Strawberry, Lemon and Poppy Seed Tartlets

Strawberry-lemon-tarts-paola-thomas-food-photography-4

And just like that I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging again, mostly because I’ve been working my ass off (though it’s funny that it never seems to diminish in size).

Strawberry-lemon-tarts-paola-thomas-food-photography

Strawberry-lemon-tarts-paola-thomas-food-photography-2

 

Strawberry-lemon-tarts-paola-thomas-food-photography-3

Much to catch up on, but in the meantime I’m just going to send you over to Coco + Kelley for my latest recipe. These little tartlets are such fun to make and a real taste of early summer. Strawberry-lemon-tarts-paola-thomas-food-photography-5

Share

Rhubarb, Orange and Thyme Crostini

rhubarb-crostini-paola-thomas-food-photography-34

Just back from a lovely Spring Break in San Francisco and Mexico (of which more anon) and dashing in to tell you to head over to Coco + Kelley blog, where you’ll find my recipe for rhubarb, orange and thyme crostini.

rhubarb-crostini-paola-thomas-food-photography-11

They’re a great savoury way to use rhubarb and look so pretty and spring-like. And now to get back to my unpacking. I’ll be back soon.

rhubarb-crostini-paola-thomas-food-photography-35

Share

Pink Lady

pink-lady-shortlist-paola-thomas-food-photography

Last October I taught a food photography workshop with my dear friend Danielle Acken in Fowey, Cornwall (of which more in another post) and there was a lot of talk of entering the Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year Competition, a specialist food photography competition sponsored by Pink Lady Apples in the UK, but with global reach and prestige.  I’d never entered a competition before, but I’ve been wanting to get my work out there, so it seemed like I had nothing to lose. 

But you still could have knocked me down with a feather when my images were shortlisted in four different categories. What’s even more gratifying is that the images chosen represent three different facets of my work, so I couldn’t be more pleased. The shortlisted images are chosen anonymously by an international panel of incredible judges, who also choose the finalists. However, there’s also a People’s Choice finalist in each category, which is where you guys come in. 

The image above, which I took at Robert Ramsay Cellars, is a pure portrait. I do love shooting at wineries – the barrels curve and bend the light like nobody’s business and when you add in a good-looking winemaker, magic happens. It’s been shortlisted in the Wine Photographer of the Year – People section, sponsored by Errazuriz and I would love you forever if you could vote for it here.

pink-lady-shortlist-paola-thomas-food-photography4

I thought I’d make an effort for the Pink Lady – Apple a Day category. I’d been seeing apple roses all over the Internet, and though it would be fun to make some with Pink Lady apples (I’ll post the recipe up later). Cue me burning a couple of attempts and then desperately trying to conjure light out of a dull January afternoon in Seattle. But in the end I got the shot I was aiming for.

pink-lady-shortlist-paola-thomas-food-photography1

The final two images are street photography/culinary travel photography pure and simple. The first one was taken in the Marais last year. I was first struck by the beautiful green of the doors and then noticed that they framed an incredibly French scene of joy in food and friendship. This one is shortlisted in the Food for Celebration category. 

pink-lady-paola-thomas-food-photography2

And finally were in this little restaurant in Tuscany, when, as we were leaving, the ‘chef’ emerged from her tiny kitchen at the back. It had obviously been hard work preparing all our meals, and at the moment she clearly couldn’t wait to see the back of us. She is in the Food For Sale category, and I love how she encapsulates the harsh realities of getting food onto our tables. She is me when I’ve been catering for a big party. 

If you’d like to vote for any of the three images above, they are shortlisted in the Food section and you can vote for them here (you get one vote for Food and one for Wine) and again I promise to love you for ever and a day.

Thank you dear friends! I’ll let you know how things pan out. 

If you’re remotely interested in food photography,  I urge you to check out all the galleries. There is some astonishing work in there. And contributions from good friends Ilva Beretta, Danielle Acken, Sofia Plana, Sandrine Fauconnet and Melissa Love. 

 

 

 

Share

Rhubarb Polenta Cake with Orange and Cardamom

 

rhubarb-orange-polenta-cake-paola-thomas-food-photography

Occasionally developing recipes is easy. I dream up a flavour combination, figure out the technicalities, make a test version and bam! it works first time.

This, however, was not one of those occasions. This cake, that I made last winter for Edible Seattle, kicked my ass forwards, backwards and into the middle of next week. This recipe is based on a traditional Italian ‘torta di polenta’, to which I thought some seasonal rhubarb would be a lovely addition. And when you have rhubarb, then it’s not much of stretch to pair that with orange and cardamom.

