It has been a while since I’ve posted a story on my blog, but few days ago I felt like the time had come. I have so many stories on the list and its my goal for this year is to present to you as many as I can. My life is gravitating more towards photography everyday: I photograph between 25 and 40 weddings a year, I shoot on the streets daily (sometimes with my camera, but most of the time I use my Iphone), I attend photography conferences and workshops, sometimes I go to exhibitions held in London (or when I am in Romania, close to my home there), I am a member of the team that organizes the largest wedding photography conference in Romania (WEDDCAMP) and few times a year I organize wedding photography workshops for Romanian wedding photographers.
EGADI WEDDING GLAMOUR 2016
Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell you the story of my latest visit to Italy and at the end I will give you the reasons why I attend wedding photography conferences and how I choose the best ones.
It all started during WEDDCAMP 2016, when Daniele Vertelli (one of our special guests for the 2016 edition and one of the greatest wedding photographers in the world) invited me to come to Italy for a conference that I might like a lot. I am a guy who wouldn’t normally have thought twice, but I asked a few important questions about the event: when and where in Italy? I found out that it was in Sicily between 31st of October and 5th of November 2016.
Not a great period Gabriela and myself already had to teach a sold out workshop on 2nd and 3rd of November. As I really wanted to go, we asked the participants of our workshop if we could move the date one week after it was scheduled. Fortunately for me they all agreed! Only after their approval was I able to start planning my trip. I found out that Egadi Wedding Glamour was taking place on three beautiful islands located on the North-West of Sicily: Marettimo, Favignana and Levanzo (all part of Egadi islands). “I have never been there“, I said to Gabriela. One more reason to go. Scenes from Malèna, one of my favorites movies of all time, started to come into my mind. After we got the final confirmation we were able to move the workshop I booked the flights to Trapani, the closest city to Marettimo, the base of this conference. Daniele had already told me about the line-up, it was great one with people I have met before and people I’ve always wanted to meet: Erika and Lanny Mann, Pedro Cabrera, Andrea Corsi, Vinny Labella and Nacho Mora, Franck Boutonnet, Gerardo Ojeda, Edoardo Morina, Julian Kanz, Ivan Troyanovski, Dennis Berti, Luigi Rota and Sergio Cancelliere.
When it comes to conferences and workshops, I always arrive with little expectations. My only expectation was about the place, and I expected to find a beautiful location. I left Bucharest for my first destination which was Milano.
Before moving forward I want to tell you that this is the story of the only non-Italian attendee of Egadi 2016, except the speakers and the masters of the conference. Understanding and speaking Italian is a must to attend Egadi, understanding Spanish and French might be an advantage if you want to go to Egadi. To tell the story I took with me a Canon 6D, a Canon 35 mm lens f.2 (I want to say that the perspective of 35mm terrifies me and I am 24 mm lover), two 32 GB Sandisk cards, 2 batteries and a charger, a 15” MacBook Pro and 1 TB Western Digital hard drive.
Let’s proceed. While waiting for the flight from Milano to Trapani I met Massimiliano Bocchio. I did not expect a native Italian to speak English so soon into my journey, but Massimo is the type of person who understands and speaks English on that level you can have a nice conversation. We spoke a bit about Egadi and I started to understand more about the purpose of this gathering.
On boarding the plane I met another lovely guy, Luigi Rota, one of the organizers of Egadi. He told me he would take care of me during this trip.
We landed safely on Trapani’s ground and a car was waiting for us and another 8 people. We squeezed ourselves into the car for a half an hour journey before getting to the old city center of Trapani. For the first night I shared the same apartment with Daniele and Luigi and I remember we had a lovely dinner organized by Sergio Cancelliere (our host) and everyone who was in town that night was invited. PIZZA time!! Trust me, it was PIZZA not pizza!!! It was lovely meeting Fabio Mirulla, Vinny Labella and Nacho Mora and others, people I have only followed on Facebook before.
Early next morning, before leaving for the Marettimo base, I met Lanny again, Erika and their kids Madelyn and Timmy. I was happy to find someone who spoke English fluently (I am not a fluent speaker, but I was happy). You have to check their travel blog: Manns around the world. Stunning images there!
