Iceland is one of those countries that must be near the top of most Photographer’s bucket list, it has such a diverse range of incredible landscapes that it’s just a pleasure to go there to shoot. On my first visit about 5 years ago I tried to get around as much of the country as possible, spending a couple of days in the highlands, in the southeast, in the north and in the westfjords. It was a great trip, but Iceland has incredible changeable weather and for large parts of the trip I never saw the sun or had any decent light.
Tuscany is one of those iconic landscape locations I’d longed to photograph since I first saw pictures of it in the first photography books I ever bought. It was one of the first photography trips I ever made back in 2009 and I immediately fell in love with the area. It’s a beautiful rural landscape, all gentle rolling hills, vineyards and medieval hilltop towns, and so I was excited to be heading back there again this spring with two good friends and fantastic photographers Konstantinos Vasilakis and Kostas Petrakis. We’ll be running a workshop there next year, so our plan for this trip was to finalise all the practicalities and ensure that everything we needed was in place, but of course we also intended to do plenty of photography.
The Fujifilm GFX 50S really is a game changer for Fuji. A medium format mirrorless camera, it combines the company’s heritage of classic medium format film cameras like the G690, GS645 and G617 with their retro mirrorless digitalX Series. It’s a fascinating combination and makes sense for a company like Fuji to fuse their decades of experience of medium format film systems with their brilliant mirrorless digital cameras to create a large mirrorless medium camera system that targets users of professional full frame systems like the Nikon D810, the Canon 5DR and the Sony A7R2.
I've been so busy with projects recently that I haven't been updating the blog...I haven't even finished editing the Azores photos. There's lots happening though, quite a few projects that will be coming to fruition throughout next year that need all the seeds planting now.
In the meantime though, I've just received my official Fujifilm calendar for 2016 from Fuji. It's a massive honour to see my image from Bali on there. They selected 6 landscape images from all their X Photographers for the A2 sized calendar and mine was chosen for November/December.
Lots more images and news coming soon.
Corvo, oh Corvo. Population 468, the most isolated and small of all the Azores, and a place I'd wanted to see with my own eyes ever since I first saw images of it. Getting there though is not always straightforward. There aren't daily flights to its tiny airport, and the two boats that go there each day are often cancelled or late due to be weather. Our boat was a due to leave at 16h30, so we arrived at the harbour a little early only to be waiting until almost 19h before we left. I did mange to capture some shots and portraits of this gentleman who'd been an inhabitant of Corvo all his life.
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.
When Portugal played France in the Euro 2016 final, win or lose, there was no way we could stay at home when half the city of Lisbon would be out cheering on their team. We walked through some of the main squares and thoroughfares of the city, as well as stopping off at a couple of bars and locals tascas to soak up the atmosphere with the tiny X-T10 and a couple of prime lenses. <!--more-->While the majority of people were congregated infront of the huge screen in Praça do Commercio, we ended up watching the extra time when Portugal scored the winner in a small square with an outdoor kiosk and lots of packed tables. By the end of the evening it was too dark to properly capture the action, and besides, by then I'd got so completely caught up in the game that I kind of forgot about taking any photos.
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.
The search for the perfect camera bag is one that lasts many photographers years and can cost a fair amount of money. For a long while I was pretty happy with my Lowopro Primus, which could happily fit my old Nikon D3 along with a wide angle zoom and the 80-400mm.
When I upgraded to a D800 though, I also switched to using a 70-200 f2.8 as my telephoto lens, and all of a sudden my kit wouldn't fit in my bag. It's also a pretty heavy bag so I started looking around for alternatives.
There were quite a few frustrating "this would be perfect if only..." and "this is great, but why didn't they..." moments, but over the last couple of years I've owned a couple of bags that pretty much ticked all the boxes, the F stop Kenti and the Lowepro Photosport 200, and after using both bags extensively on trips I thinks it's time I got around to reviewing them. I've also now switched to the considerably smaller Fuji X system so I'll try and write these reviews from the perceptive of a full frame dSLR system and also a smaller mirrorless system.
Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali, an artist's town set amongst the rice fields and hills of central Bali. It's a place we planned to unwind and catch some culture like Balinese dancing, and although I had a couple of locations researched I wasn't really planning on much photography here.
One of the things that Ubud has is a wide range of incredibly stylish, sophisticated, but affordable accommodation. We'd booked 5 nights in a place called Alam Indah, on the outskirts of Ubud next to the famous monkey forest. It didn't disappoint, the room was beautiful with great views out over the forest and proved to be a fantastic place to relax (and write this blog).
We were sad to leave Pemuteran. It had been a relaxing four days, but it was time to move on to our next location, Munduk, high in the central mountains of Bali. It's a tiny village surrounded by clove and coffee plantations with rice terraces cut into the side of the hills. The journey from Pemuteran took a little less than an hour and a half, and after we left the town of Seririt we seemed to be constantly rising in twisting roads. The landscape is so green and there is so much water. It's incredibly fertile land and so much grows here.
The train journey from Probolinggo to Banuwango takes about four and a half hours through verdant green fields of rice, then it's a few hundred meters to the ferry port and about a dollar to make the crossing to Bali.
The island sits there in the blue of the sea with volcanic peaks covered in green vegetation reaching high into the sky. It's a very short crossing, and in no time we were there and being picked up at the exit. It's a short drive to the hotel but we were fascinated by the small villages we past through. Unlike Java, which is mostly Muslim, Bali is predominantly Hindu and right away we could see subtle differences in the architecture. We could feel ourselves starting to unwind and the stress of the busy last 5 days leaving our bodies, which had been the plan when we'd organized this part of the trip months earlier. There was nothing in particular I wanted to photograph in Pemuteran, it was just 4 days in a beautiful place where we could snorkel and recharge our batteries.
