Nat Geo… Did that really happen?
2011 was quite a year for me. Like any other year, it had its ups and downs, twists and turns and a few unexpected surprises along the way. The most pleasant of these surprises was having a photograph of mine grace the cover of National Geographic magazine. I have to equate this to an actor winning an Oscar and this is an honour that I’ll always treasure.
A New Year
I rang in the new year in 2011 with friends who were renting a beach house in St Augustine, Florida. Thinking I’d be in a warmer place than Montreal, I happily accepted their invitation to spend the holidays with them. I drove down to Florida and on the way down made stops in Washington DC, Atlanta, St Augustine, Savannah, Charleston, and New York City. The only place it actually got warm to any degree that I would have expected was Charleston. Next time I try to escape the cold, I’m heading to Tahiti, and I’m hoping to make that happen this winter!
Savannah is Sweet!
I fell in love with the city of Savannah and the people that call this stunning place home. The view from my hotel room was wonderful, the food in the restaurants was exceptional, the Historic District was a photographer’s dream and it felt like a place that I could feel comfortable calling home. I took this photo while on a photowalk with my new friend Kinte who teaches photography at one of the High Schools in Savannah. Once again, it’s the people that make the place. My thanks to Kinte and his wife Sony for making Savannah even more special for me.
Everywhere I went this year, I was able to meet people from all walks of life. People that inspired me, people that touched my heart, people that I’ll never forget. In Charleston I was shown the true meaning of Southern hospitality by my new friend Randall. I felt an immediate bond with him from the moment we met and we shared some good times over the next few days while he showed me some of the best of Charleston, introduced me to his friends and family, and treated me to a delicious meal at his restaurant Fish. I didn’t get the chance to spend enough time in Charleston and I know that I’ll be back to this charming city sometime soon to make up for that.
A Hell of a Town
There’s never a bad time to visit New York City. This time however, was perhaps one of the rare exceptions to that statement. I arrived just in time for a severe cold snap and the day after I arrived New York experienced the worst snow storm of the year. No matter the temperature or or weather conditions, New York City is and always will be one of my favourite places on earth. This applies to taking photos and to the amazing experiences that only NYC can provide. This was the last stop on my way home after 31 days on the road. While there is no place like home, this is also true about the Big Apple.
A Trip of a Lifetime
Visiting Jordan this April was a highlight, not only of my year but of all my travels. I saw so much in my two weeks there that it all seemed to be a blurry dream when I returned home, but what a dream it was! From the natural beauty of the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, and the Dana Nature Preserve, to the historic treasures of the desert castles, Jerash and Petra, Jordan was a revelation at every turn. I’m grateful to my hosts at the Jordan Tourism Board for making my visit so special and I’m already planning to visit again.
In June it was back to Florida for a stay at a unique cattle ranch this time. I had never been to Central Florida before, and was amazed at the wide variety of flora and fauna that I was able to see all within a few acres. Airboat rides, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, food fit for a king, wildlife spotting, and great photo ops. All of these things made the trip special but once again it was the people that made the place. The Black family are the most gracious of hosts and I was treated like a long lost friend throughout my stay at Creek Ranch. It’s the perfect location if you’re looking for a unique place to get away from it all.
The Centre of the Universe
I was in Toronto for a few perfect summer days in July. On this trip I was able to spend some time with my friends Dave and Deb who write the awesome adventure travel blog “the Palnet .D.” I had the pleasure of meeting them earlier in the year in Jordan while I was on my way out and they were just arriving. Canadians often sarcastically call Toronto “the Centre of the Universe” but with each new visit, I’m enjoying the city more and more. I’ll be back in January for some not so perfect winter weather.
Innsbruck is Awesome
It was then time to head to Europe for the Travel Bloggers Unite conference in beautiful Innsbruck. This was my first time visiting central Europe and I was in for a treat. The conference was a huge success and I’m looking forward to the next TBU conference in Umbria, Italy this April, where I’ll be giving a workshop and photo tour.
