Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dubai: A Superlative Workshop at Atlantis, The Palm

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Early morning fog rising over the Dubai Marina skyline - view from Nasimi Beach 

Light. It is one the most important aspects of any kind of photography. Good or bad lighting can make or break any image. Light is what I love playing around with in my own photography. Taking shots from bright and crisp to moody and atmospheric is a challenge I really enjoy tackling.

So, when selecting a venue for the Dubai Food Photography and Styling workshop the only venue that matched all the requirements was Nasimi Beach at Atlantis, The Palm Dubai.

Sally and I shared the same thoughts, ideas and visions for this workshop, so working together with her was a true pleasure. She is thoughtful, eloquent and alert and with her great contacts in Dubai we had the workshop planned and organized smoothly.

I was fairly at ease when I landed in Dubai and was looking forward to meeting Sally in person for the first time. I was also eager to check out the location, which was going to house 12 delegates for 2 full days. I’ve been to the Atlantis several times during previous visits to Dubai and enjoyed meals at their various restaurants, but this time I was looking at it with different eyes. 

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According to the legend, the island of Atlantis was a glorious and powerful place that sank into the ocean in a single day. It seems the Atlantis has been resurrected in all it’s glory on the island of The Palm in the far away desserts of Dubai. Where once there was nothing but sand and sea, now stands this striking building stretching across the sandy shores of a man made island shaped like a palm tree. Dubai is a city of superlatives and the Atlantis surpasses the wildest of imaginations.

I was extremely proud and happy to have such a stunning venue open it’s doors for our workshop. Scrutinizing Nasimi Beach in terms of light, practicality and working conditions, on the morning before the workshop, was difficult as I kept getting captivated by the panorama, the setting, the decorations - a photographers dream come true. One thing was sure - there was plenty to get inspired by and I was certain the backdrop was going to create some great work over the next couple of days.

Sally and I also managed to get the final bit of prop shopping done before the workshop. Dubai is a paradise for inexpensive fabric and both of us had a great time selecting some gorgeous designs and colors for the participants to work with the next day. 

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Slowly the delegates began to arrive at the Meet & Greet breakfast. It was the perfect day in Dubai, not too hot and not too sunny with some lovely diffused light! It was great meeting nine gorgeous ladies and one courageous man, who arrived not only from Dubai but some had flown in from Kuwait, Egypt an Bahrain especially for the workshop.

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Over some delicious pastries, fresh fruit and a variety of colorful juices we got to know each other. A lively and energetic group of people, filled with many desires and wishes and as we discussed each persons goals and expectations I was raring to help them take the first step towards them.

The group had a wide range of experience, knowledge and skills from bloggers to professional photographers, TV producers and food stylists, I think we covered the whole range. It was an exciting mix and my job was to give each one enough insight, motivation and the push in the right direction to help them think differently and inspire them to find creativity in places where they might not usually look for. 
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Class started straight after breakfast and I had planned a very strict and packed day for the participants. We discussed principles of food photography and styling, covering the fundamentals. Each slide brought on several questions and I discussed the topics in depth addressing each query and sharing some of my secrets.

We only paused for lunch: a colorful feast of bruschetta, salads, a wide selection of fresh sushi and sweet treats. But before everyone could dive in - it was the obligatory photo shoot time! Food photographers … it’s what makes us tick

Dubai2012-800px-WM-0088 Dubai2012-800px-WM-0089 Dubai2012-800px-WM-0082 After lunch we continued with a mix of theory enhanced by practical exercises I made them complete to make sure each one got a chance to practice some of what was discussed. 

The team at Atlantis generously provided us with several ingredients and dishes and our participants could freely walk the grounds of Nasimi Beach finding the right setting and light for their exercises.

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Finally we were at the end of day one and I could hear the brains buzzing, but before I let each one go, I paired them in teams and handed each team their individual assignment, which they had to work on and complete the following day. Sally and I had organized several highlights for their assignments throughout the two days.

The first two highlights were that very evening. It started with cocktail demonstration performed by one of Nasimi Beaches lively bar tenders. I think the entire group, including me were very much ready for our pre-dinner drinks. As the cameras clicked away, participants found inspiration in various corners. The sandy beach, the blue water, even the the green thickets were creatively used to photograph the rainbow colored cocktails against the backdrop of the striking coral colored Atlantis.

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As the sun began to sink in a glowing sky, the rays bouncing against the shimmering skyscrapers in the horizon, we began to relax with our drinks and simply enjoy the warm evening on Nasimi Beach.

