Rock Rugged Takes The Road: Part 4

Before you read any further, if you haven’t read the other posts in this series, do so now!

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Our last day in Banff National Park was bittersweet. In only the two days we had already spent there, I had lost my heart to this beautiful place. I knew we would be leaving that day, and I wanted to cry at the thought. We camped beneath tall trees, and as soon as I could see the sun rising through the material of the tent, I snuck outside. I wrote a little something down in my journal while I sat beside the lake that morning, which you can read below.IMG_0177EditIMG_0218EditIMG_0188Edit

‘The sun has risen. I pull the sleeping bag loose from my body and unzip the flaps of my tent, and I step out into the cool morning air. There is still a haze of smoke in the atmosphere, though it has dissipated somewhat from how it was the day before. I wrap my blanket around my shoulders and walk through the campsite, to the edge of a lake. The water is calm, still, like glass, and I step into the frigid water. I shiver. Everything around me is quiet; campers are still asleep in their tents; it is blue hour. The only sound to be heard is the distant flapping of a bird’s wings and the gentle slosh of a canoe launching into the lake a few yards away. The day is new, and I am here to greet it. Good morning.’

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We ventured out of our camp site that morning, and then continued on to our last day of adventure through the park. Our last stops before we left Banff was Bow and Peyto Lakes. Driving through Banff was like driving through a postcard, filled with the most gorgeous mountain images you have ever seen. The smoke had cleared and we could finally see the views for what they were, and I was blown away.  IMG_0257EditIMG_0270EditIMG_0280EditIMG_0285EditIMG_0287IMG_0293Edit

We arrived at Bow Lake, and hiked around the water’s edge for a bit, taking in the view and feeling the warm rays of sunlight on our tired bodies.

(Click the images to view them larger.)

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The lodge at Bow Lake was so beautiful!! I loved the red roof and deck chairs. IMG_0355EditIMG_0348Edit

After leaving Bow, we made our way further up into the mountains to get to the Peyto Lake overlook. It was so amazing to see this place in person for the first time! I had seen it in photos a thousand times, but there was nothing quite like actually standing there looking at the wolf’s head from above. Once again, I was astounded by the bright blue color in the water. It didn’t even look real.

We left Peyto and headed back towards Bow Lake, to get a few shots of our group together. I don’t think we had gotten a full group shot before this point, and it was more than necessary. Rock Rugged is the startup company we were shooting content for, so it also made sense to grab some good shots of the shirts.

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We traveled on through toward the exit of the park, and our last stop was in Banff Village, which reminded me a little bit of Park City. So many cute shops and restaurants, and a whole lot of Banff paraphernalia. We drove by the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, which was gigantic and gorgeous. I wished we could have toured the inside of it, but we had to be on our way. We wanted to reach our Airbnb before nightfall.

And I’m so glad we did. This place, just outside of Cochrane, Alberta, was straight out of a storybook. It was a little side-home, located on a horse ranch, and surrounded by rolling green hills.

IMG_0531EditIMG_0526EditIMG_0521EditIMG_0524EditIMG_0568EditOur Airbnb hosts were this sweet older couple, and they wanted to teach us a little bit about training horses. We followed them to their enclosure, and we played games with the horses for a few hours. It was definitely one of the more entertaining nights of my life. We stayed there until the sun hung low in the sky, and then we ventured into town to grab a bite to eat.

When we returned, our hosts had started a bonfire for us, with s’mores at the ready. The husband of this couple had spent so much of his life traveling all over the world, so he was full of amazing stories to tell us.  We sat and talked to them until the small hours of the evening (at least that’s what it felt like) and then we went to sleep.

In the morning, we said goodbye to the horses and our kind hosts, and headed back on the road again.IMG_0538EditIMG_0543EditIMG_0558EditIMG_0554EditIMG_0563EditIMG_0516Edit

Our last stop on the journey was Yellowstone National Park. I had only been once before, and it was just like I remembered it. Beautiful, cold, and steamy beyond belief. After camping in the park when we arrived late the night before, the next morning we walked around the steaming hot springs and fields, and I took photos of everything I saw. Yellowstone is such an otherworldly place.

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Before long, we were on the road again. This was the homestretch; only a few hours to go until we were back at the starting place. We drove across fields and through canyon passes, and saw the Tetons and Wasatch mountains rise around us. IMG_0721EditIMG_0731EditIMG_0743EditIMG_0760Edit

Even coming up on six months later, this trip is still one of my absolute favorites I have ever taken. I was so blown away by everything I saw and did, and I feel so grateful and lucky for the opportunity I had to join this group on this amazing adventure.

A huge thank you goes out to my friend Jake Gibson for organizing this trip, mapping it all out, and feeding us along the way. I will forever be grateful I was introduced to this group of people, none of whom I had ever met before. Gentri and Delaina, thank you for being my adventure buddies and fellow photographers. I love you all, my friends, and thank you for making this a trip I will always cherish and remember.

Rock Rugged Takes The Road: Part 3

Before you read any further, did you miss the previous two road trip posts? If so, read up!

Part One
Part Two

Onward we traveled, further across the Canadian landscape until we made it to Alberta at last. The smoke in the air made it hard to see the mountains surrounding us, and I was praying it would clear up by the time we made it into Banff. No such luck. As we ventured further into the national park, it was apparent that the smoke was going to continue to plague the atmosphere. No matter. That just meant my photos were going to be a little moodier than normal, which was just fine by me. Now if only I could breathe better through the smokiness…

(Click on the images to view them larger)

We wanted to catch Lake Louise before sunset, and we arrived at the famed landmark just as twilight began to settle around us. I hadn’t seen water this blue since I was in Iceland a few years back…it’s amazing how the earth can make colors like that. We took pictures around the water’s edge and explored the dock before heading to our campsite for the evening.

