Tag: travel

Photographer Focus: Steven Morris Photography

Want to be excited by truly inspiring Astrophotography and Landscape Photography images? Then check out this latest Photographer Focus article featuring Steven Morris Photography.

Who Is Steven Morris Photography?

My name is Steven Morris and I own/operate Steven Morris Photography. I am thirty-six years old and I live in Adelaide, South Australia.

When Did You First Take Up Photography?

In 2014 it was announced that my job was going to become redundant. I had worked for the company for twelve years. It was during these stressful times, working out how I was going to keep paying my mortgage, that I needed to find something to take my mind off things. So I decided to purchase a telescope and do some star gazing. Something I was always fascinated by but knew very little about.

A friend of mine was capturing and producing Landscape and Milky Way imagery. I became drawn to that and wanted to give it a go. I borrowed my dad’s Nikon D300s and Tokina 11-16 2.8 wide angle lens. And I asked my friend if she would like to show me how to photograph the milky way. Well, my first images were mostly out of focus blobs. My friend was a Canon shooter and didn’t know how to set the optimum Nikon settings. After this, I bought my first Nikon DSLR which was the Nikon D5100.

The telescope that I had at the time was a Celestron 6SE. I had found out that I could connect my Nikon DSLR to this telescope. So I did!

It was that first thirty-second exposure of the Trifid Nebula that made my jaw drop. At that moment my passion for Astrophotography began. And with it many sleepless nights researching and developing my own Astrophotography abilities.

Lanscape Image by Austrailian Photographer Steven Morris

Have you turned “Pro”?

I don’t like the word “Pro”. Mostly because I’m just like everyone else who has a passion for photography. However, I do get paid for my work and running workshops, so then the answer is yes I’m a professional photographer. I turned pro about one and a half years ago.

What styles of photography do you mostly shoot for yourself?

I shoot mostly Astrophotography and Landscape Photography. Well, that is basically all I shoot!

Lanscape Image by Austrailian Photographer Steven Morris

What styles of photography do you shoot for clients?

I get requested now and then to shoot a landscape for someone as they admire my work and have always wanted a photograph of a landscape that is close to them. Other than that, I don’t have many clients as I consider my work to be art and sell it via very low numbered limited edition prints. I do have some people who keep coming back to purchase my prints to be framed for their houses though.

Lanscape Image by Austrailian Photographer Steven Morris

What was your first camera and what do you shoot with now?

My first camera was a Nikon D5100 DSLR. I now photograph with a Nikon D810a DSLR. I also use a Nikon 1 V3 for video footage for upcoming YouTube adventures I wish to create. An inspiration for this has been from Thomas Heaton. But it is strange being in front of the camera!

What is your favorite piece of kit in your camera bag?

My favorite piece of kit would have to be the Nikon D810a. It is Nikon’s first ever dedicated Astro camera. It captures additional detail throughout the milky way by picking up the H-Alpha gasses in space. Also, I like the colors this camera produces for my landscape imagery too.

I would also have to say my favorite lenses so far are the Nikon 14-24 F/2.8, Nikon 35mm F/1.8G, Nikon 70-200 F/2.8, and Nikon 300mm F2.8. And let’s not forget all my Haida Filters and Manfrotto Tripod. I guess I love all my gear!

Lanscape Image by Austrailian Photographer Steven Morris

Any new gear on the horizon that you will be investing in?

Ultimately, I would love to own two 200mm F2 Nikon lenses with 2 x Nikon D810a for some wide field deep space imaging. That is a long-time dream and something that will have to wait for now.

I see you are sponsored by Nikon and by Haida. How did those opportunities come about and what responsibilities does a Brand Ambassador have?

I was introduced to Nikon when I was imaging deep space and they bought out the Nikon D810a Astro camera. It was through this relationship of sharing images that I had taken with my D810a of deep space and Nightscapes that lead to me now teaching Nightscape photography with Nikon through Nikon MySchool Australia in various locations around Australia.

Haida had seen my Astrophotography and asked me if I would like to test out the Haida Clear Night Filter. This is a filter which I absolutely love for Nightscape photography. I use it all the time regardless of dark sky locations because it can also protect the front element of the lens during those cold dewy winter nights. After sending them some images that I had taken, they were so impressed that I was asked to be an Ambassador for the brand here in Australia which I thoroughly enjoy doing because their filters are stunning.

Lanscape Image by Austrailian Photographer Steven Morris

What has been your greatest photography achievement to date?

Greatest photography achievement…..That is a hard one because there are a few. Working with Nikon and Haida are two of my greatest achievements along with my most recent Nightscape image in which I had to wait one whole year for the right conditions to present themselves.

What have been your biggest photography challenges to date?

The biggest photography challenge was shooting a Nightscape image consisting of a hundred and fifty images stitched together. It was fair to say that my computer didn’t like handling a 20Gb file. So the image was kind of scrapped. I also don’t shoot with a robotic pano tool like a Gigapan because it just adds to weight. So in the dark shooting at 70mm focal length whilst trying to maintain a fifty percent overlap between image. It was very challenging.

Lanscape Image by Austrailian Photographer Steven Morris

What photographic projects do you have planned for the rest of 2018?

I have a few images I would still like to capture before the Milky Way season is over. The next shot I’m currently planning is an image of the Milky Way rising above some large sand dunes. I have a location in South Australia I wish to shoot at. Now it is just a matter of scouting the location and waiting for the right moment.

I’m also very excited about 2019. In April I will be in the United Kingdom for a few weeks. My brother had moved to the UK a few years back and is now happily in love and getting married. So I hope to head up to Scotland and Wales (Snowdonia) to shoot some landscapes in my spare time. I don’t know how if the weather will allow me to shoot some Astro. But it will be great if I can!

Lanscape Image by Austrailian Photographer Steven Morris

What advice or tips can you offer to anyone looking to make a career or a lifestyle switch to that of Professional Photography?

My biggest advice would be that it takes time. Don’t rush into it. I mean, don’t quit that job you may dislike and the next day begin your dream as a photographer. Build into it. Build up your portfolio and ask questions to those photographers that inspire you to live the dream you wish to live.

Where and how can people follow your work and keep updated with your photography adventures?

You can head to my website www.stevenmorris.com.au for my latest collections and print purchases. Also, you can follow my work or occasional live feeds on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/stevenmorrisphotographer or over on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/stevenmorrisphotography.

5 Essentials You Must Have in Your Camera Bag

If you want your outdoor adventures to succeed, your camera bag should be comfortable and lightweight. The more comfort you have, the easier it will be to concentrate on photography and not on your body’s level of discomfort. The lighter your camera bag is, the less tempted you’ll be to leave it somewhere and, consequently, lose your valuable possessions.

For a camera bag to be comfortable, it has to contain essentials only, aka items you simply can’t live without on a day-to-day basis. These tools will keep you safe, inspired, and creatively satisfied. Here they are.

 notebook

A Notebook

Stationery lovers, this one’s for you!

No matter where in the world you are, you’re always close to a new opportunity. Opportunities come in the form of ideas, people, locations, or insignificant details. Since it’s easy to forget them while traveling, why not document them in a reliable little notebook?

A notebook can store contact details, places you’d like to revisit, inspiration, and anything else you find important. At the end of your trip, it will provide you with an abundance of valuable information that might lead you to even bigger adventures.

Since you’ll probably use your notebook often, make sure you buy one that has a rough cover. This will ensure that it won’t fall apart after a few quick uses.

business cards

Business Cards

Business cards reflect style, professionalism, and an eagerness to work with others. They’re also much more eye-catching than handwritten notes. After all, you never know who you might bump into outdoors; potential clients, collaborators, and friends might all be waiting for you to provide them with your contact details.

The best thing about business cards is that despite their lightweight, they can have a significant impact on your life. All you have to do is give them out wisely.

mini tripod

Mini Tripod

Mini tripods are small, light, and easy to use in any situation. They’re particularly great for nighttime, landscape, long exposure, and self-portrait photography. The best thing about them is that they can be effortlessly carried wherever you like.

There are all kinds of tripods available online, many of which are conveniently flexible. In addition to keeping your photos sharp, they’ll provide you with new challenges. You’ll get to work with different angles, settings, and perspectives.

memory card and battery

Spare Memory Cards and Batteries

Finding the perfect location only to realize that your camera battery is about to die. Catching that ideal light only to find that you’re out of space. Not going somewhere because you can’t take more photos and you can’t store your current ones anywhere.

All of these scenarios are discouraging. They’re also avoidable.

The more batteries and memory cards you have, the less limited you’ll feel. Try to invest in as many as you can. Keep your most excited self in mind as you decide how much to purchase. Do you tend to shoot nonstop when you’re inspired, or do you take your time to pick the right shot?

I also recommend investing in battery and memory card cases. Both will keep your precious items safe.

clean lens

Cleaning Equipment

Dust is present everywhere. Wiping your lens with a random cloth might result in scratches. If you want to take clean-looking photos without damaging your equipment, you must have a lens cleaner in your camera bag.

Here are a few tools you can use to clean your equipment. All three are very small and easy to use:

  • Lens Pen
  • Blower
  • Microfibre cloth

photographer holding an adventure cup

These essentials will not only make your life easier but keep your body comfortable as you go on trips. They’ll also provide you with new connections, artistic challenges, and space. Most importantly, many of them will keep you happy and safe. As a professional photographer, that’s exactly what you deserve.

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How To Pursue Your Passion: Travel and Photography

The thought of grabbing our camera and landing in a foreign country probably sounds very appealing to us as lovers of photography. New faces, places, images, and experiences are all waiting for us if only we could just figure out a way to make it a reality. Let’s consider some ways that some, including myself, have been able to break free of the typical 9 to 5 job and pursue our passions; travel and photography.

Proper Planning

Plan

Before making any major moves you will want to make sure that you have some sort of safety net in terms of finances. You never know what’s going to happen or what random expenses will present themselves when moving to a foreign area. This is especially true if you don’t have any experience living in a foreign country or with traveling in general. Therefore, having some decent savings is pretty important.

You will want to do research on the cost of living and factor this into your move. For most, they think that living abroad is not plausible because of the expense. Surprisingly though, depending on where you go it can be very affordable. Figure out what typical monthly expenses will be and make sure that with your current savings, even if you don’t have work for some time, will be easily sustainable. For me personally, I am currently living in Thailand and the cost of living, along with what I view as necessary, are really on the low end of things. This enables me to spend less time and money on things that don’t have a big importance in my life. Instead, your money can go towards things that you truly enjoy such as traveling, experiences and camera gear.

Working Abroad

Travel

If you want to do more than just visit places for vacation, the next step would be to find suitable work. There are many ways that can enable you to live in a foreign country for the majority of the year if not the entire year. One way is to work around 3 months back in your home country and then keep your expenses low while living abroad; typically Asian countries are really quite low.

Many have found that working online is another sustainable option. A few people that I know are teaching English online and it’s enough for them. If your English is decent, especially if you’re from America, you can almost always find a job immediately. There are a ton of Asian companies ready to hire, especially if you have some sort of English teaching certificate such as a TEFOL certificate. If you have a bachelors degree you can expect to be making more right off the bat as well.

Working in a foreign country is also a possibility but most of the time you should expect to make less than you would in your home country. It also usually requires a sponsorship from a local business in that country and a special type of visa. This is not the most hassle-free option, especially if you plan to be constantly traveling, but it has worked for many people as a sustainable option if they plan to stay put for a while.

Make The Most Of Your Travels

Sahara

As a creative individual, you will find so many new/fresh opportunities to expand your portfolio. Don’t get caught up in the vacation mindset so much that you don’t take these opportunities seriously. Use the time you are away to make the most of your new surroundings and experiences. Take your camera with you everywhere and make the effort to create daily. In this way, you will make your portfolio that much more diverse while at the same time saving those precious memories.

Many people that I know have taken the images that they were able to capture and sold them as both stock video and photography. If you are in hard to reach locations or really foreign looking areas, take advantage of it! Capture as much footage of the area as if you were covering it professionally. You can then upload these clips online and people can pay you to use the photos or the footage. This can be another form of income.

With some proper planning and forethought, following your passion for foreign lands can be a possibility!

Keep learning and have fun!

A Taste of Indonesia: My Adventures as a Photographer in Bali

Many people woke up to see news about the eruption of Mt. Agung in Indonesia on November 21st, 2017. Following this global news coverage, there was a sudden spotlight shifted to the specific island where this volcano resides, Bali. What is this part of Indonesia like for someone who loves travel and photography? For the most part, the news stations were only sharing doom and gloom photos from the eruption. Due to this, it probably didn’t make it seem too appealing for travels unless you’re a photographer who has always wanted to photograph a volcano eruption.

I had the pleasure of visiting this location last year and actually hiked an active volcano just north-west of the one that exploded. I’d like to share my personal experiences with you all in order to convince you that this is a place that you should definitely visit.

Where to Visit

Most people who end up visiting Bali spend most of their time in the southern part of the Island. There are many beaches, restaurants and it’s convenient because it’s close to the airport. I would strongly advise you to stay far away from this area. I believe the worst thing you can do when traveling to a foreign country is getting caught up in tourist traps with hundreds of people. So many people use their precious vacation time and money to travel to a foreign place and end up getting a very fake, commercial experience.

In order to avoid this, you want to make sure to travel as far north as possible. I would say that the town of Ubud is about the lowest south that you would want to go. The real beauty of this island is found in the almost untouched nature in the far north. Find a place to stay as far north as possible and then spend your time taking in a natural beauty.

Bali

I would recommend renting a motorbike. Renting a bike is quite easy and affordable but if you’ve never ridden before I would do so with extreme caution. The roads are extremely narrow and not always in the best condition.

Once you’ve booked a nice place and gotten some transportation it’s time to explore!

Volcanoes

Bali

There are 3 main volcanoes on the island. Mt. Batur, Mt. Agung and Mt Rinjani (all of them you can hike). Even though the recent eruption might scare you, serious eruptions like the one in November are rare. The most active one is Mt. Batur but as long as your check prior to doing the hike you should be totally fine.

Mt. Batur is the easiest and quickest one to climb. I woke up at 4 am and reached the summit for sunrise by around 6 am. It’s a pretty strenuous climb especially if you’re carrying your camera gear but if you’re in decent shape you should be able to do it no problem.

The scenery was absolutely stunning. The variety of plants along with the amazing views are something I’ll never forget. Once you reach the top you sit overlooking a serene lake that sits at the base of another massive mountain. You can also see where past eruptions in the past have charred the ground which is something I’ve never seen before in person. I would highly recommend doing this for the amazing experience and great photo opportunities.

Waterfalls

There are many waterfalls on the island of Bali. Of course, you can easily find the ones that will be crowded with people but how can you find those amazing yet secluded places? One way is by using Instagram geotags. My friends and I look through travel photographers Instagram profiles and look at where they pinned their locations. It’s also good to follow Instagram profiles of people who are locals there. You can easily find great locations using this method.

My brothers and I found an amazing location using this method. We borrowed a car from a friend and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere far out in the northern part of the island. Eventually, we came across these barely visible signs and after about 30 mins of hiking, we came across an absolutely stunning location. We had it all to ourselves.

Bali

Photographing Locals

As a person who loves street photography, I found this location to be extremely suitable for this type of style. The locals are incredibly kind and easy to interact with. As long as you go up with a smile and are respectful, they are more than happy to let you take their photo. I don’t think I got denied once. One family even thanked me after I took their photo as if it was their privilege!

Bali

The location of Bali, especially in the north, is filled with tons of culture and lush scenery. You come across so many foreign looking structure and fascinating temples. The people also seem like they belong straight out of some foreign documentary. This a place where you definitely don’t want to ever be without your camera.

I would highly recommend this as one of the best spots that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting thus far in Asia. If you ever get a chance, take the opportunity to fully explore and take some amazing pictures!

Keep learning and have fun!

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A Taste of Burma: My Adventures as a Photographer in Myanmar

If you asked most people to locate Burma (Myanmar) on a map they wouldn’t be able to. I fit into this category and visiting this country had never even crossed my mind. I knew nothing about the country, culture or what to even expect. This all changed when two of my friends who are currently learning Burmese asked if I wanted to join them for a week to visit the countries capital, Yangon. I immediately booked the ticket without even doing any prior research. Little did I know it would become one of my favorite places that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting in Asia.

