Over the Easter weekend, my best friend and I decided to venture out on one of our foodie adventures and explore Toronto. I was thinking we would have loads of food related activities to choose from over the long weekend.
Search up "Easter + Toronto + festivals + food" and literally what came up was "maple syrup festivals". Okaaaaay. Perhaps not what I expected to see pop up in my search engine, but sure, why not? Maple syrup festival it is :)
There were a few farms that had syrup festivals going on, but we decided to go to Bruce's Mill in Stouffville. I almost forgot that we actually visited this farm way back when while we were in elementary school (we must have been 11??). So I guess it was also going to be a trip down memory lane for us too! I sort of remember the farm being exciting...?
Wouldn't you like to learn about maple syrup from this "friendly" lumberjack? Uhm...
So off we went to the farm with camera in hand, waiting to relive our youths through the sheer pleasure of maple syrup...in the springtime...with summer-like temperatures. Now for those who don't know, cooler (almost freezing) nights and warmer days are needed to get sap flowing out of the tree. The tree is then "tapped" and the sap is collected in buckets. Obviously with scorching heat, there was not a lot of sap being collected :(
Luckily, we found some buckets that were filled with the sweet stuff. Surprise! I guess we're not the only ones who enjoy tree sap. Yum.
Obviously the maple syrup we consume today isn't the sap that comes directly from the tree. It gets boiled down and reduced into its sweet & sticky goodness. I was able to grab a sample and it was excellent; super thick and not too sweet. I ended up buying some to take home with me :)
This is maple syrup making the old-school way. It takes up to 24 hours in a boiling kettle to turn fresh sap into what we know today as syrup. Obviously there were no raging fires to boil these kettles, but it was enough to show visitors what the set-up looked like. I found out from one of the Mill employees that they had to keep the fires low to prevent visitors from getting injured. No joke, he alluded to a situation where someone fell face first into the boiling kettles. Fun times all around!
This is the modern way of sap collecting where they "tap" the maple trees with this plastic tubing and spout. It essentially draws out the sap and transports it to the boiler house where the syrup is made. Gone are the days of waking up at 5 AM to collect the hundreds of sap buckets.
Their site says that we should allocate about 4 hours to fully enjoy the experience of the Maple Syrup Festival. And...we cleared this in about 1 1/2 :P Granted, we decided to skip the tours that explained the history of maple syrup, but with signs and information plaques posted everywhere, we got the gist of it :) And we did spend some time seeing other parts of the farm.
There was the petting zoo, which is always fun to see! There were lots of hungry goats and one pot-bellied pig (not shown). Oh, and a llama. I kind of felt sorry for the ponies though (they worked pretty diligently for the pony rides) :(
One wagon ride, a visit to the pancake house, some maple syrup and one honey purchase later (the farmer asked me whether it was really called "fung mi" in Chinese, as it sounds like something else in English - HA!), we called it quits and left to enjoy the rest of our afternoon.
Although the experience wasn't as magical as I remember, it was still a nice trip. Now what to do with all that maple syrup I purchased...hmmm...
That was the inspiration for Tina & Eric's engagement shoot ;) Since we were going to have this shoot in Vegas, Tina didn't want to do just another ordinary portrait session around the Strip. I immediately agreed, and off we went brainstorming some wild concepts! What we came up with was one of the most exciting ideas I've had the pleasure of executing :D
The engagement session took place the day before the wedding, which allowed Tina & Eric to really go all out for this shoot. Tina even had a custom dress made for these pictures! Isn't it gorgeous?
We had wanted to shoot somewhere in the desert, so Jason & I scouted the Jean Dry Lake Bed (which was absolutely breathtaking) just 45 minutes away from Vegas. This is definitely somewhere any photographer should make a point of visiting if they're ever in Las Vegas...seriously.
So with 1 rental car (along w/flying hubcaps) + 2 photographers + 1 stylin' couple + 1 dry lake bed + lots of wind + gorgeous light = 1 unforgettable experience!!
Love this shot that J took. Definitely has a James Bond feel:
We found this abandoned mattress in the middle of the desert; it made for a really cool prop:
As you can tell, we really were in the middle of nowhere! It was just miles of jaw-dropping desert. I'll definitely make another trip out there whenever I find myself back in Vegas :)
Eric wanted to have a little fun and sling his girl over his shoulder - RAWR! The one thing I like about shooting with another photographer is the 2 different perspectives you get of the same moment (right/J, left/me):
One of the last shots of the evening. It started to get really cold at this point; soon after we made a mad dash down the hill and headed back into the city.
I love the lights from the trucks in the background (my view):
Tina, Eric - you two were absolute troopers! Thanks for letting us play in the desert with you (despite the freezing temperatures and high winds)!