Chicago Food and Travel Photographer


Vive la France! I recently enjoyed my first visit to Paris, France. From the architecture, wine breaks at cafes and museums to scooting around the city in our friend's Clio, it was a truly amazing experience. The subway system makes it very easy to get around the city and we were able to explore most of city's neighborhoods during our 5 day visit.

French Tricolour

1/250 Sec - f11 - Iso 400 - 70mm

We got several recommendations from my wife's favorite TV chef, Ina Garten. One was for breakfast at Cafe Varenne off the Rue de Bac subway stop, a favorite of Ina's and where she and Jeffrey have breakfast every time they land in Paris. As expected, it did not disappoint! Freshly baked croissants, frothy, fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee, Mariage Freres hot tea, and the best omelette we've ever had. Afterwards we walked around the quiet, quaint neighborhood where I found several unique photo ops: 

Cafe Varenne

French Balconies 

1/50 Sec - f11 - ISO 400 - 42mm

French Scooter

1/1000 Sec - f4.5 - ISO 400 - 70mm

We went to mass at Notre Dame then spent some time exploring the church and the ornate facade:

Notre Dame Cathedral

1/30 Sec - f4.0 - ISO 3200 - 16mm (HDR) 

Notre Dame Cathedral

1/30 Sec - f11 - ISO 400 - 28mm

After Notre Dame we went to the nearby Ile Saint Louis - a little island behind Notre Dame with beautiful quaint streets and the famous Berthillon ice cream - a treat not to be missed! Nearby is a cafe named Esmeralda - a Hunchback of Notre Dame reference, no doubt - where we enjoyed one of our many afternoon wine breaks.

Berthillon Ice Cream

Cafe Esmeralda

1/5000 Sec - f2.8 - ISO 400 - 42mm

Bar Brasserie

1/2000 Sec - f2.8 - ISO 400 - 70mm

We climbed to the top of the Arc de Triumph one evening during sunset - the winding, tiny staircase was endless and tiring, but worth the view:


Paris from the Arc de Triumph

1/6 Sec - f11 - ISO 100 - 16mm (HDR) 

No trip to Paris is complete without visiting the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. We saw both only from the outside but spent time relaxing nearby to soak in the incredible views. Outside of the Louvre I used two ND filters and shot 2-4 minute exposures to blur some of the crowds for a unique shot.

The Louvre

1/200 Sec - f11 - ISO 100 - 16mm (HDR) 

Eiffel Tower

1/500 Sec - f11 - ISO 320 - 16mm (HDR) 

Paris is a beautiful city; one that I can't wait to visit again.


Food Photography: Steamed Mussels and Cappellini Pasta

I love seafood - and mussels are no exception. My wife and I recently visited Mariano’s Fresh Market to check out the latest local craze in grocery shopping in Chicago; it did not disappoint. The seafood bar had a variety of selections and we decided to buy a bag of fresh mussels. We’ve never cooked mussels at home but was recently inspired by an amazing mussels dish at Acadia restaurant in Chicago and decided to give it a try. The hardest part is cleaning them, but it’s worth the work! Mussels

Campone’s Steamed Mussels Recipe: 1 bag of mussels (about 2 pounds) 1/3 chopped white onion (or 4 shallots) Extra virgin olive oil 6 cloves garlic, minced Red chili pepper flakes Chopped flat italian parsley 1 cup white wine (something you would drink; I like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay) Salt and pepper Juice of 1 lemon

Directions: Soak mussels in water for 15 minutes to remove any sand. Drain and clean the mussels, scrubbing them with a vegetable brush under cold water. Pull off the “beards”. Discard any that are not tightly closed or any with broken shells. In a deep saute pan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook for a minute without burning the garlic. Add a pinch of red chili pepper flakes and stir. Add a good pinch of chopped parsley, the wine and salt and pepper. Stir and bring to boil. Add the mussels, stir, cover with lid and let cook for 8-10 minutes until mussel shells have opened. Discard any mussels that don’t open. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon into pan. Pour mussels with sauce into large bowl. Serve immediately with some crusty sourdough bread to sop up the juice, and of course, a chilled glass of white wine. Cheers!

Being Italian has certainly rubbed off on my wife. One of her favorite dishes to cook on a whim is pasta. Regardless of what we have in the refrigerator or pantry she can always find enough ingredients to make a simple, delicious pasta dish. Here is one of our favorites: Cappellini Pasta with Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Basil. I love the colors of fresh tomatoes. I used a bright, colorful background to bring out the colors of the dish. A simple white bowl really shows off the dish well and is a nice contrast with the bright colors.

