20 Reasons for 20 Years of Marriage

Okay guys and gals, the secret to 20 years of marriage is not a simple one. Nor is it something you can survive and thrive through with a quick fix seminar. It isn’t because you are destined to be together, or that the wife is always right. It isn’t something that just happens.

 

The secret…

Wait for it…

 

There is no secret. A long lasting marriage is made up of many things and dependent on each individual and couple. It is also dependent on characteristics and traits that are valued and displayed in a relationship. Twenty characteristics that endear my heart to Neil:

  1. Loyalty
  2. Trust
  3. Companionship
  4. Communication
  5. Humility
  6. Understanding
  7. Affectionate
  8. Responsible
  9. Dependable
  10. Cooperative
  11. Helpful
  12. Generous
  13. Active
  14. Sympathetic
  15. Empathetic
  16. Kind
  17. Compassionate
  18. Humorous
  19. Hardworking
  20. Loving

Here are 20 reasons why today, Neil and I are celebrating 20 years of marriage, and I am eternally grateful for a lifelong best friend and husband.

 

1. Take Risks

Neil took a risk on an Aussie gal he met for a day and a half on a small drinking island in Fiji. She was non-catholic, didn’t Ukrainian dance, and she was a bit of a rebel.

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2. Follow Your Heart

After knowing each other for less than four months, Neil knew he had met the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. He proposed.

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3. Snuggle

This Aussie gal had never experienced -30oC, so when we did Neil always snuggled up tight and made sure I was warm.

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4. Try New Things Together

Building a snow shelter and then staying overnight in it wasn’t something on the top of my list. We did it, and once again Neil snuggled up and kept me warm.

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5. Laugh Together

Always remember to laugh.  Neil has such an awesome sense of humor.

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6. Make a Commitment

We shared our vows twice with each other. We made a commitment to love and to hold, through sickness and health, good times and bad. A commitment we have both upheld, value and cherish.

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7. Celebrate Each Other

Celebrate by experiencing things together, not just buying something. Be together. Celebrate each other.

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8. Cheer Each Other On

Whether it’s a birthday, a promotion, an opportunity – always be your partners #1 cheer leader. Neil has always been my #1!

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9. Work Hard for the Life You Desire

We begun our life together in a very small apartment with a futon that acted as our bed and couch, a TV and dining table. We had no vehicle and caught the train to work together every day. We lived there until we saved enough and were able to afford our first house.

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10. Honor Each Others Individual Lives

We have always honored the need for both of us to have independent lives outside of our marriage. Friends, hobbies, trips alone or with others.

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11. Play Full Out

Halloween, theme parties have always been a blast with Neil. We’ve had so much fun over the years and always play full out!

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12. Give Back Together

Generosity brings so many rewards. Finding meaningful charities to support together builds respect, love and humility.

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 13. Don’t Take Life too Seriously 

Fun. Play. Goofing around. When we let loose, we let loose, and have a whole ton of fun. Life is so much easier when we don’t take ourselves so seriously all the time.

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14. Everyone Deserves to Dress Up once in a While 

I love it when we dress up for a special occasion or a night out.

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15. Discover Together

Discovering and trying new things together is such a beautiful gift of quality time. Neil’s main Language of Love is “Quality Time” and we make sure we do just that.

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16. Chill Out

Taking time to just sit back, relax and be is a gift that today’s society doesn’t recognize as much. We love to just hang out and relax.

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17. Party Together

Every now and then you need to just let loose and have some fun. There are so many fond memories of us partying together and with friends.

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18. Love Your Tribe 

There’s the saying ‘You are who you surround yourself with,” and we are very fortunate to surround ourselves with amazing friends who we adore and cherish spending time with.

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19. Support the Same Team

Supporting a team can really be a family affair – just ask the Samis family (sorry private joke), cheering on the same team brings such comradery and enjoyment. GO Flames GO!

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20. Family is Everything

Our family is our soul, it’s our gift and our legacy. Being parents together is the most treasured blessing and opportunity to grow. May our love for each other, be passed on to our daughters who in turn will value relationship, value commitment, and value family.

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It is What it Is

It’s been almost two months since we moved to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia. How time flies. The transition has been quite smooth, thanks to Jim and Shannon, who really helped us understand what to expect, and the fact we pretty much just took over their lives – home, helper, cars and the girls school.

