Leigh Righton, Photography, Story

Coffins, Cookies and Chai

This time two years ago I was exploring India. In some ways it feels like years ago, but simultaneously somehow also feels like just a blink of an eye. Time sure likes to play tricks..

One of my favourite moments travelling along the Southern Coast of India was in Kerala. My friend and I spent a few days in a little town and our guest house was near a row of coffin makers “shops”. Every day we walked by we were both fascinated by them, and finally one day we stopped and said hello and asked to photograph the craftsman. He didn’t speak a word of English, but his smile and soft demeanour made him so approachable.

While we were photographing him it started to rain, and very quickly it began to pour.. full on India monsoon style. The man’s wife wandered over to us and by using hand gestures, invited us inside for tea and out of the rain. She walked us into their home, which was tucked behind the “storefront” She sat us on a bed (there was no couch) turned on their little TV and another man came in and put the channel onto the only one showing something American, and it happened to be Good Will Hunting. Their kindness and generosity was overwhelming, and her chai was the most delicious I tasted in India, but it was difficult not to notice the coffin and wooden crosses half finished sitting on another bed just beside us. My friend and I got the nervous giggles when we were alone in the room for a moment and she whispered to me, “the next thing you know, we wake up in that coffin!”

The next thing we knew, we were actually totally awake (thank you chai) and she lead us back into her kitchen and then out through the back to a little mini farm. It was this amazing little house and it was easy to see she was so proud and happy to share and show us. No wonder the chai was so good, it had fresh goats milk.

The rain had subsided by then, so she sent us on our way with a truly memorable moment that had us full of cookies and tea, but also this other warm fuzzy feeling that I get just thinking about it. No words that any of us could understand were exchanged the entire time, I wish I could have learned more about them, but we communicated with smiles and nods, and that was enough.

Leigh Righton, Photography


For as long as I can remember I have had dreams that my life would be full of travel and ongoing exploration, adventures and experiences that would fill pages of countless journals. I’ve wanted this with every fiber of my being, and while I’ve squeezed in some noteworthy trips over the years, it hasn’t been enough to satisfy my extreme case of wanderlust. I managed to blame my lack of travel on money, circumstance, timing, jobs, relationships.. it couldn’t possibly be my own fault. It couldn’t be, until I realized that it couldn’t possibly be anything else, but my own damn fault.

Sure, I could use those excuses forever and no one would be the wiser, but why silence a lifelong desire when the pull is so persistent? Why look longingly at images of beautiful places and faces, when I could be out there experiencing them an capturing them for myself? My list of excuses worked for so long because they all seemed so very important at the time, and they must have been, because rarely did travel win over this list.

Last winter I was feeling my discontent mount as I saw endless flight deals come thru my email or pass by on social media, and my cursor would always hesitate over them. Sometimes I’d hit the buy/book button, going thru the motions of choosing dates and reading the fine print, just to give myself the feeling of heading off on an adventure, but at the end of my daydream I’d always hit “cancel” before the last step.

Travel is one of those things that I know makes me a better person, it broadens my perspective and makes me feel more connected to this beautiful world I get to live in and have the privilege of photographing. Whether a trip is good or challenging, I always gain something important from the experience. So I finally stopped with the excuses and started looking for ways to make it happen… and those ways had me returning just a few days ago from two back-to-back trips of a lifetime.

The first adventure was a road trip with a fellow photographer, Shannyn Higgins, who I had only just met months before at a group show we were both exhibiting in. A few months later I came across her post on Facebook, I responded, and miraculously it came together (although with some adjustments to her initial plans as seen below)

shannyn post


We flew to New Orleans, rented a car from there, and drove 4000 miles and crossed four states in 2.5 weeks – Luisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Utah. It was one heck of a hustle, but Mother Nature made it worth our while tenfold.


My second adventure was an incredible 10 days in Hawaii with my favourite person (my boyfriend), visiting my awesome friend Jenn Hee, a trail runner and vegan baker.


We got to explore an extraordinary part of the world and enjoy some truly magical moments, some with my camera, some without. We planted Taro, visited goats, hiked some crazy hikes, checked out some waterfalls, swam in tide pools, snorkelled with a huge pod of dolphins… it’s hard to believe that place is real.


We became pseudo island instagram famous, becoming known as “the Canadians” thanks to Hee’s updates. We were even spotted on the Koko Head trail on our sunrise hike.

When we landed back in Vancouver the captain of the flight hopped on the loud speaker and wanted to personally welcome the passengers “back to reality”  For me, reality isn’t so bad after you’ve accomplished some great adventuring and have a lovely home and work to return to. Happy to be back in reality, and excited for some local summer exploring, until the next travel adventure!

