Oyster LoveApril 1, 2017

10 Wonderful Oyster Instagrammers You Should Be Following

I love Instagram. Dare I say even more so than blogging? Every time I scroll through my oyster-centric feed on @inahalfshellblog, I always discover something beautiful, surprising, funny, and inspiring. Oyster Instagrammers are a total thing now.

But maintaining a high-quality Instagram feed is hard work! It takes a lot of time and energy to come up with consistently stellar content and a dependable vibe. Here are 10 amazing oyster-centric accounts that I adore, admire and suggest you follow if you want to live, eat, sleep, and dream about oysters all day every day.

#1 Hama Hama Oysters

A lot of farms are on IG now, but few do it quite as well as Hama Hama. It’s like Food Network meets Travel Channel for oysters! Breathtaking farm scenery, ridiculous sunsets (I’m a total sucker for sunsets), and flawless shucks. Follow @hamahamaoysters

#2 Forty North Oyster Farms

My two favorite kinds of FNOF posts are whenever @oysterdog makes a cameo and when the guys discover random sea critters in their fields. They’re making a name for NJ oysters! Follow @fortynorthoysters

#3 Pangea Shellfish

Oysterologists/wholesalers/growers, they know how to ace the presentation. Nobody else showcases so many oysters varieties as flawlessly as they do. My theory is that there’s a reason why Pangea’s logo kind of resembles a brain… Follow @pangeashellfish

#4 Pleasure House Oysters

Chris Ludford is the master of the thoughtful long-form Instagram caption. I learn something about Virginia history and waterfront culture every time I catch one of his posts. Follow @pleasurehouseoysters

#5 Hog Island Oyster Co.

Confession: I actually have to scroll past Hog Island’s posts really fast sometimes or else they end up making me TOO HUNGRY (or should I say hangry)? It’s the most foodielicious of the oyster farm IG’s. Follow @hogislandoysterco

#6 Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market

Ok, well actually, Fanny Bay’s feed might give HIO a run for their money. They share and curate gorgeous oyster platters and other seafood. On a related note, can we talk about why these amazing places are across the country from me?? Follow @fannybayoysters

#7 Oyster Obsession

An endless oyster shellebration feed—all forms are welcome here! What’s also impressive is OO’s drool-worthy collection of oyster recipes on their website. Follow @oysterobsession

#8 Signature Oysters

There are plenty of oyster lovers outside of North America too, but only a few IG’ers really have stood out for me. Signature Oysters consistently pushes the envelope and keeps me guessing. Follow @signatureoysters

#9 Shuckinhell

Not frequently updated, but when this mystery account does, it’s ah-may-zing. THANK YOU for putting the awful, terrible shucks on blast. It’s a dirty job and I’m glad they’re doing it. The captions are everything. Follow @shuckinhell

A post shared by shuckinhell (@shuckinhell) on

#10 The Art of Oysters

Lastly, I want to put up my new side project up for consideration. The Art of Oysters is to showcase shuckers and chefs who actually take the time to do it right, or do it differently. Follow @theartofoysters

Which oyster IG accounts am I missing??

Oyster LoveFebruary 13, 2016

Romantic Gestures That Make Oysters Less Cliche for Valentine’s Day

I’m a romantic at heart, so I love to suggest oysters for Valentine’s Day… even if it is the most cheesy, cliche thing imaginable. Whenever anyone mentions the words, “oysters” and “aphrodisiac,” or even hints at the oyster’s amorous reputation, I can’t help but do a mental eye roll. It’s just kind of too obvious! Even still, I believe that oysters can be a wonderful, tasteful choice… if done the right way. Here are a few ideas…
Photography & food styling by Jenny Huang
Calligraphy by Chavelli Tsui

vday11_WEBvday20_WEB

Playing Dress Up

I’ve had a complicated relationship with garnishes. I’ve made rules for myself, only to break them. I would still consider myself as a purist, but sometimes, a punchy mignonette just really hits the spot.

There are many variations on classic accoutrements that can be explored. Instead of horseradish, try ginger. Instead of vinegar, try vodka. Instead of lemon, try yuzu. Instead of black pepper, try yellow curry. Instead of cocktail sauce, try pickle juice. Try out some unexpected ingredients… pomegranate, sake, bourbon, and chili powder.

I am definitely going to try out this Buddha’s Hand Citron Mignonette and Citron Ginger Mule pairing by my friend Jenny.

vday09_WEBvday08_WEB

A Taste of a Place

I love the fact that oysters are taste like where they’re from, and having first-hand experience with an oyster’s “meroir” is the key to making lasting memories.