The Atmosphere

When visiting most major cities you can immediately sense the influence of western culture. You can see how it affects the way people dress, the way people act and their food. It’s almost like many cultures have lost a sense of their own identity as a result of the far-reaching effects of western influences.

When I landed in Yangon, I was expecting to see this right after I landed at the airport. To my surprise, I didn’t. The way people dressed, the food and the way the people acted impressed on my mind that they were, in fact, a unique people.  A people that still had an understanding of who they were apart from the rest of the world.

Burma

The first thing that stands out is the way they dress. Both the men and women wear a traditional type of clothing called a Longyi. They come in a variety of different materials and patterns. It is a very respectful yet beautiful style in my opinion, especially on the women. Both men and women dress in this manner even when they are spending leisure time with their families or doing normal daily tasks.

As an example, I took a local 3-hour train ride that went through the countryside. The train was mainly filled with farmers and monks but most of them still seemed to be dressed as if they were on their way to a special occasion. We would stop at a random farmers market in the middle of nowhere and they would still be dressed like this. It seems to be standard procedure.

Burma

The next thing that stood out to me was the food. It was beautiful blend of Indian and Asian flavors. Around every corner, you could smell something that would make you hungry, even if you’ve already eaten. As a general rule of them, even if you know nothing about the area, find a place that’s packed with locals and you’ll be in for a treat.

How to Photograph People in Burma

People in foreign countries usually love it when a foreigner puts in the effort to learn their local language. Usually, it will end up in them wanted to give you some pointers or in some instances them wanting to actually give you food or a gift of some sort. The goal is to show respect and to try and elicit a smile. Once you’ve got these two things you’re golden.

With that being said, the first thing I learned in Burmese was, “Can I take your picture?” I would walk up to people, smile, show them my camera and repeat the phrase until they could understand me.

Most of the time they would smile and laugh as if what I was asking was some sort of privilege for them. Sometimes they would even grab their friends or ask someone for advice on how they can pose. After a photo was taken I would usually show them the photo. It was almost a way to say thank you and they always seemed to appreciate it.

Burma

 

Thinking back, I think I only got turned down twice the entire week I was there. I can’t state it enough, the people are so incredibly kind. Their kindness comes across even without speaking to them, it’s quite amazing.

If you’re looking for more candid natural expressions, one method that gets consistent results is using your flip out LCD on your camera if you have one. Find a very crowded area where you won’t stand out. Keep your camera below your face and look down at your LCD screen and just shoot as people pass by. No one seems to mind or even notice you. They think you’re either looking at your camera settings or photographing something else.

Burma

If you ever get a chance to travel to this part of the world don’t hesitate! Get out there and try to soak up as much as you can from this wonderful and interesting place known as Burma.

Keep learning and have fun!

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Six Dolomitic Destinations a Landscaper Couldn’t (And Shouldn’t) Miss

For who don’t know, Dolomites are a group of many mountains located in Italy, between the regions of Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige.These peaks are known for their bizarre shapes, formed millions of years ago because of many erosions.Over the years The Dolomites became among the most visited mountains in the World and many tourists from different countries go for miles on foot to admire the magnitude of that peaks or enjoy atomic sunsets.As that places are so peculiar and full of drama, many landscapes photographers search inspiration there and the business of photo workshops is greatly fruitful.  seceda dolomitesThis is why, as I explored The Dolomites for years, many foreign photographers asked me a lot of information about spots and places to visit there.Of course, every angle of this area should be explored, and there are wonderful locations are not included in this article cause I should write a book about all the places to visit in the Dolomites… this is why I’ve chosen the six most powerful locations where I tried the strongest feelings as a photographer and as human.

1. Mount Seceda 

Seceda is part of the Odle group, in Val Gardena, in the province of Bozen. You can reach the summit of the mountain with a cable car from Ortisei and be at about 2500 min 15 minutes. There you can admire the imperiousness of the inclined Seceda peak turned towards the valleys and other mountains of South Tyrol, until the Austrian peaks like mount Großglockner. Behind your sight, you will recognize some of the most famous mountains and massifs in the Dolomites, like Langkofel, Plattkofel, and Sella group. As a photographer you can use many different kinds of lenses there; I think the best focal length to immortalize Seceda is 24mm even if telephoto lenses are necessary to create images of the far peaks, that are very fascinating, especially in a misty nightfall.  According to my photographic tastes, I think that the best time to take great shots of Seceda is in the foggy days, especially when fast clouds, lower than the summit of the mountain, move against this one; this kind of weather can be present in every season, particularly in Autumn and Spring.

 2. Seiser Alm

Coming up by car from Kastelruth you will arrive in a little town of hotels named Compatsch. If you park and proceed by a walk on a restricted traffic route, you’ll discover a little and pacific rural environment at the foot of the majestic Langkofel and Plattkofel mounts.During your shooting time you can play with the curves of hills, and little details of them, like trees and little alpine lodges. I recommend focal lengths from 24mm to 70mm even if also telephoto lenses could be used to capture details of the valley and far mountains.A foggy weather is perfect to take pictures in Seiser Alm; I really love when the light of the sun or the moon creates visible oblique rays that illuminate the fog and are contrasted by the shadows of the elements in the valley. My award-winning picture “The magic of the night” is an example of the disarming beauty of Seiser Alm bounded by the mist at the moonlight.The best months of the year to visit this fairy location are May, June, July, during the flowering of the meadows, October, November and in the wintertime (but only if the hills are covered by the snow).seiser alm dolomites

3. Lagazuoi hut   

Lagazuoi is a mount located in the Dolomites near Cortina D’Ampezzo, lying at an altitude of 2835 m. It contains a mountain hut, accessible by cable car in few minutes, which has one of the best panoramic views in the Dolomites.   This is why I consider it a landscaper friendly location: every kind of lens, especially from a focal length of 24mm to higher, is addicted thanks to a view rich of peaks, valleys, trees and every kind of detail.Every month of the year is great to visit Lagazuoi hut, above all, when low clouds form a kind of “sea” and only the highest peaks come out from them. The funniest thing is that, at that altitude, the weather changes very fastly! This is why you can take shots of a red sunset and immediately after of some lightning.lagazuoi pelmo croda da lago cortina sorapiss sorapis

4. Lake Sorapiss

At the foot of the Dito di Dio (God Finger) peak is located the most colorful body of water in the Alps. Sorapiss is characterized by an intense turquoise water, given by the rocks at the bottom of the lake.You can arrive at this fairy place from Passo Tre Croci, near Misurina (district of Auronzo di Cadore), in about two hours and it’s possible to book at the Vandelli hut, near the lake.A colored sunset or a shiny sunrise can help you to take a memorable capture of this location, even if the totality of the lake makes the most of the “wow effect”.I recommend a wide-angle lens to get a large visual of the mountains and the water, with some rocks in the foreground.You can visit Sorapiss lake from the thaw in May until the first ices at the beginning of November.

  5. Vajolet Towers

When you reach the “Gartl” hollow after a sloping rocky trail, you may think to be in another lonely world; and on your right, there are three majestic bastions called Vajolet Towers. On your left, there is a yellow house which is the Re Alberto I hut and in front of it is placed a little pluvial lake. The rocky garden of the “Gartl” hollow is located at 2621 m between the Fassa valley and the municipality of Tires, in South Tyrol. Photographers can take shots from many points of view like the lake and use some rocks as foreground.The best lens for this location is a wide angle, that’s especially addicted to the nightscapes lovers, cause the sky at that altitude is very clear and deep.The way to reach Re Alberto I hut from Pera di Fassa is long but you can get really warm hospitality and discover the taste of Italian and Tyrolean food at the hut; I will never forget the polenta with cheese before my shooting time.Re Alberto I hut is open from the end of June to the end of September and the best weather is, of course, a red cloudy sunset but if a dark night follows it.stars vajolet towers milky way

6. Tre Cime di Lavaredo

I couldn’t avoid writing about Tre Cime (Three Peaks), a place that every tourist knows, a classic postcard of the Italian Alps. You can reach the Locatelli hut from Auronzo hut by a more than one hour walk. The trail is boring, but when you are in front of the Three Peaks can’t stop to admire their majesty.I suggest you take a look also at lakes of Piani, two bodies of water behind the Locatelli hut.I recommend you to use a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens only to take shots at far peaks like Cadini di Misurina or Dreischusterspitze. Tre Cime di Lavaredo are fascinating in every period of the year, with every weather (even if I personally prefer a partially cloudy sky in the daytime and a clear night). Be sure that in Winter the trail is walkable and there isn’t ice on it.tre cime

Moscow Throughout the Seasons: An Inviting Adventure to Photography

Moscow, though often associated with endless coldness, goes through a variety of unique seasons. Every month possesses an air of mysteriousness; however, despite the unreliability of the weather, a creative opportunity is always waiting to be found and cherished. In this article, you’ll be introduced to the unpredictable seasons of Moscow, from freezing winter months to welcoming spring days. I hope this gives you a better idea of what this grand city is like throughout the year.

Moscow’s Winter

Winters are unrelenting in Moscow’s more rural areas. The city is treated kinder than surrounding villages, providing visitors with warm stores and outdoor food stands. Exploring the city’s streets often feels like observing everything through fogged up glass. The snow, often reminiscent of the violent storms one sees in documentaries, seems to speak of endless cold days and silence (save for the endless traffic, which is at its busiest). This time of year in Moscow is perfect for cozy indoor shoots. Those who have the time and desire to experiment with studio photography will find themselves thriving during this time. The brave individuals who do step outside are often provided with outstanding photo opportunities. Whichever option you choose if you ever visit the city, remember to dress warmly and have a thermos (or two) with you at all times!

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In villages, the silencing atmosphere can be either comforting or intimidating, depending on how much of a city person you are. Village homes are covered in thin layers of frost. It’s not uncommon to see chickens huddling and clucking busily, completely familiar with the season’s harshness. The sight is so unique that one can’t help but take photos of everything, even if the temperature threatens to freeze any exposed skin. Though this time of year is considered the most discouraging, it holds uplifting treasures for those who listen, observe, and create.

Moscow’s Spring

In the spring, magic resides in details. Winter’s ice cold hands finally begin to thaw, leaving behind signs of exhilarating life. This is a hopeful and tender time of year filled with long days and sweet-smelling parks. Colors slowly begin to bleed into the picture; though they’re not as intense as summer’s bursts of color, their presence is strong enough to lift even the heaviest of spirits. This, of course, is necessary after months of dullness. Spring, unlike winter, is ideal for outdoor shoots. The floral additions, rejuvenating golden hours, and energizing mornings promise gorgeous wedding, portrait, and nature shots. Those who love anything flower related in the creative world will find joy in the middle of the month when the flowers lose their shyness and confidently step into the world.

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Moscow’s Summer

Summer enters the scene grandly, like a relative you can always rely on. It lazily walks around, each step a day full of hazy thoughts and memories. The heat in Moscow isn’t unbearable, much to everyone’s relief. There may be days when the very center of the city seeks to burn your skin, but that is often impossible to predict beforehand. (This is why it’s always handy to have access to suncream and a hat.) It’s during this time of year that photographers of all sorts can thrive. Golden hours and longer days generously spend their time with people, promising endless creativity. The endlessness is so comforting and believable that for a moment, it’s possible to forget that the colder months are just around the corner. However, summer has a way of removing that fear and we almost, almost, don’t mind it when autumn knocks on the door with a suitcase full of leaves.

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Moscow’s Autumn

This is a product of summer and winter, a realm between two very different worlds. Autumns in Moscow are crisp morning air, dry hands, and the foretelling of a renewed cycle. This is a time of preparation, of finding warmth before the winter calls the city’s name. Autumns are perhaps the most wonderful time of year for fashion and portrait photographers. Before the leaves depart, Moscow is a golden nest ideal for portraiture, landscapes, and everything in between. The lack of intense coldness allows for relatively comfortable shoots; at the same time, the chilly weather makes coming home all the more pleasant.

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And just like that, the cycle begins all over again, each season waiting for an artist to capture its best and worst sides.

An Autumn Morning in Cyprus and Self-Reflections

Autumns in Cyprus are a blur of fog, crunchy leaves, and rainy (self) reflections. Every autumn, my family and I would spend hours collecting refreshing water, hiking, and taking quirky photos in the mountains. Since Cyprus is a fairly humble little island free of endless traffic jams, getting to places requires no effort at all. This easiness allows the island’s inhabitants to freely explore the entire island. In the autumn, this is particularly useful.

There was a certain year when autumn grandly announced its arrival and showered the island with shades of amber and brown. Everybody was in a state of perpetual awe during this enchanting time; most people were either taking snapshots all the time or simply absorbing, wide-eyed, the bountiful supply of picturesque scenes. I was amongst the former, dutifully photographing both landscapes and details with any camera I could get my hands on. It was a refreshing period of time which put us all in a world where worries concerning time and pain didn’t exist. Because every individual had the chance to experience this worry-less reality, even if temporarily, more people seemed to get along. It was as if the season had cast a spell of tranquility on us all, blocking all resentment from entering our newfound bubble of safety.

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The mountains’ personality changes along with the time of day. Aware of this fact, we decided to visit the mountains before they awakened. On a cozy morning, we packed spinach pie and a thermos full of hot tea and went looking for an adventure. On our way there (a trip that takes no longer than an hour and a half), we spotted a shepherd herding a flock of sheep. The group was carefully hidden behind a timid layer of fog, a ghostly yet comforting reminder of a simpler life. Such a sight, though common in the mountains, is a rare occurrence in the city itself. This is why exploration is precious – you could visit the same location over and over again, but the creative opportunities it would provide you with would always be diverse and endless. Finding unexpected situations to photograph is an absolute joy for us all. The good news is that you needn’t go far to experience this joy.

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Around 30 minutes into the trip, we stopped to grab a few snacks in our favorite store, a place that smells like the best bakery in the world mixed with the wondrous scent of forests. There, we spotted another unexpected moment: birds appearing out of nowhere like fountains in the sky. They quickly and elegantly flew around the area, leaving behind mild echoes and feather souvenirs. This, combined with Birdy’s cover of the song Skinny Love, left an unforgettable mark on me. Though the grandiosity of this moment might not have abandoned me in the years to come, I would’ve forgotten to remember it had it not been for the images I took during that experience. It is for this reason – that significant yet unpredictable moment, when documented in one form or another, stay with us forever – that I cherish photography and everything it has to offer.

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Entering the heart of the mountains was, as always, akin to a sigh of relief. Our favorite spot, an outdoor space where visitors could relax and collect fresh water, was located next to an abandoned little shed surrounded by a stream. In another environment, this would’ve been a disconcerting view; in the autumnal morning mountains, it was a visually appealing comfort. We spent the rest of the morning nibbling on goodies, discussing the beauty of the chilly season, and taking comfortable walks in the area. Every moment felt strangely endless, and in a way it was. When I go through the photographs I took back then, I find myself reliving every vivid moment as if it only happened a week ago. To quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five: “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

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I encourage you to visit all kinds of places, even your own backyard, and to look at them through the eyes of a curious observer. In that world of inquisitive thoughts, you will find exactly what you need, especially things you never knew you needed. There is endless value in being both present and photo-ready on this unpredictable, marvelous, colorful earth.

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Life in the mountains of Cyprus

Cyprus – an island neatly located in the Mediterranean Sea – is filled with scrumptious food, fresh air, and a welcoming mountain range known as Troodos. The mountains peacefully reside in the center of the island, distancing themselves enough from surrounding cities to be considered a land of their own. Throughout balmy summer months, this distance serves as a haven of sorts, providing desperate tourists with fresh springs, pleasant hiking trails, and welcoming cafés. This combination of delights creates an indescribable calmness in the heart.

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In addition to being picturesque, the mountain range is barely inhabited. More often than not, it’s very possible to find secret, harmless corners after hours of hiking. Picnic spots are scattered all over the mountains; simple yet charming benches and tables wait for friendly visitors each day. The intimacy of such hidden spots makes its discoverers feel very welcome, giving them the idea that the place has been patiently waiting just for them. Such places are usually accompanied by an incredible view of the surrounding area. Since intimidating constructions aren’t a common sight in the mountains of Cyprus, stunning views are rarely blocked.

