When you think about destination photography, weddings come to mind, as something quintessential and worth the effort and investment. To some clients, their maternity, and especially first, becomes as significant. If destination maternity is done right, the return on that investment speaks volumes, and it will speak to the child for decades.
Meet Eleni, a NYC young lady who found me through several makeup artists—Shannon who became the subject of the glamorous Equestrian Vines photo shoot and Charles of Rouge Makeup Studio with whom I used to share studio space. As we sat for our initial studio consultation, it became clear that she set the priority for the utmost effort only attainable with an all-day photo session. We went over the ideas to fit and fill such day and, excited, proceeded to booking. It was when we were setting the shoot date when she advised of her unavailability during her upcoming trip to the Greek island of Corfu for her family’s Easter celebration. My inflamed vision started to imagine how spectacular and unique a session could be on the land of her ancestors, immersed into the atmosphere of her family’s heritage sites and memories from her frequent visits while growing up. I shared it. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I am booking my air tickets while planning around another destination job, a back-to-back wedding in Miami, FL, soon to be published with some splash, too.
I am not new to destination maternity sessions, ranging from the Alaskan mountains to California underwater, but Corfu has a special place in my heart, planted decades ago. It started around the 6th grade. A boy and a girl stayed late to clean up the classroom after the classes. Anya, as the girl was named, sat me in the front row, took the podium and in a theatrical fashion, with feeling and in roles, plunged into reciting a lively book by UK naturalist Gerald Durrell, “My Family and Other Animals“. This was my introduction to the magical book which had a profound effect on my later books and relation to animals. The book immersed me into the farland exotic island of Corfu in Greece, where I walked alongside 10-year-old Gerry, exploring the land and studying critters and creatures. The fantasies and dreams of those adventures have carried me into the adulthood full of blessings. How could a kid believe that some 30 years later he would set foot on that very island and touch his childhood dreams?
I arrived to Corfu several days prior to the shoot to scout the area of a never-visited country. I was slated for a rather narrow shooting window, considering the fact that Eleni was arriving on Saturday evening and I needed to leave for the US early Monday morning. I spent three days with Eleni’s uncle, a good man Spiro. A manager for the family’s Nafsika Hotel, he offered me the full hospitality package, including the rides around the island and photography discussion (he is a “professional amateure” photographer). My tight but thrilling shooting itinerary started to shape up. Here are some scouting shots from my Instagram:
And then, imagine how we felt with the looming forecast of an all-day rain on Sunday… This could potentially spell a disaster, considering no room for flexibility of rescheduling this destination maternity shoot. I started adjusting my plans for the rain, including walking under an umbrella on the wet streets of the Old Town of Corfu and more indoor coverage. Luckily, I had a camera plastic pouch which I used in the past when shooting in the rain. I also informed Eleni of having to start shooting on Saturday night, as soon as she arrives from the airport after trans-Atlantic flight. We had to max out the night prior to rainy Sunday, and then deal with the weather, hoping for some dramatic skies as the positive. I invited her to “turn off the complain button if she had one”, brace herself, and look forward to an opportunity to enjoy a restful week once I fly away right after the shoot. Eleni is a trooper, and was ready as soon as she jumped out of the car the evening of her arrival.
One of the original ideas was to do a vibrant sunset series under the mesmerizing Logas Cliffs (see photo above, taken at a sunset the day before). This became our first stop, alas without the sunset due to the accumulated clouds. It quickly got dark, allowing me to create my dramatic light scene on the stone stairs leading to the Ionian Sea. We then returned home, let Eleni have her dinner and a bit of rest and around 10 PM headed over to the Old Town of Corfu where I shot till around 2 AM. An hour drive back home, two-hour sleep, and I am back up, ready for the 5 AM shoot in the olive garden (see above), which I originally envisioned pre-sunrise, mysterious, and foggy with the help of our au naturelle “smoke machines”—buckets with smoldering leaves. I pictured the first sun rays thrusting through the heavy branches, interweaving with the clouds of smoke. Alas, alas…
The guys overslept and who would blame them? On top of a flight and an eight-hour shoot exhaustion, there was a time zone difference. I wasn’t too upset because there were no sun rays to miss, anyway, but the rain was impending. It started when they finally arrived. And here came the miracle! The rain turned out to be intermittent and mostly light, so I was able to shoot with little interruption, yet blessed with the epic skies, occasional sun, colors, and wind (whose only fault that day was not letting my smoke settle in the garden).
I shot in the olive garden, lemon garden, then we went to another magnificent spot, Canal D’Amour with the glorious sea and sky colors matching Eleni’s dress long train. We waited out the heavy rain during the lunch break, and drove to the village of Afionas, our final destination. The picturesque spot offered both village street scenery and a breathtaking vista where our young lady was handed over to the wind, flower thorns, and raindrops. As I saw her sitting on a bench there, nurturing her embryo with the deeply inhaled Corfian air, mounting over the beloved soil of her family tree to which she was preparing to add her own sprout, I knew that this adventure, the efforts, pain, and determination of a destination maternity shoot all paid off.
It was intense, but so damn worth it!! I would do it all over again!! ~ Eleni
As mentioned, Eleni’s uncle Spiro is an avid amateur photographer who did beauty portraiture back in the film days. We enjoyed sharing stories and observations, he provided an invaluable help throughout the shoot. Among other things, I was given a neat and extensive collection of behind-the-scenes, something that I always wish to have had done after each shoot but oftentimes, too late. There was neither shortage nor need to ask this time… Below are mostly his phone camera photos unless noted as Zorz Studios’. Excuse my back. The panoramic group shot was taken during the family dinner between two sessions on the first day, when we gave Eleni a chance to catch her breath before storming the night town of Corfu. The last shot is from my camera’s self-timer showing the entire crew: Eleni’s husband Manthos, Eleni, Spiro, and yours truly.
I was photographing during the scouting days, too, but that, along with my two-day stop in Milan and a later visit to Miami to shoot a destination wedding of one photographer and a beautiful family of another, would be a new story, if I ever get to it.