Fifty seven great cooking tips … Well, this is Café Witteveen after all.

Do yourselves a favor and read this Epicurious list of 57 cooking tips. Two examples below:


Ground spices die quickly. So give them a whiff—if they don’t smell like anything, they won’t taste like anything. And if they don’t taste like anything, you’re cooking with a flavorless, brown powder.


Do your scrambled eggs slide off the pan if you don’t use oil or butter? They should. Might be time for an upgrade.

Chicago’s 2015 Snowpacolypse was a doozy

As you’ve likely heard, we here in Chicago are digging out under a thick blanket of around 18″ of snow with drifts as tall is my 6’1″ frame.

Of course I fired off shutter or two, and came up with just a few shots that show some of the carnage. Our back door was particularly hard hit with several feet in front of my neighbor’s back door and about two feet in front of ours.

Enjoy some of these images.









A short review of the Hasselblad H5D-50c


A few weeks ago, I scheduled a studio demo of the new Hasselblad H5D-50c with the local Hassie rep named Steve. This is Hasselblad’s newest flagship stunner featuring a 50 mp CMOS sensor. This camera retails for $27,500 for the body only, which as you might already be thinking, is really damn expensive. :)

For those of you who don’t know, a CMOS sensor is supposed to render images more useable at higher ISOs as it starts performing more like the current DSLRs as opposed to the older medium format sensors that make it difficult to shoot higher than ISO400 , and even ISO400 is pushing it on my camera, a H3DII-31.

Steve demo’d some newer features of the camera that I can’t find on my Hasselblad. Namely the True Focus and also the new body features, that includes a feature that makes the firewire 800 super sturdy. The LCD on the back is beautiful and much more responsive and accurate than on my camera.

I shot a couple shots of Tina using a studio light at ISO100, but Steve insisted that I walk around the room and shoot a few things at ISO6400. After he left, I checked the files and all I kept thinking was, “I wouldn’t pay $27,500 for this.”

Shoot. I wouldn’t pay $10,000 for that camera. I get gear envy easily, and for once I’m looking at my camera thinking, “I’m fine with you just the way you are.”

As Tina can attest, it looks like I’ve lost my noodle.

I’m not entirely sure what Hasselblad is thinking by making these claims. And I’m not sure what photographers out there are stoked about jacking up their ISOs to 6400 and delivering that kind of product to their clients. Maybe they are out there, but I found the images on a similar usability level as my old Canon 5D Mark II files at 6400.

Above is a 100% crop of an image I took. Keep in mind, all I did was walk around my studio and didn’t spend any time with framing. I just wanted to see the files and be wowed later that day.

Yeah, I could use 6400 in a pinch, but I wouldn’t want to give my clients files shot in 6400. Apart from a little white balance, these shots are out of camera.

Mind you, I LOVE shooting Hasselblad. I’m a fan of the brand and products. I’m suffering huge withdrawal symptoms because my camera has been at the repair center in New Jersey for over 8 weeks. I’m dying to have it back, because I can’t stand working on my Canon 5D Mark III files. I even shot something with my studio partner’s Nikon D800, and it just doesn’t come close to the joys of shooting medium format.

And if someone asked me whether they should buy PhaseOne or Hasselblad, I’d lean toward Hasselblad. Although I’ve seen the PhaseOne experience first hand, and it’s exceptional. But if someone asked me if they should go Hasselblad 50c or Pentax 645z, I’d say save your money and go with the Pentax, unless you absolutely need the Hasselblad’s sync speeds.

With the current in flux of photographers shooting both video and still on the same set, I can see the sync speed need edging out the big guns at Hasselblad and PhaseOne.

For more reviews on the Pentax, check Ming Thein’s blog (here, here & here). For other reviews on the 50c, good luck. The reviews I’ve read don’t seem very detailed and they don’t seem to be stunned over the ISO performance.

Frankly, Hasselblad is still banking on its high worth and brand, when I’m under the impression its line of cameras — while awesome and impressive — aren’t worth the exorbitant price tags.






Only a month late: December self portrait … this time it’s a group shot with the other photographer

As you may know, another photographer Sunny Lee and I have been doing a 12-month self portrait challenge.

Our tentative plan was to get together over the Christmas holiday and do a shot together. Sunny lives in North Carolina and I live in Illinois. She lives about an hour and a half from my parents so it may have worked out if there were time.

But it didn’t.

So plan B was to composite a shot. Sunny chose to shoot a few shots of her with her palm out and I had to come up with what I’d be doing as a mini-me in her palm.

I finished three quick composites and I’m hoping you … yes you … will weigh in on which cheese-ball image you like the most.

Keep in mind, Sunny is Korean so one of them below is particularly funny … :)

You can refer to them in order as photo one, two or three. Thanks!





Sometimes it’s all about experimenting and testing



Just before the holidays, we worked with an aspiring model named Jessica Connelly to create a few images to give her portfolio a boost.

We’ve worked with her before to create a series of fun sports-themed photos. I saw the request as an opportunity to experiment with some ideas, as testing often sharpens skills and allows for some creativity that professionally commissioned shoots don’t always allow.

Testing also gives new and current clients the opportunity to see ideas that they might like to use in their own way as well.

Traditionally, I define my work as very clean and sharp. I tend to shoot low ISOs and often disregard images that aren’t, what I consider, perfect. Tina is the yin to my yang, though, and she’ll often art direct something to be an image, something to stop and admire for different reasons except that it’s not a technically perfect photo. These are the kinds of photos that are often found in the pages of style magazines. I see them and wonder who the hell hires these photographers who submit shots of beautiful models and celebrities that are out of focus.

I mean, seriously.

Lately I’ve been challenging myself on my own aesthetic and I’m trying to alter my views on always shooting low ISOs and always leaning toward the crisp and focused image. There’s two shots in this series of Jessica that I shot high ISO, the one laying on her stomach on the bench and the one with our dog Talulah.

The one with Talulah came in at a whooping ISO 2000. The one on the bench is not as drastic, as it’s only ISO 400, but it’s not typical for me to shoot upwards of ISO 50 to 200.

I know that might not sound crazy to you, but it’s different for me.

Another experiment on this shoot came in the form of long exposures and painting with light. The image with the light streaks below was a 39 second exposure. The one above and the one second to last were 1.5 and 2.5 second exposures. I had Tina open the shutter, I popped a flash with a beauty dish modifier on Jessica and then asked Tina to close the shutter. I loved how the blacks were so black. I loved how it felt the light was a paint stroke rather a splatter. It felt like it had more purpose