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Photo travels. (Funny and some swearing)

I thought Id document some of my travel experiences to the USA.  Hopefully you will all get a laugh out of it. 🙂

Ok.. here we go, so strap yourselves in!!. So my first trip to the States was back in 2012. Started in LA and ending in MN after a month of travel. Seems easy enough. Everything was pre-booked and paid for soooo.. what could go wrong? All I had to do was follow the yellow brick road / itinerary that the travel agent sent me 😊.  I cant tell you how eager I was to do this trip!

Now the flight from my home town at the time in South Hedland West Aust to LA was in the 20-26hr mark via Sydney, plus jet lag and about as excited as a Amateur photographer in a camera store with a million buck gift card 😊 really made for a uncomfortable fidgety flight.

The flight itself was a mix of pleasure and terror. Pleasure of in flight movies, food, chilling and anticipation of what I would see and what I could get up to when I landed.

I didn’t even mind the young babies crying, its all part of the trip. On the other hand…

Terror as the 3 teenage kids in front decided that they wanted to fight and be morons. I really had a moment that I wanted to knock a couple of heads together, but I’m sure someone wouldn’t like that…. I reclined my isle seat back once the kids did their seats so my nose wasn’t pressed up against the TV screen. Bit hard to see a movie with your condensation on it fogging it all up.   Three cheers for “cattle class” (Economy)!!!

Only for the woman behind to complain to the stewardess that I was encroaching in on her space and had to raise it again. I’m 6 ft. 1 and about 220-230 pounds, I’m sure lots of other people are taller and bigger than me have the same issue about their knees touching the seat in front and space in general… it’s a tad cramped in the “poverty seats down the back”, next time I will have to join the elite and go business lol. The rest of the time I was mortally wounded by the food trolley smashing into my elbow like the Titanic into a ice-burg. But at least I knew when chow time was up 😊. I didn’t even have any issues with arm rest etiquette . (Google Jim, Jefferies for a funny comedy show about this… has lots of swearing)
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Landed in LA and after getting the 3rd degree from customs that I wasn’t there to meet a new wife (I told my wife this and her only comment was “Hell no! You are not leaving me with all the kids” lol) or stay any longer than I planned…somehow managed to get to the car hire and missed out on the chance of a cavity search from my new found annoyed friend doing his job at Customs. His luck might of changed if only he brought me a meal lol… just kidding.. (Please don’t get me wrong… I think they do a great job and needed for airport and security etc.)

Handed over all my documents, licenses, blood sample, second born child… etc. and the dude at the car hire place and he asks “Where are you heading?” I mentioned my trip.. giggling like a giddy school girl…, “heading to Grand Canyon etc, Utah and all the way up through South Dakota to Minnesota to see a photography friend”. The dude stops what he is doing and says… “I cant hire the car to you, you’ll take it off road?” Ergh.. you what now???. The only way I can give you a car is to upgrade to a SUV… what I had booked before was a little hatch about the size of a Honda Civic. So I had to shell over another 1000 odd bucks before they would give me a car. Or I could come back in a couple of days after I decide to change my mind… (The trip to Grand Canyon was only ever going to be done via chopper…)

I really needed to get a move on and still groggy from the flight I metaphorically dropped my strides and took one for “Team Geoff”. ( I mentioned this to the travel agent later and she made some inquiries… apparently the refusal never happened and it was my request to upgrade lol, yeah right..)

Jumped in the car and drove off, dodged falling into the Monterey canyon (aka pot hole) in the bitumen by the drive way and on the way out ended up on the correct side of the road lol. Miracles do happen! Hell… I even got into the correct side of the car!  LA… your road repair system lacks a bit.

Now, amongst my lost travels (lets call them… “unplanned adventures” ) I found a Target store, pulled over and went hunting for a gps and a sim card for my ipad. Found one of each, got back to the car, plugged it in and it went straight to requiring  software update and sim card wouldn’t work in ipad (unlocked ipad). By this time I had already driven off. Couldn’t even use either to get back to the store. So… no phone… (because Im a clown that thought… There’s a phone over there for sale…, I wont need one as I have my ipad…) no way of figuring out where I was supposed to be and getting rather frustrated by the minute at my stupidity, as I hadn’t planned on any other options. (Now I have plan upon plan upon plan).

So after driving around for about 7- 8 hours around other tourists, LA motorists and, nearly getting side swiped by a garbage truck, I finally found my hotel. Literally… fell over it in West Hollywood.

