Saturday, March 30, 2013

Anatomy of a photo shoot

Over 12 months ago I bought a beautiful gown. Long and flouncey.  Handmade with a fitted boned bodice and  5 layers of fabric in the skirt, yet it was unfinished.  It had never been hemmed. It had never been worn.  I saw it in an op shop when I was looking for clothing for the props cupboard.  Although it was expensive I HAD to have it.   Since the day I bought it, it has hung in my loungeroom window.  Almost teasing me, daring me to make the most of it.  Then, as you know, I got a bit sick and pretty much everything photographically complex was put on hold.  Seeking strangers stopped.  Duna Studios ground to a halt. Walking anywhere with the weight of a camera and lens became impossible and wearing a camera around my neck was just not an option.   Just a little desktop macro stuff  filled my flickr pages.  But nothing more complex or mentally or physically challenging.   Well I am starting to feel human again, having the odd good day in a week of bad.  I ran the idea past the Doc.  She isn't sure I am up for it yet, but agreed I could try.  So I decided it was time to photograph someone in the gown.  To set up a photo shoot from start to finish.

As all I had was the dress I needed a concept, a location, a model and an assistant.  Well the assistant was easy.  Josh is always willing to help out at this kind of gig and he is a genius with lighting and the technical side of the shoot.  I am sooooo not a genius with lighting or the technical stuff.  I rely on some  measure of luck and hope the artistic merit of the shot outweighs any deficiency in the technical component.  Then a concept came to me.  Middle European style,  "girl in a forest" was what my minds eye saw.  The long hot Australian summer kindly provided me with a location.  A bushfire provided me with a stand of burnt out trees and the shot was complete.  Well complete in my minds eye that is.  I was still missing someone to wear the gown.  And that I found was going to be harder to organise than I imagined.

I put a casting call on a model website.  I outlined the gig and said I was searching for a size 8 model with long dark hair willing to do a TFCD shoot.  TFCD means she provides her time freely and in return she gets both Hi and low resolution shots for her portfolio that she has a legal right to use for self promotion.  It is a contracted shoot. Complete with identity confirmation and a waiver.  I planned to shoot to take ONE HOUR.

Over 50 people read the casting call and I had 3 replies.  The first girl had chrome coloured hair...... yep a dull grey.  Not her real colour, just a dull grey.  The second girl wanted payment and the third girl lived 135kms away... but was willing to travel!   I opted for the paid model.  I knew what I wanted, her rates were reasonable and I didn't need her for very long!  She gave me her availability, agreed on a price structure and I set a time and date....... and then she didnt get back to me!  A no show, a flake!  Later I got an email saying she had gone to Sydney for the weekend, but was available "Anytime".

Soured by this I began hunting for a reliable local girl who would spare me an hour of her time.  If I was unable to find a willing model I did assess the viability of putting  my youngest nephew in a wig for the shoot!  He's always willing to help me, but he drew the line there!!!  I knew the look I wanted and contacted a friend of my niece.  I managed to convince a beautiful young lady to be a part of the process.  It took quite a few emails to win her over.   In the end Monica agreed to wear the gown and so in a few short hours we will try to make the image in my head an image on my sensor.

All batteries are charged, lightstands sorted, flash heads and triggers checked, reflectors packed and when I load it all into the car I will be ready to roll.  Also packed are pins and duct tape, just in case the gown needs some "adjusting".  The weather gods are smiling and fingers crossed it stays that way till about 4pm today.

Here's the gown that started this whole merry go round!!


At 2pm the second model sent me a message on facebook that she couldn't make it.   Now I have no issue here as I know this girl and she wouldn't have canned the shoot without good cause!  I sent a mate a message that the gig was off and he made a call, then put me in contact with someone he had recently shot.  This amazing young lady came to the party and two and a half hours later we were shooting in the original location.  She was a complete delight to work with.  Here is one of the afternoon.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

If I had chickens I'd call one Aunty Linda!

Yep, If I had chickens in my backyard I'd call one Aunty Linda.  It's all Bronson's fault though!  In that great Australian kids TV series "Round the Twist" Bronson finds a baby in the cabbage patch and his sister becomes "Aunty Linda".  That's a great name for a chook I reckon!  But I don't have chooks.  I like the idea of chooks but I think the reality would be a vastly different. At night driving home I often see a fox scurrying across the road and I don't fancy encouraging them into the yard.  Also my big brave pussy catto "Pilchards"  is scared of his own shadow so I think he would be pretty put out with chickens roaming around in his domain!    A friend of mine in Victoria has just made the tree change and got four chookies today.  Her 5 acres is filling up fast with talk of sheep, beef cattle and alpacas!!!  My 1/4 acre might hold a couple of goats, but there isn't enough room for much more. Definitely not for a pack of alpacas anyway!