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Amongst the many hidden corners smartly placed in the mountains, the calmest one is a dam. To reach it, one has to take a sudden left turn after driving for around an hour from Limassol, Cyprus’ southern city. Though the road is slightly precarious and very muddy, the destination erases any discomfort that may have emerged during the journey. The dam, a deep blue on cheerful days, is a pleasant introduction to the view that is to come. Walking past it will reveal an almost untouched forest filled with wooden picnic spots. Here, photographers can rest and take incredible pictures, an experience which won’t leave them exhausted and hungry. The picnic spots are both photogenic and sturdy, allowing for great shots and pleasant meals.

The forest itself is fairly large and inviting, a place ideal for group hikes. Reaching the top of the hill will provide you with an incredible view of the dam and the mountains beyond. For those who own wide-angle lenses and love panoramas, this view is guaranteed to be a portfolio-filling treasure. Those who have other kinds of cameras and lenses will also benefit greatly from this location. The beauty of Cyprus’ mountains lies in the consistency of nature; no matter where you go, you can expect an encounter with a breathtaking place.

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Nature thrives in the mountains. Since winters aren’t harsh (a light sprinkling of snow represents the colder months), everything appears beautifully fresh. It’s not uncommon for an exotic butterfly to land on your finger or for a hedgehog to busily cross the road (don’t worry, they rarely get hurt.) The lack of people provides visitors with a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with nature in its rawest form. This experience might be particularly fascinating to photographers coming from big cities, though wildlife-loving artists will perhaps benefit from this most.

Those who call the mountains their home have found a way to live in peace with nature. There’s much land that hasn’t been touched in years, though the earth that does get used produces incredibly delectable fruits and vegetables as if it’s grateful for a chance to be productive. All of this can be witnessed during the journey to the mountains; in the summer and spring, one can experience the indescribable beauty of fields filled with watermelons, grapes, and apple trees. Many locals happily welcome curious tourists and share their endless gardens with them. After such a trip, every visitor leaves a local’s home with appetizing fruit.

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If visitors wish, they can either stay at a hotel or sleep in their cars. While the latter might sound unappealing, nothing beats the opportunity to watch a blindingly breathtaking night sky. There are special camping grounds for those who enjoy a deep sense of adventure; visiting these parts before the summer begins will help you enter a completely new world.  Since summers attract an abundance of tourists, the weeks before its beginning are ideal for those who dream of a little more solitude. Paying a few euros will give you access to a night in a peaceful location completely surrounded by nature. In the morning, the adventurous possibilities are unlimited: hiking, eating at a humble little café, searching for mushrooms, and most importantly, taking photos of everything in the process. This, you’ll discover, is the definition of bliss.

Best use of foreground in your images: Enhancing your photos today

An important factor to photography is not only our background but also our foreground. Foreground can be used in many different ways in your photography by framing your subject, adding texture, and design to an image, which can all lead your eye to your main subject. Foreground can also tell more of the story in your image and pull you into the image.
To some of us photographers, foregrounds can become a little daunting and intimidating because we worry about distractions within an image. This is one factor that I think we can all grow and experiment with in our photographs. Making a foreground work in an image can really create a more artistic photograph altogether and also tell more of a story. Here are a few tips on how to create photographs with a great use of foreground.

Since photography is a two-dimensional art form you will want to add some depth into your image to let your viewer feel as though they can step into the image. Using a foreground will add some depth and dimension to your image. One of the simplest and also important ways to make a foreground work is your knowledge of the depth of field. You can use a shallow or deep depth of field depending on the subject you are trying to photograph. If you are photographing a landscape you will want to keep a deep depth of field if it is a wide-angle shot. What if it’s a telephoto photograph and your image is compressed, such as wildlife photography? In this case, a deeper depth of field could add a little bit of distraction. In this case using a shallow depth of field could frame your image and add some environment without causing distractions.

Foreground

Foreground

There are different ways to work with a foreground based on your subject. When you are photographing a landscape it can be as the reflection in a pond or body of water from your landscape or image. This is a great way to show mood in your photography. Getting lower in your image will help improve your vanishing point and bring some drama into your image. A popular landscape photography image is a road using the leading lines into your vanishing point and a simple way to show depth in your image.

Foreground

The foreground is most commonly used to frame your subject and works for people and landscapes.For example, if you set your subject behind a bush or tree you can use the leaves or greenery in the foreground to frame your subject’s face. This shows a sense of the environment that you are in, showing not only what is behind of your subject but also in the front. If you use a shallow depth of field this will show the environment without becoming distracting. One popular portrait idea that works with creative foregrounds is to have your subject hold an item out in front of them as a focus point.

Foreground

Foreground

Foreground

Foreground

Now that we have talked about foreground and background in our images we want to work all of these factors into one image. The easiest way to think of working with a foreground, middle ground, and background is if you can find three layers in an image. Your foreground doesn’t have to be far away from your subject either, it can be as simple as people walking in the foreground or a glowing sign in front of a building.

Foreground

Foreground

Some ways that your foreground could be distracting is if it’s sharper than your subject. You want to make sure that your focus is still the main point of your image and you have to remember the rules of backgrounds and incorporate that into foregrounds.When we talk about focus we are not only talking about the sharpness but what’s bringing the subject into focus. Make sure your focus point is the sharpest and also the brightest object in your subject. If you have a light background and foreground you can contrast that with a darker color. Objects that are brighter, lighter, or more saturated than your subject tend to become a distraction.

Foreground

Foreground

The foreground is not only a good technical skill to have in your photography but also a great way to boost your creativity and bring more oomph into an image.

Get Creative with an App – Cool Smartphone Apps for Photography

Smartphones have made our lives a lot easier especially for photographers. The continuous developments in technology and gadgets with improvised cameras on smartphones, allow us to capture any moment in one click. They also come with a range of applications to choose from for photo editing. Having used smartphones for a while now, some of my personal go to apps would be Snapseed, Hipstamatic, VSCO and SKRWT. Here are some tips about using these apps and why I have preferred them every time.

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Snapseed

Snapseed has always been my go-to app for editing most of my images; it’s like using Photoshop but a lot simpler. Snapseed is an app developed by Google, and it is available for iOS and Android. It is a well-developed app with all the necessary features you need to create crisp, clean and vibrant images. Editing with Snapseed allows you to play around with various features to create a picture that suits your taste.

snapseed2-sleeklens Before Edit

When you open the app, you pick an image that you’d like to edit. After choosing your image, you create the edit by selecting the features as shown below.

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After you choose the features and adjustments you need for your image, you click save, and you will have the edited image as seen below.

Some of the features I used in this edit were Tune Image, Structure, Drama and Blur. The Tune Image feature can be used to play with the brightness, contrast, saturation, ambience, highlight, shadow and warmth by increasing or decreasing them accordingly. To improve the details of the image, you can use structure by increasing it. I choose mostly not to sharpen my image depending on the need. Features like drama, blur or HDR, can be utilized depending on the mood you want to portray in the photo.

Standby Bikes at Old Town Standby Bikes at Old Town, Jakarta

There are other features in Snapseed which are worth trying like selective adjust when you want to brighten or darken a particular area in your image. The HDR scape feature can be used when you have people or landscapes in your image and would like to draw more attention to detail on them. The Black and White feature is also quite useful to transform your images from colour to Black and White.

SKRWT

Ever captured an image that is not in perfect symmetry? Unable to find the right app to get it in place?… SKRWT is the answer. It is relatively a newer app than Snapseed but works perfectly for putting your pictures into perspective. This app is available for iOS and Android.

skrwt2-sleeklens Before Edit

As you open the app, you choose your image, for example, the above image and then start playing around with the features to create your perspective. See image below.

skrwt-sleeklens After Edit

I enjoy using this app as the available features are easy to use, and you can quickly create an exceptional alignment and structure to your images. They also have a very active Instagram account with useful tips and discussions on photography.

VSCO

VSCO is an app with a variety of filters/presets to give your images a touch of nostalgia or clarity depending on the filter you choose. It also has a photo sharing community and is available on iOS and Android. This is my go-to app when I want to create a classic or mellow image.

After choosing preset After choosing preset

VSCO can be used to capture, edit and share images. Using the same image as SKRWT, I’d like to complete the picture processing with VSCO. Once you open the app and add your image, you can choose which preset you like. After selecting the preset you can use the other features to adjust brightness, contrast, highlight, saturation, sharpen, fade, etc. to compose your image. See picture below after the complete process.

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Hipstamatic

Last but not least, my all-time favorite app Hipstamatic. This app is only available on iOS. Hipstamatic is an app that provides you with numerous Film, Lens, and Flash to shoot. Recently, they have added the editing feature so; you can use any image from your camera roll and edit it using Hipstamatic film and lens. Trying to find the right combo for your images can be a challenge when you start using the app. But, as you use the app you understand more how it works. There are Instagram accounts like Hipstaconnect that help you with challenges on a weekly basis to familiarize yourself with the app.

hipstamatic-sleeklens Before Edit

When you open the app, you can choose the image you like and then choose one of the combos available at the bottom or create your combo of film, lens, and flash. See image below.

hipstamatic2-sleeklens Basel combo

After choosing the preferred combo, you can make other adjustments like brightness, contrast, fade, saturation, clarity, texture, depth of field, etc. to the image. See image below.

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This is the second preferred app for me as it has a variety of features with specific details that you can use to create an image. The final version of the image after the edits can be seen below.

hipstamatic4-sleeklens ‘Si Jagur’ the Canon at Old City, Jakarta

There are some apps we can use to create images that suit our creativity and style. But, it is always best to draw it down to those very few that work for you regarding features and usage. The more apps you have, the harder, it will be for you to produce images fitting your style. Variety can make it confusing to pick the right app. If the app has useful features, is user-friendly and produces excellent images, it makes you want to keep going back to the app to edit your images. The apps above have worked for me till date as I always go back to them for all my edits.

Make your editing process a fun and creative aspect, to compose images into a stunning moment.

Exploring A Museum: The Tales of the Art-Loving Photographer

Guard, Vatican Museum
Guard, Vatican Museum

I go to museums not just for the art and artifacts, but for the photographic possibilities. In fact, truth be told, I would be bored by some of the world’s museums if it weren’t for a camera in my hand. I recently visited the Vatican Museum and its over-the-top collection of religious-themed paintings and pope-abilia pretty much left me numb, but I gleefully went about the halls with my Canon 5DMIII and 24-70mm lens recording everything but the exhibitions. A great way to spend the morning.

D'Orsay Museum, Paris
D’Orsay Museum, Paris

People Watching

There’s an amazing variety of people strolling museums. You have those geeking out over the displays while others are a little less committed—usually companions of the first category. They’re all fascinating to watch and if the moment is a right photograph.It’s easy to do this stealthily so you get unselfconscious poses (see my post for more about shooting from the hip). After all, you’re in a museum and even if a camera is pointed towards someone, they assume you’re actually photographing the collections. It may sound silly, but I have a whole portfolio of people taking pictures of paintings. For some reason, it seems odd to me how some will blow through a room, pausing only long enough to stretch out their arms, peer through an LCD and record the artwork. Oh, sure, if you want to look at it in terms of efficiency, they’re maximizing the time and they can view the art at a more leisurely pace at home. But there’s something about sticking your nose up against a Van Gogh and examining the brush strokes that makes seeing the original so special.

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Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

Getting back to image making, I set my shutter to the quietest setting Canon’s engineers were able to manage on a DSLR and juice the ISO to whatever is tolerable in terms of noise. Usually, anything from 1600 to 3200 will do the trick so I get a decent balance of hand-holdable shutter speeds and not too much noise. The color temperature of the lighting is anything but consistent in these places, so I wing it with a manual, tungsten setting and figure I’ll have to adjust the color later in Lightroom.

Hirschorn Museum, Washington, D.C.
Hirschorn Museum, Washington, D.C.

Architecture

Then again, forget the exhibitions and the people. Many museums are amazing structures and deserve to be photographically appreciated. That goes for the outside as well as on the inside. For example, the D’Orsay in Paris (the opening photograph) is a converted train station and a wonderful subject for interiors. A few museums have amazing, sometimes ornate, stairways that are worth seeking out.Some museums exhibit outdoor sculptures. Sometimes the building itself is a sculpture disguised as a museum. In either case, you have the opportunity for playing with the curves and lines, often in abstract compositions.

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National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

There are also water fountains and some courtyards. Depending on the time of day, sunlight streams through in beautiful, playful ways. Shadows interplay with that light as well as the structure itself. You could spend all day just photographing a museum’s grounds and never step inside.

Rules

Okay, I hope I’ve disabused any notion you might have that museum can be stuffy places, but just the same, those who run them can be rather protective of their spaces. That means, of course, there are usually rules as to what you can and cannot do with a camera. Rarely, a museum will restrict photography altogether, but make sure you know what they do allow.

Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California

Often, where the collection involves older, fragile artwork, flash isn’t allowed to prevent the bright pops from fading the work over time (I wonder if anyone has actually tested this to see if it’s scientifically provable). No matter. These days just pump up the ISO if you’re truly interested in photographing the displays. A little noise in the picture is better than no picture at all.

Perhaps the larger issue, don’t bother bringing a tripod. I haven’t been to a museum yet that allowed them and it’s just bad form to spread the tripod legs out in a crowd of people. True, a monopod won’t cause the same hazards as a tripod, but they look a little dangerous nonetheless and I suspect you’ll have a guard swooping in on you with finger wagging. If I need a little extra support, I’ll brace the camera against a doorway or there might be some piece of furniture that works. Or, as I said before, I’ll just raise the ISO.

Lastly, I suggest bringing nothing more than a camera body with one lens, my favorite being a 24-70mm. The museum may have a rule against you carrying a large bag with you—you’ll have to check it at the door—and besides it’s much easier to operate in a confined space if all you’re lugging is a single camera.

Whether traveling or just bopping about your hometown, I highly recommend checking out a museum or two. You might get a little education, which isn’t such a bad thing, plus you’ll likely come away with some fun, or even great, images.

Moscow and St. Petersburg – Basics about Russia for photographers

Being the largest country in the World, Russia has many different places that provide photographers plenty of subjects, ranging from natural landscapes to probably some of the best environments for street photography. In terms of travel photography, two of the most well known cities, namely Moscow and St. Petersburg, contain a cultural heritage and a combination of famous landmarks and small streets that will leave any visiting photographer with that feeling of ‘I should go back’.

Both cities are the most visited ones by tourists inside Russia and, while both are wonderful destinations, each one has its own atmosphere and differ in many aspects with each other. Being closer to western Europe and the capital of imperial Russia until 1918 when the Bolchevique revolution took over power, St. Petersburg has a more Europe-like feeling while Moscow has a more traditional atmosphere, making it a great place for street photography as well.

Moscow

One of the things I love about traveling is the feeling I get when standing in front of landmarks that I’ve seen thousands of times in pictures. One of those times was when I stepped out of the Okhotnyy Ryad metro station, turning around and suddenly seeing the Red Square and the St. Basil’s Cathedral in front of me. That said, the Red Square alone provides an incredible number of subjects and points of view so it is definitely worth it to keep coming back during the length of your trip with different light conditions.

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The Red Square is surrounded by the St. Basil’s Cathedral on one end and the State Historical Museum on the other. On one of the long sides, the Kremlin and the Lenin’s Mausoleum are located and on the opposite side the so-called GUM, which is a shopping mall with an incredible architectural design for a place to go shopping.

Another religious building that stands out in the capital city is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the tallest Orthodox Christian church in the world. The current building is pretty new, built after the fall of the Soviet Union on the same spot where the original church, which was demolished on the order of Stalin in 1931.

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Although all the famous landmarks and buildings are definitely worth visiting, a trip to Moscow is not complete until you spend some time trying to merge with the locals. Getting lost in some of the streets can be an incredibly rewarding experience from the photography point of view, but be careful since, as any big city, Moscow can be dangerous. Read some travel guides before embarking on the trip and follow any advice they provide on this matter. And don’t forget to visit the metro system; some of the stations are just architectural works of art!

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St. Petersburg

As I mentioned earlier, St. Petersburg has a more western Europe feeling to it. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on what you are after, but I would say that it is difficult to get disappointed after visiting the city.

