Category 'New Zealand'

There's little to stick around for in Invercargill (although had I known about Demolition World I might have considered a visit) so instead we took the pretty, but not entirely memorable 2 hour drive straight to Te Anau. We didn’t know how to pronounce Te Anau and so the drive was filled with renditions of Laura Branigan’s ‘Ti Amo’ (that’s an 80s tune for you youngsters). It's 'T-R-no' for the record. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3575,3576,3577,3578"]   Te Anau’s claim to fame is that it’s the gateway to Milford Sound but being built around the South Island’s largest lake, Lake Te Anau, means it’s an entirely pretty town on its own. It actually stole my heart and if I had to choose a town to call home this one would likely be it. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3580,3581"]   The first place you’ll spot when you hit the main street, particularly when your stomach is grumbling after the drive, is ‘Miles Better Pies’ where the queue is often out the door for their renowned pies. Naturally we joined the queue to fuel up for our next adventure - a trip to the Glow Worm Caves! Pro tip - when taking a tour it's fine to leave your car in the main street despite the signs warning of parking restrictions. Apparently Te Anau doesn't actually have a parking inspector but just double check with one of the friendly shop assistants in case this has changed. We boarded the glow worm tour boat at the Real Journeys office across the street and sailed Lake Te Anau for the half hour journey to the nearby underground caves. After a short briefing we walked through darkness accompanied by the roar of flowing water to board another much smaller boat and glide about the underground lake while oohing and aahing (silently so as not to disturb) at the glow worms. A total sensory experience; and a much more pleasant one than on the larger boat where a group of Brazilian teens insisted on blasting their truly hideous music. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3582,3583,3585,3584"]   Back on land we checked into our hotel (I booked it because it specifically said they faced the lake but we found that most of the town’s hotels do) and at the recommendation of the hotel manager we went to the local cinema to watch ‘Fiordland on Film’, a stunning 30 minute visual documentary of the Fiordland region (complete with cocktails from the cinema bar). Afterwards we legged it back to the lake in the hopes of a decent sunset and boy, we were not disappointed when the sky turned an otherworldly mauve colour. Bliss. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3589,3592,3590,3591,3593,3594"]   We stayed at: Radfords on the Lake We stopped at: Miles Better Pies, Real Journeys Glowworm Caves Tour, Fiordland Cinema, Lake Te Anau Distance: From Invercargill to Te Anau via the "scenic route" is approximately 2 hours drive not including stops.

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The best part about staying at Larnach Castle was waking up in a goddamn castle and for a very brief moment this morning the dense fog cleared and we were able to see the breathtaking view that surrounded the property ... before it were gone just as quickly. After a lovely breakfast in the stables we took the audiovisual self-guided tour and learnt about the castle’s origins and tragic history followed by a wander through the gardens enjoying the little tributes to Alice in Wonderland. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3506,3507,3508,3510,3511,3512"] [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3505,3513"]   Our destination today was Invercargill but the journey was more about meandering through the Catlins to get there. The Catlins is an area of “rugged coastlines” “overlooked by tourists” which I can vouch for because I counted on one hand the cars we passed along the way. It’s one of those places where there’s no specific itinerary except to drive through and pull over at anything that takes your fancy. But I should have known by how hard the marketing tries to get you there that it would actually be disappointing. (Mind you a tour guide suggested we may have visited at the wrong time of year, so who knows? Seriously though - just skip it.)   [caption id="attachment_3528" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Farmland on the way to the Catlins[/caption]   The maps suggest a number of notable stops but from our experience most of them require lengthy drives along loose gravel roads with no guarantee of what you want at the end (I’m looking at you seals). These conditions made our drive more stressful than relaxed and I’d suggest if the Catlins truly wants to be a prime tourist destination they’ll need to pave their roads and maybe throw in a couple of cafes and servos. The stops we chose to visit were:

