My Love Affair with Marrakech

marrakech polaroid

I recently got back from our 2nd Instant Love Polaroid retreat and am still coming down. We had such a great week shooting with Polaroid cameras in our gorgeous Moroccan villa. Peacock Pavilions is such an amazing place to teach at, to stay, to experience and photograph. Maryam, Chris, their family and staff make the week so special, it’s hard to ever leave.

Jen and I had such a ball with a fine group of ladies and loved every minute we got to spend with them. Despite the Moroccan genies casting spells on some of our cameras, the group produced some amazing instant images and we were thrilled with the works of art our ladies went home with.

I was really caught up in soaking up time with our guests that I didn’t shoot a lot this time around (most of my images were taken with my iPhone!) but I did sneak a few here and there that I was happy with.

instant love retreat 2013

A big thank you to Maryam and Chris at Peacock Pavilions. You did an amazing job again! Jen and I are starting to feel like part of the Peacock Pavilions family now. A big thank you also to Michelle at PP who was a lifesaver and kept our ship running very smoothly all week long. And of course, all the incredible chefs, kitchen and house staff, our wonderful driver, the kitties and Scout!

To the people of Marrakech who made our stay interesting and fun with a big thank you to our own personal souk guide, Abdul! If you ever need a great rug seller in Marrakech, email me and I’ll hook you up with our friend, Abdul. The ladies (myself included) scored some great wedding blankets and Beni Ouarain rugs from him. Abdul was one of the stars of Instant Love (his portrait taken by Susannah can be seen in the book) and is now part of the Instant Love family too.

To our amazing group of participants, thank you for making it such a memorable week. We had a dinner at PP with these ladies that may go down as one of the funniest nights I’ve ever had. Janis Nicolay has a great post on her blog about her experience with us. Check it out. We miss you and Wendy, Janis! You can see the wonderful images our group took here on their websites and instagram pages. Thank you Janis, Wendy, Nicole, Marissa, Leigh, Kathy, Cara, Carole, Danni and Patti!! Jen and I miss you all so much!

And as always, thank you to the amazing Lady Jenifer. I love you!

All images photographed with a Polaroid 180 Land Camera and Fuji instant film.

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Travelling with Cameras

If you are anything like me, the hardest part about planning a trip is deciding what cameras to bring and how to pack them. Whenever I travel, I usually have an assortment of cameras with me to document my journey, so it’s always a struggle to figure out the best solution for travelling light.

If you are just travelling for pleasure, I would consider the type of adventure you’re taking and whether or not you’re going to be able to physically lug (and I mean LUG) around that beast you call a DSLR. I’ve gotten to the point where carrying a big camera around whilst travelling is too much of a burden and I now really think about what kind of experience I want to have before I leave.

I generally try to limit myself to a few kinds of cameras. In the past I would bring the DSLR, a 35mm, a couple of Polaroids and any number of other quirky cameras like the Holga or Fuji Instax. After years of breaking my back lugging cameras through airports and dealing with the ordeal that is airport security, I’ve realised it really isn’t worth the stress on my shoulders and brain. And yes, I deal with airport security because I never check my cameras- they always come on board with me, no matter what. I’ve seen how baggage handlers “handle” luggage and there is no way I’m ever putting a camera in my checked luggage. EVER!

I now bring one 35mm or medium format, one Polaroid camera and one point and shoot-either digital or film. Obviously if I’m travelling for a specific shooting purpose then I would have to bring the DSLR and lenses and a Polaroid- there’s always a Polaroid.

My recent trip to Morocco was rather difficult because I had the Polaroid cameras I needed to bring for the workshops plus other cameras I wanted to use to document my trip. I actually ended up leaving two Polaroid cameras at home simply because I couldn’t get them in the ONE on-board bag that stupid Easyjet allows. Not one bag and one personal item like every other airline–ONE BAG! My on-board bag is usually chosen on the basis of what cameras I’m bringing and how I can best fit them in.

On international flights, I will generally take a backpack for all my cameras and then a smaller handbag for my personal items. I’m yet to graduate to the hardcore photography case but that’s simply because I’m not transporting two DSLRs, various lenses and accessories. If this is something you do, then you may want to look into one of those or a professional carry-on like this one.

My backpack is just a regular one that I will outfit myself to store cameras. I pull the velcro inserts out of my old Crumpler and Lowepro camera cases to make some buffers between the cameras. I also wrap my cameras. These camera wraps are designed for that very thing. I actually wrap mine in a soft case that my Peter Alexander pyjamas came in! They are soft and have a ribbon that you can wrap around the camera to protect it whilst inside a bag. It’s totally dodgy but it works! I’ve used scarves in the past too.