If you are planning a trip to Russia to get a feeling of the local culture (local culture can have a lot of different meanings in a country that spans over eleven time zones), St. Petersburg can fall below your expectations. That said, the architecture and organization of the city preserves a lot of the imperial Russia and places like the Hermitage museum are definitely worth a trip to the country by themselves. The museum not only is located on a majestic building, but it also hosts the largest collection of paintings in the world.

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Another landmark that cannot be missed and that provides a great photographic subject is the Church of the Savior on Blood. This rather strange name comes from the fact that the church was built on the exact place where the Emperor Alexander II was wounded by an explosion that would later cause his death.

Once again, the magnificence of the exterior of the building is almost shadowed by the interior. The walls of the church are completely covered by mosaics depicting religious scenes and, although without a tripod, it is allowed to make photos. The tall walls and the impressive ceiling will be more easily captured with a wide angle lens, so bring one if you one.

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If you still have time, there are many other places worth visiting. Just to name a few: St. Isaac’s Cathedral (also providing a great vantage point to make photos of the city from above), the Peter and Paul Fortress or even the streets named in Dostoievski’s masterpiece Crime and Punishment. In short, if you are a fan of travel and photography, Moscow and St. Petersburg are two cities that should definitely be in your bucket list.

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Beit She’arim: photographing a Necropolis in Lower Galilee, Israel

Although I am originally from Barcelona, I have been living in Israel for almost 5 years. In this time I had the chance to visit a lot of places. Some of them are well known all over the world such as Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee or the Jordan River. One place you might not have heard of is Beit She’arim National Park. It is located in the town of Kyriat Tivon (Lower Galilee) and it has been recently recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Beit She’arim
This is the facade of one of Beit She’arim’s cave: the “Cave of the Coffins”

This National Park is an interesting site for photographers because you can take a quite diverse collection of photos. The remains of the city and the underground Jewish Necropolis are located in a hill surrounded by the beautiful Jezreel Valley, so you can combine your images of the old city with landscape and nature photography.

Beit She’arim
Panorama of Jezreel Valley. The Hill on the left is where part of the necropolis is located and on the other side of it lies the remains of the ancient city. Some of the burial caves can be visited only if you registered in advance in the National Park .

A bit of Beit She’an History

Beit She’arim was a Jewish city of great importance in ancient times. The settlement in the area started around the 9th century BC and lasted until the 6th century CE. In the 2nd century CE the city reached its glory days when Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi made it his seat and brought with him the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish judicial and ecclesiastical council in the Land of Israel). The city was destroyed during a revolt against the Roman Empire in the 4th century CE and although it was rebuild, it never regained its glory and was abandoned and forgotten a few centuries later.

Beit She’arim

The most outstanding remains from the ancient city is its necropolis. After the burial of Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi in Bet She’arim many Jews from the Land of Israel and from the Diaspora made arrangements to be buried in there as well. More than 30 burial caves were excavated. The entrances to the caves are stone facades in classical designs with impressive stone doors which pivot on hinges. The doors lead to subterranean halls and burial chambers hewn in the bedrock and containing burial shelves and sarcophagi. Found on the walls and coffins, are decorations and inscriptions in many ancient languages, providing information about those buried in the graves.

Planning your visit

You can access the Park by car (about 20 minutes east from Haifa) or by bus. However the main buses don’t reach so close to the Park.  The average time a visit to the Necropolis takes is estimated in something around 2 hours (for non-photographer visitors). The Park has opening hours that you can check in the website of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. For planning your visit it is important that you know that one part of the Necropolis can be visited just on weekends and only if you register in advance.

The Necropolis is underground, meaning that you will go into several caves in which you will be able to see graves, coffins and wall decorations and inscription. It is a dark environment, so I recommend you to bring a tripod in order to take nice photos (long exposure photography) and a flashlight. Outdoors, there are places with some shadows, but in general there are not a lot of trees.  If you want to visit the place in spring-summer, take precautions for not getting dehydrated or suffer a sun stroke. A hat or something to cover your head might be helpful. Don’t forget your water, especially if you also want to walk in the surrounding valley. Once you leave the Necropolis, there are no spots to fill your water bottle.

In the Necropolis

When you are taking photos in the Necropolis you will need to change the settings of your camera quite a lot because you will move between the dark caves to the bright outdoors. You might need to use high ISO values inside the caves. Make sure you put your ISO down when you are outside if you don’t want to end up having unnecessary noisy photos. A good option can be to use the AUTO ISO option if your camera allows it.

Beit She’arim
Here you can see the differences of light between the inside and the outside. The caves’ doors are quite small, so they don’t let in a lot of light.

The caves entries are great subjects to photograph. Some doors have interesting decorations so have a look before you go in.

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There are different types of cave entries. Each has its charm. This one is quite simple.

 

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Other entries are much more elaborate.

 

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Getting close to the doors will allow you to enjoy of some interesting details, notice the carved “handle” on the left door.

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You can get even closer to the details.

Inside the caves you might need to set a tripod in order to take sharp photos. In the darker spots it might be difficult for your camera to focus automatically. In these cases, you can use a flashlight to point to some spot inside your frame, focus on this light spot, turn off both the flash light and the auto focus of your camera and shoot. If you need to re-frame, you will need to turn on the auto focus of your camera and repeat all the process. You can also try to focus manually.

Beit She’arim
This is a long exposure photography of one of the caves. The shutter speed was longer than 1 second. Without using a tripod, it would have been blurry.

The coffins are adorned with decorations as well as the walls, both coffins and walls might be interesting subjects for your images.

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This coffin have several animal carved on it, including bulls, lions and an eagle.

Beit She’arim

Other coffins have flower decorations.

One of the most important decorations found is a Menorah (a seven branched candelabrum) carved in stone; this is one of the oldest depictions of the Menorah that was used in the Jewish Temple, one of the holiest Jewish relics.

Beit She’arim

The Ancient City

Next to the Necropolis you can find some ruins of the Ancient City such us the Dwelling Houses and one of the Gates. If you like taking photos from viewpoints, I recommend you to go up the little Hill where the city was originally located. On the top there is a photogenic statue of Alexander Zaid (1886-1938), a frontiersman and guard of the area.

From the top you have views to the Jezreel Valley and the Mount Carmel. It is also good spot for panoramas.

Beit She’arim
Alexander Zaid’s statue is placed on the top of the Hill. Some days, especially in spring and autumn, sunsets can be really impressive in this spot. In the background you can see the Mount Carmel.

Hiking in Jezreel Valley

Jezreel Valley is the biggest Valley in Israel and in the area surrounding Beit Shea’rim there are several trails. I was living right next to the Valley and I loved walking around taking photos. A lot of the photos I use to illustrate my articles were taken in this place. The landscape is mostly agricultural and it change seasonally. In the winter and spring it is quite green, in summer it becomes golden and in autumn the main colors are browns.

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This photo is from winter.

Beit She’arim

This photo is from the end of summer and it looks totally different than in winter.

The morning can be a bit  foggy during the winter. The golden hour of the sunset is a great time to take photos in the Valley.

Beit She’arim

I loved taking portraits in the Valley during the Golden hour. Here my dear friends Rotem and Guy.

I hope you liked Beit Shea’rim. It is a place that I carry deep in my heart because it is where I was going to run, relax and of course, take photos. Feel free to contact me with any question about this Park or if you need more information.  Have a happy shooting!!!

Beit She’an: the ruins of ancient city in North Israel

Israel is a small but highly diverse country. You can drive from north to south (the longest distance in the country) in just 6 hours.  If you come to Israel, you will be able to visit mountains, beaches, ancient cities, religious sites, the desert… Your camera won’t have time to rest! Cities like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa might be familiar to you. But Israel has also smaller cities that are interesting. One of them is Beit She’an, where you can visit the ruins of an ancient and splendorous city.

Beit She’an

A bit of  Beit She’an’s History

The city has been populated continuously since the 4th millennium BC (some 6000 years ago). Along the years it’s been occupied by many nations such as the Egyptians, Canaanites, Israelites, Assyrians, Hellenists, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders and more. The city has even had several names: Ashe’an, Baysan, Beit She’an and Scythopolis.

Beit She’an reached the peak of its glory under the Roman rule when it was called  Scythopolis and it was the leading settlement among the Greco-Roman cities of cultural importance. The Roman city is characterized by high-level urban planning and luxurious facilities including a theater (the best-preserved theater in ancient Samaria), a hippodrome, a Cardo, bathhouses, public latrines, a brothel and more. On year 749, the city was completely devastated by the Golan earthquake of 749. A few residential neighborhoods were established on top of the ruins, probably by the survivors, however, the city never recovered its magnificence. In the early decades of the 20th-century, excavations started in order to reveal the ruins of the ancient Roman city.

Visiting the ancient city

Beit She’an is located in the east of the northern region of Israel. You can get there from any big city in Israel by car, bus or the brand new train line. Today the ruins of the ancient city are a National Park maintained by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. This means that in order to visit the ruins you will need to take into account the opening hours of the Park.

Beit She’an
The Roman city was characterized by the Cardo, the main street with columns along it which made up a commercial and social center (you can see the columns in the top left of the photo). The hill you see in the photo is in fact a mound, made up of layer upon layer of human settlements that were built on top of each other.

The visit will take you between 2-4 hours. But taking into account that you are a photographer, it can be even a bit longer. The place is quite bare and doesn’t have many spots with shade, so it can get really hot especially in spring-summer. Bring with you a hat or something to cover your head and lots of water. It is easy to get dehydrated when you are entertained with your camera. In the hot seasons, the light in Israel can be really hard for the most part of the day. If you like taking photos using softer light, try to get to the ruins as early as possible.

In the Park

When you enter the Park you will find a model that will give you an idea of how the city looked like in its glorious days.,

Beit She’an
Beit She’an was a city of luxury, it had several public baths, a theater, and even a hippodrome and an amphitheatre where gladiator fights took place

From this spot the ruins will be spread below you, so it is a good moment to take a panorama.

Beit She’an

To your left, in the distance, you will see a complex with a modern day roof. This is one complex of bathhouses. Right in front of you, you will see the long street known as the Cardo (that is the heart of any Roman City) and to the right, you will see the entry to the ancient theater.  You can start the tour in any direction you may prefer, but I recommend you to go first to the theater and spend the hottest hours under the roofs of the bathhouses.

Beit She’an
The seats in the theater are a graduated semicircle formation and can provide a fun opportunity to play a little with perspectives and composition

Other places you can’t miss are the public latrines, the Cardo and its shops, the brothel or the bath Houses.

Beit She’an
The Cardo of ancient times would be the envy of many modern day men. The road that was wide enough for two carriages to pass next to one another, had on each side a wide, roofed sidewalk for pedestrians, and with shops built to its length, the street was basically equivalent to modern day’s malls.

Beit She’an

The bathhouse was one of the city’s most important social centers. This is where people was getting clean, but also getting beauty treatments, sought medical aid, participated in sports (like wrestling), and enjoyed many other services. In this photo you can see the floor of the “hot room” the columns supported a second floor (on which the people walked), the room was heated by introducing hot air into the space between the two floors.

Beit She’an

At its end, the Cardo crossed a second main street.  In that point, you could see the marks of the earthquake that devastated the city.

The photographic challenge in the ruins

The biggest photographic challenge you will have in these ruins is to make some order in your composition. An earthquake destroyed the city and it has not been reconstructed, so at some points, it might look like a mess of stones and pieces of buildings.

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The ruins of Beit She’an were left as they were found. This makes the place look a bit chaotic (from the point of view of a photographer).

One way to make a bit of order is to find lines that might lead the composition.

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Here I tried to look for several vertical lines (in this case the columns) in order to make some kind of order in the image.

Another suggestion is to use the pieces of buildings to frame other elements.

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Framing is another way to connect the elements of a scene between them and make some sense out of them.

I hope you liked this ancient roman city. Feel free to contact me with any question about this Park or if you need more information.  Have a happy shooting!!!

London from a photographer’s point of view

Without any doubt, London is one of the top destinations in the world when it comes to tourism, consistently ranking among the top 5 in almost every list year after year. While there might be many reasons for this, one of them is the beauty of its sights combined with a myriad of buildings and structures that create one of the most beautiful and well-known skylines in the planet. In fact, if I had to choose a word to describe the capital city of the United Kingdom, that would be photogenic.

In this post, I want to make a short virtual tour around some of those wonderful sights together with a couple of tips that can help you come back from your visit to London with at least a handful of wonderful photos. Needless to say that the city has a lot more to offer (museums, nightlife, entertainment, etc.) and, if you add to this the golden rule of travel and landscape photography (make photos during the blue hour!), that means that you should plan for a trip lasting at least a week or so. This latter piece of advice especially applies to London given its (in)famous weather, so expect at least a couple of rainy days!

Palace of Westminster

Probably as soon as you read London an image of the Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament comes to your mind. This wonder of the Gothic architecture has become the trademark of this cosmopolitan city. Its location next to the River Thames and the Westminster Bridge makes it a perfect subject for architecture and travel photography.

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One of the great things about the building (from a photographer’s point of view) is that it can be captured from different points of view and under different light conditions and still produce wonderful photos. This also makes it difficult to come up with a composition that has never been tried before, but the truth is that this situation is common to pretty much any city that attracts millions of tourists each year.

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One of the compositions that have become a classic is the view from the bridge across the street with the trail lights of passing cars and/or buses in front, injecting dynamism to the image. Still, the light conditions can vary from day to day and it can also be enjoyable to get your own version of classic shots, so it is definitely worth it getting there once the Sun is below the horizon.

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Tower Bridge

Another landmark of the city is the Tower Bridge. Often mislabeled as ‘London Bridge’, this rather strange bridge is another sight that you cannot miss, especially during the blue hour.

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If you are lucky enough, you can make a photo while the road bridge is open to let a boat pass by. It is common nowadays to see small ships that provide tours along the river that have a large mast only to justify raising the bascules. In total, the bascules are raised around a thousand times a year and the current regulations require that a 24-hour notice is given. The times when the bascules are going to be raised are published on the bridge’s website together with other useful information so you can actually plan in advance for the right light conditions for your photo.

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The River Thames bank

Going west from the Tower Bridge it is possible to have a good view of the financial district of London, commonly referred to as ‘The City’. This cluster of tall buildings (visible between the two towers of the bridge on the blue hour photo above) are also a nice subject and the river itself provides on of the best vantage points to capture this small skyline.

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London has a mixture of modern and old architecture that can provide an interesting contrast to include in your photos. While this contrast is present all over the city, some spots have become particularly popular among photographers and, once you get there, it is quite obvious why. One of those locations is the view of the St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Millennium Bridge, right next to the Tate Modern and the Shakespeare’s globe, two other great examples of this same contrast.

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The places I listed here are just some of the most well-known spots for photography in the city. However, what makes London a wonderful destination is that, apart from the touristic spots, there are virtually infinite small streets and corners that will guide your imagination so that you can make the most out of any trip you make. In short, if you are planning to go to a major city for your holidays, give London a serious thought and you won’t be disappointed.

A Walk with @Instastreetid – Street Photographers Community

Street photography

is one genre in photography that can be simple yet complicated due to the details and the unlimited scope it provides in exploring photography. Although, the main trick to the capturing street is spontaneous, just go shoot. There are many ways to approach this style some say, it’s more like stealing moments as you often capture people at random. This genre has taken over the world and many people have created various groups or hubs on a number of social media platforms based on it. As an Indonesian, I have only recently come across this extremely creative and passionate hub called @instastreetid. Amazed by their initiative and a huge community, I decided to approach them to share with us their story and journey.

by @boyjeconiah_blackwhite by @boyjeconiah_blackwhite

Let’s take a look at what Yasin (Muhamad Yasin Zubaidi) @kangyasin and Adela (Adela Pradikta) @adelafxpradikta have to say about the community:

What is @instastreetid ? How did it start?

It is a street photography community that was formed in 2015 as a forum and means for lovers of street photography to be able to share stories, experiences, and knowledge, as well as the aspiration and appreciation using a social media platform  – Instagram.

Instastreetid initially formed because of common interests on Instagram often called igers on street photography. Based on similar interest a photo hunting event sparked and was held jointly as “1 Day Instameet Street”. The event took place on Sunday, May 17, 2015, and was held simultaneously together in six cities, namely Jakarta, Palembang, Batam, Riau, Balikpapan, and Bandung. With the success of the hunting event, the street photography enthusiasts did not want it to just finish by being together for one day. After an interval of one month, the following group evolved together into a community of street photography enthusiasts.

by @ijoel_terbang by @ijoel_terbang

How many regional accounts do you have and how has the community grown so far?