I have turned over part of the yard to production though.  My one 1200x900mm Hills Adda Garden raised veggie bed has now become SIX veggie beds.  I have read up a little on companion planting and crop rotation and even keep a veggie bed book, so I can easily look back on what worked and what didn't.  I'm planting veggies that are more resilient to bugs as I don't use any pesticides or herbicides.  Large African Marigolds are my only line of defence.  So I don't grow cabbage because you cant see the bugs inside until the crop is complete, picked and cut open.  Instead I grow broccoli because the bugs eat the leaves not the heads and they are really easy to pick off and throw to the local birds as a treat.

At the moment I am growing sugar snap peas, red emperor beans, dwarf french beans, brocolli, brussel  sprouts, 3 different kinds of cucumbers, 2 kinds of chillies, silverbeet, spring onions and herbs in pots.  Just the usual suspects thyme, mint, chives, parsley and rosemary.  I have a dwarf lemon tree too, which has good sized fruit, but it seems hesitant to ripen.  I don't use much by way of fertiliser, rather I treat the soil between crops with worm wee and my own compost.  That one compost bin just wasn't enough, I now have 5 on the burst!

At times there is an excess and I'm happy to be able to share it.  Couple a chicks at work do keep chookies, so from time to time I get eggs in return.  6 beds will not mean I can avoid trips to the fruito, but it does mean that I get super fresh veggies to supplement the bought stuff.  How many more beds would I need to be self sufficient?  Probably more than I have room for.  Another 3 or 4 would mean greater variety and, naturally, more produce,  but the backyard would begin to look a bit....... a bit less like a backyard I suppose.

I took some pics with my new toy camera today, so here they are.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


On monday 4 March 2013 my mate Jennifer Gai McGregor died, just 5 days before her 52nd birthday.

I met Jenny in 1992 when I was transferred from Newcastle to Belmont Police Stations.  Jenny had been transferred there just a few weeks before me.  She had previously been at Gosford Police Station, having joined the Police Force as a civilian in 1986. 

We clicked, something clicked and she made the transition for me easy.  I'm just 3 months older than Jen, we both have one female sibling and similar upbringing.  Similar education but varied interests.  As the years rolled on the friendship grew. Most of the time we worked in the same building, but from time to time Jenny was swapped around to other stations.  That just meant we talked by phone or email instead!!  We celebrated special days together. Birthdays, Christmases, Easter and any other reason to a shared meal or party.  

Jenny loved netball. I HATED netball.  I love Australian Maritime History, she thought that was naff! 
Jenny read Mills and Boon, I love colonial history.  Jenny loved "Take That" magazine, I was more a "Country Style" kinda girl.   We both enjoyed reading though. So I helped Jen write her netball annual reports and she proof read my Uni assignments. It was a fair swap. I taught Jenny how to play backgammon and she became a great player.  Many many lunch hours were spent locked in backgammon battle!  

In 2007 Jenny told me she had tingling in her left hand. She had already had carpel tunnel surgery on her right hand so I nagged her to go see the doc and get her left wrist fixed.  The nagging took quite some months, but eventually she went to see her GP and some tests were called for.  Days later she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  Well that blew everyone away!  Totally unexpected.  The mass under her arm was affecting the nerves that caused the tingling effect in her fingers.   Treatment began. 

Over the years Jenny had multiple surgeries, multiple injected chemotherapy, multiple radiation doses and then a couple of years of oral chemotherapy. She had a port seated into her chest, her skin was burnt by radiation and she lost her hair a number of times. Jen actually looked good bald!  Wigs are provided but they are very hot and she preferred to go without.  When she was well enough she worked.  She continued to work because she loved work. She enjoyed people, she was a real people person. She had a great memory.  I could say to her "what's the name of that bloke who always wears a flanno to court?" Or "that cop that transferred to "insert obscure station here""  and she would be able to recall an instant!   She knew the names of every co-workers kids.  She remembered everyone and recalled everything!!!   And she loved kids!  Kept stamps in her drawer to ink up any kids that came in the station.  

In December 2012 she found coming to work just too hard and she sought a medical discharge.  Just 6 days after she ceased coming to work she was taken to Gosford Hospital in uncontrollable pain.  The cancer had eaten its way into her hip and she needed URGENT surgery to help control the pain.  It took 9 days for her to make it to the top of the URGENT list! She spent her last Christmas and Boxing Day in horrible pain. Every time she moved a fraction of an inch she would scream in pain. The morphine couldn't hold it. No matter how much Morphine they hit her with it never  touched the pain she endured.  After surgery the pain in her hip became controllable by drugs.  She smiled again.  She never complained about the pain, never said "it hurts",  never spoke of it.  But when it was really bad she would yell and howl.  

