An underground gourmand photographs his adventures in dining.
Ulterior Epicure, a 28-year-old globe-trotting photographer and food connoisseur, never expected his photoblog of dining adventures (ulteriorepicure.wordpress.com) to gain such fame. "I was in a restaurant in Shanghai recently," he says, "and the chef came out to ask, 'Are you Ulterior Epicure?' People must be on the lookout for a slender young guy with a Nikon."
UE (he refuses to divulge his real identity) documents his meals in part to share his experiences with food fanatics around the world. But it's mostly a creative outlet: "Food is something I have always found very beautiful," he says. "I find it such a waste when you are given a beautiful presentation and then you eat it and it's gone. By taking a picture, I can always remember it."
This Missouri resident started the project a year-and-a-half ago, living on a budget in grad school, and now as a world-traveling professional he has detailed entries for a diverse array of restaurants. Many are Michelin-rated, which may explain why his blog is known even in Shanghai, and gets more than 1,000 visitors per month.
Or maybe it's because the photos are so good. UE has some tips for food-shooting below.
1) Prepare for low light.
"A lot of restaurants favor ambience," he explains. "It's like taking pictures in a cave." Request a table by a window when making reservations. Maximize available light by arranging candles around dishes. He shoots handheld, stopping down as much as possible. But you can use a tabletop tripod with flexible legs -- these sell for as little as $5 (street) and are small enough to fit into a purse or a pocket.
2) Don't shoot from above.
"Food from above looks flat," he says. Shooting from the side adds depth and complexity.
3) Adjust distance for the compelling feature.
For dishes with vibrantly colored elements, shoot far enough away to capture the full composition. For dishes with a uniform color, such as meat or fish, get close up for texture -- show how the meat clings to the bone, for example. If the shape is interesting, as with a plate of ribs, try framing at an angle.
4) Keep in mind how your dish is being prepared.
"I'll order salad with dressing on the side, because when it's tossed, it looks gross and soggy."
5) Vary your shots.
Not every shot needs to be a close-up. Try zooming out to include the table with a dining companion's hand or elbow in the frame, or, if several dishes arrive at once, use a short depth of field to focus on each while capturing the rest out-of-focus in the background.
Click here to See a gallery of Ulterior Epicure's images.