Favourite Photos of 2018

Better late than never to reflect on 2018. It is a cold snap where I live in Manitoba, Canada, so I thought this would be a great day to reflect on last year and warmer days. Our year was full of adventure and creativity. We went on 5 vacations, which took us from Maui to the East Coast of Canada. Along the way we upgraded our cameras and improved our editing skills. Here are some of our favourite moments and behind the scene info of how we took these photos.

1. Johnston Canyon, Alberta- January

This was my first time seeing a frozen waterfall. I had to jump about 8 feet off a viewing platform to get this shot. Looking back, one of those icicles could have fallen on me. Our new year definitely started off with a bang.

2. Ice Castle, Winnipeg- January

These are probably the best photos we have taken to date and I continue to post new ones on my Instagram. I applied for a photography permit, but they denied us, so we had to arrive when the exhibit opened and sprinted in to get these unobstructed shots. We were only here for about 20 minutes as the crowds started to make things challenging and people kept trying to offer me their scarves and coats. I was not cold, mainly because of the sprint in.

3. Naples, Florida- February

My parents migrate to Florida for the winter and we visit them for my birthday weekend. We found these posts on Naples Beach and Eric helped carry me onto one. What you don’t see in this picture is the dozens of people laying on the beach behind here. Some of them were taking pictures while I was up there. Luckily I am used to an audience from my years of dancing.

4. Maui, Hawaii- March

This was my favourite photo from our trip to Maui, mainly because of how Eric framed it with the flower and also because it was taken in an unexpected place. We got it right next to the pool bar at the Grand Wailea Resort. I was standing inside a cave that houses their Grotto and there was a man made waterfall in front. Probably not the scenery you had in mind when looking at this.

5. Maui, Hawaii- March

This was our first attempt at underwater photography with our new Olympus camera. Unfortunately we didn’t realize there was an underwater mode on the camera, which would have made this image more clear. Swimming in the dress was a challenge as it got really heavy. The people on the beach must have thought I was nuts swimming around in this!

6. Winnipeg, Manitoba- June

I found this dress online and started to brainstorm where we could photograph it. Saint Boniface Cathedral in Winnipeg was a no brainer. This church burned down in 1968 and all that remains are the walls. Eric hoisted me up in this window and the lighting was just perfect to get this ethereal shot.

7. Pinawa, Manitoba- July

How unexpecting is this place? Taken at the old Pinawa Dam, I had to hop a fence and walk across a 3 foot landing 30 feet above shallow water. Eric then had to hoist me inside. The phrase “doing it for the gram” took on new meaning here. A local Instagrammer helped me edit this one as I couldn’t get it right.

8. Peggy’s Cove- July

So proud of this image at the iconic lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. If you have ever been here, you know that there is usually a sea of tourists. I didn’t think getting a shot like this would be a possibility. It was a miserable day and early in the morning, so the stars aligned for us and Eric captured this image. I feel proud to be Canadian when I look at it.

9. Kanarraville Falls- October

Another out of this world location on one of our hikes. I had imagined this shot with me climbing the latter in a long white dress, but unfortunately the images just looked bizarre. I had no intention of sharing this bikini shot with anyone, but (no pun intended), it was either this or nothing at all.

10. Manitoba Legislature- December

Our Legislative building gets all dressed up for Christmas and I wanted to get a dramatic shot of it. I ordered this long train dress off of eBay for $60. It is one of those good from afar kind of items. If you are interested in taking photos here you can reserve a 30 minute slot free of charge.

That is a wrap for my favourite images of the year. Not sure if we will be able to top them this year; it all depends where life takes us. Looking back at these definitely inspires me to keep improving and push the envelope. This has become such a fun and creative hobby that Eric and I share together. Can’t wait to see where 2019 takes us! What is your favourite photo from the bunch?

