Summer dash to London

Having started a new job, I didn’t really want to take too much time off at once – not that I could anyways in my position :(. Anyways, we ended up with two 9 day trips this year, one to the Seychelles (photos coming) and one to the UK. It was great to go to England, felt so familiar somehow to me. I haven’t been there since I was small so it was about time. I can see the influence that UK has had on Australia, there are many similarities. Tourism is certainly on the next level in London. Good sights don’t have a couple hundred reviews on Google, more like 58,000 reviews, some sights have queues a couple of kilometers long… No matter, our fault for going in August!

London by night. 5D Mark III | 12-24mm 4.0 Art

We started with three days in London, and got a hotel in the middle of the city. From there we hit all the “must sees”. It was awesome, nice people, and fantastic sights which really live up to their reputation. England really has the best museums in the world. Some places were super busy however, and I would recommend not coming in high season as we did. We used the Tube to get around.. nice and cheap, but my god its horrible. Its TINY, and full of smoke, dust and vibration. You need ear muffs or your ears will bleed! In a nation which takes health and safety so highly, it is obvious that a blind eye is given to the Tube.

London. 5D Mark III | 12-24mm 4.0 Art

We then hired a car and drove to Oxford, then the Cotswolds, Bath and finally down to Dorset. We spent 4-5 days on this trip before heading back to London. It was fantastic, and I really enjoyed all the old architecture along the way. My favorite place was probably Bath. It is such a dynamic university town, and yet has some amazing old Roman sights. Well worth a visit.

Cotswolds England, 5D Mark III | 24mm 1.4 Art

Roman Baths, England. 5D Mark III | 12-24mm 4.0 Art

I did get so do a little landscape photography which is very popular in the UK. The below image is from Durdle Door in Dorset. Its a great location, and I used the Zeiss 18mm 2.8 Milvus and the LEE Little Stopper to get a nice long exposure.

Durdle Door, Dorset, England. 5D Mark III | 18mm 2.8 Zeiss Milvus

Had a great trip so check out the full album here!

Full Album

Oh Canada!

I had a business event in Vancouver recently and decided to add in a weekend for the trip – why not! So I brought my gear along and took a few photos from Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler. Really a wonderful part of the world! Vancouver is a lovely city, which reminds me a little of Brisbane in Australia. The scenery is much better though!!

I must have walked about 25km around Vancouver and Stanley park, but it was awesome. I was also lucky with the weather.I highly recommend a trip and will certainly need to go back again.

So anyways, these were quick and dirty shots on a business trip, and the light was very harsh, so don’t expect perfection but here are my favorites!

Top of Sea to Sky Gondola. Squamish, Canada. 5D Mark III | Zeiss 18mm 2.8 | Polariser

 

Downtown Vancouver Canada. 5D Mark III | 35mm 1.4 Art

 

Scenic flights. Vancouver, Canada. 5D Mark III | 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II

 

Whistler, Canada. 5D Mark III | 18mm 2.8 Carl Zeiss Milvus.

 

Whistler, Canada. 5D Mark III | 18mm 2.8 Carl Zeiss Milvus.

 

Whistler, Canada. 5D Mark III | 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II

 

Check out the full gallery here:

Full Gallery

 

 

A weekend in Monaco!

Heard a lot about Monaco, so we had to check it out! This tiny little nation has more millionaires and billionaires than anywhere else in the world. Often thought of as snobby and expensive – maybe, but Monaco is really quite charming. There are beautiful gardens and parks on every corner, it is modern, clean and tidy. It reminds me in some ways of Sydney.

Monaco. Canon 5D Mark III | 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II

Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco. Canon 5D Mark III | 18mm 2.8 Zeiss Milvus

We combined our visit with some surrounding areas close of Monaco. Its a very nice part of the world, with great weather and coastline. We had a good time, so check out my photos in the gallery below!

 

SEE FULL ALBUM

 

 

A Guide to Vietnamese Coffee

A little known fact is that Vietnam is a huge coffee producer, ranking second in the world for coffee exports. The Vietnamese have a great coffee culture, if a little different from more conventional coffee fans. This love of coffee was originally introduced by the French, but today is truly unique.

Vietnamese coffee is typically a coarse ground strong and flavourful coffee. If you like strong coffee go to Vietnam, it’s the strongest coffee you will ever have. In the old days, the French colonists could not get normal milk, so condensed milk was used instead. Today you can get a range of coffees in Vietnam, from egg coffee to fruit coffee, weasel coffee to yoghurt coffee.

I took a few photos of how we prepare Vietnamese coffee (Ca Phe Sua). This is how we have learnt it from the locals, and certainly not the only way. You will need the following:

  • Vietnamese coffee, we use Trung Nguyen
  • Vietnamese coffee filter
  • Glass or cup, depending on the type of coffee made
  • Hot water
  • Condensed and sweetened milk (for Ca Phe Sua)
  • Tea spoon!

Step 1

Take out the top filter in the Vietnamese coffee maker. Add 2-3 tea spoons of Vietnamese ground coffee.

Step 2

Use the top filter to compress the coffee a little. You do not need to apply a lot of pressure. Leave the filter press on top of the coffee.

Step 3

Put the coffee maker on top of a glass or cup. Pour in a little hot water, just enough to moisten and swell the coffee. Wait 20 seconds, before filling up the entire filter. This delay is to allow the coffee to expand and prevent the water passing through the coffee too quickly. Failing this step can lead to poor taste.