The medical team came to a decision about ongoing care and after a 5 day wait a place became available in a Rehab facility. The intention was to get her walking again. She was given the news to pack up her gear as she would be collected by ambulance and swifty moved on in 30 minutes.  She rang me at work, she was so excited.   15 minutes after that news she was told the cancer had progressed to her brain and she would not be going anywhere.  She rang again, she was devastated.  Instead she would be undergoing 10 days of intensive Radiation.  The cancer had already spread to her lungs, spine, femur, hip, liver and skull, but in Gosford  Hospital tests revealed it had also spread to her brain and there was some suspicion it had gone to her oesophagus.  She was unable to eat more than pea sized bites and everything had to be cut up for her.  Even then she had trouble keeping food down.  Meal time with Jenny was horrendous.  Everything had to be cut up into tiny pieces for her as she had lost a lot of fine motor skills.  She would struggle to eat more than a few spoonfuls and then the majority of that would come back up anyway.  I don't care to remember how many times I sat with her, cut up her meals, handed her a purple spew bag and then took the walk to the fluids bin to dispose of them.  She seemed to be able to keep KFC and Ice Cream down. So as the new year began her KFC consumption rose.  At least she was eating.  She had already lost about 60 kilos.  

Jenny undertook that last round of Radiation and again, her hair was gone.  In Gosford Hospital she met a wonderful woman called Gail Scott and they became good friends.  Jenny was upset when Gail finished her radiation and went home,  she really missed her, but they kept in contact.

Jenny was home for 17 days before her breathing became compromised and at noon on Sunday 3 March she was taken by ambulance to Wyong Hospital.   At midnight Doctors tried to drain the fluid from her lungs, but fluid forms in pockets and they could only remove about 200mls from what could have been as much as 4 litres.  At 2am the procedure was finished and she was sitting up in bed, but her breathing was laboured.  She had already told the doctors that she did not wish to be resuscitated.  She had made her intention clear.  Cindy sent me a message at 2am that Jen had sent her home, but that things weren't looking good. In fact the term the Doctor used was "grim".  

The following morning I arrived at Wyong Hospital with Jenny's parents.  We sat with her all morning. Jenny's friend Cindy and Karen left for a while. Cindy had been there for most of the morning. She may well have left at 2am, but I know she was back there not long afterwards! Karen had just finished night shift. We had had a discussion that one of us would stay all day and all night until things changed.  I'd had the most sleep so I stayed and the others tried to get some sleep.  At 2.20pm Jenny's conditions changed markedly and I sent the girls a message to return asap, but Jenny left quickly.  At 2.35 pm Jenny passed away. Her mother, father and I were by her bedside.  

We three girls, mum and dad sat with Jenny for a couple of hours.  Jenny had never mentioned what she wanted after her death.  We all agreed on a cremation as once about 17 years ago she had commented to me that that was "for her".  She had never been mentioned again..... to anyone!  Karen went thru the phone book and a list of funeral homes were given to Pat.   Pat's sister and brother in law arrived from Sydney and at 5.30 pm we all left the hospital.  We all had tasks.  Mine was to locate the Police Chaplain. I had already sent a message to the Commander at Lake Macquarie and rung a number of Jenny's special work friends.  When I read back now the message I sent to the boss, I  wish I had worded it differently.  But that's the past now and I can't change that. 

Jenny had a MASSIVE funeral yesterday.  Over 160 of her friends, family, netballers and companions turned up.  I spoke.  This is pretty much what I said.... 

When Pat asked me to say a few words here today I really struggled with it. 

I thought about sharing stories of Jenny and our 20 year friendship. 
About all the fun times and later about that which consumed her life.
About that crazy trip to Sydney for her first MRI.
About visiting her in more hospitals than I care to recall.
About our Saturday joyrides in the big red wheelchair.
Or about sitting by her side and counting down how many hours till her blood transfusions ended.

I thought I could speak about her long battle with the insidious disease of cancer that was raging out of control in her body.

OR about how she never once complained or asked “WHY ME?”

It was then I realized I wanted to say THANK YOU.

THANK YOU to Pat and John for making this fantastic creature.
THANK YOU to Sue for a childhood filled with adventure.
THANK YOU to Karen and CINDY for the decades of friendship.
Thank you to Nurses Tim and Alison and Dr Evelyn for making Jenny’s last day comfortable and ….. easy….

But I especially wanted to thank someone most of you will never have met and probably never have heard of.


