“With my knees in the sand, I ask for your hand...” -W.V.
The gentle lull of waves washes ashore on the beaches of Cyprus, stirring granules of sand in a silent swish that draws them back out to sea. The rising cliffs of Aphrodite's Rocks shine bright in the afternoon sunlight as gulls launch themselves off into the sky with a flourish of their wings. The two lovers on the beach notice none of this; they are too busy embracing in a flurry of tears and grateful sobbing.
Šarune and Matas have just gotten engaged, and neither could be happier. This happy meeting was arranged by my dear friend Ugne, an engagement planner who took the time to set up a picnic and guitar serenade on the beautiful beaches of Cyprus. Her attention to detail is unrivaled, and Matas could not have been happier with the results. Šarune was aware only that they would be stopping to look at Petra Tou Romini, otherwise known as the birthplace of Aphrodite. It was an incredibly fitting setting for a marriage proposal. Where else would you propose if you had the opportunity to do so in the birthplace of love?
It was a dawning realization that crossed Šarune's face as Matas pulled a custom engagement ring from his pocket; he had used his jewellery-making skills to craft it himself, and the love and care he put into it showed. How could Šarune resist so romantic a proposal? She fell to her knees to eye level with Matas, pressing her forehead to his as tears streamed down her face. The soft melody of delicately-plucked guitar notes played in the background as the two shared this moment together.
I would like to thank Andreas Nicolaou for his time and his guitar skills. The added touch of music to the scene made everything absolutely perfect. Ugne from Let's Be We-Marriage Proposals did a fantastic job with the picnic basket setup. Fresh fruit and wine by the sea helped the two fall deeper in love with each other that day, if that is even possible. Their romance is one that has a clear passion and depth that was so evident that I could hardly contain it in the pictures I took.
Destiny is nothing if not persistent. Imagine meeting the love of your life, not knowing it was them, and waiting a long two years to finally realize they are the one. This was the case for Dori and Gergo, amazing couple from Hungary. The long road to love would have never been tread on had it not been for Dori's father. The doting parent insisted that Dori meet a charming young music teacher from their local church, but Dori refused. The reason? She was already in a relationship!
It took a stretch of two years before fate decided to bring them together. The two had met a few times already without realizing it; imagine their shock and surprise when they discovered they were each other's soulmates! The last time they met was after Dori's father, who was adamant about the two meeting, tried one last time to introduce his beloved daughter to Gergo. Had she refused again, this love story wouldn't have so happy an ending.
As I was looking at these two while taking photos, I found this realization hard to swallow. The heartache I felt when thinking of these two souls wandering lost without each other made me feel the heartbreak of lost love all over again. Their arms wrapped around each other and tender kisses placed on each other's cheeks bespoke of a love that was strengthened over time.
Dori and Gergo tied the knot at beautiful gardens in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. The lush tropical flowers hanging over the couple's heads created the perfect backdrop to an intimate ceremony for just the two of them at the Nissi Beach Hotel. Through trembling lips, Dori and Gergo pledged their lives to one another amongst the blushing purple of Nissi's stunning floral displays, but no flower was as breathtaking as the bride herself, delicately dressed in a flowing layered bridal gown. Hushed vows spoken between the two made the image of their love more powerful than the romantic gardens the ceremony took place in.
Our final shots were taken amidst the crashing waves and mammoth sea caves of Cavo Greco (Cape Greco), a trademark of Ayia Napa, and one of the most beautiful places in the world, as well as the Ayia Thekla beach with its powerfully blue waters and bright, shining white sands. The most romantic image captured was the jaw-dropping shot of the couple perched on a perilous cliff, the waves washing over the rocky base as the two embraced with fierce passion. They appeared to be almost dancing with the sky as they hung there in a suspended kiss.
The blue and white chapel along the sea's edge was our last destination. I was a bit sad to leave this couple, so I made the chapel's setting a powerful, evoking backdrop to Dori and Gergo's final wedding portrait. It is a picture that will stick in my mind for years to come. Cyprus is such a romantic place, and I know that any future weddings here will be filled with the same magic that I have found in years past.