As I sit here writing, a pesky fly is doing it’s best to annoy me. Each time I flick it away, it finds it’s way to another part of my body. I’m quite positive his whole purpose is to drive me insane. And then I think…

We live in a hot and humid climate, it is what it is.

Thankfully my shrine of citronella incense and mosquito coils are keeping the mosquitoes at bay.

 

Life here is really about embracing an it is what it is mentality and letting things go. I for one, have become more resilient, patient, I laugh on a daily basis, and I sweat more than I ever have in my life.

 

Remember the little frog that you tried getting across the logs in Frogger, or the little creature that you need to get across the roads on Crossy Road? Well that’s driving here. Resilience, creativity, patience and time are a must. The rules of the road are, well let’s just say there doesn’t seem to be many. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who run red lights – especially scooters and motorbikes. There’s no need for distraction laws here, I can’t imagine trying to talk or text on the phone while driving. You need to be 100% present at ALL times. Thankfully there’s an app called WAZE, the computerized female voice has become my best friend, my girls look at me weird when I talk back to her and thank her for getting us home safely.

 

Each day I’ve been venturing out to discover a new location. I’ve taken so many wrong turns, ended up in areas that have been a cool surprise, and some not so cool surprises. I laugh a lot while I’m driving, watching three lanes become seven, motorbikes travel toward me on a one way off ramp, roads swamped with water like a flood after a heavy rainfall (okay maybe I didn’t laugh so hard driving through that one!), and so many other occurrences that could make a good case for how not to drive. In saying that, I always arrive at my destination, and home again.

 

Patience is a trait that if you don’t have before living in KL, you will need to adopt it quickly or you will go mad. Our air conditioner in our bedroom has water pour out of it at least every two months – waiting for the service man can take up to a week.

Grocery shopping is something I will never take for granted in Canada again. Sometimes I need to go to three different stores for one item, and even then it may not be at any of them – like sweetened coconut flakes (any KL expats know where I can find it – please let me know).

The language barrier for the most part isn’t much of a challenge, although when it is – it is! At a garden nursery last week, I spoke with three different people, all of whom nodded when I asked “do you deliver?”, finally the little Chinese lady pushed her phone into my ear and there was a translator on the other end. It took a bit of time, lots of laughter and sweat, and the plants arrived the same day.

Now manila folders, you would think that would be easy right? Think again – I miss picking up my manila folders in a box of 100 at Staples, now for the life of me I can’t find them anywhere.

It is what it is. And it’s all an opportunity to not take life too seriously and choose a healthy reaction.

 

KL is a very diverse city, it’s one of the reasons I love it so much. Within our community the diversity is evident. The security guards from Nepal keep our community safe and secure, they have the most welcoming smiles and always salute us. The groundskeepers from India (or Malaysian Indians) are always hard at work, sweeping up leaves, beautifying the gardens and keeping the community common area clean.  Almost every home has a helper, and these Filipino ladies are so kind, hard working, friendly and always greet me with a smile.

 

Overall life here is great. Our family has settled in nicely. We have made some wonderful friends, Saturday afternoon drinks around the pool are always a highlight of the week. The girls are enjoying school and are making some great friendships, in all honesty they will probably complain about the amount of homework though.

Miss A got on the Varsity Volleyball team which trains three days a week after school, their first game is this week, and the final tournament at the end of October might be in Singapore, far cry from Three Hills, Alberta.

Miss T loves having a pool right next to us, at every opportunity she’s in there. She is doing very well at school which is such a huge relief for us. She’s made some great friends and the tears of missing family and friends every night are easing off a bit.

Neil is as busy as ever at work, and then comes home and more often than not is working on understanding math problems and helping the girls with them. Friday nights has become a massage ritual for him to relax after a busy week – helps that it’s just across the road and at a bargain price.

Me, I am enjoying the freedom that I am blessed to have, having a helper still feels a little awkward to me. Unlike many of the expat Moms here I don’t have any young children at home, so my time is fully MY time, I’m loving it! A few people have asked if it’s too noisy living next to the green space, personally I love hearing all the kids playing – it’s so entertaining hearing all the different accents: French, Dutch, English, Australian, American and Canadian. I’ve become accustomed to, and love cold showers once or twice a day, my skin has never felt so alive, I’m drinking more water than I have in my lifetime. I’ve loved transforming our patio area to a private zen retreat. Planning and booking holidays and long weekends, has brought me back to my days as a travel agent. I feel so enthused, calm and at home here.

