An Introduction to Photographing Venice
Mar28

An Introduction to Photographing Venice

It might seem crazy to some people that I’ve travelled 6 continents and nearly 100 countries and had never set foot in Venice.  In so many ways, Venice is the quintessential travel destination.  A place that so many people visit within their first travel few travel experiences.  Well, I’ve obviously always been a little bit different.  I’ve chosen to go well off the beaten path, and have spent more time riding scooters around Africa, and hitch hiking in the Guianas than I have in major European cities.  But, that has started to change a bit as I’ve now started to base myself in Europe.  As such, I’ve started also to visit places, like Venice, that I’ve long neglected. My stop in Venice was a quick one.  I really didn’t have an assignment here, or any photography task I was hoping to achieve.  In many ways, I was just photo location scouting for potential future assignments or projects.  I ended up wandering nearly the entire city looking for cool angles and compositions for photography in Venice.  I definitely found a few.  I also made a trip out to the islands of Murano and Burano which were absolutely beautiful. The Challenges of Photographing Venice Venice is such a photogenic city.  It really is.  It seems like around every corner there’s a new image to be made, or a killer photo waiting to develop.  But, it’s really not as easy as one would expect.  Especially when you first arrive and see how beautiful it is, it feels like it should be an easy place to shoot.  But, these are some of the challenges I faced. No Open Spaces: Most of the photogenic parts of the city are really hard to photograph.  There’s simply nowhere to set up a tripod. There are very few bridges, for example that cross over the Grand Canal.  Thus, the best views of Venice are often from the boats.  And well that’s fantastic, it doesn’t really work well if you’re trying to shoot long exposures. Lots of Boat Traffic: Speaking of boats, they caused havoc for me as well.  When set up on bridges or view points, there was a constant stream of boats going through. And well blurring them slightly in the early evening and morning made for some cool shots, as soon as the exposure got over about 5 seconds, the boats left horrendous looking light trails in the images. Hard to be Original: Since there are only a couple really perfect locations to shoot from in the city, it can be hard to be original in your photography.  For example, I created an image down...

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Seeking Nature and Photographs in Hong Kong
Mar25

Seeking Nature and Photographs in Hong Kong

I had a short 3-day trip to Hong Kong set up in the midst of all my other travels in Europe and my photography workshop in Morocco.  And, well the trip was short and the weather was a bit nasty, I was intent on making the best of my time.  As a result, I spent a lot of time exploring, shooting, and hiking around Hong Kong.  I didn’t do a whole lot of sleeping. Since it was my second trip to Hong Kong, I really wanted to focus on finding some hiking and nature opportunities in the city.  It’s such a common misconception that Hong Kong is a city-state.  In reality, there are parts that are extremely densely populated, and lots of islands and parks that are extremely underpopulated.  So, I wanted to explore these parts.  I also wanted to find alternative locations for photography in Hong Kong, since I’d already shot the typical locations in the city. This is what I got up to on my time in Hong Kong Day 1: Exploring Hong Kong City Since I was jet lagged, I woke up at about 3am.  And, for most that might be a problem.  But, for travel photographers this is a blessing.  It meant that I was up with plenty of time to go find a great sunrise location to photograph in the city.  I chose a simple spot, down by the convention center. Then, after breakfast, I had a local guide show me around and get me situated a bit in the city.  He took me to some places I’d been before, but also a lot of new spots that I’d not seen or photographed.  It was a nice way to get started in the city. In the morning, we caught the tram up Victoria peak for those incredible views of the Hong Kong skyline.  I also got the chance to visit Tim Cheung which is a dim sum restaurant in Kowloon and is said to be one of the cheapest Michelin star restaurants in the world.  The food was fantastic, and the vibe was cool as well.  In the afternoon, we visited some of the temples in Kowloon such as the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden which are beautiful. Day 2: Kam Shan Country Park and Victoria Harbour I had heard from my guide the previous day that you can find monkeys in parts of Hong Kong.  So, I headed into a country park on the mainland side of Hong Kong called Kam Shan.  And, basically upon arrival, I was greeted by monkeys begging for food.  Yes, it’s a problem.  I saw a couple people...

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A Weekend Getaway to Vienna and the Hilton Vienna Plaza
Mar23

A Weekend Getaway to Vienna and the Hilton Vienna Plaza

I’ve been set up in Europe with Budapest as my base for the past month. It’s been meant to be a month to focus on the business side of travel photography. Not only have I been spending most of my time doing “office work”, but I’ve also been off to Berlin for a travel conference. And, honestly, all this “business” has been starting to make my feet itchy for the road once again. So, I was thrilled when the Hilton Vienna Plaza invited me to pop over for a weekend to see what Vienna had to offer, and to relax a bit – out of the office – at their beautiful property. The availability of easy weekend getaways is one of the best parts about being in Europe. I can jump on a flight just about anywhere on the continent for $100. Or, in this case, I can hop on a train for $40 and be in Vienna in 3 hours. Back in Canada, if I wanted to get to any country outside of Canada or the US it would be a minimum 6 hour flight; and likely cost an arm and a leg. Weekend getaways in Europe are extremely easy, and Vienna is a great option. About the Hilton Vienna Plaza Located just a 5-10 minute walk from sights in Vienna like City Hall, Rathaus, and the Hofburg Palace, the Hilton Vienna Plaza has a great location to base yourself for a weekend getaway in the city. The hotel has an elegant business vibe to it, and the rooms are spacious and extremely comfortable. As someone who spends most of his time working in hotel rooms, I really appreciated things like the comfortable desk, the plethora of plug-ins, and the lightning fast free wifi. The hotel is situated right next to the Schottentor subway stop which also makes it really convenient to get to other places in the city a bit farther than walking distance. Places like the Opera House, Schonbrunn Palace, Belvedere Palace, and Prater Park are all easily accessible via the metro. Moreover, this area is great for food. Within a couple blocks, I found plenty of great restaurants serving typical Austrian food, and some international spots like a pizza place, a burger joint, and a cool place serving Tex-Mex food called Fresco Grill. Of course, if you’re feeling lazy, the Hilton also has a fantastic restaurant as well as a bar serving beautiful cocktails. I definitely enjoyed my stay at the Hilton Vienna Plaza, and can highly recommend it to those planning on visiting the city. Things to See in Vienna in a Weekend There’s...

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Photo Location Scouting and Searching for the Best Views of Athens
Mar02

Photo Location Scouting and Searching for the Best Views of Athens

It was so funny hearing people’s reactions to my visit to Athens. Before arriving, I got every range of responses from fans and friends of “Oh my god, Athens is amazing!” to “Athens is the worst place in Europe”. It seems that people either love or hate Athens, there’s not a lot in between. Me? I crushed on Athens hard when I got there. I loved it. I thought the vibe was cool, the views were amazing, and the food options were outstanding. I guess I can understand the hate, though. There are loads of beggars, lots of shady individuals, and I saw more public urination and defecation in Athens than anywhere I’ve been not called China. But, yeah, I legit loved Athens. I thought it was fun. I thought it was exciting, and left a sense of youth and creation. I don’t know why, but I imagine this is what Berlin was like a decade ago. It just feels cool to me. Best Views of Athens I only had a couple days planned in Athens, so I wanted to make the most of them. There were two classic locations I really wanted to shoot. Then, I also wanted to capture a location that I found well wandering. I obviously couldn’t photograph every location in Athens in just 2 days, but I’m happy with what I got. Mount Lycabettus I arrived in Athens really late, and still thought it was a good idea to hike up Mount Lycabettus before dawn the next day. I was exhausted when I woke up, but the views from up here were so good that it totally made it worth it. Really, there is nothing better than watching a city wake up from above it. The photos from up here were a bit of a challenge. I found it hard to capture how dramatic it felt. The light was also fairly flat on the sunrise I was up there, which made it more of a challenge. But still, a great place for sunrise. Filopappou Hill Up at Filopappou Hill I found a great view of the Acropolis for sunset. The sun was setting behind me, so as it hit the horizon it cast a nice soft golden glow on the ruins. I got absolutely fantastic light on this sunset shoot. My only issue was that there is so much scaffolding on the Acropolis it kind of kills the images. Still, this was some of the most fun I had shooting in a while. Such a cool location. Academy of Athens On my last available day of shooting, I wanted to capture something aside from the...