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IMG_9683Edit(I had to have a laugh at “Fail” written on the the binocular thing. I am a child.)IMG_9689EditIMG_9698EditIMG_9700Edit

The next morning we were up bright and early. We didn’t have a very planned out day, but we knew a few things we wanted to see in the park. First stop was at a beautiful waterfall called Takakkaw Falls, a place we weren’t sure what to expect from, but completely blew us away. The waterfall was gigantic and beautiful, and the surrounding landscape was so breathtaking.

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We continued on through the park, stopping here and there to take in the views and take pictures. The mountains were so majestic and enormous, I felt like I had to keep reminding myself to breathe when I looked around me.

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Eventually we made our way to Lake Moraine, where we spent several hours enjoying the views, people-watching, and climbing around on rocks like excited kids. The beauty of this lake completely exceeded my expectations, even though the mountains still remained bashfully hiding behind a smoky veil. The water was so blue and clear, and all I wanted to do was go swimming in it.

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We decided to split up into two groups, Jake and Delaina in one group and Gentri and I in another. J + D were going to hike to some beautiful surrounding mountains and valleys, and G + I wanted something a little less strenuous. Of course, we ended up picking a trail that a bear had been spotted on that day… We were sure to talk at a louder volume as we ventured into the woods alone together, hoping that if there were a bear nearby we would keep it at bay.

We made it through the mossy green forest remarkably unscathed, and we ambled along a path which brought us to a lake surrounded by rocky cliffs. There were only a few other people around, so it was tranquil and silent–just what we needed after a long past few days. We talked about life, religion and relationships, munching on goldfish and laughing at the fearless little chipmunks that climbed all over us.

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We took some photos, and then continued back on the trail to Lake Moraine to meet up with our friends.

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We had one more day left to spend in Banff National Park, and then we would be heading back home. I was already getting sad that our road trip was nearing its end, but I made a promise to myself that I would take advantage of every remaining moment along the journey.

I have one more post up my sleeve for this Rock Rugged road trip, so stay tuned! I’ll do my best to get it online faster than the other posts😉

 

Rock Rugged Takes The Road: Part 2

First of all, if you haven’t read the first part of my roadtrip, I recommend you do so now.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to Canada we go! We left the Olympic National Park on an afternoon which had shaken off its moody haze. When we exited the Hoh Rainforest, it was bright and sunny, completely in contrast to the chilly beach where we had spent the morning. We drove for what felt like hours across fields and neighborhoods of Washington, until we reached the coast at last to find the place where our ferry would depart. It was a quiet town, with cute shops, tiny cafes, and tables set up outside.

We got a quick dinner of savory crepes, and we boarded the ferry bound for the Canadian Border.

I had been on a ferry like this a year previous, when I went from Vancouver to Nanaimo Island with my friends at Flickr Island. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, check out my blog post about that week here. There’s something so special about ferries; they make me feel like I’ve just stepped inside a movie, and I love the feeling of the waves crashing below and the wind whipping my hair around me.

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At last we arrived on the other side of the bay, where we drove another hour to reach the home of my dearest friend (and Canadian sister), Lizzy Gadd. If you don’t know who Lizzy is, a) shame on you, and b) go check out her incredible work right this moment. She and the Gadd family welcomed our sleepy group with open arms, and we settled in for the night.

The next morning, we met up with my friends/crazy talented photographers Shane Black and Joel Schat, and we headed out to a lake called Pitt. There, we rented kayaks and spent the morning kayaking across Pitt Lake, on route to Widgeon Falls. It was the perfect way to spend our first morning in Canada, and I felt so happy to be spending time with some of my favorite people in the world.

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At last we reached the trailhead for Widgeon Falls, and we hiked about an hour or less through the forest, until we reached an emerald blue waterfall and river in the mountains. The whole place looked like it was straight out of a magazine. There were giant boulders and towering trees, and I couldn’t resist stripping down to my swimsuit and jumping into the clear, frigid water. IMG_8886EditIMG_8889EditIMG_8901EditIMG_8910EditIMG_8916EditIMG_8924EditIMG_8930EditIMG_8935EditIMG_8940EditIMG_8946Edit

After a little while of swimming, jumping off rocks, and sunbathing on the granite rocks, we hiked back down the trail to our kayaks. The way back felt longer than the way there, but that was because I felt rather leisurely as I slowly drifted across the lake. I soaked up the sunshine, chatted with my friends, and stared up at the beautiful sky in wonder as a sun halo appeared–something I had never before witnessed.

That day couldn’t have been more perfect. That evening we met back up with the Gadd’s, grabbed sushi and boba tea for dinner, and spent the rest of the evening editing photos and watching Dumb and Dumber. Have I mentioned how awesome that day was?

The next morning, we only had a few hours before we were going to meet up with Jake again and head on our way towards Alberta. Banff National Park was our next major stop, and I was so excited to get there. At the same time, I really didn’t want to leave my friends behind in Vancouver. I would’ve been happy to spend another week there with them–or let’s face it, months. I love the Gadd’s so much; they’re always so welcoming and homey, and I honestly feel like they’re another family to me. My own personal Canadian family, as it were.😉

Thankfully, we all decided that we wanted to stop at Alouette Lake before we left the city, and I was so excited to visit my favorite lake in the world once more. We spent the afternoon flying Jake’s drone over the lake, taking photos around the bay and surrounding forests, and exploring the area.

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We stopped into a forest on the way back from Alouette that Lizzy wanted to show us, and I was so happy we did. The trees were enormous and skinny, letting in slats of light and shading us from the hot afternoon sun. I couldn’t resist taking a lot of photos of my own while we explored such a beautiful place.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye to our friends, and we went into town to eat lunch at a cute little cafe that had the best grilled cheese and soup ever. I was very happy about that.

We hugged Lizzy and Shane goodbye, then took to the road once again. On the way out of the city, we stopped at the most beautiful waterfall, Bridal Falls, where Lizzy had taken this incredible photo of me a few years before. It was running slower than I remember it, but it was still absolutely breathtaking to see. The light filtered in through the trees and reflected across the misty falls, shimmering like a painting.