We were then whisked away through the hotel and arrived to the terraces of Levantine, Atlantis’ delightful Lebanese restaurant where a grand banquet was prepared especially for us. We got to pre-taste several of the dishes, which will be served during Ramadan. The feast was fit for kings and queens and truly we were treated like royalty with delectable mezzehs, succulent and slow roasted whole shoulder of lamb, a variety of vegetables and aromatic rice. The highlight for me was tasting Lebanese wines for the first time. I was surprised by the wonderful rich nuances and delicious flavors. My family joined us for dinner that evening and Soeren was totally stoked at the belly dancer that performed that evening. The meal was concluded with a selection of fine Arabic desserts, including a selection of Baklava.

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Dubai2012-800px-WM-0145 Dubai2012-800px-WM-0146 The awesome group 

We started the next day on the same note we ended it the previous evening. Sally and I had arranged for another grand highlight with more food, more eating and more photographing.

Lafayette Gourmet was our destination and we were very warmly welcomed by Chef Russell Impiazzi, who first provided us with sweet breakfast of pastries, fruit and freshly brewed coffee, before he whisked us away on a tour of the extensive gourmet store.

Instantly one realizes the passion that drives Chef Russell, he captivated many of us as he talked us through luxurious ingredients, exotic produce, divine cuts of meats and cooking methods. He had the keys to an incredible cheese room and invited us into the pork room and then he cooked for us. I was smitten!

The trip to Lafayette Gourmet was not only one of pleasure though, the participants were on an assignment and as they were given free access to the entire store, they spread out every where shooting and styling. The challenge was to shoot in low light and artificial lighting conditions.

We found it hard to leave Lafayette Gourmet, as Chef Russell kept bringing plates and plates of food - a seafood paella topped only by a succulent chicken paella and a simple yet incredibly flavorful bruschetta. It was time to head back to the Atlantis, where Chef Hani was ready with his cooking demonstration.

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As we left the cool air-conditioned Dubai Mall, which houses Lafayette Gourmet, the temperatures outside had risen, the sun shone down with all its might. Chef Hani was going to prepare two types of koftas, one of them was using meat that is smoked with thyme and cloves. After he finished preparing the dishes, I took over and styled the dishes, talking the participants through some of my work processes while I style my shots.

It was getting hot and the cabana that was put up to protect us from the sun became a hot house, making the fresh rocket leaves wilt quickly. I worked fast and the participants quickly shot a few photos.

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After a 3 course lunch of luscious prawn and avocado salad, sea bass with steamed vegetables and a hazelnut pavlova, the participants were given a few hours to complete the final phase of their assignment.

The chefs at Nasimi Beach provided us with dishes, which Sally and I had selected from their menu, and also arranged the main ingredients for each dish for the participants to style and shoot in their own way.

Once again the grounds of Nasimi Beach provided ample space and inspiration, allowing the pairs enough room to work and get their creative juices flowing. 

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The day ended with each team presenting their assignment and the whole group giving their constructive critique.

I am always amazed at how much the participants evolve in a period of a few days, when they are given room to grow and discover their creativity, when they can discuss their issues with like-minded people. As an instructor I always find this part of the workshops the most rewarding.

Sally and I said our farewells, but not before spoiling them with one final highlight. Our generous sponsors had provided us with amazing items for what turned out to be three goodie bags!

Thank you Finer Things, Jones the Grocer, Lafayette Gourmet, Lindt, Toffee Princess, Weber for your wonderful generosity.

A very big thank you goes out to the entire team at Atlantis The Palm, our main sponsors who created not only the perfect surrounding for this workshop but spoilt us with their lavish generosity. We’ll be back - soon!

Dubai2012-800px-WM-0276 DSC_0278[Photo Credit: Sally Prosser]

My deepest gratitude and appreciation is for Sally. We met on Twitter and the rest - as they say is history. Sally has found a firm spot in my heart and we parted as friends, saying “auf wiedersehen” - because we shall meet again.

LG-Board[Photo Credit: Sally Prosser]

Read more about the workshop in reviews by:

Sally Prosser: Sharing Secrets
Holly S. Warah: Part one and Part two
Alyssa: Dubai: A trip of Firsts

Hope you enjoyed a little insight to what went on at the Dubai workshop. For those who missed out - Sally and I have our heads together and are planning again!

I am still going through several images taken over the entire 2 weeks of my stay in Dubai and there will be another post in the next couple of weeks about all the exciting things I experienced, awesome people I met and stunning places I visited. For now I need to play catch up with many things and get back to work on my photography assignments.

Wish you all a grand week and relaxing weekend!


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2012 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

30 comments :

  1. Fabulous account of a wonderful workshop you talented lady.

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  2. Wow impressive two days - looks like I missed out big time! Glad I was able to meet you though Meeta :)

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  3. Oh boy...how fantastic is this! I have to go back and read it all over again, take in each beautiful shot ...and enjoy this post Meeta! Must have been the most wonderful workshop ever. Sun, sand, food bloggers = Meeta Wolf & Co = NICE! Hats off to Sally & you for making the magic happen!

