Food Photography II: L’Accanto Gourmet Restaurant, Seiano, Italy

Food photography is a challenging photography genre wiht many books and articles written about it. Lighting, framing angle, arrangement, freshness, speed are some of the most important elements to consider. A recent meeting of our Molpark EU research network took us to Seiano, Italy where we enjoyed a few days of great science amid magnificent views of the bay of Naples and stunningly crafted meals.

Here are some dishes from our stay at the Grand Hotel Angiolieri in Seiano, spectacularly located on the northern coast of the Sorrento peninsula. The L’Accanto Gourmet Restaurant is the “hotel’s temple of flavor”. Recently awarded its first Michelin star, the restautrant serves amazingly creative dishes based on local products and firmly rooted in the Mediterranean tradition.

These are casual photographs, some of the plates are not as “clean” as they should have been for a purely photographic session. But they capture part of the great art at L’Accanto. All were taken with available light. More tips and tricks on food photography can be found in this thread from the Photography On The Net (POTN) forum website.

Three seafood dishes:

Three desserts out of this world:

And the cooks in their kitchen, with executive chef Michele Deleo to the left and PhD student Carolyn Marks having the time of her life.

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Making science (part I): Discovery

Making science is about being where none else has been. Seeing what none else has seen. Walking on an unknown planet for the first time, without leaving the walls of the lab.

This is the essence of being a scientist. Of course, day to day life in a research lab can be difficult. We don’t walk on a new planet everyday. Reagents that don’t work, mice that don’t breed, experiments that don’t make sense… Many things can get on our way to the answers we are looking for. Sometimes we get answers to questions we have not asked. It’s a journey into uncharted territory. And like any journey, it is prone to surprises. Discovery is the driving force. But not every question asked leads to a discovery. How to know what questions to ask? That’s another matter altogether…

Wolfgang Muthspiel with Larry Grenadier

FASCH10_1031Guitarrist Wolfgang Muthspiel performed at Jazzklubb Facshing, Stockholm, on April 22nd, 2010 accompanied by Larry Grenadier on bass. Muthspiel is a very versatile player with superb technique and feel. In the concert, he featured an electric guitar and a body-less nylon with abundance of effects, live dubbings and electronic percussion. Awesome playing by Muthspiel. Grenadier outstanding, as always. Video clip recorded on the Canon EOS 7D and EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L lens. A selection of photographs taken during the concert can be seen HERE.

Vijay Iyer Trio

FASCH10_0828A remarkable concert featuring Vijay Iyer Trio live at Fasching on April 13 2010 in full power. Here is Vijay in full concentration at the piano (pic taken with my EOS 7d and the 100-400 L, which I took by mistake thinking that it was the 70-200L 2.8!). In addition to Iyer on piano, the trio includes Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Their most recent album is “Historicity” (2009) on the ACT label. Several of the pieces of that album were featured at the Fasching concert. Vijay Iyer uses thick chords sweeping across the keyboard generating an orchestral backdrop onto which melodic lines navigate. Improvisation remains the central theme. From Vijay Iyer’s website: “his powerful, cutting-edge music is firmly grounded in groove and pulse, but also rhythmically intricate and highly interactive; fluidly improvisational, yet uncannily orchestrated; emotionally compelling, as well as innovative in texture, style, and musical form.”

Vijay Iyer holds a B.S. in Mathematics and Physics from Yale College, and a Masters in Physics and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Technology and the Arts from the University of California at Berkeley. He has done research in music cognition, and published an article on “Improvisation, Temporality and Embodied Experience” in the Journal of Consciousness Studies (Vol. 11, No. 3-4, March-April 2004). In the Abstract of that paper, he writes: “… music perception and cognition are embodied, situated activities. This means that they depend crucially on the physical constraints and enabling of our sensorimotor apparatus, and also on the ecological and sociocultural environment in which our music-listening and -producing capacities come into being. I have argued that rhythm perception and production involve a complex, whole-body experience, and that much musical structure incorporates an awareness of the embodied, situated role of the participant. In this paper I focus specifically on improvisational music, and on what it can tell us about consciousness and cognition. Building upon the notion of cognition as embodied action, I would like to propose an understanding of certain improvisational music as quintessentially experiential, in that it leads us to re-experience our own practice of perception.” Listen to Jason Crane’s interview with Vijay Iyer from The Jazz Session, in which he talks about “everything from mirror neurons to math jazz, Fibonacci numbers to the legacy of Roy Haynes”.

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Photograph above (taken with the EOS7D and 24L II lens) features Vijay Iyer on stage after the concert alongside PhD student Carolyn Marks. Carolyn has an uncanny ability to persuade musicians to pose by her side. More photographs taken during the concert are available HERE or in the link under Photo galleries.

Journal podcasts: Nature, Science, Cell

After subscribing for over two years to the Nature, Science and Cell podcasts, my preference falls clearly with the former. The Nature podcast is snappy, lively, fun to listen to and has great interviews. The journalists have human voices, sound like real people and manage to confer the excitement of science with a touch of humor.

The Science podcast has several problems, the biggest one is podcaster Robert Frederick. I can not imagine a more unnatural, robotic voice on Earth. Does he speak like that to his friends? Even the text-to-speech voice in my Mac sounds more human that this guy. I also find the usual bit about science policy terribly uninteresting. As in the World Series, this is only concerned with US policy, of course. If listening at night in bed, I am surely asleep by this moment. Both Nature and Science have another feature in common that I think takes unnecessary space, that is the bit on news at the end in which one journalist interviews another. This practice has become very popular in TV talk shows and news programs, and sometimes I can see the point of asking questions to a journalist deeply specialized on a particular topic. But those are not the guys at Nature or Science. I find it totally uninteresting, I much rather have the actual scientists telling the story.

The Cell podcast focuses only on interviews, which is good, but again, I see it lacking on spontaneity. The editors read text, it’s obvious, and this becomes very unnatural and off-putting. I don’t know where they record this, but their voices have a funny echo as if they were speaking from a closet or bathroom. Otherwise the interviews are great and feature terrific scientists. I also like the fact that they draw from different Cell journals. It adds a nice variety. A practice common to the Cell and Science podcasts is to refer everyone by their Dr. title. Dr. this, Dr. that. Thank you Dr. Is this an americanism? It’s very stiff and off-putting. How about calling them by their first names? This is what Nature does. It’s less distracting and so much fresher and friendlier.

In conclusion, the Nature podcast is the favorite one. I’ll keep listening to Science and Cell, but I am very thankful for the fast forward button in my iPod!

UPDATE (23-07-2011)
Robert Frederick is no longer with the Science podcast. Stewart Wills has replaced him and… oh boy, what a difference! Great to have a sentient human being talking to you. Much better!