She has a look of innocence about her, soft and untouched, but beneath the angelic exterior lies the fierce spirit of next shining star. Victoria is walking along the sandy shores of Kouriom beach. I struggle to keep the sun out of my eyes as I take shot after shot, each one more beautiful than the next. I am able to use the natural light off of the waves, and the highlights on Victoria's cheeks make her expression simply glow.
I am mainly a wedding photographer, but sometimes I like to extend my reach beyond it. Model shoots are one of my favorite types of photo sessions because there is so much more I can capture in my images. The determination in Victoria's face as she gives this shoot her all is inspiring to say the least. She has such high hopes, such big dreams. She is young and fresh, still a bit shy, but she has a big heart and a spirit that dominates the epic white cliffs and beaten sand of the beach until it dims in the background around her.
I had the honor of working with renowned makeup artist Svitlana Koroleva for this shoot. She does amazing work with models, and Victoria was no exception. Every bit of makeup was perfectly in place and highlighted all of Victoria's already amazing features. After the beach, we took a few shots with the high-peaked sand dunes to really make Victoria's silhouette stand out. She has a perfect dancer's body, so we had her do a few spins until we got the second to last shot.
I did all of these shots with the Phottix equipment, by the way. I love it! :)
The very last picture, I believe, epitomizes who Victoria is. There is strength and femininity blended seamlessly together in every feature she possesses, and I can assure you that she is an amazing young woman. That fierce beauty that she has is matched by her equally stunning mind. Don't be fooled by her quiet facade; she is a chatterbox bursting with a vivacious personality. It is easy to see why she will go far in her career – much like myself, her passions is the driving force that will launch her to success, and hopefully, happiness as well.
Hidden away on Cyprus' busy streets is the gloriously beautiful MooN Dance Studio. Walking through the front doors, you would never guess that their main focus used to be pole dancing. MooN Dance Studio, with its paintings and art sculptures, all glistening in the sunlight peeking in through the windows, looks more like an art gallery than a dance studio.
If there is one thing I love about being a destination wedding photographer, it is getting to know my clients. Every couple has a story, ranging from the curious to the sensational to the totally romantic. I like to get a feel for what the couple's history is, as it helps me to get the mood of the photo session right. If they met while walking their dogs in the nearby park, an animal-friendly photo shoot at said park is a must. If they met over their mutual love of football, an engagement photo under the stadium lights and the stars is where it's at. I think you get the picture (no pun intended). :)
For Viktoria and Nick, it was those long walks along the bay that inspired me to have their photo shoot on the Molos promenade in Limassol, Cyprus. The evening hours give off the most beautiful orange-tinged light that casts itself all over the boardwalk. It is like something out of a movie scene to see the two lovebirds meet on the promenade. It reminds me of the first time they met.
Viktoria and Nick met at a barbecue hosted by a mutual friend in Cyprus. Viktoria, who was a native Hungarian living in Cyprus, and who is also a devout vegetarian, reached across the dinner table to get the salt. Nick reached for the salt at the same time, and the two touched hands ever so briefly. Think of all the movie scenes in romantic chick flicks where there is an instant spark, an energy and tension that forms from even the briefest of touches. The couple's eyes meet, and it is love at first sight. It must have happened for Viktoria and Nick, right? Isn't real life always like the movies? :)
Well, not this time... Viktoria got a little chilly after Nick tried to spark conversation by making fun of her vegetarian lifestyle, which didn't work out so well. Smooth move, Nick. ;) However, after seeing each other more and more through their mutual friends and seaside gatherings, a mutual attraction soon grew, and eventually, Nick and Viktoria made their relationship official. I guess he got over his girlfriend's love of leafy greens; love means leaving your life of steak dinners for “greener” pastures.
The two could not be happier. You can see it in their smiles, the firm way they grasp each other's hand as they walk down the promenade. There's no regret in their decision to forge a life together.
And to think, it all started over a shaker of salt... :)
One of the greatest joys of motherhood is the way it makes a person see the world with fresh eyes; so many things that we adults have gotten used to, even taken for granted, are to children the stuff of wonderment, prompting wide innocent smiles and peals of laughter.
In the presence of children, we witness so many “firsts” - first steps, first words, first trips to the park, and we truly begin to see every day as the new beginning it is. Each of these moments is so precious to a mother that it becomes her ultimate goal to capture them all, to make those jewels permanent in the form of photographs, videos, and other keepsakes.
