Five Days in the Faroe Islands

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The Faroe Islands are an archipelago between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic, about halfway between Norway and Iceland, 320 kilometres (200 miles) north-northwest of Scotland. The islands are an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. Their area is about 1,400 square kilometres (541 square miles) with a population of 50,322 in October 2017.

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The Faroes' terrain is rugged, and the islands have a sub-polar oceanic climate: windy, wet, cloudy, and cool. Despite this island group's northerly latitude, temperatures average above freezing throughout the year because of the Gulf Stream.

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Between 1035 and 1814, the Faroes were part of the Hereditary Kingdom of Norway. In 1814, the Treaty of Kiel granted Denmark control over the islands, along with two other Norwegian island possessions: Greenland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands have been a self-governing country within the Kingdom of Denmark since 1948. The Faroese have control of most domestic matters. Areas that remain the responsibility of Denmark include military defence, policing and the justice department, currency, and foreign affairs. 

 View down to Funingur photographed at midnight.

View down to Funingur photographed at midnight.

However, as they are not part of the same customs area as Denmark, the Faroe Islands have an independent trade policy and can establish trade agreements with other states. The islands also have representation in the Nordic Council as members of the Danish delegation. The Faroe Islands also have their own national teams competing in certain sports. 

DAY 1 Elduvik

Elduvík is located in the Funningsfjørður-inlet on Eysturoy's northeast side. The village which has a population of 23 is split into two parts by a small river. The church in Elduvík dates from 1952. Visible from Elduvík is the nearby island of Kalsoy. This was our base for two nights to explore the best landscape spots within 30 minutes drive. Our accomodation was in a grass roofed house and built over 200 hundreds years ago. With recent renovations of the property it was very comfortable as seen in the pictures above. Click the image to see a slideshow.

Funningsfjørður is a village located at the end of a fjord of the same name. It was founded in 1812 and has since 2005 been part of the municipality of Runavík. From Elduvik  its a quick 15 minute drive and on the way to other key locations 30 minutes away. 

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Eiði is a village located on the north-west tip of Eysturoy, Faroe Islands. Its name means isthmus in the Faroese language. The town has a population of 669 inhabitants. Eiði was settled by Vikings in the 9th century AD. Just outside the village you can capture some great vantage points for a spectacular sunset. The drive into the valley is equally as spellbinding.

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Gjógv is a village located on the northeast tip of the island of Eysturoy, in the Faroe Islands and 63 km north by road from the capital of Tórshavn. If you are driving to Eidi you might as well have a quick look as it's only a 15 minute detour on the way back to Funingur.

 Gjogv at midnight in summer.

Gjogv at midnight in summer.

The drive into Eiði before sunset was surreal with the clouds hanging low over Eiði lake. The sheep were extremely friendly and posed nicely for a sunset shot. 

  Eiði  Lake

Eiði Lake

Day 2 Viðareiði is the northernmost settlement in the Faroe Islands and lies on the Island of Viðoy, which belongs to the Norðoyar Region. From Elduvik it takes about an hour driving through various under ground tunnels that connect the islands. Viðareidis church is a stone church in Viðareiði built in 1892. It is beautifully situated, overlooking the sea and towards Enniberg and Kunoyarnakkur. Despite not being able to see these two points because of cloud and fog cover the atmosphere of the area was eerie and calming. Calming because of the low tide and eerie because of the cloud and fog. The green grass is lush and has deep tones of dark olive. 

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There are more sheep (70K) than people living on the islands. Since most islands are treeless and are elongated in shape, most roads run along the perimeter. You are never more than 5km to the nearest shoreline. It's main industry is Salmon Fish Farms which can be seen dotted everywhere. Lamb is also the main industry and all other food products are flown in daily from Denmark. At the local supermarket you find lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Another fun fact about the sheep is their clever use as a tourist campaign to join forces with google maps. Attaching cameras to their backs we are now able to get some unique street and mountain views.

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On the way back to Elduvik we passed Hvannasund a village located on the west coast of the island of Viðoy. It faces Norðdepil on Borðoy. The villages are connected to each other by a causeway where the image above was taken.

There are no traffic lights in the tunnels so when crossing over islands you might have one lane. Within the tunnels there are spots you can pull into while a car drives past. The capital of Torshavn has 3 traffic lights as this is where most people live (21K).

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Day 3 Torshavn

Tórshavn, on Streymoy Island, is the capital city of the Faroe Islands. It's known for its old town, Tinganes, crammed with wooden turf-roofed houses on a small peninsula. When the roof meets the ground level sheep are used to mow the lawn. Staying in one of the these houses is a great experience when visiting the Faroes. 

 Old Town in Torshavn

Old Town in Torshavn

On the 1st of June we happened to be in town for Cultural Night. All shops open till 11pm and many food stalls line the streets in festive ambience of community. Music is a big part of Faroese culture with many bands and indie artists performing at various venues. We stumbled upon a local talent called Jasmine at the Sirkus Bar. Our accomodation owned by a famous fashion designer called Gudrun & Gudrun was stylish and comfortable with a relaxing view of a small port in front of the cottage. Fog seemed to be engulfing the town for most of our stay as we heard fog horns blowing for most of the early morning. 

