Snap Happy

We've had some amazing workshops at Clavelshay the past two months, from our extremely popular Cheese Making Workshop with Sarah and Chris from Shebbear Cheese, the brilliant Food Photography Workshop with Neil White, and this past weekend, we had the lovely Jen Goss from Wales teach a very inspirational Vegetarian Cooking Workshop. We will be sharing the stories and photos from the Cheese Making Workshop and the Vegetarian Cooking Workshop in the coming week.

Our next exciting workshop coming up is the Sourdough Bread Making Workshop with Jemma Morgan from Quangle Wangle Foods in Wiltshire. We only have a few spots left on the course, so if you are a lover of all things bread and would like to learn how to make real, proper, delicious tasting bread, make sure you don't miss out and contact Sue at query@clavelshaybarn.co.uk.

Today we have the lovely Helen Upshall joining us from the fantastic local food blog Hells Belles' Bites. Helen has kindly let us share a great article she wrote about her experience at the recent Food Photography Workshop and some of the beautiful photos she took on the day. We have another Food Photography Workshop coming up on Saturday 17th May and spots are filling up quickly, so if you are a food blogger, B&B owner, restaurant owner or anyone that has a passion for photography, come along and learn something new from one of the best food photographers in the South West. You can find out more about the day here »

So, let's hand you over to Helen...

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I spent a fantastic day developing and honing my skills within the realms of food photography, having the additional opportunity to network with fellow foodies from up and down the country, whether they be bloggers, photographers of other fields or restaurant owners.

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Lucky for me, the workshop was located only a stones throw away, across the lake that is currently the Somerset Levels, in the quaint (and somewhat challenging to find) hamlet on the outskirts of North Petherton.  Set in the beautiful, picturesque backdrop of Claveshay Barn, organised by attentive host, Sue Milverton, we were catered for throughout the day with a particularly delicious lunch that showcased the local area’s fantastic produce.

Led by one of the region’s best food photographers, Neil White, the workshop offered a brilliant introduction to the commercial world of food styling and photography, providing the group with hands-on experience and personal tuition essential to producing delicious looking images, of a  superior quality.

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Food styling is a particular interest of mine and a big part of what I do when it comes producing this blog.  To be given the opportunity to have free-reign of an abundant props and ingredients table, as well as professional lighting and highly technical photographic equipment, meant for a very excited, yet somewhat overwhelmed blogger – but I have to admit, I was simply in my element!

Due to the often restrictive nature of my photography – my studio is my dining room table and window offering temperamental natural light – I opted to work mostly at the ‘station’ set up using natural light.  Neil introduced us to the use of black and white card to direct and reflect essential light around the shot, eliminating, and at times creating, all important shadow and contrast.  The most simplest of techniques that make such fundamental differences to the final product.

We were later taken on a whistle-stop-tour of Neil’s preferred editing programmes, Capture One and Photoshop, highlighting the importance of looking at digital images in finer detail, with a keener eye, in an attempt to arrive at a flawless final image.  Attention to detail is paramount at this stage, and something perhaps unachievable without the necessary software.

Whilst still producing images on a personal level, basic editing software is something I have to make the most of for the time being.  However, with clear advice from Neil on specific detail to look for, particular areas of editing, and the importance of balancing light, I am proud to offer a small selection of my favourite images produced during the workshop.  I hope you enjoy them, and I would love to hear your feedback!

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A more extensive portfolio of my workshop images can be found here 

Photography Workshop

We had a brilliant time at our first photography workshop this past Saturday with the inspiring Justin Orwin. Thanks to Justin and all the creatives who attended, such a great bunch of people! We always feel so inspired and fulfilled by everyone that attends our workshops. For all of those interested in our next Photography Workshop, stay tuned! Details coming soon...

One of the lovely creatives that attended the workshop, Christina Dithmar, a very talented photographer from Taunton, has  kindly allowed us to share her fantastic blogpost which perfectly captures the essence of the day, along with a few of her incredible photos taken around the farm. Thank you Christina!

On Saturday I had the immense pleasure of going to a photography workshop at Clavelshay. A workshop, I hear you say? Well, yes, it was a basic, introductory digital camera workshop, a ‘how to work out what your camera can do for you’ type workshop and boy was it good! Now, I know I already ‘should’ know what I can do with my camera, and I do already know, but what was really great about doing this workshop was that I had a whole day to myself, to play! No washing to be done, no child to be fed, just me and a bunch of like-minded lovely people, walking around a farm, learning and experiencing all that is photography. The workshop was lead by the quite brilliant Justin Orwin from http://www.orwinstudio.com/ has an incredibly welcoming style and approach to photography and to leading a workshop. He was very knowledgeable and answered all questions succinctly and gently – there was definitely no such thing as a silly question. It was such an enjoyable day.

