Friday, July 2, 2010

Bloggers in Boulder

If you spend much time hanging around the food blogosphere you're probably already aware of the Food and Light Photography Workshop that Jen from Use Real Butter coordinated, executed and instructed in Boulder, CO early this week. She invited fellow ├╝ber bloggers, Diane & Todd from White On Rice Couple and Helen from Tartelette to assist and teach alongside her. Combine this with the fact that my dad's best friend, Nick lives in Boulder and I really couldn't turn the opportunity down!

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'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.

Todd popped the champagne ~~ We all toasted to Anita's recent marriage!

No one was surprised that Jen's table looked PERFECT

Andrea, Susan and Helen ready for bubbly on the deck

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.

Roasted beets with goat cheese & hazelnuts and marinated flank steak (with chimichurri)!

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!

Helen shows us how she can make Frito-Lay bean dip look fancy - brilliant woman!

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 blame credit her. Helen also uses her magic pastry hands on a camera and tripod to capture the beauty of her product. Her style is flawless and her photos are magnificent. It's no wonder she has so successfully slid from the world of pastry into the world of food styling and photography. She's just one talented woman. We were incredibly lucky to have Helen and her fantastic eye along for the ride as well.

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...

What I would give to have light like this to shoot in all the time! *swoon*

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.

Rembrandt Yard Art Gallery, Third Floor event space

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.

One of my shots from the first session

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

And finally the end result...

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!!

(Silly) instructors reviewing the photos

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

My award winning Most Original photograph I called "Here, Bunny Bunny"!

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 few drinks. What a wonderful group of people. I think we were sorta half wanting to practice our new photography skills and half just wanting to kick it and relax and enjoy each others company.

The Kitchen Upstairs ~~ My yummy drink!

I could have eaten all of this chicken pate (and more)

Roasted beets with feta ~~ Loved everything about The Kitchen

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).


  1. Great recap! Love, love, LOVE your "Most Original" photo. Amazing!

  2. The pics are beautiful. A professional food photog took pics of us and our food for a magazine article and they look just as good. Agree about the light-an open space flooded with light makes things a lot easier, such as the white loft where we got married. The photographer was quite happy. Nevertheless, your photos look sharp but not formal or staged, which is, to me, a common problem with food photography.

  3. Thanks everyone!! I'm so glad you enjoyed the write up! :)

  4. This post is phenomenal! Great re-cap. You shared so perfectly the experience of a lifetime. We were all so busy at the workshop, you and I did not really have a chance to connect. Perhaps we have more of these in our futures....I do hope! Your blog is gorgeous! xo

  5. This looks so good Lisa. I could do with a class like this to help me with my food styling. I would love to know how you usually style your photos - do you keep special 'props' for the blog?

  6. You captured the class beautifully! It was such fun to meet you and share the class experience. I hope that we run into each other again! (And thanks for posting the spot meter tip, I totally missed that one!)

  7. Great post! Your photos really are lovely.

  8. Lisa, you are on bad-assed photographer girlfriend. AMAZING photographs and recap of the great workshop. YOu really highlighted the feel, beauty and activity. And congrats on your win, it was totally well-deserved! The carrot picture was awesome!

  9. Hi guys,

    I am posting on behalf of INGATHER Research. We have an upcoming focus group & we are looking for Boulder area residents to participate. The focus group is held at a downtown Boulder office & of course, there are no sales involved, just gathering some feedback on new salad topping products. Here's the details about this particular study:

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    If you have any questions about this study or about INGATHER & what we do, feel free to call or visit our website - Thanks for letting me post here!

    Carissa Deutscher
    INGATHER Research