This all started almost a year ago. It wasn't very long after new year's and I was feeling landlocked, frustrated, and in desperate need of a vacation when Helene of Tartlette posted about the different workshops she was planning over the next year. I love her work and think her photography is gorgeous (and goodness knows I need help in that department), but it would definitely be a major splurge so I waffled back and forth and pestered my friend Joy on whether I should do it and in the end I just clicked the button and signed up. I had to dip into my savings, but this was a rare opportunity and boy would it be worth it! Over the next months whenever I'd get upset or frustrated or get that feeling to hop into the car and just take off, I'd remember about this trip and feel better. That feeling of an adventure already planned and booked is one of the best feelings, I think.
So that brings us up to the first week of November, when after a long wait I finally packed my bags and boarded the plane. I arrived a few hours before Helene's husband Bill was supposed to pick us up, so I grabbed lunch at the airport and wandered around the shops before finally settling down to wait and read my book, but the girl I'd settled next to noticed my tripod sticking out of my backpack and asked if I was there for the photo workshop. Krisztina Desi had been traveling across the US for a few weeks and was going back to Budapest right after this workshop, so my trip had started with me speaking Russian (mom would be proud). Pretty soon Libby Stephens joined us and man alive, she was an absolute riot! A few minutes after that, after scaring away a woman who was definitely not part of our group, we had flagged down Melissa Cole and after we were joined by Karen Cornett and Claire Perez we all squeezed into Bill's red van and headed for the beach house.
At the beautiful beach front summer house just outside of Charleston, SC we were met by our two teachers for the weekend, Helene Dujardin and Claire Barboza, as well as our wonderful chef for the duration of our stay, Laura Vein. They couldn't have been nicer or more gracious. I had won the room lottery and got a cozy room right by the front door all to myself and while we waited for people to arrive, I settled in, opened all the windows, and let as much of the ocean air in as possible.
Slowly the rest of the workshop attendees started filtering in. Alysha Yoder, an incredible photographer who I wound up pestering to no end later that weekend to suck up as much Lightroom knowledge as possible. Stacy Able, a fabulous wedding and doggie photographer who is in Panama right now volunteering for the Seeds of Help foundation (and has promised to send me some Guatemalan coffee once she comes back!). Tiffany Scales, of the lovely Savor Home blog. Amy Schleider, who drove in all the way from Missouri and was kind enough to drive and hang out in Charleston with Alecia and I on the last day of the trip. And lastly, as the girls began to open up the wine bottles lined up on the counter, Bill brought Dina Sandakli, a lovely girl whose travel exploits are truly enviable (and who tried to teach us belly dancing as well as the non-PC difference between Indians and American Indians according to her college history professor). Once everyone settled in we had dinner, discussed the schedule for the weekend, enjoyed a fabulous ice cream buffet (homemade ice cream of course), and talked and talked. Once people began disappearing to their rooms, I took a walk on the beach. The water was just warm enough to roll up my pants and get my feet wet, and without the glow of a city nearby, the moon and the stars were the only things reflecting off the water. Just what I needed.
The next few days were filled with beautiful food, running around the house to claim a spot with the perfect lighting, sorting through a huge table laden with props(!), finding corners around the living room to plug in and edit photos, learning various techniques and strategies, chatting, eating fabulous food and drinking wine. On Saturday morning we all got up extra early and drove to the Charleston Farmer's market to take photos (and buy a few things...because I can't NOT buy anything at a farmer's market).
I chatted up this lovely pickle lady and who let me take some photos of her and gave me a small container of pickled peanuts. I also grabbed a small container of her pickled beets, which were amazing.
Back at the house we had to earn our lunch. Helene fried or poached fresh goose eggs, Laura fried up some bacon and we once again dashed to the props table to assemble and photograph our meal before we could dig in.
On Saturday evening we piled into three cars and drove once again into the city to the gorgeous Lana Restaurant. Chef John Ondo, a friend of Helene's, was kind enough to allow a dozen women to run around his restaurant and pester his staff with our cameras. They didn't even mind it (too much) when we took turns popping into the kitchen to get some behind the scenes shots. Every once in a while we'd head back to the table and enjoy the incredible dishes. I had the phenomenal poached pear and gorgonzola salad, a delicious Basque style chicken, and a lovely lemon and olive oil cake (Helen's mother's recipe).
The next day we got back to work and I began cataloging in my head the list of props I absolutely must acquire for myself. That gorgeous linen runner and those adorable numbered cups and dishes are at the top of that list.
Towards the end of the trip, during some free time, a few girls and I took a walk from the beach house to the pier to check out the handful of shops there and I'd discovered that the Ben and Jerry's there still had my all time favorite ice cream flavor, which had been retired everywhere else: Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz. Well, you know I had to have some, right?
Also, on Sunday night, just after it started getting dark, they sky opened up and it began to rain. A few minutes after, the power went out as far as we could see, and there were lightning bolts in the sky, one right after the other. I grabbed my camera and tripod and ran up to the 2nd floor balcony to shoot. I got some decent pictures and it was wonderful to not be the only girl running towards the storm instead of away from it; Alecia and Libby were right there next to me trying to keep our cameras dry and having a total blast.
The power eventually did come back on, and the trip eventually had to end, but I learned a lot, made some friends, and truly relaxed. I don't have a recipe for you today, but I'll be back shortly with a few things I'd been up to, I promise.