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Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

It’s hard to believe that just over a week ago I was telling you all about my enrollment in the Matador U’s Travel Writing course.  Now a couple of weeks in, I have submitted my first assignment – writing about my home town.  There have been a couple of revisions to the initial draft, but I hope that you all feel like you are with me as I returned ‘Home’ to this place I love so much.

Travel writing evolution Assignment – Returning home

Reminders of home

Across the farming land I see them.  The high-rises of my home town.  Two concrete wheat silos standing tall above the mallee scrub. Their corrugated tin roofs reflecting the hot summer sun’s rays back up into the brilliant blue, cloudless sky, and I know I’m almost home.

IMG_3449

The newest additions to Patche – Two 10 meter tall Mallee Fowls. The intention is that they will become a draw card for travellers hoping to tick visiting all the ‘big things’ off their list.

Past the ‘Welcome to Patchewollock’ sign the deserted main street is a familiarity.  The football oval a silvery grey, with bands of brown.  The grass long dead after years of drought and the weeds now crusty from the early summer heat. The old general store, though closed now for years, stands beyond black and yellow striped tape, a caution by the council of danger.  The local hotel, the hub of our community, freshly painted but desolate.  The farmers too busy with harvest to call in for a cold beer or a quite yarn.

Across the road, two giant mallee fowls. Their 10 meter tall structures built to honor this native flightless bird that was once thought to be close to extinction, but now which frequently roams across our remote desert landscape.  They seem strange; foreign, yet their sculptured bodies and finely detailed painted feathers provide our small town with a glimmer of tourist hope.

Nothing has really changed, but it all seems slightly different.  Perhaps I am seeing it through new eyes. Once a town at the ‘end of the line’, many may see it as a lost cause.  A town without life, without heart, without hope, but I know its secret.

Before I know it we are out of town. Where I’d previously thought a puddle of water lay on the road, now only dry bitumen remains. The watery mirage from the 40 degree heat now dancing on the road 50 meter’s ahead.

Golden Fields of Wheat

Golden Fields of Wheat

As far as the eye can see, paddocks after paddock of golden wheat line the road, their full heads of grain swaying in the light summer breeze, a living tribute to the settlers that selected and cleared this land in the early 1900′s. Land that their grandchildren and great grandchildren continue to work and graze in this harsh but un-spoilt corner of Victoria’s northwest.

The blue bitumen turns to white gypsum and the white gypsum to red dirt. The type of dirt that burns your feet on a hot summer’s day, that’s fine enough to stick to your skin after a hard day’s work and the type of dirt that creates a layer of dust on EVERYTHING inside the house after a mid-season dust storm. I know I am home.

The shearing shed, the grain shed. The tractors and the trucks, all reminders of my childhood.  Memories engrained in the sand, the sheds and the land these machines have worked.

Memories of racing through the pouring rain on pushbikes. Of sitting on Dad’s knee and steering the huge tractor and of resting in its wheel hub while sharing cheese and jam sandwiches under a shady tree in the middle of the vast open paddocks.

The smell of freshly turned soil after a rain and the sound of large rain drops falling on the tin roof as I fell to sleep on stormy summer nights. Of waking up to the stillness and calmness of the farm.  The only noise that of birds chirping in the cool of the morning and of the dogs barking, marking the new day.

Getting out of the car, the still dry heat hits me. It has been 20 months since I was last home and only 30 hours since I left a snow dusted Calgary. It feels a long way from where I have come, but everything about this place remains alive within me and I know in my heart that this will always be my home.

DSC_0479_Snapseed - Shearing shed

I always know this is ‘home’

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For some time now I have been tossing up about the idea of undertaking a writing course, a photography course or both. And then I think about the cost of them and wonder if I could manage to ‘self-teach’ myself everything that there is to know. *Insert laughter here*

Procrastination of these sort of things are something that I know all to well. But last week I decided to take the plunge. Yep. I finally enrolled in the Matador University Travel writing course, (http://matadornetwork.com/) and after the initial ‘OMG What have I done!’, which is what I usually do when things outside of the norm happen, I’m feeling good about the decision I’ve made.

Obviously by my *insert laughter here* comment earlier, like most things outside the daily grind, actually taking the time for myself to sit down and research what I needed to learn about travel writing would wane over time, not to mention the extra time it would take to ‘filter’ through all the information that is available on the worldwide web. Then again in 6 months, 12 months, or even 3 years time I’d still be in the same place, wishing I had done something about it way back when.

Being an online course, Matador allows me the ability to undertake my research, read my notes and complete my assignments at a time that is convenient to me (if this week is anything to go by, that is usually around 10pm at night when I crawl into bed). I have undertaken self paced study before and at times I’ve found it difficult to find the mind space when I got home from work to sit down and study, especially when you are studying subjects to further your career.

