Polar Nights – A taste of Lofoten

Who would be mad enough to head to Lofoten for New Years Eve? A place where there is twilight for just 2-3 hours per day? MEEE! I thought it would be great fun to see Lofoten in winter, but this is no trip for the faint hearted.

Hamnøy is famous for photography. Here is the wonderful Anita’s Sjømat cafe. Lofoten, Norway. Canon 5D Mark III with Zeiss Milvus 18mm 2.8

I intended to hire a car and roam around seeing the area, camping in my tent at night. Turned out that perhaps this was an optimistic plan. My journey began in Narvik, flying in from Copenhagen. This is certainly the fastest way to get here, although you can also take the train through Sweden. I hired a car and spent two days in Narvik. A nice little town with much history. Narvik is famous in world war II where it was a major port for Swedish iron ore. It remains so to this day. The German war machine needed this vital supply line, and paid a heavy toll for it. There are many great museums and sights to see from this time.

My mission was to reach the town of A at the western extreme of Lofoten, taking some good photos along the way.

Google map of the Lofoten region, hearts represent stops on the route.

I thought that camping would be fun, but it was a little difficult and they were not great nights. Essentially I had two days of very cold weather, two days of extremely windy weather and two days of constantly pouring rain… The first night I found an area to camp off the beaten track, but turned out that there were moose around – not exactly a relaxing night.

A little snow overnight, Evenes, Lofoten. Canon 5D Mark III with 24mm 1.4 Art

A bit of cooking in this lovely hut. Canon 5D Mark III with 12mm 2.8 Fisheye.

The two nights on the coast were so windy that my Hilleberg 4 season tent bent one of its poles, and sleep was impossible due to the constant noise from the tent shaking about. The next nights had constant and cold rain. I decided to mix it up and get a hotel where I could dry out my gear and get some sleep.

Lofoten is very quiet in winter and few places are open. On top of this, the dark days made it challenging to actually see much – only 2-3 hours each day. Not exactly the makings of a great holiday, but there were some consolations. Lofoten is epic-ly beautiful and rugged. The coastlines are an impossible mix of sharp mountains and beautiful beaches. Small settlements dot the landscape in the typical Norwegian fashion.

Svolvær, Lofoten. 5D Mark III with 135mm f2L

Somewhere in Lofoten, Canon 5D Mark III with 135mm f2L

Lofoten, Norway. Canon 5D Mark III with 24mm 1.4 Art.

Hamnøy, Lofoten. Canon 5D Mark III with 85mm 1.2L II

At the same time you have that typical Scandinavian comfort. Such a modern and cosy place. The cafes are utterly up-beat and serve some of the best seafood in the world.

Delicious seafood burger from Anita’s Sjømat, Lofoten. Canon 5D Mark III with 85mm 1.2L II

I will have to return under some more favourable conditions. A winter trip should be planned in March for more light, and in summer the midnight sun will allow endless light and better conditions for camping. For me I loved the mystical feel of this northern fairyland.

Gallery

Costa Rica

Frogs Heaven, Costa Rica. 5D Mark III | 180mm 2.8 Macro

As I write this, it is already late January 2020. This trip I am about to tell you about was already in September 2019.. Quite some lag time there…

At least I have a good excuse. 2019 was a very challenging year for me personally. Just a good month before this trip to Costa Rica my relationship ultimately came to an end. That time was the hardest in my life. As I scrabbled to get my life under control, I thought that I would really benefit from going far away to a place I always dreamed about visiting. Spend some time alone somewhere beautiful.

And so a hastily planned trip to Costa Rica happened. I relished in my two great past times, travel and photography. I think it turned out to be a healthy thing which got me focused on the future.

Enough about that. This trip was mostly about photography and nature for me. I planned this trip by looking at photos from places in Costa Rica, and deciding where to go on the photo merits. This led me to lots of national parks and beautiful coastlines. I hired a car and booked accommodation as I went – the style of travel I find most flexible and rewarding. Driving in Costa Rica is easy, and it’s a very handy way to get around. Below is a map of my locations (little hearts J).

