Adventure travel

10 Countries, 10 Days, 10 Tips: Day 10 - Cambodia

It's Day 10 (last day) of my travel series here on my blog. Thanks for following along. If you missed a day or two, scroll down.

Location: Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Tip: Get on site early to photograph this archeological wonderland from the path that runs along the reflecting pond near the entrance. If you are lucky, you'll get a nice sunrise.  Because you'll be shooting into the sun, shoot HDR.

You can't miss the path, and neither can dozens of other photographers, some with tripods! That's why you want to get there early. Bring a flashlight so you can see where you are going and what you're doing.

Inside the temple, shoot wide and shoot HDR. You especially need HDR when your photograph has both sky and shadows in the frame. I photographed this scene with my Canon 14mm lens. I converted it to B&W using Nik Silver Efex Pro. All the plug-ins I use are on my Save on Creative Plug-ins Page.

Of course, photograph the buddhist monks. I found them ready, willing and able for a photo session.

My #1 people photography tip: The camera looks both ways; in picturing the subject we are also picturing a part of ourselves.

My #2 photo tip: light the eyes.

You'll find more people photography tips in my app, Rick Sammon's 24/7 Photo Buffet.

I hope to see you on one of my workshops, in the US or abroad.

Explore the light,

10 Countries, 10 Days, 10 Tips: Day 4 - Galapagos, The "Enchanted Islands" of Ecuador

Photograph by Rick Sammon
It's Day 4 of my series on travel photography here on my blog. Scroll down for past posts in this series.

Location: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

Tip: For wildlife, bring your wide-angle and super wide-angle lenses as well as your telephoto lenses. Because the animals are not hunted, they are not afraid of tourists and photographers - so you can get very close to them.

Above, marine iguanas: Canon 15mm lens. Below, sea lions: Canon 17-40mm lens.

Note: marine iguanas "sneeze" a saltwater spray, so perhaps you don't want to get too close. :-). If you do get a "sneeze" on the front element of your lens or filter, wipe it off carefully with a lens cleaning cloth. The salt can scratch a lens or filter.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
When it comes to a telephoto lens, I'd recommend the Canon 100-400mm IS lens. I used that for the photos below of the blue-footed booby and the giant tortoise.

All my gear recos: My Gear.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
In Galapagos, when you are not on the beach, you must stay on the paths. Keep that in mind when thinking about your lens selection.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
Finally, plan to visit the Galapagos on a live-aboard boat. . . the best way to see as many islands as possible in a relatively short period of time.

You can see more of my Galapagos images in my SmugMug gallery.
• • • • • 
If you like traveling and photography, check out my workshops and photo tours.

If you want travel photography tips at your fingertips, check out my app: Rick Sammon's 24/7 Photo Buffet.

Explore the light,

10 Countries, 10 Days, 10 Tips: Day 3 - Mongolia

Photograph by Rick Sammon

It's Day 3 of my series on travel photography here on my blog.

Location: Mongolia.

Tip: Plan your trip for June.

Each June, the Nadaam festival takes place just outside of Ulan Bator, Mongolia’s capital. During the festival,  500 or so soldiers from the Mongolian army get dressed up like the soldiers in Genghis Khan army and put on a spectacular reinactment. Witnessing the festival, you can see why at one time Khan’s army scared the hell out just about everyone in its path.
Do you homework on the web. Note the show hours. Find out the earliest possible arrival time so you can get in a good shooting position. The more you plan, the fewer surprises you’ll have on site.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
On site, ask for a general timeline of events. This info will help you plan your day so you don’t miss festival highlights. In addition, take behind-the-scenes shots of performers getting ready. Ask if that’s okay and find out where to shoot.

Here are my recommendations for sharp shots of fast-paced action: set your shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second to freeze action, set your auto focus to AI Servo or Continuous Focus to track a moving subject, and set your frame rate to the max for the greatest number of frames per second.

When it comes to choosing an exposure mode, go for Shutter Priority. In that mode, once your shutter speed is set to 1/1000th of a second, if the light level changes, the shutter speed will remain at 1/1000th of a second. To get that fast of a shutter speed, on a cloudy day you may need to boost your ISO to 400, 800 or even 1000.  Don’t worry about shooting at high ISO settings. If digital noise is added, you can reduce it in Photoshop and Lightroom. 

Lens recos for photographing festivals:

Canon 70-200 f/4 IS lens
Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS lens

If you like traveling and photography, check out my workshops and photo tours.

If you'd like travel tips at your fingertips, check out my apps.

Explore the light,

Photograph by Rick Sammon
P.S. Explore the countryside, too. You'll find many more people photography opportunities. While in Ulan Bator, take in a cultural show.

