A memorable photo class coupled with a walking tour through some of Santa Barbara’s best food and wine locations.
• By Hudson Lindenberger •
As a freelance writer, surviving on a shoestring budget is the norm – there are no expense accounts when you are self-employed. I don’t have an assistant; it’s up to me to coordinate all the logistics for each assignment. This is usually not a problem except for one small issue; a great photographer I am not. So when faced with the choice of hiring a professional and splitting my fee, or shooting my own images, I tend to opt for the later. So when my editor told me about Eat This Shoot That, a Santa Barbara based company that offers walking food and photo tours, I knew I had to check it out.
Eat This Shoot That is the two-year-old brainchild of Tara Jones, a self-described starving artist and Santa Barbara local. Tara is a commercial photographer and graphic designer who found herself struggling during the economic downturn. While taking on odd jobs teaching photography she had an epiphany – everyone has a cell phone these days and they could use advice about shooting photos. The idea to pair photo lessons with a walking food tour seemed like a logical next step since Santa Barbara is second only to New York City in restaurants per capita, and is a popular vacation destination.
Photography Instruction on Location
I met Tara and eleven other similarly challenged photographers by the oceans edge, the scenery captivates us. Looking down the prolonged stretch of beach, I reach for my camera to capture the idyllic image. As I pull out my camera Tara begins instructing us, dispensing a few pointers, small yet meaningful tips. Walking to the end of the Stearns Wharf we reach out first destination Deep Sea Winery. The two wines we taste (which is included in the tour) are delightful, but my next photo lesson more so. Tara teaches us about lighting and where to position the glass for the ideal shot.
Moving next to the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, a Stearns Wharf institution for more than forty years, our rock shrimp ceviche with chips offers the perfect opportunity to learn the basics of shooting food. All sizes of cameras and cell phones are clicking and whirring, you feel like you are on the red carpet. Tara’s deft touch and teaching background quickly result in photos that everyone shares.
More Photo Op’s in the Funk Zone
Leaving the wharf we head back into the Funk Zone, one of Santa Barbara’s hidden gems. The multiple art installations, eclectic bars, and numerous restaurants could easily provide you with hundreds of photo opportunities. The people-watching distracts our merry little group of twelve and soon we are shooting photos of each other and passerby’s. Tara keeps us focused on the task at hand, shooting good pictures and getting to our next tasting.
Our next five stops on the tour are housed in the historic Santa Barbara Fish Market building that was completely renovated two years ago. The distinctive development is quite unique, a one stop entertainment shop.
Pizza at Lucky Penny
At Lucky Penny, a coffee shop/pizza restaurant we ordered the Breakfast on Milpas pizza, an Italian homage to California’s Spanish roots. The chorizo and spicy tomatillo marinara gave it a kick, plus the large sunny-side up egg in the center of the pie made for a memorable photograph. The restaurant has one of the more unique exteriors I have ever seen; more than 10,000 pennies cover a majority of the building.
Beer Pics at Figueroa Mountain
What goes better with pizza than beer? Our next stop was the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company right next door. The Fig, as local’s call it, has been awarded numerous accolades for its beers and had more than 15 on tap when we visited. The large deck and rolling garage doors allowed for ample natural light for my photos, I was starting to learn something from Tara and my fellow travellers. The beer was quite tasty and our group was laughing and socializing while trying to shoot photos.
A Micro-Distillery for still more “shots”
We next stopped into Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, Santa Barbara’s only distillery. Owner Ian Cutler told us about his spirits as he poured us a sample of each. The Micro-distillery creates several products, but the favorite of the group was Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur.
Friends and Sparkling Wine at Riverbench Winery
Heading next door to Riverbench Winery, the long leather couches covering the entire sidewall were the perfect location for another of Tara’s photo lessons, shooting friends in a social setting. As we tasted their excellent sparkling wines and sampled our hand-made treats from Koval Confections, cellphones materialized, and hilarity ensued.
Final Stop at Seven Bar and Kitchen
Last stop on the tour was the gastropub Seven Bar and Kitchen one block up the road. The brick walls, expansive bar, and eclectic decorations made the place the perfect final stop on our tour. With a menu loosely based on the seven deadly sins, and a piano in the bathroom, irreverence was inevitable. When our chicken and waffles with whiskey maple dipping sauced appeared we received our final lesson of the afternoon, but two hours into the tour most of us were too busy laughing to truly concentrate.
One other item you will learn on the tour: the best photo apps to help you produce top-notch pictures to post online. This is a valuable skill to master in todays info-obsessed world.
By the end of the trip it was safe to say I could shoot better photos than ever before, I had met some fun people, and, most importantly, I had a smile on my face. Eat This Shoot That is a great way to spend an afternoon and I highly recommend you go the next time you are in the Santa Barbara area.
The Details and Digits
The Funk Zone Tour is approximately 2.5 hours long with visits to three restaurants, one wine bar, one brewery, and one distillery. At each location you sample items from their menu, learn about Santa Barbara history, and, most importantly, receive photo lessons. Tours are offered Wednesdays through Sundays and cost $65 for adults and $55 per child. You can book private or public tours by visiting their website Eat This Shoot That or calling (805) 699-6719.