Arriving on the island, we were welcomed with traditional Sicilian music. Right after the arrival, Sergio shared our apartments and rooms. I was really honored to share the same house with Gerardo Ojeda.
We had 5 days full of workshops, presentations and parties (almost every night)! The content was awesome and I took home so many things I have already implemented into my way of shooting and into my way of seeing things. Besides learning so much about photography, I met so many beautiful people. I met Fabio Mirulla and Ivan Troyanovski, two of the speakers of WEDDCAMP 2017 and many other great people like: Daniele Vertelli, Andrea Corsi, Sergio Cancelliere, Pedro Cabrera, Marian Bader Duven, Erika and Lanny Mann, Clara Noli, Donatella Barbera, Sara Sganga, Maria Zavaglia, Alessia Franco, Massimilano Bocchio, Roberta de Min, Monica Sica, Pasquale Minniti, Fortunato Caracciolo, Angelo Belvedere, Dennis Berti, Franck Boutonnet, Julian Kanz, Luigi Rota, Vinny Labella, Nacho Mora, Eduardo Morina, Francesca Nicolosi, Laura Alessandrini, Tomasso Nuti, Rino and Gigi Cordella and many others who I had the pleasure to speak to (I am sorry if I missed anyone, there were so many).
My expectations about the place had been fulfilled! Even if I had only seen 2% of Sicily I am deeply in love and I can not wait to return. When I first stepped on Marettimo’s soil I said to myself: “This must be a small piece of Heaven!” Even though it was November the temperature was so hot outside. The blue shade of the water was something incredible and the nights were so silent. One night I saw the Milky Way with my own eyes using a trick that I learned from Pedro Cabrera. Thank you mate!
And man, Italian photographers really know how to party! I also loved the Italian style meals with tables spread out in one line all over the street and I am sorry that I missed the tour around the island (I was desperate in need of sleep, and slept all day during the free day).
If you love to eat fish (especially tuna), Egadi is the perfect place.
I forgot to mention the translation was perfect thanks to Clara Noli and Marian Bader Duven.
Scrolling down you can see how much fun Egadi was and at the end you can find out my thoughts on how I go about choosing the conferences I want to attend.
Every story has an end. As I always do, after Egadi I allowed myself two days to visit Trapani and the surrounding area. If you ever get the chance to go there, do not miss to see the sunset from the top of Mount Erice. Do you know that feeling when you see a sunset and you only want to enjoy the moment instead of taking pictures? This happened to me. Sorry, no pictures of that sunset, you can find images all over the internet.
I walked almost 30 km during the two days. I enjoyed the architecture and the vibe of Trapani, I heard the stories of some people I had met on the streets and I tried some of their traditional food: Arancini (very tasteful fried balls of rice), I could not miss out on the Cannoli (a tube of fried dough filled with sweetened ricotta and topped with candied fruit, pistachios, or chocolate chips) and Pane e Pannelle (bread with fritters made with chickpea flour).
HOW I CHOOSE THE CONFERENCES AND WORKSHOPS I ATTEND?
- Someone I trust has to recommend the workshop or the conference! Big thanks to Daniele Vertelli for recommending Egadi to me!
- It has to be a balanced investment! For example my investment in Egadi was 1100 € including flights, accommodation and food for 5 nights and I spent an additional 200 € in the last two days while visiting Trapani. For this amount of money I got 3 one-day workshops, 2 half day workshops and 7 presentations. If you take every workshop separately and do the math you can easily go over 2500 € without accommodation, flights and meals.
- It has to be in a place I have never been to before. I can go back there many times if I like the initial experience.
- The line-up should have at least 50% of speakers I know and I admire. I knew 95% of the Egadi speakers and masters and I admire their work. Their way of shooting and seeing things should be close to my vision, but I always appreciate when I hear someone who is really different. Sometimes I learn more from these photographers.
- The overall vibe of the gathering should be professional and it has to be FUN. I have attended some conferences in the past where I felt there was a major distance between speakers and attendees. We are all humans.
- I have to trust the brand, if I don’t trust a brand I won’t buy it.
- I have to identify if I can learn from other attendees' experiences. I spent almost all the time there with old and new friends and I love to share my knowledge.