Sunday, August 31, 2008

Honeymoon, Part Five: Wild Roos and My Amazing Expanding Ass

Pebbly Beach is all kinds of gorgeous.

There were about a dozen kangaroos grazing when we arrived, but the sun wasn't quite at its optimal angle on the grassy area where they were.

We decided to give them some space and head down to the sand where the light was quite nice.

There wasn't much to shoot down there besides this bird.



The beach was deserted, and in the absence of other subjects, Joel and I take pictures of each other.

My ass here, while not as small as I'd prefer, is relatively normal-sized.

Ooh, sparkly. And with that, the sun was high enough to cast cool shadows and illuminate kangaroos.


You really can get quite close to them. It was absolutely amazing.

Kangaroos have the reputation of packing a powerful punch.

I got a little too close, and one of them knocked me out.

I kid, I kid! The one of me lolling on the ground is of me waiting for the sun to get higher in the sky. It was FREEZING on the beach. Can we talk about my ass, please? Did it not quadruple in size? How did that HAPPEN?!? Absolutely. Terrifying. Also? I'm totally laying in kangaroo poop to get this shot. I'm sorry I subjected you to that.

Ah, calla lillies growing wild on the beach!... Much better. Everyone look at the flowers. The pretty, pretty flowers.



Then Joel and I got back on the road to Sydney. I tried driving. I did okay, until we got to a construction zone. I was still having trouble judging where I was situated in the lane, and since my choices were cones on one side and construction workers (People! Very killable people!) on the other, Joel took back over. He got pretty good at it driving on deserted roads on the way to Pebbly Beach.

Then we stopped at a McDonald's in Ulladulla, which was wholly unoriginal, but also you know, open.

The other thing, though, was that my camera body kind of, um, broke during the Harbour Cruise the night before! I know! It sucked! I still had my backup body, and the bit that broke off was a very tiny but important piece of plastic inside the camera that affects what you see when you look through the viewfinder. It didn't affect the appearance of the images themselves, but looking into the camera was like looking through a peephole, which was annoying.

There was a computer repair and retail store nect to McDonald's. We used their Internet kiosk to find out the location of the Canon headquarters in Sydney. Interestingly enough, it was the big building on the north side of the city that said "Canon" in big red letters on the side of it.

We got the address from Mapquest, punched it into the GPS unit we got from the rental car company, and four hours and fifteen minutes later, I threw myself at the mercy of the receptionist at Canon headquarters.

Me: Hi! Um, I'm a photographer visiting from the States. I'm on my honeymoon-
Nice Australian Receptionist: Congratulations!
Me: Oh. Thanks. So, I was wondering if there's any way I could talk to a repair specialist? I normally wouldn't just show up, but in the States there's a repair department at their New Jersey offices?

NAR eyes start glazing over.

Me: I'm really hoping there's something someone can do. I have my Canon Professional card here, but it's an American card, and-
NAR: CPS, up the stairs round the corner.
Me: I'm sorry?
NAR: Canon Professional is up the stairs, round the corner to the right.
Me: Really? Just like that?

We walk upstairs where four bored technicians are watching the Olympics. Women's beach volleyball. Five minutes later, we're walking out, camera good as new. Free of charge.

Joel and I are so relieved, astounded at our good fortune, really. We're giddy until we get back to the car, at which point I realize I left my winter coat back at the McDonald's in Ulladulla, four hours south of Sydney. Oh, fuck it. To the mall! :)

We shop, sightsee, go out to dinner and leave for Ayers Rock the next day. Onward, honeymooners!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sydney Bonus Photos

One of my favorite college professors really shaped the way I feel about photography and why I'm so willing to- let's face it- work on my honeymoon. He first taught me in S.U.'s London photo program, and he really emphasized the importance of celebrating our photography and developing our personal vision by shooting a lot of - in his words- self-indulgent crap.

Self-indulgent crap was his short hand for "anything you feel like." It got us shooting a lot of silly pictures of each other, taking our cameras lots of places, whipping them out whenever. We began to see London- really SEE it- beyond tourist hot spots and famous places. He took us to shoot world-known landmarks (Stonehenge, for one) and challenged us to photograph them in a way that was DIFFERENT. We had a lot of breaks, a whole week off in October. We had our Britrail passes and Eurail passes. He told us, "How many millions of pictures have been taken of the Eiffel Tower? Make me a photo unlike any I've ever seen before."