What I couldn’t figure out though, was how to incorporate the pieces of rhubarb to make the cake look pretty enough to go in a magazine. Although my family will eat anything that tastes good and is vaguely cake-shaped, for a magazine you need to have somewhat higher standards.

First I tried to make it like an upside-down cake. The concentric circles of rhubarb looked pretty, but the anaemic yellow of the cake’s underside made the whole thing look like an unappetisingly pallid frittata, which I soon gave up trying to photograph. But boy was it good – with its damp, buttery richness offset by the tang of the rhubarb and citrus and the pleasing bite of the polenta.

For my next trick I painstakingly arranged the rhubarb in concentric circles on the top of the cake. It looked magnificent and my hopes were high. Until I dropped it as I was carrying it to the oven. I scraped it back into the tin (thank goodness for the five second rule) and baked it, and the family loved it because it was cake, but it wasn’t anything I could photograph.

I whipped up another cake, again made an intricate rhubarb design on the top, managed to get it into the oven in one piece and then the rhubarb design promptly sank into the cake while it was baking. All I can say is that it’s a good job this cake is so delicious.

rhubarb-orange-polenta-cake-paola-thomas-food-photography-2

By now I was coming up against the copy deadline. This time round I abandoned the concentric circles and made up for rhubarb sinkage by sprinkling the top with some sliced almonds. And finally I got a cake I could use. With the deadline looming and in the flat winter light of a rainy December afternoon, I managed to grab a few shots, which I felt were OK.

So you could have knocked me down with a feather when my cake somehow wound up on the cover.

edible seattle rhubarb cake

You really do need to make this cake. It may not be the world’s prettiest, but when you’re curled up with a good book and a coffee on a damp spring afternoon, there really is nothing better.

Rhubarb Polenta Cake with Orange and Cardamom
Serves 10
The moist buttery richness of this cake is cut by the tang of rhubarb and citrus, while the polenta has a pleasing bite to it. Perfect for curling up in a chair with a good book, while the rain cascades down the windowpane.
Write a review
Print
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
Cook Time
50 min
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  2. 2 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar (granulated sugar would also work here)
  3. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  4. Approximately 1 teaspoon flour for coating the pan
  5. 1 cup caster/superfine sugar
  6. 2 cups almond flour
  7. 3 extra-large eggs
  8. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. Juice of half an orange
  10. Zest of two oranges
  11. 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon polenta or grits
  12. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  13. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  14. 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  15. Approximately 2 tablespoons sliced almonds to decorate
Instructions
  1. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan and cut a circle of parchment paper to line the bottom. A Springform pan will make it easier to remove the cake.
  2. Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat the softened butter and sugar together until pale, light, and fluffy (about 4 minutes at a medium speed).
  3. Stir in the almond flour, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is airy and soft.
  4. With a large spoon, fold in the vanilla extract, orange juice, and zest.
  5. Add polenta, baking powder, and salt, still folding gently.
  6. Fold the cardamom into the batter until evenly distributed.
  7. Spoon the batter, which should be a mousse-like consistency, into the prepared pan and smooth it out to the edges with a spatula.
  8. Take the marinated rhubarb pieces out of their syrup and drain on a paper towel.
  9. Press the rhubarb into the cake batter and scatter the sliced almonds over the top. Some of the rhubarb pieces will sink during baking, so you will end up with a rhubarb-studded cake.
  10. Set the prepared cake pan on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven 50–60 minutes. The cake should be firmly set in the middle and a deep golden brown on top.
  11. Remove from the oven and let sit 5–10 minutes, until the cake shrinks away from the sides. Then remove from the pan and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Notes
  1. Note: The leftover syrup at the bottom of the rhubarb bowl is delicious on yogurt or ice cream, or you can pour it over a slice of the cake just before serving.
mirror mirror http://mirrormirrorblog.com/site/
 

 

 

 

 

Share

Back

romanescosoup-17

Oh how I have missed blogging.

I’ve had all sorts of beautiful (to me at least) posts lined up in my head over the last few months, but life always got in the way and they never quite made it onto the screen.

romanescosoup-3

It’s partly because I’ve been lucky enough to have a ton of work. Somehow I’ve managed to parlay this food photography, recipe development, writing and content development gig of mine into an actual job, with several regular clients, including Edible Seattle, Seattle Refined and Zagat’s and a bunch of one-off gigs that have been hugely enjoyable and very rewarding (if not always financially).