  • The oft photographed Nugget Point Lighthouse with its rocky outcrops that are supposedly teeming with wildlife (we didn’t see any but still a beautiful and worthy stop nonetheless). It's a ten minute walk from the car park to the Lighthouse.
[gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3515,3516"] [caption id="attachment_3517" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The view from the Lighthouse[/caption]  
  • Cannibal Bay, home of sea lions although we didn’t see a single one, and the long and winding gravel road to reach it was one of our most harrowing drives in all of NZ.
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  • Purakaunui Falls, a pretty waterfall down a short track. We had a couple of minutes to ourselves (just enough time to set up a tripod) before it was inundated with tourists, the only other people we saw all day. Asian tourists have this uncanny ability to sense when someone is setting up a shot and go out of their way to ruin it.
[gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3521,3522"]  
  • Cathedral Caves, I was really looking forward to this because it looks incredible in photos but being totally dependent on tide times it was closed for the day.
  • Curio Bay, which is an interesting fossilised beach where you can actually see fallen trees in the rocks. Good for a wander but also dependent on tides.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3523,3524,3525,3526"]  
  • We really wanted to reach Slope Point but by then it was getting dark and we had grown weary of sketchy roads so we headed to Invercargill.
Invercargill seems to have a weird obsession with fast vehicles and not much more. If you are following along with this itinerary I would suggest skipping the Catlins and Invercargill altogether and use the extra night either in Wanaka to explore Mt Aspiring, or in Lake Tekapo for some star viewing with the extra day in Mt Cook doing another walk. We stayed at: ASURE Townsman Motor Lodge We stopped at: Larnach Castle, Nugget Point Lighthouse, Cannibal Bay, Purakaunui Falls, Whistling Frog Cafe, Curio Bay, Invercargill Distance: From Dunedin via the Catlins to Invercargill is approx 3 hours 50 mins drive not including scenic stops. It takes 2.5 hours if you take the direct road (ie. not through the Catlins).

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The benefit of staying in Oamaru, besides its steampunk fascination and its penguin playground, is that it’s quite near the Moeraki Boulders. These oversized and otherworldy boulders scattered along a beach are usually pictured in guidebooks bathed in glorious sunrise light surrounded by silky smooth water. To capture this same shot I plotted out sunrise, checked the tide times and dragged poor Mum out of bed at ridiculous o’clock for the 30 minute drive to the boulders. But because the weather gods hate me it was raining, windy and far too bitterly cold to be out at 6.30am (or 3.30am according to our body clocks). And if you do a Google image search of 'Moeraki Boulders' this weather seems more the norm than those sunrise shots would have you believe. Still, who can complain when you’re surrounded by 1 metre spherical boulders, believed to be 60 MILLION YEARS OLD. [caption id="attachment_3380" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Shitty weather, Koekohe Beach[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3377" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Moeraki Boulders[/caption] [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3374,3381,3375,3376,3378,3379"]   It’s hard to be cranky for long when nature is being so impressive so we hammed it up for the camera for as long as our bodies could handle and then bundled back into the car for the hour long journey to Dunedin. Dunedin is chock full of delights and your itinerary should include:

  • The Old Railway Station which is worth a wander for its grand architecture and if you time it right, you might even be able to snap a photo without bus-loads of Asian tourists.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3385,3384"]  
  • Cadbury World. I’ve wanted to visit here for YEARS only to arrive and find out that, due to school holidays, all the tours were booked out for the day. DO NOT make this mistake and DO NOT then try to relieve your misery by stuffing yourself full of sugar in the café.
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  • St Clair Beach. Lovely for a stroll and some snaps of the wooden poles. You may even spot a seal.
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  • Baldwin Street. The world’s steepest street! Much fun for selfies with a difference and if you’re really keen (and stupid) you can even attempt to drive it, but personally I prefer roller coasters when they’re under someone else’s control.
[gallery size="full" ids="3393,3394,3395"]  
  • Signal Hill for sublime city views
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3401,3398,3399,3400"] [caption id="attachment_3396" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Stunning panoramic views of Dunedin from Signal Hill[/caption]  
  • A drive around Portobello Road where the water’s edge is almost at your car tyres. This will take you to Otago Peninsula and the Royal Albatross Centre.
[gallery size="large" ids="3402,3403,3404"]  
  • The Royal Albatross Centre. If you’ve made the journey here, definitely take a tour (although it is pricey). We took a brief tour with a sweet Maori woman to do some incognito Albatross spotting (only one in residence at the time, but still cool). I mention that our guide was Maori because she was one of only a handful of Maori people we saw. Where are your Maori people, South Island?
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3405,3406,3407,3410"]   To top off your perfect Dunedin day, if your budget allows, I highly recommend a stay at Larnach Castle! A castle, you guys! If the weather is good, take the scenic Highcliff Road there, and if it’s not, don’t or you’ll find yourself on windy roads steeped in fog with not much scenery to be seen, let alone much road. Not super fun. However, arriving at a castle steeped in fog is another story altogether because that’s exactly as castles should be. [gallery size="large" ids="3411,3412,3413"]   Our evening at Larnach involved dressing in our finery (cleanest pair of jeans) and attending a three course meal in the Castle Dining Room where we mingled with fellow guests and learnt about the castle’s history, before eagerly falling into our fancy pants beds. See how much you can fit into a day when you’re up at the crack of dawn? [caption id="attachment_3414" align="alignleft" width="432"] Lodge Room[/caption]                   We stayed at: Larnach Lodge, Larnach Castle. We stopped at: Moeraki Boulders, Dunedin Railway Station, Cadbury World, St Clair Beach, Baldwin Street, Signal Hill, The Royal Albatross Centre, Larnach Castle. Distance: Oamaru to Moeraki is approx 30 minutes. Moeraki to Dunedin is approx 1 hour. Dunedin to the Royal Albatross Centre is approx 40 minutes. Larnach Castle is approx 20 minutes from Dunedin and 30 minutes from the Royal Albatross Centre. * Not including scenic stops.