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We drove through the night across fields and rivers and up into the mountains. Along the way, there was an accident with my water bottle that sent water shooting across my laptop and shorting it within seconds. I was devastated, but I tried not to let it ruin the trip for me. We stopped and got a bag of rice, and I put it in the bed of the truck to dry out, crossing my fingers it would revive in the morning.

Morning came and no such luck. My laptop was dead, but I was determined to put my heartache aside and just enjoy the beauty of our journey. It was all going to be okay. I knew it.

We had stopped at an Airbnb for the night, a beautiful little cabin on the edge of Gardom Lake. We rose from our beds, prepared a breakfast for ourselves of egg scrambles, toast, and tea, and decided to take a canoe out onto the quiet lake.

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I felt so happy to be there that morning, on that beautiful lake, and I tried my best to remember every sight, sound, and smell I breathed in. It was a memory I never want to forget. I could write an entire book about that place.

We rowed around the lake, and Delaina and Jake decided they wanted to take a dip in the water. I would have as well if I had thought to bring my swimming suit with me, but I was happy to just take photos of their fun. I felt like a kid at summer camp all over again.

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At last we took our leave of Gardom Lake, and took to the road again towards Banff National Park. I was so excited for our next stop, I could hardly stand it. The air was thick and hazy from the extensive wildfires going through the West Coast during that month, but it gave the world around us a kind of ethereal glow. I didn’t know what to expect from the next part of our journey, but I couldn’t wait to find out.

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Stay tuned for the next portion of our journey into Canada on the Rock Rugged Roadtrip! I promise to have it up sooner than this last one, so keep an eye out😉

Also, just so you don’t miss any future posts, be sure to give this blog a follow, and comment below your favorite part of this post!

 

Rock Rugged Takes The Road: Part 1

Well, it’s about time I finally blogged this.

In August of last year (seeing as it’s only the 4th of January, it’s weird to be saying ‘last year’) I went on a roadtrip across 6 US states and Canada. I was invited along with a small startup adventure brand called Rock Rugged, to serve as one of the photographers for the journey. Having returned from Europe less than a month before, I didn’t have any more plans to travel when the opportunity came up, but I couldn’t let myself pass it up. It all sounded too good to be true.

I met up with our group on a warm morning, which consisted of blogger Gentri Trinnaman, photographer Delaina Graff, and brand founder Jake Gibson. I knew none of them beyond a few conversations prior to the roadtrip, but it didn’t take us long to start talking up a storm. I knew we would be good friends before the end of this journey.

Our first leg of the trip took us through Utah and Idaho, across a dry, desert landscape. We stopped at a gas station called the “Middle of Nowhere”, which was very aptly named and was home to an assortment of animals, including several llamas. It was pretty much the perfect way to start off our roadtrip.

(Click on the photos to see them larger in Lightbox)

That night, we arrived at the edge of Oregon in Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area. It was already dark by that time, so after driving through the winding canyon deep into the night telling ghost stories, we found a place to park and sleep. As the sun rose, we finally were able to see the landscape that we had stopped at, and it blew us away.

IMG_7984EditIMG_7989EditIMG_7990EditIMG_8012EditIMG_8008EditIMG_8015EditThere were fires in the area, so it was smokey as I’d ever seen, but still so beautiful. The jagged mountains rose around us, and there was a river running at the base of them.IMG_8029EditIMG_8057EditIMG_8030EditIMG_8036EditIMG_8070EditIMG_8076EditIMG_8082EditIMG_8085EditIMG_8093EditIMG_8096Edit

We continued on our way, winding through empty roads past white-washed mountains. It felt like another world out here, so far away from society and busy traffic. It was so strangely beautiful, all of it.

We finally left the jagged mountains and ventured into a smokey forest pass. We stopped a few times to clear fallen trees out of our path, and I wandered down to the river to take photos and listen to the calming sound of the babbling stream.

Eventually, we made our way out of the forest and found ourselves in a town as small as I had ever seen. There was only one stoplight, but it was a bustling town nonetheless. There was a market, a live band playing, and taste-tests of yummy food and fruit. We stopped to grab a few things at the general store, and directed our maps towards Washington.

We drove for hours through quiet towns and busy metropolises. We stopped to eat at a diner that was full of old-timers engaging in conversation with kind waitresses who brought their children to work with them. Eventually we arrived in Snoqualmie Pass, and I begged to stop at the falls I had only seen in pictures up until then. The crew was happy to comply, and before long we were staring over the railing at one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’d ever seen.

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That night we drove through the endless emerald forests of Washington to finally arrive at the coast, where we would camp ourselves for the night. The beaches were full already, so we found a grassy parking lot to set up our tents in. I surprised myself by sleeping soundly throughout the night, with the sound of quiet waves reverberating far in the distance.

The next morning, we awoke early and walked to La Push beach, which was foggy and cold and perfect in every way.

We spent hours exploring this beach, amazed at the way the waves gently kissed the shoreline in the early morning chill. We climbed giant driftwood remains and took photos and breathed in the fresh ocean air. It was so nice to finally be out of the smokey mountains; it felt like we had finally taken a veil off our mouths and we could now breathe unobstructed.

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I think cold pacific beaches might be some of my favorite places in the world. I ambled along the driftwood piled high along the shore, taking photos to my heart’s content. The misty air made my clothes and hair wet, but I loved every moment spent in this dreamlike place.

The last part of our journey through Washington was to the Hoh Rainforest, inside the Olympic National Park. After stopping through the now-famous town of Forks for some Twilight-themed fun, we made our way to the gigantic forest. I had seen photos of this otherworldly place, which is one of the largest temperate rainforests in North America. Walking through the forest was like stepping into an ancient world, where moss hung from the trees like long bony arms outstretched. I imagine spending the night in this rainforest would be terrifying to say the least, but during the daytime it was a sight to behold.