Even asked a dude walking his dog where this street was.. “Sorry, I don’t know!” Drive to the end of the street like maybe 20 yards and there it is lol.

Before I get any further, lets get the stereotype right.  I’m a Caucasian male, cropped hair, no tats, no ear rings.  I might have been unshaven, but definitely no beard.  I dont look like a gangster, thief , pimp or hooker, my pants sit on my hips and certainly not rocking any gang colors But West Hollywood dude seemed shit scared when I approached him.

Find a parking bay and head up to the front desk. Speak with the nice lady at the front counter who kindly informs me that she did not have a booking. Now… Im thinking… wt..? Is someone having a lend of me?

The dude behind me stands there patiently after the hotel works out that they had booked me under another name, then upgrades me. Must say, Australia has absolutely nothing on US for customer service in hotels etc.
I get the “ you are a peasant look” just ordering a 7 buck coffee in Aus.  You know.. that crappy look they give down the line of their nose??The voice in my head pops up with a really posh accent of “How dare you interrupt me whilst I stand here and breath the filthy air you have just pushed towards me whilst begging for 1/2 a coffee bean in septic water and sour goat piss for milk.”

The dude in this case is another Aussie. Go figure. Fly all this way to another country and basically the first person I have a reasonable conversation was with an Aussie named Simon. ANNNND he understands my accent Double boom and an added fist pump!

Simon politely informs me that he is having a function up on the top floor. All expenses paid for and needed a few extra people. I thought Schweet!!  Besides.. Simon said I had to go lol. Things are turning around!. Ill be there with bells on.. nothing else.. just bells 😉. I Wonder what Simon does?

I throw on my best threads, foot falcons (thongs/ flip flops) and mosey on up. Turns out Simon.. was the publicist or similar job type for…. Wait for it “Playboy” lol. I nearly died! Teenage bucket list checked off in one night!

The event was a bit of a get together for a couple that had won a guided tour around Heffs mansion from selling the most amount of condoms during some sort of promotion between stores.

Met some really nice people, an Aussie rock band that is doing well in LA and some models (fully clothed). No photo opportunities though lol. Spent a good 10 minutes explaining to a young lady how we Aussies have trained all our Kangaroos to deliver mail to reduce the carbon foot print?!?…. (sorry…. But no…. we haven’t achieved that, she started with something silly in conversation so I upped it for a laugh). It ended with her nearly slapping my face for saying that roo meat is sold in restaurants.

Woke up the next morning being shaken out of my bed from an Earth Quake lol. But I was that tired I figured that someone would come get me if I needed to get out of Dodge fast.

Had an awesome night and after that.. started off an amazing trip with a few other unplanned adventures and one more small hiccup between Las Vegas and Denver, but all in all. Awesome!

Just missed out on a Aussie footy player falling from a balcony at the Flamingo Hotel. I had been there moments before I had left as all the excitement was else where… Probably a good thing eh?

I didn’t think I got that far but some crappy phone pics says otherwise. hehe.

So on my way to what I though was towards Denver being my next stop (that’s what the documents said), I then realized that I was supposed to stop off at Zion and had to double back.  It was pouring down, rock slides and all sorts of things. It took f**king hours and I was wrecked by the time I got there at 1am.  All the time talking to my wife on my Aussie phone trying to get directions and help keep me awake so I didn’t fall asleep.  I paid for that conversation later with a 2.5 grand phone bill…..

What really got me was the signage… Road works… next 200 miles…. Here I am thinking Jesus Christ…… 40 km/h or equivalent (because that’s what it is here) for 200 miles?  That’s gonna take years.  Hell no…. signage for 70-80 mph still up and I’m rocketing past workers like I’m doing warp factor 10!

I didn’t dare speed. 10km/h in Aus will give you the gift of a speeding ticket.  Last thing I wanted to do was get on the wrong side of Police.

Its funny….. a govt official, teacher or someone in authority get in trouble, its all over the news.  Teacher or Cop… issued ticket for illegal parking/ speeding/ assault.  Never get the Brickie or panel beater getting a mention in the news.  But I get that some occupations are held to a higher standard and so they should be and I’m ok with that.

I spent a few days in Zion, First day I was walking up to Emerald Pool. I think I over estimated my abilities lol. I had my camera bag on my back and brought a back pack and threw my gigapan on my front. Slightly unfit I started on my trek. I get half way up to take a breather and a elderly couple sail by me as though Im going backwards with a oxy tank in a trolley attached to them. Im looking around to see if I’ve just been “Punked”… argh.. nope… lol

Made an accidental turn off towards Moab, glad I did and probably the last thing of interest that happened…. I dropped a filter holder over some falls out by Hastings MN .. with filters.. jumped the fence and climbed down, nearly plummeted to my death lol. Managed to get the holder back, but the rest was gone.