It was such a fun time of growth for me and my college friends, the ones whose friendships have lasted despite the fact that we were in London exactly nine years ago. There was something about Sydney this time around that reminded me of that time- the cool weather, the golden afternoon light, people wearing green and yellow Australia scarves for the Olympics, eating at the Sydney Wagamama.

So I was shooting in that same style of discovery. The golden afternoon light...

Self-Indulgent Crap for my scrapbook...

In and around the Sydney Tower...

One of me by Joel...

And the Sydney Opera House, differently than I shot it before, trying to see it and shoot it in ways I've never seen others attempt.


You can see these photos and a couple more here.

Honeymoon, Part Four: Where we go on a harbor cruise and take lots of photos

Uh, yeah... So, Joel and I went on a sunset dinner cruise around Sydney Harbour and took a lot of photos.

I had the salmon; he had the beef.

They were yummy.

Until they got cold.

Which was our fault.

Because we kept jumping up to take more pictures.

Then we got off the boat.

And took more pictures. (Shocking!)

Oooh, vertical...

I forgot how sleepy I get in the winter when the sun sets. I generally have to fight The Sleepies as soon as we fall back in the fall and the sun starts setting really early. Add jet lag to shockingly cold weather (when I was in Sydney in July '94, we ran around in t-shirts and jeans with only the occasional sweatshirt needed) and the fact that it was dark by 7 p.m., and you get one very sleepy couple.

We were in bed by 8:30 p.m. We rock.

To be fair, we had big plans to get up at 2 a.m. to drive to Pebbly Beach (located a convenient four hours south of Sydney!) to shoot sunrise. Pebbly Beach is famous for wild kangaroos (like the one in the photo with the joey in the entry below) that are pretty used to humans camping nearby in the national park. Kangaroos aren't nocturnal, persay, but like most wild animals, they're extremely active right around sunrise and after sunset. So we left Sydney at 2 a.m. to drive to Pebbly Beach. Because we're OBSESSED, but also? It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. How could we not?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Honeymoon, Part Three: P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney

So the Sydney Aquarium, aside from comnipresent tie-ins to Disney's Fnding Nemo wherever and whenever possible, is really, really cool. It has the reputation of being one of the best aquariums in the world, and it earns it. We literally could have stayed in the shark exhibit for hours.

It was mesmerizing, actually.

We had to keep moving, partly because we wanted to get to Wildlife World next door with its koalas and wallabies. Also, we were befuddled and thought it was actually an hour later than it was. This became a recurring theme.

This doesn't really "count" since it was shot in captivity, but I like it.


We had a really interesting conversation with the indigenous education officer providing commentary for the Red Centre habitat. His name tag featured his aboriginal name, Jinabinya, or Sea Bird, but he asked us to call him Leon. He's an aspiring actor, and he was very keen to tell about his new movie, "an aboriginal version of Cheech and Chong." Huh. Also, he plays the didgeridoo.

Hey, actors gotta eat, too. Still, there was something just a little.... uncomfortable... about this person who was.... almost... an integrated part of the exhibit, kind of? He was very talented and knowledgable, and he was mostly there to keep schoolkids on field trips from throwing candy at the kangaroos. Still, the fetishization of aboriginal people for the tourist gaze was not lost on me. This, too, would be a recurring theme through the trip, which I'll get back to in a future entry. (SPOILER: The miner who helped created my engagement and wedding rings is a Big, Unrepentant Racist. Awesome!)

Meanwhile, a helpful butterfly shows Joel how to get to the pier where we needed to board a boat for our Sunset Dinner Cruise.

Joel takes a picture of a butterfly landing on my camera where I'm looking at a preview of the above picture of him with a butterfly. How very meta. You can see more photos (koalas! wallabies!) from the Sydney Aquarium and Wildlife World here.

Honeymoon, Part Two: Driving or Something Like It

First, let me say that I love Qantas Airlines. We're so used to U.S. Airways, where AFTER they charge $15 to check your bag, your only food options on cross-country flights include $6.00 for a "snack box" and $9.00 for a dry "chicken Caesar sandwich" of questionable edibility.

