Friday, June 13, 2014

Adventures in Airports, Photography, Education, and Sight Seeing with Alicia!

Drip, drip, drip...perspiration drips from my hair to my shoulders. A trickle starts a slow descent down my cheek and quickly becomes a raging torrent! I am sweating like there is no tomorrow. I have a tissue so I gently start to dab at my chin. It is about then I realise that my makeup has joined the sweaty cascade and is running a muddy river from my face to my chest...

No I am not photographing a baby in an over warm studio, I am in fact standing in the security line at LAX to catch my connecting flight to Vancouver Canada. Leaving home in Sydney in late April and travelling to Canada via LAX, I knew I had to wear lots of layers as I was going to run into a few different sets of weather conditions. I am SUCH a planner! I had to change terminals at LA and knew that I had to exit the building and walk a reasonable distance to the terminal over the other side...I didn't realise A/ Just how hot is was going to be at 9am and B/ How far it was going to be whilst carting a carry on, a laptop and my handbag.

I am far from a seasoned traveller and the thought of going through LA had me slightly terrified. Added to that was my very best friend (Nelle, who IS a seasoned traveller) told me 2 years ago to avoid LA - too busy, too hectic, lines too long,  too, well, just too LA. When I announced to Nelle that I was this time going via LA, she quickly changed her tune, that girl sure knows how to get me through the hard stuff! "You will be fine " she said as she kicked her sister under the table, because she had started to question why ANYONE would choose to go via LAX...Anyway, she told me not to mess about getting across to my next terminal as the lines are usually long and I only had 3.5 hours to get to my connection. I took her advice. The minute I got out onto the street I started stripping layers off and hot footed it to the next terminal. I arrive 10 minutes later and get in the line and start putting all my stuff in trays, get more gear off and go stand in the body scanner line...which is where the dripping starts...

As I stand there, melting, thinking OMG, this is the stuff that can only happen to me. Just look at me! I have been awake the best part of 24 hours, 15 of them wedged in cattle class and I am drenched with sweat, and my make up is now a psychedelic tie dye arrangement on my t shirt...I struggle not to laugh as I imagine just how suspicious and guilty I must look. I figure any minute now, a camera crew from the TV show Border Security or Customs is going to start focusing on me...don't laugh, I admonish myself, don't laugh, DON"T FREAKIN LAUGH - this is NO time for hysterical laughter! Then the guy over there on tray duties, hoists a tray above his head and yells out - "Who owns this?"  Of course, it was mine...

Surprisingly, (once I separated the laptop and bag into separate trays) I sailed through the rest of the procedure at security like a middle aged, profusely sweating woman was the most normal thing in the world...maybe they figured I was menopausal or something...I don't know...It was about my easiest trip through any of the airports. I managed to be randomly swabbed, patted, scanned and de-clothed at Sydney (once) Vancouver (twice) and Toronto (twice) the time I was coming home, I was almost disappointed that I failed to draw attention at LA!

So why on earth was a making this trip that was pushing me way out of my comfort zone? Well that is the really exciting bit! I was asked to speak at the NoBS Photo Success Inferno Workshop which is a 3 day photography seminar in Toronto Canada. Rob Provencher who is the founder of NoBS and also the Wizard of Light coaching program, invited me along to do a presentation at the Inferno about building and running a successful portrait studio. I have joined Rob as a guest on several occasions for his coaching webinars (Rob even has a few Aussie photographers doing his coaching program) on a few different subjects but this time, I joined some amazing photographers, from across North America and Canada to hopefully inspire, educate and connect with everyone that came along for 3 days of intensive learning.

It was a little bit daunting to be on the same bill as incredibly talented photographers such as Renee Robyn - amazing digital artist, model and all round top chick. Maggie Habieda Nowakowski  of Fotografia Boutique who is a powerhouse and runs an amazing high end portrait studio, Claude Brazeau and Genevieve Trudel both first class, highly acclaimed wedding photographers, Maria Sauserman who bought a 10 pin bowling alley in Pittsburgh and converted it to her studio - yes, I am jealous!!! Robert Provencher who has been in the business for 30+ years and has probably forgotten more about photography that I will ever know - and the presentation of Bill McElree that resonated with everyone that attended...then there was little old me from downtown Cranebrook...without a space the size of a bowling alley, no chandeliers (one day!) but with an absolute LOVE, nope, strike that, a PASSION, for what I am lucky enough to do for a living.

