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Posts tagged “travel photography

Feeding the Photography Habit when Traveling with Family

The Louvre

The LouvreIf you are like me, it is often difficult to do serious photography when traveling with your family. I wish I had a simple method to address this problem, but I don’t. If you do, please let me know! Or perhaps you don’t think this is a problem. If that is that case, please tell me why.

When traveling with Tanya, she usually requires me classify the trip as  a  “photograph trip” or a “non-photography trip.” On non-photography trips, I can still take my equipment, but I am expected not to disrupt any trip plans with photography. On photography trips, the world’s my oyster and I dictate when and where.

Casa Batlló, designed by Gaudí, on the Block of Discord, Bacelona

Casa Batlló, designed by Gaudí, on the Block of Discord, Barcelona

When we take a big trip, like our trip to Europe last month, they are by default non-photography trips. This is especially true when we travel with others; in this particular case, traveling with my mother-in-law and my son. One word of advice – if you want to get a lot of photography in while traveling, don’t travel with your mother-in-law.

On a photography trip, I tend to take the whole bag. But for non-photography trips, I go more minimal. I usually take my camera backpack as a carry-on in the plane, but I don’t typically carry it around when out shooting except when I’m going out by myself (see below). Even then, I take some of the gear out instead of my normal kit. I typically take my Canon 6D body with battery grip, a 28-300 mm lens, a 17-40 mm lens, about 5 or 6 memory cards, a polarizing filter, a split-neutral density filter, a Canon speedlight flash, four batteries, a battery charger, a tripod, my laptop, a card reader, and a few various accessories (lens cloth, etc.). In addition to the backpack, I also bring a Think Tank Pro digital holster  as a smaller bag.

So when on a non-photography trips and heading out with the family, I go with a minimal set of equipment.  I will put the 28-300mm lens on the camera, take the battery grip off, and put the camera in the holster (the camera will not fit in the holster with the battery grip on). In the pockets of the holster, which are rather small, I’ll carry a spare battery, a spare memory card, a cleaning cloth, and the polarizing filter. Sometimes, if I know I will want it, I’ll carry the 17-40mm lens in my coat pocket (no room in the camera holster). Rarely I’ll carry the tripod as well with this minimal setup. This minimal set of equipment allows me to get quality photographs without impacting the family, though I will often have to shoot at a higher ISO than I’d like due to not having the tripod (see my last post).

But my main strategy to get quality photography time is to go out without the family. This usually means going out at night after the family has retired to our lodgings for the evening or getting up extra early and going out prior to everyone else being ready for the day. This is one reason I like to stay near major attractions that might look good at night. On your recent trip, we stayed within easy walking distance of the Louvre when in Paris and near the Block of Discord in Barcelona. When going out on my own, I carry my full kit in the photo backpack and always take the tripod (even with high ISOs, it is hard to shoot at night without a tripod). The added advantage is that often there are not very many people around wandering into my frame when shooting, and even if they do, the exposures are long enough that they typically don’t show up if they keep moving.

Shooting at night also has the added advantage of making the sky easier to deal with. When doing travel photography, you typically don’t have a lot of time at any one destination. So you can’t necessarily wait for those “good” sky days. Often the sky is a mass of clouds without any redeeming detail, and if you place it in your composition, it sits there like a huge blown-out white blob. Not to mention the contrast problem it creates with the foreground and your image’s subject. Not a problem at night. At worst, clouds pick up scattered lights from the city and take on an orange glow, which is easy to fix in processing.

The images accompanying this post are from two nights I went out by myself, once in Paris and the second in Barcelona. Unlike my previous post, these images were all taken with an ISO of 100 or 200 while using a tripod. The featured image at the top of the post is of the courtyard of the Louvre.

The top of the large pyramid in the Louve courtyard with the museum building in back.

The top of the large pyramid in the Louvre courtyard with the museum building in back.

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, just northeast of the Louvre

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, just northeast of the Louvre

Louvre, the Seine River, and the Pont du Carrousel bridge

Louvre, the Seine River, and the Pont du Carrousel bridge

Palace of the Institute of France

Palace of the Institute of France

Reflections in the Seine looking toward the Palace of the Institute of France and the Pont des Arts bridge

Reflections in the Seine looking toward the Palace of the Institute of France and the Pont des Arts bridge

Close up on the Casa Batlló

Close up on the Casa Batlló

Close up on Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera

Close up on Christmas decorations on the Casa Milà , popularly known as La Pedrera

Shooting at night can give lucky accidents, such as this shot of La Pedrera with a bus driving through the frame during the exposure

