The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Why Do You Take So Many Pictures?

If you’ve been elsewhere on this site, the title of this blog may seem self evident. But what caused me to have to answer this question, was a visit from a friend when I was doing a practice run for a Christmas side dish. I was snapping multiple pictures of every phase of what I was doing and he finally said: “I had no idea you shot so many pictures of the things you make. Why do you take so many pictures when you could just take the pictures you need to use on your site?” While I was answering his question, it occurred to me there might be a blog in this. Some of the answers are obvious and some equally good reasons are not obvious. So here is a list of the reasons I document in pictures all the new recipes I make, from start to finish.

  • This website: This one is a no brainer. This website allows me to combine my interests in grilling with my interest in photography. So there certainly is a “Just for the fun of it” aspect here.
  • Future Reference 1: I tend to keep making new things all the time. So by capturing all the aspects of a particular recipe, I can revisit these pictures months or years later and it serves as a recap of the process. So I don’t have to remember everything, looking at the pictures can jog my memory.
  • Future Reference 2: I can look at the final results and see hopefully what it is supposed to look like. This is also true of the various phases. For example I can see what a roast looks like after I sear it for 3 minutes on each side. I can look at a picture of the carved meat and see what it looks like in terms of doneness vs. end temp. Having a picture that shows the results of a given cooking time and temperature is far more valuable than a verbal description.

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Using the date time stamp. Hovering my mouse over the picture of the roast going on the CG shows the metadata for that picture. The third item down on the list is the date/time stamp which says 8:00:07. This is my start time (left). Hovering my mouse over the picture taken just before the roast was brought inside to rest shows a done time of 12:09:39 (right). This means the total time was 5 hours 9 minutes.

  • How Long Did It Take? - Method 1: Once again at any point in the future I can simply call up a recipe and look at the time stamp the camera puts on the pictures. I make a point of having the date/time stamp set correctly in the camera. It makes it easy to search for old pictures in you know the time frame you last cooked it. Even if you camera was set incorrect, it will be constantly incorrect. So the difference in time between two pictures is the amount of time that phase of the cook took.

Another way to capture how long something took to cook is to take a shot of the readout from your remote thermometer. Most of them have a timer you can use to record the elapsed time. In this picture I am getting the time of the cook of my iPhone and the temperature off the transmitter of the ET-72. If I was using the base station of the ET-72, I could have used it’s built in timer. This day I was out at the grill the whole time and didn’t use the remote base station. The point is, capture a picture of the end temp and timer and you’ll know how long this cook took.

  • How Long Did It Take? - Method 2: A second way to capture a total cook time for future reference is to capture a picture of the remote read out. If you use the built in timer feature, you can snap a picture showing the end temperature and elapsed time.

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Keeping the pictures from this website on my iPhone allow me too quickly see the ingredients used in a particular recipe. If I was at the store and found I needed to switch gears & make a different recipe it is simple. The prep picture on the left for this paella shows me all of the produce required (left). Zooming in on this same picture (right)allows me to read the labels off the various spice jars.

  • What Ingredients Do I Need?: has this ever happened to you? You go out to the store to buy a particular piece of meat or fish you are planning to make for a particular recipe and you can’t get it. Or perhaps they have something else on special or that you like the looks of better. You know you’ve got a good recipe for it, but what were the ingredients? I keep the same pictures I put up on this website on my iPhone. I can look up that particular dish and zoom in on the ingredients from the prep. I always take pictures of the ingredients measured out in bowls with the spice jars behind. It helps me be organized while cooking, but taking a picture can be helpful in the future. It is usually possible to read the labels and see what every ingredient was.

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YummySoup 2, my recipe software of choice, allows you to add photos to the direction steps. This helps make things perfectly clear since a picture can be worth a thousand words.

  • Recipe Software: Having prep pictures helps with my recipe software. YummySoup 2 added a feature where you can use up to 5 photos with a recipe. One photo is the key photo that is associated with that item and is displayed in list views. The other 4 photos can be attached to the directions and serve to flesh out the directions.

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While I didn’t notice it at the time of these 3 Cowboy steaks showed me why two of them cooked up faster than the other one, The picture on the left showed me the different fat pattern and bone structure of the lower steak. This same steak swelled in vertical direction and this extra thickness made it take longer (right). I had no idea what had happened until I saw the photos. Having plenty of photos allows you to study the results and figure out the cause.

  • Post Mortem: Often when you are in the middle of a hectic cook you may not notice something, but later looking at the pictures it jumps off the page at you. A recent example of this was when I grilled 3 thick Cowboy steaks and two of them grilled more quickly than the third. At the time I had no idea why this was happening, I just dealt with it as best as I could. Later looking at the picture I could tell from the prep photos that one steak was cut from a different area of the animal. It had a different fat pattern and the bone looked different. It was twisted at a 45 degree angle vs. the more vertical bone of the other two. In looking at the pictures on the grill, this different steak had plainly gotten thicker than the other two, it shrunk in it’s footprint, but had gotten thicker. I didn’t notice it when I was prepping and cooking the steaks, but it jumped right out at me when I was downloading the photos.
  • Get the Best Shot: Digital photography allows you to take lots of shots, why not take advantage of this? Since it really doesn’t cost you any extra money to shoot extra photos with digital, as it once did with film, it often pays to take extra pictures. I usually take several angles of a particular shot and fiddle with the lighting. This gives me many views to choose from, and often an alternate shot will be chosen over the one I thought was the money shot. Trying different angles with my bounce flash, allows me to study the best way to bounce the light for a particular effect. This pays off in the future when I run into a shot that is tricky to light. I often have an idea which direction to go to get the lighting I need.

A quick picture of the label store a lot of useful information for future reference.

  • Labels, Labels, Labels: I make a point of taking a picture of the label on the meat or fish I am making. This gives me a record of the cut, the weight, the grade , where you bought it and the price I paid at the time. All valuable things to know when it is time to do that meal again, and it is stored with the other pictures of that meal.

So there are some of the reasons I rather thoroughly document most of the new recipes I try. Hopefully this will give you some food for thought on how they could take advantage of the pictures they shoot now. Perhaps by taking a few additional pictures you can get even more benefits.


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