The Faroe Islands may not be an independent country, but it still has one of the oldest Parliaments in the world. Tinganes, where parliament first met in the 9th century, is probably one of the oldest parliamentary meeting places in the world that is still in use. It is also a picturesque part of the capital city, Torshavn.

Sheep are clearly a national staple, in fact, the islands’ name comes from the Viking word for sheep, but salmon is equally as important, and delicious. The local company Bakkafrost is the eighth largest salmon farming company in the world. 

 Torshavn Port in thick fog.

Torshavn Port in thick fog.

Day 4 Sandavagur

Sandavágur is a city on the south coast of the Faroese island of Vágar, and has been voted the most well-kept village in the Faroes twice. And it's the most famous city in the country, and best voted traveling experience. I stayed here the night and not quite sure if I missed something but it seemed just like any other town. The highlight of the area is photographing what is close by. If you are looking for cascading waterfalls flowing into the ocean from cliff tops, then Gasadalur is only a 30 minute drive away. On the way there you will see the arch shaped mammoth rock and spike tops on the island next to it. Drangarnir is the collective name for two sea stacks between the islet Tindhólmur and the island Vágar in the Faroe Islands. The individual names of the sea stacks are Stóri Drangur and Lítli Drangur.

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Drangarnir

If you wish to get a closer look at Drangarnir an 8 hour return walk is needed to get to the closest cliffs. The village of Bøur is a village in the Sørvágur Municipality of the Faroe Islands, 4 km west of Sørvágur, with a population of 75 is where you can get this view. The ferry pictured below is coming back from the island of Mykines where if you are lucky you can see puffin birds.

 Drangarnir & Tindholmur

Drangarnir & Tindholmur

From Bøur to Gandasalur is a 10 minute drive. They have recently marked the cliff top walk to the cascading Mulafossur Waterfall to avoid accidents. If some torrential rain has come and high tide is hitting the coastline you can get some atmospheric shots. We unfortunately had a beautiful clear blue sky day which is very rare.

 Mulafossur Waterfall

Mulafossur Waterfall

 Mulafossur Waterfall

Mulafossur Waterfall

Day 5: Witches Finger

In the village of Sandavagur you can take short walk along the cliff face. On our final day on the way to the airport we crossed our fingers to hope for a break in the fog that had been covering the witches finger for 24 hours. Low and behold the for a brief moment we saw her for this quick shot.

 Witches Finger

Witches Finger

Reality VS Expectation: Unfortunately, the 4th day we attempted the 2 hour return climb to Trælanípan to view Sorvagsvatn Lake we had zero visibility with heavy fog. Despite waiting for an hour at the cliff top view this is all we saw. Have a look at this spot we missed out on from Mads Petersen video. If you wish to join me on a photo tour please send me an email to let me know which month works best for you. If you wish to join my next photo tour, please click this link for more info.

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Copenhagen's 5 Best Photo Locations

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If you have never been to Copenhagen in Denmark, I highly recommend going in summer. All the locals are out enjoying the sun and heat. This 3 hour photo walk is only an introduction to the most common places you must visit. Bicycles are also a great alternative to walking if you wish to cover more area quickly. Canal tours can also give you a very different perspective from the water. Whatever your means of getting around you will enjoy the flatness of most roads and cleanliness in this very neat city.

 

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Nyhavn Erhvervsforening

Google Map Route: takes about an hour if you don't stop. I would suggest going off track from time to time if your eye catches something down a side street. If you time it properly a walk from the golden hours would be most suitable. Bring a tripod if you need to get some quality shots along the path.

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1. Fredericks Church & Amalienborg Palace

Being an Australian I wanted to see where Princess Mary lives. She is originally from Hobart, Tasmania in Australia so it seemed like a good spot to start my walk. Unlike Buckingham Palace in London there are no walls or fences. You can freely walk around the facade of all the buildings and take photos of the guards. Fredericks Church popularly known as The Marble Church for its rococo architecture, is an Evangelical Lutheran Church. The awe inspiring Marble Church with the characteristic copper green dome has to be one of the most impressive churches of the city. 

 

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2. Nyhavn

Bright historic canal front filled with historic townhouses and restaurants. This is the tourist hub where you can have the obligatory Danish hotdog at a food stall. Make sure to order all the topings. Facing west along the canal you catch a nice sunset if you are lucky. Voted the ‘Best city for cyclists’ and the ‘World’s most liveable city’. The Danes are well known for their love of cycling and cities all around the world are now looking at ways to copy this phenomenon. It really is biking heaven for the cyclist in Copenhagen with over 390 kilometres of designated bike lanes.

 

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3. Royal Danish Library - Black Diamond

The Black Diamond in Copenhagen was finished in 1999 and is an extension to the Royal Library. The building is shiny, black facets mirror the sea and the sky at the harbour front. The interior from the top floor looking down the escalators looks like a guitar.

A large incision cleaves the building into two formations and gives light to the atrium inside. The atrium connects the city with the sea outside as well as the old and new library buildings. The glass facade is held by iron girders weighing approximately one metric tonne per metre.

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4. Church of Our Saviour - Vor Frelsers Kirke

Baroque edifice with a corkscrew spire, 17th-century place of worship with a carillon & 400 steps around the outside of the spire. On a clear day you can get some spectacular views of the city. Of all the religions in Denmark, the most prominent is Christianity in the form of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark. A stroll along the narrow canals nearby will give you some insight as to how the Danes live on houseboats.