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It’s not often you get excited about a drive but I was relishing the opportunity to travel the scenic Mount Cook Road once again as we made our way out of Aoraki / Mount Cook and down the east coast. But as usual low lying clouds insisted on hampering my plans, though Lake Pukaki was looking particularly stunning and the sky was an insane colour. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3317,3320,3318,3319,3562,3322"]   We travelled through Twizel, which didn’t seem worth a stop, to Omarama (if you’re headed to Queenstown turn off here via the reportedly beautiful Lindis Pass) and toyed with but decided against visiting the Clay Cliffs. The road travels on through the Waitaki Valley which is particularly pretty. [caption id="attachment_3323" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Lake Benmore near Otematata[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_3335" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Fields of yellow, everywhere[/caption]   We lunched in Duntroon where we discovered the delight that is New Zealand bakeries and their delicious range of interesting treats before exploring nearby Elephant Rocks, a collection of large limestone rocks in the middle of nowhere where not another soul was to be seen (well, except for some curious cows and skittish lambs). I love to photograph surreal landscapes and so these kinds of stops are always a must for me, although Castle Hill along Arthur’s Pass provides a similar experience if you can’t manage both. The rocks themselves were created because this whole area was once under the sea and now they act as a nesting place for local birds. You may recognise the area as Aslan’s camp from the Chronicles of Narnia films. The rocks are housed on private land but are free to visit and have basic toilet facilities if required. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3324,3327,3325,3326,3331,3330,3332,3329"] [gallery columns="1" size="large" ids="3328,3333"]   Afterwards we made our first petrol stop and nearly had a heart attack over the price of petrol at $1.87 per litre, about .60c more expensive than Australia! And this is apparently cheap. What the hell New Zealand?! Our stop for the evening was Oamaru which is a little like stepping back in time and then travelling to the future because this town has a bizarre obsession with all things Steampunk! Take a wander through the ye olde Victorian district with its fabulous old buildings and then visit the massive Steampunk HQ, full of rusty treasures, where you’ll delight in the infinity room. [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="3337,3338,3339,3350,3340,3341,3342,3343,3344,3347,3346,3345,3349,3348"]   Oamaru is also famous for its colonies of blue and yellow eyed penguins but due to the wild, windy weather (the worst the town had seen in weeks apparently – just my luck!) we decided to forgo a night out in the elements for a quick glimpse as they waddled home from the sea. You can take day tours of the blue penguin colony (put Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony into your GPS or follow the signs) but for some inexplicable reason this wasn't offered to us when we visited. Maybe next time penguins. We stayed at: ASURE Ambassador Motor Lodge, Oamaru, totally worth it just for their excellent drier which ACTUALLY dried our clothes within 30 mins (gasp) and was free! Also, free muffins (yay). We stopped at: Elephant Rocks, Duntroon and Oamaru including the Victorian District, Steampunk HQ and the Blue Penguin Colony We wore in Spring: Being a windy day a puffer jacket with hood was ideal plus layers including thermals. We were told it was unseasonably cold and overcast though. Distance: Between Aoraki / Mount Cook Village and Oamaru is approx. 2.5 hours, not including scenic stops.

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Whenever I travel overseas I always muse about how little history Australia has compared to the rest of the world but that’s because I live in suburbia and forget that driving just an hour or two inland is like travelling back in time. It makes me wonder how many tourists miss out on country town Australia by never leaving the beaten track. There are plenty of stunning coastal destinations within easy reach of Brisbane but when I need a fix of the country I head to the Southern Downs region; an area that contains the perfect mix of history and nature. From Brisbane, take the Cunningham Highway towards Warwick. Admittedly the drive is a little dull for the first hour but picks up around Aratula which is a great place to stop for some local produce and a bite to eat. Shortly after you’ll enter Main Range National Park as you drive up Cunningham’s Gap through the Great Dividing Range. There’s a number of hikes of various lengths around here, but as I always tend to visit in the warmer months I prefer to appreciate the mountainous scenery from my air-conditioned car. [caption id="attachment_3461" align="aligncenter" width="300"] View from Cunningham's Gap[/caption]   I tend to always visit the region during summer so I can photograph the sunflowers but with many outstanding outdoor locations the cooler months would be more pleasant for exploring. There’s a variety of ways to spend your time in the Southern Downs region so here’s a few of my favourites to pick and choose from. Click the map for exact locations.