At first we spent a while talking about the technical side of our cameras and of photography. There were people of different levels in the group and the workshop was pitched perfectly for all. For me it was incredibly helpful to hear all the things I knew already, as well as being able to spend the time challenging myself to use Manual rather than AV and to use Manual Focus, and spend the whole time using my 50mm. It was a challenge, but I loved it! Throughout the day, Jan and I were both heard on countless occasions saying ‘oh god I’m in Manual’ as we were half way through a shot before we realised that we had forgotten either our exposure, fstop or manual focus setting! It was very funny! For me, it is all too easy to use my zoom lens all the time, and taking it back to using my 50mm did mean I had to move around a lot more, but it was worth it – and think of the calories I burned! Double whammy!

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Once we had covered the technical aspects whilst sitting upstairs in the restaurant having our morning coffee (which I have to say was a treat in itself; the light shining through the windows was astoundingly beautiful, the solid oak tables and chairs stood tickled in sunlight and the daffodils danced happily as they too revelled in the first warm day of spring) we were then let lose on their working farm, and spent a lot of time taking photos and talking to the cows – talking to the cows was something I noticed myself and Jan do…it was very funny! Cows are actually incredibly difficult to take photos of, as I realised once I went through the photos the day after I got home. I did not end up with as many good shots as I had hoped, in fact, there were a lot deleted! I can put some of that down to using my camera in Manual and Manually focusing as well, but not all… I think I was thinking a lot about the technical aspects and I forgot about the composition really, but it was worth it!

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We took shots of farm machinery, the stalls, the cows, the garden, weeds, nothing was left out! It was definitely a no mercy approach to photography! I realised that although I love shallow depth of field, I don’t always need to keep my fstop as high as 1.8. There are times that call for less! An interesting bit of learning! I also learnt that I like my images slightly overexposed with lots of light, a sort of lifestyle/country homes look – very clean and crisp and ‘light’, and that has definitely come across in my images from the day. The wonderful thing about that is that I didn’t have to do that to them in Lightroom afterwards, I did it on the day as I was really thinking about how I was shooting as I was walking around. It was such a luxury to have time to think!

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After a busy morning we came back in for lunch downstairs in the restaurant. The lunch was quite simply perfectly delicious! Homemade quiche, salad (with a sneaky bit of fennel in, which really took me by surprise and was utterly refreshing) and beautifully baked bread. I am not eating wheat or gluten so Sue made me my own beautiful little quiche with gluten free flour and some gluten free rolls. It was perfect! We even had a glass of wine too! Dessert however was an even bigger treat… gluten free brownie (and cream… shhh)! I really wish that I had taken some photos, but I was just too busy eating and enjoying the conversations around the table.

The afternoon was spent around the pond and in the woods, followed by a trip to the horses.

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One of the things that I most loved about the day was the lovely people that were on the workshop. I really feel that I have made some lovely new friends and look forward to seeing them again! We discussed at length with Justin, the need for some more workshops, and I really hope that we will be able to do a portrait workshop there soon. I know that Justin is planning a SLR film workshop at his studio in Martock as well which I will definitely go on. I really just need to earn a bit more cash to be able to afford all these workshops!!

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For me, the day ended perfectly with a lovely chat, sitting in the garden with Nadine and Sue, talking marketing, photography, music festivals and social media. The sun was shining and although there were preparations to be made for the evening service we all just seemed to stay there, soaking up the sun and enjoying the bubbles. It was also Sue’s birthday! It was all so beautifully perfect and wonderful and I for one felt so refreshed, enlivened and upbeat from this amazing day! I am very grateful to have met so many lovely people, especially (but not exclusively) Jan, Peter, Rachel, Nadine and Sue of course – all in one day! I know I am gushing a bit here, but honestly, I could ride on these happy vibes for a long time – at least until the next workshop!

A massive thank you to Sue and Nadine for organising the workshop and a huge thank you to Justin for being a great teacher!

To see more photos from the workshop visit Christina's Facebook page here and see more of her beautiful work on her website here.