We have been in the community for approximately 1(one)year, and it has been growing very rapidly with the rise of street photography in Indonesia. We cannot deny that every community has it’s ups and downs, but until now, our community has flourished and we exist in several regions namely:

a. @instastreetid as a central account.
b. @instastreetid_jbdtb to represent the Greater Jakarta area.
c. @instastreetid_smg to represent the Semarang area, vicinity.
d. @instastreetid_mks to represent the Makassar area, vicinity.
e. @instastreetid_sby to represent the Surabaya area, vicinity.
f. @instastreetid_pdg to represent the Padang area, vicinity.
g. @instastreetid_jgj to represent the Yogyakarta area, vicinity.
h. @instastreetid_mdo to represent the Manado area, vicinity.

by @yousufkurniawan

by @yousufkurniawan

How did you join instastreetid? How many of you are involved in the community?

As the founder and manager of the main Instastreetid community, I Kang Yasin @kangyasin (an article on street photography by Yasin can be read here) along with five other colleagues, namely:

by @gilangbrajaby @gilangbrajaHow can we become members of your community? Do you have specific criteria?

Our community regularly opens the opportunity for Instagrammers out there to be able to join. Periodically, we conduct open membership which we normally share on our Instagram.

The requirements to become a member of Instastreetid community essentially is by going through a brief interview to determine their motivation and knowledge about street photography, as well as the reason for choosing our community. As an illustration of applicable procedures, prospective members can go through the process to join and interview online via Line Messenger as then, our discussion forums till date uses online media on Line Group.

During the interview process, we ask prospective members to send us some pictures of their work. From there we can begin the process of debriefing by measuring the extent of their knowledge of street photography.

Our community is open to anyone who is interested in learning street photography therefore, the interview is at the same time an initial process where we provide information to prospective members who do not understand what street photography is, so that, they know what they will gain as a member of Instastreetid.

by @widodoadiprasetyo

by @widodoadiprasetyo

Do you organize meetups? If yes, how often and how is the turnout?

We as the regional board participate in Jabodetabek region because we are stationed mainly in Jakarta and the nearby areas. Thus, we regularly conduct meetings in the form of hunting together, meetup sharing session which is often held on the weekends, which is Saturday / Sunday. We do not hold meetups on national holidays unless we have events then we will hold a gathering.

For other regional-regions, we have the admin as union leaders in each region. They will organize their community accordingly in each region based on the central committee.
Based on the experience and community development, every meetup that we hold, the participants who come keep growing especially during our public events that are published on social media.

by @nuryhanu_belajar_photo by @nuryhanu_belajar_photo

How has the community gained exposure locally through media?

Instastreetid is currently only for those passionate about street photography in Indonesia and we feature a photo of the day, namely to give appreciation and motivate street photography activists who use our hashtags by displaying the best photos of the day. With this, it will attract the interest of other street photographers in Indonesia to our community, but in future, we will do our features of photos from other countries as well.

We have also connected to a HUB called GramHUB ID, it is an event where some members of the community can support each other and share information about the world of photography. Some regions are already working together and have been reported in the local media.

by @kangyasin by @kangyasin

We hear of communities having exhibitions of their artist’s works, has instastreetid been involved in exhibitions locally or internationally?

As for exhibitions, we have held several regional exhibitions in Surabaya and Semarang, but not yet internationally.

by @mtaufikbw by @mtaufikbw

Have you collaborated with International communities through events or meetups?

Currently, we haven’t had collaboration with communities outside Indonesia, may be in future if possible we would be very happy to work with countries other than Indonesia.

Do you consider your community an active community? How do you see yourself in comparison to other communities on Instagram?

The Community of Instastreetid is the first community-based street photography in Indonesia on Instagram so, it’s supposed to be an active community to develop the potential of street photography enthusiasts in Indonesia. Instastreetid as one of the photography community in Instagram has a special interest in street photography and our community is more focused and specific to develop this stream of photography.

by @windapratiwi14 by @windapratiwi14

As part of the community, how has your experience been so far?

We as the organizer and founder of Instastreetid continue to develop ourselves for the development of our community. Our self-enrichment is done through workshops and photography classes to help us cultivate the community. The presence and involvement of various members from different cities have provided us with more knowledge of the developments of street photography.

by @adelafxpradikta

by @adelafxpradikta

What are your future hopes and plans? 

As our community has grown, many plans and improvements need to be made. Refining the system of organization has become one of our main priorities as we keep growing and the number of members we have is not small. Our hope is that this community serves not only as an ordinary photo community but as a vessel for street photography enthusiasts to find a place where they can start to learn and share their knowledge. In other words, we would like this community to evolve into something bigger like a street photography organization in future.

by @y05f by @y05f

Any message to motivate and inspire us to join your community?

We won’t deny that street photography can not be understood by everyone. But, street photography is filled with moments and surprises and all of which can be seen in an online gallery @instastreetid. Thank you.

by @bmntr by @bmntr

This inspiring interview has shown us how many street photographers are there in Indonesia. Through the street photos above, you can travel to different cities around Indonesia by seeing the various aspects and moments beautifully portrayed. There are many communities on Instagram that have various goals but this community @instastreetid seem to have a clear focus and objective. We hope they can achieve their aspirations and encourage all of us to capture street photos without hesitation.

Travel Photography: The Perfect Combo of Capturing & Exploring

Every city has its own flair and specialty. When we travel to any country and explore different cities we enjoy and discover something new. A trip to a new place makes us feel our holiday was well spent. Being a tourist means “a person who travels to explore a place for pleasure”, this means we can be a tourist anywhere even in our own city. Having lived in Jakarta, I wouldn’t have thought of discovering my city as a tourist. Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia and Indonesia is known to be the World’s Largest Archipelago. A city that is vibrant filled with cheerful people willing to help and guide you anytime, anywhere. Each city has their specific landmarks that is a must visit. In Jakarta, there are not many places to visit but some give a completely new outlook on what our city is all about.

There are many ways to see your city like a tourist, you can have a group of like-minded friends and go together or join a group of explorers who do tours to various parts of the city. I chose to do the latter and have found many new things about my city. By seeing new things, learning more about my culture has helped me to grow through photography.

Capturing is about Perspective or Vista, a way we see everything around us. Thus, taking pictures through exploring helps to motivate the photographer to gain perspective and have an outlook. Through my trips, I saw my city in a new way and tried to click as many photos as I could to treasure the moments. Whilst clicking, I was able to experiment with my camera to understand the principles of Photography. I learned the meaning of ISO, Aperture, Exposure, Focus,  and White Balance and how to use them during my captures. Through the process, I realized once you understood how to balance the light with ISO and Aperture the rest goes with how we feel during the moment. Although, I am not even close to mastering these main features but the mystery behind the balance allows me to keep sharpening my skills.

Through the photos below, I shall share my experiences when taking them.

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Buddhist Temple in Jatinegara (iPhone)

This shot was taken last year, during our Jatinegara walk as we stopped by a Buddhist Temple in the area. Inside the temple, I was taking a couple of shots and trying to find the correct point of view to get the right lighting. The top portion with the Chinese writing and lanterns plus how the doors were opened peeking towards the opposite direction was quite fascinating. This helped me frame the top and capture the shot.

Bokeh at Buddhist Temple Jatinegara (Canon)

Trying to achieve the “Bokeh” effect. This was quite a spontaneous shot whilst at the Temple.

Angle (Canon)

When crossing the bridge, from a distance, this particular scene had formed a sort of symmetry in my mind.  The lines, curve, and shadow gave this moment a more crisp look. These aspects tempted me to click.

Looking Down (Canon)

Taking photos with different views and colors has always intrigued me. What better way to try it out whilst looking down. The row of colorful books with passers-by was an opportunity not to be missed.

The Lady with a Smile (Canon)

This smiling lady with her baby sitting at her small hijab stall caught my attention instantaneously.

MONAS and MOSQUE

Monas (Canon)

Monas our National Monument is a crucial landmark in Jakarta with its famous history and scenic top view of Jakarta. Whilst climbing up the monument, the steps and a portion of the monument formed a specific frame in my shot.

Monas View (Canon)

Upon reaching the peak of Monas, we were able to have a view of Jakarta from all angles. It was quite interesting to take a couple of shots and see the city from the top.

Mosque (Canon)

The exterior view of the Mosque (Masjid Istiqlal) can be seen in the previous photo. This is known to be the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and here, you can see the interior of the mosque. The architecture of this building is intricate and captivating yet, it can be tricky to try to shoot every aspect of it.

SUNDA KELAPA

Sunda Kelapa (Canon)

A reflection of the two buildings and an old traditional house was hard to ignore as we were exploring the slum area in Sunda Kelapa. The Sunda Kelapa is another important landmark as it is the Old port of Jakarta.

TAMAN SUROPATI (MENTENG)

Taman Suropati (Canon)

The greenery and serene atmosphere around this lovely park in Menteng area (the first residential area in Jakarta) felt like a perfect moment to shoot. An alley filled with tall trees in the morning hours completed the setting.

Stadium (Canon)

Getting to our National Stadium was quite a challenge as it was a rainy day.  The experience of being in this huge empty stadium with the sound of rain inspired me to feel the moment and then click.

Gelora Karno Stadium (Canon)

This second photo of the Stadium was a shot where I was trying to attempt to get a minimalist touch and a semi-circle shape within it.

The photos above have a variety of different photography styles that I have tried to achieve. Certain aspects and styles of photography by some renowned photographers have encouraged me to try different styles.

Did exploring make me enjoy taking photos more? Yes, it, in fact, made me want to take more photos not because I had to but because when seeing a place, there are so many wonders around that can be clicked from various angles. Capture and explore can be a perfect combo for those of you who would like to grow through photography. The journey to keep taking photos carries on and we need to find ways to keep the passion of photography alive within us. Seeing your city from a new perspective like a tourist would can broaden your imagination and creativity as a photographer.

Tales from a Blue Town – Photography Adventures in Chefchaouen

I think it would be appropriate to say that each place has its own magic. Be it a landscape like taken straight out from a dream or a city that makes you feel like you are inside a Kafka novel, each location on Earth has something that makes it somehow standout from any other place you might have visited before.

When talking about Chefchaouen, it would definitely be the blue color of its walls. Right before arriving, you will see the picturesque houses on a hill that seems to be painted in a light blue that contrasts with the surrounding desertic landscape. Chefchaouen comes from the Berber word Ichawen that means horns, a reference to the shape of the mountain that is located right next to the city.

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Chefchaouen is a small city in Morocco, located about 100 km southeast from Tangier. Founded in 1471, it has a population of about 40,000. The origin of the blue shades of its walls is not known, with one of the most popular theories being simply that the blue color keeps mosquitoes away while others relate the color to a religious origin, being adapted from the former Sephardi Jewish inhabitants of the town.

In any case, the narrow streets, as well as the markets and small shops that can be found while walking through the town provide a wide variety of subjects for travel and street photographers alike.

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Another landmark of Chefchaouen are the markets where different handcrafted souvenirs can be acquired. Aside from the crafts themselves, the markets are another great subject to capture the lifestyle of the small towns in the Maghreb countries. The colors that can be found in spots where spices, wool and leather goods are produced stand out against the blue background of the town.

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The difference in culture between western countries and the North of Africa is more noticeable in small towns like Chefchaouen. Although tourism has a strong presence in everyday life for its inhabitants, Chefchaouen remains as a great place for street photography. Sitting on one of the squares of the city for even a short period of time can provide you with countless opportunities to capture photos that can easily make it to the top of your personal favorites.

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A common way to get to Chefchaouen, specially for those traveling from Spain, is to take a ferry from the south of Andalusia (Algeciras) to Tangier, and from there to take a two to three hours bus or taxi ride. This will also allow you to visit Tangier and its surrounding areas as well.

Tangier is a much larger city, with almost a million inhabitants. Being an important entry port from Europe, it has a dynamism that sets a strong contrast with the quiet life of Chefchaouen’s inhabitants. The old medina is a very popular shopping destination for both locals and tourists and it is a great place to capture a snapshot of the typical everyday life in these north-African markets.

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Another point of interest close to Tangier is the Spartel lighthouse, located at Cape Spartel, the point where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse itself is incredibly photogenic and definitely worth a visit by itself, even though many people get there on their way to the so-called Caves of Hercules. This is a cave with two openings; one to the land (the main entrance) and one to the sea, with a shape that resembles the map of Africa.

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While there are many destinations that are definitely worth visiting in the north of Africa in general and, more specifically, in Morocco (Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh), Chefchaouen presents itself as a great balance between a rich travel and photographic experience and a relatively low number of tourists, so I would strongly suggest you add it to your tick list, if it is not there yet.

The fact that the city is relatively small makes it also perfect for either a daytrip from Tangier or you can also stay for a couple of nights if you want to expand the experience but in any case you should take your time to explore the small streets and have your camera always at hand, since the combination of the blue walls with a passing local can easily become one of your best shots during the trip but it can as well be gone in just a few seconds.

5 Travel Street Photographer Tips

Street photography is not always an easy thing to accomplish. First, you have to conquer your natural instinct to not bother people or speak to people you don’t know. For some, this is no problem and can be done quite easily, but for others it takes a lot of work and a lot of effort.

Then, you have to deal with other factors that could make a break a great street photo, like location and exposure. But, mostly, street photographers first need to get over the fear of approaching strangers, especially if you’re shooting in a foreign country.

The thing is, street photography is one of the best types of photography out there, and one of the most popular as well. Just think about how popular Humans of New York is on Facebook, with millions of fans. Street photography can also be a great way for you to get out of your comfort zone as a photographer. Once you gain the confidence that comes from getting great travel street photos, anything is possible for you.

In order to get those great travel street photographs, here are five tips to help you on your way.

1. Be Open

When you’re traveling, you are often out of your comfort zone, so maybe it’s a little harder to be open. You’re in a new place, there are different cultures, languages, whatever it may be. But, when you approach someone for travel street photography, you need to always be open, no matter where you are.

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This doesn’t mean verbally, but with your body language. People can read body language and it makes up a large portion of the impression a person will have of another person. If your body language is closed off, then the person may be hesitant to let you get a picture. Approach the person with an open body and with a lot of confidence but not too much. Walking in, you need to feel as though you are walking towards a friend because the other person is going to sense that. You also need to make good eye contact, which brings us to our next point.

2. Eye Contact

If the person makes eye contact with you, that is very good, that shows they are open to you approaching them. Making eye contact is one of the most important things that you can do. If the person keeps looking away or avoiding your eyes, then you should move on to someone else. Always watch the eyes because that will tell you if the person is receptive to getting their photo taken, long before you ask them.

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3. Be Nice

This may seem like an obvious one but it goes beyond just being friendly. You need to go in and pay the person a compliment. That is a great way to break the ice with the person and get them interested in what you have to say. Don’t be weird about it, just say you like the person’s outfit, or you like their eyes. Just say something nice. You can compliment the person on their cute dog, or on the fact that you both share an interest in something, like the book they are reading for example. Once you do this, and once you find that common interest, you will have a much easier time talking to them about taking their photograph.

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4. Build Trust

Once you have complimented the person, and you have developed that connection, you need to build that trust. Having a picture taken by a stranger takes a lot of trust, so it is important to do this. Talk to them immediately and make them comfortable. Tell them about what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Show them you have no hidden motive, that you just want to share their story, and their image, with the world. This will flatter the person, and it will help them trust you more with their photo.

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5. Be Passionate

If you go up to someone and you are unsure of what you want and you almost seem to be annoyed with the fact that you are taking a picture, the person is going to sense that and they won’t want their photo taken. Be passionate about what you are doing and be excited about it. Go to the person and share with them this passion. They will pick up on that and they will want to be a part of it with you. Show them what you have in mind, and what you are trying to create. Be honest with them, be upfront with them, and own what you are doing. That confidence and that passion will go a long way in getting the photograph that you want.

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Once you take the photo, share it with the person and even offer it to them as something for them to keep. By making them a part of the project, the person will trust you a lot more, will want their picture taken and will remember the entire experience as a positive one. The more you do this, the more it will get easier with each person. That is the most important thing to remember with travel street photography, each photo gets easier the more you do it and the more people you talk to.

