Robert Ramsay Cellars


The better I get as a photographer, the more I enjoy shooting people. You have to be totally in charge of your camera to shoot people successfully – to catch the intimate moments, genuine smiles and the light shining just so on their faces.

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Unlike food, people don’t sit around patiently while you spritz them with olive oil and tweak their garnishes, or spend ages futzing with the settings on your camera. You need to be able to think on your feet, make the most of the available light and instantly know which button on your camera does what, and for a long time that totally freaked me out.


You also need to create genuine rapport, to make people who aren’t used to having their photos taken relax and connect with the camera. I’m not sure I could ever do that in an anodyne studio, but I’ve grown increasingly to love taking environmental portraits of the chefs and food artisans I meet every day.

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I’ve found that when people are in their natural habitat – describing and showing you the work that they love – all fear of the camera melts away, and my job as a photographer becomes exponentially easier.

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Of course it helps if you have, as I did on a recent shoot at Robert Ramsay Cellars , the world’s most photogenic family, complete with tiny blonde four-year old; a female winemaker who looks like Kate Middleton, and stacks of barrels and boxes, that bent and shaped the light amazingly.

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Because when you have those things, magic happens.

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The wine in those barrels is pretty magical too. I’m a particular fan of their rich, smooth Par La Mer blend. Thanks so much to the Harris family and winemaker Casey Cobble for being such great sports and making my job so very easy.


Weekend Link Love–Apptastic

I’m hoping to revive Weekend Link Love, as a place to share interesting and useful stuff I’ve come across over the week.

Here’s a bunch of apps that have been making my world a brighter place recently (together with my brand new iPhone 6s+).


First up is 365 Days of Flow a little app I found that has been giving me a ton of pleasure. Several people have recommended Flow Magazine to me, which apparently celebrates creativity, imperfection and life’s little pleasures. I’ve ordered the magazine and will report back on that shortly. In the meantime, they have a very cute little app which imparts a little word of wisdom and a sweet watercolour illustration every day.

They’re also hosting an Instagram hashtag in October #flow30daysnature which I’m joining in with this month (images in this post are my contributions so far). IMG_6931.jpg

Next up is the Cozi family organizer app. This app allows the family to run one shared online calendar to which you can upload existing online calendars – we’ve input the Minx’s school calendar and ballet calendar –  which can then be synced with your personal online calendar. Every member of the family can contribute, it’s all colour coded so you can see at a glance what everyone is doing, and it can be accessed on everyone’s different devices.  It also includes a shared shopping list, family messaging, important contact information etc. I’ve been wanting something like this for YEARS.

Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It’s a productivity tool whereby you work in a focused way for twenty-five minutes and then take 5 minutes break – each work + break period is called a ‘pomodoro’ after the original inventor Francesco Cirillo’s tomato-shaped kitchen timer. After four pomodoros you take a longer break. It’s as simple as that. I can’t begin to tell you how much more productive this has made me. My work days are all so different that it’s difficult to put together a structured daily routine, but if instead I aim to fit in a certain number of pomodoros, I can be more flexible. There are many, many pomodoro apps on the market, but I’ve been using Pomodoro Timer and love it.


I’ve just finished reading 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story by ABC news journalist Dan Harris. I started getting interested in Buddhist teachings when I was in Thailand but hadn’t done much about it until now. The book is part memoir and part beginner’s guide to Buddhist meditation and mindfulness. I loved its totally no bullshit approach –  chapters entitled ‘the Power of Negative Thinking’ and ‘The Self-Interested Case for Not Being a Dick’ spoke deeply to me – and I’m now about half way through the accompanying 10% Happier: Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics app. It’s a bit pricey at $20 but it’s well put together and I think I might be well on the way to starting a daily meditation practice, which is quite astonishing to contemplate.


This week the sun’s been shining, we’re all settling finally into our new routine, I’m getting over a cold, I blogged about our summer holiday on Whidbey Island and a great friend came to visit from London. But then it ended with terrible news about one of the fabulous women I was with in Thailand last year. Carmen’s tragic story is not mine to tell, but the world is a poorer place without her beauty of spirit and she could have given a masterclass in random acts of kindness. I know I am a kinder person because of her.


Summer’s End


It was the best of summers here in Seattle. Day after sultry golden sun-filled day, followed by night after velvety warm summer night spent drinking pistachio sours with friends up on our roof deck. (One day I’ll blog the recipe for these).


I’m always conflicted about summer. On the one hand there’s the obvious glorious summeriness of it all (see above), which I love and adore, but on the other school is out (for thirteen weeks no less), so sometimes it seems I spend more time driving the Minx to various camps and desperately trying to cram all my assignments into a few hours than lying on a lounger working on my Vitamin D levels.