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The next part of our roadtrip would take us across the border to Canada! I had made plans for us to meet up and stay with one of my dearest friends in the world, Lizzy Gadd, whom I traveled to Iceland with last year, and have adventured with many times over the past several years. She’s more like a sister than a friend to me, and I knew she would give us a fun couple of days in Vancouver.

Keep an eye out on this blog, because some of my favorite photos from our roadtrip are still forthcoming! You won’t want to miss them🙂

A Workshop Tour of Europe: France (Part 2)

Ah, Paris. The most charming city in the world–the city that never gets old–the city that I fell in love with almost a decade ago, and haven’t stopped dreaming about since. This was my third time visiting Paris, and I was just as excited to be there as the first time I went.

When my friend Brooke suggested we go to Paris before I head back to the US, I didn’t even have to think twice about it. I booked my tickets that day, and had an Airbnb set up an hour later. I couldn’t wait to explore more of this city that had shaped European history, fashion, art, and so much more.

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Our first day in the city was spent navigating train stations and subway lines, dragging bags through tunnels and across cobblestone streets. Very quickly, we found our airbnb, settled in, and then headed out into the warm sunny afternoon. Brooke and I wanted to see the “typical tourist sights” first, as you do, and so we headed first to the Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower. I don’t care how many times I see both of those places; I still feel so in awe of their construction, history, and beauty.

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The Tour de France was heading through Paris that same weekend we were in town–which meant there were crowds and bicyclists everywhere. The Champs Elysees is the landmark last stop on the tour, and so we decided we would head there the day before the final haul of riders came through.

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The next day, Brooke and I decided to go somewhere neither of us had been before in Paris: Père Lachaise Cemetery. This is the cemetery that is known for its gigantic and elaborate tombstones and mausoleums, as well as being the resting place of several famous individuals, including Chopin, Molière, Jim Morrison, Théodore Géricault, and Oscar Wilde.

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This cemetery was one of the most incredible places I had ever seen, and stretched on for miles. Each tombstone was unique in its own way, offering little hints about the deceased individuals who inhabited its grounds. I was amazed at each turn in Pére Lachaise, and I wondered what it would be like to have the honor of being buried in such a beautiful place. I also thought about what my tombstone would look like if I rested my own bones here; would I have a simple grave marker–no frills or vanity? A miniature chapel, complete with a nave and decorated façade, and a crypt below for my body? Would I want a statue of myself to stand guard at my grave for all eternity, in bronze or granite or marble? I think I’m pretty certain I would opt for the first option.

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In the afternoon, we came out of the subway to find the city drenched in newly fallen rain. We weren’t going to let the weather stop us though–besides, Paris is always the best on a rainy day. So we grabbed our umbrellas and headed in the direction of Sainte-Chapelle. I went to this cathedral last time I was in Paris, but it had been under construction that time, and I wanted to see it in all its glory. Plus, Brooke had never been. It was the perfect day to go cathedral hopping anyways.

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I’m pretty sure nothing is more beautiful than this basilica. The light through the stained glass dances across every corner of this gorgeous place, making everything purple and blue and pink. Crowded and stuffed with tourists as it was, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in a separate world of my own as I stared in awe at the beauty all around me. It is definitely an experience I won’t ever forget.

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After we had spent a good amount of time exploring the area near Sainte-Chapelle, Brooke and I wandered in the direction of Notre Dame. (I told you it was the perfect day for Cathedral hopping). First, however, we decided to check out the Latin Quarter, which was so beautifully shimmery in the rain.

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Oh, isn’t Paris wonderful? Everything is so easy to photograph because it’s just so romantic and pretty everywhere. I could explore and take pictures of this city forever.

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We eventually made our way to Notre Dame, which is obviously the most recognizable place in Paris…besides the Eiffel Tower, of course. I’ve also been to this cathedral multiple times, but I never get bored of it. In fact, below is a photo of myself I’ve gotten every time I’ve visited Notre Dame. It’s nice to see that some things change (my awkward gangliness) and other things stay the same (you know, Notre Dame).

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Now that we’ve all had a laugh at my 15 year old self, let’s continue on…

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I always make it a point to light a candle every time I visit a cathedral in Europe–or just anywhere, really. It’s a little tradition I started way back in 2006 and have carried on ever since.

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There is truly so much to do and see in Paris, and I feel like, once again, I only scratched the surface. A few years ago, I decided that if all else failed, I would move into a little flat above a boulangerie in Paris. Maybe I will still have to do that someday😉

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And what’s a trip to Paris without stopping at Shakespeare and Co.? I wanted to buy ALL the books.

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What a beautiful way to end our time in Paris. The next morning, I dragged my bags across several blocks of Paris, passing the Louvre as I chased my bus, boarded my plane, and headed back to the US. With a last view of the Eiffel Tower far below me in the sprawling city of Paris, I said goodbye to the country and continent I love so much.

This completes my documenting of this particular European holiday, but I know there will be many more trips to come. I really feel so incredibly appreciative of everyone who made this trip such a wonderful experience for me, including Joel Robison, Brooke Henshall, Devin Schiro, Rosie Hardy, Jen Brook, Rona Keller, Regina Leah, Moritz Aust, Ana Santl, Erica Coburn, Christian Watson, Noukka Signe, Maeva and Frank Eickhoff, and every one of our wonderful students on the workshop tour. It truly would not have been the wonderful trip it was without their company and friendship. I am also so thankful for the support of my parents and family, always encouraging me to chase after my dreams and make beautiful things happen. Last but not least, thank you for everyone who continues to follow along at a distance through all of my travels and adventures, supporting me and giving me an audience to share my life and joys with.

I am so endlessly grateful. Thank you all.

