Sometimes you should put yourself first. So, I did. I spent a few days in Charlotte County attending a Creative Photography Retreat led by Sylvie Mazerolle. I’ve known Sylvie for a few years, having met through the Focus Camera Club in Moncton, and have greatly admired her incredibly creative photography. When she first reached out to suggest that she might offer a short retreat if there was enough interest, I jumped on board!
She said that we should make ourselves a priority occasionally and she was right. Not only did I sign up immediately, but so did several others and the event filled up within one hour – such is her reputation!
I took my time driving to the event, visiting a few places I’d enjoyed in my youth growing up in southern New Brunswick. After Lepreau Falls, I stopped at New River Beach. There were no tourists on this windy and chilly day in mid-May, so I had the park to myself. I love the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. I was there at high tide so the beach itself was hidden beneath the waters of the Bay of Fundy.
Did you know that the volume of water flowing in and out of the bay, twice a day, is greater than that of all of the lakes and rivers in the world combined?
Our first group get-together was a yoga session led by Michelle Lane of Chasing Zen Yoga. She’s an amazing instructor as she guided us through a Yin yoga practice and meditation session. When it was over we were all relaxed, open and ready to go forward together.
Our accommodations at the Dominion Hill Country Inn in Digdeguash, near Saint Andrews, were lovely. My little cabin was nestled in the woods and I fell asleep to the sounds of the wind rustling the leaves outside my window. The grounds and gardens are extraordinary. Our hosts went above and beyond to ensure our stay, and the delightful meals, exceeded our expectations.
The next day began with another yoga and meditation session, followed by a buffet breakfast. Then, we all headed in to Saint Andrews for a morning of exploration. We split into two groups of four. My group headed to the wharf to explore while the other group went to visit Crocker Hill Studios and Store (more on that in a minute). Although the sun was shining, the wind was wild!
After nearly being blown into the bay and learning some fascinating facts about the town, its inhabitants, its history and the significance of the seaweed industry, we headed back to grab a hot coffee at Honey Beans Café and thaw out before heading to the Crocker Hill shop and garden.
The shop, studio and amazing garden were created by, and are operated by, Gail and Steven Smith, along with their canine companions. Gail gave us a tour of the shop filled to the brim with Steven’s creations as well as an eclectic assortment of other items both useful and whimsical, depending. Then, Steven took us on a detailed tour of his garden, a tribute to Gail. Surrounded by a 12′ high hedge and fence, it is home to his incredible stone sculptures, a curated collection of shrubs, trees and plants, numerous hummingbirds and hundreds of honeybees from a local apiary who visit for a drink of water. It is truly incredible and there are amazing things to discover on every inch of the small space.
We were fortunate to also have a tour of his private studio space where he showed us many of his amazingly detailed paintings. His adoration of his wife showed through in everything he said as he pointed out the many items from the mundane (a pot lid rack) to the fantastical that he created for her. Despite being offered substantial sums for his works, he isn’t interested in selling them. As they say on their website, their shop “reflects this in our distinctive mix of fine gardening and birding accessories and other nature-related items which complement our own products.”
Then, it was time for lunch. Our hosts at Dominion Hill packed a picnic lunch for us. It was far too cold to enjoy eating outside, so we found the Saint Andrews Brewing Company Inc. that allowed us to bring in our own food while enjoying their very tasty beverages!
After gorging ourselves on veggie wraps, quinoa salad, cheese and more, we waddled back to our vehicles and headed back to Dominion Hill for a short rest followed by learning about how to style and photograph food and “table scapes”. Both Sylvie and Michelle worked hard setting up scenes for us to work with using box-loads of props they brought with them. We also had a chance to try our own “styling” abilities.
(By the way, to see any of the photos throughout this blog in more detail, just click on individual images.)
When we were done, we dragged our weary selves up to the dining room for yet another tasty dinner.
After sleeping the sleep of the truly tired, we all gathered for one last yoga session with Michelle. This incredible group of eight women shared their energy and opened their hearts to each other throughout the entire retreat. Breakfast followed and then we bid adieu to our home away from home.
There was one last outing on our itinerary – a tour through the famous Algonquin Hotel where we were allowed to create a few more images.
Many tears were shed as we said goodbye to each other and headed for home – not rested, but most definitely refreshed, inspired and looking forward to more adventures!