If  you have the luxury of picking and choosing different varieties of oysters to eat, select ones that come from states that hold special meaning for you and your loved one. Write down some of your favorite travel memories on notecards and on the other side, write out the oyster’s name, harvest location, and a few lines for tasting notes. Alternatively (and this will score you major points), surprise your significant other with a round of oysters from a state where you’ve planned a getaway to!

vday10_WEB

Down to Shuck

Learning how to open oysters is probably one of the most useful “social” skills that you can easily acquire. It’s not terribly difficult to pick up, although it does take some time to master.

Teaching yourself and your beau how to shuck by bringing home a bag of oysters, a couple of shucking knives, and read up on my post about it. Petite such as Kusshi, Beausoleil, and most varietals from Rhode Island happen to be great beginner oysters to learn on.

vday21_WEBvday16_WEB

Oyster Love Stories

In grade school, I used to hate reading out loud. I’m not even sure why our teachers made us do it so often in class. Now as I am older, I have a new sense of appreciation for spoken stories. (Yay for podcasts!) Spark that sense of intimacy and delight by reading out loud a passage from your favorite book, as you enjoy oysters… in bed, of course. If you want to stick to the theme, here are some of my favorite oyster-related reads:

Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Geography of Oysters by Rowan Jacobsen

vday19_WEBvday13_WEB

This might be the first time in the history of this blog where all of the photos are NOT my own. I am very proud to showcase the creative work of my two talented friends, Chavelli Tsui (I Draw Letters) and Jenny Huang (Hello My Dumpling) to compliment my own thoughts. Jenny and Chavelli decided to use Flapjack oysters from Eld Inlet, Puget Sound, Washington for this shoot.

Oyster LoveOctober 3, 2015

12 October Oyster Events You Should Know About

Oystober is here! If you don’t have at least a couple oyster events on your calendar yet, here are some options around the country to consider. The ones marked with * means that I’ll see you there. 🙂

Oysters by Julie QiuIMG_2442

OCT 3 : Halifax Oyster Festival in Nova Scotia : visit website

OCT 4 : Washington OysterFest & Shucking Competition in Shelton, WA : visit website

OCT 9 : Whiskey Washback* at The Bowery Hotel, NYC : visit website

OCT 10-11 : Ryleigh’s Oyster Fest IX* in Federal Hill, Baltimore, MD : visit website

OCT 10 : Chincoteague Oyster Festival at Tom’s Cove Park, Chincoteague, VA : visit website

OCT 17-18 : Long Island Oyster Festival in Oyster Bay, NY : visit website

OCT 17-18 : Wellfleet OysterFest in Cape Cod, MA : visit website

OCT 17-18 : St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival & National Shucking Championship in St. Mary’s County Fairground, MD : visit website

OCT 18 : VA Shell-Raiser’s Shindig at Seven Springs Farm, Manquin, VA : visit website

OCT 18 : NYC Wine & Food Festival Oyster Bash* at The Standard Biergarten, NYC : visit website

OCT 21-23 : Oyster Omakase LA* by In A Half Shell x Blue Plate Oysterette : coming soon!

OCT 21-23  : International Oyster Symposium in Cape Cod, MA : visit website

Fridays & Saturdays : Virginia Oyster Academy : visit website

Did I miss anything?

Oyster LoveAugust 30, 2015

A Closer Look At @InAHalfShellBlog on Instagram

Today is In A Half Shell’s 2 year Instagram anniversary! Out of all social media platforms, Instagram has to be my favorite. As an avid photographer, it’s been an indispensible tool for the way I showcase oyster culture from around the world. Last week, I crossed my 10,000th follower mark. To celebrate this milestone, I thought it would be fun to share some highlights and insights of my IG journey.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 9.44.41 AM

A Quick “Oysterview”

statigramstatigram-geofollow

Posting habits: It’s all about delivering quality over quantity. I don’t post every day, but try to maintain a consistent schedule. I am such a stickler for good photography that if I don’t have a worthy image to share, I won’t. In my earlier days, it was about capturing what I was eating at the raw bars. Today, I’m more intrigued by what’s happening on the farm and in my kitchen.

Creative tip: Favorite filter is a little misleading, because I actually apply some sort of treatment to 97% of my photos before posting. They’re just not always done through Instagram. Currently, my favorite photo editing apps are VSCO Cam and Darkroom. For text, I use Over.

Most Growth in the Last Year

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 8.56.09 AM

The first year of being on Instagram was pretty quiet compared to the second year, where I accumulated ~80% of my followers. This definitely correlates to the amount of energy and effort that I put into Instagram.

What I invest my time doing on: 80% liking other oyster photos and talking to fellow Instagrammers about oysters, 20% creating quality posts. It’s fun to see what other people are eating/doing and thinking about around the world. I take time in the morning and evening to catch up on my feed, and try to respond to as many inquiries as possible. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all of the comments, but there’s a “Manage” tool in Iconosquare that makes it more, well, manageable!

