McLaren Vale Wedding

“…here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”

- e. e.cummings

I do know that this blog of mine is in need of attention. And now that I am officially on maternity, and with a couple more weeks of quiet to go (and the baby room is all set up, and all the little clothes washed and folded), I can finally spend some time in front of my monitor.

This stunning and intimate wedding of Alisha and James happened a number of months ago, at Chapel Hill, one of the most picturesque McLaren Vale wineries. Despite the threatening clouds, the weather was amazingly cooperative, holding off the rain until right after the ceremony stopped, and later treating us with soft afternoon light while we took photos in the vines.

I will probably not find enough words to describe the emotions that were in the air. It was hard not to tear up many times throughout the day, looking at how beautifully two families were becoming one, how much love Alisha and James have for each other. So I will let the pictures tell the story:


Ceremony and Reception Venue: The Retreat at Chapel Hill Winery, McLaren Vale, South Australia

Dress: Pronovias

Hair and Make-Up: Michelle MacDonald

Flowers: The Flower Emporium

Cake: Angel Wedding Cakes

Celebrant: Annette Perryman

Spring Meditations

“Earth laughs in flowers”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nothing makes me slow down more, and see the wonder of the smallest things, like venturing out with my macro lens. Spring is the best time – there is an explosion of colour everywhere, the play of light is lovely, and nothing lifts your spirit more than being surrounded by blooms. Bring on the early morning trips to the botanical gardens! It is like being a kid again, and exploring the world with a magnifying glass in hand – there is so much beauty in the small things. Makes you stop and slow down. And for me it is more like a meditation, focusing on one thing, and creating. Some of my favourite personal work was done with my macro lens.

Here are some tips on macro photography if you want to give it a go:

1. Dedicated macro lenses are the best. I use Canon 100 mm 2.8 lens, have had it for seven years, and it will serve me many more. Macro lenses focus extremely close to the subject, create a wonderful bokeh, and are super sharp (if you nail the focus of course). They also make a great portrait lens, so they are quite versatile.

2. On the subject of focus, the depth of field is razor-thin. Which means you need to use manual focus when you are very close to the subject. Once you are happy with the focus, hold your breath, freeze, and press the shutter button. The slightest movement will throw the focus off. You can use the tripod but I don’t like using them for macro – I find they limit my creativity and tie me to one spot. Plus they are heavy. One more note -photographing outside  on a windy day is pretty much impossible. But if you are after abstract images, then it is actually great – everything will be blurred beautifully.

3. The best light is early morning and late afternoon, pretty much the same as with every type of photography. The contrast between light and shadows is quite soft comparing to midday, and it makes for better images, especially if you have white flowers to photograph. You can still shoot during the day but find subjects that are in the shade, or bring the diffuser, but you need someone to hold it for you.

4. Backlight. It creates beautiful, dreamy, hazy photos.

5. Look for interesting backgrounds – macro lens will blur them beautifully, creating a pattern of colours, light and shade. I am the happiest when my backgrounds look watercolour-like (another passion of mine – watercolour painting), when colours are melting into each other, creating a perfect backdrop for my main subject, making it stand out even more. By the way, the sunlit dew on the grass will look amazing in the background, it just makes everything sparkle. Another argument for getting out of bed early.

6. Look for rhythm in your frame, especially when photographing flowers like lavender, when there are multiple blooms very close to each other. You can create beautiful leading lines, when your main subject is tack-sharp, and the flowers around it are slowly fading into the distance.

7. Coming back to focusing – the use of manual focus is great because it gives you freedom. The world looks completely different when you look at it through your macro lens – make sure you rotate that focusing ring after you snapped the photo you wanted,  to see what other opportunities are there, what else will stand out to you. It’s like peeling the layers off, discovering what else is on offer in the same pretty bunch of flowers.

8. Insects make a great subject too, but are trickier to photograph because they move fast. Bees and ladybirds are my favourites, and there are plenty of bees around in spring. Did you notice those tiny buckets of pollen they carry on their legs? I only did when I photographed them using my macro.

9. In post processing, look out for distracting elements and clone them out. They take attention away from the main subject. Sometimes the twigs are sticking out awkwardly, or there are tiny spots on leaves that don’t look too healthy, etc, etc. Quite often the image is soft and lovely, all the colours are pastel, but there is a dark blurred blob of something in the background that just draws your eye away from the main subject. Get rid of it.

10. And most of all, enjoy the process! There is nothing like being consumed by this beautiful small world of colours, textures, combination of light and shade, and all the tiny things you would not pay any attention to if not for your macro.

My 100 mm macro lens is great for photographing the birds too, but the ones that are not too shy, like this cheeky bugger.

The aftermath:

Enjoy your macro adventures!

Mel Riddell - September 5, 2013 - 10:20 pm

Absolutely stunning shots! x

Mid-Winter Escape, for a Very Special Reason

“There is time for everything.”

- Thomas A. Edison

In the middle of July we ran away from Sydney, into the tropics of North Queensland, to escape the cold, to have a quiet break, and… to get married. It’s time to share the pictures from those blissful, warm days. This trip was something we are not very used to – our holidays normally include driving around like crazy, sleeping in a different place every night, hiking, and wearing multiple layers of clothing. But all we kept ourselves busy with in Palm Cove was slow beach walks, hours at the pool, and figuring out where to eat next. And I liked it.

We woke up before sunrise every morning, and walked a couple of hundred metres to witness scenes like this:

This spot below is where our ceremony was held. Sweet memories:

Spending some quality time on the balcony, waiting for the rain to stop:

A day trip to Port Douglas and Mossman Gorge:

I am wondering if any unlucky tourist has ever been hit by one of these?

