the photos.  Out of the final 10 percent, I’ll be very happy with 10 percent of those.  So, if I shoot 900 photos during a game, I’ll send about 90 to my publishers, and end up with about 9 shots that I really love.  Or if I go for a hike, take 100 photos, I’ll end up posting about 10 for people to see with one exceptional shot.

Once I realized this pattern popping up in my photography, I put it to good use.  If a client wants 20 final photos of their business, I know that I should be shooting around 200 photos.  Now, this isn’t an exact science, but it’s a good benchmark.  If I finish that client’s shoot and realize that I’ve only taken 50 total shots, I’ve got a lot more work to do.

With a 90% “waste” rate, I’m lucky that I love post-production.  There’s a lot of sitting, sorting, tagging, and eliminating photos after the shoot.  After shooting a two hour game, I spend about three to four hours of post production going through and remastering the final photos.  This isn’t a very glamorous aspect of my job, but for some reason I enjoy it as much as taking the photos.

Maybe in a few years, I’ll get good enough to rename the rule to the Twenty Percent Rule.  For now, I’m happy with ten percent and very happy that no one else knows where to find the other ninety percent of the photos I take!

Astoria Beer Adventure

Astoria Beer Adventure

Astoria Beer Adventure

Astoria Beer Adventure

Astoria Beer Adventure

Last weekend, I had an overnight assignment in Astoria.  And guess what?  Yep, it involved beer.  I was sent out to explore the beer scene in Astoria and meet the movers and shakers, and of course, drink a lot of great beer!

Even though I retired my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens to the studio, I can’t seem to live without it.  A couple of months ago, it was knocked off the players bench at the Rose Garden while shooting a Portland LumberJax training session.  Both auto-focus and the focus ring were broken, but the glass was intact.  So, while the photos turn out fine, I have to manually focus by pulling and pushing the end of the lens in and out!  It’s really not convenient, but I don’t have a replacement for it yet.  For still shots of objects, it’s not a problem.  But when people are involved, it’s hard to capture that spontaneous moment when it takes 7 seconds to pull or push and fumble with a broken lens!  Oh well, glad to have it, even with it’s flaws.

On Saturday, I met with the brewers of Fort George Brewing Company and Astoria Brewing Company–and then proceeded to drink a lot of beer.  From noon to 5:00pm, we drank an assortment of over twenty beers in samples, pints, and goblets.  I’m glad I had a notebook and a camera to document it all, because I will be relying heavily on those to piece together my article.  Usually, I’m not so excited to work on the weekends, but there was no downside to this weekend!

Firkin Fest 2009

Firkin Fest 2009

Firkin Fest 2009

Firkin Fest 2009

It’s not all coincidence that I’m able to mix beer and photography.  It takes careful planning: 1) Find an event, 2) See if someone needs photos for the event, 3) If you can budget in time to photograph and attend the event, even better!  It doesn’t always work out that way, but when it does, it’s great for both you and the client.

Well, the upside for me is pretty self-explanatory: free event.  The upside for the client is that the more I’m involved in the event, the better I can understand what it’s all about–and then translate that into photography.  The perspective of an attendee and photographer can tell two different stories.  It is the job of the photographer to not only capture the spirit of the festival through the eyes of the attendees, but also capture unique angles, subjects, and action that require much more than a casual eye.

For this year’s Firkin Fest, I took photos for the Oregon Brewer’s Guild.  The festival was split into two three hour sessions.  I attended the first session as a photographer and the second as a patron.  But, as a photographer, even when I’m not on duty, I usually carry around my equipment.  So, it’s usually safe to say that whatever label I’m under at any given moment (patron, attendee, employee, student, staff), you can always append /photographer to the end.  Today, the energy was very different at the second session and about half of the final photos ended up coming from the then, when I was supposed to be off the clock.

Portland Breweries

Portland Breweries

Portland Breweries

Portland Breweries

In the middle of 2008, I started a project to shoot all of the breweries in Portland.  Photography and beer, how could it get any better?  Well, despite some hot temperatures, slippery floors, and sticky mash, it was a great experience.

I got to meet all of the brewers in town, talk about their brewing styles, and compare brewing equipment.  While the process is the same, the breweries are vastly different, ranging from 3 barrel systems to 500 barrel systems.  There’s a also a big difference in the physical interaction with the beer: some are very automated, while many others still require the art of the mash paddle.

I don’t want to spoil too much here, as I have a plan for a book in the works that will fill in all of the details.  What I can say is that Portland has a great brewing community and fantastic beers.  From Lagers to Russian Imperial Stouts, fresh beer to barrel aged beer, every beer lover can find exceptional beer around every corner in Portland.

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

52 Beers Group, Week 22: Punk IPA, BrewDog

52 Beers Group, Week 8: Brrr, Seasonal Red -- Widmer Brothers Brewing

52 Beers Group, Week 20: Topsail Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter, Full Sail Brewing

I started shooting beer bottles as an analog for another product I was shooting.  I had a gig to shoot a proprietary product that included curved glass, so beer bottles made a good stand in while I waited for the prototype to arrive.

It turns out, glass is a bit tricky to shoot.  It’s hard to light it from the front without creating distracting reflections on the front of the product.  It’s hard to light from the side without losing the light for front of the product.  Basically, you make an adjustment to one light, which throws off another, which throws off another when you adjust that one, and on and on…  Baby steps and slight adjustments will get you there.

But, for all the pain, I did develop better eyes for very tiny details.  Very tiny reflective details.  And now, people send me beer to shoot and when I’m done, I get to drink the beer!  Two birds, one stone.