This year though, I was determined that things would be different. We’d already been to Europe in the Spring, so we decided instead to rent a house out on Whidbey Island, and just hang out as a family. I had in mind the sort of place I wanted – near Coupeville, my favourite town on Whidbey, close to the beach, and just as comfortable and relaxing as being at home


But soon, after spending long hours poring over vacation rental sites with a fine toothcomb, we were starting to despair. Everything was either too big, or too small; too booked or too expensive; frankly rather shabby or decorated in various distressing shades of shit brown (all too common unfortunately in the Pacific Northwest).


Until, out of nowhere, the most perfect little house popped up. Close to Coupeville, right on a point with beaches to the front and side, and newly decorated in soothing shades of grey and blue.

Heron Point Beachhouse

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I spent the whole summer wondering what on earth would be wrong with this place but when we arrived in August it was immediately clear that it was absolutely, utterly, perfect.

We met the charming owner and it turns out the property was being remodeled over the spring, only became available in May, and had been immediately booked solid.

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See, manifesting WORKS people! Soon I will be a skinny blonde millionaire with a three-masted yacht, a Brazilian toyboy and lavender farm in Provence.

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I  was deeply, fabulously content here.



We watched the sun rise over Mount Baker through the huge glass windows, as herons tiptoed daintily over the sand dollars left at low tide.


We paddleboarded out in the tranquil bay – thankfully avoiding the orca that hung out near the point – kayaked round the mussel beds and rented a yacht from a local skipper.


The Minx (on the right) and her friend who stayed with us

We ate wonderful foods crafted by local artisans, produce which had woken up that morning on a nearby farm and pretty blue eggs that our neighbours were selling on an honour system. A local roaster crafted a coffee blend just for us and dropped it round personally.


We found the best places for lunch, dinner and wine and ate vast quantities of fresh mussels and clams, plucked out of Penn Cove that very morning. We instigated a ‘no electronics’ rule – and did bizarre things like read books, play board games, do jigsaws, and make art.  I joined a nearby yoga studio for morning sessions and watched the sun go down over the point every night.


We laughed. A lot. And I felt all the knots in my shoulders and in my mind slowly unwind.



I even got through a ton of work, though it didn’t really feel like work. Instead they were fun day trips with writing attached. Here are some ideas for things to do in Coupeville, in Port Townsend and on San Juan Island, which I wrote and photographed for Seattle Refined. And here are some ideas for restaurants on the island which appeared in Zagat’s.


Since we’ve been back, it’s been one thing after another – the Minx is off to middle school, our beloved Flora was hit and killed by a car and I’m just coming to the other side of a snotty cold, but through it all memories of my happy place keep peeking through.

And I’m only able to tell you about it now, because we’ve already booked it again for next year.


Hello Autumn.


Monday Link Love

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After a weekend of hot cross buns and Simnel cake, last week was a week of outdoor eating (yay! fabulous Seattle spring), shooting tacos (I had another photography job y’all!) and more lilac, blossom, rhubarb and daisies than you could shake a stick at (what does that even MEAN?).

I didn’t get to links over the weekend, so here are some to set you up on a Monday morning. Very photography-oriented this week I’m afraid.

These musical instruments photographed from the inside are quite magical. I hope an architect is inspired by them. I want to live in a violin.

Naomi Robinson from Bakers’ Royale is writing a series of posts on food photography. Part 1 is how to develop your style and Part 2 is on composition. More to come I believe. I love her stuff.  

Do happy people take happy photos? Twitter is giving a team a research grant to find out. I know my mood certainly affects my photography.

Here’s my pal Andrew Scrivani talking about how to market yourself as a photographer.

And finally some really inspirational food and travel photography portfolios from Jonothan Woodward, David Lazar and Gentl and Hyers.


Last week on the blog we talked about a really cool composting system and went to visit designer Michele Varian’s apartment. I am going to try and be a better blogger this week, though the temperature is apparently set to soar into the 80s, so don’t quote me on that. But we’ll start with a great recipe to come later today.


Weekend Link Love




Seems I’ve been a lazy Instagrammer this week – I’ve been feeling in a bit of a photography rut – so instead of my Instagram feed, here’s an absolutely gorgeous MadMen graphic. Wouldn’t mind this on my wall.

The return of MadMen is of course going to be the highlight of my weekend (though we might also make it out for a family photography/cycling trip to the tulip fields). Here’s a gently spoilerish review of the first eppy and an overview of the college course I’d love to do.