After the presentations ended at night, many of us would head off to the bar for a few drinks, relax, get to know one another, talk shop and make new friends. I met so many wonderful new friends, learned so much, laughed til I cried - we even managed some exploring in Toronto. The Art Gallery of Ontario, the Village Idiot Pub (named just for me? - Oh thank you Toronto, you shouldn't have!)

My US partners in adventure - Rick and Shawn with my pub in the background - of course we had lunch there!

Not everything Australian translates all that well...I had been trying for 3 days to get a vodka Cruiser...nothing. Then one of my friends ordered and got a Smirnoff! Ah, finally! So, yes, I am on the Smirnoff here, but I swear I was not's just a bad photo of me - everyone else looks great!
These are my Canadian and US friends - Danuta, Suzanne, Laura, Rick, Shawn and Bill. Thank you all for making my second visit to Canada absolutely fantastic -I can't wait to see you all again!

Speaking of translation, on the Saturday night - I had given my presentation earlier in the day - we were all at the bar and one of this lot pipes up and says - "fordeen". Then they spelled it out - F.O.R.D.E.E.N. And everyone (except me) started rolling around laughing. I'm like - OK what am I missing?? So they ask me how big are the 2 small wall portraits that go with the big 30" wall portraits...and I answer 11x14, which was greeted with howls of laughter! Apparently this Aussie doesn't enunciate well at all and the word "fourteen" turns into "fordeen" to North American ears :) The were taking the piss out of me!!! Which is another expression I had to explain!

It was an incredible opportunity and my thanks go to Rob for inviting me to speak at the Inferno. The more I do with webinars, guest blogging and speaking, the more inspired I become about my own photography and I also realise just how much I enjoy assisting other's with their photographic and business education. So many photographers guided me in my early days that to now be able to pass my knowledge on, feels like I have come a full circle - and with every presentation I give, every blog post I write, I learn something new as well. To be face to face with a room full of people (on the other side of the world!!) was a new and exciting experience for me, and as much as I dislike being nervous, uncertain and scared of the unknown, I love being outside my comfort zone - sometimes I think it is when I perform at my must be the adrenaline!

To conclude this part of my story, I would like to thank everyone who came along. Your energy, questions, interaction and involvement were an inspiration to me and I felt so very welcome. Thank you all :)

Then Came the Holiday!

Well a few days anyway! I came home via Vancouver and had 4 days to visit this beautiful city. 2 years ago when I flew into Vancouver and connected straight on to Toronto, I remember thinking how gorgeous it looked from the air and if I ever came back I was going to spend some time there. 

In a taxi, on my way from the airport to my hotel in Downtown Vancouver, I was in awe of the beauty of this place. Cool climate shrubs and flowers decorate the roadside, azalea's camellia's, rhododendrons. As we came into the outer suburbs, the glorious old houses had me smiling - great, big blocks with humungous trees forming the tallest hedges, grand stately gates and glimpses of gabled homes with amazing windows and sunrooms! The people in Canada have to be some of the friendliest and most accomodating on earth. When I arrived at the hotel with 5 hours until check in - I was hoping to be able to leave my bags while I went to explore a little. They had no problem checking me in early, so considering I was on about 4 hours sleep I took the opportunity to have a little power nap before I started exploring.

Here in Australia we are a little bit spoilt when it comes to coffee - even McDonalds serves up a decent cappucino, but in Toronto cappucino is nearly impossible to find! That is if you don't count Tim Hortons, and I was not near one in Toronto. Truly, I was suffering. I have 2 cappucino machines in my kitchen at home - just in case one breaks down. I. Love. Coffee. As soon as I woke  from my catnap, I was on a mission to find a decent coffee. Out came the Foursquare app and I found not only a Tim Hortons but a JJ Bean within walking distance - PLUS - JJ Bean had a recommendation from an Australian!


Oh it was good! Once I had re-charged I didn't have to go far to get a feel for Vancouver. Here in Yaletown, this park - an oasis amongst the hustle and bustle of a busy, cosmopolitan city. High rise condo's, busy streets, specialty shops, restuarants and bars on all 4 sides...and this patch of green. Soothing water features, a fountain that cascades over rocks and a long man made watercourse with knee deep water that children play in - with stepping stones to make crossing from one side to the other, so much more interesting.