I’ve also been travelling like crazy. Over the last year and a bit I’ve averaged over a trip a month, which has been total madness, but has left me with a bunch of photos and impressions I’d still love to share with you.

romanescosoup-2

And other stuff has been happening behind the scenes. In October I went back to England, this time to teach a food photography workshop with my dear friend Danielle Acken in the glorious surroundings of Fowey in Cornwall. I love teaching and we’re planning more workshops together throughout the year, so stay tuned for news of those.

I’ve also been working on building my photography portfolio, rebranding my sites, including this blog, and bringing everything together under one big umbrella. I had an update meeting with my web designer this morning and I’ve been grinning with crazy excitement ever since. It’s going to be so pretty!

And I am bursting with ideas for a newsletter, a podcast, a couple of online workshops, and maybe even a quarterly magazine, that I really want to share with you.

romanescosoup-11

In short, it’s time I got back to regular blogging. I hope you’ll join me back here next Wednesday.

romanescosoup-5

I’ve started contributing a regular monthly recipe and photos to lifestyle blog Coco + Kelley . So click here for my recipe for Roasted Romanesco Soup with a Pistachio Pesto and Crispy Prosciutto – it’s warm and comforting enough for the tail end of winter, and pastel pretty enough for the beginning of spring.

Share

Roasting, or Searching for a Food Writing Style

‘”I’m thoughtful when I come to class. My aim this weekend is to bring more personality and feeling to my writing and photography, to transform the sterile and soulless and help it resonate with a wider audience.

Telling stories like this doesn’t come easily to me – I’m not an emotional person – but I know that the proof of the pudding is in the story; that it’s the tale that turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, that illuminates the subject and makes it come alive.

Roasted Veggies Photography by www.paolathomas.com

The gilded smoky scent of roasted vegetables emanates from the oven. Aran has made lunch. I fix myself a plate of roasted squash, beets and carrots, perfumed with oil and herbs and speckled with spices. The tender squash is velvet smooth, the flavours nutty, complex and cosily sweet, the subtle colours running the gamut from gold to caramel by way of saffron, ochre and honey. In contrast, an uncooked squash sits on the counter with dishes of fresh raw carrots and beets. The raw vegetables are hard, knobbly – their colours almost aggressively vibrant – subtlety is clearly not their thing.

Vegetables Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I chew thoughtfully on the warm soft velvety squash. I know now what I need to do. Roast my stories to bring out their flavour and sweetness. Texture them with salt and herbs and fragrant oils to reveal their hidden subtleties and complexity. Knock off their hard edges and soften their crunch to make them palatable and sweet.

I take another bite. Food for thought indeed.”

Food Writing Workshop Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Ugh. The above is a writing exercise I did at the second workshop I took last October at Aran Goyoaga’s studio with the very lovely and inimitable Tara O’Brady (check out Luisa Brimble’s fab workshop here). All I can say is that I most definitely haven’t found my ‘voice’ yet. To me something like the above still sounds pretentious and inauthentic and I have to fight the urge to be snarky even when I’m writing about feelings and emotions that are actually genuine and real. Maybe snark is my authentic voice. I dunno. The only thing I know is that this food writing malarkey is hard, people.

Food Writing Workshop Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Tara on the other hand makes it all look easy. The author of the wonderful Seven Spoons blog, she writes with a genuine depth of emotion that I can only dream of achieving; develops all her own distinctive and tempting recipes and does all her own food styling and photography. In her house. In between looking after her kids.

She’s also an amazing teacher. We focused during the workshop on writing and photographing with intention and purpose; developing and building a connection with your audience and how to evoke atmosphere and emotions with both words and photography.

It was heady stuff and brought to us by an accomplished wordsmith, who, unlike some purely visual people, could actually explain her thought processes and ideas. If you get the chance to be taught by Tara, jump at it.

Soup - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

The above is a quick iPhone shot of the soup that Tara is styling and photographing above. Girl is a genius AND she’s bringing out her first cookbook later this year. Jump at that too. We saw galleys and it looks FABULOUS.

Share

Parsnip Cake with Bourbon Brown Butter Frosting

Parsnip Cake with Bourbon Brown Butter Frosting Photography by www.paolathomas.com

As promised many moons ago I can now finally reveal my recipe for the Parsnip Cake that debuted back in Edible Seattle in January of last year. Editor Tara and I wanted the cakes in this series to make the most of seasonal, local fruits and vegetables, which hugely limited our scope in January when all that seems to be available round these parts is mountains of kale.  

