What I love about living in a city like Weimar is the culturally rich secrets hidden away, tucked behind hills, around corners, behind the park or just across the street. Even after living here for 9 years I still find jewels that surprise me with their beauty and uniqueness. They are treasures that have transcended the limits of time and survived centuries of eras and seasons.
The 18th century manor house, situated to the south of Weimar, is hidden behind large walls and as one drives onto the grounds of this estate one is instantly taken back into time. One can picture carriages pulled by horses making their way up the cobbled path and the impeccably dressed aristocrats stepping out and making their way up the marble steps into one of the stunning rooms, where perhaps they were going to be entertained at a ball in the Gobelin room or a concert in the Music Room. I was humbled at the visions in my head as I looked out onto the the extensive park surrounding this incredible residence.
Standing in the Gobelin room surrounded by the famous tapestries, I smiled and thought “What a perfect place for a workshop!”
Sandy and I shared the same ideas and complemented each other perfectly allowing us to put together this Food Photography and Styling workshop in record time. The concept: to bring the aura and the artistry of the location we were in into the two days of this workshop. With a theme of South of France the two of us were excited to share all the highlights we had planned for our participants.
The 2 days were peppered with our South of France theme throughout the activities, the food, the wine tasting and the assignments. We welcomed our participants with a “Brunch in St. Tropez” with a divine Pissaladière quiche, a ratatouille phyllo tart with goat cheese, an assortment of breads and baguettes, sweet tarts, cheeses and fruit. One of the meals we had spent a large part of the week preparing and cooking. As we sat around the long table overlooking the snowy grounds of the Landgut each participant introduced themselves, telling us what challenges they were faced with in their photography and what they expected to achieve over the 2 days.
This is always one of my favorite parts. I enjoy hearing the stories and what makes each of of the participants tick. Although they always come from different walks of life they are bound together by a common hobby. It’s so much fun seeing how quickly they bond with each other as if they have known each other for years. Once the dynamics click into gear it becomes easy to create magic with the entire group.
Starting with a series of presentation I whizzed through the basics of photography and styling fundamentals giving a few tips and tricks on mastering a sharp focus, capturing the right mood and mastering light. We discussed color, texture, props, angles and composition. Usually at the end of the presentations I can feel the vibes from the participants and their eagerness for an opportunity to put what they have learnt into practice. With their assignments, they set off in pairs to tackle the first hurdle of the weekend: capturing a cheese board. Each team got a few challenging guidelines with which they had to capture the images for their assignments over the 2 days.
I love watching how the deep furrows of thought on the foreheads change into grooves filled ideas and inspiration. The tapestries and the sheer opulence of the room provided an interesting backdrop, kindling the imaginations of each participant further.
After a final presentation on post-processing with Lightroom we moved on to the more epicurean part of the evening. Sandy took the participants on a tour through the wines of South of France with a fantastic tasting session and some lovely anecdotes about her own trips to the region. Before our “Dinner in Marseilles” was served the next photography challenge had to be completed: low-light photography shooting the Wines of France. The rest of the evening was spent dining in a gorgeous ambient with a beautifully laid table. Starting with a sensational salad with fennel and citrus and caramelized goat cheese, we moved on to the most amazing bouillabaisse and rouille to end at luxurious mousse au chocolate shots.
The following day was filled with many creative and artistic highlights for our participants, starting with Sandy guiding the participants through a crafting session and showing how easy it is to create easy decorations for the table with items one has at home. It was so magnificent seeing how some of the participants discovered sides to their creativity they never thought existed. Each participant had the task of creating and designing decorations then laying a place for their team partner.
I took over the next session and showed how to make different kinds of backgrounds with simple materials. Then the paintbrushes were handed over to the participants who then spent the next few hours creating their own backgrounds, which were going to be used in their next image. It was a colorful and fun session and almost felt like being back in art class. These moments are so awesome. I usually steal away into a quiet corner and just watch how each participant opens up and together they come closer sharing their stories and ideas with each other.
This is also an important part of my workshops. I want the people who come to these workshops to go away feeling like they have made new friends who share their own passion, who will continue to be a part of their lives even after the workshop. I try to encourage this by creating additional possibilities for them to exchange their ideas and images. Things like a Pinterest board where I assign “homework” are just one of the ways we keep practicing.
Sandy and I took this time to prepare our “Picnic in Provence” and with this the final assignment of the day. There was a Lentil Salad with Dried Cherries (without the lamb), a couscous salad, Dark Chocolate Cherry Clafoutis using chestnut flour and a rhubarb clafoutis. We also made an assortment of tartines and sandwiches and had croissants, brioche and sweet tarts … enough food for the most perfect picnic. It was a glorious day with a gorgeous blue sky. Snow covered the ground and the trees but it did not stop us from spending a few hours shooting and styling the cover shot.
All good things come to an end. Usually exhausted but exhilarated towards the end, this time I was feeling my heavy knee. We ended the workshop with some wonderful Tea cocktails created by Sandy. Raising our glasses one final time we said goodbyes and soon we were once again alone in the Gobelin room. Sipping on my cocktail I thought … “We added a different kind of event to the history of this room!”
I love Weimar and I loved inviting people here who left as friends and with a special memory of the magnificent 2 days.
It was great having you over:
Thank you for all your help Sandra, Sebastian, Steffen and Thomas. The logistics of this would not have been possible without your help. Soeren - for being patient and for helping us make macarons and craft the gifts.
A huge hug to my lovely partner Sandy. It was hilarious, fun and we created some special memories with this one. Looking forward to our other projects.
Last but not least we had some of the most amazing sponsors who helped us realize this workshop. Whether it was luxury food items for the goodie bags, tarts, baguette and wine for our meals, crafting items for our decorating sessions, jars for our desserts, notebooks to make notes or wooden boards to create the backgrounds each sponsor helped to make this workshop a success. Thank you!
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