Hmmmm... it's a good thing we had the urine-soaked aroma of the toilets behind us to sap our appetites, since "Folks, we only have limited supplies on board, so we recommend you purchase your desired in-flight refreshments to enjoy early on" REALLY means "Even if you wanted to spend $6.00 for a mint, a 'fun-sized' pack of M & Ms and some macadamia nut cookies, we'll be out before our pointy metal cart makes its way to the back of the plane, you poor honeymooning bastards."

But I digress. Boarding a Qantas 747 is akin to a ride in Doc Brown's Flying DeLorean. You are instantly transported back in time to a world where any bag under 68 pounds can be checked for FREE! It's like 1994 in there. There are two hot airline meals to choose from (shockingly edible AND they smell good) served every four hours! You are given a tiny zippered pouch of headphones, socks and an eye mask for FREE! You can have bottled water and a bag of snacks any time during the flight, with soft drinks and alcohol served before meals, coffee and tea served after.

Don't even get me started on the hot towels they give you an hour before you land OR the free ice cream. I KNOW! Joel was completely unconscious so I have no witnesses to back me up or reassure me that the complimentary Fudgsicles weren't a hallucination. I was beyond punchy 13+ hours into the flight, and I really wanted to bellow "Ice cream! LIEUTENANT DAN!! Ice creeeam!" at Joel. But he was already shooting me the Sleepy Glare of Glarey Death whenever I rummaged around the seat pocket for my travel-sized deodorant (I like to reapply every so often; what can I say?) so I left him alone.

It's probably mostly psychological. They know they can't keep hundreds of people captive in a tin can for 16 hours without risking mutiny. Offering free bottled water and treating you with a modicum of customer service keeps you sane, somehow. Seriously, they brought around fresh fruit and everyone was like, "Holy shit! Is that a bowl of apples? ONE OF THEM IS FOR ME?!? Oh, my!" and we all sat quietly like good little passengers who didn't whine until we were in line for customs. Our fruit and ice-cream bearing angels sprinted away from us in the "flight crew" lane, leaving our smelly herd behind as swiftly as common courtesy allows, albeit with apple cores in our pockets and popsicle sticks stuck to our free gray socks.

I realize that this post is not so much about driving, as of yet. Let's get on that, shall we?

Right, so we land at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, having lost one day in Santa Monica and one day crossing the International Date Line. By the time we cleared customs, fetched our luggage and got our rental car, Joel had the white knuckle experience of driving into downtown Sydney with the morning commuters.

The thing is, yeah- okay, the steering wheel is on the other side of the car. Aside from overriding your instinct to sit in the passenger seat when you walk up to the car, the hardest part is trying to orient yourself in the lane. Well, that, and ignoring the screaming voice in your head telling you that oncoming traffic is coming right at you. The problem is, when you start to panic, your first instinct is to swerve and revert to defensive driving as you've always known it, which of course would put you in grave danger. Oh! And the turn signal thingy turns on the windshield wipers. It's only funny the first ten times you do it.

Here I am, later in the trip, driving in the Outback with the windshield wipers on, looking distressed. (Note: It hasn't rained where I was driving since January.)

Of course, they post helpful signs like the one above in the touristy areas around Ayers Rock, which wasn't much help that first morning in Sydney.

Joel's job was to navigate carpool lane hours, tunnels, and taxicabs (Hi! It's like we're back in New York!) while my job was to keep up a soothing patter of, "You're doing great... you're doing so great. I think- I think the lanes are different, too. See where it says "overtaking lane?" That's, okay, that's definitely the lane we're in, so this is the passing lane here? The one we're in? and OMG too close TOO CLOSE! A LITTLE TOO CLOSE!"

Joel: What's the ED lane?
Me: It's the lane reserved for people named Ed?
Joel: ANG!
Me: Wait, wait, okay! See where it says "Eastern Distributor" and "Give Way?" I bet ED stands for Eastern Distributor. Give way GIVE WAY OMG GIVE WAY

You get the picture. We lived to tell the tale, obviously. Because we lost a day in Sydney, we checked in to our hotel, showered, took a very quick nap and headed out to the Aquarium and Wildlife World, which was... exactly what it sounds like.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


OMG OMG OMG OKay. So I am really excited, and I'm posting thise ven though I'm totally in the office right now killing time before my next assignment. I've been so good about using my own gear and equipment all the way through Australia, etc. (I'm back to work today, so posting won't be quite as frequent.) BUT! But! I'm using the super good high resolution editing software to do a second edit of my work from Down Under. So sue me.