Grape Tomatoes

Cappellini Pasta


Cappellini Pasta

Campone’s Cappellini Pasta with Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Basil Recipe:

Two boxes fresh grape or cherry tomatoes (use both red and yellow for color), rinsed 10 large white button mushrooms, thickly sliced Extra virgin olive oil 6 cloves garlic, minced Red chili pepper flakes Juice of 1/2 lemon Salt and pepper Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved Fresh basil leaves, sliced chiffonade

Directions: In a saute pan, heat olive oil and add sliced mushrooms. Stir only occasionally to let brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Once browned turn off heat and set aside. Cook cappellini pasta al dente. Heat olive oil in a separate large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and cover with lid for a few minutes. Stir and cook another few minutes, until a few tomatoes start to brown and open. Add the sautéed mushrooms, garlic, pinch of red chili pepper flakes and salt and pepper, stir and cook for about a minute to let garlic soften. Add al dente cappellini pasta straight from the pot to the saute pan. Add juice of 1/2 lemon for a fresh kick. Toss together and serve in large bowl, topped with shaved parmigiano reggiano and fresh basil. Mangia, mangia!

Food Photography: Caprese Salad and Cilantro Garlic Shrimp

I am excited to have recently discovered the world of food photography. I have always enjoyed food and consider myself a “foodie”, which is not hard to do living in Chicago. There are endless restaurants to try, new restaurants popping up weekly, food and wine festivals, and world renowned chefs from Chicago are getting more press than ever. In the spirit of feeding my passions for photography and food and my wife's passion for cooking, I have immersed myself into several food photography sessions to capture some of my favorite subjects (of course enjoying them after the shooting is done). Here is some of my latest work. Being of Italian heritage, I love simple ingredients that also bring complexity and depth. Tomatoes straight from the vine, chunks of aged parmigiano reggiano and fresh basil leaves go well together - both on a dish and in front of a camera. After a few shots of the ingredients themselves we made a simple caprese salad:

Tomatoes, Cheese and Basil


Caprese Salad

Campone’s Caprese Salad Recipe: 2 tomatoes from the vine 2 medium balls fresh mozzarella Fresh basil leaves Extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Slice tomatoes and mozzarella into thick slices. Layer tomatoes and mozzarella alternately on plate. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roll basil leaves and slice into thin strips. Sprinkle basil onto salad. For an extra kick, drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Next, a delicious, easy appetizer (perhaps also a blend of my Italian and my wife’s Mexican heritages!)...Cilantro Garlic Shrimp.

Cilantro Garlic Shrimp

Cilantro Garlic Shrimp Campone’s Cilantro Garlic Shrimp Recipe: 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined 4 cloves garlic, chopped Extra virgin olive oil Red chili pepper flakes Fresh lemon juice Cilantro (may substitute Italian parsley) Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in saute pan on medium-high heat. Add chopped garlic and pinch of red chili pepper flakes to oil and stir for 20 to 30 seconds, making sure it does not burn. Add shrimp to pan and let cook for 2 minutes. Flip and cook another 1 minute or until all shrimp are pink and cooked through. Squeeze juice of one lemon into pan. Stir. Turn off heat. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste and top with chopped cilantro. Toss and serve immediately.

What Inspires You....

Photography can be an interesting profession.  If you are a creative shooter as most of us are, at some point you run out of ideas of what to shoot. I can see this being an issue whether you shoot landscapes, street photography, or in a studio setting.  After a certain amount of time you start to feel like you've shot the same shot, the same setup, the same subject.  The question is how do you keep it fresh?  How do you stretch your abilities and push yourself into new creative endeavors? I think the answer varies for most people but very often includes personal projects.  The goal is to shoot the things and projects that you like and you find interesting.  It's hard when you are in the same location to keep it fresh but even if you can't travel to a new location do something different.  Model Mayhem is a great site that matches models with photographers.  Most models work for free in exchange for copies of the photos you take.  If you are in a rut hire a model and shoot for an afternoon.  Get out and go have some fun. This time of year is especially tough because it's so dark and so cold.  It can be difficult to be cooped up all winter but consider moving inside and setting up a small macro studio.  You'd be surprised how interesting some of the small things around your house look with a macro lens.  Even if you don't have a macro lens pick up a 50mm f1.8 lens.  It's not quite a macro lens but it works fairly well.  I've got a nice little set up that allows me to shoot models in my house.  I bought a 9 foot white paper roll from Calumet Photo and a backdrop mount that I can put up in about 15 minutes.  It's a great way for me to get my fix in the winter months.  The set up was relatively inexpensive and I can buy more paper and different color paper if I decide to go that route.  The set up also works great for pets too.

I love Google+ because there is a vibrant and flourishing community of photographers that share a ton of work.  Yes Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla, but Google+ arguably gets better interactions and feedback than Facebook. This is especially true now that Google+ rolled out communities. Google+ communities are a great way to participate in a semi-private circle where only the members can interact.  You can have multiple treads with different topics such as critiques, discussion or gear. I currently participate in 4 communities (Long Exposure Photographers, Chicago Photographers, Landscape Photographers, and Sports Shooters).  I've found that in these communities the interactions and feedback is even better than the general Google+ feed and you can hone in on particular topics that interest you.  Communities are a great way to get your work out there and share it with the photography world.  You can find pretty much anything you are looking for from sports shooting to food photography and everything in between. I find myself spending 10-15 minutes a day just looking through all the great shots that are in my communities and my Google+ feed.

