Our Tribe. Family Photo Session

Spring is finally here when I start booking outdoor sessions and yesterday I officially opened my calendar for 2016. But of course I still have lots to show you from last year.

The sacred juniper at Kataveski is a single tree surrounded by fields and can be seen from far. It’s said to be 200-300 years old.  It really makes you wonder about the ancient times and things this tree has witnessed. It’s situated in my neighboring village, just a ten minute walk from where I live. For years I’ve been curious about the tree and secretly waiting for the right time to photograph next to it. (It grows on private property, therefore it’s advised to ask a permission.)

So now we did. It was one of the best days of last summer. The reason why I keep taking bookings of family sessions is because they make me happy. I get all sentimental going through the images in my computer as if they were my own. They make me feel and believe that love exists. It’s very hard for me to see it elsewhere nowadays.

Despite the efforts to manage my business according to business logic I keep coming back to things I love. This I love. F*** business!

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My Photos of Estonian Tableware Design Exhibited

I have a dream. In my dream all people have developed a sophisticated taste for designer goods, they can afford them and designers and makers of crafts can earn a decent living from their art.

My dream became my mission and it found a way into a food magazine Köök. I have a section Nõudepeatus (meaning sth like ‘dish stop’) in this quarterly magazine where I find a ceramist or a designer I like, present their work to a chef and let the chef develop a dish according to the tableware. Then I photograph the outcome of their collaboration, write the interviews with them both and thats it. I hope the readers will find something they like, either the tableware or the recipes.

So this is how it looked like for the first time in spring 2015.


1. Mari Ait, chef Jürgen Lip 2. Raili Keiv, chef Johannes Hõimoja, 3. Marion Isabelle Varik, pastry chef Kertu Lukas

And in the actual publication.


In summer 2015.


Elika Hunt, chefs Ranno Paukson, Martin Meikas (restaurant Ö)


Jarõna Ilo, chefs Ranno Paukson, Martin Meikas (restaurant Kaks Kokka)

This was the beginning. I was tied to the idea that I should introduce a ceramist to a chef and see what comes out. Most of those set-ups were photographed on location, meaning in restaurants and using the available backgrounds because chefs are used to working in their kitchens. Also I had to carry loads of props, gear and backgrounds to there and back. Set up lighting in available spots etc. I understood pretty fast that this was very limiting and working against the artistic goals and against the readers’ interest. Also I had chosen a format that limited the display of tableware items and very often it was difficult to find a right angle for both food and tableware in one frame.

For the autumn issue I found a restaurant and a ceramist that already had a working relationship. They had been working over a year to create a custom set of tableware for a newly opened restaurant Kuur that used to be a hit foodie destination during the previous summer. I also managed to get the two characters into my studio and we worked the set there.


Mari Saan, chef Heimar Kuuskler (restaurant Kuur)

I was much happier with the whole work process and the outcome as well.


We photographed the making of the dishes as well as individual tableware items and details. I also visited the ceramist’s studio the day after and snapped her working. Not only was it more interesting for the audience, but it was also a more rewarding experience for all of us involved. It was much easier for me to style the shoot together with the author of the tableware and to get a deeper understanding of how she works and why the items are made to look like that.


I’m writing this in order to thank all the people involved in my dream catching in 2015. Word spreads and some of my photos were chosen to an exhibition called ‘Kitchen. Changing Space, Design and Applied Art in Estonia‘. Thank you all the ceramists, chefs, magazine editors, design museum people and friends and welcome to the show!


The section in magazine Köök will go on and will have a fresh look on Estonian tableware design already in a month or so.

Valentine’s Chocolate Ice Cream

There’s still time for some chocolate ice cream!


Client: Oma Maitse magazine
Recipe: Kertu Lukas

Chocolate Ice Cream

1 litre
200 g good quality dark chocolate
100 ml water
500 ml milk
3 egg yolks
120 g sugar

Cut chocolate into pieces and set aside. Mix egg yolks and sugar. Boil milk and water and then pour over egg yolk mixture constantly stirring. Heat until the liquid gets thiker (85 degrees C), do not boil. Add chocolate and melt until even. Let it cool in the fridge for 2 hours and make the ice cream using the ice cream maker.


Valentine’s Day Boudoir Inspired Magazine Cover

It’s about time to grab Oma Maitse from news stand and see inside how many kilograms of chocolate you need in order to survive the Valentine’s. I’ll give you a little background story and one recipe as a teaser.

From own experience I can tell that after you’ve prepared it all, three people can eat it for seven days or more.

When we got the assignment from the magazine I definitely wanted to avoid red heart-shaped things. I wanted to avoid red color completely. I don’t remember how exactly it came to me, but all of a sudden I realized I want to shoot food in boudoir atmosphere.

Then I started gathering ideas. I make no secret that I use Pinterest a lot. Not only do I search what’s already pinned but I also google, search other resources like Behance for example. I’m not looking for food images, I’m looking for fantasy worlds – interior, fashion, fine art etc. So for those of you curious of the thinking behind photos, go and see the mood board. And follow me for seeing new things happening there! When I’m done pinning  my ideas are usually so grandiose that require three days of set building and hundreds of Euros. As we don’t have a budget for set design I start scaling it down to something doable.

In my head I run through all the props I have in studio or home or that I’ve seen in shops. Usually at that point I tell my idea to my companion Kertu and she tells me she also has something suitable or she knows someone who has. All those things end up in a pile at the location of the shoot. Like this.


I love my props. I like the hidden rhythm that appears in chaos when the right form, shade and pattern come together. For me it’s pretty much done there at this point. I already see the final images then. Of course a lot of frustration will follow after that when the light is not right, the food is tricky or some other unforeseen circumstances arise, but already there’s a lot of beauty. For me the preparation is the easy part. That’s why I sometimes wonder why I go on photographing instead of just being a stylist. (Not going to go into that now.)

This time space was a subject on the photo. You should feel the air and space around the food if you look at the photographs (in the magazine for now. I’ll follow up with the rest of the photos and recipes.). Remember, we can’t build walls or floors. Sometimes we redecorate them with paint or tapestry or fabric. Most often I try to avoid interior larger than 2×2 meters (2 m tabletop, 2 m background).  It can’t be done entirely at the tabletop. To be honest – most often you actually can trick the viewer and create the atmosphere with the use of light and perspective, but first you need to imagine the real thing, need to get into the mood yourself and then the right environment helps a lot.

Alright, you’ve suffered enough, time for the recipe. Luckily it’s easy to make.

Colorful No Bake Chocolate Cake
Serves 6-8
110 g clarified butter
110 g dark chocolate
50 g honey
50 g condensed milk
80 g cocoa butter
pinch of salt
50 g pistachios
50 g pecans
45 g dried figues
20 g freeze dried berries (raspberry, strawberry, figue)
1 ts vanilla extract

Melt butter, chocolate, honey, cocoa butter and condensed milk, mix with nuts and berries. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, pour the mixture in and let cool down in fridge.


Kirju küpsetamata šokolaadikook

110 g selitatud võid
110 g tumedat šokolaadi
50 g mett
50 g kondentspiima
80 g kakaovõid
näputäis soola
50 g pistaatsiapähkleid
50 g pekaanipähkleid
45 g kuivatatud viigimarju
20 g külmkuivatatud marju (vaarikas, maasikas, viigimari)
1 tl vaniljeekstrakti
Sulata või, šokolaad, mesi, kakovõi ja kondentspiim, sega juurde pähklid ja marjad ning vala küpsetuspaberiga vooderdatud vormi. Pane külmkappi tahenema.