While Matador doesn’t technically give you a ‘must complete by date’, a new chapter is released weekly, meaning if you wish, you can finish the course in as little as 12 weeks (my personal aim is to have the course completed by March 31st, 2013). The added bonus – you have life long access to the course material and website for the small upfront fee of $350. In reality.. over time, it’s a great investment.

I know a lot of you are probably thinking, ‘yeah, but if you only need to access it for the first 12 weeks, it’s pretty expensive’, well think about this.

Matador also provides you with a forum for you to post live blog content, photographs and film footage, allowing you to gain valuable feedback from like-minded community members and educators as well as access to a wide variety of paid writing, photography and film opportunities. And for a company that has an association with well-known organizations such as ‘National Geographic‘, Society of American Travel Writers (S A T W), Aol Travel and Transitions Abroad.com, how could anyone not consider a Matador’s course.

DSC01602Aside from everything that Matador offers, undertaking this course allows me to have ME time. Allows me to do something that I love doing – writing. If simply I just learn tips and techniques that only my friends and family read, along with a handful of travelers, I will still be happy.

Obviously there’s a much greater goal (as mentioned in my blog ‘‘ earlier this week), but if Plan A doesn’t happen.. I can still live the Plan B life I’m currently living – that of a contract para-planner with a wish to work all over the world.

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The Details:

Who: Matador University

What: Self-paced online study for:

Time Line: Minimum: 12 weeks / maximum: unlimited

Cost: $350US (occasional discounts may apply)

Note: You have the ability to sign up for a week’s trial for $10US on any of the courses. Should you feel that Matador is not for you, you can cancel your enrollment at anytime prior to the full amount being debited against your account.

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Sometimes I know I’m delusional.. other times I like to believe that unrealistic dreams can come true. But for them to have any chance, you must take the first step.

For some it’s winning the lottery, losing weight, getting married, starting your own business .. for me.. it’s to travel the world on someone else’s money. Each of these requires a starting point.  Purchasing a ticket. Committing to a regime. Allowing yourself to be open to opportunities. Taking risks.  For me it’s a little bit of each of the last two.. being open to opportunities and taking risks.

So after putting myself out there to be critiqued by others (this blog does that) and opening myself and sharing my dreams..I put a wedge in the door on December 17th and submitted my entry in World Nomads 2012 Travel Photography Scholarship.. the prize… a trip to Oman with the opportunity to work alongside Australia’s own and world reknown photographer, Jason Edwards – How could I NOT enter..

To check out my pictures that are keeping my foot in the door and it slightly ajar, click here or copy and paste the link below into your browser:

http://journals.worldnomads.com/jean12/photos/36335/Australia/My-Scholarship-entry-A-place-I-have-visited

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Ever since I got my new camera I’ve wondered if I could manage to pull off one of those spectacular startrail photographs that grace the web.

Surely with the camera I’ve got (Nikon D5100) I should have at least half a chance, but alas my first attempt in the Canadian Rockies at the remote location of Beaverfoot Lodge left ALOT to be desired and me wondering if I could ever really pull this photography trick off.  Needless to say my spirits that night were down and out…

Fast forward a couple of months and I am now back home in Australia and in our little corner of Victoria.

The best part of growing up on a farm is that there is no light pollution from the big city lights (we live about 3km out of town and the town would be lucky to have 5/6 street lights!).. the other part about being back home in Oz is that it is Summer and even at 10:30 / 11:00 at night, the temperature is still hovering around a mild 25 degrees celsius, so standing outside is actually quite pleasant.

But back to tonight.

I was just returning from a walk when I noticed the moon rising. A full moon and it was BIG.  It was just peaking over the hill to the left of Mum’s house and I got the idea that I would try and photograph it.  Again, not a well thought out plan.

For christmas I had received a remote shutter release (very happy I might add) and I thought that this might give me a good chance to try it out.  Unfortunately my attempt to photograph the spectacular moon was a bit like trying to photograph stars for the first time  –  under prepared and a total failure.

That’s when I decided to turn my attention to startrails again.

I sat on the front veranda and googled on my iPhone until I found some instructions and then decided to give it another crack.  I fiddled with my settings for a while.. took a photo, reviewed it and did this basically until I captured the first photograph that gave me a good image of the stars that I was trying to photograph.  Then I clicked away for the next half an hour or so to gain a collection of photos.

This is one of the first images:

It wasn’t until I had taken the 6th or 7th photo that I realised that I was photographing the Southern Cross
Southern cross
Note the southern Cross in the top left hand corner (points of the red cross)
In all I took approx. 16 photos, after all I was just experimenting. With the use of some software called startrails, layering each of the pictures on top of each other was so simple, the program does it for you (highly recommended for any other novices out there).  And this is my result….
Startrails over the Mallee
Now I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not the best.
There is too long of a gap between my shutter releases (this is what is causing the dotted effect), but for a second attempt I’m pretty damn happy.  My next attempt will include a much more interesting foreground scene and fingers crossed some smooth startrails.  Now.. about that moon…

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I first saw the Grand Canyon out the window of a plane….a small plane.

