Photography: Nino Franco Photo Contest

... and the winner is ...

Photography: Heather Gill

A Chef, A Photographer. A Storyteller.

Comfort Food Contest Winner

A Comforting Italian Trifle

Photography: Stuart Ovenden

"It's all about the details!"

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Welcome to From Plate to Page

Are you:

  • a food blogger who has been blogging for a while and feels stuck in a creative rut?

  • happy with your writing but feel your photography needs work - or vice versa?

  • tired of attending traditional format conferences where you are one of dozens of bloggers simply listening and taking notes ?

If so, then From Plate to Page is what you need!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Plate to Page: the Tuscany Tales

What does family mean to you?

Perhaps it is the classic nuclear family idea of mom dad and 2.4 kids.  Perhaps it is a huge Christmas card list of every person that you can track down who shares your surname and your DNA.  Or perhaps it is a collection of people that share your interests and attitudes; who understand what you are trying to say even as you still struggle to verbalise it; and with whom you feel safe in the knowledge that they will nurture and encourage you in all that you do, rather than mock or criticise you. If the true definition is the third one, then I think it is fair to say we recently spent a weekend with family at the second Plate to Page food writing & photography workshop in Tuscany.  Sixteen people arrived as strangers but left as family.  Here are a few impressions of the weekend, in words and pictures. 

To read what people are saying about the Tuscany workshop click over to our Workshop Reviews page. 


After fearing grey damp weather, the first day set the tone of the weather for the whole workshop when it dawned clear and sunny. Our home for the weekend was to be Il Salicone, an Italian villa et among the vines, cypresses and golden autumn colours of Tuscany.  After the instructors  (MeetaJamieJeanne and Ilva) had fully explored the villa and gardens like excited kids, discovering hidden bedrooms, frescoes, chandeliers and friendly Tuscan felines, they went about welcoming the 12 workshop participants from all over the world:
Denise from the Netherlands
Marta and Kate from Belgium  
JudithRobin and Lynn from the USA
Elizabeth from Canada
Olivia from Malta 
Hayley and Valentina from the UK
Heidi from Norway
Alex from Italy

The first order of business was getting to know each other via a 5 minute presentation by each participant that revealed the diverse and surprisingly emotional reasons why we blog. For lunch, we gathered in the villa's old kitchen around a long table for out first Tuscan meal of fussili Arrabiata.  Already, barriers were breaking down and bonds were beginning to form.  Soon we were back in our chandeliered classroom to discuss good and bad food photography before splitting into smaller groups of six for some pretty intense writing and photography exercises.  Soon, all you could hear was the scratching of pens on paper and the tapping of fingers on keyboards - and the snapping of camera shutters! 

Shortly before dinner that night, the Plate to Page goodie bags were handed round, filled this time with goodies such as a home baking book and stylish apron from Taste of Home; a fantastic pack of four spices (black salt, tasmanian pepper, chipotle chile and saffron salt) from Smaromi; a deliciously pink block of Himalayan salt from Gourmelli (other bags also contained chocolates, mustards or vegetarian caviar from them)various kitchen tools from the Oxo Good Grips range; Jams from Sunchowder's Emporiaa gorgeous knife and apron from ZWILLING J.A. HENCKELSa jar of sweet piquanté peppers from Peppadewquick risotto kits from Riso Gallomatcha powder from Matcha Factory; an adorable travel-size bottle of Tabasco; flavoured extracts (either vanilla or orange) from Nielsen-Massey And although they weren't in the goodie bags, there were numerous bottles of Bisol prosecco consumed throughout the weekend to keep proceedings flowing smoothly.  Dinner consisted of platters groaning with Italian antipasti, followed by steaming bowls of chicken cacciatore and a cheese board to follow (washed down with numerous bottles of Bisol Jeio prosecco!), before a last post-dinner presentation on photography closed the day.


Saturday got off to a brisk start with another set of writing exercises encouraging participants to find their creativity and to think carefully about the language they use.  Having convered the verbal part of the morning, it was the turn of the photographers to take charge and we all decamped to our gorgeous photography "studio" - tons of natural light... and frescoes.  Ilva and Meeta both worked on creating a mood and helped participants not only with their camera settings but also provided food for thought in terms of fresh angles and compositions. Intriguing vegetarian caviar from sponsors Gourmelli, fresh-flavoured jams from Sunchowder's Emporia and addictive sweet piquanté peppers from Peppadew made the perfect photographic models. 