To try and get out of my photography rut I will be perusing #Photography – a fab-looking online photography magazine by two photography graduates in the UK and following these peeps for inspiration (one day I want to be on this list).

I know I still have to share with you the story of the Minx’s latest birthday cake, but we might need to try these amazing cupcake shoes next year.

And I would imagine that this article on how to beat procrastination might be useful for us all (I can’t tell you how many times I opened Facebook in the course of putting together this post). Fingers crossed I’m not the only one for whom it resonates.


On the blog this week, we’ve discussed flower arranging in NYC, a fabulous food photography workshop I attended, photographing donuts for Edible Seattle and I shared a recipe for chocolate truffles (which are currently sitting in my fridge singing softly to me).

All you creative people out there, what advice do you have for getting me out of my photographic rut? I just don’t feel that my photography is improving much anymore. All advice gratefully received.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Weekend Link Love


It’s been a week full of Spring here in Seattle, though looking back I have not been a very prolific Instagrammer. Been too busy trying to get my life back together after all my travels and birthday parties and cake baking. The good news is that I’ve pretty much finished unpacking, so I’m no longer tripping over suitcases in the middle of the night as I go to the bathroom. Go me!

Here for your weekend delectation and delight are some links that caught my fancy this week.

Ever fancied ghosting for a cookbook writer? This article shows you how famous celebrity chefs are able to carry on churning out cookbooks while they’re busy making their TV shows/ running their restaurants/sunning themselves in the South of France etc.

These thought-provoking photos by Dina Goldstein show the Disney Princesses as you’ve never quite seen them before.

If you still want to believe in fairytales, these incredible portraits by Alexia Sinclair might help.

Simi Jois from Turmeric ‘n Spice gives us a tutorial on how to paint background prop boards for food photography.

This post on focusing on the essentials of life really resonated with me.

And here on the blog I’ve actually been blogging! Truly it’s been an incredible week.

We’ve been discussing WTFery from Kim Kardashian and Anna Wintour, looking at images from the Food Markets of the Cote D’Azur, shopping ‘til we dropped on #BlogTourNYC at Michele Varian’s NYC Shop, taking a look round the Architectural Digest Home Design show, welcoming April and peeking into my first StitchFix box.

This weekend I’m going to be relaxing after my hard week of blogging and last weekend’s cake/party extravaganza. Next week on the blog I’ve got a gorgeous recipe to share with you, I’ll be revealing said cake extravaganza and there’ll be much more from #BlogTourNYC.

Have a good weekend! What are you chaps up to?


Menton Mon Amour


Did you know that around 80% of American tourists in France only go to Paris? Which is a crying shame as the rest of France is so spectacularly beautiful, so deeply fascinating and so incredibly varied from region to region. 

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Gelateria at sunset on the Menton waterfront

I was fortunate enough to be invited to lunch in Seattle last week by the France Tourism Development Agency and several regional French tourist boards, as they keen to spread the word in the US that France has much more to offer for travellers than just Paris.

As long time readers of this blog or followers of my Instagram feed know only too well, I have a very soft spot in my heart for Menton, the gracious old city on the very eastern edge of the Cote d’Azur, a hop, skip and jump from the Italian border.

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The beach where we swam every day

We rented an apartment there for three weeks last summer and it occurs to me that, what with one thing and another, I never shared any photos with you. So these are for those of you who might be planning your summer vacations and may need some encouragement to get out of Paris.

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It’s the colours of Menton that get to me most. The warmth of the coral, ochre, mustard and terracotta, punctuated by bursts of brilliant blue from shutters, sky or sea. And everything bathed in the most astonishing clear dancing light.

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Menton Mon Amour photography by

We rented an apartment full of antique furniture  in a cute residential neighbourhood just behind the casino, about fifteen minutes walk from our favourite beach.

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The Minx learned to sail (it’s so useful that she’s at the French immersion school here as we can put her in cool French camps).

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And we spent endless days just hanging out on the beach, and endless warm evenings watching night fall over the Mediterranean. That sea. It does something for my very soul.

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Tomorrow we’ll be visiting Menton’s fabulous covered market. I have a lot of holiday snaps to inflict upon you get through. (What is a blog for after all?)