Points of interest on my journey – Google Maps

Favorite sights

  • Frogs Heaven – Up close and personal with frogs and birds.
  • Uvita – Whale watching and great coastline.
  • Manuel Antonio – Great park with wild life and beaches.
  • Santa Teresa Beach – Surfers paradise in Costa Rica
  • Sierpe River – Great mangrove boat trips teeming with wildlife

Whale watching, Uvita Costa Rica. 5D Mark III | 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II

Kokopelli Mangrove Tour, Costa Rica. 5D Mark III | 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. Costa Rica. 5D Mark III | 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II

Photography Considerations

  • Wet weather – If traveling in the wet season like I did you need a proper rain solution for your pack and camera. I used a rain cover for my camera and my pack has a built in rain cover which worked OK.
  • Heat & Humidity – Be mindful of condensation when traveling from a cold A/C environment to the hot outdoors. Humidity can damage cameras. Let them acclimatize slowly.
  • Macro Lens – A must in Costa Rica, bring a 100mm or longer.
  • Telephoto Lens – A must in Costa Rica, I brought my 100-400L IS II and 1.4x converter and needed the reach.
  • Ultrawide Lens – Depending on taste, but there are many great confined spaces like close forests that benefit from an ultrawide.

 

Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica. 5D Mark III | 12mm 2.8 Fisheye

Somewhere in Costa Rica. 5D Mark III | 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II | 1.4x

Frogs Heaven, Costa Rica. 5D Mark III | 180mm 2.8 Macro

Travel Tips

  • Don’t plan too much! – Keep your schedule loose in case you love or hate an area. Accommodation is easy to find on Booking.com or similar.
  • Know the locations – You should research the great destinations you really want to see before setting off.
  • Driving / Roads – A car is a great way to get around. I strongly advise a 4×4 and good insurance. Many roads are very bad.

Donate a coffee!

Buy me a coffee! I can only take great photos and produce all this awesome content when I am fueled up on coffee.

€3.00

Full Gallery

For the full album please click here!

Happy Shooting

 

 

Chamonix & Mer de Glace

Hello everyone! I finally processed some photos from last Autumn where my wife and I went to Chamonix. As ever, living south of Munich means you don’t have to travel far to see some of Europe’s best sights. Chamonix is located in France, at the base of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain. It is not only a cosy town but Chamonix always has a feeling of adventure. This time we dropped by Zurich in Switzerland on the way.

The next day we did a bit of hiking, and took the train up to the Mer de Glace glacier. It is a magnificent place surrounded by towering peaks with the vast glacier curving its way through the valley.

location

On this trip I took the following lenses; 24mm f1.4, 35mm f1.4, 85mm 1.2L II, 135mm f2L and 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II. The primes are great for taking photos in the town, and the telephoto lenses are great for getting good photos of the mountains. Here are some of the keepers from the weekend! Hope you enjoy.

Happy Shooting!

Gallery

First trip to Laos!

Hello all! I am proud to add a collection of photos from Laos to my website! It was been a goal for a while – to complete the French Indochina set. We flew in from Hanoi to Luang Prabang and mostly explored the area of Luang Prabang and the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, we did not make it down to Vientiane on this occasion.

Luang Prabang, Laos. 5D Mark III | 35mm 1.4 Art

Laos. 5D Mark III | 24mm 1.4 Art

The feeding of the Monks. Luang Prabang, Laos 5D Mark III | 85mm 1.2L II | iso 3200

Interesting pig transportation system.. Luang Prabang, Laos. 5D Mark III | 35mm 1.4 Art

Luang Prabang, Laos. 5D Mark III | 35mm 1.4 Art

There is lots to see, and after spending some time in town, we rented a motorbike for a few days and went around exploring. We also rode out to Kuang Si Falls. Its kind of a mini version of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. Cool place! They need to do more to protect the sight from tourists. But this is typical of developing countries.

Kuang Si Falls, Laos. Canon G7X

Awesome Kuang Si Falls, Laos. Canon G7X

We decided to do an elephant trip, but wanted to go with a good Eco-friendly company. Someone what protected and cared for the animals. Elephant Village fits the bill. They were awesome so check out their site in the link. My ‘operator’ below, was a great guy. If you look closely, you can see my elephant stepped on a landmine years ago.

Our awesome “drivers”, Somewhere on the Mekong River, Laos. Canon G7X

To get back to Vietnam, we took an over night bus through the mountains to Vinh, VN which was interesting! Had a great trip to make sure you check out the full album here!

Full Album

 

Munich U-Bahn

Every photographer is well aware of the photogenic underground stations in different parts of the world. There are amazing stations in Stockholm, Vienna, Prague and many other place. In Australia we didn’t really have a tube, and I have never really been into architectural photography. However, I recently discovered the Munich U-bahn!

Marienplatz station, Munich. 5D Mark III | 16-35mm 2.8L II | f16 | Tripod

The photo above is of Marienplatz, in the heart of  Munich. The design is really cool, and an architectural photographer’s dream. There are many other stations like this. I am considering doing a U-Bahn project, and going around photographing these cool places. In this photo, I used the 16-35mm 2.8L II wide angle lens and a tripod for a long exposure. Architectural photography is all about symmetry, perfect lines and  perfect composition.. very hard to do well!