Happy Day,

Kira

How I Edited My Instagram Challenge Photo

Instagram has a weekly photo challenge, which is a great way to get creative and think outside the box. The title of this week’s challenge is “Inspired By.” We had just taken some winter themed photos and I could not help but think of Canadian artist Trisha Romance when we took them. My mom owns some of her artwork, which are soft, warm and magical winter scenes.

I decided that I was going to do a Trisha Romance inspired image for the challenge using accessible photo editing apps. The three apps I used were Snapseed, A Color Story and Facetune. Below is the original image that was imported from our camera.

The first step in my editing process is to make slight adjustments directly on my phone. I decrease the highlights, increase the shadows, brightness and brilliance.

From there I go into A Color Story and add a filter. Lately I have been using January from the Seasons pack. It really makes the snow, trees, and red in my dress pop.

Usually this is where I would end my editing process, but I needed to make this look like a painting. I recalled an HDR setting in Snapseed that might help me achieve the look I was going for.

I liked the effect this gave, but my dress was way too bright, so I used the brush tool in Snapseed to desaturate my outfit.

In order to get a similar softness and warmth that you see in a Trisha Romance painting, I needed to add some effects to the photo. A Color Story has some interesting ones that might allow me to achieve this look. I don’t usually use these, but this was a great way to experiment.

I added light leak 10 and 11 at about half opacity to achieve that warm and soft pastel look.

I then added Flare 1 to add light to the image. Trisha Romance paintings always seem to have some aspect of light, whether it be a burning lantern or sun breaking through the trees.

With all of the layers that I added, it seemed like I got lost in the photo, so I went into Facetune and used the Details function. I brushed over my body and hair to make me stand out again.

My photo was now complete. This is definitely the most I have ever edited an image, but it was a fun task for a Saturday afternoon. It goes to show you how much you can transform an image with just a few editing apps. I am happy with the results and think that it captures the essence of Trisha’s art. What is your favourite editing app? How do you edit your photos?

Happy Weekend,

Kira

Grand View Lodge Minnesota

Living in Canada, I have visited a lodge or two in my lifetime. I have never been to one like Grand View Lodge, however. This is like your classic lodge, but on steroids.

Situated on Gull Lake in Nisswa, Minnesota, this historic resort includes over 200 cabins, 8 restaurants, 2 champion golf courses and a spa. In 2019, they will be adding a new boutique hotel and pool complex to the expansive property.

My husband and I visited over the New Years weekend and stayed in a cozy lakefront cabin on Roy Lake. There are so many options for accommodations here. You can stay in a hotel room in the main lodge or in one of the hundreds of cabins on the property.

Our cabin was a short drive from the main lodge and had a perfect amount of space for two people. If you are interested in staying in the cabin, ask for the Roy Lake Cabin 606. They also have Roy Lake Cottages, which are for large families and have 3 floors of living space. Both of these are updated and look relatively new.

You receive a free daily breakfast with your stay in the main lodge. We were expecting a continental breakfast, but it is a full on buffet. They have everything from eggs to Dutch waffles to sweet potatoe croquettes. This was a great way to start our day!

What attracted me to this lodge was all of the activities included in our stay. We went snow shoeing on the golf course, on a horse and carriage ride around the property, ice skated, swam in the indoor water park and enjoyed the nightly bonfires. There are so many activities that we didn’t get around to doing such as cross country skiing, ice fishing, bingo, movie night and the list goes on.

I was able to visit the Glacial Waters Spa during our stay, which was relaxing and impressive. I had a spa manicure/pedicure and the esthetician was so friendly and attentive. They have a relaxation room where you can sit and unwind in front of a warm fire. There are also steam and sauna rooms to use in the changing area.

Thinking of renewing your vows or getting married here? They built a new chapel this summer and it is just so picture perfect.

I can not say enough good things about this lodge. The people that work here are some of the friendliest I have met. When I first called to book, I could not believe how friendly the person was, but apparently everyone here is like that. It was so refreshing and made our stay that much more special. I feel that a representative from every lodge should come stay here as a master class in hospitality. I was impressed, and I am picky. Can not wait to return!