 

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5. Christiansborg Palace

Located on the tiny island of Slotsholmen, contains the Danish Parliament Folketinget, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of State. Parts of the palace are used by the Royal Family for various functions and events. The Royal Reception Rooms include The Tower Room and The Oval Throne Room where foreign ambassadors to Denmark are received by the Queen. The Throne Room gives access to the balcony where the Danish monarchs are proclaimed.

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On your walk back from here to Copenhagen Train Station you can also stop at the Town Hall & Tivoli Amusement Park. The park opened on 15 August 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world, after Dyrehavsbakken in nearby Klampenborg, also in Denmark. Do you have any other suggestions to add to this photo walk within the city of Copenhagen?

 

 The Dragon Statue in front of Town Hall is a popular spot for Chinese Tourists.

The Dragon Statue in front of Town Hall is a popular spot for Chinese Tourists.

8 Lesser Known Locations in Kyoto & Tokyo

Tourism in Japan is growing, and fast. According to JNTO, the estimated number of international travelers to Japan in March 2018 was about 2.6 million (+18.2% from the previous year), making it the biggest March ever. In 2020 the Summer Olympics will be hosted in Tokyo, and the city and country will have to cope with the resulting huge influx of tourists.

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This growth has some Japanese concerned. Comedian Takeshi Kitano once said that Japan had sacrificed its cultural integrity for the sake of money, thus implying that foreign tourism was polluting the Japanese spirit. There's even a new word in the Japanese media being used a lot lately. "Kanko Kougai" which translates to "Tourist Pollution".

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Japan is my second home and have had a love affair with this country for over 30 years. As a long time photo tour operator I always try to capture a beautiful image of this wonderful culture and landscape. However the reality is lately it has becoming increasingly difficult to avoid crowds of people in the most iconic spots.

Despite this, there are still plenty of great locations off the beaten track. Compared to my last article on Kyoto and Tokyo's more popular destinations, here are eight lesser known places. Do you have any other suggestions?

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Kyoto

Otagi Nenbutsu

Otagi Nenbutsu is a quirky temple nestled up in the hills of Arashiyama. After you finish shooting the Bamboo grove a 30 minute walk up the hill will bring you to 1200 stone statues. The whimsical faces filled with moss and bursting with character will leave you laughing all day.

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Haratanien

Haratanien is the perfect spot for Cherry Blossoms in a private garden with over 300 trees. It's just a five minute cab ride from the Golden Temple, however check with locals before you go as the 1500 ¥en fee is a little steep. If your timing is spot on you can enjoy a sake and bento box under a tree with blossoms falling on your head.

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Aquaducts

Hidden behind the Nanzenji Temple are a number of unique Aquaducts still in use. The repitition of arch shaped bricks has become a popular spot for the auspicious kimono models who infest the area. Built during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the aqueduct is part of a canal system that was constructed to carry water and goods between Kyoto and Lake Biwa in neighbouring Shiga Prefecture. Paths run alongside the canal that lead into the surrounding forest.

Kyoto Station

Transient travellers often pass the massive train station in a hurry but few consider a look at this architectural splendour. The 15-storey, glass-plated grey monolith, which stands out in sharp contrast to the city”s traditional architecture was inaugurated in 1997. Designed by Hiroshi Hara who also designed Osaka's Umeda Sky Garden. Kyoto Station interior feels like being in the skeleton of a grey futuristic megatron.

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Tokyo

Yanaka Ginza

Is located close to the old downtown areas of Ueno and Nippori. One of the few areas of Tokyo that was not destroyed during the war. Lots of old houses still line the streets. Various laneways and hidden alleys can still provide culinary delights and an authentic cultural experience. I would suggest a walk from Ueno station following your google map you will pass Yanaka cemetery.

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Shibamata

When walking out of Shibamata Station, you are greeted by a bronze statue of the films’ hero, better known as Tora-san, who became the symbol of the district after director Yoji Yamada’s series grew into a long-running hit. The area feels likes a mini version of Asakusa. 

The local temple and the traditional houses are worth a quick look before you venture to the local shrine at the end of the main pathway. The Edo river located behind the shrine sometimes offers a row boat ride. The 10 minute ride is soothing and the ambience feels rural and remote from the hustle of busy Tokyo.You can also experience life like a local watching dog walkers, fishermen and baseball players along the wide river bank.

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Tokyo International Forum

A unique building in front of Yurakucho Station, with a vast atrium that provides a stunning venue for the international exchange of culture and information, and makes a perfect spot for street portraits in the afternoon. Beams of light and shade make for a dramatic black and white. The ship like shape is monumental in scale and generous with natural light. Designed by U.S. architect Rafael Vinoly with an intent to be accessible and maintain an ambience of warmth.

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Kawagoe

30 minute train ride from Tokyo you will find lots of merchant store houses, which have now been converted into shops and restaurants. If you are into architectural photography the two storey buildings are well preserved. Kawagoe is also famous for elegant examples of early twentieth century brick, cement and stone architecture inspired by Taisho Romanticism.

If you have been to Japan before please do yourself a favour of choosing somewhere new on your next trip. 