Shooting at night can give lucky accidents, such as this shot of La Pedrera with a bus driving through the frame during the exposure

Barcelona is home the famous Magic Fountains, but there are many other fountains in the city as well, such as this one in the middle of the intersection of Passeig de Garcia and Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes

Barcelona is home the famous Magic Fountains, but there are many other fountains in the city as well, such as this one in the middle of the intersection of Passeig de Garcia and Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes

Or the fountains here in the Plaça de Catalunya

Or the fountains here in the Plaça de Catalunya

 


When Traveling, Embrace High ISOs

Sainte Chapelle

Sainte ChapelleMy recent trip to Europe confirmed something I already knew, travel photographers need to embrace high ISOs. Sure I took my tripod along on the trip, and I used it frequently. But mostly when outside buildings. Most museums and other indoor attractions prohibit tripods, often monopods, and even selfie-sticks (not that I have one – I use my tripod or monopod instead). There are a few exceptions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for one (see my previous blog about tripods in New York), but more and more it seems tripods are a no-no (and don’t even get me started on places that prohibit photography entirely, where people left and right are using their cell phones to take photos (often with flash), but if I get my DSLR out, I get a stern warning).

When planning a trip, I usually try to research whether tripods are allowed in various attractions I want to visit, but in this case, I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare and failed to do the research. Further, traveling with my mother-in-law, I didn’t figure I’d have a lot of photography time (and I was right). But even if you have time to do such research, it is often had to find rules related to tripods on the internet, and worse, sometimes the information is either wrong or incorrectly enforced at the attraction. For my recent trip, I just assumed tripods weren’t allowed in any indoor attraction I visited – an assumption that was usually confirmed by signs at the various attractions.

There is another consideration. I can’t even imagine trying to set up a tripod in Sainte Chapelle in Paris (which doesn’t allow tripods; the featured image above, by the way, is Sainte Chapelle taken at ISO 6400, f/5, 1/30 sec), there was barely room to stand. Even if tripods are allowed, due to the number of people visiting, it is often impractical to use them. For example, in Seattle, tripods are allowed at Pike Place Market and in the Seattle Aquarium, but due to crowds, can be hard to use.

Of course there is the final consideration about just carrying it around. There were places on my recent trip where I could have used a tripod, but didn’t have it with me because I didn’t want to lug it around with me. Sometimes it was because I was visiting another attraction in the same day that didn’t allow tripods; other times it was because I was too lazy (I know, my bad).

Yes, it is best to use low ISO with long exposures and a tripod to minimize digital noise, but often that is not an option. Luckily, the high ISO capabilities of today’s digital cameras are quite good, and getting better with each generation of camera. During my recent trip, I found myself shooting at ISO 3200 and 6400 quite often. I even got up to 25,600 several times; the digital noise was horrible, but it was that or not get the shot.  That’s what it came down to, getting a shot or not. You be the judge, was it worth using high ISO to get the shots accompanying this post?

Napolean's Tomb, Les Invalides, Paris, France; taken at ISO 6400, f/4, 1/20 sec (supporting camera on a railing)

Napoleon’s Tomb, Les Invalides, Paris, France; image shot at ISO 6400, f/4, 1/20 sec (camera supported on a railing)

Painting above Napolean's Tomb; ISO3200, f/5, 1/100 sec

Painting above Napoleon’s Tomb; shot at ISO 3200, f/5, 1/100 sec

Art installation in the Conciergerie; ISO 6400, f/5, 1/30 sec

Art installation in the Conciergerie, Paris, France; image shot at ISO 6400, f/5, 1/30 sec

Arches in the ceiling of the Conciergerie; ISO 6400, f/5, 1/40 sec

Arches in the ceiling of the Conciergerie; ISO 6400, f/5, 1/40 sec

Tomb of Saint Eulalia in the crypt of Barcelona Cathedral; ISO 3200, f/5, 1/50 sec

Tomb of Saint Eulalia in the crypt of Barcelona Cathedral; image shot at ISO 3200, f/5, 1/50 sec

TInell Hall (Saló del Tinell), Greater Royal Palace, Barcelona; ISO 12,800, f/5, 1/10 sec (camera supported by railing)

Tinell Hall (Saló del Tinell), Greater Royal Palace, Barcelona; shot at ISO 12,800, f/5, 1/10 sec (camera supported by railing)

Bones and skulls in the catacombs of Paris; ISO 12,800, f/4.5, 1/50 sec

Bones and skulls in the catacombs of Paris; shot at ISO 12,800, f/4.5, 1/50 sec

La Sagrada Familia at night; ISO 12,800, f/3.5, 1/30 sec. I could have used a tripod here, but didn't have it with me.

