When you close your eyes and imagine a maternity session on the beach, what do you see? Beautiful details, stunning floral designs, a model with professional hair and makeup that took hours, stunning ocean views? Yeah, that’s what we thought, too! And then we went a step further and decide to make it a milkbath session. Mind. Blown!
I had been working closely with Blazeny, a mother/daughter event design team, as well as with Lauryn our model and also a contributing vendor for the shoot. She makes the most stunning macrame pieces including jewelry, plant hangers, wall art and more. She created a custom piece specifically for this. Her shop is Roots Co. and you’re welcome! You’ll be addicted just as quickly as I was! This was a dream team for sure and I was ecstatic for the opportunity to collaborate with them all on this next level milkbath maternity shoot.
Another key player in his shoot was Lauryn’s father. He’d spent hours refurbishing an antique bathtub she’d bought and he even delivered it the day of the session down onto the beach. We’d obtained our permits to photograph on the state beach as required. We needed it to gain permission to drive his truck to our site to unload it. The state also needed to make sure we weren’t trying to create anything XXX. Apparently, that’s a real concern. The permits were not easy to obtain and we didn’t even officially receive them until the day prior. Relieved and permitted, we were ready for our shoot!
The morning of the session, I drove over to the coast excited to meet with all the vendors there including Blazeny, Lauryn, White Oaks Florist, and others. As I arrived, I stopped to take in the stunning ocean in front of me with a grateful heart. It was a beautiful day and I couldn’t wait to start shooting. Walking down onto the beach, I quickly realized that setup was taking longer than planned. I placed my equipment down nearby and began to help.
Suddenly, I noticed that the tide seemed to be coming in very rapidly. The shoreline was initially a good 30-40 feet away. In a matter of minutes, it was less than 15. I made a comment about it to the others there and no one seemed too concerned so we remained focused on the set. They reassured me that they’d checked the tides and that we’d be good with a low tide till the mid-afternoon. I had experienced a few times in my life how quickly the ocean, currents, and tides could change. My gut was screaming at me that we needed to get out of there immediately.
In a split second, the water was at our feet. As I looked out to the water, I could see the swelling of the waves coming our way. I grabbed my equipment and started to direct everyone away from the shore. The spot we were located at was along a cliff and we were all in serious danger.
There was nowhere to go but up. Lauryn, about 9 months pregnant, her 3 year old daughter, her husband, myself and a few others climbed to safety as the swell came crashing into our set. Erika, one of the ladies from Blazeny, was fiercely fighting the water while desperately holding onto anything she could grab. She’d tossed up the macrame piece Lauryn had spent countless hour making with barely any water on it. We all stood in shock as the 300+ pound tub, hundreds of dollars worth of floral creations, our buckets of warm water for the bath, the arch, the rug, all of it washing away into the ocean.
Unbelievably, 80% of our set had been washed up in a matter of minutes. All the time and hard work spent on those details were gone just like that. Thank heavens Erika was able to ground herself somehow in the water and avoided serious injury. Thank God Lauryn was able to climb up that cliff with her daughter. As the water died down, we all began to walk the shoreline salvaging anything we could.
Erika was soaked to her chest but nothing was stopping her determination to get our set back. She shamelessly wadded through waves to grab the rug, some florals, buckets, anything the water would give back. Lauryn’s father and husband worked to get the tub to shore. It was now dented and scratched from rolling around in the current. We were heartbroken to see the restoration he’d work so hard on completely destroyed.
We weren’t able to save much of the set and most of our florals were gone. Though devastated, all of us tried to stay focused on the fact that we were safe and alright. No one was seriously hurt and that alone was a mircale we were grateful for. It could’ve gone very differently. To this day, we all believed our angels were with us.
As we regrouped, calmed our nerves, and assessed the damage, Lauryn’s father drove his truck down onto the shore to load and bring up the tub. We watched in shock as another swell unexpectedly arose and began to cause the truck to become buried in the pebble-like sand. This time, the water kept rising and rising. Her father was able to get out of harms way but only to hopelessly stand by and watch as the waterline reached his door and higher. Lauryn was understandably emotional as we all were. It was all incredibly upsetting but especially for her to watch everything her father was enduring.
We had no choice but the call CHP as well as AAA to come and tow out his buried truck. This all took hours though it felt like days. The whole morning was exhausting and we didn’t know if after all of that we’d even have a shoot. We decided that the best next step was for us to get away from the beach and go recover over lunch and some drinks. For me, that meant fries and a couple beers. Exactly the remedy I needed.
Sharing some laughs and food, we were all feeling our spirits restore but in need of some rest and a new plan. We sent Lauryn to her hotel for a long nap and to decide whether she’d be comfortable still having some sort of shoot that day. The rest of us went into full positive thinking and planning mode. We didn’t come this far not to make something happen. It may not be anything near what we’d worked to create for months, but we felt we owed it to ourselves to have a result worthy of our efforts.
Teamwork and determination were rising up in us just as those swells had. We refocus and planned out the best possible set recovery we could. After gathering some additional greenery and carrying the salvaged set pieces down 6 flights of stairs onto an entirely different beach, we were making it happen. At this point, it was a race against the clock to complete the new floral design on our arch and to get Lauryn photo ready with touchups before losing sunlight. WE HUSTLED! More importantly, we made it happened! Above all else, we made ourselves proud.
While I was shooting, I could feel the magic people. Lauryn’s bravery to get back on a beach the same day after experiencing something so traumatic had INSPIRED me in a way I just can’t even describe. As mothers, we have to overcome and survive so much. We have to grow from the difficult moments and keep pushing on. She did just that and with such grace and courage.
Driving home that evening, I had such a heart of gratitude and humility. I was eager to edit the images and show everyone the level of professionalism we all delivered and the amazing images we had as a result. Knowing that once they saw them, they’d be just as overwhelmed with pride and appreciation for what we’d created together as I was. Despite the unpredictable obstacles we’d faced, we made magic so beautiful that no one would ever know just what it took to accomplish what we did. We made it look easy! Effortless, despite unimaginable effort. It was an experience I’ll never forget and because of it, I have deeper relationships with everyone who shared that day with me.