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A Photographic Guide to Hokkaido in Winter

I've recently returned from Hokkaido, Japan, where I spent a week doing research for my 2019 photo tour. The exploration took me to Biei for snowscapes and Tsurui-mura for wildlife. Flying into Asahikawa from Haneda (Tokyo), it was easy to get to Biei and settle for the next 3 nights.

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Biei

Biei is a town located in Kamikawa Subprefecture, in the centre of Hokkaido. In winter it is known for its minimalist snowscapes, however most of these are on farms and most farms are private, making them difficult to access. I found my 100-400mm lens was perfect for shooting over fences and into the fields, and this worked perfectly to get most of the shots I needed. In fact almost all my snowscapes and wildlife shots were done with this lens. 

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The winter light can be soft and luminous on the best of days, but be patient when it's looking flat and dark. The light and dark tones that reveal folds in the snowscapes are key to a successful image. When shooting subjects like this, the challenge is to find at least three points or areas on the landscape, then use them to create a harmonious balance in your frame. Try a great leading line and a dominant focal point to rest your eyes for detail and interest.

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The subtle red fox tracks were a small detail in some shots that really added to the ambience. Atmosphere was also brought about more easily with a little wind to kick up the powder snow. Diamond dust with the morning light was a very special capture if the conditions were perfect.

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The white silence and purity of a clean landscape converts very nicely into black and white.

Tsurui-mura, Lake Kusharo and Rausu

For the second half of the trip I ventured to the South and North east parts of Hokkaido to visit three key areas: Tsurui-mura, Lake Kusharo and Rausu.

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Tsurui-mura was my base for photographing red crowned Cranes and Ural Owls. The crane sanctuary is a great spot to be at 9am and 2pm daily when they feed the birds, and every morning after sunrise they also gather on a river nearby. Be prepared for hundreds of keen photographers to be shoulder to shoulder with you and their tripods. Most will be set with an 800mm lens going trigger happy at 10 frames a second.

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The cranes are in Tsurui-mura all year but most shooters love to combine the birds dancing in the snow during February. Over the next two years however, feeding from the sanctuary will slow down to encourage the birds to be more self sufficient.

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At Kusharo Lake we focused on Whooper Swans and Marsh Teet birds. A wide angle was used for most of the very friendly swans. For the little birds a 400mm lens and a fast tracking focus mode worked wonders. Once again we were very lucky with the weather conditions, and the morning mist and fog created a dreamy atmosphere. The iced lake and snow capped mountains were an added bonus.

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For our last stop we ventured by car two hours north east to the coastal port of Rausu. Here we boarded a small cruise boat to search for sea Eagles to feed on the ice. The Shiretoko Peninsula as seen on the long panorama shot below was stitched from 8 hand-held images.

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Gear

For this trip I carried a minimalist kit - a Canon 5D Mark III, 100-400mm f4-f/5.6, and a Carl Zeiss 18mm Distagon lens. If you decide to travel at this time of year, be aware that extremely cold weather can affect your gear and you, and your feet and hands are the most important parts to protect to avoid frostbite. For my clothing I had 3 layers for every part of my body. I bought rubber high boots with good grippy soles to avoid slipping on icy surfaces. You can also attach spikes to your boots if needed. Heat packs that last 24 hours can be purchased from most convenient stores. They are called Hokkairo not Hokkaido. These are handy to keep your batteries warm if extremely cold. Keep your camera in your bag to keep it warm when you're not shooting.

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Shoot For The Stars

Want to capture beautiful images of the night sky? Alfonso Calero has six great tips to help you shoot for the stars.

01 WHEN TO SHOOT

While you may be tempted to start shooting as soon as the sun goes down it's best to wait until the warm glow of twilight has completely faded. Generally speaking, you'll get the best clarity and contrast if you wait at least two hours after sunset and stop shooting two hours before dawn.

Winter is the best time to shoot the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere, as the air is cleaner and clearer and the stars appear brighter. Shooting while there is a quarter, half or full moon will introduce unwanted light to your images and make the stars appear fainter. Aim for a clear moonless night. 

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02 WHERE TO SHOOT
Light pollution is the number one enemy of star gazing, so seek out a location well away from cities and towns.

There are a number of tools you can use to work out where the stars will be at a certain location and time. Stellarium (available for iOS and Android devices) shows an accurate 3D map of the night sky, based on the time you set, your GPS location and the orientation of the phone. To find a specific star or constellation it's simply a matter of setting the date and time and panning the camera around until you see the stars you want to shoot.

03 COMPOSITION
You'll find it helps to plan your composition before the sun goes down so can see what's happening around you. Try to include a foreground element in the shot such as a tree, mountain, historic home or bush track. Shots of stars by themselves can be interesting but if you can include other elements it's likely you will hold people's interest for longer. To add a dynamic feel to your photos, it's generally a good idea to avoid putting the horizon in the middle of the frame. Most images work better with the horizon placed on a third or quarter line.

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04 GEAR
You don't need a lot of expensive gear to photograph stars but there are a few essentials. First up, you'll need a camera that allows you to shoot at slow shutter speeds – at least 30 seconds and preferably longer. Most DSLRs and high-end compact cameras offer good shutter-speed control with a 'Bulb' (B) mode that basically keeps the shutter open for as long as the shutter button is pressed. A bulb mode is required to capture star trails, which are commonly photographed over several hours.

