It has been an incredible couple of days. I had the amazing opportunity to spend a day with Helene of Sweet Tartlette, learning all of her secrets at an intimate food photography workshop. Following that, I spent the weekend with hundreds of ladies (and a few gents) at the second annual Evo Conference, which focuses on the evolution of women in social media.

It was fun, it was exhausting, and it was all here in Utah!

Helene from Sweet Tartlette

Wednesday was Helen’s workshop. It was hosted by Foodie Crush and held at Market Street Grill Cottonwood just south of Salt Lake City. I was one of 13 lucky attendees and all of us came with our cameras, eager to learn from a pro. Helene taught us about letting the story of our food guide our photography and our manipulation of light on the subject.

I was like a sponge, soaking in as much as possible and I believe I walked away a better food photographer. I’m most proud of this photograph of a simple fruit tart. It was back-lit to bring out the glaze on the plate and the shine of the berries, with a white foam board bouncing the light back to fill shadows and brighten the mood of the photograph.

Fruit Tart

I left the workshop on a high that continued through the weekend. Evo was held at The Canyons Resort in Park City, a quick twenty minute drive from my home. The conference made the most of its gorgeous setting and I loved hearing everyone gush about how beautiful Utah is.

Park City Mountain Resort

My only other conference experience is from BlogHer Food earlier this spring in Atlanta and they were both so different it doesn’t make a lot of sense to compare the two, but I’ll sum it up by saying that Evo did a much better job making sure I enjoyed myself. I had a great time at BlogHer Food, but mostly because of the people I spent my time with, and not always because of the conference itself.

At Evo, you’d have to go out of your way to not have a lot of fun. There were mountaintop workshops and parties that included alpine slides and zip lines. Many of the workshops were hands-on, giving each of us valuable time to interact one-on-one with the speakers.

Alison and Aggie

I also really enjoyed how I had the opportunity to meet all sorts of bloggers, not just foodies. I loved meeting some food blogger idols in real life, but some of the more meaningful connections were with new-to-me bloggers, all doing amazing and different things online. There is some incredible stuff  happening out there on the web, folks.

Lunch at Lookout Cabin

Probably my favorite part of the conference was the hands-on food workshop on Friday afternoon. We took a ski lift up the mountain to Lookout Cabin where The Canyons fed us an amazing lunch with an even better view.

Flatbread and shrimp

Afterward, Executive Chef Alex did a cooking demo of a few of the dishes we had enjoyed— grilled flatbread with littleneck clams, bacon, and local Beehive Cheese Company’s award winning Barely Buzzed cheddar cheese, along with the main coarse of hanger steak topped with tomato, mozarella, basil and balsamic glaze. Helene also did a mini food photography workshop that afternoon and I picked up a few more tips.

Chef Alex

Other highlights from the conference include a quiet ski lift ride up Park City Mountain with Marla of Family Fresh Cooking at sunset to take photos of the scenery, the food styling and photography workshop with Todd and Diane of White On Rice, the inspirational closing keynote by Me Ra Koh (not a dry eye in the room), and getting stuck on the gondola in a storm with Kelley of Mountain Mama Cooks, Alison of Ingredients, Inc., and Lisa of With Style and Grace (and the tequila shots afterward to ease our jitters).

White on Rice Photo Workshop

I’m fortunate that all of this happened practically in my own backyard, because I might have missed it otherwise, and I learned this year that Evo is not to be missed. I’m already looking forward to next year!

At the bar

Other Evo Conference 2011 Recaps:

Sandy from The Reluctant Entertainer
Jen from Use Real Butter
Alison from Ingredients, Inc.
Maria from Two Peas and their Pod
Aggie from Aggie’s Kitchen
Flavia from Flavia’s Flavors
Lisa from With Style and Grace
Helene from Sweet Tartlette

Were you at Evo? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!