In 2010 I spoilt myself with an hour and a half flight in a little 10 seater aeroplane.  Back then though I thought that I was landing at the Grand Canyon and that I would get to spend the day taking in all the wonderful and amazing views.  It was not to be.  Somehow I had incorrectly selected the ‘flight only’ option which included simply, just that.

At the time I was disappointed.  Really disappointed, but I have since learnt that there is a reason why these things happen and in late September I found out why!.

After exploring the Valley of Fire with Fi, I got to spend the next day exploring the West Rim of the Grand Canyon with Laura.  And what a day it was.  I’m not sure how many times we said ‘this is amazing’ to each other as we wandered around the various points at Eagle Point (see above – can you spot the Eagle Kaylene??) and Grotto Point. But they simply were and I thought that I’d share some with you, just so you can see for yourself.e

(Test yourself on the first pic.. once you spot the eagle, can you spot the dog and his ball – it’s amazing what the natives can see!)

First stop – The Ranch.. complete with snake warnings.. thank goodness I never heard any ‘rattling’

Always the way! 

The Grand Canyon Skywalk.. Yes we did!

Enjoying unbelievable views at Grotto Point

 

Quite simply ‘Trail Closed’

Some places are just made to meditate

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I have come to realise that sometimes you just have to stop.

You have to stop living the fast paced life that you live. You have to cherish every moment and you have to live. You have to take the time to ‘smell the roses’ as they say.. take the time to enjoy.

Recently I was in Las Vegas for the wedding of my friends, Tannis and Dave (watch for post to come) and decided that sometimes there is more to Las Vegas than just the neon lights and high rolling gambling tables (yes there is also awesome premium outlet shopping too).  But the ‘more’ that I’m talking about is the beautiful nature that lies within the desert not to far from Sin City.  The beautiful, amazing ‘Valley of Fire‘.

I won’t lie.  When most people think of Las Vegas they think of The Grand Canyon and I did too the first time I went there.  But some other friends had also told me about the Valley of Fire.  A smaller park not to far from Vegas that was full of stunning red rocks and simply one hell of an amazing drive.

Given that I had been to Vegas twice before and this time I was staying for a week. I didn’t fancy my chances of enjoying the full week on the strip so I suggested to Fi that perhaps we get out-of-town one day and take a road trip.    Well, plus there was the added incentive of this:

Living Life

Who says you can’t live the life of luxury in Vegas.. after all, what happens in Vegas…..

Quite simply our day was truly amazing. I flick back over all the photographs and am still amazed that I have been lucky enough to have witnessed such amazing scenery and I live in awe that landscapes such as this. In such an unknown place exist.

I am simply grateful for the opportunities, the sights and the ability to be able to enjoy such amazing landscapes..

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Picture Perfect Sunset Over Seeley Lake, Montana

 

Part of my love of road trips is being able to experience things that you may never have had the opportunity to see before.  The freedom to set your own schedule and do what you want to do.  To spend as long as you want or as little as you want and the opportunities to enjoy every single moment.

The first day of our road trip from Calgary to Saint Catherine’s had been a long one.  We had hiked the Bear’s Hump in Waterton National Park and driven the spectacular, amazing and absolutely awesome Going to the Sun Road through Glacier National Park.  As much as the drive is breathtakingly beautiful, it is also mentally taxing.   Tight corners, narrow roads and 1,000+ foot cliff drops. But I would still do it over and over and over again.

With no real plans on where we would stay, let alone, where we would eat, we basically drove until we got hungry.   We arrived in Seeley Lake around 8pm and the sun was just beginning to drop.

Rather than ‘searching’ for food we decided that the Hamburger Cafe beside the lake would be a nice enough option.  Something casual and a chance to sit outside and enjoy our surroundings.  Unfortunately the cafe was closed, but the steakhouse next door was still open and still serving meals.  It would have to do.

After taking our seat we were presented with the menu.  Literally a sign that stood 4ft tall and listed 3 items:

The ‘extensive’ menu @ Linsday’s Steakhouse

We both guessed that sirloin was on the menu for the night :-), which caused some snickering between the two of us (don’t worry.. this was just the beginning of our nightly laughs!!).

After dinner we wandered down to the lake with enough time to take in the beautiful sunset.

Chance just happened to land us in Seeley Lake at the time that it did. And Fate just happened to provide us with a beautiful sunset over the water that truly cannot be described.

The tourist brochures all describe Montana as ‘big sky country’…. I think this picture proves it correct.. What an absolutely stunning view..

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