Earlier this month I was one of the co-leaders on the Light Explorers' Tuscany In Spring workshop. We spent five days at a fantastic hotel just outside San Quirico d'Orcia with an awesome group of people shooting amongst the gorgeous rolling hills of Tuscany
Back in the autumn I spent a couple of weeks travelling in the Italian Dolomites, some of the most beautiful mountains in Europe. I’d planned the trip at this time of year as late September/early October is when the trees are starting to turn golden and when the tourist season has passed leaving the trails and many of the more popular locations empty.
The island of Flores is about as far west as you can go and still be in Europe, although technically it's on the American continental plate and moving 2cm further away from the European mainland each year. We landed in lovely sunshine, picked up the rental car and headed across the island to the cottage we'd booked in Faja Grande on the western side of he island. Flores is basically a large plateau, so going anywhere involves driving up and across the top. The road up has some fantastically dramatic scenery, but sadly once we reached the top we couldn't see anything as the cloud had descended so low that visibility was little me then 50 meters. When we reached the other side however we started to descend and as we dropped out of the clouds the views were magnificent. The cliffs are covered in lush vegetation and waterfalls tumbling down to the faja, the flat piece of land between the sea and the foot of the cliffs. It was late in the day and he sun had passed beneath the cloud and was saturating the cliffs in light and colour.
On our trip around the Azores we'd planned three nights in Faial, mostly because I was fascinated with the view it had of neighboring Pico and its mountain, but we soon realized that it was a beautiful island in its own right.
On our first day there we drove over to Almoxarife, a small village on the coast on the other side of a headland from the capital Horta. It's a reall pretty little town and we spent a large part of the afternoon diving into the sea from the concrete piers with the the locals. The beaches here are all pretty steep and rocky, and there's something incredibly enjoyable about leaping into the ocean like that. The water in the Azores is much warmer than in mainland Portugal and in such a hot and humid place it was great to jump in.
I've just returned from 25 days in Indonesia, my first trip with Fuji cameras and my first trip without a large dSLR. We traveled the entire length of Java and Bali overland so it was important to me to have a camera that wouldn't feel heavy and cumbersome to carry around, but also one I could completely rely on to produce excellent image quality.
The experience of traveling with Fuji cameras has been a revelation! Not only in how much lighter, smaller and easier to carry around it all is, but how I've not once missed my old Nikon in terms of image quality or autofocus in any of the many situations I've encountered, from fast moving street scenes to dynamically lit landscapes. They've been brilliant, reliable and a consistent pleasure to use.
Leaving behind Yogyakarta we headed towards nearby Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument on the world. It's the kind of place like Angkor Wat or Bagan, when you first see photos of it, it seems like it's the set for some movie about a lost world. It's a vast stone mandala-like structure built around the hill in a jungle over a thousand years ago.
By now though it's firmly established on the tourist trail and thousands of Indonesians travel from all over the country to visit it. I wanted to photograph it at sunrise, which I knew would mean a very early morning and difficulties in getting a clean shot as I expected the place to be very busy for first light in the way that Shwedagon Pagoda in Bagan was. Indeed both of these things were firmly on my mind as we arrived at Borobudur as I knew that it marked the beginning of four mornings where we would get up at 4am or earlier in both Borobudur and then Mount Bromo, and that both places would be incredibly busy with tourists making photography with a tripod sometimes a little challenging. When we'd planned the trip I'd tried to ensure that we visited Bromo away from the weekend hoping that would mean slightly smaller crowds, but also because we also wanted our time in Ubud, Bali, to coincide with a full moon festival. However, we hadn't realised that this would mean this part of the trip taking place in a week that began with a bank holiday to celebrate Indonesia's independence. The traffic as we left Yogyakarta to get to the temple was incredible and I started to realize how busy Borobudur was actually going to be.
Back when we first started looking into this trip, when we'd decided to go to Asia but weren't sure which country yet, the more I looked at Burma and saw places like Golden Rock and Inle, the more I wanted to go there. However, it was seeing photos of Bagan and reading descriptions of the vast plain covered with thousands of ancient temples that really made us decide "We have to see this place!"
Because of the route we'd chosen to travel around Burma Bagan was one of the last places on our itinerary, and despite all the amazing places we'd seen before there'd always been a sense of anticipation about finally getting to Bagan.
As it turned out, our plane landed at night and driving from the airport to our hotel in Old Bagan we couldn't really see much, just the odd tantalizing glimpse of a couple of large illuminated temples between the trees.
Fes was fantastic, but when the germ of the idea of coming to Morocco first took root in my head, it was to photograph sand dunes in the Sahara. Looking at the map, it seemed perfectly feasible, over to Morocco, a couple of hours down to Fes, and then it was just another 500 or so kilometers to Erg Chebbi, where the Sahara starts. How hard could it be?
<!--more-->As it turned out, it wasn't particularly difficult, but it was long. Driving 500km in Morocco takes a long time. The roads are generally pretty good, there's not that much traffic on them and contrary to my expectations, people on the roads were cautious and completely unaggressive. It was rare to see someone breaking the speed limit.
No, it takes a long time because what little traffic there is on the road, is generally slow moving trucks, and the road up into the middle Atlas, across the plateau at the top, and then down again on the other side at Errachidia, is often relatively winding
Like the Amazon, it's size and age, and the fact that humans are utterly insignificant in the face of it, barely scratching it's surface, leaves a deep impression