To view other parts of this blog series, click the links below:
Part 2 – Photography, Photoshop And Fun!
Part 3 – The Rodeo
Part 4 – Canoeing, The Fetish Club And The Conference
Part 5 – The Final Days

The Surprise!

It was around 9:30am when my Grandparents arrived at my house. They were going to be taking me to the venue where we were holding my 21st Birthday Party so we could organize all of the catering for the night.
My Grandfather was waiting on a call from the lady from the venue to confirm that she was available for us to go and chat to. We waited there until the phone rang and my Grandfather, who my sister and I call “Gar” all of a sudden received a call on hi old fashioned flip phone. When he hung up the phone he said that it was time to leave.
Just as I was going to get up out of my seat, there was a knock at the door..and it was in the next few seconds that I would get the surprise of my life!

I opened the door, and there was my sister Bianca and there was a box next to her which had it’s top cut off. I could see some familiar hair sticking out of the box and I started to think “Oh my gosh, is it actually him? Bianca said “Hi” and then all of a sudden, a humanoid figure jumped out of the box and yelled “Happy birthday!”. All of a sudden, multiple cameras and my Dad rushed into view and I was stunned. It was was actually him..Benjamin Von Wong!

I was in a complete state of shock! My heart and mind were racing at a million miles an hour! I had no idea what to do or what to say. The first words that came out of my mouth were “Holy f***”, which was then quickly followed “Can I hug you?!”. It was honestly the most surreal and epic moment of my life!

The moment that Benjamin Von Wong surprised me, one of many photographers in Albury!
This is a screenshot from the behind the scenes video. To watch it, please visit this link

And as it turns out, Nan and Gar taking me to the club to organise my 21st Birthday Party was all a set up, and a very good one indeed!

The Story!

Ben is my favourite photographer. I guess you could say that he is my “idol”. I have been a fan of his work since I started photography, and in fact he is the reason I got serious about photography, and thanks to him inspiring me, my life was changed forever.

You may be wondering why and how this all happened..well this is how the story really started.
On the 28th of April in 2013, Ben put an update out on Facebook asking people how he has inspired them so he could put it in a presentation. I commented on with my story of how he inspired me to really push my body past it’s very small limits and do what I love, and to my surprise he responded and asked whether he could use it for the presentation! I never expected that to happen, but then something even more unexpected happened.. He added me as a friend on Facebook!
Here is a photo of how the comment conversation went!

This is the first conversation Benjamin Von Wong and I ever had.
We then conversed over comments on his updates and photos a few times but that was about the extent of our friendship.

In February, I put a status up on Facebook which went along the lines of “If there is one thing I wish I could have for my 21st Birthday, it would be to meet Benjamin Von Wong!”. Little did I know that Bianca had started secretly planning things shortly after!
She wrote to Ben asking if it was possible to record a personalized video message for my 21st, but as their conversation went on, things started to change and Ben decided to do something completely unexpected, he decided to come to Australia and take me on an adventure of a lifetime!

What Happened Next!

After the epic surprise, we all went inside and I got introduced to Ben’s two assistants Sam and Silvia from Toronto based photography company SiliStudio. They had come along to film the whole adventure for Ben to put into one of his behind the scenes videos! Sam and Silvia are such lovely people! They, along with Ben are some of the nicest people I have ever met!
While we were chatting, we had a couple of photos taken of us, the first is the photo you can see up on the top of the page, which was taken by Sam and here is the second one, which I believe was taken Bianca!
Albury photographer Tyler Grace and Montreal based photographer Benjamin Von Wong


After having the photos taken, I learned that Ben wasn’t only here to say “Happy Birthday”. but he was going to be taking me on an adventure of epic proportions! I found out that we were going to be going to a Rodeo in Kyabram, that we were going to Melbourne for Ben to do an “Anatomy Of An Epic Photo Shoot” conference and that we were going to be doing a huge photo shoot with a bunch of other photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists and models the day after the conference. It was going to be a 7 day epic adventure full of fun and little did I know that there was more to come and that the adventure would be much bigger than I expected!
Ben was even going to be staying with us at our house for the first couple of nights!
The first unexpected thing that happened was that I was told that our local newspaper “The Border Mail” were coming over at around 2pm to do a story on the surprise!

Shortly after that, my Dad and Grandparents left and we started filming some interviews for the behind the scenes video! I was interviewed by Ben for about 40 minutes and it was a fun little interview about how I felt, what was I expecting from the adventure and my personal story involving my health.Von Wong interviews Albury Photographer Tyler Grace for his behind the scenes video

The Border Mail arrived at about 3pm and that interview went really well! They just asked questions about what was happening and then we went out and did a little photo shoot just out the front of my house and along the footpath on the side of the street!Von Wong and Tyler Grace get interviewed by the Albury newspaper "The Border Mail"


After we finished the interview and the girls from the Border Mail left, we just had fun hanging out for a while. At about 5 o’clock, Ben was interviewing Mum and I needed to go out on a walk to process everything and try and clear my head so I could think straight. My best friend Tom came along on the walk with me and I was able to tell him about everything that had happened. Like me, he couldn’t believe that it actually happened either. I had to send him a photo of me and Ben just so he could process that it was real! We had talked about Ben so much and Tom really liked his work as well so it was just as completely crazy to him that Ben would turn up on my doorstep like that!
After we had a little walk, Mum called to see where I was and I mentioned I was with Tom and she said “Bring him in to meet Ben! Ben is interviewing Bianca right now so be extra quiet..if it’s possible with Tom..when you come in.” We were pretty much right outside my house, so we crept in and Tom got to meet Ben, Sam and Silvia and he hung out with us for about an hour and a half! It was really awesome!

Tom left just after Nan, Gar and Dad had arrived back at our house for a barbeque dinner!
Dinner was really nice! We had great food, great company and a great time! It was the perfect ending to an amazing day! But what happened in the coming days would be even more amazing, or dare I say..EPIC!

Little Extras and More Surprises!

Before the Border Mail came over, I found out that Ben had made a secret group on Facebook for his fans in Australia, specifically fans who lived in or could get to Melbourne at the time. After I gained access to the group Simon Pollock from Think Tank Photo contacted me and offered me a FREE Think Tank Camera Backpack of my choice for my 21st Birthday! I Even after all the amazing things that had already happened during the day I couldn’t believe that I would be given a free backpack by a very well known company in the photography world!
I ended up choosing the Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive backpack! I will have a review of it up some time in the hopefully not too distant future!
Thank you so much Simon and Think Tank! It is truly a wonderful backpack!

Also I really want to thank all of the “Von Wong In Melbourne” (Now “Von Wong In Australia“) group for keeping the secret so well hidden and not ruining the surprise by announcing it over social media!
You all had a part in making this surprise the success that it was and I am so incredibly grateful!

In the next part in this series of blogs I will be telling you all about days 2 and 3 of the adventure, where Ben does a photo shoot with Bianca and I and we do a day of editing!

I hope you are all having a wonderful week so far!
And as always, keep smiling everyone! 🙂