Photograph by Rick Sammon

Fix Creative Fatigue and Go on Safari

© Rick Sammon
I have two articles in May/June issue of Digital Photo magazine. One on fixing creative fatigue and one on digital wildlife photography. Check 'em out.

One idea to fix creative fatigue: play with plug-ins and awaken the artist within. Above I used the Polaroid Transfer effect in Nik Color Efex Pro to remove some of the true color from the scene.

Click here to get a discount on Nik and some of the other plug-ins I use.

When you remove some of the true color, you remove some of the reality. When you remove some of the reality, your picture can look more creative and artistic.

One idea for wildlife: shoot wide and make a photograph that shows the animal in its environment.

In the shot above I applied the Spicify filter in Toapz Adjust (another favorite plug-in) to the sky.

Explore the light,

P.S. Here's some more thoughts on getting inspired and motivated.

New Zealand Workshop Offers Spectacular Photo Opportunities

In March 2012, New Zealand photographer Petr Hlavacek and I will be co-leading a photo workshop to New Zealand. I can't wait for the trip, but I have to :-)

So for now, here is a preview of what we'll be photographing. Take it away Petr.

Petr (pictured above in shorts) and I will be co-leading a once-in-a-lifetime photo tour/workshop to New Zealand in March 2012. Here is a preview of what the participating photographers will be photographing. Shoot me an email if you want to join the photo fun.

This will be one of the best-priced and most exciting New Zealand workshops on the web. 

Important note: Airfare will not be included so you can book the most practical flights – which is very important on a long trip.

All of these New Zealand pictures were taken by Petr.

Take it away Petr.

• • •

To some, it may sound strange that a flash can be used for capturing images in the extremely bright glacier environment. Well, most of the time it is true that you don't need to use the flash. However, there are cases where it pays off to consider using one.

In the follow two examples, I'd like to demonstrate the difference a flash can make when photographing glaciers. Keeping an keen eye on the structure, the layering of the ice, and seeking interesting patterns is the way to determine if a flash will give you the best result.

On site, if you zoom in on an image on your camera's LCD monitor, and when you are back home and view your images on your computer, you'll see that the flash may often separate icy layers due to the ice density. I'm not a scientist, but I assume that this has to do with the amount of air bubbles in the glacier ice, and thus its reflectivity/absorbing capacities of the flashed cold light, being based around the blue range of the color spectrum, similar to the glacial ice.

The image above was made without a flash. The viewer tends to look right through the opening in the ice toward the mountains, initially not paying much of an attention to the ice itself, and using it rather as a natural frame before coming back to it and observing the ice dimples and other details.

The image above tells a different story. The viewer is attracted by the patterns, textures and layering of the ice straight away – before looking further toward the mountains.
This flashed image, with its icy layers in this case, reminds me of a human eye with eyelashes.

The two images are of the same scene, but offer different experiences. Which one do you prefer? I think both image work well, as they both have their own beauty.

Along the lines of using a flash, I'd like to give you an example of when using a flash in an ice cave is not always a good idea.

The image above was shot without a flash. The melting ice and its ice pockets create a beautiful, almost 3D texture on the walls of this blue ice cave.

The image above was shot using flash, and all that magic is completely gone. The image is flat, washed out, and lacks the natural color of the ice cave.

The following images of New Zealand's native Nikau Palms are a great examples of when to use a polarizing filter, and when you may not want to use one. The images were made immediately after a hard rain while it was still drizzling. The rain made the leaves reflective, giving them a great dark green color, created by heavy clouds of the stormy, overcast day.

The image above has no polarizing effect employed, rendering the green as a dark and cold. It feels almost like the leaves are made of steel.

The image above shows the polarizing effect on the leaves, which took that beautiful steel shine away, rendering the green as a warm, juicy and green color. The image feels a bit flat, with low contrast – shifting colors from what I had seen and felt.

To me, the first image without a polarizing filter is much stronger, with rather unique colors giving the image more definition and depth.

The image above shows the winter sunrise over Lake Matheson. It's on our "shot list" and is the most photographed lake in New Zealand.

Note: All RAW files of these images have been processed using Lightroom and Photoshop CS4/5 with standard color and tonal corrections to render scene as real as I experienced in reality.

• • •

To see more of Petr's wonderful work, check out his Web site.

Petr is also a founder and co-owner of New Zealand image stock library NZICESCAPES IMAGES, specializing in imagery from a diverse West Coast of the Southern Alps in the South Island, with focus on the glaciers and its ice.

We both hope you can join us in March 2012 for our photo tour and workshop!

For info on all my photo tours and workshops, click here.

Explore the light,

P.S. I took these two photographs in Antarctica. I love blue ice - and can't wait to photograph it in New Zealand!