Jenny and I met Gail on December 29, when late in the evening we gatecrashed her previously peaceful room in M2 at Gosford Hospital.
 Gail and Jenny shared that room for the next 5 weeks.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
 Gail became Jenny’s arms and legs.  Helping her with her meals, fetching drinks and towels and blankets.  Encouraging her to try and walk again.
 Gail was an inspiration to Jenny and Jenny became very sad when Gail was discharged.  But their friendship continued by phone and email and facebook!

So THANK YOU Gail.  The last weeks of Jennys life were all the better for having known you.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been able to say goodbye to Jenny in person.  So there is nothing more for me to say here, but I know Cindy has a tale or two she’d like to share.

So Jenny is gone and life for family and friends has changed forever. One thing that has come to light since her passing is that her friends were kept in compartments.   Karen was the "saturday netball friend",  Cindy was the "thursday night dinner and sunday markets friend" and I was the "weekday work" friend.  I had met Karen once before the day Jen died and I had spoken to Cindy before Jen died, but had never met her. Karen and Cindy had never met either!    We have theorised why Jen kept us all apart...... but we are all in constant contact now and Jenny is the glue that brought us all together.

Last Saturday night we celebrated what would have been Jenny's 52nd birthday.  Her parents Pat and John, sister Sue, Sue's friend Donna, Cindy and myself went to Club Mingara and had Jenny's favourite meal, Calamari. It was an odd night, but one we all enjoyed.... and Jenny would have too.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

42! Douglas Adams would be proud.

Blog post 42 has finally rolled around and just like a good read of Douglas Adams it will make no sense at all!!!

It has been 14 days since I left isolation and I kinda expected it to be a bit different.  The fatigue or lethargy is relentless.  Head and neck aches, constant. But I am home, comfy and not eating bread or gravy!!!

I'm trying hard to get the veggie patch up and productive.  It has not had a lot of care in recent times.  The prolific summer crop of cucumbers, tomatoes and spring onions is coming to an end.  My three raised beds have become 6 thanks to the hard labour of my nephew Russell. Last sunday morning I had 2m of top quality soil delivered and Russell carted barrow load ofter barrow load from the front yard to the back and filled the 3 new beds.  It was a hot and humid day, but like the Duracell Bunny he just kept going!!!  Since then it has rained and rained and rained.  At least now the beds are ready to receive and I have been reading up on companion planting.

Over the last few years I put seedlings in wherever I had a spot, but now with 6 beds I can plant to a plan. 6 beds, 1 fallow, 5 in crop.  I had planted sugar snap peas, emperor beans and brussell sprouts, a punnet of silverbeet and cucumbers......  but the relentless rain had waterlogged them and whilst some may recover the peas are gone. The bean, rhubarb and silverbeet are on their last legs but the brussell sprouts and cucumbers look like they will survive and thrive.

I also planted a couple of punnets of Giant Africa Marigolds.  I don't use any pesticides so marigolds are my first and only line of defence!  They seem to like the wet too and have grown noticeable over the rainy days.  Some violas I planted are struggling too, but I have high hopes for their recovery.  A few days of sun will either make or break my first attempts with the new extended veggie patch.

But that is not all I have been up to. I bought a new camera and lens this week too.  I decided to celebrate the end of my treatment. A new camera for the handbag to replace the one in the handbag!  The one in the handbag was a top of the range point and shoot, that shot raw and had total manual focus control and full HD video. But I struggled to love it.  It turns out a damn fine picture, but I wanted MORE control.  So I bought an entry level DSLR (Canon of course) and a lens called a pancake.  Its a flat 40mm f2.8 bit of fluff that gives some great results! I am super happy with my acquisition...... now I just need to get out and use it!

Getting out is a bit of a problem.  I can't get a clearance to get back to work because of the side effects of the Radioactive Ablation a fortnight ago.  I admit the side effects are still pretty debilitating, I am the Queen of the Nanna Nap,  but I need to get back to work because if I don't get back there soon I'll never go back!!   The results of blood tests taken last friday will be considered on Tuesday and I am hoping they are good enough to get me over the line.  Fingers Crossed!

So what does today hold.....    Well I have been up nearly 90 minutes and I have to go have a nanna nap now. Then I need to hit the supermarket and do a bit of cooking, interspersed with more nanna napping of course and that is pretty much my lot for the day.  At least it is not raining .......for the moment!

I guess the appropriate photos for this post will be of the veggie beds and the new camera......  ohhh and here they are .....

                                   Six veggie beds and one dwarf lemon in a pot..... the rest, jungle!

                    first shot from the new camera                         Mumma bear and baby bear