La Sagrada Familia at night; ISO 12,800, f/3.5, 1/30 sec. I could have used a tripod here, but didn’t have it with me.

Grave of Philippe Le Royer, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris; ISO 3200, f/5, 1/125 sec. Another outside shot where I could have used a tripod but wasn't carrying it with me.

Grave of Philippe Le Royer, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris; ISO 3200, f/5, 1/125 sec. Another outside shot where I could have used a tripod but wasn’t carrying it with me.

La Boqueria Market stall, Barcelona; ISO 3200, f/5, 1/200 sec

La Boqueria Market stall, Barcelona; image shot at ISO 3200, f/5, 1/200 sec. Tripods may be allowed  here, but in the busy market, they may not be such a good idea.

Gargoyle, Notre Dame; ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/30 sec. An outside shot on a cloudy day close to sunset. No tripods allowed, and even worse, shooting through a net.

Gargoyle, Notre Dame; image shot at ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/30 sec. An outside shot on a cloudy day close to sunset. No tripods allowed. I should note that perhaps even worse than not allowing tripods, when visiting the Notre Dame tower, to shoot the gargoyles, you need to shoot through a net with openings much smaller than a DSLR lens.


Iceland Winter Lessons

Gullfoss

GullfossGranted, spending five days in Reykjavík over Christmas does not make me an expert on Iceland in winter. Further, my vacation was a true family affair (besides Tanya, our son, Brooks, and Tanya’s mother, Maxine, joined us on the trip), making time for photography difficult. However, I did learn a few things, not the least of which is that I want to go back and spend a lot more time there. If you are thinking of going to Iceland in winter, here’s some things I learned.

  1. The light is incredible. The blue hour starts a full two hours before sunrise and lasts until two hours following sunset. And in between the blue hours, the entire time the sun is up, is the golden hours. When I was there, the sun was never above 3 degrees above the horizon. The light was magical.
  2. The light is short. Even with the long twilight hours, there isn’t a lot of time for photography. On Christmas day, for example, the sun rose in Reykjavík at 11:22 a.m. and set at 3:32 p.m. This is the perfect time to visit for photographers who like to sleep in.

    Swans, Geese and Church

    Swans and other waterfowl in Reykjavik

  3. Expect a lot of contrast. Even with the great light, there is still a lot of contrast. Iceland is made of volcanic rocks, which are black. There will be snow – it’s Iceland after all.
  4. Be ready for wind. Though it wasn’t windy every day, when it was windy, it was very windy. With the low light levels and the wind, a tripod is absolutely necessary.
  5. Don’t like the weather, wait a day. The weather seemed to be totally unpredictable. Our first full day in the country, the high was just above freezing, it was mostly cloudy, there were a few scattered rain and snow showers, and there was no wind. The second day, a day we decided to do a day trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, it was below freezing, there was fog and low clouds, and even though it didn’t snow much, there were blizzard conditions with a steady wind over 30 mph (48 kph). The following day, Christmas, it was cold, a high of 16 degrees F (-9 C), but mostly clear with no wind. The day after Christmas had a high temperature a few degrees above freezing, with a partly cloudy skies and no wind. And our last day in the country, it was rainy with strong winds (strong enough to nearly blow our rental car off an icy road). The moral – keep your plans flexible as the weather.
  6. It’s expensive, but so what. Yes, prices are high, especially for food. But with a little prudence, you can keep to a budget. Try an off-brand rental car for instance; we paid about $280 for a 5-day rental of a mid-sided all-wheel drive SUV (a Ford Kuga) at Saga Car Rental (run by Thrifty, which, by the way, was at least $100 more), the equivalent at Hertz – about $700. Besides, chances are you are on vacation, worry about your bank account when you get home.
  7. Skip the tour and do it yourself. Rent a car (see above) and drive the Golden Circle by yourself. You’ll be on your own schedule, giving more time for photography. However, before doing so, critically consider your winter driving skills. On our trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we came upon one unprepared rental car drive who was blown off the road.
  8. It probably goes without saying, but dress warmly in layers. The wind chill can be brutal.
  9. If you speak English, don’t worry about the language; nearly everyone speaks English.
  10. Take your whole photography kit. You’ll find lots of opportunities to use your wide-angle as well as your telephoto lenses.
  11. Be prepared. Research before you go as well as when you are there. I recommend the photographer’s road map of Iceland by Michael Levy. Want to see the aurora, check out this website with real-time northern lights forecasts. The site also give temperature and wind forecasts.
Blue hour on the the road near Akranes, Iceland

