Saturday, November 18, 2017

A summer & fall in the mountains.

It's going to be hard for me to put into words the depth of my love for the mountains. The unexplained affinity I have for these tall piles of ancient rock and how it is that I'm drawn to them in the first place, as a woman born in an archipelago of 7,000 islands who spent her entire life in countries surrounded by the ocean (amongst zero mountains). During this first summer in Canada I chased after them like they were going to disappear tomorrow, and so, this is what most weekends looked like.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Tent Ridge, Kananaskis.

Every week in summer had me asking the same question: “which trail should I try this weekend?”. Cue messaging all my friends to see who was free to join, and behold, a plan would emerge. Tent Ridge in Kananaskis Country will forever remain one of the best hikes I've ever done. At first, you're taken through the forest before the trail opens up into a lush valley, where the green contrasts with stone and stubborn patches of remaining snow. Look up and ahead and you're surrounded by what's to come: a wall of rock that is the ridge you'll be traversing.

I love trails that have a variety of scenery, some scrambling, and just enough ascending to make you work for it, but not so much that you are simply miserable. On this hike, there are three “peaks” to ascend and descend, providing you worthy points at which you can stop to enjoy the view, admiring the valley below you before you work to make it to the next peak. It was truly rewarding, and I look forward to doing this again next season.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Annie in Canada.

Summer brought us a string of visitors from Australia; one of whom was my dear friend Annie. An incredibly talented photographer, I'd been quietly following Annie's work since she was 16, and even then she was blowing my mind. We were lucky enough to have her stop by and stay with us during her travels around the U.S. & Canada. Having just returned from my trip to the Maldives, Mauritius & Reunion, I was hungry to get back into Canadian life and make the most of the summer—so we packed in as many adventures as we could, camping for a few nights in Banff National Park with our friends, showing her some of my favourite spots and visiting places I also hadn't been before.

It's hard to believe we only met in person in May last year, but our friendship feels as if it's existed all my life. I cherish deep soul connections, meaningful conversations and the ability to be both whimsical and sincere, heartfelt and boisterous, quiet and loud; to be able to look into another just as you look into yourself and know that they too are seeing you as you are. Annie is truly a light that many of us adore, even those that have only met her briefly, and my life is all the better for knowing her. I hope this is only the start of many years of adventures together.

Photos of me by Anwyn Howarth.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Two days in Paris.

Ordinarily, I like to steer well clear of travelling in big cities. The beeping of car horns and obnoxious blaring of stereos (what do you have to prove?); stressed, tense faces on the sidewalk; shiny shopping centres set against monotonous clumps of office buildings; the smell of rubbish, cigarette smoke and goodness-knows-what-else—if you already live in a city, it makes you wonder why you left the hustle and bustle of your own life simply to contemplate your existence in a similarly drab atmosphere somewhere else.

However—there are some cities in the world I know I definitely want to see before I fall asleep forever, and Paris is one of those. Paris was one of the first cities I had been excited to go to when I was younger, and French is the language I was drawn to learn in high school (for reasons I couldn't and still cannot explain).

So, when I received my original flight itinerary from LUX* Resorts and saw that I was scheduled for a 6 hour layover in Paris (departing Mauritius on the way back to Canada), I couldn't help but ask to be put on a different flight for two days later. I then planned to meet up with my friend Ashleigh, who I hadn't seen in over a year since she moved to Amsterdam from Brisbane. I knew that I wasn't ever going to be able to see all of Paris in two days, so I concentrated simply on doing less with intention. All I wanted was to roam our neighbourhood; sit in the Champs du Mars with a small picnic of croissants or a baguette, strawberries, cheese and a small bottle of wine; visit just one art gallery, and the rest we'd leave to unfold on its own. And unfold it did. We visited a market just down our street and marvelled at old photographs; came across a beautiful and kind stranger who let me take her photograph; spontaneously decided to see the sunrise over the Canal St. Martin; stumbled into a free live music concert in the middle of the street when walking home on our last night. I left Paris tired, but content, knowing there would be plenty left to explore whenever I return.

Monday, September 25, 2017

LUX* Saint Gilles, La Réunion.

My final trip with LUX* Resorts was at LUX* Saint Gilles, Île-de-La-Reunion. Unlike Mauritius, where the official language is English but the locals also speak French and Mauritian Creole, Réunion is one of France's “overseas departments”, therefore making their official language French, with the locals also speaking Réunion Creole. It was the 3 days I spent on this little island where I was able to truly had to exercise what little French I knew/could remember from school.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Emmanuelle, Loïc + Gael: La Reunion Family

A family session by the Indian Ocean. While I was running my photography workshops in La Reunion, I met with Emmanuelle, her husband and her son. Soon this sweet family of three will become four, and they wanted to have a little session to capture them as they are now, before the next chapter.

Their love for each other wasn't hard to capture, and it made golden hour all the sweeter watching them together. Their son, naturally playful and happy, made it extra enjoyable, but even he had his moments (as we all would if we were a toddler asked to look at a camera instead of putting a seashell in our mouth—“ne pas manger le coquillage!” was a phrase frequently uttered during the hour).

Fine one minute, imminent devastation the next are simply the hallmarks of parenting. Those little not-so-glamorous, impatient, cranky family moments are, to me, just as important to capture as the loving, playful and joyous ones. For those flawed moments are natural, honest and real. It's how you get through them that makes you family.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

LUX* Le Morne, Mauritius.