Glengallan Homestead:

Once you reach the New England Highway take the turn-off towards Allora and then a quick right to visit Glengallan Homestead. Glengallan is a heritage listed and semi-restored house open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays. Built in the 1800s, it later fell into disrepair and has since been revived with funding. I’ve seen a few old homesteads in my time but this one really tickled my fancy because the restoration is incomplete and I love anything abandoned and rundown. Don’t miss the mummified cat. A visit here will take roughly 30 minutes and costs $10. [gallery size="large" ids="3462,3463,3464"]  

Mary Poppins House:

If you have the time drive on to Allora where you can see the childhood home of P.L. Travers, the author of ‘Mary Poppins’. The house is found towards the end of the main street and can be visited by appointment only. We were incredibly lucky to be passing by just as the owner was out the front and she kindly agreed to allow us to look through. [gallery size="large" ids="3465,3466,3467"]  

Sunflowers:

My favourite reason for visiting the Southern Downs is sunflowers! If you visit during the summer months there’s a chance you’ll stumble across a sunflower field but I’d strongly suggest checking out my sunflower post for specific tips on where to find them.

Warwick:

It’s 20 minutes back to Warwick from Allora. Warwick certainly has that colonial country town feel we lack in the cities and no shortage of beautiful heritage buildings, but not a whole lot to do otherwise. We had dinner at Soban House which was a grossly understated gem and the best Japanese food I’ve ever had!

Queen Mary Falls:

If you’ve got a hankering for a waterfall 40 minutes east of Warwick near the lovely township of Killarney you’ll find the Falls Drive. There’s plenty to explore so refer to this map to plan your trip. We first visited Daggs Falls lookout which is just beside the road and then continued on to Queen Mary Falls. You can do a short walk here which overlooks the falls and then decide if you wish to walk on to the bottom of the falls (the on-site map makes this much more confusing than it actually is). I was devastated to discover that due to recent rainfall the longer track was closed so I’d suggest checking track conditions before you make the trip. [gallery size="large" ids="3469,3470,3471"]   If you continue on towards Boonah you’ll find Carrs Lookout with stunning views but be warned, if you decide to drive back to Brisbane from here you will find yourself on very steep, narrow and almost deserted road. There were a couple of times on this drive I thought I was going to die. The one perk is that you’ll drive through Main Range National Park where you’ll find yourself completely surrounded by the sound of bellbirds and cicadas. It’s truly magical but still not worth the stressful drive. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3472,3473"]

Stanthorpe:

If food and wine experiences are more your thing then a visit to Stanthorpe is a must. Only 45 minutes from Warwick you’ll start to discover an abundance of wineries and plenty of local stores full of farm fresh produce. The area is particularly famous for apples so you can’t go past Suttons Juice Factory for a slice of pie. And if you stay the night I recommend Stannum Lodge Motor Inn followed by Brinx Deli for an excellent breakfast.   [caption id="attachment_3474" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Mount Marley lookout, Stanthorpe[/caption]   Girraween National Park: Being a photographer I try and seek out unusual landscapes and Girraween National Park, 30 mins south of Stanthorpe, certainly ticks my boxes. Situated in the Granite Belt the landscape is primarily rock with huge boulders in impossible formations, walking tracks and waterholes. We visited in summer but apparently in the cooler months the place is alive with wildflowers. There’s also camping options if you’re that way inclined. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3475,3477"]   What’s your favourite thing to do in the Southern Downs?