Step forward to my last trip in 2015. I think I was a bit wiser this time , I started at Karratha West Aus to SF via Abu Dhabi which if you haven’t used this option allows for customs to do all their stuff before you land. Good idea to be honest. This flight is about 25-30 hours. The flight back was pushing 36 hours with stop over and already had delays.

I land in Abu Dhabi, and have about a hour in connection time, so I grab my carry on and follow the crowds to the next plane terminal. Get through all ok and find my seat on the plane. This time, the plane was half full and increasing and I fell asleep straight away.

Next minute… I have security and flight staff standing over me, ordering me to get off the flight and head back to customs. I pretty much “s…t” myself thinking what on earth have I done.. or haven’t done now? I stand up and they strip the seat down? … Im like ok? Maybe its part of protocol? Don’t panic yet?!

I grab my carry on and escorted back to US customs under guard. Meet a nice dude there who asks me what is in my bags. I explain its camera equipment and a small Laptop that didn’t make the trip and died (I found out afterwards when I landed)… The US Customs agent asks if he can have a look. “Yeah sure, knock yourself out”. (His demeanor changed when I explained that Im a Police Officer on holidays, he relaxed heaps.) Id left a couple of extra cable ties in the pelican case as they chopped my last padlock up on the first trip lol. Last time, my bags were destroyed when I collected them and held together with wrap. He didn’t even bother with my carry on luggage and having a look at that 😊

Literally 5 minutes later. He’s done, thanks me, shakes my hand and I’m running back to the plane. Running… yeah right… puffing like a asthmatic in a sand storm is more like it.

The kicker… I sit back down in my seat, by this time there is a elderly gentleman is seated in the isle row with a seat between. He’s wearing a full grey balaclava, like full face covering except mouth (rolled up) and nose and full attire that one would expect for Abu Dhabarians. He was wearing it when he boarded and had only lifted it above his lips. Id assume it’s a cultural thing or a burns victim? Not as though it was cold or anything. Im not really fussed by this sort of thing.. what ever floats your boat I say!

One thing I have learnt in nearly 20 years of law enforcement.  It takes all kinds to make the world spin and never have anything against anyone … well except… bullies and wankers.

He asks me if everything is ok and takes off the balaclava. I said, yeah… Customs just wanted to ask me about some robotic equipment I had for my cameras in my luggage (easiest way to explain a Gigapan to someone that may not know what it is). He cuts me short, calls for the stewardess and demands that he be moved away from me! There I am… thinking, wow! Yep that’s me.. third world assassin right here!…. Anyway…. It ended in 3 seats to myself and could completely lay down, curled up, but I could lay on my side! And when I wasn’t asleep. I could look out the window and shoot an Aurora or 3.

Landed this time without issues and sat there watching a young couple go through the same process of car hire that I did the first time.  It must be like… Hey… newbies….. come in spinner!! for these hire places. Got my car and headed to my first hotel at Pier 2620. Seriously, SF is far better flying in than LA and cheaper for Aus ticket. Really liked SF.

Next day… walked into Walgreens to grab some cold and “man” flu tablets as I figured I would end up with something from the flight (took about a week to catch up with me).

A dude starts fighting with security, manages to shrug him off and makes a bee line for me… Im thinking… what are my rights as a tourist? Can I detain? Wouldn’t have been hard …watching this dude flounder around on the floor like a new born elephant on national geographic. I watched the security guard and he didn’t appear to be in a overly desperate need to catch this character and had a bag that he had taken off him, so figured I should just behave myself and step aside. Walk out of there and onto the main strip by the Pier and low and behold, SF finest are cordoning off the area with the bomb squad robot reversing off a trailer. Im thinking WOW, this place is insane! Not to mention the dude on the side walk busking for cannabis lol.

And the rest of the trip you have an idea about already. SF- Yosemite- Vegas- Arizona -Utah- Idaho- Montana- Oregon and back to SF over 2 month period.

I did come close to having a head on in Arizona but hey, they made it back onto the right side after over taking the truck.

From there, 6000 miles and not one major issue. Had a ball of a trip. Seriously I would do the exact same locations again without hesitation. Again, met some amazing people throughout the time I travelled including the marvelous people at Heaven and Earth.

