Photographing grape clusters is just about as token as it gets for a Napa photographer. It’s right about there with vines and hot-air balloons (coming soon). But just because it’s a cliché, well, that doesn’t mean it’s still not fun—and beautiful. Grapes are, after all, typically found on vines which, as it happens, are located in vineyards that are, finally, can be found in beautiful locations. Lots of walks amongst the vines looking at grapes—not bad!
I specialize in wine bottle photography, which is about precise control of light in a studio. There is no light that I don’t intend to be there and, in fact, half of my equipment is often used to block or limit or shape the light that I create. It’s not romantic by any means, even though the end results certainly can be. I love it, and studio work lets you shoot whenever you want, for however long you need.
Shooting outside, however, is another matter altogether. Light, as always, is the key to any great picture, but here in the great outdoors, natural light is king, and it only has one source. Most nature photographers don’t even bother trying to take pictures outside of very narrow time of day, known as the Golden Hours—typically the hour before and after sunrise and sunset. And even then, great light can be elusive and is often chased but seldom found.
Taking pictures of grape clusters offers similar challenges, of course, but the vineyard canopy also provides nice shade, making it easier to take shots of them even during the dreaded noon-hour. This might help explain the plethora of them. I for one find it too hot to walk around during the day holding a heavy camera and, since my skills as a nature photographer are tepid at best, I can’t take any chances.
The close up I have here was taken about 10 minutes AFTER the sun disappeared behind the Mayacamas mountain range. This particular photography of Chardonnay was taken in Carneros—a good place to go if you want to shoot Chardonnay. I took about 70 shots in about 10 minutes and only 3 were even worth keeping at all, and this one was my favorite. I think it’s time I head back into the studio and shot some wine bottles…no, better yet, DRINK a bottle of wine!
— Bryan Gray, Napa Valley Winery and Wine Bottle Photographer