Mastering Travel Photography: Avoiding Cliche Travel Shots

You’ve finally saved up for that amazing trip! You can’t wait to get some great shots to help build your portfolio. But, you don’t want to travel only to take the same, overshot image of that iconic place. And how demotivating is it to walk up and see hundreds of other people doing the same thing? But isn’t it funny that you always see the hundreds of other photographers standing in the same spot? Having other photographers around doesn’t mean you can’t get a unique image. Just, avoid standing where they are. Follow the below to help in avoiding cliche travel shots and get unique images of iconic places.

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Do Your Research

Before traveling, do your research to begin planning out your ideas and shot list. This includes actually knowing what the cliche images are! Otherwise, how would you know what to avoid? You should also plan out some shot ideas to avoid the cliches. Of course, this is not meant to be a hard schedule, it should be a guideline, something to adjust if needed. Some travel photographers prefer to wait until they are in a new place to figure out the story. This way, it is a more natural process. Even so, doing research beforehand will help give you an idea what to expect. You may learn an interesting fact that could change the way you shoot in a location. Before going to Porto, I learned JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book while living in the city.  This changed the way I walked around the city. I found small details of buildings I could reference back to the Harry Potter books. It was so much fun! If I hadn’t done the research, I may not have known this fact until after I left. As a photographer and Harry Potter fan, this would have been frustrating and heart-breaking!

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Golden Hour

The time of day you shoot can be the difference between a hobbyist and full-time pro. How often do you see people shooting iconic landmarks smack in the middle of the day? D’oh! If you were there at the right time of day, you would have a higher quality image. Shoot the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. During the day when the sun is brightest, shoot indoors or be aware where the sun is. Using a reflector can help reflect light where you want it to go.

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Walk Around

First, assess the scene. What do you see? What do you want to capture? Take a nice walk around the scene. Search for interesting angles or actions happening. What does this subject look like from the side? Look up, look for ways to shoot down. Walk across the street and see what it looks like far away versus up close. Try shooting a few frames and see how they come out. How can you improve them? Does the image tell a story? It can be a good idea to walk away from the subject for a while as explore something new. Come back to it another time (if timing permits) with fresh eyes. This can change your perspective.

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Shoot a Portrait

Try finding someone interesting who would be willing to let you shoot a portrait of them. If you are near a famous landmark, this will be easy. Everyone enjoys a good photo of themselves, even more in front of a famous location. Play with aperture, blur out the landmark. It’s interesting the Eiffel Tower blurred in the background. Most would make it the main focus. Maybe it is an interaction between people or a candid unposed image. That will give you a unique spin on that location. Moments are singular and will never again occur in exactly the same way.

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Shoot Daily Life

Expanding on the above, try to create a sort of environmental street portrait. Look for a scene which speaks to the emotion of the place. It could be an interaction between a local couple, or a street vendor and tourists. Add the element of the landmark to your background to give it a sense of place. You will tell a story of daily life in this location, in a more interesting way than just each element on its own.

Avoiding cliche shots in travel photography is not difficult to do. Even though there are other photographers around, you can still walk away with a unique image. All you need is a plan and to do your research. Learn what to avoid and brainstorm how to avoid it. Take a nice walk around, get to know the locals, ask questions. A new world will open up before you if you just start a conversation and take an interest in the people and culture. This care and emotion reflect in the images. You’ll walk away with a great story and a better image.

Travel Portrait Photography Tips

A great image tells a story. A great portrait can be one of the best story telling images you can take. We’ve all seen Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl“. What makes this image stand above the rest? I’ve broken down the key elements to creating a strong travel portrait, outlined below.

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Do Some Research

Look at other travel photographer’s works and how they shoot portraits. This will give you an idea of how to compose the image, options for lenses and other gear, and how to look for the emotion. There is usually a fun story to go along about how the picture came to be. Make an inspiration board, whether at home or on Pinterest. Pull images you feel encompasses emotion, technical skill, and a story. Isolate the key elements to each and incorporate them when you shoot. This is especially helpful when traveling to a new place. You can simultaneously research portraiture and examples from this place.

Look for the Light

Time of day is so important while shooting outdoors and this also goes for travel portrait photography. We all know about Golden Hour, the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, as the best time of day to shoot. Follow this schedule when you are traveling as much as you can. Go for an early morning walk before breakfast. This is a great time to see daily life, locals getting ready to start their day. During the day when the sun is right overhead, focus more on shooting indoors or shaded areas. Still, have your camera on you at all times, just be aware of where the best light will be. In the evening before dinner, go out for another walk around town. This is my favorite time of day to shoot. The light is beautiful and there is so much energy. Shooting at night is possible with the right lens and lighting, be it natural or artificial. Using a flash can be invasive but possible when you ask for permission. Using an off camera flash is more versatile because you can change the location of the light source.

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Use Tools

Being a natural light or minimal equipment photographer is great for travel portrait photography. You won’t have the opportunity to carry around a lot of equipment so you’ll need to be mindful of what you bring. A useful tool which takes up very little space is a reflector. Reflectors are called a photographer’s secret weapon for a reason. They are lightweight, versatile, and a can add dramatically and professional lighting to a portrait. A good size for ttravel portrait photography is 12″ because you can hold it yourself while you shoot. Smaller reflectors are stronger in their lighting, so be aware of distance placed from the subject. Off camera flashes, neutral density filters and a good tripod are other essential tools you may want to have on you at all times.

Engage/Look for Emotion

In a 2013 interview with Steve McCurry, he mentions the key to shooting strong travel portraits is to convey the story of the subject. You want the viewer to understand what life is like for this person. If you want to take stunning portraits, you need to be close to your subject. This means approaching them and starting a conversation. Be respectful of their culture and if they say no to a picture request, move on. There are plenty more people that are perfect for travel portrait photography. If they allow it, get close and frame the image. You should have already decided how to compose the image, so now you can just take the shot. Do take your time here. You’ve just asked for permission, so don’t rush the image now. Move around if you need to. Ask your subject to move if they can to better lighting if the lighting where you are is bad. This ties to the previous tip of finding the best light. You should have good light because of the time of day of your travel portrait photography. After you have the shot, thank them and show them the image. Offer to send it to them if there is a way.

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Tell A Story

In a 2013 interview with Steve McCurry, he mentions the key to shooting strong travel portraits is to convey the story of the subject. You want the viewer to understand what life is like for this person. To do this, you’ll want to engage with the subject as mentioned above. Try and learn what their life is like, so you can better portray this through the portrait. If it benefits the image, include some background and make it an environmental portrait. Think about the overall story you are conveying with your trip to this place. You want your images to be strong enough to stand on their own but also think about a photo essay or even a book.

The Road Less Traveled

With the expanse of photography in the world, there are not many areas which are still untouched. However, you can venture off the beaten path to explore some less photographed towns during your trip. If needed, find a fixer or someone who can show you around and ensure you are safe. This is especially valid for solo travelers, you want someone on your side who speaks the language. While it could be challenging shooting in more remote areas, you will be sure to get a unique image showing the true emotion of the place. Make sure you smile, engage with the subjects and show them the images you’ve taken. People love to see a great photograph of themselves. If needed, it might also be a good idea to carry some small change with you to offer in exchange for a travel portrait photography.

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While “Afghan Girl” portrays all of these qualities in one image, it is not easy to create a strong travel portrait. Use these tips as a guide and be sure to practice as much as possible before traveling to another country. You can walk around your hometown shooting portraits of the locals. Offer to send them the images. You’ll get some great practical experience and be able to nail down your accessories and settings before traveling. You don’t want to spend all that money just to be in another country practicing portraiture for the first time or you’ll be greatly disappointed.

Würzburg – Medieval Experience in the Heart of Germany

Europe is well known for its architecture and the preservation of historical places and monuments whose history span over several centuries. The tragic events of the two World Wars, specially the second one, led to the deaths of millions and the destruction of many of these places, something that had a significant impact in most German cities with over 100,000 inhabitants during the last years of the second war.

Würzburg is a city located in the northern part of Bavaria, in a region known as Franconia. On March 16, 1945, it took the Royal Air Force 20 minutes to destroy about 90% of the buildings, something that led the city to a long and difficult reconstruction process during the post-war years.

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Nowadays, Würzburg is a small jewel in the heart of the country, surprisingly unknown to many foreigners. Being located at just over an hour on train from Frankfurt, it is a great place to experience the cultural background of the country.

The city is surrounded by vineyards and has a variety of buildings, churches, a fortress and a palace, making it a great destination for travel and architecture photographers.

The bridge

One particularly photogenic spot is the Alte Mainbrücke (old Main bridge). Main here does not refer to main as ‘principal’, but it is the name of the river, the same one that passes through Frankfurt (its full name is, in fact, Frankfurt am Main that would translate as something like Frankfurt next to the Main).

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The bridge has some resemblance to the famous Charles Bridge in Prague, with 12 statues of religious and local Franconian figures that were placed on it during the 18th Century. While the original bridge was built in 1,120, it was destroyed due to floods in the region and, during the second war, the German army destroyed two of its arches. However, the bridge was re-built and it still remains as a great subject for photography from pretty much every possible angle.

Residenz

The so-called Würzburger Residenz is a baroque-style palace that was commissioned in 1720 by the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn. Both the exterior and the interior of the palace are considered master pieces of the architecture, even counting with the recognition of being one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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The different facades offer different views, all of them with particular subjects that make the Residenz a place to keep coming back to. In the front (west side), a fountain (Frankoniabrunnen) from the end of the 19th Century serves as the perfect foreground, specially when using a wide-angle lens.

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The south and east sides face two gardens that provide countless points of view with different foreground subjects ranging from trees and flowers to small statues, always with the palace itself as a background.

In general, the palace is a great subject that should be visited at different times of the day and different seasons.

Marienberg Fortress and Vineyards

The Marienberg Fortress dominates the city from a hill located on the opposite bank of the river from the city center. Its history goes back to around 1,000 BC, when a Celtic castle was built in the current location. Its prominent position overlooking the whole city makes it a great subject when capturing the general view of the river bank and it also provides a great vantage point to capture the red roofs of the city from above.

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To get to the fortress, one can walk up a series of trails that go through some of the vineyards that are located all around the city. Franconia is a popular area for wine production in Germany, with many cities and towns producing local wines, Würzburg being one of them.

If your interest lies in natural places, a forest called Steinbachtal provides different trails that can be explored with many different angles to make for interesting subjects as well. This is also a popular place for people to go jogging or biking, so you can easily combine the beauty of the forest with a human element.

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Finally, different possibilities for day trips are easily accessible by public transportation (mostly trains) from Würzburg. Two of the most popular ones are definitely Bamberg, a historical town located between Würzburg and Nürnberg, and Veitschöchheim, a municipality with a population of less than 10,000 located about 6 km north of Würzburg where the former summer palace of the Prince-Bishop can be visited.

6 Tips To Getting Started in Travel Photography

https://sleeklens.com/product-category/online-photography-classes/

Travel photography is the ultimate dream job. Flying around the world, shooting beautiful locations and fun events. While this is the case, there is so much more work to this industry than it would seem. Travel photography is not always glamorous and can involve sleep deprivation, exotic illnesses, and lonely trips. However, if you are still passionate and committed to joining this industry, following the below steps will help you in your journey.

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Do Your Research

Become an expert in how the industry works. Read all the magazines, bookmark all the blogs, and follow the major writers. Knowing how all the details work will help you and begin crafting your own stories and pitches. Figure out what you can contribute that makes you unique. Even better, find a mentor who is willing to help you along your journey. Either way, do as much research as you can to make sure this is what you want to jump into. And once you’ve made that choice, jump in full throttle. This industry requires commitment, determination, and true passion.

Websites like CreativeLive, Lynda.com, and Skillshare all have photography classes featuring travel photography. Watch them all. Watch the National Geographic Art of Travel Photography course. There will always be opportunities to learn something new in this field.

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Start Local

Just because you want to pursue travel photography, doesn’t mean you need to travel far to begin. Start local, travel to some surrounding cities you don’t often visit and walk around. Learn how to compose images and frame a story. Think about who will want to buy these images or what type of story they contribute to. It’s best to have a plan mapped out, so you are sure to hit the right checkpoints. This is better to begin local anyways because this will take some time to develop. You wouldn’t want to waste money on a big trip, only to get there and realize you aren’t prepared with a plan.

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Write

These days it seems most photographers also provide written content with their photographs. This is, of course, dependent on the publication and the photographer. If you are working with a larger publication, more than likely they will send a writer along with you. But, for the smaller publications and online blogs, pitching a complete article is pretty necessary at this point. If you think you will never be a good writer, think again. Writing just takes practice, like any other skill. Like photography. Put in the time to do some write ups with your images and either post them on your blog or pitch them to other blogs. You’ll find that this skill builds up quick, and in no time you’ll be writing cohesive, intelligent articles. Use a grammar editing program like Grammarly or Hemmingway to help when editing your work. These services are great for understanding basic grammar and sentence construction.

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Build a Portfolio

It’s important to have an online portfolio as well as a social media presence. I’ve heard countless photographers talk about jobs they’ve gotten on platforms like Instagram. Social media is also great for building a large audience and becoming an influencer. That alone will get the attention of major brands since your images will reach such a wide audience. You’ll also want to have an online portfolio to showcase your work in a more formal way. Keep it simple, just a basic slideshow of images, and make sure it speaks to your desired market. Showing a wide variety of work may look nice, but it won’t have a brand convinced you are the best candidate for them. Don’t overflood the portfolio either. Maintain a few categories within your market, with no more than 15 images in each. Be selective here, only the strongest images should make it. Including a clear contact page, fun about page and blog are also great ways to show your personality.

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Pitch Ideas

Now that you’ve created some stories, story ideas, and a portfolio, you are ready to pitch. Local publications and smaller online blogs are great to start with. They will more likely give you a chance and pay (although not a lot) for your articles. This way, you are gaining experience, building a writing portfolio, and making some cash. Once you have more articles and experience built up, you can reach higher for larger audiences. Don’t get deterred if this takes time. The market is competitive right now and oversaturated. This doesn’t mean you won’t find work, it just may take some time. The key to speeding up the process is practice. Keep shooting and writing and always have a plan.

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Get on Stock Sites

One way travel photographers make money is through stock sales. Stock sites, like iStock or Getty Images, sell your images for editorial or commercial use. You get a small piece for every sale. This is great for travel photography as clients always seem to be looking for cultural images for commercial use. It’s great for the photographer as well because their images are making money behind the scenes. Make sure you are always looking for stock worthy images while out shooting. Get a good sense of what images they need and their requirements, so you won’t get rejected. Of course, there are other ways travel photographers make money, but getting started early in stock will help you build a steady income from the beginning.

There is a lot more to this industry than what’s outlined above, but this is going to get you a great base set of skills and portfolio pieces. If you are interested in further reading into travel photography, check out more Sleeklens articles and start reading travel magazines and blogs daily.

 

Best Photo Locations in San Francisco – The Golden Gate City

One of the most interesting aspects of traveling within large countries is the variety of landscapes, and even the different cultures that the traveler might experience. In most cases, dividing the country in separate regions and visiting it more than once might be the most sensible thing to do.

United States is definitely one of those countries. Due to the different topography and all the different cultures present, visiting different regions can sometimes feel like being in completely different countries. From the relatively flat East Coast to the mountain ranges of the West Coast, the country is a paradise for landscape and travel photographers alike.

To make it even more attractive, some of the most iconic cities in the world and in this post I want to concentrate in one of the most famous destinations in the West Coast, San Francisco.

Probably, when people think about San Francisco, the first thing that comes to mind is the Golden Gate Bridge. This suspension bridge, with a length of almost 3 km and its iconic orange color, was built in the 1930s and it is visible from most of the north coast of the city.

However, no matter how photogenic the bridge is, San Francisco has a lot more to offer from a photographer’s point of view.

The bridges

That said, it is still true that a visit to San Francisco without taking at least a couple of photos of the Golden Gate Bridge will feel incomplete. After all, once you return, one of the first thing that people will want to see is the photo of the orange bridge, right? So a few tips on that.

There are different locations from where the bridge can be photographed. In general, these could be listed as Southwest (from Baker Beach, possibly the most popular spot), Southeast (from the northern part of the Presidio park), East (from Alcatraz), Northeast (from Vista Point and the Bay Area Discovery Museum) and Northwest (from Kirby Cove, also a popular spot, or Point Bonita).