Until next time, xoxo

-Whitney

A Workshop Tour of Europe: France (Part 1)

The last country on my European tour was not in the initial plan. My original plan was to visit a friend in Croatia, and I was really excited about it. However, plans changed on his end, which left me with a whole week left in Europe and nowhere to go. Luckily, my Aussie friend Brooke had reached out to me and offered to let me stay with her at a chateau in France that she was house-sitting for. Of course, it didn’t take me long to make my decision, and I booked my tickets from Berlin to Bordeaux–my first time traveling between countries solo.

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I slept overnight in the Brussels airport, which is something I’d never done before. It was a beautiful airport, with long lounge chairs and walls that were made out of windows. It was the perfect airport to sleep in, if you had to choose anyway. I was treated to a beautiful sunset, and subsequently a beautiful sunrise, and then I was on my way to Bordeaux.

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I arrived in Bordeaux early in the day, and I navigated myself from the airport to the city center, where I would catch a train to Jarnac, a little French town not far from Brooke’s accommodations. The train ride was beautiful, winding through the French countryside, with sprawling vineyards blanketing the landscape. I was greeted at the train station by my beautiful friend Brooke and her Australian pal, and they drove me through the rolling hills and little French towns to the city of Gondeville. Soon, we had arrived at the chateau, and I was speechless. It was better than anything I could have imagined–a 19th century country manor, covered in vines and oozing stately elegance.

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It was as beautiful inside as it was outside, and we even had guests! A little yappy pup named Yomi, and a white rabbit named Lucy. (My life literally could not have felt more perfect than it did then).

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Brooke and I decided to have a bike ride around town, so we rounded up two bicycles (one with two flat tires) and began riding through the vineyards. We stopped at a beautiful aqua blue pond, and then continued on into the city center.

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Oh, this place was too gorgeous for me to believe. We explored the gorgeous French towns, rivers, forests, and parks, and I was on cloud 9 through all of it.

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The next day, while I was taking a bath in my room’s clawfoot tub, I was suddenly hit with inspiration. I wanted to do a shoot with Brooke in this bathtub, with all the fresh lavender that grew around the chateau. I had to take advantage of the perfect white walls and dreamy window light. That shoot is on its way to the blog soon, so keep an eye out for it! Here’s a few little sneak previews😉

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Brooke and I also spent a fun day making yummy treats with the lemons and lavender we found around the chateau! We also got some delicious scones from the boulangerie in town.

You can see the full set of images HERE.

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I took advantage of some quiet time at the manor to take some self-portraits in the quiet afternoon light.

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We went into Cognac that evening for dinner, and we walked around the park for a little while. A river wound through the park, and it was the most vibrant azure blue. Man, I don’t know what it is about France, but holy cow…everything is so romantically beautiful. Ugh❤

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I also did a shoot with Brooke in the chateau that I can’t wait to share images from! I’ll be posting those soon too🙂

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That evening while Brooke and I shot some images in the countryside, the clouds started to gather over the vineyards and rain began to fall. We ran back to the chateau in the rain, and by the time we got back, we were soaked to the skin.

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The rest of the afternoon, we watched the rain fall from inside the warm comfort of the chateau. The soft drizzle and hazy light changed everything about the landscape, and I cherished the simple beauty of the moment.

There is nothing more calming to me than gently falling rain.

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Our next (and my last) stop on this European adventure was a weekend trip to Paris. I had been to the city twice before, but I was excited to have full freedom this time, not having to follow a schedule or a group around the city. This was my chance to explore Paris exactly the way I wanted to, and see it in a whole new light.

I think that adventure deserves a post all its own, so keep an eye out for that soon🙂

A Workshop Tour of Europe: Berlin

Berlin was the last stop on mine and Joel’s workshop tour. I didn’t want to think about having to separate at the end of our time there, but it was coming up quick. We took a bus from Amsterdam to Berlin, which took about 10 hours and reminded us what it really means to be cramped and bored. (At least we had free wifi.)

We arrived in Berlin late in the afternoon, and we immediately set to finding our hostel for the night. After a slightly failed attempt to figure out the Berlin metro system, we arrived at the bar that was supposedly also our hostel. I was a little nervous, as the bar was crowded and loud and full of drunk people, and I just wanted to sleep. However, Joel had gotten us a private room, and when we arrived at our room, I was amazed at what we found. It was probably the cleanest room we had stayed in thus far, with a private bathroom, windows looking out onto the courtyard, and clean, fresh sheets in both beds. I immediately showered (what felt like the most wonderful shower of my life after that bus ride) and went to sleep.

The next day was the workshop. We were meeting in a park called Grunewald Forest, at the very last metro stop in Berlin, which had been made into a memorial park since World War II. During the war, Grunewald was the last metro station in Berlin that the Jews would see before they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Theresienstadt concentration camps. Knowing this, it put a much more solemn feeling around the rest of the day.

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Our workshop group that day was smaller than the others, with only a couple of students and some friends visiting from Ireland–one to serve as our model. The other two girls had traveled to Berlin all the way from Norway and Lithuania. Though our group was small, it allowed us a chance to get comfortable with one another and enjoy shooting throughout the afternoon in the beautiful forest of Grunewald.

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The light was so gorgeous and dappled everywhere, so I couldn’t resist taking photos of my lovely Irish friend, Erica.

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I think she looks like a 20’s movie star in this photo! So so pretty.

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We finished off the shooting portion of the workshop, and then we headed back to the station, where we would go back into the city for the editing part.

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Berlin seemed to be known for its incredible street art, with amazing paintings covering the walls everywhere we looked. I had to snap a few photos of the walls as we walked to our next stop.

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We (or Joel, let’s be honest) taught in an old warehouse building with gorgeous window light, and we had a really great discussion about photography, self-promotion, media presence, art theft protection, and much more. It was a great way to end our last workshop, and we felt really good about everything that had transpired during our workshops as a whole.

