Niagara – The Eve of Christmas Eve

Were packing bags this morning.

Not for our leg to NYC, but a couple day bags to get us over to the american side of Niagara for christmas. We’re heading over to spend Christmas to Jen’s side of the family. The last time I saw any of her side of the family, I was able to have an incredibly in-depth conversation, as long as it didn’t progress further than discussions about play dough or lunch. Jamie, Jen’s brother came over to Australia around 15  years ago, and the fam had taken him to Esperance and shown him a little of the WA coast.

He sported this mullet-meets-bowl-cut, and its a brilliant statement of an era of fashion, now hardly seen. But, I’m ok with it. I rekon he woulda been a lad to hang with. I mean, he still is, but you get what I’m saying.

Naturally, I hardly remember any of the trip, but I wish I did. Jamie is a lad, and I’m glad that were able to hang out with him and have christmas with him and his family.

shoot-with-lauren-1Anyway. We pack our clothes in one bag and lappy and camera etc in another bag. I feel a little heavy on the packing for 2 nights, but whatever. There aren’t any judging eyes from the rest of the family, so I think I may just be safe. I mean, they’re probably just being polite, but it doesn’t make me feel awkward, so thats a bonus.

We’re packed and all that jazz, and I was hoping to do a shoot with Lauren last night, but the light fell before we had reached our spot for the shoot, so we decided to postpone the shoot till the morning. So, once Jen got home from work, and we had finished playing dutch blitz (pretty much amazing), we sorted out our lives for the trip to Niagara for Christmas, and hit the road for the shoot.

I was really excited for the shoot. One thing I wants to do was to shoot in the different environments as much as I could while we were travelling. As Aunty Jen put it, “Lauren will love that! She is such a poser”. Haha. She’s real, and I like it. I had a rough idea of what I wanted the shots to look like, but I just didn’t know where I needed to go to make them happen. I wanted to use a valley, but the spot we drove to, as beautiful as it was, just shoot-with-lauren-2wasn’t going to work. Largely because to get the right angle, we would have to stand in the middle of the bridge, and the bridge was semi-busy, so that one got biffed.

 

We scoped out another location, but as I very quickly found out, just because the tops of the plants are sitting on the top of the snow, it does not mean that the snow isn’t knee deep, so instead of heading down to this valley, we just shot on the rails instead. Still, it was ok, but it wasn’t the shot I was really after. My ideal spot is to shoot in a forrest, and I know where I was going to get that. The first week Bec and I were in Orangeville, we did a walk around this lake. It’s about an 8km walk, and there was this one section, that the moment we walked through it, I said to Bec, “Oh. This is it. This is where I am going to do the shoot with Lozza”. It was perfect.

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There was enough symmetry in the scene to be able to have some form or repetition and leading lines, while still having the randomness of a forest. It wouldn’t be hard to weave the shot through the trees. When I told Jen where I was thinking, she straight away knew of a spot that would save us a good half hour of walking. I knew there was a car park nearby, but she actually knew where it was. She’s a 10/10 lifesaver.

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Lauren had told me how she’d done shoots with friends of hers who were dabbling in photography, but didn’t really nail the shot. The more I pried, the more it came out that there was just a lack of direction for her in her poses. I couldn’t have heard better words. All I did was shape her and help position for the best shot possible. I’d keep moving and shifting the tiniest bits of her body until I’d see the shot, and involuntarily say “Perfect! Hold that”, to which you would see that little glint of confidence in her eye.

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I’m not a big fan of showing people the unedited images, but every now and then, it doesn’t hurt. So, I head over, “Hey. You wanna see?”. I’m usually greeted with a “Oh yeah?..”, which is exactly what happened. I hit the preview button, and then love hearing the surprise that follows. “Oh wow. That looks amazing!”

This is the best thing I can hear, and she is right. It does look amazing. The best thing is when someone doesn’t think that they can look stunning, and then you work with them, and they get to see how good they really look. Its an awesome feeling.

Drew is on his way home at this point, so we pack up and head back home to get ready to head off. Niagara is a good 2 hours away, so we have a bit of driving ahead of us. During all this though, Ben has been sitting at a cafe for the past 3 hours already. He was under the impression that we would be picking him up at 11am. Its currently 1:30pm. He’s got another 2 hours before we end up getting to him. He’s so tanked on coffee already, its not even funny.

We pack.

We drive.

We turn back around cos Drew forgot his passport.

We drive again.

Finally, we rock up and Ben emerges from his half-day long hibernation at the cafe, to enter the pimp wagon. Climbing in, we are greeted with a glorious amount of enthusiasm and excitement from Ben. He’s a lad.

We jump back on the highway, and we are inundated with stories of the best workplace banter that one could imagine from Ben’s workplace. Ranging from guys who do a bit of WWE in their spare time as a side-gig and volunteer to get hit in the face with a steel chair during post-work drinks, to waitresses who are drop dead gorgeous and all the lads in the kitchen create a mexican wave of knee-weakening adoration as she walks past.

Every.
Time.
Its great.

Ben’s yakking for ages about it, and then begins to apologise. “Bro. This is great”, I say. I’m more than happy to glean of others and steal some workplace banter to take back home.

Good artists copy. Great artists steal.

Workplace banter is an art, and I am a great artist.