 

Life as an Expat family here in KL is what it is – a wonderful community, incredible opportunity and an amazing adventure.

 

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Saturday afternoon cricket game

 

 

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The Perfect Getaway to the Maldives

Twenty five years ago I was a travel agent in Sydney, Australia. I introduced many engaged couples to the Maldives as their honeymoon destination. Most would come in asking for common honeymoon destinations like Fiji, Hawaii, Bali and the Cook Islands, and had never heard of the Maldives – over one thousand islands spread over 90,000 square kilometres, south west of India. All who trusted my passion and enthusiasm booked their trips and came back glowing with gratitude for the incredible experience they had. It was then that I dreamed, that I too, would honeymoon in the Maldives.

 

The honeymoon wasn’t meant to be, however here I was 25 years later stepping off the plane in Male, four days after our move to Malaysia with my husband and two daughters. Even though it was pitch black when we arrived, the excitement bubbled up as I looked at all the posters and maps around the airport.

 

Male airport is on it’s own island, there are no hotels there so we were shuttled over to the mainland by a water taxi in the darkness of night. When we arrived it seemed to be chaotic, and somehow we ended up in the vehicle with our luggage. The short trip to The Somerset Hotel was hair raising. The streets are narrow, just wide enough for a car to barely fit through, we giggled at the thought of our Suburban here – scooters and motor bikes were everywhere. At one point Miss T and I were tempted to touch the motorbike right next to us. It was almost midnight and the streets were teeming with people.

 

We arrived at the hotel and created a major traffic jam as we got out and the driver unloaded all the bags – we wondered if the other people knew their bags were safe. The room was small, yet very comfortable and pleasant. The service was fantastic. This was all we needed to rest our heads for five hours, until our departure to the island in the morning.

 

We woke up to beautiful blue skies, the streets were quiet, and the hustle and bustle of what we witnessed seven hours prior was non-existent. After a light breakfast we were driven back to the waterfront to catch another water taxi back to Male Airport.

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The girls outside the hotel

 

When we arrived we were warmly welcomed by a Four Seasons representative. From this point on, we were in the hands of luxurious first class service – something we’ve never experienced before. We were whisked to a beautiful lounge, where we awaited our seaplane transfer to Landaa Giraavaru.

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Flying across the turquoise waters dotted with islands and atolls is a sight that had us all mesmerized.

Spectacular.

Stunning.

Surreal.

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When we landed at Landaa Giraavaru we were welcomed by a group of staff members, and Azmie introduced himself to us. He had taken care of all our dinner arrangements, gave us suggestions and tips, gave the girls gifts and escorted us to our room. I’d always dreamed of staying in huts on stilts over the water, when we walked into our ‘hut’ our breath was taken away. It was Serene!

 

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Yes that’s a window to see the fish swim around while you about your business.

 

We were in heaven. We lazed around and soaked it all up. Of course our little mermaid was right in the water!

 

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We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon, and sat in peaceful silence as we watched the sun set.

 

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The following morning we embarked on a Dolphin Talk and Cruise. Sadly we didn’t see any dolphins, however the time spent lazing on the top of the boat was a gift.

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After a delicious lunch we decided to relax at the beach and do some shell finding.

 

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And then we enjoyed some time riding around the island to find fruit bats, lizards and birds, with a cool off at the pool bar.

 

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This spectacular day came to completion after a gorgeous sunset and a divine meal at Fuego Surf & Turf.

 

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The next day would have to be the most incredible days I’ve ever experienced. It was Miss T’s 12th birthday, and the island staff went above and beyond making this the highlight of her trip and the best birthday she’s ever had. At breakfast we were greeted with the table adorned with a birthday message, every staff member wished her a happy birthday. They brought us special glasses to toast to her birthday and brought out a fabulous breakfast dessert.

 

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For her birthday we decided to dedicate and build a reef in her name. We learned so much about how coral lives and dies, and how the impact of humans and the rising temperature of the water is having adverse effects. We can watch it grow at the Reefscapers website.

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Another afternoon spent doing what Miss T loves – searching for shells, finding some little friends, was followed up by her very own massage. The spa gifted her a flower petal bath in one of the huts over the water. Let’s just say Miss T came back in a blissful state!

