Thursday, February 17, 2022

Culture and heritage - Part 1


Yesterday I was speaking to a friend of mine and during the course of our chat, she asked me if I had a was her way of telling me to go back to blogging.  I thought about it and realized I do miss blogging, I miss having a conversation and sharing my slice of life with you. Turmeric n' Spice started as a recipe blog to document the recipes that were passed on and my experiments in the kitchen. Soon, it opened new opportunities for me and before I knew it I was deep into photography. With so much time spent doing photography, I had little or no time left to maintain a blog. Like everything else, a blog does take time and it is a labor of love. Then what has changed you may ask? Well, nothing that really meets the eye but a whole lot in the last few years. 

The last few years have taken me to a place where I am extremely conscious of how and where I use my resources, especially time. Having said that, I really want to spend more time on what I love to do. When speaking to my friend, I realized how I miss blogging and maybe it is time to take some time out for blogging and sharing my journey here. It could be recipes, photography, updates, or just sharing. I am not going to obsess about recipes but I will share recipes as and when I can. 

I am contemplating between sharing a recipe or a body of work I created last year. I think I am going to share my work here today and I will come back with a recipe next week. 

Sometimes at the end of last year, I created a portfolio for Adobe that showcased my culture and heritage, there was a lot about food too. It was a unique opportunity and I am so glad and grateful for it. Here is a link to all the images I shot. I will share a few of my favorite images from this portfolio and probably share my thoughts behind them. Each image is curated by a team, I worked with Adobe closely to formulate a concept, work on the logistics and finally shoot. I shot about 1200 + images and we picked about 500 to be included in this collection. 


I wanted the collection to have a mix of still-life as well as celebratory images, where I share how we celebrate not just festivals but how we celebrate our lives. When it comes to still-life, I wanted the images to be bold, colorful, and showcase my culture. I wanted to bring symbolism and color to my images.

 The lotus is a sacred flower. Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu are often portrayed on a pink lotus in the iconography. You can also see Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, and Lord Kubera sitting on a lotus throne. The lotus symbolizes the inner potential, grown in swamps, it is your inner journey from the web of the material world to the true realization of who you really are. I really wanted to include this symbolism in the still. 

The peacock feather is a symbol of Lord Krishna, one cannot think about the peacock feather without thinking about Krishna. It is often attributed to representing the cycle of time. 

I also used a banana leaf, if you have ever visited the Southern part of India you will see that the authentic meal is always served on the banana leaf. I will not go into the details of the symbolism but on a practical level, it is the perfect biodegradable plate. 

I included the betel leaf and nut - which is an important part of an offering - called tambulam. 

"Tāmbūla consists of a variety of ingredients wrapped in betel leaves. Typically, it includes areca nuts, edible camphor, slaked lime, saffron, and other fragrant herbs. It is one of the 16 offerings in ritual worship, occurring right after food offerings.

There are numerous reasons for elevating the commonly consumed paan to a sacred offering. On a gross level, it aids digestion, particularly after heavy meals. From an Āyurvedic perspective, it ignites Agni, specifically that associated with digesting food. If you’ve ever chewed paan, it’s a delightful experience of the perfect mix of disparate flavors that remains in your awareness long after it is eaten and swallowed. The lingering flavors permeate the senses with lasting freshness.

On a subtler level, it represents our ability to digest the experience. Normally, our ability to digest experience is uneven. We hang on to the unsavory ones and forget all the good that ever happened to us." - - Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan

The lamp, Haldi (turmeric), and kumkum are quintessential parts of an offering. To me, it was the five elements coming together: fire in the lamp, water through the lotus, air through the peacock leaf, earth through the betel leaves and the earthy backdrop, and space through the aroma of everything coming together. 



The above two images were shot during Diwali the festival of lights - the two women are decorating the house for Diwali. I wanted to really bring out the traditional elements in a modern setting. The wooden floor is a subtle way to bring in the modern home. 