On smaller trips where I don’t take as many cameras, I will usually take a tote or satchel that is big enough to house a few cameras and my personal items. This camera insert is a great idea when transporting cameras inside other bags that aren’t camera bags. I will also take a pouch or two for little odds and ends like memory cards, rolls of film etc. Of course, there are an array of gorgeous photography bags out there for women who want stylish cameras bags and many of these are great for travel. I’m rather fond of this one.

I always make sure to have my film in plastic zip-lock bags for airport security as I get them to hand check it. I never put my film in my checked baggage because those X Ray machines are a lot more powerful and dangerous to film than the ones we see at security. Film under 800 ISO is apparently able to go through the security machines, but when I’m doing various flights in a short period of time, I’d rather not take the risk. It shouldn’t go through continually.

You just ask one of the security agents to hand check your film and they are always happy to oblige. I’ve never had a problem. I usually have bigger problems with my SX70 or SLR680 because they lay flat and the security agents have no idea what they are- they don’t look like cameras when they are folded. So I often have to open them up and explain what they are. Most of the time I think they are just intrigued and want to know how these weird looking cameras work.

It takes a bit of time at the security check point to get everything arranged back in the backpack again but it’s worth the hassle. How do you travel with your gear? I’d love to know if there are any new bags out there that people are enjoying. I’m always on the hunt!

p.s. This ‘travel shot’ wasn’t taken on any of those cameras. Total iPhone shot!

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Things I Noticed About Paris

Things I noticed about Paris

// The light is soft and makes for beautiful, creamy tones in photographs.  All those white buildings help. I love that I could get gorgeous light shining in between them with every shot.

// Women really do have high end designer bags. In Canada and Australia, high end designer bags are coveted, but in Paris it appears that many (of those walking around the streets), have a Prada or a Louis Vuitton.

// There are discoveries around every corner. Detail and beauty is poured into everything and even the alley ways were inviting and pretty. I remember feeling this in Italy when I was there.

// Yes, Parisians are beautifully dressed. There were a lot of neutral colours and it made me want to throw out my whole wardrobe and start from scratch.

// The cafes are crowded. But it felt like everywhere in Paris was crowded. I feel bad for them. Living in a city that is constantly bombarded with tourists must get old fast. And the thing they say about waiters is true. But I don’t think that they’re rude. They’re just busy. Once you get their attention, they are attentive and accommodating.

// Paris is a town full of inspiration. From the art galleries to the buildings, the details, the people and fashion, food and architecture, there is no wonder that it is a city of artists. The way the city was built really makes you shake your head at how so much of the modern western world is so ugly. I really despise the “suburbifcation” of many places both in Sydney and Vancouver (and I’m sure is the same in many cities in the States and the UK)- you know the places, where everything looks the same and has has no thought of design put into the building and architecture whatsoever. Parisians know how to beautify their surrounds, I don’t see why the rest of us can’t.

All images were shot with my favourite film, Kodak Portra!

p.s. For those of you on tumblr, I am over there sharing photos and whatnot. You can follow me here.

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Instant Love Retreat in Marrkech: Behind the Scenes

Hello friends!

You’ve seen the Polaroids, the Impossible images, and the Fuji shots, but today I wanted to show you some of the behind the scenes fun that was had on the Instant Love Retreat in Marrakech this year. After all, this is what it was all about. The people, the fun that was had, the photo taking and most importantly, the eating!

In this little montage you can see from left to right in each row:

Line 1: Heidi, Amy and Briana at our group dinner one night in the Marrakech medina after a day of shooting and shopping in the souks; Susannah shooting Briana’s henna at the henna party at Peacock Pavilions; Jen shooting her Polaroid 180 in Essaouira

Line 2: all our Polaroid cameras on display at the Basics workshop in the tent at Peacock Pavilions; the Impossible shot that Susannah was taking of Brianna above; me holding a baby goat on the road to Essaouira

Line 3: Debra as shot by Susannah at Peacock Pavilions; Heidi as shot by Briana at Peacock Pavilions; Liz shooting a pile of Polaroids out at lunch at Terrace des Epices in the medina

Line 4: A group of Moroccan men in the medina as shot by Irene; the front door of Peacock Pavilions as shot by Debra; our yummy breakfast at PP

Line 5: Heidi shooting a self portrait at PP; Jen and Susannah looking at Polaroids at a cafe in Essaouira; Henna hands at the henna party

Line 6: Cocktails at PP; the group giggling and having fun at our wine tasting at PP- with wonderful host Chris leading; Helen as shot by Briana at PP

Line 7: Amy at our medina dinner as shot by Heidi; me and Heidi shooting in Essaouira; cocktails in beautiful evening light; the Atlas pavilion at PP – I stayed here with Irene, Debra, Briana and Helen.

