Last week I went to Mexico to a food blogger camp. At least I think I did. By the time I got to my stopover in Houston on my way home, the lines, the crowds, and the cold, harsh reality of business as usual hit me hard. I began to doubt myself. (Also business as usual.)
Thankfully, I took a few pictures. To prove I was there. Not as many as I should have liked to have taken, since part of my mission was to learn more about photography. However, my brain was deluged with so much exhilarating information that I felt like Regan Mac Neil in the Exorcist. And that was just on day one. So I took notes furiously and I only hope I can read my handwriting when it comes to implementing the brilliant insights my brain was recording. Somewhere in there.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that I was in a beautiful setting with beautiful people. The resort, Grand Velas in Cancun, is indeed grand. Loveliness, color, sun, warmth, beauty at every turn of the head distracted me from my photography quest. I just wanted to soak it in without recording it on my camera.
Nevermind. It was the people that really stood out. You will rarely encounter such generous and gifted teachers as I found in Elise Bauer, Jaden Hair and David Lebovitz on the blogging side, and fabulous (also generous and gifted) standouts Matt Armendariz, Adam Pearson, Diane Cu and Todd Porter on the food styling and photography side.
The Blogging Experts:
Elise, Jaden and David drove home the finer points for bloggers. Here are some of them:
• understand what you are trying to do with your blog (huh?)
• hone your focus
• make your blog congruent with YOU
• make your front door (opening page/design) express all that (getting to that asap)
• tell a story (why are you writing about the subject of your post ?)
• what value does your post bring to others?
• join the blogging community and link to other relevant posts
• you will never be as interesting to others are you are to yourself (really?)
• join the blogging conversation, which like any other conversation, means you need to be interested in others and what they have to say (high school’s over)
Jaden: That woman is a ball of fire, and kinda cute too—though I guess she overreached with her rush to get to lunch/encounter with a stairway (see photos here.) If you want to learn about the business of blogging, study her pages. The energizer bunny part is harder to emulate by just reading, but you might want to try it anyway.
Elise: A lovely and thoughtful being. When you meet her you feel like it’s déjà vu all over again, even if you are not a woo-woo type like myself. And as we say in New England, she’s smaht, so very, very, smaht. If you want to know about marketing and how to take a simple idea (niche) to the max, (and do it better than anybody) study her pages.
The Photography Experts:
The dynamic duos Todd and Diane along with Matt and Adam took us through some key points on photography. Look at their blogs and study their photos. Over and over.
Diane and Todd: It’s about light, light and more light. Learn the direction of light and how it effects the mood of your photos. Study (and implement) the rule of 3’s in composition. It’s not the camera or the lens that will make your photos great. It’s you, the photographer. If you want to upgrade, try renting first and experiment with different lenses. (Or if you don’t have a dslr yet, rent one and give it a whirl.)
Matt: Every picture tells a story. (In this one it's Matt likes pink champagne?) What do you want to convey with your photo? How does your light depict the mood you want to project? Sometimes it IS smoke and mirrors to get the highlights and shadows where you want them. I’d tell you more, but I can’t articulate what I haven’t really practiced yet.
Adam: Take the time to think about what elements will make your photos sing and don’t over-style. Get rid of clutter. Create movement and enhance texture. Look at Adam’s photos and Matt and Adam's book (when it comes out) Crazy for Cookies, aka, How We Photographed the Same Thing Over and Over Without Boring You. Study and collect good photos from magazines and look at the styling. Check out The Food Stylist's Handbook by Denise Vivaldo.
The Blogger Participants:
Time was short, but I was able to connect with some very talented and interesting people while exchanging ideas embedded in wonderful conversations. Sally and Kent Cameron shared stories and Kent gave me some good photo tips. Nancy and I talked about publishing and the book she is working on about Japanese farm cooking. Elana (whose blog is not up yet) made me laugh out loud. She does a great rendition of her grandmother. I just read Angela’s post from Provence about a dog bone bigger than her pooch’s head that she turned into stock, and her roomie Sarah and I commiserated about winter in the Northeast (are you being pummeled by the storm right now Sarah?) I loved meeting Julie and Shawnda and Jason and Stephanie and Maggie and Damaris and fellow Bostonian Aimee….and so many others. I haven’t even scratched the surface here. To discover some wonderful voices in the blogging world, go to Damaris's post with all the names of the bloggers and a rundown of the blogs.
The lady who made it all happen: Kate Moeller's organizational skills made everything run seamlessly. I don’t know how she did that. Thank you, Kate.
I can’t get that James Taylor song out of my head. Please God, make it go away soon.
Stay tuned for a recipe for chilaquiles and don't be hatin' if you weren't there: check out the yin yang of it:
More happy campers reported here:
Food Blogger Camp (The Recipe Renovator)
What I learned: food blogger camp 2011 (Communal Table)
Food Blog Camp 2011 in Mexico (Matt Bites)
Food Blogger Camp 20ll (David Lebovitz)
Food Blog Camp:Seeing the Light (Confections of a Foodie Bride)
Food Blog Camp and Dancing Video (White on Rice Couple)
10 Lessons From Food Blog Camp 2011 (FoodWoolf)
Mango Margaritas and Food Blog Camp 2011 (Sally Cameron)
Food Blog Camp Cancun (What’s Gaby Cooking?)
If You’re Happy and You Know It, Eat Foie Gras (Frantastic Food)
Wordless Wednesday:My Kind of Camping Trip (Pinch My Salt)
Food Blog Camp: Hola Mexico! Recap (Kitchen Conundrum)
Food Blog Camp 2011 (Mommie Cooks)
Food Blogger Camp Riviera Maya (Family Fresh Cooking)
Community Across the Globe (Urban Baker)
Food Blogger Camp 2011 (Kitchen Corners)
Food Blog Camp 2011: The Whole Enchilada (Acorns and Apples)
Playa Del Carmen Mexico (Adventures of an Amateur Foodie)
Food Blog Camp 2011 (Deliciously Organic)
Chef’s Who Play with Fire (Awake at the Whisk)
Food Blog Camp (SaVUry and Sweet)
Food Blog Camp 2011 (Steamy Kitchen)