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Finally it was time for Joel and I to part ways. He was heading back to England, and I had plans to stay a couple more days in Berlin, and then venture solo to France to meet up with my friend Brooke. I wasn’t ready to head back to the US yet, but this would be the first time I was traveling in Europe by myself, and I was a little bit nervous.

I knew saying goodbye to my best friend was going to be really hard, and I didn’t want to think about it until the time came to actually part ways. We ventured into the Berlin city center and waited for Joel’s bus to take him to the airport, and I tried to pretend I wasn’t holding back tears. Though we’d only spent a few weeks traveling together in Europe, it felt like a lifetime with the memories we’d made along the way, and taking into account the combined years we had known each other before then. We’d travelled to some awesome places together–Vancouver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Oregon, Canada again, and now Europe. We hugged each other tightly, vowed we’d see each other again soon, and I put him on his bus with a heavy heart.

It wasn’t until I got back to my Airbnb (and a text from Joel that said “Okay come back now”) that it really hit me. I was doing this traveling thing alone now, at least for the next week and a half, and I missed my friend so badly I cried. I wasn’t worried so much about getting around, because I knew how traveling worked–I knew how to catch buses and board planes and find my way around new cities on my own–but I didn’t necessarily want to do it alone. It was so nice and comforting to have someone else to travel alongside me, to share in the experiences, and talk about everything with. I settled into my airbnb for the night and got some sleep, hoping I would feel a little better in the morning.

Luckily, the sun rose and my spirits were high once again. The window light in my room was gorgeous and I couldn’t resist taking some self portraits with all the white before I left for the day.

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I had made plans to meet up with some photographer friends in Berlin and explore the city with them that day, and I was so excited to meet some people I had looked up to for so long! Most of the these friends I had met on Flickr years and years ago, and we had kept in touch online ever since. Since they were living in Germany and I in the states, we had never had the chance to meet in person until then, but I was determined to bring us all together this day. And as luck would have it, it began to rain–hard. I thought our plans for the day were ruined, and I met up with my friend Rona at a cute coffee shop in town, soaked from head to foot by the rain. We chatted together for a while until more of our friends showed up, and finally the skies outside began to clear.

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We headed into the city to visit the flea market, one of the most popular places in the city on a Sunday. The rain had flooded many of the stalls, but there was still plenty to see and trinkets to buy. I got a 3 euro dress, a small bag, and a really pretty ring.

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Erica (<–Click on the links under my friend’s photos to check out their work!)

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Ana

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Rona

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Regina

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Once everyone was together, including our friend Moritz, we took group photos in the photoautomat machine! It was such a perfect way to capture the memories of that day, and I felt like I had known these friends forever.

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Our group parted ways after we grabbed a lunch of doner kebabs and felafels, and I spent the rest of the evening exploring with Rona and Regina. These two girls were so sweet to me, and we talked about everything as they showed me more of their beautiful city.

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Our last stop before we parted ways was to the last remaining part of the Berlin Wall. It has been converted into a gallery for street artists to decorate over the past several years, and it was a beautiful symbolization of the fact that even something ugly can be turned into something beautiful when there is love and peace in people’s hearts.

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This was my favorite piece that I saw that day🙂

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Berlin was a place I will never forget, and I had such an amazing experience there with old and new friends. I can’t believe how loving and kind my German friends were, and I felt like I truly belonged.

The next day I would get on a bus and head to France–the last country on my European adventure. I was excited and nervous and every emotion in between, and I couldn’t wait to explore the French countryside and see Paris again.

Keep an eye out for my next (and last) blog post; Viva la France!

A Workshop Tour of Europe: Amsterdam

Amsterdam was everything I hoped it would be. As soon as Joel suggested we go to Amsterdam between our Stockholm and Berlin workshops, my mind was made up. It was Holland or bust from that point on.

We arrived late in the afternoon, exhausted from traveling and stressed about the last workshop still ahead of us. We had booked a hotel, or more accurately, “boatel”, outside of the main center of Amsterdam, and I just wanted to lay down and sleep forever. After some ferry confusion and riding across the river one too many times, we found the right ferry that would take us to our home for the next few days. It was literally a boat hotel–what looked like a small cruise ship perched on the water across from a mostly submerged submarine. I was so excited. It’s still one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed on my travels.

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The next day, we went out into the city to explore Amsterdam. I was amazed at the sheer number of bicycles in the city. I mean, I know Amsterdam was known for it’s bike riders, but this was something beyond my expectations. There were literally more bikes than people, and that’s saying something, because the city was packed with tourists.

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Joel had been to Amsterdam previously during the Fifa World Cup Tour, but this was a completely new experience for me, and I was so excited to explore as much as I could. Joel and I are both pretty easy-going travelers, in that we love to take it slow sometimes, but we also like to see as much as we can in the time we have. We ended up walking around the entire city that day, and then some, and it was so perfect.

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Amsterdam is such a lively city, with people everywhere out enjoying the sun, buskers playing all over in the city center, museums and shops around every corner. The beautiful historic buildings were my favorite part, the old blended in with the modern so seamlessly.

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I love love loooooved these buildings! The different colors and styles of the Dutch facades, built centuries ago and still standing strong after all this time, were a sight to see–and so easy to photograph.

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We made friends with a lot of animals around the city. Cats and dogs roamed free wherever we looked, and we would stop to pet them for a few minutes and then continue on our way.

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Joel and I spent the afternoon explore vintage and thrift shops in Amsterdam. There were so many, and all of them held so many treasures. We wanted to take everything we found home with us.

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The Anne Frank statue, which for some reason turned out rather out-of-focus.:\

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These little pastries were called Poffertjes and they were delicious. I ate them all in less than 10 minutes. Call me whatever you want, I’m sure you would have done the same.

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Ah, Amsterdam you perfect place.

The next day we woke up to a rainy day, and that didn’t slow me down for a second. I went out into the city on my own while Joel had a business call, and I spent the morning exploring the misty city on my own. I had plans to meet for coffee with a friend–a crazy talented brander, writer and photographer named Christian Watson. Many of you might know him on Instagram as @1924us, and you can find his website here. We had picked a cozy shop called Lot Sixty One Coffee Roasters, which felt even homier in the rain.

