Tuesday, September 7, 2010

California Apples

2010_0827_254When I'm not doing this food blog, I'm often working for agricultural clients. I few weeks back I had a shoot for the California Apple Commission shooting apple packing facilities in the Central Valley.

I know, I know... California produces apples? Indeed we do, and I was able to see more apples in a single day than most people will see in a lifetime. I love these kinds of shoots because these packing facilities are fascinating places. They handle unimaginable quantities of fruit, and do it very quickly and efficiently.

2010_0827_307At Prima Frutta packing facility (pictured), the apples are floated in water through the bulk of the processing process. This minimizes the handling and potential damage to the fruit, and keeps it clean. And gravity does most of the work of moving the apples through the facility. Pretty smart.

Part of the shoot included getting some 'beauty shots' of the apples, so we took a few boxes of Fuji and gala apples to a corner of the kitchen and set up some lights (see below). It was quick set up, quick shoot, quick tear down, but I think the results were excellent and show off the color and texture of our local apples.

Top quality gala apples

Fresh Fuji apples

Hey Trader Joe's: Your Doing it Wrong

The day after this shoot, I went into  our local Trader Joe's and noticed that they were selling gala and Fuji apples from Chile and New Zealand! 

Man was I unhappy and disappointed! First, because Trader Joe's positions themselves as a 'green' company, with their reusable shopping bags and granola-crunching clientèle. And second, obviously, because we were harvesting fresh California grown gala and Fuji apples less than a hundred miles away.

They could have been selling fresh-picked, locally grown (and even organic) apples instead of apples that were harvested last February, stored for six months and then shipped literally halfway around the planet! Those Chilean and New Zealand apples weren't fresh, environmentally sustainable, or economically responsible (given how the US and California economies are struggling).

I wish that retailers and consumers would be more aware of where their food comes from and would focus more on buying locally. Here in California, the fate of the agricultural economy is the fate of the state's economy. We have to support our own producers - large and small - if we want to keep our own jobs.

California-grown organic gala apples


I brought along three speedlights, lightstands and umbrellas for this shoot, which was conducted in an office at one location, and in a corner of the kitchen at the other location. This allowed for quick set up and take down and provided good lighting for 'beauty shot' closeups of the product.

For the most part I used a three light setup, with the key to the rear and a main fill to the left (1-1.5 stops below the key) and an additional fill to the right, either bounced off the wall or shot through an umbrella (2-3 stops below the key).

This gave me warm, soft lighting, but still provided some nice highlights, particularly on the waxed Fuji apples. I went with three lights because there were a lot of deep shadows between the apples in the trays, and I wanted to get at least a bit of light in there from as many angles as I could.


Overall, it was a fun and productive shoot!


  1. Hi Tony,

    Just stumbled on your page while looking for food bloggers on the web. I couldn't find any contact info so I'll just leave a comment. Are you located in the Los Angeles area by any chance? I'm remodeling my restaurant and trying to create a whole new dine-in menu. I'm looking for a photographer who can take quality photos of some of the items we serve.

    You can email me back at lynnho89@yahoo.com.