To keep your shots steady, you'll need a sturdy tripod and a remote release. Better than a simple cable or remote release, a programmable intervalometer allows you to shoot time-lapse sequences and program exposures longer than 30 seconds in Bulb (B) mode.

If you're using a DSLR, check to see if your camera has a mirror lock-up option. This prevents the small vibrations that reverberate through the camera when the mirror slaps up and down.

You can use any lens for night photography but fast, wide angle lenses (16-24mm, 35mm equivalent) are the most popular.

A good headlamp will keep you from tripping over in the dark and help you see what you're doing while keeping both your hands free to operate the camera. I also recommend a strong LED torch to 'paint in' foreground details like trees and rocks. (For some great examples of what you can do with 'torch painting', take a look at Sydney-based photographer Peter Solness' work.

05 TECHNIQUE
Set your camera to manual exposure and take your time working through the settings. If you are photographing the Milky Way, start with a shutter speed of 30 seconds, aperture of f/2.8 and ISO of 3200. Check the results on the camera's LCD – zoom in to check sharpness and noise – and adjust the settings as required. If there is any evidence of star trails you will need to choose a faster shutter speed to obtain a sharper image.

You'll probably find that autofocus is a lost cause at night so switch to manual focus and take your time. I find that Live View offers the most accurate focussing, especially if you can zoom in on the LCD to fine-tune your setting. If you are focussing on a subject in the foreground, use your torch to light up the point you want to focus on. Shoot a test shot and check the focus in review before you proceed.

Finally, if your camera allows it, shoot in RAW mode. RAW files contain more data than JPEG files and thus allow more flexibility when it comes to adjust white balance, exposure, contrast, noise and sharpness. 

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Weekend Roadtrip: Shooting Canola Fields & Sugar Pine Forest

Location: five hours from Sydney, five hours from Melbourne
Time: Weekend trip

On Tuesday last week I got a call from a photographer friend @johnnyjam1 to go on a road trip five hours from Sydney. Our goal was to shoot the famous Sugar Pine forest.

The drive to Laurel Hill where the Sugar Pine forest is located is a similar distance from Melbourne, which makes it a perfect half way point between the two cities. Staying close by in the sleepy village of Batlow will give you easy access to the forest which is only 15 minutes away.
 

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We usually get to a location the afternoon before to scout where and how we will shoot a sunrise. The Sugar Pines at Laurel Hill can be found off Kopsens Road, 15 minutes drive from Batlow. We stayed at the Apple Inn which was comfortable and affordable.

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First planted in 1929, the sugar pines are the straightest and tallest pine in the world. Looking up it can be quite disconcerting to see them swaying in the wind ready to snap and fall at least 50 feet. Sugar pine is the largest, in height and diameter, of all pine species. The wood of sugar pine is valued for its workability, dimensional stability, and satiny sheen after milling.

With snow predicted to fall we were excited to capture the snow flakes dropping for the perfect ambient shot. Unfortunately, the weather turned to clear skies. Nevertheless, it was awesome to get out of town and shoot for myself.

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Wounded trees of this species secrete a sugary exudate which gives rise to the common name. Sugar pine's large cones yield large edible seeds.These pine trees can grow to 200 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 5 feet.
Read more at http://www.australianphotography.com/photo-tips/weekend-roadtrip-shooting-laurel-hill-forest-and-the-canola-fields#KxqgfP0UkPutGlrK.99

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On our second day we decided to go to Coottamundra for a change of scenery to shoot the Canola fields. They are only the famous yellow colour for a short period in late winter/spring.
Read more at http://www.australianphotography.com/photo-tips/weekend-roadtrip-shooting-laurel-hill-forest-and-the-canola-fields#KxqgfP0UkPutGlrK.99

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The Canola fields are located on Old Gundagai road, and Rosehill and Jugiong roads near Cottamundra. From germination to seed production, the life cycle of a canola plant takes about 3 ½ months, depending on temperature, moisture, sunlight and soil fertility. I'm not sure how much longer we will see these yellow landscapes with recent changes in the weather, but regardless, make sure you visit in late winter/spring to see them at their best.

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Flying overhead you're likely to see planes spraying the fields. Because the term “crop dusting” automatically brings to mind the image above, today’s pilots generally prefer the term “aerial application” or “ag application.” Regardless, these guys are really well trained and watching them in action from a distance is quite a spectacle. However I suggest you steer clear as the chemicals they drop are quite toxic and should not be breathed in!
 

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My Travel Kit

 

I always try to travel very light and limit myself to two prime lenses. On this trip I decided to bring my Canon 5D Mark III, Carl Zeiss 18mm & Canon 50mm f1.2L lens. I have a Sirui T024X carbon fibre tripod and Nisi Filters (10 stop, PL & 3 stop reverse soft grad). I also bring my 13 inch mac book pro and Lacie Fuel Drive. My Bamboo Wacom tablet also works a charm for editing with LR, PS and Nik. Little extras like a headlamp, small reflectors and Samsung S8 also come in handy for behind the scenes footage. My mate brought along his DJI Mavic to get some drone footage in both locations.
 

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Five Tips for Shooting Black and White Landscapes

The next six months is prime time for shooting black and white landscapes, especially on those gloomy days which can add drama and "wow factor" to your images. I have some compelling reasons why I think you should consider converting from color to black and white.