After the Maldives, I travelled to Mauritius, running my workshops at Belle Mare & Le Morne. LUX* Le Morne was the last of the two resorts I visited, and was a beautiful way to end my stay in the country. In the car from the island's north-east to south-west, I was captivated by the changing landscape as we drove closer and closer to the mountains. This is what makes LUX* Le Morne unique—it's a resort that sits by the sea whilst having a mountain as its backdrop. Le Morne Brabant is a baby in comparison to the mountains of the Rockies, with its summit being 556m, but it certainly has a backstory (and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site):

The peninsula was notorious in the early 19th century as a refuge for runaway slaves. After the abolition of slavery in Mauritius, on 1 February 1835 a police expedition was despatched there ostensibly to inform the slaves that they had been freed. At the time the slaves had been using Le Morne summit for many years as a look-out point to spot military despatches from Port Louis being sent to re-capture them. On previous occasions when these attempts had been carried out they had been spotted by the look-outs, the warning issued to the rest of the slaves who chose to leap to their deaths from the rock, (into the area now known as 'The Valley of Bones'), rather than be recaptured back into slavery.—Le Morne Brabant, Wikipedia

The warmer weather here in comparison to the north of the island meant I felt more inclined to be outside. There was so much to do, and none of it was anything I'd be able to do in the Rockies. So I snorkelled amongst coral and tropical fish, learnt to sail (and sailed poorly, but there's a first time for everything), kayaked across crystal clear water, and most memorable of all—I swam with dolphins for the first time. I look forward to the day being waterproof is just a standard feature of DSLRs, because using a GoPro simply didn't do it justice for me.

Beyond being a collection of new experiences, there were new connections to treasure as well. Conversations on sand after snorkelling and exploring the local reef. Photographing new friends as they taste freshly caught sea urchin (but none for this vegetarian, thanks). Walking by floating bonfires and listening to live saxophone. Sitting on a beanbag on the sand while enjoying the Mauritian version of a mulled wine while a woman sings and plays acoustic guitar. Talking about our lives back home and people-watching. What better way to form new friendships than in a setting where you're experiencing something new?

As always, more imagery below.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives.

You know that giddy, electrifying feeling when you're aware you're about to have a life-defining moment? This was one of those times.

Let's backtrack a little: in the year before I left Australia, I pursued my love of teaching and my love of photography, running photography workshops in South Brisbane with Workshop Brisbane/Workshop Australia. Although I've always been naturally drawn to any form of teaching, I'm often shy to start—perhaps because, like many creatives, I suffer from a severe case of impostor syndrome, and that I can't possibly be good enough in anything to be teaching it to somebody else. I doubt there's ever going to be a piece of paper, milestone or accolade that will make me feel as if I am, but strangely, that seems to keep me going.

In December—in the car on the way to dinner with my fellow yoga teachers, frustrated with an ankle still healing from surgery, and on crutches, no less—I got the call about this: the opportunity to run my photography workshops at LUX* Resorts in the Maldives, Mauritius and Reunion Island.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Ha Ling Summer Solstice Summit.

The 21st of June marked the summer solstice—the longest day of the year. We decided to summit Ha Ling Peak for sunset. Myself, Martin, three of our friends and two dogs set off at 6:30pm, knowing the sun wouldn't set until close to 11pm. Despite having already summited Ha Ling in March—in harsher conditions—I was still nervous to start so late, knowing that with a group our size we would likely travel slower, not to mention it would get dark below the tree-line well before 11pm.

The weather was grey and foreboding. Despite it being the start of summer, I prepared for every weather condition, making sure I brought layers for the wind gusts when we reached the alpine zone and became more exposed to the elements. The wind and lower temperature at elevation is what makes the summit of any mountain unforgiving, and not something you're likely to sit and enjoy for more than a few minutes unless you're really layered up. It must have been 4ºC at the top of Ha Ling despite it being around 20ºC-25ºC in the valley, but the incoming hail clouds made it feel far more bitter. We found ourselves wishing we had packed gloves after all, shivering from the exposure.

June is still considered shoulder season around these parts—where many trails are still littered with snowy, icy patches and avalanche risks are high as the snowpacks become unstable and come crashing down. The trails on Ha Ling may have been well clear of snow, but the weather certainly tested our preparedness—we got hailed and rained on for the last 1.5 hours of our descent, performing the remainder of our hike in the dark with only the light of our headlamps and lightning. I was thankful we weren't scrambling down in those conditions, and wondered how the people at the top were faring. We made it back to the carpark at around 10:30pm, starving, cold and wet, but elated and somehow ready to do it again—hopefully in better conditions next time.

See below for highlights from the day.

Four lakes in a day.

The week before I left for my trip to the Indian Ocean for LUX* Resorts (more on that soon) was an...interesting one. We moved from our house, our first home in Canmore where we made many a great friend, to a condo deeper into the forests and mountains, further from town, but closer to the wild and the wildlife. A day later, Martin's sister and her boyfriend Andy came to visit, and so, as all good tourists do in the Canadian summer, we took them to Banff & Lake Louise.

First, we visited Moraine Lake—early—to avoid the seas of people that would inevitably arrive. Then we headed over to Lake Louise to do the Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail. Including passing by Mirror Lake, we managed to see four beautiful Canadian lakes in a day. Lake Agnes was still in the process of thawing completely, but that's not so surprising for the start of the season...