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Christian and I hit it off immediately. He is known for being a little bit sarcastic, a little bit blunt on social media, and I expected nothing less from him in person. He was funny and vulgar and also incredibly kind, and I was happy to have made a new friend in him. We exchanged stories for what must have been several hours, and then we parted ways.

It’s always fun to meet people from social media, because you get a much more authentic view of them as a person than you do from their photos or words. I was really happy to have met this one in particular.

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P.S. Christian has got a book coming out that you should definitely go buy, full of rad film photos and stories from his travels around the world. I got one, so you should too. Here’s the link. IMG_3366Edit

Our last day in Amsterdam was just what we needed. No pressure, no responsibilities, just a chance to relax and see the city through someone else’s eyes.

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Right next to the Anne Frank House, there is a giant church which was the former resting place of 17th century Dutch artist Rembrandt Van Ryn. His body no longer rests there, for his remains were moved and destroyed sometime in the late 1600’s, as was customary for the poor folk of the city in the past. I was excited just to be there, even though I was sad it was no longer where one of my favorite artists was buried.

It was the strangest thing though in that church. People were painting and selling their wares inside of the church, something I had never seen before. Modern music played through the loudspeakers, and people talked at a normal decible. It was a much different, much less reverent place than any other church I had been into in Europe.

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We met up with our Dutch friend Noukka Signe, who lives outside of Amsterdam and came into the city to spend the day with us. I had been dying to meet her for years, as we had followed each other on Flickr several years ago, and had always encouraged and supported each other’s work ever since. She was even more amazing in person than I had hoped, and she took us to some of her favorite places in Amsterdam! It felt like we were reuniting, like we had always been friends, and I adored her immediately. Check out her beautiful work here.

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We walked all over the city, through its beautiful parks, bookshops, and bridges. Noukka told us facts about the city, about her life, and about her photography.

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Joel, Noukka, and I spent the entire day walking around the city and seeing it through her eyes, and I gained such a strong appreciation for this beautiful town of bikes, canals and history. Noukka was the perfect tour guide for us, and I was sad to say goodbye to her at the end of the day.

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At last Joel and I headed back to our boatel, and we were greeted with the most beautiful sunset over the ships on the harbor. We grabbed our cameras and took photos for a while, then just stood and watched the colors change over the city while music played from the restaurants below us. Our time in Amsterdam couldn’t have come to a more perfect end.

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Next, our journey took us to Berlin, and that will come in another blog post, so stay tuned!🙂

A Workshop Tour of Europe: Sweden

Sweden is a country that I honestly did not know what to expect from. I hadn’t ever studied Sweden much growing up, and about the only thing I knew about it was that my favorite candy apparently came from there (Swedish Fish, amiright?) and that I dated a Swede once. Other than that, nada.

Joel and I arrived in the country just after nightfall, and we were both too tired to think straight. We were staying in an Airbnb that we didn’t really know how to get to, and neither of us had phone service to call the hostess. Stress and exhaustion put us both under a dark cloud as we waited outside the train station in the rain, but eventually we found a way to get ahold of our hostess and she led us to our place.

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The next day, we met up with some loyal followers of Joel’s photography, Frank Eickhoff and his 17-year-old daughter Maeva. They had planned to show us a really awesome place in the Swedish countryside, an abandoned 17th century mine that not many people knew about. Of course, we were more than excited to go. We drove for several hours out into the country, talking all the way about photography, life, and inspiration.

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We finally arrived at the entrance to the cave, and strapped on our headlamps. Below is a cell phone image of Joel walking across the creaky, muddy boards into the pitch black tunnel. (We were a little nervous about where our new friends had taken us haha…)

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Needless to say, what we found inside took our breaths away. It was the most incredible place I had ever seen, and Joel and I probably stood there with our mouths hanging open for a good 10 minutes. The mine was overgrown with moss, stretching up from ground to sky, and there were long boards of wood laid across pools of endlessly deep water. I felt like I had stepped into the mine from Lord of the Rings, and I referred to this place as the “Mines of Moria” from that point on.

Of course I had to have pretty Maeva model for me a little bit in this breathtaking place, and she did a perfect job.

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I also couldn’t resist taking some self-portraits here as well.

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I really cannot even begin to describe how incredible that place was. It seriously felt like a scene out of a movie, and we explored all afternoon, playing with smokebombs, candles, and light–blasting LOTR music the whole time. I’ll never forget it.

The next day, we had our workshop at Hagaparken in Stockholm! We were really excited because there was a giant circus tent in the middle of the park that we were dying to shoot with. It was the best location for the workshop, and we had so much fun teaching and shooting with the students that day! We had an awesome turnout, and everyone was best of friends by the end of the day.

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You can see Joel’s final image from this shoot here.

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Beeeestest friend/teaching partner/biggest inspiration/annoying older brother/best human

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(Photo by Christina Ramos)

Sweden Workshop

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On our last day in Sweden, Joel and I decided to venture into Stockholm to explore a little bit before we caught our train to the airport. We were told about the old town of Stockholm, called Gamla Stan, and we were eager to see it. We dragged our suitcases and all our belongings around the cobbled streets for the better part of an hour, loving every beautiful alleyway and shop we went inside. It was the perfect place to end our time in Sweden, and I’m glad we took the time to see more of this beautiful, historic city.

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Joel and I had been trying to figure out in the days leading up to Sweden where we would go between our workshops in Stockholm and Berlin, and we had decided on Amsterdam! He had been once before during the FIFA World Cup Tour, but I had never been. I’d been eager to see the city for yeeeeeaaars, so as soon as Joel suggested it, I jumped at the idea.