Such was the situation with the beautiful Dutch family shown in the images below. The mother, Manja, had spent some of her happiest years in Cyprus, watching her two children grow up under the benevolent Mediterranean sunshine. The time had come, however, for a change and the family is soon moving back to their home in the Netherlands, where little Vico and Beau Jolie will continue growing up surrounded by their relatives.
While the children are, of course, bundles of excitement about being nearer to the rest of their family, for Manja, saying goodbye to Cyprus also meant closing the door on a blissful chapter in her family's life. As such, she decided it was the perfect time to cross something she had always dreamed of off her “bucket list”: a family photoshoot that would form the perfect lifelong memento of the wonderful years they had spent here.
While I have worked with many lovely people over my career as a destination photographer, I can truly say that Manja's devotion to her shoot was a rare delight for me: she enthusiastically worked with me, spending days planning the shoot, preparing props and accessories, and sending me inspiration until I knew exactly how to pull this shoot together.
When the big day came, there was only one thing left to take care of, something that could not be planned or predicted: striking up enough of a rapport with the children that I could get the shots I wanted. Thankfully, by the end of the shoot, the children and I were giggling away like old friends as I learned ballet jumps from Beau Jolie and football techniques from Vico.
The result was an amazing experience, a blissful day spent among the champagne-hued fields and beside the rippling blue waters of the sea, the brilliant colours of nature perfectly mirroring the blonde hair and blue eyes of the Brouwers. The white clothing and décor added the perfect note of purity, creating the sense of something heavenly as the loving family all clustered together for one of their last days out together on this magical island where time so often seems to stand still.
It is no secret that next to a wedding, fashion photography is my big love.
Beautiful models, awesome designer creations, gorgeous locations, lots of creativity - those are the words I can use to describe my latest editorial shooting I have organized during my trip to Cyprus.
I was lucky enough to meet Katerina, beautiful soul in love with smiles and life, and what is more important, fabulous fashion designer and young enterpreneur. Our story started with a simple coffee in Nicosia, resulted in so many ideas and plans.
This is our first fashion editorial, in collaboration with my good friend and photographer Cristian Dascalu and two wonderful models, Karina and Tina. Amazingly talented makeup artist Svitlana Koroleva made them even more beautiful.
Special thanks go to Hasan, who was our light assistant this time and to Sparta Sandals for providing our models amazing handmade leather sandals.
Whole editorial with this amazing team is coming out soon! :)
Carpe Diem spring/summer 2015
Photographers: Martina Hohnjec (Timeless Photography) & Cristian Dascalu
Light assistant: Hasaj Haj
Designer & stylist: Katerina Parpa (Carpe Diem)
Models: Karina Bond / Tina Andres
Makeup artist: Svitlana Koroleva
Hairstyle: Katerina Parpa
Shoes: Sparta Sandals
Accessories: Angeliki Savva (Trendy Accessories)
Video Editor: Filip Hohnjec
One of the greatest powers of the universe is the mysterious gravity which draws kindred souls together; often surprising and inexplicable, this force is a weaver of stories and shaper of lives, pulling those caught up in it in truly unexpected directions.
As a destination wedding and engagement photographer, I am lucky to have had the opportunity to hear about many such chance meetings between kindred souls, but few tales have so delighted me with their humour and candour as that of the meeting of Karen and Martins.
Back in June of 2013, Karen was just about to leave Cyprus, having decided to return to her home country, the Netherlands. It was a bitter-sweet parting; Karen was looking forward to seeing her homeland once more, but she would be sorely missed by her Cypriot co-workers. Rather than lament, however, they decided to throw her an unforgettable party - they wheedled and cajoled her to attend “Lost at Sea” boat party, wanting to have one last fun night out with the vivacious young woman they had come to know and love.
That decision had change the course of her life. At the other side of the boat, she sighted a handsome Latvian man—Martins—and her heart skipped a beat. Soon, the two were flirting the night away, eventually winding up on a beach with Martins' work colleagues, drinking champagne and drawing the eye of all the other party-goers. Even strangers could see at once that these two bright sparks belonged with one another, each burning with the same vivid inner light.