The meeting people is actually part of the highlight of the trip. Sure I come away with some cool photos, but make some friends as well.

Over 2 years later and I am still processing those photos.

Cant wait to head back again.

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Winter in the South West of Western Australia

G’day all.
Im not sure if Western Australia and the term winter actually exists or if its just a irony.

The South West of Western Australia has a reasonable climate, it gets hot but not Pilbara hot with road surfaces melting.  And it gets cold, but no snow, maybe down to just above 0 deg C.

For people like me who have missed the rain for a few years, there is a fair bit of it, some clouds and not much lightning to boot.

Over the last few days the Bureau of Meteorology has forecast some “bad” weather, large cold fronts, higher than normal winds etc.  It makes for some great shoots though.

Here are a couple taken over the last few weeks.

South West. Western Australia.

Its now been 5 months since I did my ankle with no immediate resolution in sight.  The outcome to date is high grand rupture of lateral ligaments, fracture (common in this type of injury) and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.  Never heard of it?  Neither had I until they told me about it.  Short story is… the nerves in my foot up to my knee have gone haywire. The surgeon has advised that there could be a recovery of up to 18 months with further consideration of surgery in a few months.

On a brighter note.. Im off the meds, able to drive and off the crutches.  I still can not walk far and do it with a reasonable limp. Im happy with my recovery to a certain degree and continuously pushing what I should be doing to try and decrease my time period.  I still do my day job.  Just a scaled down version of it.

Over this time I have used my “down time” to scheme and plan for my next overseas trip  and have a look around the south west of Western Australia.  Ive plotted a lot of locations to visit and now it looks like a mass of yellow stars.  Its coming together though.  Its a shame that I can’t purchase and book things more than 9 months out (flights specifically).

We moved down to Bunbury once before in 2004 with work and moved back to the city 12 months later after some family emergency stuff.  It can be a interesting place however down turn in economy and increase in unemployment appears to strain peoples life styles.

This time, Ive now been down here almost 18 months and whilst I adore the rain, cold weather and smell of burning timber in the air (its a novelty) Im still not hooked on this place.  Great for a holiday, definitely!  Its just not me. Don’t get me wrong, life is cheaper but I miss that interaction I got with community up north where everyone helps out.  There is even a community connection with the landscape. Something I don’t really see down here.  My minimum tenure is up come Feb 2018 and will probably look at heading back up north.  I also miss the major storms, lightning and cloud structures you get to see during wet season.

So getting back on track.  I have had the wife driving me around the country side heading to locations and shoot what I can.

Margaret River is well known for its wine, surf, cheese, chocolate and arts.  Busselton and Augusta have some amazing traits that people will want to visit.  There is Collie, Gracetown, Nannup, Bridgetown and Manjimup just to mention a few other locations  Bunbury is also in this field though I find that people just pass through now rather than just staying and checking out the dolphins etc.  And why not? Flights to places like Bali, Thailand are so cheap! Why holiday locally when you can live like a king for a few weeks on a portion of what you would spend in Australia.

As you can probably figure.  My passion is still America and shoot (photography) there.

Here are a few shots taken over the last few months.

Time flies

My last trip to the USA was from Sept-late Nov 2015.  Of that I took about 22 gig of images. Soooo…  almost 18 months later Im still processing photos from it.

Now I have never hid the fact that I love shooting in the US.  I literally saw 4 seasons in a few days driving through Oregon.  You just can’t get that in Australia.

I miss it, I miss the feeling of being able to explore, the life style and great customer service.  Australia, you can pay 7 bucks for a coffee and only be offered a grunt for conversation.  We are quite behind the times when it comes to that.

I would dearly love to spend more time over there.. Im not worried about living in some major city… just somewhere I am close by to nature with power and internet.  If anyone knows how to achieve this Ill happily listen.

Im still sitting on my backside at the moment with my busted foot 😦  Feeling the misery of not exploring and photographing the world.  It has given me some time to go back through and appreciate what I have seen and plan some more.

Have a great weekend if you are already there and if not, it means Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!

Below are some shots from Montana.

Part 2 of the travel Video

Today, last year… I would have been in Whitefish Montana enjoying the feeling of snow and the fine folk that I met.  I really miss that experience and am planning my next trip in 2018.

Here is a short 6 minute vid of some of the images from Las Vegas through to Idaho Falls.

 

Hold my beer and watch this…

Ive been photographing for about 6-7 years now and have a regular need to capture mother natures finest scenes.

Ive dodge lightning strikes, illness, hauled aside by US customs over my camera equipment (very professional with their service and polite) but never really hurt myself.