We were up at 4am the next day again, but this time it was to get us to the early train in to Surabaya from Yogyakarta. Where the journey to Borobudur had taken almost 2 hours with the holiday traffic, the journey back to the station only took 45 minutes and we were there in plenty of time to get some breakfast and find our seats.
The journey took 5 hours and despite dozing a little on the train, I saw lots of the countryside through the window. Lush rice fields with people wearing conical hats, it was a typical rural south East Asian scene that made me wish, as ever, that we'd had more time to explore the area. At Surabaya station we met the driver we'd arranged with the Bromo hotel a few weeks previously. After about 2 hours we turned off the main road and started to head up into the mountains, the air got cooler and our ears started to pop.
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.
Java, Bali, Indonesia, Jakarta are all magical names that conjure images of far away exotic lands to me. After loving our trip to Burma we really wanted to return to Asia and spent a while looking at different possibilities. Indonesia was the place we kept coming back to and about a year ago we decided that that's where we'd go.
Planning the trip proved a nightmare as it's a vast country spread out over thousands of islands with so much to see. At first we had quite an adventurous plan to see about 4 islands, but with this trip we thought it would be nice to have a smaller focus and spend more time in different places. For me, the huge Buddhist temple of Borobudur and the amazing volcano at Bromo, both on Java, were the big draws. For Teresa it was the cultural city of Yogyakarta, also on Java, as well as Bali that she really wanted to see. So after poring through guide books, GoogleEarth and various sites on the web, we decided to focus on Java and Bali and limit the locations we stayed in so weren't constantly on the move.
After months of research and planning, Teresa and I are finally heading off to Indonesia for a around a month on Monday. It's a trip we've wanted to make for a long time and we'll be taking in a really wide range of places and locations, so it should provide lots of opportunities for photography.
We'll fly to Jakarta, before heading by train to Yogyakarta, the cultural centre, for a couple of days. Then we'll spend a couple of days at the huge Buddhist temple of Borobudur, before heading by train again to Surabaya and then on to Mount Bromo, the iconic volcano in the Tengger Semeru National Park. After that we head over to Bali for a few days diving and snorkelling in Permuteran on the north coast, then up to the mountains and rice fields in Munduk, before relaxing at the end of the trip in Ubud.
I'm proud to announce that my book on Photographing Burma is now available for download at the iBooks store. If you’re wondering which temples in Bagan are the best for sunrise and sunset, if you want to know what’s the best way to shoot sunrise and sunset at Golden Rock, or if you just want to be inspired by beautiful images of Burma then you’ll find plenty in this book to help you plan your trip to Burma.
Alongside over 120 images I’ve tried to pass on as much of what I learned while photographing this breathtaking country as possible with advice on photogenic places to visit and tips on some of the practicalities like when the locations are best photographed and how to get there. With every image I’ve provided a description of where and how and, where possible, why the image was taken and what I was hoping to achieve when photographing the scene.
While by no means a definitive guide to every location in Burma, the book nevertheless is a great starting point for any trip to Burma, and with that in mind I hope that both the images and information here will provide inspiration and some solid advice about visiting and photographing this truly wonderful country.
Flying into La Paz must be one of the most dramatic introductions to a city anywhere! On the short flight from Sucre we looked out of the window at large dusty plain of the Altiplano below us and slowly the outskirts of El Alto, the La Paz suburb which has become a city in it's own right, began to appear. Then the massive peak of Illumani, the highest mountain in Bolivia, the top of which seemed to reach to the same altitude as our plane, loomed into view. Then, below us, the streets and buildings of El Alto seemed to disappear over the edge of a cliff beneath the peaks of the mountains and a valley which resembled a crater or a bowl appeared. Lining the sides of the crater and tumbling all the way to the bottom is the city of La Paz, or Cidade da Nuestra Señora La Paz (City of Our Lady of Peace) to give it it's full name.
Salar de Uyuni seemed to appear around us almost unexpectedly. One moment we were driving through a valley, and then the peaks to either side of us seemed to start receding into the distance at the same time as the sand and mud below the wheels gradually gave way to salt. All of a sudden we realised we were crossing the Salar, an ocean of flat whiteness that disappeared into the distance on all sides.
At first the salt plain felt and looked dirty and grubby, but as we got further and further into it, it became more and more pristine in it's whiteness, the sun reflecting brilliantly from the salt crystals.
We woke up early and dropped off the jeep off at the car rental in San Pedro before meeting a driver who would take us across the border to meet our guide in Bolivia. Chilean guides aren't allowed to operate in Boliva and vice versa, so there's always this system of being picked up in a van or minibus, taken though Chilean border control (just outside San Pedro) and then into Bolivia through their border control at the foot of Licancabur Volcano. Here, people meet their guides and continue the rest of the way in very sturdy 4x4s.
We'd gone through an agency called Ruta Verde to organise a private trip. Usually the jeeps are crammed with 4 to 6 people, but I knew that would make it much more difficult for me to stop where I wanted for how long I wanted to take photos, so we'd managed to arrange a tour and pretty much specified where we wanted to go and for how long (for example, I wanted to spend 2 nights at Salar de Uyuni). Our guide was Raul, a native of Uyuni, who'd been guiding people around this part of Bolivia for 10 years.