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Where to go will depend on different factors (I haven’t been to all those spots myself, basically for lack of time). However, it is good to plan ahead taking into account the direction of the light, how high on the sky the Sun will be, weather, etc.

Connecting San Francisco with Oakland, the less famous Bay Bridge is, I would say, as photogenic as the Golden Gate. There are basically two spots to capture this magnificent structure, namely from the Southwest (the Embarcadero area in San Francisco) and the Northeast (the Yerba Buena Island). From the Yerba Buena Island, there are a couple of famous location, with probably the most photogenic one being, unfortunately, a forbidden one. In the southern part of the island, there is a US Coast Guard base and, if you have seen some photos of the San Francisco skyline below the Bay Bridge, those have most probably been taken from there. Of course, no matter how pretty the photo might look, I would suggest refraining from getting there.

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Embarcadero

Apart from being a great spot to capture wonderful views of the Bay Bridge, Embarcadero is one of the most touristic areas in the city. Part of the San Francisco Bay Trail (a planned trail that will circle the whole San Francisco Bay area) crosses the Embarcadero, where many restaurants are located, and also some piers that can make for a great photographic subject by themselves, especially by night.

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In this area it is also possible to see another of the main attractions of the city, namely the tram system. The small cars can be seen at different locations around San Francisco and, while this might not be the most popular spot (most photos are taken on the many hills of the city), there are definitely some good angles, even with the bridge itself as a background.

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On the north of the city lies the Marina. The boats there can provide interesting subjects as well and also the Marina Boulevard, connecting on the west with the Presidio Park, provides some interesting views of both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Alcatraz prison.

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From this part, a view of the city skyline contrasting with the low houses located on the boulevard presents itself as a subject to experiment with as well. If you continue walking westward, you will eventually start climbing up some stairs at the Presidio Park, which will eventually take you to the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, which you can cross walking (or by bike) to get an impressive view of the whole bay.

This, of course, is not meant to be a thorough guide to the many locations that can captivate your photographer’s mind in San Francisco. The possibilities are countless, specially if you take into account the different photography styles that people might have. For instance, while my main photographic interest is not street photography, San Francisco is an incredibly cosmopolitan city.

Also, if you plan ahead of time, you can combine a trip to the bay area with some of the national parks that are located nearby such as Yosemite or the Redwood National Park. And given its location, the whole area has a rather mild climate all year round.

Several Things You Should Know Before Taking Up Travel Photography

Travel photography is quite the popular genre nowadays. Everybody wants to travel, so why not earn a few bucks while doing so? That is all good, and no judging there. However, travel photography oftentimes looks much easier than it actually is. There is a decent amount of planning required on top of regular planning for regular shoots because there is a bigger risk, bigger costs involved and so forth. So let us go over some important things you should know about before venturing out in travel photography.

Freedom Of Panorama

This has nothing to do with the ability to make panoramas, but more with the ability to shoot commercially viable photographs in a given country. Freedom of panorama is basically a copyright act that forbids or allows photographing public places, monuments, historical sites, national treasures and so forth. Every country has their own set of rules for that matter, and before venturing on a photography trip in the desired country, research if you are actually able to take commercial shots without a permit from the country, city, or specific authors/architects.

Midnight Remnants by Ѕвонко Петровски on 500px.com
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

Some countries impose quite weird freedom of panorama laws. In Italy per se, if you are Italian, you can’t photograph monuments and churches in which are built by an architect or a sculptor who is still alive or hasn’t been dead for 70 years. However, if you aren’t Italian you can, but only on the condition that you upload the pictures outside of Italy.

Editorial Shots

You can’t use pictures with people in them for commercial use if you don’t have model release forms. However, you can photograph events, like the Rio Carnival, but only for editorial purposes. This means that you can still earn a few bucks, but the photographs can only be used for newspapers and news websites of sorts.

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Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski. This is basically an editorial photo. A shot from a concert, which is viable as long as the concert is covered by the media.
This is a bit tricky, since the competition is quite big, and the photographs become obsolete quite quickly. Unlike stock photographs which can be sold for years, editorial photographs become obsolete after the event is done, or basically after the media coverage of the event is done.

Travel Costs

When you are doing the math on how much you are investing in the trip, versus the projected return from the images you are planning to bring back, make sure you include the full cost. Under full cost, I mean including the cost of your time on top of all the other expenses. Set yourself a value per hour of your time, and factor that on top of the cost for accommodation, transport, food, etc. That way you’ll have the whole picture of how much you’ll spend on the trip, and that way you’ll know how much you need to shoot in order to get to zero. Finally, plan on how much extra you want to make on that trip.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

Risks

If you are hired to do a gig for a travel agency, for example, that involves shooting certain stuff in a different country. The fee you should set should cover the risks as well. Risks are lower when you are working in your hometown, because if anything goes wrong you have support from friends, family, coworkers and so forth. If anything goes wrong in a different country, however, it will surely cost you more, and it will be more complicated to sort out. That is why you’ll need to adjust your price accordingly.

Research

You don’t have to be a stranger to the place you are going to visit. There are countless ways that you can research and plan ahead for locations, local customs, culture, and so forth. This is imperative for the success rate of the trip and a number of keepers you’ll create. You can use resources like discussion panels on Couchsurfing, photos from the place you are visiting by other photographers, Google Images, local maps, and so forth.

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You can also look up tours from travel agencies, and their agendas (you don’t have to book for that), and see some points of interest there as well. This can serve both purposes, either to go there, or avoid it due to large crowds of tourists.

Summary

Make the most of your trip, take the greatest number of pictures possible, and experience the place as much as you can. But in order to do so, you’ll have to be prepared, and plan things ahead. In order to be able to make some money out of the shots, you’ll need to be sure that you can legally sell the pictures from that country, and you’ll need to scout out great locations so the photographs are eye catching. In order to profit from the trip itself, you’ll need to minimise your costs and risks so the return is bigger than the investment itself. It’s really as simple as that. Now do the math, do the research, and go visit that country you’ve been planning for ages now.

Things I’ve Learned About Travel Photography The Hard Way

Travel photography is almost always fun. You get to travel, visit new places, experience new cultures, meet new people, and on top of that take great photographs that will probably earn you some keep. Now, travel photography is a tad more complicated than regular photography, since you are on the road. That means you are facing new territory, far from home, and you need to be prepared in order to avoid failures.

Among all the things that can go wrong, and will definitely go wrong for that matter (because of Murphy’s Quantum Law: “Anything that can, could have, or will go wrong, is going wrong, all at once”) there are a few that you should be the most aware of, and if you are, you can do something about it.

Always Check The Weather

Having bad weather for your whole trip isn’t fun. I mean, yes, we are photographers and probably will figure something out. However, why improvise in bad weather, when you can plan the trip when the weather is good. Weather forecasts nowadays provide insight quite far ahead. Of course, the further you go ahead, the less accurate the forecast becomes… but then again you can plan the trip without fixed dates 6 months in advance, and so be able to adjust for the weather.

Midnight Remnants by Ѕвонко Петровски on 500px.com
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

There are many weather forecast services. Therefore, it is best to check at least several of them and derive an average. Make sure that the services you are using aren’t pulling their data from the same source.

Additionally, if you think that you’ll need 3 days to complete your preferred goal abroad, add a day or two to spare, in case the weather takes a turn for the worst.

Always Have The Local Public Transport Schedules

If you aren’t traveling by car, or if you aren’t renting a car at your destination, you’ll have to use public transport for destinations that are too far away to be walked to. However, some places have weird schedules for the local public transport, and it can be a bummer if you miss the last bus (or the only bus for that matter, as is in Esino Lario per se). This means you’ll either have to walk copious distances or pay a cab fare which can cost you a leg and an arm, especially in European countries.

London Buses
Photo by oatsy40 on Flickr.

You can probably find the schedules printed out on most of the bus stops, or you can find them online. Anyhow, take a photo of the schedule (or a screencap) and keep it with you at all times. You’ll find it handy more than you think.

Get A Decent Sized Power Bank And USB Chargers For Your Camera

Powerbanks are lifesavers like no other. I usually have one 10 000 mAh power bank with me, and it keeps my phone topped off for around 4 charges. However, recently I’ve realized that I can use power banks to charge my camera batteries as well. All one needs is a USB charger for the batteries. Quite cool right? By applying some logic, having 2 x 16 000 mah power banks, and having two chargers for them (regular 2 amp android chargers), can allow you to charge your phone/tablet on one bank, and have around 10 camera batteries charged on the other power bank. This means that even if you take a ridiculous amount of photos daily (per se, time-lapse shooting) you’ll still be able to charge the spare batteries on the go.

Do Scouting First

I know, obviously, you can’t go beforehand and scout every area, however: there is Google Maps, photographs of the place, shots from other photographers, posts from bloggers, and many more resources on your disposal. Getting to know the place better before you go there means that you won’t loose time looking for cool things to shoot while you are there. So always be prepared beforehand. Look for insight on places like Couchsurfing, or search Flickr, 500px, or even Google Images for images with certain geo locations. The internet is filled with people and resources that can provide enough insight for you to plan your trip accordingly.

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Summary

Traveling is fun, traveling is educational, and traveling improves a person on a whole different level. However, traveling can turn into a huge pain in the neck if you aren’t prepared for it. Improvising on the spot can sometimes save you from sticky situations, but why risk it when you can think ahead? It doesn’t take much to ruin your day, but it doesn’t take much to be smart about it and prevent bad stuff from happening in the first place.

 

How To Pack Your Photography Gear For All Means Of Transportation When Traveling

The most important thing before traveling abroad for a photographer is the packing. And the packing, though it might seem simple, largely depends on the means of transportation you are going to use. If you want to take proper care of your gear, you must be aware of things that you should and shouldn’t do when packing for your trip.

The way different means of transportation affect your packing is basically determined by regulations, convenience, and safety.

Traveling By Plane

We will start off with the most complicated means of transport for a photographer. This is due to the fact that traveling by plane means loads of regulations for your baggage and loads of risks for it too. Not to be ranting, but airlines basically don’t care about convenience when it comes to baggage. Nor do they care about photographers in general. There are cases where a rocket blower (that rubber thingy you use for blowing off the dust from the lens and sensor) can be confiscated because supposedly you can turn that into a real rocket.

Anyhow, one thing that I strongly advise against is packing your gear for off-cabin baggage. Airlines don’t handle those carefully – the bags are tossed from and to the plane, basically risking loads of damage if there is anything fragile inside, like camera gear for example.

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Photo by Khedara ආරියරත්න 蒋龙, on Flickr.

Next thing to have in mind is that you should pack your gear in the cabin bag (whether you choose small or large is up to you). However, the cabin bags are limited by dimensions, so make sure your camera bag fits ALL of them, or else they will force you to repack, or pay the premium for a larger cabin bag (if you have chosen to use the smaller one).

Traveling By Bus Or Train

Unlike air transport, bus or train usually don’t have luggage limits. The only limit is your capability of carrying the baggage since you’ll have to do it manually. The things you should consider in these scenarios, however, are gear damage and gear theft. Buses tend to have a rough ride, therefore having your gear in a suitcase and tossed in the trunk of the bus kind of comes out of the question, since it is not really safe. Then again you can pack it in a carry-on bag and have it on you at all times. This works for trains as well, with the difference being that the suitcase will be with you as well.

In the training scenario, you’ll have two bags to worry about, which makes you distracted. This helps thieves rip you off more easily, so in this scenario, you’ll have to make sure that the bag with the camera gear is secured well enough that it can’t be accessed without your knowing. My camera bag, for example, opens from the inside, meaning that as long it is on my back, it can’t be opened.

An additional note: make sure that you aren’t obvious about the value of the gear you are hauling. In fact, if possible get a bag that doesn’t say it is a camera bag by the looks of it. There are camera bags with camera prints on the design, and they are too obvious for their value. Subtle, efficient, and functional is what you are after.

Traveling By Car

This one is basically the simplest one of them all. Pack as much gear as you want. Better said, pack as much gear as your car can handle. However, bear the following things in mind. Cars are easy to break into, therefore if the gear is still in your car – don’t leave it unattended. Cars get hot quite fast if left in the sun, your gear will probably be fine if it’s turned off, but the batteries don’t handle the heat that well. An overheated lithium battery can set your whole car on fire. Not to raise any panic here: lithium ion batteries are quite stable, and it takes a lot to set one on fire. Car temperature probably won’t cook a battery past the critical point (if the battery is healthy), however, it can be a risk with third party batteries, or a battery that has already been damaged (and you can’t always notice the damage). So, take heed.

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Photo by Sean Yu, on Flickr.

Additionally, when traveling by car, make sure your gear has some damping material around each piece. Camera bags usually have enough of it, but it doesn’t hurt to add some more if you have space. I usually tend to use old t-shirts for this purpose, as I can wrap them around a lens and pack it inside the bag. Make sure the bag is secured enough in the trunk so it doesn’t move around, or bounce and collide with other things. Keep the car servicing tools on the opposite side of the trunk. You don’t want a crowbar hitting the camera bag now, do you?

Summary

Your gear will last as long as you take care of it. Traveling can be pretty harsh on your gear, therefore being smart about packing can make a huge impact on the life of your gear, and thus your pocket. You should be the most careful in planes and trains, since they are hardest to manage when it comes to packing and traveling.

Lofoten – A Northern Jewel for Landscape Photographers

One of the interesting aspects of photography is that every type of subject presents different challenges and differs not only from a technical point of view, but also from the location where photographers need to look for those specific subjects.

Landscape photography is not an exception and, most of the time, is closely tied to traveling, which only adds an extra factor of enjoyment to it. Now, there are some places that are simply perfect for landscape photography, and if I had to make a list of those places, I am sure Lofoten would make quite high on that list.

In this post I want to give you an insight on what you can expect when visiting this amazing place. Since I am not intending to provide you with a travel guide, I will not go into many practical details about visiting the archipelago. Instead, I give a very general overview as well as some information on what to expect as a photographer.

Lofoten is an archipelago located within the arctic circle in northern Norway. The whole archipelago is formed by a series of small islands linked together by the E10 European road that connects mainland Norway to the islands reaching the southernmost town that has the characteristic name of Å.

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Even though some buses do travel daily between the mainland and different parts of the archipelago, probably the best way to explore Lofoten is by renting a car in Narvik and going at your own pace. After all, it is not unusual to simply spot a wonderful spot while driving and it is really easy to park at one side of the road, take out your photography gear, and capture a shot that looks like taken out of a photography magazine.

While you head south, you will find yourself driving between the blue waters of the open sea, majestic mountains and small colorful villages. Also, depending on the season, you might find a dramatic landscape completely covered in snow, or a combination of green meadows and rocky mountains.

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Another reason to select among the different seasons is that, being so far north, the light conditions change dramatically. While the midnight Sun is present in summer with 24 hours of daylight, in winter with some planning and a bit of luck, you might be able to experience one of the most amazing natural phenomena, the northern lights.

From one of the largest towns in the archipelago, Svolvær, it is possible to hire whale watching tours, even though this kind of activities might be easier to book in the summer months.

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There are also countless opportunities for outdoor activities including hiking and climbing and, due to a temperature anomaly, the temperatures rarely go below -5°, which is quite remarkable given the high latitude at which the archipelago is located.

In terms of accommodation, there is a large variety of options, including normal hotels, typical fisher’s cabins and even camping. In that sense, a trip to Lofoten can feel like a hybrid between a road trip and a hiking trip, making it possible to experience the outdoors and views that are usually reserved for remote locations while having the comfort of your car only a few meters away.

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In addition to the fabulous landscapes, Lofoten can provide wonderful sights related to the lifestyle of its inhabitants. Being fishing the main commercial activity, it does not come as a surprise that the atmosphere of the whole archipelago is somehow influenced by this. Not only are the villages shaped around this main activity, but it is also possible to find places around the islands where racks with stockfish are lined up.

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In summary, Lofoten is definitely a place to visit if one of your interests in photography is landscapes. While the weather is not particularly bad, as with any other destination, you can always encounter overcast days or rain/snow depending on the time of the year you visit the archipelago. For this reason, a good planning in advance will definitely pay off.

