A photographic blog post with my favourite shots from our food styling and photography workshop in Chania, Crete, earlier this year. No recipe this time, but hopefully I can help you visualize our experience and enjoy the gorgeous setting. As much as possible, that is. Oh, there is also some rambling.
Food photography workshops are a strange thing. They are informative, educational, interesting, and fun. But they are also a lot more than that. They are inspiring on a level hard to explain, and they are emotional. Ok it’s not hard to understand how they can be inspiring, when you are surrounded by talented people who have spent hours practicing photography, who are constantly on a quest to learn and better themselves, and who often have such an artistic flare that you are left open mouthed and wondering “why didn’t I think of that?”.
What I’m having trouble with, is putting my finger on why these workshops are such emotional experiences. You spend two or three days with a group of 15 people or so, and at the end of it you feel like you have a new bunch of great –if not best- friends. Really, it’s amazing. The goodbyes at the end leave even the most distant of characters close to tears. And others in near floods! What is it that makes us all feel so connected?
I suppose it has something to do with the fact that we all share a huge passion. And I’m not talking about an oh-yes-I-like-to-take-photos-in-my-spare-time level of interest. I’m talking I-can’t-put-down-this-camera-and-if-I-do-I’ll-use-my-phone level. I’m talking queuing-up-in-front-of-a-bunch-of-vegetables-to-get-the-perfectly-angled-shot level. If hanging upside down from the rafters would help capture the light falling onto the insides of that pumpkin, you can bet some of us would try it. Ok you know what I mean..! Whether you photograph food as a hobby or as a profession, if you have the bug, you are just as crazy.
But there is also another thing that makes workshops quite emotional. This is my take on it anyway, I don’t know if others agree. If you have an even slightly insecure personality, being in the company of great photographers can make you want to shrivel up in a corner and rock yourself into a trance. Maybe even if you are confident in your skills you still feel a little dazed and nervous about how good your work is. I wouldn’t know because I am the queen of the first category. The rocking in the corner type. The one who wants to throw away the camera and go get a proper job because “well my photos are crap anyway so why bother?” Trust me, this is not fishing for more compliments. I know my photos are acceptable, even good, some of them. The problem is in the eye of the beholder. (haha that was profound!) And since I know what I like, I know when I haven’t achieved it. Do you get my meaning?
I’ve now been lucky enough have seen things from both sides, the attending and the organising. Thinking back to when I was attending, especially the Gradara workshop, the whole experience was a little overwhelming. Not in a bad way. But in a way that brought me face to face with my insecurity. There I was, amongst all these really good photographers. “Argh… what am I doing here?” And there I had a choice to just give up, or get through it. Luckily I chose to just get on with it and stop feeling sorry for myself. So I took more photos, and listened to advice and smiled even when I wanted to cry. (I might have cried a bit). And in the end, when I got home and had time to come down from the rollercoaster high, I found that I had gained so much. To this day I can’t put it into words. Ok, I discovered a new feature in Lightroom here, and a new button on my camera there. But the main stuff I can’t describe. I’ll call it inspiration and leave it at that.
And just as a page break has popped up right here (in my Word doc draft) I realise I’ve gone on a bit too much. Again. It’s going to be a 10-part series if I’m not careful!
Day 1. Milia. This amazing place tucked away in the mountains. Stone buildings lovingly renovated by the owners with their bare hands – a dream come true for them. Solar energy. Home grown produce. Home baked bread. Home made soap. I can go on. Go and visit their website and watch the videos. And if you can, take a holiday there. That way you’ll get to meet their best feature. The people. The people that make you feel so at home, you feel like you’re part of their big family.
The attendees arrived in the afternoon, on a gray and overcast day. Our plans for an outside welcome drink turned into an inside affair. No one minded. We had drinks, snacks, and a whole bunch of people to get to know. So we sipped, munched and chatted. We had some gorgeous Greek goodies spread out for this occasion, like cheese, dried fruit, breadsticks of all kinds (including carob!) and the amazing dips from Simply Greek, one of my favourite producers. (fyi, best pasta sauce ever)
After our nibbles, we started out on a walk around the area. I should say hike, as we walked a path that took us over the mountain, to a spot with amazing views over the eastern side of Crete.
Along the way Tasos and George, the driving forces behind Milia, told us the story of the retreat and pointed out various plants and trees of interest. George picked a huge bouquet of mountain tea, which was destined to become a beverage for the visitors of the retreat, and which we promptly confiscated to use in our photography! Honestly, we got away with all sorts during our stay… Thanks guys.
Later that evening we had our welcome dinner. Artemis (who was co-hosting with me), Constantina (our friend and “double agent” who joined us to attend the workshop but mostly got pulled behind the scenes to help), and myself, did all the cooking. I so hope everyone enjoyed their food! We aimed for home-style cooking, since the rest of the meals would be prepared by the excellent chefs of Milia. We thought we’d make things that represent Greek family cooking. It was not smooth going, working in a restaurant type kitchen, so it was a bit nerve racking. But I think it went well in the end. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos. First reason being it was already quite dark and I would have had to fiddle with the camera to get a decent shot, and second (and main) reason being I was too busy running back and forth between kitchen and dining room, worrying if people are liking their food! I do however have a photo of one of the delicious “spoon sweets” we had for dessert. These gorgeous Greek sweets are traditional, and consist of various fruit in syrup. The Yiam brand stays close to tradition, but adds a great twist to most of their flavours. Like the apple and saffron version you see here!
Now, I was going to continue with Day 2, but I have a feeling I should stop here. I don’t want to lose you guys (is anyone even still here?!). I’ll be back very soon with Part 2, and maybe I can keep the blah blah to a minimum and let you enjoy the photos. Unless you like the blah blah? Please let me know, I’m never quite sure! Catch you later!
A taster of what is still to come!