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1. Bad Weather, Good Pictures

Some people believe they should only shoot landscapes on clear, blue sky days, but overcast days with some low cloud action can produce added drama and interest — especially to black and white images. Better yet, if the winds are strong a long exposure can add movement to the clouds and create an ambience of mystery and produce interesting effects and shapes.

Neutral density filters combined with slow shutter speeds of around 30–60 seconds will usually help you produce amazing and dramatic results. The perfect kind of weather for this is on days with skies full of fast moving low lying clouds. To help you plan ahead there are a multitude of phone apps available that help you find the perfect time and place. Check weather apps for weather patterns, wind direction, and strength, rainfall, and water levels of water ways after storms (particularly useful when shooting waterfalls), and tidal movement for coastal shoots.

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Popular apps include Sun Surveyor for checking angle of sun or moon, BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) to check chance of rain and wind speeds, Willy Weather to check tides, and The Photographer's Ephemeris for satellite imagery of potential locations in relation to light and wind direction, moon phase, tides, etc.

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2. Use the Right Gear

A mirrorless or DSLR camera which allows full manual control of your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO is preferred. A sturdy tripod tall enough for accessing the viewfinder at eye level and not light enough to blow over in the wind is a must. A wide-angle lens in the range of a 16-24mm allows you to capture more of the sky and clouds and anything of interest in the frame's foreground. A cable release, wireless remote, or mobile phone app for remotely triggering the camera's shutter and, in the case of the latter, viewing images. I use a Carl Zeiss 18mm lens and Canon 5D Mark III.

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3. Use Filters

Filters are vitally important for emphasising the required effects in your images. The proper use of neutral density (ND) filters can also take some time to master. ND filters that block up to 10 stops of light and will allow you to shoot long exposures even in the middle of the day. Most of the movement in the clouds and water in the accompanying photos were taken using a 10-stop ND filter. Most of these shots were taken in the middle of the day using 20-30 second exposures. It's best to manually focus your image first before attaching your filters. Every camera works differently when it comes to getting an accurate shutter speed reading. I use NiSi filters and have a 10 stop, a soft graduated 3 stop, and a circular polarizer.

 

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4. Best Camera Settings

You can set most modern digital cameras to shoot black and white images, but you’ll get more control over the tonality of your image if you shoot in color and convert to mono in post using a program like Lightroom, Photoshop, or Silver Efex. In postproduction, try to avoid the simple one-click "Convert to Mono" commands and look for options that let you control the tonal values of each color channel. In Photoshop, adding a Black and White adjustment layer above the main background layer lets you selectively change the tonal values of the Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, and Magentas individually. Similarly, in Lightroom, you can choose the Black and White sliders in the Develop module to alter the tonality of each color channel.

Shooting in raw is the best option as it allows you more control in editing when you need to change the color temperatures. Having your histogram on while shooting can also help you check if you have a good tonal range of light and dark grays. Make sure you don't blow out the highlights as these may be difficult to fix in post.

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5. Make a Print

This last step I think is usually given the least amount of priority but is probably the most important. I love the fine art archival quality you can get with Hanhnemeule and Canson paper. You can spend money doing your own printing or use a pro lab that specializes in getting the best results. If you decide to print yourself make sure to calibrate your monitor, printer, and match your color profiles with whatever paper you decide to use. Try creating your own black and white landscapes, it can add a whole new creative dimension to your photography.

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Alfonso Calero – Travel Photographer from Sydney specialising in portraits and landscapes. Regular traveller with my small photo workshops/tours in Australia , Japan, The Philippines and Spain.

7 Steps to Stunning Seascapes For Beginners

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I am not an early bird but living in Sydney, Australia on the east coast leaves me no choice but to get up early once in a while for a dawn to sunrise shoot. The coffee and breakfast at a beach cafe make it worth getting up at the sparrow's fart (Australian slang for very early). I've been shooting seascapes for over 10 years and I have always found it to be one of the most rewarding and challenging of photographic subjects. No two seascapes are the same and once you add variable weather and sea conditions to the mix there are endless opportunities for photographers willing to get their feet wet, so to speak! I am still learning everyday how to stay dry and not get washed away.


01 USE A TRIPOD

It sounds obvious, but most beginners don’t bother with tripods; they should. Apart from giving you the freedom to choose a slower shutter speed, a tripod forces you to slow down and think about the image-making process. Where should you position the horizon? Should that rock be in the frame or would it be better left out? Should you use a slow shutter speed to blur the water, or would it look better sharp? Look for a sturdy tripod that can collapse down to provide a low shooting angle. Shooting low can create great drama in your images. I like to use Sirui Carbon Fibre tripods. Make sure to check your load capacity as it is worth spending the extra dollars to have a great tripod that will last for years. Always make sure to wash down your tripod after each shoot with fresh water. I have a friend who likes to shower with his tripod fully expanded. It sounds kinky but it's practical when water shortages are happening in some drought stricken areas of Australia. Even without droughts we still are careful with water usage.
 

02 LOW ISO

Choose your camera’s lowest ISO setting (normally 50, 100 or 200 ISO). This will not only minimize the appearance of noise in your image, but also allow you to use a slower shutter speed, which can be useful if you are trying to achieve the ‘blurry water’ effect you see in many seascapes. My Canon 5d Mark III allows me to go down to ISO 50. 

