Last week I hosted a gathering of my work team. We’re a relatively new group – two teams combined into one – so it was important that we spend time together, get to know each other and collaborate on our team plan.
I made an early decision to take everyone out of their ‘normal’ work environment and bring the team together somewhere new to them. To create an even playing field where my colleagues would see new sights, be inspired, be motivated.
So we ended up in Newcastle, my coastal home town.
I was born and raised in this now-not-so-little town. I had a fair idea where we could go to challenge ourselves, to think outside the box. We needed to find innovative ways of dealing with the raft of problems that we had inherited, to look at our problems differently and find new solutions.
We spent as much time within our boardroom digs as out. We walked in the sunshine. We critiqued interpretive signs in the Newcastle Regional Museum and photographed our favourites for lunchtime discussion. We looked at the treatment of public spaces in Honeysuckle, Wheeler Place and Civic Park. We examined outdoor infrastructure on the Bathers Way and discussed what worked, what didn’t and why. And whilst all this was going on, we learned about each other – our interests, our lives, our strengths. We ploughed through the work and made the most of our “creative streak” breaks. It was incredibly productive and fun.
Whilst all of this was work, it felt a little like being on holiday too. Newcastle really turned it on with perfect Autumnal weather – warm days and cool nights. And the beaches have never looked better. Endless blue skies, crystal clear and rolling waves, a gentle taste of salt on the sea breeze. Magnificent.
Three days of hometown workshopping was followed by a end-of-week work trip to Sydney. I arrived late and trawled through emails whilst munching on Singapore noodles in my little hotel room. I awoke the next day to cool, sunny weather – too nice for a cab. I grabbed my wheeled suitcase, set Google maps for directions and started the stroll to my destination at Walsh Bay.
Wow. Just wow. City parks lined the way down to The Rocks, over cobbled stones and past historic homes. I stopped and admired views framed by century-old palms and wrought iron lines. Trains clacked and clattered over Sydney Harbour Bridge as I walked underneath the giant structure sitting heavily over the water’s curvaceous sandstone edge. The traffic chaos overhead was contrast to the streets I walked, the only sound the gentle whirring of a mason’s tools working the stone in a terraced row.
Finally, I caught the train home to Newcastle on Friday night. With plenty of time to think (it’s a 3 hour ride) I realised the best parts of my week were those spent outside. That whilst I loved walking through Sydney with all its new sights and sounds, I felt extremely pleased to be travelling home, was looking forward to seeing my family, wanted to walk along the beach and spend time in good Ol’ Newie.
So what did I learn this week?
- That three days of sharing Newcastle sights and experiences with others has reminded me how beautiful my home town is, and how lucky I am to live here.
- That Sydney holds historical magic, especially when you choose to walk it.
- That coming home always, always feels great.
- People often make the place: You don’t always need to know who’s in your shots… well, maybe that’s partly true! But if you’re on your own and want to capture photos of your surrounds, sometimes you need people to add to the sense of place. My iPhone shots taken at Nobbys breakwall use the silhouettes of strangers to add interest, give perspective and tell the story. They’d be far less interesting as straight landscape images. Similarly, the people in my image of The Leaf Seat are unknown to me – I asked if I could photograph them as they provide perspective on size of the seat. As a general rule, it’s always polite to ask to include people in your shots if you can see their face, and where children are involved, you MUST ask their parent or guardian.
- Fresh eyes are your friend: Try walking around an area of your home town that you love. Take your camera and take your time. Try rediscovering the space through your lens. You’ll be surprised at what you see and how your shots look. No-one sees your world quite the way you do.
- Love the light: I’ve said it before but can’t say it enough- the light and time of day can completely shape, add mood and feeling to your shot. Sunsets in Autumn and Winter are amazing on the coast, creating soft pastels and long shadows. Embrace it and go for a weekend walk at sunset with your camera or iPhone.