A few of my shots from the workshop
In order to be a kick ass food blogger, you must own and love at least one dog...it's a rule.
(this one happens to be Jen's Kaweah)
I'm not entirely sure how to boil an incredibly full 4 days down to 1 blog post, but I'm going to try. Let's preface this all by saying that the days I spent in Boulder were absolutely incredible. It truly resembled a summer vacation the likes of those we had in elementary school where we would forget all responsibilities and just PLAY. I talked my parents into coming along to Boulder and Anita accompanied me as well. We all stayed at Nick's Boulder Foothills home; played with his doggies, laughed with his friends and ate his wonderful food. I've visited Boulder many times in my childhood, mostly due to Nick and Carol, but coming as an adult is a totally new experience and I'm already looking forward to coming back.
No one was surprised that Jen's table looked PERFECT
But then of course there was the workshop. Oh, the workshop. Other than 1 Nikon course I took a few years ago (long before I knew anything about photography and therefore the content flew right over my head) and some HS classes which were more about developing than photography, I've hardly taken a photography class. And now I'm afraid that I will never again take another photography course strictly because this one was SO INCREDIBLE. Now, part of the reason this course was so awesome is because it was so perfectly designed and catered to food photographers and really, that's what I tend to be. A sports or nature photographer wouldn't have gotten quite as much out of it; but that's why it was called the FOOD and Light workshop.
I ♥ Jen!
Photo courtesy of Helen
Now, for some shout outs. I must begin with our UHMAYZING instructors. First, Jen Yu. In some circles, all you do is mention her name and people light up. If it's not clear from reading her blog, it's ABSOLUTELY clear when you meet her in person: Jen is a FREAKING gem. She's sweet and generous and super sharp and thorough and honest. I had such high expectations for this workshop and she managed to exceed them! It was very clear that since the workshop was in UseRealButterLand, Jen was the one who hustled to make it happen and make it happen WELL. From the CRAZY packed swag bags we got full of goodies from Izze, Chef's Catalog, Stonyfield, Savory Spice Shop, Earthy Delights, New West KnifeWorks, Nations Photo Lab and more, to the free endless coffee she arranged for us at Atlas Purveyors, to the prizes she organized to give out for best photos, to the lists of restaurants and accommodations she gave us, to the questionnaire she sent us in order to plan the teachings. *whew* I'm tired just listing it!!! She DID IT!
As if the above weren't enough, Jen also pulled some additional fantastic people/fantastic photographers/fantastic bloggers to host the workshop with her. Helen Dujardin. Most know her as Tartelette. I know her as the woman who single-handedly seduced the entire food blogging world into LOVING and obsessing over the French macaron. I absolutely
White on Rice Couple - they came up with that, not I
And finally a couple I've met briefly before (through Jen, of course) but was excited to get to know better. Diane Cu and Todd Porter. White On Rice Couple. Yes, I do tend to be a bit partial to the very trendy "white guy/Asian girl" couple. I am, after all a product of such a pairing. But these two are not only fun and hilarious but SHARP. They know their trade and they execute on it well. I think I learned more technical knowledge and "tricks" from Todd and Diane than anyone else. Did you know you can program the function button on the front of your Nikon to spot meter?? THANK YOU TODD! Their style is different from Helen's is different from Jen's, but none is "better" and all had something genius to teach.
Jen's peach blueberry crisp with homemade ice cream ~~
The Layer Cake Shiraz they thought was rather apropos, yes?
The workshop "started" for a few of us on Sunday night with an incredibly generous invitation to Jen & Jeremy's Elev. 8233 foot, mountain home. Oh the perks of having friends who are AWESOME. She fed us and wined us and we laughed and squealed over Kaweah and we ate and took pictures and we laughed some more. I left said 8233 ft. feeling like I might burst...full of food and jokes and excitement at the upcoming days.
Let's get down to it...
The workshop started down in Boulder on Monday morning. The greatest part of the workshop was the amount of hands-on time we got to shoot. Yes there was some lecturing. But 4 lectures/demos over 2 days time with the rest of the time reserved for casual discussion and shooting was just perfect. The instructors would cruise around offering advice or making themselves available to answer questions.
We had mounds of fresh veggies and fruits from the Farmer's Market, spices from Savory Spice Shop and baked goods generously donated by Sugar Bakeshop in Denver. The food table was flanked by the "styling" table; full of dishes and glassware and knives and napkins and tablecloths. We were let loose to "go forth and style" and then shoot what we'd styled, and that's when we could apply what we'd learned in our lectures.
The photos speak for themselves. There was a lot of talent in that room. You might notice that there are sometimes multiple photos of the same "styled" item. That's because after someone would style a food, they'd often move on and leave it to go shoot something else. Meanwhile, another student could come along and shoot their own version. It worked.
One of my last shots on Tuesday ~~ Taylor chats with Anita while Susan shoots
We were asked to shoot after each lecture, so 2 sessions on Monday and 2 on Tuesday, and after some brief post-processing, upload a few of our favorite shots to the flickr page (mine are tagged with my name). We got a lunch assignment to shoot our lunch and upload that as well. Anita and I spent the first 5 minutes after being served our lunches at The Kitchen, putting some of our new skills to use. The funniest part is that there were other Workshop Goers dining at The Kitchen, but we weren't sitting with them. So an average Monday luncher was very likely wondering why so many people around the restaurant were shooting their lunches!
I like this one - Spilled Lavender
Side note: Tuesday, Anita and I had the pleasure of sampling Boulder's best sashimi at Sushi Tora, with Elana and her adorable and very talented son, Ethan. We then stopped by the highly popular kitchen and home store, Peppercorn so Elana could pick up one of Anita's books. We were all floored and tickled to see both Elana's book and Anita's displayed together (it's as if they knew!) on a table in the baking section!! Man, I am so not worthy of this company!
Showing the setup of one of my shots
Then me taking the picture
Photo courtesy of Helen
By the end of the 2nd day it was time for awards. The class voted on their favorites and the instructors voted on their favorites. I was so thrilled to hear that I actually WON one of the prizes!!
Most Original (instructors vote): Me!!
Most Original (group vote): Jenny
Best Overall (instructors vote): Christopher
Best Overall (group vote): Annie
Most Improved (instructors vote): Ethan
Most Improved (group vote): Shanon (I picked my fave of hers)
Best Styling (instructors vote): Marla
Best Styling (group vote): Anita
Best Lunch (instructors vote AND group vote!): Taylor
The prizes were *generous* too. I chose a $100 gift certificate to Chef's catalog. WOW!! But there were prizes from the Culinary School of the Rockies, New West KnifeWorks, and the Savory Spice Shop in Boulder. Jen REALLY worked her magic!
After breaking down the tables and chairs, and turning the event space back into... an event space, a handful of us walked down to The Kitchen Upstairs for a
It was a perfect few days and I left Boulder wanting to return. You know that's the sign of a sensational vacation.
What a great group - can we do this again?!
A final huge thanks:
Jen (post here)
Helene (post here)
Diane & Todd (post here)
and of course to my marvelous travel companion, Anita (post here).