Martins was obviously intent on never letting Karen out of his sight; over the next year and half, he gave up his job to follow her to the Netherlands, then accompanied her on her travels around the world (touring Latvia, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia) before the two finally decided to settle down where it all began—in sunny Cyprus, where I was invited to come take their pictures.
In keeping with the tale of Karen and Martins' first meeting, I chose to hold their couples shoot at beautiful Curium Beach—a wild, untouched wonder of nature where windswept cliffs cascade dramatically down toward the sea, their pale faces crowned with gold and green.
The breeze danced beautifully with Karen's hair and scarf, adding a wonderful sense of motion to the images which I happily experimented with for a long while before taking a break to wait for the sun to set. When I paused the session, Martins delighted us all by going to buy some wine at the nearest store, enabling us to spend our break chatting like old friends, musing on life, travelling, and Cyprus as the wind brushed our cheeks and the sun bathed us in its mellow rays.
This shoot was a blissful finale for me, the perfect end to my time in Cyprus. I will always remember that island with great fondness as a place where unique and diverse people come together, sharing stories, life, and love beneath the warm honey of the Mediterranean sun... Then, like birds, many of them fly away home, their hearts rich with memories.
The adage which states life begins when you step out of your comfort zone proved to true both literally and metaphorically for Julie, a vivacious Scottish beautician I met recently through my work as a destination wedding photographer.
Though I am natively a Croatian wedding photographer, I am available worldwide for shoots and have recently spent a long while in Cyprus, so I am no longer used to meeting people as gregarious as Julie; many people in this region of the world are rather quiet and keep to themselves, independently going about their lives. Julie, though, radiates a bubbly life-force that draws everyone to her—so much so that she was well-known and liked by all of her neighbours at the apartment complex she lived in just over a year ago.
Naturally, then, when a handsome single Dutchman by the name of Bart moved in to the said complex, titillated whispers lit up the building as its residents immediately saw a potential match for Julie. Soon, her customers at work were telling her about the charming newcomer to her flat and doing their best to set up a date—which Julie at first flatly refused.
But, the seed was planted—as she went about her day-to-day life, she could not help but start to look for Bart in and around her building, to notice the twinkle in his eye and the warmth of his smile. Something in her heart started to tug at her, telling her to take a chance, to ignore her hesitancy and take a risk on a possibly awkward blind date with a stranger.
Eventually, Julie accepted the invitation to go out for a drink, and when she let herself meet Bart's eyes for the first time, she felt a sense of instant, unmistakeable connection. One date turned into many, and within a few months, the couple realised that the only times their flat truly felt like “home” was when they were together in it. As such, they decided to take their biggest risk yet; despite how new their relationship was, they chose to move in together.
Their choice was immediately blessed—that New Year's, Julie was overjoyed to discover the greatest of surprises: She was expecting a baby! In a whirlwind of holiday celebration, she and Bart got engaged, and are now planning a wedding for a next year.
The little decorative box I photographed Julie's ring on perfectly captures what has unfolded for this couple: “Every once in a while... right in the middle of ordinary life... love gives you a fairytale.” As you can see from the pictures, their life has started to unfold like something from a storybook; in March, they moved into a beautiful big house surrounded by a palm-strewn garden, a little patch of paradise all their own. Inside, however, there were many signs that Julie and Bart have held onto their down-to-earth candour and sense of humour; I found an adorable “wedding fund” piggy bank, surrounded by seemingly endless congratulations cards from their friends and family, as well as a quirky plaque.
After capturing these mementos, I took the couple to the beautiful Ayios Georgios Alamanou rocks (near Governor's Beach in Cyprus). This beautiful beach has long been a place for lovers to walk, hand-in-hand, as the sun sets, finding hidden nooks among the many sea caves and tiny islets where they might quietly whisper their secrets, dreams, hopes, and fears, their voices blending into the soothing murmur of the waves.
I shot Julie and Bart against the beach's famous stones, which rise as pure and white as dove's wings from the inky black sands below and overlook the shimmering waters of the Mediterranean sea. This uncluttered yet dramatic landscape draws the eye out to the endless blue horizon, creating a thrilling sense of the unknown and making one contemplate the majesty of the future—the perfect aura to surround this couple, whose fairytale has truly only just begun.
