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An April blog post! And… My First Solo Exhibit!

Much like February and March – sadly – April has also been a very bad month for this blog.

March was the last month of my ‘day job’ contract and as the days, then weeks, went flying by, I realized that I had a big ‘to do’ item to focus on for the end of the month: selecting and editing the images for my first solo photography exhibit (more on this later). After a brief conversation with a far more experienced photographer – my adviser – I quickly realized that I would have a tight schedule for the last couple of weeks of March and the month of April:

  • The last 10 days of March: complete editing for no more than 25 selected images
  • The first 10 days of April: create test prints of the images, cull, tweak, reprint and repeat as necessary
  • The middle 10 days of April: take part in the G Adventures Inca Trail tour in Peru – yay!
  • The last 10 days of April: create final prints of the images selected for the show, mount, hang and prepare/organize all other items needed – e.g. promotion, food, music, transportation, etc.
  • May 1st: Opening Reception! 

Needless to say, this has been one BUSY month, but I’m determined to make this a positive experience, rookie mistakes and all.

The Show
Back in November, I applied and was accepted for my first group photography exhibit – click here for the blog entry.

I got to talking with the gallery director, Michelle, and loved her friendly personality and energy. I mentioned that I was thinking of having my first solo show and asked if she was amenable to having it at her gallery, Moniker Gallery. She agreed on the spot and suggested I do the show as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, a month-long event where photographers from Canada and around the world exhibit their work at more than 175 venues around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Fast forward 6 months and here we are, on the eve of my first show: A Place – A Space – A Time… Learning to See the Light.

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the images that will be part of the show:

If you’re in Toronto between May 1st and May 14th, please drop by and check it out… and do let me know so that I can meet you in person! Opening reception on May 1st, closing reception on May 14th, both from 7pm to 11pm – music, munchies and a cash bar!

A Brief Word or Two on Peru….
I promise there will be more to come – including pictures! – on Peru in the next entry, but I did want to include a quick description of the trip: it was, quite simply, an amazing experience.

The main reason for the trip was to walk the Inca Trail. We covered 45 km and 7000+ steps (up only) from the starting point, kilometer 82, to Machu Picchu, over 3 and a bit days. I won’t lie: it was harder than I expected. Catching my breath at the altitude levels we were reaching was a struggle, but I never thought about stopping or turning back – I always knew I’d reach the end goal, just with a lot more breaks. 🙂  And it was well worth it!

Making your way along the trail, you find yourself high up in the mountains – far closer to the peaks than a city girl like me could have pictured herself being – and with views of hidden waterfalls and sunlit valleys that really do take your breath away.

When we completed the trail, it felt like a HUGE achievement. It was the most physically challenging activity I’ve ever undertaken and I felt, and still do feel, quite proud about finishing it. And, most importantly, knowing everything that’s involved – the good and the bad – I’d recommend it to others and I’d do it all over again myself.

Thanks for hanging in with me and with this blog despite the dearth of posts.

In closing, my apologies to those of you who haven’t heard from me or seen me in a while…. I’ll be back and in touch soon!

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Balance… or Lack Thereof

February was not a successful month for this blog. In fact, it was (clearly) non-existent. 

At first, it was an easy choice as to whether or not to post: my day job had me engaged in some very long hours over the first two weeks of the month. There were more than a few 10 – 15 hour days and I have to admit, I no longer recover from those, now that I’m in my mid-30s, as quickly as I used to. 

When I wasn’t at work, I was sleeping (hopefully) or trying – not very successfully – to tick off the check boxes belonging to my second life: that of travel agent, blogger and photographer.

And let’s not forget the “regular” requirements of life: banking, eating, cleaning, etc…. Oh, and spending time with friends and family whenever possible.

By the time the third week of the month arrived, I was barely treading water as far as my “to do list” was concerned. As each day passed, I felt more and more the weight of the not done, the to-be done, the ‘you really should’ve had this done already’.

And then it was the last week of February. I tried to ignore the guilt. Finally, by about Wednesday, I had to admit to myself that not a single blog entry for the month was going to be completed. 

Which brings me to this post and my plea for advice from all the other aspiring photographers and writers or any others who are trying to make a go of a second career. How do you do it? How do you find a balance between the things you have to do and the things you want to do? Yes, there are weeknights and weekends, but eventually, I burn out – do you? How do you meet the demands of the every day while also trying to grow your business, improve your abilities, increase industry knowledge and maintain a strong relationship with colleagues, clients and fellow enthusiasts? Do you ever feel like you haven’t done enough?