Wandering through a field completely alone yet surrounded by flowers as tall as a man who whisper in the breeze to the sky above, ablaze with colour. Watching sunset from the middle of a sunflower field is one of the stranger, yet loveliest things I've done. The blooming of the sunflowers in the Southern Downs region is an event on every local photographer’s calendar as there are few things more picturesque than rows upon rows of the biggest, brightest flowers raising their faces to the sky. The places to spot them are around the areas of Warwick and Allora but they can be tough to find as they only bloom for a month of two throughout summer and only if conditions are prime. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3438,3439"]   Without doing the proper research you’ll probably find yourself like me on my first visit, driving along Warwick’s Sunflower Route expecting to be surrounded by fields of gold but finding only fields of green. My best advice is to check in regularly with Warwick QLD Visitor Information Centre’s Facebook page from December to March and once they announce the sunflowers are in bloom wait until people start posting their own photos to the page so you can hone in on specific locations. If you’re really keen there are a number of Brisbane Photography Facebook groups full of sunflower seekers who’ll be sure to offer advice. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3440,3441"]   The three best locations I’ve found (based on ease of entry and safe areas to pull over) are:

1. Freestone Road

My favourite drive from Brisbane to Warwick is via Cunningham’s Gap through the Great Dividing Range. As you get closer to Warwick, Freestone Road will be a turn off to your left. Travel along for awhile and once past Freestone (blink and you’ll miss it) there’s a well accessible field to your right with shoulder height, tightly spaced, sunflowers. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3443,3444"]  

2. Cunningham Highway junction between Warwick and Allora

The Cunningham Highway reaches a junction where you’ll need to choose between turning right to Allora or left to Warwick. Dead ahead you’ll find a couple of huge fields with 6 foot, well-spaced sunflowers. (They’re very close to Glengallan Homestead.) NB. When we headed up to Warwick it was heavily overcast and threatened to rain the entire day. About 30 minutes before sunset I looked out the hotel room window and noticed a touch of colour in the sky so I jumped in the car  and drove back to the sunflowers *just in case*. These images were the result. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3447,3446"] [caption id="attachment_3445" align="aligncenter" width="960"] The mean sky gave me an F-[/caption]  

3. Emu Vale, between Yangan and Killarney

From Warwick drive towards Yangan/Killarney and around Emu Vale you’ll spot yellow faces in the distance. Take the left just beforehand for best access and here you’ll find perfectly sized and spaced sunflowers.   It’s always recommended to get the farmer’s permission before you go tromping about in the fields but in all honesty I found it difficult to know which properties to approach and just tried to be as respectful of the flowers as possible. I definitely recommend taking gumboots as the ground can get squelchy if there’s been rain about and be prepared for bees and flies aplenty. Being the height of summer also remember the hat and sunscreen; I came away burnt after only twenty minutes. [caption id="attachment_3431" align="aligncenter" width="171"] The gumboots I've had in my car for 5 years finally came in handy.[/caption]  

Tips for photographing the sunflowers

Use a high aperture (f/11 or above) and take overhead shots of the field to get the rows of sunflowers in focus. Use a low aperture (f5.6 or below) among the flowers themselves to blur those closest to camera and direct the eye to an interesting flower or person. Try and put something or someone into the scene for interest, preferably in colours that stand out from the flowers. Aim for a time when the sun is low so you can capture it shining through the flowers. Warwick is a good two hour drive from Brisbane and if you’re keen to photograph the sunflowers at sunrise or sunset you’ll need to spend a night in the region so check out this post featuring recommendations on other things to experience while you’re here! Have you been to see the sunflowers?

[caption id="attachment_3358" align="alignright" width="300"] 'There Was' by Charles Blackman[/caption] If I haven’t mentioned it before my favourite artist is Charles Blackman and, in particular, his Schoolgirls and Angels series. He manages to imbue his simple paintings with this lonely darkness that I just adore. And it’s a theme that all my favourite art pieces seem to have in common. Lonely darkness. Anyway, recently I learned how to make a photo of day look like night. It’s really simple. Basically you drop your exposure and blacks and add an overall blue tone, but for some reason I’d never been able to figure out how to do it, and not for lack of trying. Sometimes the simplest Photoshop tricks completely elude me. But now I finally have the tool I need to create my own lonely darkness.   [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="3361,3360"]   ‘The Stars are Falling’ was initially inspired by an episode of 'Angel' I watched long ago that featured a storyline where the sky rained with fire. It got me thinking about the moment of peace the world would experience when everyone looked to the sky wondering what was going on, before everything erupted into chaos. With all that has gone on in 2016, political upheaval, the deaths of so many icons, as well as personal struggles such as losing my job, alienating friends, and reaching a plateau with my art, it’s impossible to ignore that everything is changing. All of which has manifested in this image, ‘The Stars are Falling’. I started the year with an image that symbolises rebirth, ‘Metamorphosis’ and I feel as if this new image metaphorically completes that “circle of life”. [caption id="attachment_2869" align="aligncenter" width="300"]bird, conceptual, art, phoenix, baptism, reinvention, photograph, fire, flames Metamorphosis[/caption]   The rooftop in the image is from the bakery of my favourite restaurant, ‘Harvest’, in Newrybar and was photographed during a road trip I took exactly a year ago. The ‘meteor’ is a stock photo sourced from Unsplash and is attributed to NASA. The girl is, of course, a self-portrait, photographed, as usual, in my backyard. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="3354,3357,3356,3355"]   Happy New Year and here's to 2017 and whatever it shall bring. :)