Blue hour on the the road near Akranes, Iceland

20-minutes prior to sunrise over Þingvallavatn Lake

20-minutes prior to sunrise over Þingvallavatn Lake

Rift valley in Thingvellir (Þingvallir) National Park

Rift valley in Thingvellir (Þingvallir) National Park

Small Icelandic horses are found throughout the countryside

Small Icelandic horses are found throughout the countryside braving the winter temperatures

The Strokkur geyser starting an eruption at Geysir

At Geysir, you can see the Strokkur geyser erupting


Autumn in the Oregon Cascades

On my trip several weeks ago, besides visiting Silver Falls State Park, I drove through some of the Oregon Cascades. It was, perhaps, not the height of autumn color in the Cascade Mountains, but it was close. Prime time may have been last week, or maybe this one. Regardless, now is the time to be out there; the mountains in Oregon, and here in Washington, only surrender some of their green for a short time each year.

I hoped I’d have more time to write a post about the Oregon Cascades, but unfortunately I don’t. I will say they do seem more accessible than the Washington Cascades, with more and better access roads. After just  a couple of days there this fall, I know I’d like to go back for at least a week, if not longer. So with that, I’ll just post a few images I captured in the mountains (and one in the Columbia Gorge, as well), and let the images speak for themselves about autumn in the Oregon Cascades.

Santiam River at Niagara

The Santiam River at Niagara

Niagara Pool

Swirling pool in the Santiam River below Niagara

Along the upper Clackamas River (the featured image above is also on the Clackamas).

Along the upper Clackamas River (the featured image above is also on the Clackamas).

Color along the Breitenbush River - I was a bit early, that green tree leaning over the river is probably yellow by now.

Color along the Breitenbush River – I was a bit early, that green tree leaning over the river is probably yellow by now.

Reflections in the Breitenbush River

Reflections in the Breitenbush River

Koosah Falls on the McKensie River

Koosah Falls on the McKensie River

Sahalie Falls on the McKensie River

Sahalie Falls on the McKensie River

Horsetail Falls in the Columbia Gorge - the maple trees here were still mostly green when I was there, though there were some colorful leaves in the water.

Horsetail Falls in the Columbia Gorge – the maple trees here were still mostly green when I was there, though there were some colorful leaves in the water.

The Three Sisters reflected in Scott Lake

The Three Sisters reflected in Scott Lake


Working on Photographer Memory

Sea BarnI remember five years ago this month (it seems like just last year, how time flies when you get old), when my friend and fellow photographer, Bob Miller visited the Tacoma area. We got together one afternoon and drove out to the Key Peninsula, a rural area west of Gig Harbor, to see what we could find.

The Key Peninsula doesn’t offer any world-class view. But there are a couple of state parks: Penrose Point and Joemma Beach. Both are nice enough places, and some good photography can be had at either. Both have pleasant beaches. Penrose is on the east side of the peninsula and has a view of Mount Rainier. Joemma is on the west side, and the view is toward the Olympics. But Bob wanted to just roam, and not go anyplace special, so (at least as I remember it) we didn’t go to the state parks.

We ended up visiting a cemetery, an abandoned house, the site of a historic bed and breakfast, and several other stops just along the road. It was fun, just being out, driving around without any plans in particular other than shooting a few photos.

I don’t think I brought anything too exciting home from the trip, though I rather like the featured image above of an old building in the community of Home. Instead, the trip helped my “photographer memory” – that is, it helped me exercise my photographic skills, helping those skills become more automatic (sort of like muscle memory for sports). I know we all want to bring home that award-winning shot every time we go out shooting, but in reality, that doesn’t happen very often. Rather, it’s times like I had five years ago with Bob that have made my response with the camera more automatic. With less thinking about settings and composition, I am better prepared for that award-winning shot when it does present itself.

So, you may ask, why am I discussing this while showing photos from five years ago? That’s because I haven’t been practicing my photographer memory since the first weekend of the month. I haven’t been out, and it’s starting to bother me. It’s often said “use it or lose it,” and I suppose that is true about photography as well. Thinking back on that short trip five years ago is a good reminder to myself that there are plenty of nearby places where I can practice my photographic craft without making a special trip somewhere. In other words, I just need to get out there and do it!

Luckily, I do have a special trip coming up this Friday – though not specifically a photography trip. I’m heading off to southeast Alaska to go salmon fishing for four days. Hopefully I’ll be able to practice some photographer memory in between reeling in a few fish.

Old Stove

Post Box

Ford and Flag


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