The biggest bonus, is that everything I pick up from others while over here is seemingly original to those around me once I get home. Little do I know that I haven’t had an original thought in the past 15 years. I’m just really good at making it seem like I have. Like I said, I am a great artist, and I going to perfect the art of theft.

We rock up to the border, and we are prepared to be stuck for up to 4 hours. The border bridge is a one-way commitment to mastering the art of patience. But, it turns out that the Lord Almighty had decided that we need not have to master this art any more. We cross the bridge, and line up, with only 3 cars in front of us. Drew and Jen are beside themselves. “This is the quietest we have ever seen it”. What is even better is that we spy a bloke hiding away in his booth.

Nobody is in his queue, and he thinks he is safe.

BUT HE IS NOT!

We roll up, and Jen, in her beautifully excited tone says to the guy “Oh! We saw you were sitting there and there wasn’t anyone in your booth!”. I can’t imagine that the guy was stoked that we had spotted him. His demeanour reflected this. Drilling Drew and Jen with questions as to where they were going, who they had with them and making us flick on all the lights, to then make us pull over and head into the customs office for a light interrogation.

But! We hit the jackpot inside. This guy is a champion. He’s laughing and making jokes and generally just being a lad. 10/10 solid champ. We breeze through, and we’re not as suspicious as the first guy thought.

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The Drew Face

We’re in the USA!

First time for everything and this is the first time for us. It feels pretty crazy to just have crossed an international border. Every other time I have done that, its been at an airport, not at a toll booth.

We dump our gear at the hotel, quickly recoup, and we are out to catch up with the fam.

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Hotel Chillin

It’s been rumoured that we have to go and eat at this place called David Hogeys. In a nut shell, these guys crank out the best steak, mushroom and onion baguettes. Throw some of their fried buffalo wings in the mix, and we have got the perfect recipe  for a quality dinner. Seriously though. The buffalo wings are amazing. We got 50 of them, and it was worth every cent.

While everyone is tucking into dinner, Ben, Drew, Bec and I decide it’s best that we head over and scope out to booze situation in the US. It did not disappoint. We got a bottle of CC Rye 750ml, Kraken 750ml and two travel bottles of Kraken for just over $50. Like, this is unreal. To buy Kraken 700ml at Dan Murphy’s in Australia is $56 alone.

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Bewz Shopping

Yes.

All kinds of Yes.

We get our stocks up, and gotta head to the mall. Originally, Bec and I are just tagging along and having a laugh. Dipping in to shops and admiring the audacity of these stores and all the insanity that they can actually make money off. Its mental. Our jokes quickly turn to pleasant surprise, as we learn that this particular store has up to 70% off its winter jackets. I mean, there is a $350 coat for $56. Right?

We start taking this whole American shopping ordeal more seriously. Bec starts trying on jackets until she is happy with the one she comes across. Its only $30.

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“The” Scarf

WTF?

This is a pretty bloody decent jacket man. I head over to the rack that she got hers from, and I chuck this coat on. It’s this army green and finishes just below my asscheeks. Its great. A bit tight, but great. By this time, it is apparent to the store clerks that we are impressed with their prices, so they are watching with a few chuckles as we try on different coats, all the while remarking on the insanity of their pricing.

The employees have got a suspect smile on their face, and then Bec turns to me and says, “Ah babe, I think that’s a chicks coat”

“Right”, I now understand the smiles from the staff, and it explains why it is a touch too tight.

Bastards.

I proceed to find something that I actually like, and its only $55. Already, America is beginning to win me over. I get to the checkout, and there is this sign on the monitor of the guy’s POS about a green card.

“Hey dude. What’s a green card?”
“Oh, the shopping centre gives you like a membership card, and you can get 10% off”
“Oh really? So what if I had a green card or something?”

*winks*

He chuckles, “I kinda have to see it though”.
“Alright, well do you have a green card that I can use?”
“Nah, not me man, sorry”

There is this chick checking out beside me, looking over to me curiously. I turn to her, “Do you have a green card I can use?”
I look to the guy, and he says “I don’t care, as long as I see a green card bro”. Thats me. The chick says to me “I wasn’t sure if I should offer or not”, I nick her card, get my discount and including taxes and everything, it only comes to $51.

Sooooooooo good.

I am liking America more and more now.

We kill that impromptu shopping trip, and even the rest of the fam is impressed. We jump in the car and are greeted with Ice Ice Baby, to which Jen lets us know that she used to have this cassette, just to help show her years a little.

We dump all our gear in the room and prep the room for an evening of card games and drinking, and were not talking about water either. Its great. We power through the liquor, and about 1/6th is left of each bottle, roughly. We had a good night. The Rye whiskey is immaculately smooth. You should definitely treat yourself.

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We play Gin, we play Presidents and we chat. I take photos and we just chat for aaaaaaages. It is brilliant. Its a great way to be able to catch up even more with family. I mean, we have got 6 years to catch up on, and we made a good dent in that for sure. We talk about ambitions and aspirations, motives, drivers and reasons for pursing the things we pursue. It’s the best way to end the night.

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The point of intent.

We wrap up, and the lads stagger out of the hotel room, almost as though we would have nearly finished two bottles of spirits.

Its been a good evening.

 

Come Back Tomorrow,

Billy

 

 

 

 

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