So, giving Stockholm a last wave goodbye, we turned our eyes in the direction of Holland, and on to our next stop on this European tour! Keep an eye on this page for my next post about our time in the city of bicycles, coming soon.🙂

A Workshop Tour of Europe: England

It’s only taken me two and a half months to get this blog post written, and I think I’ve been unintentionally putting it off because this trip has been really difficult for me to put into words. That’s not a bad thing of course. It was one of the most amazing and challenging and rewarding experiences of my life so far, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

To preface the coming blog posts, I’ll give you some backstory. One of my closest friends in the world, Joel Robison, is an incredible conceptual photographer from Canada. We met for the first time at a Flickr meetup in Vancouver in 2012, and we have kept our friendship strong ever since, including meeting up in places like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Oregon, etc. He moved to England several months ago, and as happy as I was for that new exciting venture in his life, I was sad because I thought it would mean I wouldn’t get to see him much anymore.

Well, early this year, Joel told me he was planning a photography workshop tour of Europe, and he was looking for an assistant teacher to join him. Casually as casual could be (i.e. not casual at all), I suggested myself, and to my utter surprise and amazement, he was on board! Fast forward a few months later and I was on a plane by myself, flying to England once again–this time for a new adventure all my own.

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I arrived at Gatwick airport in the late evening, and Joel was there to pick me up with a hug and a Twizzler exchange (he loves Twizzlers and they don’t sell them in England, so he asked me to bring some for him). He and his housemate picked me up in this tiny British car, and we wound our way through the cobbled streets of Guildford back to Joel’s flat. We stayed up talking half the night, and I probably could’ve stayed awake through all of it with my jet lag the way it was.

We both unintentionally woke up at 5am the next morning, and so we decided to have an early start to our morning. Joel showed me around his adorable town, we got breakfast at a perfect little cafe, and we explore the nearby castle…because why live in England if you can’t have the ruins of a castle in your town?

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Joel’s town, Guildford, was the town where Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) lived until his death in 1898, so there are Alice references and memorabilia scattered all over the place. It’s pretty much the most adorable thing in the world, and the perfect place for my friend to live.

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Oh yeah, there’s also an abandoned abbey in the town. Because England.

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Joel’s collection of things from his travels was my favorite. Since he’s traveled all over the world (80 countries during the Fifa World Cup Tour last year), he has quite the collection of trinkets and collectibles. I was kind of in love with them.

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The next day, Joel and I had our workshop in London, where we taught a group of 8 students + 3 models in Holland Park! It was a success in every way, and we had so much fun getting to know the students and enjoying the beautiful sunny day. Although I was a little bit intimidated to be assisting a group so big and diverse, I loved every moment of it. Joel was such a great teacher, and he had the students spellbound when he was shooting his concept with our model Jen Brook. It was such a great day!

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A few days later, we met up with our friend Devin Schiro, who happened to be visiting England at the same time as us, and we took the train to Hampton Court Palace. Being the Tudor history nerd that I am, I was dying to see this place in person at last. It’s the historical home of King Henry VIII and his six wives, the place where all the magic happened during those years of the King’s reign, and everyone who was anyone spent their time carousing in the halls. It was even more beautiful than I imagined it would be, and I was amazed by every detail of the rooms, architecture, and gardens.

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We ate a lunch of scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam, and I died a little inside with every bite. It was the most perfectly British day ever, and I was in heaven.

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The gardens of Hampton Court were unbelievably beautiful! I was so amazed at all the work that the workers must have put into keeping them looking as spiffy as they did in days gone by.

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On our final day in London, we decided to go into the city and explore a little bit more. Since I’d been to London twice before and Joel had been there several times, we didn’t want to do anything too touristy. We of course saw Big Ben, but we quickly made our way to Camden Market to do some shopping. I’d only been there once before, and it wasn’t for very long, so I was excited to explore it a little more this time. It was such a quirky place, permeated by the scent of incense and the chatter of tourists and locals alike, and I found way more stuff that I wanted to buy than I could afford. In the end I settled on some rings and a woven bracelet.

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It seemed all of England was on an Alice in Wonderland kick that week, as we saw some more characters from the story around town. Of course we got our pictures taken with the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit–they were a riot.

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You can’t go to London without hitting up Platform 9 3/4, am I right?

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We met up with Devin again and decided to walk across the Tower Bridge at sunset, which was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget.

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Then came the day I was most excited for. We had made plans to go to Manchester during our break between England and Sweden workshops, and I had talked to fellow photographer Rosie Hardy about meeting up and possibly staying with her, since Manchester is her home base. Let me tell you, when she wrote back completely “chuffed” at the idea, I had a mini (read as: explosive) fan girl moment. Rosie is quite literally the reason I started photography. She was the first fine art conceptual photographer I ever found on the Internet when I was 17, and I quickly became obsessed with her work. She and a few other’s work inspired me to picked up my mom’s old point & shoot to try my own hand at it. Fast forward almost 7 years in the future and now I’m absolutely surrounded by hundreds of other talented, like-minded artists, I’ve traveled the world (or at least some of it), I’ve started a successful business and garnered an (undeserved) following, and I have had some of the most incredible adventures I could ever imagine–all because I stumbled upon Rosie’s photos one day when I was having a hard time. Meeting her at last in Manchester felt like meeting an old friend, and I adored her immediately.

We stayed the night at her adorable home and made plans to go into the countryside the next day to take some photos in nearby rolling poppy fields. I couldn’t wait.

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These poppy fields were to die for. I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic place to spend our day, running around and taking pictures of each other and having a wonderful time. I felt like I was in a dream that entire day.

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Isn’t Rosie the loveliest? It was such a dream come true to take photos with (and of) her, and she and I laughed and chatted as if we’d been friends forever. It was the best thing.

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My time in England was perfect in every way. I was sad to leave this beautiful and homey country, but excited for all the adventures that still lay ahead of Joel and I on our European tour!

Up next, Sweden! Stay tuned for more photos coming very soon🙂