Monday, March 24, 2014

Las Vegas!

Wow... it's amazing how many unpublished drafts I seem to have pilled up in my dashboard. I've resolved to get through them, despite how old they may be. I seem to hold off on publishing up-to-date posts because I keep missing the right times to post the older ones. It's a viscous circle.

A while ago I jetted off to see Las Vegas for a few days. I was on that side of the world already so it only made sense to experience it.
I held off on posting about it because, unfortunately, the trip was not a success. Long story short, the person I went with ended up in trouble with the casino, got kicked out of the hotel and almost had casino damages charged to my credit card. Thankfully, the policemen and the casino supervisor were sympathetic towards me (probably because I was just as angry as they were at his behaviour) so I was allowed stay in the hotel and wasn't charged a dime.
Needless to say it was the end of the friendship so I spent the remaining days wandering around Las Vegas by myself. I didn't mind being on my own, I'll pretty much talk to anyone and I met some very, very interesting people. It does mean I can't show as many of the photos as I'd like, but I'll make do with these.

We stayed at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino because, well, it was a freakin' castle! It's pretty much a standard hotel with decor on the outside. The casino attached was medieval themed and really felt like a grown-up version of Disneyland.

We also decided to stay there because we wanted to see the Tournament of Kings. Knights, jousting, swords, stunt work, and the best part, you get a medieval meal and you have to eat it medieval style - with your hands. I love that stuff!

The hotel was part of a group of three hotels with Mandalay Bay and Luxor. They were connected by air conditioned trams (very important - the heat in Nevada is something you can't even explain. Imagine standing in an oven with a hair dryer aimed at your face and you're close) and if you paid for the buffet in one you could attend the buffets in another.

The Luxor would definitely be my preferred choice if I were to return. The buffet was bigger and better, the decor was way more impressive and the Ancient Egyptian atmosphere was a real novelty.

Across the road from us was the New York - New York Hotel. 
This was really interesting because it had a roller coaster that actually went through the casino. I went on it twice. Once I got some footage when I was sitting in the 3rd row, the second time I was in the very front seat but they caught me with the camera. The entire ride was actually stopped mid-way up the initial incline and they took my equipment. I didn't think they took it that seriously. I had to make do with the footage I got from the 3rd row.

Each ride is something like $15 so I wasn't going for a third try, though I was tempted. Bit of advice - hide your camera until you're too far up the first incline so they can't stop the ride.

The access to alcohol in Vegas is definitely an experience. It's pretty obvious that the casinos love to get you as drunk as possible so you will make bad decisions and lose more money. My experience with gambling starts and ends with the poker games in Red Dead Redemption so I wasn't going to attempt any gaming tables. I did take full advantage of the easy access alcohol, though. 
I found the best thing to do is buy one of the novelty, refillable cups. You pay about $20 for the cup (depending on size - mine was the 44oz football shaped one) including an alcoholic slushie of your choice. When you need to refill it's about $7. $7 for 1 litre? Bargain! Believe me, these aren't the usual watered down slushies you might find in tourists spots on holidays, these are pretty strong. It's also legal in Vegas to drink on the streets so you can carry these around from casino to casino. These spots are everywhere so you can refill at any one of them.

I never got to see the famous Vegas Strip, except from the taxi window as we drove by but I was too distracted by the conversation the cab driver was having with us about the Mafia. We had planned to venture down but when things kicked off I refused to pay the $20 cab ride (each way) to get to and from my hotel on my own. I did, however, get to see Freemont Street.

It's a massive pedestrian street that's covered by a giant television screen which plays music videos (more often than not, The Doors were played quite a bit). 

One of the coolest things about this street is that you get to zip line under the massive TV! I was incredibly drunk at this point and zip lining while utterly wasted is, erm, interesting. If nothing else, it's something I can say I've done.
I had my GoPro camera strapped to my head and attempted to press the record button. Alas, I asked a random drunk guy in the que if it was on and actually recording. He said it was and I stupidly believed him. I would love to have that footage of me zipping down a Vegas street on a wire.
Here is somebody else's experience:

Amazing! Right? I tried looking for their website but I think they're no longer there. Which makes me really, really glad I took the chance when I could.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Heart Attack Grill. Yes, you are reading that right... if you weigh over 350lbs you can eat for free.

Over indulgence is a massive theme in Vegas, and you can really feel immersed in it while you're there. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. I'll admit to going a bit crazy on the slushies and having an insane amount of food at the buffets but sometimes you come across things like this and can't help but think 'really?'.

With the heat that's surrounding the city it's no surprise that every single hotel will have a pool. I spent most of my last day chilling out poolside. It was nice to get into a calm atmosphere for a bit. After all the commotion and hustle it was so nice to decompress and have some down time.

I'm really glad I can say I've been to Las Vegas. I would like to return there someday and do it all again properly. Bigger and better and with the right company.
Before I went to Vegas I was told you wouldn't want to go there for longer than a week. I always thought that sounded strange, but once I was there I totally understood. Everything is so massive and in your face. After a while you find yourself needing to take a step back and breathe. The lights, the noise, the people... it's all orientated towards losing your common sense and spending as much of your money as they can get out of you. Anything and everything in Vegas costs money and you find it trickling through your hands. Even if, like me, you don't gamble.
But man oh man, is it fun!

Aoife x

Friday, March 7, 2014

Guest Post for 'The Lucky Rainbow'

I have a different type of guest post for you today. It's an old interview I did for Rebecca from The Lucky Rainbow when she was doing a series of guest posts with bloggers. When I sent it to her she was in the middle of a blog re-vamp and a massive move to a new country which meant she was unable to post it at the time. After randomly unearthing it one day I asked if I could put it on my own blog and she cheerily agreed.
Somethings have changed since I did this interview (like moving into a new apartment, getting a new job, giving up wedding photography, etc.) and somethings haven't but I love seeing how different my life is now compared to when this was written. I haven't edited anything out, these are the answers I wrote at the time the interview questions were sent to me. I think it's more fun to see where my life was back then.

