I couldn’t resist but completely shower you with photos from the recent retreat I attended in beautiful Berry (2 hours south of Sydney). I was so looking forward to it because in was organised by my friend Anisa Sabet, who is a super talented, funny and dynamic woman, also because the two Italian teachers, who had become global superstars, intrigued me and finally because a few of my very good friends had registered.
The theme was chiaroscuro, the subtle art of lighting a tiny part of a painting or a photo like the old masters used to do. Think Caravaggio, who pushed it to tenebrism. I’m absolutely fascinated by dark photography and the message you can send through the little spot you decide to give light to. And who better than Valentina Solfrini from the blog Hortus and Zaira Zarotti of The Freaky Table, to show us their art and techniques both in theory and practice.
Anisa had rented a vast house and its surrounding little cottages to fit a dozen attendees and the lovely staff. One of the highlights was also the very refined and fantastically photogenic cuisine by Alfie’s Kitchen. Another one was the styling of the tables and the place by my friend Lean Timms.
Our teachers demonstrated how to style, shoot, edit and sell photos. There was a lot of invaluable insight shared by our little group of eager photographers, many clever tips and show and tells which will remain with me for the years to come.
Let me take you on a tour of the different meals, the chiaroscuro classes, the few portraits that I shot and the perfect Australian Autumn.
FIRST LONG TABLE LUNCH
An impressive long table for our fist lunch.
Anisa thought of absolutely everything. She is the best host you can dream of.
A bar was installed and later on, Anisa’s husband Ryan gave us a cocktail demo.
My friend and über-talented wedding photographer Tess Godkin
That’s what a lunch looks like when the guests are all photographers.
The menu was very carefully crafted and really well executed by Hellen from Alfie’s Kitchen.
A lovely skewer of photographers and friends.
DINNER ON THE PATIO
Cocktail demo time with Ryan.
Incredible amuse-bouches full of incredible flavours and colours.
Lean’s styling was impeccable as usual.
And what a superb cheese platter!
Fresh oysters for aperitif.
Incredibly creative food by Alfie’s Kitchen.
PICNIC IN THE FOREST
In these workshops and retreats, not only the classes bring you knowledge and inspiration but being surrounded by like-minded people allows really interesting discussions and in many cases futures projects to be conceived.
We had a very original lunch box and picnicked under the tall trees, near the river.
We learned how to sculpt the light into our scenes and our pictures. Hand model: lovely Sarah.
And while Zaira was styling a naked cake with flower from the garden, we were all trying to figure out our settings to make the most of that scene.
My dear friend Sam Woods as beautiful as ever, the ideal model for a chiaroscuro portrait.
A still life scene created by our Italian artists.
A chiaroscuro bouquet two ways
Well… I chose the one with the foot… because it’s so typical of rushing to shoot your pic, after waiting quite a while in a queue of eager photographers. So when you shoot, you try to do as fast as possible and this is why workshop photos are usually the worst :)
I have one without the tootsies but I thought that one was much more fun :)
Zaira creating a scene that could be a Caravaggio painting.
Valentina explaining editing.
Valentina involuntarily becoming a subject of the chiaroscuro course.
The finished cake decorated by Zaira.
Helen Tzouganatos whom I met for the first time at this retreat and who asked me so kindly to take a portrait of her.
DINNER IN THE STABLES
Doesn’t it look like a doll’s house theatre? Gillian, doing her now internationally renowned Instagram stories while everybody’s chatting near the outdoor kitchen, sipping a glass of wine. Dinner took place in the stables that night.
The menu was huge and delicious.
My dear Sam in the soft light of the table candles. I wonder how the delicate flowers reflect in the bokeh… Strange… I need to investigate that a bit further…
And last but not least, this is a micro-movie I made to celebrate Zaira Zarotti’s talent and beauty:
Music by Zinaida Trokai – The Spirit of Russian love
NOTE: Photos and video shot on my new Leica SL and its Summilux-SL 50mm F-1.4 lens which I had just bought a few days before and enjoyed very much taming :)