Happy New Year,

Kira

Observation Point Hike in Zion

Have you been to Zion National Park in Utah? If not, you need to add this to your list stat! This is one of the most beautiful parks I have been to. We went in Fall, so all the colours were changing and the weather was just perfect for hiking. We only got one hike in here and decided to do Observation Point, as it has the best views of the park.

The hike is 8 miles round trip with 2000 feet of elevation gain. To get to the Weeping Rock Trail head you need to get on the shuttle at the visitors centre and get off at stop number 7. The ride is about 45 minutes each way.

The first leg of the journey is comprised of switch backs for the first mile. This part was very pretty as there are lots of trees changing colours. You get a great view of Angel’s Landing and the park as you gain elevation quite quickly. Expect to be pretty out of breath if you keep a good place. This part is shaded, so it is not too hot.

Once up the first leg, things even out and you get to see a different side of the park. You will walk by some canyons and get some beautiful views of the mountains. There are less trees in this leg and more bushes, so things start to heat up. Not as much elevation is gained during this section, so your legs get a little break.

The last leg comprises of a narrow path that winds up the mountain. You are very exposed to the elements in this section. Things get hot and windy. I recommend dressing in layers as I ended up hiking in my sports bra. My shirt got totally soaked from hiking in the heat. I could not imagine doing this leg in the heat of summer!

If you are afraid of heights, this section might bother you a bit. Only 2 people have died on this hike, so it is relatively safe. A woman was pushed to her death from here in 1997. Her husband was trying to collect a life insurance payout, but has since been convicted for his crimes.

Once you have made it through the exposed section you will find yourself at the top and a short track through the bushes will lead you to the Observation Point lookout. I could not believe how much trees and bushes there were up here. I was expecting a more barren landscape at such a high elevation.

We brought a lunch with us and ate it at the top. There are little squirrels up there that are eager for a hand out. Not the best idea to feed these little buggers!

The views from the top are absolutely breathtaking! Pictures just don’t do it justice. You get a glimpse of the entire park from here and get to look down on Angel’s Landing. Definitely above the angels here!

It took us 4 hours to do this hike with 45 minutes at the top and lots of stops for photos along the way. We kept a very good pace despite the stops. The people from our shuttle were still walking up as we were going down. This hike is pretty strenuous, so you should be in pretty good shape to complete it. With that being said, there was a four year old that we met at the top and several families with kids that we ran into.

Our only regret was not bringing enough water. We both brought 750ml water bottles and ran out 3/4 of the way down. If you are going in the summer you will need lots of water.

If you have any questions about this hike or Zion in general please ask in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Kira

Kanarraville Falls Hike

Who knew that Utah was filled to the brim with beauty?! So many people looked at me funny when I told them I was going on a trip here. My husband and I love to hike, so we thought that this was the place for us. The Kanarraville Falls Hike was on my list and ended up being my favourite hike in Utah.

The trail head is within the quaint town of Kanarraville. The town is close to Zion National Park, but not inside it. There is an $8 hiking permit, which you pay for at the start of the hike.

This is a 6 mile round trip hike that takes you along along the Kanarra Creek. It is pretty hard to get lost, as the creek is your guide. The trail crosses the creek several times, so you cannot complete this hike without getting wet.

We were here in fall and the water was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It was pretty cold, but we are Canadian, so it did not faze us. You may want to invest in some neoprene socks and waterproof hiking shoes for this one.

I would consider this hike easy to moderate. There is a slight elevation gain at the beginning that gets your heart rate going, but otherwise the hike is pretty flat. There is some balance required as you are hiking in the water and hopping from rock to rock. Some people may benefit from a walking stick to navigate the waters.

This hike takes you up a hill where you can see mountain peaks amongst the changing fall colours.

You then venture into the woods where the colours become up close and personal. You start to hike down the creek and eventually end up at the entrance of a slot canyon.