However, in contrast to other more common destinations, while Lofoten has seen an increase in visitors during the last years, it still is a relatively pristine destination. This means that, even though some places like Reine (a very scenic town in one of the islands, pictured in the first image of this post) have been photographed thousands of times and you can find pictures of them almost everywhere, a lot of the views are yet to be discovered, meaning that you can still go there and come back with a good amount of nice and original photos.

A Sense Of Place – Discovering Travel Photography

Dusy Basin is one of my favorite backpacking destinations in the Sierra Mountains. Filled with alpine lakes, surrounded by sawtooth ridges and—requiring a seven-mile hike over a 12,000’ pass to get there—touched by remoteness, it provides plenty of photogenic possibilities. Yet, when I’m there, I struggle to zero in on one of the essential elements of landscape and travel photography: what it feels like to be there. A sense of place.

This is, in part, a reaction to the boatloads of spectacular landscape images out there that are so beautiful—so dramatic—they stiff-arm the viewer from having an emotional link to the subject itself. They are the pictures that scream the loudest with their prowess for pretty while excluding one from what it felt like to stand next to the photographer.

And so, there I am at Dusy Basin, beside a lake, almost trying to ignore the splendor and instead of searching for a way to gently convey to the viewer such elements as, Was it hot, cold, windy, quiet, secluded, calm, scary, relaxing, energizing? How did it feel?

Dusy Basin. The intention here was to convey the peacefulness of the foreground lake.
Dusy Basin. The intention here was to convey the peacefulness of the foreground lake.

That’s not always the easiest thing to pull off.

Some people say the solution is to look for what’s unique about a place and highlight that. I think that’s only half the job and partly an intellectual exercise at that. The ultimate goal is to suck a person into the picture so they stop, even for a moment, and think, “I can almost feel the cool mountain air.” With that, you’ve created an emotional link to the image.

This requires pausing yourself before taking the picture to not only observe the surroundings but interact with the environment in some way. If you want to communicate a sense of place, you need to have your own emotional reaction to it. Again, shove aside the physical elements and instead consider what’s it like to be there at that moment.

Lower Yosemite Falls
Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park

The Importance of Good Composition

Creating a photograph with a sense of place means choosing the feeling you want to suggest and then paring down the elements to just that. For example, in the picture above of Lower Yosemite Falls I wanted the viewer to feel the power of the water as well as the mist flying in the air like a giant humidifier. So I squeezed down the image to just a slice of the falls hitting the rocks and used a slow enough shutter to suggest the thundering water without blurring it so much it became silky which would have quieted the feeling I was looking for. I also used black and white to simplify the picture even more.

Colonia de la Sacramento, Uruguay
Colonia de la Sacramento, Uruguay

Or, with the sunset shot from Colonia de la Sacramento, Uruguay, I could have taken it from the harbor highlighting the sun over the river, but instead chose to put the small café in the foreground not only for the human element but to suggest what a peaceful moment it was. Here were people just appreciating the scene. I look at this image and get a sense of what it was like to sit there at a table sipping a drink.

Good Light Sets the Mood

Good light can be anything if it serves the intent of showing a sense of place. It need not be early or late in the day for that golden hour. If you want to suggest desert heat, maybe the glare at midday will do it better than the warm light at dawn. Creating the feel of a deep, lush forest is usually accomplished best on an overcast day when there aren’t distracting harsh globs of sunlight hitting the leaves.

Garrapata State Park, California
Garrapata State Park, California

The rugged, almost primal quality of the California coast near Carmel in the shot above comes across more clearly with the cold, stormy weather I experienced there. On other days, I’ve photographed the same area to show a different sense of place, one where the ocean is a calming, renewing force. In either case, I tried to communicate how it felt to me at the time.

The Processing Angle

While I’m not going to get deep into processing an image, here are some things that I consider while I’m sitting at the computer with either Lightroom or Photoshop on the screen.

Impala, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Impala, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Use contrast to your advantage—If I want a calm, tranquil feeling, I keep the contrast relatively soft. In the shot of the impala in Kruger National Park, South Africa, I resisted the urge to make the scene really crispy, thus making it even more dramatic. I wanted the tranquility of the moment to come through instead. However, with the shot below of the canyoners headed into Spry Canyon, Zion National Park, crisp is exactly what I wanted. It brings out the texture and contours of the slick rock and suggests the danger of rappelling down into the canyon. I also showed the enormity of the place by waiting until she was far enough away to be a tiny figure in an overwhelming landscape.

Spry Canyon, Zion National Park
Spry Canyon, Zion National Park

Don’t be afraid to crop—Yeah, you want to get the cropping right in the camera, but who said you have to be a prisoner of the sensor’s aspect ratio? By cropping to a square, for example, you can eliminate extraneous space on the sides of the composition and better draw the eye to the subject. With that comes a certain calmness because the image is well-balanced. On the other hand, you can create more tension with a rectangular frame by placing your subject off-center.

Use a vignette—Darkening the edges of an image not only directs the eye toward the subject, but can also add a specific mood. I usually try to keep the vignette from drawing attention to itself by not making it too dark, but if I want to suggest a feeling of intimacy, I’ll make it a little heavier than normal. In the picture of the canyoneering rappelling into Vinegaroon Canyon, Death Valley National Park, I darkened the sides with a curves adjustment in Photoshop to give the feel of dropping into a deep, enclosed space (I masked out the canyoners to maintain the light pouring in from above).

Vineagaroon Canyon, Death Valley National Park
Vinegaroon Canyon, Death Valley National Park

If a moment is overwhelming you, go ahead and first get the record shot or go for the beauty shot. But then pause to think about what is making this place special to you and how it feels to be there. That is, discover the sense of place, and I think the resulting photograph can be the true winner because it will connect with the viewer on a deeper, more emotional level and therefore be a lot more powerful.

 

No Expectations Travel Photos: Embrace the unknown

Before I left for a recent trip to Italy with my wife, I decided to try something different—for me, at least—and research the crap out of everywhere I was going. That’s right. I wasn’t going to miss anything. No coming home and having someone say, “What? You didn’t go to San Giovanni? As a photographer, you would have loved it!”

Our itinerary was pretty simple. We were to fly into Rome and spend three nights there. Then go Cinque Terre for two more nights. And lastly, drive to Tuscany where my wife had a week-long painting workshop. While she did that, I would spend my time photographing the nearby countryside and small towns.

So I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do. I Googled for hours. I looked up our destinations on 500px and Pinterest. I made lists. I saw how the rest of the world had photographed these places. I was prepared!

And then I deliberately left the checklists on my desk.

I realized I was handcuffing myself to other peoples’ photographs and the locations they found photogenic. What if I went there and the light wasn’t the same? Or I wasted hours just trying to find these places missing countless image opportunities along the way? I envisioned the trip becoming an exercise in frustration.

So I gave myself the assignment of simply keeping my eyes open and going into the country empty-headed (in a good way) with no expectations. Two weeks later, I had more than enough images that were special to me. Here’s what I learned.

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I left the hotel room before dawn and just started driving down a road headed to Buonconvento in the Tuscany region. This scene popped up. I found a place to pull over and walked across a field to get the right angle. Simply wandering around the countryside paid off.

Make a shot list at home and then tear it up—It’s not a bad idea to get a feel for your destination. For example, I eyeballed enough pictures of Tuscany to learn it had rolling hills and medieval towns. That at least primed me for what kind of situations I might find interesting to shoot. But then I started to make lists of specific scenes others had photographed so I could bag them, too, and realized that wouldn’t work. I needed to discover my own landscapes and narrow streets.

So I forgot all I had seen in favor of simply stumbling about the farmlands and villages in search of images. I know, I know. That doesn’t sound like a formula for good travel photos, but it forced me to be open to everything, every possibility, and my camera cards filled with successful images. I admit this requires a little self-confidence to be so laidback but it also takes an attitude of losing yourself in the simple, fulfilling pleasure of travel and the adventures it brings.

Don’t pressure yourself—I think the first step in being open to good travel images is by not comparing what you see in the viewfinder to others’ past photos. This can only create feelings of despair and the illusion you’ll never equal those supposed masterpieces. Forget about winning likes on Facebook or Instagram. Look for subjects that dovetail with your interests. Maybe you have a thing for doors, which in many places are unique from home to home. So blast away. Maybe you like street photography. Have fun with that. You are unique and you’ll see all this in ways no one else can.

Vatican tour guide. While we were waiting in line to enter the Vatican Museum, our guide gave us a preview of some of the artwork we were about to see. Her enthusiasm came through in the shot and tells a brief story from our trip.
Vatican tour guide. While we were waiting in line to enter the Vatican Museum, our guide gave us a preview of some of the artwork we were about to see. Her enthusiasm came through in the shot and tells a brief story from our trip.

Concentrate on recording your experiences—This gives you a start, a doorway through which other images can emerge. Look for the stories inside your trip. Take pictures of your travel companions doing whatever it is you did (selfies and mug shots in front of famous landmarks don’t count). If you stay at a B&B, for example, ask the proprietor to pose for a portrait. Take a picture from your hotel window. Record the meals you ate. For our major excursions, I like to put together a photo book afterward of our adventures, and so I use that as a reminder to look for storytelling photos.

Walk to your destination—This may not always be possible, but there’s so much to see and photograph when you use a bit of shoe leather as opposed to a bus, subway or taxi. I carry a small daypack for a couple of lenses, camera battery and cards. I look for details, some of which speak of the culture and some don’t. I like to take pictures of people and during a walking excursion to the Spanish Steps, I snagged one of my favorite shots of two women in conversation. Couldn’t have gotten that from a speeding taxi. At one point, we have turned around—my wife called it “lost”—and because of that, I stumbled on a beautiful photo of the Pantheon.

Storm clouds over the Pantheon, Rome. While walking to the Spanish Steps, I stumbled across this scene, one that I probably wouldn't have seen if we weren't on foot.
Storm clouds over the Pantheon, Rome. While walking to the Spanish Steps, I stumbled across this scene, one that I probably wouldn’t have seen if we weren’t on foot.

Allow yourself time to wander—As a corollary to the above, if you have a rental car, take a back road instead of the main highway, or just randomly drive down different roads. These days with GPS, it’s tough to get permanently lost, so explore! You won’t find the country’s iconic landmarks, but you’ll likely see and photograph places few people do.

Relax, you don’t have to see everything—I’m forever amazed at how some people feel the need to rush from place to place, measuring the success of their trip in how much they saw. Mixing photography with travel is a lot easier if you plunk down for a few days in one location and wander out from there. You’ll still see a lot, get a great feel for the culture and ultimately come back with far better images because you had the extra time to look around.

Out of curiosity, I wandered into the Horti Leonini Gardens at San Quirico d'Orcia. I found this white cat sitting outside a maze.
Wondering what I might find, I wandered into the Horti Leonini Gardens at San Quirico d’Orcia. I came across this white cat sitting outside a maze.

Be curious—If something looks intriguing, don’t just pass by because you’ve got a specific place you’re going to—check it out. Or, if the tour guide has you pointed in one direction, sneak a peek at you. There are unexpected images almost everywhere you turn if you just look.

Be flexible—It rained while we were in Rome. Oh, dear. No photo ops, right? Nope. We walked to the Coliseum at night with umbrellas and were rewarded by images filled with shiny streets. Plus, only a few, brave tourists were milling around so we nearly had the place to ourselves.

Pizzeria, Via Cavour, Rome. We went walking in the rain and came across this shiny, colorful scene.
Pizzeria, Via Cavour, Rome. We went walking in the rain which transformed a possibly ordinary shot into this shiny, colorful scene.

Get a record shot for your personal pleasure—One of the great things about photography is it reinforces your memories. So instead of berating yourself for being an uncreative hack, go ahead and get a standard issue shot of the Eiffel Tower. Twenty years from now, you’ll be glad you did. Also, by letting go of your aversion to the cliché picture, you might start to see unique angles for more personal takes on the subject.

Lastly, sometimes you just get lucky. You can’t predict at home what the light is going to be like or what rare convergence of elements is coming your way. But by keeping your mind—and eyes—open, you can create photographs that are meaningful to you both from an artistic standpoint and as a document of your experiences. And, by the way, I never got to San Giovanni. Oh, well. I hear it’s great.

Bride, St. Peter's Basilica. You just never know what's going to happen, so keep your eyes open. While in the Vatican, this bride was about to be married in St. Peter's Basilica, apparently a not-so rare thing, but who knew?
Bride, St. Peter’s Basilica. You can’t predict what’s going to happen, so keep your eyes open. While in the Vatican, this bride was about to be married in St. Peter’s Basilica, apparently a not-so-rare thing, but who knew?

Finding the Right Spot – Planning Before Your Trip

For people who enjoy travel photography, one of the most difficult challenges is to find original compositions that help you show the city you want to show in a special way that leaves your signature on the final image, so to speak. With millions of people (literally) visiting a touristic city each year (for instance, more than 32 million people visited Paris in 2013!), probably all the famous landmarks have already been photographed from every possible angle so the only choice you have to produce a special travel image is to include changing subjects like local people that add something to the scene or if you are lucky enough to be there while some dynamic component is happening, like a specially beautiful sunrise/sunset or some special event.

That said, most of us will anyway try to come back from our trip with our own versions of emblematic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Tower Bridge in London, or the Empire State in New York, to name just a few.

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While many of these photos will lack originality, I still enjoy taking them for different reasons. On the one hand, I just like having them in my portfolio; there is a reason for those points of view being so famous after all! On the other hand, taking your own version of famous shots is a great way of practicing and judging yourself since you have many other pictures to compare yours to and you can easily find things that you prefer in those of others, giving you a hint on what you need to improve in your own workflow.

Now, while the job of deciding which spot we want to capture our photo from has partially been made by others, it is quite common that finding where a specific photo has been captured from is not as easy. Today I want to share some tips about finding the right spot in order to prepare for your trips so that you can make sure you don’t miss any of the photos you want to make.

Planning for time

The first thing you have to decide is when you want to make your photo. The best times of the day to take photos with natural light are the golden hour (right after sunrise) and the blue hour (right before sunset). This is particularly true for cityscapes and, even though this does not mean that you should not take your camera out during the rest of the day, given the short duration of these particular times, you will end up with the possibility of capturing only two good pictures per day (and that if the weather plays along, which is not often the case). For this reason, it is important to plan ahead and know where you are going even before starting the trip.

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Now, even during the golden and the blue hour, the angle from which the light is coming is important when planning for your photo. The effect that you can get from capturing your subject when the Sun is behind it is completely different than the one you can get when the Sun is illuminating it. For this reason, the time of the day you want to take your picture is closely related to the location you will take the picture from.

Planning for location

The first thing you have to do is, of course, choose the photo you want to take. Take, for instance, this photo of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA.

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The photo was taken before sunrise to sunrise using an ND filter to capture the motion of the water and the clouds. Now, if you were planning to take your own version of this same image and no information regarding the time of day and location were given to you, there are a couple of things you would need to consider.

First, wherever this was taken from, the Sun was illuminating the bridge directly, which means it was located behind the photographer. This by itself does not give us information on the time of day (morning or afternoon) so we need to find out where the photo was taken from. For this, any map service will help (I personally use Google Maps). So the first thing you need to do is search for your subject. This is a screen capture of the Golden Gate Bridge in Google Maps.

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From the perspective (unless the photo was mirrored which is unlikely), there are only two locations where the photo could have been taken from: the wide region denoted as Bake Beach at the southwest of the bridge or close to Fort Baker at the northeast. The best way to discern between both spots is looking at the ‘Earth’ view. This presents satellite images that help distinguish characteristic features. The next two images show satellite photos of the Baker Beach and the Fort Baker areas respectively.

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If you look carefully to both images, you can see that all the area surrounding Fort Baker is mostly covered in concrete, whereas the area surrounding Baker Beach is, well, a beach. This latter matches what can be seen on the original picture we want to reproduce, giving an unambiguous hint on the location where the photo was taken from.

Once the location has been determined, knowing that the Sun rises at the East and sets at the West, it is easy to determine as well that the photo was taken before sunset since, as we said before, the Sun was located behind the photographer.

Some spots might be a bit more difficult to establish. It might be necessary, for instance, to look closer at the satellite images to find specific features such as rocks on the water or crossing streets. The workflow, however, is always the same. So don’t forget to plan ahead so you can make the most out of your trip!