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Ditch the filter and expose your dreams

On Saturday night I participated in a "fashion mob" photo shoot as a lead up to Harvest Noir 2014, a flash picnic set to pop up in downtown Ottawa on September 27, 2014.  This will be my third time attending the picnic and this was my second time modelling for the photo shoot.

The first photo shoot was in 2012.  It was so much fun, but I was undergoing chemo at the time so posing in heels was challenging to say the least!  Last year I couldn't attend so I was determined to participate in this year's shoot - until its date was set for September 6 - four days after my oophorectomy.  I immediately abandoned the idea as I was sure I would be in no shape to head out, much less strut my stuff for a professional photographer in an outdoor setting.  I was heartbroken as this event combined three of my passions: fashion, photography and nature.

Enter best friends and family.

Once they caught wind of how important it was for me to attend, they sprung into action and made it happen. Can't drive?  We'll be your chauffeur.  Can't stand for prolonged periods? We'll bring your very own (fashionable) chair and tote it around with us.  No accessories? Here's a fascinator.  Miraculously, the pain subsided significantly the night before and so I made the decision that morning to participate.  Throwing together a chic outfit at the last minute that would satisfy the all-black requirement and be comfortable enough to fit over my post-surgery belly was no small feat, but I was one determined fashionista.  My husband took over on the home front, and my dear mother shuttled me to my rendez-vous point where my personal pumpkin carriage (aka orange SUV) awaited.  With a bibbity, bobbity, boo I was whisked away to the ball by these two characters.
I suspected I would be more excited about taking photos vs. being photographed and I was right.  We arrived at the secret location: the Windmill Development Group's site on Chaudière Island, a beautiful and inaccessible-to-the-public space overlooking the Chaudière Falls on the Ottawa River.  It was a photographer's haven that to date had not been photographed.  The falls, the river, the abandoned stone buildings and machinery, and then of course, the diverse gaggle of models clad in head-to-toe black pecking around their fascinating surroundings. From the very young to the finely-aged, singles, couples and families, daring and demure, all groups were represented and shared three things in common - a love of photography, of creative fashion and of community.

I wasted no time setting about snapping pics.  With the sun already showing signs of tiring, it started its descent, making for many excellent photo ops.  It was challenging figuring out which aperture and speed to select, and I learned a lot about my photographing abilities (or rather, shortcomings!) in the brief span of the two-hour shoot.  Trying to properly capture my friends' toddler proved near impossible in the rapidly changing light, but it was a fun experience and I gave it my best shot.  In the end I was happy to snap a ghostly dance and his stylish footwear.
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's super toddler!
A shoe-in for best dressed
Some folks I had just met asked me if I was a professional photographer, to which I let out a huge guffaw. One suggested I apply for a self-employment grant and start my own photography business.  Although I have a great deal more to learn about photography before I could consider attempting that, it was a wonderful reminder and affirmation of my dream.

My favourite moment came when the sunset lit up the clouds over the river in various hues of brilliant pink, orange and blue.  As the professional photographers were busily snapping their final staged shots, I noticed off to the side a huge puddle which we had passed on the way to the shoot.  It was reflecting the blue sky and pink and orange clouds and was one of the prettiest things I've ever seen.  I ordered my friends to the opposite side of the puddle and tried to capture their reflections.  It was surreal.  Unfortunately, many of my shots were out of focus, but I am still proud of this moment.  I was even more proud when a fellow amateur photographer (who had noticed the puddle at the same moment and had silently captured his own pics in tandem with me) turned to me and said, en français, "ah, la magie de réflexion".  I nodded in agreement and we returned to our rapidly-depleting window of twilight photography.

One evening with friends new and old taught me many important life lessons - too many, really, to write about in a short blog post.  I learned that I need to take a proper photography course and more importantly, that I should not wait a minute longer.  I learned that things that seem out of reach are possible if we approach them with a different set of eyes.  I learned that it is easy to lose focus of our dreams but easier to find them again.  I learned that the love of friends and family can make magic happen.  I learned that if you seek to capture the beauty and light in every setting, something more spectacular will present itself from a new angle.  And I learned that you can strip a women off all things womanly, and she can still feel beautiful. Pardon my French, but screw you, cancer!

Aspiring photographer and writer, just you wait...

2014 Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure
Sunday, October 5th, 2014
Support Team Keeping Abreast of Ellen


  1. Wonderfully written and beautiful photos of a beautiful caring always <3


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