Inside the canyon is the most majestic waterfall with a ladder and rope to help you up.

Beyond the first waterfall are even more waterfalls.

There is a second waterfall with a ladder at the end of the hike, which was closed the day we were there.

I can not say enough positive things about this hike. It was truly majestic and awe inspiring. We went at a perfect time of year, as barely anyone was on the hike with us. In the summer it is a very popular place.

I highly recommend adding this one to your list if you haven’t completed it already.

Happy Travels,

Kira

The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

Viva Las Vegas! The last time I was in Sin City, I was 15 years old. I went on road trip with my parents across the States and this was one of the stops. We had a great time, but being a minor excluded me from a lot of the fun.

Fast forward 18 years, and I finally made it to Vegas as an adult. Our real destination was Utah, but we flew into Vegas and thought we would stay a couple nights.

If you follow my blogs, you will know that I like to stay in homes when I travel, but for this trip there was no other option than to stay in a hotel on the strip. I really wanted to have a unique view of the Bellagio fountains and Vegas skyline. After a long search, I narrowed it down to The Cosmopolitan. The main draw for me was their balconies with fountain views. All the other hotels that I looked at (Bellagio, Aria, Vdara etc.) did not have balconies. I booked the hotel through Expedia.ca and got a 15% discount in the process.

We arranged a shuttle service through the concierge prior to our arrival. When we got to Vegas, we could not locate the shuttle and ended up walking around looking for them for about half an hour. I would recommend just grabbing an Uber or taxi instead of pre arranging transportation.

We arrived at the hotel at 10pm on a Saturday evening. Check in was quick and painless. I asked for a lower floor, since I don’t like elevators and they were very accommodating.

At first glance the hotel was very glam and avant garde. The guests in the lobby were dressed to the nines, as it was a Saturday night. I heard that the clientele here could be described as Millenial Yuppies, and I would have to agree with that statement.

We checked into our room on the 32nd floor, which was a One Bedroom Terrace Suite (room number 3223). The suite is quite spacious with a large sectional couch in the living room. There is a dry bar across from this with enticing mini bar snacks and a separate mini fridge to store your own groceries. The snacks are pressure sensored, so if you lift it, you own it!

One of my favourite parts of the room was the closet area that leads from the living room into the bedroom. There are spacious closets here that light up upon opening and had full length mirrors on the exterior. A full length mirror is a must if you are going to be dressing up for a night in Vegas!

The bathroom has a huge walk in shower with a bathtub overlooking the fountains. This was such a unique feature that created an amazing backdrop for Instagram photos.

The bathroom has double sinks with ring light mirrors, which is great for applying makeup. There is a separate water closet, which can be tough to get into if someone is standing at the vanity.

The king sized bed was nothing to write home about. The linens were decent, but the mattress was a bit lumpy. It almost felt like they had put one of those egg carton sponge things on top of the mattress.

The most impressive part of the room is the unobstructed view from the balcony. You really feel like you have Vegas all to yourself. This is something that would bring me back to this hotel.

The hotel itself has a lot to offer with it’s casino, nightlife, restaurants and pool bar. You will have to check out their secret unmarked pizza joint between Blue Ribbon and Jaleo. Eggslut is also a very popular breakfast spot. Expect to wait at least half an hour as there is usually a line up. While you wait, you could get a photo by the over sized Louboutin shoe!

We used the pool and hot tub and there were many loungers available. It was not too crowded in late October, but might get busy in the summer. We wanted to use the gym, but it closed too early (8pm).

Check out was just as easy as checking in. There were a bunch of people in line, but they allowed us to do a mobile check out, which only took a minute.