For me every new year is a chance for reinvention so with 2017 on the horizon I have been going through a period of deep self -reflection. 2015 was the year I became an artist and I built a portfolio of 40 pieces that I’m very proud of. 2016 was the year I spent most of my time on marketing that body of work and as a result I only created 12 pieces. It has been a year of highs and lows; a year where I started to make money and gain recognition for my work but also, somehow, had no time to create art. [gallery size="medium" link="none" ids="2841,2869,2933"]   I’ve learnt so much about the art world—mainly that art is consumed differently from its hey-day in the 80s and yet it’s still trying to operate on an antiquated gallery-focused model. I’ve learnt that the art world, particularly in Australia, is divided between traditional and subversive and my work doesn’t fit into either box. My exhibition at the Hub Gallery, Caboolture The Internet has given artists the opportunity for wider reach but it’s also flooded with competition so I’ve spent the majority of my year learning about arts marketing and implementing different strategies with limited success. I’ve seen so many fellow artists become marketers and educators – setting up online courses, mastering email marketing funnels, trying to make their work go viral – all in the hope that they’ll begin to make serious money from their art but in the process they lose the essence of what it is to make art. I don’t want this to happen to me. I signed up to be an artist, not a teacher, not a marketer. So I’ve decided to stop buying into all this arts marketing crap and getting caught in the nets of people trying to capitalise on artists and instead focus on the things that make my heart sing. The one useful thing I’ve learned is to picture exactly what I want my life and my business to look like and then work towards that goal every day. This may surprise you but my ultimate goal is to travel and either get paid to do it or live off a passive income. In fact this line has been in my bio since day 1: “My dream is to travel around Australia creating photographic art in rural and iconic locations.” While I have been taking baby steps towards this goal, mainly through my travel Instagram account (@hayleyrtravels), it’s unlikely anyone looking at my art would even know this about me. That’s why in 2017 I want to launch something new. My four passions are photography, travel, art and writing, in that order, and so I’m trying to create something that combines all four. I don’t know exactly what it will look like and the experimentation process has been really hard because it’s a whole new way of thinking and working, and I’m the kind of person who gets frustrated if I’m not good at something right away. It feels weird to be back at the drawing board but I know if I keep at it something will come together eventually. The things I am working towards are:

  • Travelling more
  • Writing a blog about each place I travel to
  • Creating a photo essay documenting my travels so I can pursue more landscape work
  • Making art pieces created out of photographs I’ve taken in those locations
The road to Mt Cook As I learnt from my 2015 Exposing Illusions project I am a better artist when I have a project. So this new project will involve art pieces inspired by travel. I intend to create much more simply, art that takes hours instead of weeks, because I long for the wilderness and need to stop spending so much time at a computer. I plan to sell prints and products made from my work using an online distributor at a price everyone can afford in the hope that these sales will fund future travel. I will also sell limited edition feature prints created by a professional printer at a higher, more collectible, price point. I will market this work to commercial, travel and stock agencies in the hope they see value in what I do. Naturally this all terrifies me. Deep down I’m convinced that I will only ever be mediocre no matter how hard I try. But I need to try regardless. For now I ask for your patience while I create this project and your assistance to help me fine-tune it. I’d like you to be my test audience and will ask for your honest feedback on various components. I’d love for you to be my champions, helping me get the word out about this project. I know that it will be a long journey to my end goal but I’m excited about all the things I will learn on the way. Come for a ride?

