Three for three. We had a great stint recently in Los Angeles, working with Samy’s Camera on a threesome series of portraits of some of the more amazing food trucks in the LA scene. We were lucky enough to work with the folks at Border Grill who have taken their legendary brand of cooking out from their well-established restaurants and put it on four wheels.

The chefs, Mark and Zara, were wonderful to work with – couldn’t be friendlier and more easy-going despite the very hot evening and the hungry queue of people that were lining up for their delicious food. It had to be hectic in that truck. This is a guess, but I figure they served up maybe 150 meals??? Lots of food, to be sure, all produced on deadline for a bunch of movie patrons attending an opening.

So, by comparison, I served up about six or seven SB-5000 Speedlights, some inside the truck, others outside, either on the sidewalk or literally attached to the exterior of the vehicle. This is where effective, accurate, radio TTL Speedlight control is essential. A shot like this would have defeated straight up line of sight triggering. Also, seeing as I really could not get back into the truck after they started serving food, I had to depend on the flashes hanging in there, running at full power. As always, they were powered by high capacity Powerex batteries by Maha.

Big thanks to Samy’s Camera for not only initiating the assignment but also providing a very talented, young group of student filmmakers to produce a series of teaching videos about this assignment. Videos will be up soon on the Samy’s site. Keep you posted on those.

For my part, the job was really all about the excitement of great food on the streets. During the course of the shooting of these trucks, I had shiny interior surfaces, dark outside streets, or bright sun, small spaces to work in, and the ongoing factor of working just as fast as the food was being served. In response, I tried to have fun with it, and used gels, fisheye lenses, hard light, soft light, backlight–you name it–just to convey a bit of immediacy and pictorial impact. For the Border Grill truck here, I gelled a background light, had bounces in the kitchen, flared a hard light through the windshield, highlighted the logo with a flash on the street, and lit the chefs with an EzyBox Hotshoe Softbox, on an extender pole. No plan of attack here, really, just a question of throwing up some lights quickly and seeing how it all worked out. Many changes of position of the small flashes occurred! Nothing was really right the first time out.

Again, thanks to the folks at Border Grill, the crew, Samy’s, and LA-based freelancer, Jason Ryan, a good young shooter who chipped in the BTS views you see above. Can’t wait to get back to LA and go to Smorgasburg, a regular event where all these trucks and food vendors gather for an intensely varied culinary experience.

More tk….

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Joe McNally
Joe McNally is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning photographer whose prolific career includes assignments in nearly 70 countries. McNally is known world-wide as not only one of the top, technically excellent photographers of his generation, but his charming demeanor, confidence and humor make him a sought-after choice from CEO’s to celebrities to commercial and magazine clients alike. He is among the rare breed of photographer who has bridged the world between photojournalism and advertising, amassing an impressive commercial and advertising client list including FedEx, Sony, ESPN, Adidas, Land’s End, General Electric, Epson, MetLife, USAA, New York Stock Exchange, Lehman Brothers, PNC Bank, and the Beijing Cultural Commission. McNally is equally comfortable climbing buildings or lighting a telescope to capturing quiet, sensitive subject matter with confidence in medical surroundings. He has shot numerous cover stories and highly complex features for the National Geographic, LIFE, and Sports Illustrated, where his research skills and unmatched preparedness were highly valued.