We started playing with the idea of root vegetables and I remembered a carrot cake I had made for the Minx’s first birthday party back in the Dark Ages. The cake I had in mind was a  moist, squidgy cake, dense with raisins, and warmed with spices and maple syrup  – a comforting wintry sort of cake, made all the more so by snowy swirls of cream cheese frosting on the top. And then we started toying with the idea of substituting parsnips for the carrots.

It seems obvious that carrots can be added to cake – their flavour is delicate, sweet and clean and they are delightful eaten raw. Raw parsnips on the other hand are not so obviously appealing – the flavour is woody, less sweet and just deeply, deeply vegetably. So it was with some trepidation that I lifted that first test cake out of the oven. I needn’t have worried, the alchemy of baking had worked again. The parsnips had roasted within the cake to become soft, sweet and totally unrecognisable as parsnips, just adding an intriguing smoky undertone. Make this cake and I defy anyone to identify the secret ingredient. (The Minx adores this cake BTW).

I made a couple of other changes and substitutions, most notably replacing the raisins with tart dried cranberries, as they seemed more seasonal, and I liked the idea of cutting the rich sweetness a little.  A cream cheese frosting, as is usual with carrot cake, seemed to be the way to go, adding another little tang to cut the sweetness, but this time I experimented with browning the butter and adding some bourbon to bring out the smoky woodsiness the parsnips had added to the cake. I warn you now, this frosting is like crack on a spoon.

Parsnip Cake with Bourbon Brown Butter Frosting Photography by www.paolathomas.com

The photography process was interesting too.

Following Tara’s art direction I started experimenting with something fashionably moody and almost Rembrandt-y in its lighting, but that seemed too spare and gloomy for this simple cake with its dark interior and plain white frosting. I decided instead to go for a lighter, cool blue grey palette instead, which would contrast with the rich browns of the cake, but seemed wintry in a more hopeful way and layered on the textures – weatherbeaten wood, rough burlap, vintage lace and hard glass to contrast with the soft sumptuous swirls of the icing.

Parsnip Cake with Bourbon Brown Butter Frosting Photography by www.paolathomas.com

 We decided to slice the cake to make it more interesting and so it didn’t end up being just a giant white blob, but getting the slice positioned correctly was a challenge. Too far forward and the slice was in focus but the cake looked like a heap of mashed potato, too far back and the cake looked lovely, but the slice looked unappetising. It took me many shots before I realised that both cake and slice had to be on the same plane of focus and that I had to position something WAAAAYYYYYY at the back to take the eye through the photo and get enough blur that it wasn’t distracting to the main event.

They both took some experimenting, but I ended up being delighted with how both cake and image ended up. And I suggest you root around (ha!) in your vegetable bin, find some parsnips and get baking. And without further ado, here is the recipe you need.

Parsnip Cake with Bourbon Brown Butter Frosting
Serves 8
A rich moist parsnip cake with a decadent take on a cream cheese frosting
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 45 min
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 45 min
For the cake
  1. 1 1/3 cups grated parsnip (woody cores removed)
  2. 1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  3. 6 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 cup light brown sugar
  5. 1 2/3 cups wholewheat flour
  6. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  9. 1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
  10. 8 tablespoons maple syrup
  11. 4 tablespoons orange juice
For the frosting
  1. 1 stick of butter
  2. 8 oz pack of cream cheese
  3. 1 cup powdered (icing) sugar (sieved)
  4. 2 tablespoons bourbon, or to taste (optional)
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius)
  2. Grease and line the bottom of an 8 inch springform cake pan
  3. Combine the parsnip, cranberries, oil and sugar in a large bowl.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda and powder, nutmeg and cinnamon, maple syrup and orange juice. Stir until everything is combined in a sticky, wet batter.
  5. Spoon into the prepared cake pan, level the top and bake for an hour, or until a skewer, knitting needle or stick of spaghetti stuck into the cake come out clean. The top of the cake should be firm.
  6. Let the cake cool in the pan before removing.
For the frosting
  1. Melt half the butter in a small pan over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milky solids turn medium brown and give off a nutty aroma (3-5 minutes).
  2. Remove from the heat immediately and set aside.
  3. Cool for about three minutes.
  4. Beat together the cream cheese and remaining butter.
  5. Pour on the browned butter and mix on a low speed until the mixture is cooled.
  6. Add the sugar a little at a time until fully combined and then increase the speed and beat the frosting until it is light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes)
  7. Add bourbon to taste and mix until fully combined
  8. Use a knife or offset spatula to spread a thin 'crumb coat' of frosting over the fully cooled cake
  9. Add another generous layer of frosting and craft swirls with the back of a spoon.
Notes
  1. The recipe makes an 8 inch cake with frosting. For the large cake in the photograph I used one and half times the cake recipe and a double batch of frosting.The larger cake can be baked in the same 8 inch springform tin, but add around 15 minutes to the baking time and make sure you check for doneness with a skewer. Split the larger cake into two separate layers before icing.
Adapted from my own recipe that was originally published in Edible Seattle
Adapted from my own recipe that was originally published in Edible Seattle
mirror mirror http://mirrormirrorblog.com/site/
Share