Step 4

Monitor the progress of the water, and when all the water has filtered through the coffee is ready. If you like a white coffee then add one tea spoon of condensed milk, and stir up. If you like black coffee then drink as is, however black coffees are enjoyed cold in Vietnam. Typically the filtered coffee is poured into a glass filled 50% up with ice cubes.

Step 5

Enjoy!!

 

 

Carl Zeiss Milvus 18mm 2.8

Carl Zeiss Milvus 18mm 2.8 (Photo credit: http://www.zeiss.com)

The search for the perfect ultrawide angle prime lens

Over the last year or so I have been wanting to upgrade my ultrawide lens, the 16-35mm 2.8L II. This was a difficult task, as the 16-35L II has been a real dependable workhorse for me. It has netted me many good photos. There was a lot to like about it, but its age was beginning to show. More than that, as a prime lens shooter, I felt that the zoom was making me lazy with composition. For the most part, I used the lens at 16mm where it has maximum effect. I also use the excellent 24mm and 35mm 1.4 Sigma Art lenses and sometimes I’d be lazy and use the zoom at those focal lengths. The 16-35L II really does not excel wide open at 35mm so I was missing out. Apart from inviting laziness, the 16-35L II also has weak corners and a bit of distortion at wider focal lengths. Really, I can’t complain too much, its been a great lens, and I have got a lot of great images from it. I feel like nowadays with the 16-35mm f4L IS lens, everybody has a 16-35 and that just doesn’t appeal to me. I like to be a little different.

So, the search for a good alternative started long ago. I was hoping to find a great prime lens 18-21mm. Like all photographers in the internet age, I looked up sample images on the various photography sites. Zeiss of course is famous for its manual focus prime lenses which really excel for landscape and architecture. And while browsing the many internet galleries, you occasionally see Zeiss images which possess that special ‘Zeiss’ character. I started to wonder if a manual Zeiss lens could really work for my style of photography? In the end I had four good possibilities:

  1. Carl Zeiss Milvus 18mm 2.8
  2. Carl Zeiss Milvus 21mm 2.8
  3. Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art HSM
  4. Canon 16-35mm 2.8L III

Always go shopping with a list of focal lengths! I needed a lens 18-21mm. Zeiss offers two good lenses here. I thought the 21mm might be too close to my existing 24mm 1.4 Art, which I use a lot. The Milvus 21mm 2.8 lens also uses the older 2008 launch 21mm 2.8 Distagon optical design, just wrapped up in a new lens body. While a potent formula, the brand new Milvus 18mm 2.8 was more appealing, also in regards to the focal length. The Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art was a top contender, and the image quality is great. But I wanted to use conventional screw-in filters and you can’t with the 20mm Art. It also has a bit too much distortion at 2.5%, but its f1.4 and represents excellent value. The new version of the 16-35mm 2.8L was also an amazing option, which offers so much compared to a manual focus Zeiss lens…

 

The 18mm 2.8 Milvus VS the Canon 16-35mm 2.8L III

In absolute terms, the 16-35mm 2.8L III offers so much more than the Milvus 18mm 2.8, so why the hell did I choose the Zeiss? Both lenses are tack sharp corner to corner. Its amazing that the Canon is so good. Its sharper than most prime lenses. The build quality and general use in the field are also top notch. Both lenses are weather sealed, and if a filter is fitted you have a rig that can be used in all conditions. Both choices have excellent colour and contrast. It was really a difficult decision.

The simple answer is that I wanted to try something different, and it boils down to personal choice. I have wanted to try a Zeiss lens for a while. I get satisfaction using well crafted instruments, and the Milvus 18mm lens is a pleasure to use. I also love primes, there is something very satisfying about nailing a good image with a prime lens, rather than merely zooming in on something. The popularity of the Canon ultrawide zooms today is also a bit off putting to me. The Zeiss lens is lighter, smaller and simpler than the Canon lens, and it gives a certain exclusivity as only a handful of people use it. The Zeiss has better colour and less distortion than the Canon. It also focuses closer at 18mm than the Canon. Sure it has its down sides. Its manual focus for one thing, by far the biggest problem. But I have the 24mm 1.4 Art and will have the 14mm 1.8 Art lenses to back up the Milvus.

 

Initial impressions

So what is it like? Well, its very well made, its compact and feels very nice to use. Its tack sharp corner to corner from 2.8 to f16 and even f22 looks good. The files are punchy and the colour is typical Zeiss. There is a lot of vignetting at 2.8, but that does not bother me. Regarding the manual focus (people leaning forward), its really easy to get sharp focus. Unlike other lenses I have used manually, the Zeiss appears to have a ‘flat spot’ of sharp focus, rather than a difficult to hit peak. I use the AF confirm light, and get good results. I have also tried liveview, but don’t see added sharpness compared to using the AF confirm light.

Carl Zeiss Milvus first shots. Canon 5D Mark III | 18mm 2.8 Milvus | f4

 

Carl Zeiss Milvus first shots. Canon 5D Mark III | 18mm 2.8 Milvus | f2.8

Its is early days, but the image quality is far better than the old 16-35mm 2.8L II. The colour and micro contract is very nice. As is typical with Carl Zeiss, the lens renders blues and blacks in a very unique and rich way. Most of the images I have taken have been in very harsh light, as the weather has been awesome in the alps lately. I look forward to also using this lens in softer light, but haven’t had the chance yet. The manual focus thing does not seem to be a problem, especially at this focal length. I really could not have asked for a better ultrawide for landscape and architecture. It is complemented in my case, by the 24mm 1.4 Art and in the future I will add a 14mm lens as well.

Happy Shooting!

Gallery

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