You do you, unless you want to be a photographer.

Since my last post, I finally was able to meet Penny De Los Santos and take her workshop up in NYC, went to California, and posted a ton of photographs onto Exposure.  I am not sure why I came back from California on Monday, but I did.  I pretty much abhor snow and winter.  

Then I read a story from Bridget Eldrige Photography about her time with Foundation Workshop.  And thought about some thoughts that were passed around, while I have been pursuing this photography work.  One thought was, "be yourself." Now everyone says, "be yourself" which is all well and good.  But not entirely good if you are a photographer.  Well specifically, an introverted photographer like myself and Bridget, in the provided link.  One of the key non-technical things that make or break photography is connection.  I don't mean the subjects in the photo, but that in itself also makes a stronger and compelling photograph.  But I mean between photographer and subject, specifically live beings- people and animals.  Food? I don't know photographer and subject is relevant for that.  

For introverts, it is hard to open up and just talk to people, let alone allowing them to open up to you as a photographer.  So that's what I mean by being yourself as a photographer doesn't necessarily cut it.  If you are wondering what Foundation Workshop is, it's a workshop on wedding photojournalism.  They throw the students into an in depth situation for them to document, which doesn't have to do with weddings.  The goals of Foundation, as the name implies, is to create a foundation of strong visual story telling.  You need to know all the technical aspects of photography prior to come out of it better.  But then again, why would you be spending $4k or so of hard earned money if you didn't know how to use your camera?

Creating a connection with the people, or animals, that you are photographing is one of the top traits that need be able to conjure up in seconds.  That is if you want to be a successful photographer.  

Knowing that this is an issue for myself, I have been since trying to strike up small talk and discussion with anyone.  So far it is going alright. I do realize that I am much more talkative to strangers, if I am traveling.  I have to say that, that while I love the in the moment photographs, but those in the moment photographs are stronger and freeing if there was a connection made between the photographer and people you are photographing.  

But, man, it is hard!  I just want to go in make some photographs and head on out of there.  Just like with my realization with my personal project, in order for me to make a story more compelling is to get them to open up about themselves.   

That's what I got when I read Bridget's blogpost, talking to people really helps make your images better.  Being serious here. 

Anyway, as mentioned, I recently came back from California.  Still beating myself up here for coming back.  I was out there babysitting my nephew Vincent for the week.  As with every time I am out there, I ponder to myself what am I doing.  Or well, what am I doing staying in the East coast?

So what do you think?  What areas do you think you are falling short in being whom you want to be?

Friday morning high. What to read on the interweb this week.

It's FRIDAY!  TGIF, right?   This weekend I am going to a friend's BBQ party and then work on my personal project- In Search of Little Saigon in America. Although there is also another BBQ event down the Jersey Shore that looks interesting.  But this project means more to me.  I don't know if I only scratched the surface of the Vietnamese markets in Philadelphia on Washington Ave or not, but I need to go back. 

Anyway this week's worth of items to read and watch, is another set of thought provoking items about how we interact with our food and food culture.  But first up is...

A rainy stroll around HCMC in Vietnam.

A rainy stroll around HCMC in Vietnam.

My youtube video on how to make iced coffee at home.  An easy way to make iced coffee at home. 

Smithsonian Magazine recently interviewed Anthony Bourdain about our recent food glamorization from food celebrity to popularity of instagramming your food.  I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, so yes I got caught up in the food celebrity movement myself.  Starting from reading Kitchen Confidential to watching No Reservations and Parts Unknown, I have been a fan.  A quote from the article, that caught my eye, he says that it isn't really that we just realized this "revolution" of local, farm to table, but more like we are learning what the old World knew all along about our food. 

He has a theory about this I hadn’t considered. That the whole seismic food culture shift isn’t American superficiality but the New World learning what the Old World has known for centuries. “We’re just catching on,” he says. “We are changing societally, and our values are changing, so that we are becoming more like Italians and Chinese and Thais and Spaniards, where we actually think about what we’re eating, what we ate last night, and what we’re considering eating tomorrow. When I grew up in the ’60s, we’d go to see a movie, then we would go to a restaurant. And we would talk about the movie we just saw. Now, you go right to dinner and you talk about the dinner you had last week and the dinner you’re going to have next week, while you’re taking pictures of the dinner you’re having now. That’s a very Italian thing. A lot of the sort of hypocrisy and silliness and affectation of current American food culture is just fits and starts, awkwardly and foolishly growing into a place where a lot of older cultures have been for quite some time.”

