If you ask me my favorite restaurant in all of Arizona, it's such an easy answer. I'll tell you The Roaring Fork. Which is why, I actually did a lap around my apartment in excitement after I got an email asking me to photograph their executive chef, Santiago Estrada. BOOM! I now had the opportunity to meet, photograph, and thank the chef responsible for my favorite dishes. So, if you get the opportunity to dine at The Roaring Fork, try the green chili mac n cheese, and the BBQ Teriyaki Salmon. Both will absolutely blow your mind! Now, on to the shoot. I pretty much had creative control as long as I provided a high quality 1/2 body length portrait. With my one stipulation in mind, I arrived at the restaurant around 1:30pm. With an hour before we were supposed to start shooting, I spent 20 or so minutes location scouting. Since I had eaten at The Roaring Fork previously I already had a basic idea of the layout of the restaurant, and even though I could have shot anywhere in the place, the entranceway stood out in my mind. The first thing you see when you walk in is a large rotisserie, possibly with some chicken roasting on it. It's warm, inviting, and very rustic. This is what I wanted my portrait of Chef Santiago to be. Warm, inviting, and a little bit rustic.
To achieve this, I knew I wanted to frame Santiago in a way that would make it seem like, you're walking into the restaurant, you see him, he's smiling, and confident, and you see a nice warm fire behind him, displaying some of the restaurant's amazing food. Though all of the aforementioned were goals for the photo, it was supposed to be a portrait of Santiago, so I lit the scene with emphasis on him. I did this by slightly underexposing the ambient light, and lighting him with 2 strobes. My main light was a 64inch Paul C Buff PLM parabolic umbrella, with a 43inch Westcott apollo orb acting as a fill. The large modifier as my key light, provided a nice soft light, and was aided by the soft fill from my apollo orb.
An important aspect to this photo for me was the warmth. Having a marketing degree, and a good bit of experience as a photographer, I'm aware of how color or tones, play with emotion of the viewer. Since my goal was to provide an inviting portrait, I felt a warm tone was big. It also fit the rustic feel of the restaurant.
The last key part to making this photo work was the subject himself. I needed a great expression out of Santiago. We didn't have a ton of time since he was in the middle of preparing for the evening's meals, but I have become good at getting strong expressions out of my subjects in a short amount of time. This is a skill I've developed from working with corporate headshot clients, as well as anyone who generally doesn't enjoy having their photo taken. Not saying Santiago wasn't cooperative, because he was great, but when you have someone who is against the process, I have found that taking their mind away from the "task" at hand works wonders. Through this process, I learned quite a bit about the chef. Where he studied, what his hobbies outside of work are, and even about his family. The key to this is, I genuinely care! I'm not just spitting out random "personal" questions to get him to loosen up. I thoroughly enjoy what I do, because it allows me to meet a ton of amazing and interesting people. Chef Santiago definitely falls into both of those categories.
Needless to say, I recommend the Roaring Fork to everyone who comes to Arizona. You can taste the passion in the food. A passion, as I now know that comes from a great person and a great chef. It was a pleasure working with The Roaring Fork and Chef Santiago. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go book reservations for valentines day if they're not already full.