Fancy Hotel of the Week–Villa Chan Grajang

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Fancy Hotel of the Week-Villa Chan Grajang. Well, it’s not quite a hotel, but an absolutely stunning and very large private villa, but since it comes equipped with its own Thai chef, large staff and the most wonderful housekeeper ever, it feels like you’re staying in your very own exclusive boutique hotel and therefore seems to work for the purposes of this ongoing series (which I’m sure none of you remember, it’s been so long since I last did a Fancy Hotel post).

 Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

One of the reasons I jumped at the chance to go to Thailand for a retreat with life coach Susan Hyatt was the fact that Miz Susan doesn’t do anything by halves. When she was organising her retreat she went straight to a website called AwesomeVillas.com which, awesomely, specialises in, you guessed it, awesome villas. Except that the villa we ended up in – the Villa Chan Grajang overlooking Surin Beach – was more than awesome. Stupendous and sensational are superlatives that come to mind, and, judging by the collective intake of breath that occurred when we all arrived, I guess breathtaking would fit the bill too.

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

As you all know I have a terrible weakness for stunning architecture (an astrologer friend blames it on my moon in Libra), and, after living in Kinfolk in last week’s blog post, this was more akin to taking a vacation in Architectural Digest.

I was so happy here. The lines and symmetry of the buildings were incredibly soothing to the eye and to the soul; the saltwater pool was the perfect blue and the perfect length, and the minimalism of the buildings just served to enhance the spectacular planting and views. Everywhere you looked there was a new vista or detail to observe – a reflection, a shape, a shadow or a texture. My eyes were drowning in beauty, yet relishing every moment and it felt almost spiritually uplifting. It was an object lesson in how our surroundings can affect our moods and mental well-being for good or for ill, and one that I need to apply to my own untidy bedroom and office.

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Obviously we had to find out who was the lucky owner of such gorgeousness, and after a few judicious moments with Google, Susan worked out that it was the artist Damien Hirst. Which figured, as its cool white lines were not so very different from the cool white lines of his restaurant Pharmacy, which I used to live close to in my Notting Hill days. I don’t think I’ve been so jealous of a person in my life.

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Mr Hirst, if I promise never to call you a charlatan again, will you invite me back to your astonishing house?

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

The beauty of the villa was only enhanced by the tranquil presence of Pom the housekeeper -  one of many people I met in Thailand who are beautiful both inside and out -  and her wonderful staff. I adored the Thai way of decorating with fresh flowers and little flourishes. The Thais take such pleasure in beautifying the everyday, which is another lesson I need to take to heart.

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

The view from my bedroom

The food was faintly astonishing too – with mindboggling depths of overlapping spices, flavours and textures, presented again in the most beautiful way. Believe me, the overly salty and sugary Thai food you can find in the US or UK bears little resemblance to the subtle intricacies of the dishes we were served. In my next life I want to come back as someone who has a live-in Thai chef. Surely that wouldn’t be too much to ask?

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I loved this place. Loved, loved, loved it and couldn’t bear to leave. One day I will return. That’s a promise.

 

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

The villa was even gorgeous in the rain

Villa Chan Garang, Surin Beach, Thailand. Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Did you notice all the beautiful women in this post? My fellow retreaters were some of the loveliest, kindest, most creative, thoughtful and inspirational people you could wish to meet. It was a privilege to get to know them.

The Villa Chan Grajang is available to rent through Awesome Villas. Please take me with you.

Share

Soul Food

The most wonderful thing about this food photography world that I find myself being increasingly drawn into, are food photographers themselves. For some reason which has so far eluded me, they are among the kindest, most generous, most creative and most inspiring people you could wish to meet, and none more so than Luisa Brimble and Aran Goyoaga.

