Coffee Beans, Misha’s Coffeehouse

Coffee Beans, Misha’s Coffeehouse. Nikon D200, Nikon 50mm f/2 K, ISO 100, f/11, 1/250 sec.

Everyone who knows me knows that I love good coffee, and there’s no shortage of it here in Alexandria. One of my go-to spots is Misha’s Coffeehouse and Roaster on Patrick Street in Old Town. I love that they are a small operation, and their coffee is excellent. If you have time to hang out, the vibe is cool and they always have great music on. I’ve posted about them before, and I’m sure this won’t be the last time either.

I don’t usually go in-depth here behind my process, but today I thought it would be fun to do that. I wanted to create an interesting product shot just for fun (I’m always working on my lighting anyway). One of the things I like to consider when shooting products is the company’s branding. Misha’s is well-known for their orange cups and orange labels, so I wanted to create a backdrop that would have an orange glow that would spill over onto the product. In order to create the glow and spill, it required an actual light source, as opposed to a simple colored backdrop.

An orange-gelled speedlight in a stripbox served as the glowing backdrop

I used a stripbox with a speedlight gelled orange. Getting the power setting just right on the speedlight was critical in creating the right tone for the backdrop. “Right” in this instance is completely in the eye of the beholder, and I wanted deeply saturated color.

The key light was a gridded speedlight aimed right at the heart of the label. The grid was essential because it kept light from spilling onto the backdrop and washing out my saturated orange color. The subtle rim light is coming from another speedlight with a greenish-blue gel and a snoot (again to keep the light from spilling as much as to keep it from flaring into my lens). Check out the full setup shots below to get an idea as to the placement of each light.


Oyster Shucking, King Street

Oyster Shucking, King Street. Nikon D200, Nikon 50mm f/2 K, ISO 400, f/2, 1/60 sec.

I had the opportunity to do some wandering around Old Town today, so I walked the kids down the lower (eastern) half of King Street. I have always loved the window display of seafood on ice at Fish Market, but have yet to take a photo there that I really like.

I got lucky today, and was able to capture a few frames of oyster shucking. I must have looked like a total tourist, but hey, it’s good to blend in that way sometimes!

Catherine & Margaret Portner, Portner Brewhouse (Before)

Margaret and Catherine Portner
Margaret and Catherine Portner pose in the unfinished space that is to become Portner Brewhouse. Nikon D200, 105mm 2.5 AI, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/250 sec.

One of my goals when starting this blog a little over a year ago was to eventually highlight local business owners and their businesses. It’s been a busy year, but I’m finally getting around to making this happen.

I reached out to Catherine and Margaret Portner after discovering their business through social media. The sisters are the great-great-granddaughters of Robert Portner, who owned the largest pre-Prohibition brewery in America. His brewery was located in what is now known as Old Town Alexandria, and the sisters have decided to launch Portner Brewhouse in Alexandria, 100 years after the original brewery closed its doors.

Portner Brewhouse Exterior
The empty corner unit which will become Portner Brewhouse. Nikon D200, 18-70mm 3.5-4.5 AF-S DX, ISO 100, f/8, 1/400 sec.

Portner Brewhouse will include an onsite brewery as well as a full-service restaurant specializing in German fare. Catherine is the beer guru and Margaret is the mastermind behind the food. The sisters have a lot of awesome ideas for the business including a craft beer test kitchen and mug club membership; in addition, they will be resurrecting some of Robert Portner’s recipes and plan to decorate the brewhouse with original Portner artifacts.

Portner drinkware
New and old Portner beer steins, along with some other artifacts from the family’s past. Nikon D200, 105mm 2.5 AI, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/60 sec.

The idea I pitched to them was to do a shoot in the space that would become Portner Brewhouse, and then another shoot once construction is completed. A “Before & After,” if you will. The brewery and restaurant is set to open for business by the end of summer, so you all can expect the “After” post to appear this fall. That is, if I can avoid spending too much time hanging out at Portner Brewhouse!

For more information, visit their website.