Leigh Righton, Photography

New Orleans

Today my photographer friend, Shannyn Higgins, and I are starting our road trip after a few lovely days hanging about New Orleans. Shannyn has been having trouble pronouncing New Orleans the “local” way, as we have come to understand it, but listening to her attempts is both entertaining and endearing.

Here are some photos of our adventures in NOLA, where we have alligator toured, listened to jazz, and endured some crazy rainfall like I’ve experienced nowhere else.

Leigh Righton

One Year Today

Travel adventures.  I am feeling oh-so nostalgic as it was one year today that I jumped on a plane with Charlyne Yi and Jennifer Hee to embark upon a journey I couldn’t have possibly prepared myself for (although I sure tried)  Most people, including myself, assume that if you’re going to get ill on a trip it would be during your travels through Sri Lanka or India as your body tries to process new foods and new environments.  I however, found myself running around Los Angeles on my one day layover, trying to find a doctor who would accept my travel insurance and put a stop to the fever and general ailment that had me eyeing my proximity to the bathroom wherever I was.  Thanks to Charlyne, who selflessly used up her day to prepare for our five week adventure, to help me resolve this issue before we had to sit on a 16 hour flight.

This trip was over a year in the making between the three of us and Nick Hindman at Orphan Sponsorship International, who generously hosted and planned our visit with the kids.  Charlyne and I had only just got to know each other when she extended an invitation for me to join her and Jenn on this trip that they were planning together.  I knew Jenn was amazing when she welcomed me along as a travel buddy without every having met me.  The first time I saw her in person was when we got in line at the LAX airport to check in together for our flight.  I felt like I already knew her well after all the time we spent chatting and making arrangements over email.

Fortunately, for everyone, my symptoms were cleared by the time I stepped onto our 16 hour flight to Dubai en route to Sri Lanka.  It felt like a miracle, and surprisingly not one of us got sick the entire 5 weeks.  I guess I just got it out of the way!

I could write a million stories about this trip, but for now, here’s a little montage of our adventure that Charlyne created.  It gives me memory goose bumps.

Leigh Righton, Photography

Two Girls – India

I have so many stories from my trip to Sri Lanka and India last October that I guess you could say I’ve been saving them up, hoping to find the right outlet. Even with all these months passed since my return, I still find myself at a loss as to where to begin and what to share.  I am still digesting it all, 8 months later.

I am working on an exhibition to cover my work with the kids in the Sri Lanka and India Orphan Sponsorship International programs, but while that may still be months down the road, I’ve felt compelled to start sharing parts of my journey now.  I can’t tell you why I’m starting with these images, my library from our adventures is full and diverse, but you’ve got to start somewhere and for no known reason at all, this is where I’ll begin.

In India we were  introduced to a group of 42 beautiful young girls involved with the OSI program in India.  These two girls were not a part of the program, but they had snuck into the big open room where we were getting to know the OSI girls.   I had just given a few girls some point-and-shoot cameras and was watching them start to practice.  At one point, I noticed these two girls sitting off to the side watching.  I walked over to them, said hello and giggled with them for a few minutes.  For some reason I found smiles and laughter to be a common way for me to introduce myself to the kids I met there, it worked well since we couldn’t communicate with each other with out native languages.  These two were very sweet and smiley, and pretty quickly they jumped up and waved me over to another area of the building. With every step they would  look over their shoulders to check that I was still with them. They made sure I saw everything in the room by pointing around at each object.  Then they had me walk with them through an arched doorway that felt a little like a hidden cave.  This is where they stood proudly and rather epically. This was obviously the big deal room, even though it was small, it felt important. After the short tour we headed back up to the group.  A few minutes later I saw one of the program facilitators ask them to leave.  Woops, I think I got them in trouble…





Leigh Righton

Prints for sale to fund my trip to Sri Lanka

I have been planning a trip to Sri Lanka and India which I am very excited about.  I will be travelling for a month with two friends of mine (as it turns out all our names rhyme, which must mean something..) and we will be visiting with the kids at the Orphan Sponsorship International.

I will be heading to a number of the OSI sites and have an idea I want to play with while I’m there.  I am trying to round up a few point-and-shoot digital cameras to bring with me and give to the kids to play with.  I plan to use their imagery and mine in an exhibition to help raise awareness and funds to go back to the organization and kids.

This trip comes with a notable price tag, so to help me get there, I am hoping to raise some funds by selling a selection of my prints at a temporary discounted rate.  Choose from the gallery of available works and email me to work out the details.  The images have different dimensions so the print sizes will vary, but a standard enlargement will go for $125 including shipping within Canada.  Please help spread the word and send me an email if you are interested in purchasing a print or donating to my trip!

Gallery of IMAGES available for sale: CLICK ME!