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Meteora: “Middle of the Sky” Monasteries

You know when you’re a kid and you see something – a person, an image, an arena – that seems too amazing, too big, too beautiful to be true? That’s how I felt about Meteora and its famous complex of monasteries.

I first laid eyes on Meteora in a James Bond movie. The Monastery of the Holy Trinity was used as a backdrop in For Your Eyes Only, the 12th in the series and the 5th with Roger Moore starring as 007 (my father’s a huge fan of the James Bond films). Although it appears the original intention was to film inside the building, the monks living there weren’t too appreciative of this idea. After all, the cliffs and pillars of Meteora were first used as a place of refuge by a group of ascetic monks in search of quiet and solitude. They literally lived in the rocks, about 300 years before the first monastery was built.

Once upon a time there were 24 monasteries up on the cliffs, but today only 6 remain above the town of Kalabaka and the village of Kastraki, more tourist sites than working monasteries although all still have residents.

 The Monastery of the Holy Trinity is visible on the left pinnacle overlooking the town…DSC_0966

The weather for my visit was mostly cold and grey, although there were a few moments of sunshine to be had here and there, mostly in the afternoon. Only warm clothing and an incredible amount of patience and luck led to a few photos with blue skies.

I stayed in the village of Kastraki at a lovely little hotel called Pyrgos Adrachti. It sat right below the cliffs and, following the suggestions I’d read, I requested a balcony room that allowed me to sit and marvel at the sandstone pillars whenever I wanted. There was a little pathway that led down from the cliffs – every so often, I’d hear a rustle and would wait for my eyes to catch the movement of a couple of adventurous trekkers making their way through the trees, surprised at finding themselves basically on the back lawn of this hotel.

The owners gave me a map to follow, but the monasteries were pretty easy to find: make sure you’re going uphill (there’s only really one main road in Kastraki) and follow the tour buses. The map was far handier for what the proprietors added – opening hours. The best days to visit are Sunday and Monday because only one of the monasteries is closed during that two-day period; all other days of the week contain a motley mix of open monasteries and visiting hours. To avoid the crush of tourists, go early and try to hit the two largest first: Megalou Meterou Monastery (also known as Great Meteoron) and Varlaam Monastery. While both offer visitors with the most amount of wandering territory (i.e. not as much of the monastery is private), they are also relatively accessible with ample parking space for tourist buses, hence the larger numbers. By comparison, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity involves a long walk down followed by more than 100 steps up; and, of course, the reverse when you leave.

The outskirts of the Varlaam Monastery can just be seen in the top right corner of the cliffs,while Agiou Nikolaou Monastery (St. Nickolas Anapausas) can be seen in the middle, just to the left of the large wall of sandstone cliffs…DSC_1027

The dual nature of tourism, though, made this a bittersweet moment for me. As a very popular landmark, visiting the monasteries is very simple and straightforward: a 3 euro entry fee and a wrap around skirt (provided by the monasteries) for females is all that is required. By comparison, visiting the larger Eastern Orthodox complex of monasteries at Mount Athos requires that 1) you be a male; and 2) that you obtain a special entrance permit (signed by 4 of the secretaries of leading monasteries) valid only for a limited stay.

The downside is that little to none of the meditative character remains: tour groups file through while their guides loudly provide running commentary and multilingual yells and shouts punctuate the air interrupted intermittently by the roar of bus engines. Additionally, as all 6 still have monks and nuns in residence, the 4 smaller monasteries offer very little in the way of viewing for architectural or historical context: you can walk through some in as little as 5 minutes.

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Having said all this, the views alone from the area and from each of the monasteries I visited (I didn’t make it to Agious Nikolaou Monastery) made it a very worthwhile visit. Photos will never do justice to this amazing place: there is no way to capture the scale, textures, and colours of the natural beauty of the cliffs and pinnacles, nor the dramatic vision of the monasteries perched upon them. I hope, though, that these images ignite your imagination – as one once did mine – and create in you the desire to travel to Meteora and see these sites for yourself.

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P.S. If you are planning a visit, stop by the Restaurant Boufidis along the main road to Meteora, at the edge of town – best pork souvlaki of my entire stay in Greece. You can’t miss it – the chef (and co-owner?) mans the charcoal grill outside by the side of the road.

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