So lets see if I can get that project happening!

Happy Shooting!

Paper Island (Papir Øen)

One of the awesome places to visit in Copenhagen is paper island, or Papir Øen. in danish. Copenhagen is a multicultural, super modern metropolis, and paper island is a great example of this. This island is in the middle of Copenhagen harbor, with the famous opera building as a neighbor. The location was used for paper storage for the danish press for decades, hence the name, paper island. The old halls were left decaying, but have now been given a new lease of life. I think its Copenhagen best example of how dynamic and culturally diverse the city is.

Cozy place to hang out! Paper Island Street Food, 5D Mark III | 50mm 1.4 Art

Outdoor Bar, Paper Island style. 5D Mark III | 50mm 1.4 Art

Made mostly out of old containers, the place is alive with creative companies, art, cafes and street-food vendors. The government seems to have done this mostly for fun and to experiment, with the new residence given short term contracts ending in 2017. I think its great to see such an old and run down industrial area turned into something so full of creativity and life. I really hope they keep it. The main attraction is the ‘street food’. There is food there from all over the world, and the quality is really good. Everyone seems to be competing to see who can make the most amazing dish.

Whoever has the most amazing looking dish wins. 5D Mark III | 35mm 1.4 Art

A new-age derivative of the Danish open sandwich.. 5D Mark III | 35mm 1.4 Art.

Another thing there is no shortage of is beer and proper coffee! Paper island has become a trendy place to hang out, even for the locals. There are open fires, cool places to sit or lounge around. Young entrepreneurs are making the most of it, introducing some great food, drinks, art and creativity into an otherwise old city.

A number of good bars offering great beer, Paper Island. 5D Mark III | 35mm 1.4 Art.

1960s caravan made into a cafe. Great coffee. 5D Mark III | 35mm 1.4 Art.

So grab a craft beer and a double organic carrot and beetroot salad while you can!

Find out more: Official Site
Location:

Photography Tips:
  • Photography is allowed unless signed otherwise.
  • You should ask for permission before taking photos.
  • Its a tight space, with low light. Best to use a fast wide angle lens like a 24mm or 35mm 1.4.
  • Don’t forget to also enjoy a beer there!

Gallery:

Ettaler Weidmoss

There are a number of wetlands in the region we live, including Pulvermoos, Murnauer Moos, and Ettaler Weidmoss. There is lots to see, particularly if you like the flora and fauna found in this kind of environment. I went to Ettaler Weidmoss to check it out,as I spotted it coming back from the famous Schloss Linderhof. I went there a couple of hours before sunset. I didn’t really know what to expect, so I brought a few lenses including the 180mm 2.8 Macro and my landscape filters along.

Well I didn’t make it that far, despite the fact that there are lots of walking tracks there. I found lots of very pretty wild flowers, and got a bit carried away. I will have to go back and continue exploring some day soon.

Ettaler Weidmoss, Canon 5D Mark III | 180mm 2.8 Macro | f4.5

Some tips for visiting:
  • Wear a pair of hiking boots or gumboots. Can we quite wet.
  • Go on a quiet day. You need to have no wind in order to get the best shots from a tripod.
  • Its good to go after rain. The rain brings out colour, and cleans everything up.
  • Best to use a tripod and low ISO. If there is no movement by the wind.
  • There is lots to photograph, but a macro lens will bring out a lot of small wonders.

Ettaler Weidmoss, Canon 5D Mark III | 180mm 2.8 Macro | f4.5

I used mostly the 180mm 2.8 Macro as it allows me to selectively focus on the subjects I want, in an artistic way that has a lot of background blur or bokeh. I would not like to shoot these subjects with a lot of depth of field, because all the elements will be distracting to the viewer. A short macro lens will give the detail and close focus, but will not give the subject isolation possible with a longer lens.

Avoid taking these kinds of photos in the middle of the day, because the harsh sun will never allow the same kind of mood as that captured in this series. Here are some of my favorites from the evening!

Ettaler Weidmoss, Canon 5D Mark III | 180mm 2.8 Macro | f5.0 | Tripod.

Ettaler Weidmoss, Canon 5D Mark III | 180mm 2.8 Macro | f2.8.

Ettaler Weidmoss, Canon 5D Mark III | 180mm 2.8 Macro | f2.8 | Tripod.

