Joe fills his belly with all the environmental portraits he can eat shooting food trucks in LA
Joe tucks into a trio of food vending vans in Los Angeles and shares his shooting and lighting secrets with us
Nothing like lighting on the fly, inside a small, silver box. That was the order of the day when I shot a series of portraits of super-hip, delicious food trucks in LA.
First was Blast Ice Cream truck – a great looking truck. The truck is a shiny cube on wheels, which made lighting interesting in this situation. Thankfully, I had a terrific subject, Court Hackworth, who makes ice cream with liquid nitrogen! He’s got a great look, and the vapours make it appear as if he’s creating a sci-fi monster!
I used all Speedlights, SB-5000 units. Two behind Court, one with a warm gel and the other with a deep theatrical blue gel. A third, also gelled warm, is up above the mixer with a snooted grid, providing some light for the nitro fog. Outside are two more SB-5000S, fitted into a brand-new Lastolite strip softbox, with a fabric grid. I shot the food trucks with a Nikon D850, and in this instance, a 16mm f/2.8 fisheye lens.
Next up was Mac’d-n-loaded! These guys stand out with one of the coolest logos on the planet – macaroni ‘loaded’ in a revolver for a graphic. The shot has Dwayne, Tetsujin and Dwight, the principals of our second food truck. They work events, large and small, and are always there with their delicious, comforting mac and cheese.
With the other trucks, I was dealing with shiny interiors, and in another instance, working at night. In this instance, though, it was broad daylight, late afternoon, and I had to cover these wonderful faces. So I went the other direction, using a Lastolite 4-in-1 umbrella as a broad shoot-thru, and it was fitted with a Lastolite Triflash, so I could get three SB-5000 units going to match the strength of the daylight.
I shot from the driver’s cab of the truck, with a 16mm f/2.8 fisheye and that big umbrella, handheld this time, with the Triflash, stuffed into the tiny confines of the cab. Very fun shot.
We were also 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 despite the very hot evening and queue of people. I served up about six or seven SB-5000 Speedlights, some inside the truck, others outside, either on the sidewalk or 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.
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.
From restaurants to the streets, the Border Grill gang were shot in challenging and busy conditions