Chinese New Year Studio Dinner 2013

What is a Cuban doing celebrating the Chinese New Year you might ask?

Well let me give you a tiny bit of Cuban history my friends.  The Chinese came to Cuba in the mid 1800's to toil in the sugar cane fields.  Some as slaves, others looking for better working and living conditions as compared to what was going on in China at that time.  The Chinese found the Cubans attractive, started marrying and having sex, or maybe the other way around, and by 1870's there were over 40,000 Chinese in Cuba!  In Habana they established "El Barrio Chino" (Chinatown) becoming the largest community of Chinese in Latin America.  And to our benefit, leaving behind a rich and unique fusion of Chinese-Cuban cuisine!  Not to mention the countless Cuban Chinese anecdotes, stories, and jokes that I grew up hearing in Miami.  I will not attempt to tell you one of those jokes here because I will ruin it.  Trying to tell a Cuban Chinese joke in English is just not going to come through in writing.  It's like trying to read Cervantes in English, or Shakespeare in Spanish.

Still I haven't answered the question, what is a Cuban doing celebrating The Chinese New Year, in Texas?!  Well first of all, Cubans will celebrate just about anything, anywhere.  And since my Chinese food stylist Erin Quon was in town styling another job for me, she wanted to do this for the crew, how could I deny her.  So, we made it into another photo shoot opportunity to share with you all.  I believe we got some great images while having a great time with our family and friends. Pretty good, no?  You can view the complete dinner here.

Food styling by Erin Quon and Jennie Kelly.   Set and props by Kristen Dale Butler.

The menu included:

Asian style whole baked rock cod with sesame oil and soy and ginger.

Chinese  fermented black bean and tomato Dungeness crab.

Steam pork buns.

Pork and shrimp dumplings with scallions and soy sauce.

Stir fried egg noodles with chicken shrimp and sautéed veggies.

Stir fried baby bok choy with ginger and garlic.

Braised pork belly with hoisin sauce and finely sliced scallions.

Steamed rice with lemon grass.

Dessert: coconut ice cream with black sesame short bread cookies and fresh passion fruit.

Click on image to view all the images from this session. 

Lighting consisted of bouncing one daylight 1200 watt HMI lamp (like ones used in movie sets, very bright) off a white wall about 20 feet from the table/set (wall is about 20 feet wide, 10 feet tall).  I chose this way of lighting for two reasons, first I new I was going to have a large set with people and needed a very soft source of light to avoid deep long shadows.  Second, I wanted to have just a bit of movement as our guests served them selves and moved around, (HMI light is a continuous source of light, as different from a strobe, allowing me to capture movement).  As far as lighting, that was it.  No bounce cards.  The light was bouncing off the main wall and spilling everywhere, ceiling and other walls in the studio.  

We had one camera attached to the rafters directly above the center of the table to capture the overhead shots. My assistant Roderick JalaPeña triggered that camera remotely from the computer, while I walked around with a second camera capturing details. The shutter speed on the overhead camera was set at 0.4 second to capture the movement you see in some of the shots. ISO was at 800 at ƒ/14.  On the second camera I pushed the ISO to 3200 allowing me to hand hold the camera at a faster shutter speed (1/125 second at ƒ/5.0)