Serene and beautiful Mossman Gorge. Lush, green, and cool.

As we drove back to Palm Cove, we found a pebble beach. Which, to us, is rather exotic.

And then we visited Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. To be completely honest, I could not watch the crocodile show – I was too scared to witness people entering the tiny puddle where this enormous croc was trying to relax, but was instead teased by dead chicken for people’s amusement. So I just sat next to the friendly koala instead and waited for the show to finish. The sandy croc below was found on the beach in Palm Cove the night before. Whoever made it – respect. It was life-size and accurate.

Another day, another beautiful sunrise above Coral Sea:

The big day arrived, and it could not have been more perfect:

The official start of the honeymoon. Our view every morning, while enjoying eggs, toast, and coffee. Peppers, we love you.

 Having our breakfast underneath the most beautiful gum trees:

After ten years together, it is now official:

Spent a day on the reef, snorkelling:

I even managed to get back to one of my passions – seascapes. Nothing as magical as watching the horizon getting brighter and brighter while waiting for the three-minute exposure to finish. The results are something that never fails to mesmerize me:

The time after day ends is so very beautiful too:

Where we spent our days:

See you next time, Palm Cove. You were wonderful to us.

Sonia - August 21, 2013 - 8:51 pm

I know I’m very boring in my comments but I just have to say again that also these pictures are magical! Well done to my favourite photographer!

Mel Riddell - August 21, 2013 - 9:14 pm

This is one of the most gorgeous blog posts I’ve seen ever. I love every image, just magical. You are truly an incredible photographer and your trip looks divine! Congratulations!!! Love the photo of your hands together. Stunning. Makes me want to go back to Palm Cove so much. Love xx

Belinda - August 22, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Like Mel, I can honestly say this is one of the most beautiful blog posts I’ve ever laid witness too. I really don’t know if I can find the words Anastasia. Breathtaking! If you ever tire of wedding photography there is surely a place for you at National Geographic magazine. And if you ever want to run a photography workshop, I’d be there in a flash! Congratulations again on your wedding and may your life together be filled with many, many more magical holidays like Palm Cove xoxo

Anastasia - August 22, 2013 - 7:56 pm

Ladies, I am completely blown away by your comments. Thank you so much for your words, they mean the world to me! Hugs xxx

Cindy Habel - October 30, 2013 - 12:47 pm

Anastasia…Congratulations to you and your new husband!!! What a very special holiday, honeymoon and wedding…and every image tells the magical story. Stunning work! xo

Anastasia - October 31, 2013 - 7:06 am

Thank you so much Cindy! xxx

CV Love - November 29, 2013 - 4:10 am

First of all thanks for the sympathetic comments to my blog because fezchegar here.
Loved the pictures, I went back to 4 days trip from Australia and loved my journey I hope one day to return.
CV Love

Today you are You

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. 
There is no one alive who is Youer than You”

- Dr. Seuss

I photographed this sweet little pea on one of the last warm autumn days, when the sun was shining softly and the wind was playing with the little girl’s hair. She roamed the wide open spaces of Sydney Botanical Gardens, fearless and precious, a tiny dancer, a curious explorer of all things wonderful, all things new. And that’s how we all should live our lives – dancing and learning and being free.




Belinda - May 29, 2013 - 11:49 am

Beautiful Anastasia :) The way you captured the golden sunlight in her hair is magical.

Pick Your Own

“The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” 
- Eden Phillpotts

Every time we drive through Bilpin along Bells Line of Road, we stop at one of the roadside shops that sell local fruit and veg. And in autumn it’s all about apples. And the apple pies. But since we’ve both gone gluten free, apple pie from Bilpin is now out of the question. Which only leaves us one option – buy apples and make your own pie. Or even better – pick them yourself! Not sure why I didn’t think of this before? Year after year, we kept driving past the orchards, never stopping anywhere except for a couple of familiar fruit shops to buy apples, honey, maybe some chestnuts (I still haven’t figured out what to do with those by the way), and to grab a quick coffee. Until now.

As we were walking up and down the hill through the orchard, buckets in hand, as we were picking the ripe, beautiful apples off the branches and biting into crunchy goodness, I thought – it’s so easy to be happy. All these little things  hardly cost anything but make our hearts swell. Like a heavy, juicy apple, warm under the autumn sun, just hanging off a branch, almost ready to fall on soft grass.

And since it’s the last day of the month, there is a self-portrait among these images. Nothing fancy, just a snap of my happy face, surrounded by apple tree leaves.

Abundance is all around us.

Mel Riddell - April 30, 2013 - 8:27 pm

What a beautiful post, I love these photos! xx

Belinda - May 1, 2013 - 12:43 pm

Inspiring and heart-warming as always Anastasia. Thanks for reminding us of the beauty of the world around us xxx

Jay Down Under - May 1, 2013 - 12:49 pm

It is a wonderful idea for an autumn gateaway, thanks for the nice photos.
For the chestnuts, you can boil them in water or grill them. If you grill them, you should make a small cut on the chestnut skin so they don’t explode. Enjoy.

Cindy Habel - June 27, 2013 - 6:09 pm

What a sweet story and very happy pictures! Love this Anastasia…and great photography as usual xo

[…] you. You changed our plans for that day – instead of the trip to Hunter Valley, we went apple picking in Bilpin instead. And continued to the beautiful Mount Wilson, where leaves were golden, and the rain was […]