Background: Joel and I got up at 2 a.m. to get to this beach a few hours south of Sydney where wild kangaroos roam freely. We wanted to be there for sunrise. Anyway, the kangaroos are pretty docile and comfortable with people. We got some great shots, but I'm doing a re-dit! AND! I totally missed this, both in person AND in my first edit, but this one very skittish kangaroo... as it turns out.... HAD A BABY IN HER POUCH.

I'm a little over-caffeinated, I'll grant you that. BUT LOOK AT THE BABY KANGAROO OMG I DIDN'T EVEN SEE IT SO CUTE AND *sploosh!* Chunky Photojournalist Barbie's head has exploded. Please come back soon.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Honeymoon, Part One: Idiosyncratic Wife

The next morning, we woke up at the hotel, drove to my parents' house, grabbed our suitcases, hopped on the plane, arrived at our destination and ran, hand in hand, to the Pacific Ocean where a lovely Australian passerby snapped this photo for us, perfect bliss, just me and my new husband...

Wait, that's not Joel! That's LUKE?!?! WTF?

Oh, please. Did you *really* think our honeymoon started out this smoothly for me and Joel? Have we MET? Blogger pauses to acknowledge the distinct possibility that, no, maybe we haven't met, actually.

We did wake up at the hotel across the street from the reception. That part was true. We stopped off at the other hotel where all our guests were staying to pick up my car, realized that lots of our favorite people were just inside partaking of the continental breakfast, and decided to get some free bagels. We said another round of hellos and goodbyes, then drove to my parents' house, and grabbed up our suitcases, but that's where we begin to deviate from the The Plan.

First of all, we hit a line of nasty thunderstorms on the road to the airport in Philadelphia. The rain was so heavy that people were driving with their blinkers on and pulling off under overpasses. We were not to be deterred! We were Intrepid World Travelers!

Honestly, honey," I said gently. "We're going to make it. Do you really think these storms aren't going to delay the flights at least a little?


But we didn't know that yet. We RUSHED to the long-term parking lot, RUSHED through the valet drop-off, RUSHED to the departure terminal. Our flight to L.A. was one of the only ones not marked delayed. I ran to the automated check-in machine; Joel dragged our luggage to curbside check-in.

We're checked in! Score! Curbside luggage people say we're too late! Boo!

The woman at the counter says it's a little late for luggage, but she sends it down the conveyor belt and promises to call the crew to let them know it's coming. We hurry through security, but get stopped when a trainee on the x-ray machine spies our mamma-jamma 300mm f2.8 telephoto lens.

"Is this a....scope?" he asks. "It's a camera lens," I pant, hurriedly putting my bomb-free shoes back on.

"Good catch on the scanner!" says the trainer, eyeing the lens. "That thing costs a lot of money, so just put it back in the case. Carefully!" he tells the trainee.

"Really?" asks the trainee.

"I'd rather you crash my Suzuki than drop it," I joke (not joking). Joel is about to have a heart attack from how close we're cutting it to our boarding time. We clear security and RUN to the gate as the flight attendant announces last call.

"Hi!" I pant, all red-faced, my hair sproinging from its ponytail from the rain and the running. I am PRETTY. "We (pant) were late (pant). They were supposed (pant) to call (pant) the crew? About (pant *hack*) our luggage? Do you think it made it?"

"Definitely!" says Crew Member #1, just as Crew Member #2 says, "50/50." Huh. Okay. We find our seats. Joel grumbles that "We are NEVER cutting it that close again, are we CRAZY?!?"

I, on the other hand, am Sunny McSmile. I tell him "We couldn't control the storm, and look! We made it!" Thunder crashes all around the plane, hitting the ground around the runway. Passengers from Amsterdam hustle on board. "Look, we're not even the last ones here! If their luggage made it from the international terminal, then surely ours did, too. It's our honeymoon! RELAAAXXXX."

The plane is delayed for fueling. Joel is worried we won't make our flight to Sydney if we don't take off soon for L.A. The man next to me is smelly. I discretely daub perfume under my nose. "We're 80% fueled," says the pilot. I issue "a ban on grumpiness," as it's our honeymoon.