Lunchtime provided us with the perfect opportunity to stroll down the road to Il Salicone's own winery, through the golden vineyards.  Once we were seated contentedly in the sun at two tables in the garden, Nicoletta and her team proceeded to serve us with a feast: platters of intensely flavoured nutty prosciutto; cheese with local honey, golden frittatas. We were so busy snapping away to get the perfect shot of drizzling honey and glistening olive oil that we scarcely noticed the arrival of a loaf of bread the size of a your average pillow and a cheerful orange tureen of ribollita - but we certainly wasted not time photographing them once we had noted their presence!  For dessert, we had beautiful crostata and cantucci to be dipped into the robust, fruity glasses of Il Salicone's Sangiovese wine.  After a tour of the cellar by Nicoletta, we headed back to the villa where participants had a couple of hours on their own to work on a project. Late afternoon was spent listening to and giving feedback on the participants excellent work in teams on a written piece complemented by appropriate photographs before heading to the kitchen to prepare a dinner of risotto using the carnaroli rice our sponsors Riso Gallo had generously provided, dressed in out smart Zwilling J. A. HENCKELS aprons from our goodie bags. Dinner was once again a convival affair with rather a lot of excellent Bisol Crede prosecco and talking around the table till late into the night. 


Sunday was yet another perfect sunny Autumn day and after breakfast, participants once more gathered at the table for some of the most challenging exercises: writing to a really tight word count.  Following that, the photography team took over again for presentations on workflow, post-processing, and the challenges of magazine photography.  Having explained the final assignment to everybody, we headed downstairs where the lovely Paola and her team had already started covering the table in lunch - excellent charcuterie and crostini featuring the colourful vegetarian caviar from Caviart (sponsored by Gourmelli). This was followed by pizza, groaning under its toppings of buffalo mozzarella, capers and olives.  Participants spent the afternoon paired off and working on their assignment, finding quiet, sunny corners of the garden to photograph and write in a perfect setting.  For the last time, we gathered in the lecture room and as each pair shared their final assignment:  a magazine article with photos.  The weekend's work certainly ended on a high note, for participants as well as speakers.  Conversation around the dinner table that night was more relaxed and the Bisol Cartizze (an absolutely superb example of prosecco full of complex apple and pear flavours) flowed freely.  A first course of fried polenta topped with baccala in a tomato sauce and Peppadews; and pasta fritta filled with ham and cheese (absolutely, 100% addictive!). This was followed by ribs, spiced and cooked Tuscan style.  And the grand finale was a selection of little jam tarts filled with our sponsor Sunchowder's Emporia's outstanding jams.  

The next morning after breakfast there was a flurry of hugs and goodbyes and "see you on Twitter" as people caught taxis and packed cars to leave. We had come from far-flung corners of the globe, a collection of four instructors and twelve particpants who had never met.  Bags had been packed, presentations had been prepared and camera batteries had been charged.  We had greeted each other cautiously and then thrown ourselves headlong into the weekend. Heads were scratched, pencils were chewed and assignments were completed; props were moved, light was reflected and camera settings were pondered. Meals were prepared and eaten around a long table, alive with the sound of conversation and laughter.  Wine was drunk, songs were sung and friendships were forged.  And then just like that it was all over and we all went our separate ways, with only the photos and our tweets to prove we had ever been there. But the lessons learnt and friendships forged will stay with us all forever.

Photo courtesy of Marta

Friday, 4 November 2011

Goodbye Plate to Page Tuscany, hello Plate to Page Somerset!

So Plate top Page Tuscany is done and dusted. Sixteen people from around the globe descended on a villa in Tuscany for three electrifying days and created a private world of words and pictures and creative energy. The beautiful surroundings, the beautiful weather and the copious amounts of excellent Bisol prosecco had, it seemed, conspired to weave a particularly Tuscan kind of magic.  We arrived as strangers but left as friends.  In fact, as presenters, our only regret was that we could not share this wonderful Tuscan weekend with more of you.