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  4. WOW wow wow..I'm in awe of your Dubai trip and your students!!! I wish I could have taken your class! Gorgeous setting, people, food!!!
    We were in Dubai in January and LOVED it..especially Atlatntis, my kids didn't want to come back to States..neither did I! :)

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  5. congrats on hosting this huge event, M. x s

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  6. What a fantastic account of what was no doubt an awesome workshop. Atlantis is such an incredible venue - looking at the pics made me wish I was there - we sat on the terrace of Levantine having cocktails one night - but it was a leeeeeetle warmer in August LOL! Great shots and congrats on a successful workshop :)

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  7. Breathtaking. I know how much you give of yourself developing and delivering these workshops. Your images make me feel I was there (jealously I was not...) But I can feel the warmth of your passion and gift of teaching shine through!

    Congratulations on another premier event. Sally must be an excellent partner for such a spectacular offering. My cheers to you both!

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  8. FANTASTIC Meeta! Just fantastic, what a place, I'm really impressed and wold have loved to have been there sipping drinks watching you work!

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  9. Fabulous post Meeta, so much fun!! Loved reading and the pictures are just stunning. Hope there will be something similar around here!

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  10. what a lovely post! Pictures are just gorgeous and so the story. I so wish you lived here in USA :)) So I can take advantage of your workshops.

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  11. A wonderful place and experience! It looks like you had a great time there. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous pictures and impressions with us.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  12. Wow, what a fabulous setting Meeta. And those cocktails look enticing.

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  13. WOW!! I wish .. I wish I was there too! Lovely photos and clearly shows the learning that happened along with fun!

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  14. What a wonderful event. It looks like you all had so much fun! Maybe you could come to Australia one day and hold a similar event :D

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  15. I soooo want to come to the next one…what gorgeous pics…and what a great event. You have me thinking now….Thanks for the post!

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  16. Meeta, I absolutely loved reading this post! I wondered many times watching you shoot pictures what images you were capturing. And your photos are just as I suspected....beautiful! I hope to attend another one of your workshops in the future. I never imagined I could leaner and experience so much in such a short time. It was also wonderful to meet you!

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  17. Thank you all for your lovely comments. Yes it really was a fantastic experience ... the location, the people, the great food, the good vibes. I am so glad that there are so many interested in another workshop. Sally and I are already planning.

    A huge thanks to all the delegates I am now enjoying catching up with you and seeing your progress too ;o)

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  18. I NEED to go to one of your workshops! Thank you for letting me experience it vicariously. Wow! What a trip and as always, beautifully photographed.

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  19. "I am always amazed at how much the participants evolve in a period of a few days, when they are given room to grow and discover their creativity, when they can discuss their issues with like-minded people. As an instructor I always find this part of the workshops the most rewarding." This jumped out at me because it is what we say after each P2P workshop! Add to that how much we continue to learn from our participants! This Dubai workshop is amazing! You are a rockin' star, baby! How I wish I could attend. You guys were treated like royalty and that group of participants got two days learning and being inspired by you. What a sensational trip...and your magical words and descriptions and your beautiful images bring it to life for those of us not lucky enough to attend! x

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  20. What an awesome experience and awesome shots too Meeta! Love the story of the workshop and you bet I will be there for the next one! (fingers crossed the timing is right this time!)

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  21. What a fabulous setting for your workshop, how wonderful for you all!
    Gorgeous pics as always.

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  22. How I would love to meet you and be a part of a photography workshop! Maybe someday :) This looked to be an amazing experience, gorgeous photos too!

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  23. Hi Meeta, What a fantastic event. I was so happy to be a part of it. I enjoyed reading your account of the two days and, of course, looking at your gorgeous photos. Okay, when is the next Dubai workshop? I hope you will explain Photoshop Lightroom. I think this is the missing link for me (plus, a bunch of other missing links that I'm not even aware of!)
    Hope to see you back in Dubai ... maybe in the fall?
    bye for now, Holly

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  24. Okay, that's it, I need to get my butt to Dubai one day. Clearly an amazing experience.

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  25. Oh, Meeta, this was such a wonderful workshop! It was really dreamy filled with lots of food! :) I wish I could have been there!

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  26. nice shot, good focus, beautiful environment .... Congratulations.

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  27. Thank you all for your comments. The workshop was amazing on all levels and I really enjoyed it immensely. Loved meeting so many of you and look forward to Dubai again!

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  28. I stumbled in your photography blog and I was just like wow! Your photos are just amazing, perfect lighting. I am also a photography fan and is now starting to learn photography. I hope to learn more from your blog about photography.

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  29. Great Blog. Loved the pix and stories. Putting this on my Wish List!
    Thank you
    Lynn Milos, owner
    Culinary Twist Gourmet Sauces
    www.culinarytwist.com

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  30. wonderful workshop! I love Dubai and its foods

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta