Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Ethiopia and Rwanda Photo Tour now on sale - Feb 2015

My tour starts in Feb 2015 (20 - March10th) and travels from Addis Ababa to Bahar Dar, Gondar, Simien Mountains, Axum and Lalibela for 16 days of stunning scenery, amazing architecture and fabulous, friendly people.  The tour is organised through Academy Travel in Sydney and features some unique destinations and experiences that will make this a truly unforgettable travel experience. 
As we will be in the region, I decided to add on a Rwanda tour component at the end of the trip  (it's a relatively short hop from Addis to Kigali airport).  Of course you go to Rwanda to see the amazing mountain gorillas, an unforgettable experience, but the country is also a fascinating destination, with its tragic recent history contrasting with it's current determination to develop a stable economy.  Here are a few fantastic photos from Ethiopia taken earlier this year  - shot by my good friend Sue Burt. 

Overview, the Simien Mountains
Another panorama of the magnificent Simien Mountains
The Simien Mountains, home to Gelada Baboons, Mountain Nyalas, Ibex and the rare Ethiopian wolf
Fasilides Castle in Gondar, one of the many structures in the town's historical area
Priest in Lalibela
Two priests guarding the art relics at one of Lake Tana's island monasteries
Visitors to one of Lalibela's rock-hewn churches
Ethiopia is famous for its plentiful religious ceremonies. This is the ceremony of Timcat
Impressive sunset view of the Simien mountains
View flying over the arid expanses of Northern Ethiopia

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Photographing Vivid's Amazing Light Show

Vivid is back with a vengeance this year, with a bunch of new venues and impressive lighting schemes.
This is a 30-second exposure of the harbour bridge taken with a 14mm fisheye lens. 
The long exposure renders shifting water as an ultra-smooth surface with exceptional reflections that the naked eye doesn't register...
The ultimate zoom shot?
One of  Vivid's smaller light shows along the harbour foreshore zoomed slowly for about five seconds.
First night this was one it was soooo crowded the authorities were forced to fence of the arena and let small groups in at a time.
Good move for us photographers because it was then easier to get clearer shots of the floor mounted lighting.
A cloudy night adds another dimension to any nighttime shooting situation.
In contrast, a clear sky leaves an almost jet-black night sky which looks heavy and overbearing. 
Clouds add a different dimension, with movement and a fair amount of ambient light giving an otherwise black sky an added depth.
Architecture and big structures need photographing with a very wide-angle lens, better still, a fisheye lens.
Ultra-wide angle lenses give a unique perspective on otherwise impossible-to-get subject matter.  Canon EF14mm lens, f11, 30 secs, ISO 400.
Sydney Opera House ten minutes before the sky turned almost totally black.
Bracketing the exposures (approximately at 30secs, 10 secs and 4 second exposures) gives the HDR software (in this case Photomatix Pro) ample opportunity to create an impressive result that's unobtainable with a single shot...
To get over that black night sky look, have a bit of fun combining a daytime exposure with a nighttime Vivid exposure...
HDR photo of the Opera house just before dusk.
Note shadow of Harbour Bridge falling over the Opera House sails
Zooming in on a Vivid illumination often adds a new visual dynamic to a composition.
You need a steady tripod and a one, two or three second exposure (i.e. long enough for you to physically zoom the lens)
Sydney's Customs House in all its Vivid glory
One of the harder subjects to record - Sydney's Luna Park.
Because the Park is mostly bright lights and deep shadows, all cameras overexpose the subject.  Basically you get a blown-out image that's unusable. 
The only way to record such a high contrast scene is to bracket the exposures dramatically underexposing the darker frame considerably so that, once re-combined in Photomatix Pro, the final image retains details in the highlights.
Cloudy skies add a layer of ambient light to any long exposure shot brings more life to the scene (this is 25secs).
A long exposure also smoothes-out ripples and adds a mirror-like shimmer to normally choppy water...
Long exposure shot from the upper deck of the ferry on the way home. 
This is a bit of as hit and miss process. I treat it like light painting.
Hold the camera stable and allow the movement, in this case the ferry, to paint the light across the sensor. Four seconds exposure, f6.3, ISO 200
Slow zoom of the Harbour Bridge. Five seconds @ f5, ISO 200.
Camera has to be on a stable tripod. Start moving the zoom ring - then trip the shutter to get this eye-catching special effect
Fisheye lenses produce the least distortion when held on the level to the horizontal - tilt them up or down to bend that horizon line, in this case significantly to produce a wacky special effect (pic by Natalie Hitchens). 14mm Samyang fisheye lens.  
More impressive zooming effects from Natalie Hitchens (1) 
More impressive zooming effects from Natalie Hitchens (2)