All in all it was a very nice evening. I did not get any landscape shots in, but plenty of wildflowers which is also nice. I only managed to walk about 400m as I got rather distracted by all the subject matter. I will have to go back and see what else I can find. There are a lot of insects, and anyone interested in macro would enjoy the photo opportunities there.

Location:

Gallery

Below are the keepers from the day. Most are taken with the 180mm 2.8 OS EX Macro lens which really came into its own on this adventure. No other macro lens can obliterate busy backgrounds like this lens.  I have previously made a review of the lens, which you can read about here. I highly recommend the lens, its big and heavy, but it really delivers the goods in the right conditions. Enjoy!

Signs of Spring!

Spring is here!!! 5D Mark III | 180mm 2.8 Macro @ f2.8, Bad Bayersoien, Bavaria

So after a long and some-what disappointing winter I’m ready for Spring. Luckily, there are a few early signs of spring starting to show already! I am looking forward to the wild flowers blooming, and all the wonderful colour in the mountains. I hope to post much more this Spring, but I went for a morning walk the other day with my 180mm macro, and here is what I found! Finally some green on top of all that grey:

Brighton Beach Australia

Its another cold, sleety Sunday morning in Bavaria. Winter is slowly coming to an end, and its about time, I’ve had enough of 2 degrees and sleet. Starting to look forward to summer, or at least Spring. Actually, I found some un-processed photos from Australia with sun and surf which might have brought about the negativity! So here are a few photos from Brighton Beach in Victoria to help get everyone into the mood for summer!

Brighton Beach VIC, 5D Mark III, 12mm 2.8 Fisheye

Brighton Beach VIC, 5D Mark III, 12mm 2.8 Fisheye

Brighton Beach is close to Melbourne, and is famous for its many colourful little beach shacks. There are better beaches in the world, but perhaps none so colourful! I used the Breakthrough X4 polariser, 24mm 1.4 Art and Samyang 12mm 2.8 Fish-eye here. Hope you enjoy!!

 

Amateur Aerial Photography!

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View from above! – California. 5D Mark III & 85mm 1.2L II at f9, ISO 400

Aerial photography is taking photos from an elevated position such as an aircraft or drone. Aerial shots can be very dramatic as the view point is normally unique and unfamiliar to us. I say ‘amateur’ because good aerial photography is quite scientific, and there are photographers who specialise in nothing but aerial photography. Taking photos from the air is certainly new to me, but I wanted to share my findings on a recent experience. A couple of weeks ago I went to the US, and spent some time in California.

I had to make several internal flights, and thought I’d make the most out of it and try my hand at some aerial photographs. Hope you like the results and the post.

Here are some well known tips on aerial photography;

  • Most photographers suggest using a very fast shutter speed, faster than you might think. Sort of 1/1000 territory.
  • Depending on the scene, many suggest a focal length of around 100mm on fullframe.
  • Many also suggest using a polariser on your lens. This is to cut down reflections if photographing through windows. Also, the use of a polariser will increase colour saturation.
  • If on a commercial flight get a seat in front of the wings for an unobstructed view.
  • Don’t rest the lens on the window or any part of the aircraft as the vibrations can translate into blurry images.

On my flights, I decided to use my 5D with the 85mm 1.2L II lens. I’m a prime guy, and my only zooms are 16-35mm 2.8L II and 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II and I didn’t think they would be suitable. I started off using a polariser but that didnt work too well with the perspex windows. So I had to take it off. I used shutter speeds around 1/1250 and an aperture of about f9 – f11. For me on that day this required a sensitivity of iso 400 which isn’t a big deal.

I then concentrated on finding some good subjects, which as we were flying over the Rocky mountains wasn’t a problem. After looking at the images on the computer, initially I was quite disappointed with them. The images had a lot of haze in them, which was over-powering. In Photoshop I tried the “dehaze” function in combination with other processing and it worked very well. Refer to below example.

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Arizona USA, 5D Mark III & 85mm 1.2L II at f8, ISO 400

My experiences;

  • Commercial aircraft windows such for photography…
  • Don’t use a poloriser as you will get some weird colours happening through the perspex windows.
  • The 85mm focal length was good for me, but 50mm would also have been good (didn’t bring it..).
  • The raw files needed a lot of work to get them looking good. Although the detail was there.
  • The ‘dehaze’ function in Photoshop is very useful to get the most out of hazy images as can be seen below.
  • Contrast and saturation tweaks are also important to get the most out of the images.
  • Ensure you use a low ISO and a small aperture to get the best image quality, and as always, shoot RAW!

 

before-after

Before and After processing showing how effectively the haze can be removed. Arizona, USA.

 

Some Results!