The image above is a true representation of sisterhood. I have always been extremely lucky to work with strong women. I also believe that when we create together magic happens and this image is really a true representation of that for me. 



The above two images were shot in Seattle in my friend's dance studio. She is a classical Kuchipudi dancer. The shoot was magical. We worked for 5 hours without break and neither one of us realized it, till it was pitch dark outside. I will be sharing a post on the dance form and the mudras ( hand gestures) that I have captured. 

Girl in Sari


The traditional South-Indian filter coffee,  served traditionally in a tumbler and a cup. 
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Monday, May 10, 2021

Basil Berry Moscow Mule

Simi Jois Photography

Simi Jois Photography

It has been such a long time since I have shared a recipe here on the blog. For some reason I have this urge to restart blogging this year. I hope to get on a regular schedule soon.  You can expect me to share not just recipes but a lot of photography  tips as well. 

If you are not following me on Instagram - here is a link to my profile. I have shared the BTS ( behind the scenes) video on Instagram Reels. I have shot the above two images with a back light and a reflector lighting the front. The red petunia was shot in golden hour and the drink was shot in mid afternoon. 

The drink itself is extremely simple. 

1 cup mixed berries 
1 inch ginger 
1 cup water 
1/4 cup sugar 

Preparation: Grate the ginger, mox the berries, water and sugar and let it boil and reduce. Blend and strain. Let it cool

For the drink : 
Ingredients: 1 1/2 oz Vodka, 1/6 oz Lime juice, 4 oz Ginger beer, 2 oz berry compote, basil leaves 
Preparation: Combine vodka and ginger beer and berry compote in a  glass filled with ice. Add lime juice. Stir gently and garnish with basil leaf 
Served: On the rocks; poured over ice.
Traditionally it is served in a copper bug, but the color was so beautiful, I decided to serve it in a glass. 

Simi Jois Photography

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Photography 1:1 - A three month mentoring program


Last year I was speaking to a very good friend of mine who has also taken a few photography workshops with me, she recommended I start a long-term coaching/mentoring program. Her reasons were valid, she said she wanted someone to handhold her through the process. A day's workshop is great for someone who has a lot of self-discipline and can go and execute what they learned. A long term coaching ensures hand-holding and constant feedback. You may learn all the theory but you may not know what you are doing wrong and why your images are not turning out the way you want them. That is where the teacher and a group of like-minded photographers help. After some contemplation, I launched the three-month mentoring program.  

 I want to keep the group intimate but at the same time have enough students to keep it interactive. I have limited seats (12-14). It is a very interactive program. You are expected to constantly engage and your camera will be put to good use. It is a time-consuming program, both from my end and from yours. 

A little bit about the program - 

Photojournal & critique

I will create a private Facebook group for this purpose. Each one will create an album in the group and post all their images in the album. Practice makes perfect - the more you use your skills the better you become. I recommend you take a picture every day, if not every day at least 4-5 days a week. Post the images you take in your album. Your photo journal will show you your progress and help me critique.

 2 - Partner work

One of the ideas for doing this program is to develop a community so we can work together. I have always seen, when you have someone to bounce your ideas with, we work better. Each member will have a partner to work with. You will critique each other's images on FB. Critiquing really helps us grow, so the more you critique, the more we will learn. This is the reason I strongly believe that critiquing is an integral part of this program. This will help you develop a keen eye for details. You are not restricted to critiquing just your partner's work but I encourage you to do it on as many images in the group as you can.

I also encourage partners to push each other to do better.  You can plan with your partner and have a theme for your photo journal or use creative ways to collaborate & grow.

Once a week I will have a one-on-one call with you and your partner to assess your progress and address your questions, issues, or concerns. I will be critiquing the images from the week with you. This will be a 45min-60min call. I will post the day/time slots for my availability and you can sign up for a slot that works for you. Each week it will be the same day/time you pick. 

You can pick your partner or I can help you with it. It is very flexible.