But fear not!  If you missed out on attending both Plate to Page Weimar and Plate to Page Tuscany, hope is at hand.  Despite having been manically busy for the past few weeks finalising details and sponsors for Plate to Page Tuscany, we have not lost sight of the future and have recently managed to secure a wonderful venue for our next Plate to Page workshop in Spring 2011.  And where is this going to be, you might ask? Drum roll please... Ladies and gentlemen, the first Plate to Page of 2012 will be held in Somerset, England

Nestled in the heart of this beautiful county, near Taunton, is Somerset Spa, a manor house and two historic barns that have been loving restored to provide stylish traditional accommodation for a memorable weekend break.  We will be staying in Meare Court, a seventeenth century Grade II listed manor house. Many original features remain, including a rustic elm mediaeval   screen on the third floor and a beautiful Georgian panelled room. There six individually decorated bedrooms as well as original flagstone floors, exposed beams and a huge open fireplaces. Oh yes, and for our exclusive use there is a private hot-tub in a gazebo in the garden  :o)  The extensive 80-acre grounds and surrounding countryside provide the perfect setting to walk, think, or be inspired. 

The house is only an hour from Bristol International airport and two hours by train from London's Paddington station.  The Somerset countryside is full of places worth a visit, like the Cheddar Gorge caves and the Roman city of Bath. Nearby Taunton Country Market on a Satruday morning is foodie heaven, with locally made cakes, pies, cookies, jams, marmalades, chutneys and seasonal produce always available. The area is also dotted with artisanal brewers, cider-makers and smokehouses - and don't forget that this is Cheddar cheese country!  Bring a big suitcase :)

We are still taking care of some final details before we open up registrations for Plate to Page Somerset, but to be sure not to miss the announcement that registratrations have begun, make sure you subscribe to our RSS feed or our Facebook fan page, or follow us on Twitter

We hope to welcome you to Somerset in 2012!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Food styling and photography with Kelly Cline

Kelly is a self-taught photographer. Although she started shooting at around 13 and took a few photography classes, she has no formal education. Instead, she learned through experience, imitating images she liked from magazines and cookbooks and practised repeatedly until she got the light and focus just right.

Kelly Cline’s images are colorful, contrasting and different. Kelly loves food and her unique ability to harness light to highlight food naturally without any artificial means becomes apparent when one sees her images. But Kelly is not just a photographer, she is also the food stylist, prop stylist and recipe author and working so closely with all the aspects of the process means she profoundly understands food and is able to bring that to life in her photos.

Kelly is a Seattle based food photographer and stylist and has been working with and shooting food professionally for over 10 years. Her photography has been seen all over the world in advertising and in magazines such as Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and Oxygen.

We are really excited to welcome Kelly to the Plate to Page blog as she shares some of her valuable tips and takes us through her career. Thank you Kelly for joining us!

How I got started?

I became interested in photography at a very young age.  My grandfather handed me an old Kodak Brownie, the gray kind with the flash bulbs you had to replace that were filled with steel wool.  He would take us up to Mt Rainier where we would take photos of nature landscapes.  My Uncle was also a factor, as he was a pilot and photographer during WWII, he taught me how to make a pinhole camera out of a Quaker Oats box and how to develop the film in the darkroom.  After that, photography was deeply seeded into my creative interests, which also included drawing, painting and sculpture.

Sometime in my 20s I saw a Gourmet Magazine cover with an Apple Tart on the cover.  The cover has an apple tart on it, the apples laid out in a spiraling pattern with a sprig of thyme laid across the top.  I came from a home of simple, but delicious, comfort food.  My idea of an apple pie was a crust on top and a crust on the bottom.  I had never seen apple slices laid out naked with no crust to cover them before, it threw me for a loop.  A wonderful loop that began my plunging headlong into a world of discovering everything that is wonderful about food.

I bought the magazine and began re-creating the recipes like crazy.  I started making monthly visits to "upscale" dining establishments, the kind of places where the food came to you as a plated work of art.  The artist inside of me was impressed by the fact that food could be made to look so pretty and still taste amazing.

So now I had a decent amount of what I would call "Amateur Gourmet" cooking under my belt.  I would entertain friends and use them as guinea pigs for my latest creations.  I would try my hand at re-creating my own versions of the sculpturesque foods that I had fallen in love with.  It was one evening over one of these dinner that a friend said to me "I can not eat this, it is too pretty.  You have to take a picture first!"
And so I did.