 

03 SLOW SHUTTER SPEED

If you want to create the 'milky water' effect you'll need to use a slow shutter speed – slower than half a second. With your camera on a tripod, switch your camera to Shutter Priority (S or TV) and choose a shutter speed between 1/2 and 10 seconds. If it is too bright you will get a warning message indicating that the image will be over-exposed at this shutter speed. At this point you have two options. First, wait until it gets darker. Second, and this is my preferred option, place a Neutral Density filter, which looks like a grey piece of glass, in front of the lens to artificially darken the scene. You can buy ND filters of varying densities, from light to dark grey. I use a +10 stop ND NISI filter for most of my seascapes and find it works very well. If there is abundant water movement then you might also be able to get some nice effects at 1/8th or 1/15th of second without the ten stop filter.

04 APERTURE

Even though you’re shooting in Shutter Priority you still need to be conscious of the camera’s aperture setting. Look for an aperture somewhere around f/11. While you'll get more depth of field as the aperture gets smaller (higher f-numbers) keep in mind that most lenses are sharpest at a setting of around f/11. Best to do some research in regard to the sweet spot of your lens as every lens has the perfect f-stop to produce optimally sharp images. I prefer to shoot in full manual mode and control ISO 50, F11 for aperture and then change my shutter speed accordingly depending on the effects I am trying to get. If needed, then I will add on my filter.

 

05 REMOTE

If you’re using long exposures a remote shutter release will help you keep camera shake to a minimum. Failing that, you can use your camera’s self timer to fire the shutter ‘hands free’. The best and cheapest option is to download an app for your smartphone to control from as a remote, but for that your camera will need Bluetooth capabilities.

 

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06 GRADUATED FILTER

To add drama to your skies try using a graduated filter which are dark at the top and clear at the bottom. A graduated filter can be really useful for shooting high contrast landscape scenes where the sky is considerably brighter than the foreground. I use a 3 stop soft grad Nisi filter for sunrises.

 

07 SAFETY

I have been soaked with waves and sudden swells many times. I have even fallen a few times on slippery moss covered sandstone rocks. Be careful when photographing near the coast. Conditions can change quickly and it's easy to get caught out if you're not careful. Don't become so preoccupied with taking photos that you forget what's happening around you. Err on the side of safety – there are worse things in life than missing the shot! I often check my location's low tide the day before. It's best to decide where and how you will be shooting as it may still be dark when you arrive. It is best to stand back for a few minutes and observe the tides. The Great Australian surf has taken many rock fishermen by surprise. I use rock fishing boots with spikes now to give me ultimate grip on these slippery surfaces. A head lamp in the darkness also allows me to be hands free with my backpack. 

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What's your favorite seascape tip? Share it in the comments section below.

A Photographer's Guide To Exploring Tasmania's Wilderness

For the last 10 years I have been regularly visiting this remote and pristine island state. Tasmania is about a 1.5 hour flight from Sydney to the city of Launceston. The diverse choice of landscapes and close proximity by car make this a unique and accessible environment still largely untouched. Around 40 percent of Tasmania is protected National Parks and Reserves. If you are looking to get off the grid and discover a magical wilderness, this place is filled with adventure and convict history. Here are some of my favorite spots to photograph in spring or autumn. I have also added a few other locations as side trips that are also worth a look.

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For the last 10 years I have been regularly visiting this remote and pristine island state. Tasmania is about a 1.5 hour flight from Sydney to the city of Launceston. The diverse choice of landscapes and close proximity by car make this a unique and accessible environment still largely untouched. Around 40 percent of Tasmania is protected National Parks and Reserves. If you are looking to get off the grid and discover a magical wilderness, this place is filled with adventure and convict history. Here are some of my favorite spots to photograph in spring or autumn. I have also added a few other locations as side trips that are also worth a look.

2. Bicheno

Bicheno is located 176 kilometers (109 miles) southeast of Launceston. It used to be a whaling town in the early 1800s. Today it is a charming seaside resort town and the local fishing industry's catch includes substantial quantities of abalone, crayfish, scallops, and trevally. In the photo below you can see the famous Rocking Rock (80 ton piece of granite). There are a number of interesting access points onto the rocks which have a distinctive red color as a result of deposits of red lichen; All perfect for a slow shutter and a 10-stop filter if you choose to shoot in the middle of the day. There is also a blowhole nearby that shoots out water up to 10 feet high. Many of these rocks resemble sea creatures such as whales and sea lions. At night along the coastal beaches you might spot some fairy penguins coming in after sunset.

 

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3. Sleepy Bay, Freycinet National Park

Just a 30 minute drive from Bicheno is Coles Bay. Famous features of the park include its red and pink granite formations and a series of jagged granite peaks in a line called "The Hazards." If you are lucky you might spot some Bennet's wallabies, brushtail possums, eastern quoll, echidnas, and wombats. Out in the ocean you might spot some humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins.

 

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Up in the sky or perched on trees are white-bellied eagle, black-browed albatross, brown falcon, and fairy wren to name a few. Banksia and Eucalyptus Gum trees dominate the area. There are various walks but the most common would have to be Wineglass Bay which has been voted in as one of the top 10 beaches in Australia.