What I don’t often do: Selling stuff, promoting places/products that I don’t have personal experience with, and super-text heavy images. I think this goes back to the idea of emphasizing quality over quantity. There are a lot of instances where businesses, brands, and even individuals have asked me to help them “spread the word” for them, but many times, it just doesn’t make sense (or fit my aesthetic). After a couple years, I feel like I am even MORE selective than I used to be about who I follow and what I share. Having such a high benchmark has helped maintain a much more loyal and engaged following.

My biggest hashtag addictions: #oysterlove #shellfie #oystersommelier are my go-to’s. I think posting anything oyster-related with #oysters #oyster definitely has put it in front of the right people. Going more broadly with food-related hashtags like #foodporn #nomnom #eeeeeats is also a good way to boost likes, but not necessarily from the right people.

People Like Stylish Stories

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 8.49.05 AM

First of all, I want to note that posting more Instagrams does NOT mean that you’ll automatically get more likes. In fact, posting too many could actually lead to lower engagement and even people UNFOLLOWING you. Especially true when I post a bunch in a row… nobody really wants one account to dominate their feed.

Here’s a closer look at a few of my most well-liked posts. I’ve noticed that they all have these things in common:

  • They’re killer photos (if I don’t say so myself)
  • They all have interesting captions
  • They’re all posted in the morning (don’t underestimate good timing…)
  • They’re all shot in this top-down style that IG’ers just love (no matter the subject)

I feel like my best photos express an aesthetic that is unique to who I am and how I see the oyster world. It’s relatable and gives you a hint into what my personal life is like. Aesthetically, having a few components and element of surprise really helps. Good lighting is SUPER important. The first two shots use natural sunlight, while the third was lit by artificial lighting (because my old kitchen was super dark and crappy).

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 10.32.10 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 10.33.13 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 10.32.49 AM

Ask And You Shall Receive

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 8.49.15 AM

Meanwhile, likes are not the same as engagement. The posts that I see the most conversation on are completely different from the ones that receive the most likes. Besides the posts that are giveaways (where people are incentivized to comment), engagement spikes when people feel compelled to learn more or give me an answer. Helping, not selling, is key—and it works both ways. Sometimes I’ll ask my followers what they think of something, and usually, they’ll answer. Weird, “did you know” posts (like the oyster crab) also captures people’s attention.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 10.29.28 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 10.30.27 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 10.31.33 AM

Last Few Words

So there you have it! I hope this overview was informative to those who have been curious. If you’re wondering about how you can step up your own IG game, here’s a few articles that I have found to be helpful:

5 Insightful Instagram Statistics That You Should Know by Sprout Social

Food Photography: 7 Tips for Instagram by Click It Up a Notch

Ten Household Items That Can Improve Your Food Photography by Pinch of Yum

Oyster LoveDecember 26, 2014

Top Oyster Moments of 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, I’d like to take a moment to reflect back on all of the oyster adventures that were had. This was a momentous year of many milestones and memories. I am so grateful for these experiences and opportunities and want to thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me along the way. Here’s to a bright and bivalve-filled new year!

©2014 Julie Qiu Photography for In A Half Shell. All Rights Reserved.

Greenport Oyster Adventure: Five Fantastic Ways to Enjoy the Day — Loved shucking oysters at the Little Creek Oyster Market and re-visiting Widow’s Hole Oyster Farm.

 

©2014 Julie Qiu Photography for In A Half Shell. All Rights Reserved.

Cape Cod Oyster Tour: A Look Into the WiAnno Way — Learned a ton during this incredible oyster farm immersion.

 

2014 BK Oyster Riot. Photo Credit: Julie Qiu of In A Half Shell.

Kicking Off New York Oyster Week at BK Oyster Riot — There’s nothing better than slurping ungodly amounts of oysters with fellow oyster fans.

 

IAHS_2014-06-02_NOLA_IMG_2841

A Dozen Ways to Enjoy A Dozen Oysters in New Orleans — My stomach went on strike after this trip, but it was well worth it.

 

©2014 Julie Qiu Photography for In A Half Shell. All Rights Reserved.

Virginia Wine & Brine Retreat — Loved every minute spent on the Eastern Shore of VA.

 

Eastern-Shore-VA-IMG_4108

Virginia Oyster Road Trip: Lynnhaven — A close and personal look at Pleasure House Oysters.

 

IAHS_2014-03-02_Kanawa_IMG_0638

The Hidden Pearls of Hiroshima — That time when I went to Japan to visit an oyster farm!

 

2014-05-02HarborSchoolIMG_1260

What You Should Know About Oysters and Sustainability — The Billion Oyster Project has got to be one of the most inspiring and awesome oyster restoration initiatives around.

 

View More: http://rebeccaarthurs.pass.us/julie-bryan

Oyster Love: Details from the Ultimate Half Shell Wedding — A photo-filled recap of my magical oyster-themed nuptials.