My family and I arrived in beautiful Sydney, Australia on November 2nd.  That – and the 26-hour trip to Australia – kicked off quite an adventure, which included a couple weeks in Sydney, visits to surrounding beaches, a long and gorgeous drive south through the country to Melbourne, Australia, a quick jet up to Brisbane and, finally, a very recent departure,  nearly one month later, to New Zealand.

That long and gorgeous drive?  We were told it was 4 1/2 hours from Sydney to the Murray River Region, near Wodonga.  It took us over 9 hours, but it felt like a wildlife safari – complete with running kangaroos, a wombat hanging out in the middle of the road, a rabbit/small bear thing we still can’t identify, and all kinds of birds (and not *just* birds but the kinds of birds we only see in zoos, the fancy, colorful, BIG ones).  The landscape was so stunning, I jumped from the almost-still-moving car to get this image:

 

And those specific birds?  Hundreds and hundreds of wild cockatoos taking off in tandem and flying through fields and hay bales and trees and sky.  We saw so much more along the way, can’t wait to show my running herd of wild kangaroo photographs (assuming they’re called a herd) – but I’m jumping  ahead just a bit.

The Sydney 1-day seminar was FUN – a great, interactive group and such a more relaxed day than expected.  Such appreciation to the tour sponsors:  Seldex Artistic Albums, The Edge Photo Imaging, Animoto, AIPP, and Fundy SOS. Not only did they help to spread the word and support the teaching, but they offered great discounts and products and services to all the participants.

Thanks to Sarah, my Studio Manager, for coordinating all the registration – so very much work! – and a monster huge thanks to Sally Sargood and her new company, I Need A Sally, who arranged the Australia tour and really did a wonderful job.  She snapped a lot of pictures with her iphone here and there – all of the behind-the-scenes and teaching shots are from Sally jumping in and grabbing a shot in the midst of everything else she was so excellently doing:

 

The 3-day workshop in Sydney was intense and brain-frying and terrific.  Some images we shot of our sweet little models, along with images Sally shot behind-the-scenes …

 

 

and, apparently, this is what I do when I am trying to keep children still in great lighting:

 

 

 

An image from the business clinic section of the workshop:

And then indoor shooting, working with tricky lighting and less-than-ideal surroundings – but still with sweet little ones:

 

 

 

Lia, who won the Fundy SOS Scholarship, with her baby:

 

 

And demonstrating how you can take a room and lighting situation like this and still produce an image that looks like it was shot in a controlled-lighting studio on seamless black paper.  Note the back wall, on the left in this image ….

 

 

And the final result:

 

 

And one more for fun:

 

 

After Sydney, we were able to enjoy a wonderful dinner out with my friend Sue Bryce (& her friends!) and then we drove and drove and drove, following the blue, blue, blue sky.

 

 

The kids were fantastic travelers, for the most part – until one of them was so ready to stop driving (something to do with “having to go soooo bad”) that a jail break was attempted:

 

We stayed with my close friends Jerry & Melissa Ghionis at their beautiful home in Cape Schanck – Melissa cooked, which was a delightful and rare treat – and they were so helpful in lending us some last-minute needed equipment for the Melbourne workshop.  I also had a chance to “sit on the couch” and do some Q&A for the Women in Business (WIBOP) group in Melbourne, providing great camaraderie, support and business enrichment to women photographers.

The Melbourne 1-day Seminar was a mini-reunion of sorts – a fantastic turnout with many friends who’d I never met in person before (thank you twitter & facebook):

 

The 2-day Workshop started the very next day, and we had quite the international crowd, with participants hailing from not only from all over Australia but Sri Lanka, Holland, England, and even the United States of America ;)  We were fortunate enough to hold it in the gorgeous, spacious loft of Suzette Nesire – grateful for her generosity!

 

Demonstrating how adding fill light doesn’t mean always bouncing light off the closest light source:

 

And Seldex didn’t just supply sponsorship – they also brought models (thanks, Nicole :)

 


We moved inside thanks to the pouring rain – and saw what we could do with dim, fluorescent lighting:

 

 

Photographing inside this apartment, our model family was quite kind to let ALL of us in to a pretty normal every day home situation when little children are inside playing:


 

I love how this smile draws you in:

 

 

Believe it or not, this little boy was crying behind his mother’s legs when we first met him.  He came around quite quickly, though, and the big hug he gave me after the shoot was quite rewarding:

 


After Melbourne, Sally and I flew up to Brisbane and were met by my long-lost friend Lainie Anderson, who drove up from Byron Bay for an impromptu sleepover at the hotel.  Not only was it great to see her again (we’d worked together in executive recruiting in San Francisco), but we found out that she and Sally had actually gone to primary school together.  Small, teeny world.

