I’ve been staring at this computer screen all day trying to figure out how to put into words how incredible the last week has been. On December 28th I, along with 50 other talented photographers from across the continent, set out for Los Angeles to attend a meetup hosted by David Talley. This was my fourth photography meetup and although it’s hard to pick favourites, this one was very special.
It is a surreal moment when you see a car full of your friends, wielding telescopes and big smiles pull up to the airport. It was literally a burst of sunlight to arrive in California, escaping the many inches of snow here in Canada. The first few hours together were spent laughing around a roaring fire pit, telling stories and getting to know each other. Every time a new person would arrive, they were welcomed with cheers and hugs and our small group grew larger and larger.
The first day we set out for a nearby park, half our group opting for a forested area and the other half for an open field area. Even though it was sprinkling down rain and our feet quickly became heavy with mud, we were like bees. Photoshoots popped up all over the place, with outfit changes, impromptu props made from nearby flowers and cacti and there a definite burst of creativity in the air. At times I just looked out, clutching my camera, and just watched all these talented artists creating their work. Natalie Zigdon, the editor of the beautiful Grae Magazine arrived to take some behind the scenes photos for an entire issue showcasing the meetup and she was quickly included into our busy group. Despite the rain and mud, this day was so bright and warm, just by the people involved in making it happen.
On the 30th, we attended a Flickr hosted photowalk to Sturtevant Falls. It was really cool to join staff from Flickr.com along with local photographers on the walk along the creek and cabins to the waterfalls. Our group was huge, with almost 100 photographers roaming the trails. I was so happy to get to meet one of my photography friends and inspirations Ted of Ted Craig Photography. We’ve been friends for a few months now and I was honored to work alongside him in a photo. It’s always so great to get to meet fellow artists who not only share a passion for photography but also have similar ethics and morals, I felt like Ted and I had known each other for years.
We spent a few hours at the falls, capturing many photos in the process. I can’t wait to see everyone’s interpretations of the same spot. On the way back to the parking lot we took our time, exploring the tiny cabins and beautiful canopies of lush trees and ferns. One thing I’ve learned that when you travel with a group of photographers, even the shortest walk takes a very long time as we like to stop for everything! Never would I have imagined that this place existed so close to a huge city, it reminded me a lot of Vancouver. After the walk, we explored Pasadena, creating a flashmob inside a candy shop and enjoying each other’s company.
That evening, the generous and talented Carolyn Hampton and family hosted the entire group of us for dinner at their house. We arrived to big hugs and a warm fireplace, it felt like family gathering and I’ll never forget that evening. She set up a christmas photobooth so we could take funny photos of our ugly christmas sweaters and I laughed until I cried. Later, we took turns making fools out of ourselves (aside from the few people with actual dancing skills) while playing Just Dance, somehow I even got pushed up for a turn and I dread seeing the videos of THAT. The evening was perfect.
On the 31st after a slowish star, we set out for the abandoned Los Angeles Zoo for some photos and it was a cool spot to explore and take some photos. I’m pretty sure we confused a lot of people who were casually walking around the park but it was fun to be able to see people coming up with concepts on the spot and I really enjoyed being able to watch people shoot in their style.
After the zoo we headed up to the Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset over the city. Pulling up under the Hollywood sign and watching my friends running around, posing for photos, laughing and hugging made me feel so blessed to be wrapping up an amazing year with them. We stayed long enough to watch the sun dip below the horizon, bathing all of us in a warm glow of orange and then headed back to David’s house for a party.
We celebrated both Shane Black’s birthday and the New Year and there were enough bottles of sparkling apple juice and balloons to make us all happy. We went outside to countdown the new year and as we watched fireworks shoot overhead, I felt proud to be where I was with these friends, convinced that 2013 will be the year that changes my life in the best possible way. I went to sleep that night with a smile on my face.
On the first day of 2013 we headed out for the beach and it was the best possible way to start off the new year. I had never taken photos at the ocean before so I was excited to come up with some concepts and enjoy the sand and sun. I’ve learned through these meetups that whenever we arrive at a location, I need a good 10 minutes alone to survey the scene, see where the light is and come up with a plan of action. After I had settled in I shot a few concepts with two of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met, Anna Skahill and Olivia Clemens. Everywhere I looked, there were photoshoots going on.
By the time I had finished my shooting, we were ready to head over to another beach. The two spots couldn’t have been more different from each other, while the first location was sandy beach, the second was rocky and filled with small tidal pools. The sun was setting fast but I managed to explore some amazing rock formations and shot a few photos, including one of Natalie Hampton just as the sun was setting. A perfect way to end the day.
January 2nd was our last full day together and we decided to head up to Mount Baldy to explore the snow. We headed up the windy road, stopping at a beautiful forested area to take photos. That spot was one of my favourite of the trip, just a secluded dirt road with so many interesting little places to stop and take photos. When we finally arrived at the snow, I must admit it was kind of funny watching all these people who don’t normally shoot in snow slipping and sliding around saying things like “it’s so cold!” It made me smile, just a bit
My favourite part of these meetups is watching the group just explode in creativity, within a few minutes of us arriving, there were costumes on and props being carried around. There were photoshoots in every direction you could look in and I loved watching it all happen. After the sun went down and we had taken our last photos, we headed to Mt.Baldy lodge for one more family dinner together and we filled the restaurant with laughter.
That night and the next morning were difficult. Saying goodbye after only a few days together was really tough for a lot of us. When you find a group of friends who are as talented, kind, and loving as those were at this meetup, it’s not easy to say goodbye. Every few hours we would have to go through a ritual of hugs, tears and “I’m so proud to call you my friend”s. Chasing the cars as they drove down the street to the airport. Before long on the 3rd there were only a few of us left and a small group of us headed for Malibu for one last day at the beach together.
The beach in Malibu was probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. The rock caves and walls literally took my breath away. Peter brought me to a cave that was literally the size of my apartment and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be standing where I was, soaking in the sun and feeling the pacific ocean washing over my feet.
That afternoon I was able to fulfill a huge dream of mine, to work with my good friend and inspiration Brooke Shaden. Brooke and I have been friends for a few years but haven’t had the chance to meet up until this gathering. On Thursday we took turns taking photos of each other and it really was a dream come true to not only take a photo of her, but for her to ask me to be included in her photo. It was probably the best possible way to wrap up this trip.
“We Survived” by Brooke Shaden
After a dinner out, and some more difficult goodbyes a smaller group of us headed to Carolyn’s house for the night so we could spend a few more hours together before I had to fly home. That night was filled with so much light and happiness that I’m pretty sure it helped me not feel so sad about leaving. The next morning was almost impossible for me to get through, having to say goodbye to my friends, people who understand me, who support me and inspire me was tough. It’s so energizing to be around those people and to say goodbye is really not easy to do.
In the end, this gathering much like the others I’ve been to, have cemented the desire and passion I have for photography and have made my path towards creating full-time even clearer. Even though we are all thousands of miles apart I can still feel the creative energy and I have such a strong motivation to continue to work hard at making this dream come true. I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity to be around so many creative and talented artists and I’m even luckier to be able to call them my friends. I cannot wait until the next time we are all able to stand around a campfire and laugh together.
Thank you LAFG2013