— Ron Rosenbaum, The Smithsonian

I just hope we aren't Columbusing this idea though.  It's a real fascinating read.  And in a lot of ways, Bourdain is right in what he talks about.  And before I lead off to the next read, this interview has a nice segue to it.  From the article "Anthony Bourdain's Theory on the Foodie Revolution."

But not Instagramming food. He has strong feelings about the craze of Instagramming dishes that has taken over social media.

“Chefs bitch about it when it’s going on in their restaurants,” Bourdain says, “yet when they go out to dinner, they’re taking pictures of everything. And any notion that that’s sharing? It’s bullshit. It’s about making other people feel bad about what they’re eating. And a certain knowledge that what you’re eating is more interesting.”
— Anthony Bourdain being interviewed

Then on NYtimes, Pete Wells writes about Instagram and food, in his article: "Dishes Worthy of Instagram, But not your Appetite.  It's something that we all do.  Face the truth!  The truth will set you free!  One of the most posted instagram are the foods that we have ate at a restaurant or made.  As a food photographer, no really I am, I do it too. 

Besides a powerful research tool, digital food photography is a cheap marketing tool as well. A snapshot of a new dish uploaded last night can cause a bump in reservations this afternoon. Chefs who serve camera-ready plates find their dining rooms full of volunteer publicists, who work for free and leave money on the table when they go home.
— Pete Wells

Dishes, the entire look of the restaurant, and overall design of the place are now keeping in mind of the free publicity they get from customers making photographs of everything.  But the question is, will we eat first then take pictures or are we forever going to whip out the camera/phone first then eat?


Modern Farmer has an article about dry farming.  Given the current extreme drought condition in California and given the fact that California grows much of our crops, it's quite an important read.  In their article, "When the Well Runs Dry, Try Dry Farming," finding ways to cope and grow through these long droughts, are vital.  Most of the drinking water originates from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, but it is annually dropping in percentage with this year only reaching 32%.  Much of the water usage is from the farms.  The idea of dry farming relies on detailed timing of implementation for the growing season.  It basically is trapping and retaining water, or moisture, like a sponge and tilling the land perfectly to make use of the trapped water that could last a long time in that plot of land.  Using dry farming techniques forces roots to go deeper for water.  Screwing up, however, would lead to no do overs.

Little explains the principles of dry farming with a simple metaphor: “Imagine you have a cookie sheet filled with water and you lay a dry sponge on the water and then cover the sponge with cellophane. The cookie sheet is the subsoil that holds moisture even when the topsoil is dry. When we till the topsoil, it becomes a sponge that pulls the water from the soil below. Then we go over the finely tilled topsoil with a roller pulled by a tractor, which seals in the moisture — that’s the cellophane covering the sponge.”

A sponge covered with cellophane will stay moist for a long time, which dry farmers hope will last through the growing season. According to Little, the precise timing of planting and tilling is the key to moisture retention. If the moisture of the winter rains evaporates from the soil before a field is properly prepared, Little has no irrigation system as a backup. “We make a lot of mistakes,” he says, “and there’s no going back with dry farming.” He has tried bringing water trucks into the field to save crops that weren’t making it, but has learned to let them wither — “they never fully recover, anyways,” he says.
— Modern Farmer

Dry farming, however, yields less crops.  It is a good strategy for community based farms, but larger operations it would not. 

These are actually long, but really worthwhile reads.  So grab your cup of coffee and enjoy!  What are you planning to do for the weekend?

Hello New Home.

"Not all those who wander are lost" J.R.R Tolkien

My awesome nephew.

My awesome nephew.

So I made this my new work home.  I originally started my photography website journey as, but when I went to a new server I didn't know how to carry it over.  So it became  But now I have wandered back to my first domain,  I am trying to get my tednghiemphoto domain to link to this site as well, so that those who go to that link will go to this new site. 

I already exported my wordpress blog posts and pages, but it looks like I will have to start the blog entries fresh.  Which is to say I am not too upset.  My exposure, home of my photographic essays, have picked up steam and the photography posts already.  So I will not have to re-add content.  This blog will start with new and fresh content.

While I enjoyed what I had when I had them, I started to dislike having a splash page with no options of disabling a splash page.  And my blog got pretty slow because of the leading photo slide show.  Which is understandable, but I need my site to be snappy and responsive.

So that is where this new site comes in.  I hope you enjoy the new work and it's new home!