Afternoon Snack, King Street

Afternoon Snack, King Street
Afternoon Snack, King Street. Nikon D200, 60mm 2.8 AF Micro, ISO 200, f/8, 1/250 sec.

I look forward to taking my kids on their afternoon walk. I pack up a snack for them and often grab a snack for myself while we’re out. Carluccio’s is a fun little place to stop for a quick espresso and something sweet.

A bench provided the perfect backdrop for this photo, and I bounced a flash off the back of it to create some dimensionality on an otherwise overcast day. I was using one of my favorite lenses, a 60mm macro, to get close to this delightful duo.

Sushi Window, King Street

Sushi Window, King Street
Sushi Window, King Street. Nikon D200, 35mm 1.8 AF-S DX, ISO 400, f/4, 1/60 sec.

Mmm, sushi. There’s an interesting collection of knickknacks in the windows of this sushi restaurant in the main tourist section of King Street. This is just one of the windows there. Go check them out and, while you’re there, order me a veggie gyoza and a rainbow roll. Or two.

Tableware, Old Town Waterfront

Tableware, Old Town Waterfront
Tableware, Old Town Waterfront. Nikon D200, 35mm 1.8 AF-S DX, ISO 200, f/2, 1/100 sec.

The Waterfront Market in Old Town is in the midst of a remodel and (I think) expansion. Luckily, someone there seems to be setting up perfect little still-lifes for those of us who are looking. There is a nice array of plates, bowls, and utensils right next to the window. I spent quite a while there trying different angles and compositions.

Ship & Bottle, South Union Street

Ship & Bottle, South Union Street
Ship & Bottle, South Union Street. Nikon D200, 35mm 1.8 AF-S DX, ISO 100, f/2, 1/80 sec.

There’s nothing like enjoying a nice meal while the snow falls outside. We had a windowside table at Union Street Public House today. Great decor and vibe.

Society Fair Chandelier, South Washington Street

Society Fair Chandelier, South Washington Street
Society Fair Chandelier, South Washington Street. Nikon D200, 135mm 2.8 AI, ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/250 sec.

Hanging out with my coffee and pain au raisin (by the way, ridiculously good) in Society Fair the other day, I was observing this chandelier hanging above the checkout area. The juxtaposition of daylight and artificial light being refracted through the crystals was fascinating.

I took the photo with the white balance set to tungsten, so the daylight ends up looking blue. Much of the rest of the photo goes to black because the ambient light level in the store was much lower relative to the light in the chandelier.

Misha’s Roasting Room, South Patrick Street

Misha's Roasting Room, South Patrick Street. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @ 11mm. ISO 800, f/4, 1/40 sec.
Misha’s Roasting Room, South Patrick Street. Nikon D200, Tokina 11-16 2.8 @ 11mm. ISO 800, f/4, 1/40 sec.

If you know me, you know I love coffee. And when it comes to coffee, there are a handful of really nice coffee houses in Alexandria.

Misha’s is a favorite spot of mine for a number of reasons:

  1. They roast their coffee in-house, right in front of you.
  2. The cups are orange, my favorite color.
  3. Nice selection of scones, muffins, doughnuts, etc.
  4. An iPod packed with an eclectic mix of jazz plays over the house speakers.

Maybe I’ll see you there sometime.

Al Fresco Tables, South Washington Street

Al Fresco Tables, South Washington Street. Nikon D200, 105mm f/2.5 AI, ISO 200, f/4, 1/160 sec
Al Fresco Tables, South Washington Street.
Nikon D200, 105mm f/2.5 AI, ISO 200, f/4, 1/160 sec
One of my favorite places to sit with the kids during afternoon snack is Society Fair. It’s shaded during the afternoon, seems to have a nice breeze no matter the weather, and they make amazing fruit bars (they’re not as healthy as they sound). The coffee is pretty good too, which comes in handy while trying to fend off the afternoon snoozes.

The outdoor seating is divided into two sections: self-service and full-service. I always sit in the self-service area, but this shot is of the full-service section all ready to go.