A few weeks ago I took one of the best trips of my entire life.  I flew out to Boulder, CO with my friend Shanon so we could attend the Food and Light workshop.  A food photography workshop sounded fantastic on its own, but the fact that it was taught by my absolute favorite bloggers (Jen of Use Real Butter, Helene of Tartlette and Todd & Diane of White on Rice Couple) – well, it was an opportunity I absolutely could not pass up.  I’m excited to share the details of the trip, the workshop, and all the fun we had and food we ate in Boulder with all of you!  (Warning – this will be a long post, but I just can’t help myself, it was a trip packed full of amazingness!)

We arrived in Boulder on Sunday evening.  After checking in to our lodging (the Briar Rose Bed and Breakfast), we went out for dinner with one of my friends who lives in the area.  She took us to a great restaurant called The Med, which was perfect because I’d been reading their menu online for days before the trip.

The meal was phenomenal.  We ordered wine and an assortment of tapas including an unbelievable cheese plate with brillat, balasmic glazed cherries and bread (more on this later).  For my entree I had a seafood paella that was incredible.  It was a huge portion but I ate an embarrassing amount anyway.  For dessert I had a gooey chocolate cake with caramel ice cream.  Wow, what a great meal and a perfect way to start out the trip.

On Monday morning we had breakfast at our B&B.  I never know quite what to expect at these places and think the food is sometimes mediocre, but it was just lovely.  The little breakfast nook where we sat was so beautiful and peaceful.  The B&B is eco-friendly and serves organic, vegetarian foods.  I loved everything about it and will definitely stay there next time I’m in Boulder.

After breakfast we walked over to the workshop for our first day.  I was excited and maybe a tad nervous.  When we walked in and I saw Jen and Helene for the first time, I was seriously star-struck.  For me, this is the equivalent of meeting a celebrity and I was on cloud nine (still am, I think!)  Jen started out the morning by discussing the basics of dSLRs, shooting manually, etc.  Honestly I could hardly pay attention because the whole time I was thinking, “OMG, that’s JEN!”  (Later in the morning, a few other bloggers approached me in a similar manner as though I was some kind of special person they were excited to meet.  It was very surreal and flattering, but I’m not used to that sort of thing!)

Much of the workshop was hands-on practice time which was wonderful.  Since the workshop was held in a art gallery, we obviously couldn’t do cooking for our shoots.  They had a table full of fruits, veggies, spices, and some baked goods for us to practice with.  Another table had dishes and a few linens.  Here are a few of the pictures I took the first morning.  (You are all shocked I chose to shoot cupcakes, right?)

After the morning shoot, we had a break for lunch.  Thankfully they gave us ample time to enjoy the amazing restaurants that Boulder has to offer.  We went to lunch with a few other conference attendees and had so much fun!  We headed over to Brasserie Ten Ten, a French restaurant right across the street from The Med.  These women were all so sweet and wonderful, and it was such fun to talk shop with others who have similar interests.

We were given the assignment of photographing our lunch.  I think I chose one of the least photogenic items on the menu (moules a la marinere), but I don’t care because it tasted ah-mazing.  I ate every last bite and loved it.

After lunch we returned for a presentation by Todd and Diane on lenses, focus, and natural light.  The elements they discussed were extremely useful, and I have already incorporated them into my own practice since returning home.  Afterwards we had another hands-on practice session and these are a few of the shots I took.

(Thank God someone finally cut that cake!  I only had a little bite but it was delicious.)

After the first day of the workshop, Shanon and I set out to (quite literally) eat our way through Boulder.  Since we were only there for less than 48 hours, we did our best to make the most of our time and hit as many places as we could.  The cheese plate from The Med was so phenomenal the first night that we decided to start our evening out there for their tapas happy hour.

We had these spicy harissa-scallion deviled eggs.  I’m a deviled egg fanatic, and I just couldn’t resist!

We also tried these fried artichoke hearts with lemon aioli – unbelievable.  I need some more now, please.

And because it was probably our favorite food of the trip, we ordered the cheese plate with balsamic cherries again.  It’s just indescribable.

Hey, it’s me having the time of my life!

We made a quick stop at our B&B to change and drop our stuff, and then we headed back out for dinner at The Kitchen.

The ambience in this restaurant was wonderful.  I loved the simplicity of the decor, the menu, everything.  But my absolute favorite thing about this place was the extremely attractive waiters.  Every one of them was eye candy and Shanon and I were giggling like little girls the entire meal trying to choose the cutest one.  (It was our waiter, I have decided.)

As for the meal itself, I had a hard time deciding and ended up choosing three small plates.  One was a green salad with a lemony vinaigrette – it was okay, but a little to simple of a salad for me.  Literally just greens and viniagrette – it was too much of the same thing.  I also had their macaroni and cheese which was good but not the best I’ve had.  I also tried the chilled zucchini basil soup.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it but that ended up being my favorite part of the meal.  I thought the serving size was too big for something with such a strong flavor, but it was delicious nonetheless.

Much of Boulder is very eco-minded and this place was no exception.  They served all local food and even ran on local wind power.  They are also really big on giving back to the community – how awesome is that?!

After dinner, we headed back to Ten Ten since we didn’t have the chance for dessert there during lunchtime.

I ended up choosing the profiteroles which were wonderful.  Now I want to make my own (soon!)

The second day of the workshop started out with talks by Todd and Diane, and Helene covering artificial lighting, light bounce, and basic styling.  This was also extremely useful.  I loved learning from all these geniuses!

During the subsequent hands-on practice session, Helene and Diane each did a quick food styling demo.  It was so cool to watch Helene set up one of her “classic Tartlette” shots.  Being familiar with the photos on her site, I would have thought each one took hours to set up but it only took her a few minutes to come up with an amazing scene.  Talk about gifted.

These are a few of the photos I took that morning.

For lunch on day two, we made a beeline for Sushi Tora.  We’ve been excited about eating there for months.  It did not disappoint.  We had roasted edamame and four different sushi rolls: shrimp tempura (my standard favorite), spider roll, orgasm roll, and another that escapes me at the moment – maybe spicy tuna.  We ate it all.  My stomach is a bottomless pit when it comes to sushi.

After lunch we came back for a bit more practice shooting and a wrap-up session.  Oh, and I must mention that we received totally rockin’ swag bags.  I can’t even begin to list all the things they included, but they were so bountiful that though we had only carry on luggage on the trip to Boulder, we had to check a bag on the way back because of all our stuff!  (Including Wüsthof knives – I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed to be a carry on.)

And this is probably a life highlight for me – a picture with Jen and Helene = coolest thing ever.  I was in heaven.  This trip was truly life-changing.  I met so many kind and talented people, ate a LOT of really amazing food and learned so much useful information.  I only wish I had had more time to interact with everyone, and definitely more time to spend eating and exploring in Boulder.  Since returning home my shooting methods have already changed quite a bit for the better, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to attend this workshop.  Way to go, guys, you did a truly outstanding job!

PS – I also have to give a quick shout out to my new blogging friend Paula who so graciously offered us a ride to the airport so we could avoid taking the shuttle bus.  She is a genuinely nice person, and I love her blog.  Thanks again, Paula!