Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An exercise in food photography with Bangalore Chutney podi

A certain advantage with writing a blog is that one gets to learn new things however big or small. 

We had a particular assignment while in our second year in college to  learn to use a normal camera and also develop the film in our physics lab as part of optics. We were encouraged to take pictures in different light conditions and with just the adjustment of the shutter which also was done manually as then was not the time with automatic cameras and some thirty years ago, digital photography was unheard of where I schooled. We had fun shooting anything that caught our attention and were soon aware of how poorly we can perform, if not guided by the teachers, when we developed the prints. Yet we had so much fun with the camera and the printing!

Many years later with the progress in the field of photography, today I own a basic dslr camera, but still very novice with my picture capturing skills. I have always wondered what details one must pay attention to in order to make your pictures look good, especially the food that you capture and share in the post. I would look up some various sites that offer tips and such hoping to learn and improve upon. Some of my friends share pictures on their photo blogs where the necessary details are added to the picture and that would help me to try the same with my settings.

Recently, Aparna encouraged us to make an effort to work on our skills and I willingly joined the exercise. The first of this exercise is with the Aperture and Depth of Field. I have tried the experiment with a Nikon D5000 with the 18-55mm kit lens
For this I chose to make Jayasri Ravi's Bangalore style chutney pudi.

Below are the two pictures taken with a 24 mm focal length and two different apertures viz, f/4 and f/8. The rest of the settings such as shutter speed and ISO remain the same. These have been taken partially hand held with the camera being supported on a strong cardboard box and a coaster to tilt it a bit. The day light from my patio door lights up the wall on the back. Both pictures have been shared as taken with no adjustments.

Aperture and Depth of Field

Bangalore Chutney Podi:
Source: Jayasri Ravi ( Read her post here)
I have made 1/5th of her shared recipe. I had intended to share the measures in volume as against her recipe in weight. However, I got disoriented with the above experiment and such that I have not worked on the volume. Hence I would love to share her recipe here.

175 grams channa dhal
115 grams urad dhal
375 grams copra (dry coconut shredded)
50 grams dry red chillis ( Guntur variety that is high in heat)
50 grams byadagi red chillis (for nicer red colur)
12 grams mustard seeds
40 grams tamarind
1/2 of one small cube jaggery ( about 1 heaped tablespoon jaggery powder)
5-6 sprigs curry leaves
2 grams of asafoetida
Salt to taste
Oil as required to roast the chillis (I have omitted that and dry roasted all the ingredients)

Her post elaborates with many tips to do this. I have just roasted each ingredient, save the jaggery, on a very low flame and separately until the dhals and copra are golden, the chillis are brittle and the tamarind also is dry enough. i use a non stick utensil so the tamarind did not stick to the pan, However, I usually roast the tamarind also in my regular hindalium pan and over a gentle heat it will roast well .
Cool the roasted ingredients. Pulse the dhals, chillis, curry leaves, salt and mustard seeds gently to a powder. Add the copra and the jaggery and pulse on the lowest speed of the blender inching short pulses lest the copra oozes oil and the powder becomes sticky.
Transfer to a flat dish from the jar of the blender and cool.  Store in airtight containers.
Serve as accompaniment with dosas and idlis.


  1. I could see the difference in the pictures, loved the picture with f4, and recipe sounds great too!

  2. I too bought a DSLR recently, learning to take pics with them, aperture, depth all seems to be very alien but slowly getting familiar with them. Love the difference between the pics!!! chutney podi, konjam thengai podi mathri iruku, but with dried copra!!! Any spicy Podi is always welcome in the pantry!!!!

  3. Was nice to read this post. I could understand a few things from your exercise.Thanks for that. I liked your f/8.0 picture..the second one of the shared pictures. The recipe is also good.I have not of this kind..:) Nice..

  4. Lovely recipe and beautiful picture... keep going :)

  5. Excellent exercise, lovely post Akka..Flavourful chutney podi.

  6. Wow very good photography. Is it with SLR camera? Can the same be done in normal cam? and the recipe is awesome

  7. I felt like the f/8 aperture was better for the picture... it looks lovely! the f/4 looks a little over exposed. Its a fun little exercise to do, to understand your camera though :) nice!

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  9. yeah can see the difference in the clicks.

  10. I just use a point and shoot camera but I can really see how the change in settings makes a difference.... I think I'm leaning towards the f4 picture too.

    The podi looks fascinating and must be such a nice change from the usual idli milagai podi.

  11. wonderful picture and delicious podi

  12. The pictures look awesome. I have to take pictures too. I got to think of what I can photograph.

  13. Very interesting how just one change makes such a lot of difference between the two pictures !!

    Podi sounds delicious :)

  14. Looks so good!

  15. I love chutney podi. I like the f/8 picture more than the f/4. I too have joined the excercise, it's a great way to learn. :)

  16. Thanks for joining us this month, Lata. Happy you enjoyed the exercise. I personally prefer the one at f/ 4.0 because it brings my eye to one point of focus, but there's really no right or wrong just a matter of preference.
    This recipe seems like the MTR dosai podi. Must try it.

  17. Beautiful blog.very informative to follow u.

  18. Hello Lata I am your new follower. You have a gr8 collection of recipes do visit my space in your free time.

  19. Bookmarking the podi. Always looking for some chutney podis. Sadly I only own a digicam and cannot really comment about the pictures, though the difference is clear.


Welcome and thank you for taking time to drop by.
I appreciate your valuable comments and tips.
I sincerely hope to improve with them.
Hope we shall interact often.
Thanks once again,
Lata Raja.