We got a fun, interactive class in Brisbane – so appreciate how much driving a lot of you did to get there!

 

(Thanks, again, Sally, for all the behind-the-scenes pics!)

When all was said and done, it felt like the abrupt stop of a whirlwind.  While waiting for our flight out of Brisbane, we toasted congrats and then just sat there, feeling downright misty –  not just about what we’d just finished, and all the work involved, but also about the feedback we’d been getting.  A big thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the surveys afterwards – the results were amazing, and they mean more to us than you might guess.

As it stands, I won’t be teach another workshop until March of 2012, in Durham, North Carolina. Should be enough time to recover ;)

 

After the tour ended, we spent some much-needed downtime in Melbourne, went horseback riding in Yarra Valley – and we were able to spend a few days with our good friends Sarah and Paul Casey, who flew in from Singapore with their children, for a vacation together.  I also had a chance to experience Gold Class Cinema.  Wow.   This was the view from our Docklands apartment:

 

 

New Zealand.
The what-to-do-after-Melbourne question was a big one for us.

The original plan had been to go to New Zealand and speak for The Image College, but a rather dramatic turn of events unfolded quite rapidly just a week before we were to leave for the other side of the world.  Even though I’d signed a contract and incurred expenses, the owner of The Image College declared liquidation of his business.  This was quite a shock, as none of us had received any advance notice that he would be suddenly going out of business.  I had heard that a previous speaker was having some issues receiving payment for work already done, but she was hearing that it was a bank issue. Unfortunately, not only did The Image College not reimburse expenses I’d already incurred, but he was not able to pay companies he’d hired to promote the events and, even more painfully, all of the registration dollars spent by participants.  The message that everyone received was that they were out of business and no refunds would be offered.

As upsetting as that was, we immediately starting thinking about what we could do anyway to still make something happen.

After a crazy amount of emails and calls, we found a major sponsor who was willing to consider picking up the tab for the additional expenses that would be incurred with getting locations locked down and additional flights (keep in mind, much had already been spent and had went with The Image College) – even though there would be no payment, we at least felt like we could try to make the classes happen for those who had paid for them in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.  We were fairly close to pulling it off about ten days before the classes were to begin when we received more disappointing news – we couldn’t get the participant list with all the details of who had registered.  Actually, we still do not have the list, we just know a large number of people signed up, given the amount of emails we’ve received directly from the participants.  We finally had to concede that since we weren’t able to get enough participant information to the sponsor, it was a fair call from them to feel like everything was just too shaky for them to try to be able to expense, given that we still had so little information.  Unfortunately, when all was said and done, I never did receive any response from the Image College at all, after so many repeated attempts.

All of us – me, the NZIPP who tried to jump in and help, the company hired by The Image College, Sally, and some facebook friends who’d also tried to make something still happen – were all quite disappointed.  When we finally announced that we weren’t able to pull it off anyway, it felt like another round of ugh.

The plan for our family had been to teach for a week in New Zealand, then finally camper van around The South Island afterwards – and actually get a proper family vacation in after all the teaching.  When everything fell through, it felt like this was off the table.  Until, of course, we realized that it didn’t have to be.  Yes, it would cost more and no, it wasn’t remotely practical and also three words that push me into doing nearly anything floated up and locked it all in:  life is short.

So we booked last-minute tickets to New Zealand, rented a camper van, and have been driving through the South Island for the last few days.  It didn’t hurt that I got an email from one of the participants who I’d been emailing with  – she said she was disappointed in The Image College, but she so wished I would come anyway, just to see her beautiful country.  I’m so very glad we did.  More photographs of The South Island will be floating up here soon.   It’s nearly impossible to turn in any direction and not find a stunning landscape shot.

It’s said that everything works out for a reason. We are loving this trip and so grateful for the time to truly be together, maybe even more so since we worked quite hard to achieve it.

And, in the end, I’m thinking that’s reason enough.