Recalling travel days in photos

For those of you who are new here, I wanted to share some photos I took while living abroad in England. I lived there for three months in 2008, and again from 2011-2012 for six months. It changed me, formed me, and was such a gift. It, in many ways, launched my love for capturing beauty through photos, as well as writing and sharing my journey.  I don’t know what it is, but when we get away from ‘normal’, it seems we are more aware of our surroundings!

These photos are all available for purchase through digital file or prints, so please let me know if you are interested! (digital file is $40 each, prints: 5×7 $10, 8×10, $20) Enjoy!

Paris, France

Paris, France

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That ‘ol Friend London

You know that friend who you can go for years without seeing, but once you meet over coffee, dinner or shopping it’s like no time has passed? That friend, who you may not want to live with, but you soak up every minute when you are actually together. That friend who you learn something new from each time you’re together, and you never get bored of. That friend, I said good-bye to yesterday. That old friend, is London.

I know, I know. It sounds cheezy. London is such a vast, detailed, old city where there is a constant feed of visual and emotional energy. I now know I don’t want to live there permanently, but I do know it has a piece of my heart, and I will probably be through this city multiple times in my future. Something tells me today wasn’t good-bye, it was “until next time”.

My intent at the start of the day was to rent a bike and ride through Hyde Park. After a couple times trying at the Barclays stations (all throughout London!) and my credit card wouldn’t swipe, I decided just to keep on walking. To my right, was The Orangery, just outside Kensington Palace on the far west side of Hyde Park. It’s an orange brick building, with south-facing windows, that Queen Anne used in the 1700’s as a greenhouse and for entertaining.  The whole of the inside is painted white and each table is graced with white linens and a little orange tree as a centrepiece. I decided this was a very happy Plan B and I sat down to enjoy half-past-elevensies!

Hyde Park is one of my favourite places of London, simply because it seems that so much of normal every day life happens there without the hustle of people you find everywhere else in London! Men in tights jogging. Old women feeding pigeons. Picnics. Bird watchers. Ladies walking their dogs, or kids. Part of it is well manicured and spotted with various monuments (Italian Fountains, Princess Diana Memorial), but my favourite part is the untamed acres of Hyde Park. Trails winding through forest and some lone trees standing tall; the whole area beckons the athlete and romantic in me to stay longer. Today, it seemed it was waiting for spring. A month from now, it will look very different.

I discovered another coffee shop on my hit list. Walked The Mall past St. Clarence House and enjoyed a dessert while sitting on the Queen Victoria Monument, watching the sunset over Buckingham Palace. Happy sigh.

Walking over the Westminster Bridge towards the London Eye, I felt like I should be walking backwards, watching Big Ben get smaller and smaller behind me. I didn’t want to say good bye.

I enjoyed fish and chips at an old pub and meandered Covent Garden one last time. Off in the distance I heard a familiar tune, “Home”, being played by a street performer, and I found that ironic. After stopping to take in the moment, I bid adieu to another favourite spot of London, and was off into the transit of the night to take me home to Chelmsford.

I don’t think I can quite justify what this time away in England has done for me or in me. Perhaps one day words won’t escape me. But for right now, my heart is full, and I am ready for home.

Learning the London Walk

As a visitor to England, I have taken hundreds of shots throughout London of me smiling standing in front of famous landmarks, but nothing compares to working with an artist who has a vision and then getting to be the “it” girl for an afternoon.

I swapped photo shoots with Gareth Barton as I recently met his family at my church here in England. (Their shoot to come later on the blog!)

He told me I had plenty of “cute and nice” pictures, but he wanted to evoke an emotion with mine. Tell a different side of Lani, so to speak. My safe side screamed a bit for a sunset and plaid shirt. So as we discussed the vision of what we wanted my shoot to look like, he sent me this photo of Brigitte Bardot, and that became our vision – a Vogue inspired shoot of me owning the streets of London.

Wardrobe quickly became all about the trench coat, sunglasses, and ohhh the shoes!  He is a true artist with his work. For him, it is all about getting that one photo and making it great.

This past Sunday, I became the model in London chased by the paparazzi. I was the girl with a tan trench coat and Ray Bans whom everyone was looking at wondering if they should know who I am.

We started in Notting Hill on Portobello Road (For Hugh Grant fans, think of the opening scene of Notting Hill – we were on that street!). As Gareth assessed the best storefront for the shot, we lucked out with crowds and a scooter.

Where does a model change when she is in the middle of London and there are few loos to be found? Of course a back alley that says Private Entrance. I changed from my jeans to short skirt, baring my nylon legs below my trench, while looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. I messed up my hair, touched up the glossy lips, and we were off for several takes of left leg in front of right, hair in front of eyes, and an attitude that said “Do you know who I am? If not, you should!”

Portobello Road is full of the best antique shops, pubs, fruit markets and clothing shops such as All Saints and Cath Kidston. The cost of living in such an area would be extreme, with all the white washed Georgian houses. Again, picture the movies and it really is all that.

After Notting Hill we fueled up with a Starbucks and headed to another “market” area of London, but this one much different. Camden Market. When you come out of the tube on a Sunday in Camden Market you can expect shoulder to shoulder people, guys standing on the side of the street with signs pointing to the best tattoo and ear piercing parlours, and techno music pounding in your ears. Here you will find that guy who is making a statement with half a bald head and dreads and 12 piercings in his face. You will find the guy selling the bird calling whistle and every smell you can imagine.

On my right Cyberdog was blasting techno music and inviting us to discover the space outfits inside, and on my left, there was a Moroccan restaurant with several bongs under a tent out front and people getting high. In London – the world truly meets; but come to Camden Market and you will see things this prairie girl never knew existed.  So again, we found the right alley, meanwhile I was trying not to shop and oooo and ahhh over the vintage jewelry and leather bags!

I learned that to criss-cross my legs with attitude on cobbled streets and 3” heels is not easy. Especially with people stopping everywhere, wondering if they should be asking for my autograph! I walked by one guys’ stand of scarves so many times that half way through I noticed he had his iPhone out taking pictures.

Someday, I will show my kids these photos and tell them, “Kids, that was when Mommy went to London to live a dream. That was where Mommy learned to walk her own walk. And when you do it with confidence and grace, no one will know you’re just a girl from the prairies living an adventure!”

Thank you Gareth Barton for the wonderful memories these photos will be for me!