Our stay at The Cosmopolitan was enjoyable. I would recommend it and stay there again in the future. I just wish they had comfier mattresses! That was the only negative part of our stay. If you have any questions about this hotel please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Happy Travels,

Kira

Instagram Guide to Atlantic Canada

The east coast of Canada is filled to the brim with beauty. This summer we visited for our very first time and tried to pack in as many destinations as possible. In the week that we were there we put 3000 km on our rental vehicle! I honestly believe that you could live in Atlantic Canada for a lifetime and still not see everything. Here are some Instagram worthy spots that we discovered on our vacation:

1. Peggy’s Cove

Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia is one of the world’s most visited and iconic lighthouses. There is usually a sea of tourists here, but by some miracle we were able to get some unobstructed shots of her. We went very early in the morning on a cold, windy and rainy day. That was enough to keep the crowds away I guess!

2. Hopewell Rocks

Hopewell Rocks in New Brunswick is also a very popular tourist destination. This amazing spot in the Bay of Fundy is home to some of the greatest tidal ranges. You can see the rock formations fully submerged at high tide or walk on the ocean floor at low tide. The tide table website outlines the times of low and high tide. We went at closing time (8pm); there were less tourists to obstruct our shot.

3. Anne of Green Gables

When you think of Atlantic Canada, Anne of Green Gables may come to mind. Cross the Confederation Bridge and you will find yourself in the land of Anne on Prince Edward Island. We visited the Anne of Green Gables museum and it really transports you into her world.

4. Thunder Cove Beach

While you are on Prince Edward Island you must stop at Thunder Cove Beach. It has amazing rock formations that look like they are from another planet. They call this one the Teapot rock.

5. Lunenburg

Lunenburg is a quaint little town west of Halifax. It has a beautiful waterfront with lots of dining and shops to enjoy. There are colourful historical homes here as well as a piece of the Berlin Wall on display.

6. Blue Rocks

Blue Rocks is a little fishing village just outside of Lunenburg. It is a great spot for kayaking or photography. We drove down a bit away from the place that people usually photograph. There was not a soul around at sunset. I could see this as a beautiful place to propose.

7. Mahone Bay

This little waterfront town is close to Lunenburg and also has shops and dining. If you are a photographer, you will want to get a picture of the three historical churches across the bay.

8. Baxter’s Harbour

I always need to find a waterfall on vacation. Baxter’s Harbour in Nova Scotia delivers this, what an amazing place! It is on the Bay of Fundy, so has similar rock formations as Hopewell, but without the crowds. The waterfall has some of the brightest colours of algae that I have seen. Lots of snails and slime in this one. Not the best for swimming.

9. Cape Split

If you are into hiking and heights, then this one is for you. To see the stunning cliffs over the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia you must do a 12 km round trip hike through the woods. I would consider the hike beginner to intermediate level. You have to jump over a couple streams and navigate through rocks and tree stumps, but nothing too difficult. Make sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks. The hike is worth it as the views at the end are stunning. I was chicken and didn’t get any great cliff photos. If you are taking a dog with you be careful as some have gone over the edge.

10. Halifax Waterfront

You can not visit Nova Scotia without seeing the downtown Halifax waterfront. You need a day to do this one as there is so much to see and do. There are lots of shops and dining options, old ships and historical landmarks to see here. I preferred the waterfront at Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, as they were less commercialized.

11. Citadel Hill

The Citadel is a historical fort in downtown Halifax that was built in 1749. If you are a history or war buff, then this is your place. They have recreated the trenches from World War 1, which I found very meaningful and moving. We went on a Saturday when they were changing the flags, so admission was free, which we weren’t expecting.

12. Crystal Crescent Beach

This white sand beach is just outside of Halifax and is one of the nicest in Nova Scotia. There are hiking paths here that lead to cliffs, which are a great place for photos. If you want to avoid tan lines, there is a clothing optional beach here as well. We went in late July and the water was freezing! Felt like the polar bear plunge!

This is the extent of our trip to Atlantic Canada. We stayed in Nova Scotia, so most of our photos were taken there. We ran out of time and didn’t make it to Cape Breton or Newfoundland, which we will do another time. I think we saw a lot in a week. If you are interested in seeing more photos of our trip please check out my Instagram page.

Happy Travels,

Kira