Fancy Hotel of the Week – Chateau Whistler Christmas

  We’ve just concluded a weekend of festivities for the Minx’s birthday and it feels like the New Year has finally started. I actually love this time of year as I feel no guilt about sitting indoors in front of my computer, hiding from the unremitting greyness and gloom of a Seattle January, and can actually get sh*t done. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Although Christmas feels like a long time ago now, I just wanted to share some photos of our trip to Whistler this year, mostly because we had the most wonderful time. We don’t have any family here in the States, so it’s become our tradition to drive up to Whistler and take a pampering break in a hotel. This year we managed to score a deal and stayed for the first time at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, nestling at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler’s Upper Village. And all was utterly perfect. Unfortunately for our finances it was so perfect that we might just have to return every year, deal or no deal. From the minute we drew up at the front entrance, it felt like Christmas had begun. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by   Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Yes, roaring log fires, a quite ludicrous number of Christmas trees, life-sized gingerbread houses, beautiful wintry walks across the golf course, a big Christmas dinner-dance, macarons and chocolate fondue on tap, a very hard-working Santa and Mrs Claus, and even a Christmas stocking hung on the door of everyone’s room on Christmas morning are going to very difficult to beat.

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Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by

There was obviously also far too much scope for ‘sparkly light’ photos. Apologies. The Minx-sized gingerbread house was all completely edible and smelt incredible. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by The view from our room. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Not much snow (though enough for the Husband and the Minx to enjoy their skiing) but the golf course was still pretty. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by On the night before Christmas Mrs Claus read to the kids under the tree. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Then we had enjoyed eiswein and macarons in bed while watching a relaxing movie. And Santa’s special stocking delivery the following day was a really magical ouch. Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Amazing food, gorgeous decorations and quite a good band actually for the big Christmas dinner-dance.

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Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by Chateau Whistler Christmas photography by It was really hard to leave.


Edible Seattle January


The Minx went back to school this morning, the Christmas tree will be packed away tonight, a watery sun is turning the lake to molten silver and finally I am back at my desk with two grumpy cats who hate the cold. Happy New Year to me.

And January has started in the nicest possible way with my very first editorial photographs in the January/February issue of Edible Seattle !

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I can’t show you much until the issue leaves the newstands but here is a sneak peak at my new regular seasonal cake column (which will be appearing in every other issue), featuring my recipe for Spiced Parsnip Cake with Bourbon Brown Butter Frosting.  I will be able to share the proper photographs and full recipe with you all here in a month or two, but in the meantime I recommend that you get the magazine if you’re in the Seattle area. Loads of fabulous seasonal recipes to be found within its pages.

I also recommended to new editor Tara that she interview the inimitable Vicky Brown of Little Brown Farm whom I met on the Whidbey Island Farm to Table Workshop. Vicky gave an inspiring and thought provoking interview, and Tara was kind enough to use a couple of the photos I took at the workshop to illustrate it. Of course it is totally impossible to go wrong with cute baby goats.

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Again I’ll share the proper pics of our trip to the farm with you at a later date.

In the meantime there is nothing more exciting than seeing your work in print, here’s hoping I get more used to it in 2014!


Lightning over Seattle


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Finally getting a little time to catch up with myself and BREATHE.

Our vacation in Menton passed very successfully (yes, you will be inundated with pictures just as soon as I have time to process them) and father-in-law has been and gone.

The summer here in Seattle has been one of record-breaking and mind-blowing loveliness; day after day of clear blue skies, temps in the mid 80s, mountains and lakes sparkling in every direction, balmy warm evenings etc. etc. and we have been living on the beach, in the pool and up on the roofdeck.

The heady weather ended with a bang, literally, on Friday evening, when a massive thunder and lightning storm lit up the skies around Seattle. Because of the lack of humidity thunderstorms are rare round these parts, but this one was a doozy, with the lightning owning the sky like the 4th of July (with apologies to Katy Perry). For much of the time it wasn’t even raining directly above us, so I took the opportunity of getting out on the roofdeck (not as crazy as it sounds as the lightning was a still a long way behind the city at this point).

It’s the first time I’ve ever photographed lightning, but I balanced my camera on the railing, followed the rules for photographing fireworks and took a bajillion pix, pressing the shutter when I thought lighting was due rather than waiting for it to happen.

And yes, I got lucky.


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If truth be told I find this sort of photography, though it gives spectacular results, to be the most unsatisfying kind of photography. It’s the very definition of ‘taking’ rather than ‘making’ a photo – I didn’t have to quietly observe, find interesting angles or perspectives, stalk the light or make compositional choices. All I had to do was own a good camera, have a nice view, find the right settings and then point and shoot.

Still, there’s a undoubtedly a satisfaction in taking photos like this off your card and I was thrilled to have one of my photos featured on the Seattle Times blog. I suggest you click on them to view them properly.  The blog format doesn’t really do them justice.


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I’m sort of back blogging I think. After nearly a solid month of travel things are starting to wind down now and we have a couple of gentle weeks until the summer’s grand finale – the Minx is going to her first ever overnight camp! We will be without her for four nights. I think my entire parenting life has been gearing up for the moment.