Packing for my Plate To Page Food Styling And Photography course in Ireland a few weeks ago (eeek, seems SO long ago now) was an exercise in minimalism. Hand luggage only so double duty clothing and no extras. Camera, lenses, chargers, batteries, cables and laptop. A tangled mass of wiring and enough technology to fill a small branch of Dixons and keep the average teenager happy for hours. Good Lord, this is my case, me a complete technophobe, I look like Geek-On-The-Go!
The course was being held at Decoy Cottages just outside Dublin in the beautiful Irish countryside. The eleven participants shared two cottages while the tutors holed up in another which had a huge dining room where we met up for wonderful meals that made your heart sing, taste buds tingle and jeans tighten minute by minute. We were treated to feasting on a grand scale and with an abundance of the finest red wine and Prosecco from the Nino Franco vineyard in Tuscany it is a wonder any of us managed to hold a camera far less learn how to improve our photography.
But learn we did and from four of the finest instructors, Meeta K Wolff, Ilva Beretta, Jamie Schler and Jeanne Horak-Druiff. Anyone can amass knowledge but few can impart it to others in a way that both educates and enthuses. These ladies did the job admirably and the full on course went by in a whirlwind of questions and answers, clicking shutters, charging cameras, moving props, pen chewing, laptop tapping and show and tell.
We moved from writing classes to camera tech, food styling and back to scribbles. It was full on and non stop. I have to say I was awed by some of the photographs and really marveled at the creativity. I found myself trying photo styles I have never thought of, daring to dance with darkness and light and tweaking settings I’d been scared to touch. Realised early on that I hated my camera. Oh I know, a good workman never blames his tools and all that, but my camera (God knows why I changed to the smaller system last year) really wasn’t up to the job at hand, I learned that the hard way.
On the Saturday we attended the Sage And Stone Market where vendors profered a vast array of homegrown produce, artisan cheeses, breads that make you groan with anticipation and preserves that gleam like a jewelled wall in the rain drenched sunlight.
We worked in pairs and I was blessed to have Andre as my partner, a man who can make magic with the camera and shows remarkable patience when dealing with someone who throws a tantrum whenever they can’t get their settings right.
I shared a cottage with some fabulous ladies, Ann Marie from Ireland, Kate and Sam from South Africa and Lidija from Slovenia. We are an international bunch who bond instantly and spend every spare moment round our kitchen table chatting like old friends.
I discovered many things during the weekend; new friends from far and wide (language is no barrier when you have a love of photography and food in common), new ideas on the writing front and a whole new dimension to photography. So much so that on return I found myself trading in my camera and embracing the intricacies of a huge Nikon D7000, having loads more fun with photography and only wincing slightly when I look at my dwindling bank balance.
I said before I went that this course was a bit of a dream come true for me. I went over to Ireland with all sorts of hopes for learning new techniques and getting input from top professionals. I didn’t realise just how much I would learn and how much fun it would all be. At times I was swamped by inadequacy and self doubt, felt I was out of my depth and couldn’t cope. Then kind words and patience especially from Ilva would drag me back and point me in the right direction.
So here is to Plate To Page Ireland, what a weekend, what a joy, what a learning experience and what FUN!
Thanks to Meeta, Jamie, Jeanne and Ilva – you really are the best in the business and I do hope we will meet again.
PS To the girl team in our cottage, we really MUST meet again!