 

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We had one more surprise in store for her, a sunset fishing cruise. Nobody on the boat was having much luck, two people caught colorful fish, and then Miss A pulled in a shark – on a handline! Secretly I was hoping and praying that Miss T would catch something, it was her birthday after all, and then – she did! The next day it was cooked up for us, and would have to be THE most delicious fish I’ve ever tasted.

 

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At dinner, once again Miss T was spoiled with attention and a wonderful sting ray cake. To her surprise when we got back to the room her bed was adorned with fresh flowers. Now that’s a birthday to remember!!!

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The next three days were filled with adventure, relaxation, discovery and beauty. One of the highlights for all of us was swimming with manta rays. To be so close to these large, graceful creatures was truly a blessing. They glide through the water effortlessly, at one point I looked back and right behind me was a large gaping mouth. I remembered what we were told and stayed calm, without missing a beat this docile creature turned slightly and glided right by me. So proud of Miss T and myself for facing some fears, and then all of us for getting back to the boat after the current became very strong.

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Our last evening we spent having fun with a family photo shoot, and then an incredible dinner at Blu – where the staff went above and beyond to celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary. We even came back to our bathroom lovingly transformed.

 

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One of my favourite parts of Landaa Giraavaru was riding around the island on bicycles, with personalized initials on the front. Everywhere we went friendly staff greeted us. Landaa Giraavaru is heaven on earth, a place I would go back to in a heartbeat. The service was second to none, the food was delicious, and the surroundings – perfection!

 

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Believe it or not, yes there’s more to come. I know, bare with me – it’s a long post.

 

The sky was gloomy as we boarded the seaplane headed for Kuda Huraa. Soon enough the skies opened up to gift us with more spectacular views from the plane.

 

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Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is a much smaller island than Landaa Giraavaru, and has a quaint island village and family feel to it. I was saddened to find out we didn’t have our black bikes to get around, although there was no need as the walking distance from the rooms was a lovely short stroll. The beds in our rooms were adorned with fresh flower petal messages and a delicious gift was left for us. Once again our little fish was in the pool before the front door was closed.

 

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The next morning I awoke early to capture the sunrise. My photography app had me up an hour early because the islands have a self imposed time change to the mainland so guests can enjoy an extra hour of sun. I enjoyed the peace and quiet and was witness to and captured a beautiful sunrise.

 

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Neil and Miss A went scuba diving in the morning, they were fortunate to see a baby whale shark from the boat. Miss T and I lazed around at the pool and beach taking in the beautiful clear blue sky day.

 

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Given it was monsoon season the weather can change quite quickly. The heavy downpour we experienced was refreshing and gifted us with a beautiful rainbow.

 

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The last few days of our getaway were filled with adventure and activities. We embarked on a Sunrise Cast Fishing trip in search of trevally, we didn’t have much luck finding or catching any, and realized this wasn’t our favourite form of fishing – it’s not as easy as it looks. We gave it a go, and got to see a beautiful sunrise, some dolphins and a beautiful rainbow.

 

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Later that afternoon we went on a Shark Snorkelling Safari. Both Miss T and I were anxious and scared. As we all jumped out of the boat I could feel my heart in my throat, Miss T stayed close to the guide and got to see the most sharks and turtles – needless to say, another example for her to remember that some of the best experiences come when we face our fears. My fear was of the dark water that loomed at the ledge of the coral reef drop off, there were a couple of times I had to breathe deeply, I did it and was so proud of myself. Witnessing these small reef sharks gliding through the water, turtles seemingly floating around and an endless array of multi-colored fish was like nothing I’ve seen. So mesmerizing, so peaceful, so beautiful.

 

That evening we relaxed, watched as they fed the sharks left over fish and I had a wonderful encounter with a hermit crab, before enjoying an incredible dinner by the water.

 

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Our last day in the Maldives was spent staging some fun photos for a friends wedding, and simply enjoying being together in this perfect place.

 

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Thank you Maldives, you were truly the perfect getaway!

 

 

Yukon Glory

Early 2013 I made a commitment to myself to embark on one photography workshop a year. In 2013 I was in awe and wonder on a Heli-hiking trip to the Bugaboos with Canadian Geographic and Conservation Photographer, Neil Ever Osborne. In 2014 I found myself deeply touched and forever changed by the amazing encounters with spirit bears and humpback whales with John E. Marriott on the Great Spirit Bear Rainforest and Whale Adventure. This year, I decided to venture even further north to the Yukon with Paul Zizka and Dave Brosha.