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4. Tessellated Pavement

The Tessellated Pavement State Reserve is on the Tasman Peninsula near Eaglehawk Neck. The region is popular with a short drive from here to Port Arthur Convict Settlement. Also known for a massacre in 1996 of 35 who were killed by a mad gunman. It is the deadliest mass shooting in Australia's history. Since then, our gun laws restrict the private ownership of high-capacity semi automatic rifles and shotguns as well as introducing uniform firearms licensing. The area has a melancholic feel. The best time of year to photograph the chess board like pavement is in May when moss on the rocks is more abundant. 

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5. Horseshoe Falls

Only an hour and a half drive out of Hobart is Mt. Field National Park where you will find Russell And Horseshoe Falls. Nestled in a moss forest are towering swamp gums, the tallest flowering plant on earth, and species typical of wet forests and cool temperate rainforests, such as dogwood, musk, and myrtle. Towards the falls, the track is framed by stunning tall tree ferns. The falls themselves are impossibly picturesque.

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Other Points of Interest

Liffey is an area where many farms have abandoned houses and sheds. Rumored to have paranormal activity, this wool shed stands on its last legs. Liffey is also known for its cascading waterfalls.

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Derwent River Poplars in May is when autumn and all its colors come to life in the Derwent Valley only an hours drive from Hobart.

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7 Ways To Unlock Your Creativity

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Let's be honest, regardless how creative you may be we all have our highs and lows. In the field of photography, creativity should be an essential part of why we started. Our passion needs to be unleashed. Here are some ways to help you unlock your creativity.

Start a Project

Create regular projects for yourself until a series or cohesive body of work emerges. If you had to put together six to ten of your best images, what would they be about? Is there a narrative that you wish to express? What genre of photography are you looking to utilize? Keep a journal of your drawings or written ideas. I still have journals from years ago that I reference. The concept needs to be thought about properly. Merge your hobbies with your project. For example, I have combined my love of art, history, and culture. Why not try some new equipment or techniques for your project. You will choose between found pictures (e.g., photojournalism) and created pictures (e.g., conceptual). If you are lucky you might even be able to combine found with created pictures. Adding a composite of images in editing might lead to a series. A large part of the process is the wandering mind and experimenting.

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Be Ready

Sometimes the best images are completely spontaneous. Half the skill is recognizing the special moments when they arise. Even if you don't see anything that particularly inspires you, try to get in the habit of shooting every day to improve your creative and technical skills. It takes hard work and discipline to get in the mood. Find out if you are more creative early in the morning or late at night. Set yourself some creative challenges to explore for certain elements and principles in composition (i.e., look for texture and repetition of shapes). Here is a link to download my free ebooks about composition. Dreams, if you can remember them, are also a source of ideas. Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter, used to have an afternoon siesta with a paintbrush in his hand ready to paint.

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Pre-Visualize

What do you have to do to turn your idea into reality? What are the challenges and how can you solve them? Collect reference material. I enjoy using Pinterest to create my own mood boards for possible projects. I love to explore different styles of painting and periods of art. For example, I enjoy dark and moody landscapes that have a melancholic feel. English Painter Sidney Richard Percy depicts what I am drawn to. Also, I often use three books to check on photography and art: "The Art Book" by Phaidon Press, "The 20th Century Art Book," and "The Photography Book." Even though some of you may not have an interest in art, you have to admire a painter's ability to capture light and master composition.

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Change Your Perspective

I am glad I have not deleted some old photos to edit them again differently. Travel is a great way to stimulate your creativity. Visiting a new country, eating something bizarre, or learning a new language are all simple steps to re-wire new pathways. Experiencing a new culture and interacting with locals will surely give you a fresh perspective on life. In Claire Rosen's book "Imaginarium" she talks about divergent thinking and concepts that can come from a place, a person, an object, or an event to name a few. Be playful with your ideas and try not to think too literal. Comedian Robin Williams showed how this works best at 3:10 in this video.

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Shoot Less, Shoot Better

Shoot without looking at the preview, this will force you to be in the moment. This will also force you to concentrate more on your idea and not on technical data. Also, try to imagine that each shot is precious. If you slow down and think about what you're doing, the number of images you shoot might go down, but the quality of your images will almost certainly go up. Turn off your preview mode while you are shooting a short 10-20 minute challenge. If you still have a film camera why not shoot a roll or two. Set yourself a timeline to work through this exercise to brainstorm ideas. When editing your best shots look at them once to avoid being indecisive and being too self-critical. Go with your gut feeling and intuition to make quick choice.

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Trust

The only person you need to please is yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you how or what to shoot. Once you have an idea, follow it though to its conclusion. If there is someone else you trust and value their opinion, why not bounce your ideas off them? Collaborate with other artists who understand what you are trying to visually communicate. De-construct your ideas for time and budget. Sometimes I feel a need to gain more skills in Photoshop as a digital artist. Other times, I may need more experience lighting subjects to convey an emotion I am not achieving. The whole journey of discovery takes time, patience, and perseverance.

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Understand Yourself

This seems like a logical step but it is one that is often overlooked. To get a basic understanding of psychology I often read from experts like Jeremy Dean who focuses many of his articles on creativity. Over the last 20 years of using photography as a medium of my self-expression, it has been very gratifying to tap into my past as a source of inspiration. I think of photography like a window to my subconscious memories. The end goal is to grow as a photographer and develop your skills and style to express yourself. Regardless of the outcomes, I always find it a very healthy experience. Have you got other ways to get you ready for creativity?