Food, drink and Milkshake: a week working in Ireland
“Don’t you ever stop taking pictures?!” Myles sighed in his South African drawl. It was the last day of the Surf Cafe Living shoot, and we would be leaving for the airport in an hour.
I had packed my camera, but then, as we all sat down to eat breakfast, the sun streamed through the huge sliding windows, and I couldn’t help myself: the light was amazing, I had to get the shot.
No wonder Myles was exasperated with my unrelenting shutter. For the last week I, along with writer Shannon Denny, had lived, ate, drank, met the suppliers and walked the dog with Jane and Myles in their architect-designed cottage conversion in Strandhill, Ireland.
This was a unique photography assignment. Normally you are hired for a day, you shoot, you go home, crack open a beer and put your feet up. Next day you edit the photos. Even for the shoot for the the first book, The Surf Cafe Cook Book, we worked all day in the cafe and then went back to our freezing bed and breakfast to relax, or went to the pub for a couple of Guinnesses.
Jane’s running joke on that shoot was to declare “living the dream guys, living the dream!”, usually as snow flurries or a downpour interrupted our attempts to recreate a “surfy summer vibe” in the middle of December.
Well this time I really was living, and shooting, the dream: my studio was Myles’s kitchen, my studio table his work top. The incredible dishes he served up for my food photography actually were our breakfast, lunch or dinner. Apart from a few hours sleep I was “on duty” 24/7.
Throughout the week Myles had been as laid back as ever, focused on getting the freshest produce and preparing great-looking dishes. It seemed like he and Jane entertained half of Strandhill with barbecues, drop-in snacks, cocktails and candlelit dinner parties.
All for my photography, and for Shannon to write about.
I’m pretty good at melting into the background and letting things happen, and If it was a strain having a photographer in your house, clicking away at your every move, Myles and Jane never showed it.
Every day threw up a new challenge. I became obsessed with finding good light, or using bounced flash to imitate daylight, or how to photograph an intimate candlelit dinner party.
And when Myles and Jane went shopping and the place was quiet I would shoot my interiors photos.
Then there was the new addition to the Lamberth family, Milkshake the dog, Jane’s surprise birthday gift from Myles the previous year. Now, although I am a cat person, I like dogs, and after I had idly thrown Milkshake’s ball for her once I was her friend for life.
She took an enthusiastic interest in my work but was always immaculately behaved. Sometimes I would shoot dishes on the floor from above and Milkshake would sidle up and sniff from a couple of feet away. Her self restraint was admirable: she never tucked in.
That week was one of the highlights of my career: surrounded by incredibly positive people, eating and photographing delicious food, documenting “the craic”, but by the end of the week I was exhausted. As soon as I got home I slept for 15 hours straight, and when I got up all I could do was slump on the sofa.
I am proud of the set of images I have produced and as ever the publishing team at Orca have produced a stunning book. You can buy it any good book shop, over here, but no doubt you will hop over to amazon, where you will of course find it. If it’s anything like the last book it will sell like, well, hot cakes!
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Check out my portfolio for some more mouthwatering food photography. www.mikesearlephotography.co.uk