Gambas al Ajillo: Building flavors to complement rather than overpower the traditional

One mention of gambas here in the Philippines would usually bring to mind images of shrimps in a deep red-orange sauce (that’s usually more sweet than spicy) with some bellpeppers and onions thrown in for good measure. In some cases, this even comes in a smoking hot sizzling plate. Personally, I’m not a fan of this style of gambas mainly because the shrimps tend to come out overcooked and all the flavors that are added in the dish just overwhelm the subtle taste of the shrimp.

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What you’ll see when you search for “gambas” in Google.

My preference for gambas is to have it as gambas al ajillo, shrimps in garlic to put it simply. Traditional recipes I have seen make use of just four ingredients outside of your basic salt and pepper seasoning: Shrimps, olive oil, garlic, and chili. The dish, as you would expect, lets the shrimps shine with none of the other flavors getting in the way. My take on this though adds a few more ingredients that work to elevate the shrimp flavor even more than just having your basic ingredients.

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Pan-grilled Pork Belly: The no frills dish when you want something simple but delicious

The new cast iron pan and my baby mint plant got me excited to make something in the kitchen tonight. I wanted to make something simple and the first thing that came to mind was some inihaw na liempo or grilled pork belly. This was a dish that always takes me back to Sunday lunches back home with the family and how I did it couldn’t have been simpler! A word of caution though: This can get smokey.

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The plant that made me cook.

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Beer on Ice and Color Play

It’s been a while since I last did a fun shoot of a random image concept that’s been playing around in my head. This one, in particular, was planned as far back as mid-December last year. I remember since I was at the Rockwell Christmas Bazaar when I came up with the idea of shooting this.

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So the plan: Beer bottles on/in a bed of ice with light coming from beneath the ice for what I imagined would make it look clear and crisp. Think looking into a cooler filled with ice and these delicious beers waiting snugly in their cold embrace. That’s what I was going for.

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Three Years Older and (Hopefully) Wiser

One of the things that I’ve always strived to do in my photography was to always push myself to learn something new. Being behind the lens served as my sole avenue for expressing myself in a more creative manner. If I would get stuck in a creative rut, everything else feels flat. And constant. A place where anyone doing creative work would avoid like getting stuck in. I’ve seen myself going from a strobist-obsessed freak that would light anything and anyone I could point my camera at, to shooting portraits using only good old mother nature’s light, to shooting my food cold and still getting the dishes to make others drool, to shooting undeniably heavenly bodies.

Now all of these fields of photography would require a particular set of technical skills to shoot properly as well as a bit of digital darkroom work to come up with the “best” possible image you can churn out. My fickle-minded pursuits in photography have led me to expand my own skill set to adapt to whatever it is that I am shooting. Of course, having experience in shooting a wide variety of subjects is all well and good but there is one thing that I don’t really want to be: A jack of all trades but a master of none.

All of these shifts in my subjects made me think. Am I improving my skill with each little mini project without making me a better general photographer?

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Just a few images of the random photos that I shot in the past nine years.

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Minimalism: When Less Needs More

(Note: Before you even begin reading this, please be warned that this is possibly my lengthiest post. I will not share and food or cocktail recipes nor will I share lighting information. What you will read here are some random thoughts that have been running around in my head since my last few shoots.)

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Family shoots, portfolio portraits, and minimalist food photos: A summary of my photography in the first three weeks of 2016.

Hello, 2016! Happy new year to everyone taking the time to read this entry, my first for the year. The first two weeks of January have been exciting, to say the least. In the first three weekends of the year, I’ve already had the chance to shoot a variety of subjects ranging from family portraits to food shots for a restaurant menu to a more conceptual coffee shoot, all of which have their own set of quirks.

What surprised me though was my new found appreciation for shooting food on a purely white background, something that I didn’t think of highly prior to shooting the restaurant menu and coffee. I know that my little disclaimer on not thinking highly of this genre of food photography might seem a bit douche-y but please do let me explain. My initial foray into food photography was focused mainly on one thing: Mimic what I see in food magazines and learn to improve on these or put my own twist to it. This, in hindsight, wasn’t really the best mindset to have with most food magazines showing photos that are, more often than not, rustic.

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Comfortable is the new Uncomfortable

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11 months ago, I found myself in a creative rut of sorts. All my portraits, whenever I did decide to shoot them, had the help of some additional light. I also had a go to lighting set up that I would find myself using for most of these portraits which got me questioning whether I had become a one-dimensional portrait photographer. I was bitten by the strobist bug. And it hit me hard. I’m Kip. And I’m a strobist. (Now whoever reads this responds with this: “Hi, Kip.”)

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BTS: How I shot a scoop of ice cream in the middle of a Philippine summer afternoon

How it actually looks behind the scenes
How it actually looks behind the scenes

The other day, I stumbled upon this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NB74oogL9c) on food photography that discussed “styling to the camera”. It was a very interesting concept that really made sense when it comes to setting up your shot to get the minute details set one little step at a time. Luckily, an internal company contest was announced just a few days after watching the video so it presented the perfect opportunity to try this workflow out!

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