Among the most fun days of a freelance photographer is the opportunity to travel and take photos. When I was contacted about the possibility of photographing Real Housewives of Miami star Adriana De Moura in Seattle, I jumped at the chance. Due to a previous job working at a celebrity gossip and TV show website, I had accumulated more than enough trivia information on the Real Housewives series to be considered a fan. Admittedly, my knowledge of the Real Housewives of Miami was hazy, but that changed really quickly.
As I do before most assignments, I set out to conducting some online research of my soon-to-be photo subject. I Googled her name to discover that she had recently posed nude in a bathtub for PETA, read her Wikipedia biography to discover she’s Brazilian and fluent in 5 languages, and scanned through the latest photo collections I could find of her. Finally, I watched a few episodes of Real Housewives of Miami–the pilot, an episode from season 2, and the latest episode from the show’s third season. I admit I didn’t watch the full episodes, partially due to time constraints and the fact that I found myself getting sucked into the drama. The last thing I wanted to do was form preconceived negative thoughts towards a photo subject before meeting her. After conducting my research, I still had no idea what to expect, but I was excited!
Based on what my assigning editor had told me, we assumed it would be a quick and simple fashion shoot, probably at her hotel at the Four Seasons. I was shocked when Adriana called me the night before asking for my full name and weight. “May I ask why you need this information?” I inquired cautiously. “Oh, it’s for the seaplane we’re taking up to the islands to see the whales tomorrow.” HUH?! This piece of news threw my expectations off even more, so to be safe, I brought two loaded bags filled with photography gear: two DSLRs, several lenses, a huge reflector, flash units, a tripod, Pocket Wizards…the works! As I was driving to the hotel, my phone beeped with a new email–I finally head a headline from my assigning editor, alerting me of a quick idea of what the whole point of the assignment was. It’s a followup to Adriana’s racy PETA ad in which she visits the San Juan Islands to see where Lolita, an orca living in the Miami Seaquarium, was captured over 40 years ago. Ahhhh. Ok. You couldn’t imagine my surprise when I arrived on the scene to meet Adriana herself, dressed down in jeans, a top, and black and hot pink sneakers. No publicist, no manager, no entourage. Just her.
It ended up being a fantastic day. Adriana and I caught a taxi to Kenmore Air’s station in South Lake Union and quickly boarded a tiny seaplane with 4 other visiting passengers. Having grown up with a pilot dad and spending my early adult life skydiving as a hobby, I was used to squeezing into tiny Cessna airplanes, and luckily Adriana was adventurous enough to find excitement in being in such a tiny airplane. She did comment however that her husband would never get into such a tiny space! Before we knew it, we had taken off over Lake Union and were soaring high above Seattle for a beautiful 45 minute flight up to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands. Adriana was extremely down-to-earth and made no reference at all to the Real Housewives of Miami, except for mentioning at the end of the day that the houseboat her husband Frederic was rebuilding had originally been docked in Friday Harbor. Upon reaching Friday Harbor, we checked in at the whale watching tent, after discovering that the original office building had burned down in a fire only a few days prior.
Left with an hour to spare before the boat took off, we explored the town of Friday Harbor by foot, admiring the cute shops and cafes. When Adriana revealed that Miami, much to my surprise, didn’t have much fresh seafood available besides lobsters, we beelined for a seafood grill to sample some fresh crab cakes and BBQ’ed oysters.
After stopping by the market to pick up some snacks and some espresso, we boarded our boat with a group of about 20 other people and were bound north in search of Lolita’s relatives. The ride north ended up being a little over an hour long. Despite the blue skies and sunshine that greeted us in Friday Harbor, we watched with dread as the clouds turned grey and the wind and waves picked up as we sped along. Luckily, the whale watching company stocked the boat full of thick, durable rain slickers and warm blankets. Before we knew it, we had crossed over into Canadian waters and finally found signs of an orca pod.
Funny enough, my travels as of late have had me spotting quite a few whales, mostly humpback whales while traveling to Mexico in January, Hawaii in May, and Alaska in June. It had been close to decade since I’d seen orcas, last during a marine biology cruise in high school. Despite living in the Pacific Northwest for close to 8 years, this was my first time encountering whales in the region, so my excitement mirrored that of Adriana’s, who until that moment had never seen whales in the wild. Our boat spent close to an hour quietly observing the gentle giants as they made their way around the boat.
The boat ride back was a little more treacherous, with outside seating pretty much impossible due to the whipping wind and roaring waves pelting everyone with water. A few brave souls including myself attempted to withstand the weather in our rain slickers. But after taking a beating, I joined Adriana on the floor inside of the covered part of the boat, which was far too small to properly seat all of the passengers on the boat. Adriana and I spent the boat ride back huddled in the warmth and dryness of the floor. She quizzed me on what life was like in Seattle, and we had a great conversation about the pros and cons of living in a northern city versus a southern, tropical escape. I loved her inquisitive nature and open minded way of thinking. She was truly a pleasure to converse with, and even the naturalists and other passengers on board never suspected she was anyone more than a visitor to Seattle with a huge passion for whales and animals.
Upon arriving back to Friday Harbor, we warmed up by grabbing hot chocolate at a local cafe before racing back to the seaplane terminal. We were dismayed to find that we couldn’t board the same plane together, and said our goodbyes on the waterfront dock of Friday Harbor. All in all, it was truly a memorable day that I won’t soon be forgetting! It reinforced so much about what I’ve learned about outward appearances–you shouldn’t ever judge a book by its cover, or in this case, what you see on television or the media.