Late-Night Affogato


Sometimes an idea gets into your head and you have to chase it down to get rid of it. And sometimes you also get ice cream as a bonus.

Friends in Portland alerted me to a new Tillamook ice cream flavored with Stumptown Cold Brew Coffee. (Tillamook and Stumptown are local Oregon brands that have made some headway outside the state.) When I saw some at the store tonight, I had to buy a pint—for science. One friend told me, though, that the coffee flavor isn’t as strong as he expected. And so, this image was born in my head.

If you’ve never enjoyed an affogato, I highly recommend you give it a try. It’s ice cream with espresso poured over the top. Having good ice cream and good espresso makes a big difference—I’ve had affogatos with poor samples of each and been disappointed.

To get these photos, I cleared some space on the kitchen table and positioned a pair of speedlights: a Nikon SB-800 at camera right at about a 45-degree angle to the ice cream, and a LumoPro LP160 directly behind the pint. I snooted (directed the light in a narrow way) the latter by putting some gaffer tape over the edges; high-tech, I know. Both lights were triggered using inexpensive Neewer radio controllers and manually set low: 1/64 power for the backlight (the lowest it goes) and 1/128 power for the main light. I captured the shots using a Fuji X-T1 at 1/180 shutter speed. The aperture is pretty small; I used a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 connected to a FotodioX Nikon G Pro Lens Adapter with Iris Control for Fujifilm X-Mount Camera, which requires manual, non-numeric control of the aperture.

These aren’t perfect shots by any means. The spill at the right of the container is dirty, even though I did wipe down the table. And, most obvious, a central challenge when photographing ice cream: it melts. So the ice cream itself is pretty soft, even before pouring hot espresso over it. If I wanted to be more picky, I would have popped the ice cream in the freezer for a while after dialing in my settings and scooped a firmer sample. Or, if I was really thinking ahead, I would have had a second container in the freezer the whole time to use for the actual ice cream in the cup.

But it was late at night, and I was hungry. The ice cream container is now in the freezer, and the cup is…gloriously empty.

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