I also have found that there are some great e-books out there on photography that help inspire my personal work.  I personally love Digital SLR Magazine I know it's not an e-book per se but it is available in iTunes and I tend to read it on my iPad.  I also love to read Chicago Social Magazine.  They have great photographs and product shots that get me thinking of what I can shoot around the house and how I can stage my next model. Some of my other favorites come from Flatbooks which I believe is owned by Trey Ratcliff. Craft and Vision also has some great e-books that teach you the technical skills you will need but also offer some inspirational images.

One of the websites that I read pretty much daily is FStoppers.  They put up some great articles on the technical aspects of photography and do a lot of great behind the scenes (BTS) videos with experts from all over the industry.  Some of my favorites are behind the scenes videos of Vogue shoots or some of these extreme sports shoots.  It's definitely a site worth checking out and visiting often.

I think the final key to growing and progressing is shooting when you have the muse.  For all your Timothy Ferris followers out there you know what I'm talking about but for those of you who haven't read The 4 Hour Work Week the muse is shooting when you feel inspired and in the mood to do something.  It's the worst when shooting becomes a hassle or a job that you don't like.  If you are like me this is the hardest part of being a photographer because I feel that if I'm not doing something that I'm not moving forward.  When the muse is around I tend to do my best work and feel the happiest about what I'm doing.  Hope this post gave you a few ideas on how to keep motivated this winter and whenever you are feeling in a rut.  Let's hope for an early spring so we can all break this house arrest and get out and shoot.

Napa Valley Sunrise Photography

I recently vacationed in beautiful Napa Valley, California, where I enjoyed plenty of wine tasting, and more importantly, capturing the scenery in photos. My last trip to Napa this past spring was a whirlwind trip that left me with only a few quick photo opportunities between vineyard visits; this time I had four full days to drag myself out of bed each morning to shoot - and the lack of sleep was well worth it! Not shockingly, the pure beauty of Napa Valley gave me just enough energy to get up each morning to take photos.



We stayed near downtown Napa which gave me easy access to the entire valley. Our rental house had an impressive, picturesque view which I knew would be my first shoot, but I still had to figure out where else I was going to shoot.  As we explored the valley I bookmarked each location that looked perfect for a sunrise shot and kept a tally on my phone. GPS makes for a great photo shoot assistant.


I'm in the process of buying a roller bag to accommodate all of my gear.  In the meantime I've been packing up my Lowepro AW250 with as much as I can, which forces me to choose favorite lenses as I can't fit my Nikon 28-70 f2.8 , Nikon 80-200 f2.8 and my wide angle in the bag at the same time. I opted to bring my wide angle lens and my Nikon 28-70 f2.8 this time, which proved to work out. There were times I would have liked to have my Nikon 80-200 f2.8, but that's life. The moral of the story: stop being cheap and get a rolling bag!


Anyway, back to the adventure..... Day 1 and I'm up (amazingly) at 5:00 am. The sun is not up and I realized I made a slight miscalculation. Due to the mountain range the sun doesn't peak above the mountains until after sunrise. Luckily, the extra 20 minutes gave me time to make sure all the settings were ready to go on my Nikon D800, which I had forgotten being my first time shooting HDR since I got my D800. Settings... Check. Now it was time to play around with my new Lee Filter Set and my 0.9 ND Grad. Looks like I needed that extra time anyway.


In a place like Napa Valley you can't help but feel like one with nature as you are surrounded by this lush intense beauty. As the sun started to approach the mountain line I just sat there admiring the whole process in awe and of coursing shooting the whole time.

Later that day we headed out on our wine tour.  We wound our way from vineyard to vineyard and stopped at some old and new favorites: Silver Oak , Inglenook, Beaulieu Vineyard and Palmaz Winery - bookmarking of course along the way.

Day 2 was definitely harder to get out of bed than Day 1, but today I had car keys and was ready to travel. I explored the north area of the valley, near Yountville and got some great morning shots. It's hard to look for locations while driving but luckily there aren't many people on the road at that time. Shooting in Napa is pretty amazing but it can also be a challenge since the light I prefer lasts only about 25 minutes this time of year.

The final two days I made my way over to the Domain Carneros area and explored the surrounding miles. Unfortunately, there was one location that I wanted to shoot but didn't have time to go to. Pride Mountain is breathtaking from what I hear so I was a little disappointing that I didn't get to see it or shoot any pictures. Judging from the shots I got and what will end up going in my portfolio I'd say this was a very successful trip. Now that I'm home I wish I was back; I see how people fall in love with California and never come home. I'll just have to hang some of my sunrise shots in my condo to remind me of those early morning adventures...