Lately I've spent a lot of time staring at mountains and experiencing that feeling--you know the one--that is a mix of awe and wonder, interconnectedness and insignificance. There is no word for this feeling in the English language, or maybe any language, but it feels a lot like joy, or at least a kind of enchantment. When the clouds clear or the fog rises revealing a rainbow or a snow capped mountain and there you are to experience this rare and beautiful moment as woven by the elements, well, perhaps it would be an injustice to try and contain it in a single word. [caption id="attachment_3210" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Staring at mountains, Hooker Valley, New Zealand Staring at mountains, Hooker Valley, New Zealand[/caption]   I travel to find these moments and I photograph to try and immortalise them, but much like words, there is no medium on earth that can accurately convey the experience. This is what my image 'Enchanted' came to be about but as usual it did not start out that way, and as usual it ended as an image of a character interacting with nature, as the majority of my photos do. A lot of photographers who create the kind of art that I do have a very simple formula which is: a) a basic setting that isn't important to the story b) a moody sky c) a character d) something interesting happening to the character e) an overall colour tone, desaturation and overlaying of a texture My work has been getting too complicated and time consuming of late and arguably has suffered for it (or at least, I have) so I wanted to simplify things by creating an image using this formula. Without any plan I threw on a wig and a dress and posed for the camera, dancing, swishing, jumping and it was fun and freeing but probably not recommended because it's difficult to come up with a concept after the fact. I chose the final pose because it was the most pleasing to the eye, but it was a challenge to work with because she's observing, not interacting and that made it hard to put her in a story. Pose for Enchantment   The mountains were photographed from a train in Scotland and have been on my mind as a potential scene for forever and a day. Because she's observing I had to give her something interesting to observe and I liked how the mountains complemented the colour scheme of her hair and skin. The clouds are from the original mountain scene but combined from a number of different shots. It was at this point seeing the scene become the story that I ditched the formula and yet again indulged my subconscious desire to run off into nature. Mountain in Scotland She is standing on a stormwater drain mainly as a way of making her the correct perspective, but also, don't you find you like to climb things to get a better view of pretty scenes? Drain for Enchantment I added the rainbow because I wanted to create one of those rare and beautiful moments I talked about earlier. An epic mountain is one thing but an epic mountain with a rainbow is exactly the kind of scene that makes you experience that exquisite feeling there is no word for, but feels a lot like joy. Rainbow for Enchantment   FOOTNOTE: Two days after writing this post we had a stormy afternoon and with it came the closest, brightest double rainbow I've ever seen. As the neighbours came outside to view it it was a lovely to see so many people enchanted by the moment. [caption id="attachment_3208" align="aligncenter" width="595"]Detail of image - using the oil paint filter to resemble a painting Detail of image - final touches with the oil paint filter to make the image resemble a painting[/caption]

Last spring I created the image, 'Dance of the Jacarandas' to celebrate the month when my city turns purple, so after a trip to Japan earlier this year it seemed appropriate to make a companion cherry blossom themed piece for release this spring. I'm thinking of turning this into a regular series and am toying with poincianas, wattle or bougainvillea next, so if you know of any good spots ...   [caption id="attachment_3165" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A cherry blossom sighting in Japan (my mother can't be trusted with my camera). A cherry blossom sighting in Japan (my mother can't be trusted with my camera).[/caption]   It's embarrassing to admit, but back in my university / goth years, on the 1st of Spring I would dress up as the spring fairy, buying fresh flowers and weaving them into a wreath, and if I felt brave enough (because clearly playing dress ups was not already brazen enough) I would give out floral gifts to strangers (there is photographic evidence of this but it's such a terrible shame that I can't currently find it). If this series is any indication I guess I still like to play dress ups and celebrate spring. To my surprise cherry blossom trees are actually quite tough to photograph. For one, they are totally inundated with people. They bloom for approximately 11 days once a year so if you blink you'll miss 'em, which of course means everyone wants to experience them in person. We were on a regular commuter bus in Kyoto and as we drove past a cherry blossom tree, EVERYONE took out their phone cameras and started snapping away. Some companies even pay an employee to sit in a park all day during hanami (cherry blossom viewing) reserving the best picnic spot for when they all finish work. The Japanese also have this astounding ability that, while it may seem as if there's no one nearby, as soon as you point your camera at something at least one person will appear and stand in your way for as long as it takes for you to give up and move on. It's uncanny.   [caption id="attachment_3163" align="aligncenter" width="960"]cherry blossom Keage Incline, Kyoto: I got totally lost at Nanzen-ji temple looking for a waterfall and found this instead.[/caption]   Secondly, Japan has become quite polluted. On my previous two visits this wasn't the case so I'm sad to say it is now. I love photographing overcast scenes because colours become deep and saturated, even sunny days bring blue skies and lots of contrast, but pollution? It does no favours for anyone.   [caption id="attachment_3164" align="aligncenter" width="960"]cherry blossom Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto, and the most boring type of sky.[/caption]   Lastly, cherry blossoms come in a stunning array of colours and varieties but the majority of them are this wishy washy pale pink colour that just blends right in with the polluted sky and looks kind of mucky.   [caption id="attachment_3166" align="aligncenter" width="960"]cherry blossom Pale flowers, Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto[/caption]   The two trees used in my final image were both photographed at Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo on the first day of our trip, right before cherry blossom season had actually begun. They have thicker flowers and are a rarer rich, pink colour which is quite lovely. If anyone knows what type of sakura these are, I beg you to tell me so I can buy one. The other elements that make up the final photo are included below. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3168,3167"]   [gallery size="large" ids="3171,3172,3170,3169,3173"]   I had the photo all ready to go but my Mum pointed out that the hedges didn't have any fallen flowers on them. It's these kinds of details that really make a composite believable and is why getting a second opinion is so important. (And also why I then had to spend an extra day on the image.) As with 'Dance of the Jacarandas' I created a brush out of a cherry blossom to paint some falling blooms into the scene and then added some more petal shaped brush strokes. Falling cherry blossoms are quite lovely and to experience them is like being caught in a soft, warm snowstorm. I have a video of what it's like featuring my mother being delightful but I can't figure out how to post it with Wordpress so check out my Facebook  instead. [caption id="attachment_3187" align="aligncenter" width="150"]cherry blossom brush Sakura Photoshop brush[/caption]   And then of course, there's me, photographed as usual in my backyard using an op shop parasol and an eBay dress. I really liked this pose but there were some problems with it so I photographed it again a few days later, only to decide that I preferred the original pose afterall.   Cherry blossom self-portrait   You can see more of my travel photography (I'm not up to Japan yet but I'll get there eventually) at my travel Instagram account @hayleyrtravels where I post a photo daily. Sayonara! jacaranda, sakura, cherry blossom, fine art, prints, photography, conceptual, series