 There are people here. Mums with kids, families, people with their dogs - the dog park is popular. Twice I have been here and there is one young guy who dances at his regular spot - each time I have been here he is jiving away to his own beat - and damn he is good!

Kid's climb on stuff, mum's chat, pigeon's clamour for a feed, dog's inspect the lamp posts and trees. Another place of relaxation and beauty in a city overflowing with beautiful scenery. Vancouver is something else.

The next day, I decided to get on the hop on hop off bus and do the tourist thing. I wanted to see the city and this was the perfect way to do it - I bought a 2 day pass. I decided that I would do the loop on the bus and I got an overview of English Bay, Granville Island, Stanley Park, Chinatown. When we reached Gastown, I just had to get off and have a look around. A popular tourist area, Gastown is one of the oldest parts of Vancouver, cobbled streets, great old architecture, the steam clock and loads of shops, restaurants and cafes - yep, this will do me for a while. I did some shopping...and had coffee of course!


Stanley Park is a 1000 acre in downtown Vancouver, bordered by the Pacific Ocean. It is stunning. On day 2, I spent some time in Stanley Park and took and additional bus tour that showed more of the park. 

This is one of the tea houses in the park - not surprising that this is the most popular spot in Vancouver for wedding photographs - it is like something out of a fairytale. 

These crappy iPhone photos do not do this place any justice at all. I hope to be back there one day - there is so much more to see in this beautiful place.


Granville Island is the most incredible market I have ever seen. Located on False Creek, there is an abundance of fresh seafood, local artists, tourist shops and handmade wonderfulness. Then you get to the market.

I found myself sitting in an amazing outdoor area in the middle of a market that has the most incredible selection of fresh produce and gourmet meat's, cheeses, fruits, seafoods, breads, cakes, I have never, ever seen! And busy!!

In the food hall you can get any style food you might like - german sausages, pizza, thai, fresh made pasta...anything! I decided on a Kaiser Roll with Garlic Roast Beef and a side of au jus for dipping. I made my way out to the sun drenched square to take in the sights and have lunch. I wished I had ordered 2 of these rolls - it was soooooo good!

The square is full of people enjoying the sun, the fantastic view and the wonderful atmosphere. People are relaxed, a little girl is giggling her head off while she is almost completely covered in pigeons when she started feeding them. A young man comes out to a small stage area with an accoustic guitar and starts to play and sing for the lunchtime crowd. People are sitting here with their friends and families in the sunshine, laughing, eating and listening to this young man sing. 

He is singing Hallelujah, and I am moved to tears of happiness by the beauty of his voice, the song, and how incredibly blessed I feel to be right here, right now, in this most beautiful of settings. I could stay here forever.

I found more good coffee here on Granville Island at a little place in he food court named A La Mode...they also had pie. Lemon Meringue was my choice. Damn the gym and training - that pie was wonderful! I decided that because of the pie I should get the ferry back over to the Downtown side and walk back up the huge hill to my hotel - it was worth every bite of that pie.

I discovered these spots on the way back to the hotel - how can  mechanical workshops and graffiti look so good? Only in Vancouver I think! Even this laneway!!

Far too quickly, it was time to leave Vancouver. Smitten is the word I would use for how I feel about this gorgeous city - and I only saw a very small part of it. Vancouver seems to have found a perfect blend, the number of green spaces, parks, trees, picturesque spots - even in the financial district are overwhelming, and there are people out enjoying them in their lunch breaks and down time. I can't wait to return to Vancouver and uncover more of her beauty.

If you have managed to read this all the way to the end - 10 points for your determinedness! This has turned out a whole lot longer than I had planned! I hope you enjoyed reading about my Canadian adventure!

PS - I got the BEST coffee of my entire trip at Terminal 5 LAX. Right at the top of the escalators at a place called The Farmers Market  - almost like home coffee!

PPS - After 6 flights, 49.5 hours in the air, 20 hours in airport terminals, and multiple gropings by strangers in uniforms, my nervous traveller status has now been upgraded to - ahhhh, whatever, how bad can it be? LOL

Alicia xxx


  1. Congratulations on being asked to speak at the workshop! Not surprising given your talent :) I really enjoyed reading your blog - what a lovely trip/adventure! I'll have to Show Annie her picture made it all the way to Canada x Bronwyn

  2. Thank you so much Bronwyn! And yes, let Annie know she is a world famous Fairy! A xxx