Next stop Vienna! I could literally spend months photographing this magnificent city’s incredible historic sights. I was able to photograph the Cathedral, the Spanish Riding School, Imperial Palaces, historic hotels, and so much more. They make a mean coffee and chocolate cake here too ;)
Hungry for more
Budapest was another first for me as I had never been to an ex-Soviet block country. Hungary has one of the most unique languages in the world so for someone with no knowledge of the language, it was even more special to have been given a full time guide by the Hungarian Tourism Board. I was once again treated to spectacular sights, day and night. I photographed Parliament, the opera house, museums, concert halls, castles, churches, the world famous spas and more. Without my fearless guide Vivien I would have not have been able to get half of the photos I took. I think I’m going to tell her boss to give her a raise ;)
Champagne and Chocolates
I had fun times in Salzburg, as I had the opportunity to visit the world’s oldest restaurant, listen to some wonderful opera, visit the cathedral, eat some of the mouth watering Mozartkugeln chocolates, and even get treated to champagne at the craziest piano bar I’ve ever been to. This was a very short stay and I was disappointed to not get the chance to take more photos, but travel is not just about photos and that’s a lesson I need to keep reminding myself of. While it’s nice to look back at the photos from all my trips, many of the best memories are of things you can’t photograph. Sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings all make for wonderful memories as well.
Munich was my last stop in Europe and here too it was the people that made the place so special for me. On my first day I had the pleasure of being shown around by a friend of a friend. There is no better way to see a city than through the eyes of someone who lives there. Sure it’s nice to discover things on my own, but I do that a lot anyway. Some things just can’t be found in city guides, like that little ice cream shop that had the most delicious flavours that I’m still salivating over. Thanks Susanne! The things that you do find in the tour guides can be quite amazing too, one of my favourites was the Bavarian State Opera House. After three weeks on the road, I was exhausted in a good kind of way and it was good to know that I’d be going home soon. I tend to push myself while on these trips, to get up before dawn in order to catch that magical light, to stay up late so that all my photos from the day’s shoot are downloaded and backed up.
One day I’ll hopefully be able to stay longer in the the locations I visit, in order to take the time to really absorb more of the culture, meet more people, and once in a while get more than four hours sleep. I’m not complaining, I’m just being greedy because I seem to love each new place I visit so much, that it pains me to say farewell.
In September I visited the beautiful state of Chiapas in Mexico. I had worked in Mexico many times before and I love the people, the culture, the food, the history, and the music of this great country. This was the first time that I had been so far south in Mexico and unfortunately I was only able to stay for a couple of days.
From Chiapas I headed on to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta to meet up with my awesome friend Gaby. It was time for a couple of days of beach time relaxation, something I have not done for a long time. In fact I didn’t even take my camera out for those days and it felt good. Weird, but good.
All’s Well that Ends Well
The last trip of the year brought me back to New York City for Photo Plus East (PPE) to do some video testimonials for the gang at Agency Access. I’ve been working with them this year on the continuing series “My Marketing Adventure” and it’s been a very rewarding experience to work with so many nice people who are dedicated to helping photographers with their marketing.
It’s always fun to get on the convention centre floor at PPE, to drool over the new gear and software that make photography so much fun. I got the chance to meet up with tons of cool people that I had only met over the interwebs. Alaskan adventure photographer and bush pilot Dan Baily, HDR photographer extraordinaire & OnOne Software guru Brian Matiash, Photoshelter’s VP of marketing Andrew Fingerman, Twitter master and awesome photographer Jack Hollingsworth and so many more.
Spending some time with my friend Ron Egatz who writes the blogs for the MAC group was icing on the cake and a great way to end my travels in 2011.
I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2012. I have many trips already in the planning stages and some exciting announcements to make soon. So thanks to all of my readers for making it a pleasure to share my photos and stories with you on the blog in 2011. 2012 will see this blog evolve and grow and I hope that you’ll continue checking out the photos and new features I’ll be adding soon. If you don’t want to miss anything, why not subscribe to the RSS feed?