Food Photography Workshop with Cottage Farm and Betty Liu

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Last month I FINALLY got to take a food photography workshop with my favorite food blogger, Betty Liu!!!!  She was a guest host with Krissy O’Shea from Cottage Farm for a one day workshop in Boston.  I was re-entering surgical residency the next day but decided to spring for one more day of fun before going back!  The workshop started with a private dinner at Loyal Nine the night before where we were served a special menu of savory pea pancakes, reminiscent of scallion pancakes, topped with grilled freshly harvested peas and, baked cheese with rhubarb and homemade crackers, delicious roasted chicken paired with balsamic glazed onion and fresh peas, and finally to end the night, strawberry rhubarb pie…all of course washed down by a refreshingly crisp French white wine.

The next morning we were off to an early start at Warehouse XI in Union Square.  Luckily we had some coffee from No Six Depot along with buttery croissants from Forge Bakery and fresh berries, yogurt, and homemade granola by Betty to get us caffeinated and started.  And of course we snagged a few photos of the breakfast set up :).

After breakfast, we quickly got to work learning camera and composition basics with a brief lecture from Betty and Krissy before starting to learn the basics of food styling.  We used natural light and they really pushed us to take advantage of different lighting scenarios like using darker lighting for some moodier shots while using bright spaces near the window for sunny breakfast shots.  The first scene we shot was mostly from a top down approach- actually setting up the scene on the ground! Genius for anyone who is short with back problems- sure beats balancing on a high chair to lean over and photograph!  Krissy set up the scene with breakfast remnants, demonstrating how to add in little touches (like crumbs) but at the same time not making it look overstyled.

Next we practiced some action shots from the side of Betty and Krissy pouring coffee (we maybe drank a little more too).

From coffee we moved on to my favorite…cheese!!!! We had sooooo much cheese donated by Vermont Creamery but I was tortured momentarily when I had to wait to dive in so we could practice some food styling!  Betty and Krissy set up a beautiful table spread of cheese, honey, bread, flowers, and little utensils.  Then we all took turns photographing the scene from the side and up top on a ladder…and then finally it was time to dig in!!!!!

Of course after cheese there was more eating with some delicious salads prepared by Krissy for lunch.  Check out the beautiful rye berry salad recipe by Krissy on her blog.

Following lunch we were all in a food coma but there was no time for rest…it was time to practice what we learned!  We broke off into groups to create our own food setups to photograph.  I think we did a great job (and had great teachers!)!

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After all our hard work, it was time for some relaxation and cocktails made by Nic Korn, a local mixologist.  He made delicious aperol spritzes and cocktails with mint and gin.  I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of the beautiful drinks!

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We finished with a brief tutorial on post-production editing in Lightroom and I picked up a few tips from Betty- including how to add my own filter which you see featured here!   Thank you to Krissy and Betty for an incredible and educational workshop!  I left the workshop with a new arsenal of photography, food styling, and editing skills and met some great people I home to stay in touch with!

 

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Green Tea Matcha Cupcakes with Whipped Mascarpone Frosting

 

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This post is really exciting for me! First off, it’s been a long time since I baked anything for my blog…life and work seem to always get in the way. Second, I got to test out my new macro lens!  I’ve been wanting to buy one for a long time but finally decided to bite the bullet after I got hired to shoot some food photography for 2 local restaurants!!!  While I love my 35 mm prime lens and it has been great so far for my food photography, macro lenses can reproduce even more detail which is perfect for drool-worthy food photographs!

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Lastly, you may notice the new videos/GIFs I’ve used in this post.  They are actually called “stop-motion vignettes” and are perfect for showing cooking and baking processes like frosting a cupcake!  I learned how to make them from the amazingly talented photographer and food blogger, Betty Liu.  Check out her blog to learn how to make your own stop-motion vignettes.  It took some trial and error, but I think I got the hang of it eventually.

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So now for the cupcakes…I first experimented with matcha green tea last year in  my post on matcha green tea, white chocolate macademia nut cookies.   Matcha green tea is a fine green powder that has been popping up everywhere from lattes to cookies and cakes.  Not only does it have a lovely flavor, but it makes for a gorgeous green color.  I had initially planned on making a different dessert this weekend but figured cupcakes would be the perfect dessert to show off my new stop motion vignettes!  I was also tasked with making a non-chocolate dessert for dinner with friends tonight so matcha seemed like the perfect flavor to try.  I paired the matcha cupcake with a simple, light frosting so as to not overpower the delicate matcha flavor in the cupcake.  The result was pretty tasty- hopefully my friends will agree!

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Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes with Whipped Mascarpone Frosting

(makes 12)

Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tabelspoons matcha green tea
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

Whipped Mascarpone Frosting

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a small bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and matcha.

In an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add egg and mix on medium until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture and then sour cream, mixing until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about halfway. Bake, rotating halfway through, until cupcakes spring back to touch and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 16 minutes. Let cool in tin 5 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

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For the frosting, combine the butter, cream cheese, and mascarpone cheese in a stand mixer, fitted with a whip attachment.  Beat on medium to high speed until thoroughly combined, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt and mix until smooth.  Add the heavy cream and whip on high for a minute until light and fluffy.  You may want to refrigerate for 30 minutes before frosting to firm it up a bit.

Frost the cooled cupcakes and enjoy!