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Aran was ably assisted by Luisa’s friend Adriana

As you may know Aran has recently moved to Seattle and started hosting workshops in her beautiful downtown studio. When I heard she had invited Sydney-based food and lifestyle photographer Luisa Brimble to host a workshop I jumped at the chance to attend – Luisa has shot for The Simple Things, Frankie and Kinfolk amongst others and has recently founded her own magazine in Australia, Alphabet Family Journal, because that’s what you do when your home magazine market is small and opportunities are limited.

She is also a firecracker in person – bursting with life, wit and enthusiasm – with an infectious energy and a warm, generous smile; and her photography is a dazzling combination of graphic simplicity infused with Aussie sunshine, exuberant colour and vibrant personality.

Luisa is particularly known for her overhead shots of people feasting around loaded tables, and she’d promised to give us a demonstration of how she puts such shots together. All this, plus Aran’s amazing food styling and the incredible beauty of the studio – honestly, people, it’s just like living in Instagram – made for a weekend that I won’t easily forget.

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

While we chatted about photography with Luisa, and she told us how she had built her career through hard work, focus and determination (and I’m sure enormous talent and bucketloads of charm did no harm), Aran worked her food styling magic.

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Luisa then climbed her ladder and starting directing the photo shoot – as an ex-wedding photographer she is adept at getting the most out of her models. I, by contrast, just wish I could spritz the people I’m photographing with olive oil and manipulate them with tweezers, which is probably not the best approach.

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

And this is the beauty that emerges when two huge talents collaborate (just a phone shot from me as there wasn’t room for us all up the ladder).

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Luisa then did one of her trademark ‘person with armful of flowers standing on a chair’ shots. Seeing her work with, and get the best out of, people was one of the most inspiring things about this weekend.

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

See what I mean about living in Instagram?

We then got a chance to do our own photography and styling.

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

And it was lovely to have tame and now fully-trained hand models available.

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Everything – food, props, light – was so darn BEAUTIFUL.

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

 

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Later that weekend we had the opportunity to watch and shoot Aran as she baked and styled a galette. It’s amazingly soothing watching her bake. She has a quiet serenity and focus about her which is quite mesmerising, particularly considering she was surrounded by loads of cameras when these shots were taken. (NB I am not remotely like this when I am cooking, but I think you probably guessed that already).

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I learned a ton over the weekend – about photography, food styling, how to build a photography career, build rapport with models and how to bake with methodical calmness. But also, and more importantly, I learned lessons from two very different women about how to live life with enthusiasm, grace, focus and immense and inspiring style. Well worth the price of admission I’d say.

Soul Food - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

And yes, I shall forever feel inadequate that my eggs are not arranged by colour.

Aran is planning to bring more amazing photographers to Seattle in 2015. Check her blog or social media feeds for more workshop details in the New Year.

Share

Fish and Spices–the Wet Market in Phuket

 

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

This woman was everything, everything

Dear hearts. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I killed some pixels in the service of this blog.

I have no truly compelling excuse, but have been busy with a new freelance job researching and writing a weekly travel post for Seattle Refined  (all enticing ideas for travel which will appeal to a Pacific Northwest audience gratefully  received).

Then most of October seemed to be swallowed up by a two week trip to Thailand, and the resultant packing, unpacking and crippling jetlag. Brace yourselves now for total Thai overload. I am totally, ridiculously obsessed with the country, its people and dear god, the food.  

Just to whet your appetite, I attended the magnificent Blue Elephant cooking school in Phuket Town on the last day of my trip and part of the class involved a brisk walk round the most fabulous wet market. We only had half an hour or so here as part of our workshop, which was tragic really, as I could easily have photographed here all day, every day for the rest of my life and not got bored.

All human, and, so it seems, aquatic, life is here, chaps, and I learned much about Thailand and its people.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I learned that smiling is Thailand’s national sport and the Thai people are Olympic-level practitioners.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Possibly because their babies are Olympic-levels of cute.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Though I wasn’t quite sure about this comedy tee-shirt ( and neither, it seems, were they).

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I learned that Thais are also quite amazingly beautiful.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

As is their seafood.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com
Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

They enjoy hacking at things with big cleavers.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Yes, that is a frog.

They will eat all parts of an animal (as is only right and proper).

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Yes, that is blood. 

And they are somewhat fond of chillies in all their forms.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

And there is no such thing as too many coconuts.

Phuket - Photography by www.paolathomas.com

I would give my eye teeth (if I knew what they were) to be able to shop in a market like that every day. Wouldn’t you?

Come and visit the markets of Campo de’ Fiori, Rome and the Cote d’Azur with me. Markets make me happy.

Share