Blackberry Limeade

Mike and I are in the midst of renovating our deck. It's something we've been needing to do since we moved in three years ago and now it's finally happening. <happy dance> We're replacing the floor boards, railings and stairs with new wood since the old wood was well on its way to being completely rotted out. Yuck. There's never a dull moment with home ownership, is there?

With the weather being absolutely perfect this past weekend, we hung out at our friends' houses and enjoyed their deck since ours is still "in progress" and our yard is currently in shambles. One of our good friends hosted a Korean BBQ on Saturday and with all the delicious food pretty much covered, I decided to bring this simple, delicious Blackberry Limeade that I read about in Cooking Light. How often do you bring drinks to a party? I typically bring food, so this was a nice change.

This recipe has few ingredients and is really easy to throw together. You'll need blackberries, water, lime juice, sugar and ice. I didn't add alcohol to the full recipe, but you could easily add a splash of vodka to your glass to make it a fun summer cocktail. One alteration that I made was adding some Lime La Croix for a little fizz. It's so sweet and refreshing and really colorful... a perfect summer drink. I think my Watermelon Water would be a good one too. Maybe I'll bring that one next time.

What are some of your favorite summer drinks? I'm all ears for more ideas, especially with the long, three-day weekend ahead! Hopefully our deck will be completed by then... Wish us luck!

Have a great week!

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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Standard Market Cheese Cave and Edible Chicago

I used to say, "I will never move to the suburbs." After renting apartments in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago for several years, Mike and I reached a point where we felt ready to buy a place. Naturally, we started to look in the city first. It didn't take us long to realize that for what we could afford, the space would be more limiting than the apartments we were renting. So, reluctantly, we ventured out to the suburbs to "just look."

Long story short, we bought our first house in Downers Grove in December of 2012, which in my early perception, seemed like it would take several days to get to by car. I can't really pin point the exact moment I changed my tune about living in the suburbs, but I do remember the first time Mike and I went into Standard Market. We had just looked at several open houses and before heading back to the city, we decided to get some groceries to bring home with us. I remember thinking, "Wow, the suburbs actually have markets like THIS?" (And, I was excited about how easy it was to simply park the car... for free.) It was one of the many moments when I started to realize that I may have been a little harsh in my initial judgement of the Chicago suburbs.

Standard Market is beautiful. It's one of those markets where you walk in and can't help but want to walk around. I often go in there for photo shoot inspiration. Everything is fresh and colorful and full of delicious smells. It's not just another grocery store. It has three different restaurants too, Standard Grill, Standard Tacos & Margaritas and The Cube, which is their specialty beer and wine bar that also has its very own temperature controlled cheese cave for aging cheeses from local creameries. They are located in Westmont, IL and Naperville, IL. There's even a Standard Grill restaurant in Lincoln Park in Chicago.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2016, when Trisha from 3rd Coast PR contacted me to shoot Standard Market's newest cheese cave (located in Countryside, IL) for an article to be featured in Edible Chicago. I was so excited! This was one of those opportunities where it felt like the stars aligned for me as a food photographer.

Not only would I have the opportunity to shoot for Standard Market, a place that had helped open my eyes to the many food opportunities out in the suburbs, but my work would also be featured in a seasonal magazine that I had been wanting to work with since 2013. And, let's not forget this project was all about cheese. Win, win, win.

The new cheese cave is huge and they will be busy stocking the shelves with cedar planks full of wheels of cheese for the next few months. We had to wear hair nets, face masks, full-body aprons and special boots while exploring the cave. Needless to say, it was one of the most interesting photo shoots I have been on and it was such an honor to work with Ann Flood from Edible Chicago, David Rogers, Alyssa Stone and Dan Flavin from Standard Market and Trisha Teckenbrock from 3rd Coast PR on this feature. It's said that good things come to those who wait, but perhaps good things come to those who move to the suburbs.

Get the spring issue of Edible Chicago here or subscribe annually here. It's loaded with local food stories and has been one of my favorites for a very long time.

Cheers and Happy Friday! I'll be enjoying happy hour in The Cube at Standard Market tonight with a glass of wine and, of course, cheese. 

Have a great weekend!

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Tomato Carpaccio

One of my favorite things about spring is that it's warm enough to shoot outside. I love shooting with natural light and will go to great lengths to use it for all of my shoots. Whether I'm setting up inside near a window or outside on my deck, there are some tips and tricks to shooting with natural light that I'd like to share and a couple might surprise you.

Having a camera and having light are the most important elements in photography. However, having light to work with is just the beginning. Knowing how to make the light work for you is the next step to improving your photography.

1) Sunny vs. Overcast Light
A lot of people think that a bright sunny day is better than a cloudy day for photography. This isn't necessarily true. Unless you know how to work with this type of contrast in light, direct sun can cause harsh shadows and bright spots and can over or under expose certain areas of your shot that are important. Overcast skies are my favorite when I'm shooting food outside because the light is softer and more balanced. The clouds basically act as a natural diffuser and the results can be gorgeous.

2) Controlling the Light
Since Mother Nature has a mind of her own, you'll want to be able to shoot no matter what she decides to do.