I began taking pictures of most everything that I cooked and ate from that point on... long before the internet and long, long, before blogs.  I mostly used my clunky old Polaroid, as digital cameras were not around at that time.  I also made use of my 35mm from time to time as well.  I did not pay so much attention to lighting, focus or the little details early on, as I was really just trying to chronicle my culinary explorations.

Then one day, after perusing some more food magazines I decided to try my hand at actually "staging" a shot.  It was a silly shot of an apple pie, one of the few old food photos I have left from so many years ago.  And that is how it began.

Why you choose this field?

After 9/11 there were a lot of businesses that were hit hard.  The high-end Lithographers that i had worked for had to roll up their doors and I was left unemployed.  I felt that I was standing at a crossroads.  I could take a left and get in the employment line and try to scratch out a living in a time when jobs were scarce or just not paying enough because everyone was in the same boat.  Or I could take a right, and give photography as a career a go.  

I chose based on my passions, food and photography.  I was a foodie long before the term was popularized.  I love food, I love cooking it, discovering new ingredients and most of all photographing it.  I live by the motto: Do what you love, Love what you do.

Set small realistic goals for yourself, prepare for adjustment to your goals and even a little disappointment here and there.  It's completely normal to experience a few set backs about our own expectations, but just stick to your goals and re-evaluate them on a regular basis making changes where necessary.  Also, understand that you have to spend some time doing it, it won't happen over night.  Just remember to give yourself and your goal time to catch up to your expectations.

What has changed over the years in your point of view?

I think television and the Internet has really revolutionized the food industry in general.  The topic of food is readily accessible to a much broader audience than it was back in the 80s and 90s.  The amount of content on the web available that focuses on food casts a long shadow on publications in the days of old.  More people are talking about food and more people are interested in food.  If all these people were interested in the 80s and 90s, we didn't really know because we had been disconnected from our fellow food loving populace.  With the internet and modern technology in photography, we have an actual community that shares, teaches, gives and enjoys food together.  

From a styling and photography point of view - REAL food.  Fake food and overly styled food are slowly dying off and making way for images and styling that showcase the beauty of food in its natural state.  And this is a good thing, because the viewing audience is wise to tricks of old and just about anyone can tell the difference between a real ice cream cone and one made with mashed potatoes or non-melting sugar lard.

How has your style changed or developed?

I have certainly embraced natural light over the years.  It suits my style best.   I would say that although I have always styled my food "green" and do not use inedible additives to my photos, I would definitely say that styling using this method really has made an impact on my photography.  All-natural food styling forces me to think on my feet, because food has a very small window where it looks fresh.  With every new ingredient, I learn about it's window of freshness and how best to capture it.  

I started out styling food this way because I didn't have a money tree growing in the back yard and could not afford to waste food by making it inedible.  It all goes back to shooting what you are passionate about. If I were shooting a stack of pancakes covered in motor oil, I would be hard pressed to be motivated to make it look appetizing and delicious.  I would KNOW what it REALLY is and I can not... no scratch that - I will not make my camera lie about food.

I am constantly learning new things every single day.  It's one of the things that I love about what I do, there is always something new to learn and I am constantly changing and developing as I go.

One or two things you learned along the way:

Shoot what you have a passion for.  If I were passionate about cars I would shoot cars.  My passion is food, I truly believe that if you lack passion for the subject you shoot it will show in your image.  You cannot fake an interest in something.  It has to be there and it has to be from the soul.

Learning to kill your darlings.  Not every shot you take is going to be a winner.  You need to step out of your own head and take an objective look at your own work and know when to cut your losses and move on.  It happens to everyone.  Don't waste time trying to fix a bad shot in post-processing.  Cut your losses, kill your darlings, learn from your mistake and create something better.

Props are important.  Linens, rustic pieces of silverware, glassware, plates and dishes.  But you must remember to keep props relative to what you are shooting.  A pair of boxing gloves, a hair brush and a kid's toy have no place being used as props in a photo of say, a plated Steak dinner photo.  Pay attention to your props, you don't garnish a stuffed Thanksgiving Turkey with Strawberries and Watermelon wedges, for instance.  

Biggest lesson learned:  Attention to detail.  Every little drip, splash, smudge, dust and hair will be seen by the camera.  Keeping paper towels,  cotton swabs and a bottle of glass cleaner on hand is a must.

Photography and Styling: Kelly Cline 

Kelly Cline 
Professional Food Stylist  |  Food & Lifestyle Photographer

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