I spent most of 2018 living in the beautiful Barossa Valley wine region for my rural hospital placement. It’s special to be able to watch the countryside slowly change with the seasons. I started the year marvelling at fields of golden grass and rows of lush green vines, and was equally enraptured by the gradual transition to the deep reds of autumn in April-May.
And so, on my final day of Semester 1, I took the afternoon off (what a rebel!) to do a photoshoot amongst the beautiful autumn foliage.
A little backstory for this autumn excursion: Moving away from our friends and family was somewhat isolating for many of us, including the then pregnant wife of my best friend. It is difficult as temporary residents to make local friends (unless you’re an avid participant in the ‘footy’/’netty’ scene, it’s hard to meet other young adults in Aussie country towns), but at least we knew each other after several years of medical school together. She however knew none of the other medical students aside from me. Furthermore, her husband and I had full-time placement at the local clinics/hospitals. This was less significant early on, but once on maternity leave, I imagine weekdays would have been a bit lonesome (perhaps I am presuming too much; she’s more socially mature than me, so maybe it wasn’t too much of an issue for her). With this in mind, I tried my best to make time to catch-up with her. I endeavoured especially to meet during working hours whenever I had an early afternoon; I didn’t want to eat into their personal husband-wife time more than I already was by inviting myself over for weekly dinner/study sessions. It was for this reason I had the courage to skip out on clinic early that day (I was designated to ‘supervised study’ (rather than legitimate clinical activities) which I didn’t feel guilty about missing at all, but it did involve me having to actively hide from both my supervisors and fellow students and *perhaps* be a little misleading some of my attendance/payment paperwork haha)
This was our first project together. She is also very creative and was eager to familiarise herself with her new DSLR camera in anticipation for their baby; she was 38 weeks pregnant at the time. I was thus
slightly very anxious about making her drive through the countryside, clamber around on the roadside and crouch low to optimise the camera angle, and all on a drizzly day too! #badnonpregnantfriend
“I should’ve driven, what if you go into labour?!”
“It’s fine. If I get contractions, they’ll still be far apart enough for me to drive.”
“True… but what if you go into active labour really quickly?”
“Then you can just drive my car, we’re only ten minutes from the hospital.”
“True… Imagine if the baby comes out now- I’ve delivered a few babies, but I don’t think I’m brave enough to catch yours.”
“Esther, you do know that babies don’t come out instantly- we’ll be able to make it to the hospital in time.”
…I like how she can shut me down in a no-nonsense way like this, even with her quirky and whimsical sense of fun. Keep in mind as well that I already had significant obstetric experience and knew that the likelihood of a sudden roadside birth was exceedingly low, especially since she was a primigravida- I suppose when it’s someone close to you, it’s a different experience. That’s my excuse anyway.
Most of my supplies were back in Adelaide, so it was a different construction approach from usual. This was only my second time using a hard headband as a base- the flowers were fixed in place with coiled wire. Usually, I sew flowers to elastic cloth headbands (I find them more comfortable to wear) The local two-dollar store also had limited choices for artificial flowers, especially since I wanted colours that would compliment the autumn backdrop. I was concerned that these black roses would blend in with my hair, so I intended to paint the petals in a gradient of fiery oranges and yellows in an attempt to create ‘fire flowers’ that would complement the warm autumnal colours I envisioned. However (despite multiple layers) the pigments were not as opaque as expected. Thus I chose to abandon the paint job and decided to emphasise the inky blackness rather than see it as an obstacle. It worked out since the red leaves had cooler tones than I anticipated. This reinforced two lessons I’m already familiar with; not all art supplies are created equal, and its good to be flexible when it comes to realising a creative vision.
Further to this, the vibe (akin to film directors, I like to choose a ‘motivation’ for my photoshoots) was intended to be ‘edgy’, ‘punk’ and ‘gothic’ but it ended up being more of a ‘gothic lolita’ look.In terms of styling, I chose this boned strapless dress with a flowing chiffon skirt (courtesy of my sister-in-law who was traveling the world; she was the source of many of my ‘new’ 2018 outfits) and layered it on this lace top (I’m shy when it come to strapless clothes)
My friend was a wonderful contributor to this project and even got involved making some headpieces herself. We sat on the floor of their living room amongst a flurry of newspaper, paint, flowers and wire; her husband laughed at us. I usually work on my creations completely alone and I valued her company and input; she suggested the punctuations of greenery within the crown itself (I myself rarely add leaves ) . On the day, she brought her thick grey knitted blanket and plum felt hat as props, and also gave me the most ridiculous prompts for posing and facial expressions.
We chose Lindsay Wine Estate on the spur of the moment as we drove past (it’s right on the main road between Nuriootpa and Tanunda). It had an open row of ornamental vines easily accessible from the road (please don’t randomly trudge through vineyards without permission, foreign fungus can destroy the vintage!) and we loved the juxtaposition between the deep crimson and mustard yellows. I can also personally recommend them as a cellar door from my solo tasting- they have an affordable range with unique wine labels (some include historic illustrations by the founder), friendly cellar door staff and a fantastic library of vinyl records playing in the background.
We concluded the drizzly day by cosying up at one of her favourite cafes in Tanunda, Nosh. It was such a great day. Term had finally finished (18 weeks straight of full-time clinical placement including weekly overnight and monthly weekend on-call can be taxing). I had spent the morning with the visiting rheumatologist in Angaston- many of my peers will disagree but I find sitting in on specialist clinics incredibly insightful, not only in terms of medical knowledge but also understanding different career paths and the administrative side of accessing services. Angaston is a lovely town regardless; I really love driving all over the Barossa! Plus I had the satisfaction of successfully skipping out early, as well as finally making our schedules line-up to meet with my friend during working hours (catching up with busy friends can be tricky!). And the quality time we spent together was of course wonderful.
Honestly, prior to last year I didn’t know her particularly well except as the wife of one of my best friends. I am happy to say that she has long since become someone precious to me- I will love each member of their happy little family, now and always xx