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A Couple Days in Sofia
Feb29

A Couple Days in Sofia

It’s funny how some countries and cities just seem to stick in your mind as a place you have to visit. For years, Sofia has been one of those places for me. I can’t really explain it. I don’t have any rationale to the reason why the idea of visiting Sofia has held such appeal, or value to me. In fact, before arriving in Sofia, I had no idea what to expect. I knew nothing about Sofia except that it was the capital of Bulgaria, and that it was home to one of the most interesting cathedrals in all of Europe. I think it’s safe to say that I expected to love Sofia, and that’s probably not fair. But, after a couple days in the city attempting to shoot but being thwarted by rain, construction, and a lack to subjects that really interested me, I think I left the city feeling, maybe not let down, but certainly not gushing with praise or lust to return. On my last day in Sofia, I went into an awesome camera store to buy a couple things for my filter kit. I talked photography for a bit with the staff, and they all said the same thing to me – next time, you have to go out and explore the nature rather than the city. So, I suppose, I really shouldn’t just a place until I give it the full shake. Photos from Sofia My main photography goal for photography in Sofia was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. I hit it up on my first morning as it was the only day where the weather was meant to be decent during my stay. I was impressed. I got some cool images on my shoot at the cathedral. But then, it all kind of went downhill. I spent a full day and a half location scouting and basically anywhere that I thought would make a cool photo was under construction or restoration. Would I Go Back to Sofia? Yeah, absolutely! I actually dug the vibe of Sofia. It felt very raw and gritty. From a photography standpoint it wasn’t the most fascinating place in the world. But I would like to go back. I’ve also been told by a number of people that Plovdiv, Bulgaria is actually a brilliant city for photography. So, maybe on a trip towards Turkey I’ll stop in again. What’s Next on the Travel Photography Blog? I’m well behind on these blog posts, as you likely know if you follow me on snapchat or instagram. But, after Sofia I caught a quick flight to Athens. I spent a couple days location...

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Photography in Transylvania
Feb24

Photography in Transylvania

I’ve always found that there’s no better way to photograph a new destination than with a local. So, when my buddy Valentin offered to show me around Romania, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Honestly, I really didn’t know what to expect from the country, so it was probably for the best regardless. I knew that I wanted to put my focus on Transylvania, and that’s exactly what we did. After catching the train from Budapest to Brasov, Valentin showed me around some of the coolest places in Romania. And, yes, I would have loved to see a bit more of Romania. Places like Cluj Napoca, and Sibiu are on my radar for trips this year as well. But for now, let’s focus on my photography and travel exploits in Transylvania. Brasov I get teased a bit by other travel bloggers and photographers for my lack of planning. Usually, when I travel to a country for the first time, I simply google the country and then try to pick one of two locations to start my exploration. That’s it. I know, it’s not very smart. But, in limited time, I think that I manage to get a good feel for the places I visit and can make decisions on where else I’d like to visit on future trips. When I did my quick research on Romania, the name that kept popping up again and again was Brasov. So, that’s where I went. It’s for good reason that Brasov is so popular among travellers, it’s absolutely stunning. Moreover, it’s found right in the heart of Transylvania, and a great base to photograph some of the castles in the nearby area. Photography Locations in and Near Brasov There are endless photography locations in the area surrounding Brasov and within the city itself. But, I’ll try to narrow it down a bit to just a couple. Tampa Peak If you want a classic photo of Brasov, climb up to the top of Tampa Peak. Although it was closed when on the day I went up, there is a cable car that goes to the top. Or, you can hike up like I did. It takes about 30-45 minutes from bottom to top. Up there, you get a really sharp angle looking down on Brasov. The images almost look areal because of the height and angle you’re shooting from. I shot most of my images on a 70-200mm lens and focused on the square. It seemed to work out well. Bran Castle Obviously, Bran Castle is a favourite. It is, of course, “Dracula’s Castle”. Although, history tells us that Vlad the Impaler actually had...

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