Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blueberry Macarons w/Lemon Curd + Part Two- Tartlette Comes To Town (The Photo Daze)

When I first walked in to the Tartlette Macaron/Photography Workshop, I was almost dizzy with excitement and with dread. I was excited to finally meet Helene Dujardin, someone whom I had been inspired by long before I joined the ranks of "food bloggers". Besides her "never-fail" recipes, there were always those photos...ahh, those photos. I've taught art classes for several years (one of my 100 careers) and I've talked about photography being the art form that paints with light, and Tartelette is one of those artists.
So, the dread part was about the Photography portion of the day. I was confident enough about my baking skills that even if I failed with the macarons, I knew I'd pick it up with practice. However, my photography skills fall into that area of "desire for excellence being far far greater than ability". I can see it in my head, but more often than not - can't technically capture the feeling - the artistry...of painting...with light. My lack of skills were exposed immediately. I politely asked Helene if it was fine to take photos during the class. She very earnestly nodded, "of course, yes - all you want." I pulled out my "new to me" Canon camera and in what I thought was a completely anonymous moment, clicked a quick photo of Helene speaking directly to another student. As I just as quickly brought my lens down, hoping to not be noticed, Helene calmly and sweetly said, "that picture will be very blurry, I could hear your shutter speed is too slow". My hair stood on end...please don't ask to see what I know full well is a perfectly blurry example of my photography ignorance. Helen held her hand out, "let's take a look". YIKES! Busted! With great embarrassment I fiddled with the gadgets I'd been trying to learn and finally brought up my latest shot; a beautiful piece of moving swirls in muted colors without even a tiny hint of clarity. I thought to myself, "she HEARD my shutter speed and KNEW I didn't have a great shot?!?" It's going to be a long day.

I'll spare you the rest of my moment-by-moment thoughts and cut to the highlights of what turned out to be an awesome, fun-filled, confidence building class.
Helene had me reset my camera's aperture to 5.6, leaving my shutter speed to automatic. Once I did that, I could get a fairly decent shot without using flash (which was the exercise I wanted to practice.)
It was a common sense move for anyone who knew photography, and one that I could have figured out if I'd had...oh, a hundred tries, and a lot of time to experiment. But, I would not have understood the "why", so Helene explained. (I will not try to teach in this post, because you deserve to hear it correctly.)

I do suggest any of these:

1) Reading Helene's site, and doing her workshop at your earliest chance,
2) Taking a Food Styling/Photography workshop with the extremely talented
Food Fanatics, Matt Armendariz and Adam C Pearson.
3) Reading/Watching the photo tutorials of these wonderfully talented people who explain it very well, even online: Diane and Todd of White On Rice.

After a very well put together DVD of Helene's work with her narrating and explaining how she got these shots, where the light source came from, how she reflected it back when she back-lit subjects, and the importance of asking yourself, "what do you want to say with this shot?", I was feeling taken care of. I had that feeling you get only when the teacher's spirit lets you know you are in a safe place to fail, to ask questions and to grow.

Each student began setting up their space with napkins and food props (things we brought with us to practice on) and Helen would circulate, giving undivided attention to each person's ideas. Then, she would give advice without changing the concept, but giving it focus and strength.

The ideas that I came away with included: Colors pop better with the inclusion of shadows, design ideas should include the movement you want the viewers eyes to follow, don't waste space - even the negative space should be with purpose, when shooting from above - everything is on the same plane so try shooting at 22 without so much fear, think outside the over-used 1.8 aperture used in a lot of food photos if your subject needs to offer more.

For my practice shooting, I brought a small bag of limes. I wanted to learn how to shoot in shadow, when the subject matter is not just one nice piece of cake, but a series of orbs or angles.

Helen had me cut the limes into segments, showing their moisture, their inside life and action. For a few minutes I was a photography partner with Tartelette (heh heh.) I left hugging my camera and feeling proud to own it, wanting to study and practice and, as Helene recommended: Shoot, shoot, shoot, it's the only way to really learn.

Since the workshop I have been on a Macaron flavor obsession. My latest are these:
Blueberry Macarons w/Lemon Curd
(the blueberries are oven dried, then ground to a flavorful dust)
*I followed the Macaron recipe ingredients and directions found on Tartelette's site, HERE, except I added 2 heaping Tablespoons of the oven dried blueberry dust to my powdered sugar and almond flour when pulsing it together.
*I also added a dash of powdered blue coloring to accent the blueberry flecks.
*The Blueberries were dried in a 200F oven for 2 hours, cooled, and ground in a coffee grinder to a dust.

LEMON CURD recipe:
(this is an easy basic recipe I used at CSCA)

1 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
3 lemon (juice and zest)
3 oz. butter cubed

Over a double boiler, with water at a simmer, whisk together the sugar, yolks, juice, and zest until it covers the back of a spoon and has thickened.
Remove from heat and beat in butter a little at a time til creamy - if any lumps, put through a sieve or chinois.
Chill before using.
I'm still experimenting with flavors and I'd love to hear about some of yours or your ideas.
Thanks, as always, for stopping by.


Alisa-Foodista said...

What a fun event!I love the photos you took and the serious expression on their faces while they are making adjustments on their camera

Anonymous said...

My friend follows your blog and now I'm so glad I stopped in! I love to photograph food and need to learn more about it as well. I have a Canon like a lot of the other photographers in your class. Thanks for sharing your settings, etc!

Kelsey B. said...

How fun! I love Helen, she is great and it seems like you learned a lot!

chococo said...

I greatly envy you for having Helene's photograph workshop!
As for the macarons - I haven't succeeded with them yet but I keep experimenting.
However, yours look absolutely gorgeous!!!
Thank you for sharing :)

A Bowl Of Mush said...

Oh my goodness those macs look incredible!
The color is so beautiful!

I need to play about with my camera more too!

Danielle said...

So fun to read about your experience and your gorgeous macaron flavors!! You've really inspired me to dry out fresh fruits/vegs now for a host of flavors. Is it really that easy?

And take heart with the camera bit - I've been there and it's a steep learning curve, but you're moving right along! :)

Jo said...

Ooh lucky you to be there and get some tips from the Queen of Macarons. Yours by the way look gorgeous. Love the brilliant blue colour and the flavours as well.

Donna - Dishy Goodness said...

Great to read your take on Helene's class. Thanks for the recap! See you at Food Blog Forum?

Emi said...

The color of your macarons is sublime!

showfoodchef said...

Alisa - I know, right? We were all SO intense.

Anon - Thx! I'm learning a little at a time. Hope yours goes well.

Kelsey - Thx for stopping by. It was a blast.

Chococo - Thx. Try it: Helen's recipe is great. Check out my other post if ya need the details.

showfoodchef said...

Bowl of Mush - Thanks! and your's always look good.

Danielle - Thanks for stopping by, and let me know if you try the fruits. It takes a while, but not too hard. Thanks for the encouragement, too. I'm trying hard.

Jo - So sweet, Thanks. I'm learning to do more vibrant colors.

Donna - Thank you for stopping by, wish I'd seen you sooner at the forum. I'm so enjoying tweeting with you.

Emi - Thank you so much. I love so many of your choices on your blog.

Phoo-D said...

What a great experience! I would love to watch that DVD and learn a few things! She is a master of light indeed.

Khali//Bandit and the Scene Stealers said...

I am so jealous of you and a bit ashamed to call myself a photographer.

Anonymous said...

those macarons look AMAZING!