Saturday, I was having a walk around Canal Rocks Western Australia. Not even shooting, just getting out and about, getting some fresh air as my shifts did not permit me to go out over the last few weeks.

I was wearing normal attire, my hiking boots that give my ankles support as I have previous injured my right one.  I was about 3 meters from the foot path, walking back to my car and BAM!, left ankle gives out.

Not a life flashing before my eyes moment but Jesus!, fuck me drunk… it hurt, had to sit down after a wave of dizziness (thanks to the 3 dudes that were standing looking at me and just walked off).

So worked out my options and drove to the hospital back near home… an hour away.  Thanks to the person who designed automatic gear boxes!

So now Im sporting a cast on my left leg, apparently my ankle is fractured and off to see a surgeon on Thursday.  Hopefully he will tell me the Doctors in the ED all need glasses and there is nothing wrong with me.

I have been asked to explain how it has happened a few times now.  No amazing story of being chased by wildlife, no “hold my beer, watch this” event… just me… walking…  How boring!

D’oh

Oh well, gives me the chance to process some shots now as Its really the only thing other than sleeping I can do at this second…

 

 

 

USA Tour Video Part 1

Today, last year… I would have been in Whitefish Montana enjoying the feeling of snow and the fine folk that I met.  I really miss that experience and am planning my next trip in 2018.

Here is a short 6 minute vid of some of the images from SF through to Las Vegas.

Yosemite National Park

From San Francisco I travelled to Yosemite National Park in just a few hours.

Spending a few days there was great, maybe next time an extra day or two just to cover off on some astro work/ sunrise and set times.

It was particularly dry when I arrived with almost no water flowing which was a bit of a shame.  Bridal Veil Falls only had a trickle.  Maybe next time eh? .

I saw plenty of bear cubs and other wildlife there though and I saw several groups of rock climbers everywhere.  Those guys and girls are just mad!

Star Trails

Since the purchase of the new camera last year it has given a far greater scope to shoot sceneries.  The Nikon D300 was a great camera (and still is) by the ISO completely sucked above 2-300.  The D810… argh.. just wow… 5000 ISO and nothing that can’t be fixed in Photoshop.

I was recently asked as to how I shot one particular image.  Mind you most of my images are just not one shot.

The image in particular took about 150 images and about a dozen hours in Photoshop to process.

So here is the image and will post a link to Vimeo. (Music: Wrong Way by Creed)

Star Trail Video

Meteor-Shower-Sugarloaf

 

San Francisco/ CA

Would have to have been one of my favourite “City” places that I visited.  Very friendly during the day for the most of it, arty, great food, shopping and sites to see.

I did end up almost punching out a bloke who ran at me whilst trying to evade Walgreens store security for shop theft, but a last minute brain snap reminded me Im not in Australia and not doing my normal day job.  Walked out of that location around the corner and SFPD unloading a robot for a suspicious package threat.

Early hours of the day were another issue.  Whilst suffering the effects of jet lag I was up at 3 am most mornings to start with. I decided to walk around and see what I could photograph.  There were plenty of people that were homeless, shadow boxing etc around the pier.  Kept my distance and life was all good.

Hiking up and down the hills were a killer and don’t recommend if your of poor health.

So in between melting the credit card at Best Buy, REI and a few stores to stock up on equipment/ hardware I also visited many restaurants, Palace of Fine Arts, Painted Ladies, Coit Tower, Lombard Street, China Town and about as far south east as Brannan Street and as far north west as Fort point at Golden Gate bridge, all on foot.

Still to this day I  can’t get over the great prices and selection at Best Buy and REI.

I was fortunate that the Hotel (Pier 2620 on Jones Street) that I selected was well placed.  One thing that did catch me by surprise was the cost of the parking.  I knew it would be expensive but dang!

One of the mornings I also set out to walk to Pier 33 where the cruises to Alcatraz departed from which in all honesty wasn’t that far either.  Another morning after watching the sun rise over the Golden Gate Bridge I spent a few hours wandering around Muir Woods.

Driving over the GGB is an experience in itself.

Alcatraz was a good day out though well packed with tourists such as myself and almost impossible to get photos without people in them.  A good eye opener into its history.

So I stayed in SF for about 4-5 days before heading off to my first location at Yosemite.

In the end I took about 22 gig of photos so whilst Im posting these up I probably till have more to add.  Which I ahem since created a FB page just for this trip:  Facebook Golden Orb Designs USA

 

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