This time, the subject of my photo shooting is an extraordinary seafood, the symbol of my land, and delight to the palate: the sea urchin. Prickly but elegant coffer of the finest flavours and scents of the sea, this marine invertebrate is very photogenic thanks to its special and unique armour of thorns and to the elegant symmetry of the pulp inside, often vibrant and inviting.
A dive into my past, when “andavamo a fare i ricci”
When I was younger, “andare a fare i ricci” (dialect word to say to go fishing sea urchins), it was one of my favourite activities. At that time, hopefully, we lived much more ‘in harmony with nature and with the sea, without too many fears and distractions. As soon the summer began, free from school works, I used to wake up early every morning and the first thing I do was looking out the window to “feel” the wind. If there was “Bonaccia”, no wind, meant calm seas, I immediately called my two / three friends and we gave us an appointment “giu a casa” (down by my house) to go to the sea “a fare i ricci” (literally to make the sea urchins). Arrived on the rocky beach, our boat was a rickety canvas mattress, so, armed with flippers, masks, nets and knives, cheeky and a bit ‘reckless, swimming hard to go very far from the coast, using our legs as a motor.
Once in the right area, usually where the seabed is covered with a long, bushy seaweed Posidonia, we sat on the diving mask, we filled the lungs with a maximum area, and then straight down, with strong fin strokes, to touch bottom. At that moment, rocked by the sea currents and immersed in that world muffled and noiseless, we began an exciting treasure hunt. I slipped my hands through the long, enveloping algae to move them up until Ii spot the black and vivid thorns. Then, with a slow but experienced movement, I passed the knife right below the urchin, and with a tap, I detached it from the bottom so to let it jump in my free hand. That stinging sensation in the hand, filled my heart with joy and pride and with strong and proud fin strokes I climbed to the surface with the arm upwards.
The hand holding the fresh and alive sea urchins appears to the surface always before the head.
The photography set
To get a good result, I needed first of all that the sea urchins were full, with an abundant pulp and vibrant colors. A huge thanks goes to “pescheria da Cucuzza” of Mola di Bari, my dear friend Vito, a guarantee!
I made this photo shooting directly at my parents’ house, so in a situation of natural light coming from a window door, and using, as a support, the dining table. This time I also had two outstanding assistants: my mother (at the lights) and my father, stage assistant and model 🙂
As seen from backstage photos below, the set is very simple, in a situation of limited space, but the most ‘important is to always have a big window that get as much natural light as possible. For the rest, I fit with what I have available.
Apart from the usual still life photo, this time I also tried to build a sequence of photos in action, using a model (my father) while performing the typical genuine gesture of who eats the fresh pulp with a piece of bread, as the typical “scarpetta” in the pot. To realise this series, I placed myself behind him, on a chair, trying to get a framing as close as possible to his point of view, and therefore have the final image more dynamic and inviting.
No flash or artificial lights have been used to achieve these shots
The basic idea was to get a natural shooting and warm, rustic, simple, home-style atmosphere. So I have used as the background of a beautiful texture of aged wood panel, and a cutting board, also old and with many cuts and signs of wear, and a beautiful wicker basket.
As said before, I do not like artificial light, especially for the food, because it would make it cold and not appealing.
As the main source, I used the wonderful natural light through a glass door and, to open the shadows, in the opposite position, an A3 panel covered with aluminium foil.
The camera used is a Canon 5D Mk III and as the lens, I used the Canon EF 100mm f2.8 Macro for the close-up frames and the Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 II USM, for the top views.