Wow, what a week. Last week we traveled to sunny Andalucía, Spain, to La Sierra de Aracena for a week-long getaway and food photography workshop (this Autumn has been the season of workshops for me – first Amsterdam, and now Spain!) with Tim Clinch. We stayed at Finca Buenvino, a gorgeous countryside B&B run by Sam and Jeannie Chesterton, who provided such great company, food, and hospitality. And spending five days learning from Tim was amazing – not only was he an excellent instructor but also a charismatic tour guide of some of the best that the area around Aracena has to offer. Suffice it to say, it was both an extremely relaxing and transformative week for me, and I think this experience will affect my entire outlook on how I approach photography from here on out.
But first, let’s talk about this amazing tortilla that Jeannie whipped up for lunch for us on the first day!
One of the awesome things about Finca Buenvino is not only is it a B&B, but part farm as well – there’s a vegetable garden that’s larger than my entire home and the land is dotted with fruit trees, oak trees plump with ripening acorns and of course numerous cork trees, a vibrant red after being stripped of their bark. Bright orange-yolked eggs come fresh from the chickens, while onions grow to the size of grapefruits. The simplicity of the tortilla comes from the fact that it is made from just potatoes, eggs, garlic, onion and olive oil, allowing each of these very local ingredients to sing to their full potential – and as an added bonus, it’s naturally gluten free! (which means you might find us making a version of this soon here at home…).
And when we weren’t traveling about the countryside visiting the shore town of Isla Cristina, the mines of Rio Tinto or the characteristic white-washed villages that dot the hills of the Sierra de Aracena, we were relaxing with a glass of wine or sherry in hand, enjoying the beauty of Finca Buenvino and the surrounding scenery. What could be more refreshing than watching the sunset looking out over those beautiful hills?
So what did I take away from this week? Many many things. Tim said a lot of things that really resonated with me. His philosophy was that “you’ll never become a better food photographer until you become a better photographer”. This means learning more from the historical greats of photography and still-life painters, as well as for me personally it means gathering a little bit more confidence and courage to go up and ask people to take their photo and seize the opportunity to tell the entire story of food – to use still life, portraits, textures, landscape, travel, etc., all aspects of photography. That food photography extends well beyond the styled shot, and that I can bridge my two loves of both food and landscape photography together by also capturing the intersection of food with culture and place. I learned that if I relax a bit and shut off the analytical science part of my mind, I do a much better job at seeing in a creative and artistic way. In fact, I was even encouraged to jump out of manual mode once in a while and use aperture priority mode – and you know what? It turns out the modern digital camera really is perfectly capable of metering and picking an appropriate exposure. Who knew?
I also learned that food doesn’t have to be styled to look great in camera – much food is most beautiful just as it is, in its natural state. The tortilla pic above? Sure we did a styled table shot, and it was a nice photo and all; but the capture of the entire lunch spread on the green picnic table in the dappled light while the first tortilla slice was being served ended up being the better image to really show it off. And this story about a tortilla is just as much also a story about Finca Buenvino and Jeannie and the love she puts into everything she cooks, which was more than evident when we sat down and enjoyed each meal at the table all together. Which – speaking of Jeannie’s cooking, I know we will be sure to be the first in line for the release of their upcoming book, The Buenvino Cookbook: Recipes from our Farmhouse in Spain, set to come out Spring of 2014!
I’m sure there is more to say, but I will leave it at that for now. Expect more photos of Spain soon!