 

How can one succinctly share about an experience with so many incredible elements? I will do my best, although I have a feeling this will be a long one.

 

A three hour drive on the Alaska Highway and west of Whitehorse, Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada is a haven of natural wonders. One could spend days making this drive, so many hidden gems and places to explore. Our destination was Kluane B & B located on the shores of Kluane Lake at Silver City (you’ll get a kick out of this video about the history of Silver City).

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South end of Kluane Lake

Everyone gathered at 5.15pm, where we met our intrepid leaders Dave Brosha and Paul Zizka, as well as our Yukon guide Cathie Archbould. Viewing the incredible images that Dave, Paul and Cathie have captured as Professional Photographers was inspiration enough! I encourage you to view their websites – each of them unique in their craft, visions and approach.

 

“Shoot your passion!” both Dave and Cathie shared with us, encouraging everyone to find their own vision, and not get stuck in pre-conceived ideas. Which led into Dave’s presentation about ‘Finding Your Vision.” Dave shared something I have always believed, ‘get back to your basics,’ what inspires you, brings you joy, feeds your soul? Your vision lies there.

 

After Dave’s presentation dinner was served! Braised bison on a potato souffle with roasted carrots, beets and focacia, delighted my senses, and warmed my soul. There’s something to be said about food that is prepared from passion and love. Kari and Courtney of 14 Acre Farm Kluane Food Company fed us like Kings and Queens. Everything was enriched with natural ingredients and delightful flavours that tantalized the taste buds.

 

After dinner we ventured out on our first shoot, right outside of our accommodations – to the shoreline of Kluane Lake.

 

I had two techniques that I wanted to concentrate on at this workshop: composition and adding the human element to landscape photography.  Given that Paul Zizka introduces more often than not, himself or a willing friend to the majority of his photography, I knew I would gain valuable knowledge. Also, Dave Brosha has captured some of the most beautiful portraits I’ve ever seen. Needless to say I am deeply grateful for the incredible suggestions, help and support that both Dave and Paul provided me. You’ll see from my first couple of photos and then the photos that follow as the workshop progressed that I definitely learned a great deal about composition and played around a little bit with adding in a human element and using filters.

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“Springtime Spectacle” by Paul Zizka

 

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One of the most stunning and unique wedding photos I’ve ever seen. Photo by Dave Brosha

An abandoned boat grabbed my attention immediately. As the majority of the group headed straight for the shoreline, I knew I had to somehow capture this boat in an image.

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As I walked along the shoreline I was in awe of the many different textures, from ripples of fine grain sand, to pebbles, and even a heart in the dried up mud.

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And of course introducing a human element to the composition. The master of being the human element was Aaron Von Hagen, whom I’m sure is in at least two photos of each of the 20 people in the group.

 

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Huge thank you to Dave Brosha for showing me this composition and how to create it. And Cathie for being the perfect model!

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When Dave let everyone know that it was 10.30pm I was in disbelief. Firstly I was enjoying myself so much that the time had flown by, and secondly how light it was. The sun didn’t fully set till just before midnight, and even then it was not pitch black.

 

After a three hour sleep it was time to head to Sheep Mountain bend to capture the morning light. One side of the Alaska highway was mud flats with tufts of grass and thin channels of water, the other side was seemingly sparse. The majority of people went to the mud flats side, I decided to venture to the seemingly ordinary side. It wasn’t long before my eyes were drawn to many compositions, yet I kept coming back to one shot – I had a vision, it came to me, how I wanted it to look. I tried different compositions, took photos in different light conditions. The result, I believe is one of the best photos I took this weekend.

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After the sun had risen, I ventured over to the other side of the highway, a completely different landscape lay before me.

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Here’s Aaron again!

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At 7.30am we returned to the B & B for breakfast. Thankfully after breakfast I fell into a heavy slumber from 9am till 1pm. Four us took a little road trip for a couple of hours, marvelling at the incredible scenery.