We ultimately sit on the tarmac for three hours. First, we're finishing the fueling. Then, we need to get a new flight plan approved to avoid the storms. Forget it, the storm cell surrounds the airport; we're waiting out the storm. We are definitely going to miss our connecting flight to Sydney.

Joel waits on hold with Qantas Airlines, trying to rebook. His cell phone dies just as a real human picks up. Smelly Man offers the use of his, which is very kind. I feel bad for referring to him as smelly. It was so nice of him to loan us his smell phone. (Oh! That's just wrong! I'm terrible.)

The pilot interrupts with "good news for our passengers from Europe."

"We're returning to the terminal so you can all de-plane and get something to eat." The plane collectively groans. "Just as soon as we get a lightning truck to tow us back to the terminal," he adds. A girl two rows behind us starts to wail about getting "kicked out of school." Uh, what? Why? Because you'll be getting to L.A. at 1 a.m. instead of 9:30 p.m.? Who's taking attendance that late on a Sunday night? I mean, really? Also, please shut up.

The flight attendants serve us all half a thimble of water. "Any more and we'll run out," they cluck. I use the time to figure out what I can spell if I re-arrange the letters of my first, middle and newly-hyphenated last names. Answers include: "Lasagna Decal Jay Kiln Glue" OR "Eel Ugly Ink Jag Salad Canal" OR "Agile Jackal Auld Lang Syne." However, my personal favorite is "Alas! Angelically aged junk."

We get off the plane. I spend $60 in 15 minutes on food, water, books and a fancy neck pillow while Joel waits in line at customer service. Awesome! We get back on the plane before he gets to the front of the line, hoping against hope that our connecting flight might be similarly delayed from "severe weather." No such luck. Then, a double rainbow appears over the runway, and I know- I KNOW- it will all work out.

The ban on grumpiness is still in effect, but Joel's losing it. I promise to slip something special into his bottled water and seductively wave a travel-size package of Tylenol PM at him.

We arrive in L.A. at 1 a.m. local time, 4 a.m. back East. The plane to Sydney is long gone. Our luggage is nowhere to be found, and the only hotel room, according to the automated robot lady on the accommodation courtesy phone, is at a Super8 hotel in Inglewood. Christ.

Joel becomes The Trooper as I start to fade. He rebooks us on the next flight to Australia (10 p.m. the next day), takes the room at the Super8, tells customer service where they can send our bags when they arrive on the next flight, hails a cab, and asks the driver to wait outside the 24-hour McDonald's while he runs in for food. (No Drive-Thru in Inglewood. Apparently it's too dangerous). I'm in charge of staring into space (did I ever mention that I take a *lot* of prescription medication?) and cramming McNuggets into my maw.

We pass out until 7 a.m., when reception tells us our bags are downstairs. Score! I fetch them and step gingerly around a passed-out homeless man as I go in search of breakfast. I wonder if Luke's flight leaving our wedding was delayed by the same storms. At 8 a.m., I send him a text message. I figure he'll get it when he wakes up. Seconds later... salvation!

Me: You're up! Did I wake you?
Luke: No. I was staring at my ceiling fan.
Me: Oh.
Luke: What are you doing in L.A.?
Me: We got delayed because of storms. We're at the Super8 in Inglewood.
Luke: DUDE.
Me: I know.
Luke: Dude, that sucks!
Me: Tell me about it.
Luke: Only you guys would end up in Inglewood on your honeymoon.

Apparently, it could only be worse if we were in Watts. Only us, indeed. We shower and entertain ourselves bed-jumping until Luke rescues us.

We kill time at the Santa Monica Pier where we go to do the Matt Dance and discover our video camera is broken. Sweet! We go to Best Buy, figuring at least we found out BEFORE we got to Australia. That's good, right? Riiiiight.

Luke ran amok with my super cool camera. I love having friends who are amazing photographers.

This is the REAL version of the photo I described at the beginning of this entry: me and my new husband.

Luke drops us off at LAX and our flight to Sydney takes off without a hitch. One day later- we crossed the International Date Line- and one day late, Joel drives us to our hotel during morning rush hour in a rental car where the steering wheel is on the OTHER. SIDE. OF. THE. CAR.

Our adventures were just beginning...