Line 8: Jen, me, Amy and Susannah somewhere in Marrakech; Helen and Michelle at PP; Andrea and Liz at PP; Helen and Briana at PP

Line 9: Everyone at dinner in the cosy tent at Peacock Pavilions. We sat on the floor for our dinners here. In this shot taken by Irene, you can see Debra, Heidi, Amy, Susannah, Briana, Helen, myself, Jen, Andrea and Carol. Liz and Michelle must have been hiding.

As you can see much fun was had by all. This is just a sampling of the good times that were had. The retreat is a chance for you to get to learn more about your Polaroid camera, to learn about shooting instant from Polaroid photographers, to see an amazing part of the world and to experience an incredible culture, but it’s also about spending time with like minded people and making new friends. We had a blast- I know I will keep these memories with me forever.

We had so much fun that we are going back again next year. Jen and I will be running two  retreats over two weeks and we would love you to come join us! You can download our pdf brochure here. Once you’ve read the brochure, email us for a registration package. We would love to have you!

Check out more of the lovely ladies’ photographs of our time in Marrakech here, here, here and here!

Thank you to Briana Morrison, Debra Cowie, Irene Georgiou, Heidi Swanson, Amy Haney, Liz Manyan, Andrea Kuhn, Michelle McGee, Carole Gentry, Helen Agarwal, Susannah Conway and Jen Altman for the images.

Doesn’t it look like fun?

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A Piece of Irish Heaven in the States

Scituate, MA…one of the loveliest towns I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. A small seaside town not far from Boston and the most Irish town in America. This was from a very short weekend visit spent with family.

Quaint doesn’t even begin to describe this gorgeous little pocket of the world. These were shot on the main street of Scituate and out at the lighthouse on the edge of the harbour.  As we stood on the rocks by the lighthouse, looking across the Atlantic Ocean, I could visualize thunderous waves rolling in during a storm. The houses are built for it, but I imagine it would be a little scary when the seas get rough. And those buildings? Adorable! I don’t know how many times I think this in my life living abroad, but I knew I wasn’t in Australia anymore.

I really love this part of the world…isn’t it gorgeous?

As always, these images were shot on Kodak Portra 400 film.

p.s. Registration for the summer session of Shoot By Design opens at 9am PST today!

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Lately on Instagram

Ciabatta bread in my kitchen; Sean looking through vinyl at East St Records in Seattle; Fallen camelia petals in our neighbourhood; Scituate Harbour, Massachusetts; Stranded for 4 hours at Montreal Airport; Flying over Boston; Fallen cherry blossom petals in Vancouver; looking over downtown Vancouver from Kitsilano; Radiohead in Seattle; On my desk.

You can follow my life on Instagram at @mandaroid.

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My Travel Journal

I have travelled a lot in the last 6 months and I foresee more before the year is out. Travel and shooting has always been my greatest love and as I’ve done my whole life, a big part of travel is documenting my time. From the time I was a wee thing, I have always documented my life, whether it be through photographs, collecting keepsakes from places visited, writing poems and journal entries, buying jewelry or clothing to commemorate a special time, or collecting cards and ticket stubs from concerts; it has always been a great part of how I organise my life. Collecting little memories and wrapping them up in boxes and books- my mother did the same and she passed it onto me.

When I arrived in Morocco, I was horrified to discover that I had left my Moleskine at home, so my journal unfortunately didn’t happen there. I scrounged around for scraps of paper to jot down moments that I could later transfer into a notebook.

On our first day in Paris, I wandered upon the book store, La Hune (a reader shared the name with me) and bought myself a little notebook to write in. The notebook itself has no brand or labeling whatsoever and I wish I’d bought more of them because it’s already full and I adore its soft cover and smooth writing pages.

Never great prose or even anything remotely interesting, the writing is fairly diary-esque as I jot down places visited, places to go back to, songs we listened to, and things we ate. I may note down a funny moment we shared or a travel “catch phrase”. Do you have those? There is always someone we meet or a song we hear that provides a quote worthy expression that is quoted till its death whilst away.

Along with my photographs, having these journals allows me to be transported back to all these special places in a moment…treasured keepsakes that will be with me no matter where I go. Do you do anything similar? Who else shares my love of ephemera and reminiscence?

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