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Later in the afternoon, Paul did his presentation “Approaching a Scene.” In his opening line Paul said “Let the scene speak to you.” Paul, in my humble opinion, is one of the true masters of approaching a scene, and it is easily apparent that he is passionate about adventure photography. Everything Paul shared I took in with eagerness and excitement. Three of the most impactful suggestions from Paul for me were:

  1. Immerse yourself in the scene, look around and access it. Experience it with your eyes, not just your lens.
  2. What story do you want to tell?
  3. Simplify, eliminate, de-clutter, take out anything in the composition that doesn’t contribute to your story.

After Paul’s talk, Dave did a fantastic presentation on Lightroom. I learned so many simple tips that can take my photos from good to great.

 

After our delectable dinner of Arctic Charr stuffed with swiss chard and leek, served with quinoa, asparagus and a cranberry spruce tip sauce (is your tummy grumbling or your mouth watering yet?), we ventured off to our first of two stops for the evening – Boulder Bay.

 

I met my first creative and personal slump. Both Paul and Dave had warned us about being stuck in a vision of a particular composition. I knew our next location was Destruction Bay – where I had what I was hoping would be the image of the weekend for me. I was caught up in that vision, and didn’t have an open mind to what lay before me right now. I was also stuck in playing small and not good enough. The majority of participants in the workshop were experienced photographers and shared a lot of camera talk – fstops, aperture. After three years of learning I still struggle with the technical jargon (hmm similar story I shared in both my past workshops!).  I was beating myself up. I captured a few images.

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Dave Brosha demonstrated one of the many awkward positions it takes to capture an image.

As we got to the car I shared my frustrations with the ladies. Surprisingly all three could empathize and relate in some way. It was a relief and a release to share my feelings, be heard and understood.

 

At our next location – Destruction Bay, right at the beginning Dave spent time with me showing me how to utilize a neutral density filter, gave me some tips on composition and technical settings. The time he spent with me helped me immensely and couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. I spent more time at two spots and worked at creating the image I wanted – I almost got there, not quite – almost.

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Saturday morning was wet and cold, which equalled a welcomed sleep in!

 

In the afternoon we had a critiquing session. I always find these so beneficial. Everyone was asked to submit two of their photos for critiquing by Paul and Dave. All the images were anonymous, and it was definitely not like Dragons Den or Shark Tank. Paul and Dave were so helpful with what works in the image, and where improvement could happen. I find this to be such a valuable exercise, as I also got to see 38 other images filled with different perspectives, techniques, vision, and personality.

 

After dinner we went to our last evening location, a one hour drive to picturesque Kathleen Lake. What a sight for locals to see several vehicles pull in one after the other and 23 people pile out of the cars with loads of photography equipment. We were respectful and walked around to a less used part of the lake.

 

Walking through the surrounding forest was like venturing through a fairy garden, it was whimsical, playful, light, and airy. I decided to play around with macro for a little bit.

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And then I played around with slow shutter speeds, neutral density filters, hearts on a mountain and a sweet little boy fishing with his Dad.

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We got back to the B & B around 11.30pm, and even though we were starting at 4.30am everyone gathered for a drink. Let’s just say this image captures how we all felt – tired, goofy and happy.

Dave, Paul and Cathie goofing around. Captured by Aaron Von Hagen.

 

After a very brief sleep we were up bright and early for our final morning of shooting. One of the many things I’ve learned from this trip is to look closer. At first the scene seemed uncompelling and then…

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For a last hoorah Dave played around with Fish eye portraits and then we stopped for a group photo. Once again, amazing what can look like nothing special from the road can be so interesting.

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A behind the scenes shot of Paul modelling for us!

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Other than sleep deprivation, I am feeling super inspired and grateful. I am so grateful to Paul, Dave, Cathie and everyone who made this last four days a weekend to remember for a lifetime.

 

Storms Always Pass

10423853_730765887043915_1897387382440355176_nIt was a productive and rewarding day, that turned into a storm. I sat down to relax and enjoy working on my puzzle with a glass of wine, music, fresh tulips and the beautiful scent of lavendar candles to relax me. As I puzzled, I thought how nice it would be to have some company. So I began texting friends inviting them over. One after another, the same response came “Sorry Lee, I’m busy right now.” I began to think of Sandra and the many fun filled creative times we spent together.This began a spiral downwards, a spiral into grief, anger, sadness and loneliness.