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Farmer’s Market Photography Class

Apparently, most people (aka people with 9-5ish type jobs) have hobbies…or things they are interested in that have nothing to do with their career!  After working 80+ hours/week for the past 3 years, this concept, understandably, is a little foreign to me.  Yes, I do enjoy cooking, baking and blogging. Some might consider these “hobbies,” but I never quite had the time (or money) to explore this much outside the comfort of my own home.  In fact, my lack of time for hobbies/a social life got a little awkward when I went on a few first dates. The conversation often went something like this:

Boy: “So what do you do for fun?”
Me: “Well I’m pretty busy with work and saving lives, but I like to cook and bake when I can and I also have a baking blog.”
Boy: “Oh cool, what else do you do?”
Me: “Well….I guess I go to the gym occasionally?”
Boy: “What else?”
Me: “Ummmmm, I sleep every once in a while…”
Boy: “But you must have other things you like to do outside of work?  Hiking? Skiing? Going to concerts? You should come with me to this workout group that meets every morning at 6AM…maybe on slow day like a Friday?”
Me:  “Beep, beep, beep” (fakes “stat” page, stage exit right)

In an effort to have something to answer to first date questions like this…and to make the most of my time off (I mean research) I’ve been trying to develop some hobbies, mainly photography.  As you have seen on my blog (hopefully), I’ve had a mildly successful introductory foray into photography through photographing food porn for my blog.  However, I wanted to a) learn how to use the many functions on my DSLR camera and b) expand my subject matter a bit.  So this past weekend I took two photography classes at the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE):

Intermediate Photography with Chris Padgett

and

Farmer’s Market Photography with Brian Samuels

The first class was a technical class on how to use your camera and get the most out of all of its functions.  I definitely learned a few key things that will help my photography going forward.  In the second class, I got to apply what I learned with Chris, by going on a field trip of sorts with Brian and a group of eager new photographers to the SOWA market in the South End.  The market, bustling with food and fresh produce vendors, consumers, pets, arts and crafts and antiques, was the perfect place to work on composition and creativity.  It was a gorgeous day and if you’re going to be that sketchy person with a camera peeping out of the bushes (or tomatoes, gourds or flowers), it’s best to have a group with you!

Below are some of my favorites from the day.

Gorgeous purple radishes at a local farm vendor.

 

Some more local produce.  It’s fun to experiment with post-production editing.  I’ve been using the snapseed app on my iphone for much of my editing (I can instantly send photos from my camera to my iphone via wifi).  Color splash is another fun app that allows you to focus on one (or two) colorful objects to really highlight it, like the carrots above.

The market is also full of interesting people to (stealthfully) photograph.

Don’t forget to stop by Union Square Donuts for delicious fresh donuts in a variety of flavors (like brown butter hazelnut pictured above).  The wait in line is worth it!

There are a variety of non-produce items sold as well.

And finally, some more beautiful produce!

Edible Exposure: Food and Photography Class

I think I’ve missed my calling: food photography (aka food pornographer).  As I mentioned in my last post, my research fellowship has given me quite a bit of free time that I have been filling with both old (cooking/baking/eating) and new (photography) hobbies.  In my quest to completely fill my free time with something meaningful, I turned the to Boston Center for Adult Education’s (BCAE) fall curriculum of food related classes.  I had taken a few classes at their old location on Commonwealth Ave. but had not had the time to try out a class at their gorgeous new space on Arlington St.  I was excited to see that they had a “celebrity chef” series with well-known Boston area chefs taking charge of the classes.  I was of course immediately drawn to the class entitled Edible Exposure: Food and Photography with Michael Scelfo.  Not only did I want to learn more about food and photography, but Michael Scelfo is the owner and chef at one of my favorite local restaurants, Alden and Harlow, nominated for one of Bon Appetit’s best new restaurants of 2014.  I immediately signed up and was lucky to get a spot in this intimate class for 12.

The class started on a Tuesday evening at 6PM and we were greeted by representatives from 90+ Cellars wine who immediately poured us glasses of wine, picked especially for this dinner.  Once we were settled in (and slightly more relaxed), Michael gave a brief overview of food photography.  The class was geared towards using an iPhone (or smart phone) and various iPhone apps to edit the photos.  I, of course, couldn’t resist bringing my new “toy” (Nikon D5300) but learned a lot about different apps that can be used to edit the photos. I was pretty impressed that he does all the photography and editing that he posts on social media himself (Twitter: @mscelfo, @aldenharlow; Instagram: @mscelfo, @aldenharlow)- he takes some amazing food photos!

He then introduced his 2 sous chefs that he brought along to make our dinner that night.

On the menu:

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t actually get to make any of the dishes (or at least get the recipes!), but it would have been an ambitious feat for a 3 hour class.  Plus, how can you complain about a private dinner and photography lesson (with wine) from Michael Scelfo?

The first dish was the spicy shishito peppers…and spicy they were!  Normally 1 in 10 peppers are spicy but I got “lucky” and at least 75% of mine were hot!!!!  For this photo with lots of shades of green, he showed us how to improve it’s appearance by turning down the “warmth” feature in Instagram. Decreasing the warmth brought in more blue tones to deepen the green color.

The next course was the charred broccoli with squash hummus.

This may have been my favorite dish of the night.  (My next mission will be to try to recreate that hummus!)  With this dish, he showed us how to use the app “color splash” which allows you to highlight one or two colors in a photo while leaving the rest black and white to really emphasize the main focus of the photo (in this case the food).

(photo courtesy of Michael Scelfo)

The final dish was the trenne pasta (a triangle shaped penne type pasta), a new menu item at Alden and Harlow.  The pasta was perfectly cooked and paired with guanciale, cherry tomatoes and finally anchovy crumbs for a texture contrast and umami type flavor.  This dish was full of color and therefore perfect for photos.  After taking photos of this final course, he showed us how to use the app “pic frame” to create a collage of the night’s dishes (see above).

Overall, this was a super fun (and tasty) class full of great food and helpful photo tips.  I can’t wait to try them out for my blog photos…and to return to Alden and Harlow for the amazing food!