A Night at Hillstone with the Food Bloggers

A sample of the menu items at Hillstone Restaurant in Winter Park, FL
Hillstone - © Copyright 2012 by William Beem

The Hillstone Social Media Dinner

Last night, I was invited to join some of the Central Florida Food Bloggers for a social media dinner at one of my favorite restaurants – Hillstone's (formerly Houston's) in Winter Park, FL. I'll be honest, this came as quite a surprise to me because I don't really consider myself a food blogger.  It may be due to a secondary blog of mine – Orlando Local – which has a few posts about local restaurants, including some about Houston's.

Central Florida has a thriving collection of food bloggers.  I follow some of them on Twitter & Facebook, and I got to meet a few more at Hillstone's.  Gotta say that these are some nice people, very well informed on the local foodie scene and willing to share what they know.  You couldn't ask for better dinner companions.  Of course, this isn't a food blog and I felt a bit out of my element among them.

We were told to take all the photos we wanted, so I brought along my camera bag for food shots and my iPhone – since I wanted to share things live on Google+. The other food bloggers had an array of camera.  Most everyone had a smart phone, there were a few point & shoot camera, and a couple of DSLRs.  I didn't think a bit when I opened my bag and started to assemble my D700 & 24-70mm lens.  Then, it happened.

Big Camera Syndrome

Suddenly, my camera became a topic of conversation.  It's bigger, so it must be better. It's kind of cute when that happens, but it has absolutely no bearing in truth. I agreed to share all of my photos with the others, but they were wise to take their own photos that night.  It's good that they did, too.  You know why?

Food Blogging is Hard!

Man, this is a pretty tough field.  We're dining outside in a covered dock just before sunset.  There's harsh light and shadows all over the table, and everyone is shooting the food before we eat it. Fighting depth of field and lighting to get a shot of some food that you desperately want to eat is something that just messes with your mind.  I was OK during the salads because I don't eat that stuff.  Lettuce grows in the dirt, so you know it's a filthy food.  However, they brought out some delicious shrimp, French Dip, steaks, pork chops and…oh, my – GET IN MY BELLY kind of food.  Don't even get me started about the mojitos, brownies, key lime pie and more!  Meanwhile, the sun is sinking and I'm contemplating when to break out my flash, yet not be rude to the other folks at the table.

Once I get home and start reviewing my shots, I see some that I like, but also see what I screwed up.  Since I wanted to get in tight on the food, I zoomed in close.  That started creating a very shallow depth of field and I knew I wasn't getting focus quite the way I wanted.  I changed my aperture, which also meant changing my ISO.  Next thing I know, I'm shooting at ISO 1600 in setting sunlight.  The flash comes out with a portable umbrella.  Too much – I should have brought the grid.

As much as photographers like to beat themselves up for what they didn't get, sometimes we have to be happy with the results we achieved. Food photography is a great challenge in itself when in a controlled environment, so I'm not going to beat myself up too much for some quick snapshots at a crowded dinner table.  I find that it's a matter of trial & error for me.  I make mistakes, discover them, adjust and move on to the next challenge. Taking pics with a knife & fork in your hand is definitely a new challenge for me.

Overall, I had a magnificent evening.  We had great hosts, food, service and company for dinner.  Maybe there's something to this food blogging business.  If only I weren't such a finicky eater.

If you're in the Orlando area, you should come visit one of my favorite restaurants.

215 South Orlando Avenue
Winter Park, FL  32789

Central Florida Food Bloggers

Check out some of the folks who joined me at this dinner on their Twitter accounts –   @EatingOrlando, @PrimlaniKitchen, @Kwidrick & @TravelerFoodie.

2 thoughts on “A Night at Hillstone with the Food Bloggers”

  1. Looks like fun still! I was wondering why you were posting all that great looking food last night.  I’ve been thinking about trying some food photography, but I’m still not sure about it.

    1. Trying to take pics of food in the wild gives you all sorts of issues.  Lighting, shadows, and background.  I try to get close up for the shots, but that also really gives you a shallow DOF.  Sometimes that’s good to blur out the background, and sometimes you want more in focus than the DOF you have.  Then if you go for a smaller aperture to extend DOF, you have to compensate with slower shutter speed or higher ISO.  I experimented with a bit of flash, but even that can cause issues by over lighting the subject and area.  

      Meanwhile, everyone else wants to eat.

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