 

Every song that played reminded me of her, it brought me back to visiting with her every day in the hospice as she was being taken away from us by brain cancer. As I grieved Sandra, I thought of my friend Kelly who passed away suddenly just this past September, and then another friend who abruptly left my life in November. Then a love song would come on and remind me of how much I am missing Neil. Two bottles of wine later, I was in distress. Unhealthy thoughts circled through my mind like a cyclone. I was about ready to call the Distress Centre.

 

Thankfully, an angel by the name of Robin, offered to support me in anyway I needed: text, phone or in person. Talking to her on the phone brought me calm, peace, love and gratitude, she even had me laughing. She was able to gently, yet firmly bring me back.

 

That night I decided I needed to do something for myself – something that has been put on the back burner due to the busyness of preparing to move to Malaysia, and taking care of my daughters and myself. I decided that Saturday I would venture into the mountains, immerse myself in nature, photography and surprise a dear friend. This was the gift to myself that I desperately needed to help me through the storm.

 

As I drove into the mountains there was horizontal snow, the majestic Rocky Mountains were surrounded and hidden by dark stormy clouds. I pulled off the road and sat. I sat and watched the storm clouds and thought about how eerie and spectacular they were. They were almost dancing around the cliff faces, swirling so quickly. I briefly went back to my days of learning meteorology and marvelled at weather patterns. I thought about how the forces of nature are so powerful: they can wreak havoc, and they can also bring such tranquil beauty. It’s the ebb and flow of nature, which is a reflection of life.

 

Storms Always Pass

I continued on, wanting to journey up to Spray Lakes where we had recently gone on a dog sledding trip. Driving up the winding gravel road I was awe struck by the beauty that surrounded me. The clouds had parted and all I could see was blue. The turquoise water was a breathtaking foreground and incredible contrast to the rock faces that protected it. I sat by the shoreline of one small body of water, and took in the texture, contrast, tones and beauty of the rocks. There was a small dark cave. The rock face reminded me of people – some harsh, some smooth, some filled with depth, some shallow, some light and some dark – and as I appreciated this rock face and the beauty of it, I thought all people no matter whether they’re harsh, smooth, light, dark – are beautiful.

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Just around the corner was yet another incredible wall of rock, similar lines, textures and tones. As I was looking at it I saw three mountain sheep resting in the warmth of the sun. How grateful I was to be witness to these beautiful creatures, and the environment around them.

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I pressed on, wanting to still visit Vermillion Lakes before arriving at the Castle in the mountains. I ended up taking a detour, well actually I was so enthralled by the beauty around me I missed all three turn offs to Banff, and found myself on the Bow Valley Parkway. It never ceases to amaze me how gifts are always there to be found when we make mistakes, or maybe they’re not mistakes! I drove for a while, enjoying the quieter highway. And then I found myself at the beautiful Vermillion Lakes, the colours, the sounds, the fresh crisp air – aaaahhh!

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Arriving at the beautiful castle in the mountain – the Banff Springs Hotel – always brings me joy. The history, the beauty, the grandeur, the service! I sat on the window seat in my room, taking in the exquisite view before my eyes with deep gratitude.

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After venturing through the castle for a little while I found myself (thanks Melsha) in the Cascade Ballroom, entering the room and witnessing the look of surprise, happiness, joy and gratitude on Gemma’s face. This was the icing on the cake of a spectacular day! That night I let go and enjoyed myself. The entire day and night was a gift to my soul and helped the storm pass.

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Although not as dark, the storm was still there on Sunday – challenges don’t just disappear. Many other circumstances and personal issues have left me crying at the drop of a hat, and very emotional. Yesterday I had brunch with one of my most cherished friends. I want to end this rather long blog post with her wise, caring and beautiful words to me. If you can take one thing from reading this – I hope that you can accept that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and this too shall always pass!

 

“I know it’s hard to do our lives on our own, harder doing ours and our children’s lives, and even harder doing it while we are missing the daily support and love of our partner and also concerned for our partner… those are pretty big shoulders you have.

I would like to remind you to reflect on where you have been, how far you have come, where you are today and allow yourself to be optimistic about what the future holds for you and your family!

Your first love is self-love and I believe you need to focus more attention right now on the relationship you are building with yourself and less about your external relationships… I truly see gifts coming your way right now whilst I see you struggle.

You are not truly alone… ever!!! Don’t forget you also have a higher power!”

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