The wind softly caresses her hair, the sun kisses her skin, nature recognizes her as her child and embraces her. Never has her beauty been so strong and present, never have her eyes shown that special spark of freedom and happiness, a wild child, a wild love.
For me as a photographer, it is my ultimate goal to unite both nature's and fashion's beauty, to create a perfect ensemble of a free spirited wearing a breathtaking dress that makes her one with mother nature and at the same time makes her stand out and shows her inner beautiful energy. She is a strong individual, she knows what she wants and she knows her strength. But at the same time there is this undeniable softness in her soul, the elegance in her movement that is reflected by the lightness of the fabric flowing down her body, moving in the wind, dancing to the distant sound of a melody only she can hear. The sound of freedom, the sound of passion, a sound that takes your mind to some far away place where everything is possible and where there are no rules to follow. She is the bride, she is personified passion and love, she is the object of her husband's desire but also she is the unique individual living her dreams, fighting for her passions, caring for her loved ones.
Beauty does not have to be complex all the time, look at the simple but stunning beauty that lies in the lively flowing of a river, in the calm presence of a mountain lake, in the impressive strength of an old tree, held upright by roots that go so much deeper than anyone would ever imagine. Beauty often lies in the simple things. A gentle breeze moving the branches, a small bird singing its song.
The Akrotiri Salt lake in Cyprus inspired me to create this setting as a mixture of fairy tale, love story and adventure. You can find the 'behind the scenes' and some extra material here.
My bride is a woman who knows it does not take a loud and screaming styling to make perfectly stage her beauty. She surrounds herself with elegance and simplicity, which also shows in the simple but all the more beautiful shape and flow of her dress. She becomes one with nature, finds back to her own roots only to grow even stronger. Her strength and her softness combine and create her own unique aura, feminine, beautiful, pure grace. And she is standing there, her eyes fixed on the horizon, awaiting new adventures...
While fanfare provides its own sort of rapture, as a photographer I delight in capturing something far more rare: True intimacy.
Having frequently acted as a destination wedding photographer, I am used to boisterous Mediterranean celebrations, but during my recent two-month stay in Cyprus, I was treated to a rare display of relaxed, low-key closeness full of little moments of enchantment.
I was invited to shoot the wedding of a beautiful Polish girl named Aleksandra and her dashing Lebanese groom, Ghassan, on location there in Nicosia. To my surprise, I found that the only guests were to be their witnesses, Celine and Charbel. This might seem unusual and informal at first glance, but as it turns out, these four friends (all professional architects living in Lebanon) functioned like a little family of their own, with Celine and Charbel celebrating their own union in tandem with the happy couple: The six month anniversary of their Paris wedding.
The quirky chemistry of the four friends was most evident in their choice of attire: The men's unusul blue suits (with brown leather ties) were the perfect complement to Aleksandra's home-made bouquet (comprised of both real flowers and cut paper), with its bold blue accents, while the green leaves in said bouquet balanced her unusual choice of shoes. I loved the extra kick of colour her green heels added to her ensemble, breaking up the miles of white that usually goes with being a bride. Celine added the final note of aesthetic harmony, with her blue heels and cute peach dress adding a bit of warmth to offset all the cool tones worn by the others. Getting to see the vibrance of their originality reminded me that the greatest joy of being a destination wedding photographer is not solely about the new places you see—it is very much about the diverse and unique people you meet.
Without the organisational logistics of getting a large group of people together, we were all able to savour the experience of the wedding, to take our time and not worry about schedules. As such, after the ceremony, we all took a leisurely stroll through the old part of Nicosia, where the four architects delighted in the marvels there: the grand buildings with their old windows and doors. As we passed in front of a big house covered in flowers, an old lady came out to congratulate the newly married couple in Greek, sharing an offering of fresh home-made lemonade—the perfect toast.
And so the magic of love, friendship, and the warmth of the Cypriot people combined to end the day on a truly golden note. As you can see expressed by the playful candour of the four friends posing together in the outdoor photos, love and happiness do not require spectacle and expense to be genuine, heartfelt, and moving—at their best, they are simply natural.