3 - Lessons 

We will have 5-6 lessons which will be scheduled for all. They will be pre-scheduled and will be about 3-4 hours each. I will be talking in-depth about food styling, lighting, camera setting, shooting in manual, metering, focus, post-processing in photoshop, and artificial continuous light.

To know in detail you can always reach out to me and I can schedule a call. If you are interested in the program, email is the best way to reach me. Email - 

All the lessons and one on one critiques with your partner will be held on Zoom. 

Cost - please email me for details. 

Testimonials - 

"Simplicity, clarity, depth, perfection, artist ... these are the few things that come to mind when I think of Simi Jois, my teacher. This photography workshop amidst a pandemic was supposed to be a good source of self productivity and good use of time when all we had was time. But for me, this investment turned out to be one of magnificent energy and happiness! Even as I write this I am excited as I know Simi has started me on a journey I hope to travel for quite some time. Her calming energy, constant encouragement, gentle handholding, and at times a kick in the rear to do better and dive in deeper always arrived at the perfect moment. I had not held a camera until this workshop. I thought I took decent photos but only with a cellular phone. But little did I know! The camera was unchartered territory. Today I barely pick up my phone to shoot.... And for that, I am forever indebted as a student is to her amazing teacher!" - Anna Sen Venkatesh

"When I enrolled in Simi's classes, I didn't really know what would be in store. Simi is the best thing that happened to me in my photography journey. Her pics have a unique, artistic touch to them. She is a great teacher and a mentor who explains things until you get it right! When I look back at my photos, I see the progress after joining Simi's classes. She taught me how to understand every aspect in a pic, most importantly, light. Her course covers everything from shooting, food styling to editing. My favorite part in this course has been critiquing. I learnt so much by critiquing on others' pics and getting feedback on my pics too. I wasn't really comfortable with this idea initially, but Simi insisted that critiquing is the best way to learn. That was the game changer! Thank you so much Simi, for not holding back your knowledge and expertise. For pushing me out of my comfort zone, motivating me and challenging me to come up with something better every single time. Rarely do I come across artists like you." Anita Hariharan

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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Instagram Photography Challenge

A couple of weeks ago I started a photography challenge on Instagram. Every week I post a topic with an image and ask you all to participate. Keeping it very simple but letting the creative juices flowing.
  • Take a picture or use one from your archive. I highly recommend you to create an image rather than using one from your archives. 
  • Follow me on Instagram. 
  • Use the #CulinaryOptics #WeeklyChallenge
  • Tag me on the post. Link to my Instagram 

So far we have done splash, summer, white on white and pour. This week I'm planning on a very simple topic - anything in your home, the mundane everyday object. It could be food, flowers, a pen, paper, whatever you want. If you want to read more - click here. 

I do hope you can participate. Thank you 

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Moody Food Photography Workshop - Keeping Yourself Sane in Troubled Times

Everyone loves a dark moody image. The deep shadows tickle the senses. The technique was used for the first time during the Renaissance period and was called Chiaroscuro. Bold moody, contrast is what it is all about. It is my personal favorite way to light a food story/still. I've been constantly asked to do a workshop on "moody photography."

Did you also admire those dark, moody food images that not only create a mood but also, just make your mouth water? Well, here’s the program you’ve been asking for. I will be presenting a workshop on Zoom on how to style, light, and shoot those moody images. Learn how to create a mood, while emphasizing your food.

I'm thrilled to partner with Jerry, who is my first teacher and a photoshop genius. He will be teaching us how to take our photo editing to the next level.

Jerry Deutsch a food and product photographer. Learn how to get that image from the camera to the screen or print.

The workshop will take place on May 5, 2020, at 11 am Central Time (that’s Noon Eastern Time) and will take you from start to finish. A question and answer period following the presented material.

We know that times are tough right now and many of you are not working, so the cost of this workshop is a mere $10.00 payable by PayPal. So, contact Simi at or through Facebook/Instagram Direct Message.  To guarantee your seat, make your $10 payment, payable to through PayPal. Space is limited so act now to guarantee your spot.

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