I've also just realised how many unpublished posts I have lingering in my drafts section. Rather than have them go to waste I think I'm just going to back track and publish them, regardless of how old they are. Hopefully, people won't mind too much?

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself (name, where you’re from, live, work, life in general!)

Hello, everyone!
My name is Aoife (for anyone who's curious it's a funny Irish word pronounced e-f-ah). I'm an avid thrifter, an addicted shutterbug, an acrobat and a lover of hammocks.
I'm originally from a place in Ireland called Clonmel. I moved out of my teeny tiny town a few years ago and ventured to Vancouver, Canada where I had amazing adventures and met my boyfriend, Jim. We now live together in Leicester, England but still plan to travel lots. I work mostly from my studio in our apartment. It's where I edit, organise prints and hold meeting with clients.

What do you make, how do you make it and what materials do you use?
Essentially, I make photos! My basic materials are obviously my photography equipment, but the materials in my work can change drastically depending on the shoot. One that jumps to mind was a couple's paint fight photo shoot where we had a mix of powdered paint and runny poster paint (one of my all time favourites!). Another would be the bedroom boudoir shoots where the client uses nothing more than a classy set of pearls and a sultry look to the camera.

Tell us about your creative process

I jot down and sketch ideas a lot. The ones that pop out at me I attempt, some work and some don't. That's just the way it is. I'm always aware that the idea you have in your head might not turn out how you planned. My best selling photograph was an adaption of a project I've been working on for a while, levitation. The photo I ended out with that day wasn't what I had set out to snap, but it has become really popular with my customers and followers and is now my trademark photo for my business.
I'm still continuing with the project and it's moving forward with other adaptions.

Tell us about your creative space

When I was in Vancouver I managed to rent out a studio space in Chinatown. I loved it, but I desperately wanted a studio in my own apartment eventually. When I moved to the UK I got my wish and thankfully my extremely supportive boy was very much up for it. We converted one room to be a photo studio for me, a study for Jim, and a guest bedroom with a pull out sofa bed for anyone who cares to put up with us long enough to stay over (if they don't want to sleep in our living room hammock). The couch also doubles for when clients come in for a consultation or meeting.
I adore my studio. It feels like such a productive space. Sometimes myself and Jim work in there together, which is great as it encourages us both to be extra productive. My favourite thing about it is the big white brick wall. It's the backdrop for a lot of my photos.
I also have a collection of vintage camera on display in there.

Do you create full time or part time?
Right now I create full time, I run between print orders and booking weddings. But my goal is to start teaching photography in the near future. I've had many jobs where I've had to instruct people face to face either through gymnastics coaching, aerial silk workshops, teaching art or instructing people how to get in and out of hammocks, like the one in the photo below, when I worked in The Hang Out Place. I love teaching people and I'm obsessed with creative photographs, so my next big goal is to combine the two and hopefully make that my full time job while staying creative.

What and who inspires you?
My biggest inspiration is my Mother. She's also my hero. Life has thrown a lot at her and she has always handled everything with such grace and dignity while still putting her children first. Everyday I try to be as decent, as warm and as strong a human being as she is.

How do you stay motivated?

List, lists, lists! I'd be completely lost without lists. It's the main reason I've painted chalkboard tops on the desks in my studios. It's so handy to be able to jot down things on the table beside your laptop.

Goals are the biggest thing for me to stay motivated too. I figure out what I want and then build up to it slowly. I created these goals this month last year and I have accomplished all but one, teach classes and workshops, but I'm in the process of making that one a reality. It helps me stay focused on what I want to accomplish and reminds me of how far I've come. Doing these little goals lets me see how much I have accomplished on the way and keeps me motivated to continue. They always help me learn or achieve something of value along the way. 

How does art enhance your life?

In more ways than I can explain. I genuinely can't imagine my life without some sort of creativity. It calms me, it's always giving me something to strive for and I genuinely believe it's one of the big contributors to my confidence as an adult.

Best piece of crafty / life advice you ever received

The best advice is something I figured out from experience. If you want something, say it out loud. Express what you want to anyone who will listen. It's amazing how much it helps. I've learnt that if you do this you'd be amazed at how many opportunities will present themselves, often unexpectedly. Somebody always knows someone who knows someone. Put it out there and you will always get something back.

The fun stuff – five words to describe you

Tomboy, geek, adventurous, go-getter, dreamer.

[photo by Katrina Slisane]

Favourite places, food and song

I'm one of those people who will find happiness no matter where I go and I've been to a lot of beautiful places in the world so it's tricky. Vancouver (no surprise!) stands out for me most, though. It's a place where I've had some of the best years of my life, met life long friends who have made me a better person for knowing them, had amazing adventures almost daily, and it's the place where I figured out what I want in life. Plus, it's where myself and Jim met so it'll always be special to me.

Favourite food is Sushi. But, well made sushi. Nothing from places like 'Yo! Sushi'.  Also steak, I looove steak! 

My favourite song has to be 'Midnight in a Perfect World' by DJ Shadow (it's a song I've always played when I'm traveling and exploring new cities). Though 'Grounds for Divorce' by Elbow is a close second.

Facebook Photography // Facebook Blog // Instagram // Vine (aoife blake)

Big huge massive thank you to Rebecca for having me on her blog! It's a huge honour :)

Aoife from KimDot x