6
May

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 7 : Invercargill to Te Anau

There’s little to stick around for in Invercargill (although had I known about Demolition World I might have considered a visit) so instead we took the pretty, but not entirely memorable 2 hour drive straight to Te Anau. We didn’t know how to pronounce Te Anau and so the drive was filled with renditions of Laura Branigan’s […]

22
Apr

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 6 : Dunedin to Invercargill

The best part about staying at Larnach Castle was waking up in a goddamn castle and for a very brief moment this morning the dense fog cleared and we were able to see the breathtaking view that surrounded the property … before it were gone just as quickly. After a lovely breakfast in the stables we took […]

8
Apr

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 5 : Oamaru to Dunedin

The benefit of staying in Oamaru, besides its steampunk fascination and its penguin playground, is that it’s quite near the Moeraki Boulders. These oversized and otherworldy boulders scattered along a beach are usually pictured in guidebooks bathed in glorious sunrise light surrounded by silky smooth water. To capture this same shot I plotted out sunrise, […]

25
Mar

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 4 : Mount Cook to Oamaru

It’s not often you get excited about a drive but I was relishing the opportunity to travel the scenic Mount Cook Road once again as we made our way out of Aoraki / Mount Cook and down the east coast. But as usual low lying clouds insisted on hampering my plans, though Lake Pukaki was looking […]

11
Feb

A weekend in the Southern Downs

Whenever I travel overseas I always muse about how little history Australia has compared to the rest of the world but that’s because I live in suburbia and forget that driving just an hour or two inland is like travelling back in time. It makes me wonder how many tourists miss out on country town […]

4
Feb

A visit to the Southern Downs summer sunflowers

Wandering through a field completely alone yet surrounded by flowers as tall as a man who whisper in the breeze to the sky above, ablaze with colour. Watching sunset from the middle of a sunflower field is one of the stranger, yet loveliest things I’ve done. The blooming of the sunflowers in the Southern Downs […]

31
Dec

The making of ‘The Stars are Falling’

If I haven’t mentioned it before my favourite artist is Charles Blackman and, in particular, his Schoolgirls and Angels series. He manages to imbue his simple paintings with this lonely darkness that I just adore. And it’s a theme that all my favourite art pieces seem to have in common. Lonely darkness. Anyway, recently I […]

4
Dec

Flying dreams

For me every new year is a chance for reinvention so with 2017 on the horizon I have been going through a period of deep self -reflection. 2015 was the year I became an artist and I built a portfolio of 40 pieces that I’m very proud of. 2016 was the year I spent most […]

23
Oct

The making of ‘Enchanted’

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time staring at mountains and experiencing that feeling–you know the one–that is a mix of awe and wonder, interconnectedness and insignificance. There is no word for this feeling in the English language, or maybe any language, but it feels a lot like joy, or at least a kind of enchantment. When […]

11
Sep

Cherry Blossom (sakura) season

Last spring I created the image, ‘Dance of the Jacarandas’ to celebrate the month when my city turns purple, so after a trip to Japan earlier this year it seemed appropriate to make a companion cherry blossom themed piece for release this spring. I’m thinking of turning this into a regular series and am toying with poincianas, wattle or bougainvillea […]