If you are shooting on a bright sunny day, you can position your own diffusers to balance the light on your subject. I highly recommend investing in a couple to have on hand. Or, if you have an umbrella on your deck, you can start with that. Take a couple pictures in the sunlight and then set up underneath the umbrella to see how it affects the results.  

3) Manual Mode
I'm always pushing budding photographers to shoot Manual. I used to be intimidated by it in the beginning because I didn't want to make all the decisions for the camera. However, the sooner you start becoming comfortable in Manual mode, the sooner you will start being able to shoot beautiful pictures in any type of situation. It helps you gain a much better understanding of ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture when you actually start adjusting them yourself. You can read about what they do, but until you start actually playing with them on your camera and seeing how they work together, I don't think it truly makes sense.

The best way to learn manual is to go at your own pace. Go for a walk and shoot. A good thing to memorize is:

More light = wider aperture, higher ISO and slower shutter speed.
Less light = smaller aperture, lower ISO and faster shutter speed.

Adjust the aperture, ISO and shutter speed individually to help control how much light you're letting into your camera.

I shot the Tomato Carpaccio salad outside on my deck, using the deck umbrella as my diffuser and adjusting my camera settings in Manual mode to get the right effect. It worked out really well because then Mike and I could enjoy it afterwards. And, after a Midwest winter, there's nothing quite like getting to eat a refreshing, colorful salad outside on a beautiful spring day.


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All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Awards 2016

My Octopus in a Bowl image was from one of my favorite weekend shoots in 2015. I didn't really have a plan when I went to Standard Market that Saturday morning and I definitely didn't intend to come home with an octopus. I just couldn't stop looking at it and knew I had to photograph those mysterious, almost eerie details. 

The octopus was shot at my house using the Nikon Df, my 50mm 1.8, natural light from a window and one off camera speed light.

Fast forward to just under one year later and the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition was upon me again. It's a competition strictly dedicated to the art of food photography and food in film. It's open to everyone from all over the world and I get so excited for it every year. With all the amazing talent that this competition attracts, I never expect to get recognized, but it's fun to try and it's always exciting to see the images that get through to the finals.

I decided to submit my Octopus in a Bowl this year because it's an image that I thought might surprise people. It definitely surprised me.

It was a normal Wednesday afternoon when I got the email that my image was selected as a finalist for 2016. I must have re-read the email ten times to be sure I read it right. Out of over 7,000 image submissions, I was a finalist?! I nearly fell off my chair and then proceeded to call my husband, Mike, my mom, and then had a solo dance party in the living room.  

All finalists were invited to London for the ceremony at the end of April, but sadly I wasn't able to attend. I never expected to get that far in the competition. I had new clients and work scheduled and although it would have been incredible to go, I had to make the tough decision not to. However, I was there in spirit, following and cheering through social media and Mike took me out for fish tacos that night to celebrate. 

My image ended up winning 2nd place in the Cream of the Crop category. I still can't believe it. It's such an honor to have been recognized at this level. Be sure to check out all the talented finalists and winners here and see more images from the night of the ceremony hereFingers crossed for next year, right?

I'll be pinching myself for a while after this one.


All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.

April Recap

Can you believe May is finally here!? I am so excited because I've been anxiously awaiting our trip down to Sanibel where I'm going to do a couple restaurant shoots and spend the rest of the time relaxing on the beach with Mike, my Mom and my camera. 

I went into April thinking it would be a blog-focused month. I didn't have a ton of outside work lined up and I wanted to slow down and focus on Up Close & Tasty. But, before I knew it, work was coming in left and right. I was meeting with new clients and more outside shoots were scheduled. So, although this month wasn't as blog-focused like I planned, some exciting things have been going on.  

Here's what I've been up to this month:

Forager Brewery, Rochester, MN
...because my sweet little hometown now has breweries!

Zucchini Noodles with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Goat Cheese
...because sometimes eliminating carbs can be really delicious. 

ZZest, Rochester, MN 
...because their menu is unique and inventive and they're also located in my sweet little hometown.

Watermelon Water
...because this recipe gives water the extra love it deserves.

Fish Tacos with Mango Cucumber Salsa
...because fish tacos means summer! And, I shared some camera advice that all budding photographers should read. 

Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year
I'm going to be sharing the results from the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards in a special post this week. Stay tuned!

Edible Chicago
I also want to share that I recently partnered up with Edible ChicagoStandard Market and 3rd Coast PR to shoot Standard Market's newest cheese cave and the process of what goes into making and aging award-winning cheeses. It was a blast to be a part of this. The feature is being published in the Spring issue of Edible Chicago and comes out this week! I'll be sharing more on this very soon. This project was especially exciting for me since I've been wanting to work with Edible Chicago and Standard Market for a long time... and well, I love cheese. You can subscribe to receive seasonal issues of Edible Chicago here.

I am also testing out the Olympus Pen F for our trip down to Sanibel and who knows, it may just become my new travel camera. I'll definitely